Scientific American jumps the shark?

Memo to the Editors: Stop the unscientific online polls!

Please click here and freep this poll until the magazine has the decency to take it down.

A number of climate scientists I know are baffled at the new direction of Scientific American.  One has gone so far as to cancel his subscription.  I thought this was overblown until I actually looked at what SciAm is doing and read the articles in question.

In my entire life I never imagined I would read the following sentence in a Scientific American article:

In a sense, the two competing storylines about Judith Curry””peacemaker or dupe?””are both true.

Folks know that I have issues with Curry, but this is Scientific American, not some blog, not TMZ.

Like most scientists, I have held Scientific American in high regard as a magazine that aims for the informed public while maintaining strong scientific standards with articles by respected scientists and science writers.  Getting two articles published in the magazine over the past three decades was certainly one of the highlights of my career.

The article is problematic enough, as we’ll see, but the shark-jumping comes with the accompanying online poll, “Taking the temperature: Climate change poll.”

WARNING:  The screen captures I am about to publish may make your head explode, so please put your head in a vise before reading further:

SciAm Poll 1

Pause to clean up gray matter.

First off, the magazine needs to apologize to Judith Curry for question #2.  Seriously, what were the editors thinking?

Second, the magazine needs to apologize to the rest of its readers for this inane poll and promise to stop doing them! If not, I would recommend canceling your subscription.

Online polls are inherently unscientific and usually garbage (see “Memo to media, science museums, homo ‘sapiens’: Enough with the online polls! Especially the poorly worded ones”).  As I wrote

The problem of course is that these polls are meaningless and unscientific, wholly gamable by whichever group decides to put the biggest effort into online voting.  Yet, since the results are visible for millions to see, and have the imprimatur of credible organizations like The Economist and USNews and the London science Museum, the parties involved have little choice but to participate in the charade.

And besides being easily gamed, they are inevitably poorly worded, which is what makes them garbage.  Question #1 is a joke.  Every climate scientist I know discusses uncertainty in every forum, mainstream or otherwise.  No one has ever provided any evidence that scientists are downplaying uncertainty — and the article certainly doesn’t.  In fact, as I have discussed many times, most scientists — and the IPCC in particular — have tended to overemphasize uncertainty on the key issues, particularly sea level rise, carbon-cycle feedbacks, and business-as-usual impacts.

The question, as phrased, strongly implies the scientific community is not doing what it is in fact doing.

Question 3 is extremely poorly worded.  Climate change is driven by multiple factors.  Is the question asking about short-term climate change, medium-term climate change, or long-term climate change?  Who knows?   What matters most is that the best evidence says that humans are probably responsible for most of the warming in recent decades — and we are increasingly becoming the dominant factor, so much so that on our current path of unrestricted emissions, climate change will, with a high degree of probability, go far beyond the bounds experienced by human civilization.

And the whole friggin’ poll has clearly been freeped by the anti-science crowd, as the next set of questions makes clear:


Yes, 56% believe that the IPCC is “A corrupt organization, prone to groupthink, with a political agenda.”  Thank you so much Scientific American for this useful piece of information disinfotainment.  No, I can’t claim to have coined that word, but disinfotainment is what these online polls are.

What precisely does this tell anyone, other than the fact that the disinformers got to this poll first?  I really do appreciate that Scientific American carried out the math three places, so we get the mathematically precise piece of nonsense that 56.1% of responders believe the IPCC is corrupt.  Then we have this:


Uhh, since when is “keeping science out of the political process” (whatever that means) a “policy option”?  Seriously.

And again, isn’t it nice to know that 49.7% of respondents would pay absolutely nothing to forestall the risk of catastrophic climate change?  Could anything provide more evidence of the inanity of such a poll?

It would be bad enough if this online poll were an isolated incident.  But I just blogged on this absurd push poll — Scientific American‘s truly lame Shell-sponsored pop-up “Energy Poll”:

SciAm 10-10

To be clear, the only reasons for a science-based publication to do these garbage online polls, which tell you nothing scientific whatsoever but might actually mislead some people, are

  1. to (artificially) boost web traffic or
  2. make money from a co-sponsor with an agenda.

