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Telescopes Useless by 2050?

Zonk posted more than 8 years ago | from the sad-day-that-will-be dept.

163

Wellerite writes "Gerry Gilmore, from Cambridge University, has told the BBC that ground-based telescopes will be worthless by 2050. This is due to more and more cloud cover caused by climate change and increasing numbers of aircraft vapour trails. It seems to be time to start preparing to launch more orbit-based telescopes."

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163 comments

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Nothing for you to see here. Please move along. (5, Funny)

drinkypoo (153816) | more than 8 years ago | (#14838441)

Most appropriate delivery of that message EVER.

Shut the fuck up (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14838473)

You've been here long enough to know how badly that tired joke has been beaten into the ground. It wasn't funny to start and it's just retarded at this point.

Re:Shut the fuck up (0, Troll)

drinkypoo (153816) | more than 8 years ago | (#14838537)

You've been here long enough to know how badly that tired joke has been beaten into the ground. It wasn't funny to start and it's just retarded at this point.

I also have been here long enough to know that 99.44% of all AC comments are pure fucking stupidity, just like yours is, but I still respond to them.

I have an agenda outside humor in bringing up that message. You should never fucking see it. Slashdot has all the sophistication and grace of a three-rotor difference engine made out of bologna and cheese whiz. The managers of the site are well aware of the problem, so I figure the only way to get them to fix it is to keep them embarrassed indefinitely. Of course, they probably don't have enough pride to feel ashamed, or else a lot of things would have been unfucked on this site a long, long time ago... But I keep trying.

Or in other words, go fuck yourself. Thankyew.

Re:Shut the fuck up (1)

pete-classic (75983) | more than 8 years ago | (#14838636)

Mmmmmm. Bologna and Cheese Whiz. *Drool*

Wait, did I miss a point?

-Peter

Re:Shut the fuck up (1)

lucabrasi999 (585141) | more than 8 years ago | (#14838665)

Slashdot has all the sophistication and grace of a three-rotor difference engine made out of bologna and cheese whiz.

But /. web pages have really cool colors!

Re:Shut the fuck up (1)

drinkypoo (153816) | more than 8 years ago | (#14838719)

Slashdot has all the sophistication and grace of a three-rotor difference engine made out of bologna and cheese whiz.

But /. web pages have really cool colors!

So will a combo of bologna and cheez whiz, if you leave it out long enough...

Hooray for stupid moderators (0, Offtopic)

drinkypoo (153816) | more than 8 years ago | (#14839535)

A troll is when you say something you don't believe in order to elicit a desired response. My above comment is not a troll, it is a flame. THIS comment is also not a troll, NOR is it a flame - it's offtopic.

Re:Shut the fuck up (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14838640)

So that's why you modded it as funny. *me ducks*

What do you mean?! (1)

G3ckoG33k (647276) | more than 8 years ago | (#14838571)

I think you are a bit dim. Please be more clear.

Re:What do you mean?! (1)

fm6 (162816) | more than 8 years ago | (#14838643)

It's all smoke and mirrors....

I find'em pretty bloody useless in 2006! (2, Funny)

Philip K Dickhead (906971) | more than 8 years ago | (#14839245)

What with the use of upstairs window blinds, and one-way polymer coatings, and what not. A bloke's not half as liable to spot a bird on the wing, as in the old days, what?

But, Cor! Look at the knockers she's got!

Re:What do you mean?! (1)

shellbeach (610559) | more than 8 years ago | (#14840710)

Sheesh, can you all just stop clouding the issue??

Re:Nothing for you to see here. Please move along. (1)

AdmiralWeirdbeard (832807) | more than 8 years ago | (#14839813)

Can we slashdotters just never, ever, refer to global warming as "climate change" ever again?
I know that not all of us here area as environmentally minded as me, but at least everyone here can recognize the sillyness of calling global warming something that could just as well apply to a fucking ice age, right?
I mean, just because you dont want to sound like a dirty hippie is no reason to be so imprecise with your language.
its global fucking warming, ok?

Re:Nothing for you to see here. Please move along. (1)

G-funk (22712) | more than 8 years ago | (#14840205)

Erm, no. Because global warming isn't the threat. Climate change is the threat. We're just as fucked if it drops 5 degrees as we are if it climbs 5 degrees.

Re:Nothing for you to see here. Please move along. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14840470)

Why do I have the feeling that you're all for politically correct euphemisms when they're describing something you like, or want to protect?

As much as I can tell...escope (5, Funny)

JDSalinger (911918) | more than 8 years ago | (#14838447)

As much as I can tell, scoping out babes from a distance will continue to be the standard for Slashdotters far past 2050.

Re:As much as I can tell...escope (2, Funny)

ObsessiveMathsFreak (773371) | more than 8 years ago | (#14838785)

It's true. Already through the wonders of astronomy we can enjoy 450MB images of Ursulas. Imagine what the future will bring!

First Prime Factorization Post (1)

2*2*3*75011 (900132) | more than 8 years ago | (#14838461)

At least integer factorizations won't be worthless by 2*5*5*41.

