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« Quote of the day | Main | More on record-keeping »
Wednesday
Oct122011

This is science? This is progress?

Reports on Progress in Physics, a journal published by the Institute of Physics here in the UK, has published a paper by Raymond Orbach, an engineer a physicist at the University of Texas at Austin. It's available in return for free registration, and I actually think it's worth it, if only because it's so toe-curling.

In some ways the paper's title tells you all you need to know about it. `Our Sustainable Earth' looks at (you guessed it) eight climate myths propagated by bad people. Like every other set of climate myths you have ever seen, each of the myths is entirely devoid of sources - Orbach has taken them from this page at his university's website. Where they got them from is a mystery.

In fact, absence of citations is a bit of an issue. Here's how Orbach starts to deal with claims about the medieval warm period.

Climate scientists now understand that the Medieval Warm Period was caused by an increase in  solar radiation and a decrease in volcanic activity, which both promote warming. Other evidence suggests ocean circulation patterns shifted to bring warmer seawater into the North Atlantic.  Those kinds of natural changes have not been detected in the past few decades.

Interesting claims - but where did they come from? We are not told. We are expected to take Prof Obach on trust. At the risk of repeating myself, one would never get away with this kind of thing on a blog.

(PS: Note to Prof Orbach - the ocean near the top of the globe is the Arctic (with a c in the middle). And it's Santer not Senter.

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Reader Comments (88)

Rob Burton

It's an idea. Journals like Climate of the Pastare doing this sort of thing.

However, for HDH's hypothesis, there would need to be rigorous review. Someone from RC, Judith Curry (to ensure fair play all round), HDH's preferred reviewer and a couple more. Perhaps RP Snr might be interested. I'm really throwing this together as I go, so please don't take it as definitive. I think your idea has merit, but of course it would need careful oversight. Quis custodiet and all that.

Oct 12, 2011 at 4:57 PM | Unregistered CommenterBBD

Nobody has yet commented on how sad it is to see the IoP lower itself to publishing some kind of Skeptical-Science-digest, including the awfully flawed concept of "Anthropocene".

Oct 12, 2011 at 4:58 PM | Unregistered CommenterMaurizio Morabito

"What's the only thing that all Left/Greenies share? A profound hatred for, and disconnect from, inconvenient reality.
Oct 12, 2011 at 12:32 PM | Unregistered CommenterRick Bradford"

Dude, I'd hate listening to the radio shows you call in for a chat.

Oct 12, 2011 at 5:12 PM | Unregistered CommentersHx

This should have been in The Royal Climatological Journal of Pasting.

A leading academic journal dedicated to the assumption that endlessly broadcasting unsupported twaddle will cause everyone to believe that most climatologist are honest hardworking scientists victimized by politically motivated cretins. Michael E. Mann editor in chief. (deputy editor 'Sir' Paul Nurse).

Oct 12, 2011 at 5:13 PM | Unregistered CommenterZT

It's been obvious for some time that warmists have been making this stuff up as they go. Even before Climategate, the failure of climate science to find any actual evidence of warming was resulting in increasingly bizarre papers, statements, assertions, etc. This is just another in a long series of logic deficient publications where straw man and ad hominem arguments prevail over data. Not a big surprise.

Oct 12, 2011 at 5:22 PM | Unregistered Commenterjorgekafkazar

Patagon

"You mean all the RAOBCORE data fiddling, Santer's stretching error bars or the postmodern color ramp scale with red at zero have been a futile exercise?"

Yes.

Oct 12, 2011 at 5:31 PM | Unregistered CommenterGeoff

Anything written by Marc Airhart should be viewed with great suspicion. His employer, The Jackson School of Geosciences at U of T Austin, is powered by royalties from .........

............ (shock! horror!) BIG OIL!!!!!!

http://www.jsg.utexas.edu/people/do-gf.html

"Luciano Correa is responsible for managing all the royalty assets of the Jackson School of Geosciences....... The portfolio includes more than 1,300 oil and gas wells."

Oct 12, 2011 at 5:32 PM | Unregistered Commenterbetapug

TheBigYinJames ,

Seeing as we're all sorting out the whole spelling and grammar thing, I' d like to point out that there is no "Y" of any size in James.

James Evans

Oct 12, 2011 at 5:35 PM | Unregistered CommenterJames Evans

@sHx

>Not exactly cut & paste. They clearly disagree on certain points.

