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 warming the problem of scale

Global WarmingThe problem of scale


The imperceptible and the vast 1

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

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

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

The Planet Earth

Diameter:

12,800 km

Deepest hole:

10 km

Atmosphere:

Scale Height

8.4 km


The sun

The Sun

Earth

Diameter:

1,390,800 km


Powers of ten

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 ten1

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

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

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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