Archive for the ‘Science’ Category

“Believing” in climate change. That’s what it has come to now for a lot of people.

Unlike religion the climate debate does not base it beliefs on faith. The scientific climate debate is not about believers and deniers. There are climate scientists who are proponents of climate change and there are those who are sceptics.

While the overwhelming majority accept that climate change is happening, the real discussion is about whether humans are causing it or not. And instead of just choosing whatever tit bits of information about climate change you heard from a documentary, a pub conversation, or an expert on the news, you could just simply look at the following facts and decide for yourself.

Our earth’s atmosphere is comprised mostly of nitrogen, oxygen and other smaller gases such as water vapour, carbon dioxide and methane. Most of the sun’s radiation passes through these gases because it has a shortwave length. The radiation heats up the ground and is reemitted as longwave radiation – which is the kind of infrared heat you feel from a hot stove or radiator. 

Although these gases allow shortwave radiation to pass through them they absorb the longwave radiation. This causes them to vibrate. And of course vibration is heat.

This heat is radiated throughout the atmosphere by these gases and as a result creates the so called greenhouse effect. Two of these three gases are being produced by human activity – carbon dioxide and methane.

At the Russian Vostok research station in Antarctica an ice core was drilled looking back 420,000 years in time. Using these ice cores climatologists were able to measure both the temperature and the carbon dioxide content of the atmosphere looking back thousands of years.

But interestingly the data showed that the carbon dioxide increases lagged the temperature increases by 800 years. So if carbon dioxide is supposed to cause global warming the lag time would suggest it’s the other way round.

This is where people get a bit carried away without reading the rest of the facts.

There is a trigger that sets off a circle of events, each tipping the earth into a cooling or a warming phase. In scientific terms this circle is called positive feedback.

We know that a similar positive feedback happened during the ice age. When the earth went through a cooling and warming phase it snowballed so that a tiny bit of cooling ended up freezing half the planet and a tiny bit of warming ended up thawing it out again.

But each time something had to act as that initial trigger.

A strong contender has always been regular cyclical deviation in the earth’s position or orbit changing the amount of sunlight the earth received.

Whatever it was during the ice age this change melted a tiny part of the ice sheet and released carbon gasses from the soil and from the warmer oceans. The carbon gasses that were released trapped more longwave radiation and warmed the planet a bit more and that released more carbon gasses and so on.

Climate change proponents have never suggested that carbon dioxide increase was the trigger for past warming, only that the trigger released carbon gasses which set off this vicious circle of heating.

So the lag time isn’t disputed and the reasons for it are part of the global warming model but without a trigger this positive feedback wouldn’t even begin. Luckily the earth’s orbit will remain steady for another 16,000 years.

The problem is anything that causes a tiny increase in temperature can cause this circle of events and the premise of climate change proponents is that our industrial output of carbon dioxide itself is now the trigger.

In Siberia melting ice is thawing out millions of square miles of marsh producing tonnes of methane gas which is a more potent gas than carbon dioxide but much less abundant in the atmosphere. Even so the methane adds to global warming creating more marshland which releases more methane.

The Objections.

One well rehearsed objection is that increased output from the sun is driving climate change, known as solar forcing.

Scientists agree that the earth’s climate warms and cools in concert with the varying energy output of the sun but the question is; is that the cause of the recent rise in global temperatures – over the last 40 or 50 years?

Almost 30 years ago a paper was published with very strong evidence which suggested just that. Eigel Friss-Christensen and K. Lassen of the Danish Meteorological Institute looked at the pattern of solar activity over the last 250 years and it matched almost perfectly with global temperature changes (“Length of the solar cycle: an indicator of solar activity closely associated with climate”).

To get the graph they had to filter the data which involves smoothing it out to account for background variations and local anomalies. This is standard practice and they did this for most of the graph but they didn’t do it for the most recent part of the graph because the data needed to do it wasn’t available at the time of publication.

When it did become available it showed a very good correlation between global temperatures and solar output for most of the last 250 years but not the very period that covers a dramatic rise in global temperatures. While global temperatures have been rising solar activity has been more or less static.

