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Unforced Varations: Aug 2012

Filed under: — group @ 2 August 2012

Once more with feeling…

571 Responses to “Unforced Varations: Aug 2012”

  1. 351
    dbostrom says:

    SA: What’s needed, in the long run, is for the human species collectively to attain the insight, wisdom and humility to recognize that we are just one thread in the web of life, and to manage our own behavior with appropriate respect for other species, and for the Earth’s biosphere as a whole.

    Homo sapiens, or Homo bolidus? We are privileged to decide, if we can collectively behave more intelligently than an enormous rock on a trajectory to mass destruction of ourselves and much else in our debris field. The “sapiens” tag seems to be premature at best.

  2. 352
  3. 353
    Jim Larsen says:

    340 Chris said, “There’s already momentum in this direction, in the Occupy movement and elsewhere, building on the civil rights and anti-war struggles.”

    It all comes down to a race. Being downtrodden increases birth rates, but belief in myths does the same. So, which side produces the most children will win – if the believers in myth win, we all lose, so the obvious solution is to breed like rabbits until the Republicans can’t steal elections regardless of how many folks they prevent from voting and how much money they spend to confuse the electorate.

    If you’re a Democrat and using a condom, you’re part of the problem.

  4. 354
    Jim Larsen says:

    SA said, “human beings are not the “crown of creation”, but one species among many that have evolved within the Earth’s biosphere, upon which we are absolutely dependent for our continued existence,”

    Sorry, but total crap. We could exterminate all but a few thousand species and do quite well, thank you very much. Wooo, we’d have to rely on science to create new medicines, BUT disease would take a huge hit by exterminating birds and such. Really, other than our desire to see wildlife, what do we need besides domesticated species and slime mold? Take any Space Flight To The Stars ship, and you’ve got everything we need.

    Seriously, can you state ANY inherent flaw in the deliberate destruction of 99% of the biosphere? (I find the idea reprehensible, but I insist on logical truth)

  5. 355
    J Bowers says:

    339 Ron R — “I am convinced that this planet that we were gifted to live upon, was once a world of exquisite loveliness, of adventure, of quiet, of peace. A true Garden of Eden.”

    I don’t. I think the universe has been so out to get us since day one I sneer at trees when passing them by and tell small children to keep their distance. Adding to the universe’s arsenal in its efforts to kick out the Holocene ain’t helping. Call me a pessimist, it’s okay ;)

  6. 356
    wili says:

    Jim, “total crap” may have been a bit…hasty.

    Picking just one example–bees (and other pollinators). Get rid of those, and much of our food supply crashes. (And that is what is what we seem to be facing–huge crashes in bee populations in North America and Europe.)

    Another–phytoplankton. Saying goodbye to those guys is (eventually) saying goodbye to about half of our oxygen supply. (Again, that is what we seem to be facing–40% reduction in phytoplankton, last I heard.)

    As I understand it, there are just a few kinds of fungus responsible for crucial stages of breakdown of dead matter into soil usable by plants. Lose those and you (eventually) lose your soil that our wonderful domesticated plants need to grow and to feed to our wonderful domesticated animals.

    So there are a few flaws in your devious plan to destroy 99% of the biosphere.

    And of course, GW makes our once-reliable domesticated crops impossible to grow anyway. When the corn belt moves into northern Canada where there is barely any topsoil and the growing season is very short, we simply won’t have a corn yield, at least not one that could feed many people, much less livestock and cars…

    And I’m just an ignorant liberal arts guy. I’m sure someone trained in the study of ecology could multiply those examples many times. I know that ecological economists have valued the ‘services’ provided by non-domesticated plants, animals and fungi at many times the total global economic output, so you run into problems if you think you can just pay for those services.

    But you express well what a kind of default assumption of many modern humans with a certain mind set, even if they don’t generally state it as baldly and boldly as you have.

  7. 357
    SecularAnimist says:

    Radge Havers wrote: “I’m of the opinion that more people think like artists than scientists and just can’t quite manage to bridge that gap. That’s one of the reasons why I tend to agree with Greisch about putting more of science and the science/engineering core into other college programs.”

    This is of course merely an anecdotal observation, but it seems to me that global warming denial is more prevalent among engineers than artists; and quite a few artists are in fact outspoken activists and advocates for dealing with global warming.

  8. 358
    SecularAnimist says:

    Jim Larsen wrote: “We could exterminate all but a few thousand species and do quite well, thank you very much … Seriously, can you state ANY inherent flaw in the deliberate destruction of 99% of the biosphere?”

    Right. Nuclear war is winnable, and if we have enough shovels to go around, everyone will be fine.

    Seriously, I must assume — or at least hope — that your comment is satire.

  9. 359
    Ron R. says:

    339 Ron R — “I am convinced that this planet that we were gifted to live upon, was once a world of exquisite loveliness, of adventure, of quiet, of peace. A true Garden of Eden.”

    Comment by John E. Pearson @ 1:53 PM: Me too. It ended somewhere between the Hadean and the Archean.

    Comment by J Bowers — @ 4:27 AM I don’t. I think the universe has been so out to get us since day one

    My apologies to readers if I appear obsessed with certain time periods. I’ve been researching and attempting to write a non non-fiction book (as opposed to a fiction) about parts of the Miocene, the springtime of the earth IMO. I hope that I can do it and if so produce a work worthy of the subject. Yes I know, “nature red in tooth and claw” and all that, but this will be a book of larger contrasts.

