Thursday, March 25, 2010

Wonders of the Solar System


I’ve been enjoying ‘Wonders of the Solar System’ because of Professor Brain Cox’s enthusiasm for science, for his relish of the great things we have achieved in throwing spacecraft millions of miles out to expand the frontier of human knowledge. It’s been good to see some of the newer pictures from that frontier and of course to see the superb graphics created. The program hasn’t really told me anything I don’t know – it’s really a Solar System basics class for those unaware of things like the order of the planets or how many planet Earths you could drop into Jupiter’s red spot, or generally what conditions pertain on each world. But it has seemed to be a return to the good BBC science program untainted by political ideology.

I mean, at one time I used to love Attenborough’s Life on Earth programs, but now I cannot watch them without feeling the urge to throw something at the TV when he delivers his regular-as-clockwork homilies about how we are destroying the planet with our profligate globally warming ways.

The first few episodes of Wonders of the Solar System remained pure enthusiasm and science so I watched with some trepidation when I realised this latest episode was about the ‘thin blue line’ – about planetary atmospheres. I enjoyed the stuff about Mercury’s lack of atmosphere leaving it open to direct meteorite collisions  and vast temperature changes, the stuff about Earth’s magnetosphere protecting it from the solar wind and how deep in Jupiter the pressure turns hydrogen into a metallized liquid. But then, with the inevitability of tax rises on petrol, booze and cigarettes, we got to the greenhouse effect, and Venus.

Cox gave a brief description of how the greenhouse effect works, perhaps annoying the faithful by pointing out how without it we would be freezing our butts of in temperatures 30 degrees lower than they are now. He then went on to say that the temperature on the surface of that world is hot enough to melt lead, apparently because of its CO2-laden atmosphere. I was there rooting for Cox because he did seem a little embarrassed to be mentioning this, and I was hoping he would also go on to point out some of the rather large elephants in the room.. But no, all we got was some nonsense about Venus being in the same ‘region’ of space as Earth. Rather disappointing really.

No mention then of how Venus being 26 million miles closer to a giant fusion reactor called the sun might have some bearing on its temperature. No mention how a ground level pressure of 93 times that of Earth’s might have an effect too, or that Venus receives over a thousand Watts per square metre more solar radiation than Earth. Nope, it’s all those Venusian coal-fired power stations.

I like to think that this was the minimum deal with the Devil Cox could make to ensure he would present the program. I like to think this was the minimum he could say to calm the political demagogues at the BBC so as to enable him to zip off to Africa to experience an English Electric Lightning jet flight straight up at 5 gees to the limits of the atmosphere to observe that ‘thin blue line’, or race across the Namib in a 4x4 to do a small piece about the sands of Mars, or race a speed boat across a lake to gather up some methane whilst talking about Saturn’s moon, Titan.

Anyway, I’ll continue watching the program, and just hope that the homilies are out of the way…  

15 comments:

Larry said...

Looks pretty cool,must have missed this (I always miss the good TV shows!)
As for David Attenborough well I'm with him on the global warming sorry climate change front(I hate that phrase Global warming-so misleading!)-we are messing the planet up,the changes that have happened our real and partly down to us-you can only chuck out so much CO2 before things get hot! Incidentally that's one way of terraforming mars-create global warming on a massive scale to heat the planet up!

Neal Asher said...

The global warmers hate the words 'global warming' too, which is why they moved the goalposts and changed them to 'climate change'. It's embarrassing for them that the planet hasn't warmed for 15 years, that the icecaps are not melting, that the sea level is not rising any faster than before, that historically CO2 rises after warming, that the polar bear population has doubled, that CO2 has been ten times higher during an Ice Age, that it's been warmer in the near past (Medieval Warm Period, Roman Warming, Holocene Maximum) with no catastrophe and less CO2 in the air etc etc etc...

Mark T Croucher said...

I don't recall David Attenborough actually being an advocate of the global warming brigade, if anything I remember him trying to side step it in the last series. It has to be difficult for the man to contend with the science and bureaucracy whilst all around him his beloved animals are becoming extinct.

As to Wonders of the solar system, I think this is a very well made and instructive program with Mr Cox managing to catch the imagination of the younger viewer. Sure, I sit there telling the wife what he's gonna say next but then I'm a space nut! As for this program's global warming agenda, In my opinion I thought he used the "greenhouse effect" as a simarly, purly because everybody has been brain washed into knowing the basics of this priciple, maybe it was just lazy presenting but I also don't think he particularly has a radical green agenda.

Sorry to sound so defensive of these two Neal but I for one am trying hard to ignore the BBC's poor attempts to preach to us through every chance they get. They have not currently managed it in tropic of cancer, (on before Wonders, BBC2) but they did allude to the mystrey of disappearing oasis in Libya maybe being climate driven or just simply drank dry by farmers!!

Larry said...

@Mark, Yea Attenbrough said on a TV interview that people should stop saying global warming becausee not only is it innacurate but also it gives ammo to those who poo poo climate change as they can say 'How can it be getting warmer when we have ice storms in Oklahoma for the first time' or 'Global warming? Bring it on'
You can't deny tho that we have an effect on our climate,that we have altered our planet's weather on a global scale!

Neal Asher said...

