Thursday, December 05, 2013

The Pearl Clutchers Aghast

Eli brings you the Skeptical Science widget to calculate the number of Hiroshima bomb worth of heat that have accumulated in the atmosphere since 1970.  To Eli, the clever thing about the concept is that it is very hard for people to picture the size of a small effect spread over a large area or a long time.  This does it in a very forceful way.

But, of course, this has loosed the pearl clutchers upon the wailing wall known as Discover Magazine.  

In reply, a friend of the blog has observed that

 It's a frigging metaphor. Of course some scientists don't like it. That's why they're lousy communicators to those who aren't literal minded, which are 99% of the population.

The ankle-biters would've complained that there wasn't actually an Iron Curtain around the countries that the Soviet Union dominated,  or that there was no particular reason why a house divided against itself couldn't stand (it could've been a duplex townhouse for instance).
and somebunny else wondered what the equivalent would be terms of the energy content of Mars bars, but the bunnies get the point.


Anonymous said...

Not Mars Bars, but:

The current imbalance adds the calories of a _year_ of global Big Mac consumption (~2.5M burgers) to the climate roughly every 4.35 seconds.

Two immediate conclusions for me: one, I clearly have too much spare time, and two, I'm not hungry right now...


Doug McNeall said...

Hey Eli,

You're a little late on this one. The twitter was a twitter, and much support for the hiro amongst the climatists there was not.

You wouldn't make the mistake of thinking that someone is wrong because you dislike them, would you?

Doug McNeall

Anonymous said...

Oh, puh-lease...

Your city gets a few Hiroshamas every morning when the sun rises, but that's not a bad thing.

Thermal energy != kinetic energy

Please do have some children that you have to comfort when they imagine monsters under the bed so you'll stop imagining your own.

EliRabett said...

Thermal energy =kinetic energy after a few collisions.

Nice pearls there fella.

Thomas Lee Elifritz said...

Only the willfully ignorant, stupid and greedy would write off an energy imbalance like that, with some inarticulate hand waving no less!

In the future we will use Chicxulub and PETM equivalents just for you.

I'm glad I'm not your kid.

Thomas Lee Elifritz said...

Sure, I always get my mission critical information from Twitter.

If it's good enough for the National Academies, it's good enough for me.

Extra points if you get the joke.

Neven said...

Keith Klutch...

dana1981 said...

What's a climatist?

Thomas Lee Elifritz said...

Well guess what, I'm not afraid to say it. Kloor, Revkin and Pielke are the bad guys in this fake debate. They're slime. They can't get much slimier so there is no need to slime them much anymore, since there really isn't much to debate anymore.

Their discourse is so bad that only the low IQ crowd still clings to it.

Lionel A said...

"Your city gets a few Hiroshamas every morning when the sun rises, but that's not a bad thing."

What's up Anon, having trouble with the meaning behind the word 'accumulated'?

Damn useful widget which I had no hesitation in adding to my site on 25 November.

Anonymous said...

Their discourse is so bad that only the low IQ crowd still clings to it.

Might not that low IQ be yours Thomas?

Thomas Lee Elifritz said...

Responding to your crap is a waste of time as well. Fortunately blogspot has a self correcting crap feature built into the software, lol.

Anonymous said...

"Thermal energy =kinetic energy after a few collisions."

Silly rabbit...

Try reading up on the thermal wind equation.

It is not thermal levels, but thermal gradients that moves the air.

An atmosphere that was a hundred degrees warmer, but isothermal would have...

... no wind.

Tom Curtis said...

By all means call me a pearl clutcher if you will, but science education is not advanced by using simplistic equations. The classic example of that in climate science, IMO, is the use of the grey slab model to explain the greenhouse effect to popular audiences. The result is that "dragonslayers" pretend (incorrectly) that the grey slab model is the actual theory of the greenhouse effect, and show (correctly) that it is unphysical thereby deceiving many. The real problem is with the dragonslayers and the gullible, but still, climate scientist, and climate scientist educators unnecessarily set them up.

I think the widget does the same thing by reinforcing a general public confusion and abysmal lack of understanding about entropy. To avoid that lack of understanding biting us in the ass, it needs a discussion of entropy. As its examples of energy are all violent, it also needs an explicit discussion of the current harm of climate change (which, coincidentally, in excess deaths is approximately equal to the deaths caused by the explosion of Little Boy at Hiroshima). Good science education does not stop when you've made a rhetorical point (and excluding the two points above, the widget is quite good about that).