Now let’s go back to the deeply flawed original article.  The title is just beyond the pale:  “Climate Heretic.”  The term carries a strong religious connotation, which is, of course, the frame of the anti-science crowd.  It’s the disinformers who accuse climate science of being a religion.  No scientific publication should accept that nonsensical spin.

People who disagree with the broad and deep understanding of climate science aren’t heretics.  They are just unscientific — unless of course they actually provide some scientific evidence that the broad and deep understanding is wrong, which, of course, they never do.  They usually just quibble with tangential bits and suggest that calls everything else into question.

Wikipedia defines heresy as, “a controversial or novel change to a system of beliefs, especially a religion, that conflicts with established dogma.”  And it defines dogma as “the established belief or doctrine held by a religion, ideology or any kind of organization: it is authoritative and not to be disputed, doubted, or diverged from.”

Scientific understanding is the exact opposite of dogma.  Also, it’s never clear exactly what the supposed dogma is.  If it’s the 2007 IPCC report, then I dispute it regularly as having lowballed the likely impacts on our current emissions path — and the overwhelming majority of the scientific literature since 2006 also “diverges” from it.

I won’t go through the entire piece paragraph by paragraph, but here are a couple that are particularly unilluminating:

Rather than sweeping that uncertainty about ice sheets under the rug, as Curry’s overall critique might lead one to assume, the IPCC’s 2007 Fourth Assessment Report flags this uncertainty. Specifically, the report projects 0.18 to 0.59 meter of sea-level rise by the end of the century but explicitly excludes possible increases in ice flow. The reason, as the report explains, is that while such increases are likely, there was insufficient information at the time to estimate what they might be. Since the report came out, new research has given a better sense of what might happen with ice dynamics (although the authors caution that considerable uncertainty remains about the projections). It turns out that the original projections may have been too benign.

Given that there are more than a half a dozen major studies on this subject in the last 3 years, I don’t even know why much time is wasted on the widely criticized SLR estimates in 2007 IPCC report, which stopped taking new science input over 4 years ago.

The IPCC reports aren’t dogma, people.  They are primarily literature reviews!  And the literature has moved on (see “Scientists withdraw low-ball estimate of sea level rise “” media are confused and anti-science crowd pounces“).  To say, “It turns out that the original projections may have been too benign” is a vast understatement.  Indeed, two years ago the Bush administration itself was forced to concede that the IPCC numbers are simply too out of date to be quoted anymore — see US Geological Survey stunner: Sea-level rise in 2100 will likely “substantially exceed” IPCC projections.

The next paragraph is even less illuminating:

The same could be true for other aspects of climate. “The plausible worst-case scenario could be worse than anything we’re looking at right now,” Curry says. The rise in temperature from a doubling of CO2 “could be one degree. It could be 10 degrees. Let’s just put it out there and develop policy options for all the scenarios and do a cost-benefit analysis for all of them, and then you start to get the things that make sense.”

Won’t anybody cite science anymore?

First, we are going to blow past 550 ppm (a doubling of CO2 concentrations) on our current emissions path (see U.S. media largely ignores latest warning from climate scientists: “Recent observations confirm “¦ the worst-case IPCC scenario trajectories (or even worse) are being realised” “” 1000 ppm).  Indeed, even the IPCC report makes clear, if one reads it, that we are headed to 1000 ppm on our current emissions path, particularly if there is even a modest amount of carbon cycle feedbacks.

So let’s not keep leaving people with the impression that this is about a doubling.  It would take super-aggressive CO2 cuts nationally and globally starting now to have a plausible chance of staying substantially below a doubling this century — cuts that half the people in the article cited are fighting tooth and nail — but again, you’d never know any of that from this article.

Second, there really isn’t much of a chance that the (fast-feedbacks) sensitivity to a doubling “could be one degree.”  As the IPCC literature review made clear, it is

“likely to be in the range 2 to 4.5°C with a best estimate of about 3°C, and is very unlikely to be less than 1.5°C. Values substantially higher than 4.5°C cannot be excluded, but agreement of models with observations is not as good for those values.”

I don’t want to review the literature again, you can find that in this post, “A detailed look at climate sensitivity:  Debunking the dangerous anti-science fantasy of the ‘lukewarmers’.”

