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Un-time-ly illogic

Well the end of Daylight Savings Time is near and so the demands for year-round savings of daylight increase as the sun drops lower towards the horizon.  Federal action must be taken! We must all be on DST! California voters get to vote on this, Florida passed a law asking for this– except that neither can take effect until the federal government acts. Congress forbid states from going on Daylight Savings all year long.  They can stay on standard time all year (which is what Arizona does, to the confusion of visitors to Laughlin who fly into and out of Bullhead City, whose clocks are only an hour different in the winter). But move that clock an hour ahead? No.

Well, you know you can fake it, right? Just go to standard time (which is allowed under the law) and start school an hour earlier, work from 8 to 4 instead of 9 to 5.  How hard is that? It is even a bit liberating–leaving work at 4 might feel like you are playing hooky every day.

But wait, I hear you cry, even that still wastes daylight! Here in Denver there are 15 hours of daylight near the summer solstice–even with DST the sun gets up at 5:30 in the morning. Who needs that! That’s at least an hour and a half of daylight we’re wasting.

So since we all now use cellphones and computers to tell time, and since they all can make these calculations with ease, GG proposes Uniform Sunlight Time (US time!).  In US Time, every morning the sun rises promptly at 8 am. So in the summer months the sun sets here in Denver 15 hours later, at 11 pm. Lots of saved daylight.  And in the depths of winter when we are down to a miserable nine hours and 22 minutes of daylight, the sun sets at 5:22 pm so the average wage earner gets a few rays after work. No more putting a pillow over your head at 6 am in the summer as the sun blasts through your curtains! No more oversleeping that business meeting at 9 because it was darker than the inside of a dog when you went to get up! And all that saved light!

But…but…but–that would change the length of a day! Spring days would be something like 24 hours and 2 minutes and fall days would be about 23 hours and 58 minutes. Well, if you want to get picky, days don’t stay the same length as it is–if you don’t believe it, put a rod in the ground and every day at precisely noon, see where the shadow points. It won’t be the same direction every day because high noon to high noon is almost never 24 hours. Why? Because of the Earth’s elliptical orbit around the sun. Solar noon moves by about a half hour relative to our 24 hour clock over the year. This 24 hours stuff is just an average over the year anyways; why not monkey with it?

Now we probably don’t want to redefine the length of a second every day.  We could, but that probably would mess things up (after all, you probably wouldn’t want to have to change the stickers on computers every day to correct their processor speed for that day–today only 2.0018 GHz!). So just like going on Daylight Savings, we simply tidy up when most of us are asleep, say at 2 am. From the winter to the summer solstice we spring forward a minute or two, so we might go from 2:00 am directly to 2:02 am, and in the other half of the year we fall back a little. No big deal. We could even mildly adjust the frequency of AC power to get mechanical clocks aligned with this while all our digital toys automatically take care of the switch.

GG is sure that this will solve all our problems with time. So feel free to write your Congressman or Congresswoman–GG is sure they would be delighted to hear about something they could actually do and be a pleasant diversion from partisan screeds they currently find in their in boxes.

Yes, its time for US Time!

Super-honey?

“You attract more flies with honey than vinegar” the old saying goes.  It would seem a pretty marginal publisher got the word and is trying it out:

*Dear Dr. **C. H Jones**,

* *Greetings from Nessa Journal of Geology & Earth Sciences (NJGES)*

Recently we have come across your presentation at the *”Seismology of the Americas Meeting Latin American and Caribbean Seismological Commission Seismological Society of America May 2018 Miami, Florida” *with the title *”**Exploring the Extent of Wave Propagative Effects on Teleseismic Attenuation Measurements within the Sierra Nevada**”*. I presume that it will outstandingly attract the readers and will receive applause from the people of all walks of life. I believe it will enrich the knowledge and experiment of people who are involved in all these researches and experiments.

Man, what temptation! “receive applause from the people of all walks of life”! GG cannot wait to walk out to the mailbox to thunderous applause from the neighborhood, or be mobbed in the grocery store for having published in the legendary NJGES!

Though to “outstandingly attract the readers” might mean standing out on a street corner with a sign “please read and applaud.”

