Archive for April 2015

Environmental Impact of Burning Man

A friend recently asked me about Burning Man and balancing the experience with it’s sizable environmental impact. Here is my response:

It is completely true that all that burning stuff and all the travel to-and-from the event has an environmental impact!

Here is an article that is critical of the event talking about that exact thing:
“The average American is responsible for 17.6 tons of greenhouse gases each year, or 0.33 tons per week. The average Burner will produce 0.67 tons next week, or double the national average.”

From that same article, “Burning Man 2006 pumped out 27,492 tons of greenhouse gases. Eighty-seven percent of that was from travel to and from Black Rock City, while the actual burning man was responsible for 112 tons.”

So even the critics are saying that the vast majority of the carbon footprint is the travel, not the burning stuff. If instead you flew to a different vacation spot, you would have about a 13% smaller carbon footprint. That’s not trivial but it’s not so crazy.

I think that people at the event are completely aware of the conflict inherent in spending so many resources travelling to the event. Pack-in-pack-out high desert camping like at Burning Man reminds every participant of the finite nature of our resources and of the incalculable impact humans have on the world. This is reflected in the initiatives the event has inspired. Initiatives like Black Rock Solar that has given a lot of free and low cost solar to people in the area, the Leave No Trace policy which is considered VERY seriously by all participants, and on a personal level, a MOOP (Matter Out Of Place) art project a friend of mine made. I still vividly remember seeing an environmental poster at the event in 2006 about how “cell phones are killing gorillas in the Congo”; I thought it was ludicrous at the time but it got me thinking A LOT. The problem is: cell phones need a metal called tantalum to make their tiny capacitors, the largest supplies of tantalum are in the Democratic Republic of The Congo which is a fairly lawless place and gorillas and miners are treated poorly. Ah, I’m sorry, it was Burning Man 2007. Here’s the poster! I don’t have a solution but my awareness has been raised dramatically.

I think if you were to ask -any- burner, they would have a very conscientious answer to your question. I feel that heightened awareness makes it all worth the effort. Go ahead and ask a few folks and see what they say!

Kevin Trudeau, A Great Liar But Not Great Enough

Wow, Wikipedia shows Kevin Trudeau to be, if not a great snake oil salesman, an oft fined and imprisoned character. Hopefully his recent 10 year sentence in federal prison will keep him out of trouble for a while.

He has been selling goods with false claims for many years, and getting caught and fined most of the time. Good riddance to a person like that.

Let’s hope the owners of all the nail fungus scams take heart. I’m talking to you Fungavir, Purnail, Funginix, Fungusil, Fungisil, Zetaclear.

Update 5-14-15: I should add that the reason I am so bitter about Kevin Trudeau’s imprisonment is that I saw him on late night info-mercials for “Mega Speed Reading” and “Mega Memory” with Howard Berg. I knew they were shady when I watched the info-mercials and I was extremely bothered that they were playing on my desire to read faster and have a better memory.

Predicts vs Correlated With

If I see a correlation between two variables, is it generally correct terminology to say that one “predicts” the other? For example, in this chart, should I say that hours studied predict the grade received?

I would think one shouldn’t say “predicts” because that is a one-way term. For example, it is possible that A predicts B but B does not predict A. Waking up 10 minutes before sunrise every day predicts getting to see the sunrise often, but seeing the sunrise often wouldn’t necessarily predict your wake up time, especially if you work the night-shift.

I would say “there is a correlation between A and B” but without more research on the directionality of the relationship, I shouldn’t say “A predicts B” or “B predicts A”.

I’m asking because I’ve seen a few research papers that use this terminology and I wonder if I should adopt it.