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Earth Science Politics

Of Diamond Planets, Climate Change, and the Scientific Method 821

Posted by Soulskill
from the science-is-awesome-when-it-agrees-with-me dept.
A few weeks ago, we discussed the discovery of a diamond planet in orbit around a pulsar. One of the researchers behind the discovery has now written a followup article about reaction to the news from the media and laypeople. Quoting: "The attention we received was 100% positive, but how different that could have been. How so? Well, we could have been climate scientists. ... Instead of sitting back and basking in the glory, I suspect we’d find a lot of commentators, many with no scientific qualifications, pouring scorn on our findings. People on the fringe of science would be quoted as opponents of our work, arguing that it was nothing more than a theory yet to be conclusively proven. There would be doubt cast on the interpretation of our data and conjecture about whether we were “buddies” with the journal referees. If our opponents dug really deep they might even find that I’d once written a paper on a similar topic that had to be retracted. Before long our credibility and findings would be under serious question. But luckily we’re not climate scientists."
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Of Diamond Planets, Climate Change, and the Scientific Method

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  • The big difference (Score:5, Insightful)

    by fridaynightsmoke (1589903) on Tuesday September 13, 2011 @07:22AM (#37385442) Homepage

    The difference is that when a scientist says "we believe that there is a diamond planet" people either say "cool" or "I doubt that, but it doesn't really matter". When climate scientists say is often used to justify restricting in various ways things that most people either rely on or enjoy. That's the difference.

    • When climate scientists say is often used to justify restricting in various ways things that most people either rely on or enjoy.

      I challenge you to present me one published paper where a climate scientist tells me what I can and can't do. Or even where they merely suggest restrictions of what a person can do. All the papers I read say things to effect of "In X years, the northern ice cap could recede to Y size [upi.com]" or "Greenhouses gases have contributed to a rise in temperatures." What you want to do with that information is up to you. It's not the place of scientists to call for political or even international policy on carbon credi

      • LEARN TO READ (Score:5, Insightful)

        by MokuMokuRyoushi (1701196) on Tuesday September 13, 2011 @08:06AM (#37385954) Journal

        GOD DAMNIT READ HIS POST.
        You're the third person to claim he's attacking the scientist(s), and you even quoted the freaking sentence!

        When[what] climate scientists say is often used

        Often used? By the scientist(s)?

        to justify restricting in various ways things that most people either rely on or enjoy.

        Nope! Turns out he said absolutely nothing about whether or not the scientist(s) is(are) wrong, or right, or ordering you around, or simply providing information. He said that the information provided by the scientist(s) in question is used by *someone* to justify restrictions. You are attacking the OP for saying the exact same thing you yourself are saying.

        All clear?

        • Re:LEARN TO READ (Score:4, Insightful)

          by Fishead (658061) on Tuesday September 13, 2011 @08:40AM (#37386378)

          This is EXACTLY the problem with climate science.

          A guy brings up a relevant point on the fact that the science has an effect on our society, and then is torn to pieces by the carbon haters and the carbon lovers without ever hinting at which side of the argument he sits on.

          Me personally, I dislike that I have been saddled by another tax in an already grim economic time. If it wasn't so hit and miss with basic survival right now, I might see it a bit differently. That being said, if we could have emotionless and politic free discussions on the whole issue, we'd all be better off. I'd like to know what the truth is, but just like the guy standing on my doorstep with his own translation of the bible, I want to know what your agenda is before I want to hear how I should change my life. Also, when your man at the top is profiting from me making another financial sacrifice, I better at least be able to see some open scientific discussion.

          • by tgd (2822)

            Me personally, I dislike that I have been saddled by another tax in an already grim economic time. If it wasn't so hit and miss with basic survival right now, I might see it a bit differently.

            You've got a computer, connected to the internet, posting on Slashdot.

            If you're not sitting in a public Library, you're being a bit of a hypocrite claiming your basic survival is hit-or-miss.

