Monday, 09 December, Anneke Lucassen, Professor and Honorary Consultant in Clinical Genetics,
University of Southampton : What do my genes say about me?
38 people, 1 1/2 hours questions in the main during the talk then some Q&A , Turning Point Polling zappers
(requires local wifi network and laptop)
I've handed out polling zappers. Raising hands can be an effective means but these zappers retain anonymity not
that there will be terribly controvertial questions. Its also a bit of technology to play with.
This talk is part of a public engagement on genetics and ethics that our department is involved
with. What do my genes say about me is a huge topic that I can't give all the answers
to today, a bit of a flavour. The sort of questions I get asked when I see people who get to
know what their family history tells about them. Also the sort of difficulties that we come
across in dealing with more than one person , the relatives of a person asking that question.
Wht are the assumptions made about genetics , what's true about the surrounding hype ,
what's the current reality , some of the terminology , what we can and can't predict in terms
of disease. What difficulties arise concerning personalised medicine which genetics is often
hyped as. Genetic information is familial and how do we manage those dual things.
A few anonymised stories based on real cases to give an idea of what happens in practise
and I'll ask you to vote on those.
Genes come up in lots of ways . A headline from the Telegraph. Adam Lanzer? a teenager in the
states? had gone out and killed various people , and the headline.
Is Evil in our Genes?
He had been so evil that must be due to something in his genetic makeup.
Then a more local headline
Life of Crime is in the Genes a study claims
Then we have an impression of genetics being very scientific , about test tubes , genetic
code that looks very clear-cut and very black and white. Or we get a sense that genetics is rather
hazy , off the point and crystal-ball gazing . We can't predict whether we will be run over by a bus
so what is the point of what our genes may say , a stark contrast to the scientific imagery.
Genes are often associatyed with stigma or discrimination. Its thought that if you had a genetic
test , that your employer will be able to find out what the test says and then sack you or
change your conditions, you might not be able to get insurance , those sorts of isssues.
Recently , the patenting of genes, a complex legal issue , where scientists have tried
claiming bits of genetic code as something they can patent and then only they can
do associated tests. Thats been very important in breast cancer gene testing. The
Angelina Jolie "gene" , for a long time could only be tested by one private USA
company as they had patented that gene. In the UK we ignored that patent for a long time but enven so
there was a lot of wrangling before it was recently overturned.
Then headlines that spur people to enquire at their GP to have genetic tests done. I
work at a genetics clinic , partly an NHS doctor seeing referals of people concerned about
their family history and the other half of my job is as a university employee who does a research
programme on the ethical and legal issues associated with genetic developement.
So headlines such as this
Her mother died of it, her aunt has it , she'll get it too , what about her 2 daughters.
Then this dramatic headline
Gene test spares mother surgery
A woman was about to have both her breasts removed as a preventative option because of her
family history and then the gene test showed that she had not inherited the gene fault and therefore
surgery not required. In Angelina Jolie's case it was the other way around. The test showed she had
inherited it and therefore went for the surgery. That started a heated debate about whether that was a good
or bad thing for her to do.
Polling zappers , the first 4 numbers , once you've voted you cannot undo your vote so have a think
before voting . Pressing a button more than once is excluded from the polling, the first one only
So straw polling of the types of thinking, what you agree most out of these situations.
If a gene test could distinguish between a very high chance of getting cancer , like Angelina
Jolie as a n example of 80% or more chance of breast cancer in her lifetime as compared to
the background population risk which is about 10% . Then would you take the test ,
only take the test if something could be done ie a proven treattment or intervention. The
men have to imagine they are at risk of breast cancer. Would you not want a test as there
is no point in knowing . Or do you not know at this stage and want more information.
50% wiould only take the test if there was a treatment available. a small minority
would not want the test at all. 20% not sure and 26% say they would definitely take the test.
Brilliant, the technology works
Q: Picking up on your point about men only rarely getting breast cancer. Do the same genes come into effect?
My first GP was male and he died of breast cancer in the 1970s. Absolutely right and men can get
breast cancer and when men get it then that is often more of an indiication that there is a gene in
the family, compared to a woman so diagnosed. In a woman the cancer can be a result of chance
, getting older , not necessarily genetic.
To me these days, genettics is sold as very much personalised or stratified medicine, using genetic
code to personalise treatments in a way we could never do before. A lot of publicity and a lot of
funding has gone into this tailoring medicine. But to a certain extent our genetic code is
shared with others . When we have changes in our genetic code usually we have inherited them
or passed them on to our children. My question is wnen and how do we alert relatives when
we know there is something in the family to give them the ability to make informed decisions.
So the family's role or the professionals role in spreading that sort of info.
A pic of a cell , looking to the centre , the nucleus , inside are lots of chromosomes which are
bundles of genetic DNA material that is tightly wound up . Looking at them under greater
resolution , you can unwind that into the long strand of DNA. The DNA is held together by
nucleatides , 4 of them, and the combination of them gives the dictionary of our genetic code.
The combinations of nucleatides sends a message to the body to control the various actions.
We have about 3 billion of these "letters" GATC in every cell in our body with some very rare exceptions.
The combination of all those nucleatides is called a person's genome. Sections of that string
are called genes. The genes were considered to send specific mesages to the body .
The genome is the whole lot together. In a particular gene, the way these letters come together
makes eventually a protein perhaps an enzyme or something else to tell the body what to do.
If you have a fault , a missing bit or an extra bit in your genome, depending on where that lies
that can result in quite drastic effects on that message. Sometimes just 1 letter that is wrong
or missing and end up with a debilitating condition. But if we looked at all the genomes in
the room we would find lots of differences between them . Because 1 in everyt 1000 of these letters
is different. That determines our diffferences, appearance, hair colour , tallness etc.
Somne variations just contriburte to normaless and some cayuse disease.
Its distinguishing which one is which that is crucial in predicting . For example achondroplasia
, dwarfism, is down to a single letter change that result in all the features of achondroplasia.
Putting this variation into context. If I had a twin then the genomes would largely be
identical, broadly speaking. Between my genome and Kate Middleton then we would be
99.9% identical, 1 in 1000 nucleotides , not regularly every 1000, on average, are differnt.
Between me and a chimpanse then 99% identical. And we are remarkably
identical to cabbages , 33% of my DNA is the same as a cabbage.
Its these differences that are used for determining our prevalence to diseases. Over the last 20 years
looking at variations on a genetic level, for example between a disease population
and a control population and seeing which ones are associated and which that aren't.
There are a lot of uncertainties associated with that.
DNA testing for crime analsis, using that variation for the purposes of crime-scene DNA
collection. So say for 4 suspects samples and 1 crime scene sample then only 1 of those
4 has the same as the crime scene sample. Lots of problems with that but it has transformed
all the detective programs on TV anyway.
Its very rare to get a strongly inherited condition and you can have a family history
of a condition but not have it pointing to a single inherited tendency. Thayt is counter-intuitive,
say a family has a lot of history of bowel cancer you are inclined to think that that is an inherited
factor. Often it isn't , but a much more complex explanation . Because some diseases are common, you
may be getting that disease by chance alone or an inherited component.
That single inherited component is rare and its much more usual if you are talking about
diseases like cancer or diabetes or heart disease then any genetic componet is a complex
combination of different gene variations and the environment lived in and neither
on their own is enough to cause the disease but its the interaction. We know relatively
little about those interactions, poor at predicting them well.
So thinking of a complex fruit machine . In a disease like diabetes we are good at saying say a 7
or bar gives an increase in risk but we don't know how they all play together to give the
one disease developemnt . So you may have 8 of those risk factors and never develop
the disease , only with the 9th or tenth that you develop it. Despite the heasdlines, it is that area we are lacking in.
Complicated area of bioinformatics . But the study of DNA is getting faster and cheaper at
phenominal rate. In the last 20 years its got a million-fold faster to sequence DNA
and a million-fold cheaper.
In 2001 3 billion pounds to sequence 1 genome and took many years, the Human Genome Project
and in 2013 you can do a whole genome for about 700 pounds and do several in a day.
That is technicalay the case but it is the interpretaion that lages behind hugely.
People have talked of a 1000 dollar genome but a million dollar interpretaion.
Yes you can do it but you cannot do anything with that information. We are not necessarily helped
by the portrayal of genetics that makes it sound nice and clear cut, black and white.
We have this test -we will know what the future holds for you.
An example of a rare form of inherited bowel cancer. This one determined by a single gene fault.
"John" has been diagnosed withthis bowel cancer at the age of 30 . And because he is so young
that suggests he may have a gene fault because bowel cancer is more common at an older age, 60+.
We do a test and he does have the suspected gene fault . He has 5 siblings , 11 nephews and
neices, 10 aunts and uncles and 23 cousins . The qustion is should they all be told
that he has that gene.
1 for yes, 2 for no and 3 for unsure
majority say yes , none say no and some unsure perhaps thinking it depends on various things
Then supplementary question . Should John be responsible for telling hiis
relatives as opposed to health professionals
Majority say no, a big chunk say yes and a few unsure.
Next question is should health professionals be responsible for telling John's relatives?
They may not be exclusively relevant . At the moment professional guidelines i nthe UK
would say that health professionals can't get involved with contacting relatives out of the blue.
In that sort of case it would probably be doctors because of specific GMC guidelines
that would let doctors do that in certain circumstances as compared to nursing staff, I've been told.
Fro mthe guidelines -contacting someone out of the blue , would undermine their right
not to know about something. Difficult to exert your right not to know. Also practically
quite difficult to find you all with names and addresses and it may be stigma inducing
of the initial patient . A number of things that overlap but none on their
own say thou sjhallt not . In practise John would be told , tell your relatives
and may be given a letter to pass on , but in this country he would not be compelled to provide
a list of names and addresses for us to contact directly .
You are not alone. If I asked this question of members of the public but not my
professional; colleagues then the majority would usually say yes. But professionally
told not to do that. An interesting mis-match that we need to look at more.
What if the gene test showed an untreatable form of bowel cancer. You may have thought it is a
good thing to know because you can be screened for it, a treatment for it . In the gene that John has
, if you identify people early they live 20 to 30 years longer than late identification. That may provide
a strong argument to identify all those at risk but what if it was a condition like Huntingdon's Disease
a form of early onset dementia with movement problems , no treatment but a very
predictive gene test, both confirmation and clearing the risk. Would that change how you would vote
about gene testing?
Q: If the route of cominication to be via the GP , one strategy would be for a standard question on
registering withthe GP to be , in this eventuality , do you wish to be informed. Its likely to become more
common , not overnight , but slowly work it in?
Q: Attitudes to consenting to something like that may vary with context considerably?
I was going to say exactly the same thing , and also what we know from Huntingdon's disease itself
that before the gene test was available we asked people , would they want to be tested and the
majority from Huntingdon's families said , Yes. After the gene test was available , only a tiny
minority went and had the test. So we know that what people say they might do is different to
what they actually do. Its still important to know both . If this arose could they give an informed
decision about that.
Q: Anothe rstrategy would be to sentd them a letter with tear off bits .Such as you have been
identified, do you want to know . Would anyone not tear it off? they all would.
The issue about a right-not-to-know is very difficult . You have to know there is something to
know , to be able to assert your right not to know . Sometimes we can get around these by saying .
We have identified something in your family , do you want to know more.
Q: Huntingdons is inherited but some of the cancers are not?
I'm interested in your opinions where it is definitely inherited, then we can identify at-risk people.
If its not inherited we don't really know if there are increased risks.
Q: Doctors are trained in drugs , they are basically salesmen for the pharmaceutical industry
, therefore presenting a biased problem?
I'm a doctor and I'm not biased in that sense because I don't prescribe anything. I'm not
influenced by the pharmaceutical industry . I've prescribed in the past but in my present role
, nothing to prescribe. What I may be biased in is in what my professional guidance tells
me to do.
Q: Making doctors responsible also meands that you can blame them. Our society
is always looking for people to blame.?
Yes I think that is an important point. A lot of health professionals have said ,
look we can't possibly do this because we don't know where a family ends , endless relatives.
How can that be our duty. A real difficulty in that area.
So this question is asking do you feel differently about that sort of information from
whomever,if its treatable or if its not treatable.
Q: Is it possible for a health professional to offer a service whereby a patient makes
a decision that his family should know , but he himself does not want to do the informing but can
supply na,mes and addresses .
As a genetics service we try to do that , but its thin on the ground. As genetics expands it cannot
be done by just us . The biggest problems arise from just people not getting
around to it, not just saying such snd such. So John's brother later has bowel cancer and then
question is asked, what should we have done differently. That is where we want to tease out , whose role
it is and is there a point at which you stop.
Q: There is the issue of the living-will. You can then take responsibility for your own health . ?
What would you say in your living will.
That you don't want to be treated, be prepared in any eventuality
If in your living-will I've said I don't want my relatives to be told ,m because I don't
like them , or lost contact with them or whatever then do we have a right of veto. or is it
around a gene inherited i nthe family that means they also have a right to know.
Q: How do you deal with people who've been adopted or fostered, who have no idea of their
The adoption agencies are incredibly helpful , if we have some information to pass on, but you
need to find that info firsyt. Often the adopted don't come with the question because they
don't know their family history. We only deal with people who ask the qustion in the first place.
A big chunk of you still think that even if there is no treatment , this is something that relatives
hafe an entitlement to knowing. Not that much difference in size between the yes and no ,
and then some unsure .
I feel the same, its not clear . Its clearer to me that if I know there are people out there in whom
i can prevent serious harm , I have a greater responsibility in trying to find them. Not necessarily a duty
but a moral responsibility to alert them in whatever ways I can. But I also think that if there is no
treatment available that even then they may like to know what is around the corner for them.
What we are coming across withthese new genetic technologies is a change of pace.
What I as a geneticist 10 years ago did , I would go fishing. I would look at
sopmeone's family history , clinical details , I would fish for an answer. That bit of your
genetic code is likely to hold the problem , I will test just that gene. Now with the cheap
sequencing technoques , whole genome, we are trawling instead of fishing.
You have a family history, we don't know what the problem is , we wil lsequence the whole lot
and see what we come up with. Although that sounds mor eefficient , we have all heard of the
problems of trawling as well. Deplete the ocean bed quickly , pull up rubbish like an
unexploded bomb. I think that is a nice analogy on how
genetics is changing clinical practise . Unexpected information comes up in this example.
A young girl with learning difficulties and some of the features suggest she may have
a genetic problem, She has the raditional genetic rtest that finds nothing and then
a trawling test that doesn't explain her problems at all. But what it does find is a gene that
predicts she is likely to develop breast cancer as an adult. So a surprise finding that has nothing to
do with the reasons for haviong the tests but still a significant result. We would not do anything withthat result for anothe r
20 years because although breast cancer can occur when young , not that young, requiring matured breast tissues.
Do you think that Kylie's parents should be told now about her adult risks?
Most say yes , quarte say no which is more than I usually find. Again tricky professionally because we
have guidelines that say we should not be testing a child for adult onset conditions because there is
nothing we would do in childhood to change that . We need that choice for the child to find for herself
whan as an adult she can make that choice. Again a descrepency between opinions of the
public and the guidelines.
What the question is getting at is that you as the health professional , has the result, what do you
do with it. Do you tell someone because you feel you have to tell someone, keep itin her notes or
tell her GP saying we have not disclosed this to anyone, can you disclose it to her when she is an
Q: Does it also depend on whether the parents knew the test was being done, or whether as a background
test without informing them?
The parents definitely knew we were doing the trawling test , but there are 3 million different outcomes
from that sor t of test. And so whether they could have given a good informed consent , upfront, is the
question I am struggling with myself. When we go back to the parents they often say we agreed to the test
but we did not realise what was a possible outcome. We cannot sit through a discussion on all possible
outcomes, it would take days and too many different possible outsomes.
Q: SAll sorts of things can happen in 20 years.
Its particularly an issue for a child who cannot choose for themself , only about the risk when an adult.
Q: What is the error rate for this new gene sequencing ?If you have the error rates you can do a proper
Bayesian analysis . You can get some nasty false positives ?
You are more likely to get false negatives because they have a positive in the broad trawling test
, then gone to the lab, homed in on it again and then done the traditional test which is say 99,99% certain.
the chance then there of being a false positive is very small. But you are right that we need to think about
Q: A child with learning disabilities then the parents have more responsibility for .?
At the same time they may just worry more . Already worried about the learning difficulties then
as an adult she is likely to get breast cancer, that may just burden them , rather than help.
I suppose what we are trying to do is help , not burden. You highlight that well but not an easty
Q: We are all focussed on the rights of the child . She would have inherited this from somewhere , this
surprise result. Her mother is presumably over 20 , might want to know if she is at risk.?
Your argument is that it is not ideal for the child but I need to test mum .
Q: the ethics bother me, its a huge reesponsibility to tell someone that we've identified this problem
, that more than likely will happen to you. Maybe its delivered to them not in an understandable or helpful way to them?
It can then become a huge problem that they then have to carry. I've met people who have been given a label
for example and its the most terible thing, just given to them by someone else.?
Which is why the trawling is not the great thing its been portrayed. But I think we are at the
point of no return. Its very difficult to say , not use the new technoques, we have to go back to the
old techniques. We have to find a way round it.
Q: It also depends on the sort of person that would be told. My mother had an extreme medical
phobia , run out of the room whenever anything medical was on TV. But her sister used to
lap all this up. Presumably you get this spectrum across the population as a whole. ?
You do. The phobic people I would never get to meet, they don't come top my clinic. A lot
of varriability. I'm trying to tease out what is the right and wrong thing to do and accept
there is a lot of permutations of that.
The previous question is you have the result already . Here is a parent come to you and say ,
I would like my child tested. A lot of the AJ headines said she was going to get her children tested
for a gene fault that only has an effect in adulthood. Is that right? or should thos e children
be allowed to choose for themself when they get older. The Americans say that parents can
decide what to do for their children. A differnt view here and northern Europe , childrenb
have more rights.
Majority say no, should not be tested . Often when I do these talks people have this
strongsense of it being the parents right to test their child. This poll is much mor e
in line with what our professional guidance tells us to do.
Another one, more akin to the adoption situation.
Mark is a sperm doner to 3 different families . He has no known family history of
disease at time of donation but subsequently finds that several of his family have heart disease.
Should the donor's family history be passed on to the donor conceived family and also a depends option.
Majority say it depends , some say yes, some no and 6% unsure.
A followup question. If the heart disease was due to many different factors. The fruit machine
situation. There was no one predictive thing that you could tell his children about. Or you could say that
as long as Mark is healthy , the family history does not really matter, does that make a difference as to
whether you would tell or not.
Q:How much could be corrected by nutrition , benefitial living .
With heart disease there is nice evidence of this being so and maybe genetics plays a smaller
input,. People often have a tendency to think it is all down to genes, so passing on sperm requires you to
pass on all family history . When Nuffield Bioethics put this out to pubklic consultation , an
overwhelming response , everyone said got to disclose everything even if it was not particularly genetic.
A strong sense that sperm passed everything on.
Q: It seems a way of absolving yourself of responsibility as to your own healthy living. they may have a
reckless lifestyle ? I think we should stop ourselves wanting someone else to be responsible for our
health or whatever, blaming someone else.
I didn't want the question to go in the direction of blame or responsibility , just would this be useful
for a donor conceived family to know about.
Most thought hat if it was something not very predictable then less of an onus to pass on the info.
Should the info only be passed on if you are sure it would affect the medical management of a donor
conceived child, now orin future. Lots of difficulties about going back to a donor conceived famioly
and saying that the donor , at the time was healthy , has found out other things. And maybe more worry than
benefit. So limiting to disclosing where something can be done , woiuld that be the preferred option.
Q: By the time someone is 18 the info maybe lost?
The NHS is so bad at keeping records for a long tiome that I'm not confident that in 10 years
time the info could be recalled , when someone needs to know about it. A valid point , from
someone who has worked in it for some time.
Majority say yes. Its the medical management that determines it should be disclosed or
A baby in the care of social services for adoption . We know nothing about the father , mother
not helpful as not in agreement withthe adoption. The social worker involved thinks the
baby is not white . In babies that is often difficult to tell exactly the racial mix but becomes clearer
as the baby gets older. The social worker asks for DNA ethnicity testing to determine which
adoption parents would best match so a mixed race couple rather than white couple.
You may think this is a rare circumstance but actually its not. An increasing number of these sorts
of requests. I think fuelled by the same press furore as over other types of genetics.
Social worker had been told the price was only 200 pounds, cheap given the price of
other sorts of medical tests, she thought it was wise use of money. You get back a certificate that gives ratio
of likely backround in the groupings European, sub-Saharan african,E Asian and native American.
I've never seen such a form where someone is 100% one of those groupings as we are all a mixture
of different races as ancestors migrated across the globe over 7 miullion years.
Mainly white faces in this room so European most likely , but even with 1/4 sub-Saharan , may
not be reflected in your skin colour. So getting such a est will not help a social worker know
how to place the baby . I give this example as there is the pervasive view that DNA testing will
give a precise answer about whatever question we've got.
Do you think a DNA result will help in the placement decision
Q: You said its difficult to tell with a newborn baby , are you saying gross appearance
differences of skin colour may appear within the early months or years of life that are
not apparent with a neonate?
I'm not a paedetrician but what I wa stold is what they are looking for is whether they
have a Mongolean bluespot , a very unPC term . A spot on the forehead that appears in the
neonate and then disappears, not actually indicative of any particular race but its a thinking that
it is more non-white. So a non-evidenced basis for her thinking that the baby's father may have been
Q: Do you get say 50:50 European , sub-saharan?
I recommend against the use of these tests, as they don't tell us anything about our
immediate ancestors , more where our ggg....grandparents were from. This test does not help
at all for this scensario.
Q: Isn't the idea behind that test practising eugenics ? and so should be illegal?
I agree , making something illegal takes years but we do have professional guidelines and
this is not recommended
some think it would be helpful test , but majority no
Ethnicity is not really about your racial background , its a social construct , that tells about
religion , geography and a bit of racial ancestry but it would not help the social worker.
1/4 sub-sahara, 1/4 european , etc won't help her find representative parents, a real
Q: Coming at this from an opposite direction. My brother's wife is Japanse and they could not have
children. When they came to adoption they specifically wanted to adopt that loooked as though
it were theirs ?
I can understand that. People who adopt don't want to be constantly asked , is that child theirs.
Its not the same scenario. This is saying I want to know where to place this child for adoption,
but using the wrong test for that decision. There is a view that genetics is much more deterministic
than it really is.
David is asked to be tested as his father and sister died at a young age . David has abnormal ECG
, he has inherited a faulty gene . He has 13 close relatives , but not in contact with them all .
