May 14, 2014

COSMOS - A Spacetime Odyssey

COSMOS Season One Episode 7  The Clean Room 

A great way to see how the Oil industry made it possible for lead to be spread throughout the atmosphere for 20 years after it's toxicity to humans was a proven fact. We know nothing has changed. The Oil Coal and Natural Gas industries have so much money and power that the facts showing how detrimental CO2 is to our planet are effectively negated. Rubio and Paul are so well paid for their "climate change is a hoax" declarations they have sold their souls and the lives of their grand children in order to maintain their political positions and power. We know what they are doing and we still can't stop or even slow them.

This episode is centered around how science, in particular the work of Clair Patterson in the middle of the 20th century, has been able to determine the age of the Earth. Tyson first describes how the Earth was formed from the coalescence of matter some millions of years after the formation of the Sun, and while scientists can examine the formations in rock stratum to date some geological events, these can only trace back millions of years. Instead, scientists have used the debris from meteor impacts, such as the Meteor Crater in Arizona, knowing that the material from such meteors coming from the asteroid belt would have been made at the same time as the Earth.
Tyson then outlines the work Patterson did as a graduate under his adviser Harrison Brown to provide an accurate count of lead in zircon particles from Meteor Crater, and to work with similar results being collected by George Tilton on uranium counts; with the established half-life of uranium's radioactive decay to lead, this would be used to estimate the age of the Earth. Patterson found that his results were contaminated by lead from the ambient environment, compared to Tilton's results, and required the construction of the first ultra-high cleanroom to remove all traces of environmental lead. With these clean results, Patterson was able to estimate the age of the Earth to 4.5 billion years.
Tyson goes on to explain that Patterson's work in performing lead-free experiments directed him to investigate the sources for lead. Tyson notes how lead does not naturally occur at Earth's surface but has been readily mined by humans (including the Roman Empire), and that lead is poisonous to humans. Patterson examined the levels of lead in the common environment and in deeper parts of the oceans and Antarctic ice, showing that lead had only been brought to the surface in recent times. He would discover that the higher levels of lead were from the use of tetraethyllead in leaded gasoline, despite long-established claims by Robert A. Kehoe and others that this chemical was safe. Patterson would continue to campaign against the use of lead, ultimately resulting in government-mandated restrictions on the use of lead. Tyson ends by noting that similar work by scientists continues to be used to help alert mankind to other fateful issues that can be identified by the study of nature. 

Scientist Robert Kehoe was bought by Oil Companies to advocate the use of lead

We manage to limit the burning of some coal in the US only to have coal companies plan to spend billions to railroad the coal to the west coast and then ship it to China. That really doesn't solve the problem. There is no safe place to burn it. Last night's segment of YEARS OF LIVING DANGEROUSLY - tells the story of Washington's Republican Governor trying to get his state to reduce emissions. But his own party tries to sabotage his efforts. With idiots like Rand Paul and Rubio saying that all this warming and CO2 data is some kind of hoax the political divide and political solutions are problematic. Selfishness and greed of the present population trump any consideration for the future generations.  SEE 

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