The Address of A Self-Important World

 Posted by DrJeff on May 3rd, 2010

 Copyright 2010  |  About this blog


Photo caption: Earth as seen by the MESSENGER spacecraft as it flew by our planet on August 2 2005.

This post is a Dr. Jeff Speaks Out.


This is crossposted at the Huffington Post HERE and at the Space Tweep Society Blog HERE.

Don’t let your seemingly vast experience as an inhabitant of this world fool you. It’s easy to be lulled into a false sense of self-importance. Let me explain.


You likely live in a house or apartment on a street, and in a community that’s part of some town, maybe even some major urban area. Your community is likely part of a much larger state or province of one of the nations of Earth—which are themselves nothing more than imaginary constructs of human society. Your country is also likely assigned to one of the continental masses whose sum total of land area is just 29% of the planet’s surface. You are small and the Earth is seemingly vast, as if we humans to Earth are just so many micro-organisms scurrying about each day (each rotation of Earth), and following rules of social engagement that often defy logic.


It’s a story that at a most fundamental level defines your address. It may be all the address you need to ship a package to your friend across the ocean. But it won’t cut it with the intergalactic post office. As I said, don’t let your experience and perception fool you. It’s the rest of the address of which most Earthlings are unaware. For so many reasons it’s also the most important part of the address.


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Firestorm in the Arctic: Al Gore Vindicated on Comments in Copenhagen

 Posted by DrJeff on December 16th, 2009

 Copyright 2009  |  About this blog



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


This is crossposted at the Huffington Post HERE.

I had a day of meetings yesterday, with no connection to the outside world. When I got home a good friend stopped over and asked if I heard what Al Gore had said in Copenhagen, and the firestorm it created in the world media. I had not. So I made a beeline for the computer and sought out the circus-sphere passing for journalism these days. Here is what I found.


A Timesonline story titled “Inconvenient truth for Al Gore as his north pole sums don’t add up”, may have been the focal point. Apparently Mr. Gore said, as reported by the Timesonline—


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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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A Day in the Life of the Earth: Understanding Human-Induced Climate Change

 Posted by DrJeff on June 13th, 2009

 Copyright 2009  |  About this blog



This post is a Driving with Jordi.

This is crossposted at Huffington Post HERE.

Note to reader: click on the links in the text for the real data. This is not a work of fiction.

From Dr. James Hansen, Director of the NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies concerning this post—

Public understanding of climate change depends on an understanding of time scales. Goldstein [Dr. Jeff] does a brilliant job of making clear the rapidity of the human-made intervention in the climate system, and the correlation of global warming with the appearance of technology powered by fossil fuels.

“Daddy, how long is a billion years?”

As soon as we got in the car this morning, and buckled up, I said “so Jordi, I need some help. I need more material for the blog.” “Daddy, what do you mean by ‘material’?”  “That’s what writers call the stuff they use to create stories”, said daddy.

It was a beautiful, sunny morning, so he started talking about … the Sun. He had lots of questions—where did it come from, what’s burning on it to make it so bright, how old is it, what will happen to Earth when it stops burning? The last one was particularly cool. I asked him if he thought the question “what will happen to the Earth when the Sun dies?” is something lots of kids might ask. He said “yes!!” I asked him who he thought was the first person to actually figure it out. He didn’t know. I told him it was me.

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THE SOLUTION TO Weekly Challenge 2: People People Everywhere

 Posted by DrJeff on June 9th, 2009

 Copyright 2009  |  About this blog


Read Original Challenge HERE.


This post is a solution to a Dr. Jeff’s Weekly Challenge.


Have you figured out how many new human beings will be on the planet a year from now? It was Weekly Challenge 2 that I posted last week. (Actually one week has already gone by.) I hope you’ve not been staring endlessly at the World Population Clock.


But if you haven’t yet read Weekly Challenge 2, DON’T LOOK AT THE SOLUTION HERE JUST YET! First read Weekly Challenge 2, or I’ll deduct your existence from the World Population Clock (like that will make a difference.)


A word from our sponsor—

What Can I do with a Humongous Sheet of Xerox Paper?

Weekly Challenge 3 to be posted Monday, June 15, 2009


And now the answer—

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Weekly Challenge 2: People People Everywhere

 Posted by DrJeff on June 2nd, 2009

 Copyright 2009  |  About this blog



This post is a Dr. Jeff’s Weekly Challenge.


We explored humanity’s ability to impact the entire planet last week in Weekly Challenge 1, and this week I’d like to continue the theme. We’ll be moving out beyond Earth pretty soon (promise.)


Here now the challenge—


How many new human beings will be on the planet a year from now? In just one year, will the increase in world population be the equivalent of a new big town? Or maybe a new medium-sized city? How about a large city?


And think about this—


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THE SOLUTION TO Weekly Challenge 1: A Pound of Ants and the Capabilities of Intelligent Biomass

 Posted by DrJeff on June 1st, 2009

 Copyright 2009  |  About this blog


Read Original ChallengeHERE.


This post is a solution to a Dr. Jeff’s Weekly Challenge.


For those of you that read last week’s Weekly Challenge 1 and are now waiting on the edge of your seats for the answers, well here they are. For those of you that haven’t yet read Weekly Challenge 1, DON’T LOOK! Go directly to the challenge and read it first, do not pass go, and do not collect $200.


And now the answers—


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Our Earth in Space – the Nature of Our Existence

 Posted by DrJeff on May 28th, 2009

 Copyright 2009  |  About this blog



I started this blog to share exciting stories of exploration with those that teach the next generation—parents and teachers. I hope it can help you inspire our children. More generally, these stories are for anyone who gets joy from learning, and aspires to know.


If you really want to get a sense of where I”m coming from, read my Resource Page The Nature of Our Existence. I hope it moves you. And if it does, share it by leaving a comment on the bottom of the page.


It’s a story—a philosophy—reflecting programs developed and delivered over 19 years at the Smithsonian’s National Air and Space Museum, and across the nation—to families, teachers, and the public.


I’d like to see this blog continue for quite a long time. I’ve got lots to share. But that requires us to build an audience. So please let parents, teachers, and friends know about this blog so we can make a difference together. Send out a tweet or some emails!


You might also like to read other Resource Pages in the section called Dr. Jeff on Stuff (see the column at right.) And subscribe for e-mail notification to stay up-to-date with new Posts.


To all those teachers finishing their year and feeling exhausted, you could probably use a reaffirmation right now about why you went into teaching! I think reading The Nature of Our Existence might help. It’s a good way to start your summer!

—Dr. Jeff



Weekly Challenge 1: A Pound of Ants and the Capabilities of Intelligent Biomass

 Posted by DrJeff on May 26th, 2009

 Copyright 2009  |  About this blog



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

A day late because of Memorial Day in the U.S.


I’m proud to post my first Driving with Jordi, so here we go!


Two weeks ago I was driving Jordi to school. We started down the road with 5 minutes of quiet contemplation, both of us just getting our heads wrapped around the new day, me with a cup of coffee in hand. Then, out of the blue came the question, “daddy, how many ants in a pound of ants?” I had to ask, “where did that come from?” So he explained that the day before he was hanging out in our big vegetable garden (he loves doing that), picked up a rock, and found lots of ants scurrying for cover. They were really small, and there were lots and lots of them. So he came up with this question to help him get a sense of their scale relative to a familiar ‘ruler’. He picked a pound. He came to me for the answer. I had no clue. So I decided to post this as part of this week’s challenge (see below.) You’ll be happy to know that I now have the answer and have already shared it with Jordi. But he promised not to tell.


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