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Stupid Headlines - Magazine Edition

>> Tuesday, January 22, 2008

To continue the topic of stupid headlines, I have another one from the cover of the February 2008 issue of Popular Science. The online version is still showing January, so I'm not able to link to the article yet. But, please buy this magazine, I usually love the articles. Usually. Anyway, the front cover for February is "Hydrogen Hyper-Jet: New York to London in 2 Hours - Emission Free". The title of the article inside the cover on page 48 is "Green Skies at Mach 5". The story is about a concept vehicle that would use liquid hydrogen as fuel and would be able to go Mach 5 carrying passengers. Very cool stuff and most of the technology already exists.

I know what you are saying, this is all very good right? Well, my exception to the headline is that it does produce emissions. The article even admits that it produces greenhouse gas emissions in the caption under an artist's rendering of the craft. As any science geek can tell you the byproduct of using a hydrogen fuel is H2O, water. So, not only is the "emission free" part of the headline is wrong, it produces the number one greenhouse gas. But, this is a good thing. Without the greenhouse affect, there wouldn't be life on this planet. And, in this case, the water vapor will return to Earth in the form of rain.

The article makes several references to "carbon footprint". This is another thing I find the media misconstrues. We are a carbon based life form and produce carbon as a byproduct of breathing, growing hair and skin cells. We eat other carbon based life forms like plants, fruits, nuts and animals (mmmm, steak!). We interact with carbon constantly. You can't help it, anything "organic" contains carbon as well as anything made from hydrocarbons - plastic for instance. It is safe to say that we can't live without carbon. We would all die by not being able to exhale.

Also, plants need this carbon in the air in conjunction with light for photosynthesis. More carbon in the air, means that plants make more energy and grow big and strong and send their seedlings off to the very best gardens. It's this whole cycle you see. Carbon is not created by us or by any action we can take. It's cycled around.

Let me queue up Jeopardy music while I ask this simple question. Has human activity added or reduced the amount of carbon on Earth, hereafter called Earth's carbon footprint?

Time is up. What is your answer?

The answer is humans may have actually reduced Earth's carbon footprint. Humans can't create carbon, it is just cycled and recycled. However, humans do build satellites and have sent craft to other planets that will never return. The carbon in those craft is lost to the cycle on Earth. Don't worry though, all of those meteorites you see at night add to Earth's carbon footprint. It's the only thing that can - until we humans start making factories in space and sending the goods down to the planet.

The moral of the story is if you are concerned about carbon dioxide, then plant a tree. Or better yet, donate to organizations that plant lots of trees. Of course, the world's oceans do more carbon exchange in one day than all human activity for a year. Keeping the oceans healthy is a good idea. One which we are doing better at. Polution in the oceans have been falling steadily for the past 30 years.


Doug's Update: I should say that I prefer hydrogen as a fuel rather than oil products. It's not because of the carbon emission from oil, but rather the other impurities that don't get burned up in the combustion process. Many of these are rather noxious. Of course my main question is why are we still using internal combustion engines at all for autos - it's 1800's technology.

3 comments:

Tamara 1:53 PM  

doug, check out theconservativedvm.blogspot.com I think you might like it

Doug Halsted 2:27 PM  

Thanks Tamara, I'll check it out.

I also found this. It's an article from someone who believes that humans caused global warming. The strang thing is, his strongest arguements come from his study of solar behavior leading up to his prediction of global cooling based on sunspot activity.

Doug Halsted 2:41 PM  

More here.

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