Further, if the widget is going to have the further discussion I think it needs, then other examples of energy that are less violent, and have higher entropy would aid in the introduction and understanding of that discussion. The widget is not bad because it compares the energy accumulation to that from Little Boy (though the Trinity device would have been better), but because it does not also compare it to that of a thunderstorm, or Niagra, or some other of a host of higher entropy, less violent examples.

I have discussed these points in greater depth here, and in follow on posts.

bill said...

I kind of like the way the denunciations of this widget only ultimately reinforce its - and its message's - utility!

Of course the Denialati despise it, and will make a hockey-stick-style fetish out of it, piling up the strawmen around it in the hope of making a decent pyre.

On our own side, though, the 'anti' reaction is, sadly, a reminder of how few really good public campaigners there are on this side of the debate.

It's legitimate, it's punchy, and it absolutely grabs attention. In short, it's a smart move. Roll with it; hey, it just may help us win!

Thomas Lee Elifritz said...

Dude, you don't know shit about entropy. Are you going to cut a piece of paper with a chain saw, or are you going to use a shear press?

Similarly, are you going to boil water with nuclear reaction byproducts, or are you going to use a photon? We boil water with microwaves you idiot.

Heat is a very high entropy proposition, about the worst thing you can do is continue adding it into a radiating blackbody in a vacuum faster than it naturally radiates away or than you can actively radiate it away. Bad things inevitably result. Joules per second works, but the vast majority of rubes never heard of a Joule. At the very least we could work or block the excess away at the source - the photon, and then do a little cogeneration as it makes its way down to the ground. But even on top of that there are chemical (photon) level effects of the greenhouse gases as well. Water chemistry and ozone comes to mind.

Anonymous said...

Thomas Lee Elifritz, you seem to be an angry mendacious asshole of the first order.

Thomas Lee Elifritz said...

Mr. Harris's description of entropy and greatly impaired. Your comments are content free. You can compare the energy transfer rate to a lot of things, but it's gravitationally induced nuclear fusion and it takes a hell of a long time for those excess photons to radiate away from the star of their origin. And then its a pretty complicated story after that, once they impinge on our rather complicated sunshade.

Deal with it. They're your Joules.

Brian said...

I'm really really really not a fan of Pielke Jr., but I disagree with calling him slime. I think he's behaved badly in his professional field, but life's too short to broadly condemn a person when you don't know him.

Kloor is also pretty bad but two steps above Pielke Jr. Revkin's been all over the place but never as bad as either of those two.

No need to demonize. We're dealing with enough problems.

Thomas Lee Elifritz said...

Policy and editorials and commentary are not going to solve this problem. You are going to have to quit emitting carbon dioxide AND start intercepting more photons and then start doing some useful photon level work with them. Plants come to mind. Solar plants. You can reflect them if you want but that will be insufficient to address the chemical problems of carbon dioxide and greenhouse gas emissions. These are concepts that bad policy hacks will never admit that they utterly don't understand. Even Hansen et al. are whacked out suggesting nuclear. They're just scared shitless (local euphemism) because they don't have a handle on the physics outside of their narrow domain of expertise. I don't have that problem because I don;t have any children and I don't care if it all goes down in flames. It's just natures way of limiting the damage.

Anonymous said...

equivalent increase in solar thermal collector outputs would possibly be a more useful measure. the fossil fuel industry is sawing it's own branch by letting solar collectors heat up more ;-). due Arctic amplification, the northern parts of the continents benefit from the use of fossil fuels more.

Susan Anderson said...

[OT, this to Eli:

surprised to find you in the comments here. You'd think I'd know more about Dad's birthday party!

He would have liked to get some traction for his current work, otherwise, but 90 is a little old to be gadding about.]
About Revkin, it's difficult to separate him from his desperate attempts to find a "middle" ground which do harm. Inasmuch as he has ceased providing information about progress with clean energy and renewables, he has become a candyman for fracking and postponement of admitting, let alone facing, reality. I'm in favor of a boycott; perhaps if he finds himself alone with the deadenders he hosts, he'll stop having such a high opinion of himself that he refuses to admit it's his responsibility.

Anonymous said...

Anonymous said:

"Oh, puh-lease. Your city gets a few Hiroshamas every morning when the sun rises, but that's not a bad thing."

Well I believe there was a city called Hiroshima that got just one 'Hiroshima'and thought it a very bad thing.