Should doctors try and contact all the relatives. There is a video clip of a footballer
collapsing on the field, his legs twitch and then he gets up again. He has an implanted
cardiac defibrulator that fires off when he has a rythym abnormality and he only had that because
he knew of the family history, and that prevented him from dying. So an acute example. The
first sign of this in an individual is sudden death, not some chest pain or paltations.
Marathon runners dropping dead and then retrospectively this condition was found.
So with forewarning then beta blockers or a subcutasneous defibrilator will take care of the
Majotity, does create more of an onus on health professionals to try and contact those
People used to talk about something being in their blood, now about something in their genes
and now in their DNA . Such statements sound precise but we are no nearing to testing
for musicianship , say, in DNA than in blood.
Q: An ethical minefield you've exposed here. Is there precedents for this sort of thing from non genetic
area of medicine? Go as a blood donor and your blood is screened for AIDS etc, if they find it do they tell
We can learn a lot from infectious diseases. The guidelines say that if you as a professional see that s
omeone is at risk from HIV because you know your patient has HIV and you know he
has been sleeping around and putting people at risk or they are a blood donor , then the law clearly
says that you have a duty to protect the public, to stop them being put at risk without they're
knowledge. The GMC guidelines now do tell us , if you know that someone else is at risk, you
know who that person is , and the patient is not disclosing relevant info to them then you as a health
professional may contact them . That is helpful but the most cmmon reason why communication
does not occur is not because someone is being awkward but just because it doesn't happen
and then knowing when we can say something is the problem. The service is focussed on
preserving medical confidentiality, a lot of recent scandals , where someone's confidence
was breahed . Giving out familial information may breach someone's confidentiality.
If we may be giving out familial information we are asked to get a signed consent form. If this info
is rlevant then you can disclose it. Most of the people I see , say of course you
can disclose it, why am I signing a form, its the reason I am here .
I'm not coming here to find about my family hitory and not tell my family. There is a mismatch
between what the health professional thinks it can or cannot do and what the expectations of
our ? are. There is a difference between being in contact with someone with an infectious
disease and being at risk in 20 years time say from something inherited , and a risk rather than
Q: If I developed antibodies that meant I could not contract blue-spot disease or
whatever , you discovered it , would you be able to patent it, would you need to ask my
permission, or is this just an American thing?
The quick answer is no. Personally I would not want to try. What has happened in the past
, its difficult to consent in advance to something that emerges in the future. The Heeler? cell-line of
Helen Lane ...
(From the floor) Helen Lane was the name given to her as representing a nice name of person and
did not want to let it be known that she was black, by using her real name. I can't remember
her actual name.
So, her pseudonym Helen Lane , she had cerviacle cancer at a young age . In those days consent
would not have been considered in the 1950s. THe pharmaceutical companies eventually
got hold of her cell line , where you keep the cells copying and copying, and made huge
profit out of it. I think her descendents have been awarded large sums in recognition of that
fact. But the initial court cases decided that they did not have a right to any profits because
the profit came out of scientific input into the cells rather than the cellls themselves.
That is the USA, what about this country?
Patent law is worldwide . I know nothing about patents but it is a rapidly changing situation.
Because understandably there is uproar over companies preventing use by other people.
The counter argument , we need pharmaceutical companies and private investment
into healthcare because we don't have investment otherwise. If companies cannot protect
their own input , via say patents, they will not invest in it.
Q: Most ofour DNA is in the nucleus but a little bit in the mitachondria , is that of any
significance in terms of inherited conditions?
Yes, only inherited from the mother .
Are any well known that I may have heard of?
I se a steady trickle of them but all individually incredibly rare. Each is well described and each perhaps
1 in 100,000 .
Q: The sensationalist headlines in the press, of genetics and committing crime . Is there a higher prevalence
of certain genetic conditions amongst criminals?
I think impossible to answer accurately . There has been a lot of reports about certain conditions being more
prevalent in pprison populations that have not stood the trest of time. When redone or looked at again
with more data then the headline disappears.
Huntingdon's disease may be a good example where you get early onset of dementia , often with a
history of violent behaviour with it. So perhaps more likely to end up in prison. The only people I've seen with Huntingdon's disease
have been in prison, so that may lead me to believe there is a connection. You could say it is a result of society's
slowness to diagnose Huntingdon's disease.
A high incidence of dyslexia in prisons does not argue that there is a genetic component to it. You could
argue that people with dyslexia have a greater sense of frustration at not being able to communicate.
Environmental circumstances rather than genetic. Its so easy and quick to think something is genetic when there might
be an other explanation. Its easy to think that if its genetic then it is out of our control, can't
be blamed for having the wrong diet etc. There is a tendency to become genetically deterministic
because no blame attached. Thats me hypothetising.
Q: Could you explain to me how the pharmaceuticals are trying to patent genes?
Not my area of expertese . What they have done in the past and now much harder to do but are still
dealing with the cases that happened in the past. Somebody found a gene , then this combination of
nucleatides , we've discovered, and anyone who wants to test for it , they have to pay us a premium
to do that. You may say that is outragious but that is what has happened. Less likely to happen now but
they still find ways around it. They can't patent the DNA but they can patent copies of the DNA, I'm not
sure how it will pan out. The high court in the USA recently overturned the patent laws bu tthe small
print has not been worked out .
from the floor - the counter of that is that the pharmaceuticals will not put money in if there is no return.
A reasn for the lack of new anti-biotics coming on the scene is the drug companies say that an antibiotic does not last
very long , because resistance emerges, so we won't develop new ones as we won't get our money back.
Q: In gene therapy wher ethe pharmaceuticals have discovered that if they can give you some medication
to correct a faulty gene , will that be patented like a medicine?
Gene therapy is whare you change the gene itself. Very much in its infancy as to do it effectively
needs to be done at sperm and egg union stage. Lots of ethical issues associated with that.
You can get a gene fault that you know , if you treat it with a certain medicine , its affects
are less. Examples are certain types of cancers where the cancer prodces a faulty gene rather than being an inherited
falty gene . The drug companes make an antibody to that gene , to kill off that cell specifically.
Very promising results in certain cancers . One is a form of lung cancer where a small proportion ,
maybe about 5% thjey express a particular factor on the cell , throw an antibody against that , the
cell is killed . So a routine test that is done to see if you have that particular gene change but its
not a heritable gene change.
Can you change an inheritable gene?
Theoretically or technically you could but only at the egg and sperm stage , otherwise you have
to get to all the cells in your body all 10 to the 13 of them, you can't target them individually.
So you have to get there before the copying to all the daughter cells.
Q: Do they know how to switch genes on and off yet?
Sometimes ,sometimes in mice only , or test tube only but not in humans . We are complex and switch one thing
off it may only make a difference when we are 2 rather than aged 30 . Change one thing and you can set
other things out of balance . Some gene changes are bad in one sense but good in another . I
started my career in genetics on a south Pacific island where I studied a condition that gave you
anaemia , red cells broke down, but with that gene you were better protected against malaria.
For genes that do bad things, we don't necessarily know what if any good side to that gene is, explaining why
they are still present in the population.
Q: I've heard the term epigenetics and wondered if it has any influece on the nature/nurture debate?
Epigenetics is not as straightforward as the genetic code its also about how that code is switched
on and off. Some genes may be on in some cells and not others or active early but not later in life.
Q: Could it be the environment ?
Yes. We know for a fact that things that happen while you are inside your mother's womb
affect the control switches around certain genes . So that epigenetic load has consequences for the
next generation but not transmitted i nthe same heriditable way. What your grandmother ate
is important to your risk of heart disease , paternal grandmother I seem to remember.
Lat 5 minutes lost due to battery exhausted
Monday, 13 January 2014, Pearl John, Physics and Astronomy,
University of Southampton : The Art of Holography. The talk will also cover some basic laser technology applications.
I'm a halographer , making holograms (H) since age 15, . I'm the public engagement leader for the Physics and Astronomy
at Soton Uni. Southampton is a world leader in photonics, laser technology. We will be making a
hologram, fingers crossed. It is probably a first for generating a h image in a pub so
I cannot guarantee it will work, so I have "one I made earlier"
As I came here tonight some people had got into trouble printing 10 pound notes, ending up
imprisoned for 7 years. Look at any paper money there is rainbow h , transmission
holograms they're called . Transparent h with a mirror backing so it looks like
the H are lit from the front but they are designed to be lit from the back. Rainbow because
they go through the whole spectrum, transmission because the light goes throughthe
surface, hits the mirror and back out.
They are expensive to forge, doesn't stop people forging them. One of my Chinese frends tells me
every province has an official halographer and people creating them fraudulently. There are a lot
of phoney notes around but the hologram should register neatly within the rest of the printing
and if its slightly off set then you would know that was a cheap job. One of my students in the
US got into trouble for photocopying some money, the FBI turned up at the school and we
had not got to halography or security in the curiculum by then. In the USA they have holographic ink that turns
green to purple in the light .
Hs are everywhere , credit cards, drivers licences and merchandising that is trying to prevent
Some old technology Hs . All these are angle specific , so only some of you will see
the effect at any one time. Produced with a ruby pulsed laser the first laser produced
in the 60s. A flash of about 9nS, did not do the subject any damage .
An example of a Denys-Yurke ? single beam H with a Krypton laser , a one-shot H
made by a scientist Yuri Denys_Yurk, died a while ago.
Hs are relatively new technology and you get to meet the people who invent the Hs.
The rainbow H was invented by Steve Benton of MIT .
This is old technology but I like to use it. Its much more tricky t oget the right angles.
If not the right angle , a bit emporer's clothes, someone doing signing , deaf language
interpretor. This is an example of a H that is illuminated from left to right and the
person viewing has to look at it from left to right.
One that did not work, one done at my masters level work, but I learnt a lot
from it. The problem is that as you move from L to R, she is learning signing.
But if you move from R to L , she says it backwards and that is no use for
teaching sign language in books, which is what we were trying to do.
This problem is still occuring , lots of people still making animated H and coming
up against this problem. A friend of mine saw a huge marketing H , perhaps 15,000
pounfds worth, an animated one , of a woman eating noodles and smiling.
That was all very good going from L to R but for R to L she smiled and threw-up
the noodles. If you are a noodle producer you don't want to pay 15,000 for thatt.
The problem is called temporal incoherence. Something that does not make sense in time
on reversal of motion.
I'm currently studying for a PhD in H and lenticular imaging and very interested
in this temporal incoherence and coherence issue. My research is based on putting
different images within the Holographic space and using it to represent time.
So further back in space is further back in time and closer in space is closer
to the now. I'm doing 3D family trees that are animated, tht's where I'm hoping
to go. The postcards I've handed around are lenticular. The surface of those is lenticular
rub it and washboard noise, H is flat glass or plastic. An imsage has been sliced up
in a computer and alternated . This one is 3 images, sliced , 123/123/123... and hidden behind transparent
long lenses .
An uncovered sliced image and a separate lenticular screen , put one over the other,
the right way round , we should see something that looks 3D . How to make something look 3D
with just some images annd some plastic. We can only see things in 3D because a L
and R eye see different images. Unless you are one-eyed and you have to move your head
around to determine depths of view.
The space within the H . A H by artist Richard Hamilton of the 60s . He worked with artist
Margaret Benyon playing with H space. A H where all the image sits behind the H and
I will make one of these H in a moment. The object looks as though it is sat inside
the plate, that one took half a day to make. Another one that 2 weeks in the making.
The first one, my friend was sat in front of the system , blasted him with laser light ,
and the H plate which is transparent , which was in front of him, it looked as though
he was sitting behind the plate. I can then make a H of a H and then half the image will
appear as though floating in front of the plate and half floating behind the plate.
So you can control space from a creative point of view, not from a physics point of view.
So how do artists use that space in front of the H and behind it.
Richard holding onto the plate . There are about 200 people working as artists world-wide
working with H and lots more who are making Hs and would call themselves hobbyists,
physicists and engineers.
One artist Jeffrey Robb ? did a beautiful H in the 90s using temporal coherence.
That means when walking L to R in front of the H , his great-aunt
who was in her 90s and the first woman to study physics at Edinburgh drank her
tea. Looking LtoR or RtoL she continued to drink her tea. So a lovely
symetrical image which poetically suggested passing time, having sat with the artist over
the years drinking tea together.
Another temporal incoherence. Brand new digital high definition full colour H ,
state of the art. A few specialist companies in this area , one in Lithuania and 1 in the USA.
As you walk past it you see an actor speaking , James Stewart. He took footage from
an old film and stuck it in a H. There is a strange thing happening spatially.
She's talking away , can't tell twhat she is saying , he's talking as you move L to R ,
#theimage moves and she is holding something that has space within it .
These H are produced with computer images . You can have about 200 frames in one H , quite easily .
There is an ancestry.com advert that has poeple's family trees in 3D in a box .
I'm working in a similar fashion but my images in the box are animated, the H itself is in the box.
All the images will be transparent and it will be like Harry Potter's newspaper .
So how do scientists represent different time periods. Raman spectroscopy and an animated image there
and huge versions that got exhibited at the royal Society. Giving out the postcards, as passed arounf here, to
children. I was in hospital recently and found out I could help train nurses look
at ECGs where someone is having a heart-attack using this tech. Hopefully I will
be working with a consultant, producing postcards or bigger images of what to
look out for in an ECG .
By spatial coherence I'm meaning here further back in an image then further back in time.
An exhibition at the Royal Society with 8 lenticular artworks of mine in it.
If you've looked at ancestry.com there is some 30 GBP software you can get , press abutton and your
family tree is in 3D. I'm working on , press print and you can get a lenticular 3D delivered to you.
Digital animated holography examples, by Zebra imaging , looks impossible but flat . Anything that has 3
dimensional data in a computer can go to Zebra or Geola imaging , pay some money and get a
hologram. If we had weeks or I had a lab we could produce those.
We will now try and produce a little analogue hologram here.
A small diode laser , about 3 Nobel prize winning bits of technology here , the diode laser, and halography
which got Dennis Gabor ? a Nobel. The active part of the laser is about the size of a grain of sand .
At the uni we make all sorts of new types of lasers . This one goes through a lens , the red light.
I want to show you coherence , constructive and destructive interference.
One wavelength of light , here 635nm , a nm is what your hair or nail grows in 1 second, and 2 beams meeting.
We will get a brighter point of light where the tops of the waves meet and no light where the top
of 1 wave meets the bottom ,trough,of the other, they cancel out. We end up with light from the laser
ghitting something , reflect off the front surface mirror and bounce upwards through the glass
plate and we will make a hologram.
A dial face watch from the audience as the object.
A holographic plate out of a light tight box, so the lights off but not totally dark. Liz from the
audience now makes the hologram. These plates are only sensitive to red light , particularly 635nm.
Very much like Victorian plate camera , glass with a coating of silver halide on them.
The silver halide is much finer grained than photographic paper or film.
Practise pulling out the baffle , not touching the rig or table , slowly and gently, count
for 19 secods and replace the baffle. We have the tolerance of about 1/4 the wavelength
of light. If we have movement or vibration in that 19 seconds then we get nothing.
( The rig is on a wooden table on a wooden first floor with other pub clientel doing normal pub stuff
o nthe floor below and possibility of traffic or trains outside)
I've made many holograms of nothing. Fingers crossed I've not had one gone horribly
wrong for ages. I will remove the plate and do what I call the Huff test. If I huff on the glass side then
nothing happens but on the emulsion side I see mist. So glass side down, emulsion side up , put the
watch face down on the plate . No one shuffle in the room , we need about 30 seconds of settling ,
let the room settle, so a minimum of vibration hitting the kit.
I have a friend who makes Hs of peacock feathers and she lets things settle for months.
Turn the light off, huff test , lift watch and back on the plate. Shift so neatly on the plate.
Sometimes you can see the seconds hand of such a watch in the H , every second like a multiple
30 seconds of quite, then 19 seconds of exposure and quiet. Lights remain off. Pick the watch
up gently, pick up the H and place in the box.
I have to tell year 8 students to relax one leg or they stand there terrified and I've had a couple
of students keel over in a hot situation and the minute of dark and quiet, so on my risk assessment.
Old style developer, you can use D19 developer, but I'm using something that is quicker.
I usually have a green safelight, not the red of conventional photography.
The bleach I'm using makes brown stasins on clothing. If the chemicals get in your eye theyu make you
cry so now I take H&S a bit more seriously.
Ascorbic Acid, vitamin C, an A and B solution, half and half.
Sodium Carbonate, the eye hurter. De-ionised water and 2 washes . Some bleach that isa copper
sulphate bleach, so blue.
Even if you see a bit of a rainbow I will consider this a success. Lights turned out again.
It would have been better to make the H when everyone was ouit of the room.
H in the developer for 10 sec, water for a swish, the bleach until transparent,
actually an oxidation process, the silver rusting to black. Then water, then bleach to
change the refractive index to remove the bits of silver that were not exposed to the light.
So from opaque to transparent, then wash. Huff test, then 10 sec developing, gone to black.
We have an image. 10 seconds in the bleach and Silver in the bleach tray.
Lights back on. The kiss test that Halographers do , put the plate to their lip ,
if it sticks then its the emulsion side. But then developed the Huff test, and also one
student could tell which side by smelling it. If I get this wrong its like putting
toilet paper on jelly and it sticks . We do have movement with the image but there
is a something. As it dries off it will get brighter . You may see a lot of stripes and that is
TIR, total internal reflection, where I've made a hologram of the edge of the glass and it
has bounced all along the H plate. A bit hazy at the moment. Can see the numbers on the
watch dial face and some hands , illuminating the H at the same angle as it was shot , about
I've mass produced Hs and inlaid them into chairs. You can make art objects with halography
but I would not say making a H of a watch was artwork.
Hs are used in medical applications , even of false teeth fo r a long time, because dentures are quite
thick they have to store spare pairs in case someone needs a new set. Somewhere ther eis a library
of dentures. But if you make a H on film then smaller amount of storage space.
Hs for teaching purposes in medical schools . There is a life sized H of a skeleton , with the nerves
and flesh going on as you passs it. You can make Hs from MRI scans . If there is an arduaous
operation ,eg conjoined twins and 23 hours to separate them.
Holographic head-up display units in planes and cars.
There is one big problem with H and that is SF. Everyone wants full colour H in their living
room , projected into nothing and its just not possible. On the news if you se reported as a big
projected H, its not a H , but Pepper's Ghost, a projection on to a piece of glass or similar at 45 degrees.
At Southampton we invented part of th einternet. Without that input you would not be able t get on the internet or
use your mobile phone. A mobile phone plugged into a diode laser , taking a digital signal of music
from a phone , turned into laser light , modulating the flashing of about 60,000 Hz . A morse-code like signal piggybacked
onto the laser beam. Picked up by a sensor a sort of solar cell that converts back to digital and then to a speaker.
A more expensive version of this demo, I could plug i na camera to the laser, then finally to a TV. Ultimately
that is how the internet works, via fibre optic and total internal reflection. Initially with fibre optic ,
a laser signal could only travel up to 25Km and by that time the signal had lost strebngth
and could no longer be decoded. Anne Roper invented a fibre laser , a fibre that can be
made to lase. The ends are cleaved , the light is amplified within. Prof David Payne then
developed it for internet use, Erbium-doped fibre amplifier, giving the signal enough oomph to
procede. So stations where the signal is boosted so it can continue around the world.
For mobile phone technology , at the bottom of the cell towers, a base station converts
into laser light , via fibre optic to another tower. All the info transmitting and receiving is down th e
same fibre, many chanels, either changing the wavelength of the laser or changes the way the
light travels down the fibre. We have slow computers and slow internet , not because of the
laser technology but because of the electronics . So a lot of research into getting more info
down fibre optic and faster . We are using a vast amout of energy in the mechanism of the internet and Southampton is
working to get a more efficient internet, so less energy is used. And the types of fibre is also
being researched. For everyone to get on the same fibre at once there was a boom in photonics
a while back. Then when the one fibre that could take all the info , there wasa lack of need of more fibres.
Fibres are now being used for sensing. Using the way the light passes through a fibre and is affected
by its environment . So used in plane fuiel tanks to determine the amout of wate rin fuel , changing the
refractive index of the fibre.
I work with architectural designs , anything from a house extension to a complete town plan.
They come to me for the CAD software and the other side of the job is to pitch for a job
in the first place. So they need to present to councilors or whoever , what this thing will look like.
So CAD to produce 3D pictures , you can set the eye level, walk through , go up and
down stairs etc. Some will give photo-realistic results . You cannot use lasers to project a
town on that pool table . Is there something beyond going past a H and making it look as though
it is moving, to something approaching a projected model?
You could have Hs produced , not just one single image . You can have multiple exposures ,
Hs have been made of archetectural models since the 1990s. I would say that if you were
going to do a pitch and there are loads of other competitor people , you do have the wow factor and
people remember that. You can get a lot of information on it . You can have enormous Hs.
Provide 3D studiomax 4D? files and they do the crunching. Different companies are good
at different things . So Lithuania do very good Hs.
The fibre optic amplifiers. Are they just sections i na long length of fibre or is it the whole fibre?
Back to architectural moddels. You start from 3D models within a computer?
We used to make Hs of phyical models , because getting htose on the tube was a nightmare.
I had a friend who did theatre design and every time she wanted to take her beautiful model somewhere
it was mashed up enroute. Much easier to have a H in a portfolio.
For say an A4 size digitally derived H , what sort of file size would that be?
Depends on the amount of info you want to cram in there. Someone made a 3D film of my
exhibition and that was enormous amounts of data , so less than that. They are looking at 3D storage
for 3D film-makers because of the data size. gigabytes to terabytes sort of sizes.
Who is the "Damien Hirst" of Halography?
Living, artist-wise, I'd say James Turrell? , he does not make his Hs . He goes to the crafts people
who make them undr instruction. He bought himself a volcano and turned it into a light
instalation. I saw a work of his at the Hayward. He was fascinated with flying between dawn and dusk,
the quality of the light. He researched the wavelengths that make it so magical and reproduced it.
You walked along a balcony and it looked as though you wer eflying.
August Booth? is making large format Hs fo r him now, 3000 pound a H .
The best place to go and see such Hs ?
Jonathen Ross , not the TV presenter, a gallery called 286 in Earls Court Rd, a private
gallery , you would need to contact him. He buys and presents them .
His joke is how to make a small fortune in Halography? start with a large one.
Difficult to make and difficult to sell. As you have to sell them with the lighting
system , you have to take with you somehow.
With one wavelength of light you get one picture. If you change that wavelength slightly
and pass into the same image, do you get a different image , diferent colours ?
