Archive for the ‘Culture’ Category

Recomended Facebook Groups and Pages

Wednesday, August 27th, 2014

I have not always been a big social media fan, but I have to admit that Facebook is pretty great for keeping in touch with people and for finding groups of similar interests.

There are some great Facebook pages and groups that are anti-bad science.  Many of these are funny and all are worth checking out

Note that some of these are closed groups, where you have to apply for membership to the group before you can post to it, and, in some cases, read all the posts.

 

Anti Vax Wall of Shame - The worst comments, posts and quotes from anti-vaccine activists and websites.

Australian Vaccination Network – Not to be confused with the actual Australian Vaccination Network, this is pro-vaccine. How they got to use the name, I have no idea.

Conspiracy Theorists Say the Darndest Things – Comically bad conspiracy claims from around the web.

Fundies Say the Darndest things – Comically bad quotes and posts from religious fundimentalists, mostly.

New Age Woos Say the Darndest Things -Similar comically bad quotes, these from newagers, quacks and similar.

GMOLOL - Crazy GMO claims refuted and poked fun at.  Also general advocacy for good science regarding genetically engineering technology.

GMO Skepti-Forum – A place for skeptics of outlanding GMO claims (not as funny as GMOLOL)

Anti-Alternative Medicine – A group opposing and exposing quackery.

 

Please feel free to add recommended groups and pages in the comments!

Students Make Film About Vaccines – Get Harrassment

Tuesday, August 12th, 2014

It’s always nice to see young people with a passion for science, reality, skepticism and advocacy.   In Carlsbad, CA, a group of highschool students in a journalism class made a film about vaccines and vaccine denialism.  (It’s on the correct side of it)

Via NBC San Diego

More than a dozen current and former Carlsbad High School students have found themselves in the middle of the long-running vaccination debate after they produced the film Invisible Threat.

The film debuted online August 1, more than a year after it was completed.

Students tell NBC 7 that’s largely due to the backlash they’ve faced, even during the production stage.

Brad Streicher worked on the film his junior year. The current USC student and NBC 7 intern said the idea came from the San Diego Rotary Club.

People there were impressed by two previous films they’d worked on and wanted the high school broadcast journalism class to do one on the immune system and immunizations.

“We ended up telling Rotary we’ll do the film but only on our terms, which means we were going to approach the film from a journalistic standpoint,” said Streicher. “We wanted to make sure whatever story we were telling, it would be unbiased and we would attack it from both sides of the argument.”

The Rotary gave the students $60,000 for the project with that understanding, according to Streicher.

Months into the film’s production, students say they started to received e-mails and online comments harshly criticizing their work.

People called the project “pro-vaccine” and “propaganda.” At one point the teacher and director of the film, Douglas Green, proposed the students stop the project. The students refuse.

Here’s a video about the production and the students behind it:


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One in Three Americans Implanted with RFID’s? Not really

Friday, August 8th, 2014

First, a basic primer on what RFID’s are:

An RFID is a small computer chip which holds a very small amount of information, typically just a string of numbers, letters or other symbols.  The chip has a tiny radio transmitter in it, and when a reader is brought near it, it will broadcast that data so it can be read by the reading device, which contains a radio receiver.

Importantly, RFID’s are not self-powered.  They are far too tiny for any kind of battery capacity.  Instead, the RFID reader energizes the RFID with an electromagnetic field.  When the RFID is placed in the field, it becomes activated and transmits the code it contains.   As a result, RFID’s can’t be read from any substansial distance.   But they can be read even if they are covered, such as if they are on the inside of a box or embedded in an object.

intermec-rfidThey also do not have any actual computing power.  They can’t receive GPS signals or transmit data, because they lack sensors and receivers.  They simply spit out their internal code when energized.

RFID’s are therefore analogous to bar codes.  The major difference is that a barcode needs to be visible, on the outside of an item and reading it requires finding it and directing a scanner at it.  RFID’s have the advantage of working when obscured and of being readable by running the reader over an item, even if the exact location of the RFID is unknown.   They can therefore be used to inventory merchandise while it is still on the shelf or to track multiple items as they move through a system.  They can also be embedded in things like credit cards or security passes, allowing them to be used by just holding them near a reader.

