World scientists – we can’t raise the temperature by more than two degrees Celsius

The official position of planet Earth at the moment is that we can’t raise the temperature more than two degrees Celsius.

Some context: So far, we’ve raised the average temperature of the planet just under 0.8 degrees Celsius, and that has caused far more damage than most scientists expected. (A third of summer sea ice in the Arctic is gone, the oceans are 30 percent more acidic, and since warm air holds more water vapor than cold, the atmosphere over the oceans is a shocking five percent wetter, loading the dice for devastating floods.)

Scientists estimate that humans can pour roughly 565 more gigatons of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere by midcentury and still have some reasonable hope of staying below two degrees.

We’re not getting any free lunch from the world’s economies, either. With only a single year’s lull in 2009 at the height of the financial crisis, we’ve continued to pour record amounts of carbon into the atmosphere, year after year. In late May, the International Energy Agency published its latest figures – CO2 emissions last year rose to 31.6 gigatons, up 3.2 percent from the year before.

  • America had a warm winter and converted more coal-fired power plants to natural gas, so its emissions fell slightly
  • China kept booming, so its carbon output (which recently surpassed the U.S.) rose 9.3 percent
  • Japanese shut down their fleet of nukes post-Fukushima, so their emissions edged up 2.4 percent.

 

Keep reading: Rolling Stone – Global Warming’s Terrifying New Math

 

 

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YouTube a major platform for news – says new Pew report

According to a new report from the Pew Research Center, “YouTube is becoming a major platform for viewing news.”

By far, the incident that sparked the most interest was the Japan earthquake and tsunami. Pew looked at the most popular videos in the “news & politics” section of YouTube over those 15 months and found that 5 percent of the 260 videos related to the Japanese disaster.

Given that 70 percent of YouTube traffic comes from outside the U.S., it’s not surprising that the top three news videos were related to non-U.S. events. After the earthquake/tsunami, the Russian elections and the unrest in the Middle East topped news-related video views, Pew said.

Natural disasters and political upheavals were the most popular news video topics. People did not figure prominently; “No one individual was featured in even 5 percent of the most popular videos studied here-and fully 65 percent did not feature any individual at all,” Pew found. President Obama, however, was featured in 4 percent of the top videos worldwide, in posts that ranged from speeches to campaign ads from opponents.

As Pew noted, the growth of news videos on YouTube has been a help and a hindrance to traditional news outlets…

 

Keep reading: PC Mag – YouTube Becoming ‘Major Platform’ for News

 

 

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Short films/commercials from Wes Anderson – starring Brad Pitt, Jason Schwartzman

Anderson starred in and directed an American Express “My Life, My Card” commercial, which chronicled the “filming” of an action movie starring Jason Schwartzman. Anderson acts as if he is being interviewed by someone from American Express for the ad, while walking around completing tasks on set, a scene paying homage to the movie “Day for Night” by Francois Truffaut. It was aired on television and in movie theaters in both a short and extended version, during and shortly after the theatrical 2004 release of “The Life Aquatic: with Steve Zissou”.

Continue reading Short films/commercials from Wes Anderson – starring Brad Pitt, Jason Schwartzman

Email in any language – auto-translate now available in Gmail

Did you ever dream about a future where your communications device could transcend language with ease?

Well, that day is a lot closer. Over the next few days, everyone who uses Gmail will be getting the convenience of translation added to their email. The next time you receive a message in a language other than your own, just click on ‘Translate message’ in the header at the top of the message:

 

 

and it will be instantly translated into your language:

 

 

Back when we launched automatic message translation in Gmail Labs, we were curious to see how people would use it.

We heard immediately from Google Apps for Business users that this was a killer feature for working with local teams across the world. Some people just wanted to easily read newsletters from abroad. Another person wrote in telling us how he set up his mom’s Gmail to translate everything into her native language, thus saving countless explanatory phone calls (he thanked us profusely).

Since message translation was one of the most popular labs, we decided it was time to graduate from Gmail Labs and move into the real world.

via – The Official Gmail Blog

 

// Thx – Mihai Ionescu, Photo – Eyesplash

Whale Wars confronts slaughter of Pilot whales in the Faroe Islands

Faroe Islands fishermen wade into a shallow bay to kill a pod of pilot whales in a hunt called a "grind." Sea Shepherd has launched a new show called "Whale Wars: Viking Shores" to focus attention on the hunt.

The Sea Shepherd Conservation Society, capitalizing on the tremendous success of their Animal Planet TV show, “Whale Wars,” has now taken on a new battle. With the Japanese fleet’s Antarctic hunt finished for the season, the skull-and-crossbones crew have turned their attention on the Faroe Islands with a new show: Whale Wars: Viking Shores

In the Faroe Islands, the oceangoing conservation outfit is not hectoring a faceless, corporate, government-subsidized commercial whaling outfit with massive factory ships that kill whales in the name of “research.” On this grouping of 18 small islands in the North Atlantic, a Danish protectorate situated between Iceland and Scotland, the people kill pilot whales by hand, on the shore, as part of a traditional hunt called the “Grind,” (pronounced “grinned”) which residents say is thousands of years old.

