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Cosmos and consensus

This is a guest post by Kevin O'Sullivan

In his book Cosmos, published in 1981, Carl Sagan highlights the controversial issue surrounding the hypothesis proposed by Immanuel Velikovsky that the Planet Venus was spun off from Jupiter. Sagan gives his own reasons why this idea is implausible, but was troubled more by the cosy world of scientific consensus, and attempts made by some elements in the scientific community at the time to silence Velikovsky. It has a chilling resonance of the intolerance we see today emanating from the "consensus" view on climate change, and attempts by some proponents of AGW to block any opinion contrary to their own. The concerns expressed by Carl Sagan are as relevant today as they were back in 1981.

Cosmos: Chapter four. Heaven and Hell.

Many hypotheses proposed by scientists as well as by non-scientists turn out to be wrong. But science is a self-correcting enterprise. To be accepted, all new ideas must survive rigorous standards of evidence. The worse aspect of the Velikovsky affair is not that his hypotheses were wrong or in contradiction to firmly established facts, but that some who call themselves scientists attempted to suppress Velikovsky’s work. Science is generated by and devoted to free inquiry: the idea that any hypothesis, no matter how strange, deserves to be considered on its merits. The suppression of uncomfortable ideas may be common in religion and politics, but is not the path to knowledge; it has no place in the evidence of science. We do not know in advance who will discover fundamental new insights.

The IPCC and our “unbiased” science correspondents at the BBC would do well to adhere to this simple advice.

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Reader Comments (76)

See also philosopher David Stove's fine essay on the same subject. 'The Velikovsky story: the scientific mafia'.

"Another, and probably still more important contributory fact, must have been that Velikovsky is a spectacular transgressor of the boundaries between disciplines. He presumes to teach history to historians, geology to geologists -- and so on indefinitely -- as well as astronomy to the astronomers. Border-jumping, as is well known, is a thing detested in the intellectual world."

The original essay is no long on line (that I could discover), but it is available in Stove's books. See this page for details.

Jan 6, 2012 at 1:00 PM | Unregistered CommenterWilliam M Briggs

Funnily enough

Dr. Sagan was one of the early supporters of the Global Warming Theory, the proposition that the build-up of CO2, methane and refrigerant gases in the atmosphere could lead to a cataclysmic rise in the earth's temperature. He was also one of first proponents of the Nuclear Winter Theory, the proposition that nuclear war would send so much dust and debris into the atmosphere that heat from the sun would be blocked and the planet would freeze. Both theories have been hotly contested by respected members of the scientific community. A 1992 Gallup poll of scientists involved in climate research, for example, showed that 53% of the respondents did not believe global warming was occurring and 30% were undecided.

How times change!

Jan 6, 2012 at 1:08 PM | Unregistered Commenterwoodentop

How true. Clearly the AGW argument is flawed and is political (maybe a case for changing the 'unique' way the BBC is funded too). Thankfully we have the Internet and bloggers. Somewhere for free thinkers.

Jan 6, 2012 at 1:10 PM | Unregistered CommenterMark Williams

Nice coincidence - having just finished "Feynman" by Ottaviani and Myrick (a graphic novel-style biography, which I thoroughly recommend to fellow Feynman fans) I am about to start reading Cosmos since I realised it is a classic that I never got round to reading.

After that it's Freeman Dyson, who again I have got round to reading but really should have done.

Jan 6, 2012 at 1:16 PM | Unregistered CommenterRichard Betts

On yesterday's Material World (R4), on The End of the World, an astronomer mentioned that global warming might do it. And to make things worse, Stephen Hawking said something similar this morning on the Today programme.

What's that saying, "If you can't beat 'em, join 'em"?

Jan 6, 2012 at 1:21 PM | Unregistered CommenterBrent Hargreaves

Back in the distant past, Sagan delivered the six-part Royal Institution Christmas Lecture on 'The Planets' -- noting that all 'yooman beens' are nothing but 'star stuff'.

Still available online to see the great man in action -

Jan 6, 2012 at 1:30 PM | Unregistered CommenterRick Bradford

Stephen Hawking was responding to listeners concerns regarding the survival of the human species, I think. He posited nuclear armageddon and global warming as threats and suggested colonisation of another world.

Coming down to Earth, most geologists would probably agree that whatever one's views on the severity or triviality of man's impact on the environmental planetary health, we will have to face the return of a dibilitating full glaciation. Climatologists, strangely, do not appear much interested in the timing of such a rather serious and compelling natural climatic perturbation.

Jan 6, 2012 at 1:52 PM | Unregistered CommenterPharos

On a similar note, I would recommend "The Trouble With Physics" by Perimeter Institute cosmologist Lee Smolin, in which he devotes much time to the 'sociology' surrounding string theory, viz that one must be a 'believer' to get funding, etc, and makes many criticisms of it which would apply equally well to other areas of science. One in particular.

Jan 6, 2012 at 2:38 PM | Unregistered Commenterblindcyclists

"further discussion of it merely incumbers the literature and befogs the mind of fellow students."

"If we are to believe in Wegener's hypothesis we must forget everything which has been learned in the past 70 years and start all over again."

Subject: Wegener and Continental Drift

Jan 6, 2012 at 2:42 PM | Unregistered CommenterRHG

I read Velikovsky some time ago, but seem to remember his theory was that Venus was a comet captured in the Solar System. Some of his evidence was based on biblical stories, like the flood and parting of the Red Sea, and the fact that the same stories about certain events were told by civilisations thousands of miles apart at the same time. He also points to ancient drawings of the sky that don't appear to have a Venus in them.

One thing for sure his prediction that the atmosphere of Venus would be mainly hydro-carbons has been proved right and I don't know if there is an explanation why Venus is the only planet in the solar system that rotates from east to west.

He corresponded with Einstein who, if not agreeing with his theories, listened to them.

Jan 6, 2012 at 2:45 PM | Unregistered Commentergeronimo

Did I say that enough times?

Jan 6, 2012 at 2:46 PM | Unregistered Commentergeronimo

Great thread. Sagan says nothing wrong in this sentence:

The suppression of uncomfortable ideas may be common in religion and politics, but is not the path to knowledge; it has no place in the evidence of science.

All I'd add is that the suppression of uncomfortable ideas has no place in religion or in any kind of thinking about worldview. It is not the path to knowledge, period.

Jan 6, 2012 at 2:53 PM | Unregistered CommenterRichard Drake

I spoke at length to Carl Sagan about Velikovsky and Von Daniken. Whilst he brought a devastating logic to bear on such points of view, he was always gentlemanly and never ridiculed anyone for holding seemingly crazy ideas, let alone scientific ideas that were not part of a perceived mainstream 'consensus.' I saw him take very seriously the strange views of taxi drivers about UFOs without loosing patience or resorting to winning an argument by his authority. Even during the many occasions when he was attacked personally - the NAS "Sagan soap on a rope" comments - he was always tolerant and patient.

Lesser scientists and intellects, particularly ennobled ones, could do well to follow his example.

Jan 6, 2012 at 2:59 PM | Unregistered CommenterDavid Whitehouse

Thanks for the recomendation on the Feynman book Richard, it looks interesting.

Jan 6, 2012 at 3:03 PM | Unregistered CommenterEddy




Jan 6, 2012 at 3:05 PM | Unregistered CommenterJAMSPID

Perhaps a better example were the Darwin wars where Louis Agassiz and other anti-Darwinians came up with the idea to form a quasi- governmental science body that they would form, control and politically bless the "correct" scientific consensus. The name was/is the National Academies of Science.

The IPCC is a strategy at least as old as the National Academies -most likely older. (James Dana recognized the formation of NAS for what it was and undermined Agassiz in some fast back room maneuvering having nothing to do with scientific debate)

We could learn a lot from the Darwin wars as all the same tactics including smearing of academics, packing universities with pro or anti Darwinians, self selection of grad students, threats to university funding etc.

Jan 6, 2012 at 3:13 PM | Unregistered CommenterPatrick Moffitt

I met Carl several times while at Cornell in the late 1960's and all the comments above about him are true. He was a gentleman. And there was one thing more -- he use to say, at least once in my hearing -- "You never know what might prove to be right."

Stop to consider such things as "black holes." Pure speculation while he was alive, yet today the basis of cosmology. And today we are seriously looking for "dark matter", "dark energy", supra dimensional space, and the Higgs field with its strange paparazzi attraction to some sub-atomic particles and yet not others. All of this would have got you locked up not even ten years ago and today it is main stream science.

Where is Carl now that we need him? He was taken far too young.

Jan 6, 2012 at 3:33 PM | Unregistered CommenterDon Pablo de la Sierra

Quote 'The IPCC and our “unbiased” science correspondents at the BBC would do well to adhere to this simple advice.'

Gotta go along with that!

But where to put the quotation marks? You could well have put them around 'science', and perhaps also around 'correspondents', and then to reduce clutter just follow an unadorned 'unbiased' with a simple 'ho-ho'. Perhaps 'proselytisers' would be more apt and informative than 'correspondents'. Let me try it out:

The IPCC and our unbiased ho-ho 'science' proselytisers at the BBC would do well to adhere to this simple advice.

No, it does not read as well as the original. Non-trival task this writing game!

Jan 6, 2012 at 3:33 PM | Unregistered CommenterJohn Shade

Pharos: "...Climatologists, strangely, do not appear much interested in the timing of such a rather serious and compelling natural climatic perturbation..."

That's probably because they know nothing serious is likely to happen in their lifetime, and indeed ourrs, so better to push on with the scaremongering, it's good for funding. By the time it's cold enough to cause concern, they (and we) will be long gone.

Jan 6, 2012 at 3:36 PM | Unregistered CommenterOld Goat


One thing is certain, they never get much above 3/4 of the stated capacity 0f 4006 MW...and their output is very variable - currently about 2100 MW. We can always cound on wind-power...LOL. The interconnects with France, Netherlands and Ireland tend to produce about the same as wind. It makes you wonder whether the engineers are using them as the "spinning" reserve.

Jan 6, 2012 at 3:37 PM | Unregistered Commenterdiogenes

Kevin, While I would agree with the noble sentiments expressed above, I'm not sure about the wider picture

Sagan was at the forefront of efforts to discredit Velikovsky, as a few minutes spent with Google will show, so I'm not sure that his published sentiments here align with his personal actions on the matter.
That said I have read neither Velikovsky, nor Sagan on Velikovsky, so I have no idea why it would be so important to rebut, debunk, discredit or whatever was the popular descriptive at the time his published works (that I confess I'd always assumed were novels :)

Jan 6, 2012 at 3:42 PM | Unregistered CommenterChuckles

Sagan thought that the Earth could turn into another Venus by CAGW but he made a bad mistake in the optical physics, used in all the climate models.

Basically, it assumes that high cloud albedo comes from smaller cloud droplets. This is only true for thin clouds. For thicker clouds, once a bimodal droplet size distribution is achieved, cloud albedo rapidly rises.

Hence the cooling from polluted [small droplet] clouds that is assumed to hide high feedback CO2-AGW doesn't exist. Ergo, there is no measurable CO2-AGW at present.

As CO2 is not responsible for bring the Earth out of ice ages, another warming process is responsible - it's reduction of cloud albedo. The same explains present Arctic melting, now starting to reverse as shown by N. Atlantic OHC data:

There is probably no CAGW risk: CO2-AGW is probably near zero, a combination of the IR physics, very different to that claimed by the IPCC, and a natural control process.

Jan 6, 2012 at 4:14 PM | Unregistered Commenterspartacusisfree

A cynical attempt to put forward the same tired old canards (proponents of AGW to block any opinion contrary to their own) and hijack the memory of a much respected dead scientist to make a partisan point. AFAIK Carl Sagan made no statements about the nascent IPCC before his untimely death in 1996 . Did he make any statements about the consensus on AGW ? If you want look at Carl Sagan's views on the environment I think you'll find that they were somewhat at odds with this blog. It would have been honest for the author to reference that before cherry picking Sagan's work and then using it to bash the IPCC.

Jan 6, 2012 at 4:28 PM | Unregistered CommenterHengist McStone

The Sagan-Velikovsky story doesn’t end there. Velikovsky, like the good scientist he aimed to be, made some falsifible predictions which followed from his hypothesis. One of them - that Venus would prove to be hot - embarassingly turned out to be true. Sagan quickly came up with the runaway greenhouse effect as an alternative explanation.

The Velikovsky idea of recent disruptions to the solar system has been taken up by others, and is now discussed interestingly at the Electric Universe site

Jan 6, 2012 at 4:32 PM | Unregistered Commentergeoffchambers

Though no-one would nowadays defend Velikovsky’s thesis of the birth of Venus from Jupiter in historical times, the general idea that the solar system may have suffered recent major disruption, giving rise to cataclysmic events and spectacular celestial displays which are at the basis of much mythology, is still alive and well. The site I mention above combines the insights of Velikovsky with recent developments in plasma physics and the “no red shift” theory of distinguished astronomer Halton Arp to provide some convincing explanations of a lot of the baffling findings of current solar system exploration.
Benny Peiser has contributed to some of the post-Velikovsky research. I mention it here, because I’m sure Monbiot will bring it up one day, in order to attempt to ridicule the GWPF in his normal graceful fashion (as he did over Morner and dowsing).

