Censoring climate science?

I’ve been seeing a number of panicked reports recently about climate science in the USA being censored. So far, however, every US Government climate-related website I’ve checked is still online:

NOAA National Centers for Environmental Information

“NCEI provides analyses of weather and climate events, placing them into proper historical perspective, understanding their unusualness, and increasingly comparing recent events to expectations of future climate conditions… NCEI publishes the most recent national and international reports on the state of the climate as well as various other peer-reviewed papers and articles.” – Climate pages online.

NASA

“The mission of ‘Global Climate Change: Vital Signs of the Planet’ is to provide the public with accurate and timely news and information about Earth’s changing climate, along with current data and visualizations, presented from the unique perspective of NASA, the world’s leading climate research agency.” – Climate pages online.

EPA

“EPA partners with more than 40 data contributors from various government agencies, academic institutions, and other organizations to compile a key set of indicators related to the causes and effects of climate change. The indicators are published in EPA’s report, Climate Change Indicators in the United States…” – Climate pages online.

USDA National Institute of Food and Agriculture

“The National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA) provides leadership and funding for programs that advance agriculture-related sciences…” – Climate pages online.

NPS

“The National Park Service preserves unimpaired the natural and cultural resources and values of the National Park System for the enjoyment, education, and inspiration of this and future generations.” – Climate pages online.

We’ll see if that changes, I guess. There does seem to have been a dispute about politically-charged tweets from official NPS Twitter accounts. That dispute underscores the guideline that official tweets should be, well, official. Like other social media, Twitter allows people to blur the line between personal opinions and official announcements. Being rapid, it also does not fit well with an official publication approval process, which can lead to problems. In the case of the disputed tweets, NPS social media guidelines may well have been breached, so a reaction was hardly surprising. I do hope that the NPS as a whole doesn’t intend to be politically active, though, since that could end rather badly for both the NPS and the USA – the job of the NPS is an important one.


Newton, gravity, and the apple


Isaac Newton and his apple (image: LadyofHats)

Among the numerous problems in this famous videoclip from South Africa (which I have previously mentioned) are some serious misunderstandings regarding Isaac Newton, gravity, and the apple story. According to William Stukeley (writing in 1726), “After dinner, the weather being warm, we went into the garden, and drank tea under the shade of some apple trees; only he [Newton], and myself. Amidst other discourse, he told me, he was just in the same situation, as formerly, the notion of gravitation came into his mind. ‘Why should that apple always descend perpendicularly to the ground,’ thought he to himself; occasion’d by the fall of an apple, as he sat in a contemplative mood. ‘Why should it not go sideways, or upwards?’

Of course, Newton was hardly the first person to think seriously about gravity. About 2,000 years earlier, Aristotle had recorded his theories on the subject. These had a great influence on the Greek-speaking world, the Muslim world, and Western Europe, up until the time of Galileo. Galileo demonstrated several flaws in Aristotle’s approach, and made measurements which showed that falling objects follow parabolic paths.


Parabolas traced out by a bouncing ball (photo: MichaelMaggs)

Newton’s genius lay in being able to explain both Galileo’s findings and Kepler’s laws of planetary motion using a single mathematical equation: F = G m1 m2 / d 2. This articulated the strength of the gravitational force, while leaving the true nature of gravity mysterious. Consequently, Newton’s work was hardly the last word on the subject. Einstein’s general relativity made considerable advances in the understanding of gravity, but several questions still remain.

The scientific understanding of gravity neither started nor ended with Newton, which means that the speaker in the video linked above is quite wrong in saying: “Western knowledge … is saying that it was Newton and only Newton who knew and saw an apple falling and out of nowhere decided gravity existed and created an equation and that is it. Whether people knew Newton or not‚ or whatever happens in Western Africa‚ Northern Africa‚ the thing is the only way to explain gravity is through Newton, who sat under a tree and saw an apple fall.

Western knowledge says nothing of the kind, of course. It is a sad thing that “decolonisation” is being driven by such radical misunderstandings, when what is needed may in fact be a review of the humanities and improvements in basic education.


Metallic hydrogen

It has long been known that hydrogen forms a metallic solid at moderate to low temperatures and extremely high pressures. Last year, Ranga Dias and Isaac F. Silvera at Harvard University were the first to actually produce this metal, using the enormous pressure of 495 gigapascals (see their paper).

At higher temperatures, hydrogen forms a metallic liquid, and this is believed to exist at the heart of Jupiter and Saturn. This liquid has yet to be observed.


