Spotting the black hats among the climate change denialists

Jim Lippard has put up an excellent post identifying the major institutions behind climate change denial. They are almost uniformly conservative and populated with old and unqualified cranks, although Jim is too genteel to put it that way. It's useful information if you need a scorecard to keep track of the players.

It's also amusing. Lippard makes this passing mention of a certain notorious crank in a discussion of the denialists with the best academic credentials:

The top-cited scientist, Lubos Motl, has 150 citations for his fourth-most-cited paper, but he's a theoretical physicist with no publications containing the word "climate."

Lubos Motl replies!

Commie,

I urge you to instantly remove the libels and lies from this blog, otherwise I will start to work on the legal liquidation of the criminal that you are.

These things may be common among the green trash in which you seem to live but I won't tolerate it against myself.

Wow. "Legal liquidation." I'm impressed. Although…did anyone spot any lies or libels against Motl? Does he have 151 citations for that paper, or what?

If you hadn't realized that Motl is a freakish little sociopath before, that comment may just persuade you.

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Commie

No no, Motl, you address a Communist as "Comrade."

Damn, don't these wackaloons know anything?

By 'Tis Himself, OM (not verified) on 23 Dec 2009 #permalink

Something tells me this one isn't going to be the one to find the Grand Unified Theory.

Commie

Verily, verily, the East Anglia mails prove that de AWG is a communist plot... or was a ecologist's plot?... No! it was the UN and their evil global government plan...

I'm so confused and the deniers don't help me understand.

By edivimo.wordpr… (not verified) on 23 Dec 2009 #permalink

But remember, a climate scientist must never express frustration toward a fellow scientist like Motl in their email correspondence. That is a subversion of science, because in science, everyone's opinion matters!

By Naked Bunny wi… (not verified) on 23 Dec 2009 #permalink

If anything, Motl's comment is far more libelous than Lippard's.

wow commie? green trash? first of all, i too, prefer comrade.
and green trash? rly? beyond unprofessional. i hope u dont back down from this jerk PZ. (not that u evr do)

@Alex #7: I'm trying to figure out which Captain Planet villain Motl models himself after.

By Naked Bunny wi… (not verified) on 23 Dec 2009 #permalink

Not only does Motl have no credentials in climate science, the physics he works in is *string theory*. Which is to say, he masturbates very hard with mathematics. String theory won't be anything like science until somebody somewhere can come up with some kind of experiment that can measure something, ANYTHING, that string theory predicts.

By Rheinhard (not verified) on 23 Dec 2009 #permalink

Over at The Dungeon Intersuction, somebody was assuring me that I shouldn't trust realclimate because it was funded by "the Oil, Gas, and Nuclear Industry."

By Sven DiMilo (not verified) on 23 Dec 2009 #permalink

Freaking TypePad is acting up again. I'm not liking that openid doesn't seem to let you just use your name, which is the more reliable service?

Anyway...

Check how he answers Randi, truly amazing.

I wonder, did the denialists not even have a hint that Randi was not going to ultimately take their side? It only took a day or two until Randi clarified himself.

Motl is supposed to be kind of a good physicist anyway, no? I've seen him rant on the likes of Sean Carroll (the physicist) before with some bile.

By andyo.myopenid.com (not verified) on 23 Dec 2009 #permalink

Is there an equivalent of Godwin's Law for the increasing probability of any anti-AGW crank calling the science-based side Communists?

By WowbaggerOM (not verified) on 23 Dec 2009 #permalink

What Sesquipedalian Loquaciousness!

Besides, it'd be tough to nail libel on that to begin with. Even if it weren't true, I don't think you could really manage to say "That's lowering his reputation!"

By Rutee, Shrieki… (not verified) on 23 Dec 2009 #permalink

I have read through Motl's nutbaggery before. I'd like to know what he thinks the definition of "libel" is. Whatever the answer, it probably wouldn't even fly in England.

I s'pose it's kind of telling when someone is that eager to sue someone who questions his "science."

By Capital Dan (not verified) on 23 Dec 2009 #permalink

I assume Motl suffers from what i call "niche-itis" and perhaps Randi does too. There are a lot of people out there seeking fame and if they pick the strangest arguments and pretend they can support it, they get attention. The problem is, they get all the wrong attention. They get support from other freaks, but how good is that, really?

Over at The Dungeon Intersuction, somebody was assuring me that I shouldn't trust realclimate because it was funded by "the Oil, Gas, and Nuclear Industry."

:-D :-D :-D :-D :-D :-D

My night is saved.

By David Marjanović (not verified) on 23 Dec 2009 #permalink

First we see the second coming of "socialist" as the pejorative du jour. Now Commie?

What is this, the 1950s? Are the right-wingers and climate deniers living some kind of alternate history, like in the Watchmen where the socialist/communist threat is once again, alive and well?

All we can say is, they're gonna go apeshit when they here about Sputnik.

Happy Festivus everyone.

Surely 'aluminum foil hat', not 'black hat'?

By Shatterface (not verified) on 23 Dec 2009 #permalink

Holy shit, that blog owner has managed to produced a comment authentication system that is even more intrusive, useless, and annoying then the fucking TypePad/WordPad shit here. Isn't there some kind of lifetime achievement award for that?

So how in the world does one sign in with Vox? It just sends me to my account at Vox, but not back here. And I'm still not logged in.

That was pretty hilarious. And I thought the others who thought maybe Phil had resigned in protest were being silly.

