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A Man For All Seasons

In Climate Change by Brian Koberlein12 Comments

Welcome to the last part of our series on The Heartland Institute’s report on global warming. You should read the first three parts if you haven’t already (Part 1, Part 2, Part 3). In this series I’ve focused a lot on how the NIPCC report frames the issue. They use emotional hooks to sway readers, focus on opinions rather than data, and use vague references to make it difficult to verify their claims. This was done intentionally to get people to feel that global warming is false without looking at the evidence. It is propaganda, not science. Now, it may be that global warming is false, but it’s clear the Heartland Institute isn’t interested in proving it. They just want you to believe it’s false. But if you’ve made it this far in the series, I assume you’d like to look at the actual science. What does fair and honest research say about climate change? Read More

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The Lion, The Witch And The Wardrobe

In Climate Change by Brian Koberlein4 Comments

C. S. Lewis was a Medieval scholar. He was also a devout Christian. In 1950 he published a children’s novel called The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe. At the beginning of the story, four siblings have been evacuated from London during the blitz of World War II. They find themselves at the large country estate of an old professor. During a game of hide and seek, the two youngest siblings, Lucy and Edmund, come across a large wardrobe. When they enter it to hide, they find it leads to a magical world of Narnia. When they return, Lucy tells the story of Narnia to the elder siblings, Peter and Susan. But when they ask Edmund if the story is true, he denies it, saying they were just playing pretend. Lewis intended the novel to be a Christian allegory about the choice one has between rejecting God’s love or being saved by faith, but it’s also a wonderful example of a philosophical conundrum: when there are two conflicting stories, which one do you believe?Read More

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Thirty Helens Agree

In Climate Change by Brian Koberlein2 Comments

I want you to think about the following statement: 97% of scientists agree that climate change is man-made and dangerous. It’s a factual claim, but in today’s political climate it is emotionally charged. If you believe climate change you might find the statement compelling. If you are a skeptic of global warming, you probably think this statement is false, and even if it were true that’s not how science is done. Here’s the deal: This statement isn’t true, and it isn’t a good scientific argument. Read More

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A Convenient Truth

In Climate Change by Brian Koberlein5 Comments

I got a book in the mail this week. If you’re a scientist or science teacher, you might have too. This Spring the Heartland Institute mailed more than 300,000 of them to K-12 science teachers and university professors. At a retail price of $6.95, that’s more than $2 million worth of books. You can find a PDF copy on the Heartland Institute website. This book has outraged many scientists who see it as an attack on the established science of global climate change. As a scientist myself, I want you to read it. Read More

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Supersize It

In Exoplanets by Brian Koberlein2 Comments

In our solar system Jupiter is the king of planets. It is 2.5 times more massive than the other planets combined. But it isn’t the most massive planet we know of. In the search for planets around other stars, we’ve found planets with masses up to 20 times that of Jupiter. All things being equal, we can imagine Jupiter-like planets having a fairly even distribution of sizes, but it turns out that’s not the case. Read More

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Citation Needed

In Pseudoscience by Brian Koberlein8 Comments

I get a lot of email from folks with pseudoscience claims. It could be that the Earth is actually flat, or that the Sun is powered by electricity, or that Einstein was wrong about gravity. Bonus points if the email also calls me an idiot or part of the astronomical illuminati. But in the world of pseudoscience another popular approach is to make a claim based upon some image. There’s no referenced source or clear history of the image, just a picture and a claim. But even for pseudoscience, this is just being lazy, because in the information age images can often be tracked to their source with minimal effort.Read More

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The Attraction Of A Star

In White Dwarfs by Brian Koberlein1 Comment

In 1919 Arthur Eddington traveled to the island of Principe off the coast of West Africa to photograph a total eclipse. Mission was to observe the apparent shift of nearby stars by the Sun’s gravity. His experiment was a success, and it verified Einstein’s gravitational theory of general relativity. Since then, we have observed the gravitational deflection of starlight by the Sun numerous times. We have also seen the deflection of the light from distant galaxies, but we haven’t seen the deflection of distant starlight by another star. The gravitational effect of a single star is extraordinarily small. But recently a team has observed the deflection of starlight by a single white dwarf star.Read More