Limits to Growth Donella Meadows, Jorgen Randers, Dennis Meadows
The Prehistory of the Mind Steven Mithen
After The Ice Steven Mithen
In Search of Memory Eric R. Kandel
The Weather Makers Tim Flannery
Limits to Growth, The 30 Year Update Donella Meadows, Jorgen Randers, Dennis Meadows
Preface In 1972 the first
version, Limits to Growth, appeared. It was the first application
of Systems Technology to the world situation. It caused quite a
stir. In 1992, Beyond the Limits, appeared. It suggests
that humans had already overshot the limits of earth’s ability to
support humanity. The current version is an effort to fulfill a
final request of Donella Meadows, to provide an update to the source
data and their model, and to reiterate their original message, and to
announce their plans for a follow-up book in 2012.
C1 Overshoot verb
transitive, to go too far, to go beyond limits accidently--without
intention. Within the context of this book it refers to exceeding
the limits of earths carrying capacity. Causes of overshoot:
1-growth, acceleration, rapid change, 2-some sort of barrier beyond
which the system may may not safely go, 3-delay in the feedback
Ecological Footprint: Relationship between
humanity’s demands on the planet and the globe’s capacity
to provide. (Mathis Wackernagel, 1997)
Worldview: An internally consistent set of beliefs,
attitudes, and values - a paradigm, a fundamental way of looking at
reality. For over 200 years the primary western worldview has
been one of unrelenting growth.
C2 The Driving Force: Exponential Growth
The first cause of overshoot is exponential growth. A discussion
of the mathematics, a number of examples of exponential growth taken
from foods, population, yeast cells, and industrial growth. An
introduction to the construction of the World3 model.
C3 The Limits Sources
and Sinks - Discussion of sources and sinks. Three rules to help
define sustainable limits to material and energy throughput, from
Herman Daly: 1- for renewal resources the rate of use can be no greater
than the rate of regeneration of its source. 2 - For a
nonrenewable resource the rate of use can be no greater than the rate
at which a renewable resource can sustainably be substituted for
it. 3 - For a pollutant the rate of use can be no greater than
the rate at which that pollutant can be recycled, absorbed, or rendered
Description of renewable resources (food, land, soil, water, forests,
species and ecosystem services), nonrenewable resources such as fossil
fuels, pollution and waste sinks. In many cases we have already
gone beyond the limits, we are already living on capital, not
income. Environmental deteoraition is sometimes quantified by
IPAT, Impact = Population x Affluence x Technology.
C4 World3 The
Dynamics of Growth - the structure of the model. The authors
describe the underlying basis of dynamic models and the structure of
the World3 model. They discuss the variables used in the model
and how they used in the analysis of the models. Overshoot can either
leade to oscillation or to collapse. Oscillation will result if
environment is not too seriously damaged and can recover rapidly.
An example would be overcutting of a forest. Collapse will result
when the environment is seriously damaged and cannot recover
quickly. An example is severe soil erosion or salt poisoning.
Model Scenario 1 Society
proceedes in a traditional manner with no major changes. Action
is taken only as a reaction to events. Growth continues until
2020 when population begins to crash. Capital investment no
longer keeps up with depreciation and obsolensence. Industrial
output, food, life expectancy, services, and human welfare index begin
Model Scenario 2 Same
policies as in #1, twice as many nonrenewable resources.
Expansion continues for 20 years, the collapse occurs primarily because
of pollution. All other measures continue to rise for longer than
in #1 but crash further and faster.
Symptoms of overshoot: falling resource stocks, rising pollution
levels, capital, resources, and labor diverted to to substitute for
services formerly provided by nature, resources diverted to
exploitation of scarce resources, technologies invented to use lower
quality resources, natural pollution cleanup mechanisms begin to fail,
rising levels of deferred maintenance, growing demands for resources to
be used for military and industry, investment in human resources
postponed to pay for security, etc., debt increasing, decreasing health
and environmental goals, increasing conflicts, shifting consumption -
from what people want to what they need, decreasing respect for
government, increasing chaos in natural systems because of less
resilience in the environmental system. The authors present a
list points on which their models could be attacked and ways in which
the system must be changed to prevent overshoot and collapse.
C5 The Ozone Story
Chlorfluorocarbons are very useful and they were thought to be very
beneficial and benign. Then it was discovered that CFC’s
destroyed ozone in the stratosphere. After a number of years the
political system finally worked and the CFC’s are largely removed
from use. It will still take a number of years to solve the
C6 Technology, Markets, and Overshoot
Many people cannot accept the fact that there can be limits to growth,
this is a very strong semi-religious belief. The authors describe
some of the mechanisms by which the current system solves its problems.
Model Scenario 3 Same
resource base as in #2, increasingly effective pollution control which
increases by 4% per year. Results show most positive measures
maintain their improvements for at least another 20 years until at
least 2040. Resources and food continue to decline.
Industrial output, population and other measures drop rapidly following
2050 with major crashes in the years before 2100. It could be
labeled a “food crisis”.
Model Scenario 4 Add to
the above more accessable nonrenewable resources, pollution control
technology, and land yield enhancement. Almost all measures
continue to rise until 2040-2070 at which point a total collapse occurs.
Model Scenario 5 Add to
the above more accessible nonrenewable resources, pollution control
technology, land yield enhancement, and land erosion protection.
The result is a slight postponement of the collapse until closer to
Model Scenario 6
Add to the above more accessible nonrenewable resources, pollution
control technology, land yield enhancement, land erosion protection,
and resource efficiency technology. The results match the slight
postponments in #5 but the collapse does not occur. There are
some negative reductions around 2050 but the remedial efforts have been
sufficient to prevent the collapse and reverse some of the negative
At this point they step back and look at their models. The models
look at the whold world and do not reflect any internal
differences. Rich and poor areas are lumped together, there is no
military aspect, no volcanos, hurricanes, or earthquakes. The
models are not designed to predict any specific events. With
these restrictions, why bother? Some things can be learned even
from restricted models. If we find a way to eliminate or raise
one limit, another will show up fairly soon. There are layers of
limits. A second lesson is that if we can avoid a particular
limit using economic or technical adaptations, the next set of limits
will arise in groups of two or more. What we are really loosing
is our ability to cope. They believe that time is the most
important limit. Humanity seems to posssess almost unlimited
problem-solving abilities. Unfortunately exponential growth
expands so rapidly in its final stages that it overwhelms our solutions
because there isn’t enough time to cope.
