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18934.  Tue May 03, 2005 10:50 am Reply with quote

Just a counter-intuitive factoid: there are more trees in Britain now than at any time since the middle ages, according to the Forestry Commission: 25 trees for every man, woman and child. That’s twice as many trees, apparently, as 100 years ago.

Source: The Independent Review 27 May 2002

18947.  Tue May 03, 2005 12:06 pm Reply with quote

Er, is that twice as many trees per person? Of course population has increased hugely, so that would make the 'per-person' figure drop dramatically, even if many trees were cut down. I seem to remember hearing that Britain was completely covered in trees not so long ago. Fred?

18972.  Wed May 04, 2005 4:43 am Reply with quote

No, twice as many trees - not twice as many per peep!

18983.  Wed May 04, 2005 6:00 am Reply with quote

Lots of Americans feel bad when they see images of trees being cut down, because they've been told that America's running out of forestland. Carl Ross, of the group, Save America's Forests, says we've cut way too much. "The loss of natural forests in America is a crisis," he said. "And we will lose species forever, and they'll go extinct, if we don't take action now." Other environmental groups run ads warning of the dire consequences. But The U.S. Agriculture Department says America has 749 million acres of forestland. In 1920, we had 735 million acres of forest. We have more forest now. How can that be? One reason is technology that allows us to grow five times more food per acre — so we need less farmland. Lots of what once was farmland has reverted to forest. But Ross says we don't really have more forests. "We have more areas, in America, with trees on them, that's true. But we have less that are natural," he said. He's right that many of the oldest trees have been cut down, and about 7 percent of America's forests have been planted by man, but that still means that 93 percent are natural.
Ross is also concerned that loss of old-growth forest is leading to a loss of biodiversity. But while some species have decreased, the populations of many others animals have actually increased in the past 75 years. Michael Shermer says many people believe America is destroying the forests because environment groups need to scare people to raise money. "The fear is there," he said, "because, if your goal is to raise funds you have to scare people. You can't tell people things are getting better, and here's the data. You have to tell people things are worse." The truth, however, is that today in the United States there are two acres of forestland for every single person, and America is growing more forest than it cuts.

18990.  Wed May 04, 2005 6:39 am Reply with quote

A Government study into the number of salmon in a river may have driven the fish away, it was claimed today.
River watchdogs (What they? G92) said a 15-year study on the River Axe by the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food caused the decline.
The Axe vale Rivers Association claimed scinetists' methods of trapping and tagging fish had caused stocks to dwindle.

s: The Leicester Mercury, 28 March 2003.

This appears to be a straightforward (albeit partially non-human) example of the Hawthorne Effect, which is:

An experimental effect in the direction expected but not for the reason expected; i.e. a significant positive effect that turns out to have no causal basis in the theoretical motivation for the intervention, but is apparently due to the effect on the participants of knowing themselves to be studied in connection with the outcomes measured.

The original Hawthorne Effect occurred during a series of time and motion studies at a US factory. Researchers manipulated various working conditions -- including pay, decor, lighting, breaks, shift times, often resulting in much harsher working conditions -- but no matter what they did, productivity always went up.

Eventually, it dawned on them that the rise in productivity was due to the intimidatory effect of having filled the factory with unfamiliar white-coated men carrying clipboards and watching every move the workers made ...

There are several Hawthorne Effects (you can glean more at the page linked above), but they all boil down to the same thing: the principle of the observer's participation in the experiment.

18992.  Wed May 04, 2005 6:49 am Reply with quote

Garrick, is this a cousin of the observer effect, which I struggle to understand when engaged in brain-scalding attempts to read books with titles like “Quantum For Thick Tossers Made Basic”?

JumpingJack got me researching sponges last week, and I found that sponges are collectives of semi-autonomous cells, each of which is capable of changing from one function to another; any sponge cell can change into any other. For that reason, spongologist Ronald Shimek says that “sponge ‘tissues’ are mostly just aggregates in space and time.” When sponge cells or groups of cells are given a name by spongologists, they are only identified “by their functional appearance at the moment of observation.” Which seems sort of along the same lines ...

18993.  Wed May 04, 2005 6:53 am Reply with quote

Garrick, is this a cousin of the observer effect, which I struggle to understand when engaged in brain-scalding attempts to read books with titles like “Quantum For Thick Tossers Made Basic”?

I'm sure I'll be corrected if wrong, but I think you mean the Heisenberg Uncertainty Principle.

In Futurama there was a horse-race which was won by a quantum margain, to which one of the characters replied.

"no fair, he changed the result by measuring it"

hmmm maybe it loses something in translation!

18994.  Wed May 04, 2005 6:56 am Reply with quote

Great gag! And adaptable, surely, for use in scoring on a panel game ... ?

18999.  Wed May 04, 2005 7:05 am Reply with quote

Garrick, is this a cousin of the observer effect, which I struggle to understand when engaged in brain-scalding attempts to read books with titles like “Quantum For Thick Tossers Made Basic”?

* They go by the same name, but the physics meaning is that there is no phenomenon until it is observed, with all possibilities co-existing in superposition (minds watching objects). The social sciences meaning mainly describes psychological effects (minds watching minds (watching minds (watching minds))). Where the cross-over between the two exists, I'm not sure.

19000.  Wed May 04, 2005 7:11 am Reply with quote

Heh - I love that idea.

Yes, with quantum mechanics it's unavoidable that the measuring device is, at some poorly understood fundamental level, actually part of the same thing that it's measuring. It seems to me a little like trying to see if water is 'beaker-shaped' by putting it in a beaker.

It's a bit like paradigms in general. If you want to measure something (i.e. see how well it fits into your world-view), you can't help but force it in there and leave some of its features hanging out over the edge (or possibly bent until they fit in). The same thing happens when you carry out experiments with particles. Perform an experiment that assumes a particle-like paradigm and hey-presto! particle-like results. Perform an experiment that assumes a wave-like paradigm and bam! wave-like results.

Answer: become a Zen buddhist who knows there's no such thing as the particle or the wave. The Matrix, for all its shortcomings, has that lovely line in it when the little kid is apparently bending the spoon with his mind: "The only thing to realise is that there is no spoon - it is only you that bends." Can't see Uri Geller quite getting that one, somehow...

19004.  Wed May 04, 2005 7:29 am Reply with quote

Two monks were arguing about the flag outside a temple.
One said: "The flag is moving."
The other said: "The wind is moving."
Arguing back and forth they could come to no agreement.
Hui-neng [Daikan] The Sixth Patriarch happened to pass by.
He said, "Not the wind.
"Not the flag.
"Mind is moving."
In that instant, both monks became enlightened.

Trad Zen Koan


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