Wednesday, 12 May 2010

Watts up with these speakers?

The Climate Sceptics Party has just announced the Watts Up with the Climate? Australian Tour featuring three prominent sceptics (climate sceptics, not, you know, the real kind, who actually look at the balance of evidence). So who are these speakers? All prominent and well respected climate scientists no doubt. Let's take a look, shall we?
Anthony Watts
A television meteorologist who spent 25 years on the air, Anthony Watts operates a weather technology business and runs one of the most popular science blogs on the internet, He will present advance results on his surface stations project to photographically survey every one of the 1221 USHCN weather stations in the USA used as a “high quality network” that has fallen into neglect.
"Television meteorologist" is a rather heady title, and seeing as though he has no formal scientific training, I think the better description is "weather presenter", like Livinia Nixon. And I'm sure he wouldn't want you to confuse his weather technology business which makes "weather graphics systems for use on television broadcasts" with the kind of technology that meteorologists use to predict the weather. He does have some nice photos of weather stations, and some analysis suggesting that weather stations near buildings, for example, are hotter than those out in a field. This is important work, because no-one in climatology has ever before taken these problems into account.
David Archibald
An Australian scientist operating in the fields of climate science and cancer research, and the author of “Solar Cycle 24: Why the world will continue cooling and why carbon dioxide won’t make a detectable difference”.
Mr. Archibald received a bachelor of science in 1979, so yes, that means he can call himself a scientist. But what has he been doing since then?
David Archibald is a Perth, Australia-based scientist operating in the fields of cancer research, oil exploration and climate science. After graduating in science at Queensland University in 1979, Mr Archibald worked in oil exploration in Sydney and then joined the financial industry as a stock analyst. Mr Archibald has been CEO of multiple oil and mineral exploration companies operating in Australia. He has published a number of papers on the solar influence on climate, and is a director of the Lavoisier Society, a group of Australians promoting rational science in public policy.
He is also the author of what one commentator labelled "The worst climate science paper ever of all time anywhere" (it is really bad). But what's with the cancer research? I turns out he and others have developed a "a new capsule which may help prostate cancer sufferers", made from "...well know vegetables mainly broccoli and chilli [sic]." Just to let you know, I have also developed a new capsule which may help prostate cancer sufferers, except mine contains two all beef patties, special sauce, lettuce, cheese, pickles, onions on a sesame seed bun. I'm pretty sure the two are equally effective.

And last...
David Stockwell, Ph.D.
Former U.S. scientist, living in Emerald, QLD, and author of the book Niche Modeling, David Stockwell presents the “known knowns” of climate change, especially for the Central Highlands environment, mining, pastoral and agricultural industries.
It always seems odd to me when people state their names followed by Ph.D., instead of just using Dr, but who am I to judge? Here is what else he has to say about himself.
After receiving a Ph.D. in Ecosystem Dynamics from the Australian National University in 1992, I worked as a consultant (WHO, Parks and Wildlife, Land and Natural Resources services) until moving to the San Diego Supercomputer Center at University of California San Diego in 1997. There I helped to develop computational and data intensive infrastructure for ecological niche modeling mainly using museum collections data with grants from the NSF, USGS and DOT. I developed the GARP (Genetic Algorithm for Rule-set Production) system making contributions in many fields: modeling of invasive species, epidemiology of human diseases, the discovery of seven new species of chameleon in Madagascar, and effects on species of climate change. I have published in major journals and was judged by the US Immigration Service as an Outstanding Researcher, recognized internationally as outstanding in their academic field.
So he is a legitimate scientist. Not a climate scientist, but a real scientist. However, does anyone think that last sentence is very odd? Next time I want a glowing reference, remind me to ask for one from the US Immigration Service.

Finally, it is only fair to check the contribution of each of these speakers to the vast scientific literature on the causes of climate change. I'll only look at peer reviewed journal articles, because as we all know, real scientists simply do not publish original work in books, newsletters or blogs. As far as I can tell, Watts is unpublished, while Archibald has one paper (see above), and Stockwell has three papers about predicting the effects of climate change on biodiversity, but only one paper regarding actual climate change scenarios. Interestingly, the only two peer reviewed scientific papers that I could find by these presenters both appeared in the journal Energy and Environment. I had not heard of this journal, so I looked it up in the list 20,000+ journals catalogued and ranked by the Australian Government for the purpose of assessing the quality of academic output in Australian Universities. It wasn't there.

Be sure to check out the national tour of ex-TV weatherman, oil prospector and Outstanding ResearcherTM "to hear all sides and make up your own mind".

Posted by Daryl Holland, Ph.D.

Tuesday, 11 May 2010

Man pisses in bath

Sometimes I like to rename headlines to more accurately convey the true nature of a story. The original headline from the Sydney Morning Herald is:
How does he live? Starving yogi 'blessed by goddess' astounds doctors
An 83 year old Indian holy man by the name of Prahlad Jani who claims to have lived without food and water for the past 74 years...
...spent a fortnight in a hospital in the western India state of Gujarat under constant surveillance from a team of 30 medics equipped with cameras and closed circuit television.

During the period, he neither ate nor drank and did not go to the toilet.

"We still do not know how he survives," neurologist Sudhir Shah told reporters after the end of the experiment.

It is still a mystery what kind of phenomenon this is.

The long-haired and bearded yogi was sealed in a hospital in the city of Ahmedabad in a study initiated by India's Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO), the state defence and military research institute.
To analyse this claim, we need to break it into two parts. Firstly, pretty much anybody can go 15 days without food, so even if that part was true, it is fairly unremarkable. On the other hand, it is almost impossible to go without water for more than a few days, even under the best of conditions, so that is the claim that needs to be analysed.
"(Jani's) only contact with any kind of fluid was during gargling and bathing periodically during the period," G. Ilavazahagan, director of India's Defence Institute of Physiology and Allied Sciences (DIPAS), said in a statement.
Uh, A bath? They conducted a scientifically rigourous study into a man who claims to drink no water, and they allowed him to gargle and take baths?

Still, I guess if there was a reasonable physiological explanation for this man’s gift, I might give it a bit more credence.
If Jani does not derive energy from food and water, he must be doing that from energy sources around him, sunlight being one," said Shah.
Makes sense. Trees use sunlight as an energy source. Hmmm, but trees also require all kinds of nutrients, and copious amounts of, you guessed it, water.

Alternate headline:
Scientists confuse tree for man; tree enjoys bath
The researchers say that they will publish the full results in a few months. I’ll hold my breath until then, just because I can.