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Category: Science (Page 16 of 17)

Bishop Backs Rudd on Bushfire Climate Lessons

I know George Browning slightly. He is a a personable and apparently intelligent man. He has also been pushing the global warming agenda pretty relentlessly for the last ten years. Understandably, since he is convenor of the ‘Anglican Communion Environment Network.’ I assume the right (that is, the wrong) views are required, before anyone is invited to occupy this position. I make that assumption having looked through their website for any sign of even the remotest awareness of scientific issues which should inform the global warming debate, or indeed any sign of being aware of anything that could not be found in the Sunday Sun.

Before the last Australian Federal general election George Browning wrote an open letter to Prime Minister Howard saying he could never encourage people to vote for any party which did not have clear policies in place to deal with climate change. In other words, unless the liberal party immediately implemented the pointless and harmful policies he had in mind, Bishop Drowning would tell people to vote Labor (which, of course, it would never have occurred to him to do otherwise).

I was then Dean of The Murray, and wrote in our diocesan newsletter that there was no evidence of any unusual changes in climate over the last 100 years, that there had been no increases in the rate of sea level rise, that minor fluctuations of less than 1 degree Celsius were well within the bounds of natural change, that periods of change in global temperature over the last century did not correlate with levels of CO2 in the atmosphere, and that if the Church was going to encourage governments to spend billions of dollars solving problems, we had jolly well better have done our homework first, and made sure there really was a problem, and that the solutions we were asking for really would solve it.

But alas. I got no response from Bishop Drowning, and only one from another bishop telling me I was undermining the credibility of the Anglican Church.

I did not reply. There is such a thing as invincible ignorance. Mind you, once the media changes its mind about global warming, and we move on the next big scare, those same bishops will all be denying they were ever worried about global warming. ‘That was just a passing fad,’ they’ll say. ‘I always had my doubts about it.’ Yeah right.

It is that kind of desperate bouncing from one popular issue to another, trying to find something relevant to say, that undermines the credibility of the Church. The Church has something relevant to say. It’s called the Gospel.

Sadly, busy bouncing bishops will always have their uses, especially to politicians and to the media. But as Cardinal Pell said in reponse to an attack on him by Bishop Drowning,  ‘Church leaders should be allergic to nonsense.’

“My task as a Christian leader is to engage with reality, to contribute to debate on important issues, to open people’s minds and to point out when the emperor is wearing few or no clothes,” he said. “Radical environmentalists are more than up to the task of moralising their own agenda and imposing it on people through fear. They don’t need church leaders to help them with this, although it is a very effective way of further muting Christian witness,” he said.


World’s Largest Laser, Annoying Grammatical Error

Interesting news about the world’s largest laser becoming operational, and especially the hope that this will generate enough energy to achieve ‘fusion ignition.’ This could be an important step on the way to the use of fusion as a cheap clean energy source.

See my earlier post on cold fusion for more on the wider impact, including economic impact, of fusion technology.

But what happened here: ‘The facility, the size of a football field, comprises of 192 separate laser beams…’ No it doesn’t. Nothing ‘comprises of‘ anything.

The word comprise includes the ‘of.’ So it could be ‘composed of 192 separate laser beams’, or it ‘comprises 192 separate laser beams.’ Not some sort of horrible hybrid. If you don’t know how to use a word, don’t use it.

At least he spelled ‘separate’ correctly.

Cancer Doctor Not Fit to Practice

Gold Coast GP Michael Tait, 76, is accused of flouting Queensland Medical Board guidelines by administering the worthless anti-cancer drug Ukrain to almost 150 terminally ill cancer sufferers.

I don’t know enough about this case to offer an opinion one way or the other, and it would not be fair to do so before the tribunal’s decision anyway.

But I do know that fake, quack, charlatan, greedy, dishonest, ‘medical’ practitioners are a major problem.

As a clergyman caring for chronically or terminally patients and their families, I was horrified by how often these vulnerable people were targetted by people offering expensive and utterly worthless treatments they claimed had been suppressed by the mainstream medical community because curing cancer, epilepsy, psychiatric illnesses, motor neurone disease, or whatever it was, would put doctors out of business.

I hated seeing desperate and often lonely people spending their last money and their last hopes on vicious scams. So if that is what Tait was doing, I hope the tribunal will have the courage to say so, and stop him practising ever again.


The Queensland Health Practitioners’ Tribunal has found Michael Tait guilty of ‘serious professional misconduct.’ Tait will not be able to register as a medical practitioner for three years after making $1.7 million giving patients the fake anti-cancer drug Ukrain, which contains ingredients also found in dish detergent and toilet cleaner.

OK, good. But isn’t there more to it than this? If some of his patients had been treated properly, would they still be alive? Drug dealers normally have their assets confiscated. Will that happen here? If not, why not?

