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Author Topic: Is it possible to change the moon's atmosphere?  (Read 5259 times)

paul.fr

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Is it possible to change the moon's atmosphere?
« on: 01/04/2007 20:55:03 »
Suppose that in 50 years time we have a need to mine on the moon, if we did could a byproduct of the mining and mans long term presence on the moon cause the atmosphere to change?
« Last Edit: 03/04/2007 10:02:22 by chris »


 

another_someone

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Re: Is it possible to change the moon's atmosphere?
« Reply #1 on: 02/04/2007 00:33:57 »
Atmosphere?

I don't believe that the moon has enough gravity to hold any significant atmosphere - anything we whip up, will either settle back to the surface, or disappear into space.
 

paul.fr

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Re: Is it possible to change the moon's atmosphere?
« Reply #2 on: 02/04/2007 00:42:41 »
Hi George.

what do you think will happen if, say the machinery or vehicles used fossil fuels? i suppose they would actually use solar, but would fossil fuels and possibly any heat generated have a lasting effect?
 

lyner

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Re: Is it possible to change the moon's atmosphere?
« Reply #3 on: 02/04/2007 10:18:01 »
Any trip to the Moon is extremely costly in terms of energy. Whatever we were mining there would have to be very, very valuable and only obtainable on the Moon.
The only scenario in  which humans would find a Moon trip cheap would be one in which we had  vastly more energy available to us - that would mean Nuclear Fusion had been cracked.
If that could be sorted out and we could have fusion reactors fitted to any craft - space or land based - things would be very different.
Of course, if we were in that position, we would probably have the ability to produce  or mine for anything we wanted on earth.
In any case, the Moon environment, with its low gravity, would be very damaging for anyone to live  in for an extended period. Their skeletal system would atrophy and they would be unable to function back on Earth.
And WHY would anyone want to spend much time in such an environment 'just for the hell of it'?  It would be equivalent to a life sentence on a submarine - all cost and very little benefit.
Why won't people realise that 'Space' is not a new frontier, like the Wild West?
Exploration for materials, food or new cultures is a concept that really only applies to Earth-based activities.
As for terraforming other planets. God help us; humans can't even manage to 'terraform' the Earth successfully. How could we trust the entrepreneurs to manage Mars any better than they have done down here?
In the event of the disaster scenario (war, disease, rogue asteroids or gas clouds etc.) can anyone seriously imaging anything other than a competitive race for a few privileged members of the human race to find an alternative refuge for the dying decades of homo sapiens?
If we can sort out some basic problems on Earth (if, if, if!) then we can look forward to many generations of pleasant and successful life  on our  home planet.
Space holds many exciting truths and we must continue to look in that direction. Information gathering and not travel is the future. (Well- at least until we have grown up considerably and can be trusted.)
 :)
 

another_someone

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Re: Is it possible to change the moon's atmosphere?
« Reply #4 on: 02/04/2007 11:34:36 »
Since there is no free oxygen presently on the moon (since it has no atmosphere), there is no possibility of burning anything (except within the confines of an enclosed space that we build to contain oxygen - in which burning fossil fuels to create energy would be both dangerous and no energy efficient).

Any trip to the Moon is extremely costly in terms of energy. Whatever we were mining there would have to be very, very valuable and only obtainable on the Moon.
The only scenario in  which humans would find a Moon trip cheap would be one in which we had  vastly more energy available to us - that would mean Nuclear Fusion had been cracked.
If that could be sorted out and we could have fusion reactors fitted to any craft - space or land based - things would be very different.

Within certain constraints, this is not unreasonable statement, but the possibility it has overlooked is if the mining was not for processing on Earth, but to support space missions.  Sending mined materials from the moon into space would be far cheaper than sending the same materials from Earth.

Why won't people realise that 'Space' is not a new frontier, like the Wild West?
Exploration for materials, food or new cultures is a concept that really only applies to Earth-based activities.

The same could have been said when man first left the security of land on his first ocean based voyage.  We will never know what is out there until we look, and we will not know what we can achieve until we try to achieve it.  That is what frontiers are all about (and as was briefly mentioned on another thread, the first European colonies planted in America were very uncertain indeed).

As for terraforming other planets. God help us; humans can't even manage to 'terraform' the Earth successfully. How could we trust the entrepreneurs to manage Mars any better than they have done down here?

