The Week That Was: 2024 05-04 (May 4, 2024)

The Science and Environmental Policy Project brings you the week's highlights in science, environment, and politics.

This week, we discuss a new paper by Henrick Svensmark and colleagues which may advance our understanding of clouds and their relationship to climate change. We also distinguish among mathematics, logic, and science, which are often incorrectly combined. Additionally, we explore the importance of testing scientific models against physical evidence and present examples of why this is crucial. Washington's spending plans are discussed in light of photosynthesis. The International Energy Agency's failure to use critical thinking is presented as an example of the dangers of groupthink. Finally, the 42nd Annual Meeting of the Doctors for Disaster Preparedness is announced.

Understanding Clouds: A perplexing problem for scientists studying climate change and weather is the role of clouds. This week, a paper published by Henrik Svensmark and colleagues in Geophysical Research Letters advances our understanding of clouds. The paper discusses the functional relationship between the number of cloud condensation nuclei and supersaturation in marine stratus clouds. It shows that high supersaturation persists over the oceans with a critical size of 25-30 nm, which is smaller than the conventional wisdom of 60 nm. This can make cloud formation more sensitive to changes in aerosol nucleation, leading to a better understanding of aerosol-cloud interactions and climate change.

Mathematics and Logic: Mathematics is the language of science, attributed to Galileo Galilei. But what exactly is mathematics, and how does it differ from logic? An interesting essay published in The American Thinker by an individual identified as Molly Slag emphasizes the importance of mathematics in education. Mathematics is a branch of logic applied to a quantitative axiom system. It is a technique for bringing logic to bear upon a problem. Mathematics consists of only three kinds of entities: axioms, definitions, and theorems. Theorems are propositions logically deduced from the axioms and definitions. However, mathematics is similar to but separate from pure logical reasoning, and language often cannot adequately describe pure logic.

Testing: David Siegel has a four-minute video testing the claim that increasing carbon dioxide concentrations are driving increasing temperatures. He uses temperature data from three locations in diverse places, Vostok Station, Antarctica (low humidity, started collecting data in 1958), Death Valley, Nevada (dryest place in the US), and Stykkisholmur, on a peninsula on the west coast of Iceland. The data demonstrates that temperatures have risen less than 1°C in both winter and summer in Vostok Station over the last 65 years. Similar results are seen in Death Valley and Stykkisholmur, with a warming of 0.8°C every 100 years. These observations refute the claim that increasing carbon dioxide concentrations are driving increasing temperatures. Additionally, Willis Eschenbach discusses the relationship between CO2 and temperature and shows that the correlation is poor, with CO2 lagging temperature by nearly two years.

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