High School Physics
`High School Physics’
That’s how Al Gore described the science of climate change this week, by which we suppose he meant it’s elementary and unchallengeable. Well, Mr. Vice President, meet Ivar Giaever, a 1973 physics Nobel Laureate who resigned last week from the American Physical Society in protest over the group’s insistence that evidence of man-made global warming is “incontrovertible.”
In an email to the society, Mr. Giaever—-who works at Rennselaer Polytechnic Institute—-wrote that “The claim (how can you measure the average temperature of the whole earth for a whole year?) is that the temperature has changed from ~288.0 to ~288.8 degree Kelvin in about 150 years, which (if true) means to me … that the temperature has been amazingly stable, and both human health and happiness have definitely improved in this `warming’ period.”
[My interjection: Yes, it has. But perhaps this had something to do with the advent of the germ theory of disease, the introduction of farm machinery, and so forth, and isn’t a consequence of the warming itself, with all else held equal. Also, while we’re at it, what’s this about “if true”? There are plenty of before and after photos of glaciers. Whether or not the measurements and calculations related to that 288.8 figure were done correctly, it’s clear that something has changed when almost all the glaciers of the world retreat at a pace that cannot possibly have been in force steadily over the last 1000 years, because, well, because the moraine record shows they’ve not, since the end of the last ice age, been as big as they would have been 1000 years ago if we project the currently observed shrinkage rate back in time that far. And, amazingly, this shrinkage takes place just as global CO2 levels spike. What a coincidence! End interjection]
Mr. Giaever was an American Physical Society fellow, an honor bestowed on “only half of one percent” of the members, according to a spokesman. He follows in the footsteps of University of California at Santa Barbara Emeritus Professor of Physics Harold Lewis, a former APS fellow who resigned in 2010, calling global warming “the greatest and most successful pseudoscientific fraud I have seen in my long life as a physicist.”
Other dissenters include Stanford University physicist and Nobelist Robert B. Laughlin, deceased green revolution icon and Nobelist Norman Borlaug, Princeton physicist William Happer and World Federation of Scientists president Antonino Zichichi. Our point is not that all of these men agree on climate change, much less mankind’s contribution to it, only that to one degree or another they maintain an open mind about warming or what to do about it.
[my interjection: if this sentence is not read very, very carefully, one would garner the impression that these dissenters have dissented in pretty much the same way and to the same extent as has Giaever. A close reading of the text leaves open the possibility that the rest of this august assembly agrees to a man that the warming is real, that most agree that humanity is the cause, and that the dissent is mainly on the issue of what should be done about it. End interjection]
One of the least savory traits of climate-change advocates is how they’ve tried to bully anyone who keeps an open mind. This is true of many political projects, but it is or ought to be anathema to the scientific method. With the cap-and-trade movement stymied, Mr. Gore and the climate clan have become even more arch in their dismissals of anyone who disagrees. Readers can decide who they’d rather study physics with—-Professor Giaever, or Mr. Gore’s list of politically certified instructors.
[My observation: this is a big false dichotomy. The bulk of the world scientific community, including, obviously, the leadership and the majority of the American Physical Society, is convinced of the reality of AGW. This is no `clan’, and its bona fides are not issued by Al Gore or by any political authority. One can study physics with any of them. For that matter, one could study physics with Giaever, and once one had learned enough, say, a solid mastery of the physics taught in German high schools, one could see that Giaever was being rather the pedantic purist about this distinction between `incontrovertible’, and incontrovertible as the word is understood in mainstream physics discourse. The case for AGW is strong. The case against it is desperately thin, weak, and disjointed. It is, however, very ably wrapped in fine clothes and trotted out by the able wordsmiths of the Wall Street Journal. Their essay is a perfect example of the phenomenon termed `straight-A illiteracy’. The paragraphs are well constructed. They are about as persuasive a presentation of the facts as can be achieved with the facts they select. They quietly omit from mention the overwhelming mass of contradictory facts. The authors would do very well in a high school debate tournament. But—-they’re wrong about who’s bullying whom. Bad ideas come in for criticism in physics circles. Even good ideas get challenged. That’s not bullying, that’s a case of if you can’t stand the heat, get out of the kitchen.
What about the bullying inherent in Senate demands of AGW researchers for all computer records, all emails on any topic, and so forth? Sheesh: who would want all their email traffic spammed to the web? All of it, private or not, for it would surely be leaked. That’s not criticism of ideas.]
The Journal ran the editorial quoted (and criticized) here on Monday, Sept 19, 2011.