Cosy Science is a Café Scientifique style event held every now and then in London. August’s theme was on drug control policy, with Professor David Nutt, an infamous player in ongoing drug policy, giving a talk. The main points throughout the talk can be found storified here, with feedback from some users on Twitter. The main theme was that Nutt believed that his evidence, as Chair of the Advisory Council on Misuse of Drugs, should have been enough to dictate reform of drug use regulations. This is fine in theory, but in practice things appeared quite different, from what I could gather on the night.
Deep-diving dinosaurs! How cool would that be?! At least, if it wasn’t total nonsense and possibly another example of a peer-reviewing fiasco. This is the title of a new article from a journal that usually produces pretty damn good science, especially of the Palaeo breed. It’s not worth delving into the content of the article, but what it demonstrates is a complete failing on the part of either the author or publishers, and propagation of misinformation from the scholarly domain. This article is actually about decompression pathologies in marine reptiles and sperm whales as a response to an earlier article on the same topic.
One of the key topics at the moment regarding the future of global energy revolves around the extraction of gas from shale formations through a process known as hydraulic fracturing, or fracking. There is a vigorous and strongly polarised debate between pro- and anti-fracking campaigners, based around environmental concerns. Many of the issues raised though are just ill-informed crap. The media are partially to blame for this, as well as the ridiculously naff Gaslands viral ‘documentary’, ironically so as it is devoid of any actual facts.
The Royal Society and Royal Academy of Engineering (UK) have recently released a review of environmental risks associated with fracking, and concluding, despite it being in no way their position to, that shale gas extraction should go ahead in the UK. The Geological Society recently held a shale gas briefing meeting where gas extraction was discussed purely in a geoscientific context. What these both provided, adversely to so much of the material out on the interwebz, is evidence. What they both seem to at least imply, is that fracking CAN be done. What they don’t address is the question of whether it SHOULD be done, in alignment with the plans to decarbonise UK industry and forge a Green Economy in the UK to mitigate climate change. Despite this, the debate between many parties continues about environmental risks. Although not all have been addressed, many of the ‘big ones’ have, and subsequently demonstrated to be non-issues.
This is a slightly different post to the usual, you know, fossils and shit. It concerns the psychology behind climate change and mobilising towards a green future. Now this is by no means my area of expertise, but when I attended a talk recently by Oliver James at The Photographers’ Gallery in London, entitled “Our Mad World”, it really struck a chord with me. As a young research scientist, considering the psychology behind the science is really quite tangential to what I’ve been taught, and not something I’ve ever considered in detail. James gave a wonderful talk (without using PowerPoint, bonus!), and the way in which he spoke and delivered his message really resonated with the attendees.
The extraction of shale gas both in the UK and globally is currently one of the hot topics of environmental science. A vigorous debate exists between industrial companies who wish to pursue extraction of methane through a process of hydraulic fracturing (‘fracking’) and environmental groups who are insistent that methane extraction will be detrimental to the environment in numerous ways. This debate is largely fuelled by the persistent coverage of the negative aspects of fracking, as well as perhaps a sense of distrust towards the hydrocarbon industry. However, what is ubiquitous in these debates is a general lack of understanding of the core geoscience and technical aspects of extraction. This information is required, not just for governing bodies and industrial organisations to have an empirical foundation for actions, but also to engender a sense of public confidence through transparency and recognition of a scientifically rigorous basis.