As readers may know, Dr. Roy Spencer and I have had a long running disagreement with the group known as “Principia Scientific International” aka the Sky Dragon Slayers after the title of their book. While I think these people mean well, they tend to ignore real world measurements in favor of self-deduced science. They claim on their web page that “the Greenhouse gas effect is bogus” and thus ignore many measurements of IR absorptivity in the atmosphere which show that it is indeed a real effect. Rational climate skeptics acknowledge that the greenhouse effect exists and functions in Earth’s atmosphere, but that an accelerated greenhouse effect due to increased CO2 emissions doesn’t rise to the level of alarm being portrayed. Yes, there’s an effect, but as recent climate sensitivity studies show, it isn’t as problematic as it is made out to be.
I don’t plan to get into that issue in this thread, as this is an hands-on experiment showing one of the thermal premises of the “slayers” in action to prove or disprove it. Most of what that group does is to spin sciencey sounding theories and pal reviewed papers by a mysterious members-only peer review system, and I have yet to any one of them try to do anything at an experimental/empirical measurement level to back up the sort of claims they make.
In their response to Dr. Spencer, they made this essay…
…and in that response was this curious graphic from Dr. Alan Siddons:
To be honest, I laughed when I saw this, because for all their claims to be “experts” on thermodynamics while telling the world that “back radiation” has no effect, this is a clear-cut case of them not knowing what they are talking about when it comes to heat -vs- visible light. Clearly, you can indeed reflect/re-emit a portion of the visible and infrared energy back to the light bulb, energy which would have been lost to the dark surroundings. There is no “extra” energy per se, just a spatial redistribution of energy (a greenhouse atmosphere has higher temperatures near the surface, but lower temperatures at high altitudes). They also seem to fail to understand how a mirror actually works, bold mine:
“Does shining a flashlight at a mirror so that all the radiation comes back to the flashlight make the flashlight shine brighter?”
While the emissivity of a glass mirror is high, no mirror reflects 100%, and mirrors of course are not lossless, so it will also absorb some Visible and IR in addition to reflecting/re-emitting some of it back. You can see this loss of energy in the FLIR camera in the video just before the mirror is removed at about 16:30.
I put their claim of “a light bulb facing a mirror does not heat up” to the experimental test.
I did several spot experiments at home over the last couple of weeks to investigate the issue empirically (since talk is cheap), and to make sure it was repeatable, while discussing the design and results with Dr. Spencer. The first two designs of the experiment had weaknesses that I was not happy with, and so it has take time to devise an experiment in a way that was fully comprehensive and uninterrupted from start to finish. For example, in my first iteration, the experiment was shot from the side (similar to the diagram), but required rotating the bulb mount assembly away from the mirror to get the temperature of the bulb surface. This wasn’t always repeatable to get the same spot on the bulb surface and it introduced variances. Another problem was that standard household bulbs had odd temperature gradients across their surface due to the way the filament is placed. The flood lamp was much more repeatable at its center. Repeatability is important, because I want others to be able to replicate this experiment without significant variances due to the equipment and how it is setup.
After ensuring the experiment works, and is repeatable/replicable, and that the control run without a mirror performed as expected, today in this WUWT-TV segment, I present the entire experiment uninterrupted as one long video. It is almost 21 minutes long, but I had no choice, because at least 16 minutes of it were required to be non interrupted to show the experiment in progress. I didn’t want anyone to be able make silly claims that the experiment was faked that there were video edits going on to change the results, such as Al Gore did in his Climate 101 video.
In my case, I did some graphic overlays to illustrate points and data, but there was no discontinuity edits of the video or audio from start to finish.
Here’s the experiment equipment list and procedure.
- FLIR BCAM portable infrared camera
- 65 watt incandescent flood lamp (used due to mostly flat center target surface)
- clamp on ceramic lamp base and metal electrical base/stand
- small glass wall mirror from K-Mart
- video camera to record the event
- Setup equipment in similar fashion to Alan Siddons figure 3 above, using stands and clamps to allow for correct height and continuous recording of FLIR camera image and a timer image.
- Focus FLIR on flat front surface of 65 watt bulb
- Start video camera to record experiment, simultaneously start digital timer
- Apply AC electrical power to 65 watt bulb
- Note FLIR temperature of bulb center surface at intervals, record that data.