Have we really done as badly as all that here?  There are certainly problems, but given the enormity of the task, one can scarcely accuse humans of being unsuccessful in their own right (OK, our success has been at the expense of other species - but that is their lack of success, not ours).

In the event of the disaster scenario (war, disease, rogue asteroids or gas clouds etc.) can anyone seriously imaging anything other than a competitive race for a few privileged members of the human race to find an alternative refuge for the dying decades of homo sapiens?

This is not an issue of terraforming, but an issue of colonisation in general.  In that respect, it is no different from the relationship between Carthage and Phoenicia, or America and its European motherlands.

 

Offline Bored chemist

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Re: Is it possible to change the moon's atmosphere?
« Reply #5 on: 02/04/2007 18:05:23 »
I think "another someone" has summed up the real problem. Unless you plan to put a  huge bag round the moon then any atmosphere would drift away.
(if anyone wants to do the maths you need to compare the typical speed of sound in the atmosphere you want to consider and the escape velocity from the moon. If the speed of sound isn't a fair bit less than the escape velocity it will, err, escape.)
 

lyner

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Re: Is it possible to change the moon's atmosphere?
« Reply #6 on: 02/04/2007 22:54:14 »
Quote
Within certain constraints, this is not unreasonable statement, but the possibility it has overlooked is if the mining was not for processing on Earth, but to support space missions.
A very good point; I didn't consider it. It could, in fact SAVE a lot of energy rather than use it up!.

Quote
Have we really done as badly as all that here?  There are certainly problems, but given the enormity of the task, one can scarcely accuse humans of being unsuccessful in their own right (OK, our success has been at the expense of other species - but that is their lack of success, not ours).
I think it could be argued that we have done extremely  badly; we are causing extinctions of hundreds  (thousands?) of species every year and not through simple competition. The damage we are doing on a daily basis is massive, compared with the damage that any single species  has caused in the past. The problem is not a moral one (or at least need not be treated as one) but a practical one. Mankind is developing at a rate that outstrips 'Darwinian' evolution. The checks and balances that have been imposed by natural feedback  in the past do not operate fast enough to cope. The rapid rate of cultural evolution means that we can do more harm in a shorter time than any other organism has been able to.  The problem as I see it is not particularly that we are damaging other species - they might just as easily be eaten by a passing tiger / spider - it is the possibility  that we can now really upset  the balance which we will be unable to regain  and seriously damage our own prospects.  Stability cannot be assured - despite what some other Scientists tell us. After all,  what will happen will be mainly up to politicians! 

Quote
This is not an issue of terraforming, but an issue of colonisation in general.
I think there is a massive difference between terrestrial colonisation and extra-terrestrial  colonisation.
There are very few earthbound colonists (excluding arctic explorers) who could wake up in the morning and  die by simply opening the window  in their new home. It's only a  matter of degree, I admit, but a huge degree of difference. Wherever you colonise on Earth, you will find 99% of what you need, already  there- including things you didn't even know that you needed. Go to Mars and you've got to take absolutely everything you need - friendly bacteria and all! You might well seed a new planet with life but,  the odds are that the resulting environment, after many millennia, would be hostile to humans and a worse struggle to deal with than what we have here. Just talk to someone who has tried to get a greenhouse to look after itself without constant intervention.



 

another_someone

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Re: Is it possible to change the moon's atmosphere?
« Reply #7 on: 03/04/2007 02:45:54 »
I think it could be argued that we have done extremely  badly; we are causing extinctions of hundreds  (thousands?) of species every year and not through simple competition. The damage we are doing on a daily basis is massive, compared with the damage that any single species  has caused in the past. The problem is not a moral one (or at least need not be treated as one) but a practical one. Mankind is developing at a rate that outstrips 'Darwinian' evolution. The checks and balances that have been imposed by natural feedback  in the past do not operate fast enough to cope. The rapid rate of cultural evolution means that we can do more harm in a shorter time than any other organism has been able to.  The problem as I see it is not particularly that we are damaging other species - they might just as easily be eaten by a passing tiger / spider - it is the possibility  that we can now really upset  the balance which we will be unable to regain  and seriously damage our own prospects.  Stability cannot be assured - despite what some other Scientists tell us. After all,  what will happen will be mainly up to politicians! 

