Just How Screwed Are We If Thwaites Glacier Collapses? | Lightning Round
Wanna hear something crazy? This is the last day of January and… this is the first video I’ve recorded in 2022.
Yeah, I went on a recording spree in early December so that I could enjoy the holidays but also so that I could do some upgrades on my studio here, I’ve got a new camera, a new switcher, a few other things that there’s no way you care about and if I’ve done my job, there’s no way you can tell I did any of it.
I’ve also got a lot of new production equipment to shoot better sketches, which I had one last week and you guys gave me a lot of great feedback on that, which I appreciate.
Point is, this is the official start of 2022 for me, and I’ve got a lot of exciting things in the pipeline but first I’m going to kick it off with a fun little lightning round video featuring questions from Patreon.
As always if you want a deep dive video on any of these topics, just let me know in the comments and that could totally be a thing. Either way, let’s do this.
John Regel – December – Discord
Wouldn’t life be objectively better if we started daylight savings in March and never “fell back” in the fall?
Dude. Yes. I am completely with you on this.
Daylight Savings Time is one of those things that we started doing a hundred years ago that made sense then, but not so much now. Like…_____
It was originally meant as a way to save on fuel and energy costs during the war years in the early 20th century, the idea being that if we pushed the time back so the sun would be out later in the day, people wouldn’t need to use as much power to light and heat their homes.
But this whole switching back and forth thing… It’s actually kinda dangerous.
It messes with people’s sleep cycles and this is kind-of a crazy fact but apparently heart attacks go up 24% in the week following time switches in the spring. It goes up in the fall as well but not by as much.
I’m not a morning person but it’s kinda wild that just changing your sleep pattern by one hour is enough to kill some people.
But if you’re more of a money guy, the financial markets usually take a hit in the week after a switch too.
So some people have started proposing getting rid of daylight savings time but, as John points out, there’s also a movement to make it permanent.
Like it’s January when I post this so basically we just wouldn’t “spring forward” in March.
There’s a lot of good reasons for this, first of all going back to the energy savings, the fact of the matter is, more people are awake to take advantage of that extra hour of sun in the evenings than in the mornings.
It would make the evening rush hour less fatal because people wouldn’t be driving home in the dark. A study by Rutgers said we could save 343 lives per year.
Crime would go down because more crimes are committed in the dark of night than in the dark of morning.
And it would give an extra hour for recreation, which helps not just mental health but physical health.
James Younger, DDS – January – Patreon
How do we actually know the observable universe is expanding at its edges?
I mean, information can only travel to us at the speed of light, so any images/information
we receive at the edges of the observable universe are of course billions of years old.
I get the idea of red-shifting – but if you can imagine an astronomer in 1000 years, peering out, how do we know they won’t suddenly start detecting blue-shifting at the edges – like the edges are starting to rush towards us instead of away from us?
Or how do we know that, at the edges there isn’t a galactic monster chomping away at those distant galaxies?
You know what I mean? I keep hearing everyone say with certainty “The observable universe is expanding….must be dark energy pushing this!” But I just can’t find out the basis for this certainty when all the information we receive from the edges is really really old.
Okay, so that was only a small part of his overall question, but to save time I’m just going to flash it up on screen and you guys can pause the video and read the rest of it. Here you go.
(post full question above)
So there’s a lot to unpack here and not a lot of time to talk about it in this video so let me start with my best understanding and we’ll see how this goes.
Dr. James mentions red-shifting in the question, that of course is the phenomenon where light that is traveling away from us shifts red on the light spectrum, light coming toward us shifts blue, sometimes called negative redshift.
And we’ve learned from looking at thousands of galaxies over the years that the further away from us they are, the more they are redshifted, so the further away they are, the faster they are moving away from us.
By the way we know this because of a supernova called a type 1A supernova that explode in very predictable ways and produce light with a specific wavelength so we can use that as the baseline when we find one in these galaxies. Depending on how redshifted the supernova light is, we know how fast the galaxy is moving away from us.
So as we look deeper and deeper into the universe, that light redshifts so far it slides into the infrared spectrum, which is why the Webb Space Telescope is designed primarily for infrared.
And the best explanation we have for why more distant galaxies are traveling away from us faster than closer ones is that space itself is expanding everywhere in all directions.
You can imagine two pieces next to each other on a checkerboard, if the size of the squares doubled, the pieces right next to each other would only move a little bit, where the pieces on the other side of the board moved really far away because all the squares between got bigger.
And it’s thought that past a certain point, galaxies are moving away from us faster than the speed of light. Relatively speaking, they aren’t moving through space faster than light, but the expansion of the space in between is pushing them away from our position faster than light.
Meaning their light will never reach us. And we will never know they are there.
Now the question mentioned the possibility of maybe seeing that light blue-shifting and moving back towards us. That sounds a lot like the Big Crunch, the idea that the universe would eventually collapse down on itself due to gravity, but the math seems to show that the universe has already expanded past the point where the mass in the universe and the gravity from it could possibly do that.