Jan 6, 2012 at 4:48 PM | Unregistered Commentergeoffchambers

Well how strange is that Bish ?? - My copy of Cosmos on DVD arrived today - I thought that I would watch it through again - I still have the book and the vinyl of the music.

Good to be reminded of Carl Sagan's wise words - at one time you wouldn't have thought that scientists needed reminding BUT we live in very strange times - or do we? Some biographers have suggested that a scientist called Isaac Newton was known to block work he didn't agree with.

I came across these words spoken by Richard Feynman in 1974. He makes a similar serious point in his usual amusing manner. H/T to Andrew Garland who lead me to it in comments on the Armed and Dangerous blog.

Jan 6, 2012 at 4:52 PM | Unregistered CommenterRetiredDave

Hengist said

"A cynical attempt to put forward the same tired old canards (proponents of AGW to block any opinion contrary to their own)"

You have not read the ClimateGate emails then?

For a long time you could have got away with a comment like that but these days.............................

Jan 6, 2012 at 5:00 PM | Unregistered CommenterRetiredDave

Hengist; Sagan was a showman. As with many showmen physicists, it was all about the 'equation'. Venus never reached its present state by CAGW as Sagan believed because his 'equation' is only partial, not general as it says on the tin.

Hansen and Lacis used it in 1974 to model our atmosphere unaware of its defects. Hansen is still trying to protect the 4.2 K CO2 climate sensitivity in GISSE by claiming polluted clouds exactly match increased CO2-AGW. It doesn't wash any more.

Add in Trenberth's belief in the perpetual motion machine of Arrhenius' 'back radiation' and Ramanathan's belief in 100% IR thermalisation by CO2 and you have the recipe for the most expensive scientific cock up in history.

This is a dead science, a Norwegian Blue, nailed to the perch by the IPCC. The dismal intellectual lefties must learn to tell the difference between propaganda and truth; can't trust scientists now.

CO2-AGW is very low because the IPCC fouled up and in 1997, instead of confessing, decided to cover it up and hope they'd retire before the truth came out. The culpable one is Hansen because he is the leader; Ramanathan is a good experimentalist; Trenberth's tyres are smoking in reverse.

Jan 6, 2012 at 6:07 PM | Unregistered Commentermydogsgotnonose


Hansen is still trying to protect the 4.2 K CO2 climate sensitivity in GISSE by claiming polluted clouds exactly match increased CO2-AGW. It doesn't wash any more.

These days the emergent value for CS from ModelE runs is 2.7C (or possibly 2.8C). I will have to check.

Jan 6, 2012 at 6:54 PM | Unregistered CommenterBBD

It seems to depend on which ocean simulation is used, but the range given is 2.7 - 2.9C:

The model’s climate sensitivity of 2.7–2.9C for doubled CO2 is well within the empirical range of 3±1C for doubled CO2 that has been inferred from paleoclimate and other observational evidence (Hansen et al., 1984, 1993; Hoffert and Covey, 1992; Annan and Hargreaves, 2006).

Not exactly controversial these days.

Jan 6, 2012 at 7:00 PM | Unregistered CommenterBBD

@ RetiredDave Ah it all comes back to Climategate emails every time doesn't it?

Here's a short video (part of a larger broadcast) made by the great man himself . So we know it's his real views. Unlike the nonsense posted above.

Jan 6, 2012 at 7:23 PM | Unregistered CommenterHengist McStone

@Hengist paraphrased:

"Ah it all comes back to evidence (for RetiredDave's assertion) every time doesn't it".

The cheek of someone introducing evidence...

Jan 6, 2012 at 8:47 PM | Unregistered Commenterwoodentop

That book by Smolin, 'The Trouble with Physics', recommended by 'blindcyclist' above, is well worth reading - and yep, the similarities to a certain other 'science' are astonishing.

Well, there's nothing new under the sun, said Ecclesiates ...

Jan 6, 2012 at 9:00 PM | Unregistered CommenterViv Evans

One of my favourite Carl Sagan papers is this one in Science 1979 on the effects of anthropogenic surface albedo change on climate.

