Skeptics Guide to the Universe Forums

The Skeptics' Guide to the Universe => Podcast Episodes => Topic started by: Steven Novella on May 11, 2019, 07:18:55 AM

Title: Episode #722
Post by: Steven Novella on May 11, 2019, 07:18:55 AM
Interview with Daniel Clark, Director of Behind the Curve; News Items: Reporting UFOs, Phosphorene Nanoribbons, Hearables; Who’s That Noisy; Dumbest Thing of the Week; Science or Fiction
Title: Re: Episode #722
Post by: 2397 on May 11, 2019, 08:35:45 AM
If you're on a boat without a nuclear reactor and a desalination plant, I think it's reasonable to expect that they'll be more stingy with the resources than on the mainland. Not that it's reasonable to set up a cruise in the first place. A boat with a pool? That alone should tell you the ridiculousness of it all.

IMO, the main problem with cruises is that they're not taxed heavily enough. It's pure luxury, there's nothing to mitigate the damage they do. It's not something we need to develop new technologies to replace and improve on. The cruise industry could be eliminated entirely, and there would still be plenty of things for people to do with their free time. Especially if you're willing to spend some money on it.

If there's something missing, it's people realizing they don't need the excuse of something like a cruise to take time off. Or alternatively, mandatory vacation time that has to be used at some point.

Edit: Invisible aliens breeding with humans, sounds like Christianity.
Title: Re: Episode #722
Post by: Friendly Angel on May 11, 2019, 08:21:47 PM
If you're on a boat without a nuclear reactor and a desalination plant, I think it's reasonable to expect that they'll be more stingy with the resources than on the mainland.

Speaking as someone who's been on several boats with nuclear reactors and desalination equipment - water conservation was something we took seriously and lived with every day.  My towel got washed once a week or so.
Title: Re: Episode #722
Post by: Friendly Angel on May 11, 2019, 08:29:28 PM
The Michelson Morley negative result did not show that the luminiferous aether did not exist - it showed that it was undetectable.  It is EITHER not there, or the Lorentz contraction exactly compensates for it.  Other theories developed showing that it was not necessary for light to be a wave.
Title: Re: Episode #722
Post by: 2397 on May 12, 2019, 04:24:58 AM
Speaking as someone who's been on several boats with nuclear reactors and desalination equipment - water conservation was something we took seriously and lived with every day.  My towel got washed once a week or so.

Yeah, fair point. Whatever the setup, they're going to squeeze as much out of that as they can. If they had the resources for 10 cruises, they'd probably not refuel and restock as often. Or they'd add more passengers.
Title: Re: Episode #722
Post by: daniel1948 on May 12, 2019, 11:37:02 AM
If you're on a boat without a nuclear reactor and a desalination plant, I think it's reasonable to expect that they'll be more stingy with the resources than on the mainland. Not that it's reasonable to set up a cruise in the first place. A boat with a pool? That alone should tell you the ridiculousness of it all.

IMO, the main problem with cruises is that they're not taxed heavily enough. It's pure luxury, there's nothing to mitigate the damage they do. It's not something we need to develop new technologies to replace and improve on. The cruise industry could be eliminated entirely, and there would still be plenty of things for people to do with their free time. Especially if you're willing to spend some money on it.

If there's something missing, it's people realizing they don't need the excuse of something like a cruise to take time off. Or alternatively, mandatory vacation time that has to be used at some point.

Edit: Invisible aliens breeding with humans, sounds like Christianity.

I've never been on a cruise and I've never wanted to go on a cruise. I did once sail on a three-masted square-rigger in one of those deals where you pay to be a member of the crew and work. I agree with all of the above about how ridiculous cruises are. A floating hotel that gives you a few hours in the most touristy, shlocky parts of a succession of resort destinations where you can over-pay to be treated like cattle while you see or do what all the other tourists see and do.

