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Thread: Question on global warming/ chemical & biological reacti

  1. #1 Question on global warming/ chemical & biological reacti 
    New Member
    Join Date
    Jul 2006
    I did science up until high school - haven't taken it any further - so if this question/ theory has been discussed/ is common knowledge, please forgive me.

    From my recollection of biology & chemistry, most chemical reactions result in the byproduct of heat. Our bodies generate heat through the conversion of our fat stores into usable energy, 2 solids rubbing against each other create friction, running electricity through a filament generates heat & light, and (more relevant) the conversion of petrol into kinetic energy generates huge amounts of heat.

    I seem to remember something about the "efficiency" of a chemical reaction(?), which meant that the more "efficient" a reaction, the less % of total energy that is converted to heat i.e. if no energy is released in the form of heat, the reaction is 100% 'efficient'. I may be wrong on this. Please let me know. (I also seem to think I remember something about 'not a single reaction is 100% efficient'?)

    Following on from the above, I also seem to remember a theory that stated: given enough chemical reactions, a complex molecule will be eventually converted to several things - water, C02 (or CO), heat, & light. This may be more complicated, but I'm only interested in the overall concept.

    Anyway, my questions are this:

    Given the above points, and given the following:

    1) Earth's animal population (including humans) is growing exponentially, implying that there are more biological reactions occurring today than there were 10,000 years ago (I don't have statistics on this, but I'd be interested if anyone did).

    2) The worldwide population of cars is approximately 650 million, and also growing exponentially. Therefore our consumption of chemical potential energy (in the form of oil) is being converted to heat, and the amount of heat released worldwide through this reaction is also growing exponentially.

    Question 1: What is happening to all this heat? I understand it rises into the atmosphere, but surely we must be having an impact on the worldwide temperatures(?). I know global warming puts the changes in the climate down to greenhouse gases, but has anyone thought about the heat that is being released daily via chemical reactions? If so, can anyone point me towards some good resources on this topic?

    Question 2: The sustainability of natural resources has been discussed for decades, but given the fact that the total energy of a system will never change (just the form the energy takes), and given my point on worldwide population growth, isn't sustainability impossible? If you consider people to be 'energy stores', then for every person that exists, that energy must have been taken out of Earth's system from other natural resources - food sources, etc. That's without even mentioning the impact of civilisation - houses, computers, etc, - and what they're taking out of the natural environment.

    I would love to hear from anyone on this. I'm curious as to what information there is out there, particularly question 1.


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  3. #2  
    Forum Freshman
    Join Date
    May 2007
    This scientific explanation, is educational and short to watch...

    its not that i suck at spelling...its that i just don't care
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