Monthly Archives: May 2017

Climate change solutions ranked by expert Paul Hawken

Expert Paul Hawken ranks top 100 climate change solutions in his new book Drawdown: The Most Comprehensive Plan Ever Proposed to Reverse Global Warming.


Instead of the usual preaching involved in books on this topic, he presents the material more as a reference based on well-researched estimates of the carbon impact of each solution.  I am excited that several of the top ten methods overlap with other desirable goals that individuals might have, and that several are easy for individuals to contribute to.

The top ten solutions

  1. Refrigerant management
  2. Wind turbines (onshore)
  3. Reduced food waste
  4. Plant-rich diet
  5. Tropical forests
  6. Educating girls
  7. Family planning
  8. Solar farms
  9. Silvopasture
  10. Rooftop solar

The number one single solution, refrigerant management, is getting underway worldwide as of late last year.  Not much that we can do as individuals to further or accelerate that strategy.

The number one combo solution is already near and dear to me for reasons other than carbon emissions: educating girls + family planning.  If you are looking for ways to help, Educating Girls Matters has a large list of organizations aimed toward educating girls and women worldwide.  I’ve had some difficulty finding a good list of organizations supporting family planning internationally, but here are a few that I’m aware of:

  • The Gates Foundation—as a rule, the Gates Foundation has been doing a stellar job of crunching the numbers and finding high-impact causes that provide a huge bang for the buck worldwide
  • The World Health Organization has a very detailed description of their approach to this issue
  • USAID works on a variety of causes that contribute to increased voluntary family planning and educating women worldwide.
  • CARE also contributes to both causes.

I’ve been working in my own small way to reduce food waste at home (anyone want some soup or stir fry made from whatever’s left in the fridge?) and to move to a more plant-rich diet.  I already ate less meat—especially beef—compared to most Americans, but consuming a wider variety and larger volume of plants regularly has definitely boosted my energy and my immune system.  Feeling better is a much bigger motivator for individual action!

A few good reads: tech and policy

Quantified Self

Apple buys Beddit, whose sleep monitoring hardware already has a software integration with the Apple watch.

Ars Technica digs into the current state of the art in sleep tracking.

A Carnegie Melon project produced a prototype sensor that can inform you about devices in the room without connecting directly with them.

23andMe has received FDA authorization to provide genetic health risk reports.

Other tech

Bragi’s latest product, Dash Pro, offers real-time translation through earbuds.  Most importantly for me, they have partnered with Starkey Hearing Technologies to offer to tailor the earbuds to customers’ ears.

Google provides games to help people understand that AI is no longer just academic.


Census Bureau director John H Thompson resigns unexpectedly, while the bureau already faces budget difficulties.  The 2020 Census is already suffering setbacks.  The US Census provides crucial information for government infrastructure planning, as well as being an important public dataset.

A few good reads: discoveries

Inner discoveries

A new study shows that testosterone makes men less likely to question their intuition.  I wonder whether they will follow this up with a study on women.  Are we more, less, or just as susceptible to the influence of testosterone?

Acetaminophen dulls pain and empathy, according to new research.

A new paper tests more than 50 compounds for their ability to “turn off” sperm, preventing fertilization.  This could lead to a more effective form of contraception that bypasses some religious objections.

On a related note, scientists have 3D printed mouse ovaries that actually make babies.

Outer discoveries

They found a new dinosaur with its skin preserved in Montana!  And of course, they named it Ghostbusters style: Zuul crurivastator.

When we found homo naledi a couple years ago, we thought it was a precursor to homo sapiens.  Apparently, we existed simultaneously.

Global warming reaches the Global Seed Vault in the Arctic Circle.

We’ve found water in the atmosphere of a warm, Neptune-sized planet.

Related aside

An argument for colonizing Titan before Mars.

Spammy callers escalating, still not beating Google Voice

My various spammy callers have recently taken to leaving voicemails that don’t say anything—either complete silence or the sound of people chattering in the background (I got curious and listened to a couple). IIRC the law prohibits callers from leaving automated messages, but it would be awfully hard to prove these are automated even if you could prove who was calling. One of these silent messages was 48 seconds long! Overkill much?

I’m so glad I run everything through Google Voice‘s transcriptions, so I can see at a glance that it was a spam/phish caller who’s trying to trick me into calling back. I highly recommend an automated transcription service to anyone else who gets far more illegitimate calls than legit ones.

For example, looking at the last month, my legit calls were ~5-10% of all attempted calls—including ones where I was the caller, not the callee. People often look at me like I have 12 heads when I say I never answer unknown numbers. I think it would be crazy for me to answer them, given the givens. Legit callers leave real voicemails or texts, or contact me by other means.