On the NASEM report on solar geoengineering

A top scientific body in the US has asked the government to fund solar geoengineering research in a bid to help researchers and policymakers know the fullest extent of their options to help the US deal with climate change. Solar geoengineering is a technique in which sunlight-reflecting aerosols are pumped into the air, to subtractContinue reading “On the NASEM report on solar geoengineering”

Christopher Nolan’s explosion

In May, Total Film reported that the production team of Tenet, led by director Christopher Nolan, found that using a second-hand Boeing 747 was better than recreating a scene involving an exploding plane with miniatures and CGI. I’m not clear how exactly it was better; Total Film only wrote: “I planned to do it usingContinue reading “Christopher Nolan’s explosion”

Time and the pandemic

There is this idea in physics that the fundamental laws of nature apply the same way for processes moving both forwards and backwards in time. So you can’t actually measure the passage of time by studying these processes. Where does our sense of time, rather the passage of time, come from then? How do weContinue reading “Time and the pandemic”

The potential energy of being entertained

Netflix just published a report drafted by its Sustainability Accounting Standards Board, estimating – among other things – its environmental footprint for operations during the year 2019. According to the report, as The Guardian columnist Arwa Mahdawi writes: Binge-watching Netflix doesn’t just fry your brain; it may also be frying the planet. The streaming service’s global energy consumption increased byContinue reading “The potential energy of being entertained”

Losing sight of the agricultural finish line

In The Guardian, Joanna Blythman pokes an important pin into the frustrating but unsurprisingly durable bubble of vegan cuisine and the low-hanging fruits of ethical eating: These days it’s fashionable to eulogise plant foods as the secret for personal health and sound stewardship of our planet. But in the process of squaring up to theContinue reading “Losing sight of the agricultural finish line”

Free speech at the outer limits

On January 12, Peter W. Wood, president of an American organisation called the National Association of Scholars (NAS), wrote an op-ed in the Wall Street Journal against attempts by one individual to prevent NAS from organising a conference on science’s reproducibility crisis. As it turns out, the individual – Leonid Teytelman – has been fightingContinue reading “Free speech at the outer limits”

A why of how we wear what we wear

There are many major industries operating around the world commonly perceived to be big drivers of climate change. Plastic, steel and concrete manufacturing come immediately to mind – but fashion doesn’t, even though, materially speaking, its many inefficiencies represent something increasingly worse than an indulgence in times so fraught by economic inequality and the dividendsContinue reading “A why of how we wear what we wear”

A windier world

A new paper in Nature Climate Change reports a reversal in “terrestrial stilling” since 2010 – i.e. global wind speeds, thought to be in decline thanks to deforestation and real estate development, actually stopped slowing around 2010 and have been climbing since. The paper’s authors, a group of researchers from China, France, Singapore, Spain, theContinue reading “A windier world”

The climate and the A.I.

A few days ago, the New York Times and other major international publications sounded the alarm over a new study that claimed various coastal cities around the world would be underwater to different degrees by 2050. However, something seemed off; it couldn’t have been straightforward for the authors of the study to plot how muchContinue reading “The climate and the A.I.”

The virtues of local travel

Here’s something I wish I’d read before overtourism and flygskam removed the pristine gloss of desirability from the selfies, 360º panoramas and videos the second-generation elites posted every summer on the social media: It’s ok to prioritize friendships, community, and your mental health over travelling. Amir Salihefendic, the head of a tech company, writes this after havingContinue reading “The virtues of local travel”

Prestige journals and their prestigious mistakes

On June 24, the journal Nature Scientific Reports published a paper claiming that Earth’s surface was warming by more than what non-anthropogenic sources could account for because it was simply moving closer to the Sun. I.e. global warming was the result of changes in the Earth-Sun distance. Excerpt: The oscillations of the baseline of solarContinue reading “Prestige journals and their prestigious mistakes”

The Meerut mahayagya

Did some back-of-the-envelope calculations about the Meerut mahayagya, where a bunch of Hindu priests are burning 50 tonnes of mango wood and approx. 10 million tablespoons of ghee in a mega-ritual to “purify the air”, over nine days. Can’t make this stuff up. So 50 tonnes of hardwood releases 8.25 x 1011 joules and 10Continue reading “The Meerut mahayagya”