Dec 8, 2009

Our Hyperactive Planet

A few pages before the Harvard-educated MD, Michael Crichton, ends his global-warming-doubting novel State of Fear, one of his characters says the following:
...our planet remains amazingly active. We have five hundred volcanoes, and an eruption every two weeks. Earthquakes are continuous: a million and a half a year, a moderate Richter 5 quake every six hours, a big earthquake every ten days. Tsunamis race across the Pacific Ocean every three months.

Our atmosphere is as violent as the land beneath it. At any moment there are one thousand five hundred electrical storms across the planet. Eleven lighting bolts strike the ground each second. A tornado tears across the surface every six hours. And every four days, a giant cyclonic storm, hundreds of miles in diameter, spins over the ocean and wreaks havoc on the land.

The nasty little apes that call themselves human beings can do nothing except run and hide. For these same apes to imagine they can stabilize this atmosphere is arrogant beyond belief.
Earlier, the character has explained that Earth is "five billion years old" and has been "changing constantly all during that time." The current atmosphere, he says, is actually the third distinct one the planet has produced.

Yes, this is a work of fiction. But it also contains a 20-page annotated bibliography, as well as a 5-page "Author's Message" followed by 6-page essay titled "Why Politicized Science Is Dangerous."

This essay reminds us that eugenics (which embraced the idea that "inferior" humans should be sterilized to protect the gene pool) was once supported by the US National Academy of Sciences, the American Medical Association, and the National Research Council.