Thursday, September 04, 2014 ... Deutsch/Español/Related posts from blogosphere

Brian Cox's incompetence

Like Sean Carroll, Brian Cox pretends to be a scientist but in reality, he is confused about some very rudimentary facts about modern physics and science in general.

It's not just the lunar phases or locality or the exclusion principle that he totally misunderstands (be sure that I haven't discussed every misconception of his that has made me very angry). He actually doesn't build on science; he builds on licking the rectums of the powerful and those who are brainwashed by currently fashionable political deviations. Cox is a kitsch for the least demanding audiences.

Yesterday, The Guardian published a diatribe under the title

Brian Cox: scientists giving false sense of debate on climate change
I agree with this title. Genuine science doesn't have significant doubts about the fact that the climate panic is a pile of rubbish and it's pathetic for the media hosts and others to keep on inviting assorted alarmist loons and fraudsters whenever the topic is related to the climate or the energy policy.

But you surely know that the message that should have been conveyed by the title was upside down.

The subtitle ends with words "is manipulated by nonsensical sceptics". No comments about that are needed. The following paragraph says
Scientists are doing the public a disservice in their attempts to communicate certainty in climate change science, often giving a “false sense of debate” by being overly precise, says broadcaster and physicist Professor Brian Cox.
Wow, so this Gentleman urges everyone to be "less precise". This is particularly shocking recommendation in the case of the climate debate where imprecise and misleading statements are the ultimate cause of most mistakes and irrational reactions. Both skeptics and alarmists are sometimes "too imprecise" but Cox's statement should erase your doubt which side actually loves the imprecision – and downright demagogy – and benefits from it.

But cheap Mr Cocks, most of the public has already outgrown you. People who care about this question at all already know something and if any conversation has any meaning for them, they surely want the exchanges to be more precise, not less precise, than before. I fully understand why precision is your enemy but you can't do anything about it. Lies have short legs and at some moment, everyone will understand that the likes of you are crooks.

In his diatribe, sentences like the following are repeated approximately 100 times:
He said scientists could say with total confidence that climate science was uncontroversial and the current predictions for warming were the best advice available. “The scientific view at the time is the best, there’s nothing you can do that’s better than that. So there’s an absolutism. It’s absolutely the best advice,” he said.
Because of the defining properties of science (which is something else than a fanatical environmentalist religion), conclusions are never absolute, especially not in cases when they are known to be almost certainly wrong. Cox must believe that a lie repeated 100 times becomes the truth but it doesn't. It's enough to say once that the advises by the climate alarmists are among the most untrue, ill-conceived, and counterproductive claims one could listen to in the present world.

But there is a gem in the next paragraph:
Cox, a physicist who works on the Large Hadron Collider where the Higgs boson was discovered, said that 95% certainty in science is effectively total.
Wow. If he actually were a competent particle physicist rather than a pathetic environmentalist clown pretending to be a caricature of a scientist, he would know that the 95% confidence – also known as 2-sigma evidence – is almost equivalent to no evidence at all. Moreover, even this figure 95% is vastly exaggerated and all papers that claim this level of certainty (there are not too many such papers) are fraudulent or they are not scientific papers at all (like the IPCC reports' summaries where politicians just made these numbers up).

As all actual particle physicists would agree, 95% is just an insignificant hint. The hints only become evidence worth discussing when the confidence approaches the 99.7% or 3-sigma level and an effect is only claimed to be discovered when the confidence reaches 99.9999% or 5-sigma. This convention of hard science is no excessively demanding dream. If a new effect is actually there, collecting the 5-sigma evidence takes just slightly (6.25 times) more data than accumulating the 2-sigma evidence. If a 2-sigma hint refuses to grow to 5 sigma for a decade or two, you may be pretty sure that it was a fluke and the effect doesn't exist. And indeed, most effects that are, at one point, observed to be there at the 95% confidence level ultimately go away.

