Sunday, October 23, 2005

The Blue Planet Prize

Every year, the Asahi Glass Foundation awards "The Blue Planet Prize" to two individuals or organizations "who have made major contributions to solving global environmental problems". The winners are invited to Tokyo where they give public lectures on their work, and we usually go along to listen (and perhaps do a bit of shopping in the Big Smoke).

One winner is usually a top-notch scientist in the traditional mold (past winners include Wally Broeker, Suki Manabe, Robert May) and the other more of an activist or politician (Vo Quy, Gro Harlem Brundtland, various worthy organisations I may have vaguely heard of). This year, Nick Shackleton and Gordon Hisashi Sato were the joint winners. They talked at some length about their work, which was very interesting, but then both ended with rather incongruous calls to cut CO2 emissions. The sentiment may be well-meaning but it all seemed a bit odd.

However, their comments were nowhere near as odd as the introductory film we were shown for the first time this year, which consisted of pictures of war, devastation, pestilence and natural beauty all overlaid with an inane voice-over asking cheesy things like "Why are we killing Mother Earth". It would have been rude to laugh out loud, but I couldn't suppress the odd snigger.

I hope they received enough negative feedback that next time they'll revert to just having the talks!

22 comments:

Lumo said...

Dear James,

it is easy to say for you, but I am curious whether you would be able to say something more meaningful if you got half a million USD of bribes from an ecoterrorist foundation like the Japanese Gentlemen.

I hope that you have seen the newest scientific document that is designed to educate PhD climate scientists like you about the most important climate issues, and will become the main part of the future IPCC report. :-)

All the best
Lubos

James Annan said...

Lumo,

So kind of you to drop by. As you are here, I wonder if you could advise on where I might buy a new crackpot meter - mine seems to be irreparably broken.

I'm glad to see you are now sitting up by yourself and watching cartoons. Any link between this fact, and Kolmogorov's comment is for the reader to consider (hi, reader - are you still there?).

Lumo said...

Concerning your colleague's opinion: mass and energy is fundamentaly the same quantity (E=mc^2) whose conservation is associated, via Emmy Noether's theorem, with the translational symmetry in time.

The momentum conservation is associated with the translational symmetry in space. If we consider a simplified description of a physical system in which the symmery is broken, the corresponding conservation law is violated.

In relativity, the conservation of mass/energy and momentum naturally fits together into a conservation law for the 4-momentum.

Crackpot meter - try ebay.com. If you buy a couple of them, sell me a few of them. Most of the crackpots from this planet use their energy as well as momentum for my mailbox plus blog. ;-)

James Annan said...

Dear Lumo,

Thanks for the tip on crackpot meters. I suspect I may have to design and build myself an industrial-strength one, though. As for momentum, it seems to be enough of a challenge for us mediocre has-beens and never-wases in climate science to cope with the schoolboy Newtonian viewpoint for now.

CapitalistImperialistPig said...

Lubos - What's your point? You have some nice examples where four-momentum isn't conserved, or what?

Lumo said...

Dear CIP,

I don't know what you mean by "nice" examples.

A general example in physics of course has no conservatation laws like that whatsoever.

For example, neither the total energy nor total momentum are conserved in the cosmological evolution.

One brutal example: the cosmological constant of any kind is a constant vacuum energy. Once again, its density is constant. It drives an exponential expansion of the space, which means that the total energy exponentially grows.

The total momentum of the Universe does not even have a well-defined meaning.

The non-conservation in these two cases has to do with subtleties of GR.

There are millions of other descriptions of the physical system where the momentum is not conserved. For example, when you describe climate as physical system above rigid locally flat Earth, the vertical momentum is not conserved while the horizontal one is conserved.

I've explained exactly which systems preserve these quantities and which don't - it's given by Noether's theorem.

All the best
Lubos

CapitalistImperialistPig said...

Lubos – Once again you are confusing reality and fantasy, or at least physics and mathematics. I will stipulate that conservation of energy is at least problematic in cosmology and GR but I don’t want to deal with that domain of discourse here. You say: “There are millions of other descriptions of the physical system where the momentum is not conserved.” I suppose you mean by that that you can write down Lagrangians or Hamiltonians that don’t respect displacement symmetry, but that hardly shows that such systems exist in the real world.

You know, of course, that Noether’s theorem is a mathematical statement about the symmetries of Lagrangians (or Hamiltonians) and not a statement about the real world. Every known physical system may well have a Lagrangian description (as far as I know), but the converse is definitely not the case.