Also, did you check Randi's answer at Motl's blog, and Motl's response? That guy needs someone to hug him.

They are almost uniformly conservative and populated with old and unqualified cranks,

Old?

There are nine people listed on SEPP's board of science advisors, of which five are dead (Gerholm, Higatsberger, Mitchell, Nierenberg, and Starr).

Green trash? I am so in love with that moniker! Oh, and legal liquidation, that's pretty redolent of spittlefleck. Thanks Lubos, for this masterpiece of unintended hilarity, and giving life to a new Pharyngula Krazy Krank Klassic™.

By Pareidolius (not verified) on 23 Dec 2009 #permalink

Eric Raymond has been calling everyone who disagrees with him a "leftist", "socialist", etc for years.

If you get him really pissed, he brings this up:

"...Your allies are evil, murderous tyrants. There's a simple, historically well-grounded explanation for why the partisans of AGW behave as they do rather than shunning Chavez/Ahamadenijad/Mugabe like the scum they are, and it's exactly the one I gave.

They -- and you -- are infected by a memetic program written by Antonio Gramsci, Willi Munzenberg and Joseph Stalin long before anyone ever dreamed up "global warming". And that program has nothing whatsoever to do with saving the planet."

(Actual recent quote from a mailing list we're on, and I've seen essentially the same John Birch-esque bullshit on his website and blog.)

If you know which buttons to push, Eric Raymond is a barrel of impotent, sputtering libertarian crackpottery.

And yes, he is a big old AGW denialist. The folks at deltoid have been having some fun at his expense.

Lubos is known for making all sorts of crazed wack-a-doodle statements, many of them nonsensical.

As an FYI, he actually no longer works in Physics, with his last activities taking place in 2006. He now runs a conservative blog about string theory, politics, and climate change, three constantly changing fields. Because his knowledge is so dated, I am of the firm opinion he can be safely ignored.

I have had a few run-ins with him in the past, and allow me to assure you, he has a demeanor of a seasick crocodile.

By gordonstangler… (not verified) on 23 Dec 2009 #permalink

Commie? Is Motl going to accuse us of corrupting his precious bodily fluids.

Green Trash - This is better, rhymes with Eurotrash.

Eric Raymond - I lost track of him years ago. Always thought the libertarian crap was stupid but put up with him since he seemed to have some useful role in open source. Now that his relevance in that arena is fading he's entered a new "field" in which he lacks expertise and has decided to pick on the people who do. He's kind of like a punchy old boxer who takes up ultimate fighting. Ain't gonna be pretty.

If Motl is a theoretical physicist, I'm willing to concede that the guy is probably very smart. Genius, maybe. But that doesn't mean he isn't cuckoo. A lot of these math guys go crazy like Russel Crowe did in that one movie. Or like Anthony Hopkins did in that other movie with Gwyneth Paltrow. He was just filling entire notebooks with mathematical gibberish by the end. And based on the state of Motl's "professional" correspondence, I think we can safely assume he is in the fevered throws of some tortured psychotic break fueled by right right wing paranoia and hostility.

Hey, there might even be a new movie here.

Death to the Christian atheists. All hail the atheist Christians!!!

Comrades! In proclaiming Gramsci as our inspration this bourgeoise running dog has revealed his own Titoist leanings! We must rise as one to liquidate this heterodox abomination!

What an unpleasant toad. Talk about ivory tower syndrome.

I look forward to his crushing defeat when he eventually goes up against reality.

By Richard Eis (not verified) on 23 Dec 2009 #permalink

Ah, this is a nice one: "A collection of Lubos' insults". Besides ranting against Lee Smolin, Paul Davies, Leornard Susskind, I find the ranting against "quotas for female reproductive organs" very funny:

"After years of heavy interactions with people as stupid, as aggressive, and as arrogant as yourself, i.e. with the underclass, have you completely lost your mind, Ms Hossenfelder? I don't know how to explain you these matters comprehensibly enough but let me try again: relatively to real top physicists, you are just a tiny piece of a waste product of metabolism who got into the system mainly because of quotas on the female reproductive organs. Whether you would like a certain kind of change is completely irrelevant."

By Joe the Plumber (not verified) on 23 Dec 2009 #permalink

Yeah AGW - totally communistic. Like how China, with the support of Venezuela and Bolivia went all out for a strong, binding deal in Copenhagen.

Wait! What?

Someone needs to point out to these Reich-wing defenders of liberty that it's they who lining up with the above, plus China's lovely client states (Burma, Sudan... nice folks), and the big oil producers (gulf-Arab tyrannies, Iran, Putin's Russia's).

Climate denialism: an Islamo-commie plot!

By mattheath (not verified) on 23 Dec 2009 #permalink

Regarding tuckerch's post at 26: has there been some recent upswing in wingnuts accusing everyone of being Gramscians (and/or followers of the Frankfurt school) or is that just a recency illusion?

By mattheath (not verified) on 23 Dec 2009 #permalink

Motl is living proof that one can get a PhD in a scientific subject and still have zero understanding for how science actually works. I used to work at a physics magazine. About half the staff were physicists and the other half were artsy types (art editors, copy editors, etc.). I spent a lot of time explaining physicists to the nonphysics staff. The art editor came up with a brilliant insight. If there is such a thing as an idiot-savant--that is a person of generally low intelligence who excells at some difficult task--there must also be the opposite--a genius-stupide. This would be a person who is very smart but who is an absolute idiot in terms of some characteristic--social graces, personal hygeine, or understandint the limitations of their own expertise. Motl is the classic Genius-stupide.

