A science presenter, writer, speaker & former TV host; author of The Skeptic's Handbook (over 200,000 copies distributed & available in 15 languages).



Australian Speakers Agency


The nerds have the numbers on precious metals investments on the ASX

The Skeptics Handbook

Think it has been debunked? See here.

The Skeptics Handbook II

Climate Money Paper



Imaginary solar panels rort renewables scheme while Alarmists “worry” about coal investors.

The Australian

ALMOST 150 suspected rorts of the Gillard government’s Renewable Energy Target scheme were reported to the regulator last year, with NSW and federal authorities assisting with the execution of two search warrants as a part of the probe.

The Clean Energy Regulator yesterday released its annual report to government on the administration of the RET — a scheme that provides certificates for both large and small-scale renewable energy generation as part of the bipartisan target of ensuring 20 per cent of Australia’s electricity comes from renewables by 2020.

The regulator’s audit report revealed that during 2012 it received 147 allegations of rorts, the majority of which related to the creation of dodgy certificates for rooftop solar panels.

So far three “monitoring warrants” have been executed by NSW and Australian Federal police. One matter is before the Federal Court as a civil prosecution. One criminal matter was heard last year.

…businessman John Testoni of Sydney Solar Eco Solutions pleading guilty to improperly creating $170,000 in RET certificates for 24 non-existent solar system installations in the Sydney area.

Fake markets just ask to be scammed. Who can forget the Spanish winter of late 2009 when 4,500Mw hours of “solar” [...]

Royal Society calls Lewandowsky “outstanding”, gives him money, loses more scientific credibility

Professor Stephan Lewandowsky

Over Easter, psychologist Stephan Lewandowsky moved from Perth to Bristol  (lucky UK). He’s the psychologist who is expert in an imaginary group of humans called “Climate deniers”. Neither he, nor anyone else has ever met one but he discovered their imaginary motivations by surveying the confused groups who hate them. As you would, right?

None of the so-called researchers can explain what scientific observations a climate denier, denies. It’s an abuse of English, profoundly unscientific, but has some success in shutting down public debate, if that’s what you want.

Can humans change the weather and stop the storms? If you know we can, Lewandowsky calls that “science”. If you wonder “how much”, you are a denier.

The Royal Society, possibly reaching a tipping point in its rush to abject scientific decay, has immediately awarded him the Royal Society Wolfson Research Merit Award. It’s effectively a top-up on his salary for the next five years, just in case the UK might lose him. While Australia is grateful, scientists everywhere, cry. Hat tip to Geoff Chambers

[The Royal Society]

Value and tenure

The scheme provides up to 5 years’ funding after which the award [...]

The Stem Cell revolution: growing brain cells to repair damage

Voting closes on Tuesday. Look for “Jo Nova“. Click “next” until you get the chance to click Finish, or Submit. Thanks! Overseas votes welcome.

This week in stem cell news one research group announced they’d accidentally figured out a way to easily convert human bone-marrow stem cells into brain cells which could in future repair spinal or brain damage.  Another group showed that if you happen to be a particular type of old mouse with memory problems, researchers can give you a transplant of stem cells that restore your learning and memoryand help you swim through water mazes faster. But seriously, these discoveries could help a lot of very needy people.

Meanwhile Australia, celebrated it’s one millionth roofing panel that provide expensive, irregular electricity.

Ladies and Gentlemen — there is a revolution going on, and it’s not the Green one. How much could $2 billion wasted dollars have achieved if it were spent wisely?

These two studies fit together quite well — the first shows it’s possible to use stem cells to restore brain function, the second suggests it might be easier to get the right stem cells than anyone thought.

Repairing damaged mouse brains

How’s this for odd, [...]

One million useless solar panels

Only five years ago Australia had a mere 20,000 solar systems installed on homes across the country. Now thanks to a Gonzo-Big-Daddy-Government we have over one million solar systems, almost all of them producing electricity that could have been made for something like a fifth of the price with coal.

