Archive for the ‘Science!’ Category.

Bigger, Badder, Wilder

Less than three weeks after Hurricane Katrina, a study published in Science showed that, while the number of tropical cyclones had not increased between 1970 and 2004, their strength had surged: Category-4 or -5 hurricanes where more than 50 percent more frequent in the second half of that period than in the first (Webster et al., Science, 16 September 2005).

-American Institute of Physics

Hmm… I wonder why this would be happening? Perhaps we should look around for other trends during the same time slice?

Elsner used an elaborate statistical method (first devised by economics Nobel Prize winner Clive Granger) to answer the first of those two questions. He examined spikes in global atmospheric temperature (using satellite and ground-based data collected by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change) and compared them to seasonal changes in average sea-surface temperatures for the entire northern-hemisphere part of the Atlantic (based on National Atmospheric and Oceanic Administration data). His analysis showed that the spikes in atmospheric temperature mostly tended to come right before hurricane-season spikes in oceanic temperature, suggesting that the first were causing the second.

-Again, the AIP

The earth is a huge series of interconnected systems. (and you thought I was going to say pipes). The Average person dumps around 24 pounds of carbon a day into the air (world average, the average American dumps 122 pounds per day into the air). The earth can absorb about 9 pounds of carbon per person per day. That means, the carbon levels are increasing by about 13 pounds per person per day. Or about 65 billion pounds per day. That much change to one of the earth’s systems will have an effect on the others.

We know several things here.

  1. The carbon levels are the highest that they have been in 800,000 years (as far back as we can see).
  2. The carbon change has been unprecedentedly fast
  3. We are pumping billions of tons of carbon into the air per year
  4. Carbon absorbs heat.
  5. Carbon in the air changes the Albedo of a planet

I know that there are some who do not feel that global warming is true – or even possible. However, science is often simply applied common sense. It makes sense, given the evidence, that we have had an effect on the global climate. It’s time to wake up to that fact, and stop playing Chicken Little.

This is not Science Fiction!

European scientists voiced shock as they showed pictures which showed Arctic ice cover had disappeared so much last month that a ship could sail unhindered from Europe’s most northerly outpost to the North Pole itself.

The satellite images were acquired from August 23 to 25 by instruments aboard Envisat and EOS Aqua, two satellites operated by the European Space Agency (ESA)

-Yahoo! News and Others

This is a troubling trend. I have a gut feeling that we are either on, or just past the tipping point. What is the tipping point? It’s when we can no longer fix the damage that we have done..

You see, there are several contributing factors here. The first is called the Albedo of a planet. It is usually expressed in a percentage (0 – 100%). Basically, it’s the percentage of light that is reflected back from a solar body. The big issue here is that ice is very reflective. When the polar Ice caps start to loose large areas, the earths albedo gets lower, we absorb more energy from the sun, and we heat up. This causes more ice to melt, and the albedo lowers again…

The other issue is there are green house gases trapped in the ice around the world. So, we have the ice melting, albedo lowering, more green house gases are released, and the global temperature goes up even faster.

Now, I do not think that humans are the sole cause of this, however, we have sure accelerated the changes. We are dumping so much carbon into the air that we simply cannot not be effecting the natural cycles.

800,000 Years seems like a long time to me…

Carbon dioxide levels are substantially higher now than at any time in the last 800,000 years, the latest study of ice drilled out of Antarctica confirms.

The in-depth analysis of air bubbles trapped in a 3.2km-long core of frozen snow shows current greenhouse gas concentrations are unprecedented.

BBC

It really seems to me that it’s time to ‘wake up’ to climate change. We have evidence all around us that it is actually happening. Temperatures are on the rise, storms are getting more violent and the world is going to end. Was this caused by Humans? We don’t know for sure, but the evidence points that way.

Does it really matter? No. We need to batten down the hatches, because we are coming out of a very peaceful time, according to the past climatological evidence. The estimated 6500 million tonnes of carbon that we put into the air per year cannot be helping. Just think about this: “Volcanic releases are about 1% of the amount which is released by human activities“. And then we go and deforest large parts of the world. Trees eat CO2

Another major concern is the speed of the change

The “scary thing”, he added, was the rate of change now occurring in CO2 concentrations. In the core, the fastest increase seen was of the order of 30 parts per million (ppm) by volume over a period of roughly 1,000 years.

“The last 30 ppm of increase has occurred in just 17 years. We really are in the situation where we don’t have an analogue in our records,” he said.

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1,000 years of CO2 in 17 years. That cannot be a good thing.

Can I have one?

Martin Eberhard holds the brake down with his left foot and presses on the accelerator with his right. The motor revs, the car strains against the brake. I hear … almost nothing. Just a quiet whine like the sound of a jet preparing for takeoff 5 miles away. We’re belted into a shimmering black sports car on a quiet, tree-lined street in San Carlos, California, 23 miles south of San Francisco. It has taken Eberhard three years to get this prototype ready for mass production, but with the backing of PayPal cofounder Elon Musk, Google’s Larry Page and Sergey Brin, and ex-eBay chief Jeff Skoll, he has created Silicon Valley’s first real auto company.

-Wired

It’s a interesting mash-up of IT smarts and Detroit muscle. These sort of synergistic effects are what are really needed. People sometimes get blinders and only see the ground in front of their feet. We need to look beyond our self induced horizons to see the real world…

Cool stuff!

The Theban Mapping Project has some really cool maps and 3d walk throughs of the tombs in Thebes and the Valley of the Kings.

Since its inception in 1978, the Theban Mapping Project (TMP, now based at the American University in Cairo) has been working to prepare a comprehensive archaeological database of Thebes. With its thousands of tombs and temples, Thebes is one of the world’s most important archaeological zones. Sadly, however, it has not fared well over the years. Treasure-hunters and curio-seekers plundered it in the past; pollution, rising ground water, and mass-tourism threaten it in the present. Even early archaeologists destroyed valuable information in their search for museum-quality pieces.

I just blew about an hour there. :)

Stellar Size

Size some times really does matter.

One of the things that I pass the time with is Traveller, especially G:Traveller, and the new G:Traveller Interstellar Wars. ‘Hard’ Science fiction has always been a favorite read for me, and Traveller brought it to the gaming table. I think that I got my first Traveller book in ’82. It’s been a non-stop obsession ever since. I own a copy of the basic rules of every iteration of the game – Classic Traveller, Mega Traveller, Traveller: The New Era, Traveller 4, Gurps Traveller and Gurps Traveller 4th edition.

So, I guess that you could call me a traveller geek!

One of the basic technologies of Traveller is the Jump Drive. It allows you to leave ‘normal space’ at point A and emerge at point B in about a week. Depending on the ship, point B could be as much as 6 parsecs (18 light years) away. There are a few caveats, however. The most important is that you do not want to start or end your jump with in 100 diameters of a massive object. For some reason, stellar objects have been ignored in this calculation.

Enter my quick and dirty Stellar Data Tables! (v2:Stellar Data)