American Astronomer, Skeptic, Writer and Science Blogger
Phil Plait, fully Philip Cary Plait, aka The Bad Astronomer
American Astronomer, Skeptic, Writer and Science Blogger
Since a lot of people assume I work or worked for NASA, I will add I am not, nor ever have been, a NASA employee, and anything I say, pretty much ever, is not the official word from NASA! I always speak for no one but myself.
Sixty-five million years ago the dinosaurs had a bad day.
Standing eggs on end has nothing to do with the time of year, and everything to do with a steady hand, a bumpy egg, and lots of patience.
Sure, black holes can kill us, and in a variety of interesting and gruesome ways. But, all in all, we may owe our very existence to them.
That?s why the American Association for the Advancement of Science?the world?s largest general science society?has put together a public information campaign called ?What We Know.? The motivation behind it is not so much to be a compendium of facts, but instead to ?present key messages for every American about climate change? as a way to hopefully show people the reality of what we?re doing to the Earth.
The difference between the dinosaurs and us is that we have a space program and we can vote.
The next thing to do is to put together videos and Web pages that have more humanity to them, more emotion. If you want to sway people, then you can?t just throw facts at them; those will reflect off them and fall away. We know this (for a fact, oddly enough). If the AAAS wants to change the public?s mind on this issue, it will have to connect with their hearts.
The Universe is cool enough without having to make up crap about it.
They say that even the brightest star won't shine forever. But in fact, the brightest star would live the shortest amount of time. Feel free to extract whatever life lesson you want from that.
We are a reflection of the Universe, in that we?re part of it. But the Universe is also a reflection of us, in that we read our own experiences into it? If the Universe indeed mirrors us, than it must be, on some level, just a little bit silly.
What I have discovered in 20 years of studying the universe, from here to there to everywhere, is that the universe is complicated, and when things happen, it is almost never like ?A happened and therefore B?. No, A happened and therefore B, C, D and E, but then there is this thing F, and that had a 10% effect, and that prompted G to go back and tip over A, and it is always like this ? everything is interconnected. And so a lot of these far-right fundamentalist religion people, and a lot of these people who are anti-global warming, anti-evolution, anti-science, what they do is they take advantage of the fact that things are complicated, and their lives are based on things being simple ? if we do this, then this will happen ? if we invade Iraq, we will be treated as liberators, if we pray, then good things will happen, and this stuff is wrong. But we have a culture where people are brought up to believe in simplicity, and if A then B. And so when you point out that scientists say the earth is warming, but we had a really devastating winter this year, then these people will say ?oh, obviously global warming is wrong?. No, global warming can cause worse winters locally. It?s complicated. But people don?t want to hear ?it?s complicated?, and boy, the conspiracy theorists and anti-scientists take full advantage of that.
Yet the public still seems to be confused over it, mostly due to the confusion sown by professional confusers. Polls asking the public what degree of consensus climate scientists have about global warming consistently underrate it; the truth is that 97 percent of climate scientists agree that the planet is heating up and that human activity is the cause.
It?s dead obvious that creationism isn?t science, or even bad science. It?s nonsense. But I?ve long stated it?s also bad religion, because it doesn?t just take faith, it also takes a phenomenal disregard of reality.
Just like people, stars can be important without being terribly bright.
Other job markets may lay claim to the title, but astronomy is actually the world's oldest profession.
Science asymptotically approaches reality
Expose an irrational belief, keep a man rational for a day. Expose irrational thinking, and keep man rational for a lifetime
Finally, am I really a bad astronomer? I don't think so! I would say I am an average one. But on these web pages, I'm discussing astronomy that is bad. Hence the name.
However, science isn't just about showing when you're right; it's also about showing when you're wrong.
I am using the word theory as a scientist means it: a set of ideas so well established by observations and physical models that it is essentially indistinguishable from fact. That is different from the colloquial use that means guess. To a scientist, you can bet your life on a theory. Remember, gravity is just a theory too.
I think the idea behind the campaign is a good one. The problem right now isn?t any scientific debate or controversy, for there isn?t one. Virtually all the doubt and arguing are being instigated by politically motivated groups and do not exist among actual climate scientists. Getting this across to the public is a crucial step in ousting head-in-the-sand politicians and marginalizing the denial groups that are massively overrepresented in the media.
I?m tired of ignorance held up as inspiration, where vicious anti-intellectualism is considered a positive trait, and where uninformed opinion is displayed as fact.
If a little kid ever asks you just why the sky is blue, you look him or her right in the eye and say, It's because of quantum effects involving Rayleigh scattering combined with a lack of violet photon receptors in our retinae.
If you took every nuclear weapon ever built at the height of the Cold War, lumped them together and blew them up at the same time, that would be one one-millionth of the energy released at that moment.
If you wish to view this as a cautionary tale, be my guest.