Sunday, April 23, 2006

Mountain Bike One

"The president spent Saturday morning with a small pack of riders in a foggy redwood forest about 90 minutes north of San Francisco. He relished the swampy conditions on parts of the trail in this remote state-owned tract, leading his partners repeatedly through huge puddles and streams running high after weeks of heavy rain."

"Riding Mountain Bike One—a blue and white Trek Fuel bicycle emblazoned with the presidential seal—he glided confidently over loose rocks and deep gullies carved by rain runoff. Bush recovered from a near spill on a fast downhill, but four riders behind him went down in a Tour de France-style pileup, leaving them caked with dirt." ...

Saturday, April 22, 2006

Kurt Wise on Global Warming

To my fellow believers in Jesus Christ,

I am a believer in Christ who rests firmly on the authority of Scripture, and I am a member of the scientific research community. I am neither a member of the National Association of Evangelicals, the Evangelical Climate Initiative, the Evangelical Environmental Network, nor any other related initiative or organization. I appreciate their "deep commitment to Jesus Christ and His commands to love our neighbors, care for 'the least of these,' and be proper stewards of His creation." I do not believe "everything hinges on the scientific data."

This letter is to insert a new combination of observations into the debate:
  1. climate change is real,
  2. the best we can hope to do is slow down or delay the process,
  3. we should plan now to adjust for its effects, and
  4. ultimately this climate change could be beneficial.
First, climate change is real. Although there is much debate on the rate of change and the long-term meaning of the trend, there is not a geologist in the world that will tell you global warming is not currently happening. The historical data is not in dispute regarding the recent upward trend in carbon dioxide and temperature. Even the evangelical leaders who "disagree about the cause, severity and solutions to the global warming issue" do not dispute the reality of some sort of global climate change.

Second, I believe the human contribution to global warming has been overstated. Although the burning of fossil fuels is contributing much more carbon dioxide to the atmosphere than other (even non-human) sources, carbon dioxide levels have increased a total of only 30 percent over pre-industrial revolution levels. In contrast, geological evidence suggests there have been times in earth’s past with carbon dioxide levels were many times higher than present levels—and none of those elevated levels are thought to have been caused by humans. Additionally, if you were to take away the human contribution of carbon dioxide altogether, carbon dioxide levels would still increase—from entirely non-human sources.

Furthermore, carbon dioxide is not the only greenhouse gas, although it may be the only one humans are significantly increasing. In the case of one greenhouse gas, oxygen, the burning of fossil fuels is decreasing atmospheric oxygen. For other greenhouse gases, such as sulfur dioxide, modern volcanoes release at least as much as humans, and volcanoes inject their greenhouse gases directly into the upper atmosphere where they generate a quicker and longer-term effect. Plus, modern earthquake and volcanic activity is at what may be an all-time low. Some volcanoes of the past were 1,000 to 10,000 times larger than present volcanoes. If this increased geologic activity occurred immediately after the Flood, as some of us believe, the human contribution of carbon dioxide over all human history is dwarfed many times over by events in the Flood and immediate post-Flood period.

Beyond earth sits a more significant and obvious source of (at least short-term) global warming: the sun. 2005 was an unusually active year for the sun with respect to its well-known 11-year solar cycle. The effects of this have been noticeable during the mild winter following. There has been a general rise in average solar activity per 11-year cycle for several decades now. Similar solar activity levels 1,000 years ago caused a similar period of global warming that opened up the seas and northern coastlines to the sea-faring Vikings. Few would seriously argue such solar variation is human-induced.

Third, assuming these trends continue, the long term effects of global warming are significant and should not be ignored. And this will most likely be the case even if we are able to immediately reduce, or even eliminate, the burning of fossil fuels. Chief among these effects is the rise in sea level. There is enough ice in the ice sheets in Greenland and Antarctica to raise earth's sea level by more than 200 feet. That is enough to leave just the dome of the Capitol and 350 feet of the Washington Monument above water. For New Yorkers, that's 100 feet of Lady Liberty wading atop a submerged island. The Gulf of Mexico would reach the State of Illinois and the Atlantic ocean would lap against the eastern foothills of the Andes. Current estimates indicate the rise in sea level could force the relocation of more than 200 million people worldwide. Even while we are seeking to reduce carbon dioxide emissions, relocating our major cities and coastlines is a project that we should begin planning now.