Thats how you produce full colour Hs. 3 diode lasers , at slightly different angles,
each colour will reproduce in a diferent place . You match the plate to the laser.
Green plates, or red plates or panchromatic plates .
For the lady drinking tea, was she moving or multiple exposures?
That one and the sign language, took photographs , 24 different images , then you make a
positive out of the negativ e, using lith ? film , shine the laser thru the plate onto a H plate.
The cheap way of doing it is strips of electricaltape covering youir H plate.
Peel one down, project your image onto it , one exposure, still in the dark , replace the tape,
take off another piece of tape , shoot a different image off , repeated 24 times.
You then make a H of the H , so the image is sitting on the image plane, then as you
move back and forth you are looking at a separate H.
If I don't make a H of a H ,then each image looks as though it is behind the plate and
you see the strips. Copy it and the strips are floating in space , and you cannot
see you are looking thru the strips. A number of things makes it 3D.
You have 2 eyes, each sees separate imageso it looks 3D. When you make a H
of a 3D object , you ar ecapturing it from all the directions , everywhere there is
constructive and destructive interference occuring.
Look at intergraph.com ? for H instruction and making your own Hs.
You referred to making a H appear in and out of the plane by taking a H of a H.
When I came across this 40 years ago they said they could not project H images into
a space because then they did not have powerful enough lasers then. Did it ever happen, practical,
You can't stop light in space . I've seen mention of whare you get lasers to ionise the
air , so a spark of light , imagine how dangerous that is to be nearby. 3D images floating in
the air because the air is being exploded .
Another one is water vapour floating in space , so you need something to stop light
so that it focuses.
In Las Vegas there is a waterfall wall with one.?
A colleague at deMontfort is looking at a water vapour system.
The H you produced , we were looking at it with white torchlight, is it better
using laser light?
Yes, try it back in the laser light . Huff on it to find the surface , glass side down ,
and rotate it to find the angle it was first shot.
When you have to make a H in earnest do you borrow the lithography section of
the university electronics department, the isolated floor?
That would be nice. I've an engineering table that floats on air, a half-ton table.
Best time is late at night .
Aud: We have a sand table about the size of the pool table , a box full of sand ,
about 2 tons of sand, standing on 6 scooter inner tubes with another table under that.
On top of the sand we have sheets of steel, so we can put magnetic mounts on .
The weight of the table and the tubes isolates it from moving traffic .
You still have to hold your breathe for about 30 seconds.
Its a problem, for the same reason as producing electronic chips, the reduction process.
I met a Holographer who was asked to produce Hs of moon rocks when they
first came from the moon. He went to Nasa, the whole building was isolated
, he had to put all his equipment through clean room systems . He had a little vacuum cleaner
which he would vacuum seal his Hs , Holographic film between 2 plates. He set up
his table, got out the vacuum , but they had put it on blow , not suck, so it
shot dust throughout the building, evacuate 400 people. He did do the Hs but they wer e
H of rocks so completely unimpressive . You have to have a rock in your hand to
think , ooh that was on the moon.
Returning to viewing the watch H, the dial is good, can read all the numbers around it , and 2 hands
but not the seconds hand at all. One of the best H I've made in a peopled environment.
The emulsion surface on the plate, is that finer grain than coventional photographic or
mor e regular?
Much much smaller , something like 100 times smaller , I don't think the grain size has
to be more regular.
Do you get plastic sheet,film, as well as glass for Hs?
Cheaper but more difficult to keep stable.
Have you tried making your own plates?
Monday, 10 February 2014, Professor Simon Cox: Supercomputing with multiple Raspberry Pi.
2 hours,55 people, still 33 people after 9pm
The Raspberry Pi, in case you have'nt seen it is this low cost 35 dollar computer ( a few passed aroud).
So what do you get for this, you won't get a hugely fast machine . It was designed around a price performance
so it would fit on a credit card at this relatively low price. The processor is several
generations of ARM earlier than in an iPAD or iPhone. This talk will not be about absolute performance.
The speed is about that of a Pentium 2, if you only had 1 of them, more of that later. The graphics GPU is capable
of doing HD graphics , comparable with the first generation of Xbox device.
About 0.5 GByte of memory , an SD card slot , video out of ordinary co-axial video , HDMI connector , 2 USB,
Ethernet . You need to put the Pi in something , so not just wires. You might fisrstly build a box
out of Lego.
You will need some extra bits , or a kit with everything in. The first thing to add isa mouse , actually
bigger than the Pi. Need some power , a 5Volt power supply with a micro-USB on it.
An SD card as in a camera . An Ethernet cable perhaps for a network connection.
For a TV connection, because of size limitations no S-Video type connection , low-res via a "yellow"
video phono link. There is HDMI port for a TV. Some people try to connect to a monitor
requiring a whizzy connector that takes the HDMI to DVi. To do some input in and out ,
perhaps a small keyboard, such as ths designed for small fingers.
When you boot it up , you download from the website, perhaps NOOBS out-of-the-box
software. NOOBS means something else for computer geeks as well. You will fundamentally
boot up into Linux, which will give you an operating system you can work on.
Programming languages , a Windows type environment , languages like Python ,
Scratch drag and drop environment . That is what happens if you have just one Pi.
We thought, what would happen if more than 1. We built the Iridus Pi out of a bunch of
processors. So started with 2 Pi , my first prototype. 2 is not the limit . Why would you want more
than 2 or 4 or 10 or even the headline 64. Its more than entertsaining and slightly insane
thing to do. This is not about performance , what it is about is about the things you have to
think about whan you are linking togethe rcomputers. What I and my colleagues spend a lot of time
doing is solving very large scale problems , fluid dynamics over aeroplane sections or
formula 1 cars or environment or universe modelling, A single computer is not necessarily enough to solve that
problem in the amount of time one is prepared to wait. So put together multiple computers
and slice and dice the problem.
I got into this about 20 or so years ago, and if you wanted to build yourself a supercomputer ,
the local shop would have IBM on the side , hand them a million pounds and they would
ship you a supercomputer that you could play with. The million pound machines were bespoke ,
the processors,the memory , the disks, specialised and produced in low volumes.
How could you build these sorts of machines you could find at PC World or Tesco.
We took the price point from a million down to 10 to 100,000 pounds, using cheap
comodity parts. Such cheap parts aren't driven by the specialist market of supercomputing
but by business machines, ultimately driven by gaming machines. The volume production you
get from people bying millions of those machines translates intoa much lower price point.
Ten years later , about 1998 we published that work, about 2008 you get another
price point . If you try assembling 64 of them with the other bits and pieces is more like 2 or 3 thousand
pounds. The principles of what we do on our big supercomputers , you can show
with just 2 or 4 of them. So down to 100 pounds for 4 . This fundamently changes the way we
can show off this sort of technology. Previously it was closed off in a university research department.
For the first time linking together Pis you could bring it down to 100 pounds. You could
begin thinking about putting that into schools. So in a science curriculum , take it from the world
of word processing and similar to the more excitig world of supercomputing.
You can show the principles of how to link together computers and how you might break
a problem apart, so you can solve it on lots of nodes at the 100 pounds price point.
Iridis Pi , is now on third or fourth generation commodity supercomputer . Initially IBM
would not sell us racks of machines in a commodity sense, they wanted to charge full price.
We bought shelving from B&Q and small PCs off the shelf. Our current machine has
12,000 cores and is one of the top ones in the UK. According to how you do the benchmarking either
Southampton or Cambridge has the biggest machine.
You need a bunch of Pis , a lot of Lego , some network switches like this 16 port switch locally,
We went for 24 port ones , an awful lot of cables and you need to put together
these memory cards. Burning the image on to the 64 memory cards is one of the more labour intensive
processes. If you want to build one yourself there is a ful lset of instructions that are out there.
So we had put 2 together as back to back or side to side, but how to prototype this.
Lego is a fantastic prototyping tool , Some of the designs, some flat , some end on , on 32x32 Lego
baseplate. That became a big design that would cover ths pool table.
Speaker lower right , 64x Pi near yellow marker line, 3D printed parts lower left
Unboxing pictures, the mother of all unboxing pictures. A neat chassis with all the Pis stacked together.
Powering up 8 of them, where the rat's nest of wiring begins. So a lot of 8way and 4way sockets.
Wires off the ethernet, power leads a big rat's nest under the table. All plugged into
a single 13 amp socket. Only draws 1 amp of power running.
There is a side row of connectors on a Pi. One of the things about the early micros was getting them
to talk to electronics outside begins to be more complicated. Sometimes have to cut into
it , perhaps use the parallel printer port. Anyone here blow their micro doing that. The Pi allows
you to have some general purpose input and output devices. It becomes straightforward
to breadboard up little games such as this Simon game with 4 LEDs. Make music etc.
You can get Pi extension ribbon cables and program more exotic things. This is a
10 segment LED bargraph panel, controlled by the Pi. Or more exotic a
20x4 LCD dot matrix display wiht a Pi as controller.
Cases. All my prototyping wa swith Lego, becaus eit was convenient. Rapid prototyping,
3D printing to build up structures. Take some geometry image , then build up using additive
building is used a lot by the pi community. Again another piece of technology
that has gone from costing 10s or 100s of thousands down to being available in the High
St, in 3 or 5 yesrs. The white modular multi-Pi casing( in the image above) 3D printed.
About 1cm an hour to build up one of the frames on a basic 3D printer.
So we are moving into a world where a range of technologies are accessible , even
Multiple programming. We have a task and we want to divide it amongst a large number
of computers. So imagine how to sort out a deck of cards into some sort of order.
One person could work on that alone. Imagine 2 people doing it.
(audience : it may take twise as long)
yes it might . We could do the sorting and timing it , but what algorithm would you use.
One person sort half the deck , the other person the other half. Or reds on one side
and blacks by the other. What if you had 4 people, then sort into suits.
What if you had 8 people or 16 or even 52 people. Use quicksort , I have an hour lecture
on that, an efficient method , but how to do it with 5 or 10 people.
That is the first step, how will the algorithm work for a large number of people.
Brilliant point you raised, does it always go faster. Arndale's ? Law , there is a bit of
overhead , some sequential things that you need to do . So splitting up into a number of nodes
, how will the algorithm scale if you have more and more things working on it.
It might go just less than twise as fast , then maybe 3 times faster with 4 processors.
But eventually it might tilt over . I glibly said we have 12,000 cores , thinking of the algorithms to do large scientific problems
requires a lot of thought for such large numbers .
Split the deck and anothe rperson with you . Whaty happens if you are here in the SWA
and the other person is in the Dolphin pub across the railway.
When you do that split of the deck, you have to ferry some cards over there , and some ferried back
and forth. So ethernet network connection is one of the important aspects when building
a supercomputer. Not just how fast the individual processors are but how fast is the network.
What if I told you you could only carry onecard at a time. The aspect of bandwidth , the time to
start up a message. Instead of 1 deck of cards, what if I had 2 decks of cards and 2 peple.
If I sorted one pack and then the second pack, we've already said it won't be twice as fast
wiht 2 people because of the shuffling around the place. So why not sort them independently.
So no communication at all .
Aud: I would use a magnetic strip embeded in each card.
That is the technology thart would make it easier to sort. But still how do you share out the work.
If you had 1000 decks and 10 computers , you could imagine lots of ways to share out that
work. So you start with your ordinary programming language but then you need some
extra commands to help with the sending and receiving of messages. The only thing you need extra in programming
whether using Python or C or Fortran , you need to have decided how to divide up the work.
The additional to that commands are called MPI, Message Passing Interface, let you think how you
are going to send messages from 1 processor to another.
Graphic showing what happens when we scale from 0 to 64 processors , if perfect
speed up , but as you use more and more processors it misses the perfect speed-up.
Eventually you run out of work to do and it doesn't go 64 times faster . That allows you
to characterise, what sorts of problems in the machine might be or the way your algorithm works.
Aud: In the army you have a hierarchy with a sergeant major at the top controlling
things, if you had 4 processors , can you have a fifth one that doles out the work.
You often would have a master processor that was scheduling things. But you want that processor
to be pulling its weight also. Unless you are suggesting the sargeant major gives the orders and then sits
back while the troops do the work. Certainly with a large number of computers and
tasks that you are trying to pass through, often has a master and many slaves arrangement.
Q: With all these processors and a discrete task to perform , you could write up software to
divi up that particualr task . Your 64 processors could handle that task. Does difficulty arise when you
try and make it far more versatile, so you can give it any task and it will sort out the 64 chop-up task itself.
Any number of computers more than 1 then would become task specific, how do you make it more versatile.
Underneath that is how do you generate something that if you throw at it 4 , 8 or 16 processors ,
you don't have to keep changing the code in some way. Very often one of the things
we do . Perhaps you've seen a mesh placed over an aeroplane and then people ar elooking at the
fluid flow over that , or some structural calculation . 1 processor may be dealing with one section of that
, one cell is much like another with just a bit of a change of wind flow . So you might set up a
method that plays a mesh over it , with not many lines or lots of fine lines and then asign processors to
work on separate parts of the mesh. With a fine mesh then 1 processor would have a lot of work to do
, add more processors then the work per processor will go down.
But the fundamental algorithm going under that , the maths that 1 processor is doing on its little
bit of the grid is the same maths as another.
Q: I used to have a desk top PC , then bought a superdooper laptop with 3 processors. I have alot
of legacy software that I run on it. Does that use the 3 processors , does Windows divide things
up and use all 3 or does my old software just use 1 processor? because I sometimes find the software runs
slower on the laptop .
Within that single processor , there may be multiple cores , then unless the sofware was written
to be able to take account of more than 1 core , then that single core may indeed be slower
than perhaps the older system. Some of those cores may deal with bits of the operating system or the graphics
. So although the program may be rumnning mor eslowly as that single core may not be operating
as fast , it may be able to do 2 or 3 things at once . The question exposes how do we divide up such tasks ,
whether software for consumer use , or science or engineering stuff , we need a generation who
can think how to use those multiple cores. How to make different bits of a computer , or different cores
do different things, that is at the heart.
Q: I suppose the power would arise if you had software on a control computer which would analyse the
algorithm that was to be used and then decide how it was to be split up.?
There ar e lot of people working on how to automatically paralyse code , however .
Quicksort was mentioned and that was an example of an algorithm that when you double
the number of things you sort , it doesn't double the processing time or a factor of 4 .
Quicksort does not chsange speed not quite linearly but nlog(n) when adding more things to sort.
The whole industry of how you might write algorithms . Say for sorting a deck of cards ,
take 4 times as lonng when I have twice as many cards . n-squred, it is one of the most bizarre
conunrums of algorithm writing the following. Take th edevelopement of the Silicon
industry from 1957 and the first transistor , Moore's Law. They get faster and cheaper
happening every 18 months or so. The production plants for the early transistrs were
priced in millions of dollars. The chips we use today, the chip factories that make thos e
now cost easily 2 or 4 billion. The cost of keeping Moore's Law going means ever more
complicated fabrication plants. But look at what mathematicians and algorithm
developers have done since 1957 , more efficient castings of the maths in algorithms .
Plot the hardware graph for Moore's Law and plot the same graph for speed up from
algorithms you get the same performance increase. So people working with
pen and paper thinking of better ways to sort quickly or Fast Fourier Transforms or signal processing type
things, the same Moore's Law for the algorithm industry.
You may have heard of attempts to simulate a living organism and they've done it for
a simplest bacteria . .. With parallel processing every carfd is linked to every other card,...
the outputs of one are the inputs of another.
Starting to think about those sorts of problems being solved wiht specific chips or in a specific
way and then its a combination of the way you write the algorithm but in that field they are thinking
of not using th egeneral purpose chips , but use very specific processors that
mimic or understand that complexity , or more closely mirror it. Becaus ethe operations that
may happen in cells or individuial organisms, those sorts of operations , many many of them ,
but each is very simple. S oeither developing bespoke hardware to do that or using the
graphics processing chip . The graphics chip production area has brought more realistic
environments to play games in . The graphics part of the Pi is a fast processor , people
have not been programming it, a few operations . Whilst the multi-Pi is not the
machine for solving that, but I'm in no doubt that in your life time it will bec9ome absolutely possible to simulate
these systems in a time realistic way and I've almost no doubt that the people,
the teamds who will work on it , have been inspired by this , by playing with thse in their
bedrooms just as I played around with Dragon-32K and got into this kind of stuff.
Q: What happens if one of the nodes crashes, does it bring the whole network of
You've no idea how awesome that question is in terms of what the correct answer is.
2 parts, firstly by putting the things together , do you understand the pain of when unreliable hardware
goes down. In the early versions of MPI , v1,1.2 and v2 , if one thing went down then game over.
People got over that by writing a restart file . Say you were modelling an Earth-system ocean
climates or airflow, get to a cdrtain state and write to disk, and then procede and then a problem
half way through the next step , read it back and start again. So writing the memory to disk , for a copy,
a back-up of your work and then restart from the last back up point.
There is a fault tolerant version of message passing , and ways to cope with a single
processor going down or something hapens you can cope with it.
As we move to thinking from 10s of thousands to hundreds of thousands of processors then at some
time you will excede the mean time between failure of nodes, and then you have to have commands
within the MPI environment to cope with that.
Q: Do they go down that oftn?
The multi Pis , we had running for about 6 months and it was fine. I've occassionally had at the
level of 64 where when I reboot the odd memory card won't fully come up. I suspect that
thats a combination of the exact memory cards we use , the fact it does get a little bit warm ,
not dangerously warm . I have noticed some of the cards can get slightly warped.
Generally when up and running they are rock solid.
Q: The way you've done this sems to be a fantstic way to get students into parallel
processing, how much of is it a serious educational tool and how much as a way to get into the subject?
Do I use this in anger to do my science and engineering, no. Its not about he performance of
this . There is a paper out there on the performance of the x64 is about the same you'd have
in a current generation of desktop computer. I said it used an ARM chip of a few
generations previously , but deliberately. There is a company Activa ? doing something called
Parallela or something like that. They've taken the latest ARM chips , as in an iPAD F, they've put
4 of them on a board for 99 dollars and that system board for board, flop for flop will outcompete
what you can get from Intel . Mor eimp[ortantly it heralds the age of doing low power
and low cost computing. When today we buy a machine costing 1 or 2 million pounds , the electricity
bill per year is 100 to 200,000. Over a 3 yesr period , you will blow that much of the list price on electricity.
ARM is a plucky British company in Cambridge . ARM don't own their fabrication plant ,
they license the designs to others to do the fabrication. If you go back a couple of years ,
ARM was very proud that the number of their chips sold each year equalld Intel sales.
1 year after that, ARM shipped more Intel had shipped in its entire history.
We should be very proud of that in the UK, no affiliation to them.
Q: What happened to the Transputer?
Dennis who was in the audience earlier, invented the Transputer . It came out of a
Bristol and southampton colaboration. The genius part was the way it dd the network
and comunication and the legacy of that can be found in set-top boxes , it was the switching
and packet switching that turned out to be something that persits to today. I programmed
on them. With any computer company , they conme and go , a question of
volume , scale, ambition, finance. UK and Europe suffers from , as we develop
technology , we rapidly sell them on . We sell them to the Yanks when they get to about 50 million.
We don't have the ambition to build billion dollar companies . That is an enterprise
and government stake for Europe and the UK, venture capital, funding . A company like
Amazon making losses for 5 or 10 years before any profit , we don't have the
desire or guts to do that. There are specific themes relating to the transputer but there
are more general themes as well. How we support these types of companies is a really
interesting question , for which there is no answer.
Q: Say you have a power use of parallel processing for meteorological simulation perhaps, broken into
cells. You can do the processing serially or parallel , do errors propogate i nthe same way. Each cell has an
input set of conditions and an output set and move on, and feedback the error somewhere for the next run,
do they propogate through in the same way?
Yes they would if sequentially or in parallel but what we have to be very careful of , say of flow of air
over a structure or ocean currents and masses , you need to make sure the resolution you do the calculations
is such that you don't accumalate such errors . There are some quite fundamental laws that you can bring
into play , like conservatio nof mass . If you start with your Earth system or atmosphere or oceanm
weighing a certain amount , it should weigh the same at the end. With people who
do optics calculations. Looking at propogation of a laser or radar wave , through a material , people care deeply about conservation of mass ,
momentum and energy, accounting for what goes through the system . Errors would propogate i nthe
same way and we would control them in the same way. The laws of physics are quite helpful
unless its dark matter and you're creating energy .
One of the things that can happen in a system these days , with multiple core processors is threading.
A program forms threads to do a job and multiple threads going on . How do you deal with
scheduling when one thread could be short and one long. You have to make sure one job finishes
when its appropriate .
What those threads help you to do . When you are paralising something , or break into lots of
pieces , its generally conceptually easier imagining breaking intp as many things as possible,
then work out how to bring those back together. So the idea of spawning of f lots of threads,
lets you think what is the maximum parallism I can expose in it.
Like when someone suggested with the deck of cards and 52 people exactly doing the srting.
What is the maximum parallelism and how to bring it back together. If one has a lot to do
and one has not , the switching between these threads , the context switching that says when to
switch very quickly actually means that f you have ones with a lot to do , if you hedge your bets
and keep going between the threads , churning them through, then the shorter ones will finish
, the longer ones will carry on , but the costs of giving each one a bit of air-time with
the processor , is the switching time pe rthread, doesn't cost you anything.
A thread may have a piec eof work to do, then it may need to go to memory to fetch a number
from the main memory. And its back to us walking between here and the Dolphin, not
to interchange our cards between processors but for that processor to go out of that thread may
take 7 or 20 clock cycles . If that thread then blocks everything it might do a chunk of work ,
you can use multiple threads to hide that by slipping in seemlessly and then it will go out to memory.
If you have 7 threads, you can hide the time it takes .
Do you think the enthusiast / hobbyist area, is there likely to be innovations from that, like ith the 70s
Without a shadow of a doubt. When you see Pius being launched on weather balloons , sensor
networks, that is an area of hobbyist science that crosses into the main stream, even the
work we do in our own research group. We work with Rlls Roysce and the Icelandic
Volcano , that raised the issue , can planes fly safely through that. There is a circular
bit, to understand what its like up there you need to fly a plane through it , but is it saf e
to fly a plane through it. So launch a weather balloon , collect data from it , understand what the
ash cloud was doing, what the particle density was doing , the chemistry. Then design new
generations of engine or whether the current generations can cope with a certain density of ash.
The tools now are available to anyone. Fro mmy respect a pool of people doing that kind
of thing . The hobbyists describe how they've wired this in like this , the business of science
developing because we stand on the shoulders of giants . To me someone has put one of those with that and this
, and making science happen from that, brilliantt.