By a_ray_in_dilbe… (not verified) on 24 Dec 2009 #permalink

Well, I read Motl's blog for a quite a long time now, mostly because of his physics posts (being a physicist myself), and he's one of the most clear-minded people I have ever read. Not you, or your followers!

Climatology is well contained within physics, not the other way around, so a theoretical physicist like Motl (or any other) can have a priori greater insight on the field than even the average climatologist, if he puts effort into it. And he does! You simply have no idea what a background a theoretical physicist must have to tackle any kind of physics problem, and how restrictive a climatologist's knowledge is in comparison. I'm not downgrading climatologists, I'm just asserting how easy for a theoretical physicist is to understand a climatology problem.

So, your rants against him can only mean jealously and/or an inferiority complex. Because one thing is for sure: he is scientifically more credible when he sleeps than the sum of all your posts will ever be!

So, your rants against him can only mean jealously and/or an inferiority complex.

Has someone come up with a name for this particular pathetic accusation yet? Really, you might as well be coming up with new and hilarious ways of describing his mother as overweight for all the good it does your argument.

By WowbaggerOM (not verified) on 24 Dec 2009 #permalink

Climatology is well contained within physics, not the other way around, so a theoretical physicist like Motl (or any other) can have a priori greater insight on the field than even the average climatologist, if he puts effort into it.

And there it is.
Scientific reductionism always ends up in physics, therefore physicists understand everything better than anybody else.
If only the ancient Greeks had coined a term for such overweening arrogance.

By Sven DiMilo (not verified) on 24 Dec 2009 #permalink

he is scientifically more credible when he sleeps

That much I can agre with.

(p.s. yes I know that "overweening arrogance" is redundantly repetitive)

By Sven DiMilo (not verified) on 24 Dec 2009 #permalink

@WowbaggerOM: when your arguments will contain a single mathematical expression, I will pay attention to them myself ;)

@Sven: can you mention a single field of scientific knowledge which is not ultimately founded on fundamental physics? Think hard!

Oh, look! He's trying to be funny:

Error! Chances are that you came to this blog from "Pharyngula". If it is the case, I urge you to instantly go away because your presence violates the very basic rules of hygiene. After two showers and five prayers following your recent "Pharyngula" visit, you may slowly start to consider walking among decent people once again.

And speaking of "overweening arrogance":

BTW the self-described godless ejaculating scumbag P.Z. Myers who calls me names only has 137 citations for his 4th article, less than my figure (one missing) - that's despite his being a very old zombie who is still a parasite upon the establishment we call Academia, unlike your humble correspondent.

Priceless!

Dude, I already admitted that all scientific reductionism ends up in physics.
However, perhaps you are unaware that reductionism is not the only fruitful strategy of science? And that there are emergent properties at all organizational levels above the molecular that are not predictable from physics alone?
Ah, but if it can't be expressed as a mathematical equation, it's not really science, is that it?

(what's that Greek word again?)

By Sven DiMilo (not verified) on 24 Dec 2009 #permalink

helvio wrote:

@WowbaggerOM: when your arguments will contain a single mathematical expression, I will pay attention to them myself ;)

x=y - where x is the poster known as helvio and y is the set of qualities that define a pissant.

Happy, pissant?

By WowbaggerOM (not verified) on 24 Dec 2009 #permalink

Helvio says "Climatology is well contained within physics, not the other way around, so a theoretical physicist like Motl (or any other) can have a priori greater insight on the field than even the average climatologist, if he puts effort into it."

Absolute bullshit. Sorry, Helvio, but the human body is a physical system, but that doesn't mean I want Motl doing brain surgery. Motl is yet another physicist who doesn't realize the limitations of his own expertise--like Shockley before him. What is more Motl is in a tiny minority among physicists who reject the consensus model of Earth's climate. And frankly, he's not even that great a string theorist. I'll take Brian Greene or Ed Witten over him any day.

By a_ray_in_dilbe… (not verified) on 24 Dec 2009 #permalink

TW the self-described godless ejaculating scumbag P.Z. Myers who calls me names only has 137 citations for his 4th article, less than my figure (one missing)

Why does his page now start off with bragging that his E-penis is bigger? Did he just get of X-box live or something? Clearly he needs to grow up a bit.

helvio @40,

Climatology is well contained within physics,

As is chemistry, which is well contained within biochemistry, which is well contained within cognitive neuroscience. Should we soon be expecting Motl's debunking of the work of Vilayanur S. Ramachandran?!

Someone needs to revisit the definition of Denialism:

http://scienceblogs.com/denialism/about.php

By Fred The Hun (not verified) on 24 Dec 2009 #permalink

what's that Greek word again?

pissant?

no, that's not it...

By Sven DiMilo (not verified) on 24 Dec 2009 #permalink

Hubris?

dingdingdingdingding!
we have a winnah!

By Sven DiMilo (not verified) on 24 Dec 2009 #permalink

I don't suppose that I could convince anyone that "douchenozzle" has Greek roots..?

Climatology is well contained within physics, not the other way around, so a theoretical physicist like Motl (or any other) can have a priori greater insight on the field than even the average climatologist, if he puts effort into it.

Motl is a string theorist, so he has absolutely no qualifications on the field of climatology - something he demonstrates every time he writes about it.

