Really Sciency

Visit my other blog 'Really Sciency' looking at Climate Science and its portrayal, misrepresentation and denial in the media.

Thursday, 29 December 2011

Really Sciency Stuff

This blog; Lazarus: Reason from a dead man walking, was started over a year ago and was a vehicle for collecting my comments on a range of forums, and blogs, mainly where I see reason and rationally disappear in an avalanche of nonsense.
Over that time I have posted on irrationally of religion, pseudo-science, astrology, medical quackery and I intend to continue to do so. But most of the posts here are clearly on the denial of Global Warming, Climate Change, and it's related science and research. So it seems that a separate blog specifically looking at it's portrayal, misrepresentation and denial in the media was the way to collect all this in a single place.

So I have started a second blog; Really Sciency. It must be noted that this Blog has more than a passing resemblance to Real Science, the  climate denial and political blog by Steven Goddard, which should not to be confused with any actual real science. I chose to parody it because it is hard to imagine another blog that has strayed so far from reasoned analysis and debate on the science of climate change. The irony and Orwellian nature of it's title sealed the deal.

They say that imitation is the greatest form of flattery so perhaps the author of Real Science will imagine some sort of accolade at the mimicry but if being parodied because you are so far from reality is seen as a good thing then being accused of being in denial is case proven.

Mr Goddard is such a prolific poster that I have no intention of responding to any more than a small fraction of his posts. But a quick look at his content shows that many of the posts are purely political, simple cherry picking and often just immature nonsense in any case.

I intend to initially populate Really Sciency with a few posts related to 'Real Science' that I have previously posted here and then it will be original posts, whether specifically related to something on 'Real Science' or not, but I will mirror all posts across my two blogs for a while so that my few readers can either follow both or migrate to this one if they are only interested in Climate Change. Links between both sites will always be available.

If you do subscribe to this blog or follow it in any way please do so for Really Sciency.

Monday, 12 December 2011

Life after Durban

It was always a certainty that the COP 17 talks in Durban would reach some sort of agreement so that the government representives and other delegates could claim some sort of success. That is how politics works, no one wanted to be seen as failing.

But in reality and as expected the agreement was just an agreement to agree something at an agreed later date - 2020 in this case. Certainly better than nowt, ' But the intervening years could set the world on track for more than 3 °C of global warming'.

So with this the best that seems to be on offer to the world, what, according to the science does a world with 3 °C of warming look like?

For that the book 'Six Degrees' by Mark Lynas seems a fair source. I read this book awhile back and as the title suggests it lays out in chapters what to expect for each degree of warming and references the science to make those conclusions. My copy of this book is on loan so I can't summarise the three degree chapter as I would like but in a Guardian article Mark Lynas summarised it as this;

Three degrees alone would see increasing areas of the planet being rendered essentially uninhabitable by drought and heat. In southern Africa, a huge expanse centred on Botswana could see a remobilisation of old sand dunes, much as is projected to happen earlier in the US west. This would wipe out agriculture and drive tens of millions of climate refugees out of the area. The same situation could also occur in Australia, where most of the continent will now fall outside the belts of regular rainfall.

With extreme weather continuing to bite - hurricanes may increase in power by half a category above today's top-level Category Five - world food supplies will be critically endangered. This could mean hundreds of millions - or even billions - of refugees moving out from areas of famine and drought in the sub-tropics towards the mid-latitudes. In Pakistan, for example, food supplies will crash as the waters of the Indus decline to a trickle because of the melting of the Karakoram glaciers that form the river's source. Conflicts may erupt with neighbouring India over water use from dams on Indus tributaries that cross the border.

In northern Europe and the UK, summer drought will alternate with extreme winter flooding as torrential rainstorms sweep in from the Atlantic - perhaps bringing storm surge flooding to vulnerable low-lying coastlines as sea levels continue to rise. Those areas still able to grow crops and feed themselves, however, may become some of the most valuable real estate on the planet, besieged by millions of climate refugees from the south.

Even though this book is now several years old, it's conclusions of the science at that time are still sound and subsequent research over the interveening years either confirm them of show them to be conservative.

Another source that predicts what a world a few degrees warmer looks is from National Geographic (including a short statement from Mark Lynas) and has no better news.

Welcome to the world of our tomorrows.

Saturday, 10 December 2011

Are you scientifically literate?

Take our quiz

I came across this science quiz when I came back from the pub which I found quite challenging. I was very pleased to get a genuine 42 correct which equals 84%. Not sure if that makes me scientifically literate but I'm quite pleased with the result, still I felt I must do better.

Can you do better?


Thursday, 8 December 2011

Good COP Bad Cop

With the latest UN talks on climate change, officially known as COP 17, drawing to a close and with the likelihood of nations agreeing to disagree high, it is somewhat optimistic to describe it as a good COP.

Considering the US and some other countries turned up with little intention of agreeing to anything, with developing countries and developing superpowers looking for as much latitude to emit as possible and the EU Block hardening it’s attitude on committing to anything without others making comparable commitments, even the most optimistic delegate must have expected little progress and they seem assured not to be disappointed - Which probably accounts for the almost nonexistent news coverage of the event in mainstream media compared to other attempts like Copenhagen.

But there are definitely bad Cops. The usual ‘skeptic’ officers have turned up trying to enforce their laws that go against those of physics.

This was all unoriginally pre-empted by the illegal release of some more private emails between climate scientists for the bad cops to pour over and cherry pick and cynically create as much smoke and mirror publicity just before the whole event kicked off. But like the talks themselves, it failed to generate much true media interest – this was just old news.

So the award for the best stunt must go to Lord Monckton, more a Keystone Cop than a bad cop, who decided to drop in by parachute. Other than a publicity monger, I can’t see the significance of parachutes and climate ‘skepticism’ unless he thought such antics would make him look like a super anti-climate hero swooping in on the scene. But in my eyes it is more likely to suggest he is a puppet with others pulling his strings!

It would seem that most people have already forgotten that Moncton at one of his infamous ‘climate science’ lectures, just before Copenhagen when there was genuine optimism that a lasting deal could be struck, claimed to have already seen the treaty the worlds nations were going to sign. At that time he certainly suggested that the Copenhagen treaty would amount to a new world order with dire consequences for all, but he was very vague on the details.

Perhaps he did actually see a leaked copy of the treaty, written even before the worlds nations pretended to negotiate it, but decided not to tell his audience that it would amount to the nations agreeing to agree something at a later date yet to be agreed? With that later date still as far away as ever, perhaps Lord Monckton didn’t think that sounded scary enough for his purposes?

Would Lord Christopher Monckton object to me suggesting what he might do for his next anti-climate science stunt?

Tuesday, 15 November 2011

Daily Fail putting lives at risk again.

It seems that this news rag never learns or just doesn't care if it can spin up a story. 

One of the worst reporting scandals it ever carried out was to spin a small research paper back in 1988 by a Dr. Wakefield which reported on the case histories of 12 children who had received the MMR vaccine and suggested it caused them to develop symptoms of autism or inflammatory bowel disease.

The Fail published article after article suggesting the combined MMR, (Measles, Mumps and Rubella), vaccine was dangerous. Probably worst of all was the columnist Melanie Philips who repeatedly questioned the safety of the MMR vaccine, continuing to insist that "urgent questions about the vaccine's safety remain unanswered".

Anyone who followed this journalistic disaster knows that in 2005 the  Cochrane review of the vaccine, found "no credible evidence" of a link with autism. This non story was over as far as the media and the prescribers of the vaccine were concerned. 

The Wakefield paper was finally  retracted in 2010 after the UK General Medical Council (GMC) concluded that Wakefield had a charge of serious professional misconduct to answer, in part because it found that his team did not have proper ethical approval for tests performed on the children. Later in the year, the GMC found him guilty of the misconduct charge and revoked his licence to practice as a doctor. By then, more than 12 large-scale epidemiological studies had failed to find evidence of the hypothesized link (J. S. Gerber and P. A. Offit Clin. Infect. Dis. 48, 456–461; 2009) and the MMR vaccine is today regarded as safe.

However during this time, this manufactured scoop caused many concerned parents to refuse this vaccine and indeed the separate vaccines for each condition. Vaccination rates in general dropped, cases of these serious and life changing diseases rose. An "infectious diseases expert who has studied the autism controversy's effect on immunization rates", said, "Clearly, the results of this [Wakefield] study have had repercussions". "There has been a huge impact from the Wakefield fiasco ... This spawned a whole anti-vaccine movement. Great Britain has seen measles outbreaks. It probably resulted in a lot of deaths."

Would it be too strong to suggest that The Daily Mail and Melanie Philips have caused the deaths of children? 

But they just don't give up with another report misinforming it's readers that the HPV vaccine can cause severe reactions that can lead to ME/Chronic Fatigue Syndrome being published yesterday. No such evidence exists

But the headline states without compromise;

"Girl, 13, left in 'waking coma' and sleeps for 23 hours a day after severe reaction to cervical cancer jabs"
I have the greatest sympathy for this young girl and her family. Chronic Fatigue Syndrome is a debilitating illness, it's causes are uncertain, but it often shows symptoms from the teenage years. In all probability, with most girls getting this vaccine and this condition already medically described long before the jabs introduction, this is an unfortunate coincidence and not cause and effect.

