Global warming is back on the agenda with the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change set to release its latest scientific report on 2 February. Hints and leaks from scientists on the panel suggest that the IPCC will have strengthened its conclusions, previously stated in 2001, that humans are heating up the Earth.
While most scientists probably share this view, there are some who think otherwise. Many of those are either scientifically ill-informed or have dubious links with the energy industry. But one bona fide sceptic is Richard Lindzen, a climate physicist from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, who was involved in preparing the IPCC's 2001 report. (p. 12)
Although Lindzen does not dispute that the Earth is getting hotter, he argues - in an interview with Physics World - that the warming is, in all probability, largely the result of natural variations in the Earth's climate. He believes that computer models of the Earth's climate, although rooted in the laws of physics, contain far too many uncertainties. Indeed, John Mitchell - the chief scientist of the UK's Meteorological Office - and colleagues describe how hard it is incorporate the impact of clouds into such climate models elsewhere in this issue of Physics World. They warn that if the clouds were modelled incorrectly, climate simulations "would be seriously in error". (p. 20)
Nevertheless, the balance of evidence does suggest that carbon dioxide being pumped into the atmosphere is having a significant warming effect. It is therefore right and prudent to limit greenhouse gas emissions as a way of dealing with the causes of climate change. However a small band of researchers is proposing various outlandish schemes to deal with the effects of climate change - an approach known as "geoengineering". As Physics World reports, these include pumping vast quantities of sulphur into the atmosphere to act as a huge Sun block, sending solar reflectors or even painting the roads white. (p. 10)Also in this issue:
Helen MacBain | alfa
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Scientists at the University of California, Los Angeles present new research on a curious cosmic phenomenon known as "whistlers" -- very low frequency packets...
Scientists develop first tool to use machine learning methods to compute flow around interactively designable 3D objects. Tool will be presented at this year’s prestigious SIGGRAPH conference.
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Researchers from TU Graz and their industry partners have unveiled a world first: the prototype of a robot-controlled, high-speed combined charging system (CCS) for electric vehicles that enables series charging of cars in various parking positions.
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Proteins must be folded correctly to fulfill their molecular functions in cells. Molecular assistants called chaperones help proteins exploit their inbuilt folding potential and reach the correct three-dimensional structure. Researchers at the Max Planck Institute of Biochemistry (MPIB) have demonstrated that actin, the most abundant protein in higher developed cells, does not have the inbuilt potential to fold and instead requires special assistance to fold into its active state. The chaperone TRiC uses a previously undescribed mechanism to perform actin folding. The study was recently published in the journal Cell.
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