Sick of fictional mermaid documentaries? Try some dystopian maritime science fiction, instead!


Welcome to the Fleet!

It’s the near future, the rising tides have swallowed much of the world’s coastlines, and the last survivors of a deadly plague are scattered across a new and vastly different ocean. But all is not well in the Reach. The fish are dwindling, the currents are shifting, and secrets long thought lost are rising to the surface.

Fleet is my experiment in semi-serial science fiction self-publishing. Every month I’ll reveal three more chapters in this epic saga, starting today. Check it out in the Amazon Kindle store — Fleet: The Reach.

This is an experiment, so I want to here your thoughts and comments, what you loved, what you hated. Part 1: The Reach is only $0.99 (please note, subsequent parts will be $1.99) and all parts will eventually be compiled into an omnibus edition, with a few extras. Please leave your impressions in the comment field below.

And, of course, if you like it, please take the time to leave a review on Amazon!

Sea Leveler Update: one week of #sealevelrise


One week of sea level rise recorded by the Sea Leveler.

Now that most of the bugs are out of the system, here is what a one week readout looks like on the Sea Leveler.

A few observations:

  • The Sea Leveler is driven by twitter’s own search API, which is not perfect. The rapid dramatic drops are due to twitter updating its search parameters to exclude tweets more than a week old. Thus, the  Sea Leveler records increased activity in real time and decreased activity less frequently, but in larger steps. 
  • I didn’t line the paper up very well, so the dates and times aren’t perfectly calibrated.
  • The massive drop on 9 April is slightly more than a week after Boing Boing picked up the Sea Leveler, thus reflecting the tweets resulting from the coverage being purged from the search.
  • The vertical lines that drop and return quickly are errors in the search function. The Sea Leveler is programmed not to move if the search function returns 0 tweets (which would indicate a connectivity problem).
  • I don’t know what was going on on 12 April, but @johnvanderhoef and @lindsaycthomas were tweeting up a storm from what sounds like a very interesting series of talks.

I’ve currently set the Sea Leveler to record a full month on one roll, so be sure to check back in May to see how it’s going. Until then, keep talking about #sealevelrise!


Sea Leveler Update

Earlier this week I launched the Sea Leveler, and open-source, arduino-powered, water level meter that measure the activity of tweets about #sealevelrise on twitter. Not surprisingly, the first full week of trial revealed a few bugs in the machine.

Sea Leveler read-out. Click to embiggen.

Sea Leveler read-out. Click to embiggen.

The first thing you’ll notice is that, in addition to recording tweets about sea level rise, the Sea Leveler also provides a nice documentation of power surges. Every time the power flickers, the arduino resets and the arm thinks it’s back at zero, causing a dramatic rise. This happened once due to an actual power surge and twice due to our marvelous dishwasher, which happened to be on the same circuit as the Sea Leveler. Easy fixes, both.

The second problem is that, thanks to our very cheap step motor (you get what you pay for) after a few power cycles, the unit starts rotating in the opposite direction. Wonderful. Obviously the permanent fix is to get a slightly higher quality motor, but for now, isolating the circuit to reduce power surges will have to do.

Understanding Sea Level Rise: Why a linear extrapolation is the least reasonable predictor of future changes

The Division of Coastal Management shall be the only State agency authorized to develop rates of sea-level rise and shall do so only at the request of the Commission. These rates shall only be determined using historical data, and these data shall be limited to the time period following the year 1900. Rates of sea-level rise may be extrapolated linearly to estimate future rates of rise but shall not include scenarios of accelerated rates of sea-level rise.

source (emphasis mine)

This is the text of the notorious, anti-science, anti-coastal community bill that was originally floated in the North Carolina state senate. A revised version of that bill is now under review, with new language that now mandates that:

The Commission and the Division of Coastal Management may collaborate with other State agencies, boards, commissions, other public entities, or institutions when defining sea-level rise or developing rates of sea-level rise. These rates shall be determined using statistically significant, peer-reviewed historical data generated using generally accepted scientific and statistical techniques. Historic rates of sea-level rise  may be extrapolated to estimate future rates of rise but shall not include scenarios of accelerated rates of sea-level rise unless such rates are from statistically significant, peer-reviewed data and are consistent with historic trends.

source (emphasis mine)

While this new language is almost certainly an improvement over the old bill, which was heavily supported by a lobbying group for coastal developers and heavily opposed by organizations that actually care what happens to the Carolina coastline and its historic communities, it is still problematic. By problematic, I mean wrong. And by wrong I mean that by refusing to allow accelerated estimates of sea level rise, it explicitly ignores all the best available science and contradicts 130 millenia of historic precedent.

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North Carolina’s attempted ban on sea level rise is a boon for Global Draining researchers

News broke yesterday that NC-20, a lobbying group for coastal development that, among other things, thinks property owners should be allowed to dump chemical waste directly into our watersheds, is sponsoring legislation that would outlaw outlaw sea level rise. Ignoring the fact that you can’t actually sue the ocean, what they’re actually promoting is a law that would prevent the state from using any sea surface model that extrapolates future ocean trends using anything but a linear regression. Essentially, they’re making it illegal for the state to anticipate future changes to the coastline, plan and prepare for potential flooding, or restrict development on transient barrier islands.

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10 misrepresentations about climate change

Few scientific fields generate as much controversy as climate change. Misunderstandings, misrepresentations, and outright lies are common. While environmentalists rightly criticize anti-global warming activists for not being truthful, neither side is innocent. Presented here are five common misrepresentations from both sides and the truth about those issues.

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A primer for climate change

Sea level rise. Desertification. Ocean acidification. Climategate. Permafrost. Greenland ice sheet. Hockey stick. The language of global climate change can be overwhelming. Every year, as we learn more about the ways that human activity fundamentally alter global processes, the subject becomes even broader and more complicated. Fortunately, world renowned oceanographer Orrin Pilkey and his son, Keith Pilkey, have produced a comprehensive and readable primer on global climate change. The strength of Global Climate Change: A Primer can be broken into three sections – the content, the conflict, and the illustrations.

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Weekly dose of TED – Greg Stone: Saving the ocean one island at a time

Kiribati is perhaps one of the most remote countries in the world. Despite its distance from the sources of environmental degradation, it will probably be the very first country to be destroyed by climate change. Most of the country, a collection of small islands spanning an area almost as large as the United States, lies less than 2 meters above sea level. Imagine having your entire country disappear beneath the waves during you lifetime.

Beyond that, this talk touches on the process of doing science and our responsibilities as scientists towards the nations where we collect our data. Many of us work in the developing world, collecting samples which will then be flow to our labs in the United States or the EU or other developed countries. For the most part, that is the end of our interaction. Do scientists have a responsibility to “give back” to the places they’ve collected their data? What is the extent of that responsibility?