This week I posted a youtube video about how Michael Crichton was wrong about climate change. Snowman did the art for the comic above used in the video – I think it turned out great.
Crichton said, “The greatest scientists in history are great precisely because they broke with the consensus.” I see that as edging into misleading. Yes, the final authority of science is experiment, not consensus. Yes, scientists had to break with consensus to present truly novel theories, hypotheses, and results. But… this makes it seem like breaking consensus correlates with being correct.
And that’s not true at all.
I went for a walk and took some pictures of nature today at a bunch of scales. Microscopes, macro lenses, and I even saw a couple of mallards. Just fun to get out and see some tiny bits of the world. I made a video version of this little outing on youtube.
I don’t have quite so many links, videos and articles to share this week. But I took a bunch of pictures, check them out below the fold.
This week I did a video about the Use of Weapons by Iain M. Banks. I love the book, I’ve read it twice: one in text and once with my wife as an audiobook. Both are great. The comic doesn’t have much to do with that, I hope, but it is based on a true story. Although… stabby robots do figure in Use of Weapons and in the comic…
Use of Weapons is a space opera, and if you like that kind of thing, you might like it. It has deeper meaning, too, which I think is rare among space opera books. Even very good and influential books in the genre, like Ringworld, often focus more on Big Ideas instead of human themes. Use of Weapons does both. But it’s not an easy book. It can be hard to follow at times. I go into that more in the video.
Last week, I put up a video about essential oils. There were a few things I forgot to mention. I talked about how there are biological effects of some plant oils, despite the fact that they are not approved as medicine. Like spearmint oil spells like spearmint, but may also have effects on human memory, maybe? I briefly reviewed a study of clinical experiments with spearmint oil (Kennedy et al.). It’s a peer-reviewed, double blind, placebo controlled clinical trial on a bunch of cognitive and memory tests with peppermint oil. It’s a good example of a trial with careful controls. And it did have one result with very high statistical significance. I forgot to mention what the result actually was (whoops!). The oil improved word recall error rate.
I’m a little sad that I didn’t conclude the video more forcefully. My point in the video was just that this was the right kind of trial, and sometimes, there are some effects from these chemicals. They tend to be subtle, though. In general, eating essential oils is not safe and they are no substitute for medicine.
A few weeks ago, I made a video about hydra, the little freshwater creatures, not the mythical beast or the Marvel villains. I got people up in my comments talking about a conspiracy theory I’d never heard of. According to this theory, “THEY” are adding HYDRA to the vaccines (along with NANOCHIPS with NANO-ONIONS)! My cat is more wise than i am with regard to YouTube comments (in that he has no idea they exist).
So, I started reading about what the best practices are for talking with conspiracy theory believers and science deniers. And that led to the video I uploaded last weekend.
I was inspired by this talk by Naomi Oreskes called “Why Trust Science?” Dr. Oreskes wrote a book about that topic that was published before COVID-19. It is especially relevant now, thanks to all of the anti-science talk on social media. She asks a simple but important question: why should we trust science, and more practically, why should people trust scientists?
Ultimately, scientists are people. Science is a human endeavor. There will be problems. But scientists are accountable to reality. Scientists are accountable to experiment. Scientists are accountable to observation and data. That’s the final, highest authority.
On a mostly unrelated note, here are two terrible aquatic creature jokes I made up:
- What do you call a baby frog caught in a storm? A SQUALL-iwog.
- What’s a jellyfish’s favorite exercise? Pull Ups (polyps).