Climate Change, Solar Output, Ice Ages, The Planet Vulcan, And Old Guys With Beards

“That’s the human body raising its core temperature to kill the virus.  Planet Earth works the same way.  Global warming is the fever. Mankind is the virus.  We’re making our planet sick. A cull is our only hope.” – Kingsman:  The Secret Service


Pugsley and sand.  Yup.  Hot day.  Probably the influence of planet Vulcan!

The calculations proved it.  The planet Mercury’s orbit wasn’t quite right.  It was really, really close.  Really close.  But not quite.  How close?  If my calculations are right, Mercury was 28 miles from where it should have been.  Given its orbital velocity, that was one second.  One second in 88 days.  And this error was found in 1843.  According to the accepted physics theories, this was proof of . . . another planet!


Samuel Schwabe:  Though not commonly known, all astronomers in the 1840’s were also expected to play linebacker at a moment’s notice, hence, Schawbe appearing in full shoulderpads.

This was just the sort of proof that German astronomer Samuel Schwabe was waiting for.  In the previous 17 years, Schwabe had dutifully recorded the sunspots on every clear day.  He wanted to be able to pick out a new planet that people believed was inside the orbit of Mercury.  Heck, they were so sure it was there they even gave it a name after the god of fire – Vulcan.


Not this kind of Vulcan, silly. 

But Schwabe never lived long enough to see the discovery of Vulcan (although it was reliably spotted several times in the late 1800’s) because it doesn’t exist.  But Schwabe did notice (for the first time) that the number of sunspots varied over time.  After 17 years, he predicted that the Solar Cycle was about 10 years in length.  He was close – but it’s closer to 11.  This discovery was picked up by Swiss astronomer Rudolf Wolff (what a cool name, right?)

rudolf wolf

Rudolf Wolff:  Is it just me, or does he have the beard and hair of an NFL assistant coach?

Wolff began counting sunspots as well, but also gathered information on sunspot activity from all over Europe, as far back as he could – 1610.  Wolf also looked at the data and determined that Sunspots impacted Earth’s own magnetic field.  Wolff’s work validated Schwabe’s theory, and Schwabe was honored with the Royal Astronomical Society’s Gold Medal, the same one that Einstein and Sir Fred Hoyle (LINK) would later win (I’ve got two in my closet somewhere, I think).


CC-SA:3.0 – Robert Rohde

So, a dude named Gustav Spörer discovered a period nearly zero sunspot activity – naturally, they named it the Maunder Minimum after the NEXT people to talk about it, Edward and Annie Maunder.

Edward and Annie aren’t that interesting, but the Maunder Minimum was – especially since we discovered other things . . . like the impact the great thermonuclear reactor in the sky has on temperature.  High sunspot activity correlates to higher solar output.  I wish it correlated to me having more hair.


CC-SA:3.0 – Robert Rohde

Which makes sense if you look at other data, like this from the IPCC’s first report:

little ice age

Clearly, it was colder when there were fewer sunspots.  Is that enough?  No, there are some pretty other significant adders to the climate picture (though none are larger than the input from the Sun).  Other things that really matter?

Well, CO2 has been increasing – that’s for certain.  And, CO2 is a greenhouse gas.  That’s for certain, too, otherwise the Earth would be too cold for life.

And as the temperature goes up, (maybe due to, say, solar output?) then the ability of the oceans to store CO2 goes down.  Cool us off with, say, a new Maunder Minimum?  Yeah, then the CO2 that can be stored in the oceans goes . . . up again.

And the CO2 balance isn’t very far off from balanced.

ipcc flux

But climate is determined by a batch of things – such as the current oscillations of the North Atlantic current, the amount of Bavarian-produced PEZ®, and our Sun’s output.  The mere fact that no one can explain why we have ice ages should tell you that climate science is exceptionally incomplete – it’s as if physics couldn’t explain why STOP signs are octagons.

In the last 500,000,000 years of the existence of the Earth, the climate has been pretty steady.

All_palaeotemps.svgCC by SA 3.0, Glen Fergus

And as I looked at the graph, I noticed two data points at the end, showing projections via a mathematical model.  Certainly, they’re still in the realm of habitable.  But are they real?

