Earth Temperature Timeline

14 Comments and 62 Shares
[After setting your car on fire] Listen, your car's temperature has changed before.
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13 days ago
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tedder
8 days ago
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Keep arguing about parking spaces, XKCD edition.
Uranus
sjk
13 days ago
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Proof that painting, pottery, rope, and bows and arrows cause Global Warming. All we need to do, is revert our technology to those halcyon days and all will be right with the world.
Florida
srsly
14 days ago
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All these likes and shares, even Samuel can't pull this attention!
Atlanta, Georgia
tante
15 days ago
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XKCD's brilliant visualization of global warming.
Oldenburg/Germany
DerBonk
15 days ago
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Munroe is on the top of his game with this web comics essay. Very disturbing. Summer is coming.
Germany
gangsterofboats
15 days ago
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Fossil fuels will solve the problem.
MaryEllenCG
15 days ago
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Yeah, we're fucked, because too many people believe climate change is a hoax.
Greater Bostonia
kazriko
15 days ago
I'd say it's because of doctrinare belief that the only way to stop climate change is to stop emitting carbon. I believe you'd make far more headway if you said that instead of a carbon tax, you had to transfer money to those who design and maintain carbon sinks. That would give people more incentive to create the technology to remove CO2 from the air, and to not cut down forests, etc.
stefanetal
13 days ago
@kazriko Your proposal is about as sensible as letting everybody take your stuff and then hiring people to look for it after a week. It will create costs and employment for looking. But you won't end up with much stuff. Not using the 100x more expensive technology isn't doctrinaire.
kazriko
13 days ago
You're not going to make any headway with the idea that everyone must immediately stop all of the things that make them healthy, prosperous, and happy though. The technology is only expensive because nobody has put money into the research and development of it. Even the drastic step of stopping emissions does nothing whatsoever for the problem because you have to do something about what is already in the air. If you want to actually solve the problem, then funding this research is the only way to actually do it.
stefanetal
13 days ago
Ahm, it's a carbon tax, like a sales tax, it won't 'stop all of the things that make [people] healthy, prosperous, and happy' any more than current sales taxes do. You might as well suggest people not be allow to take all the stuff they see that makes them happy. It's only expensive since property is theft. And if people could take what makes them happy, companies would do research on how to make more cheaply. Maybe the gov should fund research on that instead of wasting it on police. On a less sarcastic note, your view just does't work if you try to write out any basic cost functions based on any input-output technologies. There may be an escape if we get really cheap non-carbon energy, but that's about it. Paying people to put carbon back in the ground if you don't tax others as least as much to take it back out is about as reasonable as say Venezuela buying gasoline on the open market to sell it to 'users' at 10 cents/gallon (who then sell it right back). It may be how the politics play out (see your first sentence), but it doesn't end well (or it needs to be sustained by rationing -- which is where any implementation of your proposal is going).
stefanetal
13 days ago
Also, on 2nd thought, If you want to discuss cost functions and physical constraints on them, I'd be happy to do so non-sarcastically. Writing a good and realistically model of this might help clarify why we disagree and who is right/wrong, under which kinds kinds of assumptions. For instance, sometimes other costs (transportation costs?) do function as the near equivalent of Pigouvian taxes, so things can work out at times for other reasons. I don't see that here.
stefanetal
13 days ago
Real issue is that the climate change 'cost' part is still pretty much all in the future, due to the very very high heat capacity of the ocean and the ocean's slow turnover. Lots of future warming is already fully baked in and many people aren't willing the see it as real yet. And I do expect that using taxes to control carbon emissions is going to look very gentle compared to methods that at least some groups are going to try 50 years from now (say, biological methods to control energy demand by reducing the customer base). So concern about taxes making people unhappy is going to look very pre-crisis quaint.
kazriko
12 days ago
That's quite the wall of text there. I'm not talking about the carbon tax. I'm talking about all of the environmentalists who say that the only solution is the complete ceasing of all emissions, and won't take "nuclear" for an answer. You know, the ones you're referring to as "some groups are going to try." You would be taxing others through this scheme, but you would be then shifting that money to putting carbon back in the ground, instead of shifting it to governments to do... whatever... with. I just don't trust anyone who says that taxes only are a viable answer because it will neither decrease emissions enough, nor will it actually decrease concentrations whatsoever. It alone is not a solution. It is only an intermediate step towards banning all emissions.
stefanetal
12 days ago
You write: "I'm not talking about the carbon tax." I was responding to your 2nd initial sentense: " I believe you'd make far more headway if you said that instead of a carbon tax". And your arguement that carbon can't be in the tax base since taxes are bad is...well, we already have a tax base, just a economically and ecology less good one. Can't follow your other claims, but they strike me as incoherent as articulated (i.e. using word with different coverage in different parts of the argument as if they referred to the same thing, that is 'carbon tax' = 'crazy enviromenatlist", so lets discuss "crazy enviromentalists". You've not shown that carbon taxes are crazy or associated only with crazy enviromentalists. ).
kazriko
12 days ago
The main thing I don't want is for how all of the current taxation schemes seem to be doing it. Emitters are grandfathered in to a certain amount, and if they cut emissions they can sell those credits to others. This basically entrenches all of the existing interests and makes it impossible for new companies to make any headway. Any solution shouldn't give exemptions to the entrenched, only allow those who find ways of mitigating the issue to sell exemptions to others.
kazriko
12 days ago
*sigh* Yes, that sentence doesn't parse the way I was intending. I was meaning instead of ONLY a carbon tax. I didn't also mean "crazy environmentalist" = "carbon tax" but "crazy environmentalist" = "100% end of all carbon emissions" As I said just before, the problem with the tax schemes are that they just go to do whatever, and don't solve the problem, just slightly discourage things rather than solving them. Only a carbon tax will lead to the 100% end of emissions because it won't work, and if it doesn't work, by your own admission people will be doing less gentle methods.
kazriko
12 days ago
You can see what I intended to say by the "transfer money to" thing in the same sentence. That meant transfer money from those who emit carbon to those who remove it.
stefanetal
12 days ago
Ah, mostly a misunderstanging then...:-). We still disagree, but I can dial back to a much more manageable debate...need to run now. I do take the technocratic basline view that Pigouvian taxes are a good starting point, but there are political issues that are serious and hard to model. More later...
Ferret
15 days ago
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:-|
wreichard
15 days ago
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The power of visualization.
Earth
darastar
15 days ago
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This is legit. And also scary?
drchuck
15 days ago
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Stonehenge!
Long Island, NY
emdeesee
15 days ago
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Fun fact: If laser-etched onto a 2x4 we use to hit people who say "...but the climate has changed before" over the head, it would be almost seven feet long.
Lincoln, NE
joeythesaint
15 days ago
And since the most common sizes you find 2x4s in is 6' and 8' long and you wouldn't want to truncate the graph, that means you've got more than an extra foot to extrapolate the data further. Or wrap it with a shirt and tape so you don't get calluses.
jscartergilson
15 days ago
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bookmarked
smadin
15 days ago
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Today in We're Fucked
Boston

