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 48 solar car teams that are likely to be entering in the World Solar Challenge this October, with updated links to their social media ( ), donation websites ( gold coins ), 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. Teams are sorted first by country, and then by name.

In spite of the 2017 rule changes, Aachen, Adelaide, Antakari, ANU, JU, SAITEM, and Twente are using the kind of asymmetrical Challenger-class design that has done well in past competitions, while 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 are already 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.

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 are already signs of construction.

AU RED  Flinders University 

This is a new team in the WSC Cruiser class for 2017.

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. There are already signs of construction.

AU GREEN  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 are already 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. There are already signs of construction.

CA GREEN  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 are already signs of construction.

CL GREEN  Antakari Solar Team 

They are planning to compete in WSC 2017. There are already 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.

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.

EG RED  Zewail City Solar Car Team 

This is a new team for WSC 2017.

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. There are already signs of construction. They also participated in the Somabay Egyptian Solar Challenge in March.

DE GREEN  Sonnenwagen Aachen 

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

HK RED  Hong Kong Institute of Vocational Education 

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

HU AMBER  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 GREEN  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. There are already 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.

JP GREEN  Kogakuin University 

This team came 2nd in the Cruiser class at WSC 2015. They are planning to return in 2017. There are already signs of construction.

JP AMBER  Nagoya Institute of Technology 

This team came 16th in the Challenger class at WSC 2015. They are planning to return in 2017.

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 RED  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.

MY GREEN  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 are already 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. There are already signs of construction. They also participated in the Somabay Egyptian Solar Challenge in March.

NL GREEN  Solar Team Eindhoven 

This team came 1st in the Cruiser class at WSC 2015. They are planning to return in 2017. Their team number (40) is the Eindhoven telephone area code. In December 2016 they had hoped to set a world record by driving 620 miles on a single charge, but this attempt had to be cancelled. However, they did visit the Bay Area in January. There are already signs of construction.

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 will be called Red Shift. Their team number (21) is a pun and a wish for success in the race (“Twente-One”). They held a competition to pick a name for their new car, and have also revealed their new design. There are already signs of construction.

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.

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. There are already signs of construction.

SK RED  Solar Team Slovakia 

This is a new team in the WSC Challenger class for 2017.

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 are already signs of construction.

SE AMBER  MDH Solar Team 

This is a new team in the WSC Challenger class for 2017. They seem to have gone through several design iterations. There are already signs of construction.

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. There are already 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.

GB AMBER  Durham University 

This team came 27th in the Challenger class at WSC 2015. They are planning to return in 2017. They will be modifying their 2015 car for WSC 2017.

GB RED  Solar Team GB 

This is a new team in the WSC Cruiser class for 2017. They have made a data collection trip to Australia.

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 will be called Penumbra. There are already signs of construction.

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 are already signs of construction.

US GREEN  Missouri S&T 

This team came 4th in the 2016 American Solar Challenge. Having raced in the 2001 World Solar Challenge, they are planning to return to WSC in 2017. There are already signs of construction.

US GREEN  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 are already signs of construction. They also intend to race at FSGP 2017 (presumably with an older car).

US RED  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.

US GREEN  Stanford Solar Car Project 

This team came 6th in the Challenger class at WSC 2015. They are planning to return in 2017. There are already signs of construction.

US GREEN  University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign 

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

US AMBER  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 team number (2) is a long-standing tradition.

US GREEN  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 team number (35) is a long-standing tradition. There are already signs of construction.

This post last updated 17:28 on 30 April 2017 AEST