Two Earth Science Items

Everyone should read this post. It’s by Dr. Bailles, one of the co-discoverers of the so-called “diamond planet” that the media was having squee spasms about recently. He pointedly notes that his discovery wouldn’t have been at all gleefully received if he was, say, a climate scientist, despite the fact that the scientific process and peer review is the same.

Which I think is a really good point. Everyone loves hearing about awesome astronomy things, and you never see the media seeking “balance.” And by “balance,” I mean, “finding a dissenting voice on the fringe of the science to provide the illusion of fairness when, in fact, the dissenting voice is the minority and has often failed to address the criticism of his or her peers.”

But, you know, “balance” is way easier to type.

And Brian Dunning of Skeptoid just put an episode out about fracking. I did a couple of posts about that myself, almost two years ago. Generally, I think Brian did a good job, and the episode is worth a listen. His ending point is excellent – it’s important to separate the science from how much you loathe Halliburton, for example.

The only complaint I’ve got is for part of the episode he refers to natural gas drilling as “mining” for some reason I can’t fathom, and even refers to wells as “mines” in a couple of instances. That started driving me a little crazy after a while. But then he uses “wells” and “drilling” in other parts of the podcast, so I’m not sure what’s going on with the vocabulary choice.

Also, I would have liked to hear Brian mention that fracking fluid is exempt from the Safe Drinking Water Act, due to a 2005 amendment. This is something I still personally think needs to be changed due to the possibility of surface contamination. There are sites like FracFocus, which sounds like it’s built on voluntary disclosure. As far as I know there’s no other federal requirement of disclosure (please, correct me if I’m wrong) though it sounds like a lot of states have laws now. Ultimately, your mileage may vary depending upon how evil you may think the various oil companies are, but I do have my doubts that fluid additives would be disclosed without a legal requirement; if nothing else, a lot of the additives are proprietary.

Anyway, good job, Brian!

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