A lot more recent papers also show that solar activity explains most of the temperature changes over the last few hundred years but not the recent period in rising global temperatures.

The bottom line on solar forcing is that a lot of studies have been done and it is not an issue that is being ignored. Output from the sun is an important factor in driving the earth’s climate. But over the last 40 years there has been no significant increase in solar output.

Solar forcing simply doesn’t explain the recent rise in global temperatures.“Variations in solar luminosity and their effect on the earth’s climate”.

Another idea put forward is that cosmic rays seed clouds and when solar activity increases, particles from the sun (i.e the sun’s magnetic field) keep these cosmic rays away from the earth and that reduces cloud cover – Hennrik Svensmark and Eigil Friis-Christensen -“Variation of cosmic ray flux and global cloud coverage: A missing link in solar climate relationships”.

Friis-Christensen and Svensmark provided data that showed a correlation between low atmosphere cloud cover and the intensity of cosmic rays arriving at the earth between 1980 and 1995. But this hypothesis hinges on increased solar output in the last 40 years and this isn’t the case.

So the key point most climate change proponents are trying to get across is that human activity looks like it is the trigger that sets off a circle of events, each tipping the earth into a cooling or a warming phase.

Of course there are so many variables to consider when discussing such a complicated process as the ever changing climate, and each one of us certainly makes a difference whether you want to believe that or not.

But one far too frequently overlooked contributor to climate change, which has huge implications for humanity, is overpopulation, which will be discussed at a later date.


Good gravy its Gravity!

Posted: October 19, 2010 by fonnaguschakra in Science
Tags: , , , , , ,

Gravity…without it stars wouldn’t be born, matter wouldn’t clump together to

This picture taken 20 July, 1969, of astronaut Edwin E. Aldrin Jr. walking on the surface of the moon near the leg of the Lunar Module (ML)

create the planets and we wouldn’t be here to wonder at its usefulness. It’s the reason the planets stay in their orbits and don’t fly off into space and is responsible for the formation of tides. But what is it?

Well for one thing, it’s a lot more interesting than some might think.

Gravity is created by everything in the universe that has mass. That means me, you, the earth, the moon, the sun, and so on. Of course our gravity is very small; the strength of the gravity is related to the mass of the object so for us the earth is the most immediate thing gravity wise. Interestingly gravity is never actually felt directly by either a person or an object. Only the forces that resist gravity, or act apart from it, can be felt by people, or measured by accelerometers. The sensation and force of weight (such as the force of the ground pushing upward on the feet) are the result of these forces.

A more technical definition of Gravity goes as follows: Gravity is one of the four fundamental interactions of nature along with the strong nuclear force (which holds quarks and atomic nuclei together), the weak nuclear force (which causes radioactive decay), and the electromagnetic force (which is responsible for all the phenomena you encounter every day, except gravity). It used to be called a ‘force’ but since Einstein’s theory of relativity it is more properly referred to as a consequence of the curvature of spacetime.

Gravity used to be called a ‘force’ because of Isaac Newton’s theories on the motion of objects and universal gravitation which were all to do with force, mass, velocity and all those other really important but really boring mathematical equations. Basically Newton’s realization was that every massive particle in the universe attracts every other massive particle with a force which is directly proportional to the product of their masses and inversely proportional to the square of the distance between them. As a result his theory of motion and theory of universal gravitation explained the movement of the planets and became Newton’s Laws and his calculations are still in use today. Without them there would have been no moon landing!

But enough with the history you say, tell me something I can use as pub talk with me mates. Well I hear ya so here goes;

A common misconception to do with gravity is to say that astronauts experience

Astronauts experiencing weightlessness inside a 'vomitcomet' - a fixed winged aircraft which essentially nosedives to give the astronauts the experience of free fall

zero gravity when in orbit on a spacecraft but this is not so. The astronauts are actually experiencing ‘weightlessness’ because they are travelling at approximately 25,000 km/h around the earth.

