Wednesday, July 12, 2017

Giant Iceberg Nearly The Size Of Delaware Breaks Off Antartica

The White Whale:

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/larsen-iceberg_us_59660d73e4b03f144e2f53b2

Here's the report from the MIDAS Project.

They say it will be named "A68" -- I saw on Twitter that some were suggesting it be named the #ExxonKnew -- and weighs over a trillion tonnes. That's about how much ice the planet has been losing per year for a few years now.

In the picture to the right, I'm guessing that's sea ice to the outer edge of the breakoff, which this iceberg will begin pushing through.

The Larsen C ice shelf is, suddenly, 12% smaller, and, "potentially less stable," says MIDAS. "This is the furthest back that the ice front has been in recorded history," says a MIDAS scientist. Another said, interestingly:
“We have been anticipating this event for months, and have been surprised how long it took for the rift to break through the final few kilometres of ice."
Mind, it did break off in the depth of the dark, Antarctic winter, but I'm sure he took that into account.

Friday, July 07, 2017

Larsen C, Almost Free

When last we looked, the Larsen C ice shelf was hanging on by an 8-mile sliver.

That's now down to 3 miles.

In the spirit of Layjez's calculation in the comments, that's 5 miles in about 36 days, or 1/7th of a mile per day. That's an average of only 0.2 meters per minute, compared to his (earlier) value of about 3 m/min.

So clearly this isn't linear, or easy to predict. The Antarctic is just coming out of its winter depth, which you'd think might have helped the crack to heal. But nature has other ideas.

At least this won't kill any penguins. That'd be a hell of a way to die.

Thursday, July 06, 2017

Good Lord, Here We Go Again

Geostorm, 2017:

More About RSS's Large Changes to Their Temperatures.

RSS has posted a FAQ about their version 4.0 changes for the lower troposphere temperature anomaly, here.

Roy Spencer says, yabutt, their new numbers (+0.18°C/decade, up from +0.12°C/decade) are still nowhere close to the model calculation of 0.27°C/dec. I don't know where that number comes from, so I asked him. Will let you know.

Frankly, I'm starting to wonder if either of these satellite datasets can be useful. Roy writes:
In general, it is difficult for us to follow the chain of diurnal corrections in the new RSS paper. Using a climate model to make the diurnal drift adjustments, but then adjusting those adjustments with empirical satellite data feels somewhat convoluted to us.
This doesn't sound good. If the one set of supposed experts can't follow what the other set of supposed experts are doing, then who are we to possibly judge?

Maybe it's time to just forget about the satellite measurements of the atmosphere and focus on surface, where measurements are much easier. That's where we all live, anyway.

Anyway, here are the data for RSS v4.0's 12-month moving average:


Pretty obvious warming.

Also, whereas RSS LT v3.3 shows 2016 to be the warmest year by, like UAH, 0.02 C, the new version v4.0 shows it to be the warmest year by 0.16 C. Huge and indisputable.

These differences will probably remain for some time -- I doubt UAH will do another entirely new version before Christy and/or Spencer retires, after which the UAH dataset will probably, unfortunately, fade into insignificance. It's now clearly the outlier when compared to RSS and the several surface datasets.

The (Comparative) Size of the Moon


Wednesday, July 05, 2017

New Atmospheric Temperatures from RSS -- They're Higher

As you may have heard, the team from Remote Satellite Systems (RSS), which like UAH has a model that attempts to calculate atmospheric temperatures, has a new version for the lower troposphere, version 4.0, upgraded from version 3.3. 

Here's their paper describing the changes.

You can read more about all this from Nick Stokes, here and here.

Personally I'm not interested in getting too far into the details, except to note that the changes are pretty big, especially after 2000:


RSS v4.0's trend for the lower troposphere is now +0.18 C/decade, compared to UAH v6.0's trend of +0.12 C/decade. That adds up over almost four decades, and again puts UAH at the outlier (when compared to GISS, NOAA, HadCRUT4, JMO and Cowtan & Way measuring surface temperatures).

"A Man Who Knows Everything"

Gerald 't Hooft:
"Following his family's footsteps, he showed interest in science at an early age. When his primary school teacher asked him what he wanted to be when he grew up, he boldly declared, "a man who knows everything."
Some background: 't Hooft is a Dutch theoretical physicist. In graduate school at the University of Leiden, he worked under the also-now-famous Martinus Veltman to study a interesting theory that was emerging at the time, called the Yang-Mills theory of the strong interaction.