Probably not.  Climate predictions have systematically overestimated the amount of global warming over time.



But when I hear people on NPR® talking about climate, what I hear is a lot of panic.  It’s as if the world sits on a global climate hill, and the people of Earth, dressed in clown suits no doubt, are nudging it downslope, where it will go out of control and fry us all.  But 500,000,000 years of climate history says that won’t happen.  And the resources that are to be diverted?  What could they do to make all of humanity wealthier with all of the money being spent on Global Warming?

Back to Vulcan.

It doesn’t exist.  At all.  The 28 mile gap?  It’s real, but the reason it exists is because of the gravitational well that bends space time – Einstein hadn’t yet explained that mass bends space . . . and time.  So given the mathematics and theories of the day, there had to be a planet.  The observations that showed a planet?  Maybe it was aliens or asteroids?  Godzilla?

So, a strong consensus of astronomers had a belief in Vulcan.  No other ideas made sense.  So, one could say that there was a strong scientific consensus, but it was based on ignorance of physical facts.  And, congratulations to the New England Patriots, Super Bowl LII champs by consensus!  Point spread was 4.5 in favor of the Pats, so they won, right?

My concern remains that there is a group of people, with almost religious fervor, who feel mankind is the source of all that is wrong in the world, the source of all that is bad.  The end point of their philosophy is a hatred of mankind.  We are all that is wrong with the world.  The irony is many of them are atheist, just replacing one religion and sin with another.  And many see climate change as a method to extract political power (and money) from the world as a whole.  I do recall that in the 1970’s that the next thing we’d see was . . . another ice age.


But we are not.  All light, all love, all beauty has been either made by us or recognized by us.  There’s no evidence a badger ever stopped and said, “Hey, beautiful sunset.”  Nope.  Without a human recognizing it, it doesn’t occur.  Badgers have notoriously poor aesthetics.

And large amounts of the CO2 went to feeding humanity.  Who decides who will suffer, sacrifice, and die so we can spend money to be carbon neutral, when there is some evidence that solar output is declining and might lead to a climate that’s actually colder, longer term (LINK)?  I’m sure somebody will be able to pin that on people.


You can see that solar output is declining.  Perhaps it’s a conspiracy?

Besides, our robot overlords after the singularity (LINK) won’t be all that tied to temperature.  They’ve got air conditioning . . . maybe solar powered?

Medieval French, Medieval Warm Period, Medieval Volcano, Medieval Weight Loss Pill

“This is Jenny.  She and her family are having a picnic at the foot of a volcano.  Oh no!  The volcano has erupted!  What do you do now Jenny?  That’s right.  Duck and cover.  What do you do Jimmy? Duck and cover.  Duck and cover!” – South Park


Thankfully the volcano killed off the giant ice crabs.

On July 17, 1315, Roul returned to his home from a hard day’s farming.  He was very tired.  He was dirty.  He didn’t rank highly on the social scale – he was a serf, and could be bought and sold with the land he lived on.  They didn’t call Roul a serf – his social class was called “villeins” in the local language of northern France.

I was very cold – especially strange since it was July.  The sunsets, when Roul saw them, were more colorful than any he remembered in his life – he was 28 – but the weather was cold, and wet.  At the best of times his wheat harvest might produce seven seeds for each one planted.  Subtract saving one seed for next year’s planting, 10% of them for the Church, and 50% of them for the Lord whose land he farmed and taxes and out of each 14 seeds in a good year Roul could keep, at most, five for eating and trading.  In 2015 the same field, plowed using modern machinery, planted with hybrid seeds, and with fertilizer levels closely monitored would bring over 30 seeds for each one planted.

But Roul could see none of that.  His life was smaller.  Not only was a tractor unimaginable, but the amount of real wealth it represented would be greater than the wealth of an entire province in 1300’s France.  His income was small.  But combined with the barter they got for his wife’s sewing, it was a good, but very tough life.

This year?  This was the worst year he had ever seen.  And the old graybeards in town said that they had never seen a year like this – ever.

