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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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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Witness History: As MESSENGER Speeds by the Planet, See Mercury Before Sunrise! September 29 to October 1, 2009

 Posted by DrJeff on September 28th, 2009

 Copyright 2009  |  About this blog

 

Mercury Sky
This post is a Teachable Moment in the News.

 

Given the BotU Special Post for the MESSENGER Flyby, I thought this would be a great supplemental post.

 

Some Cool Background

Imagine you’re looking at a bug flying around an outdoor light bulb at night. Let’s say you’re looking at it from a distance which is always greater than the distance the bug is from the bulb. Wow. It’s a really interesting bug you’ve never seen before, and you want to share the experience with a friend, or (in my case) your son or daughter. I might say “Hey Jordi! Check out this really cool bug!” He’d say, “Daddy, where??” Ok, now I’ve got to tell him where to look. What would you say? How about: “over there, near that light bulb.”

 

Well this is EXACTLY the situation with the planet Mercury for earthbound observers. Mercury is orbiting the Sun and we’re looking at it from Earth, which is at a greater distance from the Sun than Mercury is from the Sun.

 

So if you want to see Mercury in your sky, you need to look … near the Sun. Anybody see a problem with that? The Sun is a pretty high wattage light bulb, and if it’s up in the sky, you’re not going to see Mercury or the stars for that matter. They’re up there with the Sun but their light is absolutely swamped by the sunlight illuminating our atmosphere.

 

Just so you know, the Sun light bulb is General Electric model #big01bertha, and its wattage is 383,900,000,000,000,000,000,000,000 Watts. It is also guaranteed for another nearly 5 billion years of operation. Handle with care.

 

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SPECIAL POST: The Flight of MESSENGER to Mercury: Live Web 2.0 Coverage of the Final Flyby on September 29, 2009

 Posted by DrJeff on September 18th, 2009

 Copyright 2009  |  About this blog

 

NEWS: For continued coverage of the MESSENGER mission through orbital insertion on March 18, 2011, please visit the MESSENGER Updates page on this blog.

 

 

Quick Navigation for this BotU Special Post

Click on Main Page to Ensure You’re at Special Post, not Blog Home Page


Sub-pages:

1. Schedule for MESSENGER Flyby Events and Web 2.0 Live Coverage

2. Ideas for Lessons in the Classroom, and Educational Resources

for leveraging the live events into a broader science education experience

3. The Mission Scientists, the Voices of Mission Control, and their Links

4. How to Participate—It’s Easy even if you have Twitter & Facebook blocked

5. Witness History: See Mercury Before Sunrise! Sept 29-Oct 1, 2009


MercuryImage

Photo caption: Part of Mercury’s never before seen surface, from MESSENGER spacecraft data obtained during the first flyby on January 14, 2008. Read the story behind this imageYou want to see spectacular? Click on the image.

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

 

Every so often an upcoming event is compelling enough for me to put up a dedicated Special Post at Blog on the Universe. A good example is the Apollo 11 40th anniversary. Given my involvement for the last 10 years with the MESSENGER mission, I decided the upcoming encounter deserved a Special Post. The goal is to help facilitate public engagement with the event, and point followers of this Blog to the official web sites and relevant resources. I have also provided my own thoughts on MESSENGER. This post is a Teachable Moment in the News.

 

 

It is a historic mission to another world. It marks a dramatic end to the human race’s initial reconnaissance of the eight planets of our Solar System, and the beginning of detailed study of Mercury.

 

On September 29, 2009, at 5:55 pm EDT, the MESSENGER spacecraft will conduct the last of three flybys of the planet. Each flyby is gravitationally modifying the spacecraft’s orbit around the Sun to ready it for orbital insertion around Mercury on March 18, 2011. On September 29 through October 1, live Web 2.0 coverage from mission control at the Applied Physics Laboratory in Columbia, Maryland, will allow teachers, their students, and the public to experience this mission milestone, and through social networks … ACTIVELY PARTICIPATE in this great adventure. There will be 7 Voices of Mission Control—MESSENGER Educator Fellows and MESSENGER Education Team members—covering the flyby in real time on Twitter and Facebook. They will be able to interact with all of you through engaging conversations, and will answer your questions. Four MESSENGER Mission Scientists will be teaming with the Voices of Mission Control throughout the live coverage. Our goal is to capture the experiences and excitement of the events as they unfold, and to tell this very human story of exploration. We want to help inspire the next generation of scientists and engineers, and promote scientists and engineers as heroes and role models to our children. We want to help teachers engage their students with a behind-the-scenes look at REAL science and engineering, and in this very moment of history.

 

Inspire … Then Educate: A Broader Commitment to Education

At this Special Post, I’ve also put together a sub-page that can serve as a one-stop-shop for information on MESSENGER and the science objectives for the flyby, and lists of activities, lessons, and educational resources. It’s meant to help you place the live coverage within a broader, richer science education experience that grows from National Science Education Standards, and offers deep curricular connections in the earth and space sciences. The idea is to inspire …then educate. The historic event provides the inspiration, and the resources leverage discussions on the nature of exploration, the nature of the Solar System, and MESSENGER and its mission at Mercury. Isn’t this precisely the curricular landscape in which MESSENGER resides?

 

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September 8 and September 11: Joy, Pain, and Hope

 Posted by DrJeff on September 11th, 2009

 Copyright 2009  |  About this blog

 

This post is a Teachable Moment in the News.

This is crossposted at the Huffington Post HERE.

 

12:01 am, September 11, 2009

 

I’ll remember Tuesday September 8, 2009 for quite a long time. My Jordi turned 7. How can that be? It seems like only yesterday I took my wife Kathy to the hospital, both of us thankful that he wasn’t going to be born on September 11. And now he’s 7! —looking for experiences under every rock, challenging his mom and dad to keep up. He is just a joy to behold. He inspired this blog.

 

Last Tuesday, it wasn’t just his birthday, it was his first day back at school. He was giddy with excitement when I drove him to school. He was going to see all his classmates he’d missed all summer. I walked him to class and he was bouncing off the walls. He also was given a gift that day. He sat down with his school and listened to the President of the United States, who spoke of the power of education.  He spoke of a student’s obligation to themselves, to their family, and to their country. He spoke to Jordi and his generation, and challenged them to reach within themselves and aspire to do great things. I believe deeply in those words. I also believe in those that tirelessly and patiently nurture our children so they can indeed aspire to great things. I believe in teachers. I am so very thankful for Jordi’s teachers, and my daughter Jada’s (an important future post for me). And I remember my own teachers that long ago invited me on a journey of a lifetime. So I did what I could do as well. I’m not sure how (it wasn’t planned that way), but an hour after the President spoke, my essay appeared at Huffington Post, titled The Art of Teaching – In Tough Times, a Thank You to Teachers Everywhere. It was my way of saying thanks.

 

There are threads through moments of time.

 

Today is September 11, 2009. It was 8 years ago that I watched President Bush talking to an elementary school class in Florida at the beginning of their school year. I remember that moment when he was interrupted with news beyond comprehension.

 

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