the Air Vent

Because the world needs another opinion

Problematic Science Incorporated

Posted by Jeff Id on June 3, 2013

Holy crap.  I have realized it isn’t practical to do a half of a blog.  Did you know that the Internet is full of crazy people.   I’ve heard rumors, read other blogs, often commented on the generally high quality of tAV readers but when I don’t blog on science for months, guess what happens.

Wierd stuff.

Anti-science stuff as far as the eye can see! So many people with a crazy, poorly understood concept of science on the planet seems to fill in the crevices of conversation.  Enough to thoroughly upset my understanding of reality.    Everyone who thinks they have solved a new form of backradiation, new thermodynamics, black body radiation, global warming or whatever asinine concept in the world seems to have a crazy opinion.   Not one lick of common sense to regulate the mess.   F-ing frustrating.

Then there is Joe Postuma, PSI “super-genius”,

who left a link explaining his new theory of zero backradiation locked up in a pile of chapter 1 thermodynamics equations. Joe has solved the problem!  As I have found typical of the PSI crowd, he is unable to explain his physics using “English” or other earth language and many are confused.

As a fellow human who lacks a universal translator yet can handle basic math, let me help explain Josephs post.  In science, certain variables are defined as dependent and others are independent.  It is a simple concept which means that some variables are representations of physical processes driven by others.   Often, you find the dependent letters on the left side of the equals sign.  Joe gets a little carried away with the concept and decides that the form of the math in his first equation dictates which variables are which, and forgets to consider the physics to see if he is correct.  Lo and behold!!,  many Internet morons on his thread agree.  —– Shocking, I know.  Thus Joe decides that the “independent” Earth temperatures dictate the “dependent” power received from the sun.  I know it is unusual but we humble observers are the idiots (or worse — undergrads) who need to open our minds!!

Vigorous rants ensue!  Global warming is proven wrong again, even though there is no evidence in the post supporting or rejecting AGW presented.

It is frustrating because I left 4 questions.  Four simple questions on the last thread for the entire PSI group and only one person attempted an answer.  Joe.

In answering, he combined my questions, failing to note that they asked for explanation of the differentiation between PSI and standard physics.  It isn’t his fault though because, as we have recently uncovered, PSI cannot tell the difference between their own theory and standard physics.

I am only partially surprised by that but that is because I have read some of their work.  Below are my four original questions from the last post.  Note that groups (1 and 3) and (2 and 4) request differentiation.  Do you wonder why I did that?

1 Define and describe the probability characteristics of Second Law of Thermodynamics as interpreted in classical physics using your own words.   Demonstrable understanding of the standard version of the second law is important so that we have common ground.

2 Describe standard physics interpretation of radiation absorption from a cold to hot body.

3 Describe the PSI interpretation of the Second law highlighting differences in energy transfer from the standard interpretations.

4 Describe the PSI interpretation of what happens to radiation from a cold to hot body, with focus on temperatures.

Joe’s, being the only PSI representative capable of attempting answers provided:

1) & 3) are related, so: A closed system tends to a state of maximum entropy. Basically this means that all energy density differentials disappear and the system becomes totally useless, unable to perform any work within itself. Energy spontaneously transfers from low probability to high probability states. Low probability is high density (hot), high probability is low density (cool). This will manifest as spontaneous heat flow from hot to cold. There is no PSI difference from the traditional laws.

2) & 4) are related: Cold radiation does not heat up hot bodies as this would be a violation of the laws of thermo as discussed. It is the hot body which transfers heat to the cold and causes the cold temperature to increase. The presence of a cold body does not mean that a hot body has to warm up – the cold body just warms up until the same energy states are shared by both the cold and hot bodies, and then energy is available to transfer to other things on the far side of the cold body if some condition exists there. The PSI position is the traditional one, whereas we routinely see GHE advocates argue that radiation from a cold body has to heat up a hotter body, or, that the cold body can heat the hot body as long as the “majority net” heating is from hot to cold, which is of course sophistry, but it sounds good. Energy can be shared both ways between hot and cold, but the cold does not cause or require the hot to become hotter – the cold is simply heated by the hot.

Regarding 1 & 3 from Joe’s answers above,  excepting the indecipherable probability statements, there isn’t much to take home from it.  Apparently PSI does recognize the second law of thermodynamics it even seems to realize the second law is a bulk property although the description left me confused.  Regarding 2 & 4 though,  it has more errors discontinuities than a first grade calculus exam.   It is impossible to begin except that Joe claims radiation from a cold body doesn’t “heat up” or in other words, it doesn’t “add heat energy” to the hot body.  Which leaves one wondering, just what the hell happened to those photons of energy?

Being a naturally curious person, I asked:

Lets say we have two perfect blackbodies, one at 100K, another at 200K. What happens to a single photon emitted by the cold body that strikes the warm one?

This seems a innocuous question, one which would deserve an answer, especially from individuals purporting to understand thermodynamics better than everyone else.  Basically, I got this for an answer, along with a bunch of silliness:

“It is the macroscopic behaviour where heat flow is observed in net, and no heating occurs from cold to hot. Cold doesn’t heat hot up in aggregate or in partiality at all.

It is a surprising answer which seems to be supported by others in the group.

And heat energy associated with the photon’s journey can only move from warm to cold (from the higher excitation state to the lower excitation state); just as water in a river only flows downhill – there is no backward journey (eg no back radiation heating).

Really!? I ask with incredulity.   Just what happened to the effing photons then (Joe or anyone else at PSI)?   Where the hell did they go?  Wormholes, reflection, tri-synchronous absorption, WHAT!???

Stupid individual photons anyway but did they reflect, reverberate, re-incarnate, recirculate, reciprocate or simply retarderate?  Since asking the obvious question about what happened to the energy in our universe, I have been told:

Discussing individual quantum events is beside the point of the 2nd Law

Jeff, surely you would agree that energy is not the same thing as heat

When photons enter a body they will not add heat if the receiver is warmer than the emitter.

