Openness to New and Different Ideas

It can be easy, too easy, to dismiss new ideas when they fall outside of our world view. But quick dismissals can reduce our openness to grasping climate change and urbanism.

An advantage of being my own boss is that I can set my own blogging schedule. And change it when I wish. I had intended to write today about rebuilding after Hurricane Sandy. And then to return to bicycling for some concluding thoughts. But thinking about my last post on climate change brought to mind an old family anecdote that seemed pertinent. The story was also pertinent to urbanism. And so this post muscled its way onto my calendar.

It was perhaps the summer of 1972. I was doing Saturday errands with my father and sister, probably in a 1965 Mustang. My sister repeated something that that one of her teachers had said. That the world might be pumping the last oil by the year 2000. And that a new energy source then would be required.

As we now know, improved drilling technology has pushed back that date substantially. But we also now know that oil is a finite resource. For 1972, the teacher’s comments, even if somewhat inaccurate, were remarkably foresighted.

My father was an engineer. He gave great weight to data and to proven ways of doing things. But he was also willing to consider new realities. To the end of his life, he was looking at alternative operating schemes for rail transit that would allow greater speeds. And he was suggesting that seismic codes were flawed because they gave insufficient weight to the greater amplitude, slower arriving waves.

Despite the openness of his mind, he immediately dismissed the suggestion by my sister’s teacher about the end of oil. So did I.

Neither of us had a background in the oil industry nor any other reason to reject the possible end of oil. Instead, our rejection was based solely on the unthinkability of the idea that oil might someday be exhausted.

After all, we were out for a Saturday drive in a car that was filled with 29 cent per gallon gas and was getting 15 miles to the gallon. And we were accustomed to the freedom of that way of life, to which oil was essential. The end of oil was unfathomable. Heck, the idea that gas might someday cost more than a dollar per gallon was perhaps equally beyond our conception.

But we were wrong. We had joined legions of our predecessors in rejecting what we couldn’t conceive. The problem is that nature doesn’t give a whit about what our minds find to be beyond the realm of comprehension. It cares only about its own innate logic.

To get past the failures of our imagination, we look to science. Science can help decipher the logic of nature, including secrets which will startle and amaze us. It’s likely that my sister’s teacher had been reading about scientists who were beginning to ponder the future of oil.

Science doesn’t always get it right, at least at first. It took thousands of years of increasingly convoluted rationalizations about the earth being at the center of the solar system before Copernicus and Galileo began to convince the world otherwise. (The photo above is of the university where Galileo worked on his theory.) Nor are new theories always accepted gladly. Galileo paid dearly for challenging the accepted wisdom. But science and the truth it revealed eventually triumphed.

And now the world of science is telling us that our climate may be changing, likely because of our own fossil fuel consumption. It isn’t certain that climate change will ultimately be proven correct. It’s possible that it’ll be found completely wrong. It’s more possible, even probable, that it’ll be found mostly right, but with adjustments needed. Regardless of the outcome, science is working toward a better understanding of our world.

And yet many are choosing to reject that theory. Some of those probably because they can’t conceive of making the lifestyle changes that climate change would require. I understand. I was there in 1972. But that makes the attitude neither right nor beneficial.

Urbanism, although not a science, also runs into the question of whether a new reality can be conceived. Many of us were raised in suburbia, perhaps hearing tales from grandparents who were thrilled to have moved from the city to a small bungalow near a trolley line. Accordingly, we grew up with a definition of success that included ever larger homes on ever larger lots. And that’s okay. As long as you’re willing to pay the price, your dream can be whatever you want it to be.

But the suburban dreams of many have come to include an unwillingness to remove the market obstacles to the urban lifestyle that is now attractive to others. And that not’s okay. A willingness to acknowledge the possibility of new and different realities is a good thing for science. And a good thing for land use.

Incidental observation: It’s fascinating to note that the initial rejection of Galileo’s model of the solar system was based on an unwillingness to conceive that mankind wasn’t at the center of all things. Conversely, much of the opposition to climate change is based on an unwillingness to believe that mankind is powerful enough to affect the earth’s climate. Our estimation of our place in the universe has changed dramatically in a few centuries.

