Friday, January 4, 2013

More 2013 Prognostications: A Lot of Negativity

Most people do not understand the power or the process of the third derivative, let alone the second.

Let me explain. In calculus, you have these things called derivatives which take the pulse of mathematical equations. The briefest example is motion.

Something standing still at a position X on an x-axis at time T on the t-axis is said to be, by Newton and probably Leibniz, at rest. Were we to figure out it's velocity, which is the first derivative of it's equation of motion, it would be zero. The first derivative, velocity, is nothing more than the change of position during some duration, often denoted as dx/dt. If we push this something, so that suddenly it is moving, we have accelerated it, and this is the second derivative - the change of velocity over time.

Right then and there we should pause for a moment. An example of acceleration is gravity, which, through the mystery of the Almighty, or random chance, acts uniformly over all things within it's force field. And thus, under airless conditions, a hammer and a feather will fall accelerate at the same rate.

What else accelerates? Well, it turns most every process that involves even the slightest external force - nonlinear external force - will have some acceleration in it. And when the slightest external force provides just the right little touch, you get what is called an inflection point, or a tipping point to you Malcolm Gladwell fans.

Okay, next up, the third derivative. If acceleration is the change of the change, then the third derivative, called "jerk" or "jolt" or "surge" or "lurch" is the change of the change of the change of position.  If you've ever ridden a rollercoaster, or suffered whiplash in a car accident, you understand the third derivative.

The fourth derivative, the change of the change of the change of the change, is called "jounce". The fifth and sixth are called "crackle" and "pop", and the seventh and eighth are called "lock" and "drop". Humorous and whimsical as all these sound, you definitely do not want to experience them, considering a hefty application of even the second derivative can turn you to jelly.

What's the fucking point here?

Well, let's talk about climate change for a second. I can tell you right off that, unlike Joseph interpreting Pharaoh's dreams, I don't have no lean cows eating fat cows to use as a visual to interpret. All I got is pictures of lost ice and spreading desert. Neither is particularly sufficient to justify a trend. And I am a little leery of trend analysis. But, looking at the data, I have to conclude that a second derivative is now in full operation global climate wise, and probably we can expect a third derivative operation before the decade is out.

How bad you ask? Well, depends, and depends upon the slightest of external forces.  But now it appears that the Big Squeeze is underway. People notice, to pick one place, the increasing urbanization of Africa. There is good reason for this, and only partly due to the attraction of big city life.

The Kalahari seems to have decided to move south and east. The Sahara (and Sahel) seems to have decided to move north. Good for Nigeria and the Congo, not so good for Spain, Italy, and Greece, but I can't have sympathies (for now) for a place so distant. I've said before that the US Southwest is screwed, and that's seems to be a given, and that is a moderate concern if only because all of the reverse Okies, the displaced pampered snowbirds and rednecks will soon annoy all the rest of us Yankees and Canucks.

But the Big Squeeze is firmly in place now, what with drought areas heading north, and ice melting up north. Good for people who invest in hoverbarge stock, but not so good for people who think they can just migrate north in the upper latitudes to get away from the lack of water. Once all that ice melts, once that permafrost is water, that's all swamp and mud. No place to live, son, not with all those giant sub-Arctic mosquitoes now carrying malaria.

So, gonna be unpleasant for some people. Me, as an ice ape, being one of them. Especially when that third derivative kicks in. My guess? No land ice in fifty years. No permanent ice caps in fifty years. Sea level rise of forty feet in one decade. All the disaster movie stuff that your vengeful little heart could desire.

I'm probably wrong. I hope I'm wrong. But I got a feeling I just have a hard time shaking. But, to be on the safe side, I'll flip a coin.

Heads. Ah! Nothing to worry about. Everything will be fine. Or at least no worse than the Eemian.


  1. Oh, and speaking of negativity, it turns out you can chill things down below Absolute Zero:

  2. I'm expecting to have ocean front property before it's all over with.