Catching "Real Science in the Act", and Much More….

By Chris Mooney | July 15, 2007 10:59 am

Much ink is starting to get spilt about Storm World. Arguably the book’s best review yet appears in the LA Times today by Thomas Hayden. Although not without criticism, Hayden ends the review like this:

Science is a messy business, more a matter of hard work, blind alleys and lucky guesses than a straight march from question to answer. Above all, science is about uncertainty and the way we stumble through it looking for clarity. Science is not always elegant and not always even particularly effective. But (to paraphrase Winston Churchill on democracy) it’s surely better than any of the alternatives. In “Storm World,” Mooney catches real science in the act and, in so doing, weaves a story as intriguing as it is important.

It’s always a privilege to find a reviewer–at a major independent outlet, not on the blogs where people already get this stuff–who deeply grasps and internalizes the message of your book. I also had a quite sensitive and thoughtful review by Ellen Ruppel Shell in the Boston Globe a week ago, but so far I think Hayden best conveys what I’m trying to get across about the process of high-stakes political science, which works far differently today, thanks largely to the 24-7 mass media, than it did back when Thomas Kuhn wrote The Structure of Scientific Revolutions….

Meanwhile, Kevin Drum has reviewed Storm World at Political Animal, and there’s a review/profile of me today in the Tampa Tribune, perfectly timed for my talk at Inkwood Books this afternoon. The Tampa Tribune piece focuses on the hurricane risk to the Tampa Bay/St. Petersburg area in particular, and so will I in my speech.

On Tuesday I speak in my hometown, New Orleans, and the local Times Picayune today also runs a very positive review by books editor Susan Larson. Quote: “[Mooney] says in his introduction that readers might think of his book ‘as a homegrown New Orleans science writer’s idiosyncratic way of coping.’ But for those of us in the hurricane zone, it should be required reading.”

Finally, I have an op-ed today in the Orlando Sentinel about the National Hurricane Center blowup, which I don’t think we’ve heard the last of, as Congress is planning hearings next week…..


Comments (1)

  1. VPH2

    (Repost from the Sun-Sentinel Boards)

    Very good article Dr Mooney. You raised some important points that have been missed in the media.

    As a member of the hurricane research community, I am often dismayed at the lack of funding that is available for even the simplest of projects that might have a direct impact on hurricane forecasting. After years of the community pressing on with fortitude but not rocking the boat, Bill Proenza decided to raise these concerns directly and publicly. Rightly or wrongly, he used QuikScat as the focal point of his concerns. He quoted the results from the QuikScat paper accurately, and they are indeed striking results, albeit for an old version of just one computer model which has since improved. While the NHC forecasters raised a good point that only a very small number of cases in the QuikScat study are landfalling hurricanes, they were splitting hairs and COMPLETELY missed the big picture. It is not just about QuikScat. More frequent soundings are needed in North America and the Caribbean; more scientists are required to develop and evaluate the next-generation model that NHC will be using, more flight hours are needed; the list goes on … It is a multifold problem that extends in so many directions, and a crying shame that the forecasters just chose to look after their own immediate interests. How could they so summarily dismiss the principles of Proenza’s arguments and the longer-term benefits of increased funding to hurricane track and intensity forecasts?

    Many lives and hundreds of billions of dollars are lost through hurricane impacts, and more people are moving to the coast. The funding available for research to make hurricane forecasts better and improve warnings is a tiny, tiny fraction of that. After years of frustration in getting this point over, let’s hope the current actions taken by several members of Congress bear fruit. I applaud you for your article.


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About Chris Mooney

Chris is a science and political journalist and commentator and the author of three books, including the New York Times bestselling The Republican War on Science--dubbed "a landmark in contemporary political reporting" by and a "well-researched, closely argued and amply referenced indictment of the right wing's assault on science and scientists" by Scientific American--Storm World, and Unscientific America: How Scientific Illiteracy Threatens Our Future, co-authored by Sheril Kirshenbaum. They also write "The Intersection" blog together for Discover blogs. For a longer bio and contact information, see here.


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