I don't understand what you mean by “outstripping 'Darwinian' evolution”?

Evolution is evolution, and despite Darwin being the name commonly associated with is inception, he does not own the idea, and human beings are no less subject to the same laws of evolution as they ever were.

Stability not only cannot be assured, it was ever but an illusion.  The Environment has constantly been changing.  The most dramatic change, that has probably never been exceeded in significance, was the evolution of the first life form capable of photosynthesis, and thus able to spew out into the anaerobic atmosphere highly toxic oxygen.  We have also had ice ages so deep that we are not sure if any part of the Earth was free of ice, and had times when no ice existed anywhere on the planet.

Change must always present a challenge, but it is a challenge that cannot be avoided, and it is not necessarily a challenge that we cannot meet.  We have met many challenges over our time on this planet, and while it is certainly true that any entity that is still small in size, and growing into its environment, is more adaptable to change, while as an entity (including a species) matures, it becomes more specialist, and less able to adapt to change.  The question must be whether the human species has matured enough (maybe to the point of senility) that it is no longer capable of meeting the challenges of future change?

I think there is a massive difference between terrestrial colonisation and extra-terrestrial  colonisation.
There are very few earthbound colonists (excluding arctic explorers) who could wake up in the morning and  die by simply opening the window  in their new home. It's only a  matter of degree, I admit, but a huge degree of difference. Wherever you colonise on Earth, you will find 99% of what you need, already  there- including things you didn't even know that you needed. Go to Mars and you've got to take absolutely everything you need - friendly bacteria and all! You might well seed a new planet with life but,  the odds are that the resulting environment, after many millennia, would be hostile to humans and a worse struggle to deal with than what we have here. Just talk to someone who has tried to get a greenhouse to look after itself without constant intervention.

Each challenge is different (not just Antarctica is different, so is the bottom of the ocean).

If your argument above is about the limitations of terraforming an entire planet, the I would agree, I don't think we have the technology, not anything approaching the technology in the foreseeable future, to achieve this.  It is very conceivable that we shall not be able to develop such a technology until long after we already have a substantial colony on a planet (and then only for planets that are already extremely similar to Earth – ironically, maybe Venus would be easier to do this with than Mars, despite Venus presently having a more hostile environment).

Terraforming aside, I do not think it inconceivable that we could colonise Mars, using technologies not too dissimilar to that one might use to colonise the sea bed on Earth.
 

Offline chris

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Re: Is it possible to change the moon's atmosphere?
« Reply #8 on: 03/04/2007 09:52:48 »
Regarding mining the moon for minerals and other rare resources, the composition of the moon is mainly the same as the Earth's crust.

This is a consequence of the origins of the moon, which probably date back about 4.5 billion years. Scientists think that the early Earth was involved in a cosmic collision with another planet roughly the size of Mars. The resulting "Big Splat", as author Dana Mackenzie puts it (see his interview on The Naked Scientists - http://www.thenakedscientists.com/HTML/podcasts/show/2004.11.14/) ejected large amounts of the Earth's crust material into orbit around the planet.

This "crust dust" eventually accreted into what is now the moon. And because it is made mainly from crust material, what you find on the moon is mainly what you would find here on the ground, hence there not much there you couldn't find more easily on Earth.

Turning to the question of the atmosphere, apart from its low gravity making it difficult for the Moon to hang onto atmospheric gases, another reason for the lack of any atmosphere is because the moon has no magnetic field. This makes it a victim of the solar wind, a million mile an hour maelstrom of charged particles which whips away any vestiges of atmosphere. For a clear example of the effects of this phenomenon one has only to look at Mars. Part of the reason that it is a dried out prune of a planet is because it lost its magnetic field about 4 billion years ago (when it was roughly 500 million years old). As a result much of its atmosphere and its water has been lost.

