Science Debate 2008, Congressional scientists, and more holiday fun

I had a few days of spotty internet and blog account access, so I'm reposting some items that were originally in the comments section of some older entries.

First up, some exciting news about ScienceDebate 2008, courtesy of Chris and Sheril at The Intersection: the steering committee is now co-chaired by Vern Ehlers and Rush Holt, on Republican and one Democrat from the House, both with PhDs in physics. There is more fun at the hotlinked Intersection post above.

Second, I've continued to update my list of Congresspeople that have a background in science, technology, and engineering. The list is still pretty paltry, so please help me add to it if possible!


Gifts for friends, family, and the planet

This year, I'm cutting back on the number of store-bought treasures that I'm handing out. After all, I certainly don't need more stuff, and I figure that most of my friends and family don't need it, either. So instead of baubles and lotions and other knick-knacks, I'm giving gifts to help...
Looking for other places that you can make donations in honor of friends and family? Check out these...


Republicans talk climate change (maybe) - and a call for real science debate

At their last debate before the Iowa caucuses today, CNN reports that there was some discussion of climate change:

When asked to raise their hands if they believed global climate change is a serious threat and caused by human activity, former Tennessee Sen. Fred Thompson said he wasn't "doing hand shows today."

Other candidates agreed. Thompson asked if he could answer the question instead, but was told no.

Arizona Sen. John McCain said he knows "climate change is real."

"I've been involved in this issue since the year 2000. I have had hearings. I've traveled the world," he said. "It's real, we've got to address it, we can do it with technology ... with capitalist and free enterprise motivation. And I'm confident that we can pass on to our children and grandchildren a cleaner, better world."

One of the questioners, former Ambassador Alan Keyes, said, "I'm in favor of reducing global warming, because I think the most important emission we need to control is the hot air emission of politicians who pretend one thing and don't deliver."

Given the light treatment this and other science-related issues have received in recent debates, it is painfully obvious that there is a need for a debate devoted specifically to science. Which is a perfect introduction to a project that one of my fellow former Knauss fellows is working on: a call for a Presidential science debate. Sheril and her co-conspirators have cooked up quite a plan and discussion in the blogosphere is already whirling. Check out Sciencedebate2008 for all the information.


Speaking of the Nobel Peace Prize...

Yesterday the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) and Al Gore split the Nobel Peace Prize for their work on climate change. While the text of Gore's speech is widely available, I had less luck finding the full remarks of R. K. Pachauri, who chairs the IPCC. So, I went straight to the source - Nobelprize.org - and got the text of both speeches. You can also get the text in Norwegian and see videos. Click below for the direct links:

R.K. Pachauri, for the IPCC
Al Gore


The 50th Anniversary of the Global Carbon Dioxide Record

Who can say no to a trip to Hawaii - especially when it is to celebrate one of my favorite scientific records? That's right - the global carbon dioxide record, aka the "Keeling Curve" turned 50 this year. At the end of November, I traveled to Kona, HI for a special celebration of this record. Presentations during the three-day symposium included talks by Susan Solomon, Ralph Keeling, Robert Socolow, Julio Friedman, and many others (most conveniently archived at the conference website). The conference was excellent, bringing together scientists, industry folks, Congressional staffers, and many others to discuss the importance of the record as well as where to go from here with emissions controls, carbon capture, and other options for mitigation and adaptation.

After the talks were over, many of the participants stayed on an extra day to visit NOAA's Mauna Loa Observatory, where Dave Keeling started keeping track of the carbon dioxide concentration in the atmosphere 50 years ago. Despite a slight headache brought on by traveling from sea level to 11,000+ ft in the space of just a few hours, it was very exciting to see the observatory - and to get out of Kona and see some of the rest of the Big Island!

Which members of Congress have science backgrounds?

Having recently trawled the Internet to find an answer to this question, instead I found hardly any answer at all. So I'm asking for some help...If you know of a Representative or Senator with a background in science, engineering, math, or another related field, please add to the rather meager list I have so far assembled. So far I have all PhDs - but I'm willing to take any degree, college or higher. I'll keep updating this list as I find more Congresspeople with science training.

