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In this post: the large versions of the Environment and Humanities & Social Science channel photos, comments from readers, and the best posts of the week.


Environment. Drilling for oil in the Deep For Wildlife Refuge in Oklahoma. From Flickr, by FreeWine


Humanities & Social Science. Traffic lights at dusk in Portland, Oregon. From Flickr, by frozenchipmunk

Reader comments of the week:

In Proposed Oil Legislation: Brilliant and Pointless, the Corpus Callosum debunks a White House statement which alleges that a piece of legislation up for House debate will raise gas prices. The bill in question would require oil companies to abandon their leases on unused land and would also prohibit the export of Alaskan oil. While President Bush maintains that competition among oil companies for leases keeps gas prices low, the Corpus Callosum argues that allowing them to purchase and keep unused land in fact
allows the biggest companies to monopolize the market and control prices as they see fit—which undoubtedly means raising them to boost profits. Similarly, drilling in Alaska will do nothing to alleviate the price crunch; while it might lower the cost of domestic oil in the future, it would only raise the demand for—and cost of—foreign oil.

Reader derek wonders whether we should even be trying to extract oil:

Emptying ANWR now, when oil is moderately pricy, means it will be gone in the future when oil is much more valuable. Better to import oil foolishly extracted and offered for sale by foreigners, and save your own national treasure.

Notice I speak only of energy security considerations, saying nothing of global warming prevention, according to which the time to take a reservoir of fossil carbon out of the ground and add it to the air is “never”. I don’t think anyone is listening: every politician on Earth is conspiring to empty fossil ground stores into the atmosphere as fast as possible, making humbug of their “green” talk. Gordon Brown, in the UK, is calling for ways to pull the last gasps of methane out of the North Sea, and is in talks with Nigeria on how we can support their society against civil unrest, the better to empty West Africa’s stock into the sky.

On the Humanities & Social Science channel, Maria Brumm of Green Gabbro takes a moment to consider how her life would be If the American Geophysical Union Were More Like the Movies. Taking a page from popular representations of scientists in cinema, she speculates that

90% of talks would focus on a controversial, exotic geohazard that immediately threatens at minimum a major city, and preferably the entire planet. Talks on bread-and-butter basic research would not be accepted.


The standard answer to weird or pointed questions wouldn’t be “that’s interesting, let’s discuss it after the session” – it would be “goddammit, there’s no time for that!”

Reader Tuff Cookie doesn’t really see anything wrong with that:

Then again, maybe “goddammit, there’s no time for that!” would be a good thing if the questioner were known for long-winded exposition about how much better their work is than what was just presented.

I would wholeheartedly vote to introduce abrupt and precisely targeted meteorite impacts into sessions where the speaker runs way over their time and the moderators are too polite/lazy/ineffectual to point it out.

Living up to the name!

Some other Environment posts we thought were cool this week were:

No excuse for inaction when times get tough

50,000 physicists can’t be wrong! (Who said they were?)

My water consumption versus someone in India…

Follow the money

We must be careful not to actually convey the ozone reality

And from the Humanities & Social Science channel:

Fantastic Contraption


Data Visualization

Religion: Poetic license?

The iPod Zepto: Inconceivably Small

Look for highlights from other channels coming up!