The Grind is not pretty, and “Viking Shores” pulls no punches. The Faroese send boats out into the ocean to find pilot whales, which are cetaceans not as large as the fin or minke whales hunted by the Japanese, but are slightly bigger than dolphins. Then they herd the mammals toward one of several dozen beaches on the islands, where residents lie in wait. As the powerful creatures beach themselves in panic, hunters wade into them with long curved hooks and slaughter the whole pod in a bloody frenzy. The Faroese eat a lot of pilot whale.

via LA Times

The second episode of “Viking Shores” airs Friday at 9 p.m. on Animal Planet.

* * *

Read an interview with Sea Shepherd captain and environmental warrior, Paul Waston, on what it’s like to confront the Faroes people on their ancient tradition.

Download episode  1 – Bad Blood for free on iTunes (warning: link opens iTunes).

Psychology’s five aspects of wisdom

A recent article in the Economist used a complex, but somewhat small in scope, survey to study wisdom. They found that Americans definitely get smarter with age. They scored 45 points at age 25, and 55 by age 75.

In comparison, the Japanese learn wisdom much quicker, scoring 51 in both age groups.

This led to the byline – Americans get wiser with age. Japanese are wise from the start.

Very interesting and thoughtful, but I found it more inspiring to look at how they judged wisdom.

The assessors scored participants’ responses on a scale of one to three. This attempted to capture the degree to which they discussed what psychologists consider five crucial aspects of wise reasoning:

  • Willingness to seek opportunities to resolve conflict;
  • Willingness to search for compromise;
  • Recognition of the limits of personal knowledge;
  • Awareness that more than one perspective on a problem can exist;
  • Appreciation of the fact that things may get worse before they get better.

 

Basically, how good of a – diplomat/negotiator/self-aware/empathetic/realist – are you?

 

// Thx to Kirby Plessas

Kanji and the art of calligraphy

The Japanese name for calligraphy is sho do, which most directly translates as “way of writing”.

I really want to go to Japan but not because I want to go on vacation. I want to go for the Imperial Gardens and the tasty noodles. You could say that I am utterly fascinated with this country and its culture.

Which is sad because it seems to be ultra trendy right now. As if Japan is so huge in America (not, I’m so huge in Japan). I guess this makes me a yuppster (hipster, yuppy) or just a really big dork.

Either way, I’m going full bore into the hole starting with learning the language. Having recently become bilingual (english/spanish) I’m feeling very haughty right now. It feels like any language no matter how complicated is within my grasp.

They key is knowing how to get into it. In high school they figured this was memorizing the alphabet and taking lots of vocab tests. Which failed even after  5+ years of Spanish classes. In the end what worked for me, believe it or not, was reading the newspaper out loud.

For about 6 months I read two newspapers from Spain that I subscribed to on my Kindle. In the beginning my comprehension was so limited that I barely knew the topic of each article. Then I started reading each one out loud and it clicked.

I suddenly began thinking in Spanish and my comprehension shot through the roof. In fact, it reached a tipping point where I just know Spanish and its not like how they say that if you don’t practice you lose it. Spanish is a part of me and I occaisonally do random things, like daydream in Spanish or randomly converse with people in Spanish.

This was pretty funny at first because I didn’t know I was doing it and I would get all embarrassed. Then I got into it and just went with it. It really is cool to have folks think you are a foreigner, or escape American drudgery by randomly talking with someone in Spanish.

The best book out there for Japanese calligraphy (click the picture to see it on Amazon)

With this newfound success I’m attacking Japanese and the key is calligraphy. The ancient art of writing things down. For some reason the Chinese and Japanese elevated writing to a high art form and they get all crazy about it. The book I ordered is teaching me about the “Four Treasures” and the cheap calligraphy set I ordered has meticulous detail on every piece.

In some ways it feels like painting, you know that feeling you get when focusing intently on making something beautiful envelops your mind pushing out all other distractions. But, there is no color and it’s all about technique. Hold the brush vertical, descend onto the paper at a 45 degree angle, slightly turn the brush, and lift off.

That makes a dot. A simple dot (called a ten). It’s the most basic of all moves and it requires four steps, a degree change, and a turn. Complicated but not hard. It’s more like an entry into a world of perfection where the goal is not to get it done but to marvel in the mastery of even the simplest move.

I have to say I love it. All throughout the book are the words: meditation, peace, zen, focus, perfection. I get to take a break from computers and websites by banishing all from my mind except the ten.

All the way I am learning Japanese. I have these dreams now of visiting Japan and being able to read street signs and store fronts. For some reason it awes me to simply be able to read Japanese street signs…so weird.

No matter though, I am learning a language through enjoyment and fun. I have found my key.

My Shumi Calligraphy Set (click the picture to see it on Amazon)

calligraphy papers (photo at top) by matsuyuki