I used to post about that sort of stuff in the past, Mark. Maybe he's starting to duck it now, but in the past (in Blue Planet) he certainly started banging the tambourine. Maybe he's started to smell what he's shovelling. As to this Wonders of the Solar System. I am enjoying it, and the AGW bit wasn't very intrusive. But it was there and, whether you believe in AGW or not, it was totally wrong. It was bad science.

Oh dear Larry. You didn't read and absorb one word of my previous comment, did you? I guess you haven't been seeing all the lies being uncovered over the last twenty years, as I have.

Neal Asher said...

"Attenborough had confessed to previously being sceptical about the belief that global warming is predominantly caused by humans. But now, he argued, the evidence of it was too overwhelming to ignore. He became sure of it when he saw graphs provided by climatologists that demonstrated the link between increasing temperatures and the levels of carbon dioxide (CO2) in the atmosphere, with the growth in population and industrialisation."

This was in 2006, Mark, when he made a two parter about global warming. I wonder where the graphs came from: Michael Mann, East Anglia University, maybe good old death train Hansen himself?

Variant13 said...

To be honest, I'm tired of people banging on about Co2 levels. Co2 comprises only 9-26% of greehouse gasses and of that figure, only 30% is man made! Most of the furore about 'climate change' or 'global warming' is just a convenient shield for profiteering companies and cash strapped governments to jump behind...

Larry said...

Neal,I did read yout post but I couldn't make out if you were sceptical about climate change or not. While its tru that the media have gone overboard with that shit term global warming there's no doubt the climate has changed and that we are a big contributor of that change. You say that the icecaps aren't melting-I have to disagree there! But its not all about CO2 (also CO, NO2 etc) its also about the loss of the rainforests which are major producers of that necessary gas, O2!

Mark T Croucher said...

God we have not had a good g.w. spat on here for ages. About time we got started again.

Larry, I agree with the rain forests, Neal does to as he will tell you about the overwhelming need to plant palm nut trees to save us all. This is man made devastation on a global scale caused by bad science and panic stricken politicians and poor 3rd world countries who just plant the stuff to survive with the payoffs.

Graeme said...

I like chocolate and on Fridays I drink beer and smoke tabs.

Do I win a prize?

PS: Cox Rocks (True he was in D:Ream, and was on top of the pops with Dave Lee Saville).


PPS: It's my fave program at the moment and coincidently follows my recent Facebook (Spacebook) updates about the solar system... very spooky... makes me wonder if there is a god? ahem....

Neal Asher said...

Larry, I'll do one refutation. Global sea-ice extent at Cryosphere Today http://arctic.atmos.uiuc.edu/cryosphere/IMAGES/global.daily.ice.area.withtrend.jpg

I'm not going to get into continuing to refute every point you might care to make, since I've been doing this shit for years. Just go take a look here http://wattsupwiththat.com/

And clearing up what Mark was saying: vast amounts of rain forest have been destroyed by those who want to grow biofuels to, you guessed it, increase the use of renewable fuels.

The shit term 'global warming' as you put it, was invented by the green (mainly anticapitalist) movement, hyped by the MSM and snatched up by goverments everywhere as an excuse to raise taxes and introduce new regulations. It was changed to 'climate change' after the globe stubbornly refused to show any sign of catastrophic global warming. The hypothesis was changed simply because there are too many vested interests in controlling people and extorting money from them through fear.

Paul said...

I do like Cox even though he was a keyboard player in D:Ream that gave us the "Things can only get better" New Liebore anthem in 1997.

His commentary on "Sunshine" is very good too.

Neal Asher said...

Paul, if you think about it, that anthem is pretty close to the truth (now an election is coming up). Though I never underestimate Labour's ability to make things worse before they're kicked out.

Jebel Krong said...

ugh - scientists with an agenda are as bad as religious nuts and creationsists...

the visualisation of the planets was nicely done - i saw the advert for the program (but not the program itself, unfortunately). i'll try and catch it on i-player.

freegnu said...

It's methane that could cause us major problems. The bulk of it is trapped at the bottom of the oceans. If it gets hot enough the methane could in theory bubble up from the bottom of the ocean and go from liquid to gas form in a big way.
You are right about the CO2 cap and trade scam. As it has shown it's true face at last. Wealthy countries asking poor countries to not industrialize by asking them to have lower caps per capital with not even a promise of the wealthy countries having to ever lower their current CO2 emmissions. Never mind the irrelevance of CO2 emmissions at human habitable climes. With the wealthy nations doing a double whammy on the poor sucker nations by tricking them into caring at all about propaganda science and then buying up all the big CO2 jungles for a song in those same sucker countries before showing their hand AKA real agenda, controlling the industrial production of the world AKA the upstart competition.
The real jokes I find funny in all this is that the methane produced by the rotting compost found on all jungle floors may out way their net carbon trapping benefit because methane has a net effect more than 100 times greater than carbon. I feel it is all a net discussion in irrelevant nonsense. And the efforts at using the carbon distraction have been long ago been superseded by the terrorize the citizenry out of their rights so banks can just change the rules of the game to keep themselves as first creditor and owner of the people resource.
The technology to live happily off the banking/debt grid is as old as the windmill, the water wheel, the farm, and electronics :)