His last name is pronounced something close to"tooft."

(I sat in a talk Veltman once gave at Stony Brook, when I was a graduate student. I don't remember much of it, but the room was small and crowded and I remember he had a big kind-of jolly authoritative air about him. And that everyone very much respected him. One of the most prominent professors in our department, Peter van Nieuwenhuizen, co-discovered supergravity -- basically Yang-Mills + gravity -- and was also Veltman's student. I wrote about him here for Physics World.)

The strong interaction is also called the nuclear force -- it's what keeps all the positively charged protons in the nucleus from repulsively exploding outward -- it's why the atomic nucleus can exist. Those protons are all positively charged, of course -- so how do they all stay together in the nucleus? It's because there is a force even stronger than electromagnetism -- the strong force. Yang-Mills theory is the theory of the strong force, of interacting quarks and gluons.

This quantum field theory had the same problem as did the earlier quantum electrodynamics -- a quantum field theory of electrons and photons developed by Richard Feynman, Julian Schwinger and Tomonaga: calculations of real-world properties like how an electron careens off another electron gave results that were infinite.

Here's what separates physicists from mathematicians -- in the face of calculations that gave infinities and so were clearly(?) wrong when compared to the real world, the physicists plowed ahead anyway, looking more deeply into their equations and finding other infinities that cancelled out the first infinities. In essence they claimed

∞ - ∞ = some actual finite number that actually
agrees with experiments, like
maybe 1 over 137.036 times pi.

Talk about chutzpah! This looks absurd, but it works. Quantum electrodynamics was said to be "renormalizable." Freeman Dyson was the first to show this, when still a very young man. (He also showed that Feynman, Schwinger and Tomonaga's separate theories were equivalent [PDF].)

To my knowledge, quantum electrodynamics has never yet been proven, in a mathematically rigorous way, to give finite results like this. But some mathematicians are still trying. But the physicists didn't care (so much) for rigor, but for results.

And since then, physics students have been taught to "just shut up and calculate."

Anyway, 't Hooft, also as a very young man, showed that Yang Mills theories were also renormalizable -- infinities could be subtracted from infinities to give finite answers that also agreed with experiments.

't Hooft's calculations were more difficult than was Dyson's -- which was already tough enough -- because unlike electrodynamics, where the photons exchanged between electrons have no electric charge, the gluons of Yang-Mills theory that carry the force between quarks DO have a charge. It's just not an electric charge, but what's called "color charge."

As you know, electrons have a negative electric charge. Their antimatter partner, positrons, have a positive electric charge. And the photon, which carries the force between electrons and electrons, or electrons and protons, or electrons and positrons, etc. has no electric charge. That keeps things (relatively!) simple.

In the theory of the strong force, the particles that make up protons and neutrons, the quarks, also have a charge. It's not an electric charge, but was whimsically (and arbitrarily) given the name "color" charge. It comes in three values, not two: red, blue, and green. It's just a number, a property of quarks -- we're just not as "used to" color charge as we are electric charge. But if you think about it, we don't know what electric charge really is either -- we just know how particles and objects with it behave and interact, and we get used to not knowing more. (And maybe that's all there is to know about electric charge, anywayt?!)

So there are quarks with a red "charge," some with a blue "charge" and a green charge. And anti-quarks of the same color charges, or anti-red, anti-blue, etc.  These charges attract and repel in various ways -- there are eight gluons that take care of all that, emitted and absorbed by the quarks.

There's more, but this is our basic mental picture of it all.

The gluons also carry color -- actually, two colors, a color and an anti-color. This makes the Yang-Mills theory much more complicated, requiring "group theory," that you've probably heard mentioned at some point. The calculations are much more involved.

What 't Hooft showed, in the early 1970s, was that the calculations of Yang-Mills theory could also be made, despite all the infinities lurking everywhere, to give finite results. It was "renormalizable." That it, it was useful. It gave results, like 4.56309, that could be compared to the real world.

One of the ways 't Hooft and Veltman did this was simple but clever: instead of assuming the world had four dimensions -- time, length, width and height -- they assumed it has a little more of a dimension. Not five dimensions, just a little over four.

In they way mathematicians have used the letter "epsilon" to denote a very very small quantity -- this goes back to basic calculus -- 't Hooft and Veltman assumed space -- really spacetime, as we've known since Einstein -- had not four dimensions, but 4+epsilon dimensions.

