Craig Venter’s IPO

Craig Venter’s IPO doesn’t exist, in fact. But this eight-page story in New York Times Magazine is full of such adulation for the man that it seems most lilkely a build-up for an investment offering. Perhaps Dr. Venter is seeking private investors, and needed a boost in visibility. (It’s unfortunate that Facebook has soured the public notion of investment, but private investors will be much less affected.)

In any event, the piece is interesting, even if it contains some undignified lines that still annoy me to read:”He is thinking of a bug that could live in a factory and gobble exhaust and fart fresh air.”

Venter is working on synthetic life. He plans to tackle the world’s problems using this as a tool, from farming to oil production to what is commonly seen as an excess in CO2. (I think this last notion is particularly misguided, as about 1/7th of our current food crop comes from that “excess” of CO2, which we’d instantly lose if we magically went back to pre-industrial CO2 levels.)

The piece is lavish in its praise, but has the side-effect of making Venter seem like a high-risk investment, intent on seeking danger for its spur to his thinking.

Along the way, I was reminded of a short story I wrote, “Greenspace,” about a near future in which we had “conquered” the “excess CO2″ by launching a process to reduce it — which worked too well. (I am not opposed to Venter’s work, but I’m aware of the caution required.) The notions and organisms described in the article show (inadvertently) exactly how such a story could come about. That “solution” to the “excess CO2″ would bring about the end of most plant and animal life on the planet. Including us, of course.

If our technology has advanced enough by then — perhaps a century from now or less — we might build giant spaceships intent on saving the last humans. But by this time, a planet full of trash won’t matter. The air would no longer support life, because we finally conquered CO2.

===|==============/ Keith DeHavelle

The UN and the Internet

Congress will hopefully blow this off. But they are actively pursuing the Law of the Sea Treaty, so it’s hard to put anything past them:

EDITORIAL: Giving the Internet to the U.N.

This week, Congress will consider legislation to amend the 1988 International Telecommunication Regulations to give the U.N. extraordinary powers over the Internet.Here’s a Wall Street Journal editorial on the push from back in February. That push has made it to the front of the line. Now, can it get in the door?

===|==============/ Keith DeHavelle

Memorial Day

Memorial Day we gather and pay homage to our fallen
Who gave themselves completely in response to duty’s callin’
Some joined to see the world, some merely thought of education
And some were drawn by kinship with the proud that guard our nation

But trials and training molded them into a joined precision
That holds our cause in high esteem, and suffers no division
Our military crew stands tall, and ready for the battle
And ready, too, to give their all, impervious to rattle

They serve in combat, serve in peace, and make of one the other
Rebuilding schools to grant a lease of freedom to a brother
The tasks they sometimes face are grim, and few of us would choose them
And each one stands his place, and we are poorer when we lose them

But richer still are we, for still we keep Liberty’s fire
Not just for those at home — those far away know we won’t tire
And countries ‘cross the globe recall when we came to release
Oppressed ones from their bondage, and we brought a well-earned peace

Unlike the conquerors of times before, we keep no soil
Just what we need for plots to lay our soldiers freed from toil
Instead we show by doing that the freedom’s worth the cost
We mourn our dead, then lift our heads, go on without our lost

The brothers and the sisters of our noble fighting forces
Are not just guardians of Liberty, they are its sources
Indeed, we owe our troops far more than we can ever pay
But thanks to all who served, and fell—on this Memorial Day


No more Mr. Anonymous

I mentioned recently the suggestion in the UK to implant a microchip in everyone at birth, to prevent anyone from being anonymous.

The New York Senate has a more direct approach to the issue. The bill they are putting forward requires you to post your real name and home address any time you post a political (or any other) comment.

At the same time, the Speedway Bomber is on the loose, and working for the Democrats. Your home address in his hands creates a dangerous situation indeed.

===|==============/ Keith DeHavelle

Despicable Me

I recently mentioned Pentti Linkola, the Finnish environmentalist advocating killing off six billion humans, with nuclear war, engineered plague, or similar means. He seriously advocates a dictatorship and expresses admiration for Hitler and the Hitler Youth.

