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The dumbing down of science


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#1 canuck

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Posted 21 November 2010 - 07:52 PM

Anyone who is interested in pursuing the debate over the details of the great global warming fraud, can do so by Googling “climategate”. They will be rewarded with over three million hits.

Of more significance is the question of how a large proportion of the scientific community have allowed themselves to be drawn into this fraud, and to actively support it.

One answer to this question lies in a couple of the posts I have made previously, and boils down to “who benefits; follow the money”. A whole army of scientists would find themselves unemployed were it not for the stream of cash flowing into “global warming” and “climate science”.

However, the root answer is somewhat more profound, and lies in the dumbing down of science education. Our current crop of scientists are just not as smart as previous generations; and this is reflected in scandals such as “Climategate”, and others that have yet to reach the public eye.

In addressing this issue, Richard Feynman delivered a lecture directed at science education in Brazil. However, his comments are applicable to science education world wide.

It is a long extract, but it is well worth the read.

Richard Feynman biography: http://en.wikipedia....Richard_Feynman

Extract from:

“Surely you’re joking, Mr. Feynman”; by Richard P Feynman.
Unwin Hyman Limited; London 1985
ISBN: 0-04-530023-2


In regard to education in Brazil, I had a very interesting experience. I was teaching a group of students who would ultimately become teachers, since at that time there were not many opportunities in Brazil for a highly trained person in science. These students had already had many courses, and this was to be their most advanced course in electricity and magnetism--Maxwell's equations, and so on.
The university was located in various office buildings throughout the city, and the course I taught met in a building which overlooked the bay.
I discovered a very strange phenomenon: I could ask a question, which the students would answer immediately. But the next time I would ask the question--the same subject, and the same question, as far as I could tell--they couldn't answer it at all! For instance, one time I was talking about polarized light, and I gave them all some strips of polaroid.
Polaroid passes only light whose electric vector is in a certain direction, so I explained how you could tell which way the light is polarized from whether the polaroid is dark or light. We first took two strips of polaroid and rotated them until they let the most light through. From doing that we could tell that the two strips were now admitting light polarized in the same direction--what passed through one piece of polaroid could also pass through the other. But then I asked them how one could tell the absolute direction of polarization, for a single piece of polaroid.
They hadn't any idea.
I knew this took a certain amount of ingenuity, so I gave them a hint: "Look at the light reflected from the bay outside."
Nobody said anything.
Then I said, "Have you ever heard of Brewster's Angle?"
"Yes, sir! Brewster's Angle is the angle at which light reflected from a medium with an index of refraction is completely polarized."
"And which way is the light polarized when it's reflected?"
"The light is polarized perpendicular to the plane of reflection, sir." Even now, I have to think about it; they knew it cold! They even knew thetangent of the angle equals the index!
I said, "Well?"
Still nothing. They had just told me that light reflected from a medium with an index, such as the bay outside, was polarized; they had even told me which way it was polarized.
I said, "Look at the bay outside, through the polaroid. Now turn the polaroid."
"Ooh, it's polarized!" they said.
After a lot of investigation, I finally figured out that the students had memorized everything, but they didn't know what anything meant. When they heard "light that is reflected from a medium with an index," they didn't know that it meant a material such as water.
They didn't know that the "direction of the light" is the direction in which you see something when you're looking at it, and so on. Everything was entirely memorized, yet nothing had been translated into meaningful words. So if I asked, "What is Brewster's Angle?"
I'm going into the computer with the right keywords. But if I say, "Look at the water," nothing happens--they don't have anything under "Look at the water"!
Later I attended a lecture at the engineering school. The lecture went like this, translated into English: "Two bodies . . . are considered equivalent . . . if equal torques . . . will produce . . . equal acceleration. Two bodies, are considered equivalent, if equal torques, will produce equal acceleration." The students were all sitting there taking dictation, and when the professor repeated the sentence, they checked it to make sure they wrote it down all right. Then they wrote down the next sentence, and on and on. I was the only one who knew the professor was talking about objects with the same moment of inertia, and it was hard to figure out.
I didn't see how they were going to learn anything from that. Here he was talking about moments of inertia, but there was no discussion about how hard it is to push a door open when you put heavy weights on the outside, compared to when you put them near the hinge--nothing