What would society want more. (3, Insightful)

Drakin030 (949484) | more than 8 years ago | (#14838477)

You either give up your cheap trips to Majorca, or you give up astronomy. You can't do both
I am sure the fat lady at walmart driving her H2 wouldnt give a shit about astronomy.

Re:What would society want more. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14838530)

And that's the problem with America. Fat ladies driving H2s. Nothing else wrong with it. At all.

Re:What would society want more. (1)

binarybum (468664) | more than 8 years ago | (#14838538)

huh? do weight, vehicle type, and location where one buys her toilet paper correlate with an interest in astronomy?

  Is this a joke with a reference that I'm failing to associate?

Re:What would society want more. (1)

Pantero Blanco (792776) | more than 8 years ago | (#14838670)

He was saying that the average person probably cares more about doing whatever they want in their life than astronomy, and they aren't willing to give up perks such as gas-guzzling vehicles for it. The field could disappear overnight and most people wouldn't care, because for the most part, people are shortsighted.

The "fat lady driving a hummer" is a popular negative stereotype of the common person that (like many stereotypes) didn't exactly appear out of nowhere.

Re:What would society want more. (1)

ceoyoyo (59147) | more than 8 years ago | (#14840924)

If you can buy a hummer (if you can even get FINANCING for a hummer) you're not the common person.

If by common you mean spoiled upper middle class person, then I'm with you.

Could be a joke but more likely... (1)

narftrek (549077) | more than 8 years ago | (#14838686)

a liberal ecofreak troll reference to the fact that us Americans are fat, wasteful, materialistic boobs whose culture will eventually be the downfall of mankind. An opinion that I won't fully agree with. There are much worse types to be called I suppose. Those parent-poster-type people would feel the Earth would be much better off if we crushed all of the technology we have and return to a pre-Industrial revolution society for the good of the planet and the three flippered platypus. In thier minds doing so would rid us of global warming, corporate greed, and the multitude of diseases that seem to pop up overnight. It's ok if you didn't get the joke/troll. It wasn't funny either way.

Re:Could be a joke but more likely... (3, Insightful)

drinkypoo (153816) | more than 8 years ago | (#14838875)

a liberal ecofreak troll reference to the fact that us Americans are fat, wasteful, materialistic boobs whose culture will eventually be the downfall of mankind. An opinion that I won't fully agree with.

I'm one of those type of people. I don't think we need to give up our technology. I know people like that, and I think they're pretty lame. You can't maintain a large population without technology. Of course, most of those people are planning for the aftermath of a crash of civilization, not working to actually improve what we have here.

What we need to do is use our technology. There's technology decades old that we're not using today because corporations are able to lobby politicians to feed 'em pork and step on their competition for them. Rudolf Diesel ran his first demo engine on peanut oil but here we are burning dino juice. We could be using oils extracted from hydroponically grown algae - topsoil-based fuels are damaging to the environment.

However, I agree that the fat chick in the H2 is an excellent example of the conspicuous consumption that's contributing to the destruction of the biosphere. Or at least, noticable changes that are making things worse for living organisms that we're interested in, not least of all ourselves. For example, humans put out like 500 times as much CO2 as volcanoes every year. The system is self-balancing, sure, but part of that balance may involve crushing humans, if we keep going the way we're going.

The H2 is a heavy piece of shit that's good for nothing whatsoever. The best "off-road" feature is that it's got locking differentials, which you can get for just about anything that's not front wheel drive. It's just a fucked over rebadged tahoe. And being fat means you're eating too much, or the wrong things, but usually too much. Food has to come from somewhere. Agriculture has done more damage to the biosphere than anything else, ever. Egypt used to be green! And meat - which I happen to belive in - with our current methods of food production, it's horrible as well. Overgrazing leads to the depletion of native grasses which hold down the topsoil. This leads to the soil washing away into rivers. This causes the rivers to be choked with silt, causing fish to die. Once enough of the dirt washes away, it means that less rain can soak into the soil, so more of it runs off, leading to increased flooding.

Still think the fat chick in the gas-guzzling H2 is AOK?

ObDisclaimer/Disclosure: I am a 320lb. American male who occasionally eats fast food. I drive a 1981 MBZ 300SD, which is a 3500 lb turbo diesel 4-door sedan getting 25mpg real-world mileage. (I got 26.25 on my last tank, actually, but it tends to bounce between 24 and 26 depending on driving habits.) I intend to convert my fuel system to heat and inject WVO, but it's not free...

Re:Could be a joke but more likely... (1)

Drakin030 (949484) | more than 8 years ago | (#14839042)

Dude thankyou. Im glad someone views this the same way I do.

Re:Could be a joke but more likely... (1)

vandelais (164490) | more than 8 years ago | (#14839203)

"And meat - which I happen to belive in - "

I believe in meat too, but what about the fat chick in the 1981 MBZ 300SD? Is that your girlfriend?

