A Doctor Jeff Myth Buster: Carbon Dioxide is Just a Trace Gas – BIG DEAL!

 Posted by DrJeff on October 24th, 2009

 Copyright 2009  |  About this blog

 

testPhoto caption: CO2 concentration in the atmosphere in parts per million over the last 400,000 years. Credit: NOAA.

 

This post is a Teachable Moment in the News and a Dr. Jeff Speaks Out.

This is crossposted at the Huffington Post HERE.

 

Here’s how the argument goes—and do it justice by reading it out loud, and kinda yelling whenever you see words in CAPS.

 

“Hey, you’re worried about CO2 concentration in the atmosphere going up because of human activity and causing an increase in global temperature?! GIVE ME A BREAK! It’s only a TRACE gas, currently making up only 0.038% of the atmosphere, or 380 parts per MILLION!!  SO WHAT if we increase it to a WHOPPING 1,000 parts per million (ppm) by 2100. Then it would ONLY comprise 0.1% of the atmosphere. BIG DEAL!! There is NO CONCEIVABLE WAY that changes in such a miniscule amount of CO2 could have any significant impact on the global environment. You’re preaching the sky is falling, and ANYONE WITH HALF A BRAIN can see that this is just SILLY! YOU must be part of some Scientists-in-Need-of-Federal-Funds—Green Business—Government (SiNoFF-GB-G) conspiracy that’s bent on destroying everything that is good. TAKE A WALK YOU ENVIRONMENTAL ACTIVIST IN NEED OF A CAUSE. Why … you’re likely a paid operative of the SINoFF-GB-G machine!”

 

Ummm.. has anybody else heard this argument, or is it just me? Here’s my rebuttal (and you’re still using the CAPS-means-shouting thing.)

 

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Blog News October 19, 2009

 Posted by DrJeff on October 19th, 2009

 Copyright 2009  |  About this blog

 

A great deal has been happening at the Blog this past month, so I thought I’d give you an update.

 

MESSENGER Flyby of Mercury, and Ongoing Updates

through Orbital Insertion in March 2011

We had a great time at Mission Control covering the MESSENGER flyby of Mercury live via Twitter September 29 through October 1. Judging from the tens of thousands of page views that week, lots of folks were going along for the ride. Cool! That’s why we did it!

 

I recently put up a MESSENGER Updates Post which will be providing ongoing updates through MESSENGER’s orbital insertion at Mercury in March 18, 2011. If you’ve not seen the Post yet, you’ll be surprised at how many updates there are already, and the other cool resources provided there, including a play-by-play of the nail-biting in Mission Control when we lost signal from the spacecraft near close approach, and the Twitter Archives of us Voices of Mission Control which allow you to relive the experience. Note the MESSENGER Updates Post can always be accessed from the TMN QuickLinks Box at upper right. Over the next 18 months, you’re also invited to use the MESSENGER Ideas for Lessons in the Classroom, and Educational Resources Post which addresses the nature of human exploration, the exploration of the Solar System, and the exploration of Mercury, with powerful essays, activities, and lessons.

 

A Presentation on the Universe For Your School or Community?

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Weekly Challenge 8: How Big is Big? The Earth Edition

 Posted by DrJeff on October 16th, 2009

 Copyright 2009  |  About this blog

 

image05292003

This post is a Dr. Jeff’s Weekly Challenge and a Driving with Jordi.

Photo caption: the Hawaiian Islands, with the Big Island of Hawai’i at lower right. The Big Island was formed from five volcanoes including Mauna Kea. True color from the NASA Terra satellite, May 27, 2003.

The solution to this Challenge will be posted Monday, October 26, 2009.

It’s a new school year, and I couldn’t wait to get back into the routine of my morning drive with Jordi. I missed our daily conversations about Earth, space and everything else in his known universe while we navigate the fabled Washington, DC, Beltway to his school. Sure, we spent lots of great family time together over the summer at the pool club, and in New York. But there was something magical about taking 30 minutes of dull driving each morning and turning it into a free-for-all ‘Jordi where do you want to take the conversation today?’

