Thursday, December 18, 2014

Science illiteracy at WUWT: Last year a grunt, this year a sneer at AGU14

Sou | 1:56 PM Go to the first of 29 comments. Add a comment

Note: to find out how to see the science at AGU14 - click here.

Last year Anthony Watts, anti-science blogger a WUWT, heard someone grunting at him, when they didn't. This time he saw a sneer, but couldn't take a photo of it.

Anthony isn't great with words as you know. He rarely writes blog articles himself. Almost never will you see a comment on science by Anthony Watts beyond the added word "claim" in a headline, except for the occasional silly article like how Russian Steampipes Cause AGW. Anthony can manage a dogwhistle but that's about as far as he can go. Why people figured it was worth the money to send him to report on AGU14 is anyone's guess.

But they did. This is what they got in return in his Day 2 report:

I went right over Anthony's article again, looking for some actual reporting of all the science from AGU14. But there was none. Not a shred of science in his report. That was it. That's the sum total of everything from Anthony Watts' Day Two report. Is he that science illiterate? Seems so.

From the WUWT comments

How satisfied are Anthony's backers in his non-reporting of AGU14? Well, here's a sample of the 103 comments (at the time of archiving):

icouldnthelpit wrote about the first paragraph:
December 17, 2014 at 8:00 am
The first paragraph is chock full of litotes and I’m fairly fond of litotes.
If you don't know what "litotes" is (I had to look it up - see I'm not omnipotent :D) here's a description from Wikipedia:
In rhetoric, litotes (/ˈlaɪtətiːz/,[1] US /ˈlɪtətiːz/ or /laɪˈtoʊtiːz/) is a figure of speech wherein understatement is used to emphasize a point by stating a negative to further affirm a positive, often incorporating double negatives for effect.[2][3][4] For example, "She's not bad looking" could be used to express that someone is gorgeous. Or it could convey that she's not particularly ugly, but also isn't particularly attractive. The degree of emphasis depends on the context in which it is used. For instance, the commonly used phrase "not bad" could indicate that something was either average or excellent.[5] Along the same lines, litotes can be used to diminish the harshness of an observation; "He isn't the cleanest person I know" could be used as a means of indicating that someone is a messy person.[6]

In a reference to Anthony's new hearing aids, which gives him near normal hearing, though I know from people with severe hearing loss, it doesn't work in all situations (like crowded noisy rooms), ShrNfr wrote:
December 17, 2014 at 8:01 am
But at least you can hear the presentations better this year.

Scottish Sceptic is pleased to get whatever crumbs Anthony is able to toss:
December 17, 2014 at 8:14 am
Thanks for photos. It’s surprising how they change the perception of the event.

kenw wrote in support of the AGU policy of no photos:
December 17, 2014 at 8:41 am
very few of the professional conferences I attend allow photography, in fact I can’t recall one that didn’t explicitly deny it. usually it is because of the sensitive nature (in my case) of proprietary info. However, most do have a collection, now often digital, of presentations and other materials available either free with registration or in some cases for a minimal cost. Often they are mailed on CD/DVD later. You might inquire as to availability. Stay safe.
Which highlights the fact that Anthony hasn't told his readers about how they can view heaps of AGU14 lectures and presentations for free, from the comfort of their loungeroom.

Duster chimes in about copyright plus points out that poster sessions (and many presentations) are works in progress, given generously:
December 17, 2014 at 10:39 am
Poster session and presentation materials and graphs are all copyright to the authors under US law. They are legally not reproducible without permission from the author. If you can get printed material from the presenter, it can be cited, though not many professionals take venue presentation citations as serious. Typically either they are grad student work that will change between the presentation and the production of a thesis or dissertation, or they are quick and dirty attention grabbers intended to keep a name “current” in people’s memory’s, and for some professions, in the eye of the media. So, the “no photos” rule is there basically to prevent “unrefined” opinions and findings from embarrassing people. For some odd reason critics, the media and more politically-minded types are not willing to let one change one’s mind or to hold nuanced opinions that are not readily pigeonholed.

