Ice Never Sleeps: George Will, Jr.

By Carl Zimmer | March 9, 2009 2:50 pm

I’ve been writing from time to time recently about the poor job that op-ed sections do with science. As my prime example, I’ve focused on a column George Will wrote poo-poohing global warming for the Washington Post. But I’ve never meant to imply that that particular column was some isolated fluke. I think similar problems can be found in the editorial pages of many newspapers, and many branches of science are affected.

I don’t have the luxury (not to mention the masochism) to become a fact-checker on every opinion piece that appears in every major US newspaper. But I do want to point out a new column by Jeff Jacoby in the Boston Globe today, “Where’s Global Warming?” Sounding like a George Will, Jr., Jacoby presents what he claims is evidence suggesting that there is no global warming.

Considering how much attention would have been lavished on a comparable run of hot weather or on a warming trend that was plainly accelerating, shouldn’t the recent cold phenomena and the absence of any global warming during the past 10 years be getting a little more notice? Isn’t it possible that the most apocalyptic voices of global-warming alarmism might not be the only ones worth listening to?

What I find striking about this column is that I don’t actually have to do any fresh fact-checking to identify some problems with it. I already have. Jacoby offers us the same glitch with a satellite sensor that Will did, which he seems to be using to suggest that we don’t really know anything about ice coverage. But as I pointed out on February 27, the scientists at the National Snow and Ice Data Center who discovered the glitch made it clear that “the temporary error in the near-real-time data does not change the conclusion that Arctic sea ice extent has been declining for the past three decades.”

Jacoby then invokes a new paper which I wrote about last week on a potential new shift in the climate. “In a new study, University of Wisconsin researchers Kyle Swanson and Anastasios Tsonis conclude that global warming could be going into a decades-long remission.”

Remission? You’d think the climate had tumor and was now cancer-free. In fact, Swanson and Tsonis made it very clear that the shift they were proposing was the result of the climate’s natural variability overlaid on the effects of an ever-increasing amount of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere. As I wrote in my post, Swanson put it this way to me: “We are describing in this paper what is generally referred to as ‘internal’ (natural) climate variability, superimposed upon a robust global warming trend at century time-scales.”

In both cases, Jacoby misrepresents research. Climate scientists have not concluded that global warming has been affecting the world based on a “run of hot weather” as Jacoby puts it. They look at long-term trends. When George Will made this same kind of error, his editors claimed that his column had actually passed through a stringent fact-checking process. I wonder if the Boston Globe put Jacoby to the same test. A one-minute phone call to either team of scientists would have been enough to render a verdict.

Comments (29)

  1. brooks

    just as with creationism, this is where science abuts ideology. karl rove personifies this in modern politics, but the tendency arose well before his time: repeat an untruth loudly and frequently enough, and it *becomes* true, the preponderance of evidence be damned!

  2. Antiquated Tory

    But someone please tell me where, where, where this “we have been getting colder for the last 10 years” meme is coming from. (Yes, I could Google it, but I’d just find lots of cross-referencing denialists sites and they’d just get me upset.) More influential persons than Will are repeating it, including President of the Czech Republic (and for 1 year, of the EU) Vaclav Klaus.
    Of course, if you followed the Czech Press, you’d know that Klaus is The Most Brilliant Man on Earth, so I guess there really is no AGW, and all you scientists are some form of neo-Bolshevists, trying to replace the free market with a new kind of planned economy… (This really is Klaus’ view of environmentalism in general and global warming in particular.)

  3. A.Viirlaid

    IMO, the only message in the blog above is that “all the climate findings are not in yet”. How can anyone disagree with that?

    A scientist can start with any one of a number of working hypotheses regarding the current state of the climate, provided that such a scientist is not initially ideologically wedded to the CO2-gas-driven (along with the other GHG-s) warming hypothesis.

    The blog above ignores that fact that many scientists today actually ascribe the observed warming to a slow continual recovery from the Little Ice Age (LIA). Their reasoning is logical. Much of this long-trend warming was observed prior to the huge build-up of CO2 (which build-up of CO2 presumably comes from anthropogenic sources). After all, as the blog suggests this observed warming is based “upon a robust global warming trend at century time-scales”.
    Such scientists explain the intermittent cooling episodes during this continuing warming as coming from the same type of natural background or climate-variability induced causes that the blog above refers to.