Re:Could be a joke but more likely... (2, Insightful)

Sparr0 (451780) | more than 8 years ago | (#14840696)

I think its hilarious when people keep track of fractional mpg. I am a valet, and I see brand new F350s with digital mpg gauges reading "14.95". It is like a small child telling you they are "five and three quarters years old!", such a miniscule amount that the fraction matters. I get 45 MPG (yes, 45. Not 45.1, not 45.27349.) on a mixed commute and normal daily driving, and I would get 50 if I ever bothered to have my seals replaced. Anyone driving a vehicle that gets less is being irresponsible, AND wasting money. And mostly endangering my life, but that's another matter.

Re:Could be a joke but more likely... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14840766)

Fuck that. I'm an American, I love technology, I think commoditization is the best thing since sliced bread, and I think this country would be better off without the sort of fat, stupid, slob described by the OP.

And yes, H2 drivers disproportionately fall into that group.

Re:What would society want more. (1)

njchick (611256) | more than 8 years ago | (#14838778)

Until the oceans flood Majorca. And that Walmart. And the gas station. And her house.

No shit (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14838872)

By 2050, our civilization will already have crumbled and we'll be in the new Dark Ages -- the result of the global wars fought over oil and religious intolerance. Astronomy will be the least of our worries. This isn't some Nostrodamus shit; just a reasonable extrapolation of Bush's current policies.

I don't believe this (4, Insightful)

Eightyford (893696) | more than 8 years ago | (#14838481)

Maybe ground based telescopes will not be as efficient 50 years without taking into account advances in technology, but I doubt that they will be obsolete. And what about the huge telescopes that are being planned today? They aren't going to be built where cloud cover will make them obsolete.

Anyways, I guess a little more cloud cover and vapour trails combined with "light pollution" will make today's designs less efficient, but I can't see how there is any way that ground based telescopes will become obsolete.

Re:I don't believe this (1)

CanSpice (300894) | more than 8 years ago | (#14838792)

If there are clouds you can't see through them. You can make the telescopes as efficient as you like, but if there's too much cloud (or, for some wavelength bands, water vapour) in the way, it doesn't matter how efficient you are because you won't get any photons hitting your detector.

It's not that simple. (4, Interesting)

jd (1658) | more than 8 years ago | (#14838810)

The scattering from air pollution is random and localized. It is going to be hard for computers to compensate for such stuff. It's bad enough to compensate for relatively uniform atmospheric distortion.


Secondly, light pollution isn't just a localized problem. Light bends and reflects in the atmosphere very effectively. So much so, in fact, that the moon is still very clearly visible in a full lunar eclipse (it has a rusty brown colour) and car headlights are forever being mistaken for UFOs at a distance.


Personally, I think we should have giant space telescopes anyway. Enough of the 9' junk we call Hubble, we need a good 100' optical space telescope. The mechanisms we use to compensate for atmospheric effects should work just as well for the distortion in space due to dust and crystalline particles in interstellar clouds.


Actually, the way I'd do it is to have a set of giant space-based telescopes on a polar orbit around the moon such that they were always visible from Earth. Less atmospheric drag, so won't have as many problems as Hubble, and the orbit is much less crowded.

Re:It's not that simple. (1)

Eightyford (893696) | more than 8 years ago | (#14839089)

Interesting. I guess I just find it hard to believe that 50 years worth of pollution can have a large enough effect (or is it affect?) on ground-based telescopes as to make them obsolete.

As for the 100' optical space telescope in orbit around the moon. I hope we have the technology and funding for that withing my lifetime, but I can't see that being too cheap!

Who cares about cheap? (1)

jd (1658) | more than 8 years ago | (#14839220)

The US Government just has to make sure to seize the credit card company's computer under Eminent Domain afterwards.

Re:It's not that simple. (2, Funny)

DrMrLordX (559371) | more than 8 years ago | (#14840950)

Effect was correct, no need to doubt yourself.

. . . whoa, I'm like the Grammar un-Nazi over here.

Re:It's not that simple. (1)

DerekLyons (302214) | more than 8 years ago | (#14839990)

Actually, the way I'd do it is to have a set of giant space-based telescopes on a polar orbit around the moon such that they were always visible from Earth. Less atmospheric drag, so won't have as many problems as Hubble, and the orbit is much less crowded.
Actually, a telescope in lunar oribit has just as many problems as Hubble - because lunar orbits are unstable. This means that you need active propulsion systems for any kind of useful orbital lifetime.

Re:It's not that simple. (2, Insightful)

ceoyoyo (59147) | more than 8 years ago | (#14840908)

The worst light pollution tends to be in fairly specific bands (such as from sodium street lights) and can be removed with filters. General skyglow can be removed fairly effectively digitally. Light pollution is undesirable, but it's not going to make ground telescopes obsolete.

Large telescopes also tend to be built high on mountains, both because there's less atmosphere to look through, but more importantly because they're above the clouds.

Big space telescopes would be cool all right, but it's kind of tricky... how do you launch a 100' mirror?

Antarctica? (2, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14838488)

According to the article: A location has not been decided; but, despite the difficulties of access, Antarctica may become an option. The icy region has relatively clear skies, with a climate that is somewhat separate from other continents, and, crucially, is free from overflying commercial jets.

