Dear BBC Trust…as if there were any left

Some thoughts I have sent to the BBC Trust’s “News and Current Affairs Review”

Please tell us more about why you say this giving examples of programmes and content. We want to know how well BBC News and Current Affairs (TV, radio and online) is doing in these areas and welcome your suggestions for improvement.

  • The “Today” presenters have the habit of verbally assaulting politicians only then to go soft on all sorts of other people making all sorts of strange claims.
  • The lineup of news is curiously and disappointingly similar to what one can find in privately-owned newsmedia.
  • There is too much emphasis on presenting the negative side of everything, and in finding something to scare people with.
  • On the environmental side we’re inevitably treated to a series of half-thoughts pieces by activists masquerading as journalists. That cannot be right.
  • Reports from foreign lands are often ruined by the journalist taking side in foreign politics, and thereby distorting the news. There is also too much reliance on interviewing locals who speak English very well, a very limited and self-selected subset of the population in most countries.

How well do the following words describe BBC News:

  • Trustworthy: Not well
  • Accurate: Not well
  • Impartial: Not well
  • Up-to-date: Quite well

Please tell us more about your answers, giving examples of programmes. We want to know how BBC News (TV, radio and online) is doing in these areas and welcome your suggestions for improvement.

The BBC is partial to itself. In particular BBC News behaves like a cheerleader for the whole BBC, and is often impermeable to criticism or corrections.


Boulder Valley Flooding History

An interesting set of pages on floods in the Boulder, Colorado area, last updated in 2005:

Due to its location near the mouth of numerous canyons, the Boulder area is a major flash flood risk. Following are descriptions compiled by Elizabeth Black of some of the flash floods that have occurred in the region beginning with the flood of 1894. Such floods– and many larger– have happened before the area was developed…. and will sooner or later happen again.

  • 1894 (100 Year Flood– over 10,000 cubic feet per second on Boulder Creek)
  • 1896 (Damage around the city of Boulder)]
  • 1896 (Storm and damage around Marshall and Coal Creek drainage)
  • 1906 (Flood down Sunshine Canyon)
  • 1909 (Two Die in Two Mile Creek)
  • 1916 (Four Mile Canyon Creek flooding)
  • 1921 (Coal Creek)
  • 1929 (Cloudburst causes flooding)
  • 1938 (Eldorado Springs and South Boulder Creek flooding)
  • 1941 (Two Mile Creek)
  • 1950 (Four Mile Canyon Creek)
  • 1951 (Four Mile Canyon Creek)
  • 1955 (Two Mile Creek and Four Mile Canyon Creek)
  • 1969 (Two Mile Creek and Bear Creek flooding)

There is also a list of flood events, and a map of the at-risk areas of the town.

Boulder High Hazard Zone
Boulder High Hazard Zone

Anybody interested to know a list of the fools who built in the middle of the HHZ?

This area includes City of Boulder facilities, University of Colorado married student housing, many residences, businesses and Boulder High School.

Undici motivi per apprezzare il recupero della Costa Concordia

Ebbene sì! C’è qualche lato positivo anche nella colossale operazione di recupero della Costa Concordia …

11. Aspettiamoci un grande aumento del turismo, in special modo dei cacciatori di tesori che si affolleranno nella zona appena la nave se ne sarà andata

10. Tutti sanno ora cos’è e dov’è l’Isola del Giglio

9. Il mare sembrava di una bellezza spettacolare sulla TV, a parte il metallo

8. Chissà quante specie marine hanno fatto uso di un milione di differenti barriere artificiali per un anno

7. Tutto ciò è una una meraviglia dell’ingegneria italiana (in materia di soccorso marittimo). Sulle abilità navigative potrebbe invece essere necessario un riesame.

6. Tutti sanno adesso come è fatta la zona più in alto di una nave Costa (informazione utile se hanno il coraggio di provare essi stessi a partire)

5. Finalmente una notizia vera nel ciclo di telegiornali ininterrotti per 24 ore al giorno

4. Consoliamoci, il Titanic è stato molto peggio

3. Pronti per l’asta! Sarà presto possibile comprare su eBay una sedia di plastica originale “Costa Concordia”

2. Sotto il fango rimarrà tanto da riscoprire magari 2.000 anni, e racconterà alla gente di allora come vivevamo noi di adesso (per un equivoco, saranno erette statue in onore dell’eroico capitano Schettino)

E la ragione principale è …

1. Si sta spargendo una nuova consapevolezza, che ci sia tutto un mondo al di là di Candy Crush…

Top 11 reasons to be cheerful about the Costa Concordia salvage operation

Yes! There’s some silver lining in watching the initial stages of the giant Costa Concordia salvage operation…

11. Expect a vast increase in tourism as treasure hunters will flock to the area when the ship’s gone

10. Everybody knows now about Giglio island

9. The sea looked spectacularly beautiful on TV, metal parts aside

8. Plenty of thriving sea life attached itself to a million different artificial reefs for a year

7. It’s a marvel of Italian engineering (in the field of marine rescue). Navigation skills might need a review.

6. Everybody knows their way around the Costa upper-deck leisure bits (useful if they have the temerity of trying themselves)

5. Something meaningful at last, in the 24h news cycle

4. At least it wasn’t Titanic-size

3. Dismantling to come – you will soon be able to get your own Costa Concordia original plastic seat on eBay

2. Stuff under the mud will still turn up in 2,000 years’ time telling people then the way we were now (due to series of misunderstandings, statues will be erected and babies named after hero Capt. Schettino)

And the top reason is…

1. Widespread discovery there’s more to life than Candy Crush

Whatever happens to old Climate Scientists?

They hang on awaiting vindication of their idea, that’s what happens…

George Kukla (born 1930) …became [in 1972] a central figure in convincing the United States government to take the dangers of climate change seriously. Kukla and geologist, Robert Matthews of Brown University, convened a historic conference, themed: “The Present Interglacial: How and When will it End?” Kukla and Matthews then highlighted the dangers of global cooling in Science magazine and, to President Richard Nixon.

The Nixon administration reacted swiftly to their letter, which described calamities such as killer frosts, lower food production and floods, to come. By February 1973, the State Department had established a Panel on the Present Interglacial, which advised Drs. Kukla and Matthews that it “was seized of the matter” and numerous other government agencies were soon included.

Kukla was co-author of a chapter in the book “Natural Climate Variability on Decade to Century Time Scales” published by the National Research Council.

Kukla believes all glacial periods in Earth’s history began with global warming (understood as an increase of area-weighted average global mean temperature). He believes Earth’s recent warming is mostly natural and will ultimately lead to a new ice age.

An interestingly but flawed report of what was going in 1972 is available via Google Books.

BBC Archives confirm Global Cooling as scientific ‘orthodoxy’ of the early 1970s

Who knew? In 1999, long before selling its soul to climate catastrophism, the BBC had no problem in letting its listeners know that scientists in the 1970s were convinced about Global Cooling. And that contemporary scientist-activists about Warming are just recycling arguments used agains Cooling.