The photons do generate light, which we can see, but there is not necessary any added heat.

Besides, Postma already did give the answer when he said heat flow is proportional to a temperature differential – this still doesn’t mean that photons from the cold source cause heating, it means the two objects find equilibrium, but the cold object does not heat the hotter object. What the photons from the cold source are doing is expressed in this equation: Q = s*(Th^4 – Tc^4). This does not mean that the cold source raises the temperature of the hot source.

They want us to believe gases respond to the heat radiated by the Earth’s surface and send that energy back, which makes the surface warmer.

For some strange reason you seem to want to focus on a SINGLE photon from cold to hot – when this still isn’t even what the laws of thermo are because the laws are about the whole behaviour of a large ensemble of trillions of trillions of entities and interactions etc.

Thus far not one PSI individual can answer my question.  NOBODY with wits enough to answer what any reasonably studied student of standard physics can.    So I tease on, waiting for the group to rise to the challenge, hoping for a reasoned answer to my questions.

In the meantime, the same guys who cannot provide the answer to a simple question are generating complex finite element climate models which assume the result before calculating it.   Sound familiar?

78 Responses to “Problematic Science Incorporated”

  1. Jeff, not really following you on this one. The flow of heat is a macroscopic, probabilistic, bulk phenomenon. Energy can of course flow in both directions and over short time scales and or small enough portions of the system heat can of course “flow uphill”. But in the aggregate, over normal time scales, heat will flow from hot to cold. I would think this an utterly uncontroversial statement, and it’s not at all contradicted by the fact that photons from a cold object can transfer energy to the warmer object.

    • Jeff Condon said

      It isn’t me you are not following. It is a group of 300ish people who are organized under PSI. They have an alternate theory which excludes the possibility of AGW but they seem to refuse to explain/differentiate the problem.

    • Jeff Condon said

      Well said in the meantime. It is a frustration of mine that the discussion even exists.

      • Anonymous said

        Jeff: My problem is that you have defined a closed system with two black bodies, and then asked about the effect of only one of them. The 200K black body is also radiating.

  2. plazaeme said

    I don’t understand the problem. They say,”cooling slower is not heating”. I think it is, in some sense, if they agree the presence of an object above 0K will slow the heat loss of a hot body. The cold body is not stopping the photons (or the heat) to leave the hot body. That’s temperature dependent. But his cooling is slowed by the presence of the cold body. It seems you need cold photons heating the hot body to produce this slowing. What else could do it?

  3. intrepid_wanders said

    To the defense of this, I can only say for the 300ish people, is that I am sure the science textbooks that they worked with Rutherford–Bohr model which demonstrated a model of the electrons and energy states as describe yester-year.

    Today, with the development of Quantum Mechanics, it is not as easily to diagram a matrix in a two dimensional picture for a textbook. Even Feynman diagrams are not as explicit for some of us.

    While I very much enjoy the thinking types that speak for the fringe (ChiefIO, Tallbloke and Manuel when he gets a glimpse of clarity), the light-bulb/mirror experiment was an ignorant argument for Joe ‘n Co. I am guessing that they thought if they had two “black-bodies” (ideal emitter/absorber) in mind and built a close to good IR emitter (light-bulb) and a close to good reflector (mirror or anti-absorber). As reflectors go in the IR spectrum, “gold color” is much better but it would not help there “thought-up” experiment. Sad thing is, if they even came up with a clever Black-Body to Black-Body experiment, the emitter body would still collect radiative heat.

    I hate the abuse and neglect of the conservation of energy law. Kirchhoff says PSI needs some “Continuing Education Credits”:

    The only question that would remain is this. Is there a IR “white body” (other than vacuum that is 100% IR transmissive) that could make this light-bulb/mirror experiment work? Conductors and insulators of many variety fail my thought experiment. Anyhow…

    • johnosullivan said

      A full take down of the Watts experiment and that of Curt Watson is to be published on PSI in coming days. Can you not allow us time to perfect our reply? Also, as I have explained elsewhere, no standard textbooks on thermodynamics provide calculations on the activities of individual photons. There is a very good reason for that.

      PSI is very much in favor of accepted standard physics. We are NOT proposing any other than the strict application of such physics. It is, in fact, the realm only of climatology to invent physics at the quantum level that experts from the “hard” sciences find not only far-fetched but empirically unsupportable.

      It is well established among chemical and physical scientists that carbon dioxide serves only to cool, never to warm. PSI relies on standard science that defenders of junk science have yet to refute with their 30 years of asserting their CO2-driven greenhouse gas hypothesis.

  4. steveta_uk said

    I’m amused by the river analogy, as I’ve pointed out to PSI folk before (probably DC).

    They always say with absolute certainty that the river can only flow downhill, “just as water in a river only flows downhill”, and seem ignorant of the facts at a molecular level, where the teeny-weeny bits of water are probably moving in all sorts of directions, and at a small enough scale it would I guess be difficult to even tell which direction the river was flowing.

    Equally, DC has said that heat transfer from -50C at altitude to a surface at +15C is ‘obviously’ impossible. But since the free path of an IR photon is of the order of a few meters, isn’t it more likely that the -50C molecule is actually exchanging an IR photon with another at perhaps -49.5C just a few meters below? And even in the bizarre DC world, this isn’t prohibited as the “energy bands overlap”.

    So whats to prevent a sequence of a few 1000 IR exchanges all the way from -50C to +15C, where each one was to another molecule at close to exactly the same temperature?

    • Jeff Condon said

      And how can we NOT discuss these individual transactions when they make comments that heat from a single photon can’t flow from cold to warm.

      And when you ask them, you get incredulity (an emotion) rather than a considered answer. Me thinks they know not what they say.

