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Comment Re: Another One? (Score 1) 140

You're examples are referring to progress, not fluctuations. Yes, it took 1800 years for heliocentrism, but there was progress during that time that lead the to technology and mathematics that could prove the geocentric model wrong. The fluctuation was the political mess starting in the 1500's where the church fought back against the clearer logic of heliocentrism. That held back the transition until Galileo and others had much clearer evidence that that was irrefutable (but that didn't stop the church from refuting it for a time).

Yes it took a long time to go from double helix to sequencing, but that's progress. No free lunch to EM drive is still very much questionable.

An example of fluctuation is the folks that hung on to classical physics in the face of clear evidence for quantum theory being more accurate. Some of them were prominent physicists that, if they had embraced QM earlier could have pushed the field forward rather than holding it back. Another example is creationism, a backward force that is sometimes gaining and sometimes losing traction (vs 100 years ago), but will someday (hopefully) be seen as a fluctuation.

Comment Re:So many theories... so many on the payroll list (Score 1) 140

Well, guys, we really don't know this. Be a little more humble...

No no, please don't end that with an ellipsis. Finish your thought there. What is the next thing he should say? Maybe:

Well, guys, we really don't know this. Be a little more humble. We should stop having a scientific debate about it. - said a scientist that should be fired

Well, guys, we really don't know this. Be a little more humble. We should just give up trying to figure it out. - said a scientist that should be fired

Well, guys, we really don't know this. Be a little more humble. We should stop taking data and go with our last answer. - said a scientist that should be fired

Well, guys, we really don't know this. Be a little more humble. We should listen to what our religious leaders say. - said a scientist that should be fired

Well, guys, we really don't know this. Be a little more humble. We're incapable of knowing this at all. - said a scientist that should be fired

Comment Re: Another One? (Score 1) 140

How do trends in democracy fit into scientific progress? Democracy isn't a scientific theory.

There's no guarantee that society gets better, or that politics gets better. Democracy is an ideology or movement that sometimes is popular and sometimes isn't. Science is always trying to do a better job at describing the truth (even if theories and models are just the closest representation of truth possible).

Theories generally do improve because data gets better/more precise/more accurate. New theories need to be able to accommodate old data, as well as the new stuff that is in conflict with the old theory. The history of science if rife with examples of this.

That said, there are times when theories are accepted or rejected for political or social reasons, regardless of their ability to reflect the truth (e.g. creationism, climate change denial, initial rejection of special relativity, heliocentrism). These are short term fluctuations, and as increasingly more data comes to light, the fluctuations generally stabilize to the theory that's closer to the truth (except creationism, there's no reasoning with that theory until we invent a time machine).

Comment Re: what about GOP e-mails (Score 1) 715

Whether they hacked the RNC or not, that they hacked either side is what's scary. If they hacked only the DNC, we should be concerned that they only went after one candidate and not the other, showing clear favor for the other. On their other hand if they hacked both and only released the DNC emails, now they possibly have dirt on the incoming president for leverage. We should be concerned about that too.

In terms of whether this would have mattered, Nate Silver at 538 points out that if the voters in swing states had swung 1% back to Clinton overall, she would have won. So the possibility that the leaks could have swayed 1 out of 100 people to vote against her is very very real.

Comment Re:A .000002% incrase in something we didn't track (Score 1) 293

Actually it's a link to all of the data if you scroll down. Click on methane and it'll show you the methane plot.

It is a nonetheless a number to get upset about even though it's small. If you'd like a larger number: the mass of methane in the atmosphere is 5x10^12 kg. That seems like a lot, right? A hundred years ago it was 2.5x10^12 kg.

Feel free to do some research on your own about why 2 ppm is still a significant amount of methane from a radiative forcing perspective. Here is data showing the role of methane in climate forcing. A factor of 2 increase in CH4 will double that "methane" contribution. If you're still not concerned about such a small concentration, here is a link to CFC concentrations. They were only in the part per trillion (yes, trillion) range in the atmosphere when they were wreaking chemical havoc on the ozone. This is an example where small concentrations in the atmosphere can have a large impact.

We have the data in 5 years or shorter increments back to 1000 AD. Also, there is no model that would suggest that such swings could or would happen on such a short timescale. Without external meddling (such as humans), atmospheric concentrations of this kind of gas just don't move around that quickly (however others can).

Comment Re:A .000002% incrase in something we didn't track (Score 1) 293

To (1), see this and this and this and the obligatory xkcd. Important take home message - it's not just the raw scale of increase, but the rate of increase. It's well outside of a natural timescale which those same historical records indicate is on the order of thousands of years. What's happening now is 8x faster. Also, we know what natural causes drive global temperatures (Milankovitch cycles, ninos, volcanic eruptions, and other things) and can model that. When we take those into account, the observed warming is NOT recovered. Only including the effects of increased CO2 and CH4 levels accounts for the observations.

To (2), see this, and this and a lot of other refs if you google it. Main take home point: in the past, natural global warming (which should take place over thousands of years, see above links), has lead to the further emission of CO2 coming out of the oceans and other places (see here, hence the lag. This was predicted to be the case by Hansen et al before the lag was discovered.

Comment Re:A .000002% incrase in something we didn't track (Score 1) 293

A few ppb makes a large difference when the optical pathlength through the atmosphere is so long. You don't need much CH4 to make a big difference in light absorption. In this case it went up 10 ppb in two years, out of 1800, so it's a 0.5% increase. Much more than 0.000002%.

To be clear, methane has been monitored for more than a few years. See here

It is also been indirectly measured via ice cores back hundreds of thousands of years.

