Hard News by Russell Brown

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Hard News: Science: it's complicated

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  • nzlemming,

    That's a metric crapload of ground to cover. Are you doing an extended show?

    Waikanae • Since Nov 2006 • 2161 posts Report Reply

  • Russell Brown, in reply to nzlemming,

    That’s a metric crapload of ground to cover. Are you doing an extended show?

    Yes: it's an hour long with breaks. Which does not alter the fact that it is indeed a metric crapload of ground to cover.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 18964 posts Report Reply

  • Russell Brown,

    And meanwhile, the Herald runs this weird "balance" column featuring the respective views of Chris de Freitas and Keith Hunter.

    Presumably, it's related to Chris Barton's thoughtful story on de Freitas and the limits of academic freedom.

    Because it's not like de Freitas hasn't already had acres of space in the Herald.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 18964 posts Report Reply

  • Kari Hammond,

    this is kind of timely as i watched this last night.
    http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b00y4yql

    Auckland • Since Mar 2009 • 6 posts Report Reply

  • Hebe, in reply to Russell Brown,

    And could you, or someone knowledgeable, please explain what the frack is fracking, and will it indeed be problematic.

    Christchurch • Since May 2011 • 2608 posts Report Reply

  • Sacha, in reply to Russell Brown,

    Because it's not like de Freitas hasn't already had acres of space in the Herald

    Someone really needs to submit a "world is flat" op-ed piece and demand that the rag publish it as 'balance'.

    Ak • Since May 2008 • 16759 posts Report Reply

  • Sacha,

    And I agree that's an ambitious agenda for one show - could easily be a six part series.

    Ak • Since May 2008 • 16759 posts Report Reply

  • Islander, in reply to Hebe,

    Good article in Saturday's CHCH "Press."
    Not sure whether it is available yet on line.
    Basically:" Fracking" is a process by which gas and oil is gained by drilling into open rock deep in the earth and then fracturing the rock with water, sand and lubricant chemicals inserted at high pressure down into shale.
    A blast fractures the shale bed around the well. This allows natural oil and gas
    deposits to flow freely back up to the surface, but can also allow the chemical slurry to penetrate the water table."

    That is a quote from the first paragraph of the "The Press" article 23/7/11.

    Fracking has been directly implicated with causing local earthquakes....

    Big O, Mahitahi, Te Wahi … • Since Feb 2007 • 5643 posts Report Reply

  • Tony Siu,

    RE: Mr De Freitas article.
    As someone who had studied and works as a tutor in the geography department of UoA, the article really piss me off.
    First of all, going back to the original article's argument that "the GEOG 101 course didn't included recent climate change arguments". I would like to point out that 100 level courses are designed as basic framework with broad themes and ideas lay out for students so they can take more courses should they desire. There are only 13/14 teaching weeks in the semester, so there is a lot* of material to go through, especially for courses like "introduction to physical geography (http://web.env.auckland.ac.nz/course_pages/geog101/)". I would like to point Mr De Freitas is not the main professor taking all of the lectures. There are 3 rotating lectures for the course and Mr De Freitas's lectures are only a small portion of the course. Pinning all on Mr De Freitas is uncall for because the argument is weak and puffy - it's like asking why an Economics 101 course didn't teach me the financial crisis?

    Auckland • Since Mar 2008 • 74 posts Report Reply

  • Sofie Bribiesca, in reply to Islander,

    Fracking has been directly implicated with causing local earthquakes....

    And it is also suggested it can infiltrate water supply

    here and there. • Since Nov 2007 • 6268 posts Report Reply

  • Islander, in reply to Sofie Bribiesca,

    Indeedy Sof' - that's what that last sentence of the quoted "Press" paragraph is basically saying...

    Big O, Mahitahi, Te Wahi … • Since Feb 2007 • 5643 posts Report Reply

  • Sacha, in reply to Tony Siu,

    Tony, does the course content include climate change as the article suggests?

    Oh, your link to the course outline answers that (topic 1 of 5 listed):

    We consider the important drivers behind our climate system and investigate the hot topics of climate variability and climate change.