VeriChip_Corp-fingerRFID’s can also be implanted.  A typical RFID implant is about the size and shape of a grain of rice.  It contains the chip inside a biologically inert material which is shaped to allow it to be inserted through a very small incision or even injected with a thick needle.  A few individuals have chosen to have an RFID implanted as a way of accessing secure systems.  This works a lot like biometrics, but may be more robust.  When implanted with an RFID, an individual can do things like open locks and sign onto secure computers by just waving their hand infr0nt of a reader.  (Presuming, of course, that their hand is where it is implanted.)

This is rare, however.  Only a few people have RFID’s in their body and it’s largely just a way of being a super early-adopted.  It will earn you some definite nerd points.

Implantable RFID’s are common for pets, however.  The RFID acts as a tag that cannot be easily removed or lost.  Once implanted, the pet can be tracked back to its owner if it ever gets lost and is picked up by an animal shelter.  Animal shelters typically have RFID readers on site and will scan a dog or cat when they are found without identification.  If the animal has an RFID, then the unique code it carries is displayed on the reader.  This code can be used to find the owners in a database.

But what about mass implantation in people without their consent?

This is a common thread in conspiracy theories.  Some have claimed that the government (or some other evil organization) is planning on or has already begun putting RFID’s in the bodies of unsuspecting citizens.  Allegedly this is to track their movements and keep tabs on them.  Others claim it is part of a mind-control system.

Of course, despite claims that they can be used for realtime tracking, an RFID cannot be used for this at all.  As mentioned, it is only energized when it comes in close proximity to the receiver.  It could, however, be used to identify individuals when they entered certain areas which are equipped with readers for the RFID’s.

Arguably this could be done without RFID readers at all.  A simple fingerprint scanner and identify and individual from a database of fingerprints.  However, RFID’s would have the advantage of allowing it to be done more covertly, perhaps without the subjects knowledge.

There is no evidence that this has ever been done, however… or is there?

Via National Report:

Study Finds 1 in 3 Americans Have Been Implanted With RFID Chips: Most Unaware
Scientists at the Wyoming Institute of Technology (WIT) have determined that a shocking 1 in 3 Americans has been implanted with an RFID microchip. In an article published this week, they detail a study of nearly 3000 individuals, in which they identified nearly 1000 individuals that had been implanted with an RFID chip. Most were unaware that they had been implanted with such a chip. This finding comes amongst increasing predictions that RFID chip implantation will become common place in the next decade.

Lead scientist on the study, John Brugle, Ph.D. offered the following:

We were motivated to perform this study by all of the public interest in RFID implantation and fears that it would be common place. It turns out, in fact, that it is already common place. We found that a shockingly high number of Americans are carrying RFID implants in their body. The overwhelming majority of these individuals were completely unaware that they had been implanted. I hope that this study causes us to take pause as a society and truly consider the ramifications and implications of human RFID implantation.

The study looked both at the prevalence of RFID implantation, as well as the common implantation locations. In addition to commonly known implantation sites, such as the back of the hand, they also identified many RFID chips that had been implanted in dental fillings. The function of the chips varied, but the authors of the study indicated that many revealed personal identities, including social security numbers, as well as medical records. The best way to determine if you have been implanted with an RFID chip is to consult a qualified medical professional to administer a full body scan with an RFID reader. Concerned citizens can also attempt a self scan, but civilian grade scanners are not always sensitive enough to detect implanted RFID chips.

 

Sounds scary! Especially considering that they have some kind of amazing and previously unknown type of RFID that requires an ultra-sensitive scanner that you and I can’t get our hands on. It begs the question of what their plans are and who is doing it.

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British MP Seeks to Incorporate Astrology Into National Healthcare System

Saturday, July 26th, 2014

Well at least the US is not alone in having idiots for elected leaders.

Via the BBC:

Astrology-loving MP seeks health answers in the stars
A Conservative MP has spoken of his belief in astrology and his desire to incorporate it into medicine.

David Tredinnick said he had spent 20 years studying astrology and healthcare and was convinced it could work.

The MP for Bosworth, a member of the health committee and the science and technology committee, said he was not afraid of ridicule or abuse.