The key point is that the full response of the climate system to the initial doubling over a period of decades, which includes the carbon cycle feedbacks such as the tundra, is almost certainly higher than 3°C and may well be 6°C as Hansen et al. and many others have argued based on the paleoclimate data.

Third, I have always agreed with Curry that we need to examine closely the plausible worst-case scenario.  But in fact, notwithstanding all of the talk about uncertainties, most of the low range of warming scenarios require both low emissions scenarios and a very low sensitivity and no serious carbon cycle amplifying feedbacks, which is about as likely as going to the horse races and winning the trifecta.

But again there is a growing body of scientific research on how grim just business as usual is — the top half of the likely range of impacts if we keep doing nothing:

And this  is all consistent with the best recent analyses of  paleoclimate data (see Science: CO2 levels haven’t been this high for 15 million years, when it was 5° to 10°F warmer and seas were 75 to 120 feet higher “” “We have shown that this dramatic rise in sea level is associated with an increase in CO2 levels of about 100 ppm”).

But the article leave the impression that there is no science on this at all, that it’s all a great mystery, that the belief of one semi-informed person matters.  It doesn’t, as all scientific americans should know.  I agree with the article’s final sentence

It is perhaps unreasonable to expect everyone to stop sniping at one another, but given the high stakes, it is crucial to focus on the science itself and not the noise.

Memo to Scientific American:  Please stop focusing on individuals, please stop the online polls, and please focus on the science itself.  Or you may face a mass exodus of subscribers.

And for those who wonder why I keep blogging on this sort of thing, I can already report one success.  Shell appears to read this blog and they did change their poll, since this is what popped up today:


It’s better, but it’s still unscientific and so it’s still somewhere between pointless and pointless.

UPDATE:  The author of the piece wrote a piece explaining his thinking here.

57 Responses to Scientific American jumps the shark?

  1. fj2 says:

    Insecurity through obscurity and the long tentacles of the oil olgarchy continues.

  2. “What precisely does this tell anyone, other than the fact that the disinformers got to this poll first?”
    Maybe that the disinformers have way too much time on their hands, and the scientists are busy doing science, and everybody else is trying to have a life.

  3. Hi Joe,

    The author of the SciAm article on Curry, Mike Lemonick, wrote a piece at the Climate Central blog, discussing the rationale behind the story.


    [JR: Yes, I meant to mention that. It doesn’t address any aspect of my critique, though.]

  4. Mike says:

    The article on Curry was not that bad. The title/headline was awful.

  5. Peter M says:

    Seems Scientific American with this poll, the Ad from Shell- and the Curry article has a huge conflict of interest.

    I guess I will avoid the magazine and web site in the future.

  6. pete best says:

    Its not good – I read it last night and it did my nut. Curry cant be so naive surely. Take a look at George Monbiots article today and digest what tea parties and propaganda of billionaire proportions really means. Its uses the media and politics to get what it wants using money to buy it.

  7. catman306 says:

    Thanks, Joe. Someone last week had a link to a Scientific American article and when that first poll appeared, it made me very angry to have to answer that garbage in order to read the article. I back-paged to ClimateProgress.

  8. Richard Brenne says:

    Another Scientific American (an oxymoron at the rate we’re going, including this poll) question: “At what point do you feel atmospheric scientists stopped beating their spouses?”


    “Do you feel each of the thousands of scientists involved with all four IPCC Reports has never made a mistake due to their immaculate conception?”


    “Do you feel as I do and everyone here at Scientific American does and everyone who is anyone feels that the IPCC Report is by its very nature hideously corrupt?”

    and in a perfectly honest world,

    “Do you believe that climate change is a hoax and conspiracy extending back to Arrhenius in 1896 and Tyndall almost a half-century before that and that it includes thousands of scientists from over 130 nations, all of the 18 largest national scientific academies and NOAA, NCDC, ESRL, NWS, AMS, UCAR/NCAR, NSF, CIRES, NSIDC, INSTAAR, GSA, AGU?” and as a follow-up, “Exactly what kind of looney, wingnut, conspiracy-theorist, spit-drooling idiot are you?”

  9. Peter M says:

    I read some of the replies to this poll- interesting to say the least.

    The skeptics sign in with the same broken record of ‘The warming has been less then predicted in 1998- Hansen has been wrong……..’

