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Sunday, November 16, 2008

Top Ten Science based predictions that didn’t come true ("David Lim", Auckland, New Zealand, 021422443)

There’s an article in the New York Times pushing a something called “the five stages of climate grief” done by a professor at the University of Montana. This got me to thinking about the regular disaster forecasting that we see published in the media about what will happen due to climate change.

We’ve seen this sort of angst broadcast before, and it occurred to me that through history, a lot of ”predictions of certainty” with roots in scientifically based forecasts have not come true. That being the case, here is the list I’ve compiled of famous quotes and consensus from “experts”.

Top Ten Science based predictions that didn’t come true:

10. “The earth’s crust does not move”- 19th through early 20th century accepted geological science. See Plate Tectonics

9. “The bomb will never go off. I speak as an expert in explosives.” — Admiral William Leahy, U.S. Atomic Bomb Project

8. “That virus is a pussycat.” — Dr. Peter Duesberg, molecular-biology professor at U.C. Berkeley, on HIV, 1988

7. “I think there is a world market for maybe five computers.” — Thomas Watson, chairman of IBM, 1943

6. “Radio has no future. Heavier-than-air flying machines are impossible. X-rays will prove to be a hoax.” — William Thomson, Lord Kelvin, British scientist, 1899.

5. “There is not the slightest indication that nuclear energy will ever be obtainable. It would mean that the atom would have to be shattered at will.” — Albert Einstein, 1932

4. “Space travel is bunk.” — Sir Harold Spencer Jones, Astronomer Royal of the UK, 1957 (two weeks later Sputnik orbited the Earth).

3. “If I had thought about it, I wouldn’t have done the experiment. The literature was full of examples that said you can’t do this.” — Spencer Silver on the work that led to the unique adhesives for 3-M “Post-It” Notepads.

2. “Stomach ulcers are caused by stress” — accepted medical diagnosis, until Dr. Marshall proved that H. pylori caused gastric inflammation by deliberately infecting himself with the bacterium.

1. “Telltale signs are everywhere —from the unexpected persistence and thickness of pack ice in the waters around Iceland to the southward migration of a warmth-loving creature like the armadillo from the Midwest. Since the 1940s the mean global temperature has dropped about 2.7° F.” — Climatologist George J. Kukla of Columbia University in Time Magazine’s June 24th, 1975 article Another Ice Age?

So the next time you hear about worldwide crop failure, rising sea levels, species extinction, or “climate grief” you might want to remember that just being an expert, or even having a consensus of experts, doesn’t necessarily mean that a claim is true.

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Richard said...

Number eight came true. The other side said AIDS was infectious and would spread to the general population of both the US and Africa, but it didn't. Because Duesberg was right and HIV is a pussycat. Something else, including HAART, does cause AIDS. But the folks who make money pretending that HIV is the villain continue to support the original erroneous conclusion.

David Lim said...

Thanks Richard! My other block is located at