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What’s with the news: So, a while back, a bunch of scientists in Antarctica were digging stuff up, and they happen to stumble upon some fossil pollens that prove the existence of a near-tropical rainforest that covered the continent millions of years ago.
Turns out that the average temperature at the time was about 68 degrees Fahrenheit, which might as well be a million degrees Fahrenheit when you consider that at the time of publishing this column it is a balmy minus 44 F in McMurdo, Antarctica (where the Polar Plunge is simply an exercise in Darwinism).
What does this all mean in terms of climate change? Is it proof that anyone who doesn’t drive a hybrid is Pinkie-and-the-Braining human existence into oblivion? Or is climate change just a bunch of hippie (vegan) baloney because, clearly, Earth has been up to these sorts of shenanigans since well before we humans ever showed up and started posting handmade patio furniture on Pinterest?
What’s with us: Ian Faloona was a postdoctoral fellow in chemistry and microscale meteorology at the National Center for Atmospheric Research. He currently serves as associate professor and bio-micrometeorologist for the UC Davis Department of Land, Air, and Water Resources. Frankly, I only have half a clue what any of that even means, but he’s here to explain the crap out of this rainforest.
“This geologic period is of particular interest because it is believed to be the warmest of the past 65 million years and could hold clues as to how the future Earth might behave in the event of unabated fossil fuel emissions of CO2,” said Faloona regarding the importance of the findings. “During this period it is estimated that the global temperatures were about 10 C warmer than present, and the levels of CO2 are believed to have been more than three times greater than now. The evidence of tropical vegetation on Antarctica then tells us something about how the Earth responded during this very warm period. These must have been some desperate trees that in fleeing the heat of the tropics they were willing to live though the darkness of an Antarctic winter. It should be kept in mind that this warm period of about 55 million years ago, referred to as the PETM, Paleocene-Eocene Thermal Maximum, also ushered in a mass extinction that heavily influenced the evolution of early mammals.
(Image by: Pavel.Riha.CB via Wikimedia Commons)
“In the case of the PETM, it is believed that a period of intense volcanic activity, associated with the tectonic drift creating the North Atlantic Ocean, released huge amounts of CO2 into the atmosphere, which caused the intense warming. Over these long geologic spans, the Earth can recover because CO2 is consumed by chemical reaction with surface rocks (chemical weathering.) So in the broadest sense, on these vast time scales, it's mostly volcanism and rock weathering that cause and control the large swings in CO2.
“But here's the rub: In the past, some have considered this past warm period as proof that what we're doing now, even if we continue to emit CO2 in huge quantities, is not that different from a past state of the planet. However, recent work has shown that the buildup to the very warm period of the PETM was accomplished by CO2 emissions that are about one-tenth as large as what we are currently emitting. So, sure the climate was warm but it took over 20,000 years to build up that much CO2. We are now pushing on the climate much harder than ever before, with consequences that are not fully understood, but are most likely unprecedented in Earth's entire history. It's a very impressive feat.
“We cannot completely control climate change. We cannot control volcanoes or asteroids (not yet, at least), but the pace at which we are increasing atmospheric CO2 is much greater than ever before on Earth. The chances that this will not have a large impact on the climate are pretty slim. And the big change is thought to be coming in the course of the next few human generations because of the rapid rate of input. So, while there are always things in life that you can control and plenty of things you can't, it seems utterly foolish not to control those within your power.
“Given what we know about Earth's rich and storied past, I do not think there is any question that she will persevere,” Faloona said, in closing. “The question is, as it usually is in the course of human affairs, how will we be able to survive, and what kind of life might we all collectively share on the planet.”
So, just because climate change might be based on naturally occurring phenomena does not mean that your refusal to turn the bathroom light off isn’t helping to push things along quite nicely. Way to go, jerkface.
What’s with the news: Hey guys, did ya’ll catch the Republican National Convention? Didja see Clint Eastwood talk to a chair? Did you sit back and reflect upon what Mitt Romney has to offer this country in comparison to President Obama?
Or did you watch a 6-year-old pageant princess mix and slug a Red Bull and Mountain Dew cocktail?
The RNC came through with some respectable ratings, nabbing second place on the evening of Wednesday, Aug. 29. First place? Well, that went to former "Toddlers and Tiaras" contestant Alana Thompson and her TLC reality series “Here Comes Honey Boo Boo.” I guess Honey Boo Boo is her nickname, because this show wants me to hate it before I even have the chance to watch it.
