Saturday, January 28, 2017

What are the Root Causes for Global Warming?

The 2015 November issue of National Geographic is The Climate Issue.

This issue focused on the dire consequences of global warming if the human being as a whole let things go on as they are now. It declares that the main cause of global warming is the emission of CO2 from fossil fuel. So the primary effort is to reduce and eliminate usage of fossil fuel."

NASA and many climate focused organizations have similar explanations. I joined the chorus in 2009, stating "So despite carbon dioxide being a second order factor in climate change, it will perturb the natural path of climate change significantly in 100 to 1000 years, negligible in astronomical time, but tremendous for human time. We need to reduce CO2 emission to minimize the global warming and thus prevent catastrophic climate to human."

I thought about global warming more since reading 2015 National Geographic issue on global warming. I concluded that CO2 emission is the phenomenon that cause global warming, not the human factor root cause.

What are the root causes?

First let us look back at earth's natural history.

Life began on earth about 3.8 billion years ago (BBC Nature).  Since life started on earth, earth temperature has had big swing - e.g. the come and go of ice age long before human existed, the earth was very hot during the era of dinosaur ( 230 Millions years to 65 Million years ago)- long before there was any human, note that our species Homo Sapience started to evolve 0.2 Million years ago.

So there are natural causes for global cooling and warming, as confirmed and accepted by scientific communities.

Let us look at human factors.

Fossil fuels are the cause for CO2 emission and planet green house effect. Keep it in the ground  has become a new rallying cry for environmentalists for keep the earth from warming up. What keep the exploration and extraction of oil/coal going? What is the cause of ever increasing use of these CO2 producing energy?

The human factor  root cause of global warming is over consumption! Burning oil/gas or coal is a consequence of material consumption and over consumption.

One third of  green house emission comes from agriculture (Nature).

Waste of food is a big problem - Americans alone threw away 35 Million tons of food a year. In addition there is huge amount of food consumed but wasted any way - because people eat more than they physically need! They become obese, they then consume more medicine, they need surgery, they need exercise equipment .... to try lose weight. This needs a lot of energy and natural resources.

Waste from electronics and other durable goods also contributed the unnecessary needs of energy.

Cell phones, computers .... they are thrown away or placed in attic when they are still perfectly functional after several years. Even if one wants to continue to use "old" cell phones and computers they might not be able to because they were "obsolete". Watches - easily have 10 to 20 year life - people through it away in a couple years .....

Waste in human resource is yet another huge source of unnecessary needs of energy. We develop robots to let them do things human can not do, or too dangerous to do. Now we build robots to do things human can do - a tremendous waste of human resources. The same can be said about artificial intelligence, which will lead to the waste of human minds, and potentially mental retardation of human species. The goal of human's work is to make life easier and better. Autonomous machines artificial intelligence among others do things human does, lead to the questions of existential needs and survival of our species !!

Global warming has two root causes - the cycle of our planet's motion and human materials over consumption way beyond basic needs.

Wait a second, is human over consumption a real root cause for global warming and depletion of natural resources? Is it our idea of what constitute a good living the root cause? The society's collective definition of what good life is, leads to insatiable desire for growth in every aspect of the society - the growth is based on what we want, not what we need.

Saturday, January 21, 2017

Listen up - Expand the Realm of Your Learning Through Podcasts - by Lily

I have been tuning in to my favorite programs, such as TED talk and Intelligence Squared for a while. It’s about time to explore other interesting podcasts. With choices abundantly available on many different topics, it’s not hard to identify quite a few fun and interesting ones. My criteria are simple, interesting topics, scientifically supported or evidence based, and of course great story telling and entertaining. Below are a few of my picks ranging from science, to economics, to entrepreneurship.

1. Hidden Brain:

I first heard about Shankar Vedantam’s voice on NPR. As NPR’s science correspondence his reporting focuses on human behavior, he reports neuroscience and psychology experiments to explain certain human behaviors and social issues. Hidden brain expands that 2-3 minutes of reporting into a 20-30 minutes of podcast with more interviews, story telling, and in-depth discussion. Some of the conclusions are seeming common sense but it’s comforting to know there’s science behind it. Others are mind boggling and requires thinking from a different perspective. My favorite episodes include interviewing with historian Allan Lichtman after the presidential election to understand “what happened”, “Thanksgiving” – how to live a happier life, and “Getting unstuck” in career path and in life.

2. Freakonomics Radio:

Steve Dubner can talk, and he is absolutely hilarious! You may have read the book Freakonomics, co-written by him and Steven Levitt, an economist from University of Chicago, which explores the hidden side of everything from an economist point of view. It was a hilarious book with a lot of surprising analyses and reasoning for human behaviors and social phenomena. His podcasts are filled with surprise findings and funny stories. I listened to the bad medicine series during our recent road trip and learned a lot about the history of medicine and the changes underway in the field (for the better!). Common sense is seemingly very useful in our daily life, but how is common sense established? It’s definitely refreshing to explore the assumptions people take to come to the common senses. It’s more interesting to tear apart the usual assumptions and look at things from fresh and hidden angles, that’s when new findings can be discovered.


