"It is true, and thus the question of whether it is sad or happy has no meaning whatever."
Bernhard Schlink

Science is best when discussed: leave your thoughts and ideas in the comments!!

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Astoundingly Bad Ideas 

Sometimes, smart people get stupid ideas and say stupid things. A US researcher, upon finding that a tiny sea creature (the salp) could theoretically 'mop up' after humans' excess greenhouse gas emissions, has suggested that we artificially alter the oceans' nutrient content, to try and make more of them. This is a mind-blowingly numb-nutted idea. For starters, even if it worked it would fail to address the actual problem: excess greenhouse gas emissions, and at best be only a temporary solution. Then, we move on to what the effects of altering ocean chemistry would be on, well, EVERYTHING ELSE IN THE WORLD!

A similarly lame-brained idea to solve our mounting environmental and energy crises is that of a 'hydrogen economy.' I've never been a fan of this idea - H is expensive, hard to produce, and hard to store, but for whatever reason the dubya administration bloody loves it. A leading fuel cell expert, Ulf Bossel, has put together a paper saying about that, and claiming that hydrogen is impracticable to meet our energy needs.

His arguments go beyond the simple technology problem (which could theoretically be solved) to the abundance problem: water is already a scarce resource in much of the world, and burning it all up as hydrogen fuel would make things worse. In that hydrogen fules burn to water, I'm not sure I believe outright quantity is so much the problem as distribution (i.e., not only who has the water to make hydrogen, but where all that end-product ends up relative to where it started).

And then there's cancer. The vast majority of men who die in old age have prostate cancer on autopsy, and the recent fad of screening has caused PC rates to skyrocket. But, the majority of men do not die of prostate cancer, and it rarely even affects them. Treatment is traumatic, expensive, and causes impotence and incontinence, but a study now suggests that it may increase life expectancy in older men, who would normally not be treated. The study's methodology, however, is dubious, and especially given the serious side-effects of treatment, its recommendations should be taken with many grains of salt.

Finally, of course, the most asinine idea of the day, possibly the year, comes from the Texas legislature (where else?). Representative Edmund Kuempel wants to make it legal for blind people to hunt. And they would be allowed, under his bill, to use laser targeting devices and other unsportsmanlike technologies which are otherwise banned. As long as they have a sighted friend help them aim. I don't think I even need to mention the trillions of ways this is a stupid, irresponsible, and likely-to-increase-the-murder-rate idea. Hmm...maybe it'll lower the population in Texas...could be a good idea...

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