AGW is the logical conclusion of the physics we know, yet Motl apparently feel qualified to reject more than a 100 years on physics and chemistry based on whatever he pulls out of his ass.

If he wants us to take him seriously, he should get a paper published in a proper peer reviewed journal, in which he explains how our knowledge of physics and our model of the Earth is completely wrong on this one subject, yet seem to be right in other aspects. This explanation would (among other things) also have to explain the warming trend that we observe.

By Kristjan Wager (not verified) on 24 Dec 2009 #permalink

You simply have no idea what a background a theoretical physicist must have to tackle any kind of physics problem, and how restrictive a climatologist's knowledge is in comparison. I'm not downgrading climatologists, I'm just asserting how easy for a theoretical physicist is to understand a climatology problem. - helvio

Quite: you are just asserting this, not arguing for it. The knowledge and skills required for theoretical physics do not include many of those needed for climate science. The construction of useful models, and the gathering and interpretation of evidence, are both highly domain-specific and knowledge-dependent.

By Knockgoats (not verified) on 24 Dec 2009 #permalink

I nominate Knockgoats for the next OM award based on the above post; succinct, focused, and absolutely correct.

By Just Plain Cliff (not verified) on 24 Dec 2009 #permalink

I nominate Knockgoats for the next OM award based on the above post; succinct, focused, and absolutely correct.

You can nominate him for a tentacle cluster. He already has a Molly under a previous moniker.

By Nerd of Redhead, OM (not verified) on 24 Dec 2009 #permalink

The human body is mostly water.

Therefore, by studying hydrodynamics, I can successfully master psychology and political science at the same time, right?

Yeah, I know - it would be more efficient to just focus on quarks, and the hydrology will automatically follow.

By Pierce R. Butler (not verified) on 24 Dec 2009 #permalink

This is hilarious. Has anyone tried to go to Motl's blog through Peter Woit's Not Even Wrong blog? Check this entry where Woit links to Motl, and click on it: "Lubos has more Kaku".

I'm just asserting how easy for a theoretical physicist is to understand a climatology problem.

Let us know when Motl manages to model even a single carbon atom with his knowledge of string theory, much less an entire climate.

By Naked Bunny wi… (not verified) on 24 Dec 2009 #permalink

With Motls hand so far up Helvio's ass, he must be a sockpuppet.

If Motl really did know about global warming he wouldn't be arguing against all the climatologists and the data that already shows warming and CO2 effects.

By Richard Eis (not verified) on 24 Dec 2009 #permalink

Kristjan Wager @55;

Motl is a string theorist, so he has absolutely no qualifications on the field of climatology...

...or indeed physics. As has been pointed out by others, LM is not only in denial of climate science, he's in denial of basic physics, chemistry, etc.
Ther was once hope that fundamental physics research would help us solve the energy crisis (running out of fossil fuels (including uranium)) by giving us workable fusion power. There was even the concept of zero-point energy. Whatever happened to that?
Call me an old conspiracist if you like, but I just visited motls blogspot site and read how the nice czech coal industry is no way gonna drown micronesia.

Has it really come down to this? Statistical analysis of citation frequency to prove or disprove the validity of a scientific theory. That's a proxy I never hoped to see.

Peter G.,
Actually, citation frequency is a pretty good metric for how useful a paper is in its particular field. No, it doesn't prove or disprove a scientific theory. It does show how useful a particular work is in understanding the phenomenon in question.

As an example, I recently had a reviewer question my use of the Akaike Information Criterion (AIC) in a paper on statistical modeling. He asserted that AIC was an "obscure" technique. I countered with a stat showing that Akaike's paper had been cited on average about once every 3 days since it was published in the 70s--not a bad record. I got published.

What metric would you prefer?

By a_ray_in_dilbe… (not verified) on 24 Dec 2009 #permalink

I am quite aware Ray that frequency of citation is a very good indicator of the significance of a given paper. It is especially good when one wants to assess the historical importance of a seminal idea. The nature of the citation, however, is just as important as the fact of citation. How many times have you read a paper that cited previous work about what was once "thought to be true" for example, and then proceeded to deconstruct that previous work to show why it is not longer valid. I don't think it is possible to use citation frequency as any sort of metric of the truth without a much deeper analysis of the reason for citation. Over the arc of history of any particular science I think you will find that the reason for citing a paper often evolves from concurrence to rejection. This is not inevitably true but it happens often enough when scientific paradigms shift.

mattheath @#38:
Raymond's been dragging that one out on a regular basis for some years, now.

I suspect he's got some serious psychological pathologies going on, aside from the libertarian insanity, that is.

Peter G.
Actually, if a work is debunked, the citations decrease over time. I don't know of anyone who cites papers on the luminiferous ether when writing about relativity. And even if the paper is being cited to refute it--the fact that it is being cited indicates that it is still relevant.

Now contrast that to papers by McIntyre and McKitrick and other denialists which lie there like a dog turd on a hot New York sidewalk because they simply aren't that useful. Actually, if you look at citations in climate science, it gives a pretty realistic idea of what is and is not important.

By a_ray_in_dilbe… (not verified) on 24 Dec 2009 #permalink

helvio: "@Sven: can you mention a single field of scientific knowledge which is not ultimately founded on fundamental physics? Think hard!"

Absurd.

Who do you want to deal with your medical emergency? A physician or a theoretical physicist? Think FAST!