Geomovies 2018?

Its been awhile since we looked at how earth science in doing in the cinema.  The short answer is, not much and not well. Superhero and space opera movies have so abandoned reality that it is essentially pointless to be critical. For instance, Star Wars originally had some concept of the scale of space, but that was entirely wiped out by absolutely everything about the Starkiller Base in Force Awakens: the impossibly high stresses needed to make a planetary ditch at least 100 km high to the staggering variations in air pressure this would entail to the ridiculous notion of sucking a star into some weapon chamber to the impossibility of watching this thing fire its weapon in real time from a distant star system. With fanboy-fav and science-oblivious director J.J. Abrams returning for the 9th installment, we can expect to see evermore spectacular violations of reality…

Anyways, the point being that arguing the characteristics of vibranium in Marvel movies is pointless, as is the Bifrost or Dr Strange’s little portals just as the aerodynamics of the Millennium Falcon or TIE fighters is beyond hope. This seems to leave us with the Jurassic World movies.

There is little point here in even criticizing the dinosaurs since they were made imperfectly from the start–differences with real dinosaurs is explained simply as a result of the approximations used in making modern dinosaurs.  This leaves us with Isla Nublar, supposedly off the Pacific coast of Costa Rica (Hawaii acts as a stand-in) and complete with a volcano. Unsurprisingly, there is no volcanic island off Costa Rica, but at least it is on the Pacific Ocean and has volcanoes….So as its been awhile since volcanoes were front and center–how does this one look?

Well we see a lot of smoke from the summit and a lot of lava flowing out the sides. Some of this lava is exceptionally fluid, sneaking through cracks in a building (good luck with that; there’s a lot of video now of how the fairly fluid east rift lavas on the Big Island of Hawaii behave when hitting buildings or cars and it isn’t that fluid). But of course we then get some explosions from the flanks of the mountain and what would seem to be pyroclastic flow coming from the same spot.  A very slow pyroclastic flow at that, for instead of the typical speeds in excess of 100 mph usually seen, this one barely catches up to our protagonists moving at a run. Later the mountain shifts to hurling flaming boulders at everybody before some strange volcanic cloud of doom settles over the remaining dinosaurs. While not as laugh-out-loud silly as the cracks that open and close in Volcano, this is a very Hollywood volcano.

Would the volcano cause everything on the island to die? (what the movie’s news reporters call an “extinction level event,” which is not how any earth scientist would call the obliteration of a small population of animals on one island; “extinction level events” actually refer to events that cause mass extinctions, such as the asteroid impact at the end of the Cretaceous.  Extinctions of a few geographically limited species can be caused far more prosaically–by draining a marsh or damming a river).  The closest thing in recent history would be the eruption of the Soufriere Hills volcano in Montserrat 21 years ago, which led to 2/3 of the population leaving and the abandonment of the capital of Plymouth.  Even here, though, the northern part of the island is largely unaffected and there remains large tracts of forest in the southern half of the island. So probably something would still be marching around on the island….

Overall not a lot of excitement geoscience-wise. GG avoided the train wreck of Geostorm and will need someday to see how the kaiju in Pacific Rim 2 were to “activate” the Pacific Rim of Fire (a callback to 1965’s Crack in the World?). We’ll have to wait and see how Alpha plays out (yes, more paleoanthropology than geoscience, but there has been speculation that human access to the New World required the domestication of wolves into dogs to be able to compete successfully with carnivores of the northern latitudes). Looks like the San Andreas sequel is stalled or dead, so maybe no more earthquakes or volcanoes coming up anytime soon.

Probably the most thorough examination of geology in the movies was put together in Earth magazine a few years ago. And GG has weighed in a few times before….

Prestige

The Nature Index stuff made GG wonder just how highly cited are the best geoscience papers from those prestigious journals? And how do they stand up to some other journals?  So here are some results from Web of Science.