    Of course the beauty of nature was not restricted to that particular time. I read one story about the interglacial Sangamon that inspired me. But even as recently as the seventeenth century substantial parts of the planet were still pristine.

    I like to quote the following from the famous French explorer to the Americas, Pierre Esprit Radisson c1652 in the description of his journey through what would later become the United States:

    “The further we sojourned the delightfuller the land was to us. I can say that in my lifetime I never saw a more incomparable country….The country was so pleasant, so beautiful and fruitful that it grieved me to see the world could not discover such enticing countries to live in. This I say because the europeans fight for a rock in the sea against each other, or for a sterile and horrid country. Contrariwise, these kingdoms are so delicious and under so temperate a climate, plentiful of all things, the earth bringing forth its fruit twice a year, the people live long and lusty and wise in their way.”

    Yet in the mere 360 years that have elapsed since then look what we have done.

    Where do we stand in our efforts to achieve a sustainable world? Clearly, the past half century has been a traumatic one, as the collective impact of human numbers, affluence (consumption per individual) and our choices of technology continue to exploit rapidly an increasing proportion of the world’s resources at an unsustainable rate…. during a remarkably short period of time, we have lost a quarter of the world’s topsoil and a fifth of its agricultural land, altered the composition of the atmosphere profoundly, and destroyed a major proportion of our forests and other natural habitats without replacing them. Worst of all, we have driven the rate of biological extinction, the permanent loss of species, up several hundred times beyond its historical levels, and are threatened with the loss of a majority of all species by the end of the 21st century.
    -Peter Raven, past president of AAAS.

    When I measure the world as it was and still can be (though to a much lesser extent) against the world as it is rapidly becoming I am sickened.

  10. 360
    Chris Korda says:

    OK the fog is getting a bit thick so maybe a recap will help me keep track. Brief summaries of the most prolific and/or extreme voices, with representative quotes.

    SA: Wants us to transcend our anthropocentrism and/or leave the biosphere alone, e.g. @344: “collectively … attain the insight, wisdom and humility to recognize that we are just one thread in the web of life, and to manage our own behavior with appropriate respect for other species, and for the Earth’s biosphere as a whole.”

    Ron R: Objects to “dissecting” nature and longs for our pre-industrial hunter-gatherer past, e.g. @339: “I am convinced that this planet that we were gifted to live upon, was once a world of exquisite loveliness, of adventure, of quiet, of peace” until people “got tired of waiting for nature’s rhythms.”

    wili: Thinks geoengineering is “goats tending the garden” (@301), but acknowledges that pre-industrial societies also modified their environment, and wants to save the planet by persuading people to stop driving, eating meat and processed foods, using electricity, etc. but without lying to them about what’s ahead.

    Patrick 027: Likes chocolate, air-conditioning, and fun with friends, agrees (@132) that science can’t solve ethical problems, and suspects humanity might have more at stake its mere survival, e.g. @168: “species preserved, self preserved … Check. Now what?”

    Radge Havers: Recognizes non-human suffering and the beauty of nature, and thinks humans should combine logic and compassion to “solve complex optimization problems” (@284), but also thinks humans are “faulty apes who like to sit around philosophizing” and are “full of crap.” Likes cats, artists not so much.

    Steve Fish: Considers “the death of a great many humans from starvation and war” a significant factor that shouldn’t be dismissed. Also points out @207 that corporations “want to continue making big profits regardless of consequences” and that their bad behavior could conceivably be limited by increased government regulation. Has actually considered and presumably seen “Soylent Green.” (@179)

    Ray Ladbury: Opines @305 that humans are about as significant (to nature) as ants. Doesn’t think humans matter to cats but likes them anyway. Believes “science has accomplished far more toward [betterment of the human condition] in just 400 years than all the idealism, philosophy and religion did in the previous 2000.”

    Jim Larsen: Dislikes the “magical market” @137, digs lions and We the People, and thinks stewardship of Earth is the only game in town, e.g. @308: “Humans ARE the stewards of the world. There is NO NO NO alternative.” Also opines @336 that humans will soon be replaced by silicon, suggests @353 that Democrats should out-breed Republicans, and @354 challenges us to “state ANY inherent flaw in the deliberate destruction of 99% of the biosphere.”

    Edward Greisch: Believes science will solve ethics, but also that “There is only time to limit the population crash enough to preserve some remnant of order.” Charming tone, e.g. @37 “WRONG. And off limits. Leave it alone.” Pro-hunting and doesn’t waste tears on extinct species, but hopes to seed exo-planets (@272). Fan of “extreme action now”, and thinks “there are zero human authorities” and that “NATURE is the absolute dictator” (@330), but sociobiology has nothing whatsoever to with [censored], presumably because history is a humanity and therefore doesn’t count.


    Most everyone seems to agree that humans are greedy and ignorant, excepting themselves and a few of their favorite scientists of course.

  11. 361
    Ron R. says:

    By the way, where is RC’s most prolific commenter?

  12. 362
    Radge Havers says:

    SA @ 357

    Anecdotal, yes. However anecdotally I can also tell you that artists are a diverse lot. That includes some fans of Rush Limbaugh I know. Nor does concern about climate change necessarily equate with any great love of science, for instance on the subjects of alt med or perhaps astrology.

    I’m simply pointing out that the discipline required to be a good artist is not fungible (for lack of a better word) with the discipline required to be a good scientist. I suspect this is partly due to the way the human brain is wired, but it’s also a cultural thing in the art world which, I opine, is bound up with society at large at a more instinctual level than is science.

