12 June 2007

Stochastic Resonance: Non-Quotidian Carbon Ejector---Sending the Boogey-Molecule to Oblivion

Carbon Dioxide has become a molecule to be feared by lightweight intellects the world around. And although at this time lightweight intellects far outnumber the heavyweight variety, there are still enough deep and rational thinkers to devise solutions to many problems--even that of the boogey-man molecule that is become death, the destroyer of worlds.
the idea proposed by Alfred Wong of the University of California, Los Angeles, at last week's meeting of the American Geophysical Union, in Acapulco, is about as lateral as they come. Dr Wong reckons the problem is not so much that CO2 is being thrown away, but that it is not being thrown far enough. According to his calculations, a little helping hand would turn the Earth's magnetic field into a conveyor belt that would vent the gas into outer space, whence it would never return.

The site of the conveyor Dr Wong is proposing to build is the Arctic. More specifically, he is suggesting it be over one of his workplaces, the High Power Auroral Stimulation facility near Fairbanks in Alaska that he set up 20 years ago to stimulate and study artificial auroras.

... His idea starts with the fact that CO2 molecules like to team up with loose electrons, to form CO2 ions. A few percent of the CO2 molecules in the air manage to find such electrons. As a result they become negatively charged.

The second piece of luck is that all over the Earth there is a constant vertical electrical field. The surface and the atmosphere form a giant battery, as the lightning discharges of thunderstorms demonstrate. This field tends to make negatively charged ions, such as those of CO2, drift upward. At first this happens slowly, because collisions with other molecules keep throwing the drifting ions off course. But after a few days they arrive at an altitude, about 125km up, which is so rarefied that an ion can move freely about. This is when the last stage of their one-way trip into space begins: sailing along the magnetic field of the Earth.

High in the polar regions, the lines of magnetic force point almost straight upwards. When a charged particle is in a magnetic field, it tends to travel along that field's lines of force, spiralling as it goes. In the case of a CO2 ion at an altitude of 125km, it spirals round 17 times a second.

... The leg-up he proposes comes in two stages. First, he has to ionise more CO2. There are many ways this might be done, but for a first experiment Dr Wong proposes zapping dust in the atmosphere with powerful lasers, to release electrons that can then combine with CO2. Having created the ions, he will then nudge those that have drifted upwards to the appropriate height with radio waves of exactly 17 cycles a second, which will give them a nice stock of energy at the beginning of their spiralling phase.

Once they are there, Dr Wong expects the incoming stream of charged particles that cause auroras to deliver the bonus that will make the whole thing work, by dumping some of their energy into the spiralling as well. This should happen through a process called stochastic resonance: the spiralling molecules get preferential treatment, so to speak, because they stand out in what is otherwise an environment of random movements.

One cannot help but admire Dr. Wong's ability to combine a strong imagination with a facility for logical chaining. Such problem-solving thinking--almost lateral thinking--is in short supply in science, as in most other human endeavors. And yet it is lateral thinking that is most likely to take the best of humanity into the next level.

For whatever reason, lateral thinking is not taught in schools as a matter of course, though it should be. If it were, far less human energy and capital would be wasted on faulty CAGW GCM models, and other politically inspired pseudo-science.

Hat tip Green Watch.

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