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« Mike Haseler's survey of sceptics | Main | Euan Mearns on the Met Office report »

Irony fail

This made me laugh. CNN's Reliable Sources programme interviewed string-theorist Michio Kaku and a senior media editor from the Huffington post about climate change. The opened with with presenter Brian Stelter asking about how certain the science of global warming is:

STELZER: Dr. Kaku, you're the expert here.  Tell us before we go any further how definitive is the evidence?  Is there any room for debate?

KAKU:  Climate change is the 800-pound gorilla in the living room that the media dances around.  But in the scientific community it's a settled question:  95 percent of scientists believe this is happening with 100 percent confidence temperatures are rising.

After which they moved on to media treatment of the subject, with Stelter wondering if it wasn't "irresponsible" to allow sceptics on air, and noting the particularly heinous case of a discussion about global warming featuring a politician "with no particular expertise in this subject".

Tee hee.


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Reader Comments (52)

Good Lord. The media just don't get it do they? Michio Kaku is not well regarded by his fellow physicists - publicity seeking rent a quote is the general opinion. His books are frankly ridiculous. And then there is David Suzuki a biologist who studied fruit flies (briefly), not to mention Steve Jones who studied the genetics of snails, and of course Bill Nye - the science guy - who is not actually a scientist!!! Gosh, where do they get all these global warming experts?

Feb 24, 2014 at 12:06 PM | Unregistered CommenterCeed

And, in a double irony fail, there is a growing vociferous body of quantum physicists who thinks string theory is bunk.

A large part of the growing dissatisfaction with string theory is:
1. Its masquerading as an actual ‘theory’. It would be more accurate to call it a hunch, since it makes no testable predictions about the world.
2. It's lack of falsifiability.
3. The ever expanding number of string theories. According to physicists, they are all beautiful and elegant, but can't all be true at the same time.

The suspicion is that string theorists have fallen in love with a beautiful unfalsifiable model.

Sounds familiar?

Feb 24, 2014 at 12:06 PM | Unregistered CommenterStuck-Record

Ryan Sean Maue recently tweeted a couple of observations of Michio Kaku's climate expertise that shows him up to be a bit of a lightweight on the subject IMHO, prone to saying rubbish .

Not making this up:
In Feb 2011, Michio Kaku blamed "El Nina" and the North Atlantic oscillations for the string of Nor'easters.

Groundhog Day:
This was from Michio Kaku February 2011 -- when he "explained" Extreme Winter weather on CBS:

Feb 24, 2014 at 12:08 PM | Registered CommenterThe Leopard In The Basement

Michio KaKa is a BBC favourite. Does that say everything you need to know ??

Feb 24, 2014 at 12:14 PM | Unregistered CommenterStephen Richards

And if they do allow a scientist with 'particular expertise' but who disagrees with them, then they are denigrated as "shoddy scientists"

Feb 24, 2014 at 12:15 PM | Unregistered CommenterAndre

I think when you have Michio Kaku agreeing with you it is about time you changed sides!

Feb 24, 2014 at 12:31 PM | Unregistered CommenterCharmingQuark

The famous believer in Telepathy ?
"CBS This Morning featured a futurist who promotes paranormal phenomena like ‘telepathy, telekinesis and mind reading’ as climate expert during its February 13 broadcast. "
Kaku’s kookoo science
Posted on February 14, 2014 by Anthony Watts on WUWT

Feb 24, 2014 at 12:44 PM | Registered Commenterstewgreen

I'm not laughing.

These d*ckheads are given full reign in the media, and the cr*p which they spout is taken as gospel...

Feb 24, 2014 at 12:57 PM | Unregistered CommenterSherlock1

Is he the inspiration for Sheldon Cooper in The Big Bang Theory? viz:
"I am a physicist; I have a working knowledge of the universe and everything in it".

Feb 24, 2014 at 1:01 PM | Unregistered CommenterJamesG

Do TV/radio interviewers imagine that "science" is a single subject so that an expert on microbiology, say, could answer questions about the Higgs boson? I wonder if string theorists know as much about climatology as climatologists know about string theory?

More pertinent questions would be how much do climatologists really know about the climate, and is a consensus based on a little knowledge a dangerous thing?

Feb 24, 2014 at 1:11 PM | Unregistered CommenterRoy

My comment is awaiting moderation:

Reliable Sources gets a man who writes about "Telepathy. Telekinesis. Mind reading" to talk about climate change?