That said, many of us (myself included) spend our disposable income on useless, environmentally-destructive things that we enjoy. I think it's the pot calling the kettle black to criticize cruises and the people who take them as long as we ourselves have such large footprints. I cannot imagine anything other than sex that would get me on a cruise ship, but I won't criticize people who enjoy cruising as long as they don't criticize me for all the travel I've done over the past 15 years or so.
Title: Re: Episode #722
Post by: daniel1948 on May 12, 2019, 11:42:40 AM
I see UFOs every day. If I cannot tell what kind of bird it is, it's unidentified. I never report these sightings to anyone. Last night I saw an unidentified light in the sky that seemed to be moving in an odd manner, first one way, then the other, very slowly. When it got much closer I was finally able to identify it as a commercial jetliner.
Title: Re: Episode #722
Post by: daniel1948 on May 12, 2019, 11:59:03 AM
I'm glad that Steve put some perspective on the "hearables" story. It was so obviously their typical over-enthusiastic sci-fi take on an otherwise rather wacky tech start-up. Even before Steve said it, it was obvious that today's technology is fifty years away, at the very least, from a hearing aid being able to do what the story was claiming.

I'm reminded of when EEStor succeeded in refining the material that they theorized would be an adequate dielectric for their proposed ultra-capacitor, and on that basis announced that the capacitors would be commercially available in six months. And they convinced EV-maker Zenn to give them so much money that Zenn went out of business. The president of the local EV club where I lived told me not to bother having lithium batteries put in my Zap Xebra because within the year I could have EEStor ultra-capacitors instead. EEStor never even built a prototype of their capacitor. "Hearables" have the same ring to me. Nobody reading this is going to still be alive when a hearing aid can do all the things the story claimed it would do.

Bravo to Steve for pointing out what bullshit the story was. The rogues have admirable enthusiasm for science, but only Steve and Cara have the common sense to discern between science and sci-fi.

Now, a directional hearing aid, if such things don't yet exist, would be very useful.
Title: Re: Episode #722
Post by: daniel1948 on May 12, 2019, 12:08:55 PM
Someone called Flat Earth the wackiest thing ever to come down the pike. (My words. I don't remember their exact words.)

In my opinion, Flat Earth is not as crazy, not as idiotic, nowhere near as cruel, and not as destructive as Christianity. The Creator of Everything loves you but will torture you forever if you do not believe in him, and he allows his nemesis to salt the Earth with false religions, and still, if you pick wrong, in the absence of any evidence, he will torture you forever.

I'd go on but I have to get going now.
Title: Re: Episode #722
Post by: 2397 on May 12, 2019, 01:03:54 PM
I've never been on a cruise and I've never wanted to go on a cruise. I did once sail on a three-masted square-rigger in one of those deals where you pay to be a member of the crew and work. I agree with all of the above about how ridiculous cruises are. A floating hotel that gives you a few hours in the most touristy, shlocky parts of a succession of resort destinations where you can over-pay to be treated like cattle while you see or do what all the other tourists see and do.

That said, many of us (myself included) spend our disposable income on useless, environmentally-destructive things that we enjoy. I think it's the pot calling the kettle black to criticize cruises and the people who take them as long as we ourselves have such large footprints. I cannot imagine anything other than sex that would get me on a cruise ship, but I won't criticize people who enjoy cruising as long as they don't criticize me for all the travel I've done over the past 15 years or so.

There is the issue of hypocrisy, but also the perfect being the enemy of the good. We have to be able to talk about what changes that can be made, or we'll never make any progress. Pollution keeps going up. Best we've managed so far is for it to level off for a bit. We need to cut global emissions by 80% or more.

Even if we keep doing some wasteful things, I think it would be better to admit to how bad they are, to remain conscious of it and maybe have more of a push to make a different choice next time (in particular in politicians), rather than do it and not talk about it.
Title: Re: Episode #722
Post by: gebobs on May 13, 2019, 08:59:04 AM
I went on a cruise once. It was only for three nights but I really don't need to do it again. The ship was old. How old was it? It was christened by Lauren Bacall.

I got a bit excited about the Hearables. I thought it was going to be some new improved hearing aid tech.

