Thursday, August 13, 2015

What is a scientist? And, is the Internet rotting kids’ brains?

There's a recent article Don’t panic, the internet won’t rot children’s brains in The Conversation that’s very much worth reading in its own right.

However, in this case I’m pointing out that it has an excellent, to-the-point passage about the nature of science:

There’s no admission ceremony to become a scientist, no Hippocratic-like oath, no hand placed on a holy book while pledging to uphold this or that. There’s no need for any of this, because without following the fundamentals of science, you are, quite simply, not a scientist.

At the very core of science is the judgement of theories in light of available evidence. Scientists are humans. We have our own beliefs and prejudices, and at times it is near-on impossible to divorce ourselves from these.

That’s why the only kingmaker in science is evidence: objective, irrefutable observations. For every scientific theory proven through observations, there are dozens that lie shattered on the floor. And that’s how it should be.

And I’ll leave it at that, for you to ponder.

FOOTNOTE:
Not to be judgmental, but the above quotation has the spelling “judgement” and there’s an interesting discussion of this spelling over at The Grammarist

Monday, April 20, 2015

Presenting a stronger scientific case for global warming, via the rattlesnake’s tail analogy

Scientists and other concerned about global warming have, in my opinion, not done a good job people trying to get the message across.

In particular, they often present arguments about warming that has occurred during the last century or so, showing alarmingly steep graphs of global temperature rises. In very few cases will you be shown what preceded the recent temperature changes, over a much longer period of centuries or millennia.

I have tried to point this out here in this blog -- see The rattlesnake;s rattle (part 2)— and included a few illustrations that I was able to patch together back then (in 2010).

Well, I recently came across 2500 Years of European Climate Variability and Human Susceptibility (PDF) in which some European scientists  present tree ring–based reconstructions of central European summer precipitation and temperature variability over the past 2500 years.

To expound on my point, let’s look at the following chart from the above paper:

image

I’d consider any trends that emerge from studying natural phenomena over several millennia are more likely to be meaningful than supposed trends obtained from results of measurements made only in the last century or so.

I have added a green ellipse around the part that is often used when discussing global warming, and I’d say that the accusation can be made, with quite some justification, that basing global warming arguments over such a restricted period (the art that’s circled, a handful of decades) is not very convincing science.

But if you consider the entire scope of this chart, it becomes much “safer” to argue that there indeed has been a sudden and significant rise in temperature during the last half century.

That’s what I was trying to get at in earlier bog posts, via my not-so-good analogy of the rattlesnake with its tail steeply raised giving us a warning that we cannot afford to ignore:

rattlesnake
Imagine that the snake represents climate changes
going way back in time, and we’re positioned
at the very tip of the rattle

By the way, you’ll probably be fascinated by The Season of the Witch: Climate-Change and Witch-Hunt Through the Ages

Saturday, February 14, 2015

On the matter of asking useful questions

This blog is all about asking Basic Questions.

Hopefully they will be “the right questions” rather than just any old questions.

Josh Kaufman has written a pertinent blog post:

How to Ask Useful Questions