    The Chris Barton story makes abundantly clear that De Freitas is presenting a distorted view of that topic in a foundation course, to which the University's response seems to be but a sigh.

    The Herald asked Professor Glenn McGregor, director of the School of Environment at Auckland University where Geography 101 is taught, whether he agreed with De Freitas's view.

    "There is no debate over the direction of change. Global warming is happening and will continue to happen and it is driven by human activities so the recent warming is not part of a natural cycle."

    So are the Geography 101 students being let down by getting only one view on the basics of climate change?

    "If Chris has not mentioned the IPCC, that is regrettable because the IPCC process is very important," says McGregor.

    Ak • Since May 2008 • 16759 posts Report Reply

  • David Winter,

    Sounds great, I'll look forward do seeing it. I spend really too much of my time wondering about these sort of issues, especially in the wake of the Ken Ring Circus.

    The most depressing thing to come from that affair wasn't the anti-science kooks, they're pretty much a given, but the much larger group of folks who seemed to equivocate or outright say "well, science doesn't have an answer here so let's take this guy seriously...". As if there wasn't a bright white line between his nuttiness and the way science works. (Brian Edwards being an example)

    I'm not entirely sure how scientists and the media can convince the middle ground to get on-board with science, however imperfect it can be, as the way humanity has been able to learn about the world. I think part of it might be those big ideas you talk about in the beginning of this post. You're right that hardly anyone makes a big deal about the cost of the Large Hadron Collider (and the black hole people have shut up) - but I've not heard anyone in NZ talking about the astounding fact that we, as a species, have built something that's colder than space and designed to re-create the conditions of the big bang in order to make knowledge. That's freaking cool, and I can't help but think that if we spent just a little more time talking about the big awe-inspiring stories in science, and how hundreds of people have contributed to their creation, we'd understand how science works a little better.

    As long as there's money to be made or lost there will be climate cranks, but if we had a public that valued science and, as a result, understood how it worked, more people would see them for what they are.

    Or so says me, at least.

    Dunedin • Since Aug 2010 • 10 posts Report Reply

  • Sacha, in reply to David Winter,

    we, as a species, have built something that's colder than space and designed to re-create the conditions of the big bang in order to make knowledge. That's freaking cool

    To say nothing of the www we're using to have this conversation - thanks CERN.

    Ak • Since May 2008 • 16759 posts Report Reply

  • Yamis,

    I took Geo 101 (in 1994), and plenty of other Geo papers as it was my major but this was fairly early days I guess in any of the climate change stuff. I only very vaguely remember being taught about the Earths climate from Prof de Freitas.

    It does seem very slanted that he doesn't appear to even be discussing the controversial (commonly held views) on climate change. Most uni students who are taking Geo 101 are probably going to become aware of the debate if they didn't know of it already but there is a huge drop off from those who take Geo in stage one to the following years. At least there was when I was there. I remember hundreds in the lecture theatre at stage one and by stage three it was more like 30 odd.

    So that's a lot of students who may go off into other fields that have potentially missed some important messages.

    Maybe it's different now. I feel old looking at how many years ago it was now.

    By the way, has anybody caught that Aussie mining magnet with claims of volcanoes producing more CO2 than humans. Too bad he's selective with his facts. Not surprisingly certain sectors of society latch on to what he says and run with it. I've heard people I know repeating what he's said with no fact check on him.

    Since Nov 2006 • 876 posts Report Reply

  • Sofie Bribiesca,

    Bit OT but I just saw Saturns rings through my new telescope.
    Fantasmo! :)

    here and there. • Since Nov 2007 • 6268 posts Report Reply

  • Islander, in reply to Sofie Bribiesca,

    Excellent!

    (Mind you, even with new telescope, all you could see out here would be mist, rain splatters, and occaisional sleety bits...)

    Big O, Mahitahi, Te Wahi … • Since Feb 2007 • 5643 posts Report Reply

  • Islander, in reply to Yamis,

    Hey, an Aussie talking magnet!
    I'd believe that!
    (Not being rude Yamis - just tickled my humerus...)

