Sunday, July 28, 2019

A little bit means a lot: Why minute toxins in the environment matter

It used to be a mantra in environmental circles that "the solution to pollution is dilution." That simply isn't tenable anymore, and it probably never was. The reasons are many:

  • We now know that many compounds are biologically active at extremely low levels.
  • We know that chemicals, radiation, and biological agents can and do act synergistically to magnify their effects on humans, animals and plants.
  • We know that chemicals that were thought to degrade quickly in the environment such as glyphosate may persist for long periods.
  • Most people now understand that the industries producing chemical and radiation hazards have spent huge sums to propagandize the public and intimidate and control scientists in order to convince us that the industry's products and the pollution associated with them are not harmful.
  • Furthermore, in many cases, the dangers have been known from the beginning and been covered up.

A little history regarding leaded gasoline, chlorofluorocarbons, bisphenol A, and wireless radiation will highlight these conclusions.

Let us start with leaded gasoline which was invented in the early 1920s to increase the performance of gasoline engines—essentially to get rid of the "knocking" noise which also indicates inefficient combustion.

Sunday, July 21, 2019

Taking a short break - no post this week

I'm taking a short break from posting this week. I expect to post again on Sunday, July 28.

Sunday, July 14, 2019

Why ocean acidification could make some geoengineering schemes irrelevant

The idea of runaway ocean acidification has now joined the idea of runaway global warming as a threat so large that it stands almost co-equal in its danger.

Part of the problem with ocean acidification is that geoengineering schemes for lowering Earth's temperature by reducing the sunlight that reaches the Earth's surface won't affect ocean acidification. And recent research from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology suggests that there is a tipping point in acidification beyond which the process becomes self-reinforcing and could lead to a mass extinction.

The idea of runaway global warming has been around for a while. In its original form it was speculation about whether the Earth could enter an unstoppable process that appears to have occurred on Venus billions of years ago and boiled its oceans away—leaving a planet so hot that surface temperatures today are high enough to melt lead.

Sunday, July 07, 2019

Connectivity becomes too dangerous: Putting manual security back into the grid

The U.S. Senate passed a bill last week that would form a government-industry working group to "examine ways to replace automated systems with low-tech redundancies, like manual procedures controlled by human operators." The news release linked above specifically references an attack on the Ukrainian grid that succeeded only partially because of such manual technology:

This legislation was inspired in part by Ukraine’s experience in 2015, when a sophisticated cyber-attack on that country’s power grid led to more than 225,000 people being left in the dark. The attack could have been worse if not for the fact that Ukraine relies on manual technology to operate its grid. The Senator’s bill seeks to build on this concept by studying ways to strategically use "retro" technology to isolate the grid’s most important control systems.

The enthusiasm for all things automated and digital has run into a snag. The purveyors of so-called "smart" systems would like us to think that there are always digital solutions to digital problems. But, in truth, digital security problems merely reflect an ongoing arms race between security technologies and procedures and the hackers who work constantly to circumvent them.