Category Archives: science

Empirical Discussion of Malcolm Roberts

Some of us have heard Senator-Elect Malcolm Roberts using the word ‘Empirical’ on numerous occasions.

Last night a whole lot more got to hear him use the word many times during the ABC show, Q&A.

Just what does the word mean and why is it at odds with much of what most scientists say and believe?

The Oxford Online Dictionary has the following definition.


So what Roberts is saying is that you cannot predict anything. If you see something happen and cause an outcome then you can explain it but you cannot use that event to conclude that should the same thing happen again that the outcome will be the same.

So scientists should never predict what MAY happen as a result of certain current conditions.

In Malcolm Roberts’ world anything to do with climate change is unprovable and so should be ignored because it relies on another long word.


In the Malcolm Roberts Universe it seems that any extrapolation is badly unscientific. I won’t insult my readers by quoting examples where we extrapolate outcomes from current data every day. In life or death situations which we simply take for granted.  Tried crossing a busy street between traffic lately?

Malcolm, your repetitive use of the word ‘Empirical’ does not show you to be a knowledgeable scientist.

I note that your degree is in Engineering.  Applied Science. The lesser brother of Theoretical Science.  Yes, you can build stuff, you can play with Meccano with impeccable skill. Yet you have not learnt the skills that are Science. You have not developed a theory from repeated and repeatable experiments. You seem to show little understanding of that essential scientific method.

Every scientific theory relies on extrapolation.

A scientific theory is not something dreamed up at 2am by a group of bored people. It is an explanation garnered from empirical evidence discovered through experimentation, extrapolated within the theory to a predictable outcome then discussed, torn to pieces and accepted or rejected on the evidence and on the logic by others who also know the subject. That is what peer review is all about. Yes, theories do change around the edges but once accepted they are surprisingly robust. Even Newton’s three Laws of Thermodynamics still hold despite the tinkering Einstein provided with his theory of relativity.

I’m sorry, Malcolm, you do not convince anyone with any knowledge of science.

You are just a passing thorn in the side of progress.


Our Inner Caveman

I’ve always been puzzled by the way humanity at large have tended to ignore warnings about smoking, about excess sugar in their diet, about global climate change.

It seems it may be that our evolution has led us to worry about today and to leave tomorrow to itself.

An opinion piece in The Scientist by João Pedro de Magalhães throws some light on this human habit.

Here are the final three paragraphs of that article.

For those lower on the social ladder, fitting in with the ancestral group may have been the safest strategy. Fear of embarrassment, disapproval, and rejection is another human tendency that is likely rooted in this tribal need for belonging. ‘This instinct to seek social acceptance may explain why most people are uncomfortable speaking in public. Fear of public embarrassment and disapproval, while once beneficial in a small group where acceptance was essential to one’s survival, can surface today even when dealing with complete strangers we will never meet again. The deep-rooted drive to fit in, a legacy of our tribal past, is already exploited by modern commercial markets. In our information-rich, decision-overloaded environment, companies take advantage of our instinctive behaviors by using celebrity endorsements or claims of popularity to promote products.

Perhaps the most obvious trace of humans’ primordial past is our persistent shortsightedness. We respond quickly to clear and present dangers, but not so rapidly to unclear and future ones. Far more people die of type 2 diabetes than from terrorism; far more people die of skin cancer than from shark bites. But terrorism and shark attacks could kill you tomorrow, so they garner much more of our attention. Short-termism is also why convincing people to act on issues like global warming—which will most significantly affect those in the future, with poorly defined consequences—is so difficult.

Our tribal-era instincts are still very much a part of who we are. Studying the social and physical environments that shaped human evolution, then, could help us better understand the modern human psyche. Acknowledging our own tribal instincts can also help us overcome these obsolete behaviors in our daily lives.


Science and Belief


COP15 and the TPP

Our lives are becoming governed by hashtags and acronyms.

This morning we wake up to the news that #COP15 has reached an agreement. CO2 emissions, and their equivalents will be reduced so that our climate is limited to a 1.5C increase. A great and totally unexpected outcome.

the time has comeExcepting that this means coal, oil and gas production must be reduced. What is the use of active coal mines and petroleum wells if their product is not being used. From my early reading of the Paris agreement, countries have either ten or 15 years before they need to show their progress in reducing carbon use. Plenty of time for multinationals to buy enough votes in an assortment of carbon-rich countries to increase the amount produced.

