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back to article Supernovae blasts shape climate, life on Earth, reckons boffin

A new paper by cosmic ray researcher Henrik Svensmark suggests that the abundance of diversity of biological life on Earth is closely correlated to our planet's proximity to supernovae. Svensmark, a professor of physics at the Center for Sun-Climate Research at the Danish Space Research Institute, revealed his work in a paper …

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Coat

Supernovae effecting our planet ...

That's a bright idea isn't it. (hehe)

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Headmaster

Re: Supernovae effecting our planet ...

Well, yes, it's quite possible that the shockwave from a supernova several billion years ago compressed a cloud of gas and dust in just the right way that it went on to form the solar system, and therefore Earth. A supernova is certainly responsible for the formation of that dust.

Oh, you meant to say "affect"? Carry on then.

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Coat

Interesting Conclusion...

in the "layman's version" link...

"A mark of a good hypothesis is that it looks better and better as time passes. With the triumph of plate tectonics, diehard opponents were left redfaced and blustering. In 1960 you’d not get a job in an American geology department if you believed in continental drift, but by 1970 you’d not get the job if you didn’t. That’s what a paradigm shift means in practice and it will happen sometime soon with cosmic rays in climate physics.

Plate tectonics was never much of a political issue, except in the Communist bloc. There, the immobility of continents was doctrinally imposed by the Soviet Academy of Sciences. An analagous diehard doctrine in climate physics went global two decades ago, when the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change was conceived to insist that natural causes of climate change are minor compared with human impacts.

Don’t fret about the diehards. The glory of empirical science is this: no matter how many years, decades, or sometimes centuries it may take, in the end the story will come out right."

...mine's the one with the April snow on it, thanks.

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Joke

Re: Interesting Conclusion...

"Don’t fret about the diehards. The glory of empirical science is this: no matter how many years, decades, or sometimes centuries it may take, in the end the story will come out right."

I don’t fret about the diehards either but I do fret that the end story, will come right out, after IK Pegasi or Betelgeuse explodes!

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Re: Interesting Conclusion...

"An analagous diehard doctrine in climate physics went global two decades ago, when the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change was conceived to insist that natural causes of climate change are minor compared with human impacts."

It's not a doctrine, it's what the science shows. Even skeptical climate scientists accept a doubling of CO2 causes about 1C global warming. 1C warming is more warming than happened over the entire 20th century. So yes the human component is dominating, we can expect even more warming in the future. And 1C is a very low end figure only supported by a handful of skeptical scientists. Most think the figure is somewhere around 3C.

On the otherhand the vast number of people claiming that a doubling of CO2 causes effectively zero global warming and man can't change the climate are invariably not climate scientists and are preaching pseudo-scientific twaddle.

It seems climate deniers are in the same bed as the creationists: fantasizing about paradigm shifts that simply won't happen. The actually paradigm shift has already passed: creationism used to be the paradigm. "climate changes are natural" used to be the paradigm. The shift was when scientists figured out evolution and man can cause climate change respectively.

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WTF?

Re: Interesting Conclusion...

Anyone who thinks that a harmless gas that has a concentration of less than 0.04% in the atmosphere would lead to catastrophic runaway climate warming is a fruitcake. End of story. I do understand the hype though. Governments love it. It makes them look good, it increases taxes and creates jobs. Education institutions love it, it creates new courses and revenue streams. The media love it, nothing better than a controversial subject to boost readership. And it obviously gives whole hordes of eco-loons a new found 'cause' to dedicate their pitiful lives to instead of concentrating on smoking doobies as they should be doing.

But don't expect rational people to fall for this nonsense. Go sell crazy somewhere else.

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Re: Interesting Conclusion...

"Anyone who thinks that a harmless gas that has a concentration of less than 0.04% in the atmosphere would lead to catastrophic runaway climate warming is a fruitcake."

would you also dismiss the risk 0.04% cyanide in a glass of water?

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Re: Interesting Conclusion...

No of course not. I used the word "harmless". Are you seriously comparing cyanide to CO2? That's supposed to help your case? Strange world.

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Re: Interesting Conclusion...

You appealed to small numbers as if small concentrations of a substance mean the substance has negligible effect.

Ozone concentration in the atmosphere is less than 0.00001%. Yet with that seemingly insignificant amount land life on Earth would burn to a crisp.

400ppm less CO2 and life on earth would die, as well as the planet sliding into an ice age.

You can't just assume an increase to 1000ppm will have negliable effect just because you can express it as a small percentage of total gases.

Over 99% of gases in the atmosphere don't even absorb infrared.

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Thumb Up

Quite intriguing, and a game changer.

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Boffin

Sorry for being thick, but...