Chris
 

lyner

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Is it possible to change the moon's atmosphere?
« Reply #9 on: 03/04/2007 11:47:24 »
Quote
I don't understand what you mean by “outstripping 'Darwinian' evolution”?
I mean, quite simply, that it takes many many generations for a species, 'naturally' , to change itself  (as Darwin observed) and, hence, its impact on its environment. If an animal  species starts to develop better running skills, then its prey species has a similar time to develop  characteristics which reduce the effect of the predator's improved performance; both species survive and the predator is unlikely to eat up all the available prey. Even if this happens, it needn't bother us in particular - it's not our problem, as you say.
What is at work in human society is a different form of evolution; it is cultural . The information channel is no longer  'vertical',  via  the genetic code- it is thousands/ millions of times faster  and works, laterally,  through direct communication between individuals. 
We have developed fishing methods that destroy some of our most useful  fish stocks.
Wheat production and rice growing have caused irreversible damage to environments and have affected our food producing capabilities for the future.
BSE, bird 'flu and many other diseases are problems of our own making.
We have demonstrated, time and time again, that we are just not capable of predicting the effects of the gross changes we are making to the earth. Surely you can't ignore the dangers to US.
I have no doubt that 'life' will be around on Earth for another 100 million years but it would be a shame if homo sapiens shot itself in the foot and made room for the ants or the green slime to take over!
We need to be optimistic, I agree, but I can't summon up blind faith in my fellow man. It is unfortunate that most of the people 'at the top' got there for very un-altruistic reasons and political parties only want to ensure re-election within the next five years.
George Bush seems keen on the idea of spending ONE TRILLION dollars on a manned trip to Mars. With that amount of money to spend, there should not be a single starving person on the face of the Earth.


 
 

another_someone

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Is it possible to change the moon's atmosphere?
« Reply #10 on: 04/04/2007 17:03:06 »
I mean, quite simply, that it takes many many generations for a species, 'naturally' , to change itself  (as Darwin observed) and, hence, its impact on its environment. If an animal  species starts to develop better running skills, then its prey species has a similar time to develop  characteristics which reduce the effect of the predator's improved performance; both species survive and the predator is unlikely to eat up all the available prey. Even if this happens, it needn't bother us in particular - it's not our problem, as you say.
What is at work in human society is a different form of evolution; it is cultural . The information channel is no longer  'vertical',  via  the genetic code- it is thousands/ millions of times faster  and works, laterally,  through direct communication between individuals.

This is simplistic in two respects.

If a large predator eats a small prey, the small prey is likely to have a shorter natural lifespan, and thus a shorter generational gap.

Thus, if it takes 15 generations for a change to manifest itself in either predator or prey, then 15 generations amounts to a shorter period of elapsed time for a shorter lived (typically, though not inevitably, smaller) species than for a longer lived species.

Ofcourse, one thing this tells us is that as humans, in their most natural environment, would be having children from about the age of 13, whereas in most Western societies, they only have children from about the age of 26, thus we have (very approximately) actually halved the rate at which humans are genetically able to adapt (this must be offset against the more rapid social changes).

But, humans are by no means the only animal capable of learning, and passing on that learning.  Even small animals like rats are capable of learning.  That a rat develops a biological tolerance for a poison we may lay down for them is a genetic change, but that a rat learns to avoid traps and poisons laid down for them is a social change in the behaviour of the rat.

Mother's teaching their offspring, or even members of the same cohort teaching each other, is nothing unique to humans, although humans do take it to an extreme, but it is a quantitative rather than a qualitative difference.

The final issue is whether in fact it does take 15 (or however large a number you wish to choose) generations for an evolutionary change to noticeably take place, or whether it can take place in as few as a single generation.  Clearly, it is unlikely that a species will suddenly sprout wings within a single generation, but that it might noticeably increase its average speed within a single generation is not unlikely.  The limiting factor is how high the level of infant or juvenile mortality.  The higher the level of infant or juvenile mortality, the more likely that selective pressures that will be able to substantially alter the average genome even within a single generation (again, the reduction in infant mortality in many human societies will have the effect of slowing down the ability for genetic change within the human species).
 
We have developed fishing methods that destroy some of our most useful  fish stocks.

But this does not show that we have overridden evolution – on the contrary – evolution dictates that the best way to avoid human predation is not to be edible by humans.  We have not caused anything like the same decline in fish stocks that are not useful to us.  That is an evolutionary advantage that the fish stocks that are not useful to us have over the fish stocks that are useful to us.

From a purely selfish perspective (i.e. looking at human advantage, rather than trying to imagine some wider Environmental advantage that excludes humanity), there are two ways to address this issue:

1)Do to fishes what we have done to land animals.  The wild ancestors of the cow and the sheep are for all practical purposes, long gone; but there domesticated counterparts are thriving.  We are already going down the road to fish farming with certain selected species of fish.

