Category Archives: Science

The Secret Life of Central Heating

It’s been a while since I’ve posted one of these – another episode from the classic series The Secret Live of Machines. With the weather cooling down this one seems appropriate.

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The Harassment of John Abraham

John Abraham is an Engineering Professor at the University of St Thomas. After seeing a presentation by Christopher Monckton he set about fact checking it and posted a presentation to his website carefully documenting the large number of errors. Monckton has now responded by urging the followers of a popular climate change denier website to bombard Abraham’s University with letters demanding disciplinary action against him. This is an outrageous response and is just another episode in the long running war on science being fought by climate change deniers. Sadly it’s far from the first time that they have resorted to this sort of harassment (while at the same time complaining that climate scientists are in fact silencing them). I was going to do a list of links on this issue but Brian Angliss at Scholars and Rogues has already done a superb summary. Please go and read it, and then visit Hot Topic where you can leave a message in support of John Abraham.

The Adelaide Heatwave in Context

We’re just coming to the end of the first November heatwave on record in Adelaide. Since last Sunday the max temperature has been over 35 degrees Celsius every day. A change is due to bring the temperature down for a day or two before it climbs back up again over 40 in the middle of the week. As usual when there’s a heatwave there are a lot of people (particularly at Adelaide Now) who downplay the heatwave, saying that Adelaide has always had heatwaves and it isn’t anything different, but in this post at Brave New Climate, Professor Barry Brook does an excellent job of putting it into context. The current weather is quite extraordinary in a couple of ways, firstly as something that is quite unprecedented for this time of year (the previous record for November being 4 days over 35 in the 1890’s), and secondly because it adds to a number of extreme weather events in recent years, with heatwaves that smashed previous records in the last two Summers. Meanwhile, in South Australia, we are represented in the Senate by the likes of Nick Minchin and Cory Bernardi, who showed themselves to be totally delusional on the topic of climate change in a recent Four Corners program.

NICK MINCHIN: For the extreme left it provides the opportunity to do what they’ve always wanted to do, to sort of de-industrialise the western world. You know the collapse of communism was a disaster for the left, and the, and really they embraced environmentalism as their new religion.

SARAH FERGUSON: Minchin encourages his junior colleagues to speak out too.

NICK MINCHIN: I don’t mind being branded a sceptic about the theory that that human emissions and CO2 are the main driver of global change – of global warming. I don’t accept that and I’ve said that publically. I guess if I can say it, I would hope that others would feel free to do so.

SARAH FERGUSON: The junior south Australian liberal senator, Cory Bernardi, takes his cues from Minchin.

CORY BERNARDI: The fact that Nick has publicly supported the right of back benchers and others to speak up on a very critical issue is certainly encouraging.

(Excerpt of footage of Cory Bernardi at book launch, 27 January 2009)

CORY BERNARDI: The challenge for Australia, and the Australian parliament is to examine the facts of climate change and not just the opinion polls.

SARAH FERGUSON: Earlier this year Bernardi launched the book, Thank God For Carbon, a publication of the vehemently sceptical Lavoisier group.

(End of Excerpt)

CORY BERNARDI: Well I think that scientists need to justify their own actions. They will keep putting forward and saying we’ve got all this evidence, the evidence is increasingly discredited, why have they done it, what’s their motivations for doing it? Are they afraid to stand up to the extreme green lobby?

It is reasonable that not all parliamentarians are experts in every area, but what they show here is a complete failure to assess the credibility of sources. They ignore the CSIRO, the Australian Academy of Science and Australia’s leading experts in the field of climate change in universities around the country (such as Adelaide’s chair of Climate Change Barry Brook, linked above), and find their own “experts” (e.g. Ian PlimerBob Carter) who have a stance they find more politically appealing but which does not stand up to critical analysis (e.g  debunked  claims like it isn’t warming or volcanoes are more important than human CO2 emissions). I think that South Australians could do better than to be represented by conspiracy theorists who are too worried about reds/greens under the bed to be able to deal with the serious issue of climate change.

Update – John Quiggin’s latest post touches on some of this.

Skeptics’ letter to Pharmacists

Often when I go to a pharmacy I’m quite annoyed to see pseudoscientific products placed in prominent places (such as the front counter), a typical example would be homeopathic cold “medicine”. If people want to try and treat a cold with tablets or pills which contain no active ingredient then that’s their business, but perhaps not everyone realises that this is what they are buying when they buy a homeopathic medicine. Perhaps they think that if a so-called medicine is on display on the front counter of a pharmacy then it actually works, in that, it has been shown scientifically to have benefit. Not that it is based on some rules that someone made up a couple of hundred years ago which have not been shown to work (sorry, anecdotes don’t count) and which would invalidate much of what we know about medicine, biology, chemistry … even basic logic if they did work. It’s not just homeopathy, pharmacies push other pseudoscience as well (as detailed in the letter linked to below).

So given this, I’m happy to see that the Australian Skeptics are taking pharmacists to task for this. At the second link you can read an open letter they sent out last month, and the response so far. Well done to the Skeptics for taking action on this.

Link to pdf of letter.

From Big Bang to Us – Made Easy

The title refers to an excellent series of you tube videos by potholer54 (a science journalist based here in Australia), which gives a concise account on what science tells us about the history of the universe, from the Big Bang, to the formation of the Earth, to the origins of life, to the origins of humans. The videos are really well done, and do an excellent job of conveying not just what we know about these topics, but also how we know it.

Below is part 1.

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I came across this via another series by potholer54 which is on the science of climate change which was featured in this post at Greenfyre’s.