The point is that this awful journalism doesn't even suggest this. From the title and subsequent article it makes a clear suggestion that a link between the HPV inoculation and serious side effects exist when in reality the most serious of these that can be linked to it is a very infrequent swollen arm or a rash that clears in a few days.

This subject really hits a chord with me as my own daughter had this series of jabs last year and my wife as a GPs nurse administers it to patients and advises them about the possible side effects. Her job is about to get a lot more difficult with any Fail readers she encounters. Of course anyone with an ounce of critical thinking will realise that the article contains no evidence to support it's main claims of this vaccine causing side effects as remotely as serious it suggests.

What this vaccine will do is reduce the incidence of cervical cancer by two-thirds in women under 30 by 2025, but only if the take-up of the vaccine continues to be around 80 per cent.

I know that Daily Fail readers are not the most rational, medically or scientifically literate bunch, but unfortunately they are still allowed to have children. A poll conducted within the article shows at the present time 58% of readers would NOT let their children have this vaccine.
Currently the most highly rated comment on the site with nearly 700 recommendations reads;

I researeched this jab and then did not give permission for my daughter to have it. I spoke with her about it and she agreed that she did not want to take the risk for the low level of protection it actually gives. The school queried it heavily with me but I am not a sheep just following blindly - remember thalidomide? That was 'safe' too!

I wonder if Annie of Cheltenham would like to pass her extensive research onto the UK General Medical Council?

If this reporting style continues, and if worst of all, Melanie Philips gets involved, then it will be the MMR nonsense all over again. Teenage girls today will be needlessly contracting cervical cancer later in their lives, needing serious medical intervention and in all probability some will die because of this.I'm just grateful that due to advancing medical science my daughter will not be one of them.

Tuesday, 8 November 2011

No thank you, Matt Ridley

It just goes to show that even atheists, members of the BHA etc, can be as deluded and as irrational as the most god fearing Christian.

Matt Ridley, author of the Rational Optimist, gave a lecture at the RSA, that likes to describe its self as offering 'Ideas and actions for a 21st century enlightenment'.

It was fawningly reported in full on WTFUWT.

Don't get me wrong I thought he started of rather well and even when he suggest scepticism on climate science he had a point but then he goes to quote the sources that  'utterly debunked' the Hoc
key Stick graph and you realise that he might as well believe that crop circles are not man made either.

Every historical temperature reconstruction is a 'hockey stick'. Steve McIntyre and Ross McKitrick to my knowledge have never published any research in a credible publication debunking any such thing, while peer reviewed science supports its general conclusions.

Steve McIntyre isn't a climatologist but a mathematician with possible conflicts of interest having had a career working in the mining industry.

Ross McKitrick is an economist and a member of the Cornwall Alliance for the Stewardship of Creation, a conservative Christian public policy group that promotes a free-market approach to care for the environment.

Then we get praise for Andrew Montford’s book, again not peer reviewed science. Monford is an accountant and just happens to have gave positive reviews of Ridley's own book.

I had to stop reading there, but if this is the standard of evidence Ridley thinks is credible enough to change his beliefs despite the scientific evidence he has embraced pseudo-science with obsessive irony.

Monday, 24 October 2011

Things falling downward doesn’t mean gravity did it.

Any one with the slightest interest in climate science will now know that The Berkeley Earth Surface Temperature project has released the conclusions on global temperature data for feedback before peer review and publication.

The project funded independently and including part funds from oil interests, brought together more temperature records than any previous study and when first announced became the climate ‘skeptics’ last great hope for showing that if the world was even actually warming it was overstated by unscrupulous climate scientists looking for further funding.

Unfortunately Richard Muller, a physicist and head of the project announced that the average global land temperature has risen by about 0.9C in a century, which is slightly higher than the 0.7C – 0.8C normally quoted by climatologists, and  said;

"My hope is that this will win over those people who are properly sceptical. Some people lump the properly sceptical in with the deniers and that makes it easy to dismiss them, because the deniers pay no attention to science."
When the news was announced I mentioned it on Paul Hudson’s blog and theorised that if they haven’t already accepted the planet is warming  the ‘deniers will say something like they now accept there is global warming but not what the scientists say is the cause’. I wasn’t disappointed either with many now making claims that they do accept it is warming and in most cases claiming to always have accepted it. But this warming they say, is actually caused by (Insert appropriated denier myth here). The typical reasoning is that there are too many unknowns or it’s been warming since the end of the last ice age, etc.