But there will be some forms of trade sanctions brought to bear on those nations which do not get behind the Paris Agreement and actually reduce their useage of carbon. Australia is using some creative accounting in its carbon use to appear as though enough is being done. The real numbers should, of course, include PRODUCTION of carbon emitting mine products as well. All that coal and coal-seam gas will add carbon to the atmosphere. It just will not be emitted here in Australia.planetB

With our short-term electoral memory, the Trans Pacific Partnership has faded into the background of our consciousness. Yet if you think about it, the Paris Climate Agreement is the exact reason the multinational companies have been working so hard to get the TPP accepted by as many countries as possible.

Those multinationals which have created the problem of climate change have now set up a win-win situation for themselves.

One of the problems we “ordinary” people see with the TPP is that national sovereignty is lost as the Multinational Corporates gain the ability to sue National Governments for any losses Government legislation causes those corporates. Somehow, our “bought and paid-for” elected representatives do not see a problem with this.

We are now just waiting on the USA to finally sign the TPP and then, in ten or fifteen years, when “climate mitigating” Nations attempt to impose trade sanctions on “non-climate mitigating” Nations, the Multinationals get to take everyone to an International Court which they are setting up under the TPP and from which there is no appeal.

All the coal mines which will be approved in the next five or ten years, all the fracking wells encouraged by Governments will all be protected by the TPP. If any country dares to close them down they will be required to make huge reparations to the Multinationals involved, like Adani, like the Koch Bros, like Chevron.

Any country which signs up as a customer, such as India, which then makes a meaningful cut to their carbon use will also be in the firing line. How dare they take action which will reduce the profits of a Multinational?destroyed

The existence of the agreements with the acronyms “COP15” and “TPP” cause me to think back to my youth and a novel I read. Written in 1952 and set in an undefined future to protect the guilty, it was by Fredrick Pohl and Cyril Kornbluth. Originally named “Gravy Planet” and about corporations ruling the world and the wars being fought between themselves, it became “The Space Merchants”.

Like it or not, we are entering what was once only a fictional world where national pride is gone and corporate loyalty is all. And that 1.5C limit to the increase in world temperature will be the real fiction.

God and the Earth

And it came to pass that

2014 was the hottest year

ever recorded on Earth

God and The Earth

The Gravity in the Black Hole of Climate Change.

Look, I’m just your average educated bloke.

I know about science. I watch David Attenborough and I have read about that climate change, or global warming or whatever it is.

moncktonI have watched the You Tube reports by Lord Monckton on the subject and it is obvious that scientists disagree about the data. They all seem to have different conclusions. The only group which is consistent in their statements are the so-called “deniers”.

I have been taught that scientists work with real things and real data and so their conclusions are consistent. This must mean the deniers are much more believable.

I look at astro physics which is another of those silly subjects where the data is all confused and stuffed up. Those black holes, for instance. They were invented by Stephen Hawking years ago and he had to pay out on a bet he made with another scientist when stuff he said about black holes was proven to be wrong. Yet he is still considered an expert and the myth of black holes continues.

Then yesterday I found out that scientists disagree about the theory of Gravity. I have been told that most science is about theories. I have a theory that scientists only think these things up to keep their highly paid jobs as professors and researchers.

These scientists can’t even trust the numbers from the original scientists and they have pretended to find a new way to show how strong gravity is. Naturally the numbers are different and this proves how fraudulent these modern science people are.hockeystick

I know about science and true science doesn’t change. Just like the Bible doesn’t change. The data about how strong gravity is is now all confused. I have lost complete faith in this fraudulent “gravity” stuff. It is just like Climate Change. Has anyone even seen it? Science is sporting equipment? Ridiculous! How silly do they think we are?

I’m going ignore all the false signs of gravity from now on, just as I ignore the false information about Climate Change.

So-called science is all a fake. Why, next they will be telling us they can cure diseases by sticking needles in our arms. And they probably won’t stick those things in adult arms cos adults can hit back. No. They will pick on defenceless kids.

Then they will tell us that Murphy’s Law is wrong and buttered toast sometimes lands butterside up!

But no one would fall for that.

Not that we will fall in future because you need gravity to fall.



Stars, the Sky and Love