Feb 24, 2014 at 1:34 PM | Registered CommenterPaul Matthews

Michio Kaku, interviewed on MSN's Today Show, three years ago:

"Global warming" is not quite right - it's actually "global swings". I was in Brazil just last week, with massive mudslides, caused again by moisture. So you can have droughts simulatenous with flooding, simultaneous with hot spells and cold spells. Global warming actually means global swings in the weather. Now remember, there's no smoking gun. We scientists do not absolutely know what is causing this, but it's consistent with global swings.

I prefer the "global roundabouts" climate theory, myself.

Feb 24, 2014 at 1:53 PM | Unregistered CommenterAlex Cull

String theorists are the worst empiricists, having has little hands on laboratory or field experience, but we skeptics can proudly claim for posterity that we had exactly one of them squarely on our side, his name being Motl and not Kaku or Greene. Almost all contemporary hard scientists are headed for several thousand years of ridicule as the history books are written and an Internet archive forever shows them at work, supporting not just the biggest but the most laughingly ridiculous and obvious scientific scam of all time. The final gasp in my mind was the widely celebrated Marcott 2013 hockey stick which simply showed no significant blade in any of the input data, captured here in all its glory:

-=NikFromNYC=-, Ph.D. in carbon chemistry (Columbia/Harvard)

Feb 24, 2014 at 1:54 PM | Unregistered CommenterNikFromNYC

Kaku: "And that means droughts in one area, enormous snowstorms in another area, 100-year floods here, 100-year forest fires there. It's becoming almost monotonous. We have 100-year X every 10 years"

Apparently he doesn't realize that the remarkable thing would be not to have some type of 100-year event every year.

What a lightweight.

Feb 24, 2014 at 2:05 PM | Unregistered CommenterJoe Born

83.333'% of scientists prefer coke to pepsi.

Feb 24, 2014 at 2:19 PM | Unregistered Commentertom0mason


In fact, with 100 locations, you would be bucking the trend not to have a 100-year event in one of them every year!

Feb 24, 2014 at 2:22 PM | Registered Commenterjamesp

On the subject of irony fails, Richard Betts on twitter this morning accused Jaime Jessop of spin, for writing "Mat Collins of Exeter University admitted...".

Feb 24, 2014 at 2:39 PM | Registered CommenterPaul Matthews

I thought Kaka was a midfielder for Brazil who's enjoyed a revival since he moved to Milan. His thoughts on climate doom might be well worth taking in. Kaku on the other hand …

I'm sure I asked Jonathan Jones about string theory at the Oxford pub meet in August 2012 but I can't for the life of me remember what the great man had to say. Since then there's been much excitement about the discovery of the 'Amplituhedron':

This is a long story, one going back to Roger Penrose’s work on twistors from the late 1960s. In recent years this has been a very active and successful field of mathematical physics research, with a large group last year putting out Scattering Amplitudes and the Positive Grassmanian, which showed how to express some amplitudes to all loops in terms of volumes of geometric objects defined as subspaces of a Grassmanian. Mathematicians who want to see some speculation about the relation of this to other areas of mathematics should take a look at section 15 of that paper.

That's Peter Woit writing (not the greatest fan of string theory orthodoxy) and paying tribute to the seminal contribution of Oxford's own Penrose (likewise). I'd be interested in having a informed steer on such matters and the relationship to some of the problems with climate theories mentioned by Stuck-Record. One difference is that at least some of string theory is admitted, even by its critics, as beautiful mathematically. Another is that no power seeker has as yet found a direct route towards totalitarian excesses on the back of it. But who knows, they might still try.

Feb 24, 2014 at 2:45 PM | Registered CommenterRichard Drake

"That's Peter Woit writing (not the greatest fan of string theory orthodoxy) and paying tribute to the seminal contribution of Oxford's own Penrose (likewise). I'd be interested in having a informed steer on such matters and the relationship to some of the problems with climate theories mentioned by Stuck-Record"

You might want to go to Lubos Motl's web site. He's a string theorist who doesn't believe in CAGW, and no fan of Peter Woit (to say the least).

Feb 24, 2014 at 3:03 PM | Unregistered CommenterD Johnson


...Almost all contemporary hard scientists are headed for several thousand years of ridicule as the history books are written and an Internet archive forever shows them at work, supporting not just the biggest but the most laughingly ridiculous and obvious scientific scam of all time....

Alas, no.

There have been many similar 'scams' or mistakes in science. Because science is something humans do, and because humans are frequently big-headed and short-sighted. So they will defend busted theories to the end and often beyond - Hoyle's continuous creation, for example.

But when the theory finally collapses, everyone is FAR too embarrassed to talk about how they supported a lie. And for many years later, no scientist will say that 'science got it wrong'. They will try to keep this sort of thing out of the history books.