From the BBC Reith Lectures of 1999, RUNAWAY WORLD by Prof Anthony Giddens; Lecture 2 – RISK – HONG KONG

Or consider where we stand with world climate change. Most scientists well versed in the field believe that global warming is occurring and that measures should be taken against it. Yet only about 25 or so years ago, orthodox scientific opinion was that the world was in a phase of global cooling. Much the same evidence that was deployed to support the hypothesis of global cooling is now brought into play to bolster that of global warming – heat waves, cold spells, unusual types of weather. Is global warming occurring, and does it have human origins? Probably – but we won’t, and can’t, be completely sure until it is too late.

In these circumstances, there is a new moral climate of politics, marked by a push-and-pull between accusations of scaremongering on the one hand, and of cover-ups on the other. If anyone – government official, scientific expert or researcher – takes a given risk seriously, he or she must proclaim it. It must be widely publicised because people must be persuaded that the risk is real – a fuss must be made about it. Yet if a fuss is indeed created and the risk turns out to be minimal, those involved will be accused of scaremongering.

Giddens’ solution is not complicated really, the total opposite of many’s attempts at shutting down debate by proclaiming “scientists say”:

We cannot simply ‘accept’ the findings which scientists produce, if only because scientists so frequently disagree with one another, particularly in situations of manufactured risk. And everyone now recognises the essentially sceptical character of science. Whenever someone decides what to eat, what to have for breakfast, whether to drink decaffeinated or ordinary coffee, that person takes a decision in the context of conflicting and changeable scientific and technological information.

Giddens (now Baron Giddens) is a sociologist, obviously from an era when sociology didn’t just produce a Lew.



A Mole of Bytes (updated, seven years later…) (aka How to record the Universe)

(original published on May 22, 2006 – [updates in square brackets])

Is computing rapidly turning itself into a hi-tech version of Howard Stern’s famous “Who Wants to be a Turkish Billionaire?” ?

My son asked me [seven years ago, so he was four] to explain what is a “Gigabyte”. I tried to describe the meaning of a little bit more than a billion tiny little things hidden in a PC. But then I stopped quickly: how was I going to clarify the meaning of having 40 of those “gigabytes” in my laptop’s hard drive alone [500 since 2011]? And 200 of them in my desktop computer [1,024 since 2013 – but I also have a 4TB external HDD]. And a thousand of them (a terabyte) in the latest high-spec PC [you can buy a 8TB internal HDD in 2013].

And at current growth rates, hard-disk capacity is increasing 10-fold every 5 years [note that the actual figures have turned up to be very near that rate]. It is perfectly clear then that by the time he’s 19 in 2021, we will have to cope with the impossibility of comprehending what we’ve got, and silly-sounding terms like petabytes (well, it sounds like 8-bit flatulence in Italian anyway).

From there onwards it’s going to be exabytes in 2035, zettabytes in 2050 and I’ll be turning 100 literally in yoda-yoda-land (yottabytes, some million billion billion bytes that will grace our computers in the middle of the 2060)

There is however no need for all this aggravation…let’s learn from Chemistry and dear old Avogadro Constant. So here’s my proposal:

1. Dig the Giga, Tera, Peta, Etcetc-bytes asap

2. Define a Mole of Bytes as 6.023×10ˆ23 of them

3. Resize the capacities now. Say, a 100 Gigabyte disk becomes a mere 166 femtoMole. To sport even 100 Terabytes of storage area, will only mean less than 200 picoMoles of Bytes.

This will surely give some renewed perspective to the whole business of visualizing trends in computing, and show that there is a long long way ahead before we can declare ourselves satisfied with our computational powers.

[for those with a mathematical disposition: 1 mole of bytes would contain more than 11.2 trillion blu-ray discs, corresponding (at 9h/disc) to 11.5 billion years of HDTV recording, the entire history of the universe. Alternatively, it would contain around 2 hours of HDTV recording from cameras spaced apart so that each of them would cover 10 square meters, or 110 square feet of the Earth’s surface, oceans included. If the capacity increase rate is sustained, the first disks with a mole of bytes will be shipped around the year 2067]


National Geographic Sep 2013 – what kind of house would want it in?

John M. Fahey, Jr.
President and CEO
National Geographic Society
1145 17th Street N.W.
Washington, D.C. 20036-4688

London, Sep 10, 2013

Dear Mr Fahey

As an expiring subscriber let me convey the profound dismay in regards to the inane publication you have the opportunity to direct. With a little thank you though, for some aspects of the September 2013 “rising seas” issue are unlikely what you expected them to be.

After decades of uninterrupted reading I gave up a few months ago, having seen the Magazine slide (fall) from its geography mission to open, fear-based “environmental” advocacy (with a lowercase “e”). It seemed and still seems there is no low you would avoid to reach in order to describe the planet or mostly cute species as either ultimately doomed or irremediably ruined: by evil humans, obviously, including one suspects all of your readers.

I stopped reading the magazine with my son, as there was simply too much to skip over what looked liked unwarranted alarmism. Who in their right mind would want to teach their children how intrinsically ‘evil’ they have been found to be (on a scientific basis!!) just because they are humans.

I was actually ready to send you back the September 2013 “rising sea” issue because, as they say, enough is sometimes enough.

An inundated New York City with a half-submerged Statue of Liberty did look more than enough. Is that something likely to happen? When? Did I really want my son to consider the possibility that our very civilization were going to cause such a major disaster by burning fossil fuels (by living, that is)? And didn’t such a picture look exactly what British leftist think-tank IPPR described in 2006 as “Climate (insert a four-letter word starting with P and ending in ORN here)”, the gratuitous depiction of apocalyptic climate-change related visions of the future? A depiction that titillates the worst parts of the readers, increases circulation and ultimately convinces people there is nothing one could possibly do to care for the environment.

In summary: had the National Geographic gone either completely insane or dishonest?

Then I looked at the front-cover a little better. And it actually said “NO ICE”. It’s almost invisible, but it’s there under the large-font cover title. So the Statue of Liberty would be half-submerged if there were no ice at all on the planet? Interesting. But not alarming at all, in fact: because suddenly it was not a matter of dishonesty; rather, as I said, of inanity.

Say, how long before there is no ice in the world? The inside pages tell us. It’s 5,000 years. Let’s just imagine we can make such a prediction for sure. 5,000 years, that is the seventy-first century. How’s that supposed to be today’s problem? Who would be silly enough to even remotely consider what the issues of the year 7000 will be?

Imagine people of 5,000 years ago, thinking about the internet and globalization? Me neither. Most of them had seen no agriculture yet, there was the third Pharaoh ever, and the first version of Troy was getting founded (source: Wikipedia). Them for us and us for them, we might as well be talking about alien worlds.

Perhaps rising seas will affect the 60th century? Or the 50th? Or even the 30th? Once again, imagine people of the year 1013AD, what could have they remotely done to understand/help us of 2013AD? Stop burning wood? Bury horse waste at sea? Repent for their sins? Obviously, it would all have been pointless. They had no idea about polluted rivers, nuclear waste storage, abandoned plastics. Come to think, even the people of 1973 would have only a rough idea about the issues of 2013, apart from a troublesome Middle East.