Although the paper is mainly about albedo he does mention anthropogenic increases in CO2 providing a warming effect - see page 1367 middle column.

Jan 6, 2012 at 10:52 PM | Unregistered CommenterRichard Betts

Hengist - I wasn't arguing whether Carl Sagan believed in AGW or CAGW or even whether Richard Feynman would have done.

I was simply stating that both would have been against the antics and behaviour revealed by the ClimateGate emails. After all we don't have to guess what those antics were - they are there revealed in the emails.

Jan 6, 2012 at 10:59 PM | Unregistered CommenterRetiredDave

Hengist, although Sagan may not have lived long enough to comment on the IPCC, one of the other great scientists on Dr Betts' reading list has certainly made his feelings on CAGW quite clear... go and look at what Freeman Dyson thinks about the subject!

Jan 6, 2012 at 11:18 PM | Unregistered CommenterDave Salt

I'm not sure Velikovsky is a guy I would be using as an argument for the poor behaviour of scientists. He was a crank. By crank, I mean a guy with one crazy-ass theory – the movement of planets in historical time – which explained everything. (As soon as you see a theory that explains everything, look out.)

He was a clever man, though. So naturally some of the predictions he made were found to be true. That doesn't validate his theories. He got far, far more wrong than right.

The world is full of cranks with wild theories. Should the medical community give Happeh the time of day? (Warning, do not Google "Happeh" lightly at work.)

The AGW-sceptic community is not proposing a crazy scheme (if anything it is opposing one). It has many members. It provides clear evidence.

The pro-AGW lobby would love to pigeon-hole us as cranks, along the lines of Velikovsky. Please don't encourage them in that effort.

Sometimes cranks are not lone voices battling in the wind with justice on their side. Sometimes they are just cranks.

Jan 7, 2012 at 1:30 AM | Unregistered CommenterMooloo

Let us not forget that the clearest and most resolute defender of the doctrine that no idea should be suppressed because the best means for determining truth is the free market of ideas was John Stuart Mill.

I firmly believe that if the ideas of mainstream climate science were clearly explicated and presented to the public that they would be rejected in a matter of days. Getting a mainstream climate scientist to discuss his work in a candid way is as difficult as pulling teeth.

Jan 7, 2012 at 5:55 AM | Unregistered CommenterTheo Goodwin

Both of those scientists died long before the climategate email hack. You are indulging in the same foolery as Kevin O'Sullivan and grafting your opinions onto the legacy of scientists who aren't around to correct your assertions.

What's next for Bishop Hill I wonder. Johannes Kepler on MMR ? Or a pronouncement from Hippocrates of Cos on Cold Fusion ?

Jan 7, 2012 at 9:28 AM | Unregistered CommenterHengist McStone

BBD: Hansen's 1984 and 1988 papers use 4.2 K CO2 climate sensitivity based on palaeoclimate comparison. Unfortunately, the 1997 revelation that CO2 lags T meant that he had to find (1) another delta tsi amplification process [in 1985 he claimed it's 'albedo flip of wet vs dry ice] and (2) to calibrate climate sensitivity against post industrial warming. This is why we had the fake hockey sticks and the MWP was 'disappeared'.

The discovery in 2007 that the end of the last ice age started with regional warming in the Southern hemisphere, particularly the deep Southern Ocean shows that the mechanism of delta tsi amplification is something different - it's phytoplankton blooms. There is ample evidence that such events trigger the end of ice ages, including when it was 41 ky period.

The same process in the Arctic gave us this:

This localised warming is from phytoplankton blooms changing regional Northern climate, hence the ice melt. Because it's nothing to do with CO2, its climate sensitivity may be very low indeed. There are two explanations - a natural control process, the IPCC IR physics is bunkum. I favour a combination of the two.

The great CO2-AGW scam is nearly over. I hope you get a good new job so you can forget.

Jan 7, 2012 at 11:07 AM | Unregistered Commentermydogsgotnonose

Hengist, just in case you could not find a link to Dyson's thoughts on CAGW, here are a few that leave no room for misinterpretation... they are both spoken and written by the man himself. My apologies for not providing these links in my original post.

Moreover, it's clear that this is a subject that he has studied in some detail over a considerable period of time and so cannot be dismissed as just sound-bites from a 'celebrity scientist', which are far too much the norm these days.