Re:Antarctica? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14838503)

have fun bathing in uv radiation

Re:Antarctica? (1)

lucabrasi999 (585141) | more than 8 years ago | (#14838634)

with a climate that is somewhat separate from other continents

Yes, and a climate that happens to include a significant portion of time well below freezing. IANA Astronomer, but temperatures that cold would probably have an impact on the mechanics of a telescope.

Re:Antarctica? (1)

KingArthur10 (679328) | more than 8 years ago | (#14838930)

Typically telescopes are kept near freezing anyway with heater element on the lenses and mirrors. That's why it's so nice to have control rooms that are seperate from the telescopes. Considering the hubble is kept at much colder temperatures than antarctica , I don't see it being a problem.

Re:Antarctica? (2, Informative)

Tango42 (662363) | more than 8 years ago | (#14838954)

Actually cold is good for telescopes - it reduces the amount of infra-red the telescope and surrounding objects emit so there's less interference. I expect it's more of an issue with radio scopes than optical, but I know a lot of effort goes into cooling telescopes (and we're talking liquid helium, not just nitrogren - very cold!).

How in heck can that work? (1)

r00t (33219) | more than 8 years ago | (#14840553)

Sure, you'd like it cold for the sensor, but then you have worse problems.

Once you open the dome for observations, you allow outdoor air to come in contact with indoor air. You're going to get turbulence and fog. If you put a layer of glass in the middle, you get dew or even frost. (and you still get turbulence, because the glass will be either warm or cold and thus not equal to the air on one side or the other)

Re:Antarctica? (1)

jazir1979 (637570) | more than 8 years ago | (#14838963)

the centre of Australia is a much better option.

Re:Antarctica? (1)

AlterTick (665659) | more than 8 years ago | (#14838989)

Yes, and a climate that happens to include a significant portion of time well below freezing. IANA Astronomer, but temperatures that cold would probably have an impact on the mechanics of a telescope.

Hubble, being in orbit, sees lower temperatures (and greater variations of temperature) than anything at the south pole ever would. There's nothing in terms of engineering that prevents the building of a telescope in sub-zero temperatures.

Re:Antarctica? (1)

gorbachev (512743) | more than 8 years ago | (#14838639)

Additionally it has this big ass ozone hole overhead, so it'll be even clearer. Gotta wear SP-500 ultraviolet protection though, but hey, gotta sacrifice something for science, eh?

SP-500 (2, Insightful)

FuzzyDaddy (584528) | more than 8 years ago | (#14838699)

Given that you need to do astronomy in the winter when there's no sun, it's probably not an issue. That and exposed skin has other problems in Antartica besides sunburn...

Re:SP-500 (1)

SydShamino (547793) | more than 8 years ago | (#14838839)

Right, but you do maintentance on the telescope in the summer, when it is somewhat safe to actually travel there. Anyone who hunkers down with the telescope over the winter, if anyone, would just be there to fix the parts that can't take the cold.

Re:Antarctica? (2, Insightful)

tukkayoot (528280) | more than 8 years ago | (#14838819)

Yeah, but Antartica is located on the bottom of the world. We won't be able to see anything from there!

Re:Antarctica? (1)

mph (7675) | more than 8 years ago | (#14839000)

Yeah, but Antartica is located on the bottom of the world. We won't be able to see anything from there!
You joke, but there's some truth to the statement. Specifically, half of the sky is never visible from Antarctica (i.e. the northern celestial hemisphere).

Perhaps with a satellite internet connection... (1)

TCQuad (537187) | more than 8 years ago | (#14838884)

despite the difficulties of access

You don't necessarily need to be at the telescope to control the telescope [sonoma.edu] .

Re:Antarctica? (1)

caffeination (947825) | more than 8 years ago | (#14838976)

Perfect! Then, when we have to fill in the intergalactic insurance claim form for Earth, we can say that the hole in the Ozone layer was put there for the purposes of science!

Simple Solution (2, Funny)

vertinox (846076) | more than 8 years ago | (#14838516)

Very large electric fans.

WTF?!? (5, Insightful)

itwerx (165526) | more than 8 years ago | (#14838517)

It seems to be time to start preparing to launch more orbit-based telescopes.

Er, yeah, let's treat the symptom and ignore the cause!

Re:WTF?!? (2, Insightful)

nasch (598556) | more than 8 years ago | (#14838725)

So astronomers should stop being astronomers and instead fight growing air travel and global warming? Or should they maybe work around their external limitations and find ways to keep being astronomers? I don't think the article implied that nothing should be done about any of the problems mentioned.

Re:WTF?!? (2, Insightful)

nizo (81281) | more than 8 years ago | (#14838955)

It seems to be time to start preparing to launch more orbit-based telescopes.

Or better yet, moon or mars based telescopes. The happy side effect is that a few astronomers will survive for awhile on the moon/mars after the earth becomes uninhabitable.


