My birthday, computer science, clouds, pauses, and helmets

I’m 39 tomorrow, boo hoo. Only one more year and I’m 40. That’s scary.

Apparently a new computer science curriculum has been launched in English schools as a replacement for the old ICT course. I think this is wonderful. Teaching children how to create software is far more useful than simply teaching them how to use it; this is the main difference between ICT and computer science. If I was going to design a computer science curriculum for school students it would include topics like database design, user interface design, discrete mathematics, programming, algorithms & data structures, and ethics.

New Scientist this week has two good articles about climate change. One is about clouds and how changes in cloud cover will affect the amount of warming we’re going to see over the coming centuries. Clouds have both a warming and a cooling effect depending on the type of cloud. High clouds have a warming effect: they reflect less light from the sun than low clouds while radiating very little heat back to space. Low clouds reflect a lot of sunlight and so they have a cooling effect. If climate change produces fewer of the low cooling clouds and more of the higher, warming clouds then this could mean 6C of warming over the coming century instead of 3C of warming; a big difference.

A paper published earlier this year found that a warmer world will produce fewer lower, cooling clouds and more higher, warming clouds.

The other article is No more pauses in global warming. If our emissions continue to rise, then the chance of us seeing another decade with no significant increase in surface temperatures (notice I prefaced temperatures with the word “surface” here as the ocean temperatures have continued to increase and ice is still melting even though surface temperatures have risen by only a small amount), will be “virtually zero after 2030”.

Oh, and I found another article which explains why mandatory helmet legislation is counterproductive if the goal is to improve the health of the population: