Monday, May 3, 2010

Do-It-Yourself-Global-Warming Experiments!

As I learn more about science, I keep coming up with better ways of describing global warming to people, and breaking it down in simple ways so that they can truly understand what's going on with this big blue nest-egg we continually waste unconservatively. Currently, this takes the form of simple experiments, which anybody can do at home, that prove global warming is true. These experiments are great family activities for parents and kids to do together. Here's just a couple of the best ones. And I'm putting these out there before I've yet had a chance to do a planned YouTube video of them, knowing full well that someone could steal the ideas and do a video first. If so, fine. The message is more important than the messenger.

Experiment #1: Carbon dioxide chamber.
Maybe you've heard someone like John Coleman -- former weatherman on 'Good Morning, America!' and the founder of The Weather Channel -- telling people that global warming is a scam because carbon dioxide is only a trace gas, and therefore can't have a large impact on our planetary weather. Here's a simple at-home experiment which proves him DEAD WRONG.
You'll need:
1.) An empty 2-liter soda bottle, label removed. 2.) A thermometer. Maybe two. 3.) A piece of narrow cardboard, long enough to cover the thermometer. 4.) A heat-lamp. 5.) An ordinary balloon. 6.) Some thread & tape. 7.) Some dry ice. 8.) A small syringe (without a needle) or eye-dropper.
Take the cardboard and tape it to the thermometer. This will shield it from the heat lamp so that the light from it doesn't give an artificially high temperature. (We want the temperature of the air, not the temperature of the glass.) Attach the string to the cardboard and thermometer and suspend it inside the empty 2-liter soda bottle, using some tape on the inside. Next, cover the opening at the top with your balloon, keeping it as deflated as possible. This will regulate the air pressure inside with the air pressure outside, again so as to not give an artificially high temperature.
Turn on the heat lamp and let it heat up the inside of the bottle. Make sure the cardboard-side of the thermometer is facing the lamp. You will see the balloon inflate as the air inside heats up and expands. Let the temperature stabilize (I recommend half an hour). Record the temperature inside. (At this point, you may use the option of a second thermometer, kept outside the bottle nearby, to make sure the temperature of the room doesn't change significantly to alter your result.) Usually, I find that the temperature reads somewhere around 90 degreees when I reach this stage. It's all right if your own measurements at home are slightly different.
Now, turn off the lamp and let the bottle cool. We will now add a small amount of carbon dioxide gas to increase the percentage of CO2 inside the bottle. Now, it should be noted here that Mr. Coleman is right about CO2 being a trace gas. It's only about 0.038% of our atmosphere. We're going to increase it by only a little bit, by adding 0.005% to total 0.043% inside our soda bottle. You can confirm the math at home, but you can increase that amount of CO2 by adding exactly 0.1cc's, or 0.1ml of carbon dioxide. How do you do that?
Here's where you use your dry ice. Fill a sink with water. Then, put a small glass under the water and let it fill all the way. Keeping the glass completely under water, put the dry ice into the sink. Now, catch the bubbles inside the glass! Dry ice is pure CO2! So the gas inside the glass is the pure carbon dioxide you need. Take your syringe and suck in a little bit of CO2. Now, it's easy to get a syringe, but if you can't, just use a small eye-dropper. Just remember to completely fill up the eye-dropper with water first, and suck in one tiny bubble at the very tip. (That bubble should be roughly 0.1cc.) Now, squirt the CO2 into the bottle by rolling up one corner of the balloon. With the syringe, point down. With the eye-dropper, point up! (And spill no water, if you can help it.) Because pure CO2 is a little heavier than air, it will travel down into the bottle. Now the percentage of CO2 is just a tiny bit higher.
Make sure the balloon is secure over the top of the bottle again, and turn on the heat lamp. Make sure the distance between the heat lamp and the bottle is still the same. Now, let the temperature stabilize again, and record the temperature.
You will observe that the temperature will jump by roughly 5 to 6 degrees farenheit, or almost 3 degrees celcius!
If you don't think that's much, just think about the difference between a 45 degree day and a 50 degree day. Or a 55 degree day and a 60 degree day. It's a lot!
Oh, and by the way, the new concentration of CO2 we made, at 0.043%? We're projected to reach that level of CO2 sometime after the year 2020.

Take that, John Coleman! You're so full of shit!

Experiment #2: Just a glass of ice-water?
You might think a thermometer and a glass of ice water wouldn't tell you much. But try this experiment at home, and you'll see otherwise. Take a plastic glass (it needs to be plastic, because glass will break due to the expansion of water when it freezes), and freeze it with a thermometer inside. (Don't use a cheap one for this!) After all the water has frozen, take out the glass and watch the temperature rise. You will observe the temperature climb until it reaches the freezing point, -32 degrees Farenheit or 0 degrees Celcius. Even as the ice melts into water, the temperature will remain about at this point while the ice melts! Why?
The reason for this is because the heat traveling into the glass is offset by the ice turning into water. As the heat goes from the surroundings into the water, the water transfers the heat to the ice, and the temperature remains the same. Only when the ice is almost completely gone will the temperature significantly increase!
The lesson here? Our polar caps pretty much do the same thing that the ice does inside the glass! This is why scientists may report minor temperature increases globally, but locally, we don't feel much of a difference in terms of how our winters or summers feel to us. Nor shall we, until most of the northern polar ice is gone!
We have satellite surveillance showing that, at the apex of winter each year, the ice cap is getting smaller and smaller. We already know the Antarctic ice shelves are disappearing, and glaciers are all significantly shorter. Already, Glacier National Park in Montana is a misnomer. Someday soon, we will have a summer where nearly all the North Polar Ice Cap is gone.
And then, like our glass of ice water, we will see the temperature shoot up. Because there's no more ice to offset the thermal transition!
Certain ignoramuses on editorial TV and radio shows guffaw at the prospect of global warming due to things like the major snowstorm which hit the East Coast this past winter. But "Snowpocalypse" or "Snowmageddon" has nothing to do with the fact that the polar ices are visibly disappearing. For now, there is still some polar ice left, and that means things feel pretty much the same, and so-called conservative hacks will continue to maintain denial with every annual snowstorm. But once the threshold is crossed, that's it.
Some people may think that certain e-mails publicized by a hacker earlier this year proves this all wrong. I suppose the fact that those e-mails were over ten years old and contained irrelevant data will impress such people now about as much as it did back then.

Oh, and when, not if, the sudden shift happens, all those conservatives who denied global warming will lose their ratings, and consequently, their jobs! If famine, water shortage, and global economic collapse doesn't scare such dittoheads, perhaps that fact will.

Let's see, what else? Oh yeah! National security, the silliness of tying our economies to the rise and fall of one commodity, and the fact that said commodity, namely oil, will certainly run out!

Go green energy!

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