The Pi was intended for schools , how much has it been taken up by the teaching profession?
I'd just like to put it on the record that I bought these, nospecial favours, quing up on a
website and they had some in stock. The astonishing thing is I managed to procure thenm through
the university labyrinthine procedures, before they had run out of stock.
I have had that heckle. Code clubs enthusiasm in schools happening . Go to the Pi site
today and see they have combined with an academy code club to tackle the mamoth
task of training teachers , to teach the new computer science curriculum on the September
timeframe. I think the enthusiasm is where there is an enthusiastic , perhaps slightly geeky teacher .
Perhaps over the next 2 or 3 years , not just the Pi , but smilar also on PCs. I see the shift
in computer science and then the use of it to solve science and engineering problems
of that changing and getting better
On that, both Cantell and Bitterne Park Schools have had open days about using Pis.
Not necessarily the perfect platform , all those peripherals, you may get suckered in that it is 25 quid .
There is another 30 quid of gubbins you need with it. The more subtle thing, where we see tablets
more ubiquitous, not the iPADs , but in Tesco or Aldi the cheap tablets , sub-100 pounds. If
thse tablets begin to be more open and accessible because people say I would like to
use thios in school for doing my computer programming . Some of thoise environments
have been very locked down, but if the tablet designers say . to justify getting one of these for
someone's birthday , let them run C or Python on it, or Scratch.
Android is a variant of Linux so more likely.
I show in some of my undergraduate lectures , Python, not every command, that Apple
allow , BBC Basic fo r it. I can certainly connect to a remote computer. Even in the
close-ganered Apple , the aability to do programming is possible.
But i nth eAndroid world I can see it getting much more pervadive.
If a Pi and fiddling around with it, is one area. But for parental justification,
this can be used for schoolwork and can do programming , then the Androidesque devices
will be more open to it, Thats a change that has come from thios sort of device that did
not exirst before.
You've the Open Source environment of Linux.
There is also the closed source and proprietary embracing this . Some very powerful
mathematical environments , like Wolfram Mathematica . That was 500 quid a seat deal
, the Rolls Royce of modelling environments, symbolic algebra , fancy graphs , large chunks of the
finance world use it for differential equation modelling . There is a version of it for the Pi ,
free. That may be like selling crack in the playground , give a way the firs tbit free and they
will come back to you at university. They declined to let universities have reduced price
Mathematica. Steve Wolfram , all credit to them, has gone down that route.
You can have a debate , what should be closed, what open, what is free anyway.
There is a Pi beer-making facility that you must look up,
the Pi for a micro-brewery system.
RISC-OS is available to th ePi , so can run BBC Basic properly and that is open
source these days and still being developed.
Yes . A whole variety of different flavours of Linux. Anothe rthing I built at home
is a home theatre machine. XBMC Xbox media centre, that sits next to my TV
and I can stream music , video across to the tV, house and web, briowse U-tube .
Sit with Apple iPAD and an XMBC remote on it . I also got suckered in and got one of the
Apple TV devices . The 99percent reliability of Pi is not quite good enough, but
you can build it and run at home. When you boot up the NOOBS image , it gives
you a list of choices to download. Then when you next boot up it will be in
RISC-OS or XMBC or whatever . Its stable enough if you are slightly geeky , if you
don't mind rebooting youtr telly every so often.
In phone use don't ARM put Digial Rights filter stuff on their chips? do they
puut proprietary checking in the chips. Talk about Edward Snowdon , what is going
inside our hardware, who has access and who has control of what is one the hardware?
Should there be contract law contracts between makers and controllers?
Absolutely true. In tems of open sourcing , there is one interesting thing.
On the Pi , they have started to make the ability of the graphics card to be programmable,
a bit more open source . A broadly used phrase for what Broadcom ? have done
in terms of open source ability. The chips are whiter than whitr standard .
Will there ever be a system where one can entirely trust , thast has had no interaction
from a third party security agency , kind of no. In open source software we've sen things
being introduced . In cryptography we see examples where the algorithms , not so much
have back-doors but have particular choices of parameter tha tmake them susceptible
to certain types of attack. THere is a war of attrition . You could make it all open
, but a million lines of Linux code to check is a long weekend.
There is a project out there that eliminates that .
But does open source guarantee entirely free from potential interference , probably not.
Does closed source have particular threats, maybe it does, maybe not, a fine balance.
The developement of the engine to work on those sorts of projects, is not just hackers in their
bedrooms, but also large companies . There is a debate about the extent that those large companies
have forked off parts of open source , like Android-types, and then closed it
for a certain amount of time and then not shared back their improvements, that they might
have done so,. The debate of the Apply/microsofty world versus an egalitarian
open world , a delicate balance. What is the engine of growth.
Open Source is open to the bad guy as well and its very difficult to police them out ,
there have been intrusions into source code.
We need some engine of economic activity to develop hardware , software etc. A free hippy
happy world , the information that you have, proprietary info, ability to trawk that info is a balance
of what you pay with. Not so widely appreciated . Those emaoils are trawled, they're searched ,
if you are not paying then you are the product. An interesting thought on what poweres
things that are free, our private details. The more targeted way of us buying things, the politically correct version
of being advertised to, guided to the right things to buy.
The low power of these devices . The big server farms at the moment are big consumers of
power . How long before these sort of low power devices come in?
The revolution is already happening. The Activa Parallela ? , 4 on a board, 99 dollars, already happening.
We not only hve a metric for how big is mine in the tob 500 biggest super computers , not just FLOPPs
but are also PLOPs per watt consumed. Its ARM right at the top for best measures in that.
In 3 to 5 years will be a different landscape, from today's.
So the likes of Google will dramatically reduce their energy consumption?
Places like Google and Amazon and Microsoft with their Cloud Computers, the first generations
were little more than our expoeriments , off the shelf racks. 3,4 or 5 generations on
we have this measure of power-usage efficiency . The leaders in that are now near enough reaching the
theoretical limits of where you can push the efficiency from electricity into compute power out.
Fold in ARM type processors, more efficient ways of using it , on top of the basic architecture.
Microsoft has recently sdaid about making open the designs that they have in their cloud
infrastructure. The second generation was shipping containers from ports , tin opener to it and
put servers in it . generation 3 was more sophiticated, now the blocks that house the server farms
with all the cooling etc are now quite bespoke. The other thing is siting them , you can put them
in green-friendly places to generate the electricity like hydro-electric stations, place them in naturaly cold places,
so no air conditioning required.
You have a class full of kids , perhaps 32 PIs in there , are there cool tittle problems you
can do there, like ray-tracing perhaps.?
Fust the kind of things. Ray-tracing or animation , cells that you are rendering and
pictures rendering. You can get nice environments now , 2D animation , you can then imagine
that being rendered i na much more 3D way using lots of bits of computing to do it.
A project out there for someone. An adhoc arrangement of 32 kids each with a Pi and put
an overall structure to it, quite easily, once they're connected to a network.
Mentioned a processor0 as the boss . Do you ever break them into teams so 32 are doing this
and 32 are doing that or is it always one big pool.?
It depends on the nature of the task. For climate modelling say, you may have the atmosphere , the landmass, the sea state.
So a bunch dealing with land processes, a bunch dealing with ice-sheet, atmosphere, seas.
Often with that sort of design the climate scientist who is expert at ice-sheet modelling maybe at
Soton , climate person at Reading say, they have all developed their own codes . Over the last 5
or 10 years they have joined up as separate teams and so separate processor groups. They
are a great comunity to work with as they don't have any preciousness over IP. They just
want to link their codes together, I have worked withhtat community and its a real pleasure.
Monday 10 March 2014 , Dr. Alexander Merle , Southampton University
Title: Dark Matter Does Matter
Maybe you have heard about a mysterious thing called Dark Matter. While it admittedly does sound like science
fiction, in fact there is much more Dark Matter in the Universe than ordinary matter like the stuff we consist of.
In his talk, Alex will tell you a bit about the abundance and the properties of Dark Matter and how we learned
about its existence. And you will hear why we could not exist without it - why indeed Dark Matter Does Matter!
2 hours, 59 people
I'm a physicist, researching into theoretical physics. There are people doing experiments
and people doing calculationsand theory. Both these fields are complicated by themselves, we
really need experts in both directions. Hardly any physicists these days cover all those aspects.
I go to the office, do a lot of calculations , a lot on computers, produce results that are
hopefully published at some point. My education was in particle physics , I work
with things related to the CERNE collider in Geneva. I'm also doing cosmology
which is about the history of the universe, its contents and the relation of th euniverse
to particle physics.
A big question in my research is , what is dark matter - I've no clue whatsoever. In case you expected
for me to tell you , I'm very sorry . I'm not the only person who does not know what dark
matter is. We know a fair bit about it.
Our universe today, a graphic showing part of the contents.
The 3 most important contents of our universe, dark matter, dark energy and atoms.
All the Earth , all the objects, you, me everything at home is all made of atoms.
In principle all we see is composed of atoms. You look at the numbers and all this
stuff only makes up 4.6 percent of the universe, so a tiny fraction.
Most of the universe consists of other things. About 1/4 of the known universe is
so-called dark matter.
Dark matter always sound a bit like science fiction, weird and mysterious.
When you look at the contents of our universe, there is 5 times more dark matter than ordinary matter.
So in a sense dark matter is more normal than the stuff we see and know. Its just that it does not
seem to be where we are placed in the universe. But the universe as a whole, there is a lot of dark matter,
that is why it must be important.
We have a fair idea of what dark matter could be, although not for sure its identity,
a couple of educated guesses.
The other big chunk is dark energy, something I'm not going to talk about, although it is the
majority of the universe. We have some soilid and good measurements of the dark energy
component of the universe.
As a scientist you always try and depart from things you know . We know about atoms, the
next piece we will try and know is dark matter. So focus on the dark mater. What is dark
about dark matter. So we do a gedunkenexperiment ? its in the OED, from German
and means a thought experiment.
Lets start with ordinary matter , a block of ordinary matter, we have a beam oif light ,
that falls on the block of matter. The light could be absorbed and heat it up ,
or be reflected and hence show a colour, or the light goes through , so 3 possibilities.
So what for a block of dark matter . The light goes straight through. I hope some in the audience
at this stsage will be a bit sceptical. If I'm at home , reading a book with enough daylight,
then I don't need to switch on the light. What is specail about dark matter . Light of
any wavelengths will pass straight through, different to all other matter. For example a glass
window at home , the visible light will pass through , but the UV light will not
pass through. With dark matter the light , no matter what wavelength , will always pass through,
it would not even notice that there was something there, apart from gravitational interaction.
In terms of electro-magnetism , no interaction, passing straight through.
This isa property that dark matter has and we have no known material on Earth
that has this property. So by exclusion it must be something very different.
We have a very good understanding of our chemical elecments , so it cannot be anything ordinary.
Something we know from observations , dark matter must be stable, it cannot decay.
This is a property of some elements but not radiocactive ones. We know that dark matter must
have been produced in the early universe and if it decayed it would no longer be thewre.
We know dark matter mainly from gravitional effects. We know a lot about the unknown .
So how is it not just a weird dream of scientists. We have about 10 to 15 observations
that help to explain dark matter and all of them taken together must mean dark matter is there.
I'll go into a few of them here. Its a new branch of scence, less than 100 years old.
There were some people hypothetising but the first mention of the term dark matter (DM) was in
1933 by a Swiss astronomer called Fritz Zwicky? He was interesting, in the bad sense ,
not popular with his colleagues , threatening to kill them etc. Science-wise he was a
brilliant mind .
He did the major step, what he did was realising , there is something and he was the person to
really invent and use the term dark matter. He studied the motions of whole galaxies.
Galaxies have a lot of stars and are very bright. Something real, not an error in his calculations.
Are there any ways to test that. We have a fair understanding of our universe and
gravitation and the motions of stars and galaxies. So we look at something we think we can understand ,
and see if the observation of the something is consistent with out calculation.
People looked at galaxy rotation curves. Do a calculation and try and match it to reality
to see if it fits or not. Graph of the distance to the centre of a galaxy v, the rotation velocity of
parts of the galaxy. Going out from the centre the rotation speed will be relatively large or small,
we don't know yet. Lets assume something like dark matter is there , and calculate with this
assumption and without , for th epresence of DM.
If DM is there then the plot would be a small rotation velocity in the inner section
and fast velocity for the outer arms. Do the calculation without DM is there, the centre
is similar but the outer arms drop to very small values. Which curve corresponds
to reality, and a strong indication that DM exists.
Video of 2 rotating galaxies showing the ddifferences speed up.
This alone would not allow a scientist to claim anything like DM.
A video simulation of an observation done in 2006 , the final jigsaw piece for confirmation of DM.
A crash of 2 galaxies , the observation is just a snapshot of this video, as all of it is much beyond
human lifetime. We observe the final stage. Red is the visible parts of the galaxies. We think the DM
is distributed as a halo around the galaxy. Looking at an ordinary galaxy it is usually flat,
a pancake or spiral arms . The DM around it is in the shape of a sphere. Blue part is
the DM. The red part collides , forming a shock-front , stars ,planets gas changes shape .
The blue DM does not interact with anything apart from gravitation. The DM does not realise there
was a crash of galaxies , so the blue parts just go through each other .
For the real observation image we cannot see the DM but we can calculate where it is ,
from the light of galaxies behind it , being bent , we can conclude where the DM is.
This simulation repeated without DM did not correspond to observation, but the simulation with DM
did correspond to the observation of the Bullet Cluster.
There are easily 10 or 15 different types of observations with the same conclusion.
Before this and 2006 , scientists had some alternatives to DM. The rotation of galaxies
could be different because our understanding of gravitation is not very good. Perhaps at large
scales of galaxies is different to the small scale of just out Solar system. Those interpretations
are not consistent with the crash of the Bullet Cluster. So since 2006 there has been no other
Whatever it is , is something that we call DM.
The Cosmic Microwave Backround , somewhat abstract but it is the most precise piece of information
that we have. The echo of the Big Bang, not scientificallly correct , but essentially our universe
is filled with a microwave radiation, at a temperature of 2.7 deg Kelvin. That temperature looks
exactly uniform , in any direction in the sky. Except for very tiny fluctuations and these are of the order 10^-5
which means a per mil (one thousandth) of a percent. Old analogue TV with no signal shows
snow as an image, and is a measurement of the CMB. If we have no other signal in the microwave range
then we will always observe the CMB. Observed in 1964 by 2 guys who did not know they
had observed it. They had a background signal on their antenna , engineers ? and Wilson.
Thinking something was wrong with their radio telescope , cleaning the bird poo from the surface
to ensure that was not the disturbance but the signal remained there. They presented their
findings at different physics institutes and eventually a cosmologist said that looks like a measurement
of the Big Bang. These 2 , by accident , has proved th eBig Bang model is correct and the Nobel Prize for that.
The most precise CMB measurement from 2013 , from the Plankh satellite of the European
Satellite agency. As we can observe these around 2.7 K temperature fluctuations so accurately.
This is what tells us that ordinary matter is 5.825 percent of the known universe, extremely precise.
We are confident that those numbers are not going to change. The CMB not only tells
us what is in the universe but also what has been there. With this one observation we can track down the whole
history of the universe.
Now particle physics. Abrupt change of topic , it would seem. Bu tnot so different. Now the question is , what is DM.
Historically we had a couple of plausible explanations. eg MONDS , modified Newtonian Dynamics.
It could have been that the laws of fravitation that we use are not correct. DM could have been huge dark Jupiter-like planet-like things
which might be abundent in distant galaxies . Or elementary particles , something fundamental.
After the 2006 Bullet cluster observation , those possiblilities are rulled out. There are a couple
more also ruled out, except for one. Still consistent with all observations is that DM is a
new fundamental elementary particle. It could be something very different . Scientists have alot
of possible explanations and ideas over 70-80 years. So an educated guess, if not close to the truth, a
CERNE etc is trying to understand the fundamental building blocks of matter. We consist of
atoms, from school , consist of nucleus surrounded by electrons. Nucleus consists of netrons and protons and
they are made of things called quarks . An atom is extremly tiny and then smaller and smaller
building blocks. At the moment , the smallest thing , from all experiments are quarks.
In the future there maybe something even more fundamental. At the moment we have no inkling of
anythin more fundamental than quarks and the end of the story.
The table of known elementary particles , could one of them be DM. I could give an hour talk
about that chart , from 100 years of research. We have found all those particles, measured them ,
we know there masses and all we need to know about them. In principle, in there is a candidate.
The Standard Model of Elementary Particles, the best model we have up to now. Theses particles
can explain all the observations we've had up to now. We would like to think that all these
particles explain all the observed , then they should explain DM. In there the neutrino has
exactly the right properties. It would not decay, universe about 14 billion years old so DM
has to be stable. It does not interact strongly and electrically neutral, has a small mass, the
only candidate for DM. Unfortunately it does not work, why not. The neutrino has a mass
but it is very tiny ,. it is so small that it could not make up all th eDM. When neutrinos are
produced i nth eearly universe , they are moving too quickly and that would prevent
galaxies from being formed . If there are no galaxies , there would be no stars with
stable solar systems around them ,so dangerous for us.
So the Standard Model fails to explain DM, why it isa hot and exciting topic in physics. So
we are hunting fo rthe successor to the SM. The reason behind the large collider at Geneva
is that we want to know what is beyond the SM. Such as super-symmetry , anothe r
involvving extra spatial dimensions , a lot of them. We have a few guesses how to exrtend the SM.
Many of those involve the DM candidate. So when we can successfully extend on from the SM we may also
learn whatt DM is. Matybe it will be revealed i nth enext 5 to 10 years if we are lucky.
Why wouldn't we exist without DM. Why is it so important that it really does matter.
Its important as DM makes up most of the universe. DM influences galaxy dynamics and that it
is possibly connected to particle physics. So out of those 3 which is the most important for us.
If there was no DM, from the computer simulations of galaxy formation compared
to the observed galaxies in th euniverse, It works for all the many may galaxies out there.
Without DM, galaxies could not have formed . Without galaxies there would be no stable
structures i nthe universe. Nothing like a Solar System, and so not the slightest
chance that we could exist. So Dark Matter does matter.
Did Einstein live longing enough to ..... ?
I think he heard about more evidence effects in the like of rotation curves had been seen in the 70s I
think. But those alone were not really a scientific proof. Its a rare occassion for scientists
to live long enough for their discoveries to be verified. Second question, DM is all around us
, in particular as DM gravitates strongly it would always collect objects that are heavy.
Around galaxies but also around the Sun or inside the Earth , right to the centre.
There is DM around us but not very much, it has a certain velocity , essentially orbiting
around th eEarth at different radii, around the Sun and all heavy bodies. The problem
as to why I cannot give you a numbedr as the number would depend on the mass
of the DM particle. If you knew the mass of the DM particle, I could tell you exactly
how many DM particles there are per cc. If the mass was 1GeV it would be 0.4 DM
particles per cc .
How much do we know about how galaxies formed this pancake shape , is it due
to gravitional effects ?
Yes and no. Not only due to gravitation but also due to particle interaction. When a galaxy
forms it is essentially material collection somewhere , gravitionally into what we
call a bound? state. A system of particles that are trapped into a rotational field.
If these particles are the visible part of matter they would interact with each other and realise
there is something. Imagine the early universe , relatively dense , many particles coming
from different directions with differrent velocities , different momenta.
In a collection of particles one of them will have the highest momentum , maass times
veloity and this is going to the preferred ditrection and the others will follow.
Then with something like th eSolar system structured as it is , because we have momentum
and direction but a big gravitating body in the middle so things would go around that.
Because of the prefered direction then that would happen essentuially in a plane as scatterings
would tend to be into other particles .
You said the DM formed a halo, a ball , if its working by gravity like ordinary matter ,
then why would DM not form a similar planar shape. ?
Because DM does not interact with itself . If ordinary matter only acted gravitationally
we also would only have ball-shapes . But ordinary matter realises it has other particles around
and like pool balls , form by transmitting momentum , into a disc. DM
is only by gravitation.
Is that why we can rule out completelky that DM can have a force equivalent to an electro-weak force bu t
of a weaker sort?
We can't completely rule it out , it could be there but it must be very small or it could be strong
but not on a long range. So perhaps only if they come very close to each other, but at long rang e
it must be extremely small.
In the early 20C there was a theory about The Ether. It was disprovenm by the Michaelson-Morley
experiment . Is DM like the Ether in a way ?
I often get this question but no. The Ether was a hypothesis , people could not figure out why light
propogates because the original classical idea was that there would need to be a medium
for waves to travel. Experimentally not verified , inconsistent with measurements. So the Ether was
something that was just a wrong concept.
3Q, You put a lot of emphasis on gravity effects to argue for the existence of DM, due to expansion of the universe
and the energy equations. How do you know that inter-galactic forces are gravitational as we only
know of gravity in relation to Earth. We see nubular that appear to have gravity but do you know for
certain that inter-galactic forces are gravitation. Secoind Q, your atomic theory you had the notion that an
atonm had definable space . You may have particles in DM when you find them , but the problem there
is the original notion that the atom has no space Loebnitz took this on in philosophy, the definition of
the atom. Does DM have space , Third Q, you showed a diagram of light hitting a DM cube .
With the famous experiment wher ethey fired a single photon at a difraction and it always
appeared to the observer. What would happen if you fired a single photon at a
cube of DM?
In reverse order becaus ethe answer to the last one is the easiest one. Nothing would happen, the
photon would go just straight through, no interaction. It is consistent with all the observations .
If there is a galaxy behind another big galaxy , we know there is a lot of DM in the galaxy,
we know the light goes through without noticing. We know how much DM there is from several
observations. If it was optically dense then photons would interact strongly with DM.
Essentially we would not see as much light from distant galaxies as we do see. One of the alternative
explanations could have been the so-called MACHOS, Massave Compact Halo Objects , Jupiter-like
objects. But if you hav emany such planets in a galAaxy then the galaxy would be optically dense, and light from behind would not come through
Rephrasing the question- if the DM cube was turned on its edge like a prism and fired a photon at it ,
thought experiment fashion,
would it go to the left or the right or would it go where you wanted it to be. Yes thought experiment but
the observations are not.
On gravity we compare it to our physical laws , we see that it is perfectly consistent . We know
that masses do gravitate . We could ask the question differently, are there limits to other
contributions other than gravity. Is there something else other than gravity, essentially what you are
saying. Say a long range force that only interacts for distant galaxies perhaps. There ar elimits to
that and the limits are quite strong. To answer, there could be something else but it would be
very tiny force, the bulk of the force is definitely gravitation. If there was something tiny on top
of that, that is experimentally hard to resolve.
If DM as a particle has a concept of space , then it depends on what sort particle it is.
Are you going to create a new science with lots of little bits of sub-quarks and billiard ball model?
The reason why atoms do take space is due to the nature of the particles involved, Fermions,
obey the Pauli exclusion principle, meaning no 2 Fermions can be in exactly the same state.
If you put a lot of fermions together they have to essentially stack-up, they will become big.
DM could still be Bosonic and they could be crushed down to the size of a ? essentially. Since we don't know
yet whethe rDM is Fermionic or Bosonic , I don't know
What is the KK-Photon and a KK-Z Boson?
KK is an abbreviation for Kalutze Klein ?, the 2 physicists who first started to think about
extra spatial dimensions. There could be more than the 3 spatial dimensions that we know.
However on large scales there are only 3 dimensions , all experiments prove there
are only 3 . But on very tiny scales there could be more spatial dimensions, curled up
, rolled into a tube essentially. With such theory you could have heavy versions of all the particles
that we know. In particular heavy version of th ephoton and the Z-Boson and they could be
DM candidates. But at the moment we don't know.
The echo of the microwave from th eBig Bang, is that the white noise snow on TV?
Part of that , it is. Its ,as the name sugests, its a background radiation. Wherever
you are in the universe , its there, and hard to switch it off as it comes from all
directions. On earth there is also a lot of other microwave sources so a lot
of other background as well. But part of this background is cosmic microwave background .
So our TV is a measure of it, just not an accurate one.
There is a theory that there is a body near the edge of the Solar system , because
of pertervbatioon of the orbit of Pluto etc, some sort of othe rmass exerting a gravitational force.
Could that be DM in a large consentration out there at the edge of the Solar system?
It could not be DM. If you wanted to have very dense collections of materials , that is
hard to have with things that harcly interact. The velocity of DM is about a per-mil
of the speed of light . So compared to the velocities we are familiar with it is quite
fast/. its very slow for particle physics . Take 2 particles and they hardly interact, not really knowing that
something is there, they will pass by each other and will have a hard time collecting somewhere.
This only works at the big scale , why galaxies are formed, because its the DM on big
scales that is being collected. Compared to something like a planet, on susch small scale, just would
Do you think black holes would affect DM?
Yes because it gravitates, so DM would be collected around black holes and maybe sucked in.
The Higgs Boson travelling faster than the speed of light last year?
No, never faster than the speed of light. A couple of years ago there was the Opera? experiment ,
nothing to do with the Higgs. Which claimed they might have seen neutrinos to be faste rthan
light , but the cause of that turned out to be a loose cable.
With the Bullet Galaxy the galaxies have passed through each other without interaction , like
strong/weak forces but they do, gravitationally?
The visible parts do interact, the DM parts do.
They pass through each other but they still can add their gravitational force but on the individual
particles they don't. As they pass through they have the velocities of the DM particles affect
by this, they end up being dragged but not pulled round?
Its like a second order effect on top of what you see. First of all they pass through each other
, in a zeroth order approximation there is just no force. Then if you care about tiny forces
, you need to care about gravitation , firstly a bit of slowing down and the shape
will change because the matter around those DM assemblies , the distribution will
change , and the distribution of DM will follow that. But second order effects, continuing
inb much the same directions. The rest goes to the shock front, like the crash of 2 cars,
the DM doesn't bother.
Is it true in particle physics you have right hand and left handed fermions for example.
There is no reason why you should not have left handed neutrinos as you have RH and LH electrons
but we haven't found LH neutrinos?
We have found left hand ones
Do you have any theories why we haven't found RH neutrinos and if they exist in some other sector
, could there not be a load of RH neutrinos but also a reflection of other sorts of particles ,
because where is the RH neutrinos. I know it doesn't affect DM stuff but it would seem to be
something missing. Is it just that experimentally we don't find RH neutrinos or some deep
You have the jackpot question because my research topic is RH neutrino DM. The simple
reason why we have not found them experimentally is that RH neutrinos do not
share Standard Model interactions. LH neutrinos do, thats why we've found them, RH ones
don't. To generate neutrino masses we know we need left and right , so we have good
indications that they should be there , its just their interactions are supressed,
so in practise hard to find. In terms of the mrror, you shouldn't take it too
literallly because for L and R you could call them Ernie and Bertie , or alpha and Beta
or whatever. Its just a notion , nothing to do with left or right hand whatever. Its just a way
to distinguish this type from that type, a label and no more.
Is there reasons why a separate sector can be discarded?
Its not discarded , historically scientists try to stick to the minimum hypothesis.
Neutrinos do have masses, from experimets. We don't know how big the masses are ,
we know they are small but not exactly the numbers. 20 or 30 years ago we would not have
had the technical ability to go that far down to measure a neutrino mass , now we have
several experiments running worldwide which try to do that . So at the moment we are
just about to get a grip on that. Historically it was tiny and could have been zero,
now we know its non-zero, but even 15 years ago that weas not known. There was then
no reason to assume RH neutrinos at that time.
You need both LH and RH to give the mass according to Lagrontin?
Did Einstein have a view on DM?
I don't know. He must have heard of it. I'm not aware of any work or comment by
Einstein on DM. He died in something like 1955 , at that time it was not
established , only an idea . The first proof via rotation curves was in the 70s
and even then it was evidence rather than proof. A good indication but not more solid.
Why is DM required for Solar Systems to form/
Not for solar systenms , for galaxies. The DM particles are too fast to cluster on
scales as small as a planet or even as small as a solar system. Its just for the giant objects ,
and there they matter a lot.
Didn't you imply that a solar system would not form without a galaxy?
Yes exactly , thats the point. In order to create life we need very stable conditions ideally
over billions of years at least for the one case that we know of, that is how long it toook.
To the best of our knowledge, without stable structures, there just is no chance.
Its known that galaxies have existed for extremely long times. In galaxies you have a
lot of material and you need a lot of matyerial to form a solar system but also long term stability ,
for solar systems to form at all. We still don't know the conditions that have to be in place
for a solar system to form. We've found some exo-planets but its not easy to find them as they are
hidden behind big bright stars.
With the bullet galaxy anyway you said the DM was contained spherically
around what is otherwise relatively planar galaxy itself, do you have any observational
reason for saying that or is it that you've just got to have that amount to get the DM
to have a gravitational effect.?
Otherwise this observation would not have worked. When we look at a galaxy we
first see the visible part. The DM we cannot observe directly but we observe it
by gravitational lensing. If there is a big bunch of DM then from Einstein's general theory of relativity
then the big bunch of DM would also bend the light curves. If there is light from a galaxy behind
the bg ball of DM that the rear galaxy passes by, then its image would bend and we would see the DM's effect.
It can also pass in another direction and we will still see it . We would see the same galaxy from different directions
and then by a tool called spectral analysis we can analyse the light from those galaxies
and then get an idea of the composition of the galaxy . We know its precisely the same object ,
in 2 or more directions , it can only come from this lensing effect . The only thing large
enough is DM and when we do the calculations then spheroid.
While on lensing a picture that emerged on the recent BBC StarWatch event a month or so back.
Found by a Polish amateur astronomer inspecting Hubble images because
humans are very good at interpreting splodges. He recognissed that as a lensed galaxy.
The front galaxy is 2 billion light years away and the lensed one another 8 billion ly away.
Over the 3 nights of that event it was so significant that they got the Jodrell
Bank radio dish , the programme was based there, to swing round to take radio images
of those galaxies. The radio plot wa snot coincident with the light plot.
There was somethiong very significant about that, it got in at the end of the program ,
and they never went into detail. Do you know what the significance of this skewing might be?
No I've never heard of that. If I had some more info perhaps I could give you an answer.
Does it attract more young people into science the fact . At one time we had the Standard
Model , it works so well , there is nothing to discover. A bit like the old days . I now
find that in schools young people ar einterested in what is DM , and dark energy.
Do you find students get interested in these areas because there is some mystery there now?
There have been mysteries all along. I don't think its so much in terms of mysteries
but in terms of communicatioin . When people go out into the public and try to
create awareness, ths may attract high school students. Look around here and
there ar eno high school students - its not worked here.
Do you go into schools and colleges, you would be good at get this across?
Yes I've done that . We try to create awareness. Its hard to predict. Its not like a linear
relatiojn - go somewhere and 10 more students come along .
I'm going to suggest that DM is a form of alchemy , because its been produced to make the equations
like Conservation of Energy in Cosmos terms , correct. But there is something fundamentally wrong
with the evocation of those laws to the universe. Instead of creating some mythical thing like
sulphur or some other alchemist thing, then DM is just weird. Is it not like false accounting
in maths and physics and maybe instead of thinking about DM, started thinknig about
what is wrong with the actual physics that requires us to create this imaginary thing called DM .?
The first comment was wrong. It was not the energy balance of the universe it was
the motions of galaxies that was the fisrt indication. Then if it was only that , in that
some equations do not work, no scientist anywhere would believe in DM. Seeing that things
do not work is the starting point. Then scientists come up with other possibilities to
test this idea. For DM we have about 15 different tests and they all agree with DM.
It could still be wrong, yes, but if you can come up with a better idea , you should come
to me. Because up to now there was no better one. Scientists would never claim that we
would know the truth. Its just that at the mpoment DM is our best guess. But your
better guess has to work with everything , not just galaxy clustering, also the CMB ,
and other precision observations. We know the contents of the universe to sub-percent precision.
A lot of people have tried, and all of them have failed.
What does the DM calculations have to say about whether the universe is expanding or
contracting or static ?
Its not the calculations that tell us that , its the observations. In particular the CMB and it tels
us in terms of the expansion of the universe, is its the DM component . It tells us its expanding
but not just expanding but alsop accelerating. We can see from the observation of very distant
super-novae from which we again know exactly what to see , we see that the further away they
ar e, the faster they move away from us. No matter in which direction we look. The DM
is a component of that, it is inside the equation , but nowadays its considered the major
contribution to this expansion is dark energy.
And th eBig Bang?
The Big Bang was quite some time ago. There is still some remnant component of that but the dominent
thing right now is dark energy in terms of universe expansion.
I remember before DM came along in force in 2006, the universe was said to be quite flat, the
gravitational force was just about balancing the expansion and not really possible to say
whether it would expand or contract. Now they find the universe is more massive than it was
considered before, and it still looks pretty flat, ignoring dark energy?
Thats 2 different things. It was not about expanding or not expanding , it was rather the end of
the universe in that can you extrapolate to the end and whether it will expand .
Also with the Planhk satellite now , it still looks flat to a very good precision .
Despite having 5 times more mass than we thought before?
It was already clear in the 90s , from COBE , that gave us a measurement. From then
on it was clear there was more DM than ordinary matter. Even in the 90s
was including DM. Then it was not the precision that we have now , but even then it
was still roughly a factor of 5 , could be 4 or 6, but not changed a lot. You could say it
was a bit lucky that the numbers stayed the same from that time but they had huge
error bars then.
Is it uniform expansion?
At least on large scales , yes, to the best of our knowledge. On small scales , universe
expansion doesn't matter . Like the Earth rotates around the Sun , not caring much
about the universe expanding . But on large scales where we can observe it then
Have any DM detection experiments produced any results?
There ar esome results . There was an Xray line that could come from decaying DM just
4 weeks by the X? Newton Statellite . Again the problem is that we scientists would
not rely on 1 single observation .
Should DM decay though?
It shouldn't to a first approximation . If it decays then its lifetime must be extrremely
long . So perhaps just a tiny fracion of it decays throughout the history
of the universe. This is just inditect evidence, you would not see the DM ,
jusat a decay product. So people are after direct detection , ground or space
based telescopes and interaction with a DM particle. In the last 5 years or so there was
some indications , but no concensus , 2 or 3 experiments had some indication but was weak.
DM interaction is very ratre because if it was common then it would be easy to build
an experiment. So in 2 years perhaps 2 evdnts could be DM. But of course those
2 events could be something else , could be some background thing. So very important
to understand your background level for detectors. Some detections but
not with any certainty , the hints have to be confirmed or not. There are about
10 ground based experiments into DM currently running and a couple of satellites.
If any of those claims survives , we will know inthe next 5 to 10 years . If its
a wrong measurement then we will not know.
Monday ,14 April, Dr James Dyke, University of Southampton,
Institute for Complex Systems Simulation
Agents, Interaction and Complexity , talk subject
"Is the Earth alive? A planetary odyssey"
30 people, 1.5 hours
Is the earth alive, it will deped on what you think being alive is. There is no agreed definition
of life , what a living system is. We are limited to a single example of life as we know it.
If we find evidence of life on Mars or a moon of Saturn then perhaps a more empirically
based discussion about it. For the moment we say we know when we see it.
Some people believe rocks are alive . But most people would want to limit it to the
notions of reproduction, metabolism etc. Is a virus alive , maybe. Is a planet alive, if you
believe rocks are alive then the Earth can be alive , but most people would not say so.
It may have some characteristics similar to a euchoratic cell for example.
Both are open dissipative? systems. A flux of energy goes across the boundary of Earth and a cell,
low entropy food and exports waste, metabolic byproducts. Similarly Earth , on the
surface , takes energy from the Sun , drives a hydrological cycle , climate, drives primary
production in terms of the living things on it, and exports it as long wave energy back out into space.
So you can start to make such analogies.
Thermostats. One essence of being alive seems to be the notion of homeostasis, the ability
to regulate internal variables , to be able to survive in varying environments. You set the dial of a thermostat
and that tells the system , the temperature you want it to maintain itself at. That is just one component
of a broad system . Thermometer feeds info to the thermostat . If the temp goes below a
certain set point , it sends a signal to a boiler , heats water that is pumped through radiators
, increasing the temperature until it reaches the fixed point and it switches itself of.
Simple homestatic closed-loop , negative feedback, control example .
The fundamental of negative feedback, is some kind of variable and something that is operating
on it. Going the other way , if it gets too hot you can also have a control to operate an
air conditioner. One keeps the temperature up and the other down.
Looking inside organisms, complex and simple , you wiull see a wealth of
bio-metric? processes that regulate certain internal variables. Sometimes its temperature ,
blood-sugar, calcium ions for example. A whole suite of processes to ensure certain critical
variables remain within bounds. If you want to be alive you have to have some degree of homeostasis
because you need to survive noisy environments. For quite some time those regulation
processes were a mystery. Thew more we understand life, the more bewilderingly complex it
seems to be. If life started simply billions of years ago how did it become so incredibly complicated. So complex and how to do
such high fidelity control of environmental variables. If you had asked William Hayley, a famous
theologian of his time , he would have answered something like this., Imagine you are walking
with him and you come across a pocket watch . You ask him, where did that come from,
how can you explain how this came to be. Well its not like a rock , nothing interesting about
a rock, its always been there,. A watcgh though, if you look inside , the contrivances and complexities
the form and function , gears cogs ,wheels ,pivots and springs all designed for a particular
function. In this case to tell the time. So where did it come from. Something designed looking is
created by a designer, by a watchmaker. Organisms look designed, similarly , so who or what could
give rise to such complexity , it was god obviously. These organisms are so incredibly complex
no mere man could have created something like that. Must of been some hyper-inteligent,
omniscient powerful being to create such a finely crafted organism. Along comes Darwin.
You do'nt need some all powerful designing entity to create complicated biological organisms , through the processes
of variation and natural selection operating on different types of organisms , which inherit
certain characteristics you can evolve complexity. So from a simple ancestor you can bget
complicated types of organisms. Otherwise you could swap out any allpowerful
designing entity for another one. You could remove the Judo-christian formulation of god
and replace it with a flying spaghetti monster. Unless you have proof that it is this particular
kind of designer then its not a useful argument.
What about the planet, a complex Earth system. Analien visits the Earth and what he
sees are complicated systems. Numerous environmental homeostatic processes.
Sulphur cycle, nitrogen cycle, carbon cycle and phosphorous cycle graphic. All this is necessary
for life, if we didn't have these cycles, then the amount of life on the Earth would be very much less.
They seem to be regulated and very complex, how did they arise.
You can't evoke Darwinian arguments. There has not been lots of different types
of planets and some how the more complicated ones have won out , over the others.
There has not been multiple populations of planets. So how has the Earth system
become more complex over time. So we were just lucky perhaps. Other planets landed
in non ideal posistions ,too hot or too cold. The other Solar planets do not show any complexity
of systems arising. You can go beyond pure luck and evoke some kind of anthropic
principles. If the Earth wasn't like it , and not had a long period of stability in order for
complex life to evolve, then we could not be here to ask such questions. The observer
self-selection problem . Its not an explanation though. It doesn't tell us how to expect
complex planets in the universe. A few years ago there were 8 or 9
known planets, now there are over 1000 exo-solar planets that we've detected.
Our galaxy could be filled with planets and the whole univerese with trillions of planets.
How many of those planets have life on them. How many of those planets have
complex differentiated biospheres. How many have complicated systems like the quad
graphic. Anthropic principle like that don't tell you anything about the propensity
for systems to bewcome more complicated. Ask many people the question , how lucky is the Earth
or should we expect to see complex planetary systems, reply urh. They see no reason why it
should be complicated or reasons why it should not be complicated.
Some people have argued that not only the Earth is complicated but has some
properties like a thermostat, some sort of homeostatic properties, that people would
normally say that living organisms have. Australia today and stromatellite beds ,
colonies of single cell bacteria that live in tidal zones . Along with a fossil of a stromatilite about
2.5 billion years old . Depending on who you talk to, life started 3.2 maybe 3.5 or even
3.8byo . At some point there would have been no lifer and then life would have happened.
Current day off-axis smoker like the big black smokers on thermal ridges subsea.
Go only a few km from these very hot environments you find white smokers.
Not as hot , 60 or 70 degrees , loaded with metals and other goodies that simple
organisms want. There are a whole range of eco-systems around them . Some
say these are the points of origins of life on Earth. Once life has started there is evidence that it
never really stopped .
back 540 million years ago , the Cambrian explosion and lots of complicated and differentiated
forms of life. A representation of the number of living families , the complexity of the
biosphere increases. But every now and then , ratchet points,
these are the mass extinction events , about 5 of them . Or perhaps one more as some
say we are producing the next mass extinction. Some sort of planetary scale calamity
happens , so triassic eon 35% of animals including reptiles went extinct.
In the Permian a 60% extinction. In marine species some extinction events were over 70 %.
Some caused by vigorous volcanism , sometimes an asteroid impact. Some could have been a
form of runaway climate change. But these bars on the graph never got doown to
zero. Go back far enough and you will find the origin of life. Everything alive today
is ultimately related to everything else that has ever lived. Go back far enough and you will
find a common ancestor. So however bad things got on the Earth surface, life
always found a way around. If it had I would not be here to talk about it.
So were we just lucky . If someone hit the planet with a big enough hammer maybe all
life would have gone extinct. Maybe we were lucky. Perhaps we were lucky to have a bifg
gas giant like Jupitor that hoovers up Solar System debris, reducing the number of
meteorites and asteroids. The planet as a system may be skewing the odds a bit.
The short-term carbon cycle 9 billion tons we contribute compared natural 110 bt flux .
We don;t seem to be contributing that much to the overal. If our bit was a bit smaller
then we would not have a problem then the natural sinks of C , especially down
into the deep ocean, back into rock essentially, then no problem. The problem is not the absolute number but its rate of change.
Its gone to relatively 0 to 9 in , geologially speaking, instantaneously. A sudden increase in this
flux. Eventually it will move back to a steady state but not designed in ways to do that.
A sudden sharp anthropogenic perterbation , but the system has a to a certain extent homeostatic
stabilising properties. Start to move some of the proportions around the system can move
back into a balance. There is an important longer term regulation of temperature and CO2 in the
atmosphere, the C-silicate weathering cycle. CO2 and other volatiles outgassed from volcanoes
, into the atmosphere, then through rock weathering The rain takes in the CO2 , forms weak carbonic
acid , which reacts with silicate rocks . The C gets bound up and ends up in the ocean beds
as calcium carbonate. The samount from volcanoes equals the amopunt runs back into the oceans
and is homeostatic in the sense that if you increase the temperature of the Earth, maybe make the Sun brighter
, that drives the hydrological cycle faster, increasing the amount of rain , increase the weathering ,
reducing the amount of CO2, a steady state. What seems to have happened over the last 4by
or so , because the Sun has been getting brighter by about 25% but the planet surface temperatue
have not increased by 25%. This seems to be an important component as toi why the surface
temperatures have not risen also. Life, some people have argued, seems to be an important
component to this. Take a tree , they break up rocks and increase the surface area available to
weathering . Some forms of life can dissolve rock and leech out the nutrients they want.
As a byproduct they increase rock weathering.
Planetary-scale homeopstasis. Some people propose, prima facie , not only has the Earth been very
#lucky to survive billions of years but also some processes that have maintained conditions on the
surface , more than you could expect, better than chance. That is th e Gaia Hypothsis .
Jim Lovelock and Lyn Margolis . Jim started in bio-chemistry , renowned inventor eg the electron-capture
device, used to detect CFC in the atmosphere. Along with Lyn who was a renowned biologist,
the notion of Gaia, homeostasis by and for the biota. Somehow life has contrived with conditions
on the planet to maintain the surface conditions of the Earth in regions that are fit for it.
One problem that has bedevilled Gaia theory , is there don't seem to be any reasons why
we should see homeostatic proceses. Goes back to the problem that Darwin
thought he had solved. Ask how this homeostatic process arrived in a rat or a bacteria ,
you can say by evolution. You can't do that for a planet. So have we gone from 1 form of
lucky coincidence to another. Do we have to say that in order for complicated life to emerge ,
you need to have long periods of stability , for big brained organisms . It took billions of years to reach
the first Cambian explosion. Billions of years before complicated life. If you keep resetting the evolutionary
clock by mass extinction events you won't dsee complicated life emerge. So a planet must be
stable but also must have homeostatic processes to keedp cdrtain essential processes
within certain narrow bands. But again you could be just lucky. But that does not answer
the question ,do we expect planets like the Earth to be homeostatic.
Are there any Darwinian-like processes that we can apply to understand how Gaiea
might work. Darwin will not do it for us. But the Darwinian paradigm is important. What is assumes
is the relationship between life and its environment. The einvironment is a kind of lock.
Life is a kind of key and the idea is that life fits into the environment. So the particular form of the
key is shaped and molded by the tumblers in the lock. As the configuration of the lock changes
then so life changes. So the direction is that life is affected by environment , a selection
pressure and changes the form of life that we see. But we know it is not just a one-way street.
An example of eco-systems engineering. Beevers chop down trees, build large dams for
them to live in and like to be near lakes. Previously no lake , so they made one.