  13. 363

    “Seriously, can you state ANY inherent flaw in the deliberate destruction of 99% of the biosphere?”

    Yeah–the utter impossibility of ensuring which species will be in the 1% to survive.

    To quote a famous philosopher, “Are you feeling lucky?”

    How is it that folks who presumably adhere to the view that daring to plan a national economy is ridiculous, counterproductive hubris, adopt the view that humanity is up to planning a global ecology for which we don’t even know all the species yet, let alone understand the interactions? How is it that people exist who are willing to admire the homeostatic capabilities of the world we live in, then think nothing throwing out 99% of its biological components?

    (Jim, I don’t know that you fall into either of these two groups. But your idea is unbelievably naive, at best.)

  14. 364
    Ray Ladbury says:

    Jim Larsen,
    “Wilderness is not a luxury but a necessity of the human spirit”–Edward Abbey

    We evolved with all of the species that grew or walked or swam or flew or slithered on the earth 3 million years ago. Those species nourished, entertained, amazed and terrified us. Every time we lose one of those species, a part of our humanity dies.

  15. 365
    Ric Merritt says:

    Thanks Jim Larsen for clarifying your thoughts on living just fine without all but a few thousand species. (Selected by whom, and the destruction managed by whom and how, you seem to have left as an exercise for the reader.)

    Humans are complicated enough that the possibility remains you could say something that makes sense on some other topic, but given that howler, the chances are not enough for me to waste my valuable time on reading your comments. Now I can safely skip them, and my days just got more efficient.

    Great job!

  16. 366
    Radge Havers says:

    Chris Korda @ 360

    OK. That was amusing.

    However, something seems to be missing from the recap.

    Chris Korda: Doesn’t do nuance.

  17. 367
    Jim Larsen says:

    “Wilderness is not a luxury but a necessity of the human spirit”–Edward Abbey

    Great quote. Myself, I adore trees and my spirit soars when I wander an old-growth forest.

    We’re sort of killing ourselves softly as we degrade the biosphere which provides us with so much. “Need” has many levels. I was only talking about the most crass one – we could survive in a spaceship type environment, but geez, what a horrid visual, which is why I used the word reprehensible.

    And I apologize to all for my political comment, which wasn’t even accurate. I’ll try to do better.

  18. 368
    Jim Larsen says:

    365 Ric M said, “Thanks Jim Larsen for clarifying your thoughts on living just fine without all but a few thousand species. ”

    Uh, no. I said that was a reprehensible concept, not a goal. My point was that our actions threaten to make such an existence a reality.

  19. 369
    flxible says:

    If Jim Larsen thinks we can do fine on 1% of the biosphere, he doesn’t understand how dependent his own existence is on bacteria, which represent the vast majority of the biomass on earth. And THAT is the flaw in his proposal, which of course was just hand waving anyway.

  20. 370
    SecularAnimist says:

    Chris Korda wrote: “Most everyone seems to agree that humans are greedy and ignorant, excepting themselves and a few of their favorite scientists of course.”

    I certainly don’t except myself.

    Greed, fear and ignorance are the universal human condition, and the fundamental cause of suffering. Awakening to this truth is the first step on the path to liberation from greed, fear and ignorance and the transformation of suffering to well-being.

    “Many people are free from physical illness, for a month, or a year, or even an entire lifetime. Few are free from mental illness for even a single moment.” — Buddha

  21. 371
    Jim says:

    Please pick it up a couple of notches folks. If you want to discuss climatic effects on biodiversity, ecosystem functioning, human demography or health, or similar topics, that would probably benefit everyone. Flippant and wild generalizations about god-knows-what, not so much.

  22. 372
    Jimb says:

    An article in our Edmonton paper referred to a report that rare forest fires may damage polar bear dens around Churchill Manitoba. Further details found at–rare-wildfires-may-destroy-pregnant-polar-bears-dens-near-hudson-bay also points out that warmer temperatures and snow and ice conditions may make the situation more difficult for females to nurture and protect new cubs. Some polar bear populations are already on the endangered list.

  23. 373
    Steve Fish says:

    Re- Comment by Chris Korda — 17 Aug 2012 @ 10:57 AM:

    That is a pretty good summary with the exception that I didn’t say anything about government regulation and the usual problems with lifting quotes out of the context of a discussion.

    Your final comment- “Most everyone seems to agree that humans are greedy and ignorant, excepting themselves and a few of their favorite scientists of course” -is just a nasty dig without any basis. The fact that you left out a summary for yourself is telling.

    I think that your hazy philosophy pot stirring is just a type of tolling for a science forum and it has brought out the worst in many posters here by encouraging discussions of Mama Gaia, animistic religion, and such, that have nothing to do with climate science or even any realistic strategies for dealing with a problematic future for my grandkids.

    The trolling weather has been bad lately. Steve

    [Response:Last word on the issue. Defensible statements and discussion of the physical, chemical, biological, statistical etc. issues only from here on out please.–Jim]

  24. 374
    Jim Larsen says:

    369 flxible said, “dependent his own existence is on bacteria, which represent the vast majority of the biomass on earth.”

    Heck, you don’t even have to include anything but the human body. Our bacteria/viruses/parasites exceed our cells, number-wise at least.

    Hank, we can decide but reality won’t follow our decision. Cockroaches, rats, and weeds do pretty well in devastation. I was just painting a nasty, horrid visual and then disowning it at the end. Not my best post, for sure, but hopefully I’ve clarified things a bit.