Even The Daily Fail held up my theory with the headline; ‘New analysis of 1.6 billion weather records concludes the world IS warming (but still can't say what's causing it)’, which was very kind of them since the Berkeley Earth project never even considered the cause. But scientists have been not only saying it has been warming but that human emissions are the main cause. So good on the Daily Fail, with a headline like that not only do they imply that the cause was considered but the scientists have no idea why – science reporting at it’s very worst.

However this set me thinking how I would deal with their ‘Yes it’s warming but science doesn’t know why’, arguments that will keep appearing. The logical thing to do is to point out that research has looked at all the other possibilities, natural cycles, the Sun, cosmic radiation etc, and discounted them as improbable compared to increasing green house gases, but that hasn’t really worked up to now. I did think of a couple of other simple ways though.

Yes it is warming but science doesn’t know why

The only reason scientists were looking to see if warming was occurring was that the basic physics worked out in the 1800s by the likes of John Tyndall, Joseph Fourier and Svante Arrhenius suggested that the increase of certain gasses in the atmosphere would warm it. Those gasses (principally Carbon Dioxide), had increased through man made emissions and if the physics was correct, then at some point a warming signal would be detected within the natural background variation.

So basically, scientists said Man should be causing warming and found warming. For skeptics to then say; ‘We can’t know if the warming is man made’ is just like saying; ‘Scientists say Gravity should cause things to fall downward, but just because they do doesn’t mean that Gravity is the cause’!

So I would argue that it is up to those who believe current warming might not be due to emissions to come up with a more scientifically acceptable theory. I know that most actually believe they have done this with 'It's the Sun' or whatever but that is only half way there. Not only do they need a theory to explain this current warming trend but they also need another theory to explain why the physics worked or in the 1800s hasn't caused the warming that  scientists were originally looking for and believe they have found. A rather tall order and one that might push the limits of Occam's razor.
Of course it is warming; it has been since the last Ice age

I see this argument more and more often and it gets more ridiculous the more I think about it.

Yes it has been warming since the last Ice age, but it has warmed about 1C in the last century. The Ice age was about 4C colder than now and ended over ten thousand years ago – DO THE MATH!

Actually if the planet was to heat up 1C every century then in the last 10,000 years the world would be over 100 degrees centigrade! Or hotter than boiling water!

Friday, 21 October 2011

Not long now!

 Harold Camping says on his website.
"Thus we can be sure that the whole world, with the exception of those who are presently saved (the elect), are under the judgment of God, and will be annihilated together with the whole physical world on Oct. 21,"

 Unfortunately for me, my boss doesn't see this as a valid reason to take the day off!

Wednesday, 19 October 2011

Daily Jekyll and Mail Hyde

Well it seems that I’m not the only person with a bit of an obsession about the accuracy of the Daily Mauls ‘scientific’ articles and their Jekyll and Hyde nature. In an interesting piece recently in the Guardian, Bob Ward comments on this too, in the context of the Press Complaints Commission’s ability to self regulate.

The reason that the Daily Fail almost gets the science right on occasion is that it has an ‘admirable science editor, Michael Hanlon’, who would have guessed?

'We also have the newspapers owners boast that the company has reduced its emissions of carbon dioxide by more than 13% since 2007, well ahead of its target of a 10% cut by 2012'.

Both these things don’t seem to sit well with the Mauls editor, Paul Darce, who is allegedly in cahoots with Lord Lawson and BennyPeiser and their skeptic organisation the Global Warming Policy Foundation. This would account for why science coverage so often and so spectacularly fails

This explains the flip flopping nature of science stories in the paper and the point of Bob Ward’s article is that the blatant misinterpretation of the facts and the promotion of misinformation shows a clear disregard for the Press Complainants Commission’s rules; Rules that are supposed to be upheld by a newspapers editor in this self regulatory system.

But for me, the most interesting thing in the article is the example that Bob Ward uses when he claims that;

"The main aim of the Daily Mail campaign has been to convince readers that the rising cost of living is mainly due to policies to reduce UK emissions of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases."

My MEP, Roger Helmer, must be a Daily Fail reader or at least signed up to similar agenda by suggesting energy price increases are mainly down to green taxes, used to subsidise the likes of wind generation, as I showed in a previous post.

So how much of energy price rises or just energy costs to the consumer are due to these so called green taxes? I have asked Helmer on his blog while trying to get him to justify himself. Some more research is needed and will be the subject of another post soon.