    So it kind of depends on your frame of reference. If a scientist’s first principles regarding Climate Change do NOT include any slow continuous background warming since the LIA, then naturally another explanation is looked for to account for the recently observed long-trend warming. Well, long-trend if you think the recent 2 decades is a long time.

    In such a case, one perspective could be that the underlying climate is warming even now, during this last decade from about 1999 to 2009, but that this warming is more hidden by climate variability than it was earlier in the 2 decades preceding this last one (say from 1978 to 1998). This is the position taken by the blog above. Not illogical in any way within its own frame of reference.
    That is to say, this perspective suggests that the current natural climate variability is cooling the underlying warming trend. And more significantly, this hidden warming trend is probably very strong, and will eventually show itself, even possibly with a vengeance when the overlying cooling variability dissipates.
    Makes sense — the CO2-human-induced warming is hidden by the variable (non-human-affected part of the) climate, leading to either less warming or even actual cooling, over this last decade from 1999 to 2009.

    Or let’s take a different scientist, one who looks at the long-run data and promulgates the recovery-from-LIA hypothesis. In rebuttal, this person might say to the first, that the earlier 2-decade (1978-1998) period was actually more influenced by natural variability in a manner which caused the observed warming to appear to be greater than that caused purely by the natural trend of recovery from the LIA.
    This second scientist might conclude that the observed warming was overstated for this earlier period, at least in the sense that this warming was above what the normal recovery trend (from the LIA) would have shown on its own —— that is, without what this person suggests is the naturally-caused above-trend 2-decade variability.
    This second person indeed might point to work that suggests that the sun was far more active during this 1978-1998 period as measured against its natural long-run output.

    Or a third scientist, in rebuttal to both of the other two, might conclude that the earlier 2-decade (1978-1998) period was influenced by both factors —— the first factor being natural variability in a manner which increased the observed warming (above trend) as explained by the second scientist.
    However this third scientist might also suggest (like the first) that this greater-than-trend warming may also have indeed been at least partially caused by such anthropogenic sources as CO2.
    So this third scientist might (similarly to the second) conclude that the warming was overstated for this earlier 2-decade period but that humans had a least something to do with it. What percentage of the increase might she then ascribe to human activity? Now the science gets hard.

    One consideration to bear in mind is that when something called natural variability slows down a warming trend or even slightly reverses it, it is not necessarily illogical to suggest that the underlying warming is being hidden. The problem arises when the natural variability completely overwhelms that trend. We don-t have an as-yet clear indication of whether the trend is being overwhelmed. The brevity of this time series of data does not support such a conclusion.
    But if there is really a decades-long reversal coming, as suggested above, then I would humbly submit that this is not something most people could refer to as being ‘slight’. After all, the trend is beginning to be challenged both by the length of time and the deviation from trend.

    The point is that we don’t truly know from first principles what portion of actual warming (or lack of warming) in either period (1978 to 1998 versus 1999 to 2009) was due to “natural variability” and what portion was caused by GHG (Green House Gasses).

    I know what the IPCC says. They say the majority of the warming is human-induced, and they say this with 90 percent certainty. The odd thing is that even the IPCC does not try to say what this human-caused “majority” of warming consists of. Is it also 90 percent? Or is it 51 percent? After all, 51 percent is a majority.

    Whatever the IPCC comes up with as its reasoning next time around, you can bet that it will be consistent with the claim by the AGW side that the lack of severe warming in this last decadal period is masked by natural variability.
    The IPCC may well quote the recent paper referred to above suggesting that we might be in store for 3 more decades of such masked cooling. The IPCC may then state that this hidden warming will be followed by a resurgence of real warming, leading to a serious, planet-wide and life-threatening runaway spike in AGW, leading to the feared tipping point being passed.

    My point here is that we cannot logically ONLY set the last 10 years apart as being ‘special’ — claiming only it as a unique decade of “natural variability”-induced masking of the real warming that is supposedly going on in the background.

    There may be many such decadal periods where there is masking going on. And it may be going on in both warming and in cooling directions.

    The blog writer’s point would be completely valid if the “natural variability” mentioned did not somehow get the writer’s consideration as being applicable only to the last 10 years.

    This disingenuous and selective use of “natural variability” allows for the only conclusion possible above —— that is, sure the warming trend is still intact over the last 30 years —— how could it not be, if the only variability from trend occurred in the last 10 years?

