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Archive for the ‘Science’ Category

It might have been better if they had worked this out before turning it on.

It is off for repairs at the moment, and despite the scary headline, what the scientists are actually saying is that while any black holes produced may last longer than they first thought, the chances of any of them surviving for long enough to cause a problem is pretty close to zero.

But then, when you are talking about the end of the world, pretty close to zero is not really quite good enough.

For the common sense of ordinary people.

Penny Wong, The Australian Federal Minister for Climate Change, says three hot days at her place prove global warming is real. And what’s more, no one is going to convince her otherwise, and she’s going ahead with emission controls, even if it wrecks the economy, because that’s the responsible thing to do.

Fortunately, the people Penny is supposed to represent have a considerably better grasp of the situation than she does (something she would no doubt regard as a worrying sign of a lack of appropriate education – more funding, please). In a poll run by The Australian (not a paper noted for its conservative views), 67% answered ‘NO’ to the question ‘Are heatwaves in Victoria and South Australia evidence of Global Warming?’

67% say no!

Yet another warning of the catastrophic consequences of global warming, based on no real world evidence at all.

Despite the fact that Emperor Penguins are doing quite nicely, thank you, and there is no evidence of warming in Antarctica, and even if there were, a rise from -40 degrees to -35 degrees is not going to result in a whole lot of ice melting, yet we are still supposed to be alarmed into taking expensive action because computer games (sorry, models) say that if global warming is happening, and if a large amount of ice does melt, and if, and if, and if they are not able to adapt, Emperor Penguins might have a problem.

One especially wise chappy says that Emperor Penguins are to the Antarctic what Polar Bears are to the Arctic. Apart from the obvious response, which is ‘Um. Pardon?’ it is worth noting that Polar Bear populations have nearly tripled over the last thirty years. So perhaps we shouldn’t start panicking just yet.

Despite Peter Garrett’s angst, I think this is possibly a reasonable option, if only because it will stop some of the whining from local anti-whaling activists.

However, stopping any taking of Minke Whales in Antarctic waters may not be a good thing for endangered whale species.

Minke Whales are widely distributed and abunbdant. On the IUCN red list of possibly endangered species, Minke Whales are in the bottom category – Least Concern.

Because they are abundant and range so widely, they compete for krill with endangered whale species such as the Blue Whale, which not do not have the same flexibility in choosing their habitat.

An argument could be made for culling of Minke populations in some places, for example in Antarctic waters, on the grounds of protecting those more endangered species.

There is no environmental reason for refusing to allow whaling nations to take a limited number of Minke Whales.

There is no other reason either. Modern explosive harpoons are accurate and quick, and as humane as factory methods of killing meat animals such as sheep or cattle. Minke Whales, like cattle, are essentially grazing animals, and have about the same level of intelligence – certainly much less than pigs.

As far as I can see, no one who eats bacon has any logically valid or ethically consistent reason to oppose a carefully managed quota based system of hunting Minke Whales.

I am happy to be convinced otherwise, by salient facts marshalled in a carefully crafted argument. Ranting and calling me a bastard won’t do it.

Ha ha.

Computer Games: Global warming is really bad for frogs because nasty UV rays get into their evaporated waterholes and cause mutations.

The Real World: Cold weather wipes out a whole generation of frogs.

OK, it’s not funny.

Another reason to cut it out with the fantasies and look at what’s really happening. The world is not getting warmer, and we are much more likely to be in trouble because of cooling than warming.

Via John Ray

Modellers remove evidence of cooling, and editors remove comments by warming sceptic.

You may have seen the recent headlines suggesting that, contrary to all previous meaurements, there is now evidence to show that the Antarctic is warming as quickly as the rest of the world (which means not at all in the real world, but very scarily in the fantasy world of computer climate modelling).

One of the ‘researchers’ on this study was Michael Mann, inventor of the infamous ‘hockey stick’ which used carefully cherry-picked evidence and dodgy statistical methods to white out the medieval warm period, and prove that the extremely mild and not at all unusual 20th Century warming (less than one degree), was instead unprecedented and very scary, so there.

 This latest effort seems to be built on simliar methodology.

The short answer is ‘probably not.‘ The research seems to suggest that in spite of a still unnacceptably high rate of false positives, once women reach about fifty years of age, there are clear benefits in regular mammograms and pap smears.

I am glad this research is being done – it is important to know when testing and intervention works and when it doesn’t. I wish the same kind of studies were being done on testicular and prostate cancer. In Australia, prostate cancer kills as many men as breast cancer kills women, but receives only one tenth of the research funding given to breast cancer.