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



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NASA Apollo Astronaut Walter Cunningham says trust in NASA and science has been abused

Four Apollo Astronauts are outspoken skeptics. This includes Buzz Aldrin and Harrison Schmidt (2 of the 12 men who walked on the moon) and Phil Chapman (Apollo 14) and Walter Cunningham (Apollo 7).

Donn F. Eisele, Walter M. Schirra, Jr. and Walter Cunningham.

Walter Cunningham is a fighter pilot and a physicist and was the Lunar Module pilot on the Apollo 7 mission. In a 263 hour mission in October 1968 the three astronauts covered four and a half million miles.

Over forty years later, he describes how the public trust built by the astronauts and technical specialists who put man on the moon has been abused by opportunists. NASA and science has changed. UPDATE: Ask yourself how hard it would be for the BBC, ABC or New Scientist to have done this interview (and years ago). Cunningham confirms that none of them have ever approached him to ask why he is openly skeptical, which tells you all you need to know about the impartiality of mainstream “journalists”. … * * * Below are selected snippets of Larry Bell’s interview with Walter Cunningham: “Those of us fortunate enough to have traveled in space bet our lives on the competence, dedication, [...]

Crazy economics: Spend $10 billion and rescue the Murray river carp fisheries?

It just shows how dry Australia is and how pathetic we are with water. Australia’s largest river ends in an artificial dam full of feral European Carp. Lobbyists are campaigning hard (and successfully) to take water from upstream farmers to restore the flow. According to Jennifer Marohasy, one of the main outcomes will be to increase a massive artificial freshwater estuary that only exists because several kilometers of man-made barrages were built across the end of the river in the 1930′s. She makes a case that we’d be better off using the $10 billion dollars and the water to restore natural wetlands or to produce food. As she says “Taking one-third of upstream Murray water from farmers to feed a downstream carp fishery makes no economic, environmental or agricultural sense.“

I spoke to Marohasy on the phone today and she makes the point that the Murray River was in strife in the 1980′s, and it did need extra water-flow, but a lot of action had already been taken, and river health improved before this latest $10 billion dollar plan was pledged in April 2007. (For example, in October 2005 the “world’s largest delivery of environmental water“, [...]

Unthreaded Weekend

There is so much to talk about…

Murry Salby responds to the attacks on his record

Murry Salby

Murry Salby was sacked from Macquarie University, and Macquarie  struggled to explain why, among other things, it was necessary to abandon, and strand him in Paris and hold a “misconduct” meeting in his absence. Since then he has been subject to attacks related to his previous employment. I’ve asked him to respond, which he has at length in a PDF here. The figures listed below refer to that PDF, which encompasses 15 years of events.

I don’t have the resources (unlike the  National Science Foundation, the NSF) to investigate it all, but wanted to give Murry the right of reply. On closer inspection the NSF report used by people to attack Salby does not appear to be the balanced, impartial analysis I would have expected. Indeed the hyperbolic language based on insubstantial evidence is disturbing to say the least. Because of the long detailed nature of this I cannot draw conclusions, except to say that any scientist who responds to a question about Murry Salby’s work with a reference to his employment is no scientist.

Remember the NSF report was supposedly an inhouse private document. It was marked “Confidential”, subject to the Privacy Act, with disclosure outside [...]

The price of moral-vanity: A catalogue of Green economic disaster unfolds across Europe

The real cost of moral-vanity, of name-calling, poor reasoning, selecting one’s evidence, and the triumph of doing things because they “feel-good” rather than because of the cold hard numbers, is measured in the trillions. This disaster was entirely foreseeable, totally predictable, and completely unnecessary.

Thanks to Benny Peiser and The Australian, the utter folly is laid bare.

AS country after country abandons, curtails or reneges on once-generous support for renewable energy, Europe is beginning to realise that its green energy strategy is dying on the vine. Green dreams are giving way to hard economic realities.

Slowly but gradually, Europe is awakening to a green energy crisis, an economic and political debacle that is entirely self-inflicted.

The media is finally starting to do what it should have done ten years ago:

A study by British public relations consultancy CCGroup analysed 138 articles about renewables published during July last year in the five most widely circulated British national newspapers: The Sun, The Times, The Daily Telegraph, Daily Mail and Daily Mirror, which enjoy a combined daily circulation of about 6.5 million.

“The analysis revealed a number of trends in the reporting of [...]

In the next 37 years, Labor will spend $60,000 per Australian to change the weather

Peter Lang adds up the numbers from the Treasury and leading economic commentators, and finds that decisions the Australian Labor Government has made will cost the equivalent of about $17,000 for every man, woman and child if paid in a lump sum now, or $58,000 if paid bit by bit over the next 37 years to 2050. And that’s just for the ETS, not for the RET and other measures.

By 2019 Alan Moran estimates each year citizens would have to fork out billions for Green Schemes; Labor policies tally to $22b, Coalition policies to $7b, Greens policies to $27b.

If men-in-black-suits turned up at Australian houses forcing citizens to sign cheques for $17,000 per person in order to change the weather on Earth 100 years from now, there would be a revolt in the streets. That’s $68k per household of four. (Is this how you would spend $68 grand?) But if the government disguises those charges in electricity bills, and hidden increases in the cost of every item that has to be moved, heated or cooled, then some 30-40% of the nation sees no reason not to vote for this. [...]

SkepticalScience goes Godwin-Nazi or something

Was someone at SkepticalScience plotting to pretend evil skeptics created these pictures? (… surely not.)