rd50 agrees, and observes that it points to ignorance on the part of Anthony and WUWT readers. As he says, all you have to do is ask nicely and most researchers are only too happy to answer questions and share their published science - and maybe even their posters:
December 17, 2014 at 4:48 pm
I agree. All scientific meetings have (or should have) this policy. People here who are surprised simply never attended such meetings.
No photography at poster sessions, although some state that you can ask the person at the poster for permission. In any event this is 2014. If you want a copy of the poster it is usually available in a variety of ways, just ask. Some even give you the internet site on the poster, so you can get an instant copy on you cell phone! Please get with it. No annoying photography at poster sessions. We are there to discuss and learn.
At presentation sessions it became even more unpleasant. We get idiots standing up with their iPads to video the session. They don’t care being in front of you. Then we get people getting up and snapping pictures with their iPhones. They don’t care about the distraction.
We don’t need a bunch of people snapping pictures at scientific meetings and disturbing presentations and discussion. Just get your pictures in the corridors!

noaaprogrammer  knows it's all a hoax but would like to know if there are any impacts of "sinking poles"
December 17, 2014 at 9:07 am
At this point, I think most of the regulars at WUWT know that the alarmists’ science is contrived/distorted/manipulated, etc. However I would like to know Anthony’s impression of any changes he may have noticed in the alarmists overall attitudes/feelings/confidence/conniving/etc. i.e. Do they ‘feel’ the heat? – or are they continuing in their goals, oblivious to their sinking poles in public opinion?

davidmhoffer suggests a game of "gotcha", or what passes for such a game at WUWT:
December 17, 2014 at 9:42 am
No photography is an opportunity.
Ask the booths you are interested in for a card, and once you have it, ask them to send you a photo of their posters. The AGU can stop you from taking pictures of researchers works, but they can’t stop the researchers from taking a picture of their work and sending it to you.
Give them some suitable time period (say one month) and then publish a list of all the cards you got, and which ones complied with your request and which didn’t.
Lots of hours of amusement looking at the ones that send their work, and just as many digging into those that didn’t…. 

Cherpa1 doesn't care that Anthony can't report any science:
December 17, 2014 at 10:27 am
Anthony, you are the best. You must really burn these guys. So good to read your blog.

I've got to the bottom of the comments and must have missed any and all of the WUWT donors asking for some science reporting. If you can find it let me know.


  1. As far as Williard's new hearing aids, I have a friend who just got the latest and greatest fancy ones and she loves how they allow her to hold conversations with me in bars and what not. The newest digital ones are really good at rejecting ambient noise and allowing the user to focus on what is important.

    As far as Williard's "reporting" on AGU, a few press releases and a whinge about beer doesn't really cut it. San Francisco is a great city to hang out in, however. I just don't think that Willard has the capacity to enjoy it.

  2. Regarding the comment of "davidmhoffer" about posters, a lot of them are also online:


    1. Thanks, David. I'll add that to the AGU virtual options article.

  3. "A photo of a table of people, all busy working hard, which he described as a photo of Dr Peter Gleick's "contempt"

    Anthony dear boy, that was not Peter Gleick's contempt you captured, it was his Aura.

    Next time you wish to photograph the good Doctor, ditch your IR camera.

  4. If I were Dr. Mann I would not sneer at Anthony. A good long hard unambiguously contemptuous glare would be more like it. And that would be me exercising restraint.

    1. He's been emboldened by Bristol but no one warned Ant that Nick Lewis wasn't pouring wine at the AGU14 and I don't think Professor Curry is there either. After Richard and Tamsin were shafted within days of displaying unearned civility towards him, he's shocked he's not being high-fived by Gleick.

    2. Being politic is apparently not in his skillset. I'm one to talk but I like to think it has a higher purpose ... which might be illuminating. I'm not following AGU doings as much as I perhaps should, but surely one or two attendees with similar credentials and alignment as JC are there to provide some coat tails for him to ride?

    3. Willard Tony posted a "Hump Day Hilarity" insulting Richard Betts today. Watts is such a nice, and so respectful of people he has broken bread with in a good natured attempt to understand each other.

      What an ass...

    4. We only have Anthony's word that he got a "sneer". It's quite possible that Michael Mann didn't even notice him sitting there.

      Anthony has a persecution complex and suffers from low self-esteem. He only shows bravado when behind his computer terminal away from people. One would only have to glance in the general direction of Anthony for him to complain he was "sneered" at - and maybe not even that.

      The other motivation for complaining is that he finds it goes down well with his adoring mob of deniers for him to paint himself as a martyr - even if only slain by sneers :D

    5. I only just looked up what "hump day" means. I've always cringed at the vulgarity when I saw it written at WUWT. (Where I live young singles would probably think of it as being a Saturday night, not a Wednesday.)

