More Horn Tooting (Newton and the Counterfeiter Edition), and yet another apology

The apology first:  regulars here know that the blog has been moribund for a while now.  Two factors lie behind my (uncharacteristic) dalliance with (bits of) the  Benedictine Rule.  First — just sheer end-of-term/father-of-a-nine-year-old/husband-to-someone-I’d-like-to-see-more-than-in-passing overwhelmed-ness.  That goes with the season and the life…but usually doesn’t so thoroughly quash my fire to get stuff up and out there.

The second is a kind of soul or brain weariness.  Over the last couple of months, the relentlessness of the stupid out there has gotten to me, and this latest mock furor (warning — deep ocean of glib and I’m-so-clever-stupid at that link) over the East Anglia emails has left me speechless.

I’m going to try to blog about it, unnecessarily, no doubt, after the tens of thousands of words (much more, probably) already expended on the topic.  It is futile, I know, to attempt to explain the fact that even if every false claim about the significance of the alledged distortions of the temperature record were true, the breadth and depth of the body of direct measurement, climate proxies, experiment, simulation and the rest would be sufficient to document the deep predicament we find ourselves facing right now.  I will.  I really will.

But I’m going to get going on that tome tomorrow.  For now, I have some happy news to share.  London’s Sunday Times, one of the two or three major players in the world of British literary journalism, has had the kindness and the good taste to name my  Newton and the Counterfeiter in its books of the year round up for 2009, one of nine books in their history category so honored. (Or, as I should write to acknowledge the source, so honoured.)

Here’s what their judge/reviewer had to say in support of his choice:

A delightful piece of narrative history, exploring the surprising second career of Isaac Newton as warden and master of the Royal Mint, his efforts to secure the country’s coinage and his attempts in particular to end the career of master forger William Chaloner. Levenson has a wonderfully light touch, and is able to bring the same enthusiasm and vigour to his discussion of Newton’s work as to his engrossing description of the pursuit of the dastardly Chaloner

I couldn’t agree more.😉

(And if such seals of approval move you…the book can be found at Amazon,PowellsBarnes and Noble,Indiebound and  across the pond at Amazon.co.uk,WaterstonesBlackwellsBorders,John Smith & Son.)

Image:  Pieter Huys, “A surgeon extracting the stone of folly” before 1577.

Explore posts in the same categories: Climate follies, good books, navel gazing, Newton and the Counterfeiter, Self-aggrandizement

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7 Comments on “More Horn Tooting (Newton and the Counterfeiter Edition), and yet another apology”

  1. wds Says:

    The comments on that article (if not the article itself) are really a great showcase of modern anti-intellectualism in the west. Now I’d skip the whole “does this disprove global warming?” bit (of course not, preaching to the choir) and skip to the part that’s actually interesting to scientists: data sets and the lengths some people go to to not have to share them. That’s the only real problem that can be identified in those mails. (even when they mention “tricks”, it’s clearly shorthand for an accepted and scientifically sound technique, but how will you ever get any non-scientists to understand?)

  2. syphax Says:

    Tom,

    Bloggers seem to get quite concerned with publishing reliably and frequently. In your particular case, I’d recommend not to worry about it. I have no shortage of new stuff to read on my RSS feed each morning. And I find that the ones that I really get excited about are those that post new stuff only frequently enough for me to keep current with- say, 1-2 times a week. I tend to tune out those blogs that pump out multiple posts in a day; I don’t have time to engage in that.

    On the Climategate stuff, can you please, please, please comment on the conspiracy theory that Google was suppressing the term “climategate” in Google’s autosuggest feature? You can’t make this stuff up- self-satire at its very best.

  3. lichanos Says:

    Well, I disagree about Climategate. I have nothing to do with the conspiracy-minded ranters who claim it’s one-big-socialistic-hoax etc. etc., but I’ve felt for a long time that the science is weak.

    This

    the breadth and depth of the body of direct measurement, climate proxies, experiment, simulation and the rest…

    just doesn’t cut it at all. The devil is in the details, and they don’t all add up. That’s why the “skeptics” make so much over the datasets and why the AGW folks just want it all to go away – it detracts from their overall message.

    • Tom Says:

      Lichanos:

      Thanks for the comment. I disagree — with some decades of sporadically following this story to bolster my perhaps misplaced trust in my opinion.

      We do agree that the devil is in the details, however; and here the details do produce a powerful account in support of human-induced climate change and the potential for dramatic, and in human terms, devastating consequences.

      That is: the system is certainly too complex, and the earth-historical record to variegated and prone to gaps to permit simple deterministic prediction…but the accumulation of evidence from a wide range of sources and disciplines produces a very powerful circumstantial account of why we should be very worried indeed — incomplete, but so is all knowledge.

      Look at what we do know: carbon levels have been rising in the atmosphere due to human uses of combustion. Change in carbon levels have been shown to correlate with climate change in the historical record. Multiple different climate proxies show that the earth’s climate system is prone to rapid shifts. Predictive models have for more than a generation coalesced on similar case outcomes, even though the models have very different designs…and so on.

      No one piece of evidence is sufficient. But there is a ton of it — and as we find with each passing day, the notorious emails capture a picture of competitive people working with very difficult data sets and problems…in just the ways that scientists do.

      It’s easy to seize on words like “trick” or the expressions of disdain that I hear uttered on my campus daily for folks who won’t pay attention to what they themselves know — but that does not constitute a scandal, except for those whose income or self perception requires them to ignore everything else about the matter at hand.

    • Tom Says:

      PS — I should have added, I very much like your blog; this area of dispute notwithstanding. I’m glad your dropping in here has led me to your place.

  4. lichanos Says:

    Tom:

    Thanks, and glad you like my blog. If you read through my posts about “climategate,” and the AGW controversy generally, you’ll find arguments about each point you raise. My skepticism is founded on concerns about data, methodology, and the logic of science.

    Cheers,
    L

    • lichanos Says:

      BTW, I forgot to mention, I thought your Newton book was really good! Just read it. Fascinating side to a very strange man who, of course, was fabulously brilliant as we know.


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