Environmental science, traveling, and the sociology of the unraveling American dream.


If you're looking for more about me, I'm pretty much hanging out over at my livejournal these days. I use this account for commenting on other people's blogs.

Monday, May 31, 2004

The Big Snowball in Space

Long piece crossposted from a discussion on Hatrack, where someone asked about the "science" of The Day After Tomorrow, specifically in reference to the fact that global warming was leading to cooler temperatures.

My personal favorite for global warming arguments is the comparison to the Paleocene Thermal Maximum, when a methane release from methane hydrates bumped the temperatures up considerably. It's the best paleo-analogue for the present experiment (what many earth science people call the fact that we've, you know, like tripled our atmospheric carbon dioxide).

If you want interesting ideas from an ice covered planet, don't just limit yourself to the glacial periods we've been going through for the last 2.5 million years. Go for the whole hog, back in the Proterozoic and the Neoproterozoic: the Snowball Earth. Basically, once ice covers a certain fraction of the globe, an unstable feedback is introduced, with more light reflecting off the lower-albedo snow, and the entire Earth's surface, land and snow, freezes over. Carbon dioxide then builds up over millions of years-- carbon dioxide is being emitted by volcanoes, but it isn't being deposited because the water cycle's gone-- and you get a severe greenhouse that blasts you out of the snowball in a very short period of time. More information on the snowball here (technical) and here (less technical).

(x-posted from a post I wrote at Hatrack River.)

Saturday, May 22, 2004

Sporks of war

At one time in my life, I was a female in a physics world, which is the closest thing to a male world I've been in. My favorite physics boy story: My freshman year, I went to an introductory picnic, and went to stand with a bunch of guys I vaguely knew who were talking about a problem set in advanced intro physics (I was in the medium class, since I hadn't had AP physics). Naturally, they were arguing about a problem set, rather loudly. Each one would take turns darting forward and yelling about it, until the rest of the group shouted them down. Finally, one of the two guys standing next to me said something that the rest of them grudgingly agreed with. The triumphant victor of a guy then turned to me and *put his arm around me*. Spoils of war.

I have so much respect for the girls who got through the intro classes. I didn't leave for geology because of the guys, but man, it's night and day. Geology guys look at the whole female thing like they look at the has-curly-hair thing. It's there, but it doesn't mean you're not doing geology. We're all here for the rocks, after all. Hang the biology. Let's get hammering at a highway roadcut exposure while semis whine by, making everyone vaguely nervous of becoming roadcut wall paste. (I love geology.)

The first paragraph fragment crossposted from part of a very long post I wrote on Hatrack River about being a female in physics.