Saturday, March 03, 2007

Needed: Martian Carbon Footprint Calculator

Okay. Forget about Al Gore, forget about the large consensus of those that have theorized their way into the fact books, with an unproven but popular hypothesis. Let's take a look at a possibility that won't be widely discussed in some circles today, as it is found in the highly reputable science publication known as, National Geographic.

In 2005 data from NASA's Mars Global Surveyor and Odyssey missions revealed that the carbon dioxide "ice caps" near Mars's south pole had been diminishing for three summers in a row.

Habibullo Abdussamatov, head of the St. Petersburg's Pulkovo Astronomical Observatory in Russia, says the Mars data is evidence that the current global warming on Earth is being caused by changes in the sun.

"The long-term increase in solar irradiance is heating both Earth and Mars," he said.

Before anyone that is of the opinion that global warming is caused by carbon emissions says anything, let me say upfront here and now- this both proves and disproves nothing at all. It merely means that there is another explanation that needs to be explored and studied, before claiming certain kinds of knowledges.

Good science should never establish something as a fact, without offering other possible explanations (if there were any). Would they?

Good science does not work backwards in its research. Does it?

So, how will this data be received by those that have built and are building their careers around the more popular and widely accepted hypothesis?

Abdussamatov's work, however, has not been well received by other climate scientists.

No surprise there. I will not be surprised to hear that this man has been thoroughly ostracized by the beginning of the week, all for daring to question a generally established "fact" that has yet to be proven.

So unfortunately, there is a large group of scientists that have overemphasized (and may even have purposely over-exaggerated) man's contribution to this phenomenon. By putting their eggs all into one basket, many that hear their sales pitches have come to accept this idea as gospel; and they have done it without considering other possibilities, to include
Abdussamatov's explanation.

More than anything, one has to ask some questions here.

Have we become so terribly egocentric that we believe man is important enough to claim responsibility for this, and other things that he bears no responsibility for? Or better yet, have we overestimated our own relevance?

At any rate, I think that I can be sure about one thing in all of this. One certainly should be concerned when a politician buys into, packages, and markets a theory, while a group of scientists falls into lock-step behind him/her. It should be the other way around.


Anonim said...

I thought the NG was a highly 'popular science magazine.' Anyways...

//this both proves and disproves nothing at all. It merely means that there is another explanation that needs to be explored and studied, before claiming certain kinds of knowledges.//

I'd say "there are other factors that need to be explored," but who says they aren't considered by scientists. Take this (from "Don't Blame Sun for Global Warming, Study Says"):


Solar astronomer Peter Foukal of Heliophysics, Inc., in Nahant, Massachusetts, points out that scientists have pondered the link between the sun and Earth's climate since the time of Galileo, the famous 17th-century astronomer.

"There has been an intuitive perception that the sun's variable degree of brightness—the coming and going of sunspots for instance—might have an impact on climate," Foukal said.

Foukal is lead author of a review paper on sunspot intensity appearing in tomorrow's issue of the journal Nature.

He says that most climate models—including ones used by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change—already incorporate the effects of the sun's waxing and waning power on Earth's weather.


LA, you're participating in popular distortion of how science works, what scientific community says, or scientific consensus means. Like the irreducibly complexity of eye or the bacterial flagellum. Though scientists have considered these hypotheses and found them unsupported, we still hear them repeated again and again in popular magazines as one proof of ID (the rest of the proof are based on self incredulity as one hardcore atheist put it, you know :)

You are using a very broad brush to paint the scientific community as followers of political preachers. (In Al Gore's case, it's the other way around, I believe.) On the other hand, I'd say that the whole grant-getting-based funding process may be causing exaggerations by scientists who want the bigger slice of the cake. But, don't worry, before anything else, good science is self-correcting science. When one's work is not received well by other scientists, that usually means that other scientists have scientific problems with this work. It's not like, this lone hero is doing science, and the rest are villains with a non-scientific beef with the hero.

LASunsett said...


//you're participating in popular distortion of how science works//

How is presenting an alternative theory by a scientist that does not agree with the larger group, distorting how science works? True science seeks to establish truth and if the larger group is already convinced they have the truth and needs no consider other alternatives, then I can safely equate that with theologians that make the same claim about religion.

