The Scientific American Over 30 Years: Vincent Grey

I HAVE been a subscriber to the “Scientific American” for over 30 years. It used to be the most useful summary of the most important recent scientific discoveries. I have witnessed its slow and inexorable decline, to an organ of the environmental movement, an advocate of “global warming”, a peddler of extravagant cosmological theories, unflinching support for US Government political policies, and  the persistent announcement of premature, unfulfilled scientific discoveries.
The latest issue (October 2009), gives me hope that the situation  is changing for the better. Admittedly, they are still stuck on “global warming” but there are now several articles which indicate a change in some of the other obsessions.
We start with an article by Jeffrey Sachs. “The Crisis of Public Management” which has a good go at US Government incompetence, and the absence of sensible coordinated  plans for security (the 9/11 fiasco), disaster control (hurricane Katrina), financial regulation,. health care, budget deficits, corruption in Iraq and Afghanistan, military procurement, energy, and, yes, climate change. The president is reduced to meaningless platitudes without effective action, because ther is no coordinated plan.. About time somebody says these things.
Next comes my favourite columnist, Michael Shermer (Skeptic) who debunks the idea that pirates are disorganized. He puts forward the view that successful activities of humans automatically develop  discipline, in this case, quite strict. They promote a reputation for irresponsibility to scare their victims. It is a counter to the “Lord of the Flies” idea, and the principles apply not just to the Mafia, but also to Al Quieda and Somali pirates.
I pass the articles on black holes and on smart pills to the article by Leonard Maugeri on oil supplies which debunks the theory of “Peak Oil”, and shows that there is enough oil for at least 100 years, and that future prospecting and better recovery from existing sources is far from ended..
The next article “Lost Cities of the Amazon” debunks the idea of a “pristine rain forest” in Brazil. Parts of the area were once covered with densely populated, flourishing cities, surrounded by farms. Most of the people died of disease after European occupation and the forest took over.. But some are still there.
Later we have “Biotech’s Plans to Sustain Agriculture”  which attacks the “organic” movement and insists that biotechnology can continue to supply adequate food.
Lastly, somebody asks “Why do whales beach themselves”. The answer is, a whole variety of reasons, some of which might involve humans. It is pointed out that there are records of whales beaching themselves at the time of Aristotle.
So, perhaps there is a future for genuine science.
Vincent Gray
Wellington, New Zealand.

One Response to The Scientific American Over 30 Years: Vincent Grey

  1. hunter November 19, 2009 at 11:41 pm #

    My SA experience was to stop reading them when they became obsessed with ‘nuclear winter’, a transparent abuse of science to influence public policy.
    The occasional reads of free copies in doctor’s offices and elsewhere in the age of AGW has done nothing to make me believe they are any less politically driven now than in the early 1990’s.

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