Saturday, May 21, 2005

Iceburg and Papyrus Haiku

Who commands the ice?
Science with scholars reveal
Greek, mummified truths.

DISCLAIMER and BACKGROUND: Not only do I stink at haiku, but I believe that human-caused global warming isn't nearly as iron-clad a scientific conclusion as most media report. See post here. However, contrary opinions don't get a lot of play, and competing data gets a lot of spin. In fact, here's a recent post with a report saying that now cleaner air is hurting us. In case you've forgotten what a good old-fashioned, apocalyptic pants-peeing feels like, see this recent New Yorker article thoughtfully listed under "fact." It quotes a lots of people on the ground who say weather's changing- no argument from me- but that it's humans who've screwed the climatological pooch and now the planet's doomed and broken, running contrary to its own nature. That's the part where we disagree. Onto the new stuff. I must again doff the cap to the Scrivener who brings such news to my notice.

1) If your notion of Antartica is a something shrinking down to its carrot nose like Frosty the Snowman, here's new research reported in Nature as East Antarctica Puts On Weight.

Increased snowfall over a large area of Antarctica is thickening the ice sheet and slowing the rise in sea level caused by melting ice...The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) has reported that sea level is currently rising at about 1.8 millimetres per year, largely through melting of the Greenland and Antarctic ice sheets as a result of global warming. But the panel also expected that climate change would trigger an increase in snowfall over the Antarctic continent, as increased evaporation from the oceans puts more moisture into the air.

Hmm, increased snowfall offsetting the scary rise in sea levels? And it's been expected? Funny, I didn't read that anywhere before. While the scientist quoted here says the thickening ice sheet isn't infinite or a "long-term protection" from rising sea levels, he also says that because of technological limitations, we're only beginning to be able to measure accurately the ice loss and/or snowfall across the continent. I can't wait to see what we know once we can actually measure the thing.

2) The fabulous folks at Nasa have helped an Oxford team discover that multispectral analysis is making sense of half a million scraps of papyri found among the "rubbish heaps of the vanished city of Oxyrhynchus." This Chicago Tribune article details how after only reading 1% of the collection in the last century, we've deciphered more in the last few weeks than we have in ten years. Sophocles, Euripides, Pindar, Sappho, and new gospels are all in the queue, and perhaps we'll even be able to read underlying cartonnage in the papier mache that wraps mummies. This could give an unprecedented boost to the study of history, anthropology, literature, and the neglected and unfashionable Classics.

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