There is not a geologist in the world that can say with definitive authority what kind of timetable we have to deal with these problems. It could be 10 years; it could be 300 years. Neither can anyone say with authority that these climate changes will be permanent once they come. We should not delude ourselves into believing we can hold back the inevitable, and that we should not prepare for it. Jesus never promises us "stability" nor encourages us to work for such. In fact, he promises us the opposite (John 16:33).

Fourth, along with the acknowledged challenges, global warming is likely to bring positive changes to our existence on earth. Higher temperatures worldwide would allow us to farm more land at northern latitudes such as Canada and Russia. The burning of fossil fuels—organisms of the past—would allow plants to recapture carbon previously an active part of the planet's ecosystem. Higher carbon dioxide / oxygen ratios would reduce the threat of wildfires getting out of control. Higher carbon dioxide levels would stimulate plant growth and thus increase crop production. Fishing would be enhanced with the greater areal extent of shallow seas which come from higher sea level. All this means more food available on earth. Global warming may very well provide more of a solution to world hunger than a contribution thereto.

Just as the period of global climate change 1,000 years ago produced significant geopolitical changes—the end of the Roman empire, the rise of the middle ages—so could the current period of climate change on which we embark today. Although the rise in sea level could be inconvenient for people along the coasts (and disastrous if it happened rapidly), this period of global warming could ultimately make the earth a more habitable place. The basic task for all of the world's inhabitants with respect to climate change is to prepare for and act on the coming changes.

There remains a lot that scientists do not know about earth's climate, including how, why, and when it will change. There's a lot more we don't know than we know, and there are probably many more things we don’t even know that we don’t know. That is why we do well to trust the more sure word (2 Peter 1:19) and live by faith (Romans 1:17) in doing what we know we can do (James 4:17) than to pretend we can hold back the coming change that could, in the end, actually be for the better.


Kurt P. Wise, Ph.D.
Associate Professor of Science
Director, Center for Origins Research
Bryan College, Box 7802
Dayton, TN 37321-7000
423-775-7321
info@bryancore.org

(or, as of August 1, 2006):
Kurt P. Wise, Ph.D.
Professor of Science and Theology
Southern Baptist Theological Seminary
2825 Lexington Road
Lexington, KY 40280

This analysis is brought to you exclusively by The Mountaintop Report which added the links to the text for reference purposes.

Wednesday, April 5, 2006

China's Space Calendar

From an event at the Center for Strategic and International Studies:
  • 2005, October: Two Chinese astronauts orbited Earth for five days
  • 2007: China's robot flyby of the moon
  • 2012: China's unmanned lunar soft landing
  • 2015: China, manned space lab orbiting earth
  • 2017: Chinese robot to return moon samples to Earth
  • China's space budget: $500 million
  • NASA's annual budget: $16.6 billion
  • Level of ISS participation: interest
  • Cooperation with the United States: 0
Full Story

And this doesn't say anything about the plans of the European Space Agency. They have their eyes on Mars.

China's Space Calendar

From an event at the Center for Strategic and International Studies:
  • 2005, October: Two Chinese astronauts orbited Earth for five days
  • 2007: China's robot flyby of the moon
  • 2012: China's unmanned lunar soft landing
  • ISS: interest in participation
  • 2015: China, manned space lab orbiting earth
  • 2017: Chinese robot to return moon samples to Earth
  • China's space budget: $500 million
  • NASA's annual budget: $16.6 billion
  • 0: cooperation with the United States
European Space Agency. They have their eyes on Mars.