    • johnosullivan said

      Steveta_uk, can you provide support for your hypothesis on the activities of individual photons by reference to calculations in standard textbooks on thermodynamics? I for one am not interested in what pseudo science climatology books might speculate on the matter.

      The use of the ‘river’ analogy is a simple explanation in keeping with what Jeff asked of us. It works well enough insofar as heat can only travel from warm to cold, just like water in a river flows (under gravity) from a higher level to a lower one. I don’t see why you take issue with that.

      • steveta_uk said

        John, I started a google search and quickly found several documents that describe how IR photon absorbtion works, with nice pictures of the various vibrational states of molecules and all that stuff, and was going to attach a bunch of links. But then I thought, why? You can do this just as easily as I can.

  5. johnosullivan said

    Jeff, you invited my colleagues and I as PSI to come here and participate in a science discussion. I had assumed you would be as courteous as you were when you first sent your email invitation to me. I also hoped you would accept my initial statement to you that we are not all available at the drop of a hat but would endeavor to provide some insight into our work in coming days. Now with the above post it becomes clear that you never had any intention of seeking to understand what we are presenting. Instead, today you are all about throwing ad homs and slurs.

    Yesterday, I queried why you had suddenly and self-contradictorily delved into quantum physics when you had specifically set out the limits in your initial request that we only discuss classical physics. You were told that no calculations in thermodynamics performed by experts in the field are ever done addressing single photons. There is a good reason for that.

    When I explained to you that no standard textbooks on thermodynamics talk of individual actions of photons you sought to contradict me by stating there were “many books” that did so. I asked whether you could refer to any actual textbooks on thermodynamics to support your walk down that blind alley discussion of single photon activity. Well, I am still waiting to have that scientific discussion. But it seems you instead have chosen to launch into a new blog post that is all about gratuitous insults. Why is that?

    • Jeff Condon said

      I did try. Being ignored and accused of “moving goalposts” was a little obnoxious, as was the accusation of not being an honest broker. As I explained in the last thread I didn’t intend to mean only ancient physics, but rather standard physics. I am truly sorry I used the word Classical. However, you seem to think that this point gives you a free pass to violate physics in your argument – because it is newer than ancient thermodynamics. That is a ridiculous opinion and completely unscientific on your part.

      Your group has contradicted standard (and classical) physics, and I will continue to point out the problems until someone over there gets the technical wits to work it out.

      I did point out that there are literally hundreds of text which cover photon interaction and asked if you really wanted some of them or not. I am a very busy person but I expect any high-school kid could help you find one. Had you re-requested, I would have supplied a couple of references.

      Here is a link for you:
      and another :
      I doubt you will see much for answers but before you say it — NO it does not support PSI statements that photonic energy from a cold body doesn’t warm a warmer one.

      Calling the discussion a “blind alley” shows that you are not the right person from PSI to understand your own contradictions. This is directly to the heart of the matter and PSI needs to have someone scientifically sharp enough to understand both the PSI version and the “rest of science” in order to flesh out the differences. Everyone changing science understanding through history that I can think of, understood both arguments. Theirs and others.

      The reason for the tone of this post is because I got really tired of the silliness of responses. And while ignoring my direct and poignant questions, Joeseph left a link to a ridiculous post that has literally zero scientific value again ignoring the root issue. Good luck with that tack around here.

      • johnosullivan said

        Even the great Max Planck gave up the challenge of trying to figure out the minutiae of what individual photons are doing at the microcosmic level. Instead of obliging me with links to any one of the “hundreds” of textbooks you claim do offer such calculations you post a link to a pay site, which is entirely pointless and unhelpful, and a link to a high school level Q&A site which must surely be a joke.

        As such, this is the second time you’ve failed to respond to my reasonable challenge. It seems you are not so much unwilling, but rather you are unable to back your claims. If you can’t back them then you should man up and accept that there are no standard physics textbooks on thermodynamics that provide calculations for the interaction of individual photons.

        Again, you falsely paint PSI as advocates of non-standard physics. Quite the contrary. it is you who is now looking more that way inclined. Meanwhile, PSI advocates strictly for the application of the physics applied every day by the rocket scientists and engineers among us who make their living calculating and applying thermo calculations.

        For the final time I now lay down my challenge to you – please supply us with the title of ANY textbook on thermodynamics used by professional engineers and applied scientists that provides details on how to calculate the actions of photons on an individual level.

        If you can’t rise to this challenge then your failure is sufficient for us to infer you cannot because the whole issue of what individual photons do has NEVER been resolved by any scientist. Therefore you have been proven to have seeking to take the discussion down a BLIND ALLEY!

    • Kevin said

      Johnosullivan, please forgive Jeff and all of any indiscretions. Most of us do it in some form or another, although we also strive to maintain our decorum. I am interested in hearing your argument. While this is Jeff’s blog, he is not the only one listening. Please proceed.

      • Jeff Condon said

        I agree that my tone isn’t as friendly as when we started but that isn’t a lack of interest in the explanation. I don’t like sophistry and don’t care much for the individuals telling me how expensive their time is or how stupid others are as was done in Postuma’s post, while missing the blindingly obvious question being asked.

        I really had hoped that this would turn into a nice discussion and it still can but PSI has to engage seriously on the matter.

        • Kevin said

          I hear you. I am guilty as well on the whole. And we all need to have thicker or more flexible skin in these exchanges. 🙂 Hopefully, we can all agree that this happens despite our best intentions and should not be an excuse for a lack of engagement. We can only keep striving… I hope to hear from Johnosullivan.

