Do you check to see what kind of avalanche beacon your partner is carrying? I ask because there are a wide range of beacons on the market, and some of them are a lot easier to use than others. Case in point: the new Pieps Freeride. The Freeride is a tiny-tiny device about the size of a pre-3G cell phone. I admit I got a bit of a thrill holding one for the first time. The design is compact, light, and cool (more…)
Posted in Gear | 8 Comments
I enjoyed the original Freakonomics when it first came out. Written by University of Chicago economist Steven Levitt and New York Times journalist Stephen J. Dubner, the book used economic analysis in clever and unexpected ways to expose “the hidden side of everything.” Freakonomics made its share of enemies, thanks to its occasionally radical theories, such as suggesting the national decline in Crime seen during the Clinton years was actually due to the legalization of Abortion some twenty years earlier. Levitt and Dubner clearly enjoyed rabble-rousing as a sport. But, the book did successfully challenge conventional wisdom on a wide range of subjects. It was a good, fun read.
After reading the book I followed the Freakonomics Blog for a while, though as time progressed the authors’ unconventional wisdom began to look more and more like conventional right-wing claptrap, so I moved on. Flash forward to this year, and the release of Levitt and Dubner’s new book. SuperFreakonomics has a key chapter on Climate Change titled, “Global Cooling: What Do Al Gore and Mount Pinatubo Have in Common?”, which gives you a good sense of where their unconventional wisdom has apparently led them (more…)
Posted in Books, Science, Weather | 0 Comments
NY Times columnist Nicholas Kristoff writes about the ubiquity of BPA in our bodies, plus a gaggle of new studies linking BPA exposure to a variety of abnormalities in test animals. If you’ve been following the BPA Saga (including this impressive bit of corporate nastiness by Sigg), you’ll see that the latest research keeps upping the ante on the potential ill effects of BPA exposure in our food and water.
It always seems to me that the American Way of doing business really fails when it comes to protecting people from unknowns like chemical toxicity in products. The presumption in our system is that something is innocent (ie safe) until proven otherwise, and “proof” of either the legal or scientific variety is stunningly difficult to come by when you factor in the nature of statistical Randomness—not to mention the far-too-cozy relationship between industry and regulators, or the fact that the only organizations with enough money to fund large studies on these chemicals are the very companies who sell them.
I’ve always thought the big issue with chemical exposure is not the impact of any one chemical, but rather the rich brew Americans are exposed to only a daily basis as we use our computers, fire-safe rugs, clothing, and furniture, and all the other products of the modern age. What interactions and multiplying effects arise directly as a consequence are anyone’s guess—and virtually impossible to establish via any sort of replicable study.
My guess is future generations will be baffled by our cavalier attitude toward chemical exposures. And they’ll probably have the data, at long last, to show just exactly what the impact of something like BPA actually is. Wouldn’t it be nice, though, if we didn’t have to wait a hundred years or more before our various industries switched to safer alternatives?
Posted in Health, Science | 6 Comments
The New Yorker recently ran a disturbing article on brain injuries in football. Just about the same time, Outside magazine wrote about an alarming study of the effects of moderately-high altitude on climbers’ brains.
It has been known for some time that Everest climbers often show symptoms such as memory loss and poor coordination when they get home. And studies have found irregularities in the brain scans of 8000-meter climbers. The presumption has always been, however, that these effects lie exclusively within the domain of high altitude climbing (roughly defined as involving elevations of 22,000 feet or higher). The Outside article makes it clear this presumption may be dead wrong (more…)
Posted in Climbing | 8 Comments