Sunrise on Ringworld

You may recall Ken Ring, who gave us this gem:

CO2 is also nearly twice as heavy as air (molecular weight 44, that of air 29) so it cannot rise anywhere beyond haze level of a couple of hundred feet.

Now Channel Seven's Sunrise has done its viewers a disservice by having Ken Ring on to argue that global warming is not happenning. Graeme Readfearn investigated Ring's background and found that Ring had written a book on how to read cat's paws:

Ken Ring is a mathematician and a long-time magician, mind-reader and public speaker with a passion for the ancient discipline of palmistry. Ken stumbled upon his peculiar calling at a psychic party several years ago, where he was able to deliver a reading of a cat's paw that proved to be uncannily accurate.

More like this

Huh, that's nothing. I just looked at my cat's paws.

My infinite psychic powers tell me that she will yowl at the door even when it's open and that she will prefer fish to any other food.

And that's what she did. Are you impressed?

And for an encore, I can reprise my layer cake theory of the atmosphere. I'll keep the smelling salts handy for those of you overcome by these demonstrations of my psychic and intellectual prowess.

Every magician knows how to fake psychic powers. Many magicians use this skill to bust frauds (Houdini, the Amazing Randi). Seeing magician and psychic listed together simply tells me he's got no scruples about committing fraud, instead.

By Samantha Vimes (not verified) on 06 Jan 2011 #permalink

Here's a new one:

>Itâs got nothing to do with La Nina. Thatâs a name that they dreamt-up in order to identify a new anomaly in the weather to get research funding for, and to issue reports on.

Glad that's all cleared up now.

Where do they get their "experts" from? Is there a list that has, as a design feature, a filter which automatically removes anyone with the slightest shred of scientific credibility?

a) "We are going to do a short piece on Climate change".

b) "Don't you mean Global Warming?"

a) "They're all the same, aren't they? Anyway, who can we get on the sceptic side for balance?"

b) "I've got the perfect guy. He does magic tricks and reads cats' paws. Oh, and he has strong opinion's about the weather."

a) "Sounds great, let's run with it" and the stupidity unfolds.

Nothing but facts!

The Journal of Scientific Exploration has papers showing that cat palmistry is one of the key breakthrough techniques in rational understanding of our ever-changing climate - which is a natural byproduct of nature.

By Marion Delgado (not verified) on 06 Jan 2011 #permalink

Is he the Down Under version of Penn & Teller?

Water has a molecular weight of 18. If this idjit were right, all the water vapor would rise to the top of the atmosphere and be sliced into H2 and O2 by the UV radiation, and the Earth would be as bone-dry as Mars.

Oh look! Another crank rears his magical head.

By Mark Schaffer (not verified) on 06 Jan 2011 #permalink

OK, here's my attempt at a potted refutation:

"Ring's suggestion violates the second law of thermodynamics - the same law which prevents perpetual motion machines. That is, that the entropy (or disorder) of an isolated macroscopic system never decreases. The 2nd law says that the CO2 will be muddled (disordered) through the atmosphere, not collected neatly at the bottom.

However Ring is welcome to prove his theory by building a perpetual motion machine."

Of course that's an oversimplification - I'm assuming normal temperatures. The equation for entropy of mixing is what we really need. I did a back of envelope calculation to find out how tall a cylinder of gas you need for separation of a N2-CO2 mix to be entropicly more favourable than perfect mixing - and the answer is ~10km if I got it right. Similarly, a simple simulation to maximise entropy in a 50km column of gas gives CO2 ppm halving every 5km in height.

Note that's less mixing than we see in practice, showing that convection plays a part too.

I presume Ring considers CO2 measurements on top of Mauna Loa or Mt Kenya to be inadmissable?

Cat palmistry, dog astrology - it's mass hysteria!

By t_p_hamilton (not verified) on 06 Jan 2011 #permalink

This guy must be a sailor. When we're out on the water, we "read" the wind by observing the movement of tiny ripples on the water. These are commonly known - wait for it - as "cat's paws." (!)

By Jim Prall (not verified) on 06 Jan 2011 #permalink

The ability to read cat's paws is of some utility when sailing under canvas, or even when using sails created from man made stuff, it can prevent you being swamped in a sudden squall.

