Everyday entropy: the problem


Douglas Adams, So Long and Thanks for All the Fish

“The problem is, or rather one of the problems, for there are many, a sizeable proportion of which are continually clogging up the civil, commercial, and criminal courts in all areas of the Galaxy, and especially, where possible, the more corrupt ones, this.
The previous sentence makes sense. That is not the problem.
This is:
Read it through again and you’ll get it.”

The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy

“The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy is an indispensable companion to all those who are keen to make sense of life in an infinitely complex and confusing Universe, for though it cannot hope to be useful or informative on all matters, it does at least make the reassuring claim, that where it is inaccurate it is at least definitively inaccurate. In cases of major discrepancy it’s always reality that’s got it wrong.

This was the gist of the notice. It said “The Guide is definitive. Reality is frequently inaccurate.”

This has led to some interesting consequences. For instance, when the Editors of the Guide were sued by the families of those who had died as a result of taking the entry on the planet Tralal literally (it said “Ravenous Bugblatter Beasts often make a very good meal for visiting tourists: instead of “Ravenous Bugblatter Beasts often make a very good meal of visiting tourists”), they claimed that the first version of the sentence was the more aesthetically pleasing, summoned a qualified poet to testify under oath that beauty was truth, truth beauty and hoped thereby to prove that the guilty party in this case was Life itself for failing to be either beautiful or true. The judges concurred, and in a moving speech held that Life itself was in contempt of court, and duly confiscated it from all those there present before going off to enjoy a pleasant evening’s ultragolf.”

Sunken Pleasure, California Will Need Mountains of Sand to Save Its Beaches, Scientific American

“Without drastic intervention a huge portion of the sandy shores will likely vanish soon. “Roughly a third to two thirds of the beaches will effectively disappear by the end of the century,” with 0.93 to 2.0 meters of sea level–rise, Barnard says. Although wave conditions influence beach erosion in the short term, sea level rise becomes the dominant eroding force in the long term. This is a huge problem not only because beaches support shoreline life and attract tourists but also because they protect coastal communities from flooding and storms. “Beaches are the first line of defense because they absorb the energy from storms,” he explains.

Climate change is not the only human impact here. If people had not built heavily along the shoreline, the beaches would just naturally migrate inland as the ocean rises. Bernard notes people have put the beaches under serious pressure because “we’re probably not going to let the beach move past a certain point.” In those many cases, he says, “we’ll have to add sand.”

California has added sand to its beaches for decades—for instance, about 1.3 million cubic yards of sand is placed every five to seven years at Surfside–Sunset in Orange County. Since 2000 San Diego has twice pumped about 1.5 million to two million cubic yards of sand from offshore onto beaches throughout the county, and it has performed a number of smaller replenishments during that time as well. These “nourishment” projects, as they are called, usually average out to about $8 to $10 per cubic yard of sand, says Lesley Ewing, a senior coastal engineer with the California Coastal Commission. The problem is, Barnard and his team had already assumed that recent rates of sand addition would continue. Far more beyond that amount will be needed to keep SoCal’s beaches from disappearing.”


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