Bats

We’ve had an abundance of rain in the past month in my area. As such, we have a lot of standing water. To make matters worse, I live near a lake, which often means there’s standing water nearby anyway (and that’s definitely the case here). This all adds up to mean a deluge of mosquitoes. Fortunately, there are also a lot of bats around here. But it isn’t all gum drops and soda. Sometimes having a lot of something means things will start showing up where you don’t want them to show up.

In the past two days, I’ve encountered three bats in my apartment. The first was dead. I’m not sure if a cat killed it or if it died naturally or if it was white nose syndrome (though there was no visible fungus). The second was among a series of shirts I have layed over a large change bottle. I got that guy downstairs before he decided to take a quick aerial tour of the area. I eventually got him out the door. The third one, which showed up tonight, almost victimized by the hungry mouths of several cats, decided to go for the extended stay with optional aerial tour of the living room. It was fascinating watching it flying back and forth and back and forth and back and forth. After waking some sleeping roommates, we got it sequestered in the sun room/porch. Unfortunately, there’s no light in that small room, so there was a lot of fast ducking and thrown blankets in response to the constant dives and erratic motions of the bat. With time and a little help from an empty Yahtzee box, we got it out one of the windows.

So, in honor of this story (which I don’t think is over – we have little idea of where these things are originating), I am reposting some bits from a Carl Zimmer piece on bats. Be sure to click “Bat in wind tunnel” and “Vampires running!” to watch the videos. For whatever reason, I cannot embed any better than that.

Bats evolved about 50 million years ago from squirrel-like ancestors. They probably made their first forays into the air as gliders. Like living gliders, they used flaps of skin to increase their surface area, letting them glide further. Their hands evolved long spindly fingers that were joined by membranes. Some early bat fossils suggest that they may have shifted from gliding to alternating between gliding and bursts of fluttering. Eventually bats evolved sustained powered flight.

Bats evolved a way to take advantage of the same laws of physics birds use to fly. And many scientists who have studied bat flight in the past have basically treated bats like leathery birds. Yet there’s no reason to assume that this should be so. After all, it would not be surprising to find that the way the feathers on a bird’s wing react to air pushing against them are different from the way the stretchy membranes on a bat react. Birds don’t have wing surfaces connecting their front and back legs, like bats do. And while birds only have a couple joints in their wing skeleton, such as at the elbow and wrists, bats have lots of knuckles they could, in theory, bend selectively to alter their wing surface. Bats also have lots of sensitive hair cells on their wings that appear to track the speed and direction of the air flow, and the information they get from the hairs may help them make fine adjustments to their wings many times a second.

Bat in wind tunnel from Carl Zimmer on Vimeo.

I think the creepiest thing about this whole event, other than the possible rabies, was the way I watched the third bat walk. It landed on the floor a couple times and crawled around a bit. I wish I could have had more light to really observe it.

Vampire running! from Carl Zimmer on Vimeo.

George Will is a mook

Really, it’s as simple as that.

Q: You have felt the righteous wrath of those who believe in man-made global warming. Are you still all there?

A: Oh, heavens. Yeah. The odd thing about these people is, normally when I write something that people disagree with they write letters to the editor or they write a responding op-ed piece. These people simply set out to try and get my editors to not publish my columns. Now I don’t blame them, because I think if my arguments were as shaky as theirs are, I wouldn’t want to engage in argument either.

That is George Will getting a proverbial blowjob from some hack journalist. It is in response to an article he wrote about global warming where he just flat out made stuff up. Carl Zimmer wrote about the errors Will made in his piece, exposing the fraud for what he is. The rest of the blogging community did roughly the same (though certaintly not with the same talent level of Zimmer). Here’s the jist.

To recap: George Will wrote a column in which he tried to downplay the evidence that global warming has already affected the Earth, and that it will have bigger impacts in the future. Various bloggers have pointed out examples where Will misrepresented scientific studies in this column. The most glaring one was this: “According to the University of Illinois’ Arctic Climate Research Center, global sea ice levels now equal those of 1979.”

The Research Center put a statement on their site explaining that Will was wrong. On February 15, the day Will wrote his column, there was substantially less ice than on February 15, 1979: the area of Texas, California, and Oklahoma combined.

Zimmer goes on to explain that comparing one specific day to another specific day is erroneous. It is not how climate is measured – that’s how weather is done. Anyone who isn’t functionally retarded knows there’s a significant difference. Will did not recognize the difference. We’re left to connect the dots.