Goals, costs, and delays: If our implicit goals are to maximize
short term benefits and ignore the long term then we never develop
sustainable usage. Costs of resources, energy, labor, etc tend to
rise exponentially as limits are neared. Delays which reduce our
knowledge of impending limits and in tooling up to address these limits
decrease our ability to cope with the problems we have created.
They finish the chapter by citing examples from the energy (oil)
industry and ocean fishing.
C7 Transitions to a Sustainable System
Many of our solutions to problems are very effective for a while,
taller smokestacks, more fertilizers, subsidize failing industries, but
they hide the underlying reality and just postpone the real
problem. What we need to do is to change the structure. Not
in the political-revolutionary sense of throwing people out of office,
etc., but in the system sense of changing the feedback loops and
information structure of the society. The previous models did not
change the underlying structure, they simply changed the numeric
values. The following model change elements of the structure of
the original model.
Model Scenario 7 Using #1,
after 2002 couples restrict their family size to 2 children and they
have access to effective birth control technologies. The results
are that population, industrial output, food, consumer goods, life
expectancy, and human welfare index continue to rise for longer but
rising polltion and lack of resources cause a decrease, much as in #2.
Model Scenario 8 Same
family size as in #7 and set a limit of industrial production about 10%
higher than the current levels in 2000. It also increases the
reliability of equipment (depreciation) so that equipment lasts
longer. The results are a lengthing of the time before collapse
for more than 30 years before food production losses and pollution
cause a downturn - but not a collapse.
Model Scenario 9 Same as
#8 but adds pollution, resource, and agricultural technologies starting
in 2002. The results are that this model shows a sustainable
future. A population of 8 billion people can live comfortably and
the ecological footprint of humans decreases. There are short
term fluctuations but humans and the environment are in equilibrium.
Model Scenario 10 Same as
#9 but begins the policies in 1982 instead of 2002. The results
show similar results to #9 but they occur earlier, the population is
lower, less pollution, more nonrenewable resources, and slightly higher
welfare. We could have done it - but we didn’t and it will
now cost more.
They discuss several models that they did not report on. If we
wait too long or if we set our consumption goals too high we cannot
achieve sustainability. What are some of the steps that can be
taken to achieve a sustainable society?
1. Extend the planning horizon from 1 election cycle to decades.
2. Improve the signals, add social and environmental measures and improve economic indicators.
3. Speed up response times, educate for flexibility and creativity.
4. Minimize the use of nonrenewable resources.
5. Prevent the erosion of renewable resources.
6. Use all resources with maximum efficiency.
7. Slow and eventually stop exponential growth of population and physical capital.
8. Eliminate poverty, guarantee that all have sufficient resources.
9. Eliminate unemployment, all need to work and not be abandoned.
10. You can’t solve all problems with consumption, people have nonmaterial needs.
C8 Tools for the Transition to Sustainability
How will we get there? Humanities first great revolution was the
introduction of agriculture about 10,000 years ago. About 1750
the Industrial Revolution began. Both had many benefits and
problems. They both increased the carrying capacity of the earth.
Our next revolution must be sustainability. What are some of the
tools for this transition:
Visioning - imagine generally and then with increasing specificity what
you really want. Be wide ranging but be realistic, you need to be
disciplined by skepticism. Vision is not enough, vision without
action is useless. We need an agreed upon vision to move
forward. They give a number of examples.
Networking - we need to interact with each other, face to face,
electronically, in groups, over the Web, etc. We need
information, how to solve problems, what problems others have, etc.
Truth-Telling - we need intelligent reports and intelligent critics to
watch out for distortions and lies. They present a list of
distortions and counters to these distortions.
Learning - We need to continue learning throughout our life and not
discover a single TRUTH and hold onto it without question. We
must be able to make mistakes and learn from them. We must allow
our leaders to do the same.
Loving - We must become comfortable in speaking of love and in more
than the most trivial and trivial sense of the word. As Abraham
Maslow asked, “How good a society does human nature
permit?”, “How good a human nature does society
permit?” We must learn to be able to speak of our fellow
men in terms other than of strictly economic terms.
Mental Models - what are our options for the future, there are several
mental models to choose from. One mental model holds that the world for
all practical purposes has no limits, call it blind optimism.
That model encourages us to continue as we have, it leads to
collapse. Another mental model says that the limits are real and
close and that there is not enough time and people cannot change.
Call it blind pessimism. That model is self-fulfilling and if we
choose it, it will be proven right - it leads to collapse. A
third mental model says that the limits are real and close but we can,
if we work hard, create a sustainable human population on earth.
Call it hopeful realism. If it is true we may be able to prevent
collapse and have a sustainable future.
Extensions There are
appendices, endnotes, lists of tables and figures, and an index.
All the little details that one would expect in an intellectually
Return to Top
The Prehistory of the Mind Steven Mithen
C1 An overview of the book
Mithen makes one statement with which I disagree. He states,
“…the mind sprang into existence fully formed … it
is a product of divine creation. They are wrong
…”. It is not that they are wrong, it is that such
ideas are not useful in understanding the mind. A useful theory
will explain many of the known facts and will suggest further questions
and specific hypothesizing. It is clear that there is no simple
linear relationship between brain size, intelligence, and behavior.
C2 He breaks his discussion into 4 acts and several; scenes, like a Shakespearean drama.
Act 1 6 – 4.5mya long, little action we watch in virtual darkness
Act 2 4.5 – 1.8mya 2 scenes, lit with a flickering candle
Scene 1-Australopithecus ramidus and A. aramersis, then Lucy, Afarensis
Scene 2-2.5mya, A. africanus, 2 mya Homo habilis with few tools.
Act 3 1.8mya – 100kya very little action, poor lighting
Scene 1-H. erectus, Ice ages start, more tools (hand axes), H. heidelbergensis
Scene 2-200kya, more sophisticated tools, H. neanderthalensis
Act 4 100kya – present day Real action, H. sapiens
Scene 1 100kya – 60kya H. sapiens sapiens (us) same tools, bury dead
Scene 2 60 – 10kya – boat building,
blade tools, bone and ivory tools, painting, needles, cave art, weather
Scene 3 10kya – present agriculture, cities, writing, global warming
C3 Mithen discusses numerous theories of mental development.