  4. Pete Dunkelberg

    Tory, check the graphs here: http://data.giss.nasa.gov/gistemp/2008/
    including (scroll down a bit) the solar cycle. Last year was sort of cool, due the being at a low point in the solar cycle and having a La Niña (note the blue color in the Pacific Ocean).

    But 2008 was also about the tenth warmest year on record, or possibly even the eighth or seventh allowing for margin of error. Even our cool years are warm now.

  5. Jennifer Stanton Chapman

    My frustration with this whole process is if the powerful people in the media cannot understand global warming , how are my high school students going to get it? I am so glad you are fighting the fight but I know it is not your life’s purpose to fact check every article published on this topic.

  6. Bruce

    Hi A.Viirlaid:
    That’s all well-and-good, but the key issues with Will and Jacoby are simple bad journalism (or is it “editorialism”?) – they are not checking facts, not checking sources, and are misrepresenting or cherry-picking data or quotes. Major newspapers SHOULD be fair-and-balanced sources if they wish to remain relevant and “major”. IF you HAVE to check primary sources after reading a newspaper, then why even bother reading that newspaper? Why even cut down the tree that made that newspaper?
    So I think rehashing the arguments for/against AGW are redundant distractions in discussing Will/Jacoby. Again, the issue is journalistic integrity.
    By-the-way, Jacoby was suspended by the Globe a few years ago, for plagiarism. The Globe used to have better conservative editorialists, too bad they’re gone.
    –Cheers and hava a good day!

  7. Bob Kutz

    To Pete Dunkelberg;

    You do realize that the map you are referring to here is now quite famous for the inaccurate data that produced it, don’t you?

    Here’s one of the problems that shows the real agenda behing the AGW set; even once the work product, based on inaccurate data, is published, and then proved wrong; you continue to use the map or graph, or whatever. That, in and of itself, proves an unhealthy attitude toward science, a political rather than science based agenda, and the result should be to toss you out of the debate altogether.

    But still you will not leave. That is why real scientists have turned against the AGW cause, and have begun to refer to it as a religeon.

    Bob Kutz,
    Osky, IA

  8. A.Viirlaid

    Hi Bruce, thank you and cheers to you too.

    I don’t disagree with your sentiments about the need for fact-checking. However it seems to me that the referred-to writers were never trying to hold themselves up the level of science journalists.

    Indeed, while I am not familiar with Jacoby, I am pretty sure that Mr. Will almost exclusively writes ‘opinion’ essays from a particular philosophical perspective. While this does not excuse the need to fact-check, it does allow some room for ‘editorializing’ IMO.

    If Will or Jacoby are actually saying in their writing that AGW “climate scientists … concluded that global warming has been affecting the world based on a ‘run of hot weather’ …” then that would likely be incorrect, scientifically-speaking. But I never read that being said about Climate Scientists in Will’s article. Did you?

    And even if Will had written this, some might excuse this if it was presented as an ‘opinion’. After all, Mr. Will never represented himself as a PhD in Climate Science.

    We certainly all hope that scientists like Dr. James Hansen do not purely base their theories on the last 30 years. Al Gore can allow himself that luxury, but a climate scientist cannot and should not.

    However aside from any in-depth discussion here of whether all AGW-promoting scientists are really looking “at long-term trends” I do have another problem with this blog.

    It suggests that people like Will and Jacoby are even addressing (or attacking if you like) the small dedicated community of AGW scientists.

    When I read these same articles I see more of an editorial primarily directed at the non-scientific movement that hangs on to the small community of real AGW scientists. IMO that movement does tend to misinterpret and exaggerate the conclusions that can justifiably be drawn from the underlying state of the science.

    So I read a lot of what Will writes (for example) as questioning the ‘science’ as expounded by this much larger non-scientific community (foremost including the politicians and bureaucrats who constitute the IPCC group) — NOT as addressing what is specifically expounded by specific scientists in their scientific journals. Mr. Will probably only addressed what he himself read in the popular press about Swanson and Tsonis for example.

    Perhaps some of this blog’s difficulties (for me) come from that observation above — i.e., Mr. Will is addressing non-scientists (countering their own non-scientific representations) with his own countervailing non-scientific observations.

