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Sunday, October 9, 2011

Neutrinos stage speedy rescue from global warming ... whew!

The story is told about Bill Klem, a famous baseball umpire, that after a player was called out on strikes and angrily threw his bat high in the air, Klem said, "Young man, if that bat comes down, you're out of the game."

That always seemed pretty funny to me, until I heard about Robert Bryce's recent opinion article in the Wall Street Journal.  Bryce, a senior fellow at the Manhattan Institute, noting recent experiments at the European high-energy physics laboratory CERN, which appeared to show that neutrinos travel faster than light, said they clearly indicate there is more room for debate about climate science.  Seriously.

Now I realize that Klem was simply ahead of his time.  Perhaps a neutrino from 2011 had traveled back in time and whispered to him.  In any event, he clearly recognized that since nothing in science is certain, that bat might sprout wings at any moment and fly away.

I've been trying to think of a suitable analogy for Bryce's assertion, but it's hard.  Perhaps the most relevant (and starkest) one is this: would you let someone set fire to your house, on the grounds that because scientists may have discovered neutrinos traveling faster than light, it's not really certain that it will burn?  Because that is essentially what he and others in denial about climate science propose to do to your, and my, planet.

(By the way, the headline on this post?  It's just a joke.  Obviously, if neutrinos were really going to rescue us from global warming, it would already have happened.)

Here's a roundup of some other opinions on Bryce's quintessentially quirky approach to pondering, and learning from, the findings of science:

Robert Bryce Makes Mockery of Science, Is Mocked in Return - ClimateProgress
Of Neutrinos and Climate Science - Media Matters
What Do Neutrinos Have to Do With Climate? Not Much - LiveScience
Neutrinos and P-Brains - Randomology
Wall Street Journal: neutrinos show climate change isn't real - Bad Astronomer (Discover Magazine)
Neutrinos spark wild scientific leaps - Cosmic Log - MSNBC

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