For ease of calculation, we’ll just look at the journals that were all earth science, and let’s limit things to since 1960.  So of the prestigious journals in the Nature list, here are the number of citations of the top three papers:

  • Earth and Planetary Science Letters (1966 start): 6600, 5835, 2482
  • Geochimica et Cosmochimica Acta: 8167, 3035, 2348
  • Geology (1972 start) 1562, 1158, 1113
  • Geophysical Research Letters (1974 start) 2342, 2241, 1239
  • Journal of Geophysical Research: Solid Earth (1991; 1985-1991 Solid Earth and Planets, before that just JGR B) 2583, 2529, 2516.
  • Nature Geoscience (2008 start) 1374, 1017, 931

The four bold faced citations are those above 3000. Now here are some other reasonably prominent geoscience journals with their top 3 citations.

  • Applied Geochemistry (since 1987) 3593, 776, 692
  • Bulletin of the Seismological Society of America 3237, 2388, 1898
  • Chemical Geology (since 1968 WoS) 5846, 2639, 2087
  • Contributions to Mineralogy and Petrology (since 1969 in WoS) 2210, 2090, 2042
  • GSA Bulletin 2143, 1560, 1246
  • Geophysical Journal RAS (to 1987)/GJI (1989-) 3454, 2763, 1910
  • Journal of Geology 2105, 1905, 1850
  • Lithos (1975 start in WoS) 1226, 1147, 976
  • Tectonics (1981 start) 1263, 1021, 785
  • Pure and Applied Geophysics (1964 start in WoS) 2342, 610, 599

Several of the most highly cited papers are in review journals not listed here (which are quite prestigious and often the good review papers carry more than just a review). But looking at this list it is hard to say that this second list is really all that different in producing extremely highly cited papers, and you could argue that this list might be just as important a set of journals as that used in Nature Index.  Even a journal as uneven as Tectonophysics occasionally has a gem in it (1756 citations) and specialty journals like Quaternary Research (2253) and Precambrian Research (1267) often produce influential papers. Even some of the new electronic journals (G^3, Geosphere) have some well cited papers despite starting this century.

The message? Prestige is earned by what you say, not where you say it.

Reblog: Bt GMOs reduce pesticides, increase yields, and benefit farmers (including organic farmers) — The Logic of Science

Logic of Science does a nice job of explaining in detail why and how one particular flavor of GMO crop is almost certainly a good thing–which underscores both that willingness to overlook science can be from the left and right.

Few technologies have been demonized to the same extent as genetic engineering. According to countless websites, GMOs are an evil scourge on the earth that destroy biodiversity, use exorbitant levels of pesticides, and hybridize rampantly with wild crops, and all of that is before we even get to the (largely false) claims about Monsanto. Reality, […]

Full post is at: Bt GMOs reduce pesticides, increase yields, and benefit farmers (including organic farmers) — The Logic of Science

Charitable (Mis)givings

The end of the year or start of the new year is when GG decides to catch up on annual giving to his family’s favorite charities.  He has long resisted their attempts to get a free pass to take money out of his bank account every month, but one wonders if there might be a perk–namely, a lot fewer mailings with large type on the envelope about MEMBERSHIP RENEWAL ENCLOSED or DON’T LET YOUR MEMBERSHIP EXPIRE.  There is something profoundly ironic about organizations that nominally are out there to protect the environment sending enough junk mail to give the mail carrier a hernia.

Now GG doesn’t want to forget his favorite charities when he finally pulls out the checkbook to write an annual donation, so he dutifully plops each new missive in a stack with the older ones. And now, pulling them all out and sorting them, it becomes clear that some organizations assume we all suffer from profound mailing-attention-deficit disorder, or, um, MADDer. When the stack of mail is high enough to create avalanches that launch cats up the stairs, you know some of these organizations really need to reexamine their priorities.

Here is GG’s take: the more mail a charity can send, the less it needs GG’s support. Keep putting that lowest value checkbox a full $100 over last year’s donation? Watch as GG discovers the little blank space where you can write in your own amount–which will likely be the same as last year or even lower. So, charity fund raisers, a suggestion: Don’t run your organization like a spambot.  One renewal request is plenty; if a month or two later you don’t hear back, another request is fine.  More than that? Well, I know I’ll be hearing from you again soon, so maybe I’ll just toss all the requests in the recycle bin (and yes, GG has done this with at least one annoying charity).

