Monthly Archives: September 2015

A prestige press classic: Science historian Fred Pearce on the unhidden story of the ‘decline’

From a story by Fred Pearce—Dendroclimatologists blame industrial emissions for the sudden inability of dendroclimatology to measure the sudden climate change dendroclimatologists blame on industrial emissions—which  first appeared in the science pages of The Guardian:

No man’s proxy

But why the decline? What was behind this sudden, obviously unprecedented, divergence?

Using common sense, Mann, Jones and colleagues worked it out:

Things are going fine, botanically, for thousands of years. Then one day during the Kennedy administration, a new chemical (its precise identity still subject to debate) emitted by the pollution industry makes previously-compliant bristlecone pines fly into a tantrum and reject the science of bristlecone pines. The irritated individuals—some of the oldest living life forms on Earth—dedicate themselves, from the organelle level up, to a vendetta against peer-reviewed botany that continues to this day.

To hell with the literature on growth rings, MXD and the “proper” way to respond when the temperature changes, they thought. They were here, keeping their ghostly vigil over the American desert, when Moses first experienced the thrill of taking a life, and they were sick of letting ivory-tower dendro geeks 1% their age say when to decline, incline, submit or deviate.

After all, this wasn’t the Middle Ages anymore.

They were no man’s proxy. They had too much self-respect.

bristlecone 9

Twisted science: Bristlecone pines are “straight like denier logic,” quips Dr Michael E. Mann, whose PhD in physics enables him to extract “rings” from these miracles of evolution.

News of the physiological mutiny spread throughout the brotherhood of bristlecones like a shot (at least by Ent standards), thanks to the well-known, centuries-old, mainstream science of ‘teleconnection.’ Don’t be misled by the New Agey voodoo-science name: ‘teleconnection’ is no figment of Dr Mann’s imagination, no pseudoscientific deus ex machina born of a perfect storm of ambition, career panic and unscrupulousness. Far from it. You’ll find ‘teleconnection,’ of trees, in the index of any decent college-level Intro to Biology.

The long march through the literature: First steps

Eager to share this explanation with their colleagues—and subject it to the scrutiny of peer-reviewed scientific examination on the off chance that there was a minor flaw somewhere in their thinking—Mann and his collaborators had soon submitted a paper about the divergence.

Alas, replied the editors of prestige glossies like Nature, Science and the trade rag Sap, the thesis was too self-explanatorily true for its own good. An arboreal Internet; a xerosphere convulsed by trophic revolt; an unknown industrial byproduct that continues to sicken the oldest living species on Earth, and the government that allows it to happen? Yes, yes, all eminently plausible.

But where’s the hook? There doesn’t seem enough “new” here to justify a whole paper. Perhaps it’s more of a letters-to-the-editor job, they suggest.

That’s what Mann, Jones and subauthors try next. But it’s like flaying a baby. Their baby. They’d have to find thousands of words of fat to trim—and Mann isn’t in the habit of writing fat. Every word had a job. It was there for a reason: to feed its family. Michael Mann can’t stand to put a single hard-working American word out on the street, and he’ll be damned if he’ll do it to thousands.

This excerpt was reprinted with the author’s protest. —BK

What the lesser outlets are saying about Our Missing Scientists

seattle-times-logo-mastheadThe [scientists’] families have dismissed the runaway theory unanimously, describing their loved ones as “cowards,” “cravens” and “slaves to fear” who “would never have set foot outside their domain, unless something—or someone—spooked them.”

Climate scientists have no natural enemies, but police are not ruling out fell deeds.

“Certain circumstantial data are reminiscent, if not redolent, of dodgy play,” explained a media liaison officer for Australian Federal Police, “but apodeictic proof of villainy has yet to be uncovered, so it is too early to rule out fair cricket.”

The Sydney Morning Herald“It’s not like Tim to let a domain name lapse,” said the father of one scientist.

The grandma of another chimed in.

“Have you met [the group of friends]? An ISP bill would be chump change. Climate scientists might only get eight months of work a year but they’re obscenely [well] compensated. It’s silly money, really.