So this species has modified its enviroment for its own benefit. But in doing so it has
completely change the eco-=system . Previous to the beevers you would not see any
fish there or frogs. So in producing something they want, they have affected the environment more
generally. Cyno-bacteria do too, invented oxygenic-photosynthesis 2 or 3 by ago.
Without those organisms , we would not be here as we need lots of oxygen to breathe,
which is a byproduct of photosynthesis. They worked out how to make enregy
from the Sun , water and CO2 and a byproduct , their waste, is oxygen.
So fundamentally changing the Earth environment. Trees affect the hydrological balance ,
deep roots suck up water , trans-evaporate it , in doing so they can significantly
modify yhr climate. Increasing cloud cover and the amount of rain over that forest.
In terms of what we are doing, anthropogenic forcing , we are doing just
what life has been doing anyway. In our case , getting hold of fossilise d
C , burning it , and as a byproduct we have changed the environment. We didn't
intend to modify the climate, but then neithe rdid the earlier organisms.
Just a kind of consequence of what it is to be alive. The most fundamental byproduct.
To be alive you must run a metabolism , eat and then go to the toilet. The production
of such waste is a fundamental byproduct and yo u cannot avoid.
The environment exerts important selection pressure , molds and guides
what life does but in time , life has significant impacts on the environment.
A coupled co-evolutionary system. What James Lovelock difd in the 1980s , he was getting
fed up with the reaction to his earlier publications on Gaia. In academe there
was debate about the importance of group selection , high level selection, Gaia
got picked up by alternative elements invoking magic etc. With a PhD student Andy Watson developed a
model, calling it a parable. Not about any real planet, just a proof of concept.
How could a planetary-scale homeostatic system evolve, how could it emerge. You don't need
magic, don't need all knowing, all powerful creators.
You have an Earth sized planet that orbits a sun-like star. A very simple planet, it
has a grey surface and a biota with just 2 types of life. It has white flowers
and black kinds of flowers called daisies. You sow the surface of this planet with
lots of black daisy seeds, and white daisy seeds. You assume there is sufficient water and
nutrients. We are interested i nthe Tp the surface temperature of the planet.
So how does the environment affect this life. They don't like it too hot and not too
cold. At about 22 deg C , gives maximum growth rate. Get hotter or colder
than that, the growth rate decreases until it ends up as 0, about 5 deg C or 40 deg C.
Imagine increasing the proportion of black daisies, the planet surface will get warmer
because low albedo, absorb energy from the star, and make the planet hotter and hotter.
The inverse happens with the white daisies, the planet goes from grey to lighter grey.
So turning to a cold planet. This sun increases in brightness over 4 by.
Simulations start with a grey planet, and over 1,2 ... billion years.
As the sun brightens, the surface gets warmer in an approximately linear way.
But something different happens with black and white daisy seeds all over the surface.
The situation warms , stabilises then increases and stabilises again.
The regulation is around the 22 deg C and then a later increase, accompanied
by a change in the coloiur of the planet. Grey , then blacker, lighter , white and then flips back
to grey again. A negative feedback response , then shoots up. As the temperature gets into the
grey of the black daisies they start to warm up and grow and increase in their surface
area. They turn a portion of the grey planet darker , which means making it a bit warmer ,
so moving the temperature more into their growth optimum, grow faster, cover more area and
a positive feedback loop. A sudden shoot up in their coverage area, from 0 to 70%
of the total area of the planet. They start to get too hot and the coverage starts to
decrease and now come into the range where the white daisies like it and their coverage area increases.
Unlike the previous positive feedback the white daisies try to slow down the increase in tremperature.
As it gets hotter the white grow more, increase the area , reflect more energy back into space ,
so a cooling effect. You can have different versions of the daisy world model , much
more complicated . Not just one variable going to say temperature, CO2 , partial pressure etc.
These simulations show that a situation can emerge where you can hit it with a hammer,
then a period of thrashing around then find a new stable state, settling back down to
new sets of attractors. Systems like this are typically homeostatic. You can change asumptions,
tweak parameters. The system will eventually settle down to some kind of stable state,
ultimately homeostatic. In these situations daisyworld is nothing exceptional or special.
No special pleading or magic almost an unavoidable consequence of sytems where an
environment affects living systems and when those living systems can also affect
the environment then what falls out is a homeostatic system. There is a very big BUT.
Homeostatic in one segment only. At the start a sudden increase and at the end
a sudden collapse . With co-evolutionary systems you can have stability , but almost as a price
for having that stability , is that if you drive them hard enough they can undergo critical
transistions. Relatively fast, relativley sudden, into different states. If the situation goes too
far and I want it to get back to a previous state I cannot follow the same simple trajectory
but have to go along a different path to get back to that state , called a hysterisis loop.
These kinds of critical transistions are almost ubiquitous feature of co-evoluitionary systems. If you see
a system comprised of 2 or more C-E elements , exhibiting stability or homeostasis
, as you drive it , it responds in ways to stabilise it, then I would not be surprised
to see sudden sharp discontinous changes. Often called tipping points. The metaphore
can be represented as a large ball near the edge of a cliff. You can be pushing it and pushing it
. As far as you know, pushing behind the ball slowly, nothing to be worried abiout.
When you are right at the limit then a tiny perterbation , perhaps some kind of noise ,
can be sufficient to move the ball off the cliff. then getting the ball back onto the cliff can be
very hard. It can be in efect irreversible.
Gaia system proposed that the Earth system is in homeostasis. In 2008 Tim Lenton ?
and many others they undertook a review of different types of Earth systems and elements
called tipping elements. The classic one is Arctic Sea Ice Loss. At the moment we are losing
a lot of ice in the Arctic summer. A purely physical process, but otherwise like in Daisy-World,
as the area of ice is reduced , uncovering dark ocean surface , takes up more heat from the sun,
warmer, more ice melt, a positive feedback process. Which seems to be on route for
a complete loss of ice in the Arctic in the summers. Thats potentially got big impacts
in terms of the entire planetary climate system.
Another one Sahara greening , sems to be a good thing we imagine .
Die-back of th eAmazon rain forest are much mediated by living organisms . The living componets
of some of these processes can resist to a certain extent some of the perterbations.
But push them too far ant they will flip , a tipping point. Then we shouldn't be surprised to see
relatively large changes in a relatively short period of time and which will
be effectively unrecoverable from.
In terms of one particular driver , we;ve been knowing for a long time that we've been doing it.
Monitoring stations, particularly Morna Lowa ? in Hawai. Since the 1950s monitoring the
CO2 in the atmosphere. This plotting down to 330 and up to 390, with years ticking round.
The line goes up and down . At the equator most of the land mass is north of the equator ,
means most terrestrial vegetaion is north of the equator so in the N Hemisphere summer ,
trees and flowers, suck down CO2 from the air. In N Hemisphere winter , leaves drop , they release the CO2
back to the air via decay. The biosphere breathing, breathing in CO2 i nsummer and
exhaling it i nthe winter. All things being equal the amount it breaths in , would be the
same as it breathes out. But its not equal. a clear increasing trend within the up and down line.
Fro m1955 when Kealing? at Hawai when CO2 started rising . We are not limited to direct reading of CO2.
We can look at proxy records , the gas trapped in ice-cores and othe rproxy measures.
We can go further and furthe r back in time . The CO2 we have is certainly highe rthan pre-industrial
level , about 278ppm and just recently Mona Loa observed partial pressure of 403 ppm.
In 22009 it was 386 and 2014 t is now 403. There has not been this much CO2 in the atmosphere
since at least 800,000 years, maybe 1 million years. We know there are real sensiutivities
to CO2 and the Earth climate , eg glaciations , the Ice Ages. They did not occur just because they were being
driven by CO2 , there ar eothe rthings but it demonstrates the potential extreme sensitivities the
Earth climate has go to CO2. The science, if not been settled fully, it has been robust for many
years but we continue to force it. Although the Earth system may have certain homeostatic properties
, certainly displayed them in the past, when you understand the limitations of those mechanisms
you wonder when we will drive the system to the point where it will flip. Unfortunately that is not the
only thing to worry about. A few yers ago UK chief scentist John Beddington said that about 2030
we will be faced by a perfect storm . 8 billion people and so they all have sufficient food , water,
and energy we will need 50% more energy, 50% more food and access to 30% more water
at the same time as reducing our impacts by rapidly transistioning away from fossil fuels.
Perhaps the greatest challenge that we have as a civilisation. Why are we not doing something
about it now. Why has say , the control of C emissions proved to be so difficult. Our collective
inability to sort out some of these issues.
An oil terminal facility in Sudan with some sort of environmental disaster of a major oil spill. A factory
with a water
course running out of the factory , laden with heavy metals, heading for a river. That factory
is doing what life does, it makes things , an open dissipative? system. It takes things in , recasts them ,
produces other things and exports them for sale. As a byproduct it exudes nasties into the local watercourse
but it didn't mean to do it. But its a tempting thing to do. If you have some flowing body
of water and some pullutive process its easy to just put it in the water, because its
not your problem any more. It then becomes someone else's problem downstream. A
classic form of negative externality. In a more general systems dynamics concept . Polution
in a river, say, or the atmosphere, a point of a source. In terms of the producer of the
pollution, the sink is a cloud that disappears somewhere. It does not have to worry about it, there
is no feedback loop to the production of the pollution.
So consider a stream that naturally may have some contamination. Along comes a factory
on top of it, increases the flow of pollution and a negative effect on aquatic eco-systems. Fish-stocks
die , that can have an impact on humans. But there is no feedbavck to the factorty.
The loss of fish may be felt many miles away and the CEO of that factory may live on another
continent. No feedback loop .
Why can't we look at the Montreal Accord that was proposed and successfully adhered to
for the chloroflourocarbons issue. CFCs were a byproduct of industrial processes and usage, the CFCs
built up in the atmosphere. Lovelock who invented the electron capture device, first detected these.
He went to the southern oceans , thousands of miles from land and detected CFCs. On the west
coast of Ireland , fetch of thousands of empty miles, and again detecting CFCs. That meant CFCs were
potentially very long lived. He called it his greatest blunder because he thought , yes they may
be long lived but they don't do anything, relatively inert. Unfortunately whern they get to
the top of the stratosphere they ar enot inert. They react with sunlight, split apart , gobble up ozone
and produced a thinning of the ozone cover . That was having a potential disasterous affect on
human health in the way of cataracts, skin cancer for humans and other species.
The people being affected Australia, Europe , North America were the same people who worked in those
factories, owned those factories or voted in countries where legislation was made. There wasa relatively
rapid change in those production processes, transistioned away from CFCs and used less bad replacements.
Success, global co-operation , we could fix it. Unfortunately the situation we are in now , we
emit CO2 as a byproduct, we didn't mean to do it. That has a deleterious affect on the Earth'sd atmosphere ,
increasing the greenhouse effect but we don't haver the feedback loop. The reason for no feedback is becaus e
the people who work in the factories , vote etc are largely unaffected . An irony of climate
change is the people perhaps most responsible for the problem are least affected, plenty of
money and resources. The response is something like if the air gets hotter I'll just turn the
air conditioning up. Not an option for someone whose livelihood has been removed , bleached
coral reef or no home as now under water. No feedback loop, inhibits any solution
to the problem. The current paradigm is for collective self organised?
Who in the audience knew about the green levy on energy bills in the UK? a proposal to increase the
money paid to your provider and a proportion of that money would go to provision
of less C intensive forms of energy, windfarms , solar powerand eenergy efficiency.
This works if you want to imagine these individuals as countries or corporate entities.
Somehow we have to collectively decide to put our own resources into the pot.
If the collective pot reaches some thresholdthen its a win. We can then install large scale
photovoltaics , somehow avoid the problem. The trouble with this sort of formulation is the
joker in the pack. They reached the collective sum but that individual did not put his money in.
If everyone else contributes, there is noi incentive to you to make your contribution.
Everyone has done their duty , everyone benefits , but the joker benefits plus.
This reason then applies to many or most of the nominal collection. In game theory it is
form of the Prisoner's Dilemma. Do you co=operate or do you cheat. If someone thinks that
someone can cheat , then they are not going to be taken as a sucker , and will cheat alsdo.
You are going to die and you are about to die , geologically speaking. We are matyflies.
Climate change is not about trying to save the planet, the planet is fine. Its been around
for billions of years and will be around for billions more. Our relation to future generations .
You can amass money and perhaps wreck the environment , forcing future
individuals into a lower quality of life. But ultimately concerning feedback
loops , what is it maximising. Is it utility , your money , or a more fluffy
concept concerning living on a world with others and future individuals. All things that are alive
do die . So in response to is th eEarth alive then it is , because one day it will die.
In about 4 by or so th eSun will continue to expand , counterintuitively,
as it consumes its fuel. It may get so large that it will encompass the Earth orbit
oceans boil, atmosphere blown into space, crustal rocks ablated way. All that will
be left is a molten core of nickel and even that may be subsumed into th eSun.
Long before that all human life will cease because CO2 in the atmosphere will be too low to support
photosynthesis , trees die , algae die , then nothing else will live. We have about 1 to 2 billion years before
human life is extinct. We cannot kill the earth, we can't really steer it but we can become much more
cognisant of what we are doing with it and can appreciate some of the feedback loops ,
we are not just passive passengers on the planet , we are reflecting it for future generations.
As there are lots of large and small feedback loops and the hysteresis to get back
to a previous state to correct it. Its much more difficult as you have to go right round again.
As there are lots of loops , positive and negative interacting , does it mean that it becomes
easier to return to a previous state because there are lots of little feedback loops as wel las the
Yes and no. We were looking at one dimensional systems , one variable. Imagine 2 variables and
areas in a plane where, like spirals down a plug hole can be wells. Now go into higher dimensions
you find you can have little attractor points and can get back but often as you drive it one
way and it goes through a critical transistion , then try reversing and you can't, its irreversible,
just by pulling the same levers. There is another lever somewhere, that if you pulled it , then
path would be this way, that way, and be able to return to whaere you were
previously. So some transistions may be irreversible but the take-home message for me is,
when you are interacting with a complex system, you drive it one way ,then oh no , yoy quickly come
back , when you pull the lever , you sometimes make it worse. You're not actually
driving the system back, in these higher dimensions , the track is going somewhere else you perhaps
don't want it to go either. A have a PhD student who did lots of clever maths to show that.
So a yes and no answer.
I remember when I was young, I tried designing a radio and that has positive and negative
feedback loops and the idea was to get them to balance , to work as a system. If one of them
goes off then the whole system is wrecked?
Like the long term geological cyscle , there is a constant outsourcing of CO2 and a constant
sink of CO2 and when they are in balance . But over long time spans they can come out of balance and you can see
big changes in climate conditions and other processes. But the issue with contemporary
anthropogenic climate change , we are making a very , geologically, sudden input to the system ,a sort of
input the system has never really experienced.
Early on in your display you showed usa 4-way model. A +/-, then a -/+ but also +/+ and -/-
were later examples relating to ++ and --, when you are creating something and not actually able to reverse it?
The plus plus would have been the explosion of black daisies at the start , + feedback loop, more black
daisies, the darke rthe surface, higher temp, more black daisies. Positive feedback emerges
where A increases B and B increases A, or A decreases B and B decreases A, they run faster a nd faster and will
typically ping off to + or - infinity, but they don't. they will ping off and reach some limit
eithe ra thermodynamic limit or some other negative feedback loop will kick in and so stabilie it.
Lots of real worlkd systems do have positive feedback loops in them and you can have quite sharp transistions. That ultimately is why
you have transistions. You go from a regime of balanced positive and negative feedback loops , come out of balance,
positive take over , and go to a new stable strate. So important components in understranding the way yhe system behaves the
way it does.
Do you feel, despite our inabililty to reverse what we've already done , by C capture ....
any success with geo-engineering, will we have the balls to try it or have any success in that direction ?
Just geo-engineering , because you have broader issues about innovation. The perfect storm of
energy/food/water/climate and then you will see lots of complicated diagrams , you trace the
paths and there will be a little triangle marked innovation. there ar elines out from "innovation"
that basically solves everything, low-C, hydroponics a kind of balm that will soothe over
any kind of problem. There is a point there. Thomas Malthus said , hundreds of years ago, an
exponential increase in population then only linear increase in amout of food produced will
never keep up. But he was proven to be wrong because he totally underestimated how much we can
innovate and massive increases in yield. So its tempting to sday you can always innovate more.
Always the possibility of nucleay fusion or some hi-tec just around the corner.
I was thinking more in terms of reversing what we have already done, sea-seeding or algae developement?
Every report I've come across on geo-engineering , there is the exucutive summary ,in essence,
really bad don't go there, hundreds of pages of technical stuff and at the end, by the way it is bad don't do it.
It goes back to the notion of a complex system , you don't know what you're doing. One of the proposed
solutiuons of too much CO2 and getting hotter is discoball , sent to the upper atmosphere and reflecrt
away , affecting the heat balance of the Earth . It would be using a different kind of lever , they
are not taking CO2 out they are just reducing the energy input. It would not change ocean acidification, it
would change weather patterns even at least locally, nobody knows about the effects on rainfall ? . There are a
whole range of levers that people would like to pull but what you find time and time again is that the
levers they want to pull are jus tthe levers they can pull. So take the flooding in England earlier
this year. There were calls for dredging the rivers . If you live right next to those rivers then
it makes sense, it is overflowing and in my living room. If you dredge out the river the water would not
be there . But time and time again it can be shown that dredging rivers , makes the water go faster, and downstream
it becomes someone else's problem. What you should do is change the forestry and agricultural practises. Leave trees on the hills
etc. What you want is slow release of the water , it gets into the water table, that holds it and releases
it over a longer timescale. But the EA don't have the levers of affecting farming practise or
forestry but they do have a lever consisting of dredgers on barges. There is political expediency, we
have to do something . Imagine a horrible heatwave and people are dying. What they do will
argue and end up making it much worse. I'm not a fan of geo-engineering.
You mentioned the Sun getting brighter and the Earth surface has been stable homeostatically
in temperature. Has there been any tipping point calculation as to when the Sun has got so much hotter
the the homeostatic control will fail or too complex to calculate?
You can do it simply in a zero energy balance model and its about 1.5 billion years. You just put a limit
on how much CO" photosynthesis needs . There have been new types CAM4 ? /cam-call types
of photosynthesis that have emerged and evolved as CO2 has gone down over Earth history.
But there seems to be a pretty hard limit beyond which photosynthesis will no longer run afte r
some level of partial pressure. Around there you will see a gradual dieback of the algae and
vegetation. As that happens then the biosphere will slowly wither away and die.
Will there be runaway temperature at that point?
If it was nice and abrupt , driven quickly , then you may see a sudden increase in temp like the end
of daisyworld. Probably be more gradual than that . Being driven and driven then something else may happen .
Like whan people die they often die of a complication to perhaps a cronic disease but it is flu
or a fall that kills them. As the Earth gets old and doddery , previously with a meteorite
smash it would have been ok, in a billion years time that would push it
over hte edge.
You mentioned , what I consider the magic word, nuclear fusion. basically the CO2 is in the air
because we've needed the energy , if we put more effort into fusion and that meant we did not have
to use fssil fuels , would that automatically bring us round and the right side of the hysteresis curve,
rathe rthan trying to go round the difficult side?
If you had unlimited energy then it would not matter , as you could do anything you want. You
would not have phosphorous limitations or nitrogen problems, you could recycle anything.
You could draw down C as much as you want. If we could have abundent energy , with no C
costs then a lot of the problems we see , do disappear. The trouble is, it doesn't seem to
be happening any time soon .
Its always been 30 years off.
Looking at the perfect storm , it is about 30 years time we have . 2 or 3 decades to come up
with firm proposals . Its not very responsible to hold out for a technological fix that just does
not seem to be very ?..
Should that not be a plan B that should be explored?
Yes but there is no plan-A. If a tthe same time we were doing the thinngs that we know we
need to do , reducing emissions basically , less resource intensity , consume less, not a lot less necessarily .
Then a tthe same time we can be looking at fusion or other exotic forms of energy then absolutely,
a plan B ,C and D . Unfortunately the innovation triangle is so alluring .
As far as I'm aware, ther main forcing agent fo rthe ice-ages was the Milankhovic Cycles , the way the Earth
orbits round th eSun in conjuction with Jupiter and some othe rplanets, perterbing the orbits
over long periods of time. Is there anything nasty waiting in the wings in that way, I'm thinking of the
little Ice-Age or something like that coming in on planetary perterbation, long before the Sun
gets to its final stages. Soemthing that may have passed over before in our history, before we got into
the present CO2 excess?
I've no idea. The thing about the Milankovitch cycles and little ice-ages it seems to demonstrate that
our climate system can be very sensitive to forcings. Milankovitch is about coincidents in the orbits, a bit
of a wobble here and another there and that is enough to go into a relativley rapid, in geological terms, transistion into
an ice-age and then at the other end yo'll get ???. So the biggest question we have today , with regards to
sensitivity to our C emissions which makes it a little bit warmer , produces more water vapour and it is
the water vapour that does most of the warming. I'm no climatologist, there could be all sorts of things
happening but again its the timescales under consideration. Someone will say but eventually the
super-volcano under Yellowstone National Park will erupt, and then precipitate a mass extinction event.
True, eventually in a billion or 2 years time. The question is the quality of life you would like for yourself
and your children , 30 or 60 years. An anthropocentric and egotistical sort of perspective.
What kind of planet do I want or want for my grandchildren rather than the concept of us
being the custodians of a planet. Lovelock once said that Gaia is a tough old bitch, she
doesn't really care about us, she will trundle along for some long time . The things we have to conside r
is how we are affecting it, how are the feedback loops going to bite us on the bum.
Does the process of life actually require an anti-life process in the way of diseases and microbes etc.
I'm thinking that Australia seems to be a great laboratory for things going wrong in the
way of the cane-toads , rabbits and mice. Introducing these things and there are no
natural predators and they take off like mad. A/ why Australia and not elsewhere and B/ Is an antilife
process absolutely necessary?
Its about balance. The cane toads business is a good one as it shows how stupid humans are.
In NE Australia its a sort of tropical environment, like S America, ideal for sugar cane production and they made lots of money.
All fabulous news to an indiginous beetle whose lava grew in the sugar cane , became a pest
known as the sugar cane beetle and destroyed the cane crop. So rathe rthan go , well
that was all a bad idea they noticed there was a cane toad indiginous to S America , introduced to
Asia that ate those kinds of beetle. So they put thos etoads in NE Australia, came to be known
as cane toads. The isdea was they would eat the beetles and good crops of sugar cane again.
