Four of the Most Dangerous Fraudulent Scientific Theories That Must Be Confronted
Continued from previous page
Despite resolution of the Paluxy and Ica mysteries, the belief that live people coexisted with live dinosaurs persists. Even a certain ex-vice-presidential candidate from Alaska, citing footprint evidence, has proclaimed her belief in the kind of world where giant men might have taken their giant lizards out for a walk. And the spirit of Paluxy retains its tight grip on the state of Texas, where 30 percent of people believe the earliest humans lived at the same time as dinosaurs, and another 29 percent aren’t sure whether or not they lived together.
In an election year, such beliefs could boost the prospects of politicians like a far-right primary candidate for Congress in Minnesota who has written a school curriculum promoting the idea that a Flintstones-like world of people and dinosaurs existed not long ago and believes that liberals want to “establish a ‘worldwide education system’ that teaches, among other topics, ‘global warming nonsense.’”
Of the claims examined in this article, this bit of creationist fantasy is the only one that contains not even a single pebble of reality.
4. Could hemp be the ultimate solution to fuel shortages and climate change?
Legal prohibitions on the species Cannabis sativa are misguided and highly destructive; however, some of the groups working for the worthy cause of marijuana legalization are, in their enthusiasm, making exaggerated claims for industrial hemp, the non-drug version of cannabis that is traditionally grown for fiber.
Here is a typical plug, from the Seattle Hempfest 2010 Web site: “Hemp plant can be grown in most climates, requires little fertilizer and water and NO pesticides nor herbicides . . . It preserves topsoil and subsoil structure as do forests . . . and actually restores and replenishes soil nutrients.” The site hemp.org declares, “Hemp produces more biomass than any plant practical for farming, substantially more than corn, sugarcane, or kenaf.”
But as an energy crop, hemp is incapable of performing any such miracles. Its yields of seed (for oil to make biodiesel) or biomass (to make ethanol via processes that are still in the development stage) are anything but extraordinary.
Published research on hemp is sparse in the contemporary peer-reviewed literature, and for legal reasons, there has been almost no recent field research on it in the United States. But there are enough data to compare hemp’s biofuel potential with that of other species.
In a field trial conducted in Italy under relatively good growing conditions, hemp yielded a healthy 13.4 metric tons of dry biomass per hectare (a hectare being just under two and a half acres.) But that was a ton less than kenaf, only three-fourths as much as corn and scarcely half as much as sorghum grown in the same trial.
All plants require nitrogen and other nutrients to grow, and hemp is no exception. In a three-year field trial across sites in Italy, the Netherlands and the United Kingdom, hemp produced 13.1 tons per hectare when fertilized with a relatively heavy 100 kilograms of nitrogen per hectare. But it's capable of gobbling up a lot more fertilizer than that. Increasing the nitrogen dose to a truly extravagant 220 kilograms increased hemp's biomass yield by yet another 18 percent.
A survey ( pdf) of fertilization rates recommended for optimum hemp production in countries around the world range from 50 to 200 kilograms per hectare of nitrogen and 30 to 100 of phosphate.
A crop of hemp, like most crops, can survive a dry spell without being watered, but it will be stunted and yield less than it would if it got plenty of rain or irrigation. Under optimum growing conditions in Canada ( pdf), hemp achieved 13.9 metric tons per hectare but yield dropped to 8.8 tons on poorer soils without irrigation.