Tom Harris distorts the maturity of global warming science and imagines expertise where little exists

The science supporting global warming theory has a history going back almost 200 years, but readers of Tom Harris commentaries might come away thinking that it’s all brand new science.

Tom Harris, Executive Director of the International Climate Science Coalition (ICSC)

Tom Harris, Executive Director of the International Climate Science Coalition (ICSC)

For the other posts in this series, click here.

Starting in the middle of December, 2014 and continuing through February, 2015, Tom Harris, Executive Director of the industrial climate disruptionA denying International Climate Science Coalition (ICSC), wrote at least eight nearly identical commentaries that appeared mostly in small local newspapers and websites around the English-speaking world. The stated purpose of the commentaries was to call for scholars and philosophers to engage in the public discussion about climate disruption (aka global warming or climate change), and Harris wrote that “philosophers and other intellectuals have an ethical obligation to speak out loudly when they see fundamental errors in thinking.6” S&R’s analysis found that Harris’ commentaries contained multiple examples of the very logical fallacies he was taking others to task for as well as disingenuous arguments and rhetorical boobytraps, all in an attempt to convince readers that the science of climate disruption is less certain than it actually is.

In Parts One through Three, S&R showed how Harris’ commentaries were filled with hypocrisy, illogical arguments, and misinformation and how he was making the bizarre and irrational argument that ignorance and inexperience should be considered equal to knowledge and expertise. Today S&R corrects Harris’ many misunderstandings about the present state of climate science and what makes someone a climate expert. Continue reading

In an alternate universe, life sucks for Manchester United but is AWESOME for me

Speculative journalism and Quantum Mechanics provide us all with a vision for a better life.

The other day I was lamenting to one of my online sports groups that the place would be a lot more fun if we had a couple of vocal Manchester United supporters on board. Normally I don’t long for the company of muppets, but this year is special for us Manc haters. See, the once-mighty Red Devils, having seen legendary manager Sir Alex Ferguson retire over the summer, find themselves in a really disappointing mess under new head man David Moyes. Disappointing for United fans, that is – the rest of the world can’t stop laughing.

Manchester’s supporters have gotten accustomed to winning, and not winning isn’t settling well. As sports fans everywhere know, few things on Earth are bitchier and whinier and altogether more entertaining than the entitled backers of a dynasty run aground. Hence my longing for the wailing of Mancs on the list. (The place hasn’t been totally unrewarding, I should note. We do have a couple of Arsenal fans, and they’re generally easy enough to stir up, especially after a 6-0 pasting at the hands of my beloved Chelsea.)

Continue reading

Venus’ surface temperature series updated

Venus terrain composite (NASA)

Venus terrain composite (NASA)

In early May, 2011 I posted a five-part series about the surface temperature of Venus. In it I demonstrated that the Venus’ surface temperature – hot enough to melt lead – was not a result of internal heating from Venus’ core. Instead, the greenhouse effect of Venus’ largely carbon dioxide atmosphere is the reason the surface is so much hotter than it would be without the atmosphere.

Unfortunately, I made a pretty significant error in my calculations and used the wrong value for a physical constant that made many of my calculations about 20% too high. While I acknowledged the error as soon as it was pointed out to me by an observant commenter, I had not taken the time to go back through all five posts and correct the calculations until last week. As I had pointed out as soon as my mistake was discovered, none of the conclusions changed as a result of the error, but I feel it’s important nonetheless to make admit mistakes and make corrections as required. I’m sorry it took so long to make the corrections.

Here are links to each of the Venus posts I made in one place. I hope you find them useful.

Venus’ climate I: How scientists know Venus’ surface is unusually hot (corrected)

Venus’ climate II: How scientists know Venus’ surface temperature isn’t from internal heating (Corrected)

Venus’ climate III: How scientists know Venus isn’t geologically young (Corrected)

Venus’ climate IV: How scientists know Venus’ surface temperature isn’t from a “recent” astronomical collision

Venus’ climate V: How scientists know Venus’ surface temperature is a result of greenhouse heating (corrected)

And now, for a moment of quantum journalism: Professor Snarky Pants offers a comment/non-comment on the discovery/non-discovery of the Higgs boson

by Tom Yulsman

Concerning this morning’s New York Times article on CERN’s Higgs boson announcement:

The newly discovered particle may be the Higgs boson. It looks for all the world like the Higgs boson. It is for sure a “Higgs-like” particle. Its discovery is an historic “milestone.” It may be one of the biggest observations since the discovery of the quark. Or maybe not. The director general of CERN says he will “stick his neck out” and say that this is a “discovery.” Of something very very important. Maybe. Possibly. Time may tell. Continue reading

'God particle' refudiates religious right


By Robert Becker

Is “Higgs boson” a creative particle or energy field? Can we thus infer an “anti-God particle,” as anti-matter opposes matter, or dark energy battles gravity?

Any covenant with Godhead, in my book, comes down to Creation. Genesis, the source of time, space, and being; in short, existence. Especially our piddling existence. Without creation as we know it, we’d be deficient in mass, not even rocks; or with multiverse speculations, we could also be someone else, who knows where, gabbing with utter aliens. Because we esteem existence (over all the sorry alternatives), let us greet the New Year by honoring the force that could well have made something real out of, well, something not. The “God Particle.” Hallelujah!