Jan 7, 2012 at 11:22 AM | Unregistered CommenterDave Salt

Freeman Dyson is a renaissance man of a scientist. That means he looks at the whole problem, not just what can be used to create a career by an otherwise narrow specialist. Thus, post ClimateGate I and many hundreds of other highly experienced scientists and engineers looked at IPCC climate science and saw through it.

Most of the science is fine but there are three major physics' errors. The structure is only held together by the biased peer review process preventing publication of views which contradict the fault lines. This has to be deliberate.

1. 'Back radiation' concept is an elementary error as any process engineer sees instantly.
2. 'Cloud albedo effect' cooling, 44% of net median AIE in AR4 has no experimental proof and it's based on Sagan's incomplete aerosol optical physics which misses out a major optical process.
3. The claim of 33 K present GHG warming is another elementary mistake. It's really ~9 K, a combination of mostly H2O GHG warming countered by cooling from clouds.

Correct these errors and CO2-AGW is not needed to explain end of ice age warming and much modern warming [solar variation plus the Arctic 70 year melt cycle]. Maximum possible CO2 climate sensitivity is ~0.45 K but it could well be slightly negative.

The only proof of this will be if by 2020, as the Russians believe, the Arctic has frozen again. none of the climate ,models as presently formulated are worth anything.

Jan 7, 2012 at 11:40 AM | Unregistered Commentermydogsgotnonose

@Dave Salt
No need to apologise, I had the author down as one Kevin O'Sullivan not yourself. How did you get on to Dyson anyhow ? I certainly never mentioned him . He's still alive and can speak for himself so that's fine. Whereas Sagan is dead and the author of this piece (whoever he is) has not even paid lip service to Sagan's recorded thoughts on the issue of AGW . It's misrepresentation not skepticism.

Jan 7, 2012 at 2:10 PM | Unregistered CommenterHengist McStone

Hengist, please would you explain where the author of this post misrepresents Sagan? All he does he quote what Sagan wrote about a particular scientific controversy in a book. Is that misrepresentation? Is it a manufactured quote? The author makes no comment or speculation as to Sagan's views on climate change.

Jan 7, 2012 at 2:21 PM | Unregistered Commenterdiogenes

Hengist, you asked "How did you get on to Dyson anyhow ?" and the answer is because Dr Betts (Jan 6, 2012 at 1:16 PM) mentioned him as being next on his reading list, after Sagan, so I thought it somewhat relevant. Moreover, you seemed keen to know what great physicists of the past thought about AWG and Dyson, who has far more scientific 'gravitas' than Sagan, is probably the only one to have made explicit statements on the subject.

For me, Dyson has always been something of a legend because of his space-based ideas (e.g. the Dyson Sphere, Project Orion and as his general efforts at the Space Studies Institute) and the fact that his views on AGW tend to parallel my own was something of a pleasant surprise when I first learned of them in 2007. Arthur Clarke once said of Dyson that he was one of the few authentic geniuses he had ever met, though I would not use this statement to justify Dyson's views on AGW... his own words and logic are more than sufficient.

By the way, I believe Feynman would have held similar views about AGW, given his warnings about 'cargo cult science', but that's clearly just speculation on my part.

Jan 7, 2012 at 3:29 PM | Unregistered CommenterDave Salt

Feynman and Dyson brought clarity to science.

The high feedback CO2-AGW theory only works if you falsify key physics and assemble it in a computer model which has no null hypothesis.

It's alchemy, not science.

Jan 7, 2012 at 4:40 PM | Unregistered Commentermydogsgotnonose

"What's next for Bishop Hill I wonder. Johannes Kepler on MMR ?"

Interesting you should mention Kepler. He was an an astrologer obsessed with the phrase "music of the spheres" and, if you read his books, quite recognisably a crank. He'd feel right at home on the internet. But he was also a fastastically meticulous observer of the planets in the interests of his crankery, and so others took his results seriously.