To help you picture it, I’m always driving with my cup of coffee, glancing in the rear view mirror—waiting. He’s usually staring forward, transfixed. You’d almost think that my now 7-year-old is just zoning—except that he’s got that slight squint which tells me wheels are turning furiously inside. Then BOOM! He launches our great morning adventure with a simple, elegant, deep thought.

So last week, like always, just out of the blue—

“Daddy, how many Empire State Buildings tall is the tallest mountain?”

Today he wanted daddy to help him conceptualize the height of a really tall mountain. He wanted to use a familiar ruler.

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TMN QuickLinks: Five Powerful Climate Change Lessons for A Very Important Earth Science Week October 11-17, 2009

 Posted by DrJeff on October 11th, 2009

 Copyright 2009  |  About this blog

 

EarthFromSpace_2560x1024Photo Caption: The Sun setting over the Pacific and a towering thundercloud, July 21, 2003 as seen from the International Space Station (Expedition 7). Click on the image and explore your world close-up using the scroll bars. The time to protect it is at hand.


This is a Teachable Moments in the News QuickLinks Post. It connects a news story with this Blog’s existing powerful library of Posts and Resource Pages. The cited Posts and Pages provide a deep understanding of concepts in the earth and space sciences relevant to the news story. Teachers—the Posts and Pages are also designed for use as lessons, allowing you to easily bring current science into the classroom as a teachable moment. Each cited Post is outlined in the Teachers Lesson Planner, which includes the Post’s essential questions, concepts, objectives, and math skills.

 

 

Earth Science Week takes on a rather unique importance in 2009. This year’s theme is Understanding Climate. On December 7-18. 2009, the entire world will meet in Copenhagen for the United Nations Climate Change Conference, to hammer out the next international agreement on climate change and put in place new targets for greenhouse gas emissions. It may be humanity’s last opportunity to craft an agreement—AND get it ratified by the world’s nations—before the Kyoto Protocol of 1997 (and in force in 2005) expires in 2012. This seems to me to be a very big deal for the future of this planet, particularly in light of the latest projections for the impact of global warming—which indicate we need to act NOW or face irreversible consequences (see CNN, March 12, 2009)—and Copenhagen is the venue for that action.

 

The United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) has now issued 4 Reports, the last issued February 2, 2007:

 

On Feb. 2, 2007, the United Nations scientific panel studying climate change declared that the evidence of a warming trend is “unequivocal,” and that human activity has “very likely” been the driving force in that change over the last 50 years.

New York Times, October 11, 2009

 

If we allow things to continue unchanged and we don’t take action today, it would destabilize human society.

—Rajendra Pachaurihead, Head of the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), “Climate chief warns against ‘Tragic’ inaction”, CNN, August 21, 2008


Here are some relevant links:

Findings of the UN IPCC Fourth Assessment Report, see Union of Concerned Scientists, February 16, 2007

 

June 16, 2009 White  House Report Global Climate Change Impacts the United States: coverage by USAToday (‘Game Changer’),  CBS (White House Sounds Alarm), CNN (Report Warns of Cimate Change Effects), ABC (US Climate Report Dire)

 

Assessment by U.S. Department of Defense on U.S. National Security, and on the grave scenarios that can play out from global warming: New York Times (August 8, 2009)

 

My point is that over the next few months, the world faces a unique and seminally important moment in time, and Earth Science Week 2009 should serve as a timely catalyst for education in the US. HERE is the countdown clock to Copenhagen.

 

To date I’ve created 5 Posts at Blog on the Universe—5 powerful lessons—on climate change and global warming that I’d like to share with you as resources to use in classrooms and in discussions at home this coming week.

 

First, what is Earth Science Week?

 

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Oh No! NASA’s LCROSS Is Going to Hit the Moon! Run!

 Posted by DrJeff on October 8th, 2009

 Copyright 2009  |  About this blog

 

johnny_automatic_angry_moon

This is a supplement to my earlier post NASA LCROSS to Slam into Moon October 9, 2009.

