Disclaimer

The opinions expressed here are well-reasoned and insightful -- needless to say they are not the opinions of my employers

15 October 2007

Death without disequilibrium

We are all doomed.

We live in a 5 km thick layer of vapor at the surface of a 12,750 km sphere that, so far as we know, is the only oxidizing environment in the universe.

We can die from too much water or from too little water or from too much oxygen or too little oxygen.

At sea level or river level you are vulnerable to floods, at altitude you are vulnerable to gravity.

There’s aridity in Arizona, tornadoes in Texas, flooding in Florida, hurricanes in Hawaii, nor’easters in the north east, winter storms in Wisconsin, volcanoes in Vancouver, and in California the crust is moving simultaneously in more directions than the Governor.

But what are the alternatives? Our atmosphere and hydrosphere are, molecule by molecule, atom by atom, leaking off into space, and an Earth with no earthquakes and volcanoes (i.e., a cold, tectonically dead Earth) would no longer replace those gases (see Mars, Moon, Mercury, basically all of the M-worlds). Life needs an active world, one with outgassing volcanoes.

Storm activity not only brings water to the middle of continents, it is part of the processes that bring some thermal equilibrium to the planet. Greenhouse heating turns the atmosphere over, moving water vapor from the oceans to the continents, heat from the tropics to the poles, and prevents those pesky 250 degree day-night temperature variations. For planets with life, look for clouds and rain and storms and high winds. Just ask the Venusians.

Life is, and thrives on, disequilibrium, whether it is chemical, thermal, or gravitational. All of the universal plots to kill us involve, in one way or another, a reduction in disequilibrium and an increase in entropy.

Equilibrium is calm, quiet and deadly.

1 comment:

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