    • DFT said

      If you really are interested in a texbook in that direction (photon interaction on the microscales), of course you don’t go to texts on thermodynamics. Let me give you some pointers that I have here in my vicinity

      Chen, G.; Nanoscale Energy Transport and Conversion, A Parallel Treatment of Electrons, Molecules, Phonons and Photons (Oxford University Press, 2005)

      Gerry, C and Knight, P; Introductory Quantum Optics (Cambridge University Press, 2005)

      Peskin, M and Schroeder, D; An Introduction to Quantum Field Theory (Westview Press, 1995)

      It is probably nonsensicle for you to actually read these. From what you written here I’m quite certain that you don’t have the qualifications to actually understand anything from these books yet. You need to do a lot of preliminary work in math and physics since these books are aimed at a graduate level. If you try this on your own, my guess is that the most probable outcome is that you never make it through them at all, non less get any understanding.

      That’s the harsh truth about these subjects. You need do dedicate a significant portion of your life to build up a working knowledge in these fields.

      • johnosullivan said

        DFT, ok, now you’ve cited what you believe to be the relevant texts now please copy and paste for us here the relevant calculations applying them that will enable us to determine what individual photons are doing when they “back radiate” and allegedly have two attempts at heating the earth’s surface. And please spare me the snide ad homs. Thanks,

        • DFT said

          No, they are not “the relevant texts”. They are just “some relevant texts” that happened to be within arms reach here at my desk. They will give you a point in the right direction if you are interested in understanding light-matter interaction in the context as it is understood today. You will probably need to dig in to the peer-reviewed journals for the complete picture.

          Forget about texts in thermodynamics, they will not help you accomplish this.

          And, unless you claim to have a working knowledge in modern physics, including QFT, I don’t really see where there is an ad hominem. So, do you?

          That you ask me to copy and paste the relevant calculations here only adds to the heap of the suspicion that you don’t have any relevant knowledge about the physics involved.

        • Jim Brock said

          Why this focus on a single photon? We just can’t know where it is or what vector it chooses. Hell, we can’t even tell if it is a wave or a particle…or both. Or whether it travels backward in time, or whether time even exists in the photon’s world.

  6. Carrick said


    A full take down of the Watts experiment and that of Curt Watson is to be published on PSI in coming days

    This is an example of “postdiction” rather than “prediction”. I gather your theory is sufficiently flexible that it can be modified to explain data gathered in the past. The question is, can it predict data from the future.

    PSI is very much in favor of accepted standard physics

    Then you should start by addressing the seaming contradiction in rejecting back-radiation on the grounds that “for two macroscopic bodies, heat cannot flow from a colder body to a warmer one unless external work is done on the system” (Clausius statement.)

    The standard physics interpretation is the following:

    1) “heat” is a process variable, it describes the net heat energy exchanged between two bodies during one complete thermodynamic cycle.

    2) Since the word is “net” this does not preclude that heat energy from the colder object affects the warmer object.

    3) The colder object generally does affect the warmer object, due to the transfer of heat energy via conduction, convection and/or radiative exchange. Different terms are used depending on the mechanism, for heat conduction it’s “insulation” for radiative heat energy exchange it’s the entirely appropriately named “back-radiation”, which rather than being a misnomer is a shorting of “backwardly propagating thermal radiation”, meaning photons that are traveling in the opposite direction (in maths, cos theta > 0) as the mean radiative heat flux.

    4) Of course “flow” is a misnomer, it’s a holdover from the caloric theory of heat days. “Heat” doesn’t “flow”.

    On a quantum level (it’s interesting that you mention “quantum”), Jeff Condon nails the problem with your arguments in examining the exchange of a single photon between the cold object and the warm object.

    As you might know, the classical thermodynamics of Clausius statement of thermodynamics has been supplanted many decades ago by statistical mechanics, which starts with descriptions of individual interactions and integrates that over the body using knowledge of the statistical distribution of the individual atoms and molecules of the body.

    So if you can describe an interaction of a microscopic process, it must be present as a bulk parameter in the bulk (classical) equations. In this case, the photons exchanged from the colder object to the warmer one are described as “backwardly propagating thermal radiation”.

    The way this manifests itself is by computing the flux of photons from the warmer object to the colder object and the flux of photons from the colder to the warmer one. The difference between them is the net radiative flux, and the direction of this net flux is always from the warmer object to the colder one.

  7. Carrick said

    eg… typo’d my html. it should be cos < 0 for backwardly propagating thermal radiation of course.

  8. Carrick said

    If John is still around, perhaps he can consider the question is the PSI theory falsifiable?

    If we obtain data the contradict assertions made about it, how may times do we rinse and repeat before the theory is withdrawn?

    • Kevin said

      Falsifiability is not fool-proof. Several scientific theories are not falsifiable.

      • Carrick said

        Which theories are you thinking of in particular?

        Anyway, technically it’s hypotheses (predictions based on a theory) that are directly testable. The hypotheses may or may not be a good representation of the theory, sometimes the hypotheses don’t represent the theory fairly (additional assumptions that get added in).

        Something to keep in mind when discussing falsifiable, it’s not quite as black and white as people are taught in primary school. (Theories often get edited and amended in response to data… I use the term “theoretical framework” in this case.)

        Anyway, John now claims he doesn’t even have a theory so this is moot.

        Though how you build a model without a theory is beyond me. That’s a new one.

        The “theory” which PSI doesn’t have is that “back radiation is impossible”. That is no longer a theory, apparently, rather it’s just an untestable assertion.

        • johnosullivan said

          Carrick, stop playing sopistry. either examine PSI’s model of the atmosphere and try to refute or there is no point me being here. I do have more important things to be getting on with rather than playing games.

          • Carrick said

            No game playing on my side. You can own your own words.

            We’re asking you for quantifiable tests of your theory and your response is you don’t have one, but oh yeah we have a mathematical model, which is a type of theory.

            You should put up a document on your website describing specific tests of your “mathematical model” where we can confirm for ourselves by experimental measurement whether or not there is observable back-radiation in a laboratory setting.

            It should be specific enough of a test, and controlled enough so the result with and without back-radiation can be numerically calculated.

    • johnosullivan said

      Carrick, again we get from your side the strawman that PSI has a “theory”. We do not. All we have done is show that there is no need to factor in any supposed greenhouse gas effect to account for the energy that enters and leaves earth’s atmosphere.