From -400m to approx -250m years ago the increase in the number of genera lags the supernova rate: I understand this.

From -250m to roughly -100m years ago the decrease in the number of genera is in advance of the supernova decline: I think I understand this - it could be some sort of mutation rate 'regression to the norm' as the pressure of change from supernovae effects/consequences decreases.

But I don't understand the final spike from -100m years ago until now. Here the number of genera is increasing in step with, but ahead of the supernovae rate. What mechanism is being proposed to explain this?

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Anonymous Coward

Assuming this is true...

Currently, the search for extraterrestrial planets seems to be pretty random. Or I don't know how Kepler chooses its targets, but let's face it - there's an awful lot of space (quite literally) to search. If (and naturally that is a very big if) there is a correlation between supernovae and life, could that be used to pinpoint more likely candidates for Kepler?

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Anonymous Coward

Sooo

heres another idea that may effect climate, that kind of makes sense and yet isn't completely fool proof either....

So, just like every other piece of evidence associated with climate change (one way or the other)

here we have another piece of a jigsaw to a puzzle we don't understand.

we're a curious race of people who charge head long in to our opinions, but how much more will it take for someone to stop the madness and say ok, we don't know whats going on, lets pool resources make the biggest study of its kind with all variables attached to computer models funded by governments and not third party (vested interest) groups who are only answerable to a world wide elected (or random) board and no single nation or company

or something like that anyway

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jai
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as above, so below... who'da thought it?

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??

"When our solar system passes through one of the galaxy’s rotating arms, it is brought closer to exploding supernovae..."

Our solar system isn't some kind of free traveling object that 'passes through' anything. We are relationally locked into our part of the galaxy just as any potential supernovae star that might be near or distant to us. There are relatively few stars or lost planets traveling 'freely' from the rotational momentum of our galactic disk.

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Arms are just density variations

which swirl round the center like the spiral pattern around a plughole... look closely at the spots of muck in the dishwater and they just go round in circles passing through the swirls...

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Boffin

Re: ??

The solar system oscillates above/below the galactic plane, passing 'through' it every 33 million years or so.

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Boffin

"Passes through"

The galaxy's arms are density waves, and all the stars in the galactic disk periodically pass through them. The most everyday example of a density wave is when you are driving along a busy motorway and the traffic abruptly slows to a crawl or stand-still for no apparent reason. Viewed from space at night, it is actually possible to see waves of traffic density moving in the opposite direction to the traffic. Another example is density waves of Guiness moving through the head as it settles.

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Boffin

Re: "Passes through"

If you think about it, a density wave always moves backwards i.e. cars slow down behind the start of the jam and you always move through it. Just in the case of the galaxy there's no 'backwards' to compare it to so we say everything moves through them.

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Bow Shock, Heliopause, Heliosheath, Heliosphere, Termination Shock

Solar wind plus magnetic field, combined with our very own magnetosphere determines how much interstellar wind hits our atmosphere. I find this current thinking very compelling, and would go a long way towards explaining the cyclic nature of climate changes. Sorry for all the links.

Another article from Andrew discussing Prof Rao's observations on particle interaction and Cloud formation: http://www.theregister.co.uk/2011/01/21/rao_cosmic_ray_climate_forcing/

A note from 2008 regarding the 50 year Solar wind minimum:

http://science.nasa.gov/science-news/science-at-nasa/2008/23sep_solarwind/

Finally something that is really interesting that is coming up. Voyagers are getting there. In this link there is a glossary of terms to describe

http://www.nasa.gov/vision/universe/solarsystem/voyager-interstellar-terms.html

And here to Voyager's home site

http://voyager.jpl.nasa.gov/

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Facepalm

Err not only does the solar system pass through the density patterns that comprise the arms it also oscillates up and down in relation to the arms themselves. The Sun's orbit around the galactic centre takes around 250 million years and during one orbit it oscillates up and down 2.7 times. The orbit is not a regular one either as it's perturbed by local mass variations as it passes through.

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I think you are looking more at a scaling issue than any real anomaly. Change the scale so that the blue line is directly on top of, the other line, and they are pretty much in lock-step. Any apparent rise in diversity before the rise in supernovae rate disappears if you include the error bars (i.e., you can shift the genera line to where the peaks follow the peaks in the line for the supernovae rate and still stay within the parameters set by the error bars). You have to allow for some 'static' when you consider that both the genera and supernovae counts are +/- some number and dating the YEAR of those rates is +/- some number. That's why the error bars are as large as they are. This graph shows an astounding degree of conformance between the two rates. Considering the unlikelyhood that genera rates on earth influencing the creation of supernovae, we can pretty well determine in what direction any statistical errors may lie!

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