    The warming thus far has fit climate models- and Hansen’s own non model figures with the amount of CO2 we currently have at 390ppmv.

    Hansen’s book, is very implicit about current CO2 levels and the amount of ice melting at both poles. NOAA the other day said that the melting in Greenland this summer has been ‘unprecedented’ with the very mild weather conditions.

    Hansen also has said that the melting going on now is the ‘softening’ up of ice melt- at these CO2 levels. The decades ahead will see the Ice cap in the north disappear totally in late summer-

    Our ‘Grandchildren’ will live through a tumultuous and stormy few decades in this transition, before the catastrophic effects begin in earnest at mid century.

  10. Solar Jim says:

    The answers to some of these questions (number 3 and 7) seem to be double counted since their total percentages add to more than 100%.

    Jump the shark is getting to be a phrase like “no one expected this.”

  11. fj2 says:

    Excellent post.

    And, some alarming similarities between pointless public Scientific American polls and the current reevaluation of PlaNYC for New York City targeting a mere 30% reduction in emissions by 2030.

  12. Leif says:

    Like wise, catman306, #4. A push poll from the get go. I lost a lot of respect for Scientific American.

  13. rick says:

    What could be the point of the poll besides self-serving? SciAm wants to discover what editorial policy keeps their readers happiest. I recommend everyone cancel subscription.

  14. Mike Roddy says:

    Another great summary, Joe. I wish this post and a few others became required reading for all Americans, or nightly TV viewing by PBS (oops, I forgot- PBS was corrupted by FCC and Bush, too). It’s not as if Scientific American didn’t know who to call in order to properly design poll questions. Apparently the greasy hand of Shell Oil is behind this whole debacle. Tenney Naumer got on the story before anyone I know.

    As far as what the numbers indicate- a reader of Dot Earth at the New York Times would conclude from reader comments that the majority of Times readers don’t believe in global warming, and would fail a junior high science test. Again, this may be all about money, and not SA carelessness, a trait they are not noted for.

  15. Well done and timely, Joe. Thank you.

  16. Rabid Doomsayer says:

    Gone the way of Newsweek, look at the “blogs you might be interested in”.

  17. Fred Lua says:

    You would expect that Scientific American would put in big letters that these online polls are unscientific. If someone does not put this warning in big letters, they have no credibility.

    As Karl Rove would tell you, it’s easy to rig online polls. Some people do the rigging for fun, and you get O’Reilly polls that show that 90%+ do not think God actually exists :-).

    What happened here is that the deniers posted this poll on a website like WTFUWT and people went in droves and distorted the balance.

  18. Curry is an obfuscater

    Back in the day Air Force bigwigs would chose a vendor even when the data were so close as to be within the margin of error.

    The political polls are the same, when reporters talk about Joe Blow being ahead of Jane Doe by 2% even though the margin of error is 5% !!X$#%

    My head has exploded so many times it’s trained to reassemble automatically.

  19. MapleLeaf says:


    Yes, the poll has been hijacked by the microWatts crowd. Thus, it is clearly not representative of the real world.

    I have no idea what Sci. American was thinking. These are very sad times for the science, not because of the science, but because of the onslaught against the science and scientists. It is truly depressing to see how naive and ignorant people (i.e., microWatts crowd) are on the science.

    Curry wanted a lot of attention and now she has it. Hope that she is happy. Even though most people have no idea who she or Watts are.

    Now back to the real world….

  20. Steve H says:

    SciAm also had a bad, bad pseudo-article on cell phones causing cancer. Basically, the author took one way to cause cancer (breaking DNA bonds) and used basic physics to show that the energy in the phone transmissions is not sufficient to break these. Thus, phones have no relation to cancer. Author got ripped apart in the comments.

    And to reiterate my comment from over there: she keeps harping on the uncertainty, but her actions are decreasing the uncertainty without increasing our knowledge by pushing our path towards one with a higher confidence level of the outcome being outside tolerable limits.

  21. John Mason says:

    Perhaps I should offer the contents of my thesis on the ore-mineralogy of Central Wales to a similar process? Heck, it would appear to be democratic and it might have saved the expense of my Supervisor & the External examiner????