Actually if you think about nearly every problem we have, we almost always concentrate on the symptoms instead of the cause. Which brings us back to why a few astronomers on the moon/mars would be a good thing....

Re:WTF?!? (1)

itwerx (165526) | more than 8 years ago | (#14840057)

Which brings us back to why a few astronomers on the moon/mars would be a good thing....

Heh, mod parent Insightful! :)

Re:WTF?!? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14840690)

I think the first lunar settlements will be primarily inhabited by robots. There is no reason why a lunar-based telescope, which incidentally is a good idea, can't be entirely automated.

Evil Alien Conquerors! (1, Funny)

justanyone (308934) | more than 8 years ago | (#14838525)

I, for one, welcome our new Alien Overclouds!!

Oh NOES! (1)

SetupWeasel (54062) | more than 8 years ago | (#14838576)

Nothing helps a cause more than disingenuous sensationalism.

Remember, in 50 years deserts and mountains won't exist because of GLOBAL WARMING!!!!!1!

Re:Oh NOES! (1)

LeonGeeste (917243) | more than 8 years ago | (#14838611)

No no no, you have it reversed. Deserts will be eliminated by global cooling, the coasts will simultaneously be flooded due to global warming, and the mountains will be the only places above sea level. (Like most doomsayers, I'm going to hope you don't notice how I'm claiming the planet will warm and cool at the sime time in violation of the laws of entropy and heat conduction.)

Re:Oh NOES! (1)

nasch (598556) | more than 8 years ago | (#14838744)

You know that parts of the planet could get warmer while other parts get cooler, right? You're just intentionally setting up a straw man?

Re:Oh NOES! (1)

LeonGeeste (917243) | more than 8 years ago | (#14838773)

Um ... first, learn what a strawman is. Please. If you can't cite precisely how the argument I attacked differs from the argument presented, it's not a strawman. "Strawman" is not a generic catch-all term for "flawed argument", k? If you think the planet could warm in some places and cool in others, my argument directly applies, and it's not a strawman. I know, you were just being careless, but it really hinders communication.

Second, no, the earth can't, unless you implement planet-scale insulation. The heat in the hotter areas must bleed through to the cooler areas. Laws of thermodynamics, kid. Now, if you focus solely on a system in its transient state, then you can simultaneously cool one part and heat another, but you can't keep that up indefinitely.

Re:Oh NOES! (1)

mrpeebles (853978) | more than 8 years ago | (#14839024)

> Now, if you focus solely on a system in its transient state, then
> you can simultaneously cool one part and heat another, but you can't
> keep that up indefinitely.

The planet is, what, 4 billion years old. I'm not expert on this, but for the sake of argument, I would guess that the timescale of a "transient state" of the planet could be thousands of millions of years. In any case, the Earth is of course not a thermodynamically closed system, which complicates applying the laws of thermodynamics, and we do have planet-wide insulation- the atmosphere is not entirely uniform, and the ground and water confuse everything as well. Just as an example, look at the moon. As I recall, the surface facing the sun is very, very hot, while that away from teh sun is very, very cool since there is no atmosphere to insulate the surface. I don't know if a doomsday scenario is possible where the planet has different areas warm and cool, but you sure can't argue that it obviously can't happen from the principles of thermodynamics. In fact, in my experience, very few things are obvious from the principles of thermodynamics :-).

Not Just Deserts & Mountains (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14838650)

Remember, in 2050, swimming pools will be rendered useless since the oceans will be in everyone's backyards!

Re:Oh NOES! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14838818)

IN 50 YEARS global warming won't exist because of a cataclysmic atomic-tsunami-chernobyl-graygoo-asteroid from out past URANUS!

Re:Oh NOES! (1)

Pharmboy (216950) | more than 8 years ago | (#14839028)

"Lela: Thank god nuclear winter cancelled out global warming"

I get no traction trying to speak to others about global warming either. The idea is considered blasphomy that it may simply be part of a larger cycle, that the earth gets warmer, then cooler, regardless of what we humans are doing. I have no idea, but for so many to ignore it shows the true agenda. I would LOVE to know the truth, instead of having "dirty hippies" tell me I am a horrible human for even asking the question.

For many (not all) it is about anti-capitalism and controlling others. Misery loves company, and there really are millions out there who think they are smarter than the rest of us, and think we should all live like they want us to live, whether we want to or not. Personal freedom is fine, as long as you agree with them and do exactly what they tell you.

Ironically, the Barbara S.'s of the world are great to TELL you how to live, but not willing to live the same way. I guess you don't have to follow your own rules if you are rich and smart enough.

So in the mean time, it is impossible to know what is really going on with the atmosphere, because of the BS flowing liberally (pun intended) from certain camps, as well as the reality that we have VERY LITTLE objective data over 100 years old.

Re:Oh NOES! (1)

Nataku564 (668188) | more than 8 years ago | (#14839400)

For many, including me, its an issue of taking the safest path. As you said, we dont know if its just a cycle of the earth, but it is far safer to assume it is us causing the shift. If it isn't, then our changes will have no effect, and - oh darn, we guessed wrong. If it is us, and we dont stop, then it may be too late to stop by the time enough people realize it.

