Saturday, September 23

World

Save New Scientist!

Back in the 80s, through to the mid-90s, I bought New Scientist every single week, and read it from cover to cover.

And then... Well, let's just say that I didn't leave New Scientist, New Scientist left me.

The economic illiteracy of the editors I could cope with, more or less; it's a popular science magazine, not an economics journal.

But the growing scientific illiteracy was harder to stomach. The increasing tendency to "study the controversy" and publish articles that were complete and obvious nonsense eventually drove me away.

Now it looks like I'm not alone.

Posted by: Pixy Misa at 08:58 PM | Comments (4) | Add Comment | Trackbacks (Suck)
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1 Scientific American did the same to me. I used to subscribe, and then for a while I picked up an occasional issue on the news stand. Now I don't even visit their web site for free articles. The editorial board got taken over by lefties and they began to push global warming and vast-rates-of-extinction and a lot of other idiotic anti-progress and anti-globalization issues that weren't really what Scientific American was supposed to be about -- and weren't really even very scientific.

Posted by: Steven Den Beste at Saturday, September 23 2006 09:18 PM (+rSRq)

2 A bit of a digression, but:

The interesting thing about the controversy over rates of extinction is that even Bjorn Lomborg, the so-called "Skeptical Environmentalist" who likes to argue that everything is fine, estimates that over the next 50 years about 0.7 percent of all species will go extinct. This may not sound like much until you realize how short 50 years is on a geological time scale, and how many species there are.

To put things in perspective, note that given Lomborg's estimate that there are between 10 and 80 million species total, a loss of .7 percent of all species would mean between 70,000 and 560,000 extinctions in the next 50 years. This amounts to 1,200 and 10,000 per year, or between 4 and 30 a day.  By comparison, the flaming leftie E. O. Wilson, who Lomborg loves to mock, estimates between 14 and 70 a day! 

So, what's amazing is how little disagreement there actually is on this issue. Among people who've taken the trouble to study it, the two ends of the debate agree up to an order of magnitude, which is pretty darn good for such a tricky issue.  They mainly just describe the problem in different ways: 14-70 extinctions per day sounds big, while .7 percent per 50 years sounds small.

 Perhaps more to the point, Lomborg says the current extinction rate is about 1500 times the natural background rate.

References can be found on my mass extinction webpage.

Posted by: John Baez at Sunday, September 24 2006 01:12 AM (t/5Dd)

3 I agree with you there, though that wasn't the sort of controversy that put me off New Scientist - that's a real scientific difference of opinion (whether Lomborg is right or wrong, he's not a crackpot).

What drove me nuts was seeing New Scientist giving equal time to people like Rupert Sheldrake, who most definitely is a crackpot.

(Oh, and though I'm no expert in the field, it seems clear to me that we are indeed  in the middle of a human-induced mass-extinction event, regardless of the exact nature and degree of global warming.)

(Oh and also - HTML works, but you either need to use the buttons or click on the <> button to bring up an HTML editor instead of the WYSIWYG one.)

Posted by: Pixy Misa at Sunday, September 24 2006 04:13 AM (Zr5NU)

4 P.S. Whoa!  You're that John Baez!  Hi there!

Posted by: Pixy Misa at Sunday, September 24 2006 04:15 AM (Zr5NU)

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