Category: Science

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Are Night Owls Brighter, or Just Late-Night TV Watchers?

There are some things that really go oddly together, like sleep and intelligence. This week I saw several blog posts and tweets referring to Psychology Today article “Intelligence: The Evolution of Night Owls.” That people are talking about the article demonstrates the distressing power of the social Web. The article posted on Nov. 1, 2009, so it’s not exactly new. Matthew Hutson recounts—and without substantive details—a sleep and intelligence study.

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Internet Attention Deficit Disorder

Nicholas Carr’s book, The Shallows: What the Internet is Doing to Our Brains, may be the defining manuscript of the World Wide Web era; so far. I haven’t read the book yet, but I have followed Nicholas’ writings leading up to The Shallows. I get his point, because I’ve experienced it. He merely wraps research around the experience. The point: Interaction with the Web changes how we think, in part by rewiring how we consume information. Attention spans are shorter and tasks like reading a long magazine article or book are harder.

In June 2008, I read a short post by Nicholas linking to his Atlantic story “Is Google Making Us Stupid?

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Environmental Question

I hear a whole lot of ruckus about global warming and carbon emissions spewed into the air. I have a question for the environmentalists—some of them extremists—pointing fingers of accusation: How much worse off is the planet because of you and your political maneuvering that ended US adoption of fission reactors in the 1970s?

Environmentalist FUD (fear, uncertainty and doubt) about radioactive waste disposal was a major factor halting nuclear power plant construction in the United States. Meanwhile, many electrical facilities resorted to coal and, gasp, oil—fossil fuels that produce carbon dioxide when burned. 

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A Whirlwind Rebuttal

Last week’s Nature—that would be the June 7 issue—blows one hell of a hole in one of the proof points for global warming theory: Increasing number of hurricanes. If I rightly recall, former vice president Al Gore used increasing numbers of seasonal hurricanes in movie “An Inconvenient Truth“.

Good science isn’t about what you know but what you realize that you don’t know. Too many of the proof points for global warming are nothing more than seemingly related observations that probably aren’t as interconnected as they might first seem. Gore and others have attributed warming seas—presumed by-product of global warming—as reason for worsening seasonal hurricane cycles. 

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An Inconvenient Theory

Earlier today, my daughter and I watched “An Inconvenient Truth” at the AFI Silver Theatre, which likely is the best movie house in the Washington area. A harsh critic of the science behind global warming, I hoped that maybe the film would live up to its hype. No way. For people predisposed to the idea of global warming, the film probably would be moving. The movie did affect my thinking, nevertheless (I’ll explain how in a few paragraphs).

Here’s what I most liked: Former Vice President Al Gore relied more on historical data to make his point than use forward-looking forecasts. Oh, I hate computer modeling for proving climate change. The major reason I’m so critical of global warming theory is bad science. There are too many assumptions and too little reliable data to develop reliable forecast models. In best-case scenario, the computer models are only as good as the data put into them. 

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Arctic’s Balmy Past

New York Times stepped back on the global warming soapbox today with “Studies Portray Tropical Arctic in Distant Past“. The Times reports on three papers published today in Nature, to which—damnit—I am not a subscriber.

The 2004 Arctic Coring Expedition (ACEX) recovered 430-meter sea floor sediment core that provides a 56-million year snapshot of the Earth’s weather. And whoa, get this, “55 million years ago the Arctic Ocean was much warmer than scientists imagined—a Floridian year-round average of 74 degrees” (23.3 degrees Celsius), according to the Times. Whoa, break out the lawn chairs. That’s July weather back home in Maine.

Reports of an ancient, hot Arctic—presumably because of greenhouse gases—are sure to foster theories about global warming. Public sentiment about global warming doesn’t make it fact. Global warming is a theory, and it’s one I skeptically view. 

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When Nerds Fight

Encyclopedia Britannica has taken out an advertisement in several major newspapers demanding that magazine Nature retract a December story that showed fairly even accuracy with Wikipedia. The ad appears like a memo, “RE: Demand for Retraction”. Ouch, I guess the normal editorial channels didn’t respond. The memo, uh, advertisement, describes the Nature article as “an affront to the principles of sound scholarship, and we urge Nature to issue a full and public retraction of the article”. From “we urge” is underlined.

Who says there’s no drama in science?