I’m off on a bit of an intellectual adventure at the moment. I’m not usually very adventurous. I think the same way as everyone else, about almost everything. But sometimes I stray off the reservation, and wander off on my own.
I guess one example of me wandering off is that I don’t think about smoking the way most people do. They all think that Smoking Kills. But I don’t. And I guess that on this little blog of mine, I’m now surrounded by people who feel much the same way as I do. They don’t believe the experts either. They’ve many of them smoked tobacco all their lives, and it never did them any harm (and in fact did them a very great deal of good), and they don’t see why they should change their minds about it now. That’s their personal experience. And it also happens to be mine.
I don’t automatically believe experts. There’s a Richard Feynman quote I keep down the bottom of my right margin, just above the Harley memorial at the bottom (and Harley was another fiercely independently-minded man), that says:
“Science is the belief in the ignorance of experts.”
The experts are always wrong. To be an expert is to be equipped with the very latest Flat Earth model of the universe. An expert is armed with the vary latest and fashionable misunderstanding of the world around them. If they’re acknowledged and accredited experts in something, it really just means they think the same way that everybody else does, and they’ve got letters after their name to prove it. And they’re proud of themselves. Quite a few of them have even got knighthoods – and that means that they think about absolutely everything the same way as everybody else does.
My current little intellectual excursion began back at the beginning of January when I read somewhere that terrestrial granite is slightly radioactive, and a kilogram of the stuff produces 0.0000001 Watts of heat (I may have missed out a zero or two). And that set me wondering whether there might be enough heat generated inside slightly radioactive comets to melt them. And I found that they could indeed melt, if they were big enough. I wrote about it in Dirty Snowballs.
But that was just the start of my current intellectual excursion. Because once I’d started thinking about dirty snowball comets, I went on to think about terrestrial glaciers and ice ages. I used to work doing heat flow modelling back in my university days, 40 years ago, and I remembered enough of it to be able to construct my own dynamic heat flow simulation model in order to look at the dirty snowball comets, and so I adapted this model to look at conductive heat flows inside the Earth.
Soon I had a molten ball of granite, 5,000ºK at the centre, and about 273º K (melting point of ice) at its surface. And then I steadily rained down ice on its surface (to simulate snowfall), and watched what happened. And to my astonishment, what happened was that the ice would grow in depth for a bit, and then completely melt away, over and over again. I was seeing a repeat cycle of ice ages, almost as regular as clockwork. I wrote about in A Theory Of Ice Ages a week or two back. It got reblogged on the climate sceptical Tallbloke’s Talkshop.
My theory of ice ages was very simple: when glaciers form on the surface of the Earth, the rock underneath them warms up, because the ice acts as a thermal insulator (just like clothes on a human body). And when the rock heats up enough, it melts the ice above it. And when the ice has all melted, and there’s no longer a layer of insulation above it, the rock cools down again. And so my ice ages were being driven by cyclic heating and cooling of the underlying rock.
But by now I’d now wandered a long, long way from the conventional expert opinion on ice ages. Because the experts all think that ice ages are driven from above. rather than below. They think they’re driven by Milankovitch cycles in the tilt and distance of the Earth from the Sun. Either that, or by greenhouse gases like carbon dioxide. Or continental drift. The one thing none of the experts thinks is that ice ages are driven by heat flow from inside the Earth. And they think that way because there’s simply not enough of it. There’s just 85 milliWatts of heat flowing out of a single square metre of the surface of the Earth, and that’s next to nothing. And so they ignore it. And they look everywhere else for the cause of ice ages.
Is the rock underneath ice sheets warmer than elsewhere? It seems that the answer is Yes:
High Heat Measured under Antarctica Could Support Substantial Life
Nearly a kilometer below the ice scientists have found a Yellowstone-like geothermal glow that could create life-rich subglacial lakes—and lubricate Antarctic ice loss
By Douglas Fox on July 10, 2015
Temperatures on the West Antarctic Ice Sheet can plummet below –50 degrees Celsius in winter. But under the ice scientists have found intense geothermal heat seeping up from Earth’s interior. The heat production that they measured is nearly four times the global average—“higher than 99 percent of all the measurements made on continents around the world,” says Andrew Fisher, a hydrogeologist at the University of California, Santa Cruz, who worked on the project. This excessive heat could melt up to 35 cubic kilometers of water off the bottom of the West Antarctic Ice sheet each year, according to results reported July 10 in Science Advances.
I’m currently trying to extend my heat flow model of the Earth to include an atmosphere. I’ve never managed to construct a heat flow model of an atmosphere. They’re just too complicated, with all sorts of crazy things going on in them. So what I’m going to do is to use one of the experts’ simple models, that I found in the American Chemical Society. It’s just a single layer model of an atmosphere, but they’ve got another one with a description of a three-layer model. I’m going to start by adapting their single layer model into my simulation model. If I’m really daring, I’ll then try a three layer variant of it. And then I’ll have a model that includes solar warming, and maybe even Milankovitch cycles and greenhouse gases.
And then I’ll write an update on what I found. Nobody in the climate science community will read it, of course. Of course they won’t read it! Why should they? They’re all experts, and I’m not an expert. In fact, I know next to nothing about climate science. I just know how to build dynamic heat flow simulation models, because it happened to be what I used to do, 40 years ago.
And I suspect that most people in the climate science community don’t know how to build heat flow simulation models. It’s not part of their skill set. For, in all the reading I’ve done over the past couple of months, I’ve more or less continually encountered a static, steady-state understanding of the Earth. It’s an understanding of how it is, rather than how it behaves. There are dynamic heat flow simulation models out there on the web – e.g. Simscale, which is a bit like GitHub (which Joe L knows all about, and has been teaching me) -, but they don’t seem to be using them.
Anyway, I love these little intellectual adventures of mine. I don’t care if nobody believes me. I don’t want to be an expert. I just like exploring ideas, and looking at the world in new ways. Which reminds me of something Carlos Castaneda wrote that I read many years ago, and have never forgotten:
“We are men, and our lot is to learn and to be hurled into inconceivable new worlds.”