I have tinnitus pretty bad due possibly to a bout of typhoid fever about 10 years ago and have about 50% loss in one ear. At my most recent test, they sold me on the idea that hearing aids provide some people with a bit of relief with their tinnitus so I plunked down $2500 for one (Widex Evoke). Unfortunately, that has not been the case for me. And really the hearing aid doesn't seem to help my hearing substantially either. I have a follow up appointment on Friday. I have half a mind to give it back to them.
Title: Re: Episode #722
Post by: daniel1948 on May 13, 2019, 11:32:25 AM
I've never been on a cruise and I've never wanted to go on a cruise. I did once sail on a three-masted square-rigger in one of those deals where you pay to be a member of the crew and work. I agree with all of the above about how ridiculous cruises are. A floating hotel that gives you a few hours in the most touristy, shlocky parts of a succession of resort destinations where you can over-pay to be treated like cattle while you see or do what all the other tourists see and do.

That said, many of us (myself included) spend our disposable income on useless, environmentally-destructive things that we enjoy. I think it's the pot calling the kettle black to criticize cruises and the people who take them as long as we ourselves have such large footprints. I cannot imagine anything other than sex that would get me on a cruise ship, but I won't criticize people who enjoy cruising as long as they don't criticize me for all the travel I've done over the past 15 years or so.

There is the issue of hypocrisy, but also the perfect being the enemy of the good. We have to be able to talk about what changes that can be made, or we'll never make any progress. Pollution keeps going up. Best we've managed so far is for it to level off for a bit. We need to cut global emissions by 80% or more.

Even if we keep doing some wasteful things, I think it would be better to admit to how bad they are, to remain conscious of it and maybe have more of a push to make a different choice next time (in particular in politicians), rather than do it and not talk about it.

Yes. We need to understand that cruise ships are bad for the environment. But they are just one of so many things, that there's no point in singling them out. They need to be included in the very long list of stuff we have to stop doing so much of.

Some people enjoy cruises. Before moving to paradise I enjoyed going to fun places, and I used commercial airliners and my car and even helicopters to get to those places. All of these things are bad for the environment, so while I can point this out, it would be hypocritical for me to criticize people who take cruises.
Title: Re: Episode #722
Post by: seamas on May 13, 2019, 03:52:14 PM
If you're on a boat without a nuclear reactor and a desalination plant, I think it's reasonable to expect that they'll be more stingy with the resources than on the mainland.

Speaking as someone who's been on several boats with nuclear reactors and desalination equipment - water conservation was something we took seriously and lived with every day.  My towel got washed once a week or so.

Never had your experience--but the first thing I thought of was resources--power and fresh water.

I was actually surprised that none of the rogues considered that part of it--especially when they spoke of how isolated a ship will be when out at sea.
Them equating it to just a "floating hotel" was puzzling. They are usually sharper than that--even Jay.

I've only been out as far as 10-15 miles from the coast and it is interesting when you realize that you are really in wilderness at that point. The birds you see are often types one will never see unless there, and ones you might be familiar with would never venture that far out.

It is sad to hear that the light pollution from a cruise ship prohibits star-gazing.
It'd be cool if some cruise ships would find some hours of the night to accommodate it somehow--especially with the historical connection between the stars and maritime navigation.
Title: Re: Episode #722
Post by: DevoutCatalyst on May 13, 2019, 04:10:45 PM
Never had your experience--but the first thing I thought of was resources--power and fresh water.

I was actually surprised that none of the rogues considered that part of it--especially when they spoke of how isolated a ship will be when out at sea.
Them equating it to just a "floating hotel" was puzzling. They are usually sharper than that--even Jay.


Moreover, pretty nice problem to have in life, the price of coffee on a cruise ship.
Title: Re: Episode #722
Post by: daniel1948 on May 13, 2019, 04:33:01 PM
It is sad to hear that the light pollution from a cruise ship prohibits star-gazing.
It'd be cool if some cruise ships would find some hours of the night to accommodate it somehow--especially with the historical connection between the stars and maritime navigation.

I was on a dive boat once and they turned the lights off so we could see the ISS going over. Somebody had an app, so we knew exactly when to expect it. Far cry from a cruise ship. Their insurance probably wouldn't let them turn the lights off because somebody might stumble overboard. And of course the navigation lights have to be on. What if two ships had the same idea at the same time and place? CRASH!!!
Title: Re: Episode #722
Post by: Friendly Angel on May 13, 2019, 04:37:36 PM
It is sad to hear that the light pollution from a cruise ship prohibits star-gazing.