Follow-Ups and Scheduling Notes

Petaluma Urban Chat: As a reminder, the next Petaluma Urban Chat will be Tuesday, November 13 at the Aqus Café. We gather at 5:30. Feel free to join us for an unstructured discussion of urbanism, local politics, and whatever other vaguely related topics may arise.

Urban Chat has selected "Curbside Chat" by StrongTowns.org for a shared reading. Discussion will likely begin in December. The booklet is available as a free download on the StrongTowns website. But if anyone would prefer a hard copy and doesn't like buying ink for a home printer, we can coordinate the printing of multiple copies at a local print shop. Let me know if you’re interested.

Nate Silver: A few posts ago, I repeated a tweet by New York Times columnist Nate Silver about the rebound of New York City after Hurricane Sandy. At the time, Silver was being disparaged for his computer model of the presidential election. His critics were arguing that he was biased and that his accurate prediction of 49 of 50 states in 2008 was one-time fluke.  I defended Silver, whose work on baseball and politics I’d always found to be fair and objective.

Despite the sniping, Silver did well in the now-completed 2012 election. If Florida continues to go the way that it’s leaning as of this writing, Silver will have gotten all fifty states correct, improving on his already fine results from 2008.

I’m not arguing that accurate election prognostication has great social value. It’s far more important to pick the right candidate than to correctly divine which candidate will win several weeks in advance. But the partisan and unfounded brickbats thrown at Silver are another illustration of the unwillingness of some to grasp new ways of viewing the world. And that is never a good thing.

Plus, Silver’s new book, "The Signal and the Noise" offers valuable insights about building consensus on subjects such as urbanism in the 21st century.

As always, your questions or comments will be appreciated. Please comment below or email me. And thanks for reading. - Dave Alden (davealden53@comcast.net)

Dave Alden is a Registered Civil Engineer. He has worked on energy and land-use projects in California, Oregon, and Washington. He was also the president of a minor league baseball team for two seasons. He lives on the west side of Petaluma with his wife and three dogs. The blog that he writes can be found at http://northbaydesignkit.blogspot.com. He can also be followed on Facebook, LinkedIn, and Twitter.

This post is contributed by a community member. The views expressed in this blog are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Patch Media Corporation. Everyone is welcome to submit a post to Patch. If you'd like to post a blog, go here to get started.

Wire November 10, 2012 at 06:27 PM
As of this year Lake Pillsbury is 15% lower but these figures were in February 2012 as it was at 45% full. Sounds like they are not going share that water with us this dry year, through the Potter Valley system.
Wire November 10, 2012 at 09:11 PM
Lets do a test for next week, forecast.weather.gov/MapClick.php?CityName=Santa%20Rosa...CA Slight chance of rain 15, 16, 17, temp on next Saturday 67'. The long term cycled weather says mostly clear 14, 15, 16, 17, 18.19, and 20 Saturday at 72. Whom is correct?
Wire November 12, 2012 at 07:38 AM
Mostly Clear - NOAA's National Weather Service - Glossary forecast.weather.gov/glossary.php?word=mostly%20clear Mostly Clear: When the 1/8th to 2/8ths of the sky is covered by with opaque (not transparent) clouds. Sometimes referred to as Mostly Sunny. I like the math, 2/8ths, darn kids these days. Are we going to get any rain? Best chance this Thursday. 7-day forecast for Santa Rosa, I see the rain going north. This from CBS 5 Sunday night. Sunday Partly Cloudy Monday Partly Cloudy Tuesday Mostly Cloudy Wednesday Mostly Cloudy Thursday Mostly Cloudy Friday Mostly Cloudy Saturday Mostly Cloudy Not bad for one to two years in advance weather predication with all this extra Global warming and CO2 in the air. It's a cycle you should lean it. Check out that web site up above.
Wire November 12, 2012 at 04:04 PM
Lake Shasta Water level it's not our water anyway, 40 percent below normal. Current Storage: 2,417,584 AF 53% of Total Capacity 88% of Historical Avg. For This Date Lake Orville still not Sonoma County water, it doesn't look good for the growers farmers and Southern Cal. as the Feds will cut off the water. Current Storage: 1,792,633 AF 51% of Total Capacity 83% of Historical Avg. For This Date
Dave Alden November 14, 2012 at 09:48 PM
Wire, I find that seven-day forecasts are more accurate than in years past. Of course, they're not perfect, but the "butterfly wing" phenomenon may be unconquerable. Last week, I checked the seven-day forecast to plan for an outside event that on Saturday evening. It called for chilly temperatures with a chance of rain. As the day neared, the rain possibility disappeared, but the temperature prediction was dead on. It was a useful seven-day forecast.
Dave Alden November 14, 2012 at 09:48 PM
But we must distinguish between daily temperature predictions and climate change. There is a graph of temperature data over the last millenium, averaging data from tree rings, coral samples, ice cores, and, in the last century, thermometers. Not surprisingly, there is much noise in the data. But when averaged, It provides a relatively good picture, including the mini-ice ages of the 15th and 18th which are in the historical record. The historical temperatures over the last millenium were in a band about a half-degree celsius below the average global temperature between 1960 and 1990. Since 1990, the temperature has jumped more than a half-degree celsius above the 1960-1990 average. It's a significant and dramatic jump, but still barely more than a degree fahrenheit. Whether it was 70 or 72 degrees yesterday in Petaluma is a rounding error. Whether the average global temperature was 70 or 72 degrees has huge significance. Therefore, we need to distinguish between daily weather predictions and climate change science.
Wire November 14, 2012 at 11:05 PM
Your figures 1960 to 1990 are not true, CIA was say global cooling in 79. The CIA documents the global cooling research of the 1970's | Watts ... wattsupwiththat.com/.../the-cia-documents-the-global-cooling-researc... May 25, 2012 – The CIA documents the global cooling research of the 1970's .... A 3.0°C cooling is very similar to what Libby and Pandolfi 1979 warned of, ..... In fact, that part of the atmosphere has not warmed as they say it has to, but it has I see that the upper air flow should steer this storm north of the golden gate or farther north. The two year old prediction says no rain. I did fertilize half of the back lawn today in hope of rain as I left the other half for the dog. He is smart enough to know where not to walk. Whom built the first cement two tall bridge piers three-span suspension bridge? What year? I heard a rumor that black top could change its color to an off white then use black paint markings. That will work for me. Now why were the glaciers on Mt. Kilimanjaro melting? You wouldn't believe the real cause but it sounds better that CO2 did it. I rather live with global warming than an ice age or there goes the world food supply. I do agree the planet is over populated.
Wire November 14, 2012 at 11:13 PM
“World Exclusive: CIA 1974 Document Reveals Emptiness of AGW Scares, Closes Debate On Global Cooling Consensus (And More…) ”
Wire November 14, 2012 at 11:32 PM
So they yanked the hockey stick. Keith Briffa Responds « Climate Audit climateaudit.org/2009/10/01/keith-briffa-responds/ Oct 1, 2009 – If Briffa or any of his associates wishes to post a thread here without any editorial ... The Briffa Yamal series has trees that have a ring structure that with ...... Remember that this is a largely uncensored site – what you say and argue... Just google
