A 17-meter-wide asteroid that no one saw coming exploded in February near Chelyabinsk, Russia, blazing across the sky and television screens world wide. Efforts have been made to identify asteroids larger than a kilometer—objects large enough to threaten life on Earth. Hollywood has cranked out dozens of cheesy asteroid collision movies, some bad and others worse, but none capture the magnitude of the actual threat from near Earth objects (NEOs). There may be a million asteroids with masses greater than ocean liners in Earth-approaching orbits, nearly all of which remain undiscovered and their courses uncharted. Now, a private foundation wants to build Sentinel, a satellite containing an infrared telescope that would be able to detect a half-million orbiting objects from a vantage point near Venus. Is this a project too important to trust to government agencies like NASA and the ESA?
Much has been done to vilify carbon dioxide in the media. Listening to the talking heads and on-air “experts” could lead one to believe that CO2 is an evil scourge that the world would be better off without. Nothing could be further than the truth. CO2 is necessary for life on Earth, forests in particular. It is not just plant food, the maligned gas also plays a role in regulating water use by the world's forests. New research has uncovered an unexpectedly strong decrease in H2O uptake caused by increasing CO2. Along with global increases in photosynthesis, forest growth rates, and carbon uptake, higher CO2 levels contribute to enhanced timber yields and improved water availability. Who says higher CO2 levels are a bad thing?
This must be the season to bash electric automobiles. Even the staid IEEE Spectrum featured an article questioning the ecological soundness of electric vehicles on its cover. But aren't electrics and hybrids supposed to be the way to a green future? Think again. Environmentalists' love affair with electric vehicles (EVs) seems to be over. “If you are thinking of buying an electric car for the sake of the environment, you may want to think longer.,” says Bill Sweet of IEEE's EnergyWise. “You’re not doing the planet as much of a favor as you might think.” Does this make all those Prius drivers officially posers? Or were they all just duped by a passing green fad, which, like all green fads, was based on faulty reasoning and the triumph of emotion over reality?
Everyone has heard the pitch for solar energy, install solar cells on your roof and get free electricity from the Sun. Sure they cost a lot up front, but they will last 25-30 years—which just happens to be about the payback time given current electricity rates from coal, nuclear and natural gas. So when solar panels start failing in two or three years the economics of solar power collapses like a house of cards. That is exactly what is happening around the world. Cheap Chinese solar panels have flooded the market and are now starting to fail at an alarming rate. Solar panels covering a warehouse roof in Los Angeles were only two years into their expected 25-year life span when they began to fail. Worldwide, solar power adopters are reporting similar problems and say the $77 billion solar industry is facing a quality crisis. Bright sunlight is illuminating the scam that is solar power just as industry boosters claim solar is on the verge of widespread adoption.
Scientists who study climate will tell you that today's warm temperatures and mild conditions are not normal for Earth during the past several million years. Our planet has been in a general cooling trend for 35 million years and in the grip of an Ice Age for the last 1.6 million years. What's more, this Ice Age, known as the Pleistocene, consists of relatively short periods of warmth, called interglacials, separated by much longer periods of bitter cold, referred to as glacials. The recorded history of humankind covers only the later half of the most recent interglacial warming, though our ancient ancestors did leave messages in the form of cave art that date back to much colder times, times when the Ice Age held the world fast in its frozen embrace. Predicting the timing and duration of these periods remains a problem for scientists. Why the glacial periods should last around 100,000 years, as they have for the last million years or so, is called the 100-kyr problem. Now, a group of researchers claim they know the answer.
Sometimes scientists show their whimsical side by applying the tools of their profession to things outside the realm of science. Such was the case when a team of graduate students at the Department of Physics and Astronomy at Johns Hopkins University, decided to look into the oddly inconsistent seasons on the planet Westeros, the world invented by George R. R. Martin in A Game of Thrones. The group recently published a paper in which they explore the possible cause of summers lasting for years and winters for a generation. Using a numerical three-body computer simulation the intrepid researchers reach the conclusion that such a world is possible in the non-mythical universe.
The threat of widespread and persistent drought, ruining crops and threatening water supplies, is constantly cited as an outcome of global warming. Media talking heads, climate scientists (who should know better) and even the American President have all made this assertion—and there is nothing to back up the claim. Results presented recently at the annual assembly of the European Geosciences Union in Vienna show that forecasting drought is still beyond the reach of current climate models. Models run against historical data have either predicted periods of drought at the wrong times or missed them all together. Yet climate alarmists continue to spread this pernicious lie, preaching damnation with the certitude of an Old Testament prophet.
Gas prices, oil sands, fracking and the Canadian pipeline have all thrust energy back into the headlines. Politicians posture, eco-alarmists protest and those global warming fanatics continue to predict the end of the world as we know it. If you are tired of the hype and disinformation, if you really want to understand energy—where it comes from, how it works and how much of it the world has—then you need a copy of The Energy Gap. In this follow-on to The Resilient Earth, Hoffman and Simmons address the world's energy questions with the same wit and erudition displayed in their previous work. Even better, in honor of April 15th, tax day in the US, you can now download a copy of The Energy Gap for free from Amazon.
