Category Archives: Science And Society

Gravitational Waves

This is a huge day for Kip Thorne (and others). Nadia Drake has a comprehensive story up already.

[Update a few minutes later]

Here’s another write up by Matthew Francis at The Atlantic.

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Here‘s the paper itself.

[Update a while later]

And one from Miri Kramer.

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And from Loren Grush.

Obama’s Climate Legacy

Looks like SCOTUS just wrecked it, 5-4. Couldn’t happen to a nicer dictator.

The stay implies that they think the administration is likely to lose on the merits when the case is argued. But this points out the stakes of the election, given that the next president is likely to appoint more than one justice.

[Wednesday-morning update]

Jonathan Adler explains the ruling. (Note: He is more concerned about climate change than I am.)


Imagining a world without them:

“The ecological effect of eliminating harmful mosquitoes is that you have more people. That’s the consequence,” says Strickman. Many lives would be saved; many more would no longer be sapped by disease. Countries freed of their high malaria burden, for example in sub-Saharan Africa, might recover the 1.3% of growth in gross domestic product that the World Health Organization estimates they are cost by the disease each year, potentially accelerating their development. There would be “less burden on the health system and hospitals, redirection of public-health expenditure for vector-borne diseases control to other priority health issues, less absenteeism from schools”, says Jeffrey Hii, malaria scientist for the World Health Organization in Manila.

They kill more humans than any other animal species, by many orders of magnitude. I wouldn’t miss them.

[Update a few minutes later]

We have the technology to wipe out all Zika-spreading mosquitos.

Why stop there? Go after every species that vectors blood. As the article notes, though, gene drive is not without risk.

George Washington’s Winters

What is the right climate?

Why are we defining ‘dangerous climate change’ with respect to the climate of the 18th century, which was the coldest period in the last millennia, with wicked winters? Why not use a reference point of 2000 or 1970? The IPCC doesn’t provide a convincing explanation for the overall warming between 1750 and 1950; according to climate models, human causes contributed only a very small amount to the global warming to during this period (so presumably this overall warming was caused by natural climate variability). Co-opting the period between 1750 and 1950 into the AGW argument muddies the scientific and the policy waters.

It would make much more sense — from a scientific perspective, from the perspective of adaptation and engineering, and in the public communication of climate change — to refer to warming relative to a more recent reference period. Since the emissions reference periods are between 1990 and 2005, this also adds to the argument of citing a more recent reference period for defining ‘dangerous’.

The argument that human caused warming is already ‘dangerous’ — widely made by politicians, the media and some scientists — flies in the face of scientific evidence reported by the IPCC AR5 and SREX. Extreme weather events were worse earlier in the 20th century, and sea level has been rising for millennia, with recent rates of sea level rise comparable to what was observed in the middle 20th century.

It’s almost as though there’s some sort of political agenda at work.

The Science-Correction Process

It’s as broken as peer review.

As with civil (and military) space, we have a 20th-century system in place for the 21st century.

Update a few minutes later]

Related: Why scientists hide their doubts about global warming from the media.

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Sorry, HTML was broken for first link, should be fixed now.

#ProTip To Climate Scientists

When you say “the science is settled,” you are arguing for an end to your research funding.


This is all part of the Democrats’ war on science:

Looking forward to a new U.S. President next year, whether the Democrats or the Republicans are in power, I don’t expect a continuation of the status quo on climate science funding. The Democrats are moving away from science towards policy – who needs to spend all that funding on basic climate science research? Global climate modeling might be ‘saved’ if they think these climate models can support local impact assessments (in spite of widespread acknowledgement that they cannot). If the Republicans are elected, Ted Cruz has stated he will stop all funding support for the IPCC and UNFCCC initiatives. That said, he seems to like data and basic scientific research.


[Update a few minutes later]

“It’s a bit complicated.”

You don’t say.