SciCombinator

Discover the most talked about and latest scientific content & concepts.

Journal: Endeavour

34

Climate warming during the course of the twenty-first century is projected to be between 1.0 and 3.7°C depending on future greenhouse gas emissions, based on the ensemble-mean results of state-of-the-art Earth System Models (ESMs). Just how reliable are these projections, given the complexity of the climate system? The early history of climate research provides insight into the understanding and science needed to answer this question. We examine the mathematical quantifications of planetary energy budget developed by Svante Arrhenius (1859-1927) and Guy Stewart Callendar (1898-1964) and construct an empirical approximation of the latter, which we show to be successful at retrospectively predicting global warming over the course of the twentieth century. This approximation is then used to calculate warming in response to increasing atmospheric greenhouse gases during the twenty-first century, projecting a temperature increase at the lower bound of results generated by an ensemble of ESMs (as presented in the latest assessment by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change). This result can be interpreted as follows. The climate system is conceptually complex but has at its heart the physical laws of radiative transfer. This basic, or “core” physics is relatively straightforward to compute mathematically, as exemplified by Callendar’s calculations, leading to quantitatively robust projections of baseline warming. The ESMs include not only the physical core but also climate feedbacks that introduce uncertainty into the projections in terms of magnitude, but not sign: positive (amplification of warming). As such, the projections of end-of-century global warming by ESMs are fundamentally trustworthy: quantitatively robust baseline warming based on the well-understood physics of radiative transfer, with extra warming due to climate feedbacks. These projections thus provide a compelling case that global climate will continue to undergo significant warming in response to ongoing emissions of CO2 and other greenhouse gases to the atmosphere.

Concepts: Carbon dioxide, Earth, Climate change, Atmosphere, Greenhouse gas, Global warming, Greenhouse effect, Svante Arrhenius

28

Rachel Carson’s Silent Spring generated a firestorm of controversy following its publication in 1962. While numerous scholars have relied on written sources to gage how industry representatives, scientists, government officials, and the public responded to this bestselling book, they have paid much less attention to how visual sources might further our understanding of the context in which Carson wrote, the message she sought to convey, and the impact of her work. This article analyzes sixteen editorial cartoons that appeared in the wake of Carson’s book, images that reveal an emerging set of shared understandings about how modern technology presented potential dangers to both humans and the natural world. Using culturally resonant words and images, the cartoonists who editorialized about Carson and her book demonstrate the extent to which her frightening vision of bodily and ecological vulnerability began to permeate society, spawning a counternarrative to the still dominant discourse that linked technological progress, economic development, and the common good. These cartoons thus provide a useful window onto the reception of Silent Spring, the times in which it was published, and the birth of the modern environmental movement.

Concepts: Science, Technology, Publishing, Environmentalism, Environmental movement, Silent Spring, The Birth of a Nation, Cartoon

14

There has been no full evaluation of the numbers of victims of Nazi research, who the victims were, and of the frequency and types of experiments and research. This paper gives the first results of a comprehensive evidence-based evaluation of the different categories of victims. Human experiments were more extensive than often assumed with a minimum of 15,754 documented victims. Experiments rapidly increased from 1942, reaching a high point in 1943. The experiments remained at a high level of intensity despite imminent German defeat in 1945. There were more victims who survived than were killed as part of or as a result of the experiments, and the survivors often had severe injuries.

Concepts: Science, Germany, Adolf Hitler, 2006, Nazism, 2007, World War I, Marxism

9

In January 1942, Heinrich Himmler, head of the Schutzstaffel (SS) and police in Nazi Germany, ordered the creation of an entomological institute to study the physiology and control of insects that inflict harm to humans. Founded in the grounds of the concentration camp at Dachau, it has been the focus of previous research, notably into the question of whether it was involved in biological warfare research. This article examines research protocols by the appointed leader Eduard May, presented here for the first time, which confirm the existence of an offensive biological warfare research programme in Nazi Germany.

Concepts: Adolf Hitler, Nazi Germany, Nazism, Schutzstaffel, Waffen-SS, The Holocaust, Heinrich Himmler, Sturmabteilung

3

Surveys of Chinese students since the 1980s report that less than 1% are left-handed. This is an extraordinarily low number given the generally accepted view that between 10 and 12% of humans are left-handed. Are there actually very few left-handers in China and, if so, why? A number of sometimes overlapping reasons have shaped Chinese attitudes toward left-handedness. Some of these reflect the transcendent human reactions to biological laterality. Others have been shaped by Chinese historical and cultural experience. What is true in China can be identified in other societies: attitudes and practices toward left-handers have been and continue to be shaped by over-determined forces, which at the same time transcend specific cultures, while they respond to historical and cultural pressures. Like the Chinese, many North and East African peoples attempt to ‘cure’ left-handedness by a combination of restraints and severe punishments. Religion has often reinforced these practices. In China, we can see how a combination of traditional values and practical considerations seems to have merged to reduce both the actual and reported prevalence of left-handedness. When we add in the population of India, and much of the remaining Islamic world, we can conclude that for two-thirds of the world’s population, being born left-handed exposes one to discrimination and stigma.

