Works in science!

I thought I might as well post this cartoon that I found today. I think it’s very clever. It also seemed apt, as I spent quite a while yesterday in a Twitter discussion with a couple of people who appeared to have no actual scientific experience and clearly seemed to deny anthropogenic global warming (AGW). At one point, one of them started posting various graphs, overlaid with lines and circles that were intended to illustrate a link between sea ice extent and the AMO/PDO. There’s a reason professional scientists (academics in general, actually) spend close to 10 years studying before starting their research careers : it’s difficult!

You don’t just pop some piece of equipment out in the field, take some measurements, plot a graph, and then write a paper. The instruments themselves can be complex and specialised, and extracting the data itself takes a lot of work. There’s calibrations, checking for spurious measurements, correcting for systematics, and many other things that need to be done before you can start producing graphs and doing the actual analysis. Then there’s interpreting the data. The data itself doesn’t necessarily tell you anything. You also need some kind of knowledge of the underlying processes in order to use your data to actually understand the system you’re investigating.

With all due respect to those laypeople who think that they’re doing climate science when they plot a graph and try show some kind of correlation with some other dataset, but doing this is much more likely to be illustrating their ignorance than pointing out something that professionals have failed to notice. Of course, there’s always a chance that there’s some polymath out there who will notice something that others have failed to see, but I doubt it’s going to be someone who doesn’t understand the difference between sea ice area and sea ice volume, and presents graphs with axis labels that noone can read.

credit : Twisted Doodles

credit : Twisted Doodles

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This entry was posted in Comedy, Satire, Science and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

9 Responses to Works in science!

  1. AnOilMan says:

    I had the funniest lab experiment in 2nd year for communications theory. We were using a spectrometer to measure various basic modulation schemes (AM, FM, etc). It went as such things go, every time you got stuck, you reefed on all the knobs. When that didn’t work, you asked for help, and the Teaching Assistant came over and reefed on all the knobs.

    One group had seemingly never ending issues and couldn’t get meaningful measurements. As they were leaving one lab partner leans over to the other and slaps him on the head, “You forgot to plug the signal generator in!”

    This can happen to the best of us;
    http://newsfeed.time.com/2012/02/22/einstein-was-right-all-along-faster-than-light-neutrino-was-product-of-error/

  2. Michael 2 says:

    My daughter’s science experiment went askew. This was to answer whether melting ice changes weight (mass). We should all know that it doesn’t. But her experiment clearly showed a slight gain in weight as the ice melted inside a ziplock bag. Welcome to confounding factors (condensation of airborne moisture onto the bag).

  3. Steve Bloom says:

    Although the cartoon is illustrating a somewhat different paradigm from the one you discuss.

  4. Steve, really? I may have been using a bit of poetic license 🙂

  5. Steve Bloom says:

    Yes, just stating the obvious. But surely somewhere out there is a cartoon illustrating left column people imagining they’re right-column people.

  6. Tom Curtis says:

    Anders, perhaps this cartoon is more in line with your exposition:
    http://xkcd.com/683/

  7. AnOilMan says:

    John: With what? Political lap dogs? Ah! Got it!

    PSEUDO SCIENTISTS!

    (You can use that…)

    Thank you thank you I’m here all week. Try the veal.

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