Quickies

Skepchick Quickies 3.18

Amanda

Amanda is a science grad student in Boston whose favorite pastimes are having friendly debates and running amok.

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  1. Referring to NCCAM, Senator Tom Harkins said, “I think quite frankly that in this center, and previously in the office before it, most of its focus has been on disproving things, rather than seeking out and proving things.” So, NCCAM should make sure the treatment works before they start studying it? Interesting…

  2. @infinitemonkey: But that same sequence of oil well to gas tank applies to the agriculture process too, isn’t it?

    Ugh, it gets really complicated once you start looking at all the energy inputs into each system. The article says “US agriculture uses about 400 gasoline-gallon equivalents per American per year ” but what about the energy overhead of the grocer and its distribution chain, the gas it took to drive to the grocery store, the energy used to refrigerate, then cook the food, washing the dishes…

    Same thing with the car. There’s energy for manufacturing the car, car repairs, road maintenance (presumably a car wears a road more than a pedestrian), oil changes, car washes…

    …and most of those would be fractional values since you’d probably have done them anyway but to a lesser extent. It’s all way too complicated.

  3. Re: Autism

    Just read this in the NY Times:

    http://www.nytimes.com/2009/03/17/health/17auti.html?em

    It’s not about links (or absolute lack therof) between autism and vaccines but its cavalier mention of a possible link (page 2) makes it seem as if there is really anything further to investigate. We’ve still got a long way to go on this one. Parents who refuse vaccines for their children should be criminally prosecuted for negligence if their kids get sick. The should be sterilized and beaten over the head with magic books (Qu’ran, Bible). I’m really losing my patience with these fuckers.

  4. @Steve: And pointless to “prove” walking is more polluting than driving. Because you’d also have to take into account the energy it takes to make the car, get the people from the house to the plant, transport the car, power the car lot, ship the oil, refine the oil, transport the gas, pwer the gas station, drive to the gas pump, pump the gas, and do all that with the credit card you use to pay for the gas.

    The ONLY way you could get away with it if you went with the “walking jostles your digestive systems, which pushes along gases that are true weapons of mass destruction”

    If you get dizzy off your own fumes, then, yeah, you are more polluting than a car.

  5. If I drive everywhere I go, I gain weight. If I walk wherever reasonable, I don’t gain weight. The assumption that the 220 burned calories will automatically result in an increase in consumption is unfounded.

  6. Listening to a lifetime celibate cleric’s advice on reproduction and sexuality makes about as much sense as taking brain surgery lessons from your local butcher.

    As if the Catholic Church has any moral authority left, especially on this topic…

  7. Thank you for debunking the “driving is better than walking” claim. I walk to work and you would not believe how many people try this on me.

    I also bake bread (occasionally) and have been told on multiple occasions that I am harming the environment by baking my own bread.

    -sigh-

  8. “You can’t resolve it with the distribution of condoms,” the pope told reporters aboard the Alitalia plane headed to Yaounde, Cameroon. “On the contrary, it increases the problem.”

    See, if he had just stopped after the first sentence….

  9. It’s precisely the sort of fluffy, ill-conceived “climate science” found in that walking vs. driving article that kneecaps efforts to fix the climate.

    People are fickle. It’s easy to turn them off, and a lot harder to turn them back on. Whenever I hear some stupid study about climate change or, more likely, poor reporting about a non-stupid study, I become less and less interested in helping solve the problem, because I feel less and less confident that people know what the heck they are talking about. And I don’t think I’m alone, either.

    The more people choose to spin things so that it seems like EVERY FREAKIN’ THING is making climate change worse, the more likely it is that people are going to become jaded, depressed, or overly skeptical of the situation. And this is something we probably cannot afford.

    Good science about the climate is hard to come by and good reporting about it doubly so. People cannot possibly make good choices without good information. Diluting the information with this kind of bullshit just angers me to no end. You want people to care about the climate? STOP hectoring them, STOP scaremongering, and give people reliable information and/or steps to follow. If you DON’T want them to care, well, carry on as you were. :-P

  10. Well, I have come to the conclusion that like is harmful to the environment. The trees are bad because they take out the carbon dioxide needed to keep this planet warm, while all other life puts in carbon dioxide which increases global warming. Solution…Nuclear War. Kill everything, so CO2 is neither added or taken out.

  11. I was all ready to throw a hissy fit about the resurfacing of the “driving is better than walking”-claim, but then I actually read both this and the original article. From this one:

    Nonsense, of course, but Brad’s calculations make an important point – and not just that modern agribusiness uses an extraordinary amount of energy. You may quibble with some of his figures but his example shows just how complex it is can be to work out the carbon cost of different activities.

    From the blog he references:

    Obviously if you were going to need the exercise anyway, doing it while getting from A to B is not going to burn extra oil. Human powered travel well above the need to exercise is the only thing that would hurt, if fueled by U.S. agriculture. And eating a high calorie diet and not exercising would be just as bad.

    I ignored my knee-jerk reaction and read both articles, and actually learned something. Thank you Skepchick.

    Today I also solved a tricky geometry problem and ruled the teachers’ floor hockey game. Excellent day!

  12. @Bjornar:

    Very good points. Guess that bit in the article got filtered out by my anger-blindness :-P

    I still maintain that looking at the carbon cost, etc, of every activity probably isn’t the best way to get us out of the gathering storm. I don’t think most people really understand the issue, nor do I think the average person is going to go through such complex calculations every time they move about or eat or do ANYTHING at all.

    If we’re going to get out of this, it’s going to take something better than anything we’ve come up with thusfar. It’ll take clear information, relatively simple steps, and probably a bit of marketing genius.

  13. @Soresport: It takes into account that you’ll use more energy walking than driving, and then compares the fuel consumed to make the food you burn “extra” with the fuel burned by the car. The point isn’t so much that with these simplistic calculations (which can be discussed and tinkered with endlessly) driving comes out ahead, but that current US agriculture is so fuel intensive there’s actually a contest.

    @Expatria: But that’s not the point of the original article at least. He’s focusing on agriculture’s dependence on fossil fuels.

    And for the one linked here, his point, if he really has one, is that such issues are really, really complicated.

    Me, I’ll continue using the environment as an excuse to be frugal. And I’ll keep biking the mile to work. Or at least I’ll go back to biking the mile to work once the 100 m long sheet of ice down the last steep hill melts.

  14. And if you walk lots you’ll lose weight and have to buy more cloths. That would be bad for the environment but good for the economy. And if the economy does better there’ll be more money to purchase carbon offsets. That’ll make everyone happy, fit and green…. . Right?

  15. Look at the central premise contained in the “walking pollutes more than driving”:

    Brad explains that the average person uses about 100 calories per mile walking at 3 mph – 300 calories per hour. By comparison sitting burns 80 calories an hour. In other words, walking three miles takes an extra 220 calories.

    This makes the assumption that if you walk you will eat well over 3X as much as someone who doesn’t walk for every hour of walking time. First, I don’t think that’s likely, what’s likely is that they will eat similar amounts and one will get fatter and flabbier. But even if they did how much more is that? We’re talking about a small amount of your time spent walking more than the rider for almost every walker, even the most devoted. And of course all but the very most devoted “non-walkers” do walk, even if it’s only to and from their car (which can be a considerable distance) and inside stores and homes and offices. So the extra amount of walking time is not that great except by comparing only the most extreme of the walkers vs. “non-walkers”. If you’re comparing average walkers versus average “non-walkers” what increase is there overall? The article doesn’t even attempt to guess, much less figure it out.

    I looked for some quick approximations online. Here’s one:
    The average American walks 2.9 miles per day. Lawyers walk 0.9 miles per day, cops walk 6.8 miles, and mail carriers walk 4.4 miles.

    Now if we also figure that the average walking speed is (they say — you know… they) 2-3 mph you’re talking about an extra 2 1/2 hours of walking between those extremes. An extra 300 calories, more or less, out of an average calorie intake, for the USA, of 3770 calories. Less than 10% more, and that’s assuming that the biggest eaters we have are those who walk the most, which I think is stupid to assume.

  16. Just random. The article about science being funny was great but it wasn’t as funny as the line in the article about NCAAM.

    “For example, a randomized controlled trial of the botanical echinacea published in 2003 found it was ineffective in treating upper respiratory infections (although it did cause more rashes).”

    For some reason that made me pee. I must need to take some Uri-Control (it’s a homepathic bladder control product. Yes, I looked it up.)

  17. Just to make something clear: autism is *not* a disease. Auties are not diseased. They have a different neurological setup, and most would do just fine if only the neurotypicals would get out of the way.

  18. @Chakolate: What do you mean, ‘if only the neurotypicals would get out of the way’?

    Also, I’m not convinced of the math behind the carbon footprint of walking versus driving thing. I eat because I need to, not to walk places. Those little fluctuations (on how far I walk) aren’t connected with fluctuations on caloric intake. And there are so many factors that they don’t take into account! Ugh.

  19. @anthrosciguy: Exactly. I walk 2 miles a day just in my walk to work and then 2 miles in my walk home… plus all the other regular walking around. When I go to the store or the mall or out for dinner, I walk even more.

    But I don’t eat more than other people, in fact in many cases, I eat less.

  20. @lastscattering: We expect things from people that are really not necessary and that auties have trouble with. Eye contact is an excellent example. Neurotypicals expect eye contact, with fairly exact requirements. Don’t look too much, don’t look too little, the rules are subconscious for NTs but really difficult for auties. And eye contact is simply not necessary for getting information across.

    Also, auties have a lot of trouble lying. They don’t do it well at all. If you consider how much of social interaction requires… well, at least dissembling, you’d understand that auties have trouble in that area. They’re perfectly happy not making eye contact and not lying, but neurotypicals just won’t let them.

    That’s what I meant by neurotypicals getting in the way.

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