After the lecture, I talked to a student: "You take all those notes--what do you do with them?"
"Oh, we study them," he says. "We'll have an exam."
"What will the exam be like?"
"Very easy. I can tell you now one of the questions." He looks at his notebook and says, " 'When are two bodies equivalent?' And the answer is, 'Two bodies are considered equivalent if equal torques will produce equal acceleration.' So, you see, they could pass the examinations, and "learn" all this stuff, and not know anything at all, except what they had memorized.
Then I went to an entrance exam for students coming into the engineering school. It was an oral exam, and I was allowed to listen to it. One of the students was absolutely super: He answered everything nifty! The examiners asked him what diamagnetism was, and he answered it perfectly. Then they asked, "When light comes at an angle through a sheet of material with a certain thickness, and a certain index N, what happens to thelight?"
"It comes out parallel to itself, sir--displaced."
"And how much is it displaced?"
"I don't know, sir, but I can figure it out."
So he figured it out. He was very good. But I had, by this time, my suspicions. After the exam I went up to this bright young man, and explained to him that I was from the United States, and that I wanted to ask him some questions that would not affect the result of his examination in any way. The first question I ask is, "Can you give me some example of a diamagnetic substance?"
"No."
Then I asked, "If this book was made of glass, and I was looking at something on the table through it, what would happen to the image if I tilted the glass?"
"It would be deflected, sir, by twice the angle that you've turned the book."
I said, "You haven't got it mixed up with a mirror, have you?"
"No, sir!"
He had just told me in the examination that the light would be displaced, parallel to itself, and therefore the image would move over to one side, but would not be turned by any angle. He had even figured out how much it would be displaced, but he didn't realize that a piece of glass is a material with an index, and that his calculation had applied to my question.
I taught a course at the engineering school on mathematical methods in physics, in which I tried to show how to solve problems by trial and error. It's something that people don't usually learn, so I began with some simple examples of arithmetic to illustrate the method. I was surprised that only about eight out of the eighty or so students turned in the first assignment. So I gave a strong lecture about having to actually try it, not just sit back and watch me do it.
After the lecture some students came up to me in a little delegation, and told me that I didn't understand the backgrounds that they have, that they can study without doing the problems, that they have already learned arithmetic, and that this stuff was beneath them.
So I kept going with the class, and no matter how complicated or obviously advanced the work was becoming, they were never handing a BAD_WORD thing in. Of course I realized what it was: They couldn't do it!
One other thing I could never get them to do was to ask questions. Finally, a student explained it to me: "If I ask you a question during the lecture, afterwards everybody will be telling me, 'What are you wasting our time for in the class? We're trying to learn something. And you're stopping him by asking a question'."
It was a kind of one-upmanship, where nobody knows what's going on, and they'd put the other one down as if they did know. They all fake that they know, and if one student admits for a moment that something is confusing by asking a question, the others take a high-handed attitude, acting as if it's not confusing at all, telling him that he's wasting their time. I explained how useful it was to work together, to discuss the questions, to talk it over, but they wouldn't do that either, because they would be
losing face if they had to ask someone else. It was pitiful! All the work they did, intelligent people, but they got themselves into this funny state of mind, this strange kind of self-propagating "education" which is meaningless, utterly meaningless!
At the end of the academic year, the students asked me to give a talk about my experiences of teaching in Brazil. At the talk there would be not only students, but professors and government officials, so I made them promise that I could say whatever I wanted.
They said, "Sure. Of course. It's a free country."
So I came in, carrying the elementary physics textbook that they used in the first year of college. They thought this book was especially good because it had different kinds of typeface--bold black for the most important things to remember, lighter for less important things, and so on.
Right away somebody said, "You're not going to say anything bad about the textbook, are you? The man who wrote it is here, and everybody thinks it's a good textbook."
"You promised I could say whatever I wanted."
The lecture hall was full. I started out by defining science as an understanding of the behavior of nature. Then I asked, "What is a good reason for teaching science? Of course, no country can consider itself civilized unless . . . yak, yak, yak." They were all sitting there nodding, because I know that's the way they think.
