The climate is changing so rapidly now that reducing CO2 emissions, and measures such as re- and afforestation, will not be enough; there still are too many people ‘in power’ who are not convinced of the acuteness of the problem. But also, animals are dying because of the plastics which are now everywhere. What we have to do is Clean the Earth. We have to get the surplus of CO2 out of the air, and the plastics out of the oceans. The good news is that it still is possible if many people work together.
For actively removing CO2 from the air see for instance Climeworks and how it works. The beauty of their method is that the CO2 is captured by modular and scalable filters. The importance thereof became obvious through, for me, a big surprise on that website; the CO2 in beverages. I had no idea where the bubbles came from, and I certainly did not know there even could be European-wide carbon dioxide (CO2) shortages. It is easy to see that making so much CO2 must also have a major impact. But instead of trying to reduce the intake by ’sodashaming’, there thus is a very easy solution. If all the places where CO2 is used to produce bubbling liquids have their own set of CO2 capturers, they just recycle CO2, which also does not have to be transported. This is just an example for what is possible when clever ideas and solutions are combined.
Plastics are now everywhere, and removing plastics is therefore needed as fast as possible. That it is possible is shown by the The Ocean Cleanup. There is much discussion about the way they do it, catching the larger pieces and bringing them to the shore for recycling, but it can easily be argued that if we do not take away the larger pieces soon, they will disintegrate into the smaller ones that are so much harder to capture. Everyone who has once cleaned a really very dirty house knows that you just have to begin, and only after much hard work you can start to consider subtleties. So this is in any case for now a very important project, we simply are in a hurry.
This is how much solar energy already is produced with my ‘parts-of-panels’.
It does not seem much yet, but I now have 17 parts, which equals half a solar panel, and most projects started this winter.
In the last days of 2019 and the first weeks of 2020 my brother and I visited north Norway. We drove there in my brother’s Tesla, model 3, going from supercharger to supercharger. There were enough Tesla chargers to enable us to go north, from Malmö via Skellefteå in Sweden to the Lofoten in Norway where we visited the Polarlightcenter in Straumnes, Laukvik, on the island of Austvågøya, then to the most northern Tesla supercharger in the world, which is in Sørkjosen. We chose our route in such a way that there was never more than a 2.5h drive between two Tesla superchargers, only once we had to charge at a compatible charger, which took a bit longer to charge but not that much (yet it disconnected us after 0.5h of charging).
Still, our experience was not by any means what we had expected; we had taken very warm clothing with us, but hardly needed it. Visiting a relative in Setermoen we heard that it often is around -25°C in January (with an average in January of -8°C)*, now it was +2°C. The same thing in Ulvsvåg; someone told us that normally around this time the weather is quiet, cold and dry, but now it was raining and snowing for weeks already. And in Levanger; where it usually is around -4°C in January, at 09h in the morning it was +7°C. We were obviously not the only ones becoming concerned. In Skibotn someone made the remark that the Norwegian government does not want to give up on its petrol, and in Levanger that the government is still in denial about the human impact on the climate.**
The almost permanent cloud cover sadly meant that we did not see much of the Northern Lights. Yet we did see it, which was already marvellous in itself, and learning more about it at the Polarlightcenter made it absolutely worthwile. It was explained why the polar lights are also visible when the sun is very quiet, as she is now, at the beginning of the 25th sunspot cycle, and we saw the marvellous setup of solely analogue instruments, measuring and showing fluctuations in the Earth’s magnetosphere which are induced by variations in the magnetic fields from the Sun, and may precede displays of northern lights. Sadly, due to cloud cover we missed the exceptional display on the 6th of January although we knew it had to come due to the highly fluctuating magnetic currents, as shown by the measuring instruments. It was an impressive moment, standing before the paper and seeing the needle move so fast.
Because of the cloudy weather which lasted for our entire journey, despite being for almost three weeks in the darkest places I had ever been I hardly saw any stars except on the Lofoten, where there were some patches of clear sky. Once, further south again, I could see Andromeda, but only because I knew it had to be there, and again only between clouds. It is a good thing that my dream was to experience a day without sun, and my brother’s to charge his car at the most northern Tesla supercharger; two goals which had nothing to do with the local weather. Perhaps we are Dutch enough, knowing very well that rain and clouds may spoil the view.
About driving north in a Tesla, it could easily be argued that we would not have been able to make this trip if the temperatures had been much lower. Still we think we would have been able to; in this relatively warm weather we never arrived at the next supercharger with less than 140 km left. For certainty, we always slept close to a supercharger, so we would have been able to warm the inside of the car (the lowest setting is 16°C) at the cost of about 300 km a day (two times 140 km or more), and if at night the car would have to take care that its batteries would not freeze over at the cost of again many kilometres, in the morning we could have charged it again. We also could have taken more time to drive this far than we did now.
