Monday, October 25, 2010

Earth 2100 Discussion

1. Discussion related to "Earth 2100" (an ABC production)

Some initial comments and questions
before the general discussion

What is the difference between:

2. Math: 
prove new things 
     based on 
existing knowledge

Mathematical reasoning is:

  • 1+1=2
  • 2+2=4
  • Therefore, 
    • 1+1+1+1=4
    • (proof by substitution)

  • All men are mortal
  • Socrates is a man
  • Therefore, 
    • Socrates is mortal 
    • (proof by "syllogism")

  • Deduction can prove things
  • Mathematics uses deduction
  • Therefore, 
    • mathematics can prove things 
    • (proof by syllogism again!)

3. Science is different from math!

  • Science is based on:
    • induction
    • (not deduction)
  • All apples that break off the tree, 
    • fall down
  • Therefore, if I shake this apple tree,
    • and an apple breaks off,
    • it will fall down
  • Not a proof! 
    • Can you think of a counterexample?

  • That which goes up has always come down
  • Therefore, if I throw this up, it will come down
  • Not a proof! Can you think of a counterexample?

4. Science needs more than induction

Humankind has always sought reasons

Scientists call those reasons
       "theories" and "hypotheses"

Theories are the big ones
  • relativity
  • evolution
  • continental drift/plate tectonics

Hypotheses are the ---little--- ones
  • If the ground gets waterlogged,
    • water will get into my basement
  • IFSC majors learn 
    • more employable things than physics majors

Conclusion. . .
Math proves; 
science does not prove!

Science disproves 
      (by refuting inductive "truths")

Science explains
     (using theories)

Science predicts
     (because the theories predict)

5. The phrase "scientific proof" makes no sense!
  • Science does not prove things!
  • It explains things and finds evidence
  • If only everyone actually knew that
  • Not just you, but also
    • reporters, 
    • spokespeople, 
    • politicians
    • the average person

6. Comments on Earth 2100

. . . Worst case scenario
      consistent with best science available

. . . The main cause depicted was

           global warming

. . . Secondary causes were

           deadly disease
           rising sea level
           poverty and hardship

. . . Effects were ultimately

           Governmental collapse
           Technological regression

. . . . . . So things could be that bad, but might not

7. Climate science uses theories
implemented as complex
computerized models
  • There are variations among 
    • different models
  • Their global warming computations make
    • different predictions

Almost all (never all, right?)
climate specialists agree:
  • Global warming is happening, will get worse, and is a serious problem
  • That is the consensus among climate scientists
  • No math-style deductive proof is possible

8. Politics and special interests 
are a different ball game

. . . Some economic interests 
      benefit most 
      if nothing is done

. . . . . . Naturally, they will impede change

. . . . . . . . . That is one case of
                  famous economist Adam Smith's  
                 "Invisible Hand"

9. Your turn: 
Earth 2100 discussion

What technologies are envisioned 
and what are their plausibilities?

10. The sea wall concept
  • We live in Arkansas,
    • which is in the United States,
    • we are Americans and
    • speak English

  • Some people live in Holland
    • What is the elevation in Holland,
    • what country is it in,
    • what is the nationality of its people, and 
    • what language do they speak?

What can we say about
its storm surge barrier?
Called the "van Maeslantkering"
See also, query Maeslant

Ever see the doors of the lock of the Big Dam Bridge?

11. What is the connection between 
epidemics and global warming?
  • Any diseases already spread to the US?
  • Any that may soon?

What are some tipping points to social stability?

  • Long-term blackouts
  • Transportation network breakdown
  • Where would you want to live if things went bad?
  • How about Arkansas?
  • Little Rock?

What can you do now?

12. Could Earth 2100 
really happen like that?

There are different cases:
   intermediate (many)

Earth 2100 depicts the worst case
   Probably won't be that bad
   But it is possible
   Hard to predict for sure: (Chaos (Lorenz) wheel as a garden water feature)
   Still, beachfront property cautiously

What signs portend a worst case scenario?
   CO2 is a relatively known factor
   CH4 (methane) is less so
   . . . but it has strong greenhouse effects
   If northern ice melts
   . . . and dark permafrost ground is exposed
   . . . and warms up from sunlight
   . . . and melts
   . . . and releases methane
   Then start worrying more
   If oceans start releasing methane
   . . . due to warming waters
   Then start worrying more

   No methane spike, no worst case
   . . . probably
   Bottom line:
   . . . watch for news on methane releases

13. Hyperpowers are historically limited in time
  • Mongolia
  • Rome
  • UK
  • US

We're #1!

But how can we stay that way?

14. What are the natural tendencies that 
cause hyperpowers to be time-limited?

  • Rigidity
  • Over-confidence from past successes
  • Inner rot

What can be done to prevent it or delay the inevitable? 

Why successful societies collapse

Earth 2100 quotes someone asking what
the person who cut down
the last palm tree on Easter Island
could have been thinking

That is straight out of Diamond's book

(Diamond appeared several times in the movie)

Easter Island, Rome, the Anasazi, the Mayans, the Greenland Norse, ...

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