San Francisco Meet Up & AGU Fall Meeting

This is just a quick post for two announcements. The first one is that I’m in San Francisco at the moment and this Friday I’ll be meeting with Jason from Opinion-Ville. Anyone who is interested can join us. Please see below for further details.

The second announcement is that I’ll be attending the AGU Fall Meeting again. Reporting on sessions, posters that caught my eye, exhibitions, and anything else of interest. Basically I’ll be reporting on a lot of climate science and science communication related subjects. Again, further details below.

The Big Pharma Cancer Conspiracy

Social media is both a blessing and the bane of my life. It’s used to great effect to counter (potentially dangerous) misinformation and share fun little tidbits about science. But at the same time it has made it easy to reach millions with wacky conspiracy theories. Some use it very effectively to spread misinformation.

For me social media is a great way to connect with friends and other science communicators. Though that doesn’t shield me from the misinformed or wacky side of the internet (there are a couple of folks who activity seek me out). It doesn’t surprise me that this happens. What does surprise me is when my friends share or like conspiracy theories:

Activity Trackers Aren’t A Weight Loss Miracle Cure

Wearables like activity trackers do get a bit of attention today. They are still a bit gimmicky as the market is still figuring out how people use them and want to use them. But there is a steady uptake in their usage, consumers bought a respectable 78 millions devices last year. I’m even among the folks who quite happily use a fitness tracker to track exercises and keep an eye on their health.

The detail though is that these type of devices haven’t been around for long. Fitbit, probably one of the more known brands, introduced their first activity tracker in 2009. That’s not a lot of time to gather data on how they’re used and how effective they are. Which is a bit of a problem when you’re making health claims about these devices.

Brexit: Emotions Trumped Facts During UK’s Referendum

Politics isn’t what I usually write about. To me politics and preferred policy options are consequences of how you see the world and the road you want to take. It’s something personal but can be a fun topic to talk about with all the different perspectives.

To me it’s a valid option to say you don’t want to be part of the EU. It also is a valid position to say that you never want to leave the EU. Of course many folks aren’t that black and white and most pro-EU folks like me have some bones to pick with the EU and its regulations (don’t get me started on the EU Cookie Law).

So then why do I care about what happened in the UK? Well, because I’m utterly appalled by the dialogue before and after the referendum. It was more about emotions and perceptions and not a good faith dialogue about what it means to be part of the EU and if the UK should leave.

How to hide most of China’s coal consumption

Last week a co-worker pointed me towards the Twitter account of Dutch research journalist Marcel Crok. His concern was mostly with some recent factually incorrect tweets on this account. But as I started to browse through his time-line another tweet grabbed my attention. The tweet has since been running through my mind. Not because it is a particularly good tweet, or that it makes a good point. It’s not even a funny tweet either. In fact, I find this tweet so fascinating because there is a lot wrong with it.

Scientists Respond To Tol’s Misrepresentation Of Their Consensus Research

To quote John Reisman, “Science is not a democracy. It is a dictatorship. It is evidence that does the dictating.” It’s this evidence based ‘dictatorship’ that is the basis for a scientific consensus. Based on this ‘dictatorship’ of evidence we know that global warming is real, we’re causing it, and that it’s a problem if we don’t act. This presents a real problem for those denying that there is a problem or want to minimize the consequences.

Science Deniers Again Try To Discredit John Cook And Skeptical Science

conspiracy_theoryScience deniers never cease to amaze me with the tactics they use to discredit research and people. So they cannot win the debate on the science as it’s not on their side. This causes al kinds of interesting mental processes and conspiratorial thinking to deal with this disconnect from reality. Research by Smith and Leiserowitz shows that conspiratorial thinking is the number one response from climate science deniers towards global warming.

This is also why you see the assumption among science deniers that people have at best “questionable motives” or at worst “nefarious intent.” Which largely explains the defamation you see on science denier blogs and websites. It doesn’t take much for science deniers to jump from assuming nefarious intent to assigning nefarious intent and screeching “fraud” and “fakery” (see ‘climategate‘ for the perfect example).