SciDay: Climate Report So Bad That Future Is ‘Hard to Describe’

BY Jenny Marder  November 19, 2012 at 2:30 PM EST

A major new report by the World Bank predicts devastating malnutrition from depleted crop yields and rising seawater causing damaging floods with the poorest nations at the most risk if temperatures warm by 4 degrees Celsius (7.2 degrees Fahrenheit) from pre-industrial levels.

That’s the amount of warming that scientists are “unanimously predicting” by the end of the century under current policies, according to the study, which was released Sunday.

Such warming “would be so dramatically different from today’s world that it is hard to describe accurately,” said World Bank President Jim Yong Kim in a forward to the study. “I hope that this shocks us into action,” he said, adding that the World Bank has pledged to aggressively step up its efforts against climate change.

HIGGS DECLARED ‘BORING’ BY PHYSICISTS

In July, scientists hailed the discovery of the long-sought Higgs boson, the subatomic particle thought to endow other particles — like electrons and quarks — with mass. In the video below, NewsHour science correspondent Miles O’Brien provides a quick primer on Higgs, the massive tools used to detect such tiny particles and the 3,000 physicists working on that 80-foot-tall, 140-foot long Atlas detector at Geneva’s CERN lab. (He reports for the National Science Foundation’s* Science Nation series.)


  But since the announcement, the big discovery is proving to be a big yawn, reports the Guardian’s Ian Sample. New Scientist calls it “maddeningly well-behaved.” Simply, it’s not telling us a lot about the universe we don’t already know.

Sample explained in this Discovery News analysis Thursday why evidence that Higgs is nothing but a “standard Higgs boson” would rule out some of the anticipated weirdness that has long intrigued science.

“The thing with physicists is that they love discovering something unexpected, strange or exotic,” Sample writes. “This mindset is what makes physics, and indeed all science disciplines, awesome. But in light of the grand announcement of the probable discovery of the elusive Higgs boson in July, it looks like the particle that was discovered is likely a “standard” Higgs boson. As in, it’s a little bit boring.”

Scientists are not yet ruling out the existence of a “more exotic Higgs,” which, Sample says, could pave the way to a profound new understanding of nature. More here.

View our NewsHour discussion with Sample on the Higgs boson from July 4, the day of the big announcement.


 

For more on the basics of Higgs, Sample explained the science in July using a cafeteria tray, a bag of sugar and colored ping pong balls.

SUN ERUPTS IN SOLAR FLARES

Bursts of superheated plasma spewed from the sun in back-to-back solar storms on Friday. NASA’s Solar Dynamics Observatory captured two solar eruptions in the span of four hours. You can watch the video here.

The explosions sent powerful solar flares, balls of gas consisting of charged particles and magnetic field, into space, but not toward Earth.

The red-glowing material spewing out in the video is “plasma, a hot gas made of electrically charged hydrogen and helium,” reports Space.com, quoting officials with NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center, which oversees the SDO mission.

TWINKIE DEFENSE

With Hostess closing up shop, everyone, including a few trusted science writers, is weighing in on the Twinkie, and it’s stirring up a sense of collective nostalgia on the transfats of American childhood.

The Twinkie has a shelf life of 25 days — much shorter than forever, writes OnEarth editor Scott Dodd. And he makes a plea to “NOT BUY the $5,000 Twinkie on eBay.”

For How Stuff Works, Ed Grabianowski breaks down the many ingredients in the Twinkie made possible by modern chemistry: Monoglycerides, diglycerides and Polysorbate 60 to name just a few.

Here are photographs of those 37 ingredients, shot by photographer Dwight Eschliman.

And the Knight Science Journalism Tracker’s Faye Flam reveals this: that “the original Twinkie filling was banana flavored and became vanilla thanks to fruit rationing during World War II.”

And finally, in other news, here’s what happens when a comic artist explains the world’s most powerful rocket using only “the ten hundred words people use the most often.” It’s awesome.

*For the record, the National Science Foundation is an underwriter of the NewsHour.