C4 He proposes a model of mental development
Phase 1 a single ‘nave’ of generalized intelligence.
Phase 2 the phase 1 nave plus 4 isolated
‘chapels’ of specific intelligence with limited
intraconnections. These ‘chapels’ are technical,
linguistic, social and natural history intelligences.
Phase 3 the intraconnections between the 4
‘chapels’ of specific intelligence become permeable.
C5 Compare intelligences with the (man-chimp) missing link – using present day chimps as a surrogate.
Technical IQ = tool making/using. Chimps make & use tools,
their techniques are very elementary. They only manipulate and
transform natural objects in minor ways.
Natural History IQ – chimps have good spatial memory for food,
however they don’t seem to use cues to find food, say tracks or
Social IQ – Chimps seem to have rather advanced social IQ’s.
Linguistic IQ – There is a small amount of evidence for elementary linguistic IQ.
There seems to be very little communication between the types of IQ in
Chimps. Chimps seem to have fairly good general IQ, better than
other primates excluding man.
C6 Homo habilis 4.5 – 1.8mya Very little evidence prior to 2 mya.
Technical – Use of tools to make tools, knowledge of the structure of rocks
Natural History – More meat eating, ability to predict animal locations.
Social – Estimated group size is increasing
Language – Size of the brain areas involved in language seems to be expanding.
General – May be increasing but no evidence for increased internal communication.
C7 H. erectus 1.8 mya
– 100kya, H. heidelbergensis c. 500kya & H. neanderthalis c.
150kya – try to characterize a “generic” human of
Technical – Much higher level of skill in tool
manufacture but they had little creativity in materials, methods,
component count, and variability.
Natural History – After 1.8mya Homo was able
to move from Africa to SE Asia then to W Asia by 1mya and Europe by
800kya – 500kya. He was gaining the ability to live in many
new environments. He was still incapable of living in very dry or
very cold environments. Homo lived in a very challenging
environment. Very sophisticated tools were made but they were of
only a few generalized types, “one size fits all”.
Tools were seemingly only made of stone and they were very consistent
across many 100k years and all areas. Much more so than
contemporary apes and monkeys. They also seemed only to exploit
big game, there is no evidence of small animal usage. Modern
hunting groups like the Inuit have much more complex and specialized
Mithen hypothesizes that both H. erectus (1.6mya)
and Neanderthal had roughly equal abilities in social, technical, and
Natural History IQ but that language was associated with social
IQ. Erectus had much less language IQ than neanderthal.
C8 How does a neanderthal think? Perhaps like a mature adult undergoing a petit mal seizure.
C9 100kya – 40kya
– early H. sapiens – H. sapiens sapiens. Middle /
Upper Paleolithic transition. The hints of anthropomorphic
behavior, merging of natural history IQ and social IQ. The
ability to “think like an animal”. Hunting drives and
specializing in group slaughter of many members of a single species
instead of killing individual animals as they are found. New
tools, integration of natural history IQ and technical IQ. The
rise of art and religion. Perhaps by 100kya early humans had
merged language, social, & natural history IQ leaving out only
technical. Tools seemed to be the same as neanderthal.
Advanced tools, art, body ornaments, etc. seem to have fitfully arisen
between 100kya and 30kya. Genetic evidence suggests that modern
H. sap sap arose from an isolated population of 50 individuals isolated
for 70 years or 500 individuals isolated for 500 years.
C10 Language was evolved as
a subset of social IQ and it may have begun as much as 250kya.
Probably very early ‘snippets’ of language about natural
history & technology would have entered language (and many probably
lost) in increasing amounts until around 100kya. Mithen thinks
that between 150kya and 50kya social language evolved into general
purpose language. Part of this process was by
anthropomorthism. As language involves the natural history &
technology sphere, all areas of human activity became available for
conscious thought. Full consciousness occurred for the first
time. Another part of this process was the additional length of
time spent by females nursing and raising children. The brain of
a chimp grows only about 25% more after birth, the brain of a modern
human grows more than 4 times its birth size. Neanderhal had a
brain slightly larger than a modern human. A neanderthal brain of
a 3-4 year old was almost adult size and a 2 year old neanderthal skull
had a brain size of a 6 year old modern human. This extended
childhood leaves a much greater time for cognitive development before
C11 Approximately 65mya a
group of archaic primates arose. Some of the members were
Purgatorius and Plesiadapis, mouse to squirrel sized fruit and leaf
eaters. Mentally they seem to be similar to modern cats and rats
who can learn to solve simple problems but cannot generalize to make
the solving of similar problems easier in the future. They had a
good learning ability but no way of linking expertise in separate
areas. The first modern primates evolved 56mya, Notharctus is an
example. They show the first evidence of primate brain
enlargement. Rodents proliferated about 50mya and outcompeted the
earlier forms. Our ancestors had only one advantage, a bigger
A more powerful general IQ and the evolution of a social IQ were the
“edge” they needed to compete with rodents. The
fossil record now switches from the US to Africa with Aegyptopithecus
at 35mya and then Proconsul at 23-15mya. General and social IQ
continue to enlarge. By around 6mya general and especially social
IQ had probably “maxed out”. At 3.5mya the climate in
E Africa began to dry out, bipedalism became more important as forests
turned into more open savanna. Technical & natural history IQ
became essential to cope with changing conditions. Afarensis
(Lucy) is an example. Hunting and scavenging were becoming
essential to support a high energy consuming brain.
By 1.8-1.4mya H. erectus is showing clear evidence of technical &
natural history IQ with sophisticated handaxes and usage of new
environments. Brain size remained relatively constant between
1.8mya and 500kya. During this time the vocal apparatus reached
almost modern capabilities. Between 500kya and 200kya brain size
increased dramatically to modern size. Full language ability
arose, probably by 150kya with the neanderthal. He probably had
the full capability for technical & natural history IQ.
With modern humans, 100kya to present, the main improvement would seem
to be the communications between and integration of these abilities.
Three critical attributes of science:
1 – make and test hypotheses – chimps and early humans do this
2 – make and use tools – neanderthal excelled at this
3 – use of analogy and metaphor – became very important with the integration of specialized intellegences.
Epilogue For modern humans
it “all came together” about 10kya at the end of the last
Ice Age. It was a period of rapid and repeated climate changes
and cultures throughout the world invented farming and animal
husbandry. The knowledge of the edible plants and compliant
animals had existed for at least 20k years. Why did it take so
long? Comment: With a settled and farming life style, health
went down, this must have been observed by those living at the time.
