Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Santa's Carbon Footprint

Holy Rudolph, did you know the gigantic size of Santa Claus’ carbon footprint? I forgot that you would need to take into account all those lumps of coal going to bad girls and boys (coal is almost pure carbon of course).  And then there’s the baking of those cookies and processing and transporting all that milk that each household leaves out for the old red man to munch on.  Whew!  But thankfully a thoughtful enviro-NGO has made the required calculations and now Santa Nation can sign on to the Kyoto protocols with a clear conscience.

Actually, I applaud the exercise by this NGO.  We need to lighten up a bit, especially during the holidays.  And the carbon footprint hijinx reminds me of silly grad student days sitting around converting random measurements to furlongs-per-fortnight with my fellow punch-drunk-from-studying scientists-in-training.

But it also reminded me that a respected ecological researcher published a straight-forward article in a very respected science journal calculating how many monsters Loch Ness could support knowing what we know (a lot) about the fishery productivity there and making some assumptions about the size and weight of a Loch Ness monster.  I think I recall that by his calculation the famous Loch could only support a monster and a half – not enough for a sustainable population of course. But the most interesting thing was the backlash from a few in the scientific community who thought it improper for a scientific journal to waste its space encouraging such nonsense and wrote scathing letters to the journal editor on this topic.  Of course we irreverent grad students thought this was all great stuff.  Prominent science bigwigs fighting in public.  Science shouldn’t be serious all the time, especially when you realize it is just a means and mechanism for describing this world we all inhabit.

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