      The model we devised is in our recent article debunking Roy Spencer’s so called “time dependent’ model which is not only not time dependent, it cannot raise the temp of water to create clouds or allow anything other than perpetual cold twilight. Moreover, if Roy has abandoned any pretence of reliance on a “standard” greenhouse gas model what does that tell you about the current state of mainstream thinking on the GHE.

      A summary of our position can be found from the PSI article titled ‘WHY DID ANTHONY WATTS PULL A BAIT AND SWITCH?’ which I am prohibited from posting a link to by Jeff.

      • Carrick said

        You don’t have a theory?

        There’s nothing to test and nothing to take seriously.

        • johnosullivan said

          What garbage! We’ve got a mathematical model that incorporates the real physical parameters of earth’s atmosphere and it proves that energy in = energy out with no need to factor in a so called greenhouse gas effect. Go look at the article, check our model and prove it wrong if you can. Otherwise don’t pretend to be discussing science.

          • Carrick said

            I’m not going to assume responsibility for your lack of understanding of scientific terminology.

            A mathematical model is a form of theory. It’s a just set of principles that you use to devise a prediction, or, if not predict, to explain data. Predictive is better of course.

            So you do have a theory, you are just confused over what a theory is apparently. Let’s just call it a “mathematical model” since you agree you have one of these.

            Since you have a mathematical model, you should be able to devise a laboratory experiment that tests your mathematical model.

            Namely you should be able to devise an experiment in the laboratory that demonstrates e.g. that thermal radiation from a colder body does not get absorbed by the warmer one.

            Let’s see it and then we’ll test and replicate the predictions of your mathematical model.

        • johnosullivan said

          Carrick, stop playing sophistry. either examine PSI’s model of the atmosphere and try to refute it or there is no point me being here. I do have more important things to be getting on with rather than playing childish games.

  9. steveta_uk said

    Re-reading some of the previous thread I noticed something interesting.

    Joe Postma said:

    Cold radiation does not heat up hot bodies as this would be a violation of the laws of thermo as discussed.

    Jeff responded, including Joe’s sentence:

    ”Cold radiation does not heat up hot bodies as this would be a violation of the laws of thermo as discussed.” — This is not an accurate representation of thermodynamics and represents a massive bifurcation from basic physics.

    Clearly (to me) Jeff is telling Joe that the preceding sentence is wrong, but I suspect this isn’t how Joe read it.

    Joe replied, including Jeff’s and his own sentences:

    “”Cold radiation does not heat up hot bodies as this would be a violation of the laws of thermo as discussed.” — This is not an accurate representation of thermodynamics and represents a massive bifurcation from basic physics.”

    Exactly. It is not we who say cold radiation heats up hotter bodies, it is GHE alarmism which does so.

    … and then got all snippy when Jeff apparently suddenly switched sides of the argument within the same reply.

    I suspect what happened is that Joe had read Jeff’s response as agreeing with him then got all confuddled when the later parts of Jeff’s reply didn’t go along with it – hence the accusation of moving goal posts.

    • johnosullivan said

      again your side misrepresent what Postma actually said. We say time and again that heat always moves from a warmer place to a cooler place.

      Heat transfers in three ways:


      It’s as simple as that: heat always moves to a cooler place, which includes heat transfer by radiation. By the same token, this excludes radiant heat transfer to a warmer place, a point that greenhouse gas effect believers emphatically contest. Which places them on the outskirts of standard science, not us.

      If you want to keep it on a simple level then apply a bathtub water analogy to point out the obvious that adding cooler water to very warm water does not warm up the water but cools it down some.

      Test it yourself – add some cold water to warm water in the bathtub and see if it will get a little warmer. Does it? No.

      • steveta_uk said

        “again your side misrepresent what Postma actually said”

        Huh? All I did was quote directly what he wrote – where did I misrepresent anything? And WTF has this to do with bath water

      • Carrick said

        John still fails to realize that he is using heat in a different way than it is meant in the field of thermodynamics. Perhaps the lack of formal training of science might explain part of this, but it’s worth noting yet again.

        “heat = net heat energy exchanged during one complete cycle of a thermodynamic process”. It’s a terrible word choice and often confuses lay-people like John, who go on to misuse the word and apply it to contexts where it isn’t even meaningful use.

        There’s even a bit of a movement to get rid of the word entirely, but that’s not likely to happen.

        Some people like to confuse laypeople apparently (and each other).

        Anyway this nicely summarizes the semantic confusion here. Worth framing:

        heat always moves to a cooler place, which includes heat transfer by radiation. By the same token, this excludes radiant heat transfer to a warmer place,

        Heat technically doesn’t move. Its a process variable, meaning it doesn’t exist in the universe, just as a variable in a thermodynamic equation.

        Secondly it can “move to a cooler place” (sic) if there is work done on the system.

        Thirdly, since it’s the net heat energy exchanged during a cycle it doesn’t specify the details of how heat energy is exchanged in order to complete the thermodynamic cycle.

        In fact the lack of specificity of how the thermodynamic process works is considered a redeeming feature. However, this lack of specificity is often interpreted by lay people as a proscription against heat energy being exchanged by colder objects (e.g blankets) and warmer objects (e.g. our bodies on a cold winter night).

        Finally, radiant heat transfer describes a process by which heat energy is transferred. Since it is not a net quantity, it isn’t prohibited from being exchanged from the colder object to the warmer one by Clausius’s principle.

        • Carrick said

          Finally, radiant heat transfer describes a process by which heat energy is transferred. Since it is not a net quantity, it isn’t prohibited from being exchanged from the colder object to the warmer one by Clausius’s principle.

          This statement is definitionally true, by the way.

          It may be the case that heat energy is not exchanged from the colder object to the warmer one, but that would imply new physics, a proposition that is not however buttressed by a misapplication of old ideas like Clausius’s statement.

