Tuesday, April 8, 2008

WANTED: Fact Checker.

Back before we got married, Kristy was looking for a summer job. She is a good writer and worked for the school newspaper. So, she went to the local paper (The Mena Star) and asked if they were looking for proofreaders because she had noticed about 25 errors in the stories on the first couple of pages. After demonstrating her ability to find these errors with a highlighter, she was told "We don't really need a proofreader." What does this have to do with anything I've written about thus far? Not much except that ironies like those observed in that story and in this article tend to make me chuckle a bit.

The article is a press release about a paper in the April 7, 2008 Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS). The authors of the PNAS paper discuss the massive global ozone depletion that would happen if 100 Hiroshima size (20 kiloton) weapons were detonated above cities in the northern subtropics. I am sure that it is a nice paper on a new fangled global chemistry-climate model. There is just one tiny problem. This experiment was actually performed by the U.S., U.S.S.R, France, China, and England between 1945-1963. These five nations accounted for approximately 650 atmospheric tests of nuclear weapons.

In the time before the "Partial Test Ban Treaty," the U.S. tested over 300 nuclear devices in the atmosphere. Some of the devices tested by these nations were almost 1,000 times the size of the Hiroshima weapon (Ivy Mike, Castle Bravo, and Tsar Bomba). Now, the chemistry-climate model might not be exactly linear with weapon yield, but it seems that we did not have a nuclear winter after these tests (unless my history texts left out some pretty important events).

It is times like this when I would NOT want to be a peer reviewer for a journal like PNAS. When you don't even recognize the difference between the virtual reality of a computer simulation and physical reality, it is time to go out and buy Trinity and Beyond.

And just maybe the National Academy of Sciences will be posting a position for "Fact Checker" in the near future.

1 comment:

Robert (Bob) English said...

Hmmmm..food for thought, huh?

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