This is an important development, although it has not yet risen to the importance of dig astrology.
Marion @4 mentioned JSE.
Here us the sequence:
JSE publishes amazing things, including dig astrology and inexplicable transient weight gains at tine of death when suffocating sheep.

David Deming reviews Crichton's State of Fear, favorably

McIntyre&McKitrick quote Deming, but JSE turns into Science, May 11, 2005.

Wegman Report uses that presentation heavily.

And HWQDAJ (He Who Quotes Dig Astrology Journal) quotes thus in his book, The Hockey Stick Illusion, also displaying either falsification or incompetence in a key argument.

Cat palmistry is an up-and-comer, but I think dog astrology is still ahead.

By John Mashey (not verified) on 06 Jan 2011 #permalink

This âCO2 is too heavyâ idea first popped up during 2006 and 2007 when the NZCâSâC site hosted a letter by Ken Ring that he wrote to all MPs. In fairness, the NZCâSâC science advisor is Chris de Freitas so the fact they didnât pick up that Ring is nuts is understandable.

Other gems from the letter:

CO2 comprises 350 parts per million of the atmosphere. That is roughly 3/10,000. It is equivalent to half a drop of warm milk dropped into a cold JUG of coffee. This would not change the temperature of the coffee jug one iota. The surrounding molecules quickly absorb any tiny extra heat.

He means that CO2 is hot since it is produced by the burning of fossil fuels.

Methane constitutes only one part per million of the atmosphere, totally insignificant, especially when you consider the gas is inflammable and gets burned up by the arrival of the next bit of lightning. Otherwise, and if it accumulated into a methane "cloud" the first plane that flew through it with just one spark coming out of its exhaust would instantly blow up killing hundreds of passengers. No one would ever fly anywhere.

So thatâs why planes are non-smoking.

Ozone comprises three thousandths of one percent of the atmosphere. That acts as a radiation shield? How silly. The idea simply insults our intelligence. The sun cannot shine through Antarctica skies through the ozone "hole" and onto NZ to form skin cancer because Antarctica is to our south and the sun to our north...

Laugh out loud denconstructions of Ken Ring by Auckland skeptics and silly beliefs.

As it was a letter sent to all MPs and published on the NZCâSâC website I have no problem providing a copy if Tim wants to stick it up. Most interesting for me is that NZCâSâC happily lapped this up without a murmur.

By Doug Mackie (not verified) on 06 Jan 2011 #permalink

I love the molecular weight argument. It's one of my favourites.

It certainly explains why mountain climbing is so dangerous, as the climbers pass up through the oxygen layer and into the thick nitrogen layer in the atmosphere.

Have you read today's editorial in The Oz? Titled "The real health risk of ignoring junk science " it includes many gems such as "The answer is too many people ignored scientific method and common sense." and "This wretched affair demonstrated not what happens when people put too much faith in science but when they put too little. " If only they were talking about climate science.

Interestingly Ken Ring's claim about CO2 is the polar opposite of global cooling advocate Khabibullo Abdusamatov:

"Heated greenhouse gases, which become lighter as a result of expansion, ascend to the atmosphere only to give the absorbed heat away."

Well which is it? Does it pool around your feet or float away like a Chinese lantern?

I donât know about catsâ paws but when it comes to explaining the effects and causes of global warming, I do know that Tim Lambert explains things in easily understood terms - which means plain English rather than scientific jargon.

So, my question is why are you and other scientists not getting yourselves interviewed on popular programs such as Sunrise? Blogs are a good means of communicating but an interview on a pop TV program, particularly with pictorials illustrating what is being talked about, is just as informative and, importantly, much more widely seen.

I still do not understand why none of the TV channels includes a regular global warming segment as a separate item or in a science program. Or do they? Am I missing something?

Ken's been branching out into earthquake forecasting as well. Capitalising on an after the fact prediction of the Chrstchurch Earthquake. His weather and seasonal forecasts have been shown to be no better than random guesses. He is a demonstrable crank.

