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Friday, December 10, 2010

Carbon Dioxide Poll

A recently closed poll on this blog posed the following question.  "The bending mode of carbon dioxide is:" Respondents were to respond with the best answer.  Here were the choices:
  • A Hoax
  • Not Dipole Allowed
  • Degenerate
  • A Blackbody
  • The reason the sky is blue
  • Even though I understand Global Warming, I don't know
  • I don't know
I should point out that the answer to the question can be found in a post on this blog. The results of the poll are shown here:

Fifty-seven  people responded to the poll. The rest of this post looks at each of the possible answers in turn.

A Hoax

Two people, or three percent claimed to believe that the bending mode is a hoax. One imagines that they thought this response was funny.

Not Dipole Allowed

Eight people or fourteen percent thought that this transition is not dipole allowed. They are incorrect; the transition is in fact dipole allowed.  As the carbon dioxide molecule bends, its dipole moment changes. The evidence for this fact is that the transition is observable in the infrared.  A brief reading of this post should explain why this answer is incorrect.


A plurality, twenty-three people, or forty percent chose this correct answer. The bending mode of carbon dioxide is doubly degenerate.  Although this fact is mentioned in the post linked previously, a more thorough explanation can be found in the previous post.

A Blackbody

No one was fooled by this incorrect answer.  Blackbodies are explained here.

The Reason the Sky is Blue

Five people, eight percent chose this incorrect answer.  The sky is blue as a consequence of a process known as Rayleigh scattering.

Even though I understand global warming, I don't know

Nine people, or fifteen percent chose this option. It is an incorrect answer.  This question is a very basic question about the infrared spectroscopy of carbon dioxide. It is impossible to understand global warming, if you do not understand the basic infrared spectroscopy of global warming.  You may believe what other people tell you about global warming, possibly for good reasons, but you do not understand it.

I don't know

Ten people, seventeen percent, chose this answer. It is, of course, a valid answer, and it is the beginning (not the end) of wisdom.

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