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Yes, Virgina, there are silver bullets.

The terrible Lyssavirus rabies is killed with shots from a hypodermic needle more efficiently than utilizing Thor, the German Shepherd, to kill a werewolf (see Bad Moon).

The even more terrible smallpox virus has been exterminated by a needle except for the evil scientists keeping it alive in their fearsome laboratories.

The Gaia Philosopher is going after the biggest game of all, the monster he first announced.

The Gaia Theory has bypassed becoming a law to entering the realm of theology as immutable doctrine even among scientists.  When you think about it, it does not really matter all that much whether it is even correct considering life on the planet Earth hangs in the balance.  Discussing arguments for the existence of global warming is like discussing the existence of trains when you are tied to railroad tracks and a speeding locomotive is bearing down on you.

Might be worth discussing James Lovelock's silver bullet that arises from discovery of a secret of ancients 7 millenia ago practicing their magical rituals in the Amazon jungle.

If the silver bullet, biochar, surely slays the dragon as effectively as Thor dispatched the werewolf then we no longer need worry about evil corporations draining and mining the planet of all fossil fuels.

But just maybe we should err on the side of caution.

All systems are complex.  That is why they call them systems.  Any living organism is vastly complex and only vaguely understood by the brightest among us.

Dr. Lovelock proposes that we can understand the entirety of the vaugely comprehended biosphere's interaction with the largely unexplored inanimate world by measuring the amount of carbon in the atmosphere.  Presumably he says this without smiling and without wearing a tinfoil hat.  

Scientists, and even normal people, believe Dr. Lovelock without quibble, unless they are wingnuts and have a different faith.  (Yes, Virginia, some scientists are wingnuts.  I have no idea how that can be but it is fact rather than theory.)

Still and all, there is that damn locomotive bearing down on us while we are tied to the railroad tracks.

Not a laughing matter really.

That doesn't mean we must believe biochar or charcoal is a silver bullet.  There aren't so many silver bullets and not a single Thor though there is a surplus of bullets and many German Shepherds.

I suggest maybe it would be better if we do not believe without question no matter how much that might offend the spirits of ancients inhabiting the Amazon jungle.

I think it is more important to save the Amazon jungle than believe in ancient secrets from that jungle.

DISCLAIMER:  I take full responsibility for calling Lovelock's theories regarding the efficacy of biochar a silver bullet and simplifying and exaggerating what he has proposed.  Dr. Lovelock is apparently a modest fellow, who has less faith in his own theories than even this heretic does.  As for myself, I am less modest and have never hesitated to simplify because I am a simpleton and cannot do otherwise.

While preparing your flames, may I suggest you consider I did not suggest, intimate, opine, claim or otherwise say your sacred cow was not 100% pristine pure gold.  I don't know and doubt you do.  I agree he is very persuasive unlike our Thoress.  

Rosie has only persuaded a pair of Jehovah's witnesses to leave while they contemplated how much work they have to do in this world of evil therefore assuring that we would not be saved.  We fixed Rosie - so to speak.  We had her teeth cleaned.  Now she only shows her teeth to our mutant Dalmatian.

Best,  Terry

Originally posted to terryhallinan on Mon Jan 26, 2009 at 01:00 AM PST.

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Comment Preferences

  •  We had a long discussion on this the other day (4+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    RunawayRose, A Siegel, snackdoodle, MCinNH

    link here

    Looks promising to me, but we really need a well referenced diary with science links to back it.

    "Everybody does better, when everybody does better" - Paul Wellstone 1997

    by yuriwho on Mon Jan 26, 2009 at 01:18:32 AM PST

    •  It was that discussion that I found a bummer (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      RunawayRose, Wee Mama, petral

      From the biochar link I provided:

      Jim Amonette, a senior research scientist with the DOE's Environmental Molecular Sciences Laboratory, says that while there are no obvious downsides to biochar, more work needs to be done to investigate its sequestration potential and longevity in the soil. An ideal study would consist of adding biochar to four types of soil (to get a good representation of the different types of soil found in agricultural land around the world) at eight locations worldwide, says Amonette. Using radiocarbon isotope measurements, scientists would be able to track new plant growth—to verify biochar's effect on crop yields—as well as the longevity of the stored carbon. This would allow researchers to obtain some much-needed data and to determine whether biochar sequestration will be effective as a tool against climate change on a global scale.

      While biochar may be a wonder, even such basic investigations as Jim Amonette has suggested apparently haven't been done.

      Much of that thread had the appearance of an infomercial for the wonders of sea salt.

      Best,  Terry

  •  I read about this last night—intrigued (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    RunawayRose, Wee Mama

    I'm wondering about all that carbon in the soil. Waht effect would that have for plant life. Obviously, plants utilise a carbon. But, when it's in very high concentrations, can that be a detriment? I know that wildfires can help spur growth by (among other things) putting nutrients in the soil. But, what would be the effect of mixing large quantities of carbon into an agricultural system?

    I'm guessing it's all good but i'm no plant biologist.