Now, I’m not trying to get into whether you or I bleed red or blue, dear reader. I don’t care if you heart elephants or donkeys or whatever it was Eastwood was smoking moments before he took that stage. But, and correct me if I’m wrong here, this whole election is supposed to be a big deal, right? We’re talking babymurdercivilrightsunemploymentepidemic big deal. And the RNC represents half of the people involved in this ongoing debate. Shouldn’t we be paying attention?
(Image by: Gage Skidmore via Wikimedia Commons modified by Jared Banta)
What’s with us: Dr. Debra Moore is a licensed psychologist, as well as founder and director of Fall Creek Associates. She has served in the past as president of the Sacramento Valley Psychological Association, and is on board to offer her thoughts on our (seriously disheartening) viewing patterns.
“Humans love a good story,” Moore said, regarding the popularity of shows like HCHBB. “All cultures have traditions that revolve around the retelling of universal themes. Television is the modern version of folklore, the Greek myths, the 19th century melodrama and so on. Reality television is the latest incarnation.
“We're drawn to common motifs such as stories about coming of age, the triumph of the underdog and good winning out over evil. Reality TV capitalizes on this. Also, people are drawn to what they are already familiar with and relate to. If they're unfamiliar or uneducated about political issues being debated, and there are no other obvious ‘human dramas’ surrounding a particular politician, they may not feel a connection to the process.
“For people who are informed and believe the issues directly impact their lives,” said Moore, in closing, “the political process becomes compelling. And if the speakers embed the issues within ‘a good story,’ people form an especially strong personal connection to the political process.”
So, perhaps if Jerry Springer had hosted the RNC, and thrown in, say, an illegitimate children or two, and exposed someone’s history of alcoholism, people would have tuned in. Good to know. I’m going to dig a hole and shove my head into it now.
What’s with the news: Nerd alert! GameStop, the largest video game retailer in the galaxy, is going hipster by adding vintage games to their inventory. Someone call Horders, this shit is an untapped market.
I’ll level with you — I'm terrible at video games. That little guy in the cloud is always giving me the hairy eyeball for driving the wrong way in my Mario Kart, and any game with even remotely realistic graphics that includes guns, zombies, or scantily clad women frightens me far more than it awakens my competitive edge. My awfulness knows no console. I suck on Nintendo, PlayStation, Xbox, and any arcade game I come near. In short, I have no idea what I am talking about.
What’s with us: You know who does? Johnny Flores — illustrator, co-owner of Sacramento-based mobile gaming party company Event Gaming, and trusted What’s With That ally.
Regarding the popularity of vintage games, Flores had this to say: “When my buddy and I set up our business, one of the priority purchases we made was a vintage Nintendo Entertainment System, specifically because of how much people, not just ‘gamers,’ love this system. People of all ages, from tiny children who have grown up in the era of the gorgeous graphic power of the PS3, to baby boomers whose own adult offspring played these games as children, love to pick up the old rectangular controller of the NES and play Super Mario Bros. 3, Mike Tyson’s Punch-Out!!, or any of the old school titles. We love watching smiles creep over a person’s face when they see these old game titles on our larger HD TV.
“That being said, I’m not a big supporter of some corporation like GameStop going out and buying up these games, which you can usually pick up from just a few bucks to around $20, and jacking the prices of these games up beyond what they go for now. Of course, people may still find these games in a local store, or through an eBay store, that has lower prices.
(Image by: david cussac via sxc.hu)
“One thing we’ve learned the hard way is that some of the cartridges are so old that the metal teeth that connect the game to the console, where the data transfers so that you can play the game, are worn down, and the game doesn’t work. Perhaps they have technicians that can fix this, but we haven’t figured out a way to do that. They’re also doing battle with PlayStation, Xbox, and Nintendo, making these games available for download via the networks these consoles have. Although, there’s nothing like actually seeing these old cartridges and being able to pick them up in your hand.
“Rumor has it,” said Flores, “the next generation of consoles are likely to be releasing new games as downloadable content only, basically circumventing the need for a disc, because GameStop’s used game discs have put such a dent in the game publishers’ income. These modern games are ridiculously expensive to produce and the publishers have been complaining for some time to the console manufactures about this lost revenue.
“Perhaps they’re pursuing this new market because they can see the writing on the wall.”
Yay for downloadable content! I will say that I rocked the shit out of Donkey Kong Country for Super NES. What a wonderful world it would be if I could get that game for my Netflix Box (or Nintendo Wii, for those of you who don’t live in my apartment). Then again, I might never leave the house.
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