Archive for the 'Science' Category

A science post

Saturday, February 20th, 2010

Not too long ago, someone posted a question to a scientific community, paraphrased here:

Is man-made climate change occurring?

I’m not surprised by the question given the flood of news reports and scientific evidence coming at people from all direction. There’s a lot of data out there. It’s enough to give me a headache, and I’m a scientist!

Granted, I’m not a climatologist. I’m an analytical chemist. Part of my job involves looking at reams and reams of data, often while forgetting to blink, and up to the point where my brain starts to implode under the strain.

But anyone familiar with numbers or who works with numbers on a routine basis will be able to look at a set of data and recognize a pattern. They might not know what the pattern means, be able to interpret the data, or apply the results for a specific purpose.

What that means is, without context, it’s only a bunch of numbers. And interpretation is completely subjective. In my opinion, that’s something of the problem we’re seeing with the flood of information about the state of climate right now. It’s all coming at people far too fast, without taking all the data points in context.

If you haven’t read Michael Crichton’s STATE OF FEAR, you should. If memory serves, it’s in this book that there’s an example of selectively applying data to come to a conclusion by narrowing the context.