March 27, 2009

Dyson, pre-eminent physicist, challenges consensus on climate change - International Herald Tribune

Freeman Dyson, pre-eminent physicist, challenges consensus on climate change - International Herald Tribune


Whatever your opinions about climate change, this story about Freeman Dyson 's views is worth your read. The public views of such an erudite mathematician, physicist and thinker should be respected. According to the story, James Hansen, the climate change fanatic who works at NASA, "Dyson doesn't know what he's talking about."

But consider these quotes from and about Dyson in the story:

"Dyson says he doesn’t want his legacy to be defined by climate change, but his dissension from the orthodoxy of global warming is significant because of his stature and his devotion to the integrity of science. Dyson has said he believes that the truths of science are so profoundly concealed that the only thing we can really be sure of is that much of what we expect to happen won’t come to pass.

In “Infinite in All Directions,” he writes that nature’s laws “make the universe as interesting as possible.” This also happens to be a fine description of Dyson’s own relationship to science. In the words of Avishai Margalit, a philosopher at the Institute for Advanced Study, “He’s a consistent reminder of another possibility.” When Dyson joins the public conversation about climate change by expressing concern about the “enormous gaps in our knowledge, the sparseness of our observations and the superficiality of our theories,” these reservations come from a place of experience. Whatever else he is, Dyson is the good scientist; he asks the hard questions. He could also be a lonely prophet. Or, as he acknowledges, he could be dead wrong."


or this; one should not trifle with a guy this smart....or is he making it up?...

"... taking problems to Dyson is something of a parlor trick. A group of scientists will be sitting around the cafeteria, and one will idly wonder if there is an integer where, if you take its last digit and move it to the front, turning, say, 112 to 211, it’s possible to exactly double the value. Dyson will immediately say, “Oh, that’s not difficult,” allow two short beats to pass and then add, “but of course the smallest such number is 18 digits long.” When this happened one day at lunch, William Press remembers, “the table fell silent; nobody had the slightest idea how Freeman could have known such a fact or, even more terrifying, could have derived it in his head in about two seconds.” The meal then ended with men who tend to be described with words like “brilliant,” “Nobel” and “MacArthur” quietly retreating to their offices to work out what Dyson just knew.
Dyson has this to say about Al Gore's film, An Inconvenient Truth, and his Harvard teacher:
"The film ended. “I think Gore does a brilliant job,” Dyson said. “For most people I’d think this would be quite effective. But I knew Roger Revelle [his Harvard teacher]. He was definitely a skeptic. He’s not alive to defend himself.”

“All my friends say how smart and farsighted Al Gore is,” she [his wife] said.

“He certainly is a good preacher,” Dyson replied. “Forty years ago it was fashionable to worry about the coming ice age. Better to attack the real problems like the extinction of species and overfishing. There are so many practical measures we could take.”


I side with Dyson.
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