Why Your Heart Aches
When It Breaks
from UTNE Reader --
Ever have a heartache? A throbbing pride that feels like it’s going to burst your chest? New research on social emotions like empathy and appreciation has shown that the way people describe potent feelings is more than metaphor: It’s scientifically accurate “People experiencing admiration or compassion in the brain will ‘recruit’ nearby neurons to help them feel the emotion physically,” reports Search “Intriguingly, the neural systems that get recruited often link to the body’s guts and viscera.” When terrible news punches you in the stomach, your brain helps you quite literally suffer the blow.
The findings come courtesy of a team of researchers led by University of Southern California psychologist Mary Helen Immordino-Yang, who took the somewhat unusual step of researching positive social emotions after working as a junior high school teacher made her curious about how inspiration functions. There’s a disproportionate amount of research into fear and aggression, Search explains, because for brain scientists those emotions are “low-hanging fruit.” Easy to induce, simple to spot on an MRI.
Social emotions like compassion, however, are a uniquely human trait; no other creatures share them. Unlocking them requires some strategy—Immordino-Yang found it difficult to consistently “move” subjects—but the results lend insight into the very core of being human.
Bill Gates Calls For Zero Climate Emissions
from the Santiago Times
On Friday, the world's most successful businessperson and most powerful philanthropist did something outstandingly bold, that went almost unremarked: Bill Gates announced that his top priority is getting the world to zero climate emissions.
You don't have to believe that Gates has superhuman powers of prediction to know that his predictions have enormous power. People who will never listen to Al Gore, hang on Gates' every utterance.
And Friday, Gates predicted extraordinary climate action: zero. Not small steps, not incremental progress, not doing less bad: zero. In fact, he stood in front of a slide with nothing but the planet Earth and the number zero. That moment was the most important thing that has happened at the Technology, Entertainment, Design Conference (TED) in Long Beach, California
What, exactly, did he say, and why is it so important?
Gates spoke about his commitment to using his massive philanthropic resources (the Gates Foundation is the world's largest) to make life better for people through public health and poverty alleviation ("vaccines and seeds" as he put it). Then he said something he's never said before: that is it because he's committed to improving life for the world's vulnerable people that he now believes that climate change is the most important challenge on the planet.
Even more importantly, he acknowledged the only sensible goal, when it comes to climate emissions, is to eliminate them: we should be aiming for a civilization that produces no net emissions, and we should be aiming to live in that civilization here in the developed world by 2050.
Obviously, that's a big goal. Because he is the world's biggest geek, to explain how he plans to achieve that goal, Gates put up a slide with a formula (which we can call the Gates Climate Equation):
CO2 = P x S x E x C
Meaning this: the climate emissions of human civilization are the result of four driving forces:
* Population: the total number of people on the planet (which is still increasing because we are not yet at peak population).
* Services: the things that provide prosperity (and because billions of people are still rising out of poverty and because no global system will work unless it's fair, we can expect a massively increased demand for the services that provide prosperity).
* Energy: the amount of energy it takes to produce and provide the goods and services that our peaking population uses as it grows more prosperous (what some might call the energy intensity of goods and services). Gates believes it's likely cutting two-thirds of our energy waste is about as good as we can do.
* Carbon: the amount of climate emissions generated in order to produce the energy it takes to fuel prosperity.
Those four, he says, essentially define our emissions (more on that later). In order to reach zero emissions, then, at least one of these values has to fall to zero. But which one? He reckons that because population is going to continue to grow for at least four decades, because billions of poor people want more equitable prosperity, and because (as he sees it) improvements in energy efficiency are limited, we have to focus on the last element of the equation, the carbon intensity of energy. Simply, we need climate-neutral energy. We need to use nothing but climate-neutral energy.
To do that, we need an "energy miracle." We need energy solutions that don't yet exist, released through a global push for clean energy innovation. That, in turn, demands that a generation of entrepreneurs push forward new ideas for renewable energy, unleashing "1,000 promising ideas." He described one of his own investments, but went on to note that we need hundreds of other ambitious companies as well, and he plans to put his own efforts into this arena.
Why is this important? The news stories focused largely on the clean energy aspect of the speech, and certainly the world's most successful businessman announcing that clean energy is the next frontier is a big headline. However, I think though that the real breakthrough was not Gates' answer to the problem, but his definition of success: zero.