Before my nuke training, I did some time on a Destroyer - we would operate dark at night, and had vestibules with red lights at every exterior hatch so no light from inside the ship got out.  One time I went out on the deck to star gaze and there was a cruise ship a few miles away that looked like a floating Las Vegas - it was funny and a little obscene.  Maybe the cruise ship navigators knew we were there, I'm sure the passengers didn't.
Title: Re: Episode #722
Post by: arthwollipot on May 14, 2019, 12:07:39 AM
Them equating it to just a "floating hotel" was puzzling. They are usually sharper than that--even Jay.

The big cruise ships - the really big ones - are floating hotels. Actually they're more like floating arcologies. They have theatres and casinos and restaurants and coffee shops and swimming pools and bars. They have fifteen decks and it takes ten minutes to walk around the outside. I've been on two, and both have been fantastic experiences. But then again, I was with a great group of people.

It is sad to hear that the light pollution from a cruise ship prohibits star-gazing.
It'd be cool if some cruise ships would find some hours of the night to accommodate it somehow--especially with the historical connection between the stars and maritime navigation.

The ones I was on had areas on deck that were unlit and the sky was pretty clear.
Title: Re: Episode #722
Post by: 2397 on May 14, 2019, 05:06:49 AM
They are floating hotels, which means no grid electricity, no aquifers, no sewer, and they have to spend a lot of energy to move all that mass around.

They have morgues.
Title: Re: Episode #722
Post by: Ah.hell on May 14, 2019, 09:45:14 AM
They are floating hotels, which means no grid electricity, no aquifers, no sewer, and they have to spend a lot of energy to move all that mass around.

They have morgues.
I'd be surprised if it didn't take more energy to light the thing up and provide the amenities than it does to move the thing around.  Modern ships are remarkably efficient modes of transportation.  That is, if you're just going from one place to another. 
Title: Re: Episode #722
Post by: 2397 on May 14, 2019, 12:45:33 PM
I'd welcome anyone to go into the full details of it, all the energy expenditures, and comparing it to a range of alternative ways of holidaying.

What I can tell you is that, in my personal experience, land hotels don't move. And as far as I understand it, it's typically not a part of normal operations for a land hotel to move. Or to spend any energy on getting to where it wants to be. All they do is resist gravity, maybe an occasional earthquake or other natural events. They can move guests up and down inside the hotel, but they don't do it the other way around (https://i.imgur.com/2mcQAsY.mp4).
Title: Re: Episode #722
Post by: daniel1948 on May 14, 2019, 03:46:04 PM
I'd welcome anyone to go into the full details of it, all the energy expenditures, and comparing it to a range of alternative ways of holidaying.

What I can tell you is that, in my personal experience, land hotels don't move. And as far as I understand it, it's typically not a part of normal operations for a land hotel to move. Or to spend any energy on getting to where it wants to be. All they do is resist gravity, maybe an occasional earthquake or other natural events. They can move guests up and down inside the hotel, but they don't do it the other way around (https://i.imgur.com/2mcQAsY.mp4).

A relevant comparison would be the energy cost of moving people in a cruise ship vs. the energy cost of moving people in a jetliner. Arguably we'd produce less carbon if nobody traveled except as needed for productive work. But I've taken enough airplane flights that it's likely my travel has damaged the environment more than Jay on his cruise. We expend energy and damage the environment with many of our recreational activities. The cruise-ship discussion is relevant only after we've calculated the energy costs of a range of such activities.

Speculation without figures is unskeptical.

And of course if you believe in carbon offsets you could buy those and make your cruise carbon neutral. (I actually have no idea whether carbon offsets are meaningful. That's a whole different issue, and I'd be happy to read about them in another thread.)
Title: Re: Episode #722
Post by: Ah.hell on May 14, 2019, 04:00:30 PM
daniel makes a good point.

Unless your vacation amounts to turning off all electricity and HVAC in your home then hanging out in your back yard eating salad, then it will likely have some negative environmental impact. 

Cruises have an obvious and local impact but its entirely plausible that the air travel from New England to where ever they cruise disembarked from and back had a greater carbon footprint than the the cruise itself.  In the absence of actual data were all just smugly speculating on how bad other peoples choices are. 

