Friday, March 7, 2008
The 2008 International Conference on Climate Change held in New York,
ended Tuesday. No, no, it wasn't that government thing; this one was
sponsored by the Heartland Institute. No, I have no idea what the
Heartland Institute is, or where it gets its money, but I can guess.
Don't feel bad if you missed the meeting; a lot of people did. One third
of all the scientists at the meeting thought the chilly temperatures in
New York this week were evidence of climate cooling; one third thought it
was just cold weather, and the other one said he had no opinion.
As WN has been reporting, the compromise on science standards approved by
the Florida Board of Education calls for replacing the word "evolution"
with the phrase "scientific theory of evolution." This gives teachers an
opening to explain to students how science works. Now, according to an
editorial in yesterday's New York Times, school officials have
inserted "scientific theory of" before every major scientific consensus in
the standards, such as the "scientific theory of electromagnetism". Thanks
to a free press doing its job, what began as an attempt by religious
conservatives to impose their superstitious beliefs on Florida students is
now a lesson to people around the country on the openness of science.
A Republican State Senator filed a bill she calls the "Academic Freedom
Act." It would disallow actions against students for taking a position on
evolution and ban penalties for teaching alternatives to evolution.
The "scientific theory" rule should take care of that; there is
no "scientific" alternative to Darwinian evolution.
In selling the ISS to Congress NASA always held up the antimatter
experiment of Nobel physicist Sam Ting as an example of basic science on
the space station. Never mind that it never went through peer review. If
you're spending a $100B on a space station anyway, why not put AMS on
board? It almost sounded free. So AMS was built at a cost of $1.5B.
According to Andrew Lawler in today's Science, NASA now says it can't
afford to put AMS on the ISS unless Congress comes up with another $4B or
so. NASA is exaggerating the cost, but it does cost four times as much to
send an astronaut to the ISS as it does to put a rover on Mars. It's not
possible to calculate the ratio of scientific value for a Mars rover over
an astronaut since it involves a zero in the denominator
According to yesterday's Nature, a ruling is expected next week on whether
the drug maker Pfizer can force the New England Journal of Medicine to
hand over confidential peer reviews involving two painkillers that
suppress the COX-2 enzyme. Peer review does not ensure a paper is
correct, and is sometimes abused by reviewers, but it is a vital motivator
of careful work.