Newton’s third law, on the other hand, is a statement (true or false) about the real world. So when I ask for a “nice example” I mean a real (peferably macroscopic) physical system, non-relativistic, and small compared to the Earth for which Newton’s third law is not respected. I most definitely don’t want incomplete models or fake Lagrangians not corresponding to real systems.

It shouldn’t be necessary to add that the system in question needs to be isolated, but for you, I will mention that.

Lumo said...

I disagree, CIP.

Noether's theorem is a theorem about mathematical theories of physical type, and of course it applies to the real world, too. It especially applies to the real world. In any context, the generators of symmetries are in one-to-one correspondence with conservation laws.

I told you it is not just about cosmology. If you describe the climate relatively to the Earth, of course that the momentum is not conserved. Normally, in a more complete (astronomical) model, we may say that the Earth absorbs the momentum that would otherwise not be conserved.

But if you describe the climate plus biosphere plus everything else as something that lives on the Earth, the momentum of the core of Earth is simply zero and the momentum is lost. This is true for all components of momentum. If a ball falls towards the Earth, its downward momentum is simply lost when it sits. And the downward direction can be anything.

If you describe a small piece of land where the surface is flat and translationally symmetric in 2 directions, the two horizontal components of the momentum will be conserved and the vertical component will not. Of course that conservation of momentum is broken if you consider physics of the climate at scales that are smaller than the Earth. The momentum conservation is violated exactly by the same amount that would otherwise be carried by Earth itself if you considered the whole picture on the astronomic scales where Earth is allowed to move.

In climatology as an approximation, Earth is not allowed to move and any momentum given to it is just lost.

Is it still unclear?

Best
Lubos

CapitalistImperialistPig said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
CapitalistImperialistPig said...

Lumo Is it still unclear?


I don't think it's unclear to me! I think it is clear to you too, or else you wouldn't keep putting up phony and irrelevant models that throw away momentum.

Since Newton's third applies to interactions, momentum conservation just applies when all interactors are taken into account - though in a field theoretic viewpoint momentum conservation just means the divergence of the stress energy tensor is zero.

I reiterate - you can write down many non physical Lagrangians - some of them don't conserve energy or momentum.

A model isn't reality - especially if you know it isn't - if you know, for example, that you are throwing away some momentum somewhere.

James Annan said...

CIP,

Lumo is just trying to baffle with irrelevant bullshit, because he knows that RP Snr (who he idolises as the closest thing to a bona-fide scientist with any sympathy to the septic camp) has committed an elementary howler (and, what is far far worse, can't see it even when explained), and Lumo doesn't want to have to admit it.

Compare to a simple arithmetical error by William Connolley, which was headline news in the Lumosphere :-)

Lumo said...

Dear Gentlemen,

let me just mention that if you're uncapable to understand - even after 4 very transparent and obvious explanations - that when you describe the bulk of the Earth as a static object, the momentum conservation will be violated in every process above the Earth, then your brain should be rather used in McDonald's than for thinking purposes.

If you need to hear the same thing from other colleagues of mine ;-), be my guests.

Best
Lubos

Lumo said...

Let me make sure that every random reader of this blog with IQ above 65 - which probably does not include two of you, guys (and probably most of your colleagues in climate science) - is sure about the right answer.

When an apple is falling down, its velocity - and thus the momentum - in the down-direction increases with time. It is because of the force that is called gravity.

If we look at this effect from the astronomy viewpoint, we realize that the Earth accelerated towards the apple - in the opposite direction. Its momentum grows in the direction "up" and the total momentum is conserved.

In climate science or elsewhere, we can't measure and we don't want to measure the velocity and the momentum of the Earth. We set it to zero, which means that the momentum conservation is violated exactly by the amount that we would otherwise call the "momentum of Earth".

When it becomes useless - and untestable - to talk about such things as the velocity of Earth induced by a falling apple, then we're using a simplified description of the physical system that does not have certain symmetries - translational symmetry in space, in this case. Noether's theorem then guarantees that the corresponding conservation laws won't hold, and the example of a falling apple shows that indeed, it does not hold.

CapitalistImperialistPig said...

Lubos, Lubos, Lubos,

1) Nobody here ever argued that momentum was conserved in all atmospheric models or for any single component of an interacting system, so why do you keep bringing these up? My guess: to change the subject.

2) Thanks for your estimate of my IQ. Calling others stupid was a debate technique often used when I was in third grade – your use of the tactic is faintly nostalgic for me. I’ve never found that it adds that much to the intellectual level of a debate though.

P.S. You forgot to call me a communist, Stalinist, or any of those other quaint terms so relevant to physics.

3) What we have argued for is momentum conservation as a principle of nature – that is, the Lorentz invariance of fundamental interactions. You formerly seemed to consider that pretty important yourself. Have you converted to the church of LQG?

