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) behind them. 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 in them. 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.