            • Even sitting in a public library, he's got a roof over his head, and a climate controlled place to be. Assuming he's on the street there are still shelters, and food.

              I suspect that most people in this country have forgotten what "hit and miss basic survival" really means. It means potentially dying in some pretty gruesome ways, not whether or not you're going to be able to buy that latte and talk on your iPhone.

              If the climate change science is accurate, he might actually get a chance to find out what

          • by Ihmhi (1206036)

            Why can't we kill two birds with one eco-friendly stone?

            Invest - heavily - in more green technologies. Get LED lightbulbs down from the $50-$100 they are now. Get solar panels attached to boomboxes and cell phones. Create a cheap grey water reclamation system that can be installed in new homes.

            You create more jobs and help the environment. Win/win.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Nickodeimus (1263214)
      You are dead on. The majority of people will say to an announcement like this: what does this mean to me. Diamond planet - cool, that's an interesting thought. wonder what it looks like. etc. It has no meaningful impact to our lives. Climate change, on the other hand, has a potentially large impact on our lives all the way down to the poorest person on the street. Carbon credits, government taxation, cap and trade, etc. It has a direct impact on how we live our lives. And by and large, people do not like ch
    • by Sockatume (732728) on Tuesday September 13, 2011 @08:05AM (#37385946)

      Social impact is a necessary but not sufficient condition. The social impact of discovering XYZ causes cancer, or can extend your lifespan, or whatever is equally important to people's quality of life, but it doesn't get nearly as much scrutiny. People generally accept the research at face value. (If only people would actually scrutinise a newspaper report in which it's revealed that chocolate has lots of antioxidants, via a study sponsored by Hershey and Googolplex Cinemas.) Climate science is argued back and forth because it's something people are conditioned to treat as a controversial issue. There are other topics - vaccination, mobile phone health - where a scientific consensus with a large impact on people's lives is presented as a controversial issue because it's one of the press's main "stories" to tell, and not because there is a genuine issue.

    • by SlippyToad (240532) on Tuesday September 13, 2011 @08:07AM (#37385972)

      Actually what climate scientists' findings on global warming imply is that we should improve our energy efficiency.

      That will actually improve things for the OVERWHELMING MAJORITY of folks. The only people who are going to lose out on energy efficiency are a handful of parasites whose contributions to this world we will assuredly not miss.

      Thus, the massive paid campaign of disinformation carried out by the SELECT FEW whose business interests will be impacted by improving things for the rest of them.

      Not to put too fine a point on it, but those select few people can go fuck themselves in the ear.

      • by CrimsonAvenger (580665) on Tuesday September 13, 2011 @08:38AM (#37386342)

        Actually what climate scientists' findings on global warming imply is that we should improve our energy efficiency.

        That will actually improve things for the OVERWHELMING MAJORITY of folks. The only people who are going to lose out on energy efficiency are a handful of parasites whose contributions to this world we will assuredly not miss.

        If you approach "improve energy efficiency" from the perspective of "when old, inefficient devices wear out, replace them with high-efficiency devices", then no argument.

        If, on the other hand, your notions of "improve energy efficiency" reduce to "everyone, everywhere, has to get rid of their old, inefficient devices and replace them RIGHT NOW with new, higher efficiency devices", then "improving energy efficiency" means hardship for all but the very rich everywhere.

  • Proximity (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday September 13, 2011 @07:23AM (#37385460)

    Tell a man there are a billion stars in the galaxy and he'll believe you; tell him the paint is wet and he'll touch it to find out....

    • tell him the paint is wet and he'll touch it to find out....

      He should believe you on faith alone?

      • Re:Proximity (Score:5, Insightful)

        by Bemopolis (698691) on Tuesday September 13, 2011 @09:15AM (#37386840)

        tell him the paint is wet and he'll touch it to find out....

        He should believe you on faith alone?

