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Changes in Earth's Orbit Linked to Extinctions 311

Josh Fink writes "A group of Dutch Scientists have recently released a study stating that they have found that changes in Earth's orbit around the sun are linked to mammal extinctions. From the article: '"Extinctions in rodent species occur in pulses which are spaced by intervals controlled by astronomical variations and their effects on climate change..." The cycles are associated with lower temperatures, changes in precipitation, habitats, vegetation and food availability which are the main factors influencing the extinction peaks, the study published in the journal Nature said.' So on top of worrying about global warming, it seems we should also worry about the physics that govern the orbit of Earth around the sun. Too bad we don't have a way of keeping the Earth in the same orbit/on the same axis of rotation."
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Changes in Earth's Orbit Linked to Extinctions

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  • Move Along (Score:0, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Thursday October 12, 2006 @10:20AM (#16407943)
    While I am sure those opposed to global warming will hold this study up as evidence that we should continue along our path to wanton self destruction, it represents little more than a blip on the screen when compared with the overwhelming evidence supporting the deleterious effects of greenhouse gases on our environment.

    Indeed, while Nature is a well respected publication, it has become little more than a grandstanding rag where special interests buy articles to support their agendas. So junk science like this is given credibility to be used as ammunition against real science.
  • Re:BTW (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Hoi Polloi ( 522990 ) on Thursday October 12, 2006 @10:28AM (#16408055) Journal
    It doesn't account for the massive extinctions such as the Permian. The arrangement of the continents also very likely either exacerbates or minimizes the effects of orbital variations. They also only studied a specific region in Spain (not to mention rodents in particular) which may have been especially prone to subtle climate changes. They need to study a wider geographic and species range.
  • Re:Move Along (Score:3, Insightful)

    by guycouch ( 763243 ) on Thursday October 12, 2006 @10:29AM (#16408085) Journal
    Actually, this study isn't all that new. The globes tilt has been known to be linked to CO2 levels (and temperature) for a while now. The question is how do the effects of greenhouse gases put out by industry compare to this effect, and the answer is not so clear. Yes, obviously many scientists and virtually all non-scientists attribute all of our climate changes to to industry, but we need to remember to be rigorous on both sides of the debate. In short, this is not junk science. And to claim so only shows that you yourself are not a scientist.
  • Cyclical what? (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Loopy ( 41728 ) on Thursday October 12, 2006 @10:32AM (#16408123) Journal
    Even if we could affect a change in the earth's orbit around the sun, who's to say if that is a good thing? Might that not be akin to preventing all forest fires? Controlled burns are our way of preventing some large/catastrophic forest fires and lightning strikes are nature's way of doing it. What makes us think the "wobble" in our orbit isn't causing cyclical "refresh" events? No, I'm not suggesting some diety is controlling things or that ZOMG WE R AL GOING 2 DIE or anything like that. Just saying we might not yet comprehend the consequences of making this "fix" change. Hell, we are still unable to predict the weather with any certainty more than a day or two out. /shrug
  • Just imagine... (Score:2, Insightful)

    by nevergleam ( 900375 ) on Thursday October 12, 2006 @10:49AM (#16408379)
    What if we solved global warming a few hundred years from now, reversed a lot of the temperature increases we found we are directly responsible for, and over that time the Earth's orbit/rotation changed such that an Ice Age was triggered? Oh noes! Suddenly global warming doesn't seem all that bad, does it?

    Suppose again someone in charge actually accepted my supposition and decided global warming research was pointless.

    Ok, I'm done making improbable suppositions.
  • Why is it? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Shivetya ( 243324 ) on Thursday October 12, 2006 @11:38AM (#16409125) Homepage Journal
    That its perfectly fine for one side to have exceptions to issues the other side but the reverse is not true.

    My problem with the whole GW crowd is how they will quickly object or attempt to marginalize anything which doesn't support their view. At the same time any little piece of information which supports their view is held forth as indisputable fact.

    Look, we don't know half of what we think we do. The one great thing about science in this day and age is that we are continously changing what we know as fact as our ability to observe becomes better and better. Old theories that were hard to prove can be supported and previous "unalterable" facts are dismissed.

    We can barely predict the weather from day to day let alone week to week. We can't accurately predict the number of hurricanes, typhoons, or the like. Yet at the same time you want me to believe that enough is known to tell me that we are all going to die in 10 years?

    Just admit you know about as much about the climate as the other side. Fact is, we are still discovering the variables. In no shape or form can you have the definitive anwser without all the variables.
  • Re:Move Along (Score:2, Insightful)

    by buckysphere ( 1011323 ) on Thursday October 12, 2006 @12:24PM (#16409839)
    I am being serious. Someone told me this. That is how I know it is unquestionably true. Isn't that all we need as proof these days? I mean, if we are basing the Global Warming myth on the extremely errored models with which we used to collect the "data" that suggests this, then why do we even need evidence at all to make a point or declaration of any kind? Ouch...a monkey just flew out of my butt. You don't believe me...well, you're stupid (sarcasm).

