How settled science remained settled


An Australian mammal known pseudonymously as Quokka has alerted us to an article, How a ‘settled science’ experiment backfired to discredit global warming theory in the journal Principia Scientific. Mr. Quokka assured us that

This site is for the most extreme deniers, who don't even accept the greenhouse effect. Gloriously bonkers.

With that introduction, how could I resist? As it happens, the article merely refers us to another article, Is a back radiation greenhouse effect of 33 kelvin[s] possible? by Ross MacLeod, who evidently uses the pseudonym Rosco in the comments to the Principia Scientific article. Mr. MacLeod’s article is frankly one of the worst presentations I have ever seen in a supposedly technical journal. I scanned through the paper and, though I have some expertise in radiometry and have written a book chapter on that topic, I simply could not figure out much of what Mr. MacLeod has done nor what he is trying to do. The experiment itself is amateurish at best, and the report certainly would not pass muster as an undergraduate laboratory report in my department.

What I understood was that the author shined two flood lamps (PAR lamps, with a paraboloidal reflector behind a tungsten filament) onto a piece of tape attached to some kind of thermometer. More specifically, he shined one lamp at a time, then both lamps. The presentation was hard to follow, but I think that his conclusion was given in the equation

P(2) + P(3) - P(1)) = P(4) !

which I have corrected and rewritten as

[P(2) - P(1)] + [P(3) - P(1)] = [P(4) - P(1)]

Here, the P’s are power radiated from the heated tape, (1) at ambient temperature, (2) and (3) from the two bulbs separately, and (4) from both bulbs together. Mr. MacLeod has succeeded in showing that if you shine both lamps on a piece of tape, you will get the same net thermal radiation off the tape as you got from the two lamps separately. I have not the vaguest idea why he finds that result surprising enough to append an exclamation point to his equation. It seems to me that the result is no more than a statement of conservation of energy.

Buteo jamaicensis

Red-tailed hawk
Buteo jamaicensis – red-tailed hawk. These two emerged from the nest and spread their wings for a few days, but they did not fly while I was watching. After a few more days they disappeared. I assumed they were juveniles getting ready to fledge. I further assume that someone will correct me if that is not so.

Photography Contest IX in 2 weeks ...


… July 5-19. That is, we will accept entries from noon, July 5, to noon, July 19, where noon is defined by the Panda’s Thumb server, which thinks it is in Mountain Standard Time, or UTC(GMT) - 7 h. The rules will be essentially the same as previous years’. We have not chosen categories yet, but please be assured that they (or it) will be all-inclusive.

The number of entries has gone down monotonically or almost so since the first contest in 2009. Thus, we want to dispel the rumor that each person gets only 3 decent pictures per lifetime and encourage our readers to submit up to 3 photographs per person, even if you have already submitted several in past contests and think that you have used up your allocation: There is no Law of Conservation of Complex Specified Photographic Quality!

So dust your lenses with a fine camel’s hair brush, check your archives, and be ready!

Cannabis indica


Photograph by Manning Turner.

Cannabis plant
Cannabis indica – marijuana. Mr. Turner creates fine art using focus stacking. This image, entitled "Arcadia 7," is made from 14 individual photographs at different depths. The photographs were exposed on the 49th day after flowering. Mr. Turner's work is exhibited by the Denver Art Society Cooperative in Denver and is also available on line here. Photograph copyright © 2017 by Manning Turner. All rights reserved.