Interesting stuff – 2016-10-10

I’ve been busy this week, so it’s a shorter list of things I found interesting, but here it is.

Now the suggestion is being floated to add obesity to the list of things we are not allowed to discriminate against. Time to revise the human rights codes one more time.

Will this be the last time the human rights protection is expanded?

Let me ask a better question, does anybody actually think the list will ever be complete? Will we ever reach the day when we can say that all possible forms of discrimination that we wish to outlaw have been exhaustively included in the human rights code?

Of course not.

And that little fact should give us pause for reflection.

The road-crossing chicken is no longer merely of interest to elementary school students in search of the next bad joke, the police are getting in on the mystery.

And, for the record, the chicken was crossing the road to prove to the gopher that it could be done.

Scientist accused of “crying wolf” on climate change.

The headline almost says it all. One quote from the article is all I would add to the discussion,

It is the latest example of experts making alarming predictions which do not come to pass. Earlier this week environmentalists were accused of misleading the public about the “Great Pacific Garbage Patch” after aerial shots proved there was no “island of rubbish” in the middle of the ocean.

Likewise, warnings that the hole in the ozone layer would never close were debunked in June.

And the list grows…

Speaking of the Great Pacific Garbage Patch, I did a little poking around. The news story referenced above is intriguing. When I did a Google search for “Great Pacific Garbage Patch” under “news” the first headline read:

‘Great Pacific Garbage Patch‘ is a myth, warn experts, as survey …

The second reads:

The ‘Great Pacific Garbage Patch‘ Is Bigger, Denser Than Earlier …

Huh? One says the island is a myth, the other says the island is bigger, denser than we previously thought it was. How can the island of garbage be both a myth, and also be bigger and denser than we thought?

The information for both of these stories comes from aerial surveys conducted by a group dedicated to cleaning up plastics from the ocean – The Ocean Cleanup. And the story itself includes some figures which put everything into perspective. Over the course of a 2.5 hour flight the highly training crew – with some fancy plastic observing equipment – observed “more than 1,000” pieces of garbage. More than 1,000 during 2.5 hours of flight; oh my!

The C-130 Hercules that they were flying has a cruise speed of around 500 kph. Let’s assume, for sake of argument, that they were cruising at half that speed because they wanted to make careful observations of what’s on the surface of the ocean. At 250 kph, and 2.5 hours, that’s just over 600 km that they covered. So if they saw 1,000 pieces of garbage across 600 km that’s less than 2 pieces of garbage every km (there’s over 800 meters of clear blue ocean separating the garbage, on average). Does that sound like an “island” of garbage to you?

Let’s assume I’m off in my estimates, and the amount of garbage is 5 times that amount; 10 pieces per km. That’s still only one piece of garbage every 100 meters! Still hardly the “island” we’ve been told about.

Let’s turn the math around. They were looking for pieces of garbage larger than 0.5 meters. If 1,000 pieces of garbage – each 0.5 meters in length – were in contact with each other, stretched linearly across the ocean, that would only add up to 500 meters of garbage. At 250 kph (69 m/s) it would take just over 7 seconds to observe all 1,000 pieces of garbage.

7 seconds. They were flying around for 2.5 hours. That math alone should put this “island” into perspective.

But don’t take my word for it, they included pictures of the “island” of debris under the photo gallery section. Most of the pictures show a single piece of garbage surrounded by blue water. Hardly the “island” we have been told exists somewhere out in the Pacific.

Now I would agree that any garbage in the oceans is too much. It should all be removed and dealt with more appropriately. Frankly it never should have ended up in the ocean in the first place. And they make a good point that microscopically sized pieces of plastic are also bad for the eco-system; not just the big stuff. Yes, there is a problem that needs to be solved.

But in the midst of agreeing that we should solve this problem, let’s at least get the facts straight.