This is crossposted at the Huffington Post HERE.

 

 

We’re slamming this thing into the Moon?! Hasn’t anybody thought this through?! The Moon’s going to be forced from its orbit! Giant tides will wash around the Earth! Buildings will topple! The Man in the Moon will be mad at us! Do we really need another catastrophe?!


An hour after I put up my NASA LCROSS to Slam into Moon post to help teachers make this a Teachable Moment on the Moon in classrooms, my good Twitter friend Heather Good at FoundonMars.com tells me there are actually folks out there thinking about impending doom (check out the comments at this recent HuffPost article.) She asked me to come up with something that can put everyone’s mind at ease. There was tension, anxiety, scared people … shades of Orson Welles War of the Worlds radio broadcast that had folks running from their homes. Cool (not the running thing. The “can you come up with something to calm folks” thing.)

 

Ready?

 

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TMN QuickLinks: NASA LCROSS to Slam into Moon October 9, 2009

 Posted by DrJeff on October 7th, 2009

 Copyright 2009  |  About this blog

 

This is a Teachable Moments in the News QuickLinks Post. It connects a news story with this Blog’s existing powerful library of Posts and Resource Pages. The cited Posts and Pages provide a deep understanding of concepts in the earth and space sciences relevant to the news story. Teachers—the Posts and Pages are also designed for use as lessons, allowing you to easily bring current science into the classroom as a teachable moment. Each cited Post is outlined in the Teachers Lesson Planner, which includes the Post’s essential questions, concepts, objectives, and math skills.

 

 

226580main_2007-08-02 On Way In

There’s an exciting event scheduled on the Moon, and you’re invited. The NASA LCROSS spacecraft and it’s Atlas V Centaur upper stage rocket will slam into the lunar South Pole on October 9 at 4:30 am PDT. It is going to be a BIG news story AND IT SHOULD BE VISIBLE TO YOU if you’re west of the Mississippi (in the U.S.) AND you can hook up with an amateur astronomer with a good-sized (recommended 10-12-inch aperture) telescope. Sounds like a good motivation for an impact party to me.

 

There is a Blog on the Universe Post—If I Could Gift Wrap the Moon—that is perfect for a thought-provoking, conceptually hard-hitting classroom discussion about the size of the Moon and its relationship to Earth in advance of (even after) the LCROSS impact. It includes simple and quite elegant hands-on activities.

 

Here are the links:


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I Don’t Have My Camera Handy, but Say “Cheese” Anyway! “Photography” in the Digital Age

 Posted by DrJeff on October 6th, 2009

 Copyright 2009  |  About this blog

 

MercuryImage

Photo caption: Part of Mercury’s never before seen surface, from MESSENGER spacecraft data obtained during the first flyby on January 14, 2008. 

You want to see spectacular? Click on the photo.

Credit: NASA/JHUAPL/Arizona State University, 2008.

 

This post is a Teachable Moment in the News.


The picture above was the central image for my recent Special Post on the MESSENGER spacecraft’s September 29, 2009 flyby of Mercury. It is an incredibly compelling image, and there is a great back-story for how it was produced. In the image caption at the Special Post I had invited you to read the story, but I suspect many missed the link. So I decided it was worthy of its own post!

 

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Powerful New BotU Teaching Resource: Teachable Moments in the News QUICK LINKS

 Posted by DrJeff on October 5th, 2009

 Copyright 2009  |  About this blog

 

 

Blog on the Universe is a rather unique science education blog. It is not a content aggregator. It is not a clearinghouse or listing for educational resources and products. It is not a science news outlet where posts are specifically dedicated to coverage of the latest news stories, and once the story is old, the post is no longer useable except as a matter of historical record. It’s true that one of the five flavors of posts here at the Blog is actually called Teachable Moments in the News. But I only use a news story as the “hook” and incentive to write a post that is enduring. For example, I used the space shuttle flight in May 2009 for the repair of the Hubble Space Telescope to ask the question: “Where is outer space?” (See The Business Trip.) It is a post that will never get old.

