Monday, September 23, 2013

The Struggle Continues

For centuries, early astronomers--working under the incorrect theory that the Earth was the fixed center of the universe--"struggled" with making sense of how objects moved across the sky.  Objects that were far away--like the stars--seemed to move in a regular pattern.  But objects believed to be much closer--like the planets--seemed to move in totally different patterns.  Ptolemy thought he had solved the problem by coming up with a geo-centric model of the universe--where things in space were fixed points on spheres revolving around the Earth.  To make the "science" work, Ptolemy had the planets revolve on a seperate axis on their spheres--resulting in orbits that looked like loop-de-loops and zig-zags--and which also required the planets to speed up and slow down as they revolved around Earth.

Eventually, Copernicus would develop the Sun-centered model of the solar system--and the orbits of the planets became very clear.  Everyone--except for the Vatican--would soon accept the Helio-centric model as the truth and the idea of Earth being the center of the universe would be lampooned as foolish and ignorant.

A few centuries later, physicists and astronomers--working under the incorrect belief that Newton's Laws of Gravity are universal--"struggled" to explain a number of observable phenomenon--including why Mercury's orbit was slightly longer than it should be, why light seemed to slow down at certain points in the universe and how the nucleus of an atom stayed together.  There were a number of convoluted theories on each topic--none of which ever seemed to perfectly match the scientific data--but all of which preserved Newton's Laws.

Eventually, Albert Einstein would answer all of the questions with his Special and General Theories of Relativity.  E=mc2 would show that Newton's Laws did not apply when talking about things that are very, very big and things that are traveling very, very fast.  The theories would open up new understandings of our universe, the formation of all things and it would usher in the nuclear age.

Today, climatologists--working on the belief that human burning of fossil fuels is causing out of control global warming--are "struggling" to explain how global temperatures are not reaching the predictions they made decades ago--despite higher carbon dioxide levels in the atmosphere.  The United Nations will release its latest report on climate change this week--but nobody can agree on how to explain the lower than expected temps.  Some want the inaccurate predictions blamed on the ocean--which is "holding the heat" now.  Others want volcanic activity and declining solar activity to be blamed.  Some want the timeline that the study starts looking at temperatures changed, because the current baseline year was "too hot".  And a few want no mention made at all--despite the fodder it will provide to those who believe fossil fuels are a relatively small factor in a process that started at the middle of the last ice age, 18,000 years ago.

Eventually, a scientist with one heck of a super-computer will be able to take all of the scientific data on ocean currents, volcanic activity, plate tectonics, solar radiation and CO levels and come up with accurate global temperature projections.  Until then, the global warming alarmists will just have to continue to "struggle" with the facts that don't go their way.

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