To be sure that you don't interpret the totally wrong comments about the 95% confidence above as an isolated typo and to be sure that Brian Cox really doesn't have the slightest clue what probabilities of various magnitude mean in science, they add the following paragraph that made me laugh out loud:
“We had it with the Large Hadron Collider and people were saying: “Is it going to destroy the world?” Well of course it bloody isn’t. But [in scientific terms] we’re putting a confidence level on that statement … at the 95% confidence level, but you don’t want to go there,” he said.
Wow, so the LHC physicists only had 95% confidence that the collider wouldn't destroy the world? There was a 5% risk of the world destruction? That would be pretty awful: the world would survive 20 or so experiments like that.

Of course that I would have become a big fighter for the stopping of the LHC if the certainty that the LHC wouldn't destroy the world were lower than 99.9999%. Any certainty lower than that would be unacceptable because similar experiments would become by far the largest known threat for the Earth (or the world).

What were the actual odds that scientists estimated that the collider experiments wouldn't destroy the world? Open e.g. this 1999 paper by Jaffe, Busza, Sandweiss, and Wilczek on page 25. At the end of the next-to-last paragraph, you will read:
So the bound on dangerous strangelet production during the RHIC lifetime is more nearly \({\mathfrak p} \lt 10^{-21}\).
The risk was at most ten to the minus twenty-first power! The certainty that the RHIC wouldn't destroy the world (and the same argument actually applies to the LHC as well) was at least 99.9999999999999999999%. There are twenty-one digits nine over there. 95% would really, really not be enough to soothe a rational person.

Cox's next paragraph says:
“What I think about climate change actually is it’s obviously true and clearly true to all of us who look at the debate that goes on.”
Wow. In reality, one can't get any information – let alone certainty – from looking at a "debate" at all. One can only get information and insights about the behavior of the physical system by looking at the actual scientific evidence. The scientific evidence overwhelmingly indicates that there is no reason to think that a "significant enough to be dangerous" change of the climate is going to occur in the coming decades or centuries.
“You’re allowed to say, well I think we should do nothing. That’s a policy choice. But what you’re not allowed to do is to claim there’s a better estimate of the way that the climate will change, other than the one that comes out of the computer models. It’s nonsensical to say ‘we know better’, you can’t know better.”
Thankfully, I live in the Czech Republic where we are "allowed" to say that the existing climate models are absolutely worthless for the prediction of the future climate. They have been shown to fail so many times – to predict quantities of a wrong sign, empirically invalid regional patterns and vertical profiles, quadrupled values of warming rates over 20 years, and so on – that a person who is not completely blind or a hopeless moron must know very well that they are not at the level that could actually help us with a rational planning.

Their number of adjustable (and often adjusted with an intentional bias) components is so high and, in fact, so much higher than the number of checks that were used to adjust them that there is also absolutely no theoretical reason to think that their predictions will be correlated with the reality.

Every other sentence he writes is outrageous but they are so repetitive that I don't want to comment on all of them. Let me just reproduce the last paragraph:
“Don’t undermine the science just because you don’t like the economics. That’s a dangerous slope, because the problem of course is you’re not undermining just that, you’re undermining the basis of rational decision-making in society.”
Because Cox's understanding of all relevant issues is upside down, geologist Bob Carter had to repair this sentence. The corrected version addressed to those who remain silent about the indefensibility of the climate panic reads:
Don’t undermine the science just because you don’t like being politically incorrect in environmental terms. That’s a dangerous slope, because the problem of course is you’re not undermining just that, you’re undermining the basis of rational decision-making in society.”
At any rate, I am very angry that the likes of Brian Cox are sometimes being presented as if they were spokesmen for science. What they say is so wrong and dangerous not just for policymaking but for the public's understanding of and attitude to many fundamental aspects of science. So please, the editors in The Guardian, kindly notice that Brian Cox is full of šit. Thank you very much.

See also:
Brian Cox is wrong – it is vital that knowledge is controversial, even about climate change (Brendan O'Neill, Telegraph)

Why climate science is far too important to be left to celebrity pretty boy physicists like Professor Brian Cox (James Delingpole, Breitbart)

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