          Misapplication or understanding of basic physics is generally not considered to be a selling point in an argument.

      • Jeff Condon said


        ” By the same token, this excludes radiant heat transfer to a warmer place, a point that greenhouse gas effect believers emphatically contest. Which places them on the outskirts of standard science, not us.”

        This is not an accurate representation of today’s science. In today’s science, heating events go both ways with the net from hot to cold. That’s it but that is also beside the point.

        What I want to know is what happens to that stray photon which was emitted by a cold blackbody and struck a hot one. What happens is key because in standard science, the photon is absorbed and the hot body attains a higher temperature. You say it is impossible so just what the heck happened to the stupid photon? Why not answer the question?

        I feel like I’m having a discussion with the underpants gnomes.

        • johnosullivan said

          More garbage – heat only goes one way – energy can go where it likes but there is no heat exchange, only heat transfer from warm to cool. Your side cannot seem to grasp the fundamental facts that energy transfer is not the same as heat transfer.

          Being that you refuse/cannot cite any textbooks on thermo to back your nonsensical claims that cold can make warm even warmer there is no point me wasting my time here any longer. You’ve been directed to where you can find our mathematical model. It accounts for all energy entering and leaving earth’s system without the need to factor in any GHE. QED. If you would like to check it out please do and post a comment over at PSI. Thanks and adios!

          • Carrick said

            More name calling.

          • Carrick said

            “Your side cannot seem to grasp the fundamental facts that energy transfer is not the same as heat transfer”

            The MKS unit of heat is joules, which is a unit of energy.

            Nobody takes you guys seriously because you lack even a remedial understanding of the physics involved. Nor should they.

          • Jeff Condon said


            I just gave you 2 links. What is garbage is that you refuse to answer what happens to the photon. Why can’t an organization which purports to be pure science answer the simple question. If you really believe that the photon is not doing what I say, then say what it is doing!

            I fail to understand the difficulty.

          • Jeff Condon said

            Heat is in joules John. I’m sorry that frustrates you but really you are skipping the middle step in not explaining the physics. It bothers me that people are not as disturbed with your explanations as I and it is concerning that people are going away from PSI even more confused.

            You have got to find a way to explain what happens to the radiation if it isn’t adding heat energy to the warmer body. Until you do PSI is nothing but a faith based organization.

          • Jeff Condon said

            And I am doing you a favor, whether you realize it or not.

        • Jeff Condon said

          Step 1 – photon is emitted toward colder body
          Step 2 –
          Step 3 – No heating

  10. Ohio said

    I think these guys are messing with you. There is no way they are believing the line of crap they are selling. The simple existence of a thermos proves them wrong, but they argue in circles. I’m calling shenanigans!

    • Jeff Condon said

      Dozens of weird papers and thousands of hours, certainly seems like an impressive waste of time. There is enough money in AGW to launch a group dedicated to demonstrably false science. Still, it is hard to imagine the payoff from such a group. After all, their entire message was just destroyed by a couple of blogposts by an aeronautical engineer and some sharp readers with a dislike for sophistry and a few hours to spare.

      As far as I’m concerned, there is a billow of smoke rising from the wreckage of the PSI endeavor, and all over the indescribable behavior of a cold photon with no home.

      • timg56 said

        When following the topic of global warming I stay out of physics discussions for the following reasons:

        1) I struggled through my physics courses in grad school.

        2) Even had I not struggled, I’m still outclassed by most of the people who do like to talk about the physics.

        3) I’m of the opinion that until people talking climate change address the arithmatic questions, the physics issues might as well be irrelevant.

        • Jeff Condon said


          We have covered the equations many times. With this group the basics are the problem and that topic doesn’t require many equations.

  11. Curt said

    John asked for some non-climate thermodynamics textbook examples that would back up our “mainstream” views. I have some that deal at the macroscopic level.

    From one of my undergraduate thermodynamics textbooks:

    Reynolds, W.C. & Perkins, H.C., Engineering Thermodynamics, McGraw Hill, 1970, 1977

    (I took the course from Reynolds.)


    “All surfaces radiate energy, but there will be a net energy exchange only if the bodies are at different temperatures. Two facing parallel plates will radiate to each other, but if their temperatures are equal there is no net energy transfer.”

    (p. 577)


    From my undergraduate heat transfer textbook:

    Holman, J.P., Heat Transfer, McGraw Hill, 1963, 1968, 1972, 1976


    Consider two black surfaces A1 and A2, as shown in Fig. 8-8. We wish to obtain a general expression for the energy exchange between these surfaces when they are maintained at different temperatures. The problem becomes essentially one of determining the amount of energy which leaves one surface and reaches the other. To solve this problem the radiation shape factors are defined as

    F1-2 = fraction of energy leaving surface 1 which reaches surface 2
    F2-1 = fraction of energy leaving surface 2 which reaches surface 1

    The energy leaving surface 1 and arriving at surface 2 is

    Eb1 A1 F12

    and that energy leaving surface 2 and arriving at surface 1 is

    Eb2 A2 F21

    [where Ebn is the total radiative energy leaving the surface n as a function of its temperature and emissivity, as derived in the previous section]

    Since the surfaces are black, all the incident radiation will be absorbed, and the net energy exchange is

    Eb1 A1 F12 – Eb2 A2 F21 = Q1-2

    If both surfaces are at the same temperature, there can be no heat exchange, that is, Q1-2 = 0. Also

    Eb1 = Eb2

    so that

    A1 F12 = A2 F21

    The net heat exchange is therefore

    Q1-2 = A1 F12 (Eb1 – Eb2) = A2 F21 (Eb1 – E b2)


    Note the repeated usage of the terms “net” and “exchange”. Note the statement that with two bodies at different temperatures, the radiative energy emitted by by each one is absorbed by the other. This means that the energy emitted by the colder one is absorbed by the warmer one.