Brandon Schollenberger found them on the SkS forum. Admire the effort taken to get the SkS penguins, the leaf insignia on the hat, the lapels, the button…

Reichstuhrer J.Cook


Or lo, is this just the weekend fun of teenagers let loose with photoshop? Looks like.

Spartans for Science, Watts, Monckton and Delingpole

Anthony Watts has a larger set (and a pretty good six-pack too) which is “lucky” (sort of), because not long after he posted the first few, the images disappeared from their original links. In a true SkS logical maneuver they were moved to …/images/a11gon3 (images “allgone”), which took real skeptics about five minutes to find. That set have gone too now (except for the 400 copies placed all over the Internet).

As Anthony says, Skeptical Science takes creepy to a whole new level.

Brandon wonders (like we all do) why anyone would bother? [...]

Antarctic Sea Ice hits another record: 900,000 square kilometers above average

Antarctic Sea Ice has hit it’s 23rd daily record for the year. (Thanks to Sunshine Hours for tracking these things.)

2013 is the red line.  (click to enlarge)

In terms of the number of daily records in a year, the Big Year for sea-ice was 2008 where records occurred on 125 days. 2010 was nearly as “big” when records occurred on 118 days. 2013 is currently in  fifth spot. If the tally rises to 28 records this year, it will leap to third place.

Not that any of this matters, of course.

“Sea ice in the Arctic and around Antarctica responds directly to climate change and may, if properly monitored, become increasingly important for detecting climate change.”

IPCC Third Assessment Report, Cryosphere Processes, Box 7.1



Jo Nova talks on 2GB about carbon credits and the forced market that is called “free”

Michael McLaren, 2GB

Thanks to Joe V in comments for finding the links to my interview on the “Carbon Free Market”

Michael McLaren speaks with Joanne Nova, author of The Skeptic’s Handbook, who speaks about the stupidity of aligning ourselves with Europe’s ETS.

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Australian Election called for Sept 7

The thread to discuss the Grand Debacle that is Australian Politics at the moment.

Let’s insist that our politicians and commentators use accurate terms The Carbon Free Market is a Carbon Forced Market. “Carbon” is carbon dioxide. Pollution is something proven to damage people or the environment. Where is the evidence? Carbon credits are not a commodity they are a fiat currency, and a form of tax payment.

Finally, the voters get to pick.

Global methane emissions driven by Soviet leaks, volcanoes and El Ninos, not cows

CSIRO wants to stop methane emissions: but can they get a grant to stop El Nino’s and cap volcanoes?

This type of trans-Siberian cow used to emit a lot of methane.

Tom Quirk sent me a short note to point out that the big rise in global methane almost certainly was man-made — at least up to the mid 1980′s, but in the last 20 years, the culprit for rising methane appears to be volcanoes and El Ninos. (Note the timing of the spikes in the graph below, as methane pours into the atmosphere some years, but barely changes in most other recent years).

Apparently, the man-made emissions in the 70s and 80s were largely due to leaky pipes in the Soviet Union. Natural gas was dirt cheap up til the mid 1970′s. It was so cheap the Russians didn’t bother to plug those flawed pipes. But as prices rose (and after a big nasty explosion in 1982*) they got serious, fixed the pipes and stopped a lot of the out-gassing.

Meanwhile, the Australian government is spending millions and killing camels in the hope of reducing global methane and changing the weather.

There are many graphs of atmospheric methane [...]

Unthreaded Weekend

Five or more failed experiments in measuring Global Sea Level: Willie Soon

Willie Soon has some fun with the sea-level debate, going back to William the Conqueror, and landmarks in England.

Are sea-levels “accelerating”? Can the satellites resolve sea-level to 1mm changes a year? Why is the raw data so different?

I think the strongest point is the one Nils Axel Morner has made about the extraordinary adjustments in the raw satellite data, which Willie Soon refers too soon after the 20 minute mark.

Willie is always a rapid fire presenter, getting a good response from the audience…

I’d like to know more about Pevensey Castle (7 mins). It was built in 300AD or so, and at the time was a Roman Fort. The sea surrounded it on three sides, now it is 1.5km from the sea. William the Conqueror landed there (or close to it) in 1066. Apparently the water was so high, they used to toss prisoners over the wall and the tide would take their bodies away. Now it is high and dry. Apparently the marshes around the castle have also been actively reclaimed as the land was so valuable. Obviously there are several factors at work. [Google images show how far the sea is now.]


Not-so-green hydroelectric dams give off more methane than anyone thought

Hydroelectricity is the only renewable that produces any meaningful amounts of energy on a global scale (about 16% of all electricity, compared to the paltry cumulative total from all other renewables of less than 3.5%). Oh the dilemma, hydropower turns out to release more methane than people realized. New research suggests dams are the main source of methane from rivers, and they could potentially lift global freshwater emissions by 7%.

There are 50,000 large dams around the world, but many, many more smaller ones.

Maeck’s team decided to take a look at methane releases from the water impoundments behind smaller dams that store water less than 50 feet deep.

They describe analysis of methane release from water impounded behind six small dams on a European river. “Our results suggest that sedimentation-driven methane emissions from dammed river hot spot sites can potentially increase global freshwater emissions by up to 7 percent,” said the report. It noted that such emissions are likely to increase due to a boom in dam construction fostered by the quest for new energy sources and water shortages.

From the paper:

Sediment Trapping by Dams Creates Methane Emission Hot Spots