Very good point. I stand corrected. Clearly Orbach has made a substantial contribution to the scientific review literature. After all, is it not that by fiddling with the spelling and word order of another person's (also copied) work that science proceeds?

However, it seems that Orbach - no doubt striving to improve the proletariat's understanding of complex logical arguments, simply cut-and-pastes verbatim later on in the article from Airhart. E.g.

Orbach: 'In 1900, scientists published results of a laboratory experiment interpreted at the time to signify that all the long wavelength radiation emitted by Earth is absorbed by the atmosphere already, and that therefore, adding more CO2 could not possibly make a difference.'

Airhart: 'In 1900, scientists published results of a laboratory experiment interpreted at the time to signify that all of the long wavelength radiation emitted by Earth is absorbed by the atmosphere already, and that therefore, adding more CO2 couldn’t possibly make a difference.'

Such are the standards of climatological research.

Oct 12, 2011 at 5:40 PM | Unregistered CommenterZT

"Created by the Energy Policy Act of 2005, Raymond Lee Orbach was nominated by President Bush to serve as the first Under Secretary for Science at the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE)."

Well no wonder Orbach's work is so shoddy. He's only six. And he was designed by the government, apparently. What chance has he got? Give the kid a break.

Oct 12, 2011 at 5:52 PM | Unregistered CommenterJames Evans

"The climactic [sic] consequences of this human dominated increase in atmospheric CO2 define a geologic epoch that has been termed the ‘Anthropocene.’"

Can he really mean "climactic"? That's one to go with "Artic". Can anybody be bothered to read through these Global Warming papers before they're published?

Also from the abstract - in fact the first sentence:

"Recent evidence demonstrates that the Earth has been warming monotonically since 1980".

Monotonically eh? I'm not sure a mathematician would agree with that one, and let me quote Kevin Trenberth, of the US National Center for Atmospheric Research: “Too many think global warming means monotonic relentless warming everywhere year after year. It does not happen that way.”

Didn't get past the abstract though I looked at the charts.

Oct 12, 2011 at 5:56 PM | Unregistered CommenterNicholas Hallam

One should begin a sentence with a capital letter.

consider me rebellious to the consensus.

Oct 12, 2011 at 6:05 PM | Unregistered Commentertutut

Cut and paste? Is Deepclimate on the case already?

Oct 12, 2011 at 6:38 PM | Unregistered CommenterMaurizio Morabito

It would be interesting if Richard Betts were to come here and tell us whether his toes curled with embarrassment or outrage at this paper by a physicist, published by the Institute of Physics.

Oct 12, 2011 at 6:39 PM | Unregistered CommenterPhillip Bratby

Don Pablo de la Sierra

One does not end a sentence with an ellipsis, but uses it simply to show that there are "missing" words. If ending a sentence, there should be a period, question mark, exclamation mark or other appropriate punctuation.

I frequently end a sentence with an ellipsis. It's a way of suggesting that I could have said more...

Oct 12, 2011 at 6:51 PM | Unregistered CommenterMartin A

Oh, I see. (I think.) You are saying a sentence with an ellipsis at the end should finish like this:

It's a way of suggesting that I could have said more....

An ellipsis to show more could have been there, followed by a full stop as the last character of the sentence. Four dots in a row.

No, I'll stick to finishing with an ellipsis.

Oct 12, 2011 at 7:01 PM | Unregistered CommenterMartin A

"No, I'll stick to finishing with an ellipsis."

How will we ever know that you have finished?
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KJCfUm21BsI

Oct 12, 2011 at 7:15 PM | Unregistered CommenterJames Evans

TheBigYinJames ,

Seeing as we're all sorting out the whole spelling and grammar thing, I' d like to point out that there is no "Y" of any size in James.

James Evans
Oct 12, 2011 at 5:35 PM | Unregistered CommenterJames Evans

James I disagree with the above comment regarding a "y" of any size in James.

I have a friend who is known to all as Jamesy.

I also know someone else who is known as Jonesy, thus confirming that in addition to there possibly being a "y" in James there can also be a "y" in Jones. And I have a friend who lives in Napier New Zealand who has the surname Jones and she is known as Bonesy, thus confirming that there is also a y in bones.