Idiot @44 wrote:
"@Sven: can you mention a single field of scientific knowledge which is not ultimately founded on fundamental physics? Think hard!"
Psychology and Sociology. That didn't take long.

Not that it matters. Reductionism is stupid; If it were /valid/, the Mathematicians would have the physicists' gig, but they don't. And for good reason; Just because one understands the principles by which people act (Psychology) doesn't mean their knowledge on how groups interact (Sociology) is superior to someone who specializes in that. True, they're in a better position then a layman to understand the next step, but not then a specialist. That's why biologists don't get to practice law (Biology -> Psychology -> Sociology -> Historian -> Lawyer).

By Rutee, Shrieki… (not verified) on 24 Dec 2009 #permalink

Citations always decrease over the long term regardless of whether the work is debunked since papers that stand the test of time become so fundamental to a science that it is no longer necessary to even refer to them. Also more recent papers that have further elucidated the subject are more worthy of citation. Another reason to be wary of citation frequency is the fact that scientists who are citing paper are may doing so for purposes of criticism. In the case of AGW that might mean that a vocal minority would have a lot more papers to criticize (and cite) from the majority consensus. There is also the issue that many fields of science are so specialized that they have few researchers in them and the number of citations is minimal. Would the lack of citations in such a case have any bearing whatsoever on the validity of the science? I submit that frequency of citation has only two proper uses. The first is to place the relative importance of a paper in context from the point of view of the history of a science (long term). The second one is securing advancement,tenure or funding for a researcher provided the papers are well received in peer review. I don't see that they have any place in arguing the truth underlying a theory. I agree that it is a metric for what is happening in the here and now with regard to where a science is heading but it is a metric that works right up to the moment when it doesn't. The fact that CO2 is, by consensus, the primary forcing agent for AGW have ever changed from a minority opinion if one used such a metric to determine the truth.
Btw, this exchange is how I always felt people should argue their points. With reason. Thanks for engaging.

Off to do some last millisecond shopping. Happy Hols everyone. Don't let that festivus pole smack you in the noodle.

can you mention a single field of scientific knowledge which is not ultimately founded on fundamental physics? Think hard!

Archeology. That was easy.

By 'Tis Himself, OM (not verified) on 24 Dec 2009 #permalink

@Sven: can you mention a single field of scientific knowledge which is not ultimately founded on fundamental physics? Think hard!

Can you find a machine whose behavior can be accurately predicted by looking at a couple of bolts?

helvio:

Well, I read Motl's blog for a quite a long time now, mostly because of his physics posts (being a physicist myself), and he's one of the most clear-minded people I have ever read. Not you, or your follower.
Climatology is well contained within physics, not the other way around, so a theoretical physicist like Motl (or any other) can have a priori greater insight on the field than even the average climatologist, if he puts effort into it.
...
So, your rants against him can only mean jealously and/or an inferiority complex. Because one thing is for sure: he is scientifically more credible when he sleeps than the sum of all your posts will ever be!

As a physicist, I can unequivocally say--and I mean this with all due respect--you are demonstrably full of shit. You are essentially claiming that, since physics is the most fundamental of sciences, physicists have some secret insight into everything. Merde. The fact that you understand, to some degree, the components of a system does not necessarily mean that you have any great insight into its macroscopic behavior.

You may feel comfortable letting somebody like Mottl perform your quadruple bypass surgery. I don't. You may think that, because you can write down (but not solve exactly) the many-body Schrodinger equation for the family cat, you understand why it coughed up a hairball on your keyboard. You don't. You may think that, because you know the Standard Model, you can predict how that cute chemist will respond when you ask her out. You can't.

Really, are you a practicing physicist? I haven't heard that "I'm a physicist, so I understand everything" nonsense from anyone educated beyond high school.

You simply have no idea what a background a theoretical physicist must have to tackle any kind of physics problem, and how restrictive a climatologist's knowledge is in comparison. I'm not downgrading climatologists, I'm just asserting how easy for a theoretical physicist is to understand a climatology problem. - helvio

If you really were a physicist, or any kind of scientist, you would be familiar with the simple fact that grand theoretical predictions about what MUST be the case are A) even in the uttermost end of best-case scenarios are only as good as their foundational assumptions (re-evaluate yours) and B) are nullified, and discarded by honest scientists, when they spectacularly fail to be consistent with the data. But this isn't even a theoretical prediction: your insistence that Motl MUST know more about climatology than the entire range of people who actually, you know, study the subject for a living and have produced reams of peer-reviewed and largely replicated evidence to support their consensus has no more scientific utility or merit than Einstein's insistence that quantum mechanical phenomenon MUST be, at a fundamental level, deterministic, and seems to have been made for more or less the same reasons.

It's almost a shame that the cretin was a drive by comment, people like Epikt and Azkyroth just tore them a new one! (scientifically speaking)

@73 I very seldom find anything technical to criticize in your posts 'Tis Himself but I fear I must quibble with this one. Isotope ratio analysis of items recovered from archeological digs is often critically important in establishing the time of deposition. It is used for organic artifacts, ceramics and both human and animal remains. It very much underpins modern archaeology.

You're right, Peter G. Radiometric dating is an important part of archeology. However, I was thinking of looking at pot shards and deciding if they're similar to other shards from a site some distance away.