    The science-media beggars belief at times, it really does. Surely to goodness its task is to report on what gets into the literature, rather than making up online poll-based bollocks (alert – lots of people with an anti-science agenda will tell each other about this, with directions) like this?

    I guess next week it will be Plate Tectonics and the following one it will be Evolution.

    Cheers – John

    Cheers – John

  22. Michael Tucker says:

    Yes online polls are worthless and, as some have already pointed out, percents in some of the questions are totaling more than 100.

    Curry has never had anything to add to the discussion. Interviewing her is a complete waste of time. The author says, “But Curry and the skeptics have their own cause for grievance. They feel they have all been lumped together as crackpots, no matter how worthy their arguments.” But they have no worthy arguments!

    In the author’s blog post defending the Curry article he says, “There are times in the history of science where the consensus has been drastically wrong.” He then sites two cases: Wegener’s Continental Drift theory and “Barry Marshall, who insisted that ulcers are caused by bacteria.” But, of course, they were shown to be correct based on data. We have quite a lot of data showing that global climate disruption is indeed taking place.

  23. Mark S says:

    Even Watts thinks the poll is poorly designed–although he’s sending his readers to SciAm to take it anyway. That should tell you something about the veracity of the results.

  24. Jeffrey Davis says:

    If being the “new kid on the block” against a hidebound orthodoxy is the criterion for scientific factuality, it ought to be mentioned that at one point AGW was the new kid on the block. Denialism is simply the old orthodoxy with no new facts to back it up.

    As others have mentioned, Curry never offers a positive analysis of her own. Just hand-wringing. Hand-wringing isn’t science.

  25. S. Molnar says:

    I cancelled my subscription to Scientific American years ago. What took you so long?

  26. Peter Sergienko says:

    Since the skeptics are holding Dr. Curry up as their new hero in comments to the main article, someone with access to Scientific American’s comments section should suggest that Dr. Curry write a follow-up article defending as scientific the assertions of all the skeptics made therein. A “bunking” rather than a debunking if you will. The result would surely entertain.

  27. Solar Jim says:

    Soon the only reliable news source will be the back of your toothpaste tube that says call a doctor in the event that you accidentally swallow this poison.

  28. MarkB says:

    A magazine with the word “scientific” in it is conducting an unscientific online poll. How ironic. Just as bad are the way the questions are phrased.

    SA is out for readership. An article like this gets flooded with hits from fanatics, more so than a straight article covering a climate science study. So I encourage all to to confine their interaction with SA to letters to the author and magazine. I already wish I hadn’t bothered with reading the article.

    As for Curry, this is precisely the sort of narrative she’s after. The title “Climate Heretic: Judith Curry Turns on Her Colleagues. Why can’t we have a civil conversation about climate?” might as well be written by her. There’s hardly anything civil about her rhetoric. It also reinforces the notion that if you’re critical of climate scientists or science, you become a media celebrity. If you’re an “insider”, you become a god.

    And of course, there’s little substantive criticism of Curry’s message, of this variety…

    yet the author has the nerve to declare “So when Judith Curry challenges her colleagues, is she right? Does she raise valid points? That’s what I set out to discover for Scientific American.”

    He obviously didn’t try very hard. Reading the article, those critical of Curry are simply casted as close-minded.

  29. Chris Winter says:

    Joe wrote: “Since when is “keeping science out of the political process” (whatever that means) a “policy option”? Seriously.”

    And, if it were so regarded, why does the poll have no option to choose “Keep politics out of the scientific process”?

  30. This seems to be part of a trend in publishing. Canadian Geographic magazine published a “climate prosperity” chart using bad science and selective focus on the ‘benefits’ to Canada even as the chart mapped out +5C of warming globally. Sponsored by… Suncor, Canada’s biggest oil company a major player in the tar sands.

    My article on it :
    ‘Don’t Worry Be Happy’ Canada Sees Global Warming “Prosperity” Instead of Calamity

  31. OregonStream says:

    Amazing. Not only poorly worded, but an unreasonably narrow set of choices on some questions.

  32. David B. Benson says:

    I chose not to renew my subscription to Scientific American recently after being a faithful reader for about 42 years.

  33. MapleLeaf says:


    “The title “Climate Heretic: Judith Curry Turns on Her Colleagues. Why can’t we have a civil conversation about climate?” might as well be written by her.

