The most exciting phrase to hear in science, the one that heralds new discoveries, is not 'Eureka!' but 'That's funny...' --Isaac Asimov
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Should I stay or should I go?

February 7th, 2013 by eric

I’m going to the Polar Marine Sciences Gordon Conference next month in California. Which means I have to get from here to there.

I just did some calculations, and the results are surprising and rather discouraging. Surprising because after some research I learned that Amtrak is not nearly as efficient as I expected it to be, e.g. in comparison to European rail networks, which have faster but more efficient trains. By far the best option in terms of CO2e (equivalents) is taking a packed-to-the-brim bus. Probably also the least comfortable — I think I’d rather bike.

Of course, the other option is to just not travel to distant conferences, a position which some are taking and which I am leaning to more and more. For example, the 2009 Abgradcon hybrid real/virtual meeting is a great place to start. We need more virtual presence at conferences! I’m on the science board for PAM5 (Polar and Alpine Microbiology) so I guess that would be a good place to start.

to travel from NYC -> LA

  • by plane (70% full) = 2500 mi, 6 hrs, $330, 540kg CO2e (100%)
  • by train = 3200 mi, 64 hrs (~3 days), $275, 480kg CO2e (-12%)
  • by car (alone) = 2800 mi, 82 hrs (~5 days), $280, 670kg CO2e (+25%)
  • by car (1 passenger) = 2800 mi, 41 hrs (~3 days), $140, 3350kg CO2e (-38%)
  • by bus (30% full) = 3300 mi, 64 hrs (~3 days), $220, 165kg CO2e (-70%)
  • by bike = 3100 mi, 262 hrs (~1 month), $250, 130kg CO2e (-76%)
  • by walking = 2800 mi, 900 hrs (~3 months), $750, 552kg CO2e (+2%)
  • by wagon train = 3300 mi, ~4 months, $25000, [died of dysentery]

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