    In other words, is it not possible that Carl Zimmer is trying to ‘fact-check’ someone who is addressing other non-fact-checked essays and editorials, a sort of right versus left? If so, who would expect EITHER of those 2 sides to have scientific facts in mind, first and foremost?

    So the blog is ultimately just saying in different words that it does not require much effort to find scientific errors in the popular press — what else is new? In fact it is kind of like intellectually taking candy from a baby. And sadly, this applies to both sides of the AGW debate held in the popular press. Or in the blogosphere for that matter.

    While any science-literate person can always find errors in the modern popular press, on both sides of the climate debate, you are right; the debate could be improved if science-literate editors were available to vet all such opinion pieces.

    So there is a great divide between science and politics perhaps mostly for the reasons identified here by you. We have so few scientists who can interpret science in layman’s terms. The late Carl Sagan comes to mind as one shining example.

  9. bob

    The naysayers/deniers will only be satisfied by visible changes in their world, not the science that predicts GW or small incremental temperature rise. In 10 maybe 20 years they too will be believers when their favorite beaches don’t exist. Then their concern will be why gov’t has done nothing.

  10. neo-anti-luddite

    “That is why real scientists have turned against the AGW cause, and have begun to refer to it as a religeon.”

    Got any evidence for this claim, Bob?

    You know, in the interest of dealing with actual facts, rather than just making stuff up.

  11. don

    I think it’s probably just best to highlight the fact that George Will is an opinion writer.

    When his paper says they stringently checked the facts, they probably mean that they simply verified the existence of said scientists and said studies. They don’t have the time or inclination to question a possibly fallacious conclusion Will has inferred from his limited understanding of those studies.

    “Fact-checking” an opinion piece clearly is a different exercise than “fact-checking” a science article. I liken it to the difference in the use of the word “theory” in the common vernacular versus its use by the scientific community.

  12. Norman G Smith

    The IPCC uses old garbage data based on pre-2007 inputs like the de-bunked “hockey stick graph” – just to scare people.

    Here is the latest from NASA:

    http://www.science.nasa.gov/headlines/y2008/23sep_solarwind.htm

    Nasa says the sun is suddenly losing power and it is already “13% cooler”.

    Throw another log on the fire. It’s record cold where I live.

    [Carl: Norman, what trend is the changing solar wind supposed to explain? See here:
    http://www.newscientist.com/data/images/ns/cms/dn11650/dn11650-3_738.jpg ]

  13. Norman G Smith

    A simple question for Al Gore’s followers. I would love to hear some feedback on this basic climate science question.

    How do you explain all of these other “global warmings” over the last 12,000 years?

    SEE GRAPH: http://www.globalwarmingart.com/wiki/Image:Holocene_Temperature_Variations_Rev_png

    Did Aliens in UFO’s beam down giant canisters of CO2 ??

    It looks pretty clear that our current “global warming” is not unprecedented in any way. In fact it is a small upward blip compared to the dozen or so pre-industrial global warmings during the Holocene interglacial.

    Carl: The picture you’ve linked to actually shows a sharp upward trend ending at 2004, rising over the long-term average. You might also look at this image, which overlays the past 800,000 years in CO2 levels and temperature. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Co2-temperature-plot.svg No aliens necessary to increase CO2. And climate scientists recognize a link between the cycles of CO2 and cycles of temperature.

  14. Norman G Smith

    Actually – you avoided the question. The image shows that Holocene temps peaked about 8,000 years ago, and the averaged trend is cooling. It also shows at least 12 previous “global warmings” . What caused them was the question.

    http://www.globalwarmingart.com/wiki/Image:Holocene_Temperature_Variations_Rev_png

    Your graph shows that the curent Holocene interglacial(warm period) is actually cooler than the previous interglacial (Eemian), despite CO2.

    [Carl: There are many sources of natural variability in the climate, and they operate on different timescales, from years to decades to centuries. They change the levels of sunlight reaching the surface, the amount of heat-trapping gases in the atmosphere, and the capacity of the oceans to store energy and carbon. For example, the Earth is wobbling and moving slightly closer and further from the sun. There are also changes in the circulation of the ocean and atmosphere, which I’ve discussed a bit in this blog. Climate scientists study these factors to understand the climate over the past 8000 years. (You can read this book chapter pdf for more information.) If you seek explanations for every one of the bumps you count in the graph, please bear in mind the disclaimer from the people who made that graph: “The average shown here should be understood as only a rough, quasi-global approximation to the temperature history of the Holocene.”