Wire November 14, 2012 at 11:47 PM
So they yanked the hockey stick Not by Wire: Incidentally, I came across this at the weekend. It’s the last sentence of a 200-word entry on ‘Climate’ in _Pears Cyclopaedia 1986-1987_: ‘The recent tendency between 1880 and 1940 for most parts of the world to become warmer has eased off and appears to have given way to a more prolonged cooling tendency.’ I include it only as a curiosity. I am in no way suggesting an equivalence with the CIA doc, which certainly shows that cooling was taken seriously by well-informed people in the 1970s. This shows only that popular perceptions linger long after the experts have moved on to something else. (And perhaps that general reference works are shit. I should know: I used to work for one.) Apply for a grant (food stamps) and side with the global warmest, I have ocean front property in Phoenix.
Wire November 14, 2012 at 11:58 PM
The Nonsense of Global Warming Paul Johnson, 09.11.08, 06:00 PM EDT Forbes Magazine dated October 06, 2008 Take from the Forbes Magazine: Popper, this was a true scientific approach. "What impressed me most," he wrote, "was Einstein's own clear statement that he would regard his theory as untenable if it should fail in certain tests." In contrast, Popper pointed out, there were pseudo-scientists, such as Karl Marx and Sigmund Freud. Marx claimed to be constructing a theory of scientific materialism based on scientific history and economic science. "Science" and "scientific" were words Marx used constantly. Far from formulating his theory with a high degree of scientific content and encouraging empirical testing and refutation, Marx made it vague and general. When evidence turned up that appeared to refute his theory, the theory was modified to accommodate the new evidence. It's no wonder that when communist regimes applied Marxism it proved a costly failure.
Wire November 15, 2012 at 06:51 AM
The CIA's 'global cooling' files (title) The CIA's 'global cooling' files (text) www.climatemonitor.it/wp-content/uploads/2009/12/1974.pdf World Exclusive: CIA 1974 Document Reveals Emptiness of AGW Scares, Closes Debate On Global Cooling Consensus (And More…) http://www.dailymail.co.uk/sciencetech/article-2217286/Global-warming-stopped-16-years-ago-reveals-Met-Office-report-quietly-released--chart-prove-it.html http://www.examiner.com/article/president-obama-i-am-a-firm-believer-that-climate-change-is-real It's your job to spin the truth, it my job to un-spin the faults of your dishonesty. Yes if you say the lies enough times it becomes the truth.
Wire November 15, 2012 at 06:53 AM
In reality, though, there's no verifiable attribution of the basic quote to anyone. The closest verifiable source would tend to lead us to believe that Goebbels didn't come up with it on his own, but rather got the idea from his boss. In Hitler's book "Mein Kampf" (My Struggle) he originates the idea of "das Grosse Luge" (The Big Lie): "But the most brilliant propagandist technique will yield no success unless one fundamental principle is borne in mind constantly and with unflagging attention. It must confine itself to a few points and repeat them over and over. Here, as so often in this world, persistence is the first and most important requirement for success." Climate change is real. That is why the Earth has bounced back and forth between Greenhouse Earth and Icehouse Earth throughout its history. We have sufficient objective scientific data to back both ideas (Azola Event & Oxygen Catastrophe among others). But Obama (and others) BELIEVE in man-mad climate change. That is religion, not science: based on subjective feeling. The FACTS are that temperatures have been plateaued for almost 20 years. Therefore, Obama is WRONG when he stated that the temperature has risen faster than expected over the last decade. That claim is patently FALSE. He is lying to set up a power grab and find another way to tax the Middle Class.
Wire November 15, 2012 at 05:45 PM
Some climate scientists, such as Professor Phil Jones, director of the Climatic Research Unit at the University of East Anglia, last week dismissed the significance of the plateau, saying that 15 or 16 years is too short a period from which to draw conclusions. Others disagreed. Professor Judith Curry, who is the head of the climate science department at America’s prestigious Georgia Tech university, told The Mail on Sunday that it was clear that the computer models used to predict future warming were ‘deeply flawed’. Even Prof Jones admitted that he and his colleagues did not understand the impact of ‘natural variability’ – factors such as long-term ocean temperature cycles and changes in the output of the sun. However, he said he was still convinced that the current decade would end up significantly warmer than the previous two. Read more: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/sciencetech/article-2217286/Global-warming-stopped-16-years-ago-reveals-Met-Office-report-quietly-released--chart-prove-it.html#ixzz2CJUdhLOM Follow us: @MailOnline on Twitter | DailyMail on Facebook You just got PUNKED! 2012 minus 16 years equals 1996, and in mid 1970's CIA report on Global Cooling Look for yourself CIA www.climatemonitor.it/wp-content/uploads/2009/12/1974.pdf