Bu tthe cane toads have poisonous glands and are voracious predators , they started
to decimate local communities of mamals and lizards. If anything tried to eat a cane toad
it would die as it had not evolved i nthe right environment to respond to thos eneuro-toxins.
So in 1930 there were 30 cane toads in Australia , now over 300 million. And they've moved from
NE Australia to other areas that will support them. A classic example of unintended
consequence, wher eyou have intitial problems, put in an intervention, put in a lever , because its worked over there
but they had no idea it would reek such ecological havoc. At the start of th e millenium , the Oz
government was spending over a million dollars a year trying to eradicate cane toads. Killing
the m with golf clubs and cricket bats to no real effect. Not even slowed down the rate
of increase in terms of its habitat. But now you are seeing the indiginous animals changing their
behaviours , they either avoid cane toads , or only eat the legs , not the heads. Some other
species are learning to detect them, seeing evolution in action.
Ultimately nature finds the balance , the introduced species comes into some sort
of harmony. But from our anthropocentric perspective it wasa disaster. The people whp wanted to
grow cane sugar , it was a disaster. For people with interests in indiginous fauna it was a
disater. But ultimately nature finds a way.
Is there something odd about Australia , is it isolation?
Its been on its own for a while but we have similar problems. eg the Asian Hornet in France , so everyone here is on the
look out for them, not the mega form that kill people but nasty to honey bees as they predates
on honey bees. Thdre will always be examples of introduced species , where the host species
have never seen befor e, always the potential to be disruptive.
Take a polar bear and put it in a jungle it won't do very well.
A human interest question. Does your knowledge of how systems work
and future issues , work together, make how you live your life or how you think individuals
should live their lives?
Yes, I've got some opinions . I got into this by being intellectually motivated , trying to understand
how thge Earth works and then you becaome aware of how we interact with it and then what the
consequences of those inteactions are and increasingly I 've become more convinced that as
well as innovation , smarter science and technology there is a lot to do with social dynamic
elements like politics . On eof the perfect storm elements is 8 or 9 billion people and so 50%
more food required. Bu tthe world we live in now 1billion do not have enoyuigh food
and a billion eat so much , they are obese. In these sorts of perspectives the problems are not
necesarily scientific or technical they are about redistribution of resources. There is plenty enouhg
to go round and the same should be so when 9 billion people. The problem with the
perfect storm and also climate change, there is a burgeoning middle class in India, China
and Brazil and they want what we want . Not everyone can have the same resource
consumption intensity that we have. So either they stay lacking or we give up
our resource intensity. The picture is the one where
everyone has to decide to contribute , the game theory notions. We are all playing
against one another because we are all selfish bastards and that means if you
have more then I have less. No wonder people are perplexed and the problems seem
Do you still go on foreign holidays , run a car, we get told to reduce our own C footprint, is there any
point in an individual doing anything , as its such a mega issue?
There was a discourse that went from , there isn't a problem or not my problem, to
we're all doomed anyway and what's the point. Lovelock thinks we're doomed
anyway. He's a big proponent of nuclear power, for energy security reasons , not
for C issiues , hates wind power. He thinks most of the green movement is reractionary and useless.
For him its about energy security and maintaining a certain quality of life.
I run my car on waste vegitable oil, I don't fly to holidays and I do these other things ,
proportionally it makes practically no difference whatsoever . But you have to kind of walk
the talk I suppose. That said, the worst environmental thing I could do was have children,
and I did. There ar e2 more people , who over the course of their lives will have
tremendous impacts on. But at the same time there seems to be something wrong about denying
existence to future peoples or even that some children alive now will be a component
of the solution , not necessarily building that triangle but be the one that realise the socio-political
structure that we need, and the ones that may do something about it. I get a bit wary
of the Paul Erlicks ? of the world, "The Popukation Bomb" . Population isa n issue but its
more resiource consumption. So I think you shouild all do your bit.
Do you see genetically modified plants as a threat or a saviour?
Gm is a rather polarised debate. I have no problem with genetically mosdifying organisms , I've no
problem with high intensity agriculture , I've problems with how that technoilogy is deployed
and whether its appropriate . So things like the Golden Rice with increased nutritional value
seems like a good idea. But having strains of crop that you can patent the seed seems to be
attempts to commercialise .
The speed of modification involving GM will that impact .., on the hysteresis loop ..
I would banner that under the general reservations. Another example of the innovation
triangle. Lets ay we need to grow more food , we don't, therefore we do GM . The reason people do GM is to
make money , its not to solve hunger. Nearly 50% of food grown rots before it gets to market
and then nearly 50% of bought food rots in your fridge or is thrown away. Factor that with many people
over-eat, we don't have a problem with growing enough food , the agricultural revolution is still
working, we don't need any kind of wonder crop but I'm still open to the situation
that you may require to grow a particular crop for a particular purpose . I don't think its
inherently bad . I think pulling that lever and actually solving anything, I'm sceptical about.
The way this information gets interpreted on a human scale , we live in a western democracy
and we live under a political system and supposed to vote. Young people are less inclined to
vote, we're told. We don't hold our politicians in much revere. They have such a short active
life , 5 year parliaments. In the internet age whaere people can take things upon themselves
to garner support , within a new global system . Historically the world has been organised nationally
and imperially perhaps the new geo=political spectrum will have a didsproportionate way
of approaching these things. Rio was a product of yesterday's politics in a way, a group
of people in a room, now you have the Arab Spring, Twitter kind of stuff, people take
it upon themselves to organise themselves, a whole new way of people organising themselves.
So to have an effect on these cycles we have a new tool at our disposal which may counter
the shortcomings of the old systems?
I commend your optimism. The problem you have is the supertanker and every now and then someoe
gets 30 seconds to control the tiller , then in political time scales someone else
gets on the tiller, not long enough for anyone to make a significant change of course.
A lot of decisions here have been deferred to after the next election as it is?
The green-energy levy was very unpopular , people did not understand what it was for
and given the decision do I think it will be good for the long term , I will be defeated electorally and
so I will remove myself. And there is nothing stopping someopne coming in and reversing that
decision anyway. There is a problem of timescales and the notions of stewardship
or longer timescales. Its an interesting notion that you can go beyond national borders ,
via the internet, and make international communities, that has happened. I don't know
if you can connect the Arab Spring to that process. You can make connections between
the maize price in the USA , spike in food prices, and social unrest in the middle east.
I'd like to be optimistic but history shows us that technology can be used for good ,
or monitoring disident groups , furthering corporate agendas . Until motivated people
get hands on the policy levers , which might be via revolution I supose , then I would not
imagine significant prospect of change.
Thew current system could almost be eclipsed , and we don't need them, because we will
be organising ourselves via the bsack door anyway. ?
You have your survivalist types who live i na bunker . They will wait out the apocalypse.
As long as it lasts only 10 years. I want to be more optimistic . The solutions are there, we know what we have to
do . We know the chalenges we just need to get on and do it. On the one hand its a simple
situation so you get the accusation that you're being naiave . I had a chat with an MP
and said what about the perfect storm . Oh we've got solar pannels on the civic offices now .
But what happens in 2020 . Thats in the future no one cares . There is no engagement, not on the radar.
Far more of the moment inputs , fossil fuel lobies etc.
Talk of longer time scale situations and MPs eyes glaze over.
You would need a world govrnment for long scale events, but we cannot even organise
ourselves in Europe , next door, let alone a world government. I don't think that will happen?
THere are reasons to be hopeful . You don't need top down , you don't need King of the World.
Global Challenge given to students talks of these issues . Imagine you are King of the World , you can do whatever
you want , you can dictate to anyone , how will you solve these challenges. Some give nuanced arguments
, some turn into dictators , executing every male child . That is one mode of government but I
do feel optimistic about the ability for people to self organise at local levels , interact with othe rlocal levels
then regional. You build from interactions that you know about and scaffold up and then do some top down control.
Waiting for some sort of World Government , its not going to happen.
Isn't the problem , in the UK, that there are practically no MPs who are scientists.?
It doesn't help. Or even people who work in or with the Environment Agency disputing
climate change . Scepticism and short-termism and commercial interest etc its not rocket science.
Save the World
Monday, 12 May, Professor Damon Teagle of the National Oceanography Centre, Southampton-
To the Moho and beyond: Deep drilling to the Earth's mantle
2 hours, 38 people
An ancient and romantic experiment that goes back to post-war era , late 50s, Project Mohole.
At the time it rivaled the nascent space programme. Its a long-term desire of Earth scientists
to drill and directly sample the Mantle, the next layer of our planet. Project Mohole was put together
by the first generation of oceanographers . Although it failed, it is now coming into the realm
of technical feasibility. The Japanese have builyt a huge riser drill-ship, called Chikyu (Earth in
The Moho is effectively the crust/mantle boundary , the Mohorovitch Discontinuity . The goal is to
drill through the ocean crust and to a part of the mantle that was recently part of Mantle
convestion. For geoplogical reasons the best place to do this is an ocean crust
that has formed in the last 10 to 30 million years at a fast spreading ocean ridge.
Peridot (December birth stone ) is a mineral olivine , a magnesium silicate . Most of the Earth rocks are
peridotites, minerals rich in olivine and magnesium silicates. This is no longer science fiction,
technically it can be done, given the will and the money. The money invoilved is less
than even the smallest space mission.
Why go to the Mantle. We live on the little boundary at the top of our planet, oceans and land .
Most of the planet is below us . The planet is stratified into a number of different layers.
The Crust, the upper part and the Oceans about 6km thick. For the continents it is generally
about 30km thick, perhaps 70 or 80km under the highest mountains .
Most is made of th eMantle, predominately magnesium Silicate . Everything on the land and in the
oceans came, at some stage, from melting of the Mantle.
The Core, the inner part is made of Iron, Nickel and alloys that people argue over.
The outer core is liquid , the inner core is solid. Its the differential rotation of this that causes
our magnetic field. The Mantle is 68% of the planet by mass . We want to understand th etrue composition of
the Mantle and also the heterogeneity , why after 4.5 billion years of Mantle convection why is
it not one homogeneous mass. What is the nature of the Mohorovitz discontinuity.
From geophysicists, this is the change in seismic velocity . It represents geologically something that is
not well known and probably not the same in all places of the planet. Wish to know how the mantle melts, how the magma
forms. How we form new ocean crusts at the mid ocean ridges.
The area I work on is how this ocean crust reacts and works with hte oceans to form ore deposits
and to change and control the chemistry of the oceans. Something that is becoming more important, the
establishing of th eminutes of life. The more we look in these areas, the more extreme lifeforms
we find living in exotic conditions. So trying to establish the depth limits of life as another goal.
We are held back in this due to a lack of fresh samples and we have no in-situ measurements.
Everything we know of the mantle is from remote geophysical measurement or from samples
that are not representative of the convecting mantle.
Even after 40 years of ocean drilling , the deepest hole we have is about 2km and just getting into the third layer
of the ocean crust. Project Mohole was proposed by the American Miscellaneous Society,AMS.
Appropriate for tonight, actually a drinking club. Oceanography and marine geologically principally
came out of WW2. Many USA oceanographers had served in the US navy. Some in subs, Harry Hesse
was a commander in Fleet Auxilliary, going around the Pacific in a sort of cargo ship,
with his echo sounder running all the time. Instead of attempting to scare away enemy subs , he
was mapping the ocean floor. The AMS were National Academy members , National Science
Foundation in Washington reveiwing science proposals. Proposals get peer-reviewed,
go to committee and generally rejected. Al la bit dull and a bit safe, lets do something exciting .
6 or 7 km down , a change in seismic velocity, before the theory of plate tectonics and
proof of continental drift . So drill through the crust and see what this velovcity change is.
At the house of a Walter Monk an oceanographer they concocted the Project
Mohole . They got funding from the US government , recruited engineer William
Bascoombe , took an ex landing ship tank CUSS1. The oil company had previously put a drilling
derick on it . At this time oil companies were working in very shallow waters, 200m deep
at most. But for Mohole, required drilling 3 to 5km or so of water. Rather than anchor the barge
off shore they needed a way of dynamically positioning it . So Bascoombe invented
a system of Caterpillar engines and propellor blades , strapped to the sides of CUSS1
and then a joystick and a ring of bouys around , managed to dynamically position the ship in open
water for the first time.
Rocks are very hard, drill bits only last 50 or 50 hurs of rotation at best. Maybe only 1 or 2m an hour at
best, so many needed for many km of drilling. You need to pull the string up , replace the bit
and re-enter the bore hole . This had not been done in deep water before either.
They drilled one hole to 183m and got 14m of basalt . Hardly kms but they did invent dynamic positioning
, bore hole re-entering by positioning the ship and made the first sampling of what is called seismic layer 2.
That showed that go down a few hundred metres and a step up of seismic velocities.
Showed it was basalt and young basalt . Still before plate tectonics and many would have thought that
drilling down , would progressively go back through Earth's history. 30 year old geology teaching
was geo-cynclines and so an important observation. Bascoombe lived in Monteray and his neighbour
was John Steinbeck the novelist. He wrote a number of articles on Mohole and was on the ship
giving high-profile stories. The photos taken by Fitzgorow ? , the atomic photographer, photographing the
weapons plants in the 50s and 60s.
Getting this 14 m of basalt was a huge achievement, 14 April 1961. The project was then taken
away from scientists, farmed out to industry groups. Taken over by a Texan company and costs went through the
roof. They never drilled any more holes but spent a lot of money. In the 1960s the project
was closed down. It was described as a geo-political fiasco and even today goes ill
with the likes of the National Science Foundation. It did show the power of drilling in the
oceans. Led to the Deep-Sea Drilling Project and the ship Glomar Challenger that visited Southampton
a number of times. It was replaced by the Ocean Drilling Programmes. The ships are too
expensive for 1 nation to run. So large multinational colaborations , USA usually paying for most of
it. There was a phase called IODP known for 10 years as the Integrated Ocean Drilling Project
building a number of platforms , rebuilding Joydes ? resolution. The ACES? experiment with a
Russian nuclear powered ice-breaker up to the N pole to drill sediments under the Arctic Ocean.
And the Japanese have build the colossal ship Chikyu.
Since BP in the Gulf of Mexico recently, the word drilling is so toxic in the USA and the
word drilling is removed from later project names. Brazil has recently joined .
Why Moho. Looking at seismic waves from the early part of the 20C , Croatian
scientist Mohorovitcz recognised that seismic waves that went much deeper in the Earth, travelled
much faster. So a step up from ones that travelled in the continental crust compared
to ones going deeper. Became known as the Mohorovitch Discopntinuity , Moho. Basically
where seismic waves move faster than 8km/sec. The speed reflects the minerality of the material
that the waves move through. Rocks made of Magnesium Silicates/Olivines/Peridotie rocks.
When you have minerals containing lots of silica like quartz or calcium and aluminium
and sodium and alkali elements the seismic velocity will drop below 8km/s.
This boundary is seen all over the planet, deeper under the continents, but relatively shallow
and flat under the oceans, 6km down.
Bring in the concept of the plate and the mantle in the lithosphere and the aesthenosphere.
The lithosphere is the cold upper part of the mantle and the crust and the aesthenosphere
is the ductile part of the mantle that flows over time. It is that part that mantle convection takes place.
Because text books at schools at universities tend to colour the sections of the aesthenosphere bright
orange colours , most students think the mantle is full of red hot molten magma. Its not , it is solid but
it will flow very slowly, centimetres per year. There may be some melt there but other than under mid-ocean
ridges , way less than 1%.
As well as seismic waves, volcanoes bring mantle nodules to the surface, zenoliths, foreign rock.
Dark green mineral in some Hawain example is the olivine magnesium, some iron, silicate.
The black mineral is orthopyresene similar formula but more silica and acouple of other
phases in there, but no calcium,sodium or aluminium, called depleted rocks. This is the
stuff that makles up the mantle. So if you can handle this roick, why drill a hole.
Volcanoes tend to bring the xenoliths up from the lithosphere , particular parts
trapped under continents for a very long tiome. So the mantle but the wrong sort of mantle.
We live on a stratified planet , from magnetic fields and seismic waves from calculations ,
we can see there are various layers. The Moho is where we go from rocks with calcium, sodium
aluminium, potassium rocks to rocks that are predominately magnesium silicates.
Plate tectonics has been going since 4 billion years ago at least. Core,crust and subduction zones.
Run a simulation of this for 4.5 billion years , the mantle is not particularly well mixed .
We will never drill down to the deeper levels but the upper area we could
sample. We don't understand how heterogenoius it is, some parts have been to the surface at some time.
Why when we go to different volcanoes or different ghot spots we get a different range of
isotopic signatures, traces of different components coming from the core. Initially from accretion
of material from outer space. Material that has acted with the oceans and on the surface, now
in the mantle , how long does that take to happen. We have very little feel for the
heterogeneity , down to 10s or 100s of metres.
Looking at seismic wave plots generated , not from earthquakes but from air guns or
explosions from the back of ships . The crust has distinctive layers too.
Layer 3 through to Diapson? Gabbros and then the step up to about 7km /s .
Is this a change from rocks with aluminium bearing phases to peridotites or is it some
othe reffect. We have new crust forming at mid-ocean ridges , because the litthosphere and plates from 100 to 150km
thick is being pulled apart. Principally from them sinking intop the planet at the subduction zones
where we have our big volcanoes and earthquakes. As the lithosphere is pulled apart
the mantle upwells, and like taking the cork from a bottle of champagne , as it upwells , it melts partially
perhaps 10 or 15% and 6km of melt forms new ocean crust. This is the major mechannism
for transfering heat and mass from the planet interior . Its relatively rapid for a geological
process. It resurfaces our planet every couple of 100 million years.
Because we bring magma , 1200 degrees, up near the surface it cools and crystalises, principally
by reacting with seawater, convection and hydrothermal systems at mid ocean ridges .
The main mechanism of interchannge of the crust and mantle with the oceans and life in the oceans.
Significant heat flow righ through the crust for most of its life.
The ideal structure of the ocean crust, sediments, larvas errupted onto the ocean floor ,
the Sheeted Dyke Complex? a series of intrusives but most of the crust is made of rocks
called gabbros, coarse grained basalt, slow cooled and grain size a few mm to a few cms .
In our model these boundaries are never flat but a big step up to the mantle and velocities
of 8km /s. All the rocks other than the sediments form from cooling and crystalising
of magma and that is from melting of the mantle. We have phase separation
like CO2 from champagne. Enough comes out of the mantle to make 6km or
so of ocean crust. The magma reacts with the water , pillow larvas and is chilled at the
margins and then the larva flows within and the cores of the pillow
larva takes longer to crystalise. From Trudos? in Cyprus sheeted dyke complex ,
parallel sided about 1m wide intrusive bodies , that are the feeder systems from
the magma chambers below. Not one of these dykes makes it to the surface,
they also travel laterally , we can tell that from looking at micro-earthquakes
and also the magnetic field preserved with in them. But most probably fail within the
sheeted dyke complex. The Trudos mountains are a great place to go, type
sections of the ocean crust perhaps 100km of them. Each one is an episode
of spreading and magma intruding and quenching.
As we go deeper we get to gabbros , dark bands are magnesium /silicate minerals
and the white phases are calcium/sodium/aluminium silicates the pelagic ,
With a seismic velocity of perhaps 6.5km/s in New Zealand. In Oman ,
layering of gabbros and Harzbourgite , the residue that didn't melt ,
paleo-moho , the paleo-crust boundary. Rocks reacted with water and predominatley
made of serpentine. Much of the traces we need to understand, the isotopes, the Uranium
,potassium , noble gases He,Ne,Ar,Kr all are fluid mobile and we loose the traces
with the reactions to water. They can tell us texturally about the mantle but
little about the chemistry of the mantle other than the most refractory
phases. The mid-ocean ridges are the key places where we have the oceans reacting
with the new ocean crust , particularly at magma chambers , the black
smoker systems . They are clear when they come out but as soon as they cool, reacting with seawater
they precipitate fine grained iron sulphite/pyrite and black smoke appearance, not
actually on fire. The energy source lots of sulphur to oxidise and becomes an oasis for
bizarre lifeforms on the sea floor.
What is becoming of increasing interest is there seems to be microbes that live on
heating rocks . Pillow larvas and basaltic glass you find little tubes , from which
DNA has been seperated out from and various microbes that live from the oxidation of
iron , reaction with sulphur, sometimes P and N from these glasses. They tend to be
through the crust until we get to 120 degrees or so.
How do ocean ridges form is one fundamental question. Go back to the 1970s and the thought
was that with spreading there would be 10km wide magma chambers, matching the evidence
from rocks , the ophalites ancient pieces of ocean crust formed on land, the major
ones tend not to be quite ocean crust . The idea was large magma chambers where crystals
would cool and see the layering of gabbros. So we go out in ships and expect to find these
10km wide chambers by geophysics. So we go to the ocean ridges, sometimes with 2
ships and the only mo;ten rocks we can fiond are tiny lenses , high in the crust.
A bit perplexing , a low velocity zone , looking at the waves and how they are reflected ,
probably liquid , not solid rock. A larger lower velocity zone beneath it which
maybe contains some melt but the area of pure melt , rather than a huge body
is rather small a few km down, less than 100m thick maybe a few 100m wide.
This remains a mystery. How do you form the 4 out 0f 6km of gabbro, from the
small magmna bodies. Within a few tens of thousands of years of the ridge axis ,
the whole crust is solid. How does this work. Geology and geophysics mismatch.
This has been going on since the late 1980s . Various n-membered models
trying to explain how this lower crust forms and remains unresolved.
All the models have the magma coming from the mantle , up to high
in the crust , small lens that drives very active hydrothermal systems ,then cools
and subsides away from the crust. But you'd expect that rocks that cooled and subsided
to be extremely deformed, highly strained. Another match to revised geology mapping
, we have a series of middling magma chambers a few 100m across , a few 10s metres
thick all stacked through the ocean crust . But in order for that to work , you need
sea water to penetrate very deep into the crust to take the heat out. About 1/3
of the heat that is availablre from the coolioing and crystlisation of magma is in the
latent heat of the crystalising. If you don't extract the heat then it will
keep on melting and make large magma chambers that we don't see.
We have no samples from this part of the crust, so remains a problem.
We have different numerical models that explain ,given the rock parameters , we
can test them , but no samples available, and they are only available by drilling.
The accretion bands at the mid-ocaen ridges are wider in the Pacific than
the Atlantic and that is representative of the spreading rate. In the Pacific 80mm
a year and the Atlantic 20 to 30mm a year. Only 2 holes have got into those
dykes and only 1 , hole 1256 that I've been involved with has got into gabbroic rocks.