//It's not like, this lone hero is doing science, and the rest are villains with a non-scientific beef with the hero.//

Where did I say this? I do not think they are necessarily villains, but you did say it best when you touched on the grant money. It's all about control, and we saw a prime example of this, when the Weather Channel meteorologist Heidi Cullen sought to have AMS certification withheld from those that didn't hold the consensus view about global warming.

Mary Ellen said...


You made some very good points, my husband who is a scientist said the same thing.

Here ya go, LA...enjoy

Anonim said...

LA, first off, I'm sorry for dropping a comment with some accusatory elements in a hurry. I was headed toward a busy family weekend, yet couldn't help myself early Saturday morning (same time zone). That said, I'll stick with what I said. Nothing personal, of course.

//How is presenting an alternative theory ... distorting how science works?//

The NG presented it; you commented on it, LA. Didn't you? And briefly, your commentary implied (1) the alternative theory at hand was new, (2) majority scientists would not give it enough attention, and (3) and they wouldn't because of political motives. I believe you were/are wrong on all accounts.

Account (1) can readily be checked; without going to any further length than you had, I quoted from another NG article on that account. Of course, Abdussamatov's work may entail some new elements worthy of further investigation, and if so, such will be investigated (like, is comparative observation of Mars new? How about the differences between the atmospheres of Mars and the Earth?). This goes to account (2), but you cannot prejudge the scientific community at large for not being prepared to do that. How can you know that? Are you involved in this as a front-line scientist? I guess not. A self-respecting scientist, which most scientists are (some to unhealthy extents maybe), will surely evaluate and criticize a counter scientific claim on nothing but its scientific merits. This will be so irrespective of what motivates the scientist (from a sense of duty or pure curiosity to a wounded ego). The scientist simply cannot cry foul and hope to get published; and, a meritorious critique of a 'published' counter claim will be 'published' in its turn. Beyond that, don't be misled by spill-overs of such fights into popular/political discussions. Of course, the majority (or mainstream) cannot suppress a minority view for long, either, provided this view has some merit. Such will make headway sooner or later. Whether it breaks entirely new ground or gets assimilated into the mainstream view/theory is, however, another question.

I guess, I have already addressed account (3) in part in the above paragraph by basically rejecting the notion that science ends once scientific consensus is reached on a given matter. It simply doesn't. You seem to think that the mainstream/consensus party is playing politics to the exclusion of science. I think and say that, if there is any politics being played in that manner, it is most likely played by the minority/contrarian party. You be the judge of who may need to resort to using politics to the exclusion of science. I'm not very familiar with the particular going-ons in the fields of environmental or climate sciences, but I read a bit on the creationism/ID theory vs. evolution theory. The story there appears to support my position here. Briefly, creationists/ID theorists struggling in vain (since Darwin's time really) to pass theology as science; at times offering claims of some scientific merit (like irreducible complexity); in turn losing them to the theory of evolution as the latter tackles such claims as it should and explains them eventually; the former denying such loss, appealing to the laymen's sensibilities (playing politics starts thus); the latter being habitually clumsy in dealing with the layman making gaffes, offending sensibilities, etc. Voila! You've got yourself a controversy. Now teach the controversy....

LA, you also ask where you said "this lone hero is doing science, and the rest are villains with a non-scientific beef with the hero." I guess, you haven't said so anywhere, but implied it all over. And, admittedly, I exaggerated and resorted to such a black-and-white characterization. I hope, with my unhurried comments above, I have addressed that point in a less-objectionable manner.

P.S. English question: Am I putting the plural 's' in the wrong place in 'spill-overs,' 'going-ons,' etc.? They don't quite sound right.

LASunsett said...


//P.S. English question: Am I putting the plural 's' in the wrong place in 'spill-overs,' 'going-ons,' etc.? They don't quite sound right.//

Not sure there is a right way when the word is hyphenated. I have seen it done both ways.

But on the meat of your comment here: I have said before, time constraints often lead to simplified questions and opinions in a blog post. The goal here is not to write a term paper or a thesis, but to make someone think about something in order to look at another point of view. Sure, it will look incomplete at times, but that's what the comments are for to add, subtract, agree or disagree.

I am well aware that the Martian polar ice caps are shrinking and have been for some time now. That's certainly not new. But with all of the media saturation of warming being caused by carbon emissions, there haven't been articles with alternative theories being presented. This article did that and considering the decibel level of the majority, I was quite surprised NG did it.

I am not convinced that this is man made, yet so many other people are. I will add that my career is in the scientific realm, albeit not meteorology. So I understand how science (and junk science) works.