So the underlying message of your submerged Statue of Liberty is, in fact, a mix of “don’t care too much about it” and “someone else’s problem”. Well, what can I say, thanks! That’s a good message for the children, at last: “stop fearing the future”. Should be told to them as matter of course, no? Even if, I surmise, it’s not the message you wanted to convey, as it went from insane, to inane.

With that in mind I can now sit and enjoy in peace one of my last National Geographic issues. Look, there is even a map of the world as it would be were there no ice. And it’s an amazingly small area of some continents’ coasts that would disappear (that is, become bountiful, shallow seas). Poor Africa for once will be spared. Oh the boredom of it. Get those flying cars of the 55th century to move a little inland, will you.

Do we need to endanger the well-being of seven billion humans for that? Do we need to spread psychological terror among children with scary stories presented as established facts?

Those people of the 71st century better get used to their world, whatever it is. Just like the people of 3000BC. Is there any other way? Let’s do likewise. It’s called Geography. Not that it appears much anymore in “National Geographic”, alas!

Perhaps one day you will stop wasting time in planetary smut…do let me know if that happens, I’ll resubscribe at once!

(signed, with address)

BBC from Trust to Ofcom…not one minute too soon!

(comment published at BBC Watch)

As the guy who beat the BBC at 28Gate i am convinced all that put any trust in the BBC should have their head checked. For example, that list is still not officially confirmed, despite the perps having been caught red-handed with it. More, somebody took the time to make it disappear from the Wayback Machine, further confirming how institutionally corrupt the BBC is.

It’s not anybody’s fault, of course, rather the natural evolution for an organisation that lives on public money without being answerable to anybody but itself. An internal mafia quickly develops, with all the managerial positions filled by those deemed more trustworthy by whomever is in charge of distributing/dissipating the monies. The structure feeds on itself, and will do anything and everything to prevent people from looking in.

So I am not as pessimistic now as JunkkMale…true, with OFCOM it would still be a fairly promiscuous affair. But at the very least, not incestuous any longer. The OFCOM guy, whatever his past, will have to answer to something else than the BBC, therefore breaking the mafia loop.

Note dal dibattito al King’s College con il Sen. Fantetti e altri candidati per l’Europa alle Elezioni italiane 2013

Note gettate “dal vivo” durante il dibattito del 13/2 al King’s College con il Sen. Fantetti e altri candidati per l’Europa alle Elezioni italiane 2013:

  • Biondi piede rotto entrata da soubrette
  • Niente Bille’ arriva Tagliaretti da Stoccarda
  • Niente Grillo
  • 1825: si comincia
  • Andrea Gori moderatore
  • Comincia in inglese senza accento
  • Ha viaggiato molto
  • Futuro UE
  • Focalizza su “reliability” come modo per essere efficaci
  • Art 54 costituzione
  • Leggi sull’impiego
  • Rendite di posizione
  • Possibile social disruption
  • Historia magistra vitae
  • Dice che Italia ha tutti gli ingredienti
  • Articolo in cds con severgnini
  • Tagliaretti (Monti) alle 1835
  • Lamenta assenza dibattito fra leaders in Italia
  • Parla inglese senza accento marcato
  • Lavora alla ECB
  • Dice c’erano idee ma non un’agenda
  • In Cina c’è energia nelle persone che manca in Europa
  • Un po’ monotono naturalmente
  • 11 minuti
  • Fantetti (PDL) alle 1850
  • Usa vicenda Di Girolamo per fare lo spiritoso
  • Europa: 55% Italiani all’estero
  • Parla di esperienza con Associazione di Altiero Spinelli
  • UE non è quella sognata
  • Italia paga per il rebate britannico
  • Sconto ottenuto da Monti non basta
  • Rispettabilità Monti pagata dagli Italiani
  • Modifiche Porcellum
  • Dettagli legge elettorale
  • Attacca PD sul Porcellum
  • Biondi non appare divertito
  • Fantetti dice che non accetterà tagli nel numero di parlamentari dall’estero
  • Caste non solo i politici
  • Contro sindacati e caste locali
  • Urbani dalle 1904
  • Parla della “porcata”
  • Gori menziona che Porcellum prima in Toscana
  • Non si presenta, non dice chi sia
  • Dice che FARE è contro tutte le caste
  • Va a braccio
  • Europa
  • Euro ha fatto risparmiare 700B euros
  • Labour laws
  • Job Security che aumenti nel tempo
  • Biondi dalle 1×915 ha avuto incidente oggi
  • Vuole applicare best-practice dall’Europa in Italia
  • Accalorato – anche lui a braccio
  • Dice che la flessibilità non è importante come si dice
  • Fine primo round alle 1925
  • Fantetti parla contro i sindacati
  • Urbani specifica non solo flessibilità importante ma anche processi
  • Q&A – comincio io – Biondi si dissocia dal passato (del PD)
  • Monti con Bersani? Tagliaretti dice che Monti non lo consulta – dice che non ha pregiudizi
  • Fantetti – solita disgrazia dei Centristi che con pochi voti vogliono comandare
  • Tagliaretti dice tante cose in comune con PD
  • Q: Nessuno prende responsabilità?
  • Accelerare il Declino vince di nuovo: Gori sbaglia e dice “Fare per fermare il futuro”
  • Urbani dice che il parlamento era sovrano
  • Biondi parla di nuovo bene del sistema inglese
  • Q: Stagnazione?
  • Tagliaretti semplificazione burocratica – attrarre investimenti – creare ambiente per ricerca e sviluppo
  • Fantetti problema leggi sul lavoro fa esempio Fiat 6 – bisogno di Mrs Thatcher per rompere i monopoli
  • Gori sindacati? Perché non ha cambiato il governo? RF sindacati troppo potenti
  • Pubblico rumoreggia
  • Urbani molte cose da fare – tasse, spese – protezione della proprietà privata
  • Biondi non sindacati ma mancata implementazione direttive europee
  • Accusa il PDL di non aver fatto le riforme
  • Q: Perché PD e PDL dopo venti anni senza riforme?
  • Fantetti d’accordo – parlamento fatto di maggioranze – grande coalizione per eliminare gli estremi
  • Biondi responsabilità più nel PDL che nel PD – dice che ha visto molte persone piene di speranza – spera che stavolta le.cose vadano meglio
  • Tagliaretti maggioranze assolute mai viste – parlamento sempre complesso
  • Q: Maggioranza PDL la più forte nel 2008? Prima legge di ciascuno?
  • Fantetti molte riforme implementate
  • Tagliaretti prima legge tagliare spese politica
  • Urbani vendita proprietà statali come ENEL
  • Q: Fiscal compact un.disastro per il futuro?
  • Biondi può essere interpretato differentemente – propone qualche escamotage
  • Urbani fare ha un piano molto dettagliato per tagli alla spesa senza toccare previdenza e pensioni
  • Fantetti va rinegoziato – includere ricchezza totale – IMU restituita per far ripartire i consumi

(il dibattito si è concluso pochi minuti dopo)

Man-made warming hits Lake Baikal

by way of wheels, and ice skates

More amazing pictures at (scroll to the bottom of the page)

Obama’s Climate Déjà Vu

Transcript of President Obama’s Inaugural Address (Jan 20, 2009):

That we are in the midst of crisis is now well understood […] each day brings further evidence that the ways we use energy strengthen our adversaries and threaten our planet.