But, maybe as Webb and other big telescopes come online, we’ll get a better idea of what’s exactly going on out there on the edges.
Fishtail – January – Patreon
I was talking to an associate who has run in a couple of unsuccessful bids for Lieutenant Governor on an independent ticket.
He told me that the 14th amendment protects our privacy. The 14th amendment prevents the government from making laws that reduce our liberties.
I honestly don’t know if there is a written definition or set of statutes that define privacy as a liberty. Regardless of whether privacy should or should not be a liberty, is it currently defined as one?
This is way outside my expertise. This is like hiring a plumber to ask him about 18th century French poetry.
No offense to the plumbers who are also Jacques Autreau fans. Sorry, Larry.
But based on a very limited amount of research on my part, it looks like privacy isn’t specifically mentioned in the constitution but the 14th Amendment has a clause known as the privacy clause that has been used in cases involving privacy.
The full text of the 14th Amendment contains 5 sections, the privacy clause is in the first section and reads No State shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States; nor shall any State deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law
The privacy clause of the 14th amendment has been used to make judgements in the Supreme Court relating to whether you can teach children foreign languages (Meyer v Nebraska – 1923), whether married couples can use contraception (Griswold v Connecticut – 1965), whether it was legal to view pornography in your own home (Stanley v Georgia – 1969), whether you have the right to refuse life-saving treatments (Cruzan v Missouri – 1990), or whether you have the right to engage in homosexual activity (Lawrence v Texas – 2003).
And if I may opine for just a moment, we hear a lot about how our freedoms are being taken away these days but I think it’s worth remembering that once upon a time, somewhere in the United States you could be arrested for doing any of these things.
Yes, you could get arrested for being gay in the United States until 2003.
So yeah, this clause has been used in many wide-ranging applications but the one you’re probably thinking of is privacy in the age of the internet, and that’s still something that’s being worked out from what I can tell.
There was a landmark decision in 2018 where a guy was arrested after police tracked his location info from his phone without obtaining a warrant. This was ultimately ruled unconstitutional in Carpenter v US.
Of course law enforcement agencies have been getting around this by just buying your data from data brokers the same way marketing companies do, because in the age of social media, we are the product. And the customer is whoever has the money to buy it. Even the government.
I know there are stricter rules on the books in Europe, whereas China is going the other direction and is basically a surveillance state.
So which direction we go, I guess we’ll see. But like I said I’m not an expert here.
By the way, you may be hearing about the 14th Amendment a lot these days because it was one of the amendments passed at the end of the civil war and Section 3 has a provision saying any elected officials that engaged with rebellion against the United States would be prohibited from serving in congress after that, and some are using that against congressional members who helped incite the capitol riot on January 6th last year. It probably won’t go anywhere though.
John Regel – January – Discord
Our eyes evolved to be sensitive to a narrow band of light we call the optical band because that represents the Sun’s peak output.
With the drastically different-looking cosmos in other wavelengths, what societal implications could you imagine if the Sun was 10% more massive (optical band shifted toward the UV) or 10% less massive (optical band shifted toward the IR)?
(Sorry joe, I know we touched this in a video once but I’m convinced we’d have religions worshiping the thing in the sky 6x larger than the full moon that we call Andromeda. Color me curious about what you can imagine.)
This is a super interesting question but it’s kinda impossible to answer without knowing how we would experience those things.
I did a video a while back about what it would be like if we could see all the wavelengths of the electromagnetic spectrum if you want to go check that out but to me one of the most interesting possibilities would be if we could see infrared light because then we could see heat signatures coming off each other.
So you’d be able to see at a glance if someone has a fever, or is lying or embarrassed.
Like the way we blush, it’s a subtle thing now but if we could see infrared it would be glaring and obvious and I feel like socially that would change a lot of things.
Like would we all be equipped with a kind of lie detector? Would lying and deception be basically impossible? Or would we evolve to control our body temperature to counter that?
What if we evolved to send signals to each other by rushing blood to the surface of the skin in patterns that send messages like human cuttlefish?
But to your point about belief systems, I imagine the constellations in the sky would have totally different names and shapes because we’re seeing other stuff that we can’t see now, obviously that would have affected at least ancient religions.
It’s an interesting question, like I’ve always wondered what kind of religious beliefs would have come about if the Earth had rings, because depending on where you are on the planet, you would experience the rings very differently.
Like the further north and south you go, the more they become an arc across the horizon, but if you’re at the equator it would just be a line that bifurcates the sky.
There would be calendar days that relate to when the sun crosses the rings or reflects off of them in certain ways, there may be long periods of darkness or at least reduced light when the sun goes behind the rings, this might cause different seasons… It’s fun to think about.
Brian Beswick – january – Patreon
So Brian pointed me to an article from MIT dated January 5th titled, “Physicists watch as ultracold atoms form a crystal of quantum tornadoes” (beat) Imma repeat that slowly.
