BAN #171: Project For Awesome, The dumbest denial

02 December 2019   Issue #171

[Saturn image credit: NASA / JPL / Space Science Institute / Gordan Ugarkovic]


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Upcoming Appearances/Shameless Self-Promotion

Where I’ll be doing things you can watch and listen to or read about

Every year, I participate with two nerd charities I dearly love. I already told you about Desert Bus for Hope. The second, Project for Awesome, is run by friends Hank and John Green. The goal? Decrease world suck. Seems straightforward enough. I’ll be phoning (or videoing in) to talk with John at 15:00 UTC (10:00 Eastern US time) for a few minutes just to chat and maybe talk a little astronomy or I don’t even know what. These call-ins are always a crapshoot, in the funnest possible way. So click the aforementioned P4A link above at the aforementioned time and hear us converse.


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Is it hot in here, or is it just anthropogenic global warming?

Climate change is real, y’all

Welp, I found it. It’s an incredibly tough record to achieve, given just how subterraneanly low the bar has been set, but it had to happen.

I found the single dumbest climate science denier claim of all time.

When I read it my brain leapt out of my head, ran screaming down the stairs, bolted into the garden shed, doused itself with gasoline, then lit itself on fire and sat down in the snow while it turned to ash.

Do you want to see it? Are you ready?

No you are not. But here it is anyway:

[Click it to see the thread for context, such as it is.]

In case he deletes it — which I doubt, because people who make claims this forehead slappingly ludicrous are generally, and bizarrely, proud of such things — he wrote, “@DaddoLanglois Hi Stuart.  Our solar system has orbited the centre of the Milky Way around eight times in its 4.3 billion years of existence.  As it circles around some spots in the orbit are a little hotter and some are a little cooler. The Milky Way is a dynamic place and that will impact us.”

There’s a lot to unpack there, including words that have some tangential relation to science. But briefly: No.

OK, a little less briefly, this claim is so stupefyingly wrong it’s one of the wrongiest wrongs that ever wronged. It was so wrongeriffic this was my response:

There are lot of ways to tackle this kind of claim (I mean, even his numbers are wrong; the Sun is 4.6 billion years old, and it takes about 250 million years to circle the galaxy, so we’ve done it 17 times at least) but the simplest is usually the best. So: The problem here is that we’re currently seeing the average global temperature rise faster than it has in many thousands of years. The past few decades show the temperature just spiking right up, and that’s on a scale way way way too fast for the galaxy to have anything to do with it.

Even if his claim about the galactic environment were correct — and it really, really isn’t — a jump in temperature like we’re experiencing would take at least hundreds of thousands of years to occur. The fact that the stars in the sky haven’t changed appreciably in human history is a pretty solid indicator that we’re not moving into some different place in the galaxy.

After I mocked him, he lamely linked to an article that does nothing to support his point. That research is very preliminary (also it’s 15 years old), the authors themselves say so, and again the temperature changes we’re seeing are many orders of magnitude too rapid to have anything to do with this.

This argument is so bad it’s hard to make an analogy for it. But… it’s like looking at a dead body riddled with bullet wounds and saying “Clearly the cause of death was a mind control ray from Bigfoot.”

We know we’re dumping far more carbon dioxide far more rapidly into the atmosphere than it can handle (40 billion tons per year, 100 times as much as all volcanoes on Earth combined). We know CO2 is a greenhouse gas, and we see temperatures rising right in line with what the models say it should given that.

Ruddick, it turns out, is a former member of the right(ish) Australian Liberal Party and author, and has penned quite a few, um, less than accurate climate science tweets (and even a hagiographic OpEd about (gag) Rupert Murdch). He’s doubled and tripled down on his galaxy tweet, so it’s pretty clear he’s one of those deniers who will never, ever be swayed.

But it’s unrepentant garbage like he’s spewing that makes me understand I have to keep writing about climate change. His reach on Twitter is limited but he does write for the odd newspaper or two, so countering his bunk is important. If you’ve ever seen people cheering at a Trump rally, you know there’s no claim so obviously false, so obviously brain-fryingly wrong, that some section of the population won’t believe it.

The truth shall set you free. So we need to keep telling it.

P.S. As a reminder, subscribe to Emily Atkin’s “Heated” newsletter.



Blog Jam

What I’ve recently written on the blog, ICYMI

[NGC 2169, aka the “37 Cluster”. Credit: ScottRak on Wikimedia Commons]

Monday 24 November, 2019: Has Supernova 1987A's elusive neutron star finally been found?

Tuesday 25 November, 2019: LISA Pathfinder got whacked by dozens of hypervelocity 'comet crumbs'

Wednesday 26 November, 2019: The wind from a galaxy's supermassive black hole helps make stars… in other galaxies

Thursday 27 November, 2019: Being grateful for, well, everything. Literally.

Friday 28 November, 2019: We were wrong the whole time about ‘42’


Et alia

You can email me at thebadastronomer@gmail.com (though replies can take a while), and all my social media outlets are gathered together at about.me. Also, if you don’t already, please subscribe to this newsletter! And feel free to tell a friend or nine, too. Thanks!