Sunday, 21 October 2007

Positive feedback in global warming...

Most studies indicate that global warming is happening quicker than previously thought.

Positive feedback is probably responsible for some of it. An example will explain how this works:
Arctic ice is highly reflective and sends a good fraction of sun's energy back into spcae. If the ice melts then it is replaced by darker looking water which reflects less light and absorbs more of the incident energy causing additional warming. This warming then melts more ice that then results in still greater absorption of solar energy. And so the cycle goes on, feeding on itself. All the evidence is that the amount of arctic ice is shrinking rather rapidly.

Another example of positive feedback may be the oceans that are vast sinks of carbon di-oxide. Water vapour and carbon di-oxide are two main gases in the atmosphere that prevent energy from escaping from the earth. Warmer oceans create more water vapour and also absorb less carbon di-oxide. This then creates more warming etc.

Recent studies have found that oceans are absorbing only half the amount of carbon di-oxide from the atmosphere now compared with the amount they soaked up 12 years ago. This is too rapid a change and a real cause of worry about a run-away situation resulting...

Need to do something positive...!

Friday, 12 October 2007

Nobel Peace Prize for Climate Change Campaigners...

Climate change campaigner Al Gore and the UN's Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) have been jointly awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for 2007.

The UN's IPCC, comprising 3,000 leading climate scientists, is the world's top authority on global warming.

The Nobel committee said it wanted to help the world focus on the threat it faced from climate change.

I think it is a good decision and timely. We must be very close to the 'tipping point' when sensible measures to avoid a runaway scenario may not work. Hope common sense prevails.

Tuesday, 9 October 2007

Two extra suitcases and going no where...

Morbidly obese is someone with body mass index (BMI) greater than 40 - acceptable is 20 to 25.

This is like carrying two 20 kg suitcases everywhere you go - travelling or not. What the extra baggage does to the joints is not difficult to guess. The greatly increased risk of a number of cancers, diabetes and heart problems is well documented. And what about BP (and I do not mean British Petroleum!)

This is the worrying trend found by a study of 12000 people over the past ten years. Number of morbidly obese has doubled - probably not too different than the increase in the number of take aways or the increase in the number of TV channels. The waist size is on average 1.5 inches bigger. It is all very worrying...

BMI is calculated by dividing your weight in kg by square of the height in metres.
Underweight is <19, acceptable is 20 to 25, overweight is 25 to 30, obese is 30 to 40.
Where are you?

Thursday, 27 September 2007

the big science of small things...

Science Talks look at the big science of small things

Small here means really small – 1000 times smaller than the diameter of a human hair. Nanotechnology is expected to hit big times in the next ten years or so with the industry worth $2000 Billion. Nanotech is not just about making things smaller. Matter behaves differently at the small scale of atoms and molecules. This leads to new properties that can be used to benefit mankind in many different ways. It has applications in medicine, energy, smart materials, consumer goods, defence, electronics, computers, communications…to mention a few.
Nanotech is not science fiction – living systems have perfected nanotechnology over the past 3 billion years. Humans are hoping to reach there in the next few decades. Whereas biological systems are water-based and temperature-sensitive, molecular nanosystems will be able to operate in a far wider range of environments and should be much faster.

The science of nanotech is fascinating. Dr Singhal will explain the science behind nanotech. The talks are part of community science education programme that Dr Singhal has pioneered in East Kilbride. They are aimed at the general audience covering the age groups from 10 to 100 years and no prior background in science is required. The presentation promises to be visually attractive, entertaining and thought-provoking.

Dr Singhal will also discuss the serious ethical and risk issues associated with nanotech. These are not well understood. There is urgent need for more public involvement as nanotech develops – understanding the science is a vital first step.

The talks are free to attend.

The series of six talks start on Saturday 20 October at 11 am. The venue is James Watt Auditorium in Technology Park, East Kilbride and affords ample free parking. Glasgow University and Scottish Enterprise support the programme. More details may be found at or by contacting

Thursday, 20 September 2007

Nanotechnology talks start on October 20...


Dr Ravi Singhal

Free Science Talks for Secondary Pupils & Adults

No Science Background Needed

11 am – 12 noon on Saturdays
20, 27 October, 3, 10, 17 & 24 November 2007
James Watt Auditorium, E.K. Technology Park, G75 0QD
(Ample free parking on site)

Nanotechnology (NT) promises to be the next big thing. Nano-industry is estimated to be worth over $2000 billion by 2015. NT is engineering at the level of atoms and molecules involving dimensions 1000 times smaller than the width of a human hair - truly the science of the small! It has applications in medicine, energy, smart materials, consumer goods, defence, communications…to mention a few.
Dr Singhal will explain the science behind NT. The talks are aimed at the general audience and no prior background in science is required. The presentation is visually attractive, entertaining and thought-provoking. Dr Singhal will also discuss the serious ethical and risk issues associated with NT. There is a need for more public involvement as NT develops – understanding the science of NT is a vital first step.

In Partnership with: Glasgow University
Scottish Enterprise, Lanarkshire
Further Information:

Wednesday, 19 September 2007

Time to talk science again...

Science talks start in October…

Got around to setting up the blog. Now we can also keep up to date with climate change and cosmology.

Opening up of the northwest passage this summer was unexpected – arctic ice is melting many times faster than in the past years. The minimum for 2007 falls below the minimum set on 20-21 September 2005 by an area roughly the size of Texas and California combined, or nearly five UKs. Does this mean that we have been grossly underestimating the rate of global warming?

Other interesting news is about more evidence for dark matter in the universe – matter that we cannot directly detect with our instruments. More on this later.

From October 20, we shall look at how matter behaves at the tiny scale of atoms and molecules and the rapidly expanding discipline of nanotechnology. Nano is Greek for dwarf. This is supposed to be the next big thing and very interesting science indeed.

Pass on the blog address to your friends and neighbours!