  25. 375
    dbostrom says:

    Jim: Our bacteria/viruses/parasites exceed our cells, number-wise at least.

    I’m not sure if it’s scientifically defensible, but I’m under the impression that after a long hot summer day of working outside, bacteria out-mass my directly genomic body.

  26. 376
    Superman1 says:


    Could you repeat the list of positive feedback loops you gave me on another blog?

  27. 377
    Patrick 027 says:

    Just 3 points of clarification (which are defensible) and moving on –

    A number of statements could be made about how humans are special and about how humans are not special and they could all be true (I’ve agreed with many thus far).

    An artist may think about physics, evolution, and of course geometry, when drawing some invented creature (I have); and of course when drawing natural phenomena, knowledge of those can be helpful and enriching.

    Other arguments were had over things where both sides were true or at least true up to a point or in some interpretation; I restrain myself from going into the details.

    Re 343 Radge Havers – thanks for the description of that show; I’ll keep it mind, sounds good. As for artists, Chris v. Edward, etc. – I had a different take – won’t go into it as it’s officially OT now but I didn’t want to feel like I had left you with the wrong impression (you could figure some of what I mean out from my prior comments).

    Re Jim Larsen –
    @ 332 – on waiting for better technology – well, there’s the problem that in the meantime we’d be using that much more fossil fuels (energy usage reduction could occur in either case). The LCAs of wind and solar look pretty good (see my earlier ) If it were competitive to install wind and solar with the right CO2eq tax rate (or even if not quite, given mass market advantages and learning curves), then it makes sense to install them now, I think. If we aren’t expecting such a rapid increase in efficiency that would justify waiting to keep the best lands, etc, open, and then that increase happens (for a given affordibility), then we’d just be ahead and it would be good news. (PS the LCA’s tend to assume lifetimes on the order of 30 years or so.)

    PS the thermodynamic limit for solar power is actually pretty high (at least for concentrated sunlight) but affordability/practicality demands are such that people seem to be satisfied with rather lower numbers commercially; which gives us PV that is still doable from a land-use (and roof-use) perspective.

    (A (at least conventional) PV cell is a bit like a heat engine in that high temperature, low entropy radiation enters, produces high temperature electrons and holes, which then ‘cool’ without recombining (by interactions with the crystal lattice), which I think has the effect of partially seperating some of the energy from some of the entropy – the (quasi-)fermi levels for each population of excited charge carriers are pulled apart, and the difference is usable energy. There is a loss from a minimum required rate of recombination to satisfy Kirchoff’s law (emissivity = absorptivity – noting that one must use an effective temperature, which describes the fermi distribution that would fit population densities of electrons and holes, and that varies as a function of energy) – however that could be gotten around a bit by foregoing absorbing the lowest energy photons that can be used (empoying a sort of greenhouse effect). Directing photons in different parts of the spectrum to different cells can reduce the waste heat from the ‘cooling’ of the excited charge carriers (based on the physics as I read it, a sufficiently narrow spectral interval of photons with energy just barely above the band gap could produce a cold population of excited charge carriers, which would then absorb heat (but lose usable energy)). I imagine luminescent concentrator physics is similar – *if* a large interval of photons is absorbed and the same number are emitted (by fluorescence) at a lower energy in a narrow interval, if the energy is not too much lower than the brightness temperature is actually increased (the entropy wouldn’t dissapear, it would just go elsewhere – essentially pre-processing the energy for the solar cells – if the fluorescence in a real luminescent concentrator behaves that way; I think the main point of a luminescent concentrator is that it can concentrate diffuse light energy onto a smaller area of cells). Using concentrated sunlight so that energy is being absorbed from all directions that it could be emitted into boosts the efficiency that can be achieved. Regarding the emission of radiation – CSP is similar in that as the heat source for the engine warms up, it will tend to emit some radiation back into the concentrator and out to space/etc (also could be mitigated with a greenhouse effect). Wind also has a limit due to, I think, the fluid flow’s ability to deflect around the turbine in response to resistance to flow, and the need to leave some kinetic energy in the flow so that it can keep flowing (see'_law ). Perhaps a generalization could be made that the greater fraction of captured energy you try to convert to usable energy, the smaller the fraction of incident power you can actually capture (this is illustrated nicely in a current-voltage plot for solar cells) – so you find the optimum point somewhere in the middle).

    @ 335 – Thanks, although I can create the illusion of being smart by choosing to write about things I know / would hope that I’m smart enough to write so that people understand it.

  28. 378
    Jim Larsen says:

    376 Patrick, I disagree with the word “waiting”. I’m saying spend the amount you’d prefer, but to do it more efficiently than we do now. For example, for renewables to work in large numbers, we *need* a better grid with a DC backbone or three, plus the legal ability to transfer energy long distances. Nowadays electrons run into legislative borders. All those NW wind turbines become liabilities exactly at the time they should be providing their best return. Had we spent the money needed to ensure technical and legal ability to use those turbines to the max – say it took 1 year – then by now we’d be harvesting more energy from one-year better turbines being used properly, and we’d have a starter backbone.

    So spend the money (we’ve got a limited budget each year) on the grid, on efficiency, on developing a standardized system, much like France did with nuclear power, and, of course, continue building systems to keep the industry healthy and to aid learning. So much of renewables is just construction that needs to migrate from custom to standard. PV is <$1(?), but installing them triples(?) the price. That's a problem that can be solved in a couple years, so the slowdown I'm asking folks to consider isn't necessarily very long, and at the end of the delay we'd go gangbusters because the prep work will make the economics compelling.

