Kary Mullis: Celebrating the scientific experiment

Speaker: Kary Mullis

Length: 31:33

Rating 3 / 5

Summary

A talk of 2 parts. The first was a history of the establishment of the Royal Academy in England under King Charles II, and the importance of experiment. It is full of interesting anecdotes, and theories on how we know what we know.

Suddenly the talk changes to be about ‘bad science’ – the idea that a lot of scientists are in it only for money. Much of this section of the talk is devoted to climate change – Kary lists 2 papers with findings that he thinks disprove climate change

Critique

This is a tough one to review because of its speaker. Kary is a Nobel prize winner in Chemistry, and his meandering talk of backyard rocketry involving frog astronauts is fascinating. His talk about the history of science is interesting. However, a quick search shows he has a habit of ‘talking out his ass’ on subjects he has minimal experience in. These include denying the link between HIV & AIDs, denying ozone depletion and climate change.

It is too easy to dismiss as a rant, but I learnt a lot. I fully respect him for questioning climate science, but disagree with his statements. In searching for the 2 papers he quoted, I found quite a few people disputing his conclusions of the papers, including someone who claimed to be Bruce Wielicki, one of the writers of the second paper. An good rebuttal to Mullis’ points can be found here http://greenfyre.wordpress.com/2009/01/09/blinded-but-not-by-science/.

So the first half of his talk was interesting enough, and the second half provoked me to do some more research and learn a little more. From that point of view I’m glad I watched it. Just be careful if you’re easily irritated by crackpots.

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A realistic vision for World Peace

Speaker: Jody Williams

Length: 11:23

Rating 3 / 5

Summary

Peace cannot be achieved from hoping for it alone. It requires organisation, courage and work to make it happen. Jody went through a list of people who worked hard for peace and made sacrifices to keep fighting.

Critique

I enjoyed watching this talk, but not sure what I learnt from it. Yes peace takes work, and it is difficult to achieve. I’m not sure if anyone thought otherwise.

Some of her examples were interesting: Wangari Maathai who organised tree plantings as an excuse to gather people together and instigate social change.

She also makes a good point – some people categorise peace with cowardice and weakness – with symbols like doves and rainbows. The difficulty of achieving peace makes it a stronger goal than that.