1-Around 10kya human populations got so high that more dependable food
sources needed to be developed. –NO!- There were many
known methods of controlling population size. Mobility alone
reduces reproductive potential.
2-Climate change – as much as 7 degrees C (13 degrees F) in a few
decades. Modern humans were mentally prepared to make this change.
Four aspects of the mental changes which prepared humans for these changes.
1-Ability to make tools which could be used for harvesting &
processing plants. This involves the integration of technical
& natural history IQ.
2-Ability to use animals and plants as a medium of acquiring social
prestige and power. Integration of social & natural history
IQ. This is basic Darwinism, individuals who control food
production gain in prestige & power, same as sexual display
selection, eg. peacock tails.
3-Ability to develop “social relationships” with plants & animals. Again social & natural history IQ.
4-Ability to manipulate plants and animals, integration of technical and natural history IQ.
These abilities were maturing at least 40kya but it wasn’t until
after the last Ice Age that they were fully available and in an
environmental crisis that it all came together and agriculture,
organized religion, organized art, and science were the end result.
Return to Top
After The Ice A Global Human History, 20,000 to 5,000 BC Steven Mithen
Mithen tells the history of humans on earth between the dates of the
Last Glacial Maximum, the furthest southern expansion of the glaciers
of the most recent Ice Age - roughthly 20,000 BC until 5,000 BC.
This is approximately when serious agriculture changed human culture
enough to have a major force, when writing is just starting, and when
the first cities were being built. Mithen does this by inventing
a young man of our time who has the miraculous ability to travel
through time and space and participate in the cultures he visits but
not effect them. He is named John Lubbock, after the Victorian,
John Lubbock, a contemporary, friend, and neighbor of Charles Darwin,
who published in 1865 a book entitled Prehistoric Times.
Mithen sends the contemporary John Lubbock through 6 continents of the
world and 52 different areas, many having several dates. At each
site, the contemporary John Lubbock observes, and sometimes works with,
the existing people. He discusses (internally) the relevant
archaeological excavations of the site, and reads from the Victorian
John Lubbock’s book. I found the book quite informative and
fun to read. It is based on solid archeological data and attempts
to flesh it out with educated guesses and extrapolations from
reasonably contemporary and historical cultures inhabiting similar
environments with similar tools.
Mithen had problems with the actions of the contemporary John Lubbock
character in terms of his believability. How can one sleep on
beds, practice tool knapping, and help carry food back from a kill or
collection site and not be noticed? It think it could have been
handled better using a current science fiction theme. Perhaps
hypothesizing the invention of a “viewer” that could travel
in past time and space under the control of an operator. The
viewing”port” would be very small and would have to be
viewed from within a dark room. It would need no sound
capabilities - we couldn’t understand the languages without a
great deal of study - although yells of alarm and the tone of voice
would be useful. I still enjoyed the book immensely.
Return to Top
In Search of Memory The Emergence of a New Science of Mind Eric R. Kandel
C1 Personal Memory and the Biology of Memory Storage
One of Kandel's most vivid memories is of receiving a shiny,
remote-controlled blue car on his 9th birthday. Then two days
later Nazi policemen came into their apartment and forced them to move
to the apartment of an older couple for several days. Then after
several more days his father returned from jail where he had been kept
with other Jewish men. Then a year later his family was allowed
to emigrate to the US so they did not go to the death camps. This
was a defining event in his life, how was this memory come to be stored
in his brain? This was to become his life's work.
C2 A Childhood in Vienna
In 1930, when Kandel was born, Vienna was one of the most
important cultural centers of the world. He grew up just a few
blocks from where Freud lived. The chapter describes his life
before the Germans came and then his life until he was able to leave
C3 An American Education Kandel attended a Jewish
grade school, a public high school, and then Harvard. He met a
Radcliffe student, Anna Kris whose parents were prominent
psychoanalysts and colleagues of Freud. He decided to go to
medical school and then become a psychoanalyst. While in medical
school his romance with Anna cooled and he met another young woman,
Denise, who as a young Jewish girl had spent the war hiding in a
Catholic convent in France. They were married shortly after he graduated
from medical school. The chapter includes a brief description of
the anatomy of the nervous system and the psychological knowledge of
C4 One Cell at a Time
Shortly before receiving his MD, Kandel spent a 6-month elective
with Harry Grundfest at Columbia. Kandel wanted to localize the
Id, Ego, and Superego in the brain. Grundfest quietly suggested
that current brain research was not that advanced and that Kandel
should look at the brain one cell at a time. He spends the rest
of the chapter discussing nerve cell anatomy, physiology, and signaling.
C5 The Nerve Cell Speaks The discovery of how nerve
cells work. At rest nerve cells are about 70 mv positive from
inside to outside. When they fire, Na+ ions travel in, the result
is 40 mv-. Then K+ ions travel out to restore the original.
C6 Conversations Between Nerve Cells
Ever since the first nerve cell research there had been a
controversy between those who felt that the nerve cell communications
were electrical or chemical in nature. It was then discovered
that acetylcholine carried signals from nerves to muscle cells.
In the brain the transmitter seems to be glutamate. It was
later discovered that in some cases there is an electrical transmission
between nerve cells. There are small synaptic vesicles in nerve
cells that contain approximately 5,000 molecules of acetylcholine.
These travel to the surface of a nerve cell, break, and release
the neurotransmitter to stimulate the muscle cell.
C7 Simple and Complex Neuronal Systems Descriptions
of who he met and what he did in the last few months of med school and
the last 6 weeks of his internship. He only devoted 1 sentence to
C8 Different Memories, Different Brain Regions
Following his year as an intern he took a research position at
NIMH. Most of the chapter is devoted to describing the efforts to
localize brain function.
C9 Searching for an Ideal System to Study Memory At
the NIMH, Kandel began working with the cat hippocampus which was known
to be involved in storing memories. He and a colleague were able
to do some significant work but it became clear that the cat was to
complex to learn the details that he was looking for. After
considerable study he settled on the marine worm Aplysia. Aplysia
has only about 20,000 nerve cells, most in 9 separate clusters
(ganglia) and many of them are very large and easily recognizable.
C10 Neural Analogs of Learning
He starts with a visit to Vienna and attitudes towards it.