2) Learn to utilise those marine sticks that are presently useless to us, and thus extend the period of time that we can usefully hunt in the sea.


Wheat production and rice growing have caused irreversible damage to environments and have affected our food producing capabilities for the future.

Damage is a subjective term – would you like to give a more objective description of what you mean here?

BSE, bird 'flu and many other diseases are problems of our own making.

Birds have had bird flu long before humans ever had any place in the world.

The problem of bird flu is merely our own perception of it.  In the wild, pandemics always have been part of life, and nothing in that is new.

Ofcourse, which diseases are dominant will change over time.  Now we are frightened of HIV, but no longer have any fear of smallpox.

Ofcourse, the rest of nature responds to our actions, as we respond to nature; and as we win one battle, no another looms over the horizon.  Would you expect things to be any different to that?  Does it make any of it of “our own making”?

We have demonstrated, time and time again, that we are just not capable of predicting the effects of the gross changes we are making to the earth.

Quite true, we are incapable of predicting the outcomes of the changes we make – so what makes you think that any of the current spate of doom and gloom predictions are any better than any of the previous predictions.  Just accept that you cannot predict the outcomes of a chaotic system, and deal with it at a level you can predict, and learn to adapt to the outcomes you could not have predicted.

We need to be optimistic, I agree, but I can't summon up blind faith in my fellow man. It is unfortunate that most of the people 'at the top' got there for very un-altruistic reasons and political parties only want to ensure re-election within the next five years.

Probably a bit simplistic, but certainly, to get to the top, one had to learn to be somewhat cynical in one's approach (I think it unfair to say that George Bush, Tony Blair, et. al. have no sense of altruism – rather that they simply have no sense of reality – and that they believe the ends justifies the means – so lying is acceptable if it achieves some greater good).

So can you design a political system that would be better?  It is easy to see all the things that are wrong with the way things are, but most of the bad things about the way things are came about by people in the past trying to make things better, and being imperfect about it.  Would you be any less imperfect about your attempts to make things better?

George Bush seems keen on the idea of spending ONE TRILLION dollars on a manned trip to Mars. With that amount of money to spend, there should not be a single starving person on the face of the Earth.

The problem with the starving people of the world is actually almost nothing to do with money, and much more to do with politics (including wars, and political sanctions against unfavourable regimes, etc.) getting in the way of food distribution.  There is no shortage of food as such, just problem in getting that food to the mouths that need it.
 

lyner

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Is it possible to change the moon's atmosphere?
« Reply #11 on: 05/04/2007 19:32:51 »
I don't think we are too much in disagreement about most of this stuff; certainly not in the Science. The only difference is that I am more pessimistic about it than  another_someone. I can't feel as secure that we will always find a way around the  problems we create, daily.
Bird flu, for instance, wouldn't be a problem but for the fact that, in some societies, there are very intimate living conditions between humans and domesticated poultry. The statistics are much more favorable for a strain of bird flue to develop that will be  dangerous to humans because of this.
Fish farming is not without its problems - have you ever seen a wild salmon laid beside a farmed  version? Look at the lice population on the two and the quality of the meat.!  Just pour a few chemicals on it to solve the lice problem  and wait for the next problem to develop. It is just not as easy as you imply.
Agriculture and medicine  are constantly having to keep up with the consequences of our intensive styles of living and  food production. 
Desertification has been the result, in many  parts of the world, of intensive farming methods. Take the dust bowls of the prairies and even the formation of the Sahara, in the past. Even in the UK, there has been, not too late, I hope, a return to sensible field sizes on farms in order to reduce the effects of erosion and to re-establish some  natural biological feedback  sytems
Modern transport makes the effect of disease potentially, much more  devastating to us than it was in mediaeval times. Pandemics may be an interesting bit of paleontology but I don't want to be involved in one.
I agree that, as far as a remote observer is concerned, the situation is not at all dire. It is just an interesting example of a species that is very advanced and communicates so well. Yes - I know that rats teach their young things and that chimps learn a new skill and pass it amongst themselves but they don't have Naked Scientist websites to spread the knowledge as we are doing. Like I said - it's a matter of scale - and that scale is the whole basis of my unease.
The timescale of any changes, in the past was related to generations - now it is only limited to the time it takes to propagate an idea - weeks or even days, in many cases, compared with  a  minimum of decades (in the case of humans) .
Evolution has always, in its nature, been a hit and miss affair.   I  would just like a bit more TIME between the possible misses  where they might affect me.
Are you really saying that we should just accept the realities of politics  and politicians and  not condemn, publicly , people like G Bush and the decisions they make just because they are a fact of life?
Surely, as scientists, we should be 1. responsible and 2. skeptical of policies that are adopted as a result of bad science.
Being too 'realistic about things' just allows  things to happen which we may regret afterwards.

 

another_someone

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Is it possible to change the moon's atmosphere?
« Reply #12 on: 06/04/2007 00:08:31 »
The only difference is that I am more pessimistic about it than  another_someone. I can't feel as secure that we will always find a way around the  problems we create, daily.

Not sure if one  can feel optimistic or pessimistic about such things.

The human species has a finite life span, just as the human individual has a finite life span, and believing that either is immortal (no matter how hard one works at immortality) seems folly; it is just that I don't see us (the human species) dying out in the very near future, but none of us can truly predict when we will die, and there is not a great deal of point in worrying about it – you just take each day as it comes, deal with the problems that day brings, and accept as given that there will come a day when you will not wake up in the morning.

Bird flu, for instance, wouldn't be a problem but for the fact that, in some societies, there are very intimate living conditions between humans and domesticated poultry.

While this is true, it has been true since the dawn of agriculture, and if anything, is less commonly true today than it was in earlier times.

If anything, in most Western societies, there is far greater separation between human and non-human than in any time in the past.  That some other societies lag behind the West in this separation is true; but equally, many might argue that this isolation of the human species from its traditional environment might itself bring its own problems.

Fish farming is not without its problems - have you ever seen a wild salmon laid beside a farmed  version? Look at the lice population on the two and the quality of the meat.!  Just pour a few chemicals on it to solve the lice problem  and wait for the next problem to develop. It is just not as easy as you imply.

This is true, but the flesh of a domestic animal has never had the flavour of wild game.  Had we simply relied on wild game to feed our populations, we could never have expanded our population to the 6 billion we have today.  Some might say this would be a good thing, but the way that population would have been limited is by starvation, and the limitation would have applied with a global population measured in million, not in billions at all.  Whether or not one considers limiting the human population to a few million, how many would sanction the level of infant mortality and general starvation that would be applied to that population to maintain that limit (and it is naďve to believe that such a population would ever have had the resources to develop artificial contraception).

Agriculture and medicine  are constantly having to keep up with the consequences of our intensive styles of living and  food production. 

Ofcourse it has.  It is the nature of every technology (even the crudest) that each solution brings with it its own problems, but are you suggesting therefore that we should not seek solutions because those solutions will inevitably also have problems?

Desertification has been the result, in many  parts of the world, of intensive farming methods. Take the dust bowls of the prairies and even the formation of the Sahara, in the past.

This has been a matter of controversy, and I am not sure how true this is.

The formation of the Sahara is probably a natural phenomenon, and even probably this is true of the dust bowls.  What is true is that humans keep trying to farm marginal land, and when conditions turn against them, that marginal land becomes unfarmable.  There is no evidence that either the sahara, or the prairie lands (and the same is true of some marginal land in Australia), were ever good farming land,  but in the good years, humans managed for a short while to eke a living out of them, and in the bad years, the environment bit back at them.

Trying to farm such lands is like building on a flood plain – you may have some good years, but sooner or later the inevitable will happen, and there is no way of saying that somehow being less intensive about what you do can really avert the inevitability of nature biting back.  It doesn't mean that we have created the flood plain because we built on it, only that it always was a flood plain, and sooner or later it was always going to flood.  The same is true of farming on marginal land.

True (both with flood plains, and with farming marginal land) there are things we sometimes do to make things even worse, but for the most part, what happens is inevitable, and it is only the impact upon us that we can alter, not the inevitability of the thing happening.

Even in the UK, there has been, not too late, I hope, a return to sensible field sizes on farms in order to reduce the effects of erosion and to re-establish some  natural biological feedback  sytems

Certainly, as I said before, each solution has its problems, and sometimes those problems have to be addressed; but that is not to say we would have been better of if we'd never tried to implement the solution that caused the problem in the first place – it just means we have to also learn to fine tune it sometimes.

Modern transport makes the effect of disease potentially, much more  devastating to us than it was in mediaeval times. Pandemics may be an interesting bit of paleontology but I don't want to be involved in one.

I don't agree at all.

What is true is that modern transport makes the spread of disease faster, but it also makes the monitoring and combating of the disease much more powerful.

A modern pandemic was the Spanish Flu in 1918 – that was considered terrifying, and yet had not but a fraction of the impact of the Black Death (although the impact it had was swifter, it also departed swifter, and the actual number of causalities was fewer).

HIV/AIDS is another disease of modern times.  It was because of the airline industry that it was first introduced into the USA, but despite that, it predominant impact has been greatest amongst communities where communication was poorest, because it was there that preventative measure were the most difficult to implement.

I agree that, as far as a remote observer is concerned, the situation is not at all dire. It is just an interesting example of a species that is very advanced and communicates so well. Yes - I know that rats teach their young things and that chimps learn a new skill and pass it amongst themselves but they don't have Naked Scientist websites to spread the knowledge as we are doing. Like I said - it's a matter of scale - and that scale is the whole basis of my unease.

Tomorrow is an untried experiment, but it has always been so.  Humans have always had a struggle between the excitement about the positive possibilities of tomorrow, and the fear of the negative possibilities – nothing has changed in that.  What knows, maybe rats and chimps feel the same way about tomorrow as we do – I've never been able to get around to asking them about how they feel about their tomorrows.

The timescale of any changes, in the past was related to generations - now it is only limited to the time it takes to propagate an idea - weeks or even days, in many cases, compared with  a  minimum of decades (in the case of humans) .

It depends on what you consider change.

Relatively superficial changes can happen fairly fast, but changing the way society functions still takes about 20 years.

Even looking at something like the idea greenhouse warming (and I am not judging here whether the theory is right or wrong, just the time-scale it took to begin to have a political impact), that was a theory that had its genesis a quarter of a century ago, and is still meeting resistance even today.  The idea itself could be spread around the world in a few hours, days, and weeks; but acceptance of the idea takes a lot longer.

Evolution has always, in its nature, been a hit and miss affair.   I  would just like a bit more TIME between the possible misses  where they might affect me.

I understand that – but at the same time, when you have a problem, I have no doubt that you (like just about everybody else) wants it fixed right now, and are not willing to wait for the solution to your problem.  It is the solutions to your problems 9as the solutions to my problems) that will be the basis for the problems tomorrow.

Are you really saying that we should just accept the realities of politics  and politicians and  not condemn, publicly , people like G Bush and the decisions they make just because they are a fact of life?
Surely, as scientists, we should be 1. responsible and 2. skeptical of policies that are adopted as a result of bad science.
Being too 'realistic about things' just allows  things to happen which we may regret afterwards.

Condemn? For what?

Their policies are unacceptable in many ways, but what I was questioning is whether, just because their policies dubious in the extreme, does not mean that one should question their motives.  The road to hell is paved with good intentions, and that these people may be paving the way to hell does not mean they do not have good intentions.
 

lyner

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Is it possible to change the moon's atmosphere?
« Reply #13 on: 06/04/2007 14:28:10 »
You have some very valid points and I agree with lots your factual information.  I just wonder, however,  whether you would have the same opinions about the inevitability of a bright future from  Science if you were poor and in an under developed country.
I think your priorities might well be different and that you would really appreciate some help of a low tech nature- like a  water supply without effluent  from a Coca cola  factory or  the possibility of  growing crops  that you could eat instead of being forced into the food-miles economy.
Science is great for them as can afford to exploit it for themselves.
Finally, regarding my views on people in power (like GWB), very few of them have the level of knowledge that they really need if they are to make good  and safe decisions about the future uses of Science and Technology. The last thing they need is naive enthusiasm from the scientific community.
I think we are just going to have to disagree on this one.
Let's get our teeth into something a bit less contentious - like GR or Newtonian mechanics.



« Last Edit: 06/04/2007 14:30:35 by sophiecentaur »
 

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Is it possible to change the moon's atmosphere?
« Reply #13 on: 06/04/2007 14:28:10 »

 

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