By Richard Turner (not verified) on 06 Jan 2011 #permalink

Meta-comment: how does commenting on Deltoid help? I just emailed Sunrise and complained about their poor journalism.

Don't just email sunrise, email Channel 7 - I've seen Ken Ring on the Channel 7 news giving a long-range weather forecast at least a couple of times in the past couple of years.

@20. I did likewise. If they get enough emails they might.....*might*......think more carefully about who they interview next time. I won't hold my breath though.

I was wondering why nobody survives a trek to the bottom of the Grand Canyon...

Clearly it's because all the CO2 pools at the bottom, and the lighter O2 floats on top of it, so the hikers all suffocate.

I somehow subjected myself to that Ring rubbish twice (I don't normally watch morning TV, but things are different when you're in a hotel on Holidays) and the other guy interviewed looked distinctly uneasy about finding himself pitted against a crank.

By Vince Whirlwind (not verified) on 06 Jan 2011 #permalink

So since CO2 sinks cos it's heavier, then the lack of oxygen at ground level (cos of the CO2 hogging all the space) explains why I'm much more likely to go to sleep lying on the floor than I am standing up.

Have I got that right?

Kevin C @9:
I presume Ring considers CO2 measurements on top of Mauna Loa or Mt Kenya to be inadmissable?

Yes. This is because all the scientists and their cars get saturated in all the CO2 at the bottom of the hill, then when they drive up to the observatory they drag lots of CO2 up there with them. I know this because next door's cat told me last week.

The most bizarre thing about Ring's claims is that he seems to be relying one a sample size of one (1996 solar minimum) for his preditions.

He says that Australia gets more rain in the years after a solar minimum. We certainly did after the last solar minimum, so how does the claim stack up?

5 of the 10 wettest years in Australia fell in the three years following minimum but the other 5 occurred randomly through the other 7-8 years of the cycle. My grip on probability is a bit rusty these days, but the odds of getting 50% of your data landing in 28% of the possible range doesn't exactly make him Mystic Meg...

But it becomes completely laughable where you compare it the other way. BOM whole-of-Australia rainfall totals for the three years following solar minimum for the 10 cycles that fell in the 20th century:
3 cycles had above average rainfall (1955-57 +11%, 1977-79 +2.5%, 1997-99 +30.5%) and 7 had below average (between 1987-89 -1% and 1965-67 -17%) for the three years following minimum. Overall, for these 30 years, 13 showed above average rainfall, 17 below average. The aggregate total for these 30 years was 1.5% below climatology.

Just in case he meant an unspecified region, I checked totals for Northern Australia and Eastern Australia. Different numbers in the detail, but same result overall.

A guy who carries the tag "expert", when he achieves less than random skill? I dips me lid to anyone who can make a living out of that much fail.


CO2 comprises 350 parts per million of the atmosphere. That is roughly 3/10,000. It is equivalent to half a drop of warm milk dropped into a cold JUG of coffee.

I think this is my favourite. What about giving him a grain of ricin and saying, "This weighs 3mg - about 100,000th of your body weight. Surely somthing this small can't possibly poison you?"

By hinschelwood (not verified) on 07 Jan 2011 #permalink


There are two glaring issues with Ring's comment:

CO2 comprises 350 parts per million of the atmosphere. That is roughly 3/10,000. It is equivalent to half a drop of warm milk dropped into a cold JUG of coffee.

The first is that a nice-sized drop is about 20 µl (I know from decades of micropipetting), which makes half a drop = 10 µl. For rounding's sake, let's say a jug = 1 l (most are bigger, but we'll be conservative). 10 µl / 1 l = 1/100,000, so Ring's dilution is exaggerated by at least a factor of 39, if he is attempting to demonstrate the relative 'scarcity' of CO2 in the atmosphere.

Pedantry, I know, but it demonstrates a point - Ring is making spurious comparisons.

The other issue is the example that I and others have used repeatedly here on Deltoid, and elsewhere...

