Saturday, September 06, 2008

Fixing Climate, Episode 1

Last weekend I read Fixing Climate, by Wallace S. Broecker and Robert Kunzig. Broecker is a scientist at Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory who is known for his work on the ocean conveyer belt and rapid climate change. Kunzig is a terrific science writer. I liked the book so much that I’m going to write about it here for a while.

Episode 1 (text from the book is given in italics):

Broecker gave his first scientific talk, as a graduate student, at an archeology meeting in Los Angeles on September 1, 1955. It was the hottest day ever to that point in LA – 110 degrees. He had been asked to give the talk by J. Laurence Kulp, who was a pioneer in the newly developed field of Carbon-14 dating. The archeologists were arguing about when people first arrived in the New World. After Broecker’s talk, Phil Orr of the Santa Barbara Museum of Natural History came up to him:

Phil Orr … was clearly more of a digger than a scholar; although he smoked a pipe, it had a cigar butt in it. He was a short man with a potbelly stuffed into jeans and cowboy boots. His face was shaped like an interstate highway shield – a wide forehead, uncluttered by hair, narrowing to a pointy, straggly bearded chin. That forehead overhung deep-set eyes that seemed made to squint. Orr eyeballed Broecker.

“Kid,” he said, for he was plenty old to be Broecker’s father. “I can see that you know a lot about physics and math. But I also see that you don’t know a goddamned thing about the earth.”

He paused to let that sink in, and to relight the cigar butt.

“Come with me for three weeks and I’ll change your life.”

Tuesday, September 02, 2008

Words That Make Me Stop Reading

blood and treasure
boots on the ground
speak truth to power
muscular foreign policy
chattering classes
executive experience
quick study

However, I do like the Educational Jargon Generator and the Automatic Computer Science Paper Generator.