The ice cap again:
From time to time I mention the weather.  That’s not because it has anything to do with the subject of fertility and kinship.  It’s just an example of how unknown the future is.  Since we have gone for thousands of years being savaged by the fact that failure to marry kin produces catastrophic fertility decline, it stands to reason that we could go thousands more.  The difference is that right now there are tools available to prove it.  In fact I consider it proven.  That’s not necessary. You don’t need the modern tools.  But they are very handy, and the realization may never have come without them.  So any threat to our high tech civilization is a threat to our opportunity to come to grips with the problem.

You may have found the weather hot this summer.  You are not alone.  More countries have met or set their maximum all time temperature this year than ever before. (Number crunch, Jeff Masters, NATURE vol. 466 no. 7308 August 12, 2010 page 801)  That is bad enough in and of itself, but consider this logic:

  1. It is always hottest just before it begins to get cold.
  2. When it gets cold it can happen very fast (Mammoths found frozen with unwilted flowers in their stomachs, Grasshopper Glacier with grasshoppers in its substance, in each case the ice must have come in hours.) 
  3. It’s really hot.


Thousands of years ago the ancient Greeks were upset to learn that there is no square root of two that comes out even.  That means there are no two digits with the ratio of the square root of two.  Hence it is not “rational.”  We still feel things ought to be rational even now, although the word has changed its meaning a lot.

To warm up for the climate argument, here’s how they did it.

XXX Inexcusable digression.

Consider that the two digits with a ratio of the square root of two, that can be divide to produce the square root of two, are A and B.  So the square root of two is A/B.  There are four possibilities:

  1. Both are even.  In that case divide them both by 2.  Keep doing that until one of them at least is odd, even if it’s 1.  So we can dismiss this possibility.
  2. Both are odd.  In that case A is odd.  But an odd number divided by an even number is always odd.  And 2 is even.  So that can’t be true either.
  3. A is odd while B is even.  That can’t be true for the same reason.
  4. A is even while B is odd.  This is the one that’s fun.  A/B equals the square root of 2.  Square both sides of the equation.  A times A divided by B times B equals two.  Now divide both sides of the equation by 2.  A divided by two comes out even because it’s even.  A times ½  A is even because anything multiplied by an even is even.  But B times B is odd because two odds multiplied always come out odd.  So an odd equals an even.  That’s impossible.  So we have eliminated all four possibilities.  The numbers do not exist.


XXX End flagrant digression.  Resume ordinary digression.

That proof was kept secret for a long time, so I hear, because people were afraid that the horrid truth would destroy the civilization.  Well they ain’t seen nothin’ yet. 

So with our wits honed, look at the original 3 propositions.  I think that means it could start to get cold again really fast.

If the arctic ice cap were to melt, then because of the way the earth is tilted, the North Pole would absorb more heat than anyplace else.  The heat would cause a massive low pressure area as the hot wet air rose.  The heat, because of the nature of thermodynamics, would be driven to get to the cold of the South Pole.  The resulting hail storm could possibly make things different really fast.

I was encouraged by another title.  (Arctic Armageddon Needs More Science, Less Hype, Richard A. Kerr SCIENCE vol. 329 no. 5992 August 6, 2010 page 620)  It sounded like somebody else had noticed, and this was a calming statement.  But the hype referred to regards methane being released from the arctic as the climate warms.  Yes, there turns out to be a lot of methane up there, and warming up will probably release it.  Methane, like CO2 only more so, makes the atmosphere opaque to infra-red radiation and the earth is less able to unload its heat.  But it appears that the release will take a long time.  We were worried about gushers.  As the methane came out from the sea bed, the gas would displace water, so the weight on the sea bed would fall and the release go faster and faster.  But not so.  The expanding gas gets cold.  That shuts things down until more heat can come in. 

That’s encouraging so far as it goes, but if the heat dries out the tundra and the whole far north starts to burn, the methane will burn off anyway.  It still adds up to a rapid loss of the ice cover. 

Another sign of heat this year is what has happened to Russia.  They have had an unprecedented heat wave. (Part of the Main, ECONOMIST, vol. 396 no. 8695 August 14, 2010 page 40)  One result has been forest fires that have plunged Moscow into a pall of smoke.  They hardly ever had forest fires before.  But it appears that this is an anomaly.  The temperature is far above trend, much father than the overall temperature of the earth.  Still, there we go again.  Fires licking at the far north. 

One factor to consider is sun spots.  They are dark compared to the rest of the visible luminous surface of the sun.  They are local disturbances that swirl and cause the magnetic field of the sun to swing about wildly.  In so doing, each spot flings charged particles outward like some great cosmic trebuchet.  Times of low sun spot activity tend to be cold, because although those particles in aggregate don’t weigh so much, they travel at speeds that give them enormous energy.  And right now, after a very unusual lull lasting several years, the sun is starting to hot up again.  (Bright Lights from Solar Flares NATURE vol. 466 no. 7308 August 12, 2010 page 800)

No, I don’t really think this spells our doom.  I suspect that we will be blindsided by something that has never occurred to me or anybody else.  But there it is.  The future is dangerous and unknown.  The present issue needs to be resolved while we can still do it.  And even if nothing unsuspected strikes, the falling birth rate is danger enough.

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