To answer my own question, because there are no laws in place that would allow the courts to do so. But that really is not good enough. Michael Tait was caught because he was trading on his medical qualifications to sell fake anti-cancer drugs. But he didn’t need to be a doctor to sell people those drugs anyway, and may very well continue to do so.

There are thousands of quacks in Australia who cheat and deceive vulnerable people every day, often in ways that contribute to their death or ongoing ill-health. Please let’s put some laws in place which will proscribe such behaviour, and which have penalties of sufficient substance that they will convince these vicious rip-offs that it is not in their best interests to continue.

Students Urged to Promote Climate Awareness

Well they would be, wouldn’t they, given that public education in Australia seems to be about developing the ‘right’ opinions rather learning to think.

New Zealand isn’t much better. While there I heard a radio ad for Earth Hour which said ‘Turn off the power, and see the world in a new light.’ Well, yes, if darkness is a new light. A sign of things to come if this idiocy continues.

Why not support Toad Day Out instead? Catch some cane toads, turn them into fertiliser, and actually do something useful for Australia and the environment. Cool.

Cold Fusion Heats Up Again

The cost of energy is the major limiting factor in economic development. Cold fusion offers the possibility of vast amounts of cheap clean energy. The word ‘revolutionary’ is bandied around far too readily in reporting of science news, but this is one thing that really could change the world – economically, technically, environmentally.

If there is anything in this new round of research into cold fusion, we could be heading into exciting times.

Up to 38,000 Civilisations in Our Galaxy

In a process described by University of Edinburgh researcher Duncan Forgan as ‘quantifying our ignorance,’ scientists have estimated that there are at least 361 ‘intelligent civilisations’ (are there unintelligent ones too?) in the Milky Way, and possibly up to 38,000.

While this is interesting, a guess about a number that could be anywhere between 361 and 38,000 does not sound very reliable or useful to me.

Drought Fears – Walk Across The Murray

There’s always something to be scared about. But in the history of things to be scared about, this has to be at the very bottom of the list.

The Murray is Australia’s largest and longest river. It’s not all that spectacular by world standards, but we’re quite fond of it.

Before European intervention, The Murray was what most Australian rivers are – a series of inter-connected waterholes along a dry bed, which were linked during flood times, when water would spread out over a wide area. After the floods, water in the river would gradually dry up, returning the river to its normal dry bed. For almost all of its history, except for the last seventy years, it has regularly been possible to walk across The Murray.

Over the last century flows in and out of the river have been increasingly carefully managed, so that for much of its length water is maintained at a fixed level, and there is always some flow, even in times of prolonged drought. Testing at centres along the river, including Morgan in its lower South Australian reaches, show that salinity and turbidity (the amount of suspended matter in the water) are both decreasing.

In other words, even during times of low rainfall and consequent low inflows, the river’s health has been good. The river is a major source of tourism income, and supports vast areas of irrigation where grapes and citrus fruit are grown. It will never be returned to its ‘natural’ state.

The lower lakes are similarly an entirely artificial creation. The Coroong, the name of the estuary and lower lakes, was a tidal, that is, salt water estuary, which was occasionally filled with fresh water in times of flood. The flow of water in and out to the sea was blocked when barrages were built across the mouth of the river about seventy years ago, and the current permanent fresh water lake system created

About 500 gigalitres of water is lost from these artificial lakes each year through evaporation. This leads to higher levels of salinity, but levels which still do not approach those of the sea water which used to fill the lakes. There are questions about whether this loss is sustainable, or whether the barrages should be removed and a weir built across the real mouth of The Murray, where it enters the lower lakes at Wellington.

This would reduce loss of fresh water through evaporation and make management of the river in its lower stretches (from Morgan to Wellington) easier. But it would create considerable difficulties for the communities which have grown up around the lower lakes, and especially for the town of Meningie.

Further study and debate will help to clarify the best solution. But scare-mongering headlines will not help.

Sixteen PS3s = Super-Computer

If I’m playing anything other than World of Warcraft on my PC, it’s usually Halo, Gears of War or some other Xbox 360 game. But the PS3 is a great console.

Scientists have linked sixteen PS3s together to form a ‘PS3 Gravity Grid’ which can perfom complex calculations to investigate the behaviour of black holes at a fraction of the cost of a super-computer.


Human Produced CO2 Causing Irreversible Ocean Damage

Oh puh-leese! 

Researchers warn that ocean acidification, which they refer to as “the other CO2 problem”, could make most regions of the ocean inhospitable to coral reefs by 2050, if atmospheric CO2 levels continue to increase.’


Coral and coral reefs evolved in the Mesozoic era, when atmospheric CO2 levels were up to 100 times higher than they are today. Corals and other marine creatures have survived the last 150 million years with variations in temperature, sea level and CO2 levels orders of magnitude greater than the minor changes over the last 100 years.

In addition it is becoming clearer that human impact on CO2 levels is so small it cannot even be reliably discerned against the background of natural processes and fluctuations. CO2 increases follow (there is no evidence they have ever caused) global temperature increases. It is highly likely that the minor 20th Century rise in atmospheric CO2 is the predictable natural increase as we climbed out of the ‘Little Ice Age.’

A better headline would be “Human Produced Nonsense Causing Irreversible Damage to Credibility of Science.’

Large Hadron Collider May Be Dangerous After All

It might have been better if they had worked this out before turning it on.

It is off for repairs at the moment, and despite the scary headline, what the scientists are actually saying is that while any black holes produced may last longer than they first thought, the chances of any of them surviving for long enough to cause a problem is pretty close to zero.

But then, when you are talking about the end of the world, pretty close to zero is not really quite good enough.

Thank Goodness

For the common sense of ordinary people.

Penny Wong, The Australian Federal Minister for Climate Change, says three hot days at her place prove global warming is real. And what’s more, no one is going to convince her otherwise, and she’s going ahead with emission controls, even if it wrecks the economy, because that’s the responsible thing to do.

Fortunately, the people Penny is supposed to represent have a considerably better grasp of the situation than she does (something she would no doubt regard as a worrying sign of a lack of appropriate education – more funding, please). In a poll run by The Australian (not a paper noted for its conservative views), 67% answered ‘NO’ to the question ‘Are heatwaves in Victoria and South Australia evidence of Global Warming?’

67% say no!

What is Wrong With These People?

Yet another warning of the catastrophic consequences of global warming, based on no real world evidence at all.

Despite the fact that Emperor Penguins are doing quite nicely, thank you, and there is no evidence of warming in Antarctica, and even if there were, a rise from -40 degrees to -35 degrees is not going to result in a whole lot of ice melting, yet we are still supposed to be alarmed into taking expensive action because computer games (sorry, models) say that if global warming is happening, and if a large amount of ice does melt, and if, and if, and if they are not able to adapt, Emperor Penguins might have a problem.

One especially wise chappy says that Emperor Penguins are to the Antarctic what Polar Bears are to the Arctic. Apart from the obvious response, which is ‘Um. Pardon?’ it is worth noting that Polar Bear populations have nearly tripled over the last thirty years. So perhaps we shouldn’t start panicking just yet.

Secret Whale Deal

Despite Peter Garrett’s angst, I think this is possibly a reasonable option, if only because it will stop some of the whining from local anti-whaling activists.

However, stopping any taking of Minke Whales in Antarctic waters may not be a good thing for endangered whale species.

Minke Whales are widely distributed and abunbdant. On the IUCN red list of possibly endangered species, Minke Whales are in the bottom category – Least Concern.

Because they are abundant and range so widely, they compete for krill with endangered whale species such as the Blue Whale, which not do not have the same flexibility in choosing their habitat.

An argument could be made for culling of Minke populations in some places, for example in Antarctic waters, on the grounds of protecting those more endangered species.

There is no environmental reason for refusing to allow whaling nations to take a limited number of Minke Whales.

There is no other reason either. Modern explosive harpoons are accurate and quick, and as humane as factory methods of killing meat animals such as sheep or cattle. Minke Whales, like cattle, are essentially grazing animals, and have about the same level of intelligence – certainly much less than pigs.

As far as I can see, no one who eats bacon has any logically valid or ethically consistent reason to oppose a carefully managed quota based system of hunting Minke Whales.

I am happy to be convinced otherwise, by salient facts marshalled in a carefully crafted argument. Ranting and calling me a bastard won’t do it.

Computer Games and the Real World

Ha ha.

Computer Games: Global warming is really bad for frogs because nasty UV rays get into their evaporated waterholes and cause mutations.

The Real World: Cold weather wipes out a whole generation of frogs.

OK, it’s not funny.

Another reason to cut it out with the fantasies and look at what’s really happening. The world is not getting warmer, and we are much more likely to be in trouble because of cooling than warming.

Via John Ray

Well, There’s a Surprise, Part 2

Modellers remove evidence of cooling, and editors remove comments by warming sceptic.

You may have seen the recent headlines suggesting that, contrary to all previous meaurements, there is now evidence to show that the Antarctic is warming as quickly as the rest of the world (which means not at all in the real world, but very scarily in the fantasy world of computer climate modelling).

One of the ‘researchers’ on this study was Michael Mann, inventor of the infamous ‘hockey stick’ which used carefully cherry-picked evidence and dodgy statistical methods to white out the medieval warm period, and prove that the extremely mild and not at all unusual 20th Century warming (less than one degree), was instead unprecedented and very scary, so there.

 This latest effort seems to be built on simliar methodology.

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