The space journalist James Oberg wrote: “The myth that satellites remain in orbit because they have “escaped Earth’s gravity” is perpetuated further (and falsely) by an almost universal misuse of the word “zero gravity” to describe the free-falling conditions aboard orbiting space vehicles. Of course, this isn’t true; gravity still exists in space. It keeps satellites from flying straight off into interstellar emptiness. What’s missing is “weight”, the resistance of gravitational attraction by an anchored structure or a counterforce. Satellites stay in space because of their tremendous horizontal speed, which allows them — while being unavoidably pulled toward Earth by gravity — to fall “over the horizon.” The ground’s curved withdrawal along the Earth’s round surface offsets the satellites’ fall toward the ground. Speed, not position or lack of gravity, keeps satellites in orbit around the earth.”

It is important to note then that when astronauts are hopping around on the moon it is not because there is no gravity, it is because the moon is much less dense than the earth and so has much less mass and therefore pulls with much less gravity. When compared with denser bodies that have a similar volume the moon’s gravitational field may be seen as relatively weak but it still has one.

There is of course so much more to write about this such as; is there such thing as zero gravity?, what is a vacuum?, is anti-gravity possible?, what’s quantum gravity? and what’s the speed of gravity? but there is a lot to take in so for now here’s an interesting thought from Universe Today: “The pull of gravity on the Moon is so low that you could actually fly with wings attached to your arms (as long as you were inside an enclosed dome filled with air at the Earth‘s atmospheric pressure. Wouldn’t it be great to be able to fly around like a bird?”

It’s a scientific fact that the fundamental cause of everything in existence is energy i.e. that at the sub-atomic and quantum level everything is vibrating energy (if you don’t believe this then your essentially a Hiroshima/Nagasaki denier, amongst other things!). A familiar maths equation which backs up this claim is E = Mc2. ‘E’ here is energy, ‘M’ is matter, and ‘c’ is the speed of light, squared. Einstein’s special theory of relativity equation proves that at the basis of all matter is energy and that, we musn’t forget, light plays a very important role too but we’ll get to that in a bit.

One important fact to know here is that every single thing in existence has a natural vibration to it.

Illustration showing the positions of the seven chakras

That’s everything, from our atoms to the earth to the universe. Ben Stewarts controversial and thought provoking film Estoric Agenda notes this and also highlights another interesting fact. He points out that every human being has a set of Harmonic Focal Points, which is attested to by many in western medicine as well as eastern religious and medical praticises, which correlate with the earths very own vibrational frequencies. These Harmonic Focal Points are better known to us as Chakras and are generally symbolised by the image of the Lotus Flower. This is around about the area that you start getting into arguments about pseudo-sciences with science graduates but bare with me as I tread on this all too frequently condensending ground in which science sometimes shows its darker side.

The general idea behind them is that on our all bodies there are seven points at which vibrations accumulate and in Eastern philosophies these are used to bring health and balance to the physical and spiritual body. In the Western world these seven Chakra points correlate with the nervous and endocrine systems. As Anodea Judith writes in her book Wheels of Life “On a physical level, chakras correspond to nerve ganglia, where there is a high degree of nervous activity, and also to glands in the endocrine system.” The earth also has seven Chakra points at equally distant locations from each other on each continent.

Getting back to a more pragmatic explaination of all this then, the earth has a solid molten iron crystal which resonates at approximatley 7 Hz. We also know that the earth is covered in energy vortexes in which electromagnetic energy eminates. It is the oscillation of the different frequencies in this electromagnetic wave that gives us different forms of electromagnetic radiation such as (we didn’t forget) our friend light. Oscillations at lower frequencies are radio waves and at the highest frequencies gamma rays. Knowing this may help put into perspective just how much of whats going on in the universe our senses don’t and can’t concieve. When these are gridded and aligned, converging spots correlate to the chakras of the human body. Some of the places where these energy vortexes converge along the equator are actually the cause of radio and compass malfunctions such as at Bermuda.

