Tuesday, March 30, 2010
Shit is Getting Classy
This is Wally. He is famous. He is awesome.
I have always wanted to do a live blog, and today we will try to take the plunge. Follow along from 1:10 to 2:25, as I write from the back row in Wally Broecker's "Carbon Cycle" class. He is super famous and an incredible teacher, but that is no match for my complete lack of dignity. The lecture will be on Iron Fertilization and Climate Change. GLOBAL WARMING!? What is this, A MYTHOLOGY CLASS!!?
1:02 PM-Computer is connected, and it's time to live blog some science. WOOOOOOOO! Wally just told me that only 50% of weather reporters believe in global warming. POLAR BEARS REJOICE, HUNDREDS DEAD.....NEWS AT 11.
1:05 PM-Wally had a delightful weekend! He spent 2 hours grading our midterms! The class immediately goes silent as if he announced that half of us will not survive this class. Granted, in the sense of GPA, that would be partially correct.
1:10 PM-Today's class will now be on nutrient cycling. What is a Happy Days fan's favorite element? FONZ-PHOR-US! (/slits wrists)
1:14 PM-The class is a mix of grad students and undergrads. They are just like us, but with 75% more tweed jackets! In other news, Florida State University fired their entire environmental science department, Wally says. They need to stop sampling ice cores, and start learning to throw a football. Though looking at most scientists, perhaps they should try kicking/waterboy first.
1:19 PM-The residence time for ocean elements is calculated by Volume/Flux from rivers, and is very important for CO2 absorption in the ocean. The residence time for a history major in his parents' basement, meanwhile, is too large to calculate.
1:23 PM-"Black Smokers" are vents at spreading centers in the ocean which many think are the location of the substrate for life formation. I was going to say that Dick Cheney's soul is also a "Black Smoker", but everyone knows that--while the color is right--the inner recesses of his being are cold and dead.
1:30 PM-I just got up to close the window because of noise from outside trash vans. The lab where we have class is directly next to a trash center. Putting something that should be useful next to a noisy, disgusting wasteland is the same logic that put Yale in New Haven.
1:36 PM-As an aside, my thesis is on making surfaces more white to mitigate urban warming (white reflects more radiation). Now the Republicans have environmental justification for the color of every single person in their party!
1:45 PM-Increased subduction of continents leads to dissolution of Calcium carbonate (limestone), which releases CO2 into the atmosphere. This partially explains the periods of extreme warming in Earth's history. My favorite environmental event:
660 million years ago, high rates of weathering and stalled ocean circulation led to encroaching ice sheets, which enveloped the entire globe--this is called Snowball Earth. After millions of years of mile-thick ice sheets near the equator, volcanism released CO2 which raised the temperature and rescued the planet from a Mars-like ice coffin. The surviving organisms were so few that they had an extreme evolutionary advantage, and life developed at unprecedented rates. This is called the Cambrian Explosion, where all life on Earth has its origin.
As an aside, after this period, trees evolved and colonized land. Without the regulation of herbivores (animals did not eat plants until later), so much carbon was sequestered in terrestrial biomass (this is where most of our coal comes from) that the Earth went into another minor Snowball Earth. Earth history goes through more fluctuations than Oprah's bathroom scale.
1:50 PM-Famous author Arthur C. Clarke invited Wally into his house in Sri Lanka. Clarke said he lived there for tax purposes, but Wally lets us know that the truth is that the authorities were minimal and the young boys were plentiful. Sad pandas who used to be fans of 2001: A Space Odyssey fill the classroom.
1:58 PM-Wally thinks that the long-term cooling in the last 50 million years can be attributed to the evolution of more established plant roots after the asteroid collision that killed the dinosaurs. In another 50 million years, Snowball Earth could be a possibility. You see, guys! Burning fossil fuels is a service to future generations! By the time Jesus comes back, the North Pole will be like a pleasant sauna ALL THE TIME.
2:10 PM-Wally told a story about a genius post-doc who developed a method using Boron isotopes to measure ice sheets. After earning his doctorate, the genius (who happens to be Indian) could not get a job despite a glowing letter. Wally says it is evidence of extreme discrimination against Indians in academia. So the genius went into business instead, and is now a millionaire many times over. In other words, SUCK IT RACISTS.
2:17 PM-He just mentioned a question we got wrong on the midterm, and said "DUMMIES!" Now, it needs to be explained that Wally is one of the nicest people on the planet. He is also an authority on the top end of the intelligence spectrum. This is like being called smart by Sarah Palin.
2:25 PM-That's all, folks. Another amazing class by Wally, and I did well on the midterm. PUT THIS SHIT ON THE FRIDGE, MOM. Thanks for reading, and I hope you have a wonderful day!