    Your point about the current interglacial being cooler than the previous one “despite CO2″ is unclear. If you’re referring to the current levels of carbon dioxide compared to the ones 120,000 years ago, we’ve only reached those levels in the past 150 years or so–a quick jolt to the climate system. Climate scientists project higher temperatures in response to the rise in Co2, but not minutes after each bit of extra CO2 goes into the atmosphere.]

  15. wildmon251

    If anyone can cite evidence or experiments that conclusively link CO2 to the greenhouse effect, please do so. I have been unable to find it on the Internet.

    What I have found is that Carbon Dioxide gas is a tiny, tiny component of the Earth’s atmosphere. The fraction of CO2 in the air is 1/2632. To put that in perspective, a column of Earth atmosphere ten thousand inches long, (833 feet), only has enough CO2 to make 3 of those inches. It seems everyone has swallowed the idea that CO2 makes a difference. Absent evidence or experiments to the contrary, I say it doesn’t, there’s just not enough of it.

    [Carl: The link was first made 150 years ago, and scientists have been investigating it ever since. A good place to jump into the history online is a site called “The Discovery of Global Warming.”]

  16. neo-anti-luddite

    “What I have found is that Carbon Dioxide gas is a tiny, tiny component of the Earth’s atmosphere. The fraction of CO2 in the air is 1/2632. To put that in perspective, a column of Earth atmosphere ten thousand inches long, (833 feet), only has enough CO2 to make 3 of those inches. It seems everyone has swallowed the idea that CO2 makes a difference. Absent evidence or experiments to the contrary, I say it doesn’t, there’s just not enough of it.”

    According to reserchers, an airborne cyanide concentration of 300 parts per million is lethal within a few minutes. But in that case, the fraction of cyanide in the air is just 1/3333. It seems that everyone has swallowed the idea that cyanide in the air makes a difference. I say it doesn’t, there’s just not enough of it.

    I’m sure wildmon251 would be happy enough with my reasoning to breath in some air with 300 ppm cyanide just to prove our point about how such a tiny fraction of a material simply can’t have that much of an effect….

  17. Hank Roberts

    http://scienceblogs.com/deltoid/upload/2007/04/spm4.png

    > three of those inches
    So put them in a bottle and test them — this isn’t the same as having that amount in a vertical column out to the edge of the atmosphere, but it’s proof of concept:
    http://www.espere.net/Unitedkingdom/water/uk_watexpgreenhouse.htm
    http://www.srh.weather.gov/srh/jetstream/atmos/ll_gas.htm
    http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/nova/teachers/viewing/0302_03_nsn.html

    Materials
    * three thermometers
    * three clear, sealable plastic bags
    * 2 teaspoons baking soda
    * 2 tablespoons vinegar
    * one beaker
    * black paper

    Procedure …. look it up.

  18. MarkB

    A. Viirlaid,

    “I know what the IPCC says. They say the majority of the warming is human-induced, and they say this with 90 percent certainty. The odd thing is that even the IPCC does not try to say what this human-caused “majority” of warming consists of. Is it also 90 percent? Or is it 51 percent? After all, 51 percent is a majority.”

    The IPCC is a consensus view, and needs to incorporate the views of nearly every participant. As a result, it tends to get watered down to the lowest common denominator. Note that the true percentage could also be more than 100% (offsetting natural cooling effects such as declining solar output). There’s a lot to consider – cooling from human-induced aerosols, volcanic activity, solar output, greenhouse gases, ocean cycles, etc.. The balance of evidence suggests that when all factors are considered, most of the recent warming is due to human activities.

    “We certainly all hope that scientists like Dr. James Hansen do not purely base their theories on the last 30 years. Al Gore can allow himself that luxury, but a climate scientist cannot and should not.”

    Considering climate scientists (like Hansen) have studies climate for longer than that, and the theory predates their births, I’m not sure where this contention comes from. You might want to read up on the history of global warming science.

    http://www.aip.org/history/climate/

    “So there is a great divide between science and politics perhaps mostly for the reasons identified here by you. We have so few scientists who can interpret science in layman’s terms. The late Carl Sagan comes to mind as one shining example.”

