Archive for July 6th, 2010

For "Phil"

By Sheril Kirshenbaum | July 6, 2010 11:43 am

Shortly after moving, I met a new neighbor on my street. He loves astrophysics and we have similar tastes in books and music. His name isn’t Phil, but for the purpose of this post, that’s what I’ll call him.

I like Phil a lot. He’s smart and witty with a healthy dose of skepticism. We run into each other often–in part because we both walk our dogs regularly, but also because he’s hard to miss: Phil nearly always wears one of those black t-shirts with a large red A across the front to express “where his allegiances lie” (his words). He has three of them that he rotates through each week to avoid doing laundry. They all look just the same.

Early on, Phil wanted to know whether I was an atheist too since I’m in science. I explained that I don’t like labels because they mainly serve to divide people one way or another. And then we get war, bigotry, genocide, and so on. I told him how I like the way Vonnegut described Humanism and try to behave decently and fairly while here on Earth. “Kurt’s up in heaven now,” I added. He got the joke.

Yesterday I asked why the A itself was so significant to him that he rarely left the house without it. You might even say he wears it religiously. So how did one symbol become such an enormous part of his identity considering his disdain for other symbols?

Phil paused and shook his head. “I guess I don’t really know. But blog that. See what others say.”

“Okay.” I said. “Tomorrow.”

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Culture
MORE ABOUT: atheism, humanism

The Climate Scandal That Never Was

By Chris Mooney | July 6, 2010 9:39 am

theclimatefiles-thumb-175x277-80973New Scientist has just published my review of the first book on “ClimateGate”–Fred Pearce’s The Climate Files. It’s based on a series of 12 investigative reports by Pearce in the Guardian, and, well, I have to say I had real problems with it (just as the RealClimate guys had problems with those reports).

My issue?

[Pearce] takes a “pox on both houses” approach to the scientists who wrote the emails and the climate sceptics who hounded them endlessly – and finally came away with a massive PR victory. But that’s far too “balanced” an account.

In truth, climategate was a pseudo-scandal, and the worst that can be said of the scientists is that they wrote some ill-advised things. “I’ve written some pretty awful emails,” admitted Phil Jones, director of the CRU at the time….

So why did ClimateGate get to be such a big deal? Read More

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Books, Global Warming

Somewhat Tardy Reflections on Hurricane Alex

By Chris Mooney | July 6, 2010 7:54 am

Hurricane_Alex_visible_landfall_satellite_imageryAnyone watching the pre-season forecasts, and now the weather, has to be pretty concerned about the hurricane season that we’re heading into.

Hurricane Alex, which just slammed the Mexico coast and caused over $ 1 billion in damage, set some troubling early season records. As the National Hurricane Center put it:

IT MAY BE OF INTEREST THAT ALEX WAS THE FIRST CATEGORY TWO…AND THE STRONGEST…HURRICANE TO OCCUR IN JUNE SINCE ALMA OF 1966.

In other words–climatologically, we’re not used to getting storms this strong, this early. Alex’s minimum central pressure dropped down to 947 millibars before landfall…and the maximum sustained wind speeds reached 85 to 90 knots. True, there have been stronger storms in June occasionally, but only very rarely.

Get ready, in other words, for what could well be a very bad year…and that’s not even mentioning the oil.

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Hurricanes
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