Also, a cruise ship is much more like a floating casino than a floating hotel.
Title: Re: Episode #722
Post by: 2397 on May 14, 2019, 04:12:20 PM
There's a lot that's bad, but as I tried to make my key point, cruises are pure luxury. It's a ready-made category of something that should cost a lot more than it does to account for the damage that's done to the environment. And something we could ultimately do without, so we don't have to worry about taking it too far.

I'd also vote for stopping all expansions of airports unless there were exceptional reasons for it, and then we could work out which are the most useful flights to give preference over the tourism and whatever else, if some of it still needs to grow.
Title: Re: Episode #722
Post by: Friendly Angel on May 14, 2019, 08:17:47 PM

Speculation without figures is unskeptical.


OK, here's the first figure:

Cunard QE2, for example, consumes daily 380 tons of fuel when traveling at 29 knots speed and carries fuel enough to sail for 12 days.

Except I doubt they do 29 knots most of the time, I'd guess that's their max, and about half of that is their cruising speed.
OK, divide the other figures to get gallons of fuel per passenger mile traveled and compare to airliners.

I think I'd like an Alaskan cruise, or a Euro river cruise....to see things you wouldn't otherwise;  not a Caribbean party cruise.
Title: Re: Episode #722
Post by: arthwollipot on May 14, 2019, 08:58:08 PM
Also, a cruise ship is much more like a floating casino than a floating hotel.

It's unlike both because it is self-contained. It has to carry all of its food, all of its energy, its waste, products for its stores, everything. Because once it's set sail, there's no contact with the mainland. That's why I called it an arcology (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Arcology).
Title: Re: Episode #722
Post by: 2397 on May 15, 2019, 10:28:25 AM
This is exactly the sort of thing that shouldn't be happening.

Quote
'It would destroy it': new international airport for Machu Picchu sparks outrage (https://www.theguardian.com/cities/2019/may/15/archaeologists-outraged-over-plans-for-machu-picchu-airport-chinchero)

Peruvian archaeologists decry new airport that would carry tourists directly to already fragile Inca citadel

Among the Inca archeological sites that abound in Peru, none draw nearly as many tourists as the famed citadel of Machu Picchu. There were more than 1.5 million visitors in 2017, almost double the limit recommended by Unesco, putting a huge strain on the fragile ruins and local ecology.

Now, in a move that has drawn a mixture of horror and outrage from archaeologists, historians and locals, work has begun on clearing ground for a multibillion-dollar international airport, intended to jet tourists much closer to Machu Picchu .

Bulldozers are already scraping clear millions of tonnes of earth in Chinchero, a picturesque Inca town about 3,800 metres above sea level that is the gateway to the Sacred Valley. This area was once was the heartland of a civilisation that stretched from modern-day Colombia to Argentina, and in the 15th century was the world’s largest empire.

“This is a built landscape; there are terraces and routes which were designed by the Incas,” says Natalia Majluf, a Peruvian art historian at Cambridge University who has organised a petition against the new airport. “Putting an airport here would destroy it.”

At present most visitors to the valley come through Cusco airport, which has only one runway and is limited to taking narrow-bodied aircraft on stopover flights from Peru’s capital, Lima, and nearby cities such as La Paz, Bolivia.

(https://i.imgur.com/vopD4rN.jpg)
Title: Re: Episode #722
Post by: DevoutCatalyst on May 15, 2019, 10:35:10 AM
I hope there's a miniature golf course in case flights get delayed. Wouldn't want passengers to feel inconvenienced.

This is exactly the sort of thing that shouldn't be happening.

Quote
'It would destroy it': new international airport for Machu Picchu sparks outrage (https://www.theguardian.com/cities/2019/may/15/archaeologists-outraged-over-plans-for-machu-picchu-airport-chinchero)

Peruvian archaeologists decry new airport that would carry tourists directly to already fragile Inca citadel

Among the Inca archeological sites that abound in Peru, none draw nearly as many tourists as the famed citadel of Machu Picchu. There were more than 1.5 million visitors in 2017, almost double the limit recommended by Unesco, putting a huge strain on the fragile ruins and local ecology.