Look at the Piltdown man controversy, or Barry Marshall's peptic ulcer work. Both of these were instances where the scientific establishment suppressed the truth. But no one talks about them...

Feb 24, 2014 at 3:23 PM | Unregistered CommenterDodgy Geezer

As with Paul Matthews (1:34 PM), I, too, have submitted a comment, and am under moderation:

Sorry, but climate change IS debateable; NOTHING in science is not debateable.

Also, being an expert in ONE field does not automatically make you an expert in EVERY field.

Be interesting to see if those two simple truths get through.

Feb 24, 2014 at 3:52 PM | Registered CommenterRadical Rodent

Is that Kaku talks kaka?

Feb 24, 2014 at 4:09 PM | Unregistered Commentermikeworst

100% of Alchemists were 100% certain that Lead could be turned to Gold.

Feb 24, 2014 at 4:23 PM | Unregistered CommenterFrrd

"Do TV/radio interviewers imagine that "science" is a single subject so that an expert on microbiology, say, could answer questions about the Higgs boson?"
Feb 24, 2014 at 1:11 PM | Unregistered CommenterRoy

Sadly they do, but many scientists are no better, mouthing off with great authority at high volume when they clearly have less knowledge of the field than a casually-interested layperson.

I seem to remember a few years ago that Ben Goldacre displayed his complete ignorance of CAGW, while roundly condemning sceptics. He was called out on it in the CiF comments and said he would go away and study the subject. It might have been a whole week later when he came back and with newly-found expert authority declared that he had been right in the first place. How much of that week he spent studying I have no idea but I'm prepared to bet folding money that he spent little to no time talking to or reading the work of sceptics who'd been working in the field for years.

Feb 24, 2014 at 4:25 PM | Unregistered Commenterartwest

This Global WarmingTM nonsense was always about politics and money with the science just a front for the agenda of an unholy alliance of green anticapitalists, unscrupulous energy industry, grant-seeking academics and bent politicians making the laws whilst picking up directorships.

I do hope that the US will lead the way in cleaning out the Augean Stables; we Brits are too meek and apathetic. Comments on WUWT are increasingly recognising it's the political struggle, especially with the Warmists calling for the suppression of dissidence. See

We sceptics can argue all year, all decade about the pseudoscience; meanwhile Big Green quietly chuckles that, hoho, it's all about the money.

Feb 24, 2014 at 5:10 PM | Unregistered CommenterBrent Hargreaves

The only thing that matters is to understand why such idiocy travels through the media like sh*t down a stainless steel tube. It happens time after time. If we knew this, we could design a sh*t divertor to put it in a faecal loop, or a sh*t dispersant to emulsify it.

I'm a strong believer in metaphors - they help us to overcome memeplex momentum and turn it into temples structural instability...

Feb 24, 2014 at 5:25 PM | Unregistered CommenterStuart B

What's with the 'temples', should have been 'memeplex'??? I have a rogue word corrector, I think - is it? Also keeps pluralising everything - is this my browser, IE 11, or what? Everything else is my fault.

Feb 24, 2014 at 5:30 PM | Unregistered CommenterStuart B

String Theory relies on things like this.

1+2+3.... = -1/12

Personally I think some of the maths looks a VERY big stretch.

Feb 24, 2014 at 5:35 PM | Unregistered CommenterAC1

Many of these media 'experts' appear to have not even noticed that "global warming" was given a make-over and renamed by the priests as "climate change."

They would do well to pause and ask themselves why that happened. They will not advance their own understanding very far by being smug, imagining they have found some people they can look down on for understanding even less.

At the moment they are just treading in the footsteps of Joseph McCarthy.

Feb 24, 2014 at 5:38 PM | Unregistered Commentermichael hart

Richard Drake
"I'd be interested in having a informed steer on such matters and the relationship to some of the problems with climate theories mentioned by Stuck-Record."

You won't get that from me :-)

Just reading around the subject on physics forums seems to indicate a change has happened in the last ten years. String no longer seems to be king. The parallels with CAGW are more in the 'everything is certain, until it isn't' area.

Feb 24, 2014 at 5:59 PM | Unregistered CommenterStuck-Record

D Johnson: I was well aware of Lubos's position in the debate. I managed to make a comment on his (very interesting) reflections on the amplituhedron findings a couple of months ago without falling out with the guy, who I respect greatly for the robust line he's taken as a scientist on CAGW. But I've always been a bit of a follower of Penrose and Twistor theory - or at least I hoped that some of that stuff related to physical reality, as discovered through experiment.