“There is no logic in attacking something that has a proven track record,” he told BBC News.

He said he had studied the Indian astrological system Iahiri and the way it was used by that country’s government and recalled how Chris Patten, Britain’s last governor of Hong Kong, had an official astrologer, whom Mr Tredinnick had consulted while on a parliamentary delegation there.

The MP recently spoke about his beliefs at the Glastonbury Festival, sharing a platform with Daily Mail astrologer Jonathan Cainer.

Recalling the experience in the House of Commons, he said he had been invited to take part because of his “radical agenda” on complementary medicine – he is vice-chairman of the government’s herbals working group.

He said he had been the subject of much ridicule for his beliefs over the years, including a fake Twitter account entitled “Inside the head of David Tredinnick”, but many of the sceptics who had attacked him were “bullies” who had “never studied the subjects”.

“I am absolutely convinced that those who look at the map of the sky for the day that they were born and receive some professional guidance will find out a lot about themselves and it will make their lives easier,” he told MPs.

Explaining his beliefs to BBC News, Mr Tredinnick said he had been right about herbal remedies and healing, which he said were now becoming accepted in parts of the NHS, and he now wanted to promote astrology, which was not just predicting the future but gaining an insight into personal problems.

I don’t have much more to say to this. I have, however, studied the subject. No, I have not studied the mechanics of astronomical prediction, but I have studied the accuracy, repeatability and social acceptance of astrology. I can say that science undoubtedly shows it does not work. This is no surprise, of course. The basis is arbitrary animals, characters and objects that ancient people say in the patterns of stars, which are themselves many light-years apart in space.

The fact that herbal and “natural” medicine is becoming accepted by NHS is not proof that it works. It’s proof that politicians and the public are ignorant of the subject and demand it. We have the same problem of alternative medicine creeping into the mainstream in the US. In fact, most countries seem to have that issue these days.

It’s also not a huge surprise that the former governor of Hong Kong had an astrologer. Many politicians are prone to believing in astrology or other superstitions.

Of course, when they use these superstitions to govern, that can be a problem. Thankfully for the UK, this one member of parliament is unlikely to be able to do much about getting astrology officially recognized or making it part of the medical system.

It is still unfortunate that this MP sits on science and health committees. Isn’t there someplace else they can put him? What about the Ministry of Silly Walks?

Some Are Up In Arms Over Bodies Being Used For Crash Experiments

Thursday, May 1st, 2014

Cars have never been safer.  That fact is largely due to the use of crash tests and destructive experiments conducted on car designs.   Similar tests have improved the safety of everything from airline seats to passenger rail cars.

To do these tests, sophisticated crash test dummies have been developed.  These dummies have improved vastly over the years.  They are reusable, packed with sensors and designed to accurately mimic the human body’s response to crashes.

However, to make these dummies and to validate their response, there must be something to compare them to.  Ideally, that would be real, living, breathing, healthy, humans.  Unfortunately, ethics boards tend to have a problem with using humans for anything other than the most benign of crash tests.  Living human volunteers are still used for some things, like range of motion measurements or determining things like tissue density.  When it comes to actual crash tests, however, it’s dead humans, cadavers, that are used to conduct the tests.

The overwhelming majority of crash tests don’t use cadavers, but they remain an important part of research.  The bodies are treated with respect and are generally wrapped in materials that cover parts like the face and hands.  But, in the end, they are hurled against things and beaten to a pulp before being x-rayed or autopsied to determine the injuries sustained.

This really bothers some people a lot…


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Most of the bodies used are from those who never granted specific permission to use their remains in crash tests, but did donate their bodies to science.  There is no requirement that those who agreed to have their bodies used for scientific purposes are given more details about what kind of research that might be.  In fact, it’s often not until after they die that it is determined how the body will be used.

I find the distaste for this to be misplaced.  If one donates their body to science, it is to be expected that things will happen to it that might not be pretty.  If it doesn’t get hurled against a wall, it will be chopped up in pathology studies or anatomy classes or it might be left out to rot in decay studies.  No, it’s not pleasant to think of, especially with loved ones, but it’s not much worse than the alternative.  If not donated to science, the body will either be put into the ground to rot or burned.   Neither of these are really something many of us want to look forward to.  But that’s death, which is something I am trying to put off for as long as reasonably possible.