    By doing things we can get agreement on we can reduce the argument later. Look at wind. The fighting whipsaws the market. That increases producer risk and taxpayer/consumer prices, scares people away from the industry, and gives fodder to folks who want wind killed.

    Another way to think of it is, say you have two things that must be done to complete a job, A and B. A is predicted to drop in price tremendously, while B is predicted to increase in price a bit. All else being equal (it isn't), you'd do B first. That's where we are with renewables. No backbone, no massive switch to renewables. And I'm sure building the backbone itself would save carbon. When energy can shuttle anywhere, things get more efficient, so it's not obvious that building renewables before the backbone would save carbon (VS building the backbone along with fewer renewables first).

    I've read differing estimates on the EROEI for wind and solar, ranging from 9 months payback (great!) to 10:1 lifetime (sorta yucky), depending on the site and the technology. Energy isn't money, but at 9 months a case could be made for installing now AND later. Build it, rip it out in 10 years, and replace. That offends my sense of frugality, but sense is often wrong.

    But seriously, building a system before it's proper use is possible or even legal….

  29. 379
    Jim Larsen says:

    A DC backbone would hasten (locally-consumed) coal’s death.

    o man, what a recaptcha: still shunbra

  30. 380
    Jim Larsen says:

    “hope that I’m smart enough to write so that people understand it.”

    Hansen is one of the best role-models to have in that endeavour. Some of his work reads at almost a high school level – the gap he bridges is amazing.

  31. 381
    Charles says:

    I agree that more artists tend to be activist. At least that has been my experience. I disagree that engineers are deniers. Deniers appear to be the uneducated, conspiracy-driven folk who distrust anyone in power. Engineers appear to be in tune with the skeptic crowd, not wanting to accept anything that is not support by hard data.

  32. 382
    Patrick 027 says:

    cont. from

    THIS IS PART A (of the Chandler-wobble – precession – obliquity – tidal drag – climate friction comments I said I was going to do). (I think I may have gotten a bit carried away with it; but rest assured, equations in the rest of these (except maybe part B – I’m splitting the originally planned part A into A and B since I couldn’t type it out all at once) will be briefer. Part B will be more physics and a lot of the rest of this will be text and you won’t need to know so much math to actually understand it – I just put it here in case anybody wanted to see how it comes together.


    -± will indicate the minus above plus sign.

    ^ indicates an exponent, such as 6^2 = 36, or cos^2(θ) = [1 + cos(2*θ)]/2;
    if not followed by a number, then it is indicating a unit vector in the same direction as the vector otherwise denoted.

    xi, x,y,z, etc, whenever a magnitude must be specified, will be unit vectors in those directions.

    * multiplication (as in “Excel”), except
    ∙, • dot product (vectors), matrix multiplication (I may switch from one to the other if it looks better, and might sometimes use this for products of scalars too, but the asterisk is so easy to type in.

    × cross product (vectors)

    vector: A = ∑Ai = ∑Ai*xi = [A1,A2,A3] = [Ax,Ay,Az], depending on how coordinates are labelled

    magnitude of vector |A| = A = √(AA)


    vector products and angles:
    AB = A*B*cos(φ) (A.1);
    |A×B| = A*B*|sin(φ)| (A.2);
    A×B = –B×A (A.3);

    where φ is the angle between the vectors A and B. The cross product is normal (perpendicular) to the plane parallel to A and B.


    The dot product of a cross product is equal to the volume of the parallelepiped defined by three vectors (sign depends on order). This is helpful in showing that:

    A•(B×C) = (A×B)•C (A.4) (the parentheses are actually unecessary in this case)

    Geometrical considerations show that the sign stays the same as long as the order is the same (if A is ‘above the plane’ defined by B×C, then C must also be ‘above the plane’ defined by A×B). The order across the dot product can be reversed so there is a larger family of these scalar triple products with the same magnitude and sign.

    The “BAC-CAB” rule for the vector triple product:

    A×(B×C) = B(AC) – C(AB) (A.5)

    (my favorite proof of this is from pp. 31-32 of (6))


    Another useful vector relationship with no name that I know of:

    Using (A.2), it can be shown that:

    |ω×r|^2 =

    (ω×r)•(ω×r) = ω•(r×(ω×r)) (A.6)


    where n^ is in the same direction as ω×r would be if sin(φ) > 0, and is otherwise in the opposite direction, and φ is the angle from ω to r,

    ω×r = n^ * ω*r*sin(φ) (restatement of (A.2))

    therefore |ω×r|^2 = ω^2*r^2*sin^2(φ)

    while, noting a vector is perpendicular to any cross product between it and another vector (in either order),

    r×(ω×r) = (r^×n^) * r * ω*r*sin(φ),

    where (r^×n^) is in the same plane as ω and r and is -90˚ (-π/2 radians) from r (a positive angle would continue away from ω in the same sense as φ), and thus φ – π/2 from ω,

    so ω•(r×(ω×r))

    = ω^•(r^×n^) * ω^2*r^2*sin(φ)

    = cos(φ – π/2) * ω^2*r^2*sin(φ)

    = sin(φ) * ω^2*r^2*sin(φ)

    = |ω×r|^2



    2*sin(A)*sin(B) = – [ cos(A+B) – cos(A-B) ] (it is written this way so that the cos(sum) comes before cos(difference)) (A.7a)

    2*cos(A)*cos(B) = cos(A+B) + cos(A-B) (A.7b)

    2*sin(A)*cos(B) = sin(A+B) + sin(A-B) (A.7c)

    which can be combined to find

    sin(A)*cos(B) ± cos(A)*sin(B) = sin(A+B) , sin(A-B) (first is for top symbol in ±, etc.) (A.8a)

    cos(A)*cos(B) ± sin(A)*sin(B) = cos(A-B) , cos(A+B) (A.8b)

    I won’t bother with the more familiar sum of squares, etc.

