Listen Notes

Discovered via the excellent new podcast search-engine Listen Notes, a lively 2013 interview in which two bright young men interview Matt Ridley on The Rational Optimist, for about 50 minutes minus the intro and advert.


Pessimism and a false scientific orthodoxy of the 1890s

H. G. Wells in 1931, remembering the way that a false scientific consensus be-numbed and hobbled the optimism of the late Victorians and early Edwardians, and indeed the world…

“… the geologists and astronomers of that time told us dreadful lies about the “inevitable” freezing up of the world — and of life and mankind with it. There was no escape it seemed. The whole game of life would be over in a million years or less. They impressed this upon us with the full weight of their authority, while now Sir James Jeans in his smiling [book] Universe Around Us waves us on to millions of millions of years. Given as much as that man will be able to do anything and go anywhere, and the only trace of pessimism left in the human prospect today is a faint flavour of regret that one was born so soon.”

This is from his 1931 preface to a new edition of his famous book The Time Machine (1895). Wells refers to the claim that the Sun only had a limited store of material to burn, and must inevitably cool as it used this up before a million years had gone by — and with it the Earth was also forever cooling.

Here is the Wells of 1894, noting the consensus of the day…

“On the supposition, accepted by all scientific men, that the earth is undergoing a steady process of cooling …” (“Another Basis for Life”, Saturday Review, 22nd December 1894).

African food-stress and climate change

A short article yesterday in Mail & Guardian Africa states that the current food-stress in a few districts in Africa are not caused by the global warming effect

“There is a myth in circulation which says that hunger in Africa is a climate phenomenon. It is really a myth, nothing else. Hunger, especially on the Horn of Africa, is man-made.”

I’m reminded of another report I read a while back. Its author stated that they frequently encountered African children being educated by westerners to “see” dangerous global warming everywhere around them, but that what the children were actually doing was attributing all sorts of perfectly normal natural rural phenomena to “climate change”.

Ice creamed

We’ve all seen headlines along the lines of: “Methane Hydrate Breakdown in the Arctic permafrost = Massive Global Super-warming!” Erm, nope. The panic is over about every eco-worrier’s favourite ice-gas, according to the USGS. It seems that Matt Ridley has another failed eco-scare to add to his growing list…

“Our review is the culmination of nearly a decade of original research by the USGS, my co-author Professor John Kessler at the University of Rochester, and many other groups in the community,” said USGS geophysicist Carolyn Ruppel, who is the paper’s lead author and oversees the USGS Gas Hydrates Project. “After so many years spent determining where gas hydrates are breaking down and measuring methane flux at the sea-air interface, we suggest that conclusive evidence for release of hydrate-related methane to the atmosphere is lacking.”

Virginia Burkett, USGS Associate Director for Climate and Land Use Change, noted, ” […] The authors’ sober, data-driven analyses and conclusions challenge the popular perception that warming climate will lead to a catastrophic release of methane to the atmosphere as a result of gas hydrate breakdown.”


Gallup-ing toward books

A new Gallup survey finds “Rumors of the Demise of Books Greatly Exaggerated”

“book reading is a classic tradition that has remained a constant in a faster-paced world, especially in comparison to the slump of other printed media such as newspapers and magazines.”

Just bear in mind that it’s a public poll, albeit by the industry-leading Gallup, and is thus inherently untrustworthy — given what we now know about the lack of reach and various unavoidable flaws that such traditional polling methods have.

Evidently there’s been no wholesale switch to audio books, interestingly…

“only 6% mostly experienced books in audio form”

It would have been interesting to see a breakdown of actual book titles that were polled, set against each demographic.

Incidentally there’s no RSS news feed(s) displayed by the Gallup website. Instead one is expected to sign up to one of those infernal email mailing-lists. But I’ve been able to dig out their main feeds, and they function fine: