Yet another weird SF fan

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

Go to first entry



<< current
E-mail address:
jhertzli AT ix DOT netcom DOT com

My Earthlink/Netcom Site

My Tweets

My other blogs
Small Sample Watch
XBM Graphics

The Former Four Horsemen of the Ablogalypse:
Someone who used to be sane (formerly War)
Someone who used to be serious (formerly Plague)
Rally 'round the President (formerly Famine)
Dr. Yes (formerly Death)

Interesting weblogs:
Back Off Government!
Bad Science
Boing Boing
Debunkers Discussion Forum
Deep Space Bombardment
Depleted Cranium
Dr. Boli’s Celebrated Magazine.
Foreign Dispatches
Good Math, Bad Math
Greenie Watch
The Hand Of Munger
Howard Lovy's NanoBot
Liberty's Torch
The Long View
My sister's blog
Neo Warmonger
Next Big Future
Out of Step Jew
Overcoming Bias
The Passing Parade
Peter Watts Newscrawl
Physics Geek
Pictures of Math
Poor Medical Student
Prolifeguy's take
The Raving Theist
Respectful Insolence
Seriously Science
Slate Star Codex
The Speculist
The Technoptimist
Tools of Renewal
XBM Graphics
Zoe Brain

Other interesting web sites:
Aspies For Freedom
Crank Dot Net
Day By Day
Dihydrogen Monoxide - DHMO Homepage
Jewish Pro-Life Foundation
Libertarians for Life
The Mad Revisionist
Piled Higher and Deeper
Science, Pseudoscience, and Irrationalism
Sustainability of Human Progress

Yet another weird SF fan

Thursday, November 11, 2010

A Problem with an Overpopulation==Disaster Scenario

The following is a common illustration of why We Must Do Something About Imminent Overpopulation Immediately (quoted by Dan Gardner):

Imagine a test tube filled with food. That's the Earth, he says. Now introduce a single bacterium to that test tube and let it grow exponentially. In the first minute, one bacterium becomes two bacteria. In the second minute, two become four. Four become eight. Eight become 16. If it takes one hour for the bacteria to multiply until they fill the entire test tube and there's no more food -- and the bacteria all die -- when will the test tube be exactly half full of food and half full of bacteria?

In the 59th minute. Which is strange because at that moment things look fine. But the very next minute, catastrophe strikes.

The problem with the above scenario isn't, contrary to Dan Gardner, that an environmentalist is more certain about the catastrophe than about potential solutions. It's quite common for some parts of a field of knowledge to be known to a greater degree of certainty than other parts. To put this is terms that my fellow wingnuts can understand, it's possible to be certain that funny money will lead to inflation and also disclaim the knowledge that can enable a government to pick winners.

The problem with the scenario is that it points the reader's attention at the ratio between the time until Disaster Strikes and the total elapsed time (in this case 1/60). The important ratio is that between the time until Disaster Strikes and the reaction time of the organisms in question. That is likely to be less spectacular.

There's also the little problem that bacteria use up the nutrients but don't produce them. That's unlikely with humans.


Post a Comment

<< Home

My Blogger Profile
eXTReMe Tracker X-treme Tracker

The Atom Feed This page is powered by Blogger.