By 'Tis Himself, OM (not verified) on 24 Dec 2009 #permalink

Peter G., At the physics magazine I worked at in the mid-90s, they ran a series of articles "The Physics of _______?" One of the articles was on archaeology, and the physics included everything from radiometric dating to remote sensing with satellites. (They also did baseball, tennis, sailing, and probably ultimately tiddly-winks.)

However, I'm not sure understanding the physics of radioactive decay would be much help in understanding the significance of a jade dagger to the Aztecs any more than understanding hydrodynamics would help you thow a Major League caliber curve ball.

Oh, and I still maintain that citations is probably as good a measure of influence of an article as you are going to get without getting really complicated. If you want something that reads like the rules for rankings in the Bowl Championship series, mayb you'll do better.

By a_ray_in_dilbe… (not verified) on 24 Dec 2009 #permalink

Actually Ray I think your background might be better suited to a statistical analysis of citations. I have a couple of grad courses in statistics, now very dated, and they were very incidental to the materials science work I was doing. Don't you think it would be interesting to use advanced statistics to analyze the citations of a science to see where it is headed and where it has been. As to the physics of archeology, please note that my comment was a quibble. I will say that physics is the most precise part of archaeology. I find much of the interpretation of the significance of artifacts to be freighted with conjectures that will probably never be resolved.

In #40 posted by helvio on December 24, 2009 at 6:56 AM:

Climatology is well contained within physics, not the other way around, so a theoretical physicist like Motl (or any other) can have a priori greater insight on the field than even the average climatologist, if he puts effort into it. And he does! You simply have no idea what a background a theoretical physicist must have to tackle any kind of physics problem, and how restrictive a climatologist's knowledge is in comparison. I'm not downgrading climatologists, I'm just asserting how easy for a theoretical physicist is to understand a climatology problem.

You do realize you basically said that the theoretical physicist knows less than the climatologist, right? Look, a foundation is just that, the most basic level of understanding. I've had physics courses, mathematics courses, chemistry courses, all at the foundational level. So does that mean I understand Dark Energy and Dark Matter?

Understanding physics is the foundation of understanding the Cosmos. That said, you can't just stop there. Simply being a string theorist does not impress me, because nothing in string theory has been tested and validated. For all you can know Lubos is wrong about everything related to strings. He could also be right.

Once you have a foundation, you build on it. I know how subatomic particles work relative to their interactions in semiconductors and other micro-electronic components. Can Lubos explain in detailed depth the core functioning of a NorTel Meridian SL-100 and analyze which component has failed given a specific set of symptoms? It's all just quarks and electrons, after all. I can.

It's the same in Climatology. Specialized knowledge is required to take you beyond the fundamental knowledge. Only someone with an extraordinarily bad understanding of reality could think otherwise.

If Lubos' conjectures of strings, branes and the like are correct, all that tells us is he has the foundational knowledge. It has no bearing on whether he understands the higher level parts. Climatology is beyond basic physics. Unless Lubos has studied and practiced climatology at the profesional level, he has none of the required knowledge to cogently comment. Neither do you.

By sandlin.john (not verified) on 24 Dec 2009 #permalink

Joe the Plumber @ #34, thanks for that link. The video was creepy, but the comments are hilarious. I love the idiots giving him a hard time and seeing the guy futilely trying to carry on an intelligent conversation.

For example, mozart20dlubos writes: "I'm not a fan of this song, I'm a fan of the guy singing, he's a very brilliant physicist. I am not Lubos Motl, just a fan of his who found this clip on Google Video and uploaded it on youtube."

typical response: "noob suck a dick and die!"

Sometimes I just love the internets to pieces.

Oh, this website is soooo lovely! It makes laugh so hard! I need to come back here more often! Some people here really think that they can have any grasp of what fundamental physics (or any of its derivatives) is all about after taking Physics 101 courses? Sociology, psychology, archaeology? Hahahahaha! My belly hurts! What a bunch of self-lovers!

helvio, your trollishness is noted.

By John Morales (not verified) on 24 Dec 2009 #permalink

helvio, a pissant, wrote:

I need to come back here more often!

Don't expect to retain the right to post here for very much longer if you don't produce something of value to the discussion.

By WowbaggerOM (not verified) on 25 Dec 2009 #permalink

It makes laugh so hard!

Not really, with posts like that ..:-)
Is registration on ?

By Rorschach (not verified) on 25 Dec 2009 #permalink

I need to come back here more often! Some people here really think that they can have any grasp of what fundamental physics (or any of its derivatives) is all about after taking Physics 101 courses?

I think you might want to look up some of the names of regulars who comment here at Pharyngula. I think you'll find that some of them knows quite a bit more about physics than you do (not me, I'm just an IT guy).

Speaking of people who knows physics - does Torbjörn Larsson ever comment here these days? I don't think I've seen his name on a comment here in a while.

By Kristjan Wager (not verified) on 25 Dec 2009 #permalink

While most physicists are reasonably normal people, there are a few like Motl and helvio with a completely unwarranted sense of their own superiority.

By 'Tis Himself, OM (not verified) on 25 Dec 2009 #permalink

While most physicists are reasonably normal people, there are a few like Motl and helvio with a completely unwarranted sense of their own superiority.

Definitely. I find this affliction more common with physicists than with other scientists. Must come from assuming spherical cows. ;)

By Nerd of Redhead, OM (not verified) on 25 Dec 2009 #permalink

Helvio, You are not the only physicist here. In fact, I've seen no evidence so far that you are in fact a physicist. What I've seen is a lot of arrogance typical of someone who hasn't tried to apply physical analysis to the real world. Failing to understand the limitations of a model, theory or a worldview is a guarantee of looking like a fool at some point--as you do at present.