If this particle is a particle. Continue reading

Nota Bene #123: Behold the Chickenosaurus

“There ought to be limits to freedom.” Who said it? Continue reading

Crab Nebula gamma emissions and the Large Hadron Collider

According to the BBC, astronomers observing the pulsar at the core of the Crab Nebula have observed gamma rays with energies far in excess of what current stellar models expect. The BBC wrote

[Dr. Nepomuk Otte and his colleagues] spotted gamma rays with energies of far more than 100 GeV, and there were further hints that there may be teraelectronvolt rays; that puts them nearly on a par with particle energies at the Large Hadron Collider.

If you recall, back when the Large Hadron Collider (LHC) was about to be powered up in 2008 there was a great deal of fear expressed by non-scientists that the LHC could result in the creation of black holes that might eat the Earth, or that the LHC might create theoretical “strangelets” that might eat the Earth. Regardless of the theory, everyone agreed that they were afraid that it meant the end of the world. Continue reading

Nota Bene #121: Birds of an Ancient Feather

“Television is an invention whereby you can be entertained in your living room by people you wouldn’t have in your house.” Who said it? The answer is at the end of this post. Now on to the links! Continue reading

Nota Bene #120: Crazy Ivan

“If you can make a woman laugh, you’re seeing the most beautiful thing on God’s earth.” Who said it? Continue reading

Nota Bene #119: Think! It Ain't Illegal Yet

“My wife and I were happy for twenty years. Then we met.” Who said it? Continue reading

Venus’ climate V: How scientists know Venus’ surface temperature is a result of greenhouse heating (corrected)

On Monday, I wrote that there were only two possibilities for why Venus’ surface temperature is so hot – either something internal to the planet’s crust and core was keeping Venus hot, or something about the atmosphere was. Tuesday I showed that it wasn’t internal heating. Wednesday I disproved the “Venus formed recently” hypothesis. And yesterday I ruled out a celestial collision that might have melted Venus’ crust, effectively absolving Venus’ core of any responsiblity for Venus’ surface temperature. Given the planet itself can’t be the source of the heat,the atmosphere has to be keeping the surface hot somehow. Continue reading

Venus’ climate I: How scientists know Venus’ surface is unusually hot (corrected)


Ultraviolet image of Venus’ clouds as seen by the Pioneer
Venus Orbiter, Feb. 26, 1979 (NASA).

Scientists have known that the surface of Venus is extremely hot since the first probes flew by the planet in the 1960s. Venus’ hot surface is presently understood to be a direct result of the composition of the atmosphere – Venus’ atmosphere is nearly 97% carbon dioxide (CO2). CO2 is known to be a greenhouse gas, and the same optical properties that make it a greenhouse gas are what’s responsible for Venus’ high surface temperature.

But there are people who reject the idea that CO2 could be the cause of greenhouse warming on the Earth. They have come up with a number of interesting hypotheses for how Venus’ surface could be so hot without CO2-induced greenhouse warming.

Over the next few days, I will examine the most common claims about Venus’ surface temperature made by climate disruption deniers and look at whether or not their claims stand up to some basic physical tests. Continue reading

Richard Panek and the search for the unknowable universe


photo credit: Deborah Copaken Kogan

When physicists realized most of the universe was missing, they suddenly knew they had a major problem on their hands—the biggest problem imaginable, actually.

Problem was, they hardly even know how to imagine it.

They started looking, using a series of ultra-sensitive experiments. One of them included a set of data-gathering devices buried deep beneath the bedrock of northern Minnesota in an abandoned iron mine. The devices fed their data into a computer system, and teams of scientists around the world gathered together to look at the results simultaneously.

“The time had come to look inside the box,” writes author Richard Panek.

The data revealed two dots. But those dots didn’t represent periods punctuating the conclusion of their scientific search. Indeed, each dot more accurately resembled the dot at the bottom of a question mark: Why can we only account for about four percent of the universe? Why can’t we find the rest of it? Continue reading

Nota Bene #118: VOTE!

“I am not fit for this office and should never have been here.” Who said it? Continue reading

Nota Bene #115: RIP No. 32

“If you’re really pro-life, do me a favor—don’t lock arms and block medical clinics. If you’re so pro-life, lock arms and block cemeteries.” Who said it? Continue reading

Nota Bene #114: Big Star

“The radio makes hideous sounds.” Who said it? Continue reading

Nota Bene #112: GOOOLLLLLLLL

“Freedom of any kind is the worst for creativity.” Who said it? Continue reading

Nota Bene #111: Mmmmm… Beeeeeer

Sorry for the long absence. Let’s carry on, shall we? “If you listen to the guys up in the stands, pretty soon you’ll be up there sitting with them.” Who said it? Continue reading

Review: Zero: The Biography of a Dangerous Idea by Charles Seife

For a book about nothing, Charles Seife’s Zero: The Biography of a Dangerous Idea sure is something. 

“The clashes over zero were the battles that shook the foundations of philosophy, of science, of mathematics, and of religion,” says Seife, who then goes on to explore those conflicts. In just under 250 pages, he covers a lot of ground.

While philosophy and math might seem like esoteric stuff custom-built for brainy left-brain people, Seife writes in a reader-friendly style that makes complex ideas relatable to a general audience without dumbing down the ideas or speaking down to the readers. About two-thirds of the way through the book, Seife gets into reflective geometry, and at that point he gets in a little too deep, but otherwise, Seife manages to avoid bogging down in the heavy-duty ideas.

Considering that zero may be the heaviest of all heavy-duty ideas, that says a lot. Continue reading