Thank you also to those who have commented on the use of the ellipsis this thread has been very (note the y in ver) edumacational dot dot dot screamer

Oct 12, 2011 at 7:22 PM | Unregistered CommenterPeter Walsh

Orbach has taken them from this page at his university's website. Where they got them from is a mystery.

In which case, I'm filing it under What Came First and other Chicken-or-egg like Situations folder.

Oct 12, 2011 at 7:24 PM | Unregistered CommentersHx

Pls note that I omitted to include a full stop after the word ellipsis towards the end of my previous comment and that the word "this" in the next sentence should have been capitalised. Doh!

Oct 12, 2011 at 7:25 PM | Unregistered CommenterPeter Walsh

Why are there so many hypothetical questions today?

Oct 12, 2011 at 7:49 PM | Unregistered CommenterChuckles

"Thank you also to those who have commented on the use of the ellipsis this thread has been very (note the y in ver) edumacational dot dot dot screamer"

It certainly has been edumacational. Thanks to Don Pablo I had to spend twenty minutes learning about dashes on Wikipedia. Seriously. Who knew? There are 27 thousand different types of dash. What - is_ the ~ point ¬ of - that? Sometimes I think the human race just needs to get a grip.

And then there was BBD's latin. Had to look that up, and it turned out to be totally juvenal.

So anyway. Worst science paper ever. The Institute of Physics publishes a paper that is a re~hash of a dodgy un_sourced web¬page written by a journo. Seriously... . Over

Oct 12, 2011 at 7:52 PM | Unregistered CommenterJaYmes Evans

How will we ever know that you have finished?

How indeed...

Oct 12, 2011 at 8:11 PM | Unregistered CommenterMartin A

If it's the journal I'm thinking of Reports of Progress in Physics is pretty far down the academic pecking order. It's meant to publish baby review papers for non-specialists, but it's not clear who if anyone actually reads it. My first significant act as a newly appointed Physics Tutor at Oxford was to cancel my college library's subscription to it.

Oct 12, 2011 at 9:06 PM | Unregistered CommenterJonathan Jones

Oct 12, 2011 at 6:39 PM | Phillip Bratby

I've not read it line-by-line, but fairly quick look through suggests it's rather superficial and I'm surprised it was published - as far as I can see, it's neither new science nor a particularly sophisticated review.

Oct 12, 2011 at 9:40 PM | Unregistered CommenterRichard Betts

The paper was first submitted a few months after the Hal Lewis resignation letter from the American Physical Society. More than likely it's a "nothing to see here" response to his compatriots. I'd love to see the reviewers comments.

Oct 12, 2011 at 10:23 PM | Unregistered CommenterDaveJR

JaYmes Evans

And then there was BBD's latin. Had to look that up, and it turned out to be totally juvenal.

:-)

Oct 12, 2011 at 10:34 PM | Unregistered CommenterBBD

Martin A
No, I'll stick to finishing with an ellipsis.
But you do use the period. Amusing.

tutut
consider me rebellious to the consensus.
Then why do you use a period? Very inconsistent. If you are going to be a rebel, be a rebel without a clause or period, instead of just making a capital case out of it.

Of course, if you both had any talent, you could do a Frank McCourt. But then he knew what he was doing.

And I thought I would have had an argument over whether it was ... . or ....

For those of you who care about our written language, may I suggest Jack Lynch's on-line American grammar which says, amongst other things,

Ellipses.
The ellipsis (plural ellipses) is the mark that indicates the omission of quoted material, as in “Brevity is . . . wit” (stolen shamelessly from an episode of The Simpsons). Note two things: first, most typing manuals and house styles prefer the periods to be spaced, thus:
Brevity is . . . wit.
(In electronic communication it's sometimes convenient, even necessary, to run them together, since line-wrap can be unpredictable.) Second, and more important, is the number of periods. The ellipsis itself is three periods (always); it can appear next to other punctuation, including an end-of-sentence period (resulting in four periods). Use four only when the words on either side of the ellipsis make full sentences. You should never use fewer than three or more than four periods, with only a single exception: when entire lines of poetry are omitted in a block quotation, it's a common practice to replace them with a full line of spaced periods.
One other thing. Although it's a matter of house style, note that it's usually unnecessary to have ellipses at the beginning or end of a quotation; they're essential only when something's omitted in the middle. There's no need for “. . . this . . .” when “this” will do: readers will understand you're not quoting everything the source ever said, and that there will be material before and after the quotation you give. The only time it's advisable is when the bit you're quoting isn't grammatical when it's standing on its own: “When I was a boy . . .” — that sort of thing. [Entry revised 12 July 2005.]

