Friday, June 12, 2009
At a departmental colloquium 30 years ago the speaker assured the audience
that carbon dioxide buildup in the atmosphere would be buffered by
absorption in the ocean. I kept waiting for that to happen. Of course, it
was happening. According to a statement issued this week by the
Interacademy Panel, whose 60-some members range from the Albanian Academy
of Science to the Zimbabwe Academy of Science, a quarter of the CO2
produced by human activity in the last 200 years has been absorbed in the
oceans. Unfortunately, excessive CO2 in the oceans is no more benign than
that in the atmosphere. Marine life that depends on calcium carbonate is
particularl. Moreover, ocean acidification is irreversible on a timescale
of thousands of years. The only way to mitigate ocean acidification is to
reduce CO2 in the atmosphere. Sequestration, that will at best affect the
second derivative. We must reduce reproduction.
Are there still people who smoke? One in five actually, and President Obama
is one of them. He has, however, promised to sign a bill giving the
federal government sweeping powers to oversee tobacco products, just as
soon as it reaches his desk. You might think smokers would at least have
the decency to die young from their addiction, thus helping to hold down
the population. Not so, it can take years to kill them, and meanwhile they
Simon Singh, award-winning science writer and author of "Fermats Enigma,"
is being sued under UK libel laws for an article in the Guardian in which
he called the claims of chiropractors "bogus." That sounds pretty tame for
a treatment that has no plausible scientific justification. Harming the
reputation of a chiropractor would seem to be a civic responsibility. In
the United States plaintiffs must prove that the defendants statement is
willfully false and defamatory. In the UK the plaintiff must show only that
the statement harms his reputation. But under UK libel laws the burden is
on Singh to prove he wasn't being libelous.
The Texas school book market is so humongous that publishers must pay heed
to new guidelines on what students should learn. It has been a
battleground for years with the National Center for Science Education under
Genie Scott battling the creationists from the Discovery Institute in an
increasingly conservative state. So far science has been winning but it's a
close thing every year. The latest round in this epic battle is described
by Yudhijit Bhattacharjee in todays Science.
In the Wall Street Journal, June 6, 2009, Eugenie Reich discussed "the five
best books on scientific fraud," including my "Voodoo Science" (Oxford,
2000), which she referred to as "devastating" on the subject of "cold
fusion." Cold fusion 20 years later remains a curious mix of self
deception and outright fraud.