    I disagree. It’s not that scientists can’t translate the science in layman’s terms – it’s just that most of them don’t have the inclination to speak to the general public about it, particularly on an issue with political implications. They are generally busy quietly conducting research in peer-reviewed journals. Dr. Hansen would be an exception. Many scientists are wary about crossing the boundaries between science and politics. Contrarians tend to not have such qualms.

  19. NewEnlandBob

    I read the Boston Globe and know that Jeff Jacoby is inconsistent in his journalism. He write some good articles and also some real stinkers.

  20. Wildmon251

    neo-anti-luddite, I will say here what I have said to other comments citing small ratio substances that have large effects. I’m not talking about ALL substances, just CO2.

    For instance, it makes sense that ozone, even though its concentration is 2 to 8 parts per TRILLION, can filter out certain spectra of sunlight.

    Poisons and medicines certainly do work, although their ratios are miniscule. But poisons, medicines and the ozone cycle use a different mechanism than CO2 and hard data backs up conjectures about them.

    The conjecture about CO2 is that the cycle depends upon capture and retention of heat by individual CO2 molecules. Therefore, it would have to be dependent, for its theoretical effect, upon its ratio to the other gases. Which, I say again, would not seem to be enough to make any difference.

  21. QUASAR

    It won’t be long before the arctic will be ice free during the summer months! Countries like Bangladesh are in for some serious flooding!

  22. wildmon251

    Hank Roberts, I will stipulate that CO2, in sufficient concentration(95%?), will trap and release certain IR spectra differently than other gases. But so what? When I asked for experimental data, I meant real, controlled scientific experiments, not lab exercises designed to propagandize children and teen agers. Which brings up this side splitter, directed at teachers, from one of your links (http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/nova/teachers/viewing/0302_03_nsn.html) ” If the temperatures in the bags do not support the role of greenhouse gases in heat capture, discuss the nature of scientific experimentation, including the importance of multiple trials, control of conditions, and measurement challenges.” In other words, if the results do not fit our preconceived notions of what it should be, say the experiment failed.

    CO2 is a tiny fragment of the atmosphere, if we are going to radically change our lifestyle and spend several generations worth of capital to correct this “problem”, we better know more than we know now about it.

  23. wildmon251

    Try these links. One of the main points is that Co2 is a tiny fraction of the atmosphere, without which, earth would be a frozen ball in space. Also, the fact that the fraction is so tiny means that it is easy to influence with industrial output of GHG’s

    Context on the argument
    http://www.uscentrist.org/about/issues/environment/john_coleman/the-amazing-story-behind-the-global-warming-scam

    Tiny Fraction of Atmosphere
    http://www.ossfoundation.us/projects/environment/global-warming/atmospheric-composition

  24. Hank Roberts

    > real, controlled scientific experiments, not lab exercises

    Take three identical planets, to start with ….

    Or do you doubt the basic science, which also makes a CO2 laser work?

  25. guthrie

    Wildmon251- you just mentioned Ozone- so you already know that molecules in comparatively low concentration can intercept and re-radiate energy. Its what Co2 does- every molecule does it, no matter what concentration it is in the air at the time. Go and read Spencer Wearts book as has already been pointed out to you.

  26. Jonsi

    @Wildmon: “CO2 is a tiny fragment of the atmosphere, if we are going to radically change our lifestyle and spend several generations worth of capital to correct this “problem”, we better know more than we know now about it.”

    This is completely unfounded. We are not going to spend several generations of capital. Mitigation strategies, integrated over full decadal lifecycles, result in a cost of ~ 0.1% GDP, or roughly $20 year per person. Why? Most abatement measures have positive returns on their investment — i.e. energy efficiency.

  27. John Costrello

    One actor to account for the correlation of CO2 increases with recent temperature increases is what we learned from the Vostok ice cores, that CO2 increases 800 years after a temperature rise. 800 years ago was 1209AD, a part of the Medieval Warming Period.

    As to information on the post 2000 ceassation of temperature rise, I recommend http://www.climateaduit.com and http://www.wattsupwiththat.com. Or you can just go outside and actually experience the climate.

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The Loom

A blog about life, past and future. Written by DISCOVER contributing editor and columnist Carl Zimmer.

About Carl Zimmer

Carl Zimmer writes about science regularly for The New York Times and magazines such as DISCOVER, which also hosts his blog, The LoomHe is the author of 12 books, the most recent of which is Science Ink: Tattoos of the Science Obsessed.

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