Australia Day

Today is Australia Day, marking the 1788 arrival of the First (British) Fleet in Australia. As well as establishing the island continent as a British colony, the First Fleet advanced the scientific study of the region. John White, Surgeon-General to the colony, was a keen amateur botanist and zoologist. His Journal of a Voyage to New South Wales (with colour plates added later) included notes on Australian flora and fauna:

Arthur Bowes Smyth, a naval surgeon on the Lady Penrhyn, made similar observations. His journal included 25 drawings, like this one of an emu (the first known drawing of that bird):


The magnificent Doble steam car

The video above shows the beautiful 1920s Doble steam car owned by Jay Leno (see this article). This magnificent vehicle represents the pinnacle of a technology that was already dead when it was built. A front-mounted boiler powers four cylinders at the rear, which drive the back wheels via spur gears (see below). There is no traditional gearbox or transmission. The steam is condensed and recycled, so that water does not have to be constantly replenished. All very efficient.

Leno says that “The last days of an old technology are almost always better than the first days of a new technology,” and aesthetically (in spite of my love of solar cars) he is probably right. Something similar can be said about the ultimate examples of castle-building, which occurred when castles were already obsolete (see below). So watch the video of this wonderful vintage car!


World Solar Challenge 2017 Current Status

The infographic above shows solar car teams that are likely to be entering in the World Solar Challenge, with my preliminary estimate of reported current progress (on a red–amber–green scale).

Many teams are obviously working hard behind the scenes, so that the assessment here is very much subject to change. Still, it is clear that we can expect a healthy field for the WSC this October. A revised version of this infographic will be posted later.


World Solar Challenge 2017 Team List

Here are the 49 solar car teams that are likely to be entering in the World Solar Challenge this October, with updated links to their social media ( Facebook LinkedIn Flickr YouTube Instagram Twitter ), donation websites ( Gold coin ), and recent news (please notify me of anything I’ve missed). There is also a simple red/amber/green ( RED AMBER GREEN ) estimate of current status (current counts: 12, 28, and 9 respectively). At this stage, I am guessing that 42 cars will turn up in Darwin. Teams are sorted first by country, and then by name.

In spite of the 2017 rule changes, most teams (18 so far) are using the kind of asymmetrical Challenger-class design that has done well in past competitions, while 4 teams (Illini, MDH, Slovakia, and USC) are producing symmetrical cars. There is also an interesting range of Cruiser-class designs (13 cars).

AU AMBER  Adelaide University 

This team came 21st in the Challenger class at WSC 2015. They are planning to return in 2017. Their new WSC car will be called Lumen II. Their car will look like this. There have been signs of construction.

AU RED  Australian National University 

This is a new team in the WSC Challenger class for 2017. They have a rather interesting design. A car reveal is promised for 2 August.

AU AMBER  Clenergy Team Arrow 

This team came 5th in the 2015 Abu Dhabi Solar Challenge, and 8th in the Challenger class at WSC 2015. They are planning to return in 2017 with a Cruiser. There have been signs of construction.

AU AMBER  Flinders University 

This is a new team in the WSC Cruiser class for 2017. Their new WSC car will be called Investigator Mark 3. Their car will look like this. There have been signs of construction. However, progress appears to be slow.

AU GREEN  University of New South Wales / Sunswift 

This team came 4th in the Cruiser class at WSC 2015. They are planning to return in 2017. Their new WSC car will be called Violet. There have been signs of construction.

AU AMBER  Western Sydney U Solar Car Project 

This team came 10th in the Challenger class at WSC 2015. They are planning to return in 2017. There have been signs of construction.

BE GREEN  Punch Powertrain Solar Team 

This team came 3rd in the 2015 Abu Dhabi Solar Challenge, and 5th in the Challenger class at WSC 2015. They are planning to return in 2017. They also raced in the 2016 ESC, coming 2nd. Their new WSC car is called Punch 2. They have already revealed their new car.

CA AMBER  University of Toronto / Blue Sky 

This team came 12th in the Challenger class at WSC 2015, and 3rd in the 2016 American Solar Challenge. They are planning to return to WSC in 2017. There have been signs of construction.

CL AMBER  Antakari Solar Team 

They are planning to compete in WSC 2017. Antakari will be joined by members of the Appalachian State University team, who plan to race their own car in 2019. There have been signs of construction.

CN RED  Beijing Institute of Technology

This team came 24th in the Challenger class at WSC 2015. They are planning to return in 2017. They are not saying much about their progress, but then they never do.

CO RED  EAFIT Solar Car Team 

This team came 9th in the Challenger class at WSC 2015. They are planning to return in 2017.

