Can the Ocean solve the sky’s problems? Can youth “cure” old age?

== Are the only answers puritanism and efficiency? ==

Amid all the sturm und drang over climate change, and whether to try “geo-engineering” or ban even discussing such alternatives, it seems that polemics had trumped science. Leaving “progress” to be done in a fly-by-night fashion.

GEO-ENGINEERINGHas ocean fertilization been proved? Early indications may be spectacular. I’ve long favored careful experiments in this one kind of “geo-engineering,” which simply replicates nature by providing missing elements to some of the vast (90%) of ocean zones that are nutrient poor deserts, almost devoid of life. A senseless enviro-puritan reflex has blocked these experiments, which are inherently retractable — and which I portrayed way back in EARTH (1989). Frustrated by this excessive eco-prudity, a Native American tribe in British Columbia financed the distribution of 120 tons of iron sulfate into the northeast Pacific in 2012, hoping to stimulate a phytoplankton bloom which in turn would provide ample food for baby salmon.

That is what appears to have happened, on a stunning scale, starting with the expected plankton bloom. The following year – (according to Robert Zubrin, whose notoriety comes from promoting Mars colonization) – “the number of salmon caught in the northeast Pacific more than quadrupled, going from 50 million to 226 million. In the Fraser River, which only once before in history had a salmon run greater than 25 million fish (about 45 million in 2010), the number of salmon increased to 72 million.”

These numbers appear to be confirmed … though I welcome participatory research from you folks! Please help our group mind to follow up on this! If any cause-effect can be supported, it would seem to offer very strong reason to pursue further experiments in this nature, which promise better side effects than any other palliative measure (e.g. more food from vitalized fisheries) while pulling carbon from the air.

Read this article in the conservative National Review, where Zubrin offers up quotations from enviro-obstinates that reveal embarrassing political and mental obduracy on the farthest-left. Only also know this, that Rob Zubrin cherry-picked these quotations, which are extrema from a spectrum wherein most environmentalists are in-fact reasonable people. Rob is a vigorous and interesting fellow — I like him — but also a rigidly dogmatic person of the very far-right, which comes out in his article, veering into realms of denialist crackpottery.

Working your way through it will be a test of your ability to pluck (many) pearls from (a lot of) manure. Learn to do that… and that similar ratios sometimes are seen on the other side.

militancyMust this always be our fate? Having to pick our way through an opinion-minefield, between opposing, simplistic militancies? A pragmatically progressive civilization would shrug off both eco-puritans and fanatical climate denialists and seek precious positive-sum opportunities. We need to explore this one — this potential win-win of ocean enhancement — swiftly and carefully. Or else it will be done in the dead of night, from boats that dump “fertilizer” without oversight or scientific supervision.

Noteworthy is this parallel – 10,000 years ago we learned to irrigate and make deserts bloom with crops. Add water to land, and life burgeons… but add it WRONG and you poison the Fertile Crescent with salts and make desert. What you need is drainage to ensure that the water you are adding will ALSO wash salts away.  That’s the difference between the Euphrates Valley, which was chokes by poor drainage, and the Ganges and Nile which are still fertile after 5000 years of irrigation.

The way to look at ocean-fertiization is doing the inverse of irrigation. You are adding “land” to water in the form of nutrients.  In fact, it’s been happening for quite some time and lessons have been learned. Agricultural runoff “feeds” life in the sea, all right. When it spills into vigorous ocean currents, there’s no visible harm. But when when there’s inadequate oxygen and circulation, you get algae blooms that bring death. The Black Sea is a horror story: virtually dead. Parts of the Caribbean and the Mediterranean are also in trouble.

But fertilize into very strong currents that are rich in Oxygen? That is exactly like well-drained irrigation. It works, if carefully watched.  At least, that is a reasonable interpretation of all that we can see. Why not do the validation experiments scientifically and openly, instead of leaving this to fly-by-nighters?

== Can innovation help? ==

canals1Folks have been commenting on whether we will have “solar roads.” I find the notion silly. No place has more wear and tear than a road surface. Come on people.

The place to put massive numbers of solar panels, when we truly have the next economy of scale breakthrough, is as roofs over the California Aqueduct. There is no place as perfect. Nearly total sun. The transmission lines have an existing right of way, and savings from evaporation would nearly pay for it all. This has been done for a canal in the state of Gujarat in India (pictured).

== Bio wonders! ==

It sounds like something out of a comic book or a science fiction movie – the first report of a successful biological laser based on a single, living cell. The fan who wrote to tell me about this commented: “It only took thirty-one years, but Culla’s eyes in Sundiver are becoming a reality.”

Okay! I’m not sure this counts for full points in the Predictions Registry. But partial credit is fine… for now.


