Rollin' to the Future
We really are throwing wads of money at people to get energy from oil wells that really are starting to run dry, and burning oil really does make carbon dioxide that really does have a warming influence on the climate. If we keep doing what we're doing, we have high scientific confidence that the fossil fuels will run out, but not before the exhaust changes a lot of things on the planet. The short-term solutions may involve conservation, or nuclear energy, or capturing carbon dioxide and putting it back in the ground, or other ideas. Or we could just barge ahead and hope for the best. The long-term solution is highly likely to involve the sun, through photovoltaics, or wind, or biomass, or other things. Fossil fuels are just stored energy from the sun—think of them as a great battery, charged up over a few hundred millions years, that we are discharging over a few hundred years, and we can already see the bulb on the flashlight starting to dim. Creedence Clearwater Revival watched the "big wheels keep on turning" in the John Fogerty song Proud Mary; in this parody, we review the ways to keep the big wheels turn without making our lives a lot harder.
Jedediah Was a Spotted Owl
Climate changes driven by fossil-fuel burning may trigger extinctions and reduce biodiversity. But, if we cut down forests and burn trees rather than burning fossil fuels, extinctions may occur that way, too. Most of the logging in the Pacific Northwest is for lumber rather than for fuel, but the trees are cut down just the same. Hoyt Axton wrote Joy to the World (Jeremiah was a Bullfrog), Three Dog Night made it famous, and countless DJs have used it to get the wedding party lurching about the dance floor at the reception. In this parody, we visit the raptor center at Penn State's Shaver's Creek Environmental Center, to discuss the impacts of deforestation on spotted owls, and the general issues of biodiversity.
Chaos and Phil the Groundhog (and weather, climate and global warming)
Many people, including US senators, have offered the opinion that our inability to forecast weather more than a week or two in advance means that we cannot forecast climate years ahead. This seems sensible, but is actually really wrong. And, anyone who understands the game of Wheel of Fortune knows why. Here’s a musical explanation, prepared for Groundhog Day 2015, when Dr. Alley was inducted into the Punxsutawney Weather Discovery Center Hall of Fame.