Thursday, September 28, 2017

So what's going on with AI (Artificial Intelligence)?

There have been a number of scare stories about AI recently. This article from Hackaday (a techie news site) attempts to put it into perspective:
"AI techniques include matching natural language to predefined templates. That’s really all these devices are doing today. Granted the neural nets that allow for great speech recognition and reproduction are impressive. But they aren’t true intelligence nor are they even necessarily direct analogs of a human brain."

Tuesday, August 29, 2017

Baha'i Bicentennial 2017

Mansion of Bahji
For Baha'is a major event is coming up in October - the bicentennial of the birth of Baha'u'llah in 1817. This occassion will be celebrated world-wide nationally and locally.

Here is some background information from Huffington:
"As 2017 begins, over 5 million Baha’is worldwide are preparing for major upcoming celebrations. On October 22, 2017, in some 100,000 localities worldwide, they will celebrate the bicentennial of the birth of Baha’u’llah, the Founder of the Baha’i Faith."

And another background article from BWNS mentions a tribute from the President of India:
"In India, as preparations advance, the Baha’i community has received from the President of India—His Excellency Pranab Mukherjee—a moving tribute honoring this bicentenary year."

Saturday, July 29, 2017

The seas are warming and more

According to an article in the Guardian:
"Although there’s some uncertainty in the distribution among Earth’s ocean basins, there’s no question that the ocean is heating rapidly."

And from Nature:
"Revised tallies confirm that the rate of sea-level rise is accelerating as the Earth warms and ice sheets thaw."
And from the BBC:
"Scientists are "very worried" that the melting of the Greenland ice sheet could accelerate and raise sea levels more than expected.
They say warmer conditions are encouraging algae to grow and darken the surface.
Dark ice absorbs more solar radiation than clean white ice so warms up and melts more rapidly.
Currently the Greenland ice sheet is adding up to 1mm a year to the rise in the global average level of the oceans."
Note - this darkening of the ice is not a major problem as yet.

Wednesday, June 28, 2017

And a quick word on climate change

"Nearly nine in 10 people say they are ready to make changes to their standard of living if it would prevent future climate catastrophe, a survey on global threats found Wednesday.
The survey of more than 8,000 people in eight countries – the United States, China, India, Britain, Australia, Brazil, South Africa and Germany – found that 84 percent of people now consider climate change a "global catastrophic risk"."
From the Guardian:
"New study confirms the oceans are warming rapidly"

Tuesday, May 09, 2017

Guyana's vulnerability to sea-level rise

This post gives a brief overview of Guyana's vulnerability to sea-level rise.

According to Wikipedia:
The chief majority (about 90%) of Guyana's 0.74 million population lives along a narrow coastal strip in which ranges from a width of 16 to 64 kilometres (10 to 40 mi) inland and which makes up approximately only 10% of the nation's total land area.
Drainage throughout most of Guyana is poor and river flow sluggish because the average gradient of the main rivers is only one meter every five kilometers. ... Georgetown is below sea level and must depend on dikes for protection from the Demerara River and the Atlantic Ocean.
And from Climate Hot Map:
Guyana's capital city of Georgetown relies on seawalls for protection. When flooding occurs after large waves top the seawalls or heavy rains, sluice gates open for drainage. However, these gravity-fed gates can do so only when the tide is low enough.
The coastal plain is home to almost all the country's agricultural production — critical for both food and export. The main crops are sugar and rice.
Sea level along the Guyana coastline is rising faster than the global average which will exacerbate future increases from further global warming.
The sea wall

According to Wikipedia:
The Sea Wall is a 280-mile seawall that runs along much of Guyana's coastline, and all of the coastline in the capital city of Georgetown. It protects settlements in the coastal areas of Guyana, most of which are below sea level at high tide.

Currently over topping and minor breaches at high tide are not uncommon and cause local flooding. Breaches are repaired usually in a few days. Much of the costs of building and maintaining the sea walls have been met by overseas aid. The system of dykes, drainage canals and sluice gates was begun by the Dutch in colonial times to protect sugar plantations and not as effective as it used to be. Away from Georgetown the seawall is often earth and stone.

The 2005 flood

In 2005 there was a severe flood due to intense rain which caused from two to five feet of flooding in Georgetown and large parts of the coast for weeks. According to a PAHO report "Almost 200.000 people in Guyana were affected by the floods that hit Guyana" - which is more than a quarter of the population.

The future

And from Climate Hot Map again:
Without improved sea and river defenses and drainage systems, the coastal plains of coastal Guyana face serious flooding—if not complete inundation—owing to higher sea levels possible under worst case scenarios. Such flooding would devastate most of the population and have consequences for a large percentage of the gross domestic product.
It is difficult to imagine increasing the height of the sea wall more than a few centimeters. It would probably require complete rebuilding and the cost would be very, very high.