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Comment Barry Bickmore has the Scoop (Score 3, Informative) 954

Prof Bickmore of BYU has been working hard at debunking Spencer's endless efforts to find nothing where there is something (after all, an easier task than the other way around). The latest is here, and a catalog of Bickmore's readings of Spencer is here.

Here's more: Climate Change Debunked? Not So Fast

The paper was mostly unnoticed in the public sphere until the Forbes blogger declared it "extremely important."

Dessler, the A&M climatologist said that he doubted the research would shift the political debate around global warming.

"It makes the skeptics feel good, it irritates the mainstream climate science community, but by this point, the debate over climate policy has nothing to do with science," Dessler said. "It's essentially a debate over the role of government," surrounding issues of freedom versus regulation.

Spencer himself is up front about the politics surrounding his work. In July, he wrote on his blog that his job "has helped save our economy from the economic ravages of out-of-control environmental extremism," and said he viewed his role as protecting "the interests of the taxpayer."

Slashdot editors, please try to remember that a single paper normally doesn't overturn scientific understanding, and try to avoid habitual hype sources. Thanks.

Comment Re:Visible and Optional v Invisible and On-By-Defa (Score 1) 408

Yes. Clippy lives!

I found Facebook absolutely and infuriatingly unusable until somebody pointed out that you can route around its filtering with the "Most Recent" link which simply queues up anything you might be interested in sequentially.

Somehow Google is not so obviously enervating, but I agree that we should be able to turn off its helpfulness and force it to a user-neutral search sometimes.

Comment A problem Wave uniquely solved (Score 1) 350

I run a closed mailing list on a controversial topic (climate change) with a history of the opposing camp stealing and publishing private emails (that some of you may know about). Participants on the list are sophisticated about physical climatology and/or climate policy but have varying and sometimes low sophistication about computing. Almost certainly some of them spend some time getting email on compromised machines. We would like to be able to have private conversations among members of the list about projects and initiatives of various sorts. Some of these may be projects that people opposed to us who have demonstrated a lack of respect for privacy may be interested in spying on. The solution I came up with was to announce waves on the mailing list; google handles the security and shows who is subscribing to the message. It isn't perfect. If list member A is hacked they can subscribe to private conversation X. But we can see that A is participating, decide whether this is the sort of topic A would follow, and listen for comments of the sort A would make. If it's suspicious, direct contact to A would follow. And of course, we can up the security if we want to. But this level of security has suited us well. Forum technology can provide some amount of this but as far as I know doesn't show who's listening. I'm not sure if this sort of thing was a design criterion, but we could send an invite to the mailing list and members could see it. This was a major added convenience. This doesn't work that way on Google docs. I know of nothing comparable in any other communication platform. Does anyone? Nobody liked the Wave interface much, but we put up with it for its benefits in this direction. I'm sure that Wave would have been more successful in our group had there been more attention paid to design. This confirms what many people are already speculating. But still it offered us unique benefits that no other system provides. Some of the whiz-bang features have proven useful, but it was the security of knowing who was reading that provided the major advantage for us. I may need to code up such functionality myself if nobody can suggest an alternative.

Comment Re:In my opinion (Score 1) 346

I completely agree: the best way to learn programming is to be born to a parent who has programming experience. Given that the world supply of programming experience was probably thirty or forty person-years on the day I was born, I understandably failed at this.

Your odds are better nowadays, of course, but still you only get one shot at it. What I am trying to say is that your experience is probably still not that helpful for most people.

Comment Re:Politics is undeniable (Score 1) 1657

So a few years ago you wouldn't believe it because there wasn't enough observational evidence, and now you won't believe it because of the sheer quantity of the observational evidence? Tricky business. Exactly how much evidence is neither insufficient nor excessive? Do you have the exact date and time we should have stopped providing evidence?

Actually, I have never heard of an excess of evidence before.

Can I use this method to destroy all science? Bwa-ha-ha!

All I have to do to create a perpetual motion machine is to fail enough times. Then the second law of thermodynamics will be destroyed, utterly obliterated, by an excess of evidence! Bwa-ha-ha-ha-hahhh!

Comment Re:the problem is not culpability nor blame (Score 1) 1657

On the whole, yes, well said, but I have to argue with your emphasis on observations. Foresight is important. Observation isn't everything. Both human behavior and the climate system have momentum, for present purposes adding up to tens of years between making a serious decision to change and having the change be effective. If you base everything on empirical data and not on theoretical understanding, you are saying you would not hit the brakes until your car hits an obstacle. Usually it is better to react before the big crunch. Unfortunately, politicians and corporations experience little consequence of errors that bite on a thirty year time scale. That is a big part of why we are handling this problem so stupidly.

Comment Openness vs Harrasment (Score 4, Informative) 701

Some leading climate scientists ( Ray Bradley, Malcolm Hughes, Michael Mann, Michael Oppenheimer, Ben Santer, Gavin Schmidt, Stephen Schneider, Kevin Trenberth and Tom Wigley) submitted the following to the Muir commission:

if one's research findings tend to support human-caused climate change - means to live and work in an environment of constant accusations of fraud, calls for investigations (or for criminal prosecutions), demands for access to every draft, every intermediate calculation, and every email exchanged with colleagues, daily hate mail and threats, and attempts to pressure the institutions that employ us and fund our research. Through experience, we have learned that there is no review of climate scientists' work that isn't deemed a "whitewash" by climate change contrarians; there is no casual remark that can't be seized upon, blown out of proportion and distorted; and there is no person whose character can't be assassinated, no matter how careful and honest their research.

Internal communications of the IPCC to authors of the scientific review now say the following:

My advice to the authors on responding to the media is only in respect of queries regarding the I.P.C.C. Some of them are new to the I.P.C.C., and we would not want them to provide uninformed responses or opinions. We now have in place a structure and a system in the I.P.C.C. for outreach and communications with the outside world.The I.P.C.C. authors are not employed by the I.P.C.C., and hence they are free to deal with the media on their own avocations and the organizations they are employed by. But they should desist at this stage on speaking on behalf of the I.P.C.C.

As a climate scientist and a computer scientist and an advocate for openness and replicability my position is greatly weakened by people using "openness" as an excuse for harrassment and witch-hunting.

The inevitable short result of this approach to openness is going to be that scientists will do as much work as possible on their laptops and their yahoo email accounts. Using their funded platforms will be only for production runs and final drafts of publications; this will minimize the amount of exposure of their actual work to hostile parties. We will also see far fewer really good people getting into work with any controversy, lest they be subjected to public abuse; eventually only work of little consequence will attract the intellectually adventurous.

I really want the open science movement to be about making science more accessible and more appealing and more part of the culture. This subversion of the open science movement in the name of derailing climate science, which in turn hides the real intent of delaying climate policy until all the fossil reserves are cashed in, is a disaster on more fronts than one. One unfortunate aspect is that it drives important segments of the scientific community to treat the open science movement as a threat to science. Advocates of open science would do well to think twice about the motivations and actions of this gang.

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A physicist is an atom's way of knowing about atoms. -- George Wald