But now since the first light eight months ago, since broad day three months ago, and since the sun of my wonderful speculation has shone fully a very few days ago: nothing holds me back. I am free to give myself up to the sacred madness, I am free to taunt mortals with the frank confession that I am stealing the golden vessels of the Egyptians, in order to build of them a temple for my God, far from the territory of Egypt.
However, there are as it were two noteworthy weddings of these figures, made from different classes: the males, the cube and the dodecahedron, among the primary; the females, the octahedron and the icosahedron, among the secondary, to which is added one as it were bachelor or hermaphrodite, the tetrahedron, because it is inscribed in itself, just as those female solids are inscribed in the males and are as it were subject to them, and have the signs of the feminine sex, opposite the masculine, namely angles opposite planes. Moreover, just as the tetrahedron is the element, bowels, and as it were rib of the male cube, so the feminine octahedron is the element and part of the tetrahedron in another way; and thus the tetrahedron mediates in this marriage.
From among the familiar Modes, I should give to Saturn the Seventh or Eighth, because if you place its key-note at G, the perihelial movement ascends to b, to Jupiter the First or Second Mode, because its aphelial movement has been fitted to G and its perihelial movement arrives at b flat; to Mars the Fifth or Sixth Mode, not only because Mars comprehends approximately the perfect fifth, which interval is common to all the Modes, but principally because when it is reduced with the others to a common system, it attains c with its perihelial movement and touches f with its aphelial, which is the key-note of the Fifth or Sixth Mode or Tone; I should give the Third or Fourth Mode to the Earth, because its movement revolves within a semitone; but to Mercury will belong indifferently all the Modes or Tones on account of the greatness of its range; to Venus, clearly none on account of the smallness of its range; but on account of the common system the Third and Fourth Mode, because with reference to the other planets it occupies e. (The Earth sings MI, FA, MI so that you may infer even from the syllables that in this our domicile MIsery and FAmine obtain.)

But now, Urania, there is need for louder sound while I climb along the harmonic scale of the celestial movements to higher things where the true archetype of the fabric of the world is kept hidden. ...

...and so on. You get the idea. Galileo and Copernicus didn't talk like that. But of course Kepler was right about some particularly important things, and other scientists ignored the strangeness and judged his ideas and observations on their own merits. Would that we were all so open-minded.

Jan 7, 2012 at 4:49 PM | Unregistered CommenterNullius in Verba

I was introduced to Velikovski's theories by a work colleague in the eighties. He was very enthusiastic, bought all his books and relayed to me some of Velikovski's ideas.

What struck me more though was the fact that a big part of the scientific establishment of the day attempted to prevent him being published.

Their attitude seemed to be: 'if he's right then what we've learned and what we're teaching is wrong, therefore, he must be stopped'

I remember thinking - if Velikovski's as wrong as they say, then surely, once published, the experts of the day would be able to pick him apart and he would become a laughing stock.

How reminiscent of the attitude of some of today's establishment AGW alarmist 'scientists'!

Jan 7, 2012 at 6:24 PM | Unregistered CommenterDougS

@Dave Salt
Feynman and Dyson were reported good friends so they might well have been kindred spirtits I don't know of any pronouncements by Feynman on AGW though. Can reccomend his anecdotal book "Surely youre joking Mr Feynman" . Multi talented guy. Played the bongo drums :-)

Jan 7, 2012 at 7:45 PM | Unregistered CommenterHengist McStone


BBD: Hansen's 1984 and 1988 papers use 4.2 K CO2 climate sensitivity based on palaeoclimate comparison.

Wrong. The very first line of Hansen et al. (1988) reads:

We use a three-dimensional climate model, the Goddard Institute for Space Studies (GISS) model II with 8 deg by 10 deg horizontal resolution to stimulate the global climate effects of time-dependent variations of atmospheric trace gasses and aerosols.


Unfortunately, the 1997 revelation that CO2 lags T meant that he had to find (1) another delta tsi amplification process [in 1985 he claimed it's 'albedo flip of wet vs dry ice] and (2) to calibrate climate sensitivity against post industrial warming. This is why we had the fake hockey sticks and the MWP was 'disappeared'.

Nobody - including Hansen - argues that CO2 initated the Holocene. That would be Milankovitch forcing (100ka eccentricity and axial tilt operating in concert). That you should argue this shows that you are ignorant of the basics. Really worrying.

The discovery in 2007 that the end of the last ice age started with regional warming in the Southern hemisphere, particularly the deep Southern Ocean shows that the mechanism of delta tsi amplification is something different - it's phytoplankton blooms. There is ample evidence that such events trigger the end of ice ages, including when it was 41 ky period.

Phytoplankton blooms cause an increase in cloud albedo and cooling. You have this back to front. See Kruger and Grassl (2011) Southern Ocean phytoplankton increases cloud albedo and reduces precipitation.

And where is this 'ample evidence' you are always going on about? I've asked you more than once and you never provide any references.

I don't think you know what you are talking about.

Jan 7, 2012 at 8:23 PM | Unregistered CommenterBBD

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