        No, but if the guy telling you that the paint is wet is
        standing there with a brush and bucket of the same color, and fresh splatters on his overalls;
        and you heard some fat drug addict on the radio said that "Hitler was a painter! They want your light bulbs!";
        and fuck, you never painted anything yourself but what does this brush-toting shit know about it;
        and sure, you saw him touching the brush to the bench as you were walking up, but you just *feel* that no one has enough data to know about the bench since *you* don't;
        plus, on Sunday your preacher said that only SkyDaddy Longbeard can paint a bench;
        and THEN you touch the paint to see if it's wet, then YOU ARE A FUCKING IDIOT. And an asshole to boot.

        Signed, a Painter (but not of benches), who has received enough crackpot letters from armchair fuckfaces and religious shitheads to know the goddam score.

    • If only that could fit into 120 characters...

  • Not even a month ago I tried this same logic in a post [slashdot.org] (and probably in earlier posts):

    The climate scientists are the experts. You're not suddenly compelled to rip apart the latest Computer Science study as an armchair computer scientist because you haven't studied it. Why are people suddenly compelled to call climate scientists -- who are basically the same figureheads in academia that computer scientists are -- into question? When did everyone get PhDs in climate science? Why wasn't I given one? And why are all the major journals publishing and defending global warming studies only to be ignored?

    Surprise surprise, no one cares. You can point out the scientific consensus [wikipedia.org] or ask why there are no political witch hunts in other fields [slashdot.org] and people just don't seem to even respond to my concerns because they just saw a two minute YouTube video and suddenly they're informed and ready to discredit someone who has devoted their life to studying this field and reading papers. CFCs were bad, that was okay, everyone gobbled that up. Everyone saw maps of the ozone layer and totally trusted the scientists that it was CFCs doing it ... not just a regular natural process. Show someone a map of ice coverage on the Arctic Circle [upi.com] and tell them it's greenhouse gases at work. Suddenly the same scientists are lying to them. What the hell is different about these two scenarios? I've pretty much given up the fight ...

    • It's Al Gore's fault.

      Imagine yourself as an Average Joe who just managed to grind his way through a few basic high-school science courses. You don't know or care about science, it was just a course you had to take, and ideally would have liked to skip. Sort of like gym class is to geeks.

      Most people were first introduced to the theory of global warming by Al Gore (already a Bad Guy to conservatives) telling them that their Dodge 3500 is killing polar bears and going to flood New York. BUT, they could prevent this by buying carbon credits (I think we can all agree that the current implementations of carbon credit schemes are...flawed, at best). Oh and he owns a carbon credit company but he didn't mention that bit. Then he flies off in his private jet back to his giant house with a heated pool. Oh and by the way, solving this problem will involve CHANGE and might require HIGHER TAXES.

      So now Joe Average understandably thinks this whole global warming thing looks mighty fishy and doesn't like the implications. He goes online to do a little research and has a few choices where to get his info from (assuming he didn't unintentionally use a biased search string like "global warming scam"): he can go to these sciencey websites using gigantic words, or he can go to these little blogs that say CLIMATE CHANGE IS A SCAM and are reinforcing all his worst suspicions. He spends the night reading through these blogs, and it all makes sense! That science stuff is confusing but this explains the whole conspiracy in a language he can understand. And look! Just follow the money! As long as this climate change thing is real that means money for scientists researching it and for renewable energy companies! It HAS to be a scam!

      And a climate denialist is born.

      • by RazorSharp (1418697) on Tuesday September 13, 2011 @09:07AM (#37386758)

        Yeah, it's Al Gore's fault that the guy you're describing is a moron.

        Even if Al Gore had never said a word about climate change, Joe Average wouldn't change his mind. It's not Al Gore who Joe Average hates, it's the ideas that Al Gore represents. If George W. Bush all of a sudden became a defender of climate science and green technology, Joe Average wouldn't change his mind about climate science and green technology, he'd change his mind about George W. Bush.