Tuesday, April 4, 2006

SpaceShipTwo Ticket Launch

Details, full story:
  • Company: Virgin Galactic
  • Sales so far: $13 million
  • Number of people buying: 157
  • Flight beginning date: 2009
  • "Affordable" space tourism ticket cost: $200,000
  • Length of flight: 2 hours
  • Expected launch site: Mojave Desert, California
  • Maxmimum flight altitude: 70 miles
  • Duration of passenger weightlessness: 5 minutes
  • Passengers expected in first 10 years of operations: 50,000
  • Virgin Atlantic pilots invited to train as Virgin Galactic pilots: 700

The Ark near Amsterdam

ABC News: Ark-itecture

BBC: specifications
  • 1/5 original size
  • 30 miles north of Amsterdam
  • sailing in September
  • constructed with American cendar and Norwegian pine
  • will carry horses, sheep, chickens and rabbits—mostly baby animals to save space
  • Total cost: just under 1m euros ($1.2 million)
  • visitors needed to break even: 100,000
  • Builder: Johan Huibers, 47
Interesting to note is the Bryan College Administration building is built to the actual size of the original ark.

Sunday, April 2, 2006

New Orleans: wounds and satellites

"Entertainer Bill Cosby urged New Orleans' black population on Saturday to cleanse itself of a culture of crime as it rebuilds from the devastation caused by Hurricane Katrina last year.

Cosby, whose criticism of some aspects of modern African-American culture has stirred controversy in recent years, told a rally headed by black leaders that the city needed to look at the 'wound' it had before Katrina struck.

'It's painful, but we can't cleanse ourselves unless we look at the wound,' Cosby told the rally of about 2,000 people in front of the city's convention center." ...

And from the delusional: "Civil rights activists Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton, denounced what they said was an attempt by state and federal officials to disenfranchise the evacuees in April 22 local elections by not setting up out-of-state voting stations."

Many of those people who evacuated are no longer evacuees; they're no longer residents of New Orleans. They're now residents of Houston, Atlanta, Washington and many other cities. Residents of other cities don't get to vote wherein they are not residents!

A Time for Healing

Jill Carroll: "I'm so happy to be free and am looking forward to spending a lot of time with my family. I want to express my deep appreciation to all the people who worked so long and hard for my release. I am humbled by the sympathy and support expressed by so many people during my kidnapping."

"Thank you, all of you."

"Things that I was forced to say while captive are now being taken by some as an accurate reflection of my personal views. They are not.

"The people who kidnapped me and murdered Allan Enwiya are criminals, at best. They robbed Allan of his life and devastated his family. They put me, my family and my friends—and all those around the world, who have prayed so fervently for my release—through a horrific experience. I was, and remain, deeply angry with the people who did this."

"I want to be judged as a journalist, not as a hostage. I remain as committed as ever to fairness and accuracy—to discovering the truth—and so I will not engage in polemics. But let me be clear: I abhor all who kidnap and murder civilians, and my captors are clearly guilty of both crimes."

"Now, I ask for the time to heal. This has been a taxing 12 weeks for me and my family. Please allow us some quiet time alone, together."

Full Jill Carroll statement

Saturday, April 1, 2006

His mom chose life

Debbie McElwain's son Jason is at the Final Four game tonight. He manages the varsity basketball team of Greece Athena High School in Rochester, N.Y.

He made headlines a month ago when he played in the last regular season game.

With his team up by a comfortable margin, he put his manager in the game. In four minutes Jason scored 20 points—including six successful three-point shots.

The crowd stormed the court. Jason had a little trouble breathing without much space, but felt a like a celebrity nonetheless!

Not bad for his first game. Not bad for someone who didn't speak until he was five years old.

Gigapixels

ABC News blogs about the Gigapxl Project. (One has to wonder if pxl is a small slice of data compression for such large amounts of data.)

There is no gigapixel camera. Instead they use film with a 210mm lens and then scan the photos.

"Flint said he's doing it for the future. He hopes to take pictures of many of the world's 788 most treasured places as listed by UNESCO.

"Someday, inevitably, he says, many of them will be gone, and he'd like to record them now in the kind of detail that might be useful for virtual-reality technologies that do not exist yet."

"He says he wants to create a visual record, 'so that our grandchildren will be able to see North America exactly as it was at the turn of the century, in incredible detail.'"

Here's my question: how far into the 21st Century will we be when we have digital cameras that can take four gigapixel photographs?