Next a brief discussion of his 2-year residency at Harvard
Medical School. He was not impressed. He finishes by describing his proposal for
post-doc in Paris. He wanted to isolate the specific nerves and
see if he could replicate the classical condition paradigm of
sensitization, habituation, and stimulus-response pairing with only
C11 Strengthening Synaptic Connections Kandel
describes his work in Paris where he was able to demonstrate all three
types of implicit learning (Habituation, Sensitization, and Classical
Conditioning) using nerve cells removed from Aplysia.
He also discusses family matters, the rigid hierarchical nature
of French society and academia and the prevalent anti-Semitism of many
C12 A Center for Neurobiology and Behavior
When he returned from Paris he was an instructor at the
Massachusetts Mental Health Center (Harvard). After 2 years of
supervising psychotherapy residents (he called it the blind leading the
blind) he moved to New York University Medical School leading a group
in the Dept. of Physiology focused on the neurobiology of behavior.
He discusses many of his colleagues.
C13 Even a Simple Behavior can be Modified by Learning
At NYU he recruited a team, determined a behavior to investigate,
the gill-withdrawal reflex, demonstrated that it can be modified with
classical conditioning, and was able to map out the electrical circuits
of the controlling neural architecture.
C14 Synapses Change with Experience Kandel begins to look for the chemical and physical means by which this circuitry operates.
C15 The Biological Basis of Individuality
Kandel discovers that habituation reduces the number of
connections between sensory and motor neurons and that sensitization
increases the number of connections. The anatomy of nerve cells
changes. This was later confirmed in tests on brain areas used in
the control of monkey fingers.
C16 Molecules and Short-Term Memory
It was determined that the neural circuit that directly controls
the gill-withdrawal reflex is genetic and the neurotransmitter is
glutamate. There are additional circuits that are formed with
learning that regulate the main reflex and their transmitter is
serotonin. He goes on to discuss the biochemistry involved in
short-term memory, serotonin, Cyclic AMP, and the catalytic subunit of
protein kinase A.
C17 Long-Term Memory A brief review of DNA research and molecular biology.
C18 Memory Genes He moved from NYU to Columbia University. Major advances were made in the ability to raise Aplysia
and they were soon able to grow individual nerve cells in the lab which
made research in long term memory easier. Kandel discovered that
long term memory requires the synthesis of new protein. Memory is
also strengthened by the growth of new axon terminals.
C19 A Dialogue Between Genes and Synapses A
single dose of serotonin will strengthen the synapse, multiple (5)
doses will cause a series of biochem steps to occur which turns on a
facilitator gene which enables growth of new synapses. The first
research was done using only serotonin releasing interneurons but it
was soon discovered that injected serotonin would suffice. It was
then discovered that only those synapses stimulated would grow
additional synapses, other synapses on the same nerve cell were not
effected at all.
C20 A Return to Complex Memory A brief discussion of complex memories and hippocampus research.
C21 Synapses also hold our Fondest Memories
Discussion of how Kandel moved into research with genetically
altered mice. Even though the data is not quite so clear, they
found that the same processes involved in Aplysia nerve function are involved in mouse behavior, mice do have additional additional gene regulators not found in Aplysia.
C22 The Brain's Picture of the External World Discussion of cognitive psychology and of the brain research that is associated with this study.
C23 Attention Must be Paid!
Generally animals must pay attention to something to have it
stored into long term memory. A mouse will learn its way around
an area (spatial memory) just by wandering but it will only retain this
information for a short while but if it was learning a task or
searching for food the memory would be retained much longer.
Also, activating dopamine receptors in the hippocampus stabilized
the memory of a mouse that was not paying attention.
C24 A Little Red Pill
Brief description of the biotechnology-academic industry.
In 1987 Kandel joined a biotech firm, it was later disbanded and
he formed another firm in 1996. Memory Technologies produces
drugs for the prevention of memory loss in age related memory loss and
for early stage Alzheimer's. These drugs came out of research
with memory loss in mice. He ends with a discussion of the
ethical issues involved in scientific research and implementation.
C25 Mice, Men, and Mental Illness
Some forms of mental illness (depression, post-traumatic stress,
schizophrenia) are sometimes associated with memory loss. A brief
review of thinking about mental illness. How he created learned
fear in mice and the neural pathways of fear and safety in the mouse.
Some of the brain regions involved are the thalamus, auditory
cortex, amygdala, and dorsal striatum.
C26 A New Way to Treat Mental Illness
Brief history of the observations and treatments of schizophrenia
and depression. There are a number of questions regarding the
action of psychotropic drugs, one possible explanation is that a small
group of nerve stem cells in the dentate gyrus (a part of the
hippocampus) creates new nerve cells which, when antidepressants are
administered, produces cells which are resistant to depression.
Progress is being rapidly made in the production of
C27 Biology and the Renaissance of Psychoanalytic Thought
A brief summary of the intellectual history of psychoanalysis and
psychiatry. His thoughts on how the discipline can be improved by
relying more on biological approaches.
C28 Consciousness The
recent scientific discussions of consciousness, thoughts recent
philosophers and of Francis Crick. Studies of brain imaging and
brain sensing while performing observations and simple movements.
C29 Rediscovering Vienna via Stockholm
October 9, 2000 - Kandel received the call informing that he had
won the Nobel Prize. His day, a brief history of the Prize, the
activities surrounding the award ceremony. He described the
events and the emotional upheaval after being asked to organize a
conference at the behest of the President of Austria. He found
many supportive but there were a number who still repeated the stories
of the Nazi anti-Semitism.
C30 Learning from Memory: Prospects
He is continually amazed at how he got to where he is today.
A large part of this is the egalitarian social structure of
American science. A retrospective of his life, career, and
Kandel ends with a Glossary, Notes and Sources, and an Index. A
somewhat confusing book. He intersperses he personal life,
career, the scientific background, and his researches; almost a
stream-of-consciousness book. He could have broken all of these
separate parts out into distinct sections but the book flows very
nicely as he has written it. It's just that when you go back to
check on a point it gets a little confusing for a moment. I
really enjoyed the book.
