Category Archives: General Science


feel weird.

I wonder if the breaking down in tears is a current phenomenon, or if it’s traditional from when most people didn’t know what was going on, and thought it was the end times?

I disagree with this, though:

…for an eclipse with specific properties (such as total versus partial, long versus short, and tropical versus arctic) to make a repeat appearance in any particular region, one has to wait while eclipses work their way around the world like a set of gears, which requires three Saroses—a length of time equal to fifty-four years and around one month, or, more precisely, thirty-three days. Because this surpasses human life expectancy in that era four thousand years ago, it’s astonishing that the cycle was noticed at all.

Only if you don’t understand that life expectancy is an average, with a high standard deviation. Many, and particularly ancient astronomers, would have likely lived much longer than average.

We were in Denver over the weekend, and went up to Wondervu Saturday might for a meeting of the Sky Watchers club (invited by Leonard and Barbara David, who have a place up there in the mountains above Boulder). One of the lecturers (retired from the National Renewable Energy Lab in Golden) gave a talk on NREL’s analysis of probability of not having clouds along the entire path. He had seen the one in Aruba in the ’90s, and he and most of the people there planned to go up to Casper to see it. I’d like to, but I can’t justify time/money right now.

Dilbert One

…”scientists” zero:

…in a sense, the video doesn’t even refute the straw man it set up. It’s not that climate science consists only of models: obviously there are observations too. But all the attribution claims about the climatic effects of greenhouse gases are based on models. If the scientists being interviewed had any evidence otherwise, they didn’t present any.

When you can’t even knock down your own straw man, you don’t have much of an argument.

So how did the video do refuting Scott Adams’ cartoon? He joked that scientists warning of catastrophe invoke the authority of observational data when they are really making claims based on models. Check. He joked that they ignore on a post hoc basis the models that don’t look right to them. Check. He joked that their views presuppose the validity of models that reasonable people could doubt. Check. And he joked that to question any of this will lead to derision and the accusation of being a science denier. Check. In other words, the Yale video sought to rebut Adams’ cartoon and ended up being a documentary version of it.

They would appear to lack self awareness.

Climate Exaggerators

Cliff Mass on the academic wages of debunking them:

Every time I correct misinformation in the media like this, I get savaged by some “environmentalists” and media. I am accused of being a denier, a skeptic, an instrument of the oil companies, and stuff I could not repeat in this family friendly blog. Sometimes it is really hurtful. Charles Mudede of the Stranger is one of worst of the crowd, calling me “dangerous” and out of my mind (see example below).

A postdoc at the UW testified at the Environment Committee of the Washington State House saying that I was a contrarian voice. I spoke to her in person a few days later and asked where my science was wrong–she could not name one thing. But she told me that my truth telling was “aiding” the deniers. We agreed to disagree.

My efforts do not go unnoticed at the UW, with my department chairman and leadership in the UW Climate Impacts Group telling me of “concerns” with my complaints about hyped stories on oyster deaths and snowpack. One UW professor told me that although what I was saying was true, I needed to keep quiet because I was helping “the skeptics.” Probably not good for my UW career.

I believe scientists must provide society with the straight truth, without hype or exaggeration, and that we must correct false or misleading information in the media. It is not our role to provide inaccurate information so that society will “do the right thing.” History is full of tragic examples of deceiving the public to promote the “right thing”–such as weapons of mass destruction claims and the Iraq War.

Global warming forced by increasing greenhouse gases is an extraordinarily serious challenge to our species that will require both mitigation (reducing emissions) and adaptation (preparing ourselves to deal with the inevitable changes). Society can only make the proper decisions if they have scientists’ best projections of what will happen in the future, including the uncertainties.

What a concept.