Tag Archives: science

More questions about climategate inquiry

More questions are being raised about the various climategate investigations, this time in the UK Parliament. Key quote:

Climategate may finally be living up to its name. If you recall, it wasn’t the burglary or use of funding that led to the impeachment of Nixon, but the cover-up. Now, ominously, three inquiries into affair have raised more questions than there were before.

Water found around carbon star; Bok globule

Water vapor detected in deep space, first near the carbon star V Cygni and second in two dark starless cores. The second detection is a first time water has been seen in these black clouds. Fun quote from the abstract of the first paper notes how the detection “raises the intriguing possibility that the observed water is produced by the vapourisation of orbiting comets or dwarf planets.”

The sun remains quiet

On July 6 NOAA’s Space Weather Prediction Center published its monthly graph, showing the progress of the sun’s sunspot cycle in comparison with the consensis prediction made by the solar science community in May 2009.

July 6, 2010 Solar Cycle progression

The graph shows clearly that, despite press-release-journalism stories like this, the sun remains in a very quiet state, with the number of sunspots far less than predicted by the red line on the graph. If these trends persist (as they have for the last three years), the next solar maximum will either be much later than expected or far weaker. In fact, the upcoming solar maximum might very well be the weakest seen in almost two centuries. Note also that the prediction shown on this graph is a significant revision downward from the science community’s earlier prediction from 2007.

First photos from inside Hayabusa capsule

Update and bumped: More details have been released about what was inside the Hayabusa capsule. In total, two 0.01 millimeter particles have been found in the inner capsule, and about 10 large particles in the outer capsule.

The first photo from inside the Hayabusa capsule has been released, showing the presence of a tiny 0.01 millimeter particle. It is still unknown whether this is an asteroid particle or something captured on the return to Earth.

The law and Obama at Yucca Mountain

Apropos to the space war between Obama and Congress over the Obama administration’s willingness to ignore Congressional legislation mandating the continuing funding of the Constellation program is this story about the administration’s efforts to circumvent federal law in order to cancel the use of Yucca Mountain in Nevada as a nuclear waste site. The courts have now expressly ruled [pdf] that the Obama administration it cannot do this: the law is the law, and they have to follow it. The key quote from the legal decision:

Unless Congress directs otherwise, [the Department of Energy] may not single-handedly derail the legislated decisionmaking process.

What a concept: the President and his appointees must obey the law!

Another climategate whitewash?

Another climategate whitewash? The Netherlands Environmental Assessment Agency has reviewed the 2007 UN IPCC report and decided that, though the report did have some really embarrassing errors (including some new ones uncovered by the review), the IPCC’s conclusion — that global warming is happening and that it is caused by humans — must still be correct.

Bolden’s al-Jazeera interview, part 2

The reports of NASA administrator Charles Bolden’s al-Jazeera interview have so far focused mostly on Bolden’s claim that his “foremost” priority at NASA is to reach out to the Muslim world in order “to help them feel good about their historic contribution to science, math, and engineering.”

Though this statement is both idiotic and condescending, I don’t think it was the most idiotic thing Bolden said. Instead, I think the prize-winner is this quote near the end of the interview (at around 21:30), where Bolden describes why we need to find out the make-up of all asteroids:

Is it sand or is it metal? If it is sand we’re not really worried that much about it because it’s probably going to impact the Earth and, you know, go away. Metal would be a bad day. We could have another ice age and instead of the extinction of the dinosaurs it would be the extinction of you and me.

Asteroids made of “sand” are merely going to “go away” if they hit the Earth? I would really like to see the scientific research Bolden is relying on for this statement.

Government and the impending shortage of helium

The law of unintended consequences strikes again! We are going to run out of our supply of helium, and it is all because the government first tried to manage and control the resource in the early 20th century, and then decided in the 1990s to extricate itself from that management. For those of us following the continuing space war over NASA’s future, this story is most instructive in illustrating how difficult it is to get the government out of our lives, once we have let it in.

Press Release Journalism

The Penn State University investigation report on Michael Mann might be a whitewash, but what is really a travesty is the way some so-called professional journalists have covered this story. First, go and read the these two news articles at the New York Times and the Washington Post. I’ll wait till you’re back.

All done? Okay. Note how both news articles say very little about the report itself, other than its conclusions. Instead, the news articles follow the same boring news formula for writing these kinds of stories:

  • First, report the conclusions in the opening paragraphs.
  • Then, follow with a quote from a supporter of those conclusions, combined with a quick very superficial summary of the controversy.
  • Top this with by another quote from a supporter, slamming the opposition.
  • Then, add for balance a single quote from an opponent. (I find it ironic and a bit hilarious that both news articles went to the same global-warming skeptic for this particular quote, suggesting that these so-called professional reporters have very limited contact with the skeptics in the scientific community.)
  • Finally, finish things off with another quote from a supporter to emphasize the correctness of the report’s conclusions.

Neither news article provides the reader with the slightest analysis of the investigation report itself. Neither bothers to describe its superficial nature and its almost obsessive desire to find Michael Mann innocent.

Finally, both news articles read as if the reporters barely read the report itself and knew little about the content of the East Anglia emails. Instead, their stories read as if they simply scanned the press releases about the report and worked from those.

Another example of press release journalism at its worst.

Another Climategate Whitewash

The investigation at Pennsylvania State University of Michael Mann and his behavior as revealed in the East Anglia emails was released today, clearing him of all but one minor charge. You can read the actually report here. I suggest you do, as you will be amazed by the absurdity of this so-called investigation.

First, the manner in which the university investigated and then cleared Mann of the main charges was a joke. The panel reviewed the East Anglia emails, then brought Mann in to answer questions. When he essentially told them he had done nothing wrong, they decided that was evidence enough, clearing him of three of the four main charges.

Then, on the one remaining minor charge, the sharing of other people’s unpublished manuscripts without permission, the panel brought in other scientists for independent opinions, though only one of which, Richard Lindzen, is a skeptic of Mann’s work. Lindzen’s reaction when he learned he was not being interviewed on any of the main charges is quite entertaining. To quote the report itself,

When told that the first three allegations against Dr. Mann were dismissed at the inquiry stage . . . Dr. Lindzen’s response was: “It’s thoroughly amazing. I mean these are issues that he explicitly stated in the emails. I’m wondering what’s going on?”

The Investigatory Committee members did not respond to Dr. Lindzen’s statement.

On this final charge, the committee decided only that Mann’s distribution without permission of other people’s unpublished manuscripts was “careless and inappropriate,” and then finished by essentially saying in very stern words: next time, ask first.

Not surprisingly, the New York Times report on the conclusions of the investigation is somewhat joyous.

Unfortunately, this whitewash will only do harm to the reputation of science and the modern scientific community, and will almost certainly increase the general public’s distrust of climate research (and the reporting of it by mainstream publications like the NY Times).

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