Now, in a move that has drawn a mixture of horror and outrage from archaeologists, historians and locals, work has begun on clearing ground for a multibillion-dollar international airport, intended to jet tourists much closer to Machu Picchu .

Bulldozers are already scraping clear millions of tonnes of earth in Chinchero, a picturesque Inca town about 3,800 metres above sea level that is the gateway to the Sacred Valley. This area was once was the heartland of a civilisation that stretched from modern-day Colombia to Argentina, and in the 15th century was the world’s largest empire.

“This is a built landscape; there are terraces and routes which were designed by the Incas,” says Natalia Majluf, a Peruvian art historian at Cambridge University who has organised a petition against the new airport. “Putting an airport here would destroy it.”

At present most visitors to the valley come through Cusco airport, which has only one runway and is limited to taking narrow-bodied aircraft on stopover flights from Peru’s capital, Lima, and nearby cities such as La Paz, Bolivia.

(https://i.imgur.com/vopD4rN.jpg)
Title: Re: Episode #722
Post by: gebobs on May 15, 2019, 01:10:03 PM
I got most of the data from here...
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Energy_efficiency_in_transport

Passenger-miles per gallon
Cruise ship...15
Jet aircraft...80-90
Train...450-500
Car...50 (2 passenger at 25 mpg)
Bus...230 (70% capacity)
Title: Re: Episode #722
Post by: daniel1948 on May 15, 2019, 08:56:45 PM
I got most of the data from here...
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Energy_efficiency_in_transport

Passenger-miles per gallon
Cruise ship...15
Jet aircraft...80-90
Train...450-500
Car...50 (2 passenger at 25 mpg)
Bus...230 (70% capacity)

Thank you.

Then we also have to consider that in a real sense, the cruise ship is both the transportation and the destination. If I fly to Tahiti and then stay at a fancy resort (which ships in supplies from very far away) am I that much better than Jay and his cruise?

My real point is that we do lots of things that are terribly wasteful and damaging to the environment. We have a tendency to ignore our own transgressions and point the finger at people whose transgressions are different from our own.

We should absolutely not be picking out one activity for criticism: We should be listing all the major ones. And then point no fingers unless nothing we do is on the list. So I point no fingers. I do what's good for the environment when it's convenient. (Electric car, solar on the roof, recycle.) But I also do stuff that hurts the environment. So I won't criticize Jay and his cruise. It definitely belongs on the bad list. Along with jet travel and driving a 4- or 6-passenger car with just one person in it. (I notice that in the above, Car is 50 miles per gallon per passenger for two passengers. How often do you see a car on the road with two people in it? 25% of the time? Suddenly Car is getting pretty close to Cruise Ship. And you seldom get served drinks with little umbrellas in them in your car.
Title: Re: Episode #722
Post by: 2397 on May 16, 2019, 04:19:25 AM
I'm going to point out that I never mentioned Jay's name until just now, and I'm trying to focus on the activities rather than comparing specific individuals.
Title: Re: Episode #722
Post by: lonely moa on May 16, 2019, 05:34:51 AM

Now, a directional hearing aid, if such things don't yet exist, would be very useful.

They exist, I have that on one of my settings but unfortunately, it is no help to me.  I avoid restaurants and bars, in part, because it is awful to hear all the noise and not be able to understand anything said at the table.  My hearing aids (Siemens) do have a pretty good tinnitus setting, kin of a frying bacon sound, and it mitigates the high pitch squeal (cysplatin, thank you). 
Title: Re: Episode #722
Post by: daniel1948 on May 16, 2019, 12:02:54 PM
I'm going to point out that I never mentioned Jay's name until just now, and I'm trying to focus on the activities rather than comparing specific individuals.

The subject came up, I presume, because it was discussed on the show, and it was discussed on the show because Jay went on a cruise. I took it as an implied criticism of Jay, along with everyone else who takes cruises, and I wished to point out that nearly everyone living a middle-class lifestyle is harming the environment roughly to the same degree as people whose vacation of preference is a cruise. I mentioned Jay by name because it was his cruise that led to this discussion.

We are altering the environment to the detriment of ourselves and future generations. By "we" I mean me, and you who are reading this, and everyone else who spends money to maintain a middle-class lifestyle and on travel and manufactured goods.