Transcript of President Obama’s Inagural Address (Jan 21, 2013):

We will respond to the threat of climate change, knowing that the failure to do so would betray our children and future generations. Some may still deny the overwhelming judgment of science, but none can avoid the devastating impact of raging fires, and crippling drought, and more powerful storms. The path towards sustainable energy sources will be long and sometimes difficult. But American cannot resist this transition. We must lead it. We cannot cede to other nations the technology that will power new jobs and new industries. We must claim its promise. That’s how we will maintain our economic vitality and our national treasure, our forests and waterways, our crop lands and snow capped peaks. That is how we will preserve our planet, commanded to our care by God. That’s what will lend meaning to the creed our fathers once declared.

Note how climate change with Obama keeps leading to energy, as always.

Editorial, The New York Times, “New Day on Climate Change”, Jan 26, 2009:

In one dramatic stroke, President Obama has removed any doubts that he intends to break sharply from President George W. Bush’s policies on yet another vital issue — this time repudiating Mr. Bush’s passive approach to climate change.[…] after eight years of inaction, this is a wonderful start.

Michael D. Shear, The New York Times in “Obama Sets Goal to Broaden Equality”, Jan 21, 2013:

The president also singled out the issue of climate change, a subject that he raised in his first Inaugural Address but has struggled to make progress on in the face of fierce opposition in Congress and in countries around the world. In his 2009 speech, he warned about environmental threats to the planet; on Monday, he vowed to confront them.

“We will respond to the threat of climate change, knowing that the failure to do so would betray our children and future generations,” he said. “Some may still deny the overwhelming judgment of science, but none can avoid the devastating impact of raging fires, and crippling drought, and more powerful storms.”

Mr. Obama left the details of his second-term agenda for his State of the Union speech in three weeks. But he hinted at the two major legislative battles that he has promised to wage: reform of the immigration system and new laws intended to reduce gun violence.

Note how climate doesn’t make it into the “two major legislative battles” ahead.


Four years ago, I surely thought AGW would

slowly wither away, ironically under an AGWer President just as it kept on growing during the 8 years of an anti-AGW White House Resident

In truth, it disappeared completely from the Presidential campaign. Is AGW coming back now? Or are these renewed empty promises a surefire sign the President doesn’t have much of positive he himself believes in his grasp?

How to get Bully Scholarship Edition working on Windows 8 Pro

  1. Put the CD in
  2. Open the Properties of “setup.exe”
  3. Under Compatibility select “Windows Vista SP 2”
  4. Install the game
  5. Reboot the PC
  6. Download patch 1.2, run the executable
  7. Reboot the PC

Laden’s stumbling around his own fabrication

There are so many people commenting at WUWT, I seldom if ever write anything here about it.

After all this is a blog for turning otherwise-unturned stones so little appears that has been already dealt by others.

However, my fifteen readers know I cannot tolerate bullying. And in the case of Laden’s filthy anti-WUWT post, echoed in other places such as unwittingly-self-proclaimed climate loser Romm, it’s been a clear case of bullying.

All details of the story here and here. Basically Laden has tried to manipulate his readership by showing a screenshot of the WUWT site cut exactly in the only way that could put the site, and Anthony Watts, in a bad light.

Laden has retorted to the obvious by puerile statements such as

[Watts] is upset because in a screen shot of him talking about a totally absurd pseudo-scientific claim that should have been rejected out of hand, I failed to include enough of the post to show that he was skeptical about the claim […]

I did not need to show that Anthony Watts was skeptical because that wasn’t the point. The point was that it was funny that he was looking at this claim at all. But, fine, if he really needs me to include the snippet where he expresses his laughable skepticism, I can do that. Here, Watts says.

This looks to be a huge story, the first evidence of extraterrestrial life, if it holds up.

… thus indicating skepticism. I’m sorry I did not include that sentence in the … wait, wait, hold on a sec. Hey, I DID include that phase about “if it holds up” in the original post? But Watts is saying that I did not include any of his skeptical language.

However, Laden being disingenuous, a liar or a stupid ignoramus is demonstrated by a simple observation.

The expression “if it holds up” doesn’t indicate skepticism. Nobody who reports astrology, homeopathy or UFO sightings indicates skepticism by saying “if it holds up“.

OTOH everybody who has learned skepticism from the likes of Randi, Shermer, Sagan (and Plait) knows that skepticism means saying “extraordinary claims need extraordinary evidence” or an equivalent statement.

That is exactly what appears in WUWT a single line below the curiously cut screenshot by Laden.

I [Watts] would remind readers that “extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence“. This needs to be confirmed by others in the science community before it can be taken seriously.

IOW as Laden must have known (unless he truly knows nothing of Randi, Sagan and the others), inclusion of a few inches more would have invalidated his argument completely.

I rest my case.

ps to the enlightened souls proclaiming that the “Meteorite with life” story should not have been published in the first place, see how it has been picked up by MSN. You can also check at the BA blog that the story reached Plait presumably independently from WUWT.

pps IMNSHO the “Meteorite with life” story is complete bunk and the only sin committed by Watts (and Willis Eschenbach) has been their unfamiliarity with Fred Hoyle student N. C. Wickramasinghe. His name is well-known among astronomy buffs and not as a source of likely-true findings.

UPDATE ppps Wickramasinghe’s dreams picked up also by The Huffington Post (look down and hard before Plait and any skepticism show up in that article).

Scientific guide on how to scientifically mention the scientific pause^Hstandstill in global temperatures

Have global temperatures paused in their warming rise? Nonsense, according to SkS. Are we experiencing a standstill in global temperatures in their warming rise? Yes, according to Hansen et al. Have global temperatures continued to increase in their warming rise? No, according to a PR guy meddling with statistics.

So who’s right, and who’s wrong? Well, it depends the on context.

Temps at standstill, and global warming stopped” = WRONG

Temps at standstill, but global warming will resume later” = RIGHT

In fact, you can say pretty much anything and, as long as you add the mandatory “, but global warming will resume later“, the biggest scientific institutions in the world will support you wholeheartedly, maybe Bob Ward too.

Let’s give it a try..

“Polar bears are ok, but global warming will resume later

“Arctic won’t be free of ice any time soon, but global warming will resume later

“A lot of model-based literature is rubbish, but global warming will resume later

“West Ham playing superbly, but global warming will resume later

“Elvis is alive, but global warming will resume later

“Porcine and bovine flight sightings, but global warming will resume later

See? It’s easy, and it gets you a free ride indeed. Citizen science at its best!

Votare PDL Perché: l’Argumentum ad Excludenda

Votare PDL perché? Eppure non è molto difficile.

In due parole, perché non ha senso votare chi non vuole il tuo voto.