 

At BotU I’m working to create posts dedicated to the understanding of powerful concepts in the Earth and space sciences—concepts that are timeless, and are directly relevant to National Science Education Standards and AAAS Benchmarks for Science Literacy. My goal is to create a ‘library’ of ‘evergreen’ posts addressing a vast range of content—posts that will be as useable 5 years from now as they are today. I’ve even created a Teachers Lesson Planner where all the posts in this library are catalogued by subject, and a quick summary provides each post’s essential questions, concepts, learning objectives, required math skills, and special features. The idea is that each post can support a lesson in the classroom that powerfully addresses curricular requirements, and more importantly—helps teachers move science education away from the memorization of irrelevant facts, and toward: critical thinking, science as process owned by the student, and conceptual understanding. (For more on my goals for this Blog, read About this Blog. For more on science education in the classroom as a model of science, read The Power of Models.)

 

What’s very cool about creating such a library of posts is that whenever there is a high profile news story, I can pull posts off my library shelf to help teachers explain the concepts behind the story. The result is a means of bringing current science rapidly into the classroom—in a manner relevant to the curriculum. And instead of just reporting the “What, Why, When, and Where”, you can create a Teachable Moment in the News grounded in conceptual understanding at an emotional level.

 

So today I’m really happy to launch a powerful new capability at Blog on the Universe, with (as always) remarkable help from my friend Drew Roman at Decisive IT. You’ll notice the box at the top of the right column labeled “Teachable Moments in the News—Quick Links to Relevant BotU Posts” (TMN Quick Links). This is a place where I’ll list current stories in the news, or upcoming celebrations, along with the links to conceptually relevant Posts and also Resource Pages here at the Blog. The TMN Quick Links box is an easy way for you to put the library here at BotU to work for you and your students by leveraging—and in support of—exciting stories in the news!

 

For each BotU Post listed in the TMN Quick Links box, be sure to refer to its entry in the Teachers Lesson Planner for curricular connections, and how to put the Post to work for you.

 

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Regular Updates: The Flight of MESSENGER to Mercury through Orbital Insertion, March 18, 2011

 Posted by DrJeff on October 4th, 2009

 Copyright 2009  |  About this blog

 

Click Here to Skip the Overview of this Updates Page and Jump Directly to Updates Archive Below

 

 

Flyby 3 may be over, but MESSENGER’s mission continues. Bookmark this page for MESSENGER updates. Also note you can always access this page from the Teachable Moments in the News Quick Links box in the upper right column of this Blog, which includes the date of the latest update.


Teachers—place the mission in the greater context of human exploration, and exploration of the Solar System, using this Blog’s MESSENGER Ideas for Lessons in the Classroom, and Educational Resources page.

 

CN0162744214M_web

This post is a Teachable Moment in the News.

 

Photo Caption (click on image for zoom): Image taken September 29, 2009, by the MESSENGER spacecraft’s Narrow Angle Camera,15,400 km (9,600 miles) above the planet’s surface. The double-ring impact basin is approximately 100 miles (160 km) in diameter, with another large impact crater on its south-southwestern side. The image and caption was prepared by MESSENGER Educator Fellows Christina Dorr (Hilliard City School District, Hilliard, OH) and Julie Taylor (Adelanto School District, Adelanto, CA), at the MESSENGER Science Operations Center.

 

 

The September 2009 MESSENGER Special Post at Blog on the Universe, with live Web 2.0 coverage of the spacecraft’s third flyby of Mercury on September 29, generated significant interest in the NASA MESSENGER mission. Teachers and their classes were following along and posing questions to the six Voices of Mission Control via Twitter and email. I’ve created this page to provide ongoing MESSENGER mission updates through the date of orbital insertion on March 18, 2011.

 

Below you will find the Updates Archive. Also below are Blue Titled sections that provide an overview of the tense time in Mission Control when the signal from the spacecraft was unexpectedly lost during close approach on September 29, and a Twitter archive for the Voices of Mission Control—captured live during the flyby—so you can relive the experience.

 

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