Tag Archives: uncertainty of science

Heart risks from secondhand smoke completely bogus

The uncertainty of science: New more carefully done research now proves that secondhand smoke from smoking does almost nothing to increase the risk of heart disease.

In the early 2000s, as jurisdictions across the country fought over expanding smoking bans to bars and restaurants, anti-smoking advocates seized on the Helena study and related research showing that secondhand smoke exposure can affect coronary functions to promote fear of secondhand smoke. Groups across the country stated that “even half an hour of secondhand smoke exposure causes heart damage similar to that of habitual smokers.” Not to be outdone, the Association for Nonsmokers in Minnesota wrote in a press release that just 30 seconds of exposure could “make coronary artery function of non-smokers indistinguishable from smokers.” The message to nonsmokers was clear: The briefest exposure to secondhand smoke can kill you.

A decade later, comprehensive smoking bans have proliferated globally. And now that the evidence has had time to accumulate, it’s also become clear that the extravagant promises made by anti-smoking groups—that implementing bans would bring about extraordinary improvements in cardiac health—never materialized. Newer, better studies with much larger sample sizes have found little to no correlation between smoking bans and short-term incidence of heart attacks, and certainly nothing remotely close to the 60 percent reduction that was claimed in Helena. The updated science debunks the alarmist fantasies that were used to sell smoking bans to the public, allowing for a more sober analysis suggesting that current restrictions on smoking are extreme from a risk-reduction standpoint.

As almost always happens, the people pushing for the ban really weren’t that interested in protecting people’s health. They might have thought so, but in reality what they were really interested in was exerting their power over others, banning smoking and telling everyone else how to live their lives.

Read the whole article. It is very damning, and illustrates again why it is very important to not pass laws quickly based on some preliminary scientific results. Care must be taken, and patience is required. The science is never clear right from the beginning, especially on complex issues like climate and the health effects involving large numbers of people.

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New measurements of the universe’s expansion rate

The uncertainty of science: New measurements of the universe’s expansion rate are apparently in agreement with some previous measurements but not with others.

The Hubble constant — the rate at which the Universe is expanding — is one of the fundamental quantities describing our Universe. A group of astronomers, the H0LiCOW collaboration, used the NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope and other telescopes in space and on the ground to observe five galaxies in order to arrive at an independent measurement of the Hubble constant. The new measurement is completely independent of — but in excellent agreement with — other measurements of the Hubble constant in the local Universe that used Cepheid variable stars and supernovae as points of reference.

…However, the value measured by Suyu and her team, as well as those measured using Cepheids and supernovae, are different from the measurement made by the ESA Planck satellite. But there is an important distinction — Planck measured the Hubble constant for the early Universe by observing the cosmic microwave background. While the value for the Hubble constant determined by Planck fits with our current understanding of the cosmos, the values obtained by the different groups of astronomers for the local Universe are in disagreement with our accepted theoretical model of the Universe.

Both measurements are very precise, but they do not match, suggesting that there are some basic fundamentals here that astronomers simply do not yet understand.

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Random variations are still too large for climate models

The uncertainty of science: a paper published today in Geophysical Research Letters has concluded that the the long term random variations of the climate, sometimes lasting as long as three or four decades, are large enough to hide any actual changes to the climate. In the quote from the abstract below, the term “random walk” is jargon for a long term random fluctuation having nothing to do with climate change.

This result indicates that the shorter records may not totally capture the random variability of climate relevant on the time scale of civilizations, for which the random walk length is likely to be about 30 years. For this random walk length, the observed standard deviations of maximum temperature and minimum temperature yield respective expected maximum excursions on land of 1.4 and 2.3°C and over the ocean of 0.5 and 0.7°C, which are substantial fractions of the global warming signal.

In other words, it might simply be too soon to be making predictions about the climate, based upon the presently available data.

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