Quali sono le alternative disponibili:

  • Non voto: questo è un modo di dire che non importa chi vinca. Quindi, è un voto per chi vince. E non parliamo per favore della bislacca idea della “Dichiarazione del Non Voto“. Scelta illogica.
  • Grillo e Cinque Stelle: seguaci delle idee strampalate di Casaleggio. Andranno in Parlamento determinati a non fare accordi con nessuno, e quindi costretti a stare zitti. Chiusi al mondo esterno, si ritengono settariamente superiori. Impossibili da votare per chi è stato nel PDL.
  • Ingroia: un gruppo di ex-Giudici così interessati alla legalità e alla Costituzione da non pensarci due volte a trasferirsi dalle aule processuali al dibattito televisivo. Determinati a portare avanti le loro battaglie in altro consesso. Ciechi e sordi ai problemi della Giustizia al di là di quelli di categoria. Impossibili da votare per chi è stato nel PDL.
  • Bersani e il PD: reduci cattocomunisdemocratdisinistadessosolodemocratici che hanno cestinato l’idea di Renzi di aprire al voto già PDL, voto che quindi NON vogliono. Basterebbe questo a renderli impossibili da votare per chi è stato nel PDL. Poi aggiungiamo la patrimoniale e la morte collettiva per tasse, e stiamo a posto.
  • Monti: dopo aver tenuto l’indice di produzione industriale in un trend negativo per quindici-mesi-quindici, alleato a Casini e Fini. Descrive gli elettori PDL come topi. Davvero e assolutamente impossibile da votare per chi è stato nel PDL.
  • Giannino e FARE: conosce tutte le soluzioni e le applicherebbe anche, ma passa il suo tempo a spiegare a tutti perché non sia d’accordo con ciascuno dei tutti. Spreca inutilmente energie per unirsi all’antiberlusconismo. Magari un’altra volta: impossibile da votare per chi è stato nel PDL.

Silvio B avrà i suoi difetti, ma le elezioni non sono mai un concorso per scoprire la persona più adatta a governare fra tutti i cittadini della nazione. Sono un modo per scegliere il meglio che c’è.

Al cospetto dei concorrenti, e indipendentemente dal suo programma elettorale, Berlusconi rimane l’unica scelta.

The only thing to worry about is worry itself (and densely networked self-selecting intellectuals…)

or so tweeted on Jan 14 Mark Lynas of various fame including a Six Degrees” book I analyzed numerically a few years back, and recent GMO repentance.

One should be forgiven for finding the juxtaposition peculiar to say the least. Shouldn’t Mark be wary of scares, having just discovered years of activism were not based on science?

Or perhaps he belongs to the category of people that really need to find a worry to be scared about, if only to be activists about something. I suggested

It is actually the right time for making such a guess. has chosen angst for its 2013 theme


(Twitter hashtag: #edgeq13)

There are 152 contributions at that site, too many to mention and probably too many to make a wager about too. Here’s an initial list:

  • Chinese eugenics
  • Black swans
  • Ingenuous viruses
  • Rejection of Darwinism applied to humans
  • Misplaced worries
  • Catastrophic risks
  • Misinformation about science
  • Planetary catastrophes
  • Collective delusions
  • Internet drivel
  • Abandoning politics
  • Debt implosion
  • Search engines as arbiters of truth
  • Shortage of valuable mates
  • Tech fascism
  • Censorship
  • Data-controlling power
  • Loss of patience
  • Underpopulation
  • End of big experiments
  • Tools too strong for our own good
  • Infectious diseases
  • Search for ecstatic experiences
  • Pessimism that makes us accept human destruction as inevitable
  • Cultural homogenisation
  • Misunderstanding free will
  • Prolonged lifespans
  • Limits in science
  • Anti-intellectualism
  • Criminal-controlled states
  • Misunderstanding of probability
  • Missing out on non-human sentience
  • Myths about men
  • Science by social media
  • Public lying and cheating
  • The Singularity
  • Nuclear war
  • Squandered opportunities
  • Wrong incentives
  • Misunderstanding of quantum mechanics
  • Enforced global psychiatric standards
  • Too much focus on novel findings in science

On the positive side, it’s not just a collection of miserabilism. I particularly liked this one:

Unfriendly Physics, Monsters From The Id, And Self-Organizing Collective Delusions
John Tooby
Founder of field of Evolutionary Psychology; Co-director, Center for Evolutionary Psychology, Professor of Anthropology, UC Santa Barbara

[…]Because intellectuals are densely networked in self-selecting groups whose members’ prestige is linked (for example, in disciplines, departments, theoretical schools, universities, foundations, media, political/moral movements, and other guilds), we incubate endless, self-serving elite superstitions, with baleful effects: Biofuel initiatives starve millions of the planet’s poorest. Economies around the world still apply epically costly Keynesian remedies despite the decisive falsification of Keynesian theory by the post-war boom (government spending was cut by 2/3, 10 million veterans dumped into the labor force, while Samuelson predicted “the greatest period of unemployment and industrial dislocation which any economy has ever faced”). I personally have been astonished over the last four decades by the fierce resistance of the social sciences to abandoning the blank slate model in the face of overwhelming evidence that it is false. As Feynman pithily put it, “Science is the belief in the ignorance of experts.” […]


Insanity in the media (Australian temperature colours, and beyond…)

Much ado about new colours added to the Australian coloured temperature maps.

Then one reads (in a Revkin DotEarth post maddeningly relying on Joe Romm and Jeff Masters) “For the moment, while extreme and widespread heat is predicted to persist, the country looks to be avoiding the new purple zone“. So they could have added 15 colours for all we should care.

Then one reads (in a cursory NYT archive search on “australia heat”) the following piece from January 3, 1960:

Australia has a heat wave – SYDNEY, Australia, Jan, 2 (AP) – A heat wave gripped large areas of eastern and central Australia today. The highest official reading was 123 degrees at Codnadatta, in central Australia.


Who knows how many more examples of heat wave in early January in Australia one could find. But who cares.

What matters is that Global Warming has transmogrified into “it’s hot in summertime”.

Insanity at the IPCC

A comment by geoffchambers left at the Bishop Hill blog post about Donna Laframboise’s latest IPCC exposé:

A quick look, more or less at random, at “WG2 chapter 10.2.1. Energy Demand” suggests to me that the whole IPCC process is insane, and that anyone taking it seriously is […].

Take the introductory paragraph:

The general patterns are that in countries and regions with already high incomes, climate-related changes in energy demand will be primarily driven by increasing temperatures: heavier use of air-conditioning (hence increasing electricity demand) in warm climatic zones, and lower demands for various energy forms (electricity, gas, coal, oil) in temperate and cold climatic zones, while increasing incomes will play a marginal role.

Take a random ten year period in the future for a random country or region, and think about it. Average income will probably increase by anywhere between 0 and 100%. Gas and oil prices may go up 100% or down 50%. Add in political change, technical change, population growth somwhere between -5% and +20%, and anything else you can think of. Then try to estimate what effect a rise in temperature of one fifth of one degree will have on the use of air conditioners.

It’s insane. And the same insanity is repeated page after page for three thousand pages every five years.

