Friday, November 21, 2008
At a meeting of 44 top climate scientists in Frankfurt, Germany in March,
it was agreed that observations from the L-1 point, a stable point between
the Sun and Earth, are essential for assessing changes in cloud cover and
climate. The latest plan for the Deep Space Climate Observatory is to
park it at the L-1 point, from which it could forever stare at the Sun,
but modify it to prevent it from looking back at Earth. It sounds like
the biblical story of Lot. The plan, said to be urged by the Air Force, is
the latest chapter in the bizarre history of DSCOVR, which was to have
been launched in 2001. Instead it was kept in solitary confinement in
Greenbelt, MD. From the L-1 point it could have continuously monitored
reflected and emitted radiation from the whole Earth. What don't they
want us to see?
Burton Richter, the American physicist who shared the 1976 Nobel Prize
with Sam Ting, showed up on CNN yesterday afternoon talking about the
energy crisis. Renamed "Barton" Richter in the caption, it was clearly
the blunt spoken Burt who is on the board of directors of Scientists and
Engineers for America, an organization focused on promoting sound science
in American Government. The Chevy Volt, Richter said, could cut US oil
consumption by 60%, however, CEO Rick Wagoner had ignored his advice and
pushed the arrogant Hummer, which a young lady in my class described as a
very large middle finger. Any bailout of GM should be predicated on total
conversion to a maker of small high-efficiency vehicles.
Annual sales of the herbal remedy Ginkgo biloba in the US are at $249
million. It is alleged to prevent memory loss. It doesn't. In its
first large trial, half of 3,069 volunteers 75 and older were given of
Ginkgo biloba daily, while the other half were given a placebo. They were
assessed for signs of dementia every six months for 6 years. Neither the
patients nor the doctors doing the assessment knew which group patients
were in. The group getting the placebo actually did slightly better,
although the difference was not statistically significant. France is
planning an even larger study. Ginkgo has a lot of company. One after
another, the most popular herbal supplements, ephedra, Echinacea, St.
John's Wort, have failed in double-blind, placebo controlled studies.
Our friends to the north are going through a transition similar to ours.
Prime Minister Stephen Harper's Conservative Party won the election in
October and is naming a new cabinet. I hope it goes better for science
down here. Canada's new Minister of Science and Technology, Gary
Goodyear is neither a scientist nor a technologist; he is a doctor of
chiropractic. Worse, he is also an acupuncturist. I devote several pages
in my book, Superstition: Belief in the Age of Science, to the complete
lack of any scientific basis for acupuncture, and to the myth that allowed
it to gain a foothold in America. I did the same for chiropractic in my
earlier book Voodoo Science: The Road from Foolishness to Fraud.