Dave Alden November 16, 2012 at 05:49 PM
Wire, thanks for the comments. Yes, there were certainly some organizations in the 1970s who believed that global cooling was happening. In their defense, there was a short-term trend that could have led to that hypothesis. However, in the 1970s, we also had cars with carburerators, lived with three television stations, and had no conception of personal computers. The world has changed, as has our ability to recover and assess data. And as our tools improved, the idea of global cooling was quickly discarded. It's no longer relevant to the discussion. One could now make the other side of that argument, that forty years from now scientists may have such advanced data that they can disprove our current theories. It might be so. Science is defined by its constant willingness to overturn existing theories. But nonetheless, we can't justify ignoring an overwhelming scientific consensus. If human beings hadn't been willing over time to act on the best available information, we'd still be huddling in caves wondering when the next lightning strike would reignite our fires. And yes, there are some who would quibble with some details of the "hockey stick" graph. Any scientific approach must deal with "noise" in the data and find ways to best discern the underlying truth. And a few naysayers basing their arguments on small subsets of the data notwithstanding, the consensus is that the hockey stick is a realistic representation of the scientific reality.
Wire November 16, 2012 at 09:01 PM
The science can't prove that CO2 is the problem, CO2 pulled from the Arctic or Antarctic ice. Who did it then? What cause the Ice man die that was found in the Alps? What about a 500 year old Alaskan Village that showing up during the glacier melt? The Vikings in Iceland before it was covered up with ice. Now lets go to Turkey in the way back machine. Mysterious 12,000-Years-Old Gobekli Tepe, Turkey - Artificial Covering Over Mount Nemrut Why did they bury their town? What were they trying escape from, Incoming comets, meteorites huge solar flares, or possible ice age, 12,000 years ago we don't know. I would rather have global warming climate change, than an global ice climate change. Better study human history find out what happened with those lost civilizations all over the planet. It shows what ever happened there possible cause was lack of water. Colder dryer weather? Did you know? The Los Lunas Inscription - The Ten Commandments in Paleo ... www.truthontheweb.org/comstone.htm It has been named Phoenician Rock or the Commandment Stone. It is called today Inscription rock. Located west of Los Lunas, New Mexico at the base of of Mystery Mountain
Wire November 17, 2012 at 06:15 PM
Researchers at the Large Hadron Collider have detected one of the rarest particle decays seen in nature. It's not about the weather it's about Popular physics theory running out of hiding places. Over a year ago the world was told they found what holds the atom together, BIG Headlines. today no headlines but on page 13, Researchers at the Large Hadron Collider have detected one of the rarest particle decays seen in nature. "If new physics exists, then it is hiding very well behind the Standard Model," commented Cambridge physicist Dr Marc-Olivier Bettler, a member of the analysis team. The result does not rule out the possibility that super particles exist. But according to Prof Parkes, "they are running out of places to hide". Supporters of supersymmetry, however, such as Prof John Ellis of King's College London, said that the observation is "quite consistent with supersymmetry". "In fact," he said, "(it) was actually expected in (some) supersymmetric models. I certainly won't lose any sleep over the result." Popular physics theory running out of hiding places BBC News ‎- 5 days ago
Dave Alden November 19, 2012 at 04:22 PM
Wire, thanks for the comment. To say that science can't prove that CO2 is the problem is to misunderstand the scientific method. Science doesn't prove things. It theorizes and then looks for evidence for and against a theory while always remaining willing to abandon or to adjust a theory when the evidence demands it. My favorite example is Newton's Laws of Motion which were the ruling theory for over two centuries under Einstein subsumed them into the Theory of Relativity. And even Einstein himself acknowledged that relativity was probably not be the final word with his continuing search for a Unified Field Theory. Science doesn't prove. Instead, it looks for evidence toward a better understanding. In place of proofs, science seeks a broad consensus that a current theory is largely consistent with the evidence. But it never stops looking for more evidence. And that is where we are today with climate change, CO2, etc.
Dave Alden November 19, 2012 at 04:23 PM
Wire, thanks. I also saw the news reports. It's a fine example of the scientific method of continuing to look for evidence to support or to overturn a theory.
Wire November 19, 2012 at 08:20 PM