    An ellipse with semiaxes a and b, centered at the origin, can be graphed parametrically as:

    cos^2(φ)/a^2 + sin^2(φ)/b^2 = 1 (A.9), with φ being the angle corresponding to the point on the circle that the ellipse could form if stretched or compressed.

    likewise, with hyperbolic sines and cosines:

    cosh^2(φ)/a^2 – sinh^2(φ)/b^2 = 1 (A.10) defines a hyperbola.


    for some integrations coming up

    cos^(odd number)(φ) = cos(φ)*[1 – sin^2(φ)]^([(odd number)-1]/2) (A.11a)

    and if u = sin(φ), then du = cos(φ) (A.11b)

    and… well I can only spell out so much here.

  33. 383
    Edward Greisch says:

    357 SecularAnimist: “it seems to me that global warming denial is more prevalent among engineers than artists”

    I would like to see a survey on that.

  34. 384
    Jim Larsen says:

    Patrick, thanks for the links. From the Scientific American article:

    ” Today the cost of wind, geothermal and hydroelectric are all less than seven cents a kilowatt-hour (¢/kWh); wave and solar are higher. But by 2020 and beyond wind, wave and hydro are expected to be 4¢/kWh or less….within 10 years, photovoltaic system costs could drop to about 10¢/kWh, including long-distance transmission and the cost of compressed-air storage of power for use at night. The same analysis estimates that concentrated solar power systems with enough thermal storage to generate electricity 24 hours a day in spring, summer and fall could deliver electricity at 10¢/kWh or less.

    So, financially it is better to have the build-out for solar crest around 2022? (as in build-out of production capacity, not solar power systems themselves) This could dovetail well with a grid upgrade and national efficiency program. It wouldn’t cost much to get builders to upgrade their insulation standards. Good economic stimulus, too. All those electric cars are a chunk of taxpayer change, too. Each one represents how many new houses with worse insulation? What’s the best rate to produce them?

    On electric cars, my impression (never driven one) is that they suck in winter. Because of free heat, a hybrid’s efficiency is better than an electric in cold weather – and its nice not having to choose between freezing and stranding.

    Wind? Well, half the price in 8 years means that if we banked the money today and bought in 8 years, we could build more than twice as much megawattage, saving a huge amount of carbon. Solar, of course, is ridiculously lopsided. Bank the money and you could carpet the world…

  35. 385
    dbostrom says:

    Lindzen at it again:

    Well Known Skeptic says Climate Model Predictions are Flawed

    “That climate should be the function of a single parameter (like CO2) has always seemed implausible.”

    Doubly implausible as such a claim exists only in the mind of Lindzen.

    Of course, nobody with any clout is willing to call this man out, so he travels the world filling people’s minds with rubbish, the MIT Alfred P. Sloan Professor of Bullshit Propagation.

    In this case he was speaking to the “Sandia National Laboratory’s Climate Change and National Security Speaker Series.” I’m feeling less secure already.

  36. 386
    Jim Larsen says:

    A vision of what could be the car of our near future:

    20HP Diesel engine to supply heat and range. The best are 50+% efficient in this role. Tell the car how far you’re going and it decides when to run the generator.

    A big electric motor for fun and to be able to recover as much energy from braking as practical, along with a flywheel or capacitor which can absorb (and re-deliver) the charge. Slam on the brakes and jackrabbit start? Not so bad anymore. Top it off with a 20-50 mile battery and a GPS-enforced speed limiting system and what? 100MPG?

  37. 387
    Geoff Wexler says:

    Re: John Pearson’s comment #296, my #316, Patrick’s #317, David Benson’s #319
    and John’s reply #338.

    Sorry I was wrong. I read John’s original comment too hastily. When I wrote
    “it is unclear how #296 is so dependent” [e.g. on the ENSO] I had overlooked (in the sense of hardly seeing) the ‘dT’ which it contained. Perhaps this was because I am used to seeing differentials cancelling out. As I see it now, a finite dT could be set equal to say twice a typical ENSO amplitude. No ‘unclear’ any longer.

    Although this was a crude estimate (John’s words) it would be nice to have the reference to the original discussion, including numericalo values, which he said had been previously mentioned in RC.

  38. 388
    Susan Anderson says:

    For comic relief, Russell’s latest here:

    I call it tartwork, sour and sharp …

    Meanwhile, some delving going on here on shortcomings of BEST and Wegman and Said departures (one can hope some ignominy sticks):

  39. 389
    dbostrom says:

    Well, half the price in 8 years means that if we banked the money today and bought in 8 years…

    And if everybody makes that very wise choice, they’ll wait forever for the Scottish Moment. Just think about it for a moment.