Migrating Geese

5 Comments and 13 Shares
"Hey guys! I have a great idea for a migration!" "Dammit, Kevin."
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20 days ago
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johnknall
19 days ago
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Poor Kevin. :)
ÜT: 36.066195,-79.654128
pinksquirrel
19 days ago
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KEVIN!!! :D
MaryEllenCG
20 days ago
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Dammit, Kevin!
Greater Bostonia
adamcole
21 days ago
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We Need To Talk About Kevin
Philadelphia, PA, USA
wyeager
22 days ago
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Uh oh. XKCD's gettin' in on Your Wild City's territory with this one.
Blur Area

PSA: Back Up Your iPhone and Sync Your Third-Party Apps Before Tomorrow's Update

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PSA: Back Up Your iPhone and Sync Your Third-Party Apps Before Tomorrow's Update

iOS 10 launches tomorrow, but while backing up your device before you upgrade is pretty common sense, you’ll also want to make sure your third-party apps sync up too.

http://lifehacker.com/everything-app…

Firs things first, back up your device before tomorrow. Then, go through and make sure any third-party apps that use their own syncing service are synced up too. A lot of apps have stopped using iCloud for syncing, including Day One, LastPass, Dashlane, Simplenote, and plenty of others. So, if you haven’t used an app in a while, pop in and make sure it’s synced up properly.

