Here I am, at the start of a brand new blog so I will begin by
explaining what I plan to write about and why. The blog title,
of course, gives it all away ( or it should, if I chose it well);
EcoScienceBlog will discuss issues dear to environmentalists,
with perhaps a little about the activists themselves but in the
main it will try to illuminate the issues by taking a critical look
at how people present the science (and sometimes pseudoscience)
This is interesting because any topic is more engaging when it is
set in a context of clear, unbiased information and it is needed
because in my opinion there is a lot of faulty, partial and
downright false information out there, a lot of which comes from
badly understood or badly misrepresented science.
Eco activists are a passionate bunch of people, as are their
opponents, and both sides show a tendency to pick up and hurl
headline making factoids at each other without necessarily
stopping to consider whether there is more truth or truthiness
This is all great knockabout fun but doesn't really help us to get
to a reasoned consensus on what is after all the most important
topic it is possible to discuss.
A good example is the reaction of one blogger to a report on the
arrival in Californian waters of radiation attributable to the
Fukushima plant disaster. The newspapers had picked up on the
report and done their usual job of gleefully misreporting on what
it actually said, leading the blogger to sound a panicky alarm
that we would all be glowing in the dark by christmas.
It didn't take long to find and read the actual report, which of
course said nothing remotely like the news reports, and I was able
to point out that in order to exceed the safe annual dose, it
would be necessary to drink two metric tonnes of seawater every day
for a year! No need to move to Arizona after all.
And that is the point of this blog: so much of what we see and hear
comes from repetition of badly understood second hand information
when the primary sources of information are right there in front of
us for anyone to find, if only they would take the trouble to find
them. I plan to find and explain these primary sources to the best
of my abilities.
Which, brings me to my qualifications for the task. I am asking you
to accept me as the arbiter and interpreter of complex subjects so
it's only fair that I let you examine the cut of my jib. I am not a
professional scientist, nor am I a professional writer. I have,
however been an engineer and engineering manager for many years and
have had the privilege of leading a wonderful group of researchers
working at the leading edge of high performance computing and
machine vision, among other things.
I still work in the high tech industry, so you will occasionally get
an insight into my unofficial opinions where others still need to
pay for the privilege of getting the 'official' version.
Because of this background, while I might not have direct knowledge
of an issue, I know where to find the information, and I know how to
read and understand a graph (basic skills not always possessed by
activists on either side of the debate). With a toolkit comprised of
a solid scientific education and a healthy dose of skepticism, I
hope to cleanse the Augean stable of its accumulated ordure
(without diverting any rivers - heaven knows what that would do
to the spawning salmon!)
I am looking forward to this, even though I am aware that the number
of bloggers exceeds the number of atoms in the universe.
Well, perhaps not but there is the risk that I will be talking to
myself. I hope not because this is an important subject and I plan
to make it interesting enough to start a rewarding conversation.
Talk to me in the comments and let me know how I am doing.