It's just a mathematical trick. You assume that's what spacetime looks like, do your calculations with all the infinities, add and subtract them, and then in the end set episolon equal to zero. Simple, right?

Well, this technique, called dimensional regularization -- gives Yang-Mills answers that are finite, not infinite. Amazingly. It's a ludicrous trick, but it works.

For this, 't Hooft and Veltman received the 1999 Nobel Prize in Physics. I wonder if, after all that, 't Hooft thought, maybe for just a day or two, that he did indeed know everything.

There's a lot more to 't Hooft, which you can get a sense of by perusing his Web site.

Monday, July 03, 2017

How Deaf Schizophrenics Hear Voices

I heard about this last week when driving from an FM radio DJ on a music station I listen to.

"Exploring how deaf people ‘hear’ voice-hallucinations," University College London, July 2007.

I thought it was a new scientific finding, but it turns out it's almost a decade old. In any case, I found it fascinating and it's stuck in my brain since.

As you know, people with schizophrenia often hear voices and see hallucinations. I was involved with a women for several years who was a home health care manager, and she would tell me about the mentally ill in the homes she supervised who saw eyes in walls or heard voices, and she convinced me it was something very difficult and sad to have to live with.

I'm sad to say that I have never actually known anyone with schizophrenia.

What this FM DJ talked about -- in the laughing, jovial, kind-of-thoughtless ways that DJ's speak in -- was how people with schizophrenia who are born deaf "hear voices." (I don't like calling them "schizophrenics," since schizophrenia does not encompass who they are -- they are not the disease, but people with the disease.)

They see, in their minds, disembodied hands in their internal mind vision that are signing words.

How amazing is that?

Deaf people -- rather, people who have deafness -- who were not born deaf, and who have schizophrenia, experience true auditory hallucinations. But people born with deafness apparently experience auditory hallucinations via sign language by disembodied hands or moving lips.
Participants born profoundly deaf reported non-auditory, clear and easy to understand voices. They were all confident that they did not hear any sounds, but knew the gender and identity of the voice. They reported seeing an image of the voice signing or lips moving in their mind.
I wonder what people born blind with schizophrenia experience.

This really fascinates me. Over the last few years I have been trying, for reasons I'm not going to get into here, to understand my mind better, why I am the way I am, and how experiences long ago have shaped me. I've always been smart, in a rational and logical way, but have been trying to look beyond that, because that certainly doesn't explain all of me. I've never had an especially high emotional quotient -- E.Q. -- I think, which to me seems as important in life as an I.Q. Maybe more important. And I've come to believe that one's mind -- the psychological state that somehow results from all our organic brain matter and cells and neurons -- is a seriously complicated place. It's obviously elevated our species to a high status, relative to others here (at least in some ways that seem important as we define them), but it's by no means perfect. Getting our minds to here has also included a lot of mental junk, properties of our minds that aren't necessarily advantageous -- schizophrenia, depression, neuroses, anxieties, sometimes OCD (which I actually have about corners -- I often feel that I need to touch them, on furniture especially, and I've had this impulse for a long time, thought it's by no means disabling). We get the good -- fantastically superior (relatively), useful minds, with understanding, foresight, creativity -- with the bad -- mental defects, mental illnesses, glitches, "negative" aspects.

Our minds are amazing things, maybe the most amazing thing in the universe (however egocentric that sounds), but they have by no means evolved to be perfect. Evolution gets the job done -- or we wouldn't be here and who we are -- but not perfectly, not cleanly, not with complications.

This deafness/schizophrenia study struck me in this regard. Their minds get the job done, maybe (?) in a less-than-average way, in terms of staying alive, etc., but the beast refuses to be simple, is full of disadvantageous thoughts (I guess -- they seem so) that in some ways are necessarily indigenous to our organic brain matter, that must accompany the good. Does that make any sense?

All I'm trying to say -- I guess? -- is that brains are terribly complicated things, putting us atop the heap of all other brains -- but also slippery and maybe even evil little bastards that we must schlep around if we want the good parts. I don't know.

That the mind can be so clever/sneaky as to convince people with deafness and schizophrenia that hands are signing in their mental vision, the disease trying to express itself no matter what the obstacles, kinda spooks me. What else is in there?

This Week in Science, 2,300,000 BCE