So who wins the title for least obnoxious? For GG, it is a three-way tie: The League To Save Lake Tahoe, Sequoia Parks Conservancy and Rocky Mountain Conservancy.  Bravo, gang: only one notice in the past year each. You get the first checks, when GG still has a positive bank balance and a more generous outlook.  Close behind were Meals on Wheel Boulder (2 notices) and Community Food Share (3 notices). And for your assumption GG is not in need of near-daily reminders that he gave you money (or apples, in Community Food Share’s case) last year, you also get links from this blog post.

The worst? How about an organization that acts as a consumer watchdog, that is always decrying misleading advertising and yet chooses to entice you to donate to them with prize drawings? Yes, it is the Consumer Reports Foundation (which is hard to pry apart from the magazine).  Maybe their idea of subtlety has been distorted by looking at so much advertising nonsense. A couple of national environmental groups are close behind.

Something you might notice: the smaller charities with very specific goals aren’t so pesky.  Larger national groups seem more eager to inundate donors with mad alerts, upcoming renewal deadlines, renewal deadlines, “did you forget to renew” pleas, donate now for matching opportunity, special opportunity, special challenge, limited time special offer, or free gift inside! So maybe you too want to notice just how much attention your mailbox gets from the charities you like. (And as a reminder, for those national groups it is certainly worth looking through sites like CharityWatch to see if the cause is as good as it seems).

Political Review of Science Is Here

Now things are getting really interesting in the U.S. government. The administration has decided that there needs to be a political review of grants coming from the Department of the Interior (DOI) so that grant moneys will “better align with the Secretary’s priorities” (The memo was obtained by the Washington Post,  which also has an article on this). (This follows a similar effort at EPA). And what might those be? Ah, there’s a detailed list, with things like “Utilizing our natural resources” and “Restoring trust with local communities”. This appears to be a new thing:

‘“Subjugating Congress’ priorities to 10 of the Secretary’s own priorities is arrogant, impractical and, in some cases, likely illegal,” said [David J.] Hayes, executive director of the New York University School of Law’s State Energy and Environmental Impact Center.’-Washington Post article.

Now some of these points sound perfectly fine: “Utilize science to identify best practices to manage land and water resources and adapt to changes in the environment,” for instance, though the devil is in what “changes to the environment” you are willing to anticipate. Tribes would be happy to hear that their sovereignty is to be enhanced, not that the Four Corners tribes feel that way after the reductions to Bears Ears National Monument.

Then there are things that may sound like one thing and might mean another.  For instance, “Ensure that Endangered Species Act decisions are based on strong science and thorough analysis.” Keep in mind that this document is about approving grants to external groups that do not make policy decisions. So precisely how would such a policy statement be applied to a grant application? Is a political appointee to decide whether an application to say, study the population of a potentially endangered species is “strong science” or not, perhaps overruling whatever peer-review system was in place? Is this the DOI version of the HONEST act’s intent?

And we might be leaving ambiguity behind with another point: “Ensure American Energy is available to meet our security and economic needs” sure sounds like “Drill, baby, drill.” Does this mean that U.S. Geological Survey research or grants under the National Earthquake Hazards Research Program (NEHRP) that address induced earthquakes will now be denied because they might lead to reductions in petroleum production? Frankly, this doesn’t seem very far-fetched after industry leaned on the Oklahoma government to question the role of wastewater injection in the increase in  seismicity there a few years back. Or after this administration shut down a National Academy study into health risks near surface coal mining sites.

Frankly this is a below-board effort to lobotomize the science DOI solicits. If the administration feels it is empowered to not seek scientific input or research on certain topics, they can openly change the requests for proposals. It will be interesting to see what grants or cooperative agreements get canned under this process, but the mere presence of a political check is apt to skew the grant applications that go in as scientists self-censor things they suspect won’t pass muster. Its hard enough these days to get past the scientific peer-review; adding another hurdle–one vague enough to kill almost anything–doesn’t encourage scientific inquiry. And so our government continues to turn a deaf ear to science. Good luck with that.