“Are we seriously meant to believe eight academics on $190,000 couldn’t do a whip-round for fifty bucks when their [virtual] landlord was up their arse[s]?”

The 92-year-old woman was even more scathing when she took into account the site’s lack of premium features (“really, no comments?”), static sitemap and shallow navigation structure (“two or three clicks deep, if that”).

“Packages this minimal, blogging platforms are practically paying you to take off their hands these days,” she felt.

“If [my grandson] and his mates paid more than $9.99 [last year], they got bloody well gypped.”

One of the mums agreed. “That would be pretty gullible, even for them.” nytlogo379x64Police in Australia have praised the “fast thinking, slow thinking” and “community spirit” of an anonymous citizen who discovered the eerie ghost property late last night. Perturbed by what he could only describe as “suspicious inactivities” at the site, the punter rang a national crime hotline sometime later to articulate his vague forebodings.

Two members of the squad [which discovered the pitiful state of the blog] are on Sadness Leave.

NSW Police Force Assistant Commissioner Peter Barrie told a press conference today: “In 2015, the National Crime Command is urging people to ‘Follow Your Instincts’ if you suspect something is dodgy.

“Last night’s good Samaritan did exactly that. Remember, ‘If You Sense Something, Say Something. No Matter How Ineffable.'”

Acting on the tipoff, detectives from the IP Sniffer Dog Unit and Missing Evidence Task Force carried out a daring pre-dawn browse of the address.

“But there was nothing to see. Or perhaps: nothingness,” said Assistant Commissioner Barrie.

Although squatters had ‘bagsed’ the site (an Australianism thought to mean something like ‘claimed’), the desolation was otherwise “utter,” he recalled.

Hardened cyber-detectives—twenty-year veterans of the squad—were reportedly among those affected by the sepulchral silence and measureless emptiness. An AFP source says at least two members of today’s strike force were given Sadness Leave, triggered presumably by the unspeakable and immemorial vacuum that dwells where science’s favorite fraidycats should be.

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Has Anyone Seen Our Confused, Dehydrated, Scared Scientists?

This needs to stay ‘sticky.’ If we’re serious about finding Australia’s own Gone Girls in time to save two or three of them, we must keep this story at the top of the page.

We’ve therefore decided to stop blogging about anything else until further notice, and we kindly ask that the rest of the blogosphere follow suit. Thanks everyone!

Your help is much appreciated—not by us, but by the families of the Scared Scientists.

Ignazio Sepúlveda
CN Crime Editor

MELB., AU—Dark forebodings are held for eight Aussie scientists after a property they shared was found deserted this morning.

Police are treating the disappearance as harrowing.

Gone Girls

A watercolor (2013) recalls the victims in less petrifying times. Police have apologized for the failure of the portraitist (a nameless journeyman of the Copley school) to convey the scarediness that reigns over their eight souls—but then, as a senior AFP detective pointed out, that’s one of the hardest things to get right (besides the hands). In the absence of a more penetrating treatment of the sitters, investigators hope the above exercise in technical competence will suffice to jog the memory of a witness.

At a media conference today, Acting Federal Police Commissioner Michael Phelan urged the public to help find the scientists. Anybody with data relevant to their whereabouts was practically begged to call the National Missing Persons Coordination Centre (NMPCC) on 1800 000 634.

“Climate scientists need constant attention and reassurance… Even small changes in their environment are highly distressing.”

The Commissioner was flanked by homicide detectives, Missing Persons Unit investigators and relatives of four or five of the scientists. (A number of parents sent their apologies, citing work or family commitments.)

“When the most precious and vulnerable among us go missing, every hour counts,” said Commissioner Phelan, voicing concern for the welfare of the Aussie Eight.

“Climate scientists need constant attention, reassurance and a balanced sports drink to replenish the electrolytes they lose [via bowel incontinence] in their terror. Any change in their environment, no matter how small, can cause severe distress, tummy upset and an ugly psychosomatic rash.”

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