There is a lot of good physics in climate science. Do you in fact know any of it? If you did, you would understand the Motl's screeds are utter twaddle. He's nearly as much of a joke as Monckton, and since all we've seen from you is how far you can stick your nose up the ass of a fool, well... let's just say that this physicist isn't impressed.

By a_ray_in_dilbe… (not verified) on 25 Dec 2009 #permalink

So Helvio, were you going to explain how physics underpins all understanding of those disciplines, or would you prefer simply behaving like a jackass?

By Rutee, Shrieki… (not verified) on 25 Dec 2009 #permalink

As a_ray_in_dilbert_space said, you are not the only physicist here Helvio. I have to admit, I hope you really are not one because you are a terrible representative of the field. I have a degree in physics, I used to work in particle physics and I know many people who work in both experimental and theoretical physics, I know a number of string theorists as well. None of them seem to share your views. Sure, I have met a few physicists out there that have been arrogant, that have been jackasses, but I have met people like that everywhere. Most are not at all as Helvio suggests, and most would think his statements about physics are silly and ignorant.

Maybe I just have a soft head these days now that I work in computer science and biology.

So how in the world does one sign in with Vox? It just sends me to my account at Vox, but not back here. And I'm still not logged in.

You click on "sign in", click on the Vox symbol, enter the URL of your alleged Vox blog, and click on OK... works for me, every time. :-|

Also, you are logged in, just not via Vox.

As an example, I recently had a reviewer question my use of the Akaike Information Criterion (AIC) in a paper on statistical modeling. He asserted that AIC was an "obscure" technique.

LOL! Even the molecular biologists use it (some of the time) to figure out which model of DNA evolution to use when reconstructing phylogenetic trees! I've done it myself! :-D :-D :-D

(OK, it's in black-box software, but still.)

By David Marjanović (not verified) on 25 Dec 2009 #permalink

Oh, the Naked Bunny said:

Let us know when Motl manages to model even a single carbon atom with his knowledge of string theory, much less an entire climate.Let us know when Motl manages to model even a single carbon atom with his knowledge of string theory, much less an entire climate.

FTW, really.

I find the stuff fascinating, myself. But hell, the String theorists can't even pick one or two subsets of this which best model the cosmos. Over the next years, CERN will be pumping out some data which should be very interesting to this crowd, at least to those who pay actual empirical data any mind.

Thanks David, I did mean I wasn't logged in via Vox. I was trying to switch from that dreadful typepad thing. I was doing something wrong I guess.

All right, first post with Vox. Liking the white-and-red V. Hopefully doesn't give me the typepad crap.

Is helvio a physics-Poe? I have never talked to a physicist who said such arrogantly stupid shit, except when self-consciously joking around.

By strange gods b… (not verified) on 25 Dec 2009 #permalink

F:

I find the stuff fascinating, myself. But hell, the String theorists can't even pick one or two subsets of this which best model the cosmos. Over the next years, CERN will be pumping out some data which should be very interesting to this crowd, at least to those who pay actual empirical data any mind.

I'm sure that if CERN's experimental results contradict any claim of Mottl's, we'll be treated to a rant accusing the experimentalists of being communists and threatening to have them liquidated.

strange gods, there seem to be a brand of physicists who believe that they are superior to other people, even in the other peoples' field.

Mark Buchanan is an example of such a physicist.

By Kristjan Wager (not verified) on 25 Dec 2009 #permalink

OK, I realize I'm about to venture into "no true Scotsman" territory, but it has been my experience that Motl and Buchanan are aberrations. Usually, the degree to which you believe in the omnipotence of physics is inverse to the amount of time you've spent actually doing it.
There's a reason why we love jokes about "spherical cows". It is because we realize that half the recipe for success in physics is selecting a system that is simple enough that you can profitably apply the methods of physics to it and maybe actually learn something about more complex systems.

If you spend long enough doing physics, your delusions of grandeur fade to delusions of adequacy, and if you are good, those go away, too. They are replaced by a sense of wonder that we can apply these methods, simplistic as they may be, and sometimes come away with insight into how some aspect of the world actually works.

Physics has been applied with considerable profit to phenomena such as financial markets--and when people who don't understand the limitations of the results get ahold of the resulting products, you get AIG, Lehman Brothers, and the Masters of the Universe falling into financial black holes. Most of the physicists knew better than to take their research so far and just said, "Huh, that was interesting."

By a_ray_in_dilbe… (not verified) on 26 Dec 2009 #permalink

Kristjan Wager, I've left a comment on your blog.

By 'Tis Himself, OM (not verified) on 26 Dec 2009 #permalink

@102: I don't think that's No TRUE scotsman. You're not denying his physics credentials, or the possibility of them, simply pointing at them as unlikely.

By Rutee, Shrieki… (not verified) on 26 Dec 2009 #permalink

@ 102

Lubos' background in string theory might have something to do with his place as an outlier in your physics humility spectrum. In my understanding string theory is entirely theoretical as tests have not yet been possible; in fact I've met more than one physicist with a fairly dismissive attitude toward the theory, at least partly because of this. Without walls of empirical evidence for your predictions to run into, your ego might go relatively unconstrained.