EG RED  Solar Electric Vehicle – Cairo University Team 

This is a new team for WSC 2017. They partnered with Bochum in the ill-fated Somabay Egyptian Solar Challenge, but do not seem to have done much construction since then.

EG RED  Zewail City Solar Car Team 

This is a new team for WSC 2017. Their website appears to have gone offline, however, and they were last active on Facebook in April.

DE GREEN  Bochum University of Applied Sciences 

This team came 3rd in the Cruiser class at WSC 2015. They are planning to return in 2017. They also entered three cars in the 2016 ESC, coming 3rd, 4th, and 5th. Their car will look like this. There have been signs of construction. A car reveal is promised for 5 July.

DE AMBER  Sonnenwagen Aachen 

This is a new team in the WSC Challenger class for 2017. I expect this team to do what Megalux did in 2015, coming from nowhere to race very well. There have been signs of construction.

HK AMBER  Hong Kong Institute of Vocational Education 

This team competed in the Cruiser class at WSC 2015. They are planning to return in 2017. There have been signs of construction. A car reveal is promised for 2 July.

HU RED  Kecskemét College GAMF (Megalux) 

This team came 7th in the Challenger class at WSC 2015. They are planning to return in 2017. They also raced in the 2016 Sasol Solar Challenge in South Africa, coming 3rd.

IN AMBER  R.V. College of Engineering 

This team came 29th in the Challenger class at WSC 2015. They are planning to return in 2017. Their new WSC car will be called Soleblaze 2. Their car will look like this. There have been signs of construction.

ID RED  Institut Teknologi Sepuluh Nopember 

This team competed in the Cruiser class at WSC 2015. They are planning to return in 2017.

IR RED  University of Tehran 

This team competed in the Cruiser class at WSC 2015. They are planning to return in 2017. Their new WSC car will be called Persian Gazelle 4. They have opted for a more traditional-looking cruiser this year, it seems. Their car will look like this.

IT RED  Onda Solare 

This team came 10th in the Challenger class at WSC 2013, and 10th in the 2015 Abu Dhabi Solar Challenge. They are planning to return in 2017 with a Cruiser. They also raced in the 2016 ESC, coming 6th. They won the 2017 Albi Eco Race and came 2nd in the Evolución class at the 2016 Carrera Solar Atacama, but their attendance at WSC is uncertain.

JP RED  Goko High School 

This team came 14th in the Challenger class at WSC 2015. They are planning to return in 2017.

JP AMBER  Kogakuin University 

This team came 2nd in the Cruiser class at WSC 2015. They are planning to return in 2017. There have been signs of construction. A car reveal is promised for 29 June.

JP AMBER  Nagoya Institute of Technology 

This team came 16th in the Challenger class at WSC 2015. They are planning to return in 2017. They are active on social media, but only in Japanese.

JP AMBER  Tokai University 

This team came 7th in the 2015 Abu Dhabi Solar Challenge, and 3rd in the Challenger class at WSC 2015. They are planning to return in 2017. They also raced in the 2016 Sasol Solar Challenge in South Africa, coming 2nd.

KR AMBER  Kookmin University Solar Team 

This team came 20th in the Challenger class at WSC 2015. They are planning to return in 2017. Their team number (82) is the Korean national telephone prefix. There have been signs of construction.

MY AMBER  MARA University of Technology / EcoPhoton 

This team came 26th in the Challenger class at WSC 2015. They are planning to return in 2017. Their new WSC car will be called Stingray 2. There have been signs of construction.

NL GREEN  Nuon Solar Team 

This team came 1st in the Challenger class at WSC 2015. They are planning to return in 2017. They also raced in the 2016 Sasol Solar Challenge in South Africa, coming 1st. Their new WSC car will be called Nuna9. Their team number (3) is a long-standing tradition. In June they set a world record, clocking up 882 km in a 12-hour track session. There have been signs of construction. A car reveal is promised for 25 July.

NL GREEN  Solar Team Eindhoven 

This team came 1st in the Cruiser class at WSC 2015. They are planning to return in 2017. Their new WSC car is called Stella Vie. Their team number (40) is the Eindhoven telephone area code. They have already revealed their new car. They plan to travel to Australia between 15 and 20 August.

NL GREEN  Solar Team Twente 

This team came 2nd in the Challenger class at WSC 2015. They are planning to return in 2017. They also raced in the 2016 ESC, coming 1st. Their new WSC car is called Red Shift. Their team number (21) is a pun and a wish for success in the race (“Twente-One”). They have already revealed their new car.