Ozone comprises [0.00006% of the atmosphere](, and yet it manages to absorb most of the UV radiation from coming in from the sun. If one assumes that the current atmospheric concentration of atmospheric CO2 is 390 ppm, then there is 650 times more CO2 in the atmosphere than there is ozone. It is somewhat illogical to argue that CO2 could have no planetary-affecting radiation-absorptive capacity whilst simultaneously accepting that ozone does, and at three orders of magnitude lower concentration, at that.

I think that Ring needs a few more eponymous objects on his fingers, so that he might learn to count said digits to numbers greater than the number of thumbs that he possesses.

I suspect that Ringworld rests on the back of a Stupidopotamus. And it's fÅtid Stupidopotami all the way down...

By Bernard J. (not verified) on 07 Jan 2011 #permalink

>It is somewhat illogical to argue that CO2 could have no planetary-affecting radiation-absorptive capacity whilst simultaneously accepting that ozone does, and at three orders of magnitude lower concentration, at that.

Bernard I have good news for you! Ken Ring doesn't believe ozone blocks UV:

>As to the ozone point⦠are you still maintaining that the ozone represents an effective radiation shield or not?

When it comes to pure, unadulterated wingnuttery, at least the man is consistent.

#10 t_p_hamilton:

... real End Times stuff!

By Marion Delgado (not verified) on 07 Jan 2011 #permalink

"CO2 is also nearly twice as heavy as air (molecular weight 44, that of air 29) so it cannot rise anywhere beyond haze level of a couple of hundred feet."

What always amazes me about people who spout stuff like this is how they reconcile it with the CO2 is plant food meme many of them also spout and the fact that plants seem to do just fine quite a lot more than 200 feet above sea level. Why, in their view, isn't Tibet a barren wasteland containing not a single photosynthetic plant?

Jon: "What always amazes me about people who spout stuff like this is how they reconcile it with..."

Because their internal map of the world consists entirely of non sequitors. They do not reconcile *anything they say or think with anything else they say or think, even when it's possible. It's all about a collection of assertions associated with tribal identity. They are who they are based on what they believe. We are atheists / Muslims / dirty hippies / fags / whatever *because we believe the wrong things.

Reality is a social construct, like political boundaries. As long as they don't give in, we can't win an argument.

It is somewhat illogical to argue that CO2 could have no planetary-affecting radiation-absorptive capacity whilst simultaneously accepting that ozone does, and at three orders of magnitude lower concentration, at that.

Well I get roughly 2.81291336 orders of magnitude, if we are being pedantic. ;-)

By Fran Barlow (not verified) on 07 Jan 2011 #permalink

Ahhhh, now I know why I always get an asthma attack at sea level while lying down, its not asthma its the bloody CO2 crowding out the oxygen.


>The Ringworld is unstable

Very good! But I suspect it went over the heads of most people who obviously didn't have saddo reading habits while sci & eng undergrads.

Ummmmm, excuse me if I'm being dumb (chemistry is not my strong suit) but isn't air a mixture and therefore doesn't have a molecular weight since it's comprised of any number of different molecules?

Eli Rabett @ 30:

The Ringworld is unstable

So, reality could get in, theoretically, once we determine how to fashion an effective cziltang brone?

Having opened his mouth in public once and stuck his foot in it, Ken Ring does it again and swallows his entire leg.

From his post at Crikey's Rooted:

So..I helped a guy write a book about cats. er..remind me again why that was bad? I donât recall that I worked towards driving poor people out of their homes, I didnât work towards many losing their jobs, I didnât cause elderly poor people to die because they couldnât afford energy bills, all which is the wish and outcome of publicly stated green/global warming politics, which people here seem to be advocating. What I wrote 14 years ago was absolutely harmless. The eugenics agenda driven from the UN of the international global warmers, which is akin to the policies of Nazi Germany, which is to reduce human population by creating poverty by halting progress and discouraging economic development in underdeveloped countries is phenomenally disgusting. Shame on those here who are choosing that stance


It wasn't just sci and eng students.

I still have a residual fondness for Ringworld, cziltang brone and all.

I had some Ringworld on my arm once, but Canesten made short work of it.

Ringworld! That brings back memories of the half year I spent proving that Ken's lunatic lunar forecasting technique amounted to astrology, though perhaps a little less useful. Got me started writing about climate, too.

Thanks Ken.