The Clean Energy Regulator spins it as though wasting money on inefficient equipment in the hope of reducing world temperatures is a good thing for Australia.

“…the Clean Energy Regulator, which estimates that those solar energy systems provide power for around 2.5 million Australians. With a population of around 23 million, that means over ten percent of the country benefits from solar power.”

So 10% of Australians benefit from solar, and 90% pay for it?

“The regulator also says the installations have saved Australians about half a billion dollars on electricity bills!”

The regulator doesn’t say how much Australians had to pay to “save” a half a billion dollars.

In Dec 2011 The Productivity Commission estimated $777m in one year alone:

At the prevailing REC prices, this effectively provided an up-front capital subsidy of $777 million to solar PV systems in 2010.


Bugs produce diesel on demand

The irony: the answer to “clean” energy might not be the glossamer sun or the lilting breeze, but an infectious germ.

[Science Daily] …a team from the University of Exeter, with support from Shell, has developed a method to make bacteria produce diesel on demand. While the technology still faces many significant commercialisation challenges, the diesel, produced by special strains of E. coli bacteria, is almost identical to conventional diesel fuel…

They’re not there yet, yields are … tragic.

[BBC] Professor Love said it would take about 100 litres of bacteria to produce a single teaspoon of the fuel.

“Our challenge is to increase the yield before we can go into any form of industrial production,” he said.

But speaking as someone who did microbiology, sooner or later, the bug solution is coming. I presume everyone knows the old exponential growth story where one bacteria weighing 10-12 of a gram, doubles every 20 minutes, and if Earth were a cheesecake, 2 days later you’ve converted it into E.Coli (and 4000 times over)? (There’s more on this theme here).

There is power in them efficient little biology machines. Our chemical factories are mere shadows of the curmudgeonly ‘Coli. Though in the [...]

Australian conservatives going Labor lite — pandering to the “green vote” or just confused?

What were they thinking?

Tony Abbott has a plan to try to convince China and the US to sign up for the “global climate change deal.” As if the world’s number one and two economies, with a population of 1.6 billion combined, will be waiting for instructions. And as if the global climate needed “a deal”.  Hey but we do have 22 million people. squeak. squeak.

To make matters worse, Greg Hunt — the opposition spokesman for the environment — said a Coalition Government might not wipe out the emissions reductions target but… wait, they might lift the target instead. Thus taking something useless, expensive and ineffective against a problem-that-doesn’t-exist and making it moreso.

It’s a mistake every which way. The Liberal Party could play them at their own green game and beat them, just by applying common sense. Instead its appeasing the politically correct namecallers (who wouldn’t vote for them anyway), and the price they pay is to look weak, irrational and lacking in conviction.

A true environmentalist would stop wasting money on schemes that don’t help the environment. (Why spend a cent cooling Australia by no degrees? There goes the carbon tax…)

If the Liberal Party were [...]

Unthreaded Weekend

. . .

The free market strikes back. Renewables Investment plummets 22% in first quarter of 2013

What the government giveth, the government can take away. So it came to pass that the glory of green investments fell over its peak and started to slide — a slide we hope will continue forthwith with speed until such day that Renewables Actually Work.

Weakest quarter for clean energy investment since 2009  [Bloomberg] 15 April 2013

Investment worldwide in the first quarter of 2013 was $40.6bn, down 22% on a year earlier, due to a downturn in large wind and solar project financings London and New York, 15 April 2013 – Global investment in clean energy in the first three months of 2013 was lower than in any quarter for the past four years, according to the latest figures from research company Bloomberg New Energy Finance.

2013 Q1 is not marked here (except with a dodgy red star thingy). It s somewhere around 22% below Q1 2012. [Graph: Bloomberg]

Remember in the land of warmer-investments, this is just a global pause. It’s the fourth highest first-quarter investment. Ever. (!)

The US leads the way. Europe is following. Australia is too irrelevant to mention.