If nothing else, this use of cadavers could be considered the most important, at least in so far as its impact on the living.  Few other experiments represent a more direct means of saving human lives.

Personally, I do not find it deceptive to not tell donors or their families about the possibilities of crash tests.  The best way of dealing with a grieving family, in my opinion, is to provide some basic information.  For example, one could say “Your relative has decided to donate their body to science.  Their remains will be used in a manner that will advance scientific and medical knowledge.   There are a number of ways this might happen.  We could give you the details about the kind of experiments carried out, but to be honest, you would probably wouldn’t want to hear all the details.”

It’s no different than most funeral arrangements.  Families may know their loved one will be embalmed and prepared for display and burial.  However, they aren’t normally given the full details about how the deceased will have their blood drained, their eyes glued shut and cotton balls stuffed up their anus.  That’s just not a picture most would want to have.

 

 

UN Court Orders Japan To Stop Antarctic Whaling

Monday, March 31st, 2014

I have said it before and I will say it again: if you want to persuade Japan to stop whaling, then you must do so through diplomacy and legal methods.  It’s not that I am a huge fan of whaling, but the actions of Sea Shepherd are totally ineffective, counter-productive, extremely dangerous and highly illegal.  They qualify as acts of piracy, as they are a direct attack on the safety of unarmed vessels on the high seas.

For those who actually would like to see Japanese whaling come to an end, there has recently been a major step in that direction.  And no, it did not happen because a group of idiot activists were ramming Japanese vessels.

Via The New York Times:

U.N. Court Orders Japan to Halt Antarctic Whaling

PARIS — The United Nations’ highest court on Monday ordered Japan to halt its annual whaling hunt in the Southern Ocean around Antarctica, saying that its present program was not being carried out for scientific purposes, as Japan has claimed.

In a 12-to-4 judgment, the International Court of Justice in The Hague found that Japan was in breach of its international obligations by catching and killing minke whales and issuing permits for hunting humpback and fin whales within the Southern Ocean Whale Sanctuary, established by the International Whaling Commission.

Reading a summary of the judgment, presiding Judge Peter Tomka of Slovakia said that the present “research program,” dating to 2005, has involved the killing of 3,600 minke whales and a number of fin whales, but that its “scientific output to date appears limited.” The ruling suggested instead that Japan’s whaling hunt served political and economic reasons.

Lawyers attending the proceedings said there was a gasp in the audience when Judge Tomka ordered Japan to immediately “revoke all whaling permits” and not issue any new ones under the existing program.

“I rarely heard such an unequivocal, strong ruling at this court,” said a lawyer with long experience at the court who asked not to be named because he is working on a case in progress.

The ruling is binding, and Japan cannot appeal. No immediate reaction from Japan was available, although it has said it would abide by any judgment in the case. But a Japanese delegate said in earlier hearings that Japan might consider withdrawing from the whaling commission, which oversees management of the world’s whale populations.

The court left open the possibility for future whale hunting if Japan redesigned its program. Tokyo has said that it needs data to monitor the impact of whales on its fishing industry and to monitor the whale population’s recovery from overfishing.

Unfortunately, the times article went on to quote a Sea Shepherd representative on the issue, which is a shame, because those idiots should not be regarded as a respectable authority on the issue or even legitimate anti-whaling activists. There are plenty of groups out there who oppose Japanese whaling and do so through legal and sane means.

It’s important to note that while this is a big step, it does not mean that Japan won’t conduct any further whaling or that the issue is closed.   First, this only applies to the Antarctic region.  Although that is the most high profile region of Japanese whaling, the Japanese also conduct whaling in the northern Pacific and that is not affected by the ruling.

Another important consideration is that the decision only reflects Japan’s commitment to the International Whaling Commission treaty.  There is no standing international law against whaling in general.  The only reason Japan is restricted from whaling is that the country signed a treaty to abide by IWC rules.  Those rules include a ban on whaling for all but research purposes.  It should be noted that the research clause was, in part, inserted into the general ban on whaling to appease Japan, who wished to continue whaling activities.  Calling it “research” makes it more politically palatable.

