Category

Research

Why isn’t more research reproducible?

By | Books, Climate Change, Environment, History, Media, Politics, Religion, Research | 60 Comments

Some six years ago I wrote an essay about John Ioannidis, now at Stanford, who stirred up the medical research community with a paper arguing that more than half of all medical research papers could not be trusted because the work described in them could not be replicated. Ioannidis’s original work dates from 2005, but he and others have moved into other areas as well as medicine. The amount of money wasted because of poor research, both by private enterprise and by governments, is enormous. From time to time since I have heard murmurings that positive things are happening in…

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A Cool Look at Global Warming, ten years later PART II

By | Climate Change, Environment, History, Language, Media, Politics, Religion, Research | 128 Comments

If you missed the first part of this long essay, it is here. I am looking at what has happened in the last ten years with respect to the central assumptions of the anthropogenic global warming (AGW) scare, about which I wrote a decade ago. You can read the original essay here. Assumptions #1 and #2 have already been dealt with. 3. Is the warming caused by our burning fossil fuels, clearing the forests and other activities? There is no doubt that CO2 accumulations in the atmosphere are increasing, and since we are burning a lot of fossil fuels, which…

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A Cool Look at Global Warming, ten years later PART I

By | ABC, Books, Climate Change, Environment, History, Language, Media, Politics, Religion, Research | 89 Comments

In April 2008 I delivered a paper to the ACT Division of the Planning Institute of Australia about the threat of global warming. Some months later we were to have the Copenhagen Climate Conference that was to solve all humanity’s problems. Many leaders said we had only a few weeks/months/years to save the planet. Al Gore, walking on stage to get his Nobel Peace Prize, barked to an interviewer that ‘the science is settled!’ Carbon dioxide in the atmosphere had been rocketing up, and so had seemed to be global temperature. So 2008 was a year where global warming was…

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A Climate Dictionary

By | Climate Change, Environment, Humour, Politics, Religion, Research | 19 Comments

Willis Eschenbach is a citizen scientist who thinks outside the square. I like his work, and have referred to it before (for example, here and here). I had planned to write a piece on the use of terms in the climate debate, but Willis has done it for me. I think it’s funny, and readers are welcome to supply their own additions. I’ve added a few from the Comments to his original essay. TERM                                                         …

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Whose universities are they, anyway?

By | Books, Education, History, Politics, Research, Society | 25 Comments

The publication of three books about the recent past and possible future of higher education, not to mention articles in journals and on the Internet, suggest that all is not well in academe. While all has never, at least since the end of the second world war, been well in academe (the AVCC first used the word ‘crisis’ in 1947), it may be true that the level of tension within higher education today is notably high. The three books are Glyn Davis’s The Australian Idea of a University, Stuart Macintyre’s No End of a Lesson, and my own Critical Mass….

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President Trump and climate change

By | Climate Change, Environment, History, Media, Politics, Religion, Research, Society | 111 Comments

Some months ago I agreed to give an address in February this year on the topic ‘President Trump and climate change’. At the time I wondered whether it would be a sensible topic in 2018, but it is, so I’m giving it as asked. This isn’t the address, but it is the sort of mulling around that you need to do before you write your speech notes. It’s not difficult to see what President Trump thinks about climate change, and what he has thought about it. He had said, during the election campaign, that it was a concept dreamed up…

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In weather terms, how did 2017 stack up?

By | Climate Change, Environment, History, Media, Politics, Religion, Research | 101 Comments

As regular readers know, I now do this little examination each year, waiting until Ole Humlum, of climate4you, has assembled the global data from all the climate datasets. Most of what follows has been distilled from his latest bulletin. As always there were excitable people who wanted to tell us, even before the end of 2017, that the year would prove to be the hottest ever, and were asking why we weren’t doing something about it. So a few preparatory remarks are in order. First, the planet has emerged from a notably cool period, often called ‘the little Ice Age’….

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The power of grant money

By | Climate Change, Environment, History, Politics, Religion, Research, Society | 87 Comments

I have been reading an excellent book by Stuart Macintyre and others (No End of a Lesson, Melbourne University Press, 2017) about the ‘Dawkins revolution’ and what happened in the ten years after it. Throughout that period I was at first part of the group making the changes, and then, as Vice-Chancellor, someone who had to cope with them. My own Critical Mass really stops in 1991, when I went from the Australian Research Council to the University of Canberra. Reading No End of a Lesson brought back so many memories of life after the ARC, and indeed during its…

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The history of a working life

By | Books, Education, History, Politics, Research, Society | 30 Comments

At high school, and even as an undergraduate, I didn’t give much thought to my future working life. I would be a high-school teacher like my Dad and Mum. I had a clear acquaintance with the school system, and it seemed to have decent holidays, which I was used to. I would finally have to have a job of some kind, and the only one I had any interest in was teaching at school, preferably high school. I managed to get a teachers college scholarship to university, and that seemed to come with a Commonwealth scholarship offsetting whatever costs were…

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Heretical Thoughts about Science and Society

By | Books, Climate Change, Environment, Politics, Religion, Research | 117 Comments

I have mentioned before, with great approval (here and here), the English-born mathematician, astronomer  and physicist Freeman Dyson, who is 94, and has spent most of his working life at Princeton’s Institute of Advanced Study. I have been to Princeton a few times, but did not meet him, though I have had supper in Albert Einstein’s house there (and that was eerie). Dyson is extraordinarily diverse in his interests, and that may explain why he never won a Nobel Prize, though he has won a stack of other prizes in several fields. His friend, the late Oliver Sacks, remarked that A…

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