Take a little thought vacation with me, if you will.

We’re about two years into the future.  The economy is improving, slowly but steadily.  The whole health care thing has been passed into law, one way or another.  The early jockeying for the presidential election has started, but hasn’t heated up too much.

Congress gets a wild idea that it can control even more.  It introduces a pair of bills that are known as the Solar Energy and Sufficient Sleep Acts of 2011.  The first bill mandates that the sun will rise in the East, once every 24-hour period, the day after it has set (they had to make arrangements for certain parts of Alaska and “other states and territories such as may be applicable”).  The second one similarly says that the sun will set in the West once per day, after it has risen on that day.

The two bills pass the House of Representatives with not too much wrangling.  Just about everybody signed on as a joint sponsor of the bills, so there wasn’t much question about that.  The bills go to the Senate where the first bill is passed on a voice vote, but the second one is hung up in committee on some of the sunset provisions.

President Obama signs the Solar Energy bill, and it becomes law.  The Sufficient Sleep bill never makes it out of committee, and dies a quiet death at the end of the session.

Interesting.  We now have a law saying that the sun will rise once each day, after it has set the day before.  But there’s no matching law saying the sun has to set.  What happens?

The same thing that has been happening since the fourth day of creation!  The sun doesn’t care about what laws are passed by silly people who think they can control such things.  God ordained the earth with an amount of spin, and that rotation (and the tilt of the earth on its axis) determines where and when the day starts and stops.

But why, oh why, do we think we can control how warm the earth gets?

At last week’s G8 gathering, leaders of the world’s 17 biggest greenhouse gas emitters agreed in principle on a ceiling for global temperatures. They pledged to work together to ensure that the planet won’t warm more than 2 degrees Celsius (that’s 3.6 degrees Fahrenheit) above pre-industrial levels.

(from here).  Silly, silly people to think they can mandate what Nature does, to think they can mandate what they don’t understand.  You’d think they have sunspots on the brain.

But it seems that sunspots have much more effect on the earth’s temperature than most will acknowledge.  See NASA’s sunspot graph (from here)

That flat part before 1700 is called the Maunder Minimum, after the scientist who discovered it.  This ties in to the time of the Little Ice Age.  We are in a period of very low sunspot activity right now – see http://www.solarcycle24.com/.  Sunspots regularly cycle up and down in a period of roughly eleven years. But the highs aren’t all the same and the lows aren’t all the same.

This graph shows the number of days without sunspots (red) as compared to the last equivalent sunspot cycle (blue).  Higher bars means more days without sunspots, per month.

So in the last blue cycle, we had whole strings of months where there were sunspots every day (graph reading zero).  This time around, we’re at almost two years with more than half the days showing no sunspots at all.  A sunspot was just seen on Wednesday, but I think it had been 16 days since the prior one.

I’m not scared about global warming.  I’m scared about global cooling.