"Facts do not cease to exist because they are ignored." -Aldous Huxley

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wFriday, August 13, 2004

THE PHYSICIST VERSUS THE ANTS: Heads up for those of you in the D.C. area: I have a review in this Sunday's Washington Post Book World. It begins thus:

I began reading this book in earnest on the hottest day of the year. Through all of western Washington state, from the 49th parallel through Seattle and on to Oregon, thermometers pushed above 100 degrees, and some gauges registered much higher. Homeowners saturated their lawns to try to keep them from roasting in the sun, vehicles broke down, and people did what they could to cope with the heat.

Home air conditioning is considered a luxury in the cooler climes of the Evergreen State, so the malls, restaurants and movie theatres were jam-packed -- and some ad hoc lemonade stands did enough business for the little gougers to start college funds. Interstate 5 was choked with cars heading to Canada to try to find relief -- though it was scarcely much cooler north of the border. If the warm air had been accompanied by the kind of humidity that residents of Washington, D.C. are used to, it's likely that corpses would have started piling up. If that sounds far-fetched, recall that nearly 15,000 people died from a heatwave in France last summer. In July 1995, a week-long hot spell in Chicago killed more than 700 people.

Sometimes the natural seems tranquil, maternal even. When winter gives way to spring, only those with severe allergies fail to be moved by the sunlight and the flowers and the wonderful warming breeze. But then a hail storm or a heat wave hits, and our dealings with Ma Nature take on shades of "Leiningen Versus the Ants." In Human Nature, George Mason University physicist James Trefil offers his expertise on such climatological tussles. He says that science is about to give mankind the tools to tame nature and argues that we should use them [more]

posted by Jeremy at 11:36 PM