Why does holding irrational beliefs let you be a threat to public health?

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The number one cause of homophobia on the planet is almost certainly religion. Yet each time equal rights laws are passed religious groups leap into action claiming that across the board enforcement of equality laws is an infringement of religious freedoms, the freedom in question being the freedom to to discriminate against gay people on the basis that you believe in a non-existent deity. These arguments do not always win out, as we saw in Northern Ireland this week.

Irrational beliefs, of course, should be no reason for an exemption to the law. Deep seated bigotry is still given obscene levels of credibility when it is dressed up as religious belief. When a religion seeks an exemption from the law, that law must be enforced more strongly. Read the rest of this entry »

Germany’s 2020 greenhouse gas target is no longer feasible

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Some of us are slow learners. In 2011, Germany made the decision to shut 8 nuclear reactors and to close three more by 2020. The obvious consequence of this would be that Germany’s greenhouse gas emissions would be higher than they otherwise would have been. This is simple arithmetic, yet it was denied at the time, and still is, by many (most?) people within the environmental movement. But now many in the environmental movement have suddenly noticed that Germany is not moving away from coal, and this is making their 2020 targets more or less impossible to meet. Naturally, dots remain unconnected, and Germany’s inability to move away from coal is not recognised to be the result of policies lauded by most environmentalists. A new form of denialism. But how much do Germany’s emissions need to fall? The official target is for greenhouse gas emissions in 2020 to be 40% below 1990 levels. Germany has officially published GHG emissions figures for all years until 2014, and this is what it looks like: Emissions Read the rest of this entry »

How big are America’s wind turbines?

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The question for this blog post is a rather simple minded one. But sometimes simple questions are worth asking. So, let’s answer a couple.

How big is the average wind turbine in America?

Oddly, Google does not throw up an answer to this question. So, I will have to estimate this here. Read the rest of this entry »

New blog theme

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Apparently I am not a big enough narcissist, for I have only just read the contents of this blog on my phone. And my conclusion is that the layout of the theme I was using makes it completely unreadable.

So I have changed the theme to something that makes the text readable on a phone.

Apologies to anyone squinting while reading it on their phone.

I find that offensive

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The two most offensive words in the English language are “that’s offensive”.

Does telling me something is offensive constitute an argument?

All kinds of things are offensive to a certain class of mammal. Gay marriage, abortion, blasphemy. But as Stephen Fry has said, if you are offended, well so fucking what?

And that latest in the long list of things that offend is a monologue by Louis CK on Saturday Night Live. Apparently CK’s joke about child molestation aren’t funny, they are just offensive. Large numbers of idiots on Twitter imagining that CK stood up on television with an “I love young boys” t shirt – to joke about something is to endorse it.

An easily offended subset of humanity would like to tell us what we can and cannot make jokes about. Well, I find that offensive. But I don’t find this Louis CK monologue offensive, it’s up there with his very best.

Watch it.

Three easy rules for spotting junk science

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Here are three rather solid ways to tell if you are looking at junk science, which will hold *99.9999999% of the time.

1. The study was carried out over a decade before it got published. This means one thing: the work has been rejected by more reputable journals than you can shake a fist at.

2. Almost every peer reviewed study referenced by the paper was published over a decade ago. This means one thing: the author is ignoring all of the later studies that contradict those he is citing.

3. The paper is published in a predatory open access journal. This means one thing: the study received minimal peer review in exchange for cash payment from the study’s authors.

Read the rest of this entry »

Don’t pay too much attention to headlines about record wind farm output. Here’s why!

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How do you measure performance?

Do we measure the qualities of a golfer by that one time he won a major championship?

Do we assess the ability of Whigfield to knock out a hit record by that mega-seller Saturday Night?

Do we measure the arrival time of a tardy colleague by that one time she had a meeting at 8.30 am?

I think you would agree we don’t. Yet, when it comes to renewable energy a large number of people seem to think the above approach will do. Read the rest of this entry »