I am attempting to make this planet as habitable as possible for future generations, and I dont see the concessions as being so grave as to justify all the fuss.

Safest path (1)

XanC (644172) | more than 8 years ago | (#14839654)

The safest path argument is compelling, but others are more concerned about the safest path for preserving freedom.

Re:Safest path (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14839876)

So your "freedom" to dump waste into our environment takes precedence over my "freedom" to have a habitable planet?

Re:Oh NOES! (2, Insightful)

SetupWeasel (54062) | more than 8 years ago | (#14840131)

I believe that we need to reduce pollution as much as we possibly can. That said, I am tired of people on the right and the left trying to scare people into believing their argument.

Strong regulations against pollution will not destroy America. On the other hand, the apparent warming of the Earth will not incinerate us all.

There are many people invested in the idea that we alone are to blame for this "crisis." Respected scientists publish graph after graph showing that the temperature is rising with the rise of CO2 levels. These same people ignore that Mars appears to be warming too. [space.com] Maybe, just maybe, we stumbled upon a coincidence. It is time to put some focus on the Sun's luminosity.

Does this mean that we should lower emmission standards? Of course not. There are many other good reasons to ensure our air, water, and soil are clean. However, I'm tired of being told half-truths and lies. The claims of this Professor are complete nonsense and only give opponents of responsible environmentalists ammunition.

Peak Oil will solve the pollution crisis (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14838595)

With oil reserves now on the decline we'll see a steady deindustrializing over the next century, which includes the gradual reduction of air pollution. All these doom and gloom scenarios of pollution and over population never take in to account that the human race is really limited by fossil fuel reserves.

Re:Peak Oil will solve the pollution crisis (1)

LeonGeeste (917243) | more than 8 years ago | (#14838687)

Don't worry; these guys are easy to handle.

Hey Peak Oil nutbag, if you're so absolutely sure there's going to be an oil crisis and you know exactly when it's going to happen, why haven't you bought oil futures dated then?

Okay, done, y'all can ignore him now.

Re:Peak Oil will solve the pollution crisis (1)

nasch (598556) | more than 8 years ago | (#14838761)

Because... there's no other way we could ever produce energy? Are you trolling, or do you really think we'll go back to an agrarian society?

Re:Peak Oil will solve the pollution crisis (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14838961)

Because... there's no other way we could ever produce energy?

Petrochemicals are needed for high yield farming (fertilizers/insecticides) and sustaining the nearly 7 billion on earth. As they decline, so does the human race.

You don't get it (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14838599)

It seems to be time to start preparing to launch more orbit-based telescopes.

No, you don't get it. Instead it might be time to think about stopping to pollute our planet like that.

Hawai'i close to capacity (1)

lucabrasi999 (585141) | more than 8 years ago | (#14838697)

Professor Gilmore said sites where observatories are located, such as the Canary Islands, Hawaii and South America, are also attractive holiday destinations, and likely centres for future air traffic growth.

While there may be problems with future air traffic growth around the world, Hawai'i may not necessarily be involved in those problems. According to this article at CNN [cnn.com] Hawai'i is close to capacity. There may or may not be significant growth in air traffic to the islands.

Re:Hawai'i close to capacity (1)

Wellerite (935166) | more than 8 years ago | (#14838945)

Doesn't matter too much about Hawai'i airport itself - there are a lot of routes that go above or near Hawai'i. In fact if an aircraft is landing / taking off from Hawai'i, then unless it is circling around at high altitude waiting for a time to land then it's unlikely to leave vapour trails.

Re:Hawai'i close to capacity (1)

lucabrasi999 (585141) | more than 8 years ago | (#14839894)

Actually, not many routes would pass near Hawai'i, unless the plane was flying to or from one of the Islands. Many Trans-Pacific routes take a much more northerly route (those to and from the US, anyway). You may see some US/Aussie routes go near Hawai'i, but those to and from Japan/China/Korea tend to stay way north.

This is Pure BS (2, Insightful)

wsxyz (543068) | more than 8 years ago | (#14838701)

There is no way that ground-based telescopes are going to become "worthless" by 2050. This is just a false sensationalist claim intended to stir up trouble.

It is possible that cloud cover will increase in some places, and I can believe that jet contrails reduce the visibility of astronomical objects, but unless cloud cover increases to 100% over the entire surface of the earth and/or atmospheric jet travel increases by many orders of magnitudes, there will still be plenty of cloudless night sky on the planet earth in 2050.

Light pollution will probably be a bigger problem for ground based astronomy over the next 50 years.

Re:This is Pure BS (1)

Wellerite (935166) | more than 8 years ago | (#14838922)

"Worthless" means that it isn't worth building them because they can only be used a small percentage of the time. No-one is suggesting that there will be 100% clouds over the earth - just enough clouds to make it a complete lottery to get a good night for observation.

Complete and utter rubbish... (0)

DiamondGeezer (872237) | more than 8 years ago | (#14838735)

...by someone who should know better.