3. How I Built This:

Guy Raz interviews innovators and entrepreneurs and tells stories on their journey to success. I’ve listened quite a few episodes, from the serial entrepreneur and investor Mark Cuban, Airbnb’s Joe Gebbia, Angie’s list’s Angie Hicks, to Dermalogica’s founder Jane Wurwand and celebrity chef José Andrés. The common lesson I learned is to take actions on what you can do, keep exploring your options, and always work hard. If you are taking actions and working hard, opportunities (luck) will arrive. Only if you persevere can you overcome the many hurdles on your road to success and eventually come out ahead!

Saturday, January 14, 2017

Running Together

Lily started long distance running over a year ago. As time goes on she becomes more and more passionate about it and has encouraged me to run as well. My regular exercise was jogging. I knew that I needed to run a bit to increase my exercise intensity to cardio exercise level. But I could only be consistent with jogging, not even half walk half run.

After our first running together, I finally made up my mind to run with Lily twice a week, one at mid-week, one on weekend. My initial goal was to run 3 miles in 30 minutes, or 6 mph.

The first time we ran 3 miles - it took me 40 minutes to complete it. Lily was way faster than me, to encourage me and be my company without reducing her intensity too  much, she ran slowly with me for some time, and then ran at her regular speed for some time. When she ran fast, she would run ahead for some distance and return  to meet me and then we ran together for some time. I loved it!

My improvement was really significant after 4 weeks of regular exercise, my speed improved to 30 minutes 20 seconds for 3.13 miles. There were a few reasons for this fast improvement - I've been in good shape, and that Lily led the way. She would encourage me if I could not keep up my pace, she would run just a little bit faster if I could stay close to her. Equally important was that she coached me to be a better runner - increase cadence instead of stride, keep heart beat below critical value. We also integrated the cool down period into our routine, run 5K+, and walk 1K or so.

As Thanksgiving was approaching, we were thinking about joining the Turkey Trot 5K run. So I adjusted my goal to 5K run in 30 minutes. My first timed 5K run was 30 minutes 21 second. Unfortunately I had to go to Saudi Arabia on Thanksgiving weekend for business, so there was no Turkey Trot for us last year. The regular running exercise paid off. On new year's day, I achieved my best record for 5K at 29 minutes 5 seconds!

Running together also benefited Lily per my perseverance. It was freezing cold at the end of 1st week of the new year. She was hesitant to run on Sunday morning. I prepared for the cold weather, I had gloves, long running pants, heavy long sleeve sweater and knitted cap ready for the run in a very cold morning. She pulled herself out of the bed just to be my company. Due to the cold  weather and her encouragement, I ran really well that morning - best 1 km time, best 1 mile time and best 5K time (28 minutes 18 seconds). Now I can run 5K within 30 minutes consistently.  Last week I ran 6K in 35'32", the same pace as 5K.

In the past 3 months, we adapted to weather, work schedule or body condition, and kept running twice a week every week except my business trip and our ski trip.  In addition to improvement on run speed and time, the accumulative efforts also showed on my body's physiological conditions. On average my cadence improved from 155 to 172, maximum heart beat reduced from 184 to 174 even when I run faster!

We don't talk much during our runs, but the body language and tacit agreement make us understand each other without words. Running together makes our shared life richer!!

Saturday, January 7, 2017

On the Black Trails at Wolf Creek

My niece's visit this winter break changed our ski trip plan from Spring Break to Winter Break. We chose Wolf Creek for schedule convenience,  ease access and relatively rounded mountains, instead of mountains in Denver area.

with our niece on the top of  the mountain
Our timing was fortunately very good, we were half day behind a winter storm going to the ski area, and half day ahead another winter storm when leaving. Th mountains had great condition for skiing during our visit there.

Blue sky, puffy snow, and bright Sun shine made everything looked beautiful.

The steep but wide trails at Winter Park and Keystone really sharpened our skills and built our confidence during the last two skiing trips. Justin and Nicholas quickly went to black trails after a few initial runs at Wolf Creek. I tried black trails on my own for a few times, Upper Gun Barrel is one the most difficult black trails at the front side of the ski resort, I skied on it with a bit trepidation, heart beating real fast, and a bit scared,  but completed the trail without breaking arms or legs 😊. I also went to the backside of the ski areas with the boys, and tried a couple really difficult black trails without falling frequently, but much slower than them.

Another intimidating black trail is the Alberta face, steep, long but wide trail with moguls. I zigzagged in fat S to get through it. Justin went there with me, he was at the bottom of the Alberta face a couple minutes ahead of me!!
On Alberta face

Overcome the last mogul on Alberta face

The morning of third day, Lily and I skied together, we tried a few more difficult blue trails on the front side and then went to the back side, hoping to stay on blue trail but experience the solitude and quietness there. We made a wrong turn and got into woods with segments of near 80 degree slopes! double black?? I stood on the slope with skis perpendicular to the trail and "slide" down slowly until there was a path forward, and repeated the process. Lily unfortunately fell multiple times. Due to the deep puffy snow, it was really difficult to get up,   She would rest on the slope and took picture of me before trying to getup. She got up on her feet after each fall without helps. It was not fun, but good test of resolve and toughness. We went back to blue trail and enjoy the real downhill speed !! 

It was intimidating but also thrilling to ski on black trails. 

lost in the back country

reaching the bottom of a very steep slope
Lily fell multiple times on the steep and puffy slopes

she stood up on her own after each fall!