“Among the key details of the first quarter 2013 data were a 54% year-on-year fall in [...]

Game Changer? EU carbon price hits “Junk Status”. (Australian Govt hits $10b Black Hole)

The EU is a basket-case, teetering, so when the European Parliament had the chance to “fix” the carbon market yesterday, they surprised everyone and chose not to. Being unfixed, it’s free to collapse, which it did and by 40%.

The Economist headline today is “Carbon Trading Below Junk Status”.

The EU carbon market once was around €22/tCO2 (that was 2008). Australia turned up five years late to the party, and is still trying to trade at similar rates.

Today Point Carbon is listing the carbon price as “€2.80“.  Obviously, subject to change, and possibly trending-to-zero.

[BusinessTimes] “Campaigners and traders warn the carbon price could now fall below 2 euros or even to near zero in the coming weeks, and government sales could fail if they don’t meet minimum price requirements, as banks that act as liquidity providers pull out.”


The EU carbon market is not dead yet, but this could be a game changer

[The Economist] The rejection [of the bill to rescue the carbon market] was a surprise. The parliament’s environment committee had looked at the plan in February and approved it by a surprisingly wide margin of 38 votes to 25.

Antarctica gaining Ice Mass (balance*) — and is not extraordinary compared to 800 years of data

It’s difficult to say anything for sure about Antarctica because the weather is so variable. Bumper snow one year, not so much the next. (Noise and uncertainty is large). But 800 years of ice cores spread across Antarctica shows the Surface Mass Balance (SMB) is more likely to have been increasing over the last century. (Which fits with what Zwally et al found in 2012 with ICESAT satellite data).

Note the correlation of the smoothed average of the SMB (orange line) with Total Solar Irradiance (green line).

Antarctic Ice has been increasing for the last half century, and over 800 years it correlates with solar radiation. TSI: Total Solar Irradiance (Click to enlarge)  Fig. 5. (A) Mean normalised stacked SMB anomaly time series at the continental scale, calculated as described in the text (black line with positive and negative values filled in with red and blue contours, respectively) and the 40-yr central running average smoothing (orange line). The green line represents the normalised TSI anomalies, and the corresponding ±1 uncertainties are indicated by the green vertical bars.

H/t: HockeySchtick and Jaymez

A paper published today in The Cryosphere finds Antarctica has been gaining surface ice and snow accumulation over the [...]

Lewandowsky, Prof of Psychology, thinks the Labor Government doesn’t benefit if he calls their opponents “stupid”.

Stephan Lewandowsky’s work is a case study in government funded inanity. Some Australians are sure that burning coal will make storms stronger. Others are not convinced. In November 2012 Lewandowsky’s intellectual contribution to science in Australia was to call the unconvinced “stupid”. If that’s not inane enough, at the same time he claimed that he didn’t recieve funding from any organisation that would benefit from his article.

How many taxpayer dollars went towards funding that? No conflict of interest?

Are Australian Research Council funds used as a form of third party advertising for Labor Government policy?

Writing in “A storm of Stupidity, Sandy, Evidence and Climate Change” on The Conversation, his reasoning is like this: some scientists reckon that a very bad storm called “Sandy” has “links” to man-made emissions of a trace gas. Lewandowsky reasons that because those scientists are called “experts”, anyone who questions them should be called stupid. (He thinks this article and that tweet were overdue). Though, in a twist, apparently he doesn’t actually think the unconvinced are actually stupid, he thinks they are ethically “disembodied” people who “mislead”. (As an aside, notice how he approves of news articles that call them stupid even though [...]

The Monster has arrived. Thanks to friends… : – )

The Monster is in the house. I haven’t actually laid a finger on it, but I’ve been introduced.

It is currently being fed with special monster baby food — heavy windows, slow drivers, stuff like that — it is pacified with shiny plastic discs and drip-fed digits from far-distant lands.

At a hundred-billion-tera-flops a gargle-second, it’s learning fast. A lot seems to be going on.

