Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Arsenic and Old Waste

Available from ThinkGeek: Arsenic-based sea monkeys! Last December, a report surfaced (HA! HA!) of a microbe in Mono Lake, California, that could replace the phosphorus in its DNA with arsenic. The report did not win universal acceptance. (HA!) Now ThinkGeek makes available seamonkeys who incorporate arsenic into their DNA. It's an unusual item, which ThinkGeek has been selling since [HINT!] April 1, 2011. The description in ThinkGeek comes with consumer warnings: Please be careful. Although they may look cute, sea monkeys have been known to become very violent.

But what, you may ask, does this have to do with climate change? If anything?!

Gentle readers of Rabbet Run (are there any other kind of readers of RR?) are aware of the controversy about Freeman Dyson, mathematical physicist at Princeton, who proposed genetically engineering a "supertree" which can sequester an incredible amount of carbon. By merely planting enough supertrees, the accumulation of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere could be reversed, and global warming averted.

Is there any evidence that such a hypothetical tree could be genetically engineered? Of course not. Are such supertrees any more plausible than arsenic-based sea monkeys? No. So what is Freeman Dyson actually doing?

Making a monkey of himself!


Steve Bloom said...

That's funny, I saw Arsenic based sea monkeys and all I could do was ThinkKloor. Makes sense, you say, but why just now? I tell you:

It's this post in which he blames the nasty, grotty Colombians for being such victims when it comes to climate change impacts. Says he, if only those Third Worlders had taken the care to be rich like us, they'd have no problem enduring the consequences of First World lifestyles. Same goes for all the other denizens of the tropics.

But as usual the execrable Kloor is an idiot. Here we have yet more, you know, scientific confirmation of what's going on: As a result of climate warming, the ITCZ has shifted north such that Colombia and similarly-latitudinized places are dead in its sights. Not consistently, mind you, since they also get to have droughts (someone pointed that out but Kloor ignored it), but on average. And it's going to get worse.

We can but await Kloor's advice on how Brazil and other countries of the Amazon basin (where the ITCZ used to prefer to hang out) can adapt to it drying out. The fact that such events are going to put just a wee bit of pressure on us First Worlders aeems entirely lost on him.

Anyway, what do we learn from all of this? That none of the observed suffering-inducing fundamental changes to climate that have been observed thus far are a problem for Keith Kloor personally. So yes, this is just the sort of person we'd want to put in charge of a new blog on adaptation!

Oh yes: Not only is he stupid and elitist, he doesn't care at all for nice little bunnies.


Cheeky Rabbett: Freeman did not propose trees stoked to sequester incredible amounts of arsenic. As to how to get wood to incorporate sp3 bonds, thus far there ain't no law agin it .

Recovering in the Florida Keys said...

Super trees! Hmmm? I have lots of bitter almond trees spreading like rabbits. No arsenic, a touch of cyanide though. Maybe I can start a new Ebay enterprise?

Jonathan Gilligan said...

If, for a moment, we were to take Dyson's supertrees seriously (and he has utter faith that they will exist within a few decades), I always ask the question, "what if they were like kudzu?" Kudzu grows marvelously quick and is great at controlling erosion. The trouble is that it isn't so good at stopping growing, so when it was planted around the Southeast in the thirties to control erosion, it just kept spreading and became quite a bother. Uncontrollable invasive species that dramatically alter the composition of the entire atmosphere might prove even more troublesome.

Aspiring biogeoengineers might do well to read up on mongooses, cane toads, kudzu, and the like.

Marlowe Johnson said...

Jiminy crickets Steve! Tell us how you really feel :P

Steve Bloom said...

Hmm, that most recent Blogger problem deleted comments. Meh.