Of course, now some journalist with a hard-on for Will is giving him an opportunity to reply to his critics. We’ve seen his dumb rhetoric above. How about a little meat?

Q: The big issue was about how much global sea ice there is now compared to 1979.

•A: And that of course was a tiny portion of the column. The critics completely ignored — as again, understandably — the evidence I gave of the global cooling hysteria of 30 years ago.

Looks like the proverbial blowjob isn’t going so well. We just have some flaccid words.

Zimmer already addressed this in his earlier response.

George Will wrote a column in which he tried to downplay the evidence that global warming has already affected the Earth, and that it will have bigger impacts in the future.

Of course, I’m not a fundamentally dishonest conservative, so I’ll be fair. Will’s initial point is that there was concern for global cooling in the 1970s and now there is not. Okay, fair enough. He can make that claim. However, this is not his primary point. His primary point is that because there was some science (which he exaggerates) that sided with global cooling 30-40 years ago, that science which supports global warming today cannot be trusted. This reminds me a recent post about 50 reasons one should not believe in evolution.

12.) Because the fact that science is self-correcting annoys me. Most of my other beliefs are rigidly fixed and uncorrectable.

That is essentially to what this comes down. Will is a conservative who does not want to do things which will cost large corporations significant amounts of money. That is his motivation for being anti-global warming. The same goes for the vast majority of conservatives who are widely known figures. They’re blatant liars. They have no concern for truth or science. It’s all about their economic, religious, or ideological dogma they’ve come to adopt. All else must fall before it.

But let’s return to the core of Will’s flaccid words. He’s saying that his primary point was about global cooling hysteria. In truth, that was not his primary point: as I pointed out, he is saying that science’s self-correcting nature makes it currently wrong. That is, his primary point is that some science was wrong in the past, so global warming is wrong today. Okay, so now that some actual truth has been told, let’s continue.

As global levels of sea ice declined last year, many experts said this was evidence of man-made global warming. Since September, however, the increase in sea ice has been the fastest change, either up or down, since 1979, when satellite record-keeping began. According to the University of Illinois’ Arctic Climate Research Center, global sea ice levels now equal those of 1979.

If Will’s primary point was that he was addressing “global cooling hysteria”, wouldn’t this be entirely unrelated? Oh, hold the phone. That’s right. His primary point is actually that today’s science must be flawed because of yesterday’s science. One wonders why he would even bother citing today’s science, but if I’ve connected the dots from earlier correctly, he may very well be functionally retarded.

But regardless, Will is using this to try and support his point that today’s trend in science must be wrong about global warming. Do you see the issue, Will? You made a statement and then tried supporting it with evidence. That evidence does not, in fact, support your statement. By attacking that evidence, bloggers like Zimmer are, in effect, attacking your primary point (obscured as you tried to make it, you liar).

Imagine a high school kid in a wood workshop. He makes a chair. The seat and back are well done. But he royally screwed up on the legs. They’re of inferior material, too thin, shaky, poorly attached: in short, he made a bad chair. The teacher comes by and tells him that the chair is bad. But no, the student objects, “The legs are just a tiny portion of my chair! You can’t ignore the seat. That’s the primary piece of the chair!” The teacher then proceeds to fail the student for being a stupid jackass.

Making stuff up about global warming

Most conservatives who have a public voice are outright liars. It’s really that simple, so let’s not parse words. It isn’t that they are fundamentally misdirected in their ideas and thus genuinely believe what they say in public. No. They are simply liars. They know better, but they say things which are untrue. George Will is just another case.

To recap: George Will wrote a column in which he tried to downplay the evidence that global warming has already affected the Earth, and that it will have bigger impacts in the future. Various bloggers have pointed out examples where Will misrepresented scientific studies in this column. The most glaring one was this: “According to the University of Illinois’ Arctic Climate Research Center, global sea ice levels now equal those of 1979.”

The Research Center put a statement on their site explaining that Will was wrong. On February 15, the day Will wrote his column, there was substantially less ice than on February 15, 1979: the area of Texas, California, and Oklahoma combined.

I’m waiting for John Lott to pick up on Will’s piece, citing it as good science.

Carl Zimmer Article

Here is a Carl Zimmer article that pertains to a particular project I have. I thought it was interesting and worth sharing.

One thing the digital organisms do particularly well is evolve.“ Avida is not a simulation of evolution; it is an instance of it,” Pennock says. “All the core parts of the Darwinian process are there. These things replicate, they mutate, they are competing with one another. The very process of natural selection is happening there. If that’s central to the definition of life, then these things count.”