    "They're telling us something we don't understand"
    General Charles de Gaulle, Mai '68

    by subtropolis on Mon Jan 26, 2009 at 01:36:14 AM PST

  •  I'm waiting breathlessly for Monsanto ... (5+ / 0-)

    ... to announce their new line of Terra Preta soil enhancer w/Round-Up™ and Terra Preta-ready™ seeds.

    "Life is a whim of several billion cells to be you for a while." - Unknown

    by edison on Mon Jan 26, 2009 at 04:18:18 AM PST

    •  You are very close to truth. Bio-char based (6+ / 0-)

      fertilizers are being studied by researchers in Morris, MN. By treating bio-char with ammonia (nitrogen) researchers are trying to develop a fertilizer that will not not simply wash away with rain. Our current time release fertilizers are very crude compared to this model. However, bio-char elevates pH. This is a benefit in some areas with acidic soils, but an issue in areas with alkaline soils. The trick is to find feedstocks and methods that produce a more neutral char.

  •  No (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    RunawayRose, Wee Mama, blunami

    The Gaia Theory has bypassed becoming a law to entering the realm of theology as immutable doctrine even among scientists.


    Scientists, and even normal people, believe Dr. Lovelock without quibble, unless they are wingnuts and have a different faith.


    I myself am a counterexample to those statements. I'm not saying I don't accept the Gaia hypothesis is possible (it is, and there should be study of it), but I do think it is improbable. I think that evolution by natural selection is such a powerful phenomenon that it looks like a Gaia-like behavior is taking place where nothing of the sort is happening.

    I don't have anything substantive to say about biochar except that it's unlikely that there is a silver bullet for the reason you youself stated - the climate is a very complex system and this intervention will have a host of side effects that we won't predict.

    Give me liberty, or give me death!

    by salsa0000 on Mon Jan 26, 2009 at 05:37:17 AM PST

    •  Nails (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Wee Mama

      I myself am a counterexample to those statements. I'm not saying I don't accept the Gaia hypothesis is possible (it is, and there should be study of it), but I do think it is improbable.

      Always some deviant in any population - a nail that needs to be pounded down. :-)

      Thank God for lunatics that don't accept Divine Truth.

      Best,  Terry

      •  Speaking as a life scientist, I don't know any (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        salsa0000, The Scoutmaster

        scientists who take Lovelock as an authority. The Gaia hypothesis makes pretty poetry, but for any specific claim if it came from Lovelock the first impulse would be to see if there were any other people supporting it. I think Lovelock has a much bigger following among the press than among a actual scientists.

        •  Could You Perhaps Be More Specific? (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          Wee Mama

          I have no idea what a life scientist might be.  Just a matter of ignorance.  Try to be kind if you will.

          I think Lovelock has a much bigger following among the press than among a actual scientists.

          Certainly happens.

          Still I was appalled some years ago when Dr. Waksal's miracle cancer drug dominated proceedings of the premiere scientific convention of cancer researchers much as Judah Folkman and his miraculous rat cure did at another time.

          Both men made contributions without a doubt in somewhat different ways but the hype far outshone the facts.

          Science and scientists are hardly beyond the reach of popular fantasies.

          Best, Terry  

          •  Specifically, I'm a cell biologist, a full (1+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:

            professor of biochemistry, and a Fellow of AAAS, so my experience covers the past thirty years.

            Judah got a bit of a bad shake - he himself pointed out that what works in mice may not work in people. I do think his principle, that tumors need vascularization, is sound and I believe that thalidomide has its antitumor activity by that route. I can check if people want something firmer than that.

            •  Yes, it is anti-angiogenic, per (0+ / 0-)

              Wikipedia, and is currently used for multiple myeloma.

            •  Thank You (1+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:
              Wee Mama

              Judah got a bit of a bad shake - he himself pointed out that what works in mice may not work in people.

              True enough.

              Judah Folkman was hardly responsible for all the breathless tripe. He was not the originator of anti-angiogenesis but he sure gave it a mighty push.

              I knew nothing at all about multiple myeloma until a company with a very exotic technology chose that gawdawful monster as a target because it was both a cancer and an inflammatory disease and they propose to cure both.

              Is it any surprise to you that the company talks about anti-angiogenesis, among other things, in their technical presentations about their mice experiments? :-)

              Thalidomide was long known to have anti-angiogenic properties.  I vaguely recall that was the initial reason for research on the drug.  Still I thought there wasn't a snowball's chance in hell of getting the drug through the FDA.  The diabolical bastids accomplished their miracle by getting approval of thalidomide for treatment of a symptom of leprosy.

              Judah Folkman done mighty good in the jungle you both inhabit.

              Thank you both for being there.

              Best,  Terry

  •  I'm a scientist and never heard of him (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    But looking at the website he does bring up good ideas (though not unique ideas) about a more global theory.  Scientists and doctors have started to become so compartmentalized in their studies and treatments and I think we forget sometimes to look at the global implications of what we're doing.  Often these global implications could be of more immediate impact and what the public finds more interesting.  

    Man's capacity for justice makes democracy possible, but man's inclination to injustice makes democracy necessary. ~ Reinhold Niebuhr

    by bvig on Mon Jan 26, 2009 at 06:48:14 AM PST

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