Recently my colleagues and I announced the discovery of a remarkable planet orbiting a special kind of star known as a pulsar.
Based on the planet’s density, and the likely history of its system, we concluded that it was certain to be crystalline. In other words, we had discovered a planet made of diamond. ...
Our host institutions were thrilled with the publicity and most of us enjoyed our 15 minutes of fame. The attention we received was 100% positive, but how different that could have been.
How so? Well, we could have been climate scientists. ...
It may come as a big surprise to many, but there is actually no difference between how science works in astronomy and climate change – or any other scientific discipline for that matter.
We make observations, run simulations, test and propose hypotheses, and undergo peer review of our findings.
We get together (usually in nice locations around the world) and discuss and debate our own pet theories, become friends and form a worldwide community.
If you are a solid state physicist, an astronomer, or doing laser optics, the world is happy to celebrate your discoveries, use them in new products such as WiFi, and wonder about the growth in knowledge and technology. ...
But on occasion those from the fringe of the scientific community will push a position that is simply not credible against the weight of evidence.
This occurs within any discipline. But it seems it’s only in the field of climate science that such people are given airtime and column inches to espouse their views.
Those who want to ignore what’s happening to Earth feel they need to be able to quote “alternative studies”, regardless of the scientific merit of those studies.
In all fields of science, papers are challenged and statistics are debated. If there is any basis to these challenges they stand, but if not they fall by the wayside and the field continues to advance.
When big theories fall, it isn’t because of business or political pressures – it’s because of the scientific process.
Sadly, the same media commentators who celebrate diamond planets without question are all too quick to dismiss the latest peer-reviewed evidence that suggests man-made activities are responsible for changes in concentrations of CO2 in our atmosphere.
The scientific method is universal. If we selectively ignore it in certain disciplines, we do so at our peril.
BTW, that's my emphasis, and it deserves to be repeated: When big theories fall, it isn’t because of business or political pressures – it’s because of the scientific process.
Reality isn't always too popular. Well, that's OK. But what's not OK is dismissing the truth because it's something we don't want to hear.