Yet another weird SF fan

I'm a mathematician, a libertarian, and a science-fiction fan. Common sense? What's that?

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Yet another weird SF fan

Tuesday, April 04, 2006

The Potato Chip from Brazil

In It Was a Short Summer, Charlie Brown, there are the following lines:

Lucy: Well, look here. A big yellow butterfly. It's unusual to see one of those at THIS time of year, unless of course, it flew up from Brazil. I'll bet that's it. They DO that sometimes, you know. They fly up from Brazil.
Linus: That's no butterfly! That's a potato chip.
Lucy: Well, I'll be. I wonder how a potato chip got all the way down here from Brazil!
The recent prediction of imminent doom from Eric Pianka sounds similar.

The belief in an overpopulation disaster was originally due to the claim we were using up resources, just like any other overabundant species of animal. When it turns out that resources are far more abundant than a naive analysis would indicate (and also that we're plants, not animals), resource shortages look less likely. The Malthusians retained the belief in disaster, but looked for another reason for it. The current hysteria is about emerging diseases caught from other species. The mass extinction many of the same people are warning about makes that less likely.

We're unlikely to get caught in the mass extinction. There are species that flourish in “impoverished” ecosystems: rats, crab grass, ailanthus trees, and humans. Such species are likely to survive. In any case, world-wide clades don't become extinct that often. I think the last time a clade with members all over the world became extinct was 65 million years ago.


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