Backing up and syncing is generally just a good idea, but it’s also important because iOS 9 introduced a new feature that temporarily deletes apps to free up space for installing updates. This sounds awesome on the surface, but carries the risk of deleting data from apps that haven’t synced properly. As always, it’s better to be safe than sorry here, so make sure everything’s up to date.

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Why Charging Your Phone Every Night Hurts Its Battery

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A day spent snapping pictures, checking social media, and catching Pokemon tends to be rough on your smartphone's battery life. Bedtime may seem like a good opportunity to plug in your device in preparation for the next day, but according to The New York Times, making this a nightly habit could end up hurting your phone in the long run.

If you own a smartphone, it’s likely powered by a lithium-ion battery. Most phones are designed to accept currents as fast as possible (to cut down on charging time), but as the current rapidly flows from one side of the battery to the other, it corrodes the battery. While this is fine for a couple of years, it will eventually shorten your battery's lifespan.

One thing smartphone users shouldn't worry about when plugging in overnight is "overcharging." Smartphones know when they’ve reached full capacity and have special built-in chips that prevent them from absorbing any surplus charge.

The 44 percent of smartphone owners who plan to upgrade their devices as soon as possible probably won't own a phone long enough to see the effects of frequent charging. But if you plan to have your iPhone 4 pried from your cold, dead hands, Hatem Zeine—founder of the wireless charging company Ossia—recommends powering up devices with a charger meant for something less powerful (charging an iPad Pro with an iPhone charger, for example). Keeping your battery at a temperature of about 60 to 72°F is another way to squeeze every year of battery life you can get from your device.

[h/t The New York Times]

Know of something you think we should cover? Email us at tips@mentalfloss.com.

August 24, 2016 - 7:00pm
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When It Comes To Food, “Generally Recognized As Safe” May Not Mean What It Sounds Like

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Here in the U.S., we have food safety regulations — a lot of them. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is responsible for making sure processed foods (and a bunch of other stuff) adhere to some basic health and safety rules to reduce the likelihood these products will hit store shelves and make a million people sick. So far, so good, but there’s a major food safety standard that the FDA uses that, it turns out, is neither standard nor safe — despite its name.

So, what’s this standard?

Generally Recognized As Safe, or GRAS.

And that means…

GRAS is a standard for certain substances added to food. The FDA, which regulates food safety, maintains a database of these GRAS ingredients that are, well, generally considered safe to use in your processed food.

Anything included on the list — currently around 10,000 ingredients — is fair game for its stated use in food processing, without requiring a specific pre-market review process.

That sounds fine! Is there some kind of catch?

A big one.

Rather than being a safety standard, it’s actually kind of a loophole that gets you out of the required safety standards.

Huh. Okay, so, how does it work?

To get there, we need to backtrack a bit: to 1958, specifically.

A quick history of food safety regulation: The Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act of 1938 is basically where the FDA came from. Twenty years later, in 1958, the law was updated with the Food Additives Amendment.

That’s about the point where Congress realized that it’s really quite bad for consumers if new ingredients in their food are toxic, or if their otherwise-okay food has a harmful ingredient added to it. (Who knew?!) So the 1958 update gave the FDA a way to mandate safety testing and keep harmful chemicals, including carcinogens, out of food.

That’s when GRAS came about. It’s basically a a twofold way of determining if something can be generally recognized as safe for consumption, and substances meeting that standard were excluded from the review process.

Common ingredients in regular use before 1958 were all grandfathered onto the list. So that covered your flour, sugar, salt, vinegar, baking soda, and the like. Sure, in excess some of those things may be bad for you, but that’s a separate problem that regulators later started addressing in different ways. The ingredients are not toxic (A) in and of themselves, and (B) in the way and amounts in which they are generally used or had been used to-date (more about that later), so they qualified as safe.

