Why Science is Important

Why is Science Important? from Alom Shaha on Vimeo.

Check out the dude in the big sweater.


Recently, [US] government-sponsored agencies have moved toward open access of scientific findings. That is, the results are published where anyone can see them, and in fact after 12 months the papers must be publicly accessible. Astronomers, for example, almost always post their papers on Astro-ph, a place where journal-accepted papers can be accessed before they are published.

John Conyers (D-MI) apparently has a problem with this. He is pushing a bill through Congress that will literally ban the open access of these papers, forcing scientists to only publish in journals. This may not sound like a big deal, but journals are very expensive. They can cost a fortune: The Astrophysical Journal costs over $2000/year, and they charge scientists to publish in them! So this bill would force scientists to spend money to publish, and force you to spend money to read them.

Ironically, this bill is called The Fair Copyright in Research Works Act, which is much like the Clean Air Clear Skies Act or the Patriot Act, in that it does exactly the opposite of what its name says. This bill is not fair, it puts a burden on scientists and keeps research from being publicly accessible as it should be. I myself rely on things like Astro-ph to do my reporting here; it could become illegal to post papers there for federally-sponsored scientists if this bill is passed.

You can read more about this at Financial Times, Earlham College, and at Lawrence Lessig’s blog.

– that from badastronomy.com.

Here’s more info in video format:

The Silent Minority

An interesting article

a religious person can say that an atheist will burn in hell as a result of their beliefs, and that is not considered offensive; but if an atheist says that believing in God makes no sense, that is considered deeply offensive.

Read more by clicking here

Thanks to mbeck.

90% is Good Enough

read the full article here

Professor David Budescu and his colleagues asked 223 volunteers to read sentences from reports by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). The responses revealed some fundamental misunderstandings about how science works.

Science is a process. Scientists gather and compare evidence, then construct hypotheses that “make sense” of the data and suggest further tests of the hypothesis. Other scientists try to find flaws in the hypothesis with their own data or experiments.

Eventually, a body of knowledge builds, and scientists become more and more certain of their theories. But there’s always a chance that a theory will be challenged. And so the scientists speak about degrees of certainty. This has led to some confusion among the public about the scientific consensus on climate change.

[volunteers] interpreted statements such as “It is very likely that hot extremes, heat waves and heavy precipitation events will continue to become more frequent” to mean that scientists were far from certain.

In fact, the term very likely means more than 90 percent certain, but almost half the subjects thought it meant less than 66 percent certain, and three quarters thought it meant less than 90 percent.

The IPCC considers “virtually certain” to mean more than 99 percent likely; “very likely” to mean more than 90 percent certain; “likely” to be more than 66 percent; “more likely than not” more than 50 percent; and so on. The IPCC has concluded it is “very likely” that human emissions of greenhouse gases rather than natural variations are warming the planet’s surface. Remember, that means they are more than 90 percent certain. That’s about as close to unequivocal as science gets.

This is science that has been rigorously peer-reviewed. …We may never reach 100 percent certainty on climate change and its causes—that’s not what science is about.