Tuesday, 18 October 2011

Doomsday Again!

The end of the world is happening again this Friday. The New Rapture is nearly upon us. 

Remember almost 5 months ago? The end of the world was the 21st May according to Harold Camping. Unfortunately the old chap didn't quite get his sums right - he wasn't exactly wrong of course because the 21st of May was just the beginning. It was the date that applications for salvation closed and the offices of God apparently shut. I presume to give him plenty of time to complete all the paper work that the end of time and space must involve. So if you have been a goodie two shoes in the last 5 months  - its too late! If you were born in the last 5 months then blame your parents, they were told.

Of course there is a very serious side to all this.
I had forgotten all about this and I invited some friends round on Saturday and now it appears that I have spent good money on alcohol that will never get drunk. If that isn't a serious issue - well I can't think of a better one.

If by a slim chance nothing actually happens on Friday, well we always have the one in 2012 to look forward to.

Monday, 17 October 2011

Winds of Change?

Roger Helmer, the Member European Parliament (MEP) for the East Midlands and my representative, (though I used the term 'representative' loosely as he has continued to misrepresent  my views to Europe, and I suspect most of his constituents  as well), announced his retirement last week and used this as a platform to further push misrepresentations.

He was interviewed and appeared on 'The Politics Show East Midlands' where he continued soundly blaming rising energy prices on "our obsession with wind power". However he is unlikely to actually state a figure that he can prove is the true cost per consumer of installing increased wind generating capacity. 

While the small percentage of electricity produced by wind currently costs more than that from fossil based sources and will in theory end up being paid for by consumers it isn't the reason for increasing energy prices and only those completely out of touch and concerned in pushing their own agenda would claim such a thing.

Helmer never though to mention the "rigged" market in Britain that has seen a rise in firms' profit margins from £15 to £125 per customer, a rise of over 700%. This is increasing profit, NOT increasing costs due to the changing way we generate power. I'm sure deep down he really knows this even if he can't bring himself to be honest enough to admit it.

Retiring at the end of the year, it is unlikely that he will be replaced by anyone more likely to represent the majority of his constituents in Europe and I might miss the old duffer a little, as better the devil you know and one so easy to prove in error.

Tuesday, 4 October 2011

A Short Step Taken

In one of my very first postings almost a year ago called AShort Step from Madness I suggested some people who are prepared to believe in a paranormal deity and supernatural evil are a short step from carrying out terrible and irrational actions because of those beliefs. The example I used was a news story about several people including a Christian pastor burning a 72 year old as a witch in Ghania

Such a post incited an obviously religious reader to call such thinking a fallacy because the Milgram Experiment showed that people can believe they will not be held accountable for their actions so long as they are instructed to do them by an "authority figure". Unfortunately I saw this as further evidence to my case because a god is the ultimate authority figure and the ring leader is as likely to believe they are following gods wishes as those following.

All this was brought back to me when reading a copy of the free newspaper the Metro when two stories appeared on opposite sides of the paper which I have now tracked down on line. The first shows the kind of fervent religious belief that I consider a short irrational step from madness and the second story is about an unfortunate man who takes that step and commits a shocking act of self mutilation.

In Poland Catholics held a special mass for a miracle communion wafer that fell on the floor in 2008 and has since developed a brown spot after being in water.

So far so un-miraculous but two doctors have since claimed that this brown spot is heart muscle, all done without any scientificanalysis or testing apparently, so with such strong evidence the people of Poland are holding religious services for the heart of Jesus! But then as the Archbishop there said; "For God, nothing is impossible."

I would normally have dismissed such nonsense with a roll of the eyes and shake of the head but on the opposite page was a much more disturbing report.

In Italy at a Catholic Mass a man calmly stood up and tore out both his eyeballs in the middle of the priest's sermon. Clearly this individual was disturbed and almost certainly mentally ill. The point to make is that his actions appear to have been triggered by a passage from the Bible, though it is unclear from the news reports if it was actually used during this sermon.

According to the article; From the Gospel of St Matthew, Jesus tells his disciples:
'If your right eye causes you to sin, gouge it out and throw it away.
'It is better for you to lose one part of your body than for your whole body to be thrown into hell.'

Though to be honest a verse from Mark 9:47 also came to mind;

And if your eye causes you to stumble, pluck it out. It is better for you to enter the kingdom of God with one eye than to have two eyes and be thrown into hell,

With a book of mythology containing such passages and taught to people as an early age as ‘gospel’ to base and live their whole lives on, how can anyone expect such terrible incidents not to occur? How can the organisations and people promoting such beliefs not have some responsibility when this sort of incident happens?