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The Weather Makers - How Man is Changing the Climate and What it Means for Life on Earth Tim Flannery
THE SLOW AWAKENING
In 1981 the author climbed the highest mountain in
New Guinea. He noticed that the forest was extending upwards into
the previously colder grasslands on top. He had other priorities
and he forgot about the expanding forests. For a long time he
maintained this attitude, it's somebody else's problem, maybe there
will be a breakthrough, my work is important, I can't be jumping on
every new fact. By 2004 he began to worry, he had tried to find
faults with other commentators to no avail. Finally he could not
wait any longer, he had to work on the problem. He had to be part
of the solution, not part of the problem.
Part 1 GAIA'S TOOLS
C1 Gaia Gaia is not a living, thinking, feeling
(or supernatural) being. Gaia is an interrelated system of
physical relationships, chemical reactions, and biological organisms
interacting via a number of positive and negative feedback reactions.
Over the past 4 billion years these reactions have produced a
remarkably consistent environment that has enabled life to thrive on
this planet. Over the last 100 +/- years we are starting to learn
how it works but we have much more to learn and there are many
C2 The Great Aerial Ocean Terms: Greenhouse gasses, global warming, climate change, the Keeling Curve - CO2 in the atmosphere since 1958.
C3 The Gaseous Greenhouse
CO2 and water vapor act together in a positive feedback loop.
After CO2 and H2O, the next most important greenhouse gases are
methane (CH4) and nitrous oxide (NO). HFC's and CFC's are rare,
entirely man made, and 10,000 times as effective as CO2 but their
effectiveness is reduced as oceans heat up and become more acid, both
of these are happening at present.
C4 The Sages and the Onion Skin
For more than 100 years some people have been reading the weather
and have come to the conclusion that we are seriously damaging it.
On of the first was Alfred Russel Wallace, co-discoverer with
Darwin of Evolution. In 1903 he published a book on the fragile
relationship between life on earth and the environment. There
have been many others since then.
C5 Time's Gateways
Geological eras, periods, and epochs were all named because of
biological events, changes in the types and amounts of fossils of
existing organisms. Translation: extinction and the
evolution of new species following the events. The most recent
major event, the K-T asteroid 65 mya. This seems to have been
followed by an immediate rise of the CO2 level.
Then 10 million years later there was another very rapid rise in the
CO2 level from 500 ppm to 2,000 ppm. This seems to have been
caused by massive volcanism under the North Sea which ignited
clathrates, methane containing ice which forms in deep oceans.
This also changed the pH of the oceans, also inciting massive die
offs of ocean species. It took approximately 20,000 years to
absorb the excess CO2.
C6 Born in the Deep Freeze
Humans split from Chimps about 6 mya, the last series of Ice Ages
began about 2.4 mya, and modern humans arrived about 150 kya.
About 100 kya a small group of about 2,000 fertile adults started
spreading across the earth. We are a very young species. A
discussion of tree ring and ice core dating and what information they
contain. The oldest record so far is from about 740 kya.
As we move forward in time from then the data becomes more complete.
Recent analysis showed that approximately 19 kya sea levels rose
30 to 45 feet in perhaps just over 100 years. This was from the
collapse of a Northern Hemisphere ice sheet. One of the effects
of this was to stop the Gulf Stream. This has happened several
times between 20 kya and 8 kya. 12,700 years ago another glacial
lake broke stopping the Gulf Stream causing the younger Dryas, a cold
spell that lasted for 1,000 years and plunged Europe into an Ice Age.
A smaller cooling event 8,200 years ago caused temperatures over
Greenland to drop 9° F for 200 years. Since then we have been
much warmer and it has been warm enough to grow crops.
C7 Making the Long Summer Normal
atmospheric processes should have produced reasonable temperatures for
about 3,000 years followed by rapid cooling. Thus a long cooling
period should have started approximately 5,000 years ago.
Instead, two factors have been found that have reversed
this trend. One is additional methane that is produced by swamps,
rice paddies, and other wet agriculture which began 8,000 years ago and
CO2 levels began to rise as farmers cut and burned forests. CO2
production was much lower than our current level but our ancestors have
been doing it for 8,000 years.
C8 Digging up the Dead A brief history of our conversion from burning wood, to coal, and then to oil and natural gas.
Part 2 ONE IN TEN THOUSAND
C9 The Unraveling World "Global warming (and probably
cooling) changes climate in jerks ... from one stable state to
another." Near one tropical Pacific island for many years the
surface temperature of the ocean commonly dipped below 66° F but
starting in 1976 it has rarely dipped below 77° F. This is
the region where El Niños
are born. For hundreds of years people have been making natural
history observations. Two people collected thousands of these
observations and they compared their dates and geographic locations.
Up to 1950 there is very little evidence of any trend but since
then there has been a poleward shift in species distribution of about 4
miles per decade, a retreat up mountains of 20 feet per decade, and an
advance of spring activity of 2.3 days per decade. There are many
specific examples from species all around the world. Even more
worrying is that different species react differently and this is
causing problems with predator/prey relationships and conflicts over
C10 Peril it the Poles
At the end of 2004 a new phenomenon occurred. Antarctic
hair grass started growing in large meadows. Previously it had
only grown in sparse clumps in protected locations. Ice had been
replaced by grass. The amount of krill in Antarctic waters has
been decreasing since 1976. Similar problems are effecting Arctic
lemmings, caribou, polar bear, and harp seals.
C11 2050: The Great Stumpy Reef? Coral reefs around the world are dying because of warming waters and pollution.
C12 A Warning from the Golden Toad The Golden Toad of the Monteverde Cloud Forest Preserve in Costa Rica was discovered and named in 1966. The El Niño
of 1987 dried up all of their breeding ponds. A single male was spotted
in 1988 and 1989 and none have been seen since. Many other
amphibians have similarly gone missing and presumed extinct. 10
years later a study was published that suggests a solution. Cloud
forests depend on mist from the bottoms of clouds. Beginning in
1976 there were fewer days each summer when the bottoms of the clouds
reached the tops of the mountains. Finally in 1987 there were few
enough days that many species could no longer survive without this
extra moisture. In 1973 a frog was discovered that swallows its
eggs, lets the tadpoles develop in her stomach, and then regurgitates
the baby frog. Doctors looking for cures to stomach ailments were
very excited. Unfortunately in 1979 this frog species and at least one
other species disappeared from the mountain rain forests of eastern Australia.
Two more species gone before they could be studied in depth.
5 years later another species of the same genus was discovered
but it disappeared before it could be studied. Amphibians all
over the world are suffering because of the effects of global warming.
C13 Liquid Gold: Changes in Rainfall The
Sahel region of Africa has been drying since the 1960's.
