Nature

Experience as interpretation

Our own nature, in fact, is defined by the tiny fraction of possible interpretations [of the world] we can make, and the astronomical number we can’t.- Hans Moravec

Mount Umunhum opening at last

In 2004 I headed up Mount Umunhum for the first time, hoping to conquer my last Peninsula summit. Unfortunately I was thwarted by the private land which blocked the road, tantalizingly close to the summit.

Thirteen years later, and thanks to lots of hard work by the Midpeninsula Regional Open Space District (donate here =) and the voters of Measure AA last year, Mount Umunhum is finally set to open to the public for the first time on September 17.

The Grand Opening ceremony is fully booked, but starting September 18 the summit (and the road there) will be open to the public. Exciting!

In other news, the famous red barn familiar to riders of Highway 84 West will soon become part of the new La Honda Creek Open Space Preserve, with 6 miles of hiking trails. Great news.

Ways to stop climate change, ranked

A fascinating list of ways to reduce global warming, ranked by effectiveness and cost, with some surprising findings.

Refrigerant management–basically what happens when you discard an air conditioner–is the top opportunity, above anything energy-related. After that comes onshore wind farms, then two food-related items: reducing waste and eating more plants.

Pragmatic and encouraging! The authors have edited a book around all of the opportunities, Drawdown.

The state of the world

In my room, the world is beyond my understanding; But when I walk I see that it consists of three or four hills and a cloud.

Everything is interesting

From the author who wrote an entire book about a journey up an escalator, some thoughts about what’s interesting:

Everything is interesting. Potentially. Sometimes it may not seem so. You may think a certain thing is completely without interest. You may think, or I may think, eh, dull, boring, heck with it, let’s move on. But there is someone on this planet who can find something interesting in that particular thing. And it’s often good to try. You have to poke at a thing, sometimes, and find out where it squeaks.

“Everything is interesting” is a phrase that comes to mind often watching my new baby gaze at the world. He’s especially enraptured by leaves on trees, fluttering by the millions in the breeze, and the enormous, luminous sky behind them. Which are pretty neat, if you think about it.

Tricking yourself–for science!

Now that’s scientific rigor! A team studying gravitational waves is intentionally trying to fool itself:

Because gravitational waves are so tiny, and it’s easy to get false positives, the LIGO team includes three individuals capable of injecting false signals to test the group’s ability to weed them out.

Big and small world

“In my room, the world is beyond my understanding; But when I walk I see that it consists of three or four hills and a cloud.” – Wallace Stevens

Carbs, fat, and politics

After years of pushing low-fat and high-carbohydrate diets, the federal health agencies have finally flipped their recommendations:

Following an Institute of Medicine report, the 2005 Dietary Guidelines quietly began to reverse the government’s campaign against dietary fat, increasing the upper limit to 35 percent — and also, for the first time, recommending a lower limit of 20 percent…the scientists on the 2015 Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee, for the first time in 35 years have sent recommendations to the government without any upper limit on total fat.

The guidelines themselves take a strong stance on sugars and refined carbohydrates as well:

Higher consumption of sugar-sweetened foods and beverages as well as refined grains was identified as detrimental in almost all conclusion statements with moderate to strong evidence.

And it looks like those egg council creeps finally got to the scientists too:

Available evidence shows no appreciable relationship between consumption of dietary cholesterol and serum cholesterol.

I switched to a vegetarian protein- and fat-heavy diet with lots of raw vegetables, oils, eggs, yogurt and nuts this year and I’ve lost significant weight and felt amazing. It’s fascinating to see the tides change as scientists finally have the tools and data to run big studies on nutrition:

Confirming many other observations, large randomized trials in 2006 and 2013 showed that a low-fat diet had no significant benefits for heart disease, stroke, diabetes or cancer risks, while a high-fat, Mediterranean-style diet rich in nuts or extra-virgin olive oil — exceeding 40 percent of calories in total fat — significantly reduced cardiovascular disease, diabetes and long-term weight gain.

But all of this threatens a huge packaged-food industry that thrives on shelf-stable grain products, and the political deck is stacked against change. Hopefully the evolving scientific consensus will bolster efforts like the ones led by Alice Waters and Michael Pollan to move our eating back toward freshness, sustainability, and health.

Fossil fuels, our starter engine

The fossil fuel deposits of our Spaceship Earth correspond to our automobile’s storage battery which must be conserved to turn over our main engine’s self-starter. Thereafter, our “main engine,” the life regenerating processes, must operate exclusively on our vast daily energy income from the powers of wind, tide, water, and the direct Sun radiation energy. – Buckminster Fuller

I reference this idea often but had forgotten the source. Buckminster Fuller, of course.

Wonder and Wonders

Everything is in an attitude of mind; and at this moment I am in a comfortable attitude. I will sit still and let the marvels and the adventures settle on me like flies. There are plenty of them, I assure you.

The world will never starve for want of wonders; but only for want of wonder.