Stuck-Record: Indeed, everything is certain until it isn't. The problem with CAGW is that the vested interests are not just inside the science. Indeed, the relationships between the various vested interests is still quite opaque - but they seem united in their use of hateful language like 'denier' - one reason I've always felt that such language is not at all at the periphery of the issues we face.

Feb 24, 2014 at 6:19 PM | Registered CommenterRichard Drake

Alex Cull: "I prefer the "global roundabouts" climate theory, myself."

Excellent. May I offer the helter skelter (or Stelter) climate theory - you stand at the top loudly declaiming that the science is settled when suddenly your feet slide from under you and you find yourself plunging downhill in an accelerating spiral. And then of course there's the Michael Mann coconut shy. Etc.

Feb 24, 2014 at 6:46 PM | Unregistered Commentermike fowle

Before he died, Richard Feynmann made some uncomplimentary remarks about string theory.

Feb 24, 2014 at 7:03 PM | Registered CommenterMartin A

String Theory relies on things like this.

1+2+3.... = -1/12

Damn it, AC1, what did you have to post that for? 90 minutes research later and my brain is really hurting now ;(

Feb 24, 2014 at 7:06 PM | Unregistered Commentersteveta_uk

"there is a growing vociferous body of quantum physicists who thinks string theory is bunk."


I'm halfway through reading "The Elegant Universe" by Brian Greene...

Does that mean I have to delete my brane?

Feb 24, 2014 at 7:14 PM | Unregistered CommenterRightwinggit

CNN/Huffington Post = BBC/Guardian = Whoa! Do you want to go there!

Feb 24, 2014 at 7:48 PM | Registered CommenterPharos

String-theory is a highly theoretical branch of physics. Why should this guy be considered an expert on climatology, an empirically based soft science? For that matter, how can any climatologist relate the global size of the problem in terms of impact on the human race? What is the relative importance of say a metre rise in sea level to 10,000 homes being flooded in a once in 60 year event? For that you need economics.
To get a more balanced perspective they should maybe employ Andrew Lilico.

Even Lilico misses the biggest policy problem. If the UK succeeds in reducing its emissions by 80% by 2050, it will have spent hundreds of billions of pounds and will still leave future generations with 99% of the catastrophe. The reason is simple. No other country is doing the same, and the majority of the World's population live in countries where emissions are growing rapidly. That is a stampeding herd of elephants next to Kaku's gorilla quietly sitting in the corner.

Feb 24, 2014 at 8:16 PM | Unregistered CommenterKevin Marshall

Kaku's gorilla is sitting quietly in the corner because because Kaku's gorilla is dead.

Mind you, before you criticise string theory consider what that did to Richard Feynman!

Feb 24, 2014 at 8:45 PM | Registered CommenterRadical Rodent

When you observe a programme like this, you are observing one tiny little arthritic joint in the gigantic carcase of the CAGW dinosaur. The fact that it's crap doesn't stop it serving its purpose in a squeaking, grinding sort of way. It only has to be 'good enough' to propel its farting mephitic owner across the landscape, supported by all the other crap joints.

Everyone 'knows' you eat an elephant one piece at a time, or words to that effect. They're wrong. Because you can't *kill* an elephant one piece at a time. Double true for a dinosaur with brains at each end. It's the Seize the Post Office school of insurrection, and it only works when the opposition's already dead in the water.

So how do you despatch a dinosaur? What is the death ray we need to shatter all of its joints simultaneously, to fatally interfere with its internal communications, to ruin the trust between each of its limbs and organs? Don't ask me (yet), I don't know. I just know that beating it on science isn't the answer.

Feb 24, 2014 at 8:46 PM | Unregistered CommenterStuart B

@ tom0mason "83.333'% of scientists prefer coke to pepsi."

That's something not to be sniffed at...

Feb 24, 2014 at 8:46 PM | Unregistered CommenterDavid Chappell

I make no bones about the fact that I am determined to stamp out the travesty of physics which is promulgated on warmist and luke warm climate blogs. This comment appears on several of them.

Roy Spencer still cannot prove with any valid physics his crazy postulate that there would be isothermal conditions in Earth's troposphere in the absence of water vapour and radiating gases. The greenhouse conjecture depends totally upon this garbage "fissics" that would violate the entropy conditions of the Second Law of Thermodynamics. All the models depend totally on this weird idea which is never observed anywhere on any planet or moon, not even on Uranus where the base of the nominal troposphere is hotter than Earth.

Roy only needs to look at the data for the Uranus troposphere to realise that thermal gradients (aka "lapse rates") evolve spontaneously at the molecular level. Radiating gases <I>reduce</I> the gradient (and thus cool the surface) due to inter-molecular radiation. They help energy escape faster up the troposphere and eventually to space. Radiation that strikes any warmer surface is just pseudo scattered.