Electromagnetic spectrum with light highlighted

The Original Solfeggio Scale was a scale which was based on the frequencies of the earth and was used by the church in the ancient gregorian chants. That’s why those chants have those droning sounds; the different frequencies the earth resonates at are meant to relate to a certain emotion, for example singing at the frequency of 741 Hz was meant to awaken intuition.

Of course today one very popular way we manipulate energy and frequencies is to create that special atmosphere at a music concert or festival. The bands pouring out of human energy through electrified instruments translated into soundwaves which stirs the energy in the listener which in turn feeds the band again creates that atmosphere where everyone feels like one. And that’s what its all about really. Good vibrations.

It says a lot about society today that if you talk about willys and farts everybody thinks your normal and accepts that as an acceptable direction for a conversation to go. But if you talk about something which is actually relevant or which affects hundreds and thousands of people then your seen as weird or a ‘bit odd’. In this post I’m going to have a quick look at one thing, and it is only the single most important thing not just in Ireland, or Europe, or even the world but in the universe. It is called the atom and it is something which connects us to every single thing absolutley everywhere.

Already there might be a feeling of apprehension at the word atom and all the connotations one might attach to it. Generally negative thoughts to do with school, big boring books, difficult maths, and a general lack of interest in the subject might be floating around in your head creating that feeling of apprehension. But what if I throw in a willy or fart joke here? That’s probably already stemmed your interest. I might hold it in for now though, happy that I just alluded to holding in a fart.

I don’t really understand why there is no talk about trying to inspire students in primary schools or even secondary schools. I can’t help but think that if we were educated in schools that made students aware of the actual make up of the world around them; that the world we see is actually a very small frequency range, within an infinite energy field of infinite frequency ranges rather than a solid world of rocks and cars and tangible items, that students would be inspired and we would be much more capable of comprehending some universal truths. If, as I’ve found some people don’t believe in quantum physics and you’re one of them, then you have no reason to believe that your radio sends frequencies along wavelengths of no higher than 300 GHz. You should have no right either to get an x-ray or use a microwave or even to tune a channel on your television to your favourite willy and fart joke channel. The inspiring science behind all this is because of the atom and whats inside it. As Bill Bryson says in his book A Short History of Nearly Everything; “Look around you. It is all atoms. Not just the solid things like walls and tables and sofas, but the air in between.” Even though we were taught about this in secondary school we didn’t come out of the classroom talking about how amazing it is to think of the world as being made up of atoms and that inside the atoms there are neutrons, electrons, and protons and that inside them are vibrating strings of energy and how amazing it is to think of a stone wall as actually just a very (incomprehenably) slow dense vibration. No, instead we came out talking about the willy we had drawn on the back of johnny’s head and how amazing that was.

So it always comes back to cocks and poo really. And I blame the education system which completly fails to inspire the youth with wonder and awe about the wonderful and awesome universe we live in. There is really so much more to write about this but instead of me writing on and making it sound like I’m trying to convert people or something I will leave you with some food for thought videos and a few quotes so that you can think for yourselves. More will be written if people are interested but if not then there’s no point writing a fully comprehensive piece. <insert-token-poo-joke-here>

“So we are all reincarnations – though short lived ones. When we die, our atoms will disassemble and move off to find new uses elsewhere – as part of a leaf or other human being or drop of dew.” – Bill Bryson

“Every atom you possess has almost certainly passed through several stars and been part of millions of organisms on its way to becoming you.” – Bill Bryson

“Imagination is more important than knowledge.” – Albert Einstein

“Imagination will often carry us to worlds that never were. But without it we go nowhere. ” – Carl Sagan

“The whole of science is nothing more than a refinement of everyday thinking.” – Albert Einstein

“Our species needs, and deserves, a citizenry with minds wide awake and a basic understanding of how the world works.” – Carl Sagan

“Education is what remains after one has forgotten everything he learned in school.” – Albert Einstein

“We live in a society exquisitely dependent on science and technology, in which hardly anyone knows anything about science and technology.” – Carl Sagan

“Two things are infinite: the universe and human stupidity; and I’m not sure about the the universe.” – Albert Einstein