Monday Miscellany, 2/19/24

Monday Miscellany, 2/19/24 February 19, 2024

Tooth Fairy inflation, saving the climate by polluting the earth, and Iran claims Antarctica.

Tooth Fairy Inflation

When you were little and lost a tooth, how much did the Tooth Fairy give you?  And if you have children, how much did they get?

I got a quarter.  And keeping up that tradition, when our kids started losing teeth, despite rampant inflation, they got a quarter.  (Until, that is, the rewards being so small and the tooth-losing becoming so routine, everyone lost interest.)

But today the Tooth Fairy is leaving in some households $100 bills!  And in some households both cash and a present.

The Wall Street Journal is calling it “tooth fairy inflation.”  It’s not only an economic index, it’s a child-raising index.

According to the article on the subject [behind a paywall], the Tooth Fairy now collects teeth worldwide and is becoming ever more generous.  The average payout per tooth was $5.36 in 2022.  In 2023, it jumped to $6.23.  And 20% of children get both money and a present.

Families have long celebrated milestones in their children’s lives, like birthdays, confirmation, and weddings.  Now many families are also celebrating what Pinterest is calling “inchstones,” throwing parties to commemorate things like the first tooth and successful potty training.

The article accounts for Tooth Fairy inflation in part on parents competing with each other as they “share” what they do on social media.  Plus children compare their profits with each other, exerting an upward price pressure.

[Caution:  This post is not suitable for children!]

Saving the Climate by Polluting the Earth

The fear of climate change is prompting some environmental scientists to propose drastic measures.  Since the efforts to go carbon-free are facing obstacles and since other attempts to stop global warming are proving insufficient, some activists are turning to “geoengineering” in an attempt to cool the climate and save the environment by means of technology.

The Wall Street Journal reports on three geoengineering efforts currently underway.  This summer, scientists from the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution will pour 6,000 gallons of sodium hydroxide–a component of lye–into the ocean 10 miles south of Martha’s Vineyard.

“When you have heartburn, you eat a Tums that dissolves and makes the liquid in your stomach less acidic,” said Adam Subhas, an associate scientist at WHOI and the project’s principal investigator. “By analogy, we’re adding this alkaline material to seawater, and it is letting the ocean take up more CO2 without provoking more ocean acidification.

Giving the ocean a Tums, of course, is polluting it, in the hopes of saving it.

An Australian initiative is currently spraying “a briny mixture” (the article doesn’t say of what) into the air, hoping to “brighten low-altitude clouds” in an effort to reflect sunlight away from the Great Barrier Reef, creating a shade that would cool the waters and prevent the death of coral from too-warm temperatures.

Meanwhile, an even more ambitious plan is in the works:

In Israel, a startup called Stardust Solutions has begun testing a system to disperse a cloud of tiny reflective particles about 60,000 feet in altitude, reflecting sunlight away from Earth to cool the atmosphere in a concept known as solar radiation management, or SRM. Yanai Yedvab, Stardust chief executive and a former deputy chief scientist at the Israel Atomic Energy Commission, wouldn’t disclose the composition of the proprietary particles.

Filling the sky with briny substances and particles, no less, is an attempt to stop global warming by means of  air pollution.

Do these scientists have an algorithm for factoring in unintended consequences?

Iran Claims Antarctica

Iran has claimed Antarctica for its own.  The Islamic Republic has announced plans to build military bases on the continent, including one at the South Pole.

An article on the subject quotes an Iranian military official:   “We have property rights in the South Pole. We have plan to raise our flag there and carry out military and scientific work.”

I suppose it’s like the age of European colonialism.  England claimed North America, Australia, India, the Middle East, and parts of Africa, to name a few.  Spain claimed South America and the Philippines.  France claimed Indo-China and parts of Africa.  They raised their flag over the land and just considered it theirs.

The advantage of claiming Antarctica is that it has no native inhabitants to conquer or dominate.  It’s deadly cold, but it has lots of mineral wealth if anyone could get to them.

Claiming Antarctica is more complicated, though, because other countries have also staked their claim.  Currently, seven countries have claims on at least part of the continent:  Argentina, Australia, Chile, France, New Zealand, Norway, and the UK.  Other countries, including the U.S. and Russia, have registered under an international treaty their “right” to make a claim.

Iran would seem to have as good a claim as any other country.  “Little lies between Iran’s coast outside the Persian Gulf and the eastern hemisphere side of Antarctica,” observes Jennifer Dyer, former commander of U.S. Naval Intelligence.  “In theory, Iran could claim an interest in Antarctica similar to India’s, Australia’s, New Zealand’s or Chile’s.”  And it would have a much better claim than the far northern nations the U.K. and France.

But as it stands, the continent and its 1,300 to 5,100 seasonal inhabitants, nearly all of whom are researchers from various countries, are governed by representatives of the 30 countries that are signatories to the 1959 Antarctica Treaty System.  “According to the terms of the treaty,” says Wikipedia, “military activity, mining, nuclear explosions, and nuclear waste disposal are all prohibited in Antarctica.”

Iran is not a signatory to the treaty.  But its plan to establish military bases would violate international law.

Says Dyer, “I can say that raising the flag at the South Pole doesn’t carry any implications in international law. The Antarctic Treaty (which became effective in 1961) has a specific provision that no action by any nation after 1961 can be the basis of a territorial claim on the continent.”

The article quotes military analyst Yonah Jeremy Bob:”Iran’s future plans to try to expand its military presence and influence into the Antarctic would not only violate multilateral conventions on the issue, but continues the regime’s trend of aggression across the globe.”

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