We’re getting a chance to test out the virtual science conference of the future.
Or not.

This week is the annual American Geophysical Union Fall Meeting. For the last 10 years or so I’ve jumped on a flight from Detroit to San Francisco, and stayed with friends, while bus-commuting to Moscone Center to bump shoulders with 25,000 other attendees at this, the world’s largest Science conference. AGU is like Burning Man for scientists, and the atmosphere is pretty electric, with that many smart people all in one space.
You get to meet your peers and your heroes, walk up to them, ask questions, and share beers. The chance encounters in the hallways are a constant serendipitous parade.
For me, AGU is the opportunity to do sit-down interviews with a range of researchers that is unparalleled, and serves as years of raw material for video stories.

This Covid year it’s all virtual, and there’s a lot that’s good about it. But can it completely replace the face-to-face conference experience?

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Above, skip directly to 2:16 for a classic story of good ol’ boy congressional goober-ism.

It’s been a triumphant week for NASA, as we reap the rewards of a long term technical triumph in the New Horizons flyby of Pluto. Might be good to consider whether NASA scientists are worth listening to when they inform us about what is happening on the world beneath our feet – the only one most human beings will ever live on.

There is a powerful anti-science movement in the US Congress that would like NASA scientists to stop finding out all that inconvenient stuff about what we are doing to the earth, like,  why is it so dang hot down here?  Better, they say, to keep the focus on what’s going on in far distant corners of the universe.

Speaking of goobers, Senator Ted Cruz pushes the ‘more space, less Earth” meme in a congressional hearing, and runs into a polite but devastating response from NASA administrator Charles Bolden:


Bolden defended spending more money on Earth science activities, saying he is “proud” of it since it’s led to a greater understanding of the planet.

“We can’t go anywhere if the Kennedy Space Center goes underwater and we don’t know it — and that’s understanding our environment,” Bolden said, in a clear reference to global warming-related sea level rise.

“It is absolutely critical that we understand Earth’s environment because this is the only place that we have to live.”

As recent reports have shown, NASA satellites and earth observations have made critical discoveries about things as vital to Earthlings as – where is all our water going?  Below, Rachel Maddow hears from NASA researcher Jay Famiglietti on the status of global water resources.


..as we’ve noted before, what Ted Cruz thinks NASA needs to be doing is concentrating on stuff that is far away from Earth — the real space science, not all the stupid wasteful research that NASA has been doing on our own planet, which isn’t in space at all, and also isn’t even good science, as Ted Cruz understands science. Which is badly.

Ted Cruz is simply not a fan of these dumb NASA scientists who refuse to look to the skies — or at least, not high enough in the skies, because what’s actually in our own planet’s atmosphere belongs to the fossil fuel industry, and NASA shouldn’t politicize science by getting in the way of scientific progress with a lot of wild predictions about climate change. As he lectured NASA administrator Charles Bolden at a hearing in March, NASA is about being inspiring and space-oriented and doing cool stuff like going to the Moon, not about being depressing and Earth-looking-at:

But I would suggest that almost any American would agree that the core function of NASA is to explore space. That’s what inspires little boys and little girls across this country.

After all, no children in the history of the world ever got excited about how carbon dioxide is making the planet unlivable, and there’s nothing at all inspiring in the quest to stop global warming, there just isn’t. Go look at some planets that don’t have lobbyists, will you, NASA? Cruz has actually won at least part of his battle against NASA’s stupid satellites that look at Earth, convincing his pals in the House to slash NASA’s Earth-science budget.

boringearth Funny thing about planetary science, though: as Mother Jones columnist Tim McDonnell points out, there aren’t any other agencies in the U.S scientific establishment, or private industry, to take over NASA’s climate research. And of course, it’s NASA satellites that collect the very data Cruz misinterprets to call climate change a crock.

Worse, says McDonnell, “it’s pretty hard for scientists to make sense of what they see on other planets if they don’t understand the one we’re on.”

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We’re going to have to have a contest to decide who looks craziest, – Monckton in this video, or Michelle Bachman on the cover of Newsweek.

An intrepid Kiwi reporter interviews Monckton on the dangerous topics of scientific fact, peer review, and, worst of all, brings up the hated John Abraham, whose mercilessly clinical dissection of Monckton finally revealed the full depth of the deception that is “Lord” Christopher Monckton.  (hear spittle-flecked rant here)

From the Description:

“One of the world’s most prominent, and controversial, climate change skeptics, has been in New Zealand this week. Lord Christopher Monckton, the 3rd Viscount of Brenchley, is here as part of a world lecture tour promoting climate change denial. Reporter Benedict Collins met Christopher Monckton in Auckland, and while the Viscount might not believe in global warming, it didn’t take long for the interview to heat up…”

For anyone that still hasn’t seen it, check out Monckton’s cure for AIDS – below…

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