A Lesson in Good Science for Global Warming Faithful

Rich Trzupek is a veteran environmental consultant and senior advisor to the Heartland Institute. He is the author of the new book Regulators Gone Wild: How the EPA is Ruining American Industry (Encounter Books).


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Last week a team of scientists working at CERN, the European scientific research organization, published a research paper that has rocked the scientific community. According to their data, gathered as part of a research projected named “OPERA,” neutrinos generated at the CERN research facility located on the Swiss-French border were found to travel faster than the speed of light.

Not a lot faster, mind you. The data shows that the particles made the 454 mile trip from the CERN facility to the INFN (Istituto Nazionale di Fisica Nucleare) Gran Sasso Laboratory in central Italy 61 billionths of a second faster than light in vacuum. That’s all of two thousandths of a percent difference, but in the weird world of sub-atomic physics, it’s quite a remarkable result.

Einsteinen physics set the universal speed limit at the speed of light over one hundred years ago. It quickly became one of the bedrocks of modern physics, a universally accepted fact as seemingly unshakable as the Newtonian relationship between gravity and mass. Anything that challenges that tenet will necessarily make physicists take another look at relativity theory.

The scientific method demands that the results must be independently verified, so it will likely be a while before we can definitively confirm or deny the finding. Still, the CERN scientists took many months to carefully check and recheck their data before publishing a result that was sure to upset the apple carts of so many physicists.

“After many months of studies and cross checks we have not found any instrumental effect that could explain the result of the measurement. While OPERA researchers will continue their studies, we are also looking forward to independent measurements to fully assess the nature of this observation,” said Antonio Ereditato, spokesman for OPERA and a professor a the University of Bern.

Could this finding have unexpected consequences in other fields, most notably in the field of climatology? Advocates of the theory that burning fossil fuels is causing catastrophic global warming have long claimed that there is consensus among scientists about that relationship. Many scientists would challenge that claim, including this one, for the complexity of climate science and the multitude of intertwined forces that affect the climate requires measured, necessarily nuanced, explanations of the role that greenhouse gases play in the system. Instead, many global warming proponents like to deal in absolutes and they thus pretend that the effect of greenhouse gases on the climate far outweighs all others. This is effectively the “consensus” they claim exists in the scientific community.

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  • Punkin

    How much did Esso-Koch-Fox pay you to lie like a rug?

    • Larry

      How much did other people pay for the education you didn't get?

    • pagegl

      You didn't take any science courses in school did you?

  • http://www.resonoelusono.com/NaturalBornCitizen.htm Alexander Gofen

    Punkin and his ilk missed an important counter-argument. In fact, the OPERA experiment proves that the global warming does take place, because it was the global warming that caused the thermal expansion of the speed of light, mind you.

    • pagegl

      That thermal expansion made the 'c' less dense, which aided its higher speed.
      ;-)

  • tarleton

    the seudo scientific cult of global warming is the result of the incestious relationship between science and political ideology…..the eco twits desire it to be true as they can declare a climate emergency and dictate to us mere mortals how we should live our lives
    meanwhile , back in the real world , here in the UK we've just had the most miserable summer in 15 years after having a very severe winter ; but who are you going to believe , the climatologists or your own lying eyes ?

  • Jim

    The main cause of global warming is research grants given by the UN to University researchers to prove there is global warming.

  • Brett_McS

    I doubt this result will stand. Particle physics is full of 3 and 4 sigma results (even 5 sigma results) that evaporate upon further research.

    Of course climate science is no where near as settled as particle physics. Not in the same ballpark.

    However, this shouldn't blind us to the fact that there is indeed such a thing as settled science and that consensus is a major part of science – in fact it is essential to scientific progress, as it is the basis for what scientists around the world do every day. Without consensus research could not build on previous results.

    • Bobiscold

      Let us all vote on the speed of light . Maybe we can change it.

  • mrbean

    It has been a standard ploy of the Global Warmers to revile the skeptics as whores of the energy industry, swaddled in munificent grants and with large personal stakes in discrediting AGW. Actually, the precise opposite is true. Billions in funding and research grants sluice into the big climate-modeling enterprises and a vast archipelago of research departments and "institutes of climate change" across academia. It's where the money is. Skepticism, particularly for a young climatologist or atmospheric physicist, can be a career breaker. Those who oppose global warming will habe an appreciation of what Galilieo went through from the Catholic church for daring to endorse the Copernician model of the Universe.

  • Stephen_Brady

    Brett, what if the consensus is wrong? Can the scientific method overcome an incorrect consensus? As the author planly indicated, science is never "settled" … consensus combined with an open mind leads to new "truths".

    The problem is when consensus is not based on science, but on political agendas.

  • tagalog

    It can't be true that scientists have found particles that travel faster than light. The great majority of scientists, a consensus, agree that the speed of light is the speed limit of the universe. The science is settled. Probably these lies are being propounded by Big Hadron.

  • Thomas N. Fleming

    The ability to measure the speed of these particles reliably and consistently is suspect to me, although I know that the scientists know of the importance of this already….But honestly, can that tiny difference be reliably determined?!?! I doubt it, sorry. Did each and every time yield the exact same result? The variance is probably within the difference between observed speeds of the particles and the calculated speed of light. And if there is NO variance, how believeable is that?!?!?!

  • Patrick Henry

    We need a legal wall separating science and the state. We erected a legal wall separating church and state (yes, I know the difference between the Establishment Clause and Jefferson's letter to the Danbury Baptists) because when the two intermingle, they inevitably corrupt each other. So too for government-funded science, which has corrupted the process. Government grants do not represent an uninterested party when that party has an interest in redistributing the wealth under the pretext of saving the planet.
    The premise for man-made global warming is that man's paultry <5% contribution of CO2 has an amplifier effect on temperature increases. The models only assume this to be true. If one were to review ice core samples, no causal relaitonship can be found. The process has been corrupted by government grants and revelations of data manipulation confirm this to be true.

  • NaePeer

    The [anthropogenic] "Climate Change Consensus" is all CON and No SENSUS, To put it more accurately, if less charitably, it is complete Nonsensus. What caused the Pleistocene glaciation to end? Was this a good thing or a bad thing? Everything I know about history tells me that there have been warmer periods and colder in past recorded history. Humankind thrived and advanced in health and learning and culture during the warmer periods. Even if the climate is warming, it's probably more good than bad and in any case it's beyond easy or cost-effective manipulation. CO2 is a minor factor at most – more important to plant growth than to climate.

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