A commenter described him as “a nutcase” — but I don’t think he is. For one thing, he is respected in Finland, not just in the environmental movement but evidently in the media as well. They interview him, treating him with respect. One interviewer was clearly delighted to have Linkola autograph her copy of one of his books — and her conversation makes it clear that she knows of the “controversial” proposals in his “good books.” He’s wrong — horribly, painfully wrong — but he is quite sane. He’s simply followed almost to the logical conclusion what the current catastrophic global warming advocates: “preserving the planet” at the cost of humans.  The “logical conclusion” of this position is the one occupied by the Vehement movement, VHEMT. The “voluntary human extinction” folks, still going strong after all these years, a bit like communists selling their goods to customers. (Ayers’s book is a popular sale item sold by communists at “occupy” and union protests.) Continue reading

Obama, version 2004

[Update: The 'Kenyan born' was apparently added to the AP article by this Kenyan paper, and was apparently not in the original. Perhaps they fell for Barack Obama's literary bio, which in 2004 still indicated the Kenyan born bit. The rest of this is modified from my original post as indicated.]

The Associated Press [or in this case the Sunday Standard of Kenya] seems to have been confused in 2004:

Sunday, June 27, 2004

Kenyan-born Obama all set for US Senate

Kenyan-born US Senate hopeful, Barrack Obama, appeared set to take over the Illinois Senate seat after his main rival, Jack Ryan, dropped out of the race on Friday night amid a furor over lurid sex club allegations. Continue reading


An Austrian report: “Senseless Surfing in the Internet is Destroying the Environment”
I’ll bet they don’t like webcomics.

Actually, I’d wager that they do, personally, but don’t like the idea of other people destroying the environment.

At least it’s Austria. Australia is coming to its senses (as in fact parts of Europe are). Some take this notion further, and insist that all technology is evil, and that only a good dictatorship and the death of billions of people can help humanity.

Here, someone is quoting a radical Green as saying horrific, stupid, destructive things — advocating violence, dictatorships, genocide, and a life of misery. It would be a terrible thing to do to a person to attribute such quotes to him, but in this case it’s his own website. Welcome to “ecofascism” driven by fear of global warming:

Continue reading

Bio, Degradable

Two different “wrong info in the bio” scandals have popped up in the past few weeks.

In one, Yahoo’s Chief Executive Officer Scott Thompson was revealed to something in his biography/CV that was not true. He claimed a qualification pertinent to his job (that he had a computer science degree) — and this was shown to be false.  After several days of silence, then an attempt to mollify critics by saying that he never personally wrote the bio, pundits continued to pile on: “How could he possibly have not read his own bio? He allowed it to stand for years; he’s responsible for it.”

This issue became so large in the media that it was features in radio news every hour. Ultimately, Scott Thompson was fired as Yahoo’s CEO. That was a week ago. More recently, another bio with apparently false information inserted to puff up a person’s background turned up. Continue reading

The Scientific Method

The Scientific Method is actually less complex, in a way, than the pretentious title makes it sound.  The essence is simple:

  1. Observe the world, looking for patterns
  2. Make a guess as to what might cause the patterns
  3. Make predictions: if your guess is true, what would you expect to happen?
  4. Test those predictions with observation or experiment
    • If wrong — and this is the usual result — start over and refine your guess.
    • If your guess seems supported, tell the world how you got your results so they can get them, too.

The second bullet point, the “tell the world” aspect, is vital. There are so many ways to make mistakes and to find results supporting your idea even if those results are accidental. It’s not just probabilty calculations here, but issues of philosophical approach. Richard Feynman recounts a story of scientists testing mice in mazes, with what seemed inexplicable results. The story is worth the read, and includes nude babes and jungle statues. A couple of pertinent quotes: Continue reading

Stellar Revelations

This is certainly interesting. The implication: If this theory has it right, then not only does the Sun have an amplified effect on climate (through its interaction with cosmic rays seeding clouds), but much of the last 500 million years of evolution gets an update:

On a related note, the Sun is expected by this team of researchers to go into a multi-polar mode this month — causing cooling, according to the theory above — a mode which hasn’t been seen for about three centuries.

===|==============/ Keith DeHavelle