For many years this has been blamed on overgrazing and population
growth, these are true. However the most important reason is that
the Indian Ocean is getting warmer and this reduces the Sahel monsoon.
The next most important reason is "global dimming".
Remember the old "nuclear winter" scenario? All of those A
and H bombs would create huge fires and the ash and soot in the air
would reflect the suns heat back into space. The emissions from
coal, gas, oil, and wind blown dust are doing this, just not as much as
the earlier theorists thought. With better measurements and
global models we can now understand that global dimming is cooling the
oceans around Europe which is further weakening the Sahel monsoon.
The Sahel, Australia, and the American West are all becoming
warmer and dryer.
C14 An Energetic Onion Skin
During the last 10 years there have been more severe storms than
at any other times in recorded history. In the 1960's
approximately 7 million were affected by floods annually. Currently the
figure stands at 150 million. The weather patterns are shifting
around the world. Some regions seem to be relatively unaffected,
India is showing almost no change beyond what normal variability would
C15 Playing at Canute
Sea level is not fixed. 15 kya sea level was 300 ft lower
than today and North America was covered with more ice than Antarctica
has today. Sea levels are rising for 2 reasons, as water is
heated it expands and this expansion is expected to raise sea levels
between 1 and 3 feet within 100 years. The second reason is
melting of glaciers. At current rates this could cause an
additional 1 to 3 feet of rise within the next 100 years. Some
predictions call for 10 to 20 foot rise by 2100. If all of the
glaciers in the world were to melt the sea levels would rise
approximately 220 ft.
Part 3 THE SCIENCE OF PREDICTION
C16 Model Worlds The first weather forecasts were
made by the British Meteorological Service under the leadership of
Captain Robert Fitzroy (of Darwin and the Beagle
fame). The first models of global weather were begun about 50
years ago and they are becoming more and more accurate.
C17 The Commitment and Approaching Extreme Danger
CO2 exists in the atmosphere for a long time. If we were to
cease all CO2 production immediately the earth would continue warming
until 2050 and then slowly begin to cool. At whatever date we
drastically reduce our CO2 production we are committed to an additional
50 years of warming and all of the additional problems that this causes.
C18 Leveling the Mountains
For every 100 yards you climb a mountain, the temperature drops
about 1°F. In an effort to survive global warming many
species are climbing mountains. However in many places there is
no more mountain to climb. The higher up a species lives the less
time they have and it is fairly easy to predict that they will become
extinct and roughly when. It isn't just a few creepy-crawlys,
alpine habitats contain more than 10,000 plant species and many animal
species. Currently mountain habitats are moving upwards about 20
feet per decade. There are some species that thrive in warmer
weather. For example the Anopheles mosquito that carries malaria thrives very well as temperatures rise.
C19 How can they Keep on Moving?
14kya the types of forest currently surrounding Montreal could
only be found in northern Florida. What will happen to current
species when the earth warms? Those "southern" conifers had
14,000 years to become "northern" conifers. They could slowly
move northward. Many (most?) of our current habitats cannot move
as fast as they will need and will probably die. Another problem
are the artificial barriers that humans have created (major
transportation corridors, cities, farming areas) which limit species
C20 Boiling the Abyss
If you bring up a fish from deep in the ocean it will die.
The old explanation was the change it pressure. Yes, in
some cases but in most cases it is the change in temperature. The
oceans vary greatly in temperature. The top 300 feet varies
directly with distance from the poles or equator. Near the poles
the temperature can be below freezing and near the equator the
temperature can be as high as 86°F. Between 300 ft and 1/2
mile the temperatures vary depending on depth, the lower the colder.
Below 1/2 mile the temperatures are relatively constant, between
23° F and 39° F. This water is mainly from the Antarctic.
If CO2 is added to this water it increases the acidity and
carbonates, which are used by many marine creatures for shells, becomes
unavailable. They could not form new shells and the carbonates in
the old shells would leach out.
C21 The Pack of Jokers
Climates are usually fairly stable until they reach a breaking
point and then they change dramatically. Three major "tipping
points" have been identified for out current climate. They are
1-a slowing or collapse of the Gulf Stream, 2-the death of the Amazon
Rain forest, and 3-the release of gas hydrates from the sea floor.
All three have occurred in computer models of global circulation
and there is substantial evidence that they have occurred in earths
Flannery thinks that the probability of any of these events occurring
before 2100 is quite small. The most likely, the collapse of the
Gulf Stream is self limiting as it is a negative feedback event that
causes major cooling.
- Collapse of the Gulf Stream In 2003 the Pentagon
commissioned a study on the results of a Gulf Stream collapse.
They came up with all sorts of results for this scenario, most
centering around border security and internal disorder. They made
recommendations for prevention and response to problems but they never
mention the real problem, CO2 produced by fuel usage. See www.ems.org/climate/pentagon_climatechange.pdf
- Collapse of the Amazon Rain Forests There are 2 linked
problems here. As temperature goes up, decomposition becomes more
rapid releasing more CO2 and as rain falls in the forest it is taken up
by vegetation and re-released into the atmosphere. As CO2 levels
increase and temperatures rise, leaf stomata close reducing the
transpiration of water back into the atmosphere. This reduces the
rain further west and temperatures continue to rise. The end
result is the loss of huge amounts, perhaps 185 gigatons, of CO2 to the
- Methane release from the sea floor Clathrates, (Latin for
"caged"), are ice crystals that trap molecules of methane inside them.
When brought up from the cold and pressure of the sea floor they
pop and crackle and burn if ignited. These deposits contain
between 13,100 and 55,020 trillion cubic yards of methane. There
is an estimated 482 trillion cubic yards of recoverable natural gas in
the world. A relatively small scale (North Sea) event release 55 mya
killed most of the life in the seas. It is becoming probable that
the Permian-Triassic extinction event was precipitated by massive
volcanic eruptions in Siberia that emitted billions of tons of CO2
causing the temperature to rise about 11° F. The oxygen
concentration in the atmosphere 280 mya was 21%, the same as today, by
260 mya it was 15%, and by the Permian-Triassic extinction event it was
only 10%. Could this have been caused by the release of methane
which then combined with oxygen removing it from the air? This
extinction event killed about 90% of the species on earth at the time,
including many mammalian species which could have competed with the
C22 Civilization: Out With a Whimper?