Fifty years ago, we had fogs in London that persisted for weeks. Now we don't

What are the causes of this sudden problem with telescopes according this overqualified idiot?

1. Global warming/climate change (the cause of all the world's ills, apparently) which is making it cloudier...but wait! Making it cloudier will reflect more energy back into space, making it cooler. WE'RE ALL GOING TO DIE!

2. Cheap airflight. Apparently cheap airflight means more planes which means more contrails, which as you know persist for ages. That's why environmentalists always go first class so that they're paying for their own pollution when they reach the destination of the next conference on climate change to protest about how much fossil fuels are being used for Mr and Mrs Q. Public going to Miami for a week.

And this blocks out the light needed for ground based telescopes that are a) situated ABOVE the clouds and b) are not on flightpaths.

But hey! The BBC got another ridiculous scary story out and another PhD climbed onto the gravy train.

Never mind the facts, feel the sincerity.

Re:Complete and utter rubbish... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14838805)

Wow - someone didn't read the article. I point you to the following bits:

Professor Gilmore said sites where observatories are located, such as the Canary Islands, Hawaii and South America, are also attractive holiday destinations, and likely centres for future air traffic growth.

and:

"We know from satellite imagery that clusters of contrails can last for two days. If carried by the upper jet stream through the troposphere, they can travel hundreds of kilometres."

Re:Complete and utter rubbish... (2, Informative)

CanSpice (300894) | more than 8 years ago | (#14838821)

And this blocks out the light needed for ground based telescopes that are a) situated ABOVE the clouds and b) are not on flightpaths.


I have two points to make here.

One: clouds go pretty high. The telescopes on Mauna Kea in Hawaii are situated at ~14,000 feet. They get clouded out relatively frequently, roughly 20% of the time.

Two: Contrails form in the atmosphere. The atmosphere moves. Therefore contrails move, and can affect locations where there aren't any flightpaths.

There's a silver lining (4, Funny)

Captain Lou (904174) | more than 8 years ago | (#14838767)

THe upside to this is of course all those massive lenses and mirrors will be coming on the market.

Evil Geniuses planning to build a super laser and extort the world for billions of dollars on a budget rejoice!

Re:There's a silver lining (1)

SB5 (165464) | more than 8 years ago | (#14839761)

THe upside to this is of course all those massive lenses and mirrors will be coming on the market.

Evil Geniuses planning to build a super laser and extort the world for billions of dollars on a budget rejoice!


Alas due to inflation that will be like asking for 1 million dollars in 1997.

Ground based telescopes out, Ground based lasers.. (1)

Roskolnikov (68772) | more than 8 years ago | (#14838863)

In,
Pulse high energy weapons grade lasers out of the telescope to 'clear' a path to see, if they're strong enough birds, planes and satellites be damned.

seriously, this is more the sky is falling crap, shifting weather patterns will render some locations unusable while others might become better,
this has been a problem for locations such as Palomar, when it occurs they retask and/or devise a new technical method around the clutter.

I can tell you from first hand experience that amatuer astronomers will travel to great lengths to get better seeing conditions.

Skepticism is well and good, but... (1)

jettoki (894493) | more than 8 years ago | (#14838940)

...but from first-hand and second-hand experience, this is definitely a problem.

My father is an artist who used to work on Air Force jets in the 50s. He's been watching the sky for 50 years, and he was one of the first in our state to even mention the problem of contrails. I don't care what you skeptics say; the farther you travel from major air traffic, the bluer the sky.

And if any of you are amateur astronomers, you probably didn't need this article to tell you about this problem. 'Seeing' has become progressively worse over the past 10 years, at least in the States. Light pollution is only part of the problem. Moisture in the high atmosphere is what we should be worried about.

Re:Skepticism is well and good, but... (1)

pease1 (134187) | more than 8 years ago | (#14839814)

I think much of this is poppy cock. Light pollution was suppose to make ground based observing useless a decade ago.

I've been a very active and skilled observer of the night sky for over twenty years. Just recently I looked over my observing logs from 15 years ago and noted I was out observing about the same number of nights and seeing roughly the same detail through the telescope that I'm seeing today.

If the conditions are such for clear skies, then the moisture from contrails aren't a problem because the water vapor doesn't stay in the atmosphere anyway. If it's bordline, sure the moisture is there to some what, but if that's the case, it's likely there naturally anyway.

And besides, the BBC is the last news source I'd trust when it comes to anything about climate change. Their agenda is so clear it might as well be printed on the reporter's forehead.

And if any of you are amateur astronomers, you probably didn't need this article to tell you about this problem. 'Seeing' has become progressively worse over the past 10 years, at least in the States.

And beside, no offense intended, but if you really knew about visual (and imaging) astronomy, you'd use the right terms. 'Seeing' is the measurement of how steady the air is. Transparency is the term that is used to describe how clear the sky is.

Ground-based scopes are old technology (1)

gansch (939712) | more than 8 years ago | (#14839043)

How much are we really learning from ground-based telescopes as opposed to satellite telescopes at this time? For real scientists (not your backyard user looking at the stars), will this really affect their current and future research?