  40. 390
    Jim Larsen says:

    To look at what’s possible, here’s how Germany’s doing:

    “During the first half of 2012, the share of renewable energy sources in the electricity supply has risen significantly in Germany, rising to a sensational 25.97%. That’s a massive increase compared to 20.56%, the percentage during the same period in 2011”

    “Wind power with a share of 9.2% (+19.5%)
    Biomass with a share of 5.7% (+7.5%)
    PV-Solar with a share of 5.3% (+47%)
    Hydropower with 4.0% (+25%)
    Other Renewables 0.9% (+10%)”

    5% a year gives a 20 year time horizon, which is a reasonable transition as it wouldn’t end with massive amounts of unnecessary production capability, but enough to upgrade, maintain, replace, and expand properly. The gain neglects the transportation sector amongst other things, and weather was better in 2012 than 2011, but the rate they’ve achieved is hopeful.

    So, this all begs the question. If the world prepared for 10 years and then went 90+% renewable over 20 years, would there be significant climatic risks which we aren’t already committed to?

  41. 391
    deconvoluter says:

    #384 dbostrom

    Lindzen at it again

    Then he will have to be answered again, e.g. by a link.

    Of course, nobody with any clout is willing to call this man out

    To be fair they * do , but only at a technical level.The trouble is that he runs several kinds of activity. L(I) serious papers arguing for low climate sensitivity; L(II) author of WSJ op-eds etc. with almost no scientific content, and L(III) populist gossip directed at those who want some simple detail. Those with ‘clout’ have to consider L(I), although it is the dodgy stuff in L3 that has the most effect.

    Real-world observations do not support IPCC models, he said: “We’ve already seen almost the equivalent of a doubling of CO2 (in radiative forcing) and that has produced very little warming.

    That example of L(III) was one of the first things I read in climatology, except that L has inflated it since then. One might call it neo-optimism. He ought to be cross examined about this, because it tends to be asserted again and again without the detail. It appears that he has started with the (low) climate sensitivity he wants, and worked backwards to the forcing. In order to obtain the ‘doubling’ he appears to have assumed, without justification, that the aerosol level has been zero and there has been no time delay between forcing and response. It may not be that different from one of Chrstopher Monckton’s arguments.
    * Andrew Dessler and Gavin for example.

  42. 392
    John E. Pearson says:

    Geoff, there were several separate issues that I was thinking of in 296. In any event here is a reference called “statistical descriptors of climate” by Nathan Guttman.

    At some other point I realized that if you knew the change in temperature that a given change in radiative forcing produced you could (crudely) estimate how long it would take. This is elementary stuff, but I found it satisfying to come up with one year-ish (below I get 6 months) for the atmosphere and top meter or two of ocean and ~30 years for the top 200 meters of ocean. There was nothing new in this. It was just a piece of my learning process. The argument goes something like this:

    Climate sensitivity lambda = dT/dF = .8 K/(W m^2)

    M_A=mass of atmosphere = 5 x 10^18kg.
    A_E = surface area of earth = 5 x 10^14 m^2 .
    Areal mass density of atmosphere =M_A/A_E =10^4 kg/m^3 .
    (Sanity check this is about 10tons/square yard which is about right).
    Cp_air = specific heat of air = 1 kJ/ (kg K) . (This is for dry air but this is a back of the envelope calculation so it doesn’t matter much.)
    Cp_water=4.2 kJ/(kg K)

    Areal mass density of water of depth z = 10^3 z kg/m^3 (e.g. if z=2m then Areal density = 2 x 10^3 kg/m^2)

    tau for atmosphere + 2 meters of water

    tau = lambda (Cp_air m_A/A_E + Cp_water x 2 x 10^3 kg/m^2)

    If I wrote down everything correctly you’ll get roughly 1.8 x 10^7 seconds which is about a half a year. Of this half year roughly 3 months of it is for the water. Add a layer of water 100 times deeper and you’ll get 25 years to heat that layer.

    As I said this is crude. This is kind of an implicit box model in which we assume mixing within the boxes is instantaneous. First the atmosphere+tip top-of-ocean box heats. Then the top 200 meters box heats etc.

  43. 393
    John E. Pearson says:

    386: Geoff, I don’t think you were wrong. I was a little glib in the original post. I think that the time to detect a trend should be at least equal to the response time of the system. But if you have large external noise then it can take much longer that the response time to see the trend. I hadn’t thought of it in these terms but I guess I am claiming that the “noise” isn’t huge. I think maybe there’s a physical reason that this works out this way. It might be because we’re dumping heat back and forth between the top 2 boxes.

    The way I think about the time required to detect a trend is by considering a random walker with diffusion coefficient D and drift velocity v. The square width of the distribution of positions is Dt. The mean is vt. To detect a trend you have to have the change in mean = square width which happens at time t* ~=D/v^2 . In principal t* depends on both v and D. For the climate system you have to think hard to make a claim on what D is.

  44. 394
    Unsettled Scientist says:

    382 Edward Greisch > “357 SecularAnimist: “it seems to me that global warming denial is more prevalent among engineers than artists”

    I would like to see a survey on that.”

    The polarizing impact of science literacy and numeracy on perceived climate change risks

    When this study came out in May denialti tried to use it to say that the better you understood science the more climate science seemed wrong. Like they do with most research, this was a distortion by the denialti. What it was saying is that cultural identity can be stronger driver than scientific evidence. So if one identifies strongly as a conservative Republican and sees Nancy Pelosi on television talking about actions we need to take to mitigate climate change, that is more likely to drive one’s belief than the scientific evidence, and having a background in science only gives that person an ability to dig in their heels better. Scientists and engineers have the skill set to pick nits, while artists don’t. But the psychology is driven by cultural philosophy rather than scientific rigor.