Rush Holt (NJ-12th), PhD in physics (also a 5 time Jeopardy winner, assistant director of Princeton Plasma Physics Lab, etc.)
Jerry McNerny (CA-11th), PhD in Mathematics
Bill Nelson (FL-Senator), Mission Specialist on Space Shuttle Columbia (January 1986) [does anyone have further information about his educational background?]
John Olver (MA-1st), PhD in Chemistry

Vernon Ehlers (MI-3rd), PhD in Nuclear Physics
Ron Paul (TX-14th), MD specializing in OB/GYN - bonus point for being a Presidential candidate



In February I will be off to India's Golden Triangle region to visit my friends Ian and Emera. I'm looking forward to seeing some of the places that they have been studying language and culture, and can't wait to see neelgai (left), hathi, and other Indian animals!


The [Great Lakes] Shipping News

One of my favorite songs is The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald, sung by Gordon Lightfoot. As I was listening to it yesterday evening on my way home, the lines "With a load of iron ore twenty-six thousand tons more / than the Edmund Fitzgerald weighed empty" caught my ear. Lake levels across the Great Lakes have been quite low over the past few years and shipping has suffered as a result. If the Fitz were around today, would it even be able to carry the weight of the cargo it did during that fateful voyage?

With water levels so low, many of the big boats can't carry full loads, and that means more cargo must move via train or truck - both of which contribute to more air pollution. Not that shipping is innocent of environmental consequences - certainly dredging accounts for a fair amount of habitat destruction and probably the "hole" at the bottom of Lake St. Clair. However, there are plenty of reasons to support shipping via water vs. land shipping - in addition to reduced air pollution and traffic tie ups caused by more trucks and trains, the boats are fun to watch (I've spent many an afternoon watching the big barges go by - and a fair amount of time dodging them while sampling fish on the St. Lawrence River) and serve as an important piece of the Lakes economy - bringing business to the port towns and providing jobs both on board and on shore. Ships can travel from the Atlantic to the heart of the North American continent via the St. Lawrence Seaway - and while this opens the door to invasive species and other problems, the benefits of the Seaway for the livelihoods of both the Americans and Canadians living in the region are hard to argue with.


Climate science resources

Trying to keep up with the latest and greatest on the climate change science front is like trying to grab hold of a river - but here are a few things that have caught my eye recently...


Review of last night's concert + imagery + podcast

Remember Fantasia? Walt Disney's masterwork of animation set to classical music? Now imagine that the animated fairies and dancing hippos have been replaced by footage of dolphins leaping across the ocean, erupting volcanoes, and distant planets and nebulae. Last night's performance by the National Symphony Orchestra was absolutely excellent - and I whole-heartedly encourage this type of collaboration to continue. Of special interest was the conductor's podcast, which I was a bit perplexed by at first. Talking through the Symphony? I must say, however, that the commentary was mainly limited to the quieter moments in the music to avoid being too distracting and the information (ranging from background on the composers and previous uses of the music in film to riots following the first performance of "Rite of Spring" and stories about the video footage) was very interesting. Perhaps we will see more of this multimedia concert going in future concerts?

3 x 3 x 3

Today is August 3, meaning that it is the birthday of Martha Stewart, Tom Brady, and yours truly :) It is also the day that Columbus set sail and that Al Kaline of the Detroit Tigers was inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame (my dad wouldn't take my mom to the hospital until the ceremony was over - or at least that is the family legend).

More Care2 Stickies Here!


More on the symphony + space

Over at The Intersection, Sheril posted a bit more about the concert, as well as a link to an incredibly excellent (and FREE) dating service for Trekkies...


Symphony, stars, and high-def NASA pics - and a podcast to listen to during the show?

Friday will be my birthday (shameless self-promotion), and I've gathered several friends up to celebrate a night early. We'll be visiting Wolf Trap to experience "Fantastic Planet: A Symphonic Video Spectacular" on Thursday evening. Wine + symphony + huge screens with digital images of Earth and the universe = good times? In visiting the show's website today, I see that they now have "a groundbreaking and innovative 2-part, audio-described program intended to be transferred to your iPod or other portable mp3 player and brought to the performance of Fantastic Planet." iPod at the Symphony? Okay, I admit that now that I've seen the tease, I cannot survive without downloading the podcast for my listening pleasure - it's like there is a little Steve Jobs whispering in my ear "go forth and become a Pod person."


Welcome to Sweet Waters!

If you aren't a scholar of Latin, aequora dulcis means "sweet waters" - as in the sweetwater seas of the Laurentian Great Lakes. Although I've moved around a bit - Michigan, upstate New York, and now DC - I still consider my homeplace to be the Great Lakes region.