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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Climate change will make your plane late, imprison you at home, buckle roads, boil asphalt

It’s the end of the world, and kittens will probably die too. Here’s another round of Global Panic. Horror part I: you will get stuck at airport-world

Earlier this week, nearly 50 flights out of Phoenix were cancelled. At 120 degrees, the temperature forecast exceeded the airline’s 118 degrees maximum operating temperature.

It’s difficult not to connect the delays to climate change….

It’s difficult not to blame climate change, after a generation of brainwashing.

So Phoenix got to 48.9C which made it nearly as hot as Marble Bar, Australia, last year (when it was 49C). After 80 years of deadly global warming both towns were nearly as hot as Marble Bar was in 1922.

As the world continues to warm, such plane delays will become more common, says Camilo Mora, an associate geography professor at the University of Hawaii at Manoa. And that’s just the beginning.

And imagine what associate professors of geology might forecast on flight patterns circa 2080? You’ll never know if you read Fortune, where anyone can forecast climate bad-news, but prize-winning atmospheric scientists remain invisible if they stick to things they know, like the [...]

The worst possible thing for discovery is to throw more government money at it

The story of three kinds of curiosity — two genuine, one “induced”

Several wise men foresaw the decline of organized science. Here, a man called Gordon Tulloch was inspired by Popper to look at the social organisation of scientists to try to figure out what made it work. He noticed there were three kinds of researchers, one driven by curiosity for the truth, another on a mission to solve a problem, and a third with an “induced” curiosity created by demand from elsewhere — boss or government. He predicted that the system would fail if those who were induced outnumbered the truly curious, as the “induced” curiosity was not well connected to reality, whereas the other two types were. The primary aim of the induced researcher was not to solve a problem or uncover an answer but just to keep their jobs, and there were many ways to “keep their jobs” that did not involve actual discovery. Indeed for some jobs, thinks Jo, actual discovery could be a catastrophic event.

He foresaw a degenerative spiral which appears to have come to pass. Once induced researchers are managed by people without enough skill to read and assess [...]

US Republicans vote to spend more on hard science, less on social-climatey type stuff

US Republicans have passed a bill through the House (but not the Senate yet) aiming to get back some control over the 7 billion dollar science budget. Previously the National Science Foundation (or NSF) had all the fun in dishing out the dough, but the Republicans have had enough. Their wish list includes cutting social sciences by 55%, climate science by 8%, and putting extra money into biology, computers, engineering and hard sciences. It can’t come soon enough.

Critics are howling that this will politicize science, but it’s just the opposite. Science was already politicized, and thanks in no small part to the NSF itself. This would put control of the funding back slightly closer to the voters. The NSF is almost unaccountable to the taxpayer, and if the NSF had not wasted money on so many one-sided pointless extravaganza’s (like $5m for “climate games”) and tipped so much money into “behavioural” studies, the elected members would not be knocking at their door. The NSF has only itself to blame.

Ultimately, elected representatives have to be accountable for public spending, but they like to hand over control to a committee of experts. Said committee grows on the gravy train, and [...]

The opportunity the Coalition/Tories/Republicans missed to solve climate dilemma, save money, save environment

How do we fund science?

So far, conservative politicians don’t get it…

Most conservative governments have bowed to the name-calling bullies for far too long. They are either fooled by the names (do they think “denier” is a scientific term?), or they are so afraid of being called “deniers” themselves that they adopt the bullies meme, too scared to ask the most basic and substantial questions of it. They have stayed out of science, while big-government players have milked the good brand-name shamelessly. Science needs to be set straight.

Above all else, those who care about the environment and the people should grab the moral high ground and the sensible-middle-road at the same time, and get serious about getting the science correct– which means the most rigorous investigation, the best practice, and a real ongoing public debate (no, there hasn’t been one yet). The environment and citizens deserve nothing less. And paying for better studies costs a fraction of global trading schemes, along with tens of thousands of bird-killing turbines and solar industrial plants.

Before we spend anything on mitigating a problem based on models, we need to know what empirical evidence supports the assumptions in the models.  (Make [...]