    6. Sou "Slain By Sneers"(c) is the sequel to "The Desolation of Smaug"

    7. Rattus,

      The one redeeming value of that cartoon is its play on the word "bodge". Such a lovely word, that. What really breaks my brain is that for all the nattering on about over-hyping model utility and skill, Betts' plain speaking on their deficiencies only serves as further grist for the mill. You insult asses everywhere with the comparison, but I can't think of a better word. Buffoon comes to mind, but that belies the intentional bad faith.

    8. "Anthony[..] suffers from low self-esteem." - hail, a spark of realism in him after all.

  5. Sou, you old joker, you,

    considering that Anthony Watts's was the man that said: "We’re winning – National Public Radio guts its climate reporting team." [ http://whatsupwiththatwatts.blogspot.com/2014/11/thanksgiving-anthonywatts-wuwt-npr.html ], we both know that nobody in the world could, or would, possibly expect any serious review of climate science news coming out of Mr Watts.

    You wrote: "Why people figured it was worth the money to send him to report on AGU14 is anyone's guess."

    Come on, those people got exactly what they wanted and paid for, SILENCE, more wasted runway. Anthony's a puppet, always has been. Remember the magician's trick, draw attention away from where the trick is going down.

    We need more light on the real culprits!
    The masters-of-the-universe who hold the purse strings and who have been and continue to force this insane decades long circus of deception on the people.

    When will we focus more on the people underwriting the Wattzers and Steeles and Moncktons?…
    and then of course, I wonder something else:

    Why do we keep letting their audience off the hook,
    as though they are too stupid to see the dishonest PR game being played, for what it is… they aren't.

    They are willful accomplices. Considering that they absolutely refuse to hear anyone who talks about our planet as a real entity with geophysical processes that every citizen should strive to understand.

    But then, being a citizen is sort of an old fashioned concept any more ain't it.

    1. CC you bring up some really good points. There is a research project waiting for someone, to look at who responds to which articles at WUWT, and how. The first responders are usually the idiots or people posing as idiots. A bit later on in a thread you occasionally get people who write more than one-liners or slabs of text copied from another denier site. Some comments almost sound reasonable - except those same people will post utter garbage on another thread.

      The comments that aren't there at WUWT are often more illuminating that the comments that are there. (The best example is WUWT readers' tolerance of the many articles by Tim Ball and others regurgitating anti-semitic conspiracy theories.)

    2. citizenschallenge,

      If by shedding more light on the real culprits you mean more than just increased exposure in the press -- a la legal proceedings -- I have misgivings. Not that there isn't precedent. It would be one hell of a fight though.

  6. Thank you Sou for covering AGU. As a graduate student/research assistant my job is to stay behind and keep everything running. What a shame Anthony Watts didn't talk in detail to each person he tried to photograph. Most scientists would be more than happy to give a reference. At ocean sciences 2012 I even included a QR code that linked to my poster and research page. No subterfuge involved!

  7. i literally cannot think of a single reason why oil exploration and extraction companies might wish to sponsor a geophysics conference.

  8. I'm running myself ragged at the AGU with all the interviews I'm doing so my time for reporting on the meeting itself is extremely limited. Yet even I managed to report more detail on talks when I didn't even attend any on day 1 or on day 2. It wasn't until yesterday that I attended a couple of talks and gave a memory dump on a couple of them and my opinion on the talks.

    All what I wrote was based on simple notes that I took on my laptop during those talks. Afterwards I walked up to the presenters to ask for slides, to swap cards, and ask a couple of follow-up questions. If you're going to report on an event be prepared to take notes and be willing to walk up to people to ask for materials. Most are more than willing to give you what you need.

    The notes and supplementary materials I'm getting from presenters will result in articles after the AGU talking about the science presented in greater detail. Where possible I'll also link to websites and resources that are relevant for the talk, often given during the talk itself.

    By no means I'm a professional reporter but I'm not afraid/hesitant to ask a couple of questions.

    1. Great stuff! Thanks for that - your reporting makes me green with envy.

      And let me guess, Collin (:D) - you lined up people for interviews beforehand. I bet you prepared in advance.

      Anthony hasn't shown us a photo of his video camera bag this year (yet), like he did last year, when he complained that one of the scientists probably most in demand (and pressed for time) Kevin Trenberth didn't stop still on the spot and give him an interview. I wonder if he arranged to interview anyone or is all he's going to dish up is copies of press releases and unattributed articles written by other people?

