Saturday, November 15, 2008

Ice Age Or Global Warming - Which Do You Prefer?

This is a 2 day old news. If scientists are to be believed the greenhouse gases has actually postponed the onset of the biggest ever ice age. See here.
So if this a reason to rejoice? Scientists are not so sure. But this news sure throws open a few more avenues of scientific exploration.

Here are the questions that come to mind ...

1) Why does ice age occur? There are no definite answers. See here. A good introduction to ice age is also here.
2) What makes ice age go away?
3) It is generally agreed that 500 millions years ago the carbon dioxide concentration was 20 times that of today. The various factors that resulted in lowering of the concentration is described here. Plate tectonics is still at work. How does that effect the present increase in carbon dioxide?
4) Evolution dictates that with the increase in carbon dioxide levels, there should be larger trees. Will such giant trees counteract the increase. Or are we adding greenhouse gases too fast?
5) All future weather predictions are based on computer models. So perhaps the focus has shifted from determination of causal relationship to explain a phenomenon. The focus is now on generating a result based on the model and then explaining why something is happening. I happen to be from the old school of thought. Give me an Einstein any day.
6) All my life I have understood the weather as a chaotic system. This was even since I read Chaos: Making a New Science by James Gleick. Chaotic system by definition is the unpredictable behavior of a deterministic system. A slight change in one variable will result in a totally different end result. This could be due to a rounding off error or a truncation of a variable in the model. Could this be reason why scientists are sometimes predicting ice age and sometimes global warming. Perhaps the weather will continue to remain within the normal range (for humans, I mean) and it is only the computer generated result that is swinging from one extreme to another. Now that is a happy thought.
7) We evolve slowly. But bacteria evolves faster - much faster. Is it possible that some carbon dioxide eating bacteria has already evolved? Now, won't that be fun?
Note: The photograph used belongs to Paul Caputo. Please go here to see more such photographs.

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