Wednesday, June 04, 2008

Carbon footprints and talismans

A recent Wired has an article about things you might think are true about reducing your carbon footprint, but probably aren't. Hint: air conditioning a house is better than heating it.

Related to that, the Brookings Institution published "Shrinking the carbon footprint of metropolitan America" Surprisingly, if you look at "Per captia carbon emissions from residential energy use, 2005". Bakersfield is best (!), and 10 of top 12 are in California (Fresno is 6).

Also unbelievable are some of the superstitions involved with spaceflight. "The losing hand: tradition and superstition in spaceflight" talks about pre-flight rituals. Maybe it's because it's really risky:
But perhaps it isn’t as incredible as it first appears. Consider the risk: of the 483 people who have been launched into space as of March 2008, 18 have died during the mission. This mortality rate of 3.74% makes it one of the most dangerous professions one could follow: compare with a 0.39% mortality rate among the US military in Iraq 2003–2006 and 2.18% in Vietnam in 1966–1972, and you see that the risks are much greater for astronauts than they are even for combat troops.

Given this danger, it is quite undertstandable that astronauts should reassure themselves with ritual actions and talismans. It is a natural human impulse to control fears of death and injury by recourse to superstition—we might think of the bullfighter praying to his madonna before the corrida, going through a series of rites and responses built up over the history of this deadly sport.
Two more things: Something that any professor can relate to: "In the basement of the ivory tower", and a picture I really didn't need to see. Jimmy Page and Robert Plant and Dennis Rodman? Please tell me it's photoshopped :)