Therefore the court has ruled that Japan must cease whaling because their activities do not quality as “research,” and therefore are not in line with the rules of the treaty.  However, because it’s a voluntary treaty, Japan could potentially respond by simply choosing to withdraw from the IWC.  They have the right to do so.   They just might end up doing that, as they have considered withdrawing before.

As a result of these limits, this ruling should not be regarded as an the ultimate victory in the fight against whaling.  What Japan will do next is unclear.  Though they have stated they will abide by the ruling, they may decide to leave the IWC, thus voiding their treaty obligations, or they may simply shift the focus of their whaling program to other ocean regions.   None the less, this is still a major step toward reducing or eliminating Japanese whaling.   If the effort to do so is successful, it will be through diplomacy, appeals to the Japanese public and legal efforts and not through harassing whaling vessels with dangerous and illegal stunts.

Fred Phelps Reported Ill

Sunday, March 16th, 2014

It’s really considered pretty tacky and rude to wish someone dead, even if you strongly disagree with them.  So, call me tacky, call me rude, call me anything you want, but I can’t wait for the old bastard to kick the bucket…

Via Fox News:

Spokesman: Rev. Fred Phelps, founder of anti-gay Kansas church, is ill and in care facility

TOPEKA, Kan. – The Rev. Fred Phelps Sr., who founded a Kansas church that’s widely known for its protests at military funerals and anti-gay sentiments, is in a care facility.

Westboro Baptist Church spokesman Steve Drain said Sunday that Phelps is being cared for in a Shawnee County facility. Drain wouldn’t identify the facility but says Phelps is 84 and “having some health problems.”

Members of the Westboro church, based in Topeka, frequently protest at funerals of soldiers with signs containing messages like “Thank God for dead soldiers” and “Thank God for 9/11,” claiming the deaths are God’s punishment for American immorality and tolerance of homosexuality and abortion.

Lets hope it is finally the end for Phelps. He’s 84 years old and tends to avoid the hospital unless absolutely necessary. The fact that this was announced does give some hope that his health is finally failing.

No, I don’t wish him death because I’m vengeful or vindictive. At least, that’s not the primary reason. The Westboro Baptist Church has all the hallmarks of a cult, and cults need a charismatic leader. When the leader of a cult dies, it is very common for the cult to fall apart. I believe that is what will happen with the WBC.

Phelp’s group has done everything possible to make others miserable. They protest funerals and picket tragic events around the country. It’s easy to say “just ignore them,” and most people do. Their antics don’t generally get them any followers or sympathy. But they do cause real suffering to those trying to quietly grieve their losses. That’s the whole point of their actions. They know laughing at the caskets of the dead and making the event less dignified will cut to the bone of the survivors.

If I were religious myself, I would imagine now would be the time that Satan is stoking the fires of hell and waiting to start cooking a juicy one.

The Problem With Not Having a Manned Space Program

Wednesday, March 5th, 2014

The United States has the worlds most accomplished manned space program.  Not only has the US sent men to the moon, but for decades the United States was the most capable space-faring nation, launching several missions per year and leading the world in manned space capabilities.  Even the Space Shuttle, for all its expense and flaws, was a highly capable spacecraft.

Today, however, the US has no ability to send humans into space.   China has a limited manned spaceflight program and Russia is now the primary space program for crewed spacecraft.  The US, however, does own a large portion of the International Space Station and is under treaty obligation to provide crew and support to the space station.  To fulfill its need to send crew members to the Space Station, the US must pay the Russian government tens of millions of dollars for a seat in a Soyuz space capsule.

Obviously, this is a pretty embarrassing place to be.  Just 20 years ago, it was NASA coming to the rescue of a floundering Russian space program, when, after the fall of the Soviet Union, Russia found itself unable to support a full roster of missions to its own space station.  Now the tables are turned, and the US is starting to look more like a fallen superpower.

But there is a more practical and problematic issue that arises with the dependence on Russia for space transportation.  When international tensions flare, as they now are, things become highly uncertain for space access.


Via NBC News:

Russia Crisis Raises Space Station Questions, But NASA Has Options

OUSTON — Thanks to its reliance on Russia, NASA is once again confronted with the nightmare of a diplomatic roadblock in a project originally made possible by diplomacy: the U.S.-Russian partnership in space exploration.