Why does the Met Office forecast drought when it’s been dry and flooding when it’s been wet?

Because climate scientists are always right…yes they are!.

Voto e Italiani all’Estero: Piccoli Partiti Perdono

Centratissimo post di Stefano Fugazzi oggi sul tema “POLITICHE 2013: RICOMPATTARE IL CENTRODESTRA ALL’ESTERO“.

Per il voto degli Italiani all’Estero infatti solo un bipolarismo secco ha senso e significato – chi divide, distrugge. Chi fosse contrario a questo sta semplicemente chiedendo ai suoi elettori di votare per non ottenere niente. Peggio: chi desse priorità a ciò che ci divide a Roma invece che a quanto di unisce in Provincia, non ha evidentemente a cuore gli interessi di noi abitanti della Provincia.

Il problema di ogni Piccolo Partito è politico. Pochi capiscono come i meccanismi all’estero siano diversi da quelli in Italia, ma provo a spiegare. Un Piccolo Partito non può ottenere altro che nutrire la vanità di un paio di individui.

Pensiamo infatti se facesse “cappotto” e facesse eleggere tutti i deputati e senatori all’estero. Purtroppo all’estero abbiamo però solo una manciata di persone da eleggere. In Parlamento ci sarebbe del Piccolo Partito comunque uno sparuto manipolo incapace di ottenere molto se non fortunato come ai bei tempi di Prodi e del governo sempre a rischio di cadere (e che infatti durò pochissimo).

Ma naturalmente è impossibile acchiapparsi tutti i seggi. Al massimo il Piccolo Partito avrà uno o due eletti. Costoro da soli in Parlamento varranno meno di zero.

Quindi il Piccolo Partito ha bisogno di allearsi. Niente PD o PDL (altrimenti non ha ragione di esistere), rimane (all’estero) l’UDC. Il partito del 6% o meno. Il partito di Monti e dei preti. Altro che “italiani all’estero”.

Facciamo allora che il Piccolo Partito abbia il suo deputato e il suo senatore nell’UDC. Per far passare una loro proposta dovranno convincere i propri, poi sperare che quelli dell’UDC siano convinti abbastanza da convincere di quella proposta anche gli altri partiti con cui saranno al governo, sempreché siano al governo. Quindi il deputato Piccolo Partito e il senatore Piccolo Partito saranno praticamente comprimari anche nelle loro stesse proposte di legge.

Alla fine votare per partitucoli all’estero significa far eleggere un candidato PD se sei di destra e PDL se sei di sinistra. Con l’aggiunta di dividere l’elettorato e togliere importanza anche a quelli eletti nei partiti maggiori.

Tutto questo per cosa? Per la vanità di presentarsi come candidati, l’hubris di andare a Roma come eletti per poi passare cinque anni alla ricerca di qualcosa o qualcuno cui aggrapparsi per non tornare alla vecchia vita. Con tanti saluti ai problemi degli Italiani all’estero.

Chi ha a cuore i problemi degli italiani all’estero, rompa ogni indugio quindi e torni al PDL. Il resto, è vanità.

Addio, @SenatoreMonti !

(con tante scuse a tal Alessandro M.)

Addio, Monti sorgente da Bilderberg e Napolitano, ed elevato al cielo dalla UE; cima dai risultati inuguali, noti a chi è ti è stato sottoposto, ed impressi nella sua mente, non meno che lo sia l’aumento delle tasse a se e ai suoi più familiari; torrenti di denari prelevati, de’ quali distingue il dolore, come il disperare delle voci domestiche; boiardi sparsi ed opulenti sul pendìo del disastro e della recessione, rifocillati di risorse da ogni parte mentre subiamo come branchi di pecore pascenti; addio!

Quanto è gioia il passo di chi, da te schiacciato, ti vede allontanar! Alla fantasia di pensarti andato via volontariamente, pieno di speranza di trovare un altro posto dove sarai osannato, in egli si aggiungono, in quel momento, i sogni di poter risparmiare almeno il proprio; egli si maraviglia d’essersi potuto lasciar abbindolare, e mai tornerebbe indietro, anche se pensasse che, un giorno, potrebbe tornare lo spread.

Quanto più scompari dietro cattedre e convegni, il suo occhio si apre felice, gustoso e attivo, dalla ritrovata ampiezza di opportunita’ multiforme; l’aria gli pareva gravosa e morta, ora s’inoltra attento e speranzoso nelle città di nuovo operose; case vendute come case, strade che si aprono in strade, pare che gli ridiano il respiro; e davanti agli edifizi bramati dallo straniero, pensa, con desiderio pregno, al campicello del suo paese, alla casuccia a cui ha già messo gli occhi addosso, da gran tempo, e che comprerà, si’ comprerà, tornando ricco di fiducia e speranza, perche’ senza Monti.

Triste e’ il pensiero invece per chi non aveva mai spinto al di là di te neppure un desiderio fuggitivo, chi aveva composto in te tutti i disegni dell’avvenire, e n’è sbalzato adesso con Fini e Casini, e Montezemolo, da una forza perversa! Chi, staccato a un tempo dalle più care abitudini, e disturbato nelle più care speranze, si e’ affidato a te Monti, per avviarsi in traccia di sconosciuti che non ha mai desiderato di conoscere, e non hanno mai combinato niente in politica e non può adesso prigioniero dei Centrini e dei Perdenti con l’immaginazione arrivare a un momento stabilito per il ritorno al bipolarismo che solo puo’ pensar di fare!

Addio, IMU sulla casa natìa, dove, sedendo, con un pensiero occulto, s’imparò a distinguere dal rumore de’ passi comuni il rumore d’un passo aspettato di Equitalia con un misterioso timore.

Addio, disoccupazione sempre sentita straniera, lavoro mancante sogguardato tante volte alla sfuggita, passando, e non senza rossore; nuovamente la mente si figura un soggiorno tranquillo e perpetuo di cittadino attivo e partecipe.

Addio, inflazione. Addio, perdita di ogni rispetto agli occhi di chi preferisce il tecnico al democraticamente eletto. Addio, calo della produttivita’ e della produzione, dove l’animo tornò tante volte disperato, piangendo nel buio le lodi della liberta’ d’impresa a Monti invisa; dov’era promesso, preparato un mai visto decreto sviluppo; dove il sospiro segreto della felicita’ doveva essere solennemente benedetto, e la ripresa venir comandata, oramai quasi santa; addio! Chi toglieva a noi tanta giocondità è perduto; e non turbera’ piu’ la gioia de’ nostri figli, se non per esser loro monito per una più certa Italia e più grande.

Science and Politics: Giving Up the Delusion

The delusion, that is, that Science can be somehow shielded from Politics.

Science is big and needs public money. Public money distribution is dictated by policy. Policies depend on politics. Therefore science depends on politics.

Therefore science is bound to be politicized. In the US it will forever slide between all-Dems and all-GOP according to contemporary mores.

In the UK, Science will remain forever prisoner of the Establishment. In Italy, it will be allowed to do whatever doesn’t hurt whoever is in charge of the “control room”.

