On our homepage today, Marilyn Berlin Snell has a terrific interview with climatologist Stephen Schneider, the scientist who, as a grad student moonlighting at NASA in 1971, predicted that the effects of aerosol pollution could outweigh the warming effects of CO2 and bring about a bout of global cooling.
The uproar over Superfreakonomics has led to a lot of smart posts being written on the pitfalls associated with "geoengineering" as a response to global warming. Now, as I've mentioned before, "geoengineering" is often used as a catch-all term for a wide variety of schemes to artificially reduce the temperature of the earth, but Nate Silver homes in on the two most audacious ideas out there: -- Finding some mechanism to shoot sulfur into the atmosphere -- this is the approach that Levitt and Dubner concentrate on in SuperFreakonomics.
There's an interesting panel discussion in New Scientist on the need to revamp the Nobel prizes. It makes sense. The categories have become obsolete as science marches into the twenty-first century. The science awards, for example, are confined to work done in chemistry, physics, and medicine. But today there are all sorts of new fields that didn't exist when Alfred Nobel died in 1896, and a lot of cutting-edge work is being done in neuroscience or evolutionary biology or computer science.
Not murder in the literal sense, of course, though in this case the metaphor is less distant than one would prefer.
Our culture lives virtually without its history, which makes it a very weird culture, indeed. In France, on sabbatical a few years back, I listened to a dinner conversation about Marshal Foch. Who? Marshal Foch. How did we come around to him? Someone at the table said she'd been born in Tarbes, a small town known primarily for its proximity to Lourdes. Another guest noted that Foch had been born there. And then followed a long, discursive conversation about Foch.
A bit of unexpected good news from Pakistan, and a step which could prevent new holdups for a stalled-out U.S. foreign aid bill: ISLAMABAD, Pakistan — A two-member panel of the Lahore High Court ruled Wednesday to reinstate travel restrictions on Abdul Qadeer Khan, the Pakistani scientist who has confessed to running the world’s largest nuclear proliferation network. The restrictions on Mr. Khan, who is widely revered in Pakistan as the founder of the country’s nuclear program, had been lifted in a ruling on Friday. The federal government appealed.
On MSNBC just now, Andrea Mitchell told Pennsylvania governor Ed Rendell that the Obama White House is distancing itself from a USA Today editorial written by Nancy Pelosi and Steny Hoyer arguing, in Mitchell's words, that "it's un-American to protest" Obama's health care plan at town hall meetings. Wrong. Mitchell is buying right into a Drudge-promoted conservative spin on the article.
Ezra Klein is up in arms about this Investors Business Daily editorial which makes the following claim: People such as scientist Stephen Hawking wouldn't have a chance in the U.K., where the National Health Service would say the life of this brilliant man, because of his physical handicaps, is essentially worthless. Ezra writes: It's not just that they didn't know that Stephen Hawking was born in England. It's that the underlying point was wrong, as you'll note from the continued existence of Stephen Hawking. They didn't choose an unfortunate example for an accurate point.
Do we need a technological breakthrough to avert the climate crisis?
Spies: The Rise and Fall of the KGB in America By John Earl Haynes, Harvey Klehr, and Alexander Vassiliev (Yale University Press, 637 pp., $35) If one were trying to define the lowest point in the long and venerable tradition of American anti-communism, surely it came in 2003, with the publication of Ann Coulter's Treason.