The Fascination of Simulations

Elizabeth Kolbert is very fascinated by simulations of fragile ecological environments, the ones where scientists test out various doomsday scenarios. Under a White Sky is full of such sims.They cost hundreds of millions of dollars to build and maintain.

What must it be like to work in one of those? Self would love it. But Kolbert is a straight arrow: she describes the scientific work in such a way that it appears — by design — dull. Kolbert doesn’t think it’s dull, but the scientists are so self-deprecating.

On p. 109, Kolbert is interviewing Paul Hardity, the Director of SeaSim, a simulation of Australia’s Great Barrier Reef.

She has him saying this:

  • “We come from this planet. Anyway, I’m getting a little philosophical. I’m going to have to go home and watch a hockey game.”

HAR HAR HAR!!!!

Stay cool, dear blog readers. Stay cool.

Save the Pupfish!

With just thirty-five Devils Hole pupfish left on the planet, the National Park Service refused to risk a single breeding pair. It was reluctant even to surrender any eggs. After months of argument and analysis, it finally allowed the Fish and Wildlife Service to gather eggs in the off-season, when the chances of their surviving in the cavern were, in any case, low. The first summer, a single egg was collected; it died. The following winter, forty-two eggs were gathered; twenty-nine of these were successfully reared to adulthood.

— Under a White Sky, p. 81

“This is a good sign,” Gumm said.

Love how phlegmatic the scientist is. In truth, “she tries to spend some part of every day by the edge of the tank, just looking at the fish.”

Stay cool, dear blog readers. Stay cool.

Sentence of the Day: Still Elizabeth Kolbert

Self is on Section 2 of Kolbert’s Under a White Sky: The Nature of the Future.

The future of life, Kolbert says, is Extinction.

And no one writes Extinction with a capital ‘E’ like Elizabeth Kolbert.

Kolbert is scary good when she writes about soon-to-be-extinct animal species.

In section 2, Into the Wild, she focuses her tremendous laser-like intelligence on pupfish, whose only known habitat is Devils Hole in Death Valley National Park.

She makes passing reference to Edward Abbey, whose Desert Solitaire made quite an impression on self when she read it, decades ago.

p. 78:

  • Though the book chronicles Abbey’s stint as a ranger in Arches National Park, in Utah, he wrote most of it sitting at a bar in a brothel just a few miles from Devils Hole.

A brothel? Really?

Stay cool, dear blog readers. Stay cool.

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