The only way out is to make Science become the Fourth Branch of Government.

Any snake oil salesman…

Perfect comment by Ferret at WUWT about the latest scientific disaster at COP18, the enthusiasm for an absurd anti-exhalation mask:

It does show the mindset of these people who are making decisions. Any snake oil salesman can earn a pretty penny from these people as long as you act like you are saving the world.

That’s why “saving the world” is bound to ruin it.

ps I wonder how many would sign a petition to convert all cars and power plants to emit CO instead of CO2?

Richard D North on 28Gate

Richard D North, the one person who had volunteered to Tony Newbery details about the BBC/CMEP seminar of 26 Jan 2006 as early as Dec 2008, has published some remarks about 28Gate in a comment at his site:

I have just caught up with [28Gate]. […]

I haven’t quite worked out why the BBC were so keen to keep private the list of participants to the seminar. It may not be sinister or stupid. I am fairly sure that I feel some scruple toward any publication of details of “Chatham House” seminars. I know that one mustn’t ascribe particular remarks to particular participants. And, actually, I don’t think I have ever named the participants at such a gig. I would be inclined to check that they were OK with being named before I did so.

I am pleased that nothing I have heard about the seminar contradicts what I did recall and say about it. I did find the event quite depressing and I was peeved that the possibility of my helping to introducing the BBC and its audiences to all sorts of interesting ways of thinking rationally about climate change were not advanced by my attendance. I did think and did say that reporting on climate change would improve as broadcasters realised that their audiences did not want to do very much about it. I think that has come to pass.

Something happened on the way to Climate Change heaven…

What if (C)AGW is a big hoax and we create a better world for nothing? So they were asking at COP15 in Copenhagen, Denmark in 2009.

What indeed. But it’s not 2009 any longer. What have we learned?

  1. Enthusiasm for green projects has already damaged the environment eg by producing biofuels from forests and especially rainforest
  2. The Mohammed al-Ajami story has shown that human rights are too easily trumped by green considerations
  3. Green thinking has let dubious claims pollute the scientific discourse, or even kill it
  4. The BBC has lost its face and a lot of money for nothing at all in 28Gate
  5. There is lots of aimless activity on the CO2 emission side
  6. Plenty of bankruptcies and broken green promises in the fields of energy generation and cars

The list could continue for ever and ever. What if there is a Brave New Climate World in front of us instead?

COP18 – BREAKING NEWS – A turkey voting for Christmas as a few dozen protest…ahem…demonstrate peacefully

The protest for Climate Justice has taken place in Doha, Qatar, during the Saturday break of COP18 talks. It’s the first ever protest demonstration held in Qatar, a phenomenon greatly helped by the support given to the protest by the local Government.

Otherwise, the organizers might have found themselves in perpetual State-paid accommodation, like poet Mohammed al-Ajami a few days ago during COP18 among the general indifference by hypocrites parading as shameless eco-activists and greenie-journalists.

Google News reports two links right now as News for “Mohammed al-Ajami COP18”: Democracy Now (by mistake, evidently) and Limes (in Italian – the only news outlet capable of mentioning in the same article the two Big Things happening in Qatar right now ).


Actually, no protest has taken place in Doha. From Karl Ritter on the Huffington Post (where the video of the rally has not been made available to all):

Khalid al-Mohannadi, one of the organizers, noted that “it’s not a protest, it’s a march for peace.”

That was Mr al-Mohannadi, from today on known as Abu Deek Rumi. (note to Qatari censors: that was a joke).

Anyway…the people-formerly-known-as-protesters marching now for peace. Why not. One can only assume sarcasm, and also in Ritter’s description of the demonstrators as a “well-behaved crowd“. In fact, the suspicion (of a veil of journalistic irony) arises when one looks at the actual crowd, reported as “a few hundred people” (video available to all at Brisbane Times).

The fact that sympathetic journalists can only talk of a very limited number of protesters peace marchers means there were even fewer people than a few hundred. From the video, an estimate varies between 60 and 150 perhaps (addendum: this is because every shot of the demonstration covers one or two seconds at most, exactly what happens when the crowd is very small). Plus a guy dressed in local attire (Mr Rumi, I presume?).

The metallic, prefabricated female voice on Brisbane Times makes perfect sense in that context.

Not much for Climate Justice, uh? If that’s what happens to it, with its own proponents putting it more or less aside not to displease or agitate the hosts, then really there is no such a thing as Climate Justice.

If I were an inhabitant of the Northern regions of the Sakha Republic, I would be mightily disappointed by that…

The danger of ideas…

(comment posted at – in English)

I really do not understand what’s Alessio moaning about.

Tim [Cullen] had several ideas and researched them. He published his thoughts (twice) on the Talkshop and Guido [Guidi] deemed them interesting (or perhaps, intriguing) enough to see them reposted [on].

Is Tim wrong? Who knows. Is he wrong on each and every aspect of his ideas? Who knows. But AFAIK Alessio’s point is not about Tim’s wrongness, rather a general cry against the publication of ideas he (Alessio) finds wrong.

Now…what is the danger there? Will hordes of Climatemonitor acolytes jump off as one man and start suggesting little children, grandmas and other unsuspecting quasi-skeptics that all solar science is wrong “because a guy called Tim says so“? Will physics faculties get their fundings slashed, astronomers start selling hamburgers, satellites [end up] burned deliberately in the atmosphere because of Tim’s (and Guido’s) shaming of a profession and of a science by way of a blog post or two?


As Douglas Hofstadter is fond of saying, there is only one way to get the truly good ideas published, and it involves getting a million not-so-good ideas published too. If we started censoring off whoever sounds unorthodox, we would smother solar science (any science!) ourselves in the process.

These are considerations of pure and basic logic.

And whatever the true figures behind Tim’s ideas, those ideas are obviously intriguing per-se. These have been my take-home messages wrt them: what if SORCE is not measuring just-and-only TSI? What if atmospheric effects interfere, what if the data is affected by the position in the Earth’s orbit (i.e. by the time of the year)? Have all those effects been taken into account? Is SORCE’s raw data processed accordingly?

Perhaps the answers are yes some, others no. But whatever the outcome, I for one am grateful to Tim for having been made possible to me and possibly others, to ask those questions: because at the end we will of course be much wiser for them.

Meet the COP in COP18 – A Secret Policeman (yes, it’s another disaster for environmental journalism)

How apt to learn that as COP18 struts along in Doha, Qatar towards the first ever protesting demonstration in the country (organized, as it happens, by the local Government), a poet is jailed for eternity or a little less….in Doha, Qatar. And after a secret trial where he could not defend himself.

Nevermind…when there is a planet to save who cares about a jasmine?

Perhaps Mohammed Al-Ajami can spend his newly-found free time writing an eulogy of Greenpeace, thereby earning a get-out-of-jail card.

In the meanwhile notice how Reuters talks about the imprisonment but does not mention at all the fact that 17,000 people are in Qatar at this very moment. The BBC fares better this time around but remarkably only speaks of “a major international climate change conference” thereby making sure nobody will find the inconvenient news when searching for “COP18” (or even “global warming”). And The Guardian with Amy Goodman takes no notice at all of any poet.