Bright green advocates understand that we need prosperity without planetary impact. In many of the circles I run in, this is an uncontroversial idea, and, indeed, the conversation has moved on, to discussing how we decouple better lives from ecological footprints (or even go beyond, and build a society that restores the ecosystems on which it depends).
Forecast: Warm With a Chance of Denial
Do weathermen themselves “know which way the wind blows”?
A recent national survey of TV weather forecasters, all of them meteorologists, reveals that nearly 1 in 3 believes “global warming is a scam,” 1 in 4 is not sure, and three out of four are not convinced that the warming of the Earth since 1950 is man-made.
As reported in the Bulletin of the American Meteorological Society, the admittedly small survey sample of 121 forecasters was dominated by climate change skeptics who questioned the findings of the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, the world authority on global warming, and the conclusions of the professional society to which they belong.
“While healthy skepticism is a hallmark of journalism, these data suggest a deeper cynicism among some on-air forecasters,” wrote Kris Wilson, a former weather anchor who performed the survey and wrote the report. Wilson is a geographer and a lecturer in the School of Journalism at the University of Texas at Austin.
“While some said they trusted the IPCC, others said that that organization was ‘the most political’ and discredited its entire body of evidence,” Wilson wrote. “While some considered former Vice President Al Gore as a credible expert, others singled him out for special invectives and disdain, with one of them referring to him as a ’snake-oil salesman.’ Ranking third in the category (12%) of ‘whom do you trust’ was ‘Myself.’”
Gore and the intergovernmental panel shared the 2007 Nobel Peace Prize for their work in establishing the scientific foundation for man-made climate change and educating the public about it.
Also in 2007, in recognition of the “vast weight of current scientific understanding” expressed in the panel’s reports, the American Meteorological Society issued an “information statement” concluding that “the atmosphere, ocean and land surface are warming” and that “humans have significantly contributed to this change.”
The survey was sponsored by the National Environmental Education Foundation, a nonprofit group founded by Congress, to help guide online courses on climate change for broadcast meteorologists. Nearly three-quarters of those surveyed said they were comfortable in their role as the resident scientist at their TV stations, but only one out of five has ever produced a story in the field on climate change. Forty-one percent cited “too much scientific uncertainty” as the “greatest obstacle to reporting on climate change.”
When asked about the IPCC’s conclusion that “warming of the climate system is unequivocal,” only 45 percent of the weathercasters said they agreed with that assessment, and 34 percent flat-out disagreed. Asked to respond to the panel’s conclusion that “most of the warming since 1950 is very likely human-induced,” half disagreed and another 25 percent had no opinion.
As reported by Miller-McCune.com, Wilson has written previously about how TV weathercasters are “potentially prominent science communicators” who enjoy top audience credibility scores on the air. They spend a lot of time giving talks to community and school groups, which is where they discuss climate change most often. Yet a number do not have degrees in meteorology or atmospheric science, as Wilson’s earlier research shows.
Miller-McCune.com has also reported on a 2009 Rasmussen Reports survey showing that while 82 percent of scientists attribute climate change to human activity, only 41 percent of Americans overall agree with that assessment.
It’s no wonder: They’ve probably been listening to their local weatherman.
Nothing Is Ever Free: School Spying
from the Philadelphia Daily News --
The Lower Merion School District in Pennsylvania provides lap top computers to every one of their 1,800 high school students. School officials say that this ensures that all students have '24/7 access to school based resources'. It seems the actual reason is to allow school officials after school access to the students' home lives. Each one of the student lap tops contains an embedded web cam that can be remotely activated by the school personnel. Let me be clear, anything happening in any room the school provided lap top is in can be watched by school officials whenever they choose to activate the web cam. This is not just checking what the computer was accessing on the web, this is watching what goes on in the family homes of these children. This came to light when student, Blake T. Robbins, was pulled into assistant principal, Lindy Matsko office to be reprimanded for 'improper behavior at home'. To verify the accusation Ms. Matsko produced a picture taken by the web cam in the boy's home. A lawsuit has been filed by Blake's parents on his behalf, in federal court. Not all lawsuits are frivolous, not all educators are intelligent, and not all big brother scenarios involve the government in the role of bad guy. See full story