Concepts: Sociology, China, Culture, Han Chinese, Left-handedness, Discrimination, World population, Handedness

2

Yale science professor Denison Olmsted used crowdsourcing to gather observations from across the United States of the unexpected deluge of meteors on 13 November 1833 - more than 72,000/h. He used these observations (and newspaper accounts and correspondence from scientists) to make a commendably accurate interpretation of the meteor storm, overturning 2100 years of erroneous teachings about shooting stars and establishing meteor science as a new branch of astronomy. Olmsted’s success was substantially based on his use of newspapers and their practice of news pooling to solicit observations from throughout the country by lay and expert observers professionally unaffiliated with Yale College and him. In today’s parlance, Olmsted was a remarkably successful early practitioner of scientific crowdsourcing, also known as citizen science. He may have been the first to use mass media for crowdsourcing in science. He pioneered many of the citizen-science crowdsourcing practices that are still in use today: an open call for citizen participation, a clearly defined task, a large geographical distribution for gathering data and a rapid response to opportunistic events. Olmsted’s achievement is not just that he used crowdsourcing in 1833 but that crowdsourcing helped him to advance science significantly.

Concepts: Scientific method, United States, Science, Observation, Newspaper, Scientist, Meteorite, Mass media

1

For decades creationists have claimed that Charles Darwin sought the skulls of full-blooded Aboriginal Tasmanian people when only four were left alive. It is said that Darwin letters survive which reveal this startling and distasteful truth. Tracing these claims back to their origins, however, reveals a different, if not unfamiliar story.

Concepts: Evolution, Charles Darwin, Skull and Bones, Richard Dawkins, Theistic evolution, Charles Lyell, Darwinism

1

Fossils are crucial pieces of evidence that illuminate the past. In the case of paleoanthropology, the discipline that studies human evolution, fossils are tangible objects that shape the ways we understand ourselves and our history. But how, exactly, do fossils find their way into these narratives, and into scientific journals and museums? How do they become pieces of evidence? The Forbes skull reveals a fossil that struggled to become a noteworthy piece of evidence. It was twice lost, first in a library cabinet on the Rock of Gibraltar, and later, in a London museum storeroom. The Forbes fossil’s story reminds us that science takes place in particular times and places, and that the ways we think about human origins are contingent on those circumstances.

Concepts: Human, Evolution, Science, Neanderthal, Human evolution, Charles Darwin, Raymond Dart, Louis Leakey

1

In 1924, the model-making company Messmore & Damon, Inc. of New York unleashed their masterpiece: the Amphibious Dinosaurus Brontosaurus, a moving, breathing, roaring animatronic dinosaur, based on displays in the American Museum of Natural History. Over the 1920s and 1930s, this became the focus of an ever-increasing publicity campaign, as Messmore & Damon exhibited prehistoric automata in department stores, the media, and the Chicago World Fair of 1933-34. These displays were hugely popular and widely discussed, drawing from the increasing public appeal of paleontology. Mixing commercial entertainment with invocations of scientific value, Messmore & Damon’s prehistoric creations offer a window into the meaning and popularity of the deep time sciences in early-twentieth century America, and the links between science and spectacle in this period.

Concepts: United States, Science, Nature, Paleontology, Natural science, Dinosaur, Mass media, Roaring Twenties

1

Edward Drinker Cope, a brilliant and prolific American naturalist, was notoriously combative. His infamous feud with Yale paleontologist Othniel Charles Marsh, which played out publicly on the front pages of the New York Herald, was one of the worst scandals of nineteenth-century American science. Cope did not fight exclusively with his pen, however. In 1888, for example, he traded blows with his close friend Persifor Frazer over a matter of honor at the entrance of Philadelphia’s hallowed Philosophical Hall, just as a meeting of the American Philosophical Society was getting under way. A six-page letter, handwritten by Persifor Frazer and housed in the Frazer Family Papers at the University of Pennsylvania, details the circumstances of their quarrel. An annotated transcription of Frazer’s letter appears here.

Concepts: Dinosaur, Othniel Charles Marsh, Edward Drinker Cope, Apatosaurus, Bone Wars, Sheffield Scientific School