I don't think so. There is already a push for satellite telescopes, so this development may speed up the transition, but will not be the sole incentive.

Hmmm, what does this remind me of? (1, Offtopic)

Spy der Mann (805235) | more than 8 years ago | (#14839360)

"it was us who scorched the sky."

nature of research (5, Insightful)

bcrowell (177657) | more than 8 years ago | (#14839384)

I did physics research for a few years as a grad student and postdoc, and one thing I learned was that 95% of all research (including 95% of my own) was correct but unimportant. If scientists have access to incremental improvements in technique, they'll still keep on writing grant proposals, taking on grad students, and publishing papers, but very little of the scientific output will be all that earthshattering. All the really big exciting results tend to come out when some new technique is found. In physics, a good example is the groundbreaking experiments (like the discovery of the nucleus) that happened once the Curies purified radium. In astronomy, Galileo's introduction of the telescope itself to astronomy led to a huge amount of progress in a short time.

If there's observing time available on a 10-meter ground-based telescope, you'd better believe there will be competition for that observing time, and papers will be published. But if really amazing things are going to be discovered, it's probably going to come from techniques that are a big leap ahead of what we have now, like telescopes in space. Telescopes in space can have apertures as big as you like without buckling under their own weight, they can probe parts of the spectrum that don't get through the atmosphere, and they're not affected by issues like clouds and contrails.

I don't find it hard to believe that contrails could be a major issue. Every time I go backpacking and spend a lot of time in a remote spot in the Seirras looking up at the sky, that's what I see a lot of -- jet contrails. If ground-based astronomy is already being pushed to the limits of what it can do, then presumably they're often working at levels of sensitivity a gazillion orders of magnitude beyond the naked eye, so I can easily imagine that contrails that would appear to the naked eye to have completely dissipated could be an issue.

Re:nature of research (1)

Witchblade (9771) | more than 8 years ago | (#14840271)

If there's observing time available on a 10-meter ground-based telescope, you'd better believe there will be competition for that observing time, and papers will be published. But if really amazing things are going to be discovered, it's probably going to come from techniques that are a big leap ahead of what we have now, like telescopes in space. Telescopes in space can have apertures as big as you like without buckling under their own weight, they can probe parts of the spectrum that don't get through the atmosphere, and they're not affected by issues like clouds and contrails.

If the cost of building and operating a telescope in space were the same as on the ground then this would be dead on - all the advantages are above the atmosphere. But it's not. You can't have apertures "as big as you like" in the real world. The launch costs are, er, astronomical for even a small telescope. And what most people forget is that a research telescope is more like a fighter jet than a television set: an hour of observing by one astronomer requires ten hours or more in maintanence by a small army of technicians. Until we have a permanenet manned workforce in orbit or on the moon it will still be more affordable to build gigantic telescopes on Earth instead of small ones in space. Except for wavelengths that you can't observe from the ground.

I don't find it hard to believe that contrails could be a major issue. Every time I go backpacking and spend a lot of time in a remote spot in the Seirras looking up at the sky, that's what I see a lot of -- jet contrails. If ground-based astronomy is already being pushed to the limits of what it can do, then presumably they're often working at levels of sensitivity a gazillion orders of magnitude beyond the naked eye, so I can easily imagine that contrails that would appear to the naked eye to have completely dissipated could be an issue.

You're right. Contrails have a surprisingly drastic effect on climate. This was shown [cnn.com] pretty well over the days that flights in the US were all grounded immediately after the September 11 terrorist attacks.

I don't have a reference, but I've heard several times that the temperature of of Pheonix, AZ drops by 15 degrees Fahrenheit everytime there's a power outage. That additional 15 degrees the rest of the time is heating from all of the air condioner exhaust. Astounding how easy it is to make drastic changes to the (local) climate.

Re:nature of research (1)

DreamerFi (78710) | more than 8 years ago | (#14840971)

But that 95% still needs to be done. After all, the most interesting phrase in research is NOT "Eureka!", it is "that's odd.."

orbit-based?? (1)

M0b1u5 (569472) | more than 8 years ago | (#14839420)

"orbit-based"?

That's a stretch. Given that an orbit is highly dynamic, how can something be "based" on it? A base implies a solid foundation: something "on orbit" most definitely is not.

What on earth is wrong with "orbiting"? (No pun intended)

Jesus, it's like listening to American TV interviews, when people say "at this time", or "at this moment" when what they mean is "now".

But I guess there a lot of people to whom brevity and clarity mean diddly squat. *sigh*

Now the rest of the world will live like Seattle (1)

WillAffleckUW (858324) | more than 8 years ago | (#14839585)

It's overcast and cloudy here nine months of the year, so if you want to use a telescope, you have to be really lucky, or use it during the summer months.

Great! (1)

east coast (590680) | more than 8 years ago | (#14840758)

Seeings as where my eyesight will be nearly gone by 2050 and my skin is too light for much sun this is the best news I've heard in a long time.
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