    2. Why not visit the meeting yourself then so you can show what reporting looks like? ;)

      Yes, I lined up people beforehand. I also worked on the content of the interviews before I had them. Though some just a couple of days before I had the interview, but most were done weeks in advance.

      With his reporting I'm getting the impression that Anthony doesn't have an idea on how to be a reporter. It's not exactly rocket science to take notes and then turn that into an article.

    3. Collin, you may not be a paid reporter but you've a more professional approach than many paid reporters I've known - and that's quite a few. I spent years in the belly of the beast and you see a lot in there that ain't pretty.

      Thanks for actually creating something that I'm sure will be worthwhile.

  9. as for his whingeing about not being allowed to take pictures to help his "reporting":

    (a) you can take notes during the talk, then write them up as soon as possible afterwards, while the content is still fresh in your mind.
    (b) if you didn't understand some point, or didn't catch something that was said, or realise your notes are ambiguous or not detailed enough, you can have a chat (face-to-face or by email) with the presenter after the talk. some talks seem to be accompanied by press resources.
    (c) Google News shows a fair bit of coverage, so it doesn't seem to be fazing the actual journalists. hey, it's almost as if they've done this sort of thing before!
    (d) it might be a public building, but i assume the AGU rented it for their non-public event. in which case his complaint about this being an infringement of a free press is even more fatuous.

  10. Just a quick background on the photo Watts took of me: I looked up from my work to see him taking a picture of me from the side, about 25 meters away (you can see all the serious scientists working away at that desk). He then scurried away without saying hello (or asking permission, of course). I would have been happy to talk to him. Moreover, he used my name as an excuse to raise money from his web readers (to keep track of me and Mike Mann, I believe is the way he put it), but he did not bother come to hear my first talk Tuesday (on climate, drought, and food security) and we'll see if he bothers to come to hear my talk today on extreme hydrologic events and climate change. As for his interpretation of my look as "contempt" I'm just sorry he's not using his opportunity to be at one of the best geosciences conferences in the world to talk to scientists or learn something new as opposed to simply capturing pictures of people his web readers love to abuse.

    1. It doesn't surprise me that he didn't approach you Peter. The fact is that his sole purpose in life is to belittle and arguably libel people who create knowledge, not converse with them (he bans sciency-types from his blog).

      Plus, Anthony goes to water (falls in a heap/loses all confidence) when faced with real, live people. He considered it an act of extreme bravery to ask James Hansen a question last year. So much so that he boasted of his effort on his blog, but didn't bother to tell his readers the answer that Dr Hansen gave.

      And you'll recall how he got his readers to pay for his UK holiday on the pretence that he had "many questions to ask" of Michael Mann and John Cook, yet he didn't have the courage to ask a single question. Not until he got back safely ensconsed behind his home computer and only then did he ask Michael Mann on his facebook page if he could ask him a question "now".

    2. I think Watts is well advised to avoid putting himself in a situation where he could be made to look a complete fool by any scientist who chose to humiliate him - hasn't he given plenty of people good reason to do so?

  11. I have an employee who collects beer cans and even attends beer can collector conferences but doesn't drink any alcohol. I've never been able to figure out why he does this, what's the appeal? Anthony Watts attending scientific conferences seems in the same vein. He's not interested in the science so why go? The reason seems to be to enter the lion's and come out unscathed from all the perceived grunts and contempt. At least my beer can collecting employee enjoys himself. He even helps organize conferences. He makes Anthony Watts look like a total misfit and underachiever.

  12. You can rely on Anthony Watts to unconsciously set an hilarious tone. Whether or not Michael Mann 'sneered' at him shall remain one of life's unanswered questions.

    I just wonder how Michael managed to stop at a 'sneer' (if sneer it was). If I were in Michael's shoes, I would have struggled to keep it at a simple 'sneer'.

    If I came across someone who had relentlessly ridiculed me and (in my opinion) defamed me for years then a 'sneer' might be the best they could expect. Michael Mann is more of a gentleman than I am, apparently.

    He's certainly more of a gentleman that Watts is.


Instead of commenting as "Anonymous", please comment using "Name/URL" and your name, initials or pseudonym or whatever. You can leave the "URL" box blank. This isn't mandatory. You can also sign in using your Google ID, Wordpress ID etc as indicated. NOTE: Some Wordpress users are having trouble signing in. If that's you, try signing in using Name/URL. Details here.

Click here to read the HotWhopper comment policy.