And if Russia’s confrontation with Ukraine and the West turns into the worst diplomatic crisis of our generation, as feared, it could have equally profound and disturbing consequences for space exploration.

This month’s comings and goings at the International Space Station highlight the interdependence of the U.S. and Russian space efforts: Next week, NASA astronaut Mike Hopkins is due to return from the space station aboard a Russian capsule, alongside two Russian cosmonauts. A couple of weeks after that, NASA’s Steven Swanson is to ride another Russian Soyuz craft up to the station, again in the company of two Russians.

Under the current arrangement, NASA astronauts cannot get to and from the station without Russian help, due to the retirement of the space shuttle fleet. The ticket price for each astronaut is $70 million, payable to the Russians.

The United States and Russia are not just “joined at the hip” on the space station. Numerous other rocket projects rely on either Russian or Ukrainian space hardware and services. Even U.S. national security satellites are powered into orbit on an American rocket with a Russian-built rocket engine.

What if the Soyuz spacecraft suddenly became unavailable for use by American astronauts, contract or no contract? Would it be the end of U.S. human spaceflight? Would it kick off a new round of extortionary price-gouging, both fiscal and diplomatic?

Well, maybe not.

Moving away from co-dependence

It’s cold comfort that the Russians rely on NASA almost as much as NASA relies on the Russians. If Russia monopolizes up-down transport, the United States essentially controls the only space destination: Russia’s orbital hardware couldn’t function without U.S. electrical power and communications services.

However reluctant the partners may be in such an awkward “space marriage,” it has until now provided an astonishing degree of robustness and flexibility.

Recent developments have brought the space station closer to the point where it could be operated without Russian involvement if necessary. The current crisis provides good reasons to accelerate that shift and even to push for one crucial near-term capability: crew rescue.

Already, two U.S. commercial cargo delivery projects — SpaceX’s Falcon rocket and Dragon capsule, as well as Orbital Sciences Corp.’s Antares rocket and Cygnus capsule — have replaced the justifiably retired space shuttle. European and Japanese robot freighters can also resupply the space station. Even though some parts of the Antares come from Ukraine and Russia, and even though the European cargo freighter must dock at the Russian end of the station, Russia’s cargo monopoly has been broken.

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Just who decided to start “naming” snow storms

Wednesday, January 1st, 2014

Has anyone noticed something new about winter storms?   At least in the United States?   They now have names.   That’s right.   The Eastern US now is getting ready for Winter Storm Hercules.   That sounds rather impressive, given it’s the name of a Greek half-god known for strength.   This follows last years storms that include Athena and Nemo.   The names now seem ubiquitous, and even officials use them.   So you might ask, what government agency decided to start naming winter storms and when did they start?

The answer is none.  These names are not official and have no standing in any way shape or form other than being made up by the Weather Channel.

Background:

Around the 1940′s, forecasters ran into a problem when it came to big tropical storms.  With more communications, spotting aircraft and ships, they started getting reports of multiple storms at the same time.  They were also keeping more records and it was getting confusing.  “The Hurricane of 1938″ just did not cut it when it came to keeping one storm straight from the other.   Military meteorologists came up with a pretty simple system: any storm that was considered tropical storm force (sustained winds over 65 miles per hour) was given a letter.  They thus had “tropical storm A” and “Tropical storm B” etc.   The actual names, however, used the then-current phonetic alphabet, so the storms were actually called “Storm Able,” “Storm Baker,” “Storm Charlie” and so on.   The names were repeated each season.

HurricaneCarolIn 1953, the United States Weather Bureau started to standardize the names.  In 1953, there was a major policy change.  Phonetic alphabet names were replaced by a list of female names, which were assigned to each storm as it occurred.  In part this was because a new phonetic alphabet had been developed.

Initially, the plan seems to have been to reuse the same names each year, but in 1954, Hurricane Hazel and Hurricane Carol received a large amount of press and it was realized that reusing those names in 1955 would cause much confusion.  For that reason, a new policy of coming up with a new annual list of names to use was created.  Names are sometimes reused, but storms the practice is avoided for storms that are significant or strike land.  For storms that are especially significant, the names are officially retired.  Thus, there will never be another Hurricane Hugo or Katrina.   Initially the letters Q U X and Y were omitted from the list.  Today only the letter X is routinely left off the list of hurricane names.