Ms Goodman has reportedly been seen “contemplating”.

Myself, I have learned this only from an Italian climate-related mailing list, posted by FS on the back of an article published in the website of a solidly-warmist newspaper (check it out in original or with Google Translate, and you will find COP18 well mentioned indeed).

I guess at least in Italy, human rights still take precedence over climate change hype.


CAGW Science – or what if Velikovsky had won

The LRB recently dedicated some thoughts to the Science/Pseudoscience battle at the times of Immanuel Velikovsky. It’s especially interesting considering what has happened since, with catastrophism ruling for years in matters of climate science.

The review (by Steven Shapin) is available for free and in full at the LRB website.

It really reads like a slightly modified version of contemporary CAGW, starting from its enormous, mysterious popularity, inclusive of some cult-like admiration for The Man:

[…] By the late 1960s and 1970s, Velikovsky’s books must have been in most American college dorm rooms. […] Velikovskianism had gained so much traction in America that in 1974 there was a huge set-piece debate over his views at the annual meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science. His scientific opponents reckoned he was ‘quite out of his tree’, while some of his acolytes – and these included an assortment of scientists with appropriate credentials – were of the opinion that Velikovsky was ‘perhaps the greatest brain that our race has produced’.

There was also something akin to the invention of the Hockey Stick accompanied by the deletion of the Medieval Warming Period:

Although Worlds in Collision was a pastiche of comparative mythology and planetary astronomy, its major purpose was a radical reconstruction of history.

Mainstream science of course was not on Velikovsky’s side. Still, the behavior of the “community” won’t surprise anybody familiar with Climategate:

Elite scientists, notably at Harvard, reckoned that they might be able to control what Macmillan published when it was represented as science. A letter-writing campaign was organised to get Macmillan to withdraw from its agreement to publish the book; credible threats were made to boycott Macmillan textbooks; hostile reviews were arranged; questions were raised about whether the book had been peer-reviewed (it had); and, when Worlds in Collision was published anyway, further (successful) pressure was exerted to make Macmillan wash its hands of the thing and shift copyright to another publisher. The editor who had handled the book was let go, and a scientist who provided a blurb and planned a New York planetarium show based on Velikovsky’s theories – admittedly not the sharpest knife in the scientific drawer – was forced out of his museum position and never had a scientific job again.

Just like with Climategate, none of that made the “elite scientists” look any good:

From an uncharitable point of view, this looked like a conspiracy, a conspiracy contrived by dark forces bent on the suppression of free thought and different perspectives – and the Velikovskians took just that view. […] ‘Perhaps in the entire history of science,’ Velikovsky said, ‘there was not a case of a similar violent reaction on the part of the scientific world towards a published work.’ Newsweek wrote about the spectacle of scientific ‘Professors as Suppressors’ and the Saturday Evening Post made sport of the establishment reaction as ‘one of the signal events of this year’s “silly season”’. […]

Einstein, in whose Princeton house Velikovsky was a frequent visitor, was one of them. Interviewed just before his death by the Harvard historian of science I.B. Cohen, Einstein said that Worlds in Collision ‘really isn’t a bad book. The only trouble with it is, it is crazy.’ Yet he thought, as Cohen put it, that ‘bringing pressure to bear on a publisher to suppress a book was an evil thing to do.’

So why would the scientists be doing evil things?

It was American scientists who went ballistic over Velikovsky, not historians, and one purpose of Michael Gordin’s probing and intelligent The Pseudoscience Wars is to ask why they responded to Velikovsky as they did. […] Scientists in the years after World War Two were upset by Velikovsky because, Gordin argues, they felt insecure, uncertain of the new authority and influence they had apparently gained by building the bomb and winning the war. […]

First, there was concern that political support might translate into political control. […] And there were the McCarthyite witch-hunts, some of which targeted distinguished scientists. How much autonomy did American scientists actually have? How vulnerable was that autonomy to the dictates of politicians and to the delusions of popular culture? No one could be sure.[…]

We know that the climate answer to that has been a full cooperation between some politicians and some scientists, mutually supporting each other.

In another analogy with the present, the pseudoscience side went for self-fulfilling diagnoses of mental illness among opponents:

The greatest ingenuity of Velikovsky’s thought lay in its merging of naturalistic catastrophism and psychoanalytic theory. […] what was the violence of scientists’ opposition to Velikovsky’s ideas but a persistence of that same tendency to deny the catastrophic truth of what had happened to the human race, how very close it had come to obliteration? The fact that the scientists were leagued against him was precisely what Velikovsky’s theories predicted. It was further evidence that he was right. What the scientists needed, indeed what the culture as a whole needed, was therapy, a cure for collective amnesia.

Shapin turns the table around, and embarks in a good explanation on why so many people are attracted to catastrophism, an explanation that applies to Velikovsky fans like to Gore supporters:

Here are the reasons for the enormous appeal of Velikovsky’s theories to Cold War America, and, specifically, to the young, the angry and the anxious. Lecturing to campus audiences, Velikovsky told the students what they already knew: the world was not an orderly or a safe place; Armageddon had happened and could happen again:

  • The belief that we are living in an orderly universe, that nothing happened to this Earth and the other planets since the beginning, that nothing will happen till the end, is a wishful thinking that fills the textbooks … And so it is only wishful thinking that we are living in a safe, never perturbed, solar system and a safe, never perturbed past.

Alfred Kazin, writing in the New Yorker, understood that this was part of Velikovsky’s appeal, and tellingly linked the great pseudoscientist with the Doomsday warnings of orthodox atomic scientists: Velikovsky’s work ‘plays right into the small talk about universal destruction that is all around us now’, he said, ‘and it emphasises the growing tendency in this country to believe that the physicists’ irresponsible scare warnings must be sound.’

The review ends with a brief discussion on how to evaluate what is scientific knowledge (with Shapin strangely unfamiliar with Sagan’s famous quote “Extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence“), plus a history of how the term “pseudoscience” came into being, once again reminding the reader of contemporary debates, in this case about blogging:

By 1964, some of Velikovsky’s scientific critics were drawing a […] lesson from the affair: the nuclear chemist Harold Urey was concerned ‘about the lack of control in scientific publication … Today anyone can publish anything,’ and it was impossible to tell the signal of truth from the noise of imposters. We must return to the past, Urey urged, when there was a proper intellectual class system and a proper system of quality control: ‘Science has always been aristocratic.’ In a society insisting on its democratic character, that was not a wildly popular position, though doubtless it had appealed to the scientists who tried to prevent the original publication of Velikovsky’s book and who sought to block his later efforts to publish in mainstream scientific journals.

Even the very end of the review is still relevant:

if it struts around the barnyard loudly protesting that it’s a duck, that it possesses the very essence of duckness, that it’s more authentically a duck than all those other orange-billed, web-footed, swimming fowl, then you’ve got a right to be suspicious: this duck may be a quack.

And that’s where mentions of 2,500 IPCC scientists and 97% consensus spring to mind.


Where no topic is left unturned