In addition the the current surge, what should be alarming is the following:

In the past 100 years, the concentration of atmospheric methane has nearly doubled from 925 ppb in 1916 to >1800 ppb now. In the past 250 years it's nearly tripled. That's very fast and very far outside of statistical variation and is clearly not slowing down.

Comment Re: Why conceal it? (Score 1) 740

FWIW, the Vermont law specifically defines GMO as modified using modern molecular techniques, not hybridization:

""Genetically engineered (GE) seed" means seed produced using a variety of methods, as identified by the National Organic Program of the U.S. Department of Agriculture, used to modify genetically organisms or influence their growth and development by means that are not possible under natural conditions or processes. Such methods include cell fusion, microencapsulation and macroencapsulation, and recombinant DNA technology (including gene deletion, gene doubling, introducing a foreign gene, and changing the positions of genes when achieved by recombinant DNA technology). Such methods do not include the use of traditional breeding, conjugation, fermentation, hybridization, in vitro fertilization, or tissue culture. (6 V.S.A. Â 641)."

""Genetically modified organism" (GMO), as defined by Vermont statute, means any organism altered or produced through genetic modification from a donor, vector, recipient organism, or by other means using modern molecular techniques (6 VSA Â 1030)."

Comment Re:Surprised the company didn't care much (Score 2) 240

The real question is why did someone think using a drilled out oil well as a natural gas storage facility was a good idea?

Let's do some quick math:

97100 metric tons CH4 = 1.4 x 10^11 standard liters CH4. If the gas is compressed to 2000 psi (136 atm), that requires 1 x 10^9 L of storage space. A billion liters. Find an above ground billion-liter, high pressure storage tank that can serve LA's natural gas needs, and I'm sure the gas company will jump on it. In the meantime, gas companies use drilled-out wells for gas storage all over the world. They have a lot of volume and are already known to be able to hold high pressures of gas (which is how the gas got out in the first place). It's like storing your water in a dried out lake bed rather than digging your own hole.

Comment Re:The basic question is answered...but still... (Score 4, Informative) 568

I work in the field, and I don't know any climate scientist out there whose sole job is to prove it's real - the measurements have been out for years empirically showing that the global warming is real. But "real" is a low-level, qualitative conclusion. Right now it's all about understanding and quantifying the causes and consequences, given the empirical data we have and the models we choose to employ.

The models generally agree on certain things (like warming), but there is a huge amount of variation between them in other ways. If anyone doubts that, I invite them to take a look at the abstracts from the most recent Fall meeting of the American Geophysical Union (AGU), or even better, attend it. There's no "right" model, and certainly no "right" + plug-and-play model. IMHO I don't see that happening for a very long time.

Comment Re: Well done... (Score 1) 292

I agree with the units issue. The American pre-distribution NG sectors work in standard cubic feet (where standard is usually but not always 15C and 1 atm). Sometimes they work in standard liters. In Europe they frequently work in normal cubic meters.

If I were reporting this, I would give units of cfh and btu/hr. Btu is what a person is actually paying for.

Comment Re:Fast fish and loose fish (Score 2) 239

Thermoses, also known as vacuum flasks, work because there is a vacuum gap between inner and outer walls. This includes liquid nitrogen and helium dewars.

The blackbody emission power is independent of the environmental temperature. The 3 K in space is irrelevant to the amount of power that the metal will emit. If you're referring to the radiation that the metal would have otherwise absorbed in a warm environment, keep in mind that the Stefan-Boltzmann law goes as T^4. The amount of radiation lost by the really hot metal will be far more than the energy is absorbs from the surrounding environment, unless the environment is close in temperature to the metal.

More importantly, who says that molten metal is a good blackbody? The principle of detailed balance tells us that if a surface doesn't absorb much radiation, it can't emit much radiation. In terms of blackbody emission, that translates to an emissivity that changes depending upon reflectivity. Polished copper has an emissivity of 0.03 at 1.6 microns, meaning it will emit 3% of the amount radiation that a blackbody would at the same temperature (@ 1.6 microns). Molten iron has an emissivity of 0.35 @ 1 micron (red hot).

If you want to keep your molten metal hot in space, put it into a shiny box (oven) for it to cool. I just did a quick calculation for a 50 cm dia sphere of 1900 K molten iron in deep space. It would take 104 hours to cool to room temperature if it was floating in free space (although it would drop to 1000 K after the first 4 hours). If you put it into a polished platinum box (emissivity of 0.02), it would take weeks to cool off.

Comment Re: "Expected" to release methane (Score 1) 329

Closer to 35 times better (on a 100 yr horizon):

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/G...

Agreed, CO2 and CH4 going into the atmosphere are both bad. CO2 just isn't quite so bad.

Good point regarding acidity. Now I need to do the calculation of pH increase as a function of X megatons of CO2 evolution in the ocean.

Comment Re: "Expected" to release methane (Score 1) 329

There's also a lot of unknowns about whether the CH4 even makes it to the surface. There's a lot of microbial activity between the sea floor and surface that loves to eat methane and release CO2:

http://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki...

http://link.springer.com/artic...

Tons of CO2 is a lot better in the atmosphere than tons of CH4.

Comment Re:I don't want to precipitate an argument, but .. (Score 1) 36

I'm not the one calling your words scum or dross. It's a legitimate question that I'm responding to. I have in fact thought about the implications of a lack of gravity upon chemical reactions, which is why I pointed out the few cases where it would be important. For homogeneous reactions (which are central to biochemistry), I encourage you to calculate the force of gravity, compared to local electrostatic forced such as dipoles and bond dipoles.

I agree with what you're saying that precipitation reactions will be affected by lack of gravity, as I repeatedly pointed out when I refer to biphasic reaction and phase-related reactions.

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