In more detail of 1256. There is a relation between the depth of the low velocity
zones at the ocean-ridges and the spreading rate. 400m deep hole but only 20m of sore sample back
becaus ethe lavas are very hard to drill, highly fractured, they fall apart , they
destroy drillbits and block up the hole. So follow the axiom of Homer Simpson and if its
too hard , its not worth doing. We'll go to where the larvas are thinest , w eexpect the
gabbros to be at their shallowest . Because the stuff we are interested in is from the dykes downwards.
1256 in the Eastern Equatorial Pacific , isocrons of 5 million years . Between 10 and 20 million years ago
they are widely spaced , an area of superfast spreading , total 20cms a year. 1256 is sited in the
middle of that on the prediction we should get to gabbros at the shallowest levels, the fewest metres of larva
to get through and fewest days drilling.
Drilling progress graph. what you want to see is drills for 40 or 50 hours , trip the pipe, change the
bit , re-enter hole, drill for 40/50 hours and a nice step plot going down over 2month expeditions.
The shorte rdepth segments, suggest problems and when the line goes horizontal it means real problems.
Our prediction from the modeling, the seismics , of hitting the gabbros was pretty much spot on.
Of course we might be right for the wrong reasons though, science is a bit like that.
How do you drill, you need lots of pipe , to get through 4,000 metres of water. If riserless
drilling then you put down a re-entry cone , carried down by the drill pipe.
So how do you reenter a hole, by moving the ship, with a 3.8km long pendulum
below it and dynamically position the whole drill-string over the hole. Using a TV camera
near the bottom of the drill-string , movement in the video image is the ship going up and down
on the waves. This cone about 3m acrossbut 4km away. We've probably entered 1256
25 times or more . In the old days of Glomar Challenger they did this by sonar, dropping a beacon
or 2 and moved the ship without any visuals . How they did that I'm not quite sure.
Example of one of the problems, Tungsten Carbide drillbit , C9, very hard formation drillbit , drill collar inch thick
steel and a torsional crack , about 300 hundred degrees round, and everything hanging on to the
remaining 60 degrees. If you loose that down the bottom of the hole , its bad news. You can try and fish
it out but usually you can only grind right through it or start again. That failure was picked up because there
was a loss of pressure on the pumps , where the drilling mud was coming out of the crack.
Another similar crack and if it had fully sheared then about 500m of pipe stuck down the
hole and bad news.
The rocks just above the gabbros, the magma chambers , get strongly baked by the magma, re-crystalise
and cintered into small granular grains , very hard. A tip failure after only 20 hours going through such material, difficult to detect
such exagerated wear. Even if going well , you usually pull up after 40 hours . A big challenge is
to make stronger drillbits.
From Moho to the Mantle project is in the IODP system at the moment. Had industry groups look at this an d
regarded as technically feasible , given the will and the money. The aim is to reach the Moho,
all the way through the crust , answer some of the questions about gabbros and hydrothermal circulation.
Need to be able to core at about 2,000 Bar pressure , up to 300 degrees in at least 4km of
water. To do that needs riser drilling in order to control the borehole conditions.
In comes the Japanese ship Chikyu . Much bigger ship than Resolution , itself quite big and itself 50% bigger than
James Cook Dicovery the Southampton based ship. Chikyu is of the size of one of the big passenger liners .
It has a 100m derrick on top of it. Chikyu can carry a lot of steel , 10km of pipe and at the moment
can drill do riser drilling in 2.5km of water and expected to go to 4km wher eindustry is at the moment, off Brazil.
Video of Resolution drilling , open hole, re-entry cone . Drill, circulate seawater , sometimes pump mud ,
natural mud , cannot use artificaial muds as an open hole. Most of the cut material has to be returned to
the surface. If the hole gets blocked with debris , then the bit will jam and destroy the bit or break
the drillstring. Gets more and more difficult as these holes get deeper.
Riser drilling has the drill string but around it is an umbilical , a second wider pipe . Pump down the string,
a blow-out preventer or some form of seal at the sea floor and the cuttings are returned all the way to the ship.
A pressurised system allows you to control the well , principally developed
for dealing with gas but it also cleans the hole much more efficiently which is why we are interested in it.
Another video of drilling , from the Chikyu.
It has so far been used for drilling into tsunami-producing earthquake areas off Japan but was designed to drill to the mantle.
But few areas of the world where this can be done. As new crust moves away from the ocean
ridges, it gets cooler but also deeper. It falls of as reciprocal of the root of temp in all oceans.
For technical reasons drilling is limited to about 4km so a small window of such water where its
not too hot to drill , 2 to 300 degrees. Rock fracturing , lubricants not working at those
temps, geophysical tools frying at those temps . So some investment into high-temperature tools required .
In iceland , drilling at those temps is relatively routine. So to maps of the ocean floor, fast sopreading areas, less than 250 degrees,
mantle at less than 4.5km , and few such areas. Closeness to ports is also ideal and a 12month
weather window. Sites far out in the Pacific are not likely. My preferred site would be off
Costa Rica, unfortunately Chikyu is too big to pass throiugh the Panama Canal.
So we are now doing detailed sites surveys, we have a set of criteria . Lots of multi-chanel
geophysics to determine the details of where you would put a hole.
Where the original Moho was, is good because high latitude and high magnetic latitude,
but not a good weather window. There is less than 4km of water off Hawiai on a hot site. THe whole Hawaian Island system is making the
plate flex down and bulges up around the islands. The rocks are older and colder , getting rid of some
of the technical problems but its not mantle that formed at a fast spread crust. Probably has Hawaian Plume
rocks through it. But how much is it going to cost. 1 or 2 billion dollars, but its a strategic goal for the
Japanese government , The Sloane Foundation , Deep Carbon Observatory? , there are groups interested in this.
A billion dollars is a small part of space missions.
What do you learn from 1 Mohole. We'll learn a similar amout of stuff as the rocks that came back
from the moon. Until you drill 1, you cannot drill a second one.
This experiment has caught alternativ emedia to an extent. The 1256 experiment was rated by
somethingawful.com got a 5 out of 7 vials of poison for drilling our way to Satan. They are scared we
will release Morlocks and CHUDS (Canibilistic Humanoid Underworld Dweller). Looking for life 6km
down has caught mainstream attention. How earthquakes form . The key to media success is getting
into the Daily Mail, after that it goes viral.
We wrote a comentary in Nature - deemed Rock Stars, got as lot of coverage despite
healines such as Driller Thriller in New Scientist. Brazil is keen on this, Spain also . With a name like
Damon Teagle, there is nowhere to hide on th einternet.
When Hollywood creates a movie like The Core, it must mean the technology already exists.
Will we cause a planetary scale problem get over your god-complex, type abusive emails.
So one hurdle is people not understanding what we are trying to do. People think that drilling
to the mantle will create a huge eruption of magma. So a number of problems, somne
scientific , some technological , lots of Deep-Water horizon type concerns - gas and hydrocarbon events
will not be a problem in this experiment, only trace levels of methane from abiotic processes (
produced from CO2 reaction to seawater and oxidation of olivine), and the money could
be better spent on cancer cures type argument. Then there is the science literacy of journalists .
I've done some work with colleagues in NZ who do media investigations into comments
and classification of responses so we can better comunicate to people's understanding and common
misconceptions. What we did not expect was correspondent to correspondent attacks on the website,
the biggest number of such attacks came from supporters of Moho absolutely abusing anyone
who had any reason to question it was a good idea. A group of Mohole zealots out there .
My field is physics, I just don't understand how you can position a drill that long i nthe open oceans,
when you re-enter the cones on the seafloor?
Its not a straight line and they steer it with great skill .
Is there any thrusting going on at the lower end?
Nothing at the drill bit, effectively trying to deal wit a 4km long pendulum , the equivalent is a micron
thick wire , placing into a 3mm hole in the 3m deep end of a swimming pool . Yes its a real
skill . How they did it with no camera down there . These days they sled a camera down the drill string to look at
that operation. With 1256 on site for 180 days , over all that time the ship has not moved more than
35 metres in any radial direction. So 6 months of my life in one spot of the ocean +/- 35m.
Once you know the currents at a particular site you get to know how the string will bend , certainlty
not a straight line. Every now ant then there will be a reentry where the ship has moved
slightly or the GPS is slightly off and it will take an hour to find the cone and get back into it.
What is the delay time between an action on the ship and moving the head of the drill?
Its tens of seconds.
So not like trying to drive a rover on Mars and 3/4 hour delay?
No. For example the East Pacific Rise , Pacific Plate and Cocos and Nasca plate ,
a place called Hesse deep , named after the pioneer, where the plate boundary is propogating
westwards , new crust forming and not knowing it will get rifted apart by the plate
boundary . We had an expedition there with the Southampton-based James Cook and we
were trying a wire-line drill . Winch it down to the sea floor , use an electric motor
and do diamond coring . Taking cores metres or so long, for spot sampling an easy
way of doing it. Up to 5.5km deep and 3km of topography in a short
distance , ie nowhere flat to land it. So a pendulum on a long swing and impossible
to land it accurately, fine if trying to place it on a football=field size flat surface.
In that area that technique just did not work at all . The ship moves and a few
minutes later the drill string swings by.
Not in this part of the world . This hole is not cased you do get unstability and one of the
things we've been learning about. No one has put steel casing down through hard rock,
in industry or science. One thing we've learnt to do is pump cement to
seal these unstable intervals and drill back through them again, so
than the surrounding rocks that would otherwise block things up.
We don't have an array of sensors around there. You are right that if you have cold
sea water going down the drill pipe it will cause micro-facturing of the rocks,
more and mor eso as they get hotter. The deepest hole which is 504B , 2km
deep , in the cores there are discing fractures partly due to hydro-fracture
at 200 degrees , but also on taking the pressure off , the rock exfoliates.
The discings break up and then break up the drill bit.
Are not majoe earthquakes close to plate boundaries not a problem?
1256 is in 15 million year old crust , a long way from a plate boundary.
What will you learn that you don't learn from xenoliths in melt?
The main things are the heterogeneity and the trace elements.
But with one hole compared to a thousand deepish ones?
The xenoliths are not from the convecting mantle . A lot of the geochemistry
an the models about the Earth are effectively made by assertion. People hav elooked
at all the rocks that make up the crust and ocean crust , get average values,
look at meteorites carbonaceous chondrites in particular and they say we think this
is what the Mantle is made of and we will guess what is from the core and then
we can make up something about the ? Earth , but all done by assertion.
The parts you were talking of come from outlying volcanics , from enriched parts of the
Mantle , high amounts of the heat producing elements like Potassium , Uranium , these sorts of things.
Does that not come up with deep ocean material as well?
Again that is a relatively small part of the Mantle, you see the special stuff but not the average material.
What is the oxidation state of the Mantle, what is the state of Carbon in the Mantle, is it CO2 , is it some carbide phase
, in places it can be diamond , is it methane - its these sorts of things that are not known
because we never get the samples . If we look at the inert traces , how much water is in the Mantle is
not understood. In the deep mantle there is probably oceans of water . But also the passive
traces that have been there since the accretion of the planet and the separation of th e
core . What are the noble gas ratios and concentrations.
If you use these pressurised drilling techniques how will you get an uncontaminated sample?
That will be tricky . We have ways of testing contamination from boith water and other.
I'm not too concerned about gases and minerals and these sorts of things . One of the problems with
microbial work is how do we know we have not contaminated the deep sediments or
deep ocean rocks by superficial ? of samples. Thats been worked out, the difficulties is making this
out at 300 degrees. The technology is not there to do that yet. Solving those sorts of problems
compared to the cost of running a riser drill-ship for 2 years even at the special rate of
1/2 a million dollars a day or even just paying for the oil to keep it on site running,
is a small fraction of those costs to solve it.
Don't you just have to mention diamonsd to De Boers and you would automatically get funding?
People go to the ophalites , the crustal sequences on land and increasingly finding
micro diamonds . Particular the deepest subducted ophalites around the Himalayas .
Micro-diamonds have not been found from Oman or Cyprus yet.
Who has the major commercial interest in results from this drilling?
I don't think there is any commercial interestr in the science other than a better
understanding of the planet . You never know when some scientific knowledge will result
in commercial spin-off , its serendipitous. There is interest in drilling very hard
formations and at high temperatures and pressures . Interest in wire-line tools also.
Brazil they are running into very hard formations with they're drilling.
One of the ways of decreasing the costs of this project is to improve the lifetime
of drillbits. If they only have 40 hours of rotation , before replacement involving 36 hours
of drillstring replacement , that is about 1million dollars just replacing the dril bit.
Make that bit work for 60 hours or 100 , then suddenly you are saving vast amounts
of wire-line? time. The commercial interest is more in the technology and get used for
other purposes elsewhere. eg geothermal drilling in Iceland where incidently they accidently
drilled into a magma chamber and recovered the drill bit. Working in opn oceans is that bit more
difficult because you don't have the stable platform. Chikyu moves less than Resolution because
its larger. One reason for using rotary drilling rather than diamonds is because the bit does
not have a constant amount of weight on it, with the ship going up and down. Rotary bits are much mor e
robust than diamond which get smashed to bits.
Where in Brazil are they doing this?
Off shore on the Atlantic side , starting to push into very deep water, almost 4km of water depth.
In Brazil they have odd stuff where oil reservoirs are in basaltic rocks rasther than sediments.
Other areas wher ethe reservoirs are under layers of quartzite , solid silica cemented togrther
and that is incredibly hard. Brazil has just joined the IODP , Science without Borders Programme,
Petrobas? where operators have to donate 2% of their profits to science.
On your foray into journalism , did you detect any movement among the journalists in the
standard of scientific literacy or are they just interested in gee-whizzery, cures for cancer ?
They love the story in New Scientist, National Geographic . I got involved because it doesn't reflect well
on the science community when they report stuff that is factually incorrect.
I wrote something like 95% of the words in the National Geographic article.
They always make a big point on the cost. The first draft will always talk about magma
pouring out of the Earth. They regard this in the same way as the space programme.
Different slant on the Chikyu research. The first decade oif its use was for understanding
earthquakes and tsunami developement, but the jouirnalists were not interested in that,
#they wanted to know about drilling to the Mantle part of the Chikyu programme.
Lots of these misconceptions, will the ocean drain out. We collected all thos esorts of
questions to provide answers for on a website or for communications becaus ea lot
of the same questions were repeatedly vcoming up. The money one is always a hard
one to answer . Probes to Jupiter etc cost a lot of money, how many people
understand the Higgs Boson and the cost of that. These big projects seem to have their
own pot of money, not taken from other science. The decisions ar emade at
strategic level by countries or groups of countries .
On drilling technology. I'm assuming the first length of drill stem is hollow,
why is it not charged with drilling knuckles and manipulted down to the cutting face to replace
each one as it wears out, instead of each time hauling up the whole drill string and then back
down again. ?
Because anything that is not incredibly strong, breaks. Drill bits are incredibly robust ,
quite complicated devices . If things were going well in soft rock , even hard rock. You drill
maybe 9m , break the drill string at the drill rig, send down a wire line down to what is called
a core catcher just above the drill bit. That will take the core, the wire line will drop perhaps
5km from the ship , down the hole, latch on , collect it, pull it up to the surface all
with mechanical couplings . Actually very simple . Anything that is not incredibly strong
will fail. That is wire-line drilling , not retracing the whole water-run drill-stem.
The difficulty with wire-line coring is that the danger is that every time you run the
wire-line down , you also have a wire in the pipe and you have to break the pipe to drop
the wire-line down and when you're doing that, you're not pumping down the hole ,
that is when you get any material , suspended in the hole, or pressure coming from the side-wall,
then is when you tend to get problems. The pumping is not holding the hole open then,.
So each time of running the wire-line there is the potential of losing the hole.
If you drill 3km and lose the hole , you don't restart at 3km , you have to
drill another hole.
You can't drill through the blockage?
You can sometimes but if you loose the hole , you have to start again.
On your graphic , did it show the hole was about 3 times the diameter of the drill-bit
Drill bits are about 30cm diameter and if things are going well , they will
drill a hole slightly bigger than that. They can be if you have weak formations .
So they don't wobble around?
They deviate slightly , the holes are not perfectly vertical. One project with the Mohole
is to drill to the mantle, step back 500m or so , deviate and drill a spiders' web .
This can be done in sediments but no one has tried doing that in hard rock but it may be possible.
Then you would only be sampling a few hundred metres of the mantle .
With Fracking and going down and then sideways , do you ever find a need to go
sideways or always going straight down. ?
In these holes they tend to go straight down.
How much materials do you expect to geyt ?
It a cost-time problem and the busines of drilling a hole and taking core , you
have to run the wireline to catch the core capture and running the risk of loosing the hole .
But obviously you need to get the core back . There is a limit from the from the geophysical ?
you have to weigh. The aim would be to get 500m into the mantle and core
all of that , at 6cm wide and 500m long and density of 3.4 or whatever. So hundreds
of Kg. Then a sophisticated way of subdividing that, like they did the ice cores.
We would also put instruments in the hole as well.
Having the core is lovely but limiots your drilling performance. With the riser drilling , can you
not just examine the tailings?
A lot of work is done on the tailings and you can also sample the gases that come up with the
cuttings. They provide you with some info but won;'t give you textural info and you never
know exactly where that cutting was from, it could be averaged over a number of metres.
Some of the really sophisticated geochemistry ewe would want to do you could not
do on the cutings. Maybe taking cores perhaps 10 percent of the time , the rest of the time working on
cuttings , working on the geophysical results and sensors on the drillbit as it is drilling. And
also wire-line results. We often don't get goo revovery anyway , so continuous coring is
not possible anyway. The larva has terrible recovery . You need to integrate th e
core with the geophysical measurements anyway. The cuttings will give some info but
not all you would want to know. There are people who say, lets just drill a hole.
Do you refind the hole from GPS and is it capped?
No its just open . I've been there 4 times over 4 years now . The hole is not cased
so it is unstable . If you could keep a ship on site , drilling. you could
do this much more quickly. Every time the ship goes away the hole degrades.
For example Resolution spends most of its time making climate records, exploring deep
sediments . So there is a constant battle to get the ship back to that part of
the world. There is only one Resolution and its unlikely to go
back to 1256 for a couple of years.
If Chikyu was devoted to this , but its first 7 years was off Japan on earthquake issues.
If you could tie it to site then it could be done in a year assuming all the technical problems
were solved. Japan spent 800 million dollars building the ship .
For a long time the age of the earth was calculated and was seriously off , because it was deemed
to be cooling off from the original formation, then Rutherford and Curie came along and it was
decided that radioactivity that was providing the extra heat. Is there a simple explanation as to
how this creates all this extra heat, its not as though its a nuclear reactor core down there.
is it just that whatever radiation is emitted , is trapped within the rock.?
Rock is poor conductor of heat. the amount of heat-producing elements in the Mantle ,
the convective mantle, is one of the things that is not really known. What knowledge
is from comparison with chondrites and estimating how much is in the crust and assuming
virtually none of it in the core. Other heat is produced by the crystalisation of the outer core
and the differential rotation of the inner core and the outer core , physical chemistry processes.
But most of it is from distributed radioactivity in th ecrust . Earlie ron in the Earths lifetime
there were a lot more isotopes that are now extinct, like aluminium and magnesium isotopes .
Go back 3 billion years ago , the heat flow at the surface was substantially higher than
it is now. It adds up , more or less and our estimate of uranium and potassium in th emantle
, it will not be out by a factor of 100, maybe out by 3 or so.
Your seismic speeds of 8km / s , how much of that is due just to the pressure at those
depths. Its seems a coincidence that the deeper you go , the higher the velocity but also
the pressure is much higher?
The velocity doesn't increase with depth but a peridotite rock at the surface , you'd struggle
to get a rock full of quartz or felspars and up to 8km/s .
If you took one of those noidules and measured pulses of ultrasonics through it , in you lab,
then it would be 8km/s or so ?
Yes. It doesn't take too many cracks to slow them down, a little water around , small
layers of serpentine and the velocities drop off pretty quickly.
One of the subtle things about the Moho . The story could be more complicated
. I said the difference between the mantle and the crust were rocks forming from the
crystalisation of magma , and rocks that didn't melt at nid-ocean ridge .
So the residue partiallt melted to form the magmas that crystalised to form crust.
If you have a magma chamber full of magma in equilibrium with the mantle and it
starts to crystalise, the first minerals to crystalise are olivine and pyrexene ,
the same minerals that make up the mantle . For a layer of crystals you get ultra-matric cumulate ?
rock . The rocks formed from the crystalisation of magma , made of the dsame minerals as the mantle ,
they have the same seismic velocity as the mantle . So is the Moho , the crust-mantle
boundary or is it where you have ultamatif cumulate ? rocks formed from magma and then
cumulate rocks that are formed from the crystalisation of the magma with silica and stuff in them.
If you take a mantle peridotite and add water to it , you get serpentene and that will
reduce its seismic velocity . There are suggestions that in some parts of the world , the Moho
is nothing to do with the crust -mantlke boundary, just the boundary whaere the upper
mantle will have been cementenised , like down at The Lizard and when its fresh peridotite . In some parts
of the mid-ocean ridges thats probably the case. The Moho will not be the same everywhere.
About your strings and things. Will riser drilling be the method you will be using ?
How many sections and reductions in width ? So start at 50cm , reduce it a nd reduce it ,
how small can you go down to?
There is a casing plan put together by industry consulting groups , reckon they
could do it with 3 sets of casings and still get a full fdrill-bit through . Start at 30 inch casing , 20 ..
With normal industry processes you would suspend it from the se-floor assembly
but there is also things called liners that you can mount part way down the bore-hole.
Like unscrewing a newspaper or magazine , go down narrow , torsion and they
spread out . But of course going down very small they get very weak and no sampling .
Industry generally do not drill very hard rock . One of the criticisms we;ve had
in industry reports is that this is not drilling mudstones or sandstones, it is for
drilling gabbros, they're fractured . Making for irregular holes there are width limitations.
My opinion on the way to go ahead. Is not the flagship experiment but a number of
moderate depths and learn how to do it. 1256 was set up as a deep cased hole
but for various geological reasons we did not need casings . No one has actually put 100s of metres of casings
through a basalt hole . Resolution costs 20m dollars. Difficult to get the scientific communities
to have a hole just to do engineering and learn how to do something when someone else
could punch straight down deep and go straight into Nature.
Thats one reason that diamond coring has never worked off a ship , becaus ethe science community
has never given the engineering side of th eprogramme enough time to develop new techniques
specific for it. So we're constantly begging from the oil industry and they don't generally
want to be drilling such. Thats why the stuff off Brazil and oil under very
hard formations is instrumental as they do have an imnperative to develope such new
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