Civilization is based on two principles, ability to grow enough
food to produce a surplus for those not growing food and our ability to
live in groups big enough to support specialized institutions,
government, military, factories, museums, education, etc. How
will we survive a resource shortage?
Part 4 PEOPLE IN GREENHOUSES
C23 A Close-Run Thing A brief summary of the hole in
the ozone layer and how the production of CFC's have been drastically
reduced. 1 example: Nortel used CFC's in cleaning.
They were required to spend $1 million to change their process.
Once redesigned the cleaning systems saved $4 million in waste
disposal and CFC purchases. Also the head start the US companies
had gave them a competitive advantage over companies in other countries.
C24 The Road to Kyoto
Energy production effects many more people than CFC's did,
therefore the political and economic problems are greater. As of
Feb 16, 2005 only the USA, Australia, Monaco, and Liechtenstein have
failed to sign the Kyoto Protocol. He devotes a large portion of
the chapter to Australian politics, most Americans are aware of some of
the American politics.
C25 Cost, Cost, Cost Both the US and Australia were
born on the frontier and have deep beliefs about endless growth and
expansion, any reduction is viewed by most politicians as political
suicide. Our western Europe based culture is based on fear of
cold, how could warm be bad?
C26 People in Greenhouses Shouldn't Tell Lies Both
the US and Australia have many politicians with deep ties to the oil
and coal industry. They tend to act unthinkingly and violently to
any suggestion that there may be problems with their source of income.
Even as their shrill shouts resonate through the rafters there is
a steady undercurrent of reason spreading throughout the world.
Unfortunately it doesn't as yet have the financing to fully
present its case.
C27 Engineering Solutions? There is no global body
set up to evaluate any engineering solutions. Most environmental
groups reject any such solutions because of this. Proposed
solutions: Iron powder dumped in oceans to fertilize plankton.
1.3 tons of iron can possibly sequester 900 tons of CO2, we are
releasing 13 gigatons of CO2 yearly. Inject liquid CO2 into ocean
depths. Kills many types of fish and shellfish. Pump CO2
underground. CO2 displaces oxygen so any leaks would be deadly.
To solve the problem we would have to pump 12 cubic miles of CO2
into the earth every day for 100 to 200 years. Simpler solutions
are to sequester CO2 as wood and other agricultural products or to not
produce it in the first place.
C28 Last Steps on the Stairway to Heaven?
The steps in producing lower density of carbon in fuels are coal,
oil, natural gas, and hydrogen. We are gradually taking these
steps and getting better. Hydrogen is a wonderful fuel but there
are a lot of engineering problems. Most fuel cells are relatively
inefficient, about the same as gasoline engines. Hydrogen is very
bulky, it evaporates readily (about 4% per day), any generation
using fossil fuels produces more CO2 than just using the oil as fuel,
storing it (say in a vehicle) would mean changing many building codes.
Part 5 THE SOLUTION
C29 Bright as Sunlight, Light as Wind Two researchers
have recently investigated 15 different basic types of technologies to
solve the CO2 problem. Flannery's suggestion is to use whatever
technology would seem to work in the local area. The ones that
would seem to hold the most promise are: Wind, the current best bet.
The technology is quite advanced and the cost and efficiency are
closing in on coal, oil, and gas. Solar hot water, solar thermal,
and photovoltaic cells. Ideal for individuals, they work well in
conjunction with wind.
C30 Nuclear Lazarus?
Nuclear power has gotten a bad rap because of poorly designed
reactors and their accidents. It will become more important as
many countries without ready access to fossil fuels are building
reactors. Geothermal energy has been very underutilized.
Areas with volcanic activity are very difficult to use
technologically. Recently radioactively heated granite deposits
have been investigated and look very promising.
C31 Of Hybrids, Minicats, and Contrails Alcohol based
fuels are attractive but they would require a huge investment in farm
land to make a substantial contribution to the energy supply, probably
adding another 20% to the current farm land requirements when we are
having trouble feeding the existing humans. Hybrid vehicles like
the Toyota Prius reduce gas consumption and cuts CO2 production by
about 70% which is very significant. A small company in
Luxembourg is building a vehicle using compressed gas. It looks
very promising. There would seem to be very options other than
fossil fuels for airplanes. They are being made more fuel
efficient and more efficiencies are possible with proper flight rules.
They have the advantage of contributing to global dimming.
C32 The Last Act of God? "An Act of God was defined as something which no reasonable man could have expected."
A. P. Gilbert. As our knowledge improves it will become
very difficult to hide behind the statement that no one could have
expected a result. Lawsuits charging environmental damage will
become winnable. The inhabitants of places in the far north and
of low lying islands have already filed lawsuits charging environmental
damage from global warming.
C33 2084: The Carbon Dictatorship?
What will happen? Flannery sees 3 possible alternatives,
1-our response is too slow and uncoordinated. Climate shifts
destroy our support system. Very severe dark ages occur and we
may well not survive. 2-we act quickly and avoid climate
collapse, in about 150 years the earth (Gaia) will stabilize.
3-We will stabilize but not before serious damage has occurred.
It will be touch and go for perhaps centuries.
C34 Time's Up If we act promptly we can get through
this with minimal damage, perhaps only loosing only 10% of the species
at risk. Leaders, political, economic, and academic must act now.
C35 Over to You It is
possible for most people to achieve the 70% reduction in CO2 emissions.
Some of the techniques are: conservation, switch to green power
consumption, install some type of solar water heating, install solar
panels, make your next vehicle a hybrid fuel variety, convince those in
your business to conduct an energy audit and reduce their expenditures.
Postscript In a 2005 article in Science,
James Hansen and his colleagues reported that currently each square
yard of the earths surface is absorbing .85 watts more than it radiates
into space. Very small compared to the 282 watts per square yard
receives, about the same as 2 or 3 miniature Christmas lights, but the
earth has a lot of square yards and it accumulates over many, many
Afterword After he finished
the book, Hurricanes Katrina and Rita happened. The Gulf of
Mexico was very warm, surface temperatures of 87°F, so the storms
grew very rapidly. Hurricanes will occur but very warm surface
temperatures boost them to Category 5 strength. The afterword is
filled with facts and figures about hurricanes. To pick one, Dr.
Peter Webster of Georgia Tech discovered that the number of category 4
and 5 hurricanes has doubled since 1974. He included several
additional tables of information, extensive notes and references, and
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