    Now that is a very interesting possibility…one cannot help but wonder where the idea for this and the content (including potential questions) were sourced.

    Word on the street (i.e., academia in this case) is that she has an axe to grind with someone. Goodness’ knows why, but she has in recent months elected to engage in behavior that has completely undermined her credibility.

    In the mean time CO2 levels rise, the planet warms and Greenland melts…all before our very own eyes, and yet some choose to argue about “uncertainty”. Judith Curry: “Well, the house might be on fire but we are not sure that the flames are going to reach X degrees Celsius. So hold off with those fire extinguishers, I’m not 100% certain that the the inhabitants of the house will be harmed because we are not sure exactly what the temperature is going to be”.

    God help us from this insanity that is spread by Curry and the denialsphere.

    I do not subscribe to Sci. American, but I used to buy a copy to read during flights or business trips.

  34. Bob D says:

    I think Scientific American will do a follow-up article on the poll.

    Explaining how they are putting you on.

    They got you and the denialsphere saying the same things.

    A little common ground is good for the debate.

  35. MapleLeaf says:

    BobD @34,

    “They got you and the denialsphere saying the same things”

    Please elaborate…if you have not already noticed, a deep canyon divides the science (the reality) from the the denialsphere.

    And, I am not OK is Sci. American is playing games, there is simply too much at stake for them to be indulging in this kind of behavior.

  36. David B. Benson says:

    Bob D @34 — There is no debate. Anymore than one debates the remaining flat-earthers.

  37. Scott says:

    Those “poll” results are pathetic. They and all such poll results are completely unscientific and statistically meaningless. They serve to whip up attention and page views for websites. The climate gamblers are helping to pay for Scientific American. Maybe that is a good thing after all, but that SA would pretend such drivel is meaningful really stinks.

  38. jyyh says:

    It’s been years when I last read anything from that SF magazine that has articles resembling stories of Buck Rogers’ scientists.

  39. Colorado Bob says:

    Global shipping firms are not only taking advantage of melting ice in the Arctic Ocean — they’re actually helping to drive the meltdown that continues to unlock sea routes across the top of the world.

    And as a rapidly warming Arctic encourages more ship traffic through Canada’s Northwest Passage and along other polar routes, the sooty emissions from passing freighters will significantly accelerate climate change in the region, according to a new Canadian-American study that, for the first time, predicts the potential impact of engine exhaust particles on the Arctic environment.

    Read more:

  40. Colorado Bob says:

    The U.S. Geological Survey says the National Petroleum Reserve-Alaska contains less than one-tenth of the amount of oil it previously estimated. The government’s scientists say new data put the estimate at 896 million barrels, compared with the agency’s 2002 mean estimate of 10.6 billion barrels. The agency also cut its estimates of natural gas in the sprawling reserve, to 53 trillion cubic feet from 61 trillion cubic feet.

  41. Anne van der Bom says:

    “keeping science out of the political process”

    wtf wtf wtf wtf? Sorry for the bad language.

    Yes, lets return to the dark ages before the Renaissance and keep science out of the political process.

    The EPA will throw up a coin on whether to allow certain emissions or not, since the science that tells us how bad they are can not be used in politics…

    The department of energy will not plan for peak oil, since this peak oil thingy is merely a scientific theory…

    The thought of keeping science out of the political process is beyond ludicrous. When Scientific American puts this question in a poll, it legitimizes the question, admits it deserves serious debate.

    I will constrain my self and utter a polite ‘deeply disappointing’.

  42. adelady says:

    Well, that’s torn it.

    After many, many years of enjoying my weekly dose of New Scientist I gave up on them this year. Hadn’t thought about SA, and now it looks as though that option’s evaporated. Rats.

  43. Dappledwater says:

    Well it looks like Judith Curry has got exactly what she wanted: attention. Question 2 was funny though.

  44. Michael. says:

    Am I the only one who noticed the “Response Percent” in two of their tabulations don’t add up? Specifically, Questions 3 & 7 from your screen grab above. It’s not just here – I’ve got updated results open in another window and the same questions don’t add up there either.

    FWIW, you get what you pay for with these things. There are larger misrepresentations and banalities out there regarding climate change which would be better to challenge.