    A couple other recent sources on the subject:

    Political orientation moderates Americans’ beliefs and concern about climate change

    The politicization of climate change and polarization in the American public’s views of global warming, 2001–2010

  45. 395
    John E. Pearson says:

    Damn it. In my post above I wrote
    Climate sensitivity lambda = dT/dF = .8 K/(W m^2)

    it should’ve been Climate sensitivity lambda = dT/dF = .8 K/(W/m^2)

  46. 396
    John E. Pearson says:

    Double damn. Another typo:

    I wrote “To detect a trend you have to have the change in mean = square width which happens at time t* ~=D/v^2 .”

    It should’ve been
    “To detect a trend you have to have the square of the change in mean = square width which happens at time t* ~=D/v^2 .”

    I was trying to say (vt)^2 = D t which gives t = D/v^2 .

  47. 397
    Ron R. says:

    Chris Korda # 360 Ron R: Objects to “dissecting” nature and longs for our pre-industrial hunter-gatherer past

    If I could explain. I did make a comment a couple of days ago that did not make it in. In it I said that human intellect is a marvelously evolved natural trait, as lovely, in its way, as other wondrous natural creations such as the brilliant colors of love birds and macaws, the blinding speed of peregrine falcons and cheetahs, the lovely luminosity of the firefly and jelly fish, the exquisite songs of meadowlarks and whales etc. With our intellect we have created fantastic things, music, literature, art, beneficial technologies. So I don’t think that going back to cave dwelling is the answer (unless of course someone wants to), we’d be bored stiff.

    On the other hand though, it was our separation from nature, our mistaken notion that we are somehow above and autonomous from it that has led to our present predicament. We lost respect for the earth and for other species. We bred as if only we mattered. Insanity! We are a part of nature, fully biological beings that have to breathe air, and exhale CO2 like every other animal. Our outer extensions, trees and plankton reverse that. Its a symbiotic relationship.

    Sadly, unlike the other traits mentioned, ours has led to very serious issues. Exploding human numbers, far above natural background species extinction, habitat destruction, global pollution, climate change, micro scale threats such as nuclear, nanotech, and GMOs, energy issues, social injustices that beget wars. These we have to overcome, and soon, or it’s “game over” for us all to use the phrase.

    How to do it? Divide and conquer has usually worked best for big battles. Each of these issues needs to be first honestly and soberly acknowledged, not just by scattered individuals and groups, but by world governments, with the lies (and liars) finally discarded. Having done that these hurdles can then be seriously confronted. When we look at them as a whole our problems appear overwhelming, but one-by-one, if collectively (officially) addressed I think it is doable.

    Start by acknowledging that we have to back off from resource extraction. One way to reduce demand is to reduce our numbers by (again, officially) campaigning to make people aware of it’s consequences.

    Another thing we should do is to “rewild” the world.

    Whatever we do, we can’t wait much longer. Kicking the can down the road has not been working out too well for us.

  48. 398
    Patrick 027 says:

    re my 381: PART A
    – Messed up the parametric formulas for ellipses and hyperbolas; corrected versions later.

  49. 399
    Patrick 027 says:

    Re Jim Larsen @ 383, etc. –

    I tend to think that energy efficiency gains are more efficient in summer than in winter for that reason – waste heat in winter (if indoors or directed that way) isn’t a complete waste, of course. Maybe (P/H)EVs (especially just the EVs) could gain greater market share in warmer regions first. On the other hand, sometimes it could be more efficient to not produce waste heat and use a heat pump instead.

    What fraction of available wind energy (for installed turbines) isn’t being used due to grid issues?

    I’ll get back to you later on other things (but see 388 dbostrom – part of the reason prices will come down is the the ongoing and increasing rate of production and installation. But I’m all for streamlining paperwork).

    Re my 376 “Re 343 Radge Havers – “…”As for“… that was aside from the 360 comment.

    (PS Tip for anyone summarizing a discussion (not that discussion, that’s done with) – maybe better to summarize the arguments/issues than people’s positions – that way if you mess up you don’t actually misrepresent anyone, and maybe you’ll actually resolve things.)

    PS re 392 Unsettled Scientist (tangentially) and myself earlier – artists and scientists, etc. – attention to detail could be a commonality.

    re 395 Ron R – well done. Another aspect of the relationship between people and (the rest of) nature is that, I would suspect, it is easier to appreciate the beauty and wonder of nature when you can make yourself safe from its dangers and secure from its discomforts (or at least have that option available) (people don’t go tornado chasing much on bicycles).

  50. 400
    Jim Larsen says:

    388 dbostrom said, “And if everybody makes that very wise choice, they’ll wait forever for the Scottish Moment. Just think about it for a moment.”

    Nope. Assuming an 8 year decision cycle, for the first decision the carbon and financial equations are compelling for going as slow as doesn’t hurt the learning curve (and done in a fashion which treats the learning curve as the primary goal), but for the next cycle, the rate of price reduction will probably slow (wind is getting pretty mature), and the value of the expected reduction from a cost basis already reduced by the first decision by 50% (wind) or 75%(?) (solar) starts to look small compared to the value of the electricity produced over 8 years. Somewhere around then, the equations will favor rapid deployment. That’s for everybody, though the specific jumping off point depends on factors such as the age and sufficiency of the current fossil fleet.