Well, I read Motl's blog for a quite a long time now, mostly because of his physics posts (being a physicist myself), and he's one of the most clear-minded people I have ever read. Not you, or your followers!

Climatology is well contained within physics, not the other way around, so a theoretical physicist like Motl (or any other) can have a priori greater insight on the field than even the average climatologist, if he puts effort into it. And he does! You simply have no idea what a background a theoretical physicist must have to tackle any kind of physics problem, and how restrictive a climatologist's knowledge is in comparison. I'm not downgrading climatologists, I'm just asserting how easy for a theoretical physicist is to understand a climatology problem.
-----------------------------------

Helvios, That physics applies to the other disciplines of science is a matter of course, but so is the fact that it is inadequate to account for the range of phenomena studied in those fields. I don't see any reason a theoretical physicist like Motl wouldn't be able to tackle problems in climatology, however your implication that he wouldn't need to expand beyond his physics background to do so is stupid, and his lack of publication in the field suggests that he hasn't. Perhaps you fail to understand the breadth of knowledge needed to tackle a problem in climatology.

Sorry Hurin, I don't give a shit what an ignoramus like you thinks. I don't believe Motl has any insight into climatology beyond his politics, and as a result, I don't believe anything he says. Rationalizations can appear to be clear and lucid, but not necessarily scientific. Which does require a higher level of evidence, and that evidence must be reviewed by others. A posting at a web site is not the equivalent of a peer reviewed paper. And I have very little doubt that for Motl to be able to do the work I do daily in chemistry, would require years of training on his part. That is why there are specialties in science, or even within a given discipline.

By Nerd of Redhead, OM (not verified) on 26 Dec 2009 #permalink

Nerd, I'm getting a psychic channeling from Hurin:
Chemistry is well contained within physics, not the other way around, so a theoretical physicist like Motl (or any other) can have a priori greater insight on the field than even the average chemist, if he puts effort into it.
You simply have no idea what a background a theoretical physicist must have to tackle any kind of physics problem, and how restrictive a chemist's knowledge is in comparison. I'm not downgrading chemists, I'm just asserting how easy for a theoretical physicist is to understand a chemistry problem.

</Hurin>

By John Morales (not verified) on 26 Dec 2009 #permalink

John, I suspect you are right. But there is a difference between being trained in an area than not being trained. All too often the fictional concept that an outsider makes the breakthroughs in a discipline is believed. But, we all know the real breakthroughs are made by those well grounded in the discipline and follow the rules of science.

By Nerd of Redhead, OM (not verified) on 26 Dec 2009 #permalink

Nerd @109, yes; which is not to say that interdisciplinarity is not an useful approach for advancing science.

By John Morales (not verified) on 26 Dec 2009 #permalink

@ Nerd and John:

I think you are misinterpereting the post I wrote. the top of the post was quoted from Helvio from above. I forgot to include his name. Here is the part I added as a response to his post:

Helvios, That physics applies to the other disciplines of science is a matter of course, but so is the fact that it is inadequate to account for the range of phenomena studied in those fields. I don't see any reason a theoretical physicist like Motl wouldn't be able to tackle problems in climatology, however your implication that he wouldn't need to expand beyond his physics background to do so is stupid, and his lack of publication in the field suggests that he hasn't. Perhaps you fail to understand the breadth of knowledge needed to tackle a problem in climatology.

-----------------------

Incidentally I'm not making any blanket statements of Motl's fitness for any task including physics, only that I don't believe his physics background would hinder him if he decided to pursue research in climatology.

I'm currently a graduate student in organic chemistry, but I worked in biomedical research for a few years after getting my bachelors, and I met others who had entered biological research after getting PhDs in organic or physical chemistry. They had of course picked up a lot of biology after their training in chemistry, but they seemed to be doing passably well for themselves with their backgrounds.

Hurin, quite so and I apologise — my snark stands, but it's Helvios to whom it should've been directed.

--

PS It would make it easier for others (not that it excuses me) if you used the blockquote tag:
<blockquote>quoted text</blockquote>

By John Morales (not verified) on 26 Dec 2009 #permalink

helvio

Climatology is well contained within physics, not the other way around, so a theoretical physicist like Motl (or any other) can have a priori greater insight on the field than even the average climatologist, if he puts effort into it.

Hmm... I'm going out on a limb here, not being any sort of scientist, but for that statement to be true there'd have to already be a Theory Of Everything; no? To you physicists out there, does my question even make sense? This is just me testing my layman's conception of the TOE.

helvio, since music is merely applied physics (vibrations, resonance, etc.), I presume that based on your previous statements you and Motl can play a piano concerto . . . or a violin concerto. Surely the knowledge of string theory and being a theoretical physicist would give you an advantage to these two instruments. Right?

I mean, it's not like it's rocket science.

How about the science of artificial intelligence? I guess that doesn't rely much on physics.

But you're really overlooking the major science: mathematics. I know that many people don't think of math as science. They are, of course, wrong, but entitled to their opinion.

Theoretical physics is well contained within mathematics, not the other way around, so a mathematician can have a priori greater insight on the field than even the average theoretical physicist, if he puts effort into it.

I hope you understand that we're laughing at you, but only because you've written some rather retarded foolish and silly things.

Sorry Nerd, but it looks a bit like you didn't read helvio's post before hurin quoted it. Blockquote tags or not, it should have been seen as a repeat of an earlier comment. Jus' sayin'