    But, come on, if you are going to point toward the chicken-little argument about the melting of the ice caps, then you must also be aware of the recent studies that show that even though some ice is melting, new ice is being produced in other areas at an even higher rate. Or do you also conveniently believe that Global Warming is also causing Global Cooling like some of the other geniuses believe. All you have to do is re-read the previous sentence, particularly the, "Global Warming is also causing Global Cooling" part to realize how ridiculous it sounds on its face. It is almost as ridiculous as looking at a canvas with obvious splatters of paint and actually letting, "Jackson Pollock is a genius!" roll off your lips. The leap is just too far...

    You can show me a study...I'll show you a study...you show me one...I'll show you one...me...you...me you...and so on until we puke. At the end of the day, does it really matter? Is it really worth all the crying and nashing of teeth? Until the models with which we collect data have fewer holes than Win98, do you really want to stake anything on the "data" that is output from the studies? Do you or anyone else here at /. give Microsoft the same benefit of the doubt? Should you?
  • Re:BTW (Score:4, Insightful)

    by slartibart ( 669913 ) on Thursday October 12, 2006 @12:30PM (#16409919)
    Firstly, there is an upper limit (temperature-wise) in which humans can survive. There are areas near the equator which are beyond this limit now, and a slight increase in temperature would enlarge them considerably - possibly as far as Spain, or equivilant southwards.

    That's absurd. There's no "areas near the equator" that are too hot for humans to survive. There's no such "area" anywhere on earth. Daily temps of 120+ are easily survivable - Las Vegas sees that regularly. See, humans have these things called "sweat glands". All they need is water and they can survive the heat.

    But what if there's no water, you say? Well then, the problem isn't the heat.

  • Re:Why is it? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Abcd1234 ( 188840 ) on Thursday October 12, 2006 @12:33PM (#16409967) Homepage
    We can barely predict the weather from day to day let alone week to week.

    Someone needs a lesson in the difference between short term weather prediction and long term weather trends.

    Here's a (probably flawed) analogy: I throw a rock through the air. Moment to moment, I can't predict the exact path that rock will take. A breeze, some dust in the air, an updraft, these things can alter the path of the rock. But ask me to tell you where it's going to land, and I can probably do a pretty good job.
  • Re:BTW (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Jeremy Erwin ( 2054 ) on Thursday October 12, 2006 @01:14PM (#16410579) Journal
    ah, it's amazing how so many conspiracy theories have been brought to my attention through slashdot postings. Apparently, ithis particular linked in with Christian eschatology [escapeallthesethings.com] or some such nonsense.

    Might I point out that the Romans used an especially inaccurate calendar [wikipedia.org], and it was not until 46 BCE that the somewhat more familiar Julian system was adopted?

    360 happens to be an easy number to use. It's not especially accurate, but correcting the error requires some knowledge of astronomy, as well a certain amount of political power. Now, it may be that a number of civilizations adopted a 365 day year at approximately the same time. Perhaps some of them were trading partners.
  • by EDinNY ( 262952 ) * on Thursday October 12, 2006 @03:19PM (#16412301) Homepage
    Connect the dots. Global warming is NOT man made. It is made by changes in Earth's orbit and changes in output from the sun.

    Can anyone tell me who was burning fossel fuels between the year 850 and 1300 when the earth last experienced "global warming" or why from 1300 to sometime around 1800 we experienced global cooling in what scientists called a "mini ice-age"?
  • Re:BTW (Score:3, Insightful)

    by mstone ( 8523 ) on Thursday October 12, 2006 @10:31PM (#16418003)
    Yeah.. so?

    In science, a person's agenda is irrelevant. The researchers can be pedophile Nazi cannibals for all the universe cares, but if their theory correlates with observable fact, their theory is worth taking seriously. Period.

    There's way too much public discussion that treats science like some kind of popularity contest.. 'truth' is what the cool people say, and refutation from the uncool camp can be discarded simply by sneering at its source. People who engage in that kind of bullshit surrender their right to call their opinions 'scientific'.

    The AS article discusses the history of the thermohaline conveyor and the scientific discussion surrounding it, provides a general description of the model the author used to test the idea that the conveyor has a primary influence on keeping western Europe warm, and even discusses some of the contradictions inherent in the media-hyped notion of a globally-warmed ice age (the prevailing model of global warming says the difference in temperatures between the poles and the equator will get smaller. Shutting off the conveyor will theoretically make the northern latitudes colder, thus *increasing* the temperature gradient. You can't have it both ways at once). Then the author discusses an alternate mechanism for European warming (topgraphically forced tropospheric deviations) that's perfectly consistent with orthodox climatological science.

    If the author got his facts wrong, point to the errors. If he failed to include relevant information, show it. If you can find holes in the author's reasoning, tell us what they are. If you have a different climate model that you think carries more correlation to observed reality, let's see it. That's scientific discussion.

    But if all you can do is piss on the fundamental principles of science because this article offends your preconcieved notions, please do science a favor and shut the fuck up.

The only function of economic forecasting is to make astrology look respectable. -- John Kenneth Galbraith