Then I say, "That, of course, is absurd, because why should we feel we have to keep up with another country? We have to do it for a good reason, a sensible reason; not just because other countries do." Then I talked about the utility of science, and its contribution to the improvement of the human condition, and all that--I really teased them a little bit.
Then I say, "The main purpose of my talk is to demonstrate to you that no science is being taught in Brazil!"
I can see them stir, thinking, "What? No science? This is absolutely crazy! We have all these classes."
So I tell them that one of the first things to strike me when I came to Brazil was to see elementary school kids in bookstores, buying physics books. There are so many kids learning physics in Brazil, beginning much earlier than kids do in the United States, that it's amazing you don't find many physicists in Brazil--why is that? So many kids are working so hard, and nothing comes of it.
Then I gave the analogy of a Greek scholar who loves the Greek language, who knows that in his own country there aren't many children studying Greek. But he comes to another country, where he is delighted to find everybody studying Greek--even the smaller kids in the elementary schools. He goes to the examination of a student who is coming to get his degree in Greek, and asks him, "What were Socrates' ideas on the relationship between Truth and Beauty?"--and the student can't answer. Then he asks the student, What did Socrates say to Plato in the Third Symposium?" the student lights up and goes, "Brrrrrrrrr-up"--he tells you everything, word for word, that Socrates said, in beautiful Greek.
But what Socrates was talking about in the Third Symposium was the relationship between Truth and Beauty!
What this Greek scholar discovers is, the students in another country learn Greek by first learning to pronounce the letters, then the words, and then sentences and paragraphs. They can recite, word for word, what Socrates said, without realizing that those Greek words actually mean something. To the student they are all artificial sounds. Nobody has ever translated them into words the students can understand.
I said, "That's how it looks to me, when I see you teaching the kids 'science' here in Brazil." (Big blast, right?)
Then I held up the elementary physics textbook they were using. "There are no experimental results mentioned anywhere in this book, except in one place where there is a ball, rolling down an inclined plane, in which it says how far the ball got after one second, two seconds, three seconds, and so on. The numbers have 'errors' in them--that is, if you look at them, you think you're looking at experimental results, because the numbers are a little above, or a little below, the theoretical values. The book even talks about having to correct the experimental errors--very fine. The trouble is, when you calculate the value of the acceleration constant from these values, you get the right answer. But a ball rolling down an inclined plane, if it is actually done, has an inertia to get it to turn, and will, if you do the experiment, produce five-sevenths of the right answer, because of the extra energy needed to go into the rotation of the ball. Therefore this single example of experimental 'results' is obtained from a fake experiment. Nobody had rolled such a ball, or they would never have gotten those results!
"I have discovered something else," I continued. "By flipping the pages at random, and putting my finger in and reading the sentences on that page, I can show you what's the matter--how it's not science, but memorizing, in every circumstance. Therefore I am brave enough to flip through the pages now, in front of this audience, to put my finger in, to read, and to show you."
So I did it. Brrrrrrrup--I stuck my finger in, and I started to read: "Triboluminescence. Triboluminescence is the light emitted when crystals are crushed..
I said, "And there, have you got science? No! You have only told what a word means in terms of other words. You haven't told anything about nature-what crystals produce light when you crush them, why they produce light. Did you see any student go home and try it? He can't.
"But if, instead, you were to write, 'When you take a lump of sugar and crush it with a pair of pliers in the dark, you can see a bluish flash. Some other crystals do that too. Nobody knows why. The phenomenon is called "triboluminescence."' Then someone will go home and try it.
Then there's an experience of nature." I used that example to show them, but it didn't make any difference where I would have put my finger in the book; it was like that everywhere.
Finally, I said that I couldn't see how anyone could he educated by this self-propagating system in which people pass exams, and teach others to pass exams, but nobody knows anything. "However," I said, "I must be wrong. There were two students in my class who did very well, and one of the physicists I know was educated entirely in Brazil. Thus, it must be possible for some people to work their way through the system, had as it is."
Well, after I gave the talk, the head of the science education department got up and said, "Mr. Feynman has told us some things that are very hard for us to hear, but it appears to he that he really loves science, and is sincere in his criticism. Therefore, I think we should listen to him. I came here knowing we have some sickness in our system of education; what I have learned is that we have a cancer!"--and he sat down.

