Wonder and skepticism

Not only could nobody tell me, but nobody even had the sense that it was an interesting question. They looked at me funny. I asked my parents; I asked my parents’ friends; I asked other adults. None of them knew. My mother said to me, “Look, we’ve just got you a library card. Take it, get on the streetcar, go to the New Utrecht branch of the New York Public Library, get out a book and find the answer.”

~ Carl Sagan, from Wonder and Skepticism

Trapped atmospheric waves

Weather extremes in the summer—such as the record heat wave in the United States that hit corn farmers and worsened wildfires in 2012—have reached an exceptional number in the last ten years. Man-made global warming can explain a gradual increase in periods of severe heat, but the observed change in the magnitude and duration of some events is not so easily explained.

~ Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research, from Trapped atmospheric waves triggered more weather extremes

Energy and economic models

We live in an economic world. Economic models that were developed years ago were created based on observations of how the economy seemed to work at the time. As time goes on, it is becoming clear that early economists missed important connections. The most important of these is the role of energy and its connection to the economy. It takes energy to make anything, from a piece of steel to a loaf of bread. It takes energy to transport anything. Humans need energy in the form of food to continue to live. Clearly, energy should have a place in economic models.

~ Gail Tverberg, from Energy and The Economy: Basic Principles and Feedback Loops

I find this stuff fascinating; It’s this giant, emergent phenomenon. Billions of individual people going about their daily lives create such a whirl of activity and action. But the ultimate result is what… an “economy”? A path to “enlightenment” for humankind? Meaningless in total, but meaningful at the individual’s level of experience? Perhaps it’s simply [on the whole] incomprehensible. If you study a little chaos theory, you learn: The butterfly’s beating wings have ZERO affect on the weather. Instead, the fully understood system, (“stochastic”) is truly unpredictable.