This forum is about wrong numbers in science, politics and the media. It respects good science and good English.
"...it hasn't helped my confidence in them that in the last few days they seem to be suggesting that the Sun influences the rate of decay of atoms on Earth"
Did you actually read Willis' article? It strikes me that that is exactly the way science is supposed to work - observe a phenomenon, then come up with a hypothesis that might disprove the opposite. How do we know that radioactive decay occurs at a constant rate, unaffected by anything else? Because an eminent scientist over a hundred years ago said so! To be fair to the Curies, I doubt they would actually have said that, if pressed. Note that they only tested the decay rates against pressure, temperature and anything else they knew about. They could not have tested for interactions with, for example, neutrinos.
From a quick read of the WUWT article, Eschenbach is claiming that the effect was first noticed only a few years ago, in 2006. The way it works in physics is that a notion that appears to come from out of the blue has often been around for quite a long time but didn't previously get much publicity. So the main premise of his article, that we're picking up new bits of knowledge all the time and some sort of upheaval could be just around the corner, might be less valid than he thinks.
I'm pretty sure I heard of the idea that there was supposedly, according to Russian researchers, a seasonal-type effect on radioactive decay rates about twenty years ago, but the effect is small for practical purposes and doesn't have any significant impact on published radioactive half-life data. I carried out a search for any online reference to Russian work in this area and the only thing I could find was this link from the 21st Century Science and Technology magazine (I remember David Bellamy was once lambasted by George Monbiot for referencing an article from this magazine, on the basis that the people running the magazine were connected with Lyndon LaRouche):
According to this link from 2000, a paper was published in 1998 by a Russian biophysicist (in UK terminology I think that would be medical physics) called Shnoll, who had been working on the subject for over thirty years. Shnoll appears to have not only claimed that radioactive decay rates were affected by the Sun (and possibly some other source outside the solar system), but also chemical reaction rates were as well, the latter sounding to me a bit less plausible than the idea of radioactive decay rates being affected.
A good test will be to see if anyone manages to get a good record of prediction of solar behaviour. I believe that possibility was suggested in the most recent article.
Further to my previous post, it looks like there is quite a bit more material than I thought on the internet about the Russian work on this subject, if you look for the keyword "Shnoll". Shnoll seems to have subsequently written a book called "Cosmophysical factors in stochastic processes" which was translated into English in 2012, and is available for free from his website (22.9 Mb PDF):
I thought it was worth reviving this thread as we're now well into 2013 and only a month away from September, when the minimum Arctic sea ice occurs. Bob (the blogger who is linked to in the starting post of the thread) was effectively predicting Arctic sea ice to disappear by 2020, so we can now see how that prediction is working out.
The latest results for the PIOMAS data (up to July 2013) are given on this link:
It looks like the volume of sea ice, which is what the PIOMAS computer model estimates, has gone back to 2010 levels.
Most people prefer to use the area of sea ice extent as the parameter for monitoring Arctic sea ice loss, which is easier to measure experimentally, and the latest results for that are given on this link:
It looks the sea ice area has now gone back to being above 2005 and 2006 levels.
On the subject of Arctic sea ice loss, there was a fairly well-publicised warmist prediction about this made back in 2007 which is virtually certain to fail. The prediction by a US computer modelling group led by Wieslaw Maslowski was that the Arctic would be ice free by the summer of 2013, described in this link:
The Arctic sea ice minimum occurs in September, around the Sept 21st equinox. I think in the US they take the Northern hemisphere summer as being from June 21st to Sept 21st, whereas the meterologists' convention is to take it as being the months of June, July and August. There is a British convention that summer is mid-May to mid-Aug, which accounts for the oddity that Midsummer's day corresponds to being near the end of June, June 24th.
This prediction was mentioned in the speech by Al Gore when he accepted the 2007 Nobel Peace Prize:
"Last September 21, as the Northern Hemisphere tilted away from the sun, scientists reported with unprecedented distress that the North Polar ice cap is "falling off a cliff." One study estimated that it could be completely gone during summer in less than 22 years. Another new study, to be presented by U.S. Navy researchers later this week, warns it could happen in as little as 7 years.
Seven years from now."
Gore has got the figure slightly wrong - it was 6 years rather than 7 years, but he may have changed it to 7 just to fit in with some other mentions of 7 years in the speech.
I just noticed on the WUWT blog that they've put up something called "The Maslowski Counter" which counts down the remaining days for the prediction to be fulfilled.