Best wishes,

CIP

Lumo said...

The momentum conservation is not a "principle of Nature". It is an inevitable feature of any background and/or description that is translationally invariant. These two things are equivalent.

Sometimes we consider translationally invariant things, for example in "complete descriptions of the world" in terms of classical physics; in classical or quantum field theory in Minkowski space; sometimes we don't such as generically in GR where the momentum is not conserved in generic backgrounds. In the latter case there is no momentum conservation.

Moreover, the local stress energy tensor in GR, including the gravitational part, vanishes because it follows from a local symmetry. Only the asymptotic observables like that may be defined, and they are only conserved if the asymptotic boundary conditions satisfy the translational symmetry.

You may talk about "the principle of Nature" even though it is not a generally valid point, but then you're bullshiting.

The main thing I forgot is to call you StalinistCommunistPig. Thanks for having reminded me, SCP!

The full laws of physics that cover quantum gravity won't have any generally valid momentum conservation. This only occurs when an approximately uniform space occurs. This is definitely not the case in the most general case of the "final theory".

Momentum conservation is only valid if many assumptions and approximations about reality are made.

Lumo said...

I consider local Lorentz symmetry to be essential for any theory that is meant to reproduce Nature. But it is only a local property of the complete laws of Nature.

It is not a property of all descriptions of reality; and the conservation law is not a general property of the whole Universe. There are independent reasons why the conservation law has a limited validity; but there is also good evidence that there is a huge window in which the Poincare symmetry works.

One can't neglect either of these things.

Moreover, a picky detail ;-), momentum generators are not a part of the Lorentz symmetry. They are only part of the Poincare symmetry. I always emphasized the Lorentz symmetry, because the translational symmetry is much easier to be satisfied.

Lumo said...

Incidentally, James, do you also think that it is a nice approach that realclimate.org censors any contributions on their forum about the new article

http://www.climateaudit.org/?p=416

by Steve McIntyre explaining a very serious bug in the paper of Hans von Storch and Zorita that was partially meant to defend MBH98, even though it is exactly about the very same topic?

These people at realclimate.org behave like Goebbels, to say the least, and our European experience tells us that if such people are not annihilated before it's too late, then it's too late. This statement may sound drastic but it is actually a truism. ;-)

James Annan said...

Lumo,

I'm a bit disappointed that RC spends so much time worrying about the hockey stick, as in terms of the wider debate it is little more than a sideshow. But given the people running the site (and the media coverage of the issue), perhaps it is only to be expected. I am confident that the upcoming IPCC AR4 will confirm that the recent warming is unprecedented in recent times (1000-2000 years), and would not be surprised if it did so in stronger language than the TAR did - there is now much more and stronger evidence pointing in this direction.

CapitalistImperialistPig said...

Lumo - Well, I stipulated in the beginning that GR presents ome problems for conservation laws - at least global ones, but I don't think that's important for atmospheric physics. The original issue, you may recall, was whether molecular forces "dissipate momentum" to heat or not.

I concede that the inhomogeneous (Poincare) transformation is the one important for momentum.

James Annan said...

CIP,

Lumo won't bite, because neither can he defend RP's obvious brain-fart, nor will he criticize it directly, for the reason I already mentioned. So instead he blathers on irrelevantly...

Lumo said...

Dear James,

I understand your disappointment, but this one would not exactly be what would disappoint me.

The hockey stick - past climate reconstructions - is a well-defined question; it is probably the key question to decide whether our activity creates unprecedented pressures on the climate, and we should ask how well we can find the answers.

Don't get me wrong: there are, of course, other important and interesting questions, too.

I am only disappointed by their biased approach to this question.

It is not surprising that they focus on it given the fact that Mann and Bradley are editors. It's sad that they use censorship, selective choice of proxies, authors, comments, and everything else. This is not how things should work.

Concerning your "confidence", let me not destroy your beliefs. There are many reasons why your confidence may become true. Many members have resigned to protest the outrageously unscientific approach of IPCC, and judging the average qualities of those who are left, your prediction seems likely.

All the best
Lubos

James Annan said...

Lumo,

reconstructions in general are relevant (although not absolutely vital)- one 8 year old paper in particular isn't any more. If more recent work had in any way contradicted the main points of MBH, you might have a point. But they don't.

As for the IPCC, I only heard of one or two who flounced off in a huff - and in the most well-publicised case, it looks rather like he may have regretted it enough to float a trial balloon about reinstatement via his close colleague Roger Pielke Jnr. Whether you believe it or not, many contributors will do their best to ensure that the report does not exaggerate or misrepresent what is known.