In any case, whether or not due to these very high temperatures my dream of experiencing a day without sun succeeded, and to my surprise it even became five days. I had understood that the sun would rise at Straumness on the 5th of January, but it turned out to be on the 6th, which means that, leaving Bognes early in the morning of the 3rd to go by boat to Lødingen and drive to the Polarlightcenter on the Lofoten, we had one day without sun before we arrived there, and two during our stay at the Polarlightcenter. After the Lofoten, where we did try to see the first sunlight of the winter in Svolvær on the 6th but it was too cloudy to see it, we drove further north, via Setermoen and Skibotn to Sørkjosen, back into the polar night; I had not realised that in Setermoen the sun had not risen yet. The fifth day was when we drove back to the south and stayed in Bardufoss where the sun also had not risen yet, it would rise there on 12 January. That was our last day without sun; going further south, we drove out of the polar night again.***
My brother’s dream of charging at the most northern Tesla supercharger in the world also succeeded, despite the heavy snowstorms on especially the last part of our journey up. Three times we could not see anything any more in front of us, and for large parts we drove with 35 km/h, on a motorway. But we safely reached the remarkable supercharger.
There still is a lot for Tesla to develop, next to some minor issues which they hopefully will be able to solve quickly. But what I really hope is that Tesla will soon have all their superchargers deliver only solar power. How I do not know in practice,**** but using only solar power such a trip as we made would really be clean.
* Setermoen is just south-southwest of Tromsø, and above the Lofoten. Playing with the data on Meteologix gives some insight into the high local variability of the Norwegian climate, the rising temperatures can therefore only be deduced from averages (a difference of 4° Fahrenheit is a difference of about 2° Celsius). From these visualizations it can be seen that, even if there is much variation in local temperatures during the day, +2°C in Setermoen in January is in any case unusual. We clearly were not the only ones noticing it, on 20 January 2020 the Norwegian Meteorological Institute tweeted about the very mild weather. Further to the north of Norway the effect of climate change is even stonger; according to the Royal Netherlands Meteorological Institute (KNMI), Svalbard (Spitsbergen) is the fastest warming place on Earth.
** That the government is in denial is illustrated by these rather shocking articles, just having experienced the very abnormal weather in Norway, about the profitability of new pipelines to the Barentz Sea, and Norway’s Oil & Energy Minister Sylvi Listhaug calling the warnings of environmental organizations doomsday prophecies. But fortunately, many people do not wait for their governments and are taking action themselves. We stayed for a night in Levanger, and the people who own a ‘herberge’ (inn) there, consisting of old wooden buildings from the seventeenth and nineteenth century, had an enormous amount of solar panels on the very large roof of the barn. That also happens in the Netherlands; although to our shame the government had to be forced to finally reduce emissions, people are taking action such as for instance in ZonnepanelenDelen, or various Citizen Initiatives. Still, clearly also not everyone, politician or civilian, is convinced we have a problem. In one of the places we stayed for the night our rooms had no heater of their own, and no thermostat; the rooms were extremely hot. Having searched in vain for a way to cool my room off a bit, I decided to open the window. It was -2°C outside, and in slightly over an hour the room was cooled to perhaps 21°C or so. I slept with the window open, and felt sorry for heating the open air.
*** The polar circle is officially at 66°33, but due to deflection of the sunlight “the boundary for the Polar Night is slightly north of the Arctic Circle, while the boundary for the Midnight Sun is slightly south of the Arctic Circle. Consequently, Bodø has Midnight Sun but no Polar Night,” see p. 17 of the Bodø and Salten Guide 2020. The deflection of the sunlight means that when the sun is just below the horizon, both at sunrise and sunset, it can be seen just above it, hence the effect. It does cause some confusion in finding the exact dates of the first day of sunrise after polar night for specific locations, because without mentioning it the one website chooses the official date while another chooses the dates one can really see it, thus accounting for the deflection by refraction.
**** What about using fibre optics cable through pipelines (old oil pipelines?) to bring light from parts of the world where the sun is shining to darker places; if Africa, Australia and South America would work together they could sell sunlight at any time, all day and night, during all seasons. Imagine a factory where light is shining on solar panels in the night (or something like that, in any case as effective as possible), well shielded of course not to disturb the darkness outside. We then could produce our own solar energy in the daytime, and use the transported light in the nighttime.
Now that the book about Catherine Disney is ready for some time, I realize that I am happy that it is finished. It was difficult to immerse myself in such a sad life for such a long time. How it must be to be forced to marry against one’s will is almost unfathomable for any one who is free to choose; it should just not be possible anywhere.
When I stumbled on Hamilton’s bizarre reputation I was, next to my work, studying physics, and I wanted to become a cosmologist. As many students do, I hoped to make a great discovery some day, or if that would not happen at least a tiny one. Little had I expected what ‘my discovery’ would look like, and how much it had nothing to do with the universe. Still, as a variation on what Isaac Asimov seems to have said about crying out “Eureka” or mumbling “that is funny,” it appeared that thinking “that is odd” can also ‘herald’ years of work.
It happened when I was enrolled in the first course for my masters, History of Vector Analysis. I then heard about Hamilton as an alcoholic, who had married some ‘lass’ from across the fields just to be married, and after his discovery of quaternions only had eye for them for the rest of his life (however useful that was). I vividly remember the picture I had formed in my mind, of a man looking at beautiful sloping green fields from behind his desk but seeing nothing but quaternions. I also remember that I wondered when he drank all that alcohol, perhaps in the evening, still sitting at his desk, and that I pitied that poor lonely village girl. Until I read about Hamilton’s suprisingly peaceful description of the walk with his wife along the Royal Canal where he had his Eureka moment. I then imagined that thinking “Woman, go away again and leave me in peace instead of annoying me even on my quiet walk along this canal” would most likely have prevented any Eureka moment. It was the start of a two weeks’ frenzy filled with sudden realizations, “Impossible! That is simply utterly illogical!” Thereafter, no physics for me any more; reputations, gossip, Victorian times and the difficult lives of married Victorian women kept me busy for years.
Every now and then I give a presentation about the subject I had chosen in the bachelor cosmology seminar I had been enrolled in before receiving my bachelor’s degree. The subject was the ‘inflationary universe,’ and I adapted and extended my bachelor’s presentation to an evening presentation for to local groups of the KNVWS, of which I am a member also. When I had finished writing about Hamilton what I had thought I had to write, and again was invited to give my presentation, I was very happy to be back in the universe. But knowing that continuing my studies is not in any way realizable in the near future, I also started to think that perhaps I do not want to become a cosmologist any more.
Already from the first time I gave my presentation about the inflationary universe I have introduced myself by telling the audience that I do not believe inflation can be true, but that I am very happy to explain the theory to them, including why the problems with the Big Bang theory seemed to be solved so neatly. That I obviously cannot prove that inflation is not true, but that it just does not make much sense to me. But what also happened while I was working on Hamilton’s reputation was that I became more convinced that Erik Verlinde* may be right (and not just because the first course in relativity I was enrolled in was given by him :). I can proudly say that already before handing in my bachelor’s essay (August 2013) I told my mentor that if I had money (which I do not have) I would bet on Verlinde’s theory, against inflation. So instead of becoming a cosmologist myself it would be better to try to learn to explain his theory to my fellow KNVWS members. Some people do that very well already, but it would give me focus.
But that will also take much time, and therefore my brother Rein thought that in the meantime it would be a nice idea (as a consolation for lost physics?) to also make a BookReader for my bachelor physics essays, which I once did love to write. Two of them, an essay on Teleportation and an essay in Dutch about the Higgs boson are in the Wayback Machine already, Anne’s page on MaZaKa.NL. Here it is a ‘work in progress,’ because I am translating the latter essay.** And some day I will add my bachelor’s thesis, about relativity, which should have formed a diptych with my master’s thesis; it must be rewritten into an independent whole because I will not write a master’s thesis about inflation any more. I look forward to immersing myself into relativity again and rewriting that essay.
Teleportation can be read in the Bookreader even though it is not a book: Teleportation. It is about how teleportation could work, but also, however much I would prefer Star Trek-like teleportation, I show that if our computers become ever more powerful, perhaps teleportation is not necessary any more because in some quite near future we can just store all our data, have it sent to where we want to go, and then be reassembled again. It would circumvent the ‘no cloning theorem’ of quantum mechanics, giving our descendants some difficult problems to deal with.
* I was curious about Schrödinger’s remark, “I daresay not a day passes - and seldom an hour - without somebody, somewhere on this globe, pronouncing or reading or writing or printing Hamilton’s name,” and whether that still holds. I therefore counted the 71 articles of which Erik Verlinde was author or co-author and which were open access, which remarkably most of them were. And indeed, the Hamiltonian was mentioned in 34 articles.
** Translation note for the particle physics essay.
Preface: The original posts by the LHC@home 2.0 team about the “rogue” systems and the team having been “flabbergasted” can be found at the BOINCstats/BAM! page for vLHCathome including links to the original articles. I had paraphrased the LHC@Home 2.0 Team’s first post of 11-08-2011, but it is too historical not to write it out once more: “WE HAVE A PROBLEM. WE BELIEVE SOME "ROGUE" SYSTEMS ARE SUCKING OUR QUEUES DRY AND THUS OVERLOADING THE SUPPLY OF JOBS TO EVERYONE ELSE. Please be patient - we will try to fix this as soon as possible. Until this problem is understood, we have disabled the creation of new jobs and users for the moment. As soon as the system is recovered, the work unit flow will be restored.”
This is the 11 August 2011 BBC article calling on volunteers, LHC@home allows public to help hunt for Higgs particle. How appealing can you be! No wonder the servers were overloaded (even if everyone had understood the need for VM's). The BBC article linked to the LHC@home home page, but the link to the T4T page containing the quotation I used, “The Test4Theory@home project seeks to engage volunteers in theoretical physics computations for the Large Hadron Collider at CERN,” does not exist any more. Happily, it still is visible in the Wayback Machine, About Test4Theory. The capture being of the page as it was two years later, it also contains the later warning: “Before Attaching to us you must first have an up to date installed version of the VIRTUAL BOX software package. To download Virtual Box if needed see instructions here”.