The Resilient Earth Press is proud to announce Doug L. Hoffman and Allen Simmons' seminal work, The Resilient Earth, is now available in a re-formatted version for the Kindle ebook reader. As relevant today as when it was first published in 2008, this new version contains the entirety of the text from the original paperback edition, reformatted to more effectively display on Amazon's new line of color Fire HD readers. The price has also been reduced to $7.99, a savings of 60% over the the hard copy list price. More than just a book about global warming, it is a tribute to nature and the scientists who study the Universe we live in. If you do not own a copy of this classic, now is the time to buy REP's all time best seller.
Writing in a paper to appear in the journal Environmental Science & Technology, NASA scientist and noted climate alarmist James Hansen has come down on the side of nuclear power. He and coauthor Pushker A. Kharecha claim that getting power from nuclear energy actually saves lives. “Global nuclear power has prevented about 1.84 million air pollution-related deaths,” they report. Of course it also prevented 64 gigatonnes (Gt) CO2-equivalent greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, when compared to the burning of fossil fuels, perhaps explaining why Hansen has suddenly become a nuclear power booster. With global warming on hiatus for the past decade and a half, the climate change cabal may be growing desperate for allies and have turned to that most unloved of energy sources—nuclear. Is this a sign that warmists and tree-huggers have a developing schism over nuclear power?
Recent comet sightings and the fiery path blazed across Russian skies by a large meteor have people pondering the possibility of a collision between Earth and some other heavenly body. Lost in the discussion is news from NASA that Mars is on schedule for a close encounter of its own in 2014, and the visiting comet may actually strike the red planet. Comet C/2013 A1 (Siding Spring) will be rendezvousing with Mars in October 2014, most likely passing by the planet at roughly the height of an earthly communication satellite. Estimates of the minimum distance between planet and comet range from about 100,000 km and 0, meaning a collision. If the comet does collide with Mars it is estimated the blast will be equivalent to that of a billion megatons of TNT. It would be an event of the same magnitude as the impact that killed off the dinosaurs 65 million years ago.
NASA says that something unexpected is happening on the Sun. This year, 2013, is supposed to be the peak of the 11-year sunspot cycle—the year of Solar Max. Yet solar activity is well below the expected level. Out somnolent star refuses to behave according to the predictions of Sun watching scientists, leading some observers to wonder if forecasters missed the mark. The botched solar forecast not only has implication for our understanding of the physical processes inside the Sun, it has possible links to future climate change here on Earth. Scientists admit that no one knows for sure what the Sun will do next.
It's everywhere on Earth, on the other planets and moons of the solar system, and even in comets from deep space. It is the frozen form of water, commonly called ice. Something so ubiquitous and familiar, one would think that science knows a lot about ice. It turns out science knows less than we might suppose. In a commentary in the journal Nature, an ice scientist raises ten open questions about ice. For example, the article states: “We cannot predict with certainty when and where ice clouds will form in the atmosphere; areas of the sky remain humid when we would expect them to freeze.” Ice is a fundamental part of Earth's climate, yet these questions and others remain unanswered. How can climate science claim to predict the fate of the polar ice sheets or mountain glaciers when we do not really understand the substance that they are made of?
The Resilient Earth Press would like to announce that The Energy Gap is now available as an eBook on the Amazon Kindle. This successor to The Resilient Earth is more timely than ever given the raging debate over fracking, green energy, nuclear power and energy independence. Filled with with historical insights and loaded with technical details regarding all the world's major energy sources, this entertaining reference book should be on every energy wonk's book reader. The conversion problems from the original print book that hindered eBook publication in the past have finally been overcome and the new eBook is now for sale on Amazon. Kindle Books include wireless delivery—you can be reading The Energy Gap on your Kindle within a minute of placing your order. Books are delivered wirelessly in less than 60 second—no PC required—and the latest version of Kindle has 3G wireless coverage in over 100 countries.
One of the best kept secrets regarding alternative energy sources is based on an element most people have never heard of—thorium. Named after the Norse god of thunder, Thor, thorium is a fertile (not fissile) fuel that can power safe nuclear reactors to provide almost unlimited amounts of emissions free power. At the same time, such reactors can also burn up existing stockpiles of nuclear waste. For various political reasons thorium has not found support in countries like the US, but now a Norwegian company is making the switch from uranium to thorium, running one of its power reactors for a four year test to prove the viability of this true source of clean alternative energy. Norway, like the US and many other countries, have abundant supplies of this element—perhaps it is time to actually solve the world's energy problems for the foreseeable future, without all the expensive solar cells and bird killing wind turbines.