In the meantime, sorry for the silence. I’ve been working as fast as I could on a tiny coaster-sized array of pixels with unfamiliar software, no mouse, and no ability to load up pictures to my usual storage site, or read my usual emails (except one at a time with 14 keystrokes of complexity and a 20 second wait for the next – I gave up). I dream of graphs I can’t make. I reboot the old machine, and sometimes feel normal for a half hour. Then it goes.

Space-time is being warped in my head. Things I used to do in five minutes take me all day.

Some futurists have waffled on prophesizing about the coming integration of hominid brains and silicon chips, blah-de-blah. I always thought they were bonkers. But I was wrong. [...]

Global gloom. Help. I need a new computer.

In astrological terms, Jupiter must be passing through my technology zone. Yesterday the web-host was down for 15 hours. Today, my computer collapsed randomly into the blue screen of death. It can be revived, sort of, but the five-year-old-overworked-disc only springs to life for short bursts in between intermittent freezes. It’s been kind, letting me back up. But it doesn’t last — we are now stuck in an infinite degrading loop where it crashes, logs off and restarts, thoroughly error checking the full disc, and an hour later I can do another two minutes work, before the Goto-loop-from-hell starts over.

Sorry to all the people who emailed me today, Robert, Horst, Jennifer and Jim I was about to reply… Tony, Mods, I’m working from  a lap top… my brain has shrunk from 2 x 30 inch, to 1 x 15.  Please be patient. I don’t think I’ve lost emails, but I can’t see them right now.

Five years! The blog-war-horse is gone.

Donations gratefully received. A newer monster with more memory has been ordered…

Right now these self funding academic researcher-analyst-commentators could do with support. Those billion dollar government departments don’t seem be in a hurry to fund [...]

Is the media waking up? Global warming: time to rein back on doom and gloom?

Tic, tic, tic. The sleeping MSM is stirring. Headlines no one could imagine seeing a few years ago are popping up on a regular basis. The backdown is beginning.

For those who have not gone-over-the-falls and chained their reputation to a big-Green-rock, there is time to backtrack. This is a good moment to start mentioning that “things have changed.” It’s five years too late, but that’s better than being ten-years-too-late, and it still has a tiny bit of kudos for being ahead of stampede that is coming.

The term du jour is “new evidence”. It’s the ticket back to reality, even though strong evidence has been there for a decade, and the lack of warming is just one more clue that the models are wrong.

As far as I can tell, Geoffrey Lean is one of the commentators who’s been very much on the side of the global warming drive, but not a zealot. He allowed the odd caveat, he spoke of skeptics, but not of deniers. When the ClimateGate II emails were released, mostly he wrote about how they didn’t matter, were misrepresented, and the science was settled. Even then, there was a small caveat that “disturbing questions” remain, [...]

Rupert Wyndham ponders the wanton hypocrisy of Paul Nurse and The Royal Society

Rupert Wyndham is an eloquent treasure. For those who have not already seen this (and I’ve received many emails about it) — Enjoy! — His turn of phrase is something to behold: the damning indictments carefully understated, yet laid bare. That the Royal Society President has been reduced to ad hominem attacks “… demonstrates more clearly than anything else the loss of dignity it has endured and depths of corruption to which it has been reduced under your stewardship and those of your two predecessors. “

  — Jo

The Royal Society in better days: Boyle, Newton, Franklin, Jenner, Babbage, Wallace, Lister, Rutherford, Hodgkin, Shackleton. (From The stamp collection).


31 March 2013

Sir Paul Nurse, President, The Royal Society

6-9 Carlton House Terrace

London SW1Y 5AG


Dear Sir Paul Nurse,

Your reply to Lord Lawson dated 8 March has come to hand. It goes without saying that I make no claim to be responding on his behalf; he is more than capable of doing that for himself. Your letter, however, is such a singular juxtaposition of barely suppressed personal antipathy (malice even), blatant mendacity and [...]