On Beer

mmmmm... Otto's sumatra stout.

'nuff said.


On the cult of global warming deniers

I've put down some of my thoughts here from time to time about global warming. Let me summarize my latest -- I've attended a few talks lately by some of the scientists at Penn State involved in energy research. This included a talk by Richard Alley, one of the most academically decorated faculty at Penn State, who is a co-author of the IPCC report and part of the team that shared the Nobel Prize with Al Gore.

You can watch his talk here (although it's only in Windoze Media format, which is ridiculous).

The scientists have been delivering a universal message during their talks so far: that global warming is real, it is human induced, all of the scientific community is in consensus, and its effects are happening even faster than the most pessimistic predictions. Richard was asked if he would estimate how many scientists in the community fall on the other side of the argument, and his answer was zero. In his talk, he noted that scientists use words like "the evidence suggests", "it is likely that", "it is very likely that", etc., to give a feel for how strongly they believe the data. He used the phrase "it is unequivocal" about human-induced global warming. UNEQUIVOCAL. How many times have you seen that phrase used in the ApJ?

After hearing all of these talks, I find it embarrassing how the scientific community has failed our citizens. We have let this argument get lumped in with wiretapping, FISA, and "enhanced interrogation", so the decision about whether or not we need to do something about climate change is made by your voter registration card. I know that this is a problem, but it was driven home this morning. In our local paper, there was an article written by a local about how global warming is likely going to have a series of startling effects on the fish & game industry, which is so important to PA. Read the comments. It is a sampling of people who think that the author is an idiot for buying the global warming "myth". My favorite comment is the person who feels that (paraphrasing) us worrying about this is because of our culture's need for instantaneous gratification -- he thinks that "Nature" will solve this problem. He's right -- Nature is solving the problem, the question is if we will like the way Nature solves it.

I'm just as guilty as everyone else - I drive a light truck, I heat my house, I'm writing this post with my laptop plugged into the wall and my wireless base station connecting me to the internet. I've also reinsulated my attic, insulated my water heater, changed every bulb in my house to a CFL, and would install solar panels on my roof if I could only find a vendor to do it. You can laugh at me all you want, but I figure that if spending some of my disposable income on energy saving technology might help (even if it might only have a 1% chance of maintaining our planet's habitability) it's worth it.

If you watch Richard's talk and still think this is all some big conspiracy hatched by Al Gore, you should be ashamed of yourself. I understand that skepticism is the heart of science. I am not asking people to stop being skeptical of data with error bars and model predictions of future climate, what I am asking is that you apply the same level of rigor to your evaluation of this conclusion as you would to any result. You know, if Rush Limbaugh went on the radio and told me that Ursa Minor has a mass to light ratio of 100, I would evaluate his sources and decide how their arguments stack up to the rest of the published literature. It's not too hard to find folks who are stubbornly holding on to the early, very high M/L estimates of Ursa Minor, and I'm sure they'd be happy to be given a chance to go on radio and TV and scoff at the rest of community who refuses to acknowledge their vastly superior work that proves Ursa Minor must have an M/L of 100. Do you think if the cosmological redshift somehow became a political issue the non-cosmological redshift crowd wouldn't do everything they could to get on Rush's show?

Unfortunately, I know that there are folks who will read this, shake their head, and say "just another liberal academic who buys whatever Al Gore tells him". That's the problem we need to solve. Then we can start trying to reverse climate change.


On tidal disruption of satellite galaxies

It's fun to be on APOD and Digg.

On quotes

There's a lot going on in politics right now that absolutely disgusts me. Even though it is such a little thing, this quote from Romney made me downright angry.

...I'd forestall the launch of a national campaign and, frankly, I'd make it easier for Senator Clinton or Obama to win. Frankly, in this time of war, I simply cannot let my campaign be a part of aiding a surrender to terror...

It pains me to even print it.

What a jerk.