And for the UK English writer who will complain that it is an American grammar, please explain why you now use the double quotation mark outside of the single quotation mark?

Oct 12, 2011 at 11:26 PM | Unregistered CommenterDon Pablo de la Sierra

And will an American writer please explain why they end a sentence with a quotation mark, like this:

Don Pablo de la Sierra used the word "amusing."

Oct 13, 2011 at 1:11 AM | Unregistered CommenterMartin A

pabs..

talk 2 the hand ..
or talk to BBD

Whichever is the most pathetic

Oct 13, 2011 at 1:19 AM | Unregistered Commentertutu

Martin A

And will an American writer please explain why they end a sentence with a quotation mark, like this:

Don Pablo de la Sierra used the word "amusing."

But I am Irish. And what question mark? Amusing.

Oct 13, 2011 at 3:57 AM | Unregistered CommenterDon Pablo de la Sierra

Question mark? I said quotation mark.

Oct 13, 2011 at 8:09 AM | Unregistered CommenterMartin A

LoL, u loot mike me laugh, you spleeinz nannnys. get wid th' yoof...?£!!!!!!

And I always thought it was the message and not the envelope it came in that was most important.

Oct 13, 2011 at 11:56 AM | Unregistered CommenterShevva

Martin A -
Although it's not much of an answer, American usage generally follows the Associated Press Stylebook, which prescribes that commas and periods go inside quotation marks, whereas a question mark goes outside if it applies to the entire statement. The Guardian & Observer style guide indicates the British usage. "Place full points and commas inside the quotes for a complete quoted sentence; otherwise the point comes outside."

I won't presume to speculate why the AP considers context for some punctuation marks but not others. Personally, I find the British usage clearer for your example, or when quotation marks are used to indicate a term of art, as in: A politician who distorts facts is later said to have "misspoken". [Perhaps that's only an American euphemism.]

Oct 13, 2011 at 1:19 PM | Unregistered CommenterHaroldW

I read somewhere that the American standard of putting periods and commas inside quotation marks even if they did not logically belong there stems from the early days of typesetting, where they were less likely to fall out than if placed outside the quotes. This Yank uses the British convention in his own writing.

Oct 14, 2011 at 5:05 AM | Unregistered CommenterCurt

Scientist for Truth,
If I understood the issue, i would have agreed with Orbach that providing a more reliable channel for reporting scientific malfeasance to the "relevant authorities" was not a good idea. If anyone is interested, i could go on for a page or two on this subject, but to keep it simple, "relevant authorities" are usually political appointees.

I enjoyed their cognizance as a licensed professional for 35 years. Would you have scientists licensed?

A channel for consideration of outbreaks of scientific malfeasance does exist - the universities - to which complaints might be referred. Recent experience suggests that unless the malfeasor is already in bad odor with the university, nothing will come of this. I agree that this avenue doesn't often go anywhere.

And do understand that I'm considering only scientific malfeasance not misappropriation of funds or some other deviation which might be susceptible to criminal prosecution.

The rise off blogs as forums for analysis of scientific papers certainly offers plenty of opportunity to make the things you seem to be worried about public even though they lack any form of the punishment you might be looking for. Although ridicule isn't too bad.

If you get a chance, you might have at Eric Larsen's "In the Garden of Beasts" for what happens when a system for reporting malfeasance to relevant authorities is first instituted.

Finally, I apologize if I've misunderstood your point. i take it that you are a practicing scientist and must say I'm astonished that you would be in favor of creating a star chamber for your craft.

Oct 14, 2011 at 2:44 PM | Unregistered Commenterj ferguson

Curt,
Thanks for the information. One learns something new every day!

You might have read about it here, which traces the history to H.W.Fowler's 1908 book The King's English. Fowler: "Argument on the subject is impossible; it is only a question whether the printer's love for the old ways that seem to him so neat, or the writer's and reader's desire to be understood and to understand fully, is to prevail."

Oct 14, 2011 at 3:33 PM | Unregistered CommenterHaroldW

WHAT? The Medieval Warm Period actually EXISTED??!!? No way. Why has this news not got out? Someone inform MSNBC.

Oct 15, 2011 at 4:19 PM | Unregistered CommenterIggy Slanter

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