Return to Website

Number Watch Web Forum

This forum is about wrong numbers in science, politics and the media. It respects good science and good English.

Number Watch Web Forum
Start a New Topic 
View Entire Thread
Re: Novel ways to interpret press releases

I was intrigued by the picture in "The Consternation" post, which has Schellnhuber shown side-by-side with Dr Strangelove. Eventually I remembered where I'd seen it, in an article from a few weeks ago by Matt Briggs where he compares Schellnhuber with Dr Strangelove, the half-crazed scientific advisor from the 1960s film of the same name (apparently based on Wernher von Braun according to the actor who played Strangelove, Peter Sellers):


The main theme of the Briggs article is Schellnhuber's enthusiasm for a world government.

I've always thought this idea of a world government comes mainly from American science fiction, specifically Star Trek. Star Trek's promotion of the idea of world governments is discussed in this article "Is Star Trek Left-Wing?":


British sci-fi on the other hand tends not to promote the idea of world government presumably because Britain needs to exist as a separate country in the future in order to be able to write science fiction about it. The most famous example of British sci-fi, Doctor Who, revolves around the idea of alien invasions tending to occur mainly through the UK, and so the Doctor, himself an alien, generally hangs around the UK and has a British accent.

Re: Novel ways to interpret press releases

Eventually I remembered where I'd seen it

If you'd clicked on the picture, your browser would have taken you straight to my Briggs' blog article. :-)

Aliens/Sci-Fi are an important outlet for the imagination and a window to the mind of its creator(s). In terms of Star Trek (original series) it's highly debatable if world government is a mindset. There's a federation of planets. The Vulcans are of course commies to the bone. ;-)

Later themes of Star Trek, especially "Voyager" are dominated by left-wing themes and; much to the despair of those who marvelled at what humans might be able to do in future when watching the original series; we were being told that almost all that wonderful technology was from alien civilizations. Including no doubt; the rounded corners of the electronic tablets that the crew carried around.

England is of course the first place that aliens would land; even if not to invade. English is the de facto language of the planet. Maybe aliens don't have universal translators.

BTW: The translator microbes in "Farscape" make all the aliens sound like Australians.

Re: Novel ways to interpret press releases

Now I'm upset.
I tried to post a response but after several goes with the "are you human or a robot?" message, usually but not always a cookie problem, Bravenet announced it thought my message was spam and dumped the lot.
Not sure if there is a message in start trek about spam, but they really missed the boat on mobile phones/communicators. All with the same ring tone yet whoever it is always knows its their's not someone elses.
ANd where's the "silent" option. Kirk is hiding from a dangerous alien behind a rock and his ring tone pings (and one wonders how many Norwegian kids updating their face book pages fell victim to the mad gunman hunting them down and killing 69 of them).
But the real message of Star Trek through all the series is that of logic Vs instinct and emotion and seems to propose that gut feel is the way to go.
"Most illogical, captain" says SPock. In later series it is Data, the android who has the role of logic.

Today, in our every day lives, most people make most decisions based on impulse and emotion at the point of decision., no matter how much or how little they have really thought about it. In the "science" of neuro marketing the three brain model says we have a reptile brain we share with all animals which makes the survival based fight or flight decisions based on the precautionary principle.
Then we have a middle brain we share with mammals and finally the modern top of the range model factory fitted logic brain. This is where we explore contingencies, create scenarios, add emotional tags and program, we hope, the reptile brain. Instinct is really only as good as the prior contingency planning. Marketing and propagana use the same tools to different ends. How to bypass the logic brain and directly program the reptile brain.

Gut feel versus logic

In reply to JMW, I'd agree that one of the main messages of the original Star Trek series was promotion of the issue of gut feel versus logic, with gut feel tending to come out on top. However I think that message got played down in the later series with captains that were a bit less gung-ho than Kirk.

The Kirk versus Spock issue came up in a recent Daily Mail news story about a forthcoming biography of David Cameron:


One of the various things revealed in this biography is that the UK Foreign Office's nickname for US President Obama is 'Spock' and Cameron regards Obama as being ‘too rational and considered’, which presumably ties up with the Spock nickname. It suggests, if we didn't know already, that Cameron and the Foreign Office don't do as much thinking or use as much logic as might be desirable.


On the subject of Schellnhuber, I've thought for quite a number of years that he was the inventor (in the mid-1990s) of the well-known 2 degree C limit for how much the world is allowed to warm up as a global climate policy target, as explained in this Der Speigel magazine article:


Extract from the article:

"Rarely has a scientific idea had such a strong impact on world politics. Most countries have now recognized the two-degree target. If the two-degree limit were exceeded, German Environment Minister Norbert Röttgen announced ahead of the failed Copenhagen summit, "life on our planet, as we know it today, would no longer be possible."

But this is scientific nonsense. "Two degrees is not a magical limit -- it's clearly a political goal," says Hans Joachim Schellnhuber, director of the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research (PIK). "The world will not come to an end right away in the event of stronger warming, nor are we definitely saved if warming is not as significant. The reality, of course, is much more complicated."

Schellnhuber ought to know. He is the father of the two-degree target.

"Yes, I plead guilty," he says, smiling. The idea didn't hurt his career. In fact, it made him Germany's most influential climatologist. Schellnhuber, a theoretical physicist, became Chancellor Angela Merkel's chief scientific adviser -- a position any researcher would envy."

But a few weeks ago I happened to noticed an article by "The Carbon Brief" blog which gives a purported history of the 2 deg C limit and writes Schellnhuber out of the story altogether, attributing it originally to an American economist, William Nordhaus, in the 1970s, followed up by its adoption by the Stockholm Environment Institute in 1990:


The Carbon Brief blog was set up in 2011, and looks to me like it is intended to be something similar in style to the Realclimate blog, but staffed with journalists rather than climate scientists, and so is quicker responding and a bit more under the control of Big Green than Realclimate. It is currently headed by the ex-Guardian environmental journalist Leo Hickman, and enjoys typically generous Big Green funding, £330K for the most recent year.

So it raises an interesting question, was Schellnhuber not being truthful about his invention of the 2 deg C limit? On the other hand, Carbon Brief may prefer the Nordhaus attribution as it fits in with Green propaganda that the global cooling scare of the 1970s was merely an invention of the media at the time and assert that most climate scientists actually believed in AGW back in that decade. Carbon Brief may also not be keen on Schellnhuber's association with the 2 deg C limit as it is clear from the Spiegel article that he doesn't take the limit all that seriously.