And they hadn’t.  The Medieval Warm Period ended around 1300A.D., with temperatures greater than today’s during much of that time, quite optimum for growing plants during the long growing seasons and the population of Europe had expanded.  But the Warm Period ended.

But 1315 was even more special:  Mount Tarawera erupted.  Although Tarawera was almost exactly on the other side of the world from Roul in what would be named New Zealand by Dutch navigator Abel Tasman 320 some years later, its impact on his life was profound.  The volcanic dust and ash filled the atmosphere and cooled the Earth for more than two years.  The Great Famine followed.  Over the next seven years at least 5% (and perhaps as many as 12%) of all northern Europeans died.  The world for them contracted and became hungry, mean, and criminal.  The Black Plague found easy purchase in the wasted land.  The combined impacts of famine and disease caused Europe to experience a significant depopulation during the 1300s, which led to labor being more valuable, which led directly to the values that formed the Renaissance.  The birth of modern culture was forged in famine and pestilence.

But we were talking about Roul.

In the bitter cold of winter of 1315 and 1316, Roul and his wife, Cateline resembled hibernating bears more than a farmer and wife in the prime of life.  During the intense cold of the winters, they spent most of their time huddled under blankets on their straw bedding trying to do as little as possible to conserve every bit of energy – the harvest had been poor and food was in very short supply.  Most days they got up to do the minimum of chores required, and ate very sparingly.

Roul and Cateline didn’t starve.  It was a near thing.  But the society they saw a decade later scarcely resembled the one that they had left behind in the spring of 1315.

So, how far have we come as a civilization?  Right now hunger is still a world problem, but hunger is less prevalent now than at any time in recorded history.  Ever.  Obesity, however, is as bad as it has ever been, and been getting worse.  Stupid Skittles®.

I’ll admit, some dead Roman was right when he said that a pleasure repeated too often becomes a punishment.  But being fat is still way better than starving to death.  Like a joke The Mrs. loves:

A guy was talking to his dog.  “No more food for you, or you’ll get fat.”

The dog responds, “Fat?  What’s that?”

The guy:  “It’s when you eat and drink too much and sit on the couch and don’t exercise and gain a lot of weight.”

The dog:  “Ohhhh, that sounds good.  Let’s get fat.”

What people really want is to sit on their couch, eat chips, drink beer, play video games, and look like The Rock after a particularly challenging workout.  And there are billions of dollars available to anyone who can make that happen.  And people are working on it right now:  The Exercise Pill.

They even found one that was awesome:  GW501516.  Sexy name.  All the cool kids call it 516 (really).  In the subjects that the scientists gave 516 to, they found that nearly immediately exercise endurance went up by double digit percentages.  They lost weight without working out any more than usual.

A perfect pill!  With 516 you could have it all.  Endurance, an athletic bod, and lower weight.  516 even released the hormones and all the good stuff associated with strenuous exercise.

So, where can you get some?

Well, your doctor won’t prescribe it for you because all the test subjects came down with megasupereverything cancer.  Whatever 516 did, it really did a number on the test subjects, giving them every cancer one can imagine.

Thankfully they were mice.

But people are taking 516 right now, body builders and dudes looking to lose weight while getting strong.  Seems like you can buy the stuff, it’s just not approved, and it has been banned by multiple sports (I think there’s a Lance Armstrong joke in there, but I’ll skip it).  So you can get it, but you’re not supposed to take it, just like animal antibiotics, which people do take, since they can skip going to a doctor and just get the stuff online.

Work hasn’t stopped on bringing 516 (and some other exercise pills) to market, but they’re hoping with 100% less cancer, and the New Yorker (LINK) has a pretty good article on it.  I won’t spoil the ending.  Okay, I will.  We don’t have an exercise pill.

But . . . should we?  I guess that, from a perspective of having people live healthier lives, I’ve got to say, yeah, we should.  But the very discipline required to keep and maintain a weight, the hard work, the sacrifice, isn’t that part of what makes us stronger, so when life is tough, we know we have the internal strength to stand up to challenges?


All that sounds like work.

They’ll have a pill for willpower and inner strength, won’t they?