    These are standard engineering texts, written 40 – 50 years ago, long before concerns about AGW.

  12. Physics-o-Climate said

    1 Define and describe the probability characteristics of Second Law of Thermodynamics as interpreted in classical physics using your own words. Demonstrable understanding of the standard version of the second law is important so that we have common ground.

    The Second Law describes a statistical process whereby in an isolated system thermodynamic equilibrium will evolve spontaneously and that thermodynamic equilibrium will be the state of maximum entropy accessible to the system.

    2 Describe standard physics interpretation of radiation absorption from a cold to hot body.

    Radiation from a cold body to a hot body is now described by physicists as being “pseudo scattered.” It only looks as if it is scattered, because what actually happens is that the radiation with frequencies and intensities which correspond to the region under the Planck curve for the cooler body can also be radiated by the warmer body. (The Planck curve for a cooler body is always contained with that for a warmer body.) These frequencies resonate and the electromagnetic energy in the incident radiation can only be used for immediate and equivalent radiation by the warmer body. Hence the rate of cooling by radiation of the warmer body is slowed, more so as the temperature gap narrows and the area between the Planck curves reduces. For more detail see the paper “Radiated Energy and the Second Law of Thermodynamics” March 2012.

    3 Describe the PSI interpretation of the Second law highlighting differences in energy transfer from the standard interpretations.

    The Second Law clearly relates to a system. (as in Wikipedia here.) A system is defined as in physics, namely “A system is a set of interacting or interdependent components forming an integrated whole” (as also in Wikipedia..) It is yourself who is assertively assuming “differences.”

    4 Describe the PSI interpretation of what happens to radiation from a cold to hot body, with focus on temperatures.

    Already answered in Q.2. But to clarify, radiation from a colder body to a warmer body cannot raise the temperature of the warmer body because of the resonating process and the fact that its electro-magnetic energy is not converted to thermal energy in the target. (See definition of a system in (3).) Only the rate of cooling of the warmer body by radiation is slowed down. Any cooling by non-radiative processes is not slowed and, in fact, is quite free to accelerate and compensate to some extent.

    • The Second Law describes a statistical process whereby in an isolated system thermodynamic equilibrium will evolve spontaneously and that thermodynamic equilibrium will be the state of maximum entropy accessible to the system.

      That’s a rather interesting statement of the 2nd law. . . If this was the full, correct statement of the 2nd law, engineers couldn’t design heat engines. We would not be able to estimate the efficiency of a Carnot cycle. Any chance you can add the part about what happens if heat can be added to or removed from the system? I’d like you to add the bit that lets the mechanical engineers design internal combustion engines or power cycles — especially the bits where heat transfer between the system and the universe can occur.

      “Radiated Energy and the Second Law of Thermodynamics”

      O. M. G. What is really amazing is that Doug doesn’t know what he write there is totally not standard.
      Doug needs to be assigned a simple engineering problems involving radiation.

      I can accept that Doug might think his notions are correct. But it is very odd that he thinks the discussion in his little PSI article is standard!

      • Jeff Condon said


        It isn’t just Doug. A large group of people with some moderate ability to write math, seem to believe that their conclusions match physics, yet cannot explain even the most basic events of energy transfer. My questions could just as easily be what happens to the high energy molecule from the cold body which bumps into the low energy one from the hot body.

        You aren’t learning anything from me on this but my god it is a strange world.

        • Physics-o-Climate said

          The same as what happens when the low frequency, low energy photons in a microwave oven appear to pass through an opaque plastic bowl without warming it. They undergo multiple resonant (pseudo) scattering events, thus following a random path and some exiting the plastic on each side without ever having had their electromagnetic energy converted to thermal energy. The plastic can of course tell the difference when high frequency, high energy photons from the Sun strike it and warm it and don’t pass through it. All that was in my March 2012 paper written well over a year ago.

          • Jeff Condon said

            you really should spend some time reading details of the complex index of refraction.

    • Physics-o-Climate said

      Lucia said “That’s a rather interesting statement of the 2nd law”

      Try looking up Wikipedia “Laws of Thermodynamics” and/or “Second Law of Thermodynamics” or any modern physics text book. I quote from Wikipedia in Section 4 of my paper, that section being about the Second Law, but it seems it might be best if I save your time and copy and paste here from the first reference …

      “Second law of thermodynamics An isolated system, if not already in its state of thermodynamic equilibrium, spontaneously evolves towards it. Thermodynamic equilibrium has the greatest entropy amongst the states accessible to the system.”

      Then we need to note what the word “system” means in physics, so Wiki will do …

      “A system is a set of interacting or interdependent components forming an integrated whole[1] or a set of elements (often called ‘components’ ) and relationships which are different from relationships of the set or its elements to other elements or sets.[citation needed]

      “Fields that study the general properties of systems include Systems science, systems theory, cybernetics, dynamical systems, thermodynamics, and complex systems.”

      So, just define what your system is (for example, a single component or multiple interdependent components) and then you know the Second Law will have a propensity towards thermodynamic equilibrium in that system. (For example, a system can be one-way radiation from one small region in the atmosphere to another small region on the surface.) I’ll leave it to you to look up thermodynamic equilibrium if you don’t know that it is different from an isothermal state in a vertical plane in a gravitational field. There is of course more information in my 20 page paper on “Planetary Core and Surface Temperatures.”

  13. Gary said

    Jeff, the problem is that these PSI guys just can’t see the trees because they’re only concentrating on the forest. In your question, photon = tree. No discussion is possible with such Ferengi. In physics terms, their mindset is a closed system at maximum entropy. It’s an intellectual black hole — all your effort and time get sucked in and nothing intelligible gets out. Beyond having fun poking them with questions you know they can’t answer, why bother?

    • Jeff Condon said

      “Beyond having fun poking them with questions you know they can’t answer, why bother?”