LIFEFORMScientists have made living organisms that use SIX nucleotides – the familiar GATC… plus X and Y. They need to be fed special X & Y bearing foods or they die. Many in the press are fretting this is bad news for keeping scientific progress accountable…

…when in fact it is the very opposite!  This is absolutely terrific news! If this pans out, it means we’ll be able to keep a much tighter rein on our laboratory creations by creating lines of organisms that absolutely rely upon supplies of nutrients that cannot get, outside of the lab. Why is it that no one ever sees the good side of discoveries?

Oh, then there is this: is cancer about to be knocked down several notches?

== Icky-scary… yet intriguing! ==

Only, here’s the ickiest-scariest science news of the month: “New studies show that young blood reverses effects of aging when put into older mice.” Argh, the images this brings to mind!! Creepy old billionaires craving the revitalizing blood of pre-teenagers!

Of course it doesn’t have to go Hollywood. I am about to be awarded my ten-gallon hat when I reach my 80th blood donation and young people could get college money in exchange for donating five times a year, without the slightest harm. This might be a lot less scary than I fear. In fact, it may lead to great things.

But at first sight, it is a really trashy sci fi flick scenario, come true! (Note countries with a skewed old-to-young ratio might be in trouble.)

In fact, it just gets creepier! Note HOW the researchers got this result. By co-joining the old and young circulatory systems for weeks! Apparently just a pint or two doesn’t do it. You need access to the younger creature’s kidneys! And it isn’tt just the oldster getting “younger”… the youngster gets OLDER!

“But for the young mice, getting old blood was a definite setback. When conjoined to an older mouse, the creation of new cells in the young mouse slowed. Old blood seemed to cause premature aging.”

Okay, okay, we are back in really scary territory. The only way this won’t go very badly is if zillionaires live in The Transparent Society. I mean it. Without an open world, old Struldbrugs will be sending out minions and snatching young people off the streets.

Oh, and science. Pray this news is analyzed and replicated artificially and cheaply, real soon. I’d like that.

== Pertinent Miscellany ==

Since the late 1980s, teen pregnancy rates dropped 51 percent by 2010 and the teen abortion rate declined 66 percent and the teen birthrate declined 44 decreased. Teen pregnancy rates declined in all 50 states. New Mexico had the highest teen pregnancy rate of 80 per 1,000 women, followed by Mississippi at 76 per 1,000 women and Texas at 73 per 1,000 women; while the lowest rate was in New Hampshire with 28 per 1,000 women, Vermont at 32 per 1,000 women and Minnesota at 36. (Um… who is in a position to lecture us, morally?)

A new type of 3D printer developed by Carnegie Mellon University and Disney Research Pittsburgh can turn raw wool and wool blend yarns into fabric objects that people might enjoy touching.

In the category of I Kid You Not… Argentina’s INTA governmental research body has developed cow backpacks that use a tube from the cattle’s rumen leading to a bag, to trap the methane they produce in order to turn it into green energy. You’d think this a joke, till you realize its 250 liters of methane a day. Question. At some point do they float away? Or by accident rocket away?

Google wants to create a fully, 100 percent self-driving vehicle — something that needs no human being at the steering wheel — the company is building a car without a steering wheel. 100 cars will be in the first run. Google X — the inventor’s central within the company that is (among other things) creating balloon-borne internet broadband hubs — has “started developing prototype vehicles that actually are built from the ground up to be fully self-driving.” says a lead developer at Google X, Chris Umson, working with Dmitri Dolgov. The car has a steel frame to protect passengers, but the front face is made of a soft foam that causes less damage in an accident. It’ll go no faster than 25 mph, and focuses on city street driving.

Sven Beiker, a professor at Stanford’s Center for Automotive Research, doesn’t think he’s going to see a fully self-driving car in his professional lifetime. “Right now in, the year 2014, we’re just making the steps towards partial automation. That means the driver still needs to be in the loop,” he says.

Google engineers have developed a simulated quantum computer called Quantum Computing Playground that allows you to write, run, and debug software using quantum algorithms.

The use of C60 (fullerene) nanorods, which have unique optoelectronic properties, including high electron mobility, photosensitivity, and conductivity, could make possible low-cost medical and security cameras that would empower even cell phones or Penny Cams, or micro probes inside the body.




Filed under science

2 responses to “Can the Ocean solve the sky’s problems? Can youth “cure” old age?

  1. “This is absolutely terrific news! If this pans out, it means we’ll be able to keep a much tighter rein on our laboratory creations by creating lines of organisms that absolutely rely upon supplies of nutrients that cannot get, outside of the lab. Why is it that no one ever sees the good side of discoveries?”

    Like the Jem’Hadar in the Star Trek universe?

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