  45. Jose says:

    Someone needs to tell these people about groups like the Digg Patriots (and dozen others) who can quickly mobilize hundreds if not thousands of votes in a matter of hours with some members voting dozens of times.

  46. Dave McRae says:

    Very disappointing.

    My Nature subscription has just coming to an end and I was umming and ahhhing about Nature or Science. And then Nature published a glowing review of a Pielke Jr denier piece. Sometimes I like it when they make up my mind for me, but not so much on this topic.

  47. Gene says:

    Scientific American seems to have changed since John Rennie left as editor. I understand the pressures to keep the publication liquid, but it seems that their journalistic integrity is really on the ropes here.

  48. Doc Wheat says:

    Alas, Scientific American is but a shadow of the wonderful periodical it was in my youth. I have found that American Scientist is now similar to what Scientific American was then, for those of you who are still interested in magazines that come in the mail.

  49. Robert Sullivan says:

    I long ago stopped reading SA, as the author of the Curry article points out, it is aimed at the non-scientists.

    I found this quote interesting: “There are times in the history of science where the consensus has been drastically wrong — in the case of Alfred Wegener …. This phenomenon intrigues me so much that for several years I gave a freshman seminar at Princeton titled “They Laughed at Einstein: How Science Deals with Cranks and Visionaries.””

    What the author seems to miss, is that Wegener was going *against* the popular wisdom, in other words he was like the guy telling the people, based on the evidence, the world is not flat, or Copernicus telling the Catholic church the earth revolved around the sun, not the other way around. The crucial part of this is that these scientists had evidence to back up their visionary thinking. Judith Curry, and the Unscientific American, have reader polls ;)

    I think we know who the cranks are, and who are the visionaries, without taking the author’s class;.

  50. Roger B. says:

    Colorado Bob,

    (In response to #40)

    I’ve been saying the same thing for years as in my “Drill Baby Drill-A Second Reality Check” commentary.

    It’s nice to see that the government is finally admitting that NPR-A has far less oil than they had previously claimed.

    I expect ANWR to also have far less oil than they are claiming.

    Roger Blanchard
    Sault Ste. Marie, MI

  51. Chris Winter says:

    Thanks for the link, Roger B. That’s a good report, and I’ll look for your book.

    I expect you’re right about ANWR oil, but I understand it’s “sweeter” than the oil from farther west. This will increase the pressure to get at it.

  52. Rob Honeycutt says:

    Joe… CP is one of my very most favorite blogs but I have to say, I think the “jumped the shark” metaphor has… well… jumped the shark.

    [JR: I just couldn’t go with “nuked the fridge.”]

  53. dan h. says:

    Gene (#47),

    Yeah, the magazine does seem to have taken a dive since Rennie left – I think new format launched in the October issue demonstrates pretty clearly that they’re flailing to maintain readership. The idiotic “You want _____, and we’re giving it to you!!” tone of the editor’s statement on the redesign basically makes that explicit.

    And on the subject of the October issue – it wasted several pages of feature space reporting the results of another online poll, with such intelligent questions as, “Do you trust what scientists say about flu pandemics??” Which makes a nice hat-trick of dumb decisions for the magazine (combined with the two Joe has written about here, that is).

    Thanks Doc Wheat (#48) for the American Scientist recommendation – I’ll be looking into that as a potential replacement.

  54. riverat says:

    Bob D says:
    October 26, 2010 at 10:22 pm

    I think Scientific American will do a follow-up article on the poll…

    Yes, it’s due to be published on April 1, 2011.

  55. Alan D McIntire says:

    For once I agree with Romm- those poll questions were unbelievably poorly worded and stupid.

    Maybe “Scientific American” should publish an article on validating poll questions.

    Incidentally, I’ts perfectly reasonable that the answers for number 3 should add up to over 100%- CO2 caused warming, solar warming, and natural variation are not exclusive events.

  56. Adam says:

    I’m disappointed by a magazine that I have enjoyed for 30 years.
    I’m no longer buying it as a protest.

    Amercian Scientist? I’ll give them a try.

  57. Tony Fisk says:

    I note that the option about keeping science out of policy was placed first to catch the ‘donkey’ vote.

    Scientific American has just changed its styling, this poll suggests the styling may have gone a little further than column layouts.