  • I am still waiting for the discovery of a planet with a gold counterweight continent.
  • I'm pretty sure diamond planets are just an evil scientist plot for wealth redistribution, primarily to put DeBeers out of business. ...there, happy? ;)

    • Actually, you raise an interesting point. The diamond planet can be used as an example of how common diamonds really are, how their supply is intentionally kept artificially low by companies such as DeBeers for the sake of fixing extremely high prices.

      I think if more people understood diamonds scientifically and economically they would be less likely to waste money on them for jewelry.

      http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=K_p8gFmFzp4 [youtube.com] (skip to 1:35)

  • It's to be expected when scientists piss off the the billionaire planet-raping fossil-fuel mongers such as the Koch bastards.
  • Policy (Score:5, Insightful)

    by pgn674 (995941) on Tuesday September 13, 2011 @07:43AM (#37385636) Homepage
    The article hints at this but never says it outright: The reason climate change is controversial among those with little or no scientific background or training while diamond planets are not is because climate change research affects many governmental regulation policies. If the diamond planet idea is wrong, then corrections to theories are made, and the field moves on. If it's right, then it may contribute to the development of helpful technologies and discoveries. But if a climate change idea is wrong, then corrections to theories are made, and the field moves on, and either the world economy has suffered for no reason or people are experiencing famines that could have been prevented. Thus, controversial.
  • The diamond planet created a lot of attention and excitement because people could fantasize about a mining mission to bring back tons of diamonds (even though the reality is that such travel will likely be impossible for centuries, and perhaps forever).

    But climate science brings out the naysayers and layman disbelievers in hordes because it invokes thoughts of government regulations and/or taxes aimed at reducing emissions.

  • The way I see it (Score:4, Insightful)

    by grimmjeeper (2301232) on Tuesday September 13, 2011 @08:03AM (#37385898)

    The difference between the diamond planet discovery and climate science is politics. The reason amateurs attack the climate science has nothing to do with the science and everything to do with a political objective. But the same can be said for the supporters. Al Gore is not a climate scientist. He has a significant financial interest in climate science reaching a particular conclusion. He has significant investment in the whole business of climate change.

    Now, I'll agree that most who attach climate science are kooks. But that's not the real problem. The real problem is that the whole issue is so incredibly polarized that no legitimate critique of climate science ever gets a voice because it is universally written off with the overwhelming number of idiots on the right. According to "everyone", climate science is 100% settled and there is no questioning it. But once you get past the people pushing the political agendas and talk to the real scientists, you'll find that the attitude isn't so set in stone. They want to keep studying it so they can understand more about it because they don't all believe that it's 100% set in stone.

    Scientists want to learn more. They want to understand the incredibly complex system that is our environment. They want to know more about how things work so they can make better predictions about what is coming. They don't care about pushing a political agenda. But they're too busy working on research to tell the general public that the politicians are misrepresenting their findings.

  • by fuzzyfuzzyfungus (1223518) on Tuesday September 13, 2011 @08:39AM (#37386358) Journal
    The Good People of DeBeers would like to remind you that, while "A Diamond is Forever"(tm), any extraterrestrial diamonds that may or may not have been discovered by astronomers, likely just making things up in an attempt to grub for telescope time, are not a worthy substitute for DeBeers Genuine Diamonds, harvested by hand from the heart of Our Home.

    A xeno-diamond says "My love for you is cold, alien, and almost unimaginably distant, just like this diamond."

    A good, old-fashioned terrestrial diamond, however, "My love for you is worth dying for, like the poor sucker who mined this thing may just have..."

    Make the right choice, or die unloved and alone!
  • by 517714 (762276) on Tuesday September 13, 2011 @10:02AM (#37387388)
    It's sequestered carbon.

Lo! Men have become the tool of their tools. -- Henry David Thoreau

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