back to article CERN 'gags' physicists in cosmic ray climate experiment

The chief of the world's leading physics lab at CERN in Geneva has prohibited scientists from drawing conclusions from a major experiment. The CLOUD ("Cosmics Leaving Outdoor