Vanity thought #1676. Looming

Sometimes you just can’t avoid it, destiny just looms over you and you have no choice but to follow it. Some try to rebel but it never ends well and karma always gets its way in the end. Some might rebel not against karma per se but against one of the competing influences, like the duty to do homework and the urge to hang on the phone just a little longer. In this case you might rebel either against the Facebook or the chores but it isn’t a rebellion against karma because it’s a false choice.

We appropriate various ideas in our minds as our own and reject others as foreign but they are all inside our minds, they are all our karma. It’s like modern elections where you seemingly have a choice between Republicans and Democrats but they are both going to do what the Wall Street tells them anyway. So what if you happened to pick the “winning side”? Both propositions were losing and the election thing was just a distraction to make your loss sound sweeter. That’s the kind of stuff you’d hear among Bernie’s supporters but I’m not going to write about politics today, because karma.

Today’s ekādaśī and I was thinking about writing something from the scriptures of from vaiṣṇava history but then got to read a lot of stuff about looming and other refraction effects and the choice was made without even asking me. It was looming over my mind all along.

The other day I proposed a thought experiment where Earth’s gravity would bend the light so that it follows Earth’s curvature. To the observers on such Earth it would appear to be flat and they would be able to see any distant objects no matter how far away, provided the atmosphere didn’t mess with optics. Turns out it’s not very hard to imagine it really happening, but not due to gravity, of course.

Under normal conditions the light passing through atmosphere already refracts a little and bends downwards, adding some 8% to the distance to the horizon. It is possible to calculate exact atmospheric conditions that would bend it indefinitely, letting it circle around the Earth and make it appear to be totally flat. All that is needed is sufficient temperature inversion.

Ordinarily, the air gets colder with altitude and inversion means the opposite is happening – there’s a layer of hotter air over cold air near the surface. Actually, if the layers are clearly separated then another effect could happen called ducting. In ducting rays of light reflect from the inversion boundary back towards the surface and there’s a small range of angles where they don’t hit the ground after being reflected but miss it and hit the inversion mirror again like the middle rays in this illustration (it’s hosted on the site I read this stuff from):

A ray of light travelling at a tad higher angle would exit immediately and a ray traveling a tad lower would not reflect when it hits the curved inversion layer many kilometers later. In the small range where rays follow the duct they can hop indefinitely, however. This is known not so much to Flat Earthers or land surveyors but to radar operators who sometimes can see objects thousands kilometers away. At the optical wavelength the moisture in the air would not allow to see that far but radar waves are not affected by it. On the other hand, radar frequencies need more precise conditions for ducts to occur while optical waves are more tolerant.

In ducting the image would often appear zoomed or stretched or inverted because rays of light would often intersect and form focal points, as you can see in the above picture. Still, the point is that it is possible to see far far beyond the horizon if the atmospheric conditions are right.

Looming is a different effect in that it allows for some features of ducting without forming the duct itself where the image would flip, stretch or zoom. In looming there aren’t hops either, just constant bending of the light so that it follows parallel to the surface.

First thing – rays don’t exist, they are a theoretical construct, what we meant to say is a “band” of light which has some width. When such a band of light bends around the surface it means that its upper portion travels faster then its bottom one. It’s pretty much the same when you turn your car right and left wheels have to spin a little faster because they have to cover more distance. This is what we need atmosphere to do – to slow down the bottom part of the light band so that it makes a turn around Earth’s curvature.

From here on it’s just mathematics – how much slower and, if we attribute this difference in speed to the difference in temperature, how big the temperature inversion should be. Turns out not outrageously big – about 1 degree Celsius for 10 meters of altitude. I have a room in the house were, when I turn the air-conditioner on, there’s always 3 degree difference between opposite ends so 1 degree per 10 meters is not that big of a gradient.

Of course when we are talking about nature and altitude there are no air-conditioners to cool off the bottom layer but 1 degree difference between the surface and, say third floor, would not be noticed by many people. If we are talking about tallest buildings in the world, however, in many of them the top floor would be at a water boiling temperature if inversion persisted at this rate. Normally, the air gets colder at a rate of 6 degrees per kilometer so top floors of the tallest buildings are maybe 3-4 degrees cooler than than the ground. For Burh Khalifa it’s 6, wikipedia says. Summers in Dubai are hot, at 40 degrees Celsius on average, so, at a rate of 1 degree per 10 meters it needs 600 meters to reach boiling temperature so their highest occupied floor at 584 meters would be hot enough to cook just by putting your pots outside.

We don’t need these extreme conditions for looming to happen in the Australian video I’m talking about because we don’t need the light to bend indefinitely and we don’t need a wide band of it but we still need some serious temperature inversion to be there. Was it present? Hard to say, meteorology is even more complicated then optics and refractions, but typical conditions need some geographical boundaries to keep cold air at the surface trapped, like in mountain valleys, or the hot air must be blown over from somewhere else, or the surface air must be cooled by the ocean itself, which is why looming is more common in the polar regions.

In this case, assuming the video was shot in the beginning of December 2015, the ocean was already pretty hot at 24-25 degrees and the weather was also at its hottest, reaching 30 on some days. There wasn’t any temperature space for even hotter air to come over to create the inversion. If the winds were blowing from the land where it’s usually hotter than over the sea then we could have had hot desert air covering cool ocean air at the surface but winds in that time were coming from the East, from the Pacific, so that is out, too.

Bottom line, there’s probably a reasonable explanation for this phenomenon but it requires specific conditions that don’t appear to be present. A real meteorologist, however, might explain it better and point to signs ignored by laymen like me. I’m not even sure we CAN prove that the Earth is flat from such observations just as we can’t prove transcendence exists by using material senses. For everything that happens in this world there’s always a rational explanation and so it might be for flat Earth “evidence”, too. In any case, it’s fun to analyze the creation and contemplate limits of our perception. It should also be fun for the demigods to look at us circling around our Earth, unable to break out and see the worlds for what it is.

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