PL AMBER  Lodz Solar Team 

This team competed in the Cruiser class at WSC 2015. They are planning to return in 2017. They also raced in the 2016 Sasol Solar Challenge in South Africa, coming 5th. Their new WSC car will be called Eagle Two. Their car will look like this.

SG AMBER  Singapore Polytechnic 

This team competed in the Cruiser class at WSC 2015. They are planning to return in 2017. Their new WSC car will be called SunSPEC 5. Their car will look like this. There have been signs of construction.

SK RED  Solar Team Slovakia 

This is a new team in the WSC Challenger class for 2017. They were last heard from in August 2016, and I am not expecting them to turn up in Australia.

ZA AMBER  North West University 

This team came 11th in the Challenger class at WSC 2015. They are planning to return in 2017. They also raced in the 2016 Sasol Solar Challenge in South Africa, coming 4th.

SE AMBER  JU Solar Team 

This team came 15th in the Challenger class at WSC 2015. They are planning to return in 2017. Their new WSC car will be called Solveig. Their team number (46) is the Swedish national telephone prefix. There have been signs of construction.

SE GREEN  MDH Solar Team 

This is a new team in the WSC Challenger class for 2017. Their new WSC car is called MDH Solar Car. They are from Mälardalen University College in Eskilstuna, Sweden. They have already revealed their new car.

TW AMBER  Kaohsiung / Apollo 

This team came 6th in the Cruiser class at WSC 2013, and 9th in the 2015 Abu Dhabi Solar Challenge. They are planning to return in 2017. Their new WSC car will be called Apollo VIII. There have been signs of construction. A car reveal is promised for 30 June.

TR AMBER  Istanbul Technical University 

This team came 17th in the Challenger class at WSC 2013. They are planning to return in 2017. They also raced in the 2016 ESC, coming 7th. They built a cruiser in 2015, but did not race it at WSC. I understand that they have gone back to the Challenger class this year. There have been signs of construction.

TR RED  Sakarya University (SAITEM) 

They are planning to compete in WSC 2017. Their new WSC car will be called SAGUAR.

GB AMBER  Cambridge University 

This team came 22nd in the Challenger class at WSC 2015. They are planning to return in 2017. They also raced in the 2016 ESC, coming 10th. Their 2013/2015 design may be competitive under the new WSC rules. There have been signs of construction.

GB AMBER  Durham University 

This team came 27th in the Challenger class at WSC 2015. They are planning to return in 2017. They have, I understand, modified their 2015 car for this year’s race. However, their main focus seems to be exhibiting the car within the UK.

US GREEN  Iowa State University (PrISUm) 

This is a new team in the WSC Cruiser class for 2017. They came 7th in the 2016 American Solar Challenge. Their new WSC car is called Penumbra. They have already revealed their new car.

US AMBER  Massachusetts Institute of Technology 

This team came 23rd in the Challenger class at WSC 2015. They are planning to return in 2017. Their new WSC car will be called Flux. There have been signs of construction.

US AMBER  Principia Solar Car Team 

This team came 17th in the Challenger class at WSC 2015, and 5th in the 2016 American Solar Challenge. They are planning to return to WSC in 2017. Their new WSC car will be called Ra X. There have been signs of construction. They also intend to race at FSGP 2017. A car reveal is promised for 3 July.

US AMBER  Southern California Solar Car Team 

This is a new team in the WSC Challenger class for 2017. They are recruiting team members. Their car will look like this. There have been signs of construction.

US AMBER  Stanford Solar Car Project 

This team came 6th in the Challenger class at WSC 2015. They are planning to return in 2017. Their new WSC car will be called Sundae. There have been signs of construction. A car reveal is promised for 1 July.

US AMBER  University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign 

This is a new team in the WSC Challenger class for 2017. There have been signs of construction.

US GREEN  University of Michigan 

This team came 4th in the Challenger class at WSC 2015, and 1st in the 2016 American Solar Challenge. They are planning to return to WSC in 2017. Their new WSC car will be called Novum. Their team number (2) is a long-standing tradition. There have been signs of construction. A car reveal is promised for 7 July.

US AMBER  University of Minnesota 

This team came 5th in the Cruiser class at WSC 2015, and 10th in the 2016 American Solar Challenge. They are planning to return to WSC in 2017. Their new WSC car will be called Eos II. Their team number (35) is a long-standing tradition. There have been signs of construction. A car reveal is promised for 11 July.

This post last updated 10:36 on 24 June 2017 AEST