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?
Scientists have long suspected that the orbital cycles of our planet are responsible for the periodic climate variation that causes alternating glacial and interglacial periods. Milankovitch's theory of orbital cycles suggests that summer insolation at high northern latitudes drives the glacial cycles. Moreover, statistical analyses have demonstrated that the glacial cycles are indeed linked to eccentricity, obliquity and precession. Now, researchers have confirmed that a combination of two of the Milankovitch cycles conspire to start and stop ice ages. The 100,000-year eccentricity cycle amplifies the influence of the 23,000-year wobble of Earth's spin axis called precession. The new modeling also suggests that the great accumulation of mass by the North American ice sheet causes the abrupt end of glacial periods. CO2 is involved, but is not determinative, in the evolution of the 100,000-year glacial cycles say the scientists.
Science is supposed to be unbiased, seeking to understand the workings of nature untainted by the personal beliefs or prejudices of its practitioners. Nature alone is the arbiter of truth—when science and nature disagree it is science that is wrong. But science is practiced by human beings, who cannot keep their beliefs, whether engendered by religious, philosophical, or political leanings, from skewing any result that is equivocal or highly complex. Presented here are two examples taken from the pages of Nature, perhaps the world's primer scientific journal. One is a rehash of temperature history in northern latitudes with a new statistical twist, the other a report on a study regarding fracking. One shows how what scientists leave out of their studies may be more important than what they put in. The other shows how a headline can spin the results of a report even when its authors are carefully neutral in their conclusions.
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?
The number of earthquakes in the U.S. has risen dramatically since the advent of widespread hydraulic fracturing for the recovery of oil and natural gas. In both North America and Europe, concern that such activity could cause damaging earthquakes is rising and the debate shows signs of becoming another unscientific brouhaha fueled by ignorance and fear. It has been known for many years that fracking can cause seismic activity, as can damming rivers, mining minerals and pumping oil from underground. Is fracking being subjected to unfair criticism? Several new reports and a multi-national study, just published in the journal Science, attempt to take an objective, scientific view of the problem.
AWED, the Alliance for Wise Energy Decisions, has officially announced its new website, intended to serve as a scientific resource to help citizens, scientists, elected representatives, etc. in making more informed energy and environmental decisions. The purpose the site is to sort through the avalanch of articles, studies and reports on energy matters, select a representative cross-section of informative material, and then organize it in an understandable manner. In constructing the new site, volunteers previewed over 5000 studies, reports, and papers, collecting and organizing just the most useful material. The new site, WiseEnergy.org, replaces WindPowerFacts.info.
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?
They took their best shot, an all court press trying to convince the people of the world that climate catastrophe was imminent, that humanity had irreversibly fouled its own nest with billowing clouds of greenhouse gasses. Yet the world remains. There has been climate change aplenty, just not the climate change predicted by the IPCC's perfidious minions. More and more scientists have begun to face the fact that their climate model estimates are not correct, forced by nature itself to conclude that there is something fundamentally wrong with how climate science is done. In a recent edition of a major scientific journal, a gaggle of climate scientists have issued a statement that just a few years ago would have been considered heresy: “The rate of global mean warming has been lower over the past decade than previously.” This leads them to conclude that a lower range of temperature increase at the point of doubling of the atmospheric CO2 concentration is indicated.
U.S. President Barack Obama delivered his highly anticipated speech about combating climate change today. As predicted, he plans on accomplishing this by hamstringing America's energy industry. The speech began with false claims regarding natural disasters and then descended into a morass of new regulations. In a blatant attempt to placate the eco-left, the scandal plagued Chief Executive announced an end run around the Congress by using executive orders to crack down on CO2 emissions from the nation's power plants and limiting oil & gas recovery using fracking on federal lands. It was a speech larded with lies and promises of political pork that, in the long run, will do little to please his critics on the right or left.
Despite a decade and a half without temperature rise, climate scientists still stubbornly stick to their predictions of steadily increasing global temperatures. These predictions are all based on GCM, computer programs that model the circulation of Earth's atmosphere and oceans and a myriad of other factors in an attempt to simulate our planet's climate system. The problem is, the computer models are severely flawed, flawed at such a fundamental level that two climate modelers have called for a reassessment of all computer models currently in use. Sadly, a number of the flaws they point out have been known to scientists for decades, yet mainstream climate science continues to rely on these broken models, hoping to get lucky with predictions made for the wrong reasons.
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 Resilient Earth Press is pleased to announce that Allen Simmons' latest suspense thriller, Hunting Immortality, is now available on Amazon's kindle eBook reader. Follow the chilling adventure of a young scientist just out of Grad School who receives a job offer that is just too good to be true. Transported from her safe, comfortable life in North Carolina into the shadowy world of a secretive multinational research company, she uncovers an unspeakable horror in the Swiss Alps. Action, Suspense and terror mingle in this pulse pounding novel based on genetic engineering that could be taking place today.
Often ignored in times of calamity, and eclipsed in the media by faux crises like Global Warming, humanity is facing the very real possibility of food shortages in the future. Given that the average citizen of a developed country consumes eight times their weight in food each year, this is no small problem. Not to fear, dedicated teams of scientists and technologists are on the job, trying to invent the food of the future. Many of the proposed solutions center on being able to print edible objects using 3D printing technology. This would allow raw feed stocks of protein, carbohydrate, starch, and other substances to be combined into food on demand in our homes—food tailored to individual nutritional needs with less waste than conventional preparation. Moreover, the raw material could come from unlikely sources: algae, seaweed, mealworms and insects. Will future food save the planet?