      I was rather hoping that someone in their group would actually attempt to answer the question. If you read some of their work, it has the ability to set people back to ground zero on their understanding of physics. If they had an alternate explanation, I would be thrilled to explore the consequences to the rest of physics.

      Unfortunately, I can only conclude that there isn’t enough science knowledge in the group to work with.

      • Physics-o-Climate said

        That’s probably right about most of the papers published anywhere by climatologists and others who are overly influenced by the “old paradigm” that the Sun can heat the surfaces of Venus, Earth etc to the observed temperatures with direct radiation, and that the atmosphere then slows the cooling. Sure the atmosphere does indeed do that. All the oxygen and nitrogen molecules colliding with the surface do a good job at slowing conduction and evaporative cooling – well at least that’s what physics texts say. But slowing cooling from what temperature? The Sun doesn’t make it that hot to start with.

        For example, how does about 1000W/m^2 of incident radiation at the top of the Venus atmosphere (after reflection) become 16,100W/m^2 on the other side of the atmosphere, where there is only in fact 10W/m^2 of the original incident radiation not absorbed on the way down. Where does the rest of the energy get created, Jeff or anyone ????

  14. Heck, I’m waiting for the Slayers to show how their understanding of radiative heat transfer works in simple problems like … oh… temperature of walls of a furnace, or why even one of those old plastic thermoses I used for soup when I was a kid work. (I have a water cooler we use for cold water. Same principle. Heck… if I wasn’t afraid of inviting slayers noise to my blog, I’d post a photo and ask them how manages to insulate the contents as wellas it does.)

    Also: on the 2nd law, I’d like to see them provide a simple derivation of the speed of sound in a gas and show they get the right answer for air. After that, they can explain change in properties across a normal shock wave and show their answer agrees with data.

    • Jeff Condon said

      I’m thinking the thermos questions belong in step 2.

      As far as I’m concerned, all of their years work was debunked here again by a simple question regarding a little bitty cold photon.

      • Well… it is. But lets just say they don’t believe in photons because they are pre-20th century continuum mechanics types. Even then, their stuff doesn’t work. We don’t need no stinkin’ photons to compute the speed of sound.

        • Jeff Condon said

          I do like the shock wave example and the speed of sound one. The group really doesn’t understand just how much physics needs to be re-explained by their as yet incomplete theory. .

          • Jeff Condon said

            Not that they ever will work it out. I just like to give the benefit of the doubt.

  15. M Simon said

    Well. The net temperature of the Earth does determine to some extent the net radiation the Earth absorbs from the sun. But the temperature of the sun also affects that. Probably to a greater extent due to the temperature of the sun vs the Earth. Albedo and other stuff not changing of course.

    • Physics-o-Climate said

      Yes – all natural climate cycles are in one way or another related to variations in the Solar radiative flux that penetrates the atmosphere, be it Earth, Venus, Uranus or wherever. But the surface temperature then increases as thermal energy moves up the temperature gradient by a combination of diffusion and adiabatic convection, as thermodynamic equilibrium evolves spontaneously, or is restored when extra absorption (such as when night becomes day) disrupts that equilibrium.

      The deeper the atmosphere, the higher will be the surface temperature, other parameters being equal. For example, there is thought to be a small solid core (half Earth’s mass) in Uranus. Even though only about 3W/m^2 of insolation reaches that planet, energy has crept down through its atmosphere (several thousand Km in height) and caused the surface of that core to be thousands of degrees, maybe ~5,000K. Gravity, in effect, holds down the thermal energy stored over the life of the planet, but what goes on in the uppermost layers where the solar radiation “sets” a temperature of 59K (equivalent to earth’s 255K) does still determine the overall level of the temperature plot. So there’s a heck of a lot more warming than 33 degrees on Uranus.

  16. While this is a fascinating discussion it is seriously lacking in EQUATIONS.

    Curt tried to remedy this deficiency but the equations he provided don’t relate to anything of interest.

    • Jeff Condon said

      I have no idea what we need equations for at this point. If you cannot describe a theory in simple English, math is of little use.

    • Physics-o-Climate said

      Because of the nature of the temperature plot which supports surface temperatures, you only need the SBL law to determine the planet’s radiating temperature, following the line of argument in the derivation of the 255K figure for Earth. Foe example, for Uranus it is 59K and that is basically the temperature found very close indeed to the top of its atmosphere.

      Then the two lines of computations (as in my paper and elsewhere) equating PE gain with KE loss give you the -g/Cp quotient for a non-radiating atmosphere. Then we really only have empirical evidence as to the reduction due to inter-molecular radiation, but we know it is about a third on Earth (9.8 down to 6.5C/Km due to water vapour) and on Uranus it is only reduced by about 5% due to a small amount of methane, and on Venus it is reduced about 15% to 25% as best I can estimate. Then of course it is simple co-ordinate geometry that we apply to the plot o ftemperature v. altitude.

      The main point is, the exact percentage reduction in the gradient is not as important as determining what happens if there is an increase in radiating gases. Such an increase reduces the gradient and thus the surface temperature. (This is why my study showed moist regions were cooler than dry ones, so water vapour does not warm as the IPCC thinks.)

      My best estimate of the effect of carbon dioxide in reducing the gradient due to inter-molecular radiation, and increasing it by less due to its specific heat, is that the net effect of carbon dioxide is a cooling of the order of 0.002 C degree.

      That frankly is about all the calculations I consider necessary.

  17. Go Whitecaps Go!! said

    Joe stated that “Cold radiation does not heat up hot bodies as this would be a violation of the laws of thermo as discussed.”

    Based on your experiment were two bodies are heated to 200C and 100C, perhaps we can have Joe experiment by hold the 100C cold body with his bare hand and describe cold radiation emminating from the object.
    We can also change the experiment by replacing the hot object with another object that is at 50C to see if the now cold radiation feels different as it is now hot radiation.

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