Thursday, May 10, 2007

What Science Doesn't Know

Wired Magazine just changed its format. New fonts and colors are supposed to make the mag so much better. Maybe these things matter to some readers. I just want great content. Wired delivered in a major way (again) in the February '07 issue. There are numerous excellent articles, but one is a major standout: "What We Don't Know: 42 of the Biggest Questions in Science."

One might correctly surmise that I liked this article because it admits to the limitations of science. Not only does it do so in the general sense of the title, but in very useful details in reviewing the 42 questions. In addition, the contributors to this article raised some fascinating issues which give support to some of my favorite opinions about various scientific issues. I encourage you, dear reader, to click over to the entire article and read it for yourself. I will be highlighting a few of my favorite passages over the next few days.

Best of all was this on GLOBAL WARMING:

Will forests slow global warming - or speed it up?


We don’t know which way it will go, because we know so little about forests themselves. Scientists estimate that up to 50 percent of all species live in forest canopies - three-dimensional labyrinths largely invisible from the ground - but virtually no one can tell you what lives in any given cubic meter of canopy, at any height, anywhere in the world. We don’t even have names for the most common species of trees in the Amazon.

We know that trees suck up CO2. We know that decaying trees give off CO2. We also know that trees tend to absorb light energy, rather than reflect it. Termites, which eat trees, are a major source of methane gas, another greenhouse gas.

However, the take away line from this story is "we know so little about forests..."
Add to this line a few of the other things we don't know that have been discussed in this blog alone:
  1. We also know very little about clouds and how they will effect future global warming.
  2. We also know very little about the self-healing aspect of our three atmospheres.
  3. We also know almost nothing about how the earths millions of species of plants and animals will react to warmer climates. Ocean surface algae alone could so increase in population that CO2 would be dramatically reduced by this algae consuming it

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