#2 canuck

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Posted 09 December 2010 - 07:27 PM

Cancun COP16 attendees fall for the old “dihydrogen monoxide” petition as well as signing up to cripple the U.S. Economy
Posted on December 8, 2010 by Anthony Watts

Oh dear, some of these folks aren’t the brightest CFL’s in the room.

Readers may remember this famous Penn and Teller video from 2006 where they get well meaning (but non thinking) people to sign up to ban “dihydrogen monoxide” (DHMO), which is an “evil” chemical found in our lakes, rivers, oceans, and even our food!

Yeah, they signed up to ban water. Now watch the video from the Cancun climate conference, you’d think some of these folks would be have enough science background (from their work in complex climate issues) to realize what they are signing, but sadly, no.

CFACT writes:
UN climate kooks want to cripple US economy and ban H2O

Some people will sign anything that includes phrases like, ”global effort,” “international community,” and “planetary.” Such was the case at COP 16, this year’s United Nations Conference on Climate Change in Cancun, Mexico.

This year, CFACT students created two mock-petitions to test U.N. Delegates. The first asked participants to help destabilize the United States economy, the second to ban water.

The first project, entitled “Petition to Set a Global Standard” sought to isolate and punish the United States of America for defying the international community, by refusing to bite, hook, line and sinker on the bait that is the Kyoto Protocol. The petition went so far as to encourage the United Nations to impose tariffs and trade restrictions on the U.S. in a scheme to destabilize the nation’s economy. Specifically, the scheme seeks to lower the U.S. GDP by 6% over a ten year period, unless the U.S. signs a U.N. treaty on global warming.

This would be an extremely radical move by the United Nations. Even so, radical left-wing environmentalists from around the world scrambled eagerly to sign.

The second project was as successful as the first. It was euphemistically entitled “Petition to Ban the Use of Dihydrogen Monoxide (DHMO)” (translation water). It was designed to show that if official U.N. delegates could be duped by college students into banning water, that they could essentially fall for anything, including pseudo-scientific studies which claim to show that global warming is man-caused.

Despite the apparently not-so-obvious reference to H2O, almost every delegate that collegian students approached signed their petition to ban that all too dangerous substance, which contributes to the greenhouse effect, is the major substance in acid rain, and is fatal if inhaled.

#3 canuck

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Posted 08 January 2011 - 08:48 PM

New rate of stratospheric photolysis questions ozone hole
Posted on January 8, 2011 by Anthony Watts

These images show its size each September over the past years, as derived from GOME, GOME-2 and SCIAMACHY satellite data. - click to enlarge
By Joseph D’Aleo, CCM, AMS Fellow



Dr. Will Happer of Princeton wrote “The Montreal Protocol to ban freons was the warm-up exercise for the IPCC. Many current IPCC players gained fame then by stampeding the US Congress into supporting the Montreal Protocol. They learned to use dramatized, phony scientific claims like “ozone holes over Kennebunkport” (President Bush Sr’s seaside residence in New England). The ozone crusade also had business opportunities for firms like Dupont to market proprietary “ozone-friendly” refrigerants at much better prices than the conventional (and more easily used) freons that had long-since lost patent protection and were not a cheap commodity with little profit potential” (link).

