Beebe’s “Colleagues Reacted Coolly”


    Photos of strange deep sea creatures.  Source of photos:  online version of the NYT article cited below.


When, more than 70 years ago, William Beebe became the first scientist to descend into the abyss, he described a world of twinkling lights, silvery eels, throbbing jellyfish, living strings as “lovely as the finest lace” and lanky monsters with needlelike teeth.

“It was stranger than any imagination could have conceived,” he wrote in “Half Mile Down” (Harcourt Brace, 1934). “I would focus on some one creature and just as its outlines began to be distinct on my retina, some brilliant, animated comet or constellation would rush across the small arc of my submarine heaven and every sense would be distracted, and my eyes would involuntarily shift to this new wonder.”

Beebe sketched some of the creatures, because no camera of the day was able to withstand the rigors of the deep and record the nuances of this cornucopia of astonishments.

Colleagues reacted coolly. Some accused Beebe of exaggeration. One reviewer suggested that his heavy breathing had fogged the window of the submarine vessel, distorting the undersea views.

Today, the revolution in lights, cameras, electronics and digital photography is revealing a world that is even stranger than the one that Beebe struggled to describe.

The images arrayed here come from “The Deep: The Extraordinary Creatures of the Abyss” (University of Chicago Press, 2007), by Claire Nouvian, a French journalist and film director.

. . .

Beebe, who ran the tropical research department at the New York Zoological Society, surely had intimations of what lay beyond the oceanic door he had opened. “The Deep” brings much of that dark landscape to light, even while noting that a vast majority of the planet’s largest habitat remains unexamined, awaiting a new generation of explorers. 


For the full story, see: 

WILLIAM J. BROAD.  "Mysteries to Behold in the Dark Down Deep: Seadevils and Species Unknown."  The New York Times  (Tues.,  May 22, 2007):  D3.

(Note:  ellipsis added.)


    "A Ping-Pong tree sponge."  Source of caption and photo:  online version of the NYT article cited above.


Unintended Consequences: Hydrogen Produced with Coal


The excerpt below is from a WSJ summary of an article in the April issue of MIT’s Technology Review.  If the article is correct, then hydrogen may provide one more example of why the government should stop trying to determine which technologies are best.


Hydrogen fuel is widely seen as a potentially environmentally clean alternative to fossil fuels for use in cars, but technology writer David Talbot says the perception is wrong — powering automobiles with hydrogen could actually be more polluting than gasoline.

. . .

With . . .  scarce renewable energy resources, hydrogen power might wind up being produced with coal, which generates more carbon dioxide than any other energy source. That would defeat the environmental inspiration behind vehicles like the Hydrogen 7, Mr. Talbot concludes in a review of "Hell and High Water," a book by Joseph Romm, an MIT-trained physicist. A more efficient route for car makers would be to focus on high-mileage gasoline-powered vehicles. They are simpler and less sexy than hydrogen cars, Mr. Talbot says, but for now they stack up as the cleaner option.


For the full summary, see: 

"Informed Reader; ENERGY; Hydrogen May Not Be Greenest Route for Cars."  The Wall Street Journal  (Tues., April 24, 2007):  B7.

(Note:  ellipses added.)


Free Trade with China Benefits Both U.S. and China



The image above is from a full-page ad that is scheduled to run in today’s eastern edition of the Wall Street Journal.  I am one of the 1,028 economists who agreed to have their names attached to the petition.

Here is the petition: 


Concerning Protectionist Policies Against China

We, the undersigned, have serious concerns about the recent protectionist sentiments coming from Congress, especially with regards to China.

By the end of this year, China will most likely be the United States’ second largest trading partner.  Over the past six years, total trade between the two countries has soared, growing from $116 billion in 2000 to almost $343 billion in 2006.  That’s an average growth rate of almost 20% a year.

This marvelous growth has led to more affordable goods; higher productivity; strong job growth; and a higher standard of living for both countries.  These economic benefits were made possible in large part because both China and the United States embraced freer trade.

As economists, we understand the vital and beneficial role that free trade plays in the world economy.  Conversely, we believe that barriers to free trade destroy wealth and benefit no one in the long run.  Because of these fundamental economic principles, we sign this letter to advise Congress against imposing retaliatory trade measures against China.

There is no foundation in economics that supports punitive tariffs.  China currently supplies American consumers with inexpensive goods and low-interest rate loans.  Retaliatory tariffs on China are tantamount to taxing ourselves as a punishment.  Worse, such a move will likely encourage China to impose its own tariffs, increasing the possibility of a futile and harmful trade war.  American consumers and businesses would pay the price for this senseless war through higher prices, worse jobs, and reduced economic growth.

We urge Congress to discard any plans for increased protectionism, and instead urge lawmakers to work towards fostering stronger global economic ties through free trade.