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Climate faux pas

Researchers messed up the math


Climate faux pas
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A recent global warming study shows there’s still a place for skeptics in the world of science.

After a team of climate scientists announced its newly published research showing that the oceans were warming much faster than previously thought, mainstream news outlets ran with the story.

But there was a problem: The study’s math was wrong.

The researchers had asserted that between 1991 and 2016, Earth’s oceans absorbed 60 percent more heat per year than current estimates. They concluded countries would need to slash global fossil-fuel emissions by an additional 25 percent above current proposals.

Soon after Nature published the study on Oct. 31, Nicholas Lewis, an independent climate scientist, discovered an error in the authors’ calculations. When the math was corrected, the results did not show an increase in ocean heat, Lewis wrote on the blog Climate Etc.

Some mainstream climate scientists defended the error as an example of science working the way it should. “Science is a human endeavor and it’s therefore imperfect. What’s important is that results are scrutinized and replicated by others so that we can assess what is robust and what isn’t,” Gavin Schmidt, director of the Goddard Institute for Space Sciences at NASA, told the AFP news service.

But the fact that the study passed peer review and was published in the first place suggests scientists may too quickly accept anything supporting the mainstream global warming narrative. The error wasn’t difficult to find, according to Lewis: “A quick review of the first page of the paper was sufficient to raise doubts as to the accuracy of its results.”


Stellar sprint

Dutch astronomers were amazed recently to discover 20 rogue, fast-moving stars—the fastest in our galaxy—racing through the Milky Way. Seven are moving so fast they may eventually escape the Milky Way’s gravity altogether, and the other 13 are actually hurtling into the galaxy.

Scientists aren’t sure where these stars originated, but they may have been part of a binary star system in a neighboring galaxy. A binary star system is a pair of stars that revolve around each other or a common focal point. If one star in a pair were sucked into a supermassive black hole, or exploded in a supernova, the disruption could kick the partner star out of orbit, the researchers said.

Another proposed explanation is that the stars are native to our galaxy’s halo and were accelerated and pushed inward through interactions with one of the dwarf galaxies that orbit ours.

The researchers reported their discovery Sept. 20 in the journal Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society. —J.B.


Old-school face time

Much research shows that social contact can help protect against psychiatric disorders such as depression and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). But can social media do the same? No, according to a recent study. In an online survey of 587 veterans who all used Facebook, researchers identified participants showing signs of major depression, PTSD, alcohol use disorder, and suicidal behaviors. Their results showed that those who engaged in face-to-face contact at least a few times per week had a 50 percent lower risk for major depression and PTSD compared with participants for whom Facebook was the main social outlet. (Neither in-person contact nor social media contact appeared to affect the risk of alcohol abuse or suicidal behavior.) The study appears in the Jan. 15 edition of the Journal of Affective Disorders. —J.B.

Julie Borg

Julie is a WORLD contributor who covers science and intelligent design. A clinical psychologist and a World Journalism Institute graduate, Julie resides in Dayton, Ohio.


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