Even James Lovelock agrees. James Lovelock formulated the Gaia hypothesis, which postulates that the biosphere is a self-regulating entity with the capacity to keep our planet healthy by controlling the chemical and physical environment. He later became concerned that global warming would upset the balance and leave only the arctic as habitable. He began to move off this position in 2007 suggesting that the Earth itself is in “no danger” because it would stabilize in a new state.

James Lovelock’s reaction to first reading about the CRU emails in late 2009 was one of a true scientist:

“I was utterly disgusted. My second thought was that it was inevitable. It was bound to happen. Science, not so very long ago, pre-1960s, was largely vocational. Back when I was young, I didn’t want to do anything else other than be a scientist. They’re not like that nowadays. They don’t give a BAD_WORD. They go to these massive, mass-produced universities and churn them out. They say: “Science is a good career. You can get a job for life doing government work.” That’s no way to do science.

I have seen this happen before, of course. We should have been warned by the CFC/ozone affair because the corruption of science in that was so bad that something like 80% of the measurements being made during that time were either faked, or incompetently done.

Fudging the data in any way whatsoever is quite literally a sin against the holy ghost of science. I’m not religious, but I put it that way because I feel so strongly. It’s the one thing you do not ever do. You’ve got to have standards.”

On a March 2010 Guardian interview, Lovelock opined:

“The great climate science centres around the world are more than well aware how weak their science is. If you talk to them privately they’re scared stiff of the fact that they don’t really know what the clouds and the aerosols are doing…We do need skepticism about the predictions about what will happen to the climate in 50 years, or whatever. It’s almost naive, scientifically speaking, to think we can give relatively accurate predictions for future climate. There are so many unknowns that it’s wrong to do it.”

Will Happer further elaborated:

“The Montreal Protocol may not have been necessary to save the ozone, but it had limited economic damage. It has caused much more damage in the way it has corrupted science. It showed how quickly a scientist or activist can gain fame and fortune by purporting to save planet earth. We have the same situation with CO2 now, but CO2 is completely natural, unlike freons. Planet earth is quite happy to have lots more CO2 than current values, as the geological record clearly shows. If the jihad against CO2 succeeds, there will be enormous economic damage, and even worse consequences for human liberty at the hands of the successful jihadists.”

LIKE GLOBAL WARMING THE DATA DOESN’T SUPPORT THE THEORY

The ozone hole has not closed off after we banned CFCs. See this story in Nature:

Scientific Consensus on Man-Made Ozone Hole May Be Coming Apart

As the world marks 20 years since the introduction of the Montreal Protocol to protect the ozone layer, Nature has learned of experimental data that threaten to shatter established theories of ozone chemistry. If the data are right, scientists will have to rethink their understanding of how ozone holes are formed and how that relates to climate change.

Markus Rex, an atmosphere scientist at the Alfred Wegener Institute of Polar and Marine Research in Potsdam, Germany, did a double-take when he saw new data for the break-down rate of a crucial molecule, dichlorine peroxide (Cl2O2). The rate of photolysis (light-activated splitting) of this molecule reported by chemists at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California, was extremely low in the wavelengths available in the stratosphere – almost an order of magnitude lower than the currently accepted rate.

“This must have far-reaching consequences,” Rex says. “If the measurements are correct we can basically no longer say we understand how ozone holes come into being.” What effect the results have on projections of the speed or extent of ozone depletion remains unclear.

STILL COMING

Yet like the cultists whose spacecraft didn’t arrive on the announced date, the government scientists find ways to postpone it and save their reputations (examples “Increasing greenhouse gases could delay, or even postpone indefinitely the recovery of stratospheric ozone in some regions of the Earth, a Johns Hopkins earth scientist suggests” here and “Scientists Find Antarctic Ozone Hole to Recover Later than Expected” here.

“The warmers are getting more and more like those traditional predictors of the end of the world who, when the event fails to happen on the due date, announce an error in their calculations and a new date.” Dr. John Brignell, Emeritus Engineering Professor at the University of Southampton, on Number Watch (May 1) PDF




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