The other way to get something on the list is, “general recognition of safety through scientific procedures,” which means, basically, using current “data, information, or methods” to prove that your thing isn’t harmful.

Oh, okay. So the FDA does scientific testing on potential GRAS items?

Ah. No. Not even a little.

The “generally” in GRAS is doing a lot of heavy lifting. After all, the grandfathering-in for ingredients used prior to 1958 is, basically, “It never hurt anyone as far as we know, right?”

Which, granted, for ingredients that humans have been using in food for hundreds of years is probably okay — there’s a really big implicit sample size, of tens or hundreds of millions of people, behind the assumption that, say, white vinegar is generally safe. The law was designed to make the entire process of food production safe without being onerous, and having to prove the safety of something like vinegar before you can use it would probably be a big waste of everyone’s time and money. Sure.

The “scientific procedures” part is a little trickier, though. Typically, testing is done either in-house, by the corporation that wants to use the product, or by industry labs. So you’re in a situation where Food Conglomerate X can come up with a substance, have their own employees test it under their own roof, and then declare, “See, it’s fine!”

There’s obviously a potential for conflict of interest when no neutral third party is involved. That’s not to say that all food safety testing is bad or compromised, because some is probably fine, but it isn’t neutral and its results may be questionable.

Without outside verification, it’s hard to tell what’s reliable and what isn’t.

But the FDA has to review those findings though, right?

Well, the FDA did. For a while, anyway.

The process for getting your item classified as GRAS was to generate and gather your evidence, then present it in a petition to the FDA. The FDA would then review your petition and issue a rule. That rule would basically either say, “Great, your science looks good, we’ll call this ingredient safe,” or something more like, “We don’t have any particular questions about this, nothing stands out,” and your ingredient would get the green light.

Wait, “was”? Do companies still have to provide their science?

Nope!

When did that change?

The FDA proposed a rule change in 1997 that would, “eliminate the GRAS affirmation petition process and replace it with a notification procedure.”

In other words, it would take out that make-a-rule step. Instead of the FDA having to review the findings and give them a thumbs-up, companies would simply notify the FDA that they had tested a thing, found it safe, and would now be using it.

That is, if they want to. The notification part is strongly encouraged, not mandatory.

The FDA actually made a change that basically says “you only have to tell us if you want to?”

Yep.

When did it go into effect?

The final version of the rule went into the Federal Register as officially-official on Aug. 17, 2016. Yes, 19 years after it was first proposed. And yes, that is slow, even for a large federal bureaucracy.

The rule was only finalized at all as the result of a 2014 lawsuit from the Center for Food Safety. It, and other consumer safety watchdog groups (including the policy and mobilization branch of our parent company, Consumer Reports) argued that the proposed GRAS process violated the actual 1958 law that established the GRAS standard to begin with.

The lawsuit aimed to force the FDA into finalizing a rule; however, the rule that got finalized incorporated virtually none of the changes or suggestions that advocates had proposed.

So companies can stop notifying the FDA about their stuff now?

Actually, nothing much changes in the day-to-day — notification has been dropping off significantly since 1997. All kinds of stuff has just… gone through in the last 20 years.

The Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI) released a fact sheet [PDF] last year outlining the scope of the problem. It included this graph, showing how the “affirmation” or approval process has been replaced with the “notification” one since the 1990s:

via the Center for Science in the Public Interest

What kind of scale are we talking about?

CSPI estimates that there are about 1,000 food substances being used that the FDA has never even been notified about, and that there are about 3,000 being used that the FDA has been notified about but has not ever investigated.

So what are the problems this causes?

There are two biggies.

One: Nobody actually knows what all the additives in your food actually are. If they’re not disclosed, then they’re not in any FDA database and nobody actually knows to look for them. If they’re used in small enough quantities in your food, they won’t even show up as an ingredient on the package except under a broad header like “natural and artificial flavoring.”

Two: When something is already glossed over and never looked at again, but turns out to be dangerous, it can be really hard to identify which ingredient is the harmful one — and if it’s pulled at all, it’s only after someone’s already been hurt.

What’s a good example of that?

The most commonly-given example of a problem with a GRAS-approved substance is caffeine.