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Gas Pipeline Has Activists In New York Going Nuts

Monday, November 4th, 2013



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Let me first state, for the record, that I am not a huge fan of the natural gas industry.   As far as fossil fuels go, natural gas is a lot cleaner than coal, but that’s not saying much.   Still, it’s nowhere near as clean or as safe as nuclear fission as an energy source.   Still, gas is certainly a vital part of our current energy mix.  Gas is widely deployed for domestic and commercial heating and hot water and replacing it with cleaner sources would require massive upgrades in electrical or district heating capacity and deployment of new systems.

So, for the time being, gas is a necessity and that gas must come from somewhere and be delivered somehow.  This is what pipelines are for.   Although natural gas is occasionally shipped as a liquid, by tanker, it is most often transported by pipeline, with pipes reaching all the way to the end user.  Yes, there is a natural gas pipe that comes into my home and I’d be pretty cold in the winter without it.

But there is one thing I hate more than the gas industry and that is fear-mongering and outright lying.

I will just make a few points about some of the claims in this video:

  1. Gas pipelines explode.   It happens.  It does not happen very often, but it does happen.   A major leak can send out a massive cloud of gas which then ignites, in effect making it a fuel-air bomb.   However, given the thousands of miles of gas pipeline in North America alone, it’s not a very big danger.   Sure, the safety is not as good as that of a nuclear reactor, but that would be setting the bar unreasonably high.  If you live on a gas pipeline, you should probably be more worried about car accidents or heart disease along with many other things.
  2. Older gas pipelines are at a much greater danger of exploding than newer ones.  Older pipelines may not be built to the same safety standards and are more likely to suffer corrosion or other problems.   New York City already has many old gas pipelines.  If anything, this will improve safety by taking some of the load off of the older infrastructure.  The San Bruno pipeline, which was mentioned, was more than fifty years old when it exploded and had not received any recent maintenance or inspections.
  3. If you don’t like fracking, you had better find another fuel, because that’s where gas comes from these days.  Most gas in North America is the result of fracking to enhance well production.  Although there are environmental issues, they are not nearly as bad as it is often portrayed.  There is still some gas produced by conventional wells.  There’s little solid evidence that this is much better for the environment (all gas production has its issues).   It also does not really matter where it came from, because it’s a commodity that all comes from the same market.  If you buy gas that was not produced from a fracked well, you will just displace gas out of the market and the effect is the same.
  4. The pipeline may well have been approved without most of those in the local community wanting it.  This is known as NIMBY – Not In My Back Yard.  Everyone wants to be able to heat and cook, but they want the infrastructure elsewhere.  New York City really does not have any areas that are not inhabited.  Although, there may be areas that have less vocal hipsters, looking for something to get hot and bothered about.
  5. Natural gas does contain radon when it comes from the well head.  Where it comes from may have some effect on the level of radon, but it’s generally pretty low.  Since radon has a half-life of less than four days, it’s even lower by the time the gas is processed and send to the end user.  Cooking with natural gas does result in some additional exposure to radon and thus radiation dose.  If you are radiophobic, you should probably not cook with gas, although in that case there are many things you should not do (for example, leaving your lead-lined cave.)

    Even if Pennsylvania gas does have higher radon levels as a result of being less distant, the exposure is very small.  It’s much smaller than living in a home with a full basement that was built in an area with uranium-bearing granite.  I should also point out, for the woman who is shocked by the idea of radon in her apartment, that there already is radon in her apartment.  Radon is constantly seeping from the earth and is therefore detectable in the lower atmosphere at all locations.  If she cooks with gas, it is already slightly higher than average.

I do have some sympathies for the idea that natural gas is just not the safest fuel and that a reduction in the use of natural gas would save lives and reduce environmental damage. That is certainly true. Obviously this is impossible unless an other energy source replaces it. Until that happens, and as long as gas remains a major fuel for domestic use, there will be gas pipelines in cities. It’s better to build new ones than just wait for the old ones to blow up.