Skip to main content

Paul F. Hoffman visits the University of Bristol



Paul F Hoffman of Harvard
On the 24th and 25th of September, Professor Paul F Hoffman of Harvard University (USA) kindly offered to visit the University of Bristol for two days. Fresh from fieldwork in Namibia, Paul agreed to give two talks: one upon Cryogenian glaciations and another upon the interaction of climate scientists and geologists.

Snowball Earth - Image from COSMOS
Paul is perhaps most well known for his part in the development of the Snowball Earth theory, suggesting that during the Cryogenian (850 to 635 million years ago) ice covered the entire globe, from the poles to the tropics. This theory is based upon multiple strands of evidence including palaeomagnetics, sedimentology, isotopic analysis and numerical modelling. Paul succinctly summarised these ideas while also discussing some new results published in Science two years ago. The authors of this paper suggest that during the breakup of Rodinia, a proterozoic supercontinent, the eruption of the Franklin Large Igneous Province (LIP) in Canada (716Ma) may have produced a climatic state more susceptible to glaciation. Although there have been many critics of Snowball Earth, it seems Paul remains loyal to the theory.  A wine reception was held afterwards within the School of Geography and allowed for further discussion amongst staff and students.

Paul gave a second talk on 25th September to a selection of PhDs and PDRAs who attend the Climate Journal Club (see below for details). Paul chose to give a more anecdotal, but nonetheless interesting, talk on the co-evolution of climate scientists and geologists during the last 250 years. His talk focused upon the development of a theory: from indifference to hysteria, followed by rejection and then finally acceptance. I asked him where Snowball Earth stands. He replied that it was somewhere in between hysteria and rejection!

Maybe in 50 years time we will know whether Paul was right all along...

--------------------------------------------------------------------------
For more details, see the following references:

Hoffman, P.F., et al (1998) A neoproterozoic Snowball Earth. Science, 281, 1342
MacDonald, F.A., et al (2010) Calibrating the Crypogenian. Nature, 327, 1241

This blog was written by Gordon Inglis who runs the Climate Journal Club at the University of Bristol. 

For more details on attending the Climate Journal Club (bimonthly event designed to allow PhD and PDRAs to discuss a selection of climate-themed paper), please email Gordon.Inglis@bristol.ac.uk

Comments

Popular posts from this blog

A response to Trump's withdrawal from the Paris Agreement

The decision by President Trump to withdraw from the Paris Agreement on Climate Change puts the United States at odds with both science and global geopolitical norms.  The fundamentals of climate change remain unambiguous: greenhouse gas concentrations are increasing, they are increasing because of human action, the increase will cause warming, and that warming creates risks of extreme weather, food crises and sea level rise. That does not mean that scientists can predict all of the consequences of global warming, much work needs to be done, but the risks are both profound and clear. Nor do we know what the best solutions will be - there is need for a robust debate about the nature, fairness and efficacy of different decarbonisation policies and technologies as well as the balance of responsibility; the Paris Agreement, despite its faults with respect to obligation and enforcement, allowed great flexibility in that regard, which is why nearly every nation on Earth is a signatory.

Mor…

The Diamond Battery – your ideas for future energy generation

On Friday 25th November, at the Cabot Institute Annual Lecture, a new energy technology was unveiled that uses diamonds to generate electricity from nuclear waste. Researchers at the University of Bristol, led by Prof. Tom Scott, have created a prototype battery that incorporates radioactive Nickel-63 into a diamond, which is then able to generate a small electrical current.
Details of this technology can be found in our official press release here: http://www.bristol.ac.uk/news/2016/november/diamond-power.html.
Despite the low power of the batteries (relative to current technologies), they could have an exceptionally long lifespan, taking 5730 years to reach 50% battery power. Because of this, Professor Tom Scott explains:
“We envision these batteries to be used in situations where it is not feasible to charge or replace conventional batteries. Obvious applications would be in low-power electrical devices where long life of the energy source is needed, such as pacemakers, satellite…

What happens when you let PhD students and post-docs organise a meeting?

As plant science PhD students, we feel it is vital to share our research with other scientists to generate new ideas for collaborative projects. For this reason we decided to organise the ‘Innovations in Plant Science to Feed a Changing World’ workshop, which was held in the University of Bristol Biological Sciences department in February 2017. The delegates included early-career scientists from Kyoto University, Heidelberg University and of course the University of Bristol.

The University of Bristol has a long-standing partnership with Kyoto University and more recently, Heidelberg University, as our plant science groups share overlapping research areas. The main aim of the workshop was to encourage novel collaboration opportunities between the plant science groups, which would give rise to future projects, publications and ultimately funding.

Last year, Kyoto University hosted a highly engaging and productive workshop (see Sarah Jose’s blog post last year) for early-career scientist…