There is no need for advection (upward rising gases) or any direct solar radiation or a surface: the lapse rate just forms autonomously as gravity acts on molecules in free flight between collisions.

That is why the (badly named) "lapse rate" on Earth, Venus, Uranus, the outer crust of Earth, the core of the Moon - everywhere - evolves spontaneously in solids, liquids and gases. That is why radiative forcing is not what is the primary determinant of any planet's atmospheric or surface temperature - gravity is - gravity traps energy.

Water vapour reduces the insulation effect - just consider the problem with moist air in double glazed windows. Moist regions are cooler than dry regions - I have proved that with real world temperature records.

You'll find the study in my book <I>"Why it's not carbon dioxide after all"</I> available late April from Amazon etc. and from which I quote ...

<I>"The world will one day look back upon a small slice of history that began in the 1980's and sadly have to conclude that never in the name of science have so many people been so seriously misled by so few for so long. Never have so many careers, so much time and so much money been spent in the pursuit of such a misguided and ineffective goal to reduce human emissions of carbon dioxide, a harmless gas which comprises about one molecule in every two and a half thousand other molecules in the atmosphere of our planet, Earth."</I>


Feb 24, 2014 at 9:11 PM | Unregistered CommenterD J C

1+2+3.... = -1/12

Heh. That one's easy!

Let R(x) = 1 + 2x + 3x^2 + 4x^3 + 5x^4 ...
This is just a fairly normal power series.

Then it's easy to multiply out the brackets in the following to show that (1+2x+x^2)(R(x) - 4x R(x^2)) = 1

Now assume R(x) can be extended outside its circle of convergence to some analytic function, and then set x = 1.

The above equation becomes:
(1 + 2 + 1)(R - 4R) = -12 R = 1

So R = -1/12

It's just the power series of a well-behaved function evaluated at a point outside its radius of convergence. The well-behaved function has a well-behaved value, although the power series blows up.
They covered that at A-level when I was young, I don't know if they still do.

It's a very nice piece of maths, though. :-)

I hear they use the square root of minus one in quantum mechanics, too.

Feb 24, 2014 at 9:11 PM | Unregistered CommenterNullius in Verba

97% of Kaku is crappoo.

Feb 24, 2014 at 9:23 PM | Unregistered CommenterMydogsgotnonose

Incidentally, in case any mathematicians notice what I just did, I probably ought to mention that I cheated slightly in the above maths! It was meant ironically, honest.

I'd be interested to know if anyone can figure out how it works. But don't worry about it if you don't know what I'm talking about. It's not important.

Feb 24, 2014 at 10:31 PM | Unregistered CommenterNullius in Verba

The AGW believers are like the ball player who, when they realize they cannot win the game, seek to kneecap the opposing player so they cannot play.
If they had honestly thought they had a case to win a discussion with they would have no problem debating it and showing stupid skeptics are.
Instead they refuse to engage.
Go to a UFO believer site and start posting skeptical/debunking information. You will be banned for not being constructive. Eerily similar to the AGW true believers, frankly.

Feb 24, 2014 at 10:34 PM | Unregistered Commenterhunter

Michio Kaku is always on those astronomy/cosmology documentaries that run on cable TV here, talking about quasars, black holes, gamma ray bursts, etc. He clearly enjoys being on TV a whole lot.

Feb 25, 2014 at 1:52 AM | Unregistered CommenterBloke in Central Illinois

String theory ????
They are kidding right..This meme has strangled physics with dodgy claims and Billions spent with no results...
Sounds like a similar field. :)
The killer book which shows you how lame and hopeless the theory is.."Not Even Wrong" By the physicist Peter Woit.

Feb 25, 2014 at 6:26 AM | Unregistered CommenterDrapetomania

CNN have not posted my comment or anyone else's, confirming their headline that "Climate change is not debateable".

Feb 25, 2014 at 8:51 AM | Registered CommenterPaul Matthews

Nullius check out wikipedia who is, as always, your friend

Ramanujan seemed to follow your reasoning

Feb 25, 2014 at 4:01 PM | Unregistered Commenterptw

The thing we skeptics do not "get" is that a segment of the AGW community are playing for keeps. These execerable fanatics are already seeking ways to isolate, punish, suppress and censor skeptics. They are going to go after jobs, social standing, money, livelihood, professional licenses, etc. We need to read the writing on the wall and plan accordingly. Bad ideas lead to bad policies and worse behaviors. AGW is a very bad idea.

Feb 25, 2014 at 4:16 PM | Unregistered Commenterhunter

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