Global warming the problem of scale
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Global Warming The problem of scale. The imperceptible and the vast (1). As human beings we can judge: temperatures close to ‘normal’ weights in the range a few grammes to a hundred kilogrammes distances . from a few kilometres to less than a millimetre times

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Global Warming The problem of scale

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Global WarmingThe problem of scale


The imperceptible and the vast (1)

As human beings we can judge:

  • temperatures

    • close to ‘normal’

  • weights

    • in the range a few grammes to a hundred kilogrammes

  • distances.

    • from a few kilometres to less than a millimetre

  • times

    • from a fraction of a second to periods of a few years.


The imperceptible and the vast (2)

As human beings we cannot judge:

  • temperatures

    • more a few degrees away from ‘normal’

  • weights

    • beyond a few tonnes or less than a gramme

  • distances

    • beyond a few kilometres or much less than a millimetre.

  • times.

    • much less than a second or greater than a fraction of a lifetime


The imperceptible and the vast (3)

Quantities and qualities that extend beyond our range of familiarity seem either:

imperceptible

or

vast

  • It is important to retain an ability to quantitatively assess quantities we perceive as imperceptible or vast

    • Becoming familiar is an important part of understanding

    • But then we can become too familiar!


The Planet Earth

Diameter:

12,800 km

Deepest hole:

10 km

Atmosphere:

Scale Height

8.4 km


The Sun

Earth

Diameter:

1,390,800 km


Powers of Ten

1

1018

1024

10-18

10-12

1030

1036

Very Very Small

Very Very Large

10-15

10-9

1021

1027

1033

100

0.000001

10-6

1000000

106

1012

10-3

0.001

1000

103

109

1015


Powers of Ten

1 metre

1000000000000 m

0.000000000001 m

10-18

10-12

1012

Very Very Small

Very Very Large

10-15

10-9

1018

1024

10-6

106

1012

1030

1036

10-3

103

109

1015

1021

1027

1033


Powers of Ten (Global Warming)Length scale in metres

Distance to the Sun

Diameter of the Earth

Microbes

Human Relationships

1018

1024

10-18

10-12

10-6

100

106

1012

1030

1036

Very Very Small

Very Very Large

10-15

10-9

10-3

103

109

1015

1021

1027

1033

The phenomenon of global warming involves physical processes with length scales spanning 20 powers of 10!

Tallest Mountain

Deepest Trench

Atoms & Molecules


Powers of Ten (time)Time scale in seconds

Electoral Cycle

1 Year

the Earth

moves once around the Sun

Deep Ocean Current Circulation time

Time for a molecule to jiggle

1

second

1018

1024

10-18

10-12

10-6

100

106

1012

Milankovitch Cycles

Very Very short

Very Very Long

10-15

10-9

10-3

103

109

1015

1021

Age of the Earth

A human lifetime

The phenomenon of global warming involves physical processes with time scales spanning 25 powers of 10!

Typical survival time of a civilisation

End of last ice age


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