Physicists watch. as ultracold atoms… form a crystal… of quantum tornadoes.
Sure, I’m qualified to talk about this.
Basically, if I’m reading this right, the researchers were wondering if quantum particles would behave differently at ultracold temperatures, by that I mean down to like 100 nanokelvin.
So they did that with a cloud of about a million sodium atoms, and then confined them with an electromagnetic field and spun them, and what happened was they immediately formed into a long, needle-like structure.
And then, according to the article, “The needle began to waver, then corkscrew, and finally broke into a string of rotating blobs, or miniature tornadoes — a quantum crystal, arising purely from the interplay of the rotation of the gas, and forces between the atoms.”
Do you know what this means? (beat) Because I don’t.
Richard Fletcher, one of the researchers on the project said, “This crystallization is driven purely by interactions, and tells us we’re going from the classical world to the quantum world,”
So basically these atoms were in a state where classical interactions should have been suppressed and it should have behaved in a quantum superposition, but they didn’t.
And this makes us have to rethink where the line is between quantum and classical physics. I’m sure someone in the comments has a better educated explanation of this. Please enlighten all of us.
Mark Hoffman – January – Patreon
Where does “hardware” end and “software” begin?
Doesn’t anybody want to know my favorite color? It’s teal. Obviously.
I mean, maybe I’m using the wrong definition of hardware and software but I think of the hardware as the actual physical parts of the computer and the software is the code, the ones and zeros that are stored on the hardware.
I guess in that way software is more of a concept than a physical thing. Like a story is made up of words and letters and a book is what those words and letters are printed on…
Is this basically a question about how information is stored in a computer? Like physically how that works? Because that is definitely something we never think about but has a big impact on our lives. (think about it)
I may have to get back to you on that one…
Robin Tennant Colburn – January – Patreon
If Thwaites lets loose, has anyone created models for the immediate coastal impact when the “breach” occurs?
How fast, how bad, how soon could it happen and is there a good chance it won’t or won’t soon? Is there a “plug-in” model to crunch the numbers?
So to answer your specific question about plug-in models, no I couldn’t find anything like that but if somebody knows of one please share it in the comments.
But yeah, we’ve been hearing a lot about the Thwaites glacier lately and for good reason, let me give a quick primer for anybody that’s not familiar.
The Thwaites glacier is a massive glacier in Antarctica about the same size as Florida and it’s dangerously close to collapse, possibly in the next 5 years.
Scientists recently sent a submarine under the ice shelf at the foot of the glacier, this is what bumps up against a continental ridge and basically acts like a doorstop holding the rest of the glacier back.
And yeah, what they saw was way worse than they were expecting, it was thinner than they thought, there were obvious fracture points, this is a process that’s already started.
So if this ice shelf breaks apart, it would basically set the rest of the glacier in motion and send it pouring out into the sea. All of this ice set loose in the ocean could raise global sea levels by 1-2 feet.
That wouldn’t happen overnight, it’s a glacier, it moves at glacial speed, but losing the ice shelf would speed it up big time.
For example they used to think it would be 2100 before we saw that level of ocean rise but this might make it closer to 2050 or 2060.
And one to two feet is bad enough, but once that glacier ice melts into the ocean, that could raise the sea level 6 to 8 feet. Which we could see by 2100.
And just to add an extra dash of yikes to the whole thing, just like the Thwaites ice shelf is holding back the Thwaites glacier, it’s thought that losing the Thwaites glacier could trigger a loss of most of the entire West Antarctic Ice Sheet.
And this could add up to 11 feet of sea level rise when all is said and done.
Considering that 40% of the world’s population lives in urban areas near coastlines, that will be a massive problem.
So basically the fate of 3.2 billion people are in the hands of this relatively small strip of ice holding back this massive glacier, which is holding back an even bigger ice shelf… and that strip of ice is crumbling before our eyes.
Now again, this isn’t a next year kind of thing, even if the ice shelf falls apart tomorrow, it would take decades for the glacier to fully flake off into the ocean and even more decades to melt.
But once that ice shelf goes, it’ll basically set forth a series of events that can’t be stopped. It’ll be an event that affects our descendants for hundreds of years.
Unless we manage to drastically lower the global temperature, meaning removing greenhouse gasses from the atmosphere, and do it in the next couple of decades, which not only are we not removing them, or even slowing their growth, we are in fact still accelerating our emissions. 2021 was a record year.
So it’s not like this shelf could collapse and trigger a global tsunami or anything, though some headlines make it sound that way, I saw one headline that described it as a “don’t look up-level event”. That’s a bit of an exaggeration.
But it’s a tipping point. One we don’t really have any way of coming back from. And just another reason our great great grandkids are gonna just really hate us.
I think that’s how we know that time travel will never be possible because if it was, they would be zapping over here and slapping each and every one of us in the face.