2011-02-02 01:46:04Draft Article: Crichton's 'Aliens Cause Global Warming'
Alden Griffith


Hi Gang - long time no post!

A student in my class brought up Crichton's 'Aliens Cause Global Warming' lecture when we were discussing scientific consensus.  I couldn't help myself from writing a bit about it and figured that perhaps it might be better to post it than to let it rot on my computer:


Please let me know what you think - particularly if you think it's appropriate material for SkS.


2011-02-03 06:51:15Looks good to me but would be good to include links
John Cook


Would you mind adding some hyperlinks to relevant SkS pages? Here are some examples (you can copy and paste this text into your article, retaining the links):

the vast majority of climate scientists agree on several main conclusions that only emerge with the synthesis of many independent lines of evidence

The consensus used to be that human activity is too insignificant to alter the climate.

They are extremely useful for certain applications (especially in predicting future climate), but the conclusion that humans are significantly contributing to climate change through greenhouse gas emissions would remain robust in the absence of computer models.

Even still, Crichton's critique of climate models is off base, starting with his confusion of weather (which is chaotic) and climate (which is not).

2011-02-03 06:55:55
Alden Griffith

Thanks John.  I was thinking the same thing about adding some links.  Thanks for making it easy!
2011-02-03 09:46:35



I think you may be off-base on the history of support for E = mc^2:

- I think support for special relativity was generally strong reasonably early; certainly among the "best" people.

- The importance of the positron was to the concept of Dirac's theory of electron "holes" (= anti-particles).


If you can find out the audience reaction to Crichton's talk, that could be interesting. I rather suspect that it would have gotten a poor reception: CalTech has a lot of good working scientists, and half the undergrads are involved in research projects. I think they would have found his presentation on what constitutes the scientific method a bit childish. If you can locate a campus-newspaper's review, it might be worth quoting. Not that I want to malign the dead, but that essay is pretty bad.

2011-02-04 04:06:56
Alden Griffith


Thanks - I've modified the E=mc2 part a bit.  Although the positron was really a direct confirmation of Dirac's theory, I am under the impression that it was also pretty rock solid evidence for mass-energy equivalence.  Before that, was there really good direct support for mass-energy equivalence other than radioactivity?  (I'm definitely no historian of physics...)


modified text:

Einstein originally proposed the idea of mass-energy equivalence largely based on theoretical ground and without strong direct empirical evidence. At first, Einstein's theory was unconventional and controversial.  Support grew around the theory, but if you wanted cased-closed "proof", you would have had to wait for almost three decades until the discovery of the positron (the observed conversion of energy into matter and antimatter). While it currently may seem silly to think of there being a consensus around E = mc2, there was a time when this "fact" needed to build up its own consensus.


re: Caltech audience - the archives for the newspaper only go back to 2005.  I'll check some more though

2011-02-04 04:10:25
Alden Griffith


this is all i could find: