Tuesday, December 11, 2012

To the Stars (Cause There is a Problem Down Here)

John Baez has put together the Azimuth Project.  In keeping with Eli's dictum of starting small the goal is to save the planet, but, as he notes, wanting to save the planet means that one thinks the planet is at risk

the very health of the planet is in peril because of the actions of humankind. Whether it is global warming, mass extinction, peak oil, or other problems, we need to be prepared on many fronts for an uncertain future. 
John is a bit younger than Eli, but the Rabett learned that the planet was at risk in first grade, when the teacher made us dive under the desk in case of nuclear attack.  This, perhaps, accounts for the sunny disposition hereabouts, but also explains a generational disposition to think of big problems.  Interestingly the rather older folks tend to think they can engineer their way out, but those of us who majored in desk diving believe something more is needed.

The Azimuth Project has a course (Eli assumes Ankh was already there) on the Mathematics of Climate Change which was taught by John Baez in Fall 2012.  It is not more difficult than Science of Doom, in fact it really is simpler, less detailed and more big picture but it does have the POV of a mathematician.  At first glance, there are also things that the bunnies can help with.  We have been at this game quite a long time. However, remember, there is a tension between what you want to talk to your mom about and what you want to discuss with Raypierre.

The course notes are on the Azimuth blog, so you can comment and ask questions there with the folks at that place
Part 1 - The mathematics of planet Earth.
Part 2 - Simple estimates of the Earth's temperature.
Part 3 - The greenhouse effect.
Part 4 - History of the Earth's climate.
Part 5 - A model showing bistability of the Earth's climate due to the ice albedo effect: statics.
Part 6 - A model showing bistability of the Earth's climate due to the ice albedo effect: dynamics.
Part 7 - Stochastic differential equations and stochastic resonance.
Part 8 - A stochastic energy balance model and Milankovitch cycles.
Part 9 - Changes in insolation due to changes in the eccentricity of the Earth's orbit.
Part 10 - Didier Paillard's model of the glacial cycles.


Anonymous said...

Head up ... knowing that there are numerous nearly intractable problems isn't 'saving the planet'. That requires solutions, and I see nothing here, certainly not from Baez. The other day I pointed you to cryogenic carbon dioxide capture and nary a peep was heard from rabbits.

EliRabett said...

There are multiple issues with cryogenic carbon dioxide capture.

Start with the issue of separating the water vapor stream even for coal. Eli wrote something on a way of doing this a while ago. Plus there are the other nasties the NOx and SOx. Separating each of these has an energy cost.

Then you get to the issue of where you are going to put the stuff, which has a closet cost (building/sealing a repository) and a monitoring cost, etc.

In short Eli and a whole bunch of bunnies don't think much of such schemes. There are some possibilities that might work a bit, but each has some issues.

Anonymous said...

I believe the technique is designed to be applied to refined liquid methane, Eli, which more or less obviates the problems you discuss. And I don't understand how water vapor can be a problem, with it's triple point far above CO2. This would be far more effective a method of producing potable water than reverse osmosis, and there are solid theoretical indications that thermoelectrics using Mott insulators and molecular junctions will produce astronomical ZT efficiencies in the near future.

Nobody said this was going to be easy. Consider Antactica - dry, vast and cold, the perfect place to store all those gigatons of CO2.

Hank Roberts said...

Baez's Azimuth is excellent, worth more serious time than I've given it, and I've been working at it for a while; I am far from caught up. Good to see the people he's attracted, serious scientists.

Hank Roberts said...

PS, quoting Baez on the purpose of his Azimuth Project:

"Our goal is not to replace or compete with existing sources of information, but to provide a bird’s-eye view of the information that already exists. We want to make it easy for any scientist or engineer to understand the whole problem and understand specialist literature in many subjects outside their particular domain of expertise."

Anonymous said...

Sure, Hank, we need to reaffirm over and over again that we're fucked, no need to actually consider any radical technological solutions.

Really, the problems are just not that bad that more study of the problems can't solve them. Sure. It's good enough just to inform people that their fucked.

Uh-huh. Laughable at best.

Tragic at worst.

EliRabett said...

You have to remove the water first before you freeze out the CO2. Basically you have to get it way down below the [CO2]. This costs energy, a lot of it.

Anonymous said...

You have to remove the water first before you freeze out the CO2.

Why? To stabilize the CO2 you have to fix it to something, and that is an aqueous process as far as I know. Regardless removing water from a cryogenic gas mixture doesn't seem like an intractable problem to me. Dry ice is a huge business and I don't here them complaining much about water vapor. It seems to me you are making up excuses so that you don't have to consider a difficult problem, much like Baez is pushing information in lieu of credible solutions. Even worse, one would have to put energy into the carbon dioxide to liberate the carbon, and energy is conserved, so it doesn't make much sense to burn the carbon in the open atmosphere in the first place.

Another thing I hear a lot about is cryogenic dewars. Oh .. they are so expensive and dangerous! Let's not do that for transportation, that would be scary and I might be inconvenienced! More denial.

Denialism is something that afflicts scientists as well as the general public, but I know you guys don't like to hear about it.

Here is the link:


Anyway you look at it, if you want the planet your parents had many gigatons of carbon dioxide are going to have to be removed from the atmosphere and the ocean and stored somewhere or somehow.

EliRabett said...

Think about how you are going to freeze out the CO2. What will happen to the water at that temperature?

Anonymous said...

Why don't you take it up with the authors of the proposal, Eli, I don't have a lot of time for kindergarten physics with bunnies.


If you have something cogent to say on this I would be willing to listen.

You could also try this, although I haven't read it yet, so obviously I can't comment on it.



There's literally something fishy about carbon capture from air.

The preferedreversible capture media , organic amines present a range of odors ranging from rotting fish guts to unholy mackeral.

The front runner, Diethylamine is a colorless liquid with a fishy, ammonia-like smell whose odor threshold concentration is 0.13 part per million .

Since your share of the air is just under a teragram, the several hundred kilograms of diethylamine needed to extract 'your ' 300 tonnes of CO2 from it would , if CCS became policy, leave the planet smelling like the interior of a catfood can.

David B. Benson said...

I opine that planting alotta trees in deserts (and watering the plants) is far more feasible.

But all this is off-topic.

John Baez has clearly done his homework and writes well.

Anonymous said...

John Baez has clearly done his homework and writes well.

Yes, Mr. Baez has clearly demonstrated that global warming exists and is a problem for our civilization. Give the man a nobel.

Jeffrey Davis said...

I had a dream once (I think it was a dream) of an engineering response to the acidification of the oceans. It involved a huge tanker fleet whose only cargo was some kind of liquid base to be used to sweeten the oceans. The tankers were fitted with some kind of membrane on the hull which permitted the ship to "weep" the liquid base into the ocean as the ship plodded along. There was a huge bureaucracy involved to monitor the oceans and the transport requirements of the ships -- hiring crews, buying fuel, repairing the ships. In the end, the process used so much energy that AGW killed us all anyway.