    Big O, Mahitahi, Te Wahi … • Since Feb 2007 • 5643 posts Report Reply

  • Joe Wylie, in reply to David Winter,

    . . . I can't help but think that if we spent just a little more time talking about the big awe-inspiring stories in science, and how hundreds of people have contributed to their creation, we'd understand how science works a little better.

    For science to need to promote and justify itself as a special interest seems an acknowledgement of its having retreated before the irrational. Banging the drum for something as pragmatic and demonstrable as science can come over a bit like Act on Campus doing a ritual 3 cheers for capitalism.

    flat earth • Since Jan 2007 • 3555 posts Report Reply

  • DeepRed,

    Where it seems to get tricky is with the bad news. The weight of expert opinion is overwhelmingly on one side of the "debate" about anthropogenic climate change -- and yet that side seems dangerously adrift in the war of words in the media. Closer to home, it appears that no amount of environmental science can make the state of our waterways the headline it deserves to be. And any sense of potential good news about GMOs seems quite lost.

    I suspect such 'bad news' science is out of favour in the media war because it threatens the "look at moi!" orthodoxy. The real motivating factor of the Kyoto-sceptics is probably the fear of their Hummers and McMansions being taken off them, than any actual science. Wilful energy wastage is the plantation slavery of the smartphone age - too lazy and fat to put in the hard yakka, so exploit-and-bust instead. Dog & Lemon editor Clive Mathew-Wilson thinks so.

    It brings to mind Ralph Nader's Unsafe At Any Speed and his efforts to improve car safety, in the face of resistance from the Big Three, and petrolheads who thought he was a party-pooper. They tried to badmouth him - and lost. So there's hope yet.

    The southernmost capital … • Since Nov 2006 • 4353 posts Report Reply

  • Lilith __,

    Wow, sounds like an awesome show, Russell. I'm sure I'm not the only one who tears their hair at most of what passes for science reporting in NZ. How many dedicated science reporters does NZ have? Not nearly enough in the MSM.

    Dunedin • Since Jul 2010 • 3468 posts Report Reply

  • Carol Stewart,

    The Listener got rid of a whole slew of 'em. Including the lovely Dave Hansford, who wrote this interesting piece in Saturday's Dompost.

    Christchurch • Since Jul 2008 • 662 posts Report Reply

  • Joe Wylie, in reply to Carol Stewart,

    Thanks for that Carol, much appreciated.

    Imagine the sound of the New Zealand bush if we defended our own wildlife with the compassion we bestowed on Happy Feet.

    I believe that Islander referred here a while back to that phenomenal science writer Tim Flannery's imagining of that very thing. Here's how it goes:

    I would gladly remain ignorant of the joy of the haka, or even the heart stopping beauty of Dame Kiri Te Kanawa singing Songs of the Auvergne, for the privilege of waking to a symphony of 'the most tuneable silver sound imaginable'. Aotearoa's multitudes of birds performed that symphony each dawn for over 60 million years. It was a glorious riot of sound with its own special meaning, for it was a confirmation of the health of a wondrous and unique ecosystem. To my regret, I arrived in New Zealand in the late twentieth century only to find most of the orchestra seats empty. Walking through the ancient forest, whose still living trees were once browsed by moa, I heard nothing but the whisper of leaves blowing in the wind. It was like the rustle of the last curtain call on an orchestra that will be no more......... Tim Flannery, The Future Eaters

    flat earth • Since Jan 2007 • 3555 posts Report Reply

  • Hilary Stace,

    Glad you mentioned ethics, as that is an essential component of any scientific research. The Koru is good but Te Ara Tika, compiled by team of esteemed Maori scientists and ethicists, under the auspices of the Health Research Council, is more detailed and newer, and provides a great framework for any New Zealand research.

    Wgtn • Since Jun 2008 • 2096 posts Report Reply

  • Islander, in reply to Carol Stewart,

    Urm, except for the bit where he writes "NZ has already lost half its native bird species-" : 52/53 species have become extinct since the first & second waves of human occupation, but many more than that number remain- M. F. Soper (1984) advises the figure of 150 +

    Big O, Mahitahi, Te Wahi … • Since Feb 2007 • 5643 posts Report Reply

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