Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Science in the age of information

Science is not a realm of independent inquirers. It is a grant-seeking game very much like that of corporate environmental groups. The ones who speak out are by definition fringe voices and automatically discredited by the academy. The analogy is not David vs. Goliath but Cassandra among the Trojans.

Saturday, November 14, 2015

I stand with the trees and watch with the raptors.

Our friends at AWEO.org received a not untypically incoherent letter of complaint recently, which they haved shared with your editor. It came from Alabama, but I do not publish the author’s name, instead encouraging him to stop misdirecting his own energies, both negative and positive.
You could more effectively direct your energies to environmental and health consequences of millions of acres of oceans, atmosphere polluted by nuclear radiation and from fossil coal, and oil burning which is killing entire forests, poisoning sea life, and manifests health conseuqences for hundreds of millions if not billions of populations who can barely breathe in cities choked with pollution.

I stand with the trees and the raptors.

Your ignorance of the inetivable course of humanity in its greed for energy is an outrage. Complaining that governments waste money or that wind power engineering in its inefficiencies and pre-maturity or unsightlyness should be stopped in its tracks; pretending to prevent exploit of secondary 'renewable', in fact inexhaustible, solar wind and wave power would condemn centuries of windmills which have proven their utility and innocence for generations.

Soon the spectre of your poor ignorance will be redundant. Meso-scale changes in global weather perhaps even completely uncorrelated with the burning of dinosaurs and biomass which you prefer to ignore are forecast to endanger significant proportion of global populations living near seacoasts, and diminish those winds which, if properly exploited, might provide some glimmer of an alternative for the energy needs of billions on this planet.

Enjoy the weather.
AWEO replied as follows, and after several days have not received a reply in turn.
You claim to stand with the trees and the raptors, yet you would have the former leveled and the latter decimated to build enough wind towers to provide any meaningful fraction of our electricity needs — and only when the wind happens to be blowing in the right direction at the right speed, and never mind our other energy needs.

Obviously our efforts should be directed at cleaning up and reducing our actual energy use, not at pretending to provide alternatives that remain and ever will remain sideshows at best. But worse, they are sideshows increasingly destructive of landscape and wild habitat, as well as costly wastes of resources.

Friday, November 13, 2015

GORT: field; GORTA: hunger

Gort, g. guirt, pl. id., m., a field or plantation, a corn-field and esp. a field of oats; al. name of Irish letter G; g. féir, a hay-field; g. arbhair, a corn-field; tá g. maith agam i mbliadhna, I have a good crop of oats this year; in place-names: Gortineddan; G. na cille, Gortnakilla, etc.; dim. goirtín (gu-); cf. páirc and garrdha.

Gorta, g. id., f., hunger; scarcity, famine, destitution; stinginess; g. eolchair, hunger during lying-in; fuair sé bás den gh., he died of hunger; leigfeadh fuil fuil ’on g., acht ní leigfeadh fuil fuil do dhortadh, one might let his relative starve but not his relative’s blood to be spilled (with impunity); an gh. ghann, lean famine (poet.); gs. as a., stingy, miserly, as ruidín g., a miserly little creature.

Gorthach, -aighe, a., vehement, ardent; cf. an ghéag gh. raobh chosnaimh laoch lonnach láidir, the ardent youth, shielder of impetuous and doughty warriors (Fil.); sm., a wounder, a warrior who presses hard on the enemy.

Gortuighim, -ughadh, v. tr., I hurt, wound, oppress, pain, afflict, injure; al. goirtighim.

Gortuighim, v. tr., I starve.

—Foclóir Gaedhilge agus Béarla, 1927, by Patrick Dinneen

Monday, November 02, 2015

How to dilute negative results to protect an industry

A recently published study implies that wind turbines as close as 0.25 mile and up to an outdoor average noise level of 46 dB(A) do not disturb sleep. In fact the actual noise levels were only estimated and averaged only 35.6 dB(A), which is a level that indeed would be unlikely to disturb sleep indoors. Furthermore, the range of distance from wind turbines extended to 11.22 kilometers. The result is that the data from households closer to noisier wind turbines are obviously diluted by the greater amount of data from farther away. Finally, averaging sleep experience over time serves to mask, rather than discover, any experience of particularly disturbing nights.

When the full paper is available, it will be interesting to see if the authors acknowledge these limitations: that their sample size from noisier and closer sites was insufficient to reach any conclusions, that noise levels were outdoors only and estimated rather than measured, and that sleep disturbance was assessed as 30-day averages, ignoring actual nightly experience.

Sleep. 2015 Oct 22.
Effects of Wind Turbine Noise on Self-Reported and Objective Measures of Sleep.
Michaud DS, Feder K, Keith SE, Voicescu SA, Marro L, Than J, Guay M, Denning A, Murray BJ, Weiss SK, Villeneuve PJ, van den Berg F, Bower T.

Sunday, November 01, 2015

Eibhlín Nic Niocaill — obituary by Pádraig Pearse

From An Claidheamh Soluis agus Fáinne an Lae, 21 August 1909:

There are times when journalists and public men experience a trial more cruel than others can easily imagine. It is when they are called upon in the course of their duty to write or speak in public of things that touch the innermost fibres of their own hearts, things that to them are intimate and sacred, entwined, it may be, with their dearest friendships and affections, awakening to vibrations old chords of joy or sorrow. The present is such an occasion for the writer of these paragraphs, and this must be his excuse if he does not pay to Eibhlín Nic Niocaill such tribute as readers of An Claidheamh Soluis will expect. It is not in human nature to write a glib newspaper article on a dead friend. One dare not utter all that is in one’s heart and in the effort of self-restraint one is apt to pen only cold and formal things. Therefore we will discharge as briefly as may be the duty that falls upon us.

First we would voice the sorrow of our organisation for the death of one of its most brilliant and heroic members. We have often spoken in the name of the Gaelic League, but never have we felt ourselves peculiarly at one with it as thus making ourselves the mouthpiece of its tribute to Eibhlín Nic Niocaill. We knew her well, and she was the most nobly planned of all the women we have known. The newspapers have truly spoken of her as the most distinguished student of her time. Gaelic Leaguers will remember her as an incomparably strenuous worker during her brief but crowded career of active service. But it is neither as a student or as a League worker that her friends will think of her. Her grand dower of intellect, her gracious gift of charm and sympathy, her capacity for affairs, were known to all, but those who knew her best know that all of these were the least of her endowments. What will stand out clear and radiant in their mental picture of her is the loftiness of her soul, the inner sanctity of her life.

The close of that life had been worthy of it. If she had been asked to choose the manner of her death she would surely have chosen it thus. She died to save another, and that as a young Irish-speaking girl. Greater love than this no man hath than he give his life for his friend. To Eibhlín Nic Niocaill high heroism was native. Her life was consecrated to the service of high things. And without seeking reward she found rich reward in the enthusiastic love of hundreds. She gave much love and received much love. Not many have been carried with such passion of grief and affection as that which thrilled in the keenings of the Kerry women as the curraghs forming her funeral procession moved across the sound:
“Mo ghroidhn tú, a Eibhlín,
“Mo ghroidhn do mháthair,
“Mo ghroidhn go bráth í!”
they said. In Dublin her comrades’, and fellow-students’, grief was not articulate, but no one who witnessed it could doubt its poignancy. Our second duty is to offer respectfully the sympathy of her and our co-workers to her father and mother and brothers. The memory of her life and death will be the greatest treasure in the years that are to come. And for them the treasure will be none the less though many thousands of her people claim a share in it also.

I bhfochair an Uain go raibh a hanam ar feadh na sforaíochta!

—P.H. Pearse