- Run until equilibrium temperature is reached, which I defined would be when temperature no longer increases after a period of about 60 seconds, note that temperature, note how long that takes with timer. Record that data.
- Leaving all equipment in place and operating, place mirror perpendicular to 65 watt bulb surface, at about 3 inches away to fit scale of Alan Siddons Figure 3. This will obscure surface of bulb from FLIR camera but is required so that distance/position between bulb and FLIR is not changed, which could result in altered readings.
- Continue experiment.
- Show with video camera how equipment remains in place.
- Wait for the same amount of time as previous equilibrium temperature took to reach.
- Remove mirror, note on the FLIR camera what the surface temperature of the 65 watt light bulb is at that time.
Premise of the experiment:
If the temperature recorded by the FLIR camera is the same after the mirror has been left in place for the amount of time that it took to reach equilibrium temperature, then the Principia/Slayers claim is true.
If the temperature has risen, it falsifies their premise that “a light bulb facing a mirror does not heat up”.
Video of the experiment (with conclusion) :
Note that this is not a big budget production (it was done in the dining room of my home) so I apologize for less than perfect audio quality. BTW, the clothes iron I used as a prop was not turned on, which is plainly evident in the FLIR image. It just so happend that the tabletop ironing board and iron worked out well to position the mirror…. and I had no budget beyond a few dollars for light bulbs and lamp bases. Where’s that big oil check when we need it? /sarc
Plotted temperature data:
[Note: per a suggestion in comments, this graph was updated to show the data after the “mirror added” as dashed line, since only one datapoint (228F) was measured. – Anthony]
In a PDF file here: Slayers_lightbulb_experiment
- Temperature data recorded from the experiment to reach equilibrium temperature
- Graph of the data recorded from the experiment showing data including after removal of mirror.
- I also ran a separate control experiment for 2x of the tested equilibrium temperature time to see if bulb can reach same temperature without mirror. I’m satisfied that the experiment is properly functioning.
I have another experiment planned for part 2 that will test another claim that the Principia/Slayers routinely make. I’ll have that in a few days.
UPDATE: In the claim by Joe Postma at Principia where they stated a couple of days ago that we’d “cut and run” (obviously not, just taking our time to be careful) Alan Siddons makes this claim:
As PSI’s Alan Siddons laments:
“All of us on our side have researched and deeply pondered the actual principles of radiative heat transfer. On the other side, however, the “experts” we argue with, like Spencer, Lindzen, Monckton, Watts, just insist that a body’s radiant energy can be doubled by directing that energy back to it — even though the simplest of experiments will shows that this is false.
I’ve never made a doubling claim like that, nor am I aware that any of the others named have claimed a doubling, only that some energy will be returned, as I have just proven in the “simplest” mirror experiment postulated by Siddons.
I have to think these folks aren’t operating with a full understanding of what the physical basis is when I read things like this. This is an excerpt of this comment left in the thread below by Joe Olson where he confuses a microbolometer with doppler radar:
“Remote read IR thermometers are also used to ‘explain’ this back-radiation warming effect. These instruments work be sending out an IR signal and measuring the shift in the returned signal. ” (bold mine -A)
No, sorry, you are 100% wrong. it is a passive sensing device. No active signal is emitted.
FIGURE 1. One pixel in a microbolometer array. An infrared-absorbing surface is elevated above the substrate and thermally isolated from adjacent pixels. Low mass increases the temperature change from heat absorption. Read-out circuits typically are in the base layer, which may be coated with a reflective material to reflect transmitted IR and increase absorption of the pixel. http://www.laserfocusworld.com/articles/print/volume-48/issue-04/features/microbolometer-arrays-enable-uncooled-infrared-camera.html
Gosh, I didn’t think your misunderstanding of an IR bolometer was that distorted. No wonder you guys make the sort of way out claims you do.
A microbolometer is a specific type of bolometer used as a detector in a thermal camera. It is a grid of vanadium oxide or amorphous silicon heat sensors atop a corresponding grid of silicon. Infrared radiation from a specific range of wavelengths strikes the vanadium oxide and changes its electrical resistance. This resistance change is measured and processed into temperatures which can be represented graphically. Source: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Microbolometer
You should really quit while you can Joe, you are making a fool of yourself when you make such claims that are so easily disproved. – Anthony
UPDATE3: The Principia/Slayers group has posted a hilarious rebuttal here:
Per my suggestion, they have also enabled comments. You can go discuss it all there. – Anthony