When it made the approved additives list, in 1959, most consumers were getting relatively small amounts of caffeine in soda or coffee. Other than maybe giving yourself a night of insomnia, intentionally or not, you weren’t looking at any seriously deleterious effects from the quantity of the ingredient you could actually ingest.

By the 21st century, tech and trends in food processing changed. So you got a caffeinated alcoholic beverage released on, and then later banned from, the market after being linked to a teenager’s death and being deemed unsafe.

Meanwhile, pure powdered caffeine also became available on the market, both by itself and added to all kinds of other products. The FDA began investigating caffeine-added foods in 2013, and in 2014 asked consumers not to eat the pure stuff by the spoonful.

Following a teenager’s death from caffeine overdose in 2014, in 2015 the FDA finally told caffeine-sellers not to keep marketing their potentially dangerous stuff as safe supplements.

This is where that bit about the way and amounts in which GRAS ingredients are generally used or had been used to-date that we mentioned way up top, comes back into play. Caffeine, as used in 1959, was and is pretty much safe. But caffeine as used in other ways in 2014 proved fatal.

But if people were dropping dead from 1,000 food additives we’d notice, right?

That’s basically the industry response: that clearly ingredients they put in food are safe because there’s no proof of harm. And yes, if your morning breakfast cereal were to turn out toxic, it’s a pretty good bet that would make headlines.

But consumer advocates aren’t just concerned about immediate, acute problems like fatal caffeine overdoses; they’re concerned that with unknown items in the food supply, it’s hard to identify any chronic issues they may cause.

The easiest example here is partially hydrogenated oils: trans fats. You may remember that trans fats became a big bugaboo a few years back. During the ’00s, they had to be broken out on nutrition labels, and slowly started vanishing from food. Eventually, they got banned altogether.

Those oils had been considered GRAS. The FDA reviewed the science, did more science, and then, in 2015, pulled the designation and removed them from the list. As it turns out, additives that cause heart disease and don’t really add anything you can’t get in your food otherwise are a bad idea.

But in order to make a measurement and a determination like that, first you have to know what it is you’re measuring.

If something that nobody knows has been added to food causes some kind of slow-motion chronic illness or effect, how would the medical and scientific establishment even begin to chase it down and make that connection?

Basically, it’s a problem of unknowns: without independent research and disclosure, how can consumers make informed choices about what to buy and eat?

So, basically the FDA isn’t regulating many new food additives in any meaningful way?

That’s the long and the short of it, yup.

I’m not even sure what to say.

We know that feeling. Here, try this gif:

bsp_disbelief

You’re far from alone if you think this whole thing is misleading as heck. Our colleagues at Consumer Reports surveyed Americans this year and found that overwhelmingly, folks think GRAS means something it doesn’t.

A whopping 77% of respondents thought “GRAS” means the FDA has actually evaluated something and found it safe, and that another 66% thought that the FDA monitors the safety and usage of GRAS ingredients.

Neither statement as CR points out, is true.









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Gawker.com Shutting Down After Bankruptcy Sale To Univision

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Gawker Media declared bankruptcy in June after losing a major lawsuit. The company went up on the auction block this week and Univision bought it up. And while the company likely has plans in mind for at least some of what it paid for, the flagship site isn’t going with: Gawker.com is shutting down.

Gawker — until 2008, the parent company of Consumerist, and the former employer of two current Consumerist staffers — had its assets acquired by Univision for $135 million in a bankruptcy auction this week.

According to Gawker, the purchase included subsidiary sites Deadspin, Gizmodo, Jalopnik, Jezebel, Kotaku, and Lifehacker but left the fate of Gawker itself unclear.

Today, that fate became clear. The one-time internet media stalwart announced it would be ending operations next week, roughly 14 years after its founding. “The near-term plans for Gawker.com’s coverage, as well as the site’s archives, have not yet been finalized,” site staff wrote.

Employees of other Gawker Media sites tell Consumerist that no official word about their properties has yet come from Univision one way or the other. Univision’s Isaac Lee — the chief news, entertainment, and digital officer for Univision Communications — is expected to speak with Gawker Media staff in their New York office tomorrow.





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