Who put this there? The Los Lunas Inscription - The Ten Commandments in Paleo ... www.truthontheweb.org/comstone.htm It has been named Phoenician Rock or the Commandment Stone. It is called today Inscription rock. Located west of Los Lunas, New Mexico at the base of of Mystery Mountain Artificial Covering Over Mount Nemrut Why would people bury their city? Why did they bury their town? What were they trying escape from, Incoming comets, meteorites huge solar flares, or possible ice age, 12,000 years ago we don't know. Are we working on another Ice Age? My theory, the sun controls the magmatic fields that controls the atmosphere and weather changes. Co2 of years gone by was it humans or planet Earth what did it? Still think warming is a better for Monsanto and the planet to grow food. Unless a massive died off happens. Something we can't control.
Wire November 21, 2012 at 04:08 AM
Dave, you don't like history? More theories what happen to past Civilizations? There's that word Civil. (TheBlaze/AP) — More than 130 scientists from Iowa colleges and universities say this year’s drought is consistent with a warmer climate predicted as part of global climate change, and that more droughts should be expected. Scientists and researchers from 27 Iowa colleges and universities signed the Iowa Climate Statement released Monday, which claims global warming causes wet years to be wetter and dry years to be dryer. Those extremes lead to more flooding and drought, which Iowa has experienced both in recent years. The state was particularly hard hit this year when drought spread across two-thirds of the country. http://www.theblaze.com/stories/clear-statistical-evidence-130-scientists-from-iowa-schools-blame-recent-drought-on-climate-change/ World Bank: ‘We Will Never End Poverty If We Don’t Tackle Climate Change’ Wondering What Agenda 21 Is? Read Our Report on the International Land Grab Beck Talks With ‘Firenado’ Filmmaker About Taking a Stand on Global Warming Beliefs
Wire January 31, 2013 at 09:30 PM
Dave here's a study at Sonoma State I'm sure you would enjoy to hear. Something about the sun. Not what they wanted to hear so they took all of his work and equipment. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=asesblfb4zI
Dave Alden February 03, 2013 at 03:38 AM
Wire, you realize that he's claiming that both Newton and Einstein were charletons? His suggestion would be a more credible if he wasn't constantly saying "It's well understood" when he's pretty much the only one who believes it. I think even the interviewer was mocking him.
Wire February 03, 2013 at 04:27 AM
They were important in there own ways, but the most important was Nikola Tesla, that was why our government took his papers and possibility made HARP up in Alaska. The man of free electricity Tesla but the NWO fixed that. www.youtube.com/watch?v=g3Rv2h49guc Please read the comments remember what the guy from Sonoma State said about the long distance HAM RADIO operation that the bouncing off the upper atmosphere wasn't working any more at times. That the sun was causing the problems. Einstein was good with the A weapon. Newton with apples, those dam apples. Adam and Eve. Sorry for the poor joke. The question is what is faster the speed of light or speed of darkness?
Wire February 03, 2013 at 04:52 AM
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_Z26taV9SWc Would that really put the fix to global warming? I have some really bad news about the strong cities, our state has a list 19,300 felons that own two weapons and they can't enforce their regulated laws as the state is to broke to hire our keepers. Brown is adding a thousand a year more law breakers owning weapons. That was just in the LA Times last week. Can't we all live together?
Dave Alden February 03, 2013 at 05:09 AM
Wire, from your comment, it appears that you haven't read StrongTowns. You may not agree with the StrongTowns theory, but your comments would be more easily followed if you had read the argument.
Wire February 03, 2013 at 05:28 AM
It's being force onto us right now, if you have the time during the big game, AGENDA 21. Is in the bay area will be talked about between 4 to 7pm KSFO 560, if football not your game. Does Petaluma need money or can we live on our own tax dollars? Free money is available as long as you give us your soul Petaluma..
Wire February 03, 2013 at 05:29 AM
holoscience.com | The Electric Universe | A sound cosmology for the ... www.holoscience.com/ “We live in an electric world. Our cities are visible from space at night, blazing with electric lights. The electricity courses invisibly in the darkness over grea
Wire February 03, 2013 at 07:30 AM
Enjoy this I'm sure you will recognize the power in the sun http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=l42YY9KoCQk
Wire February 03, 2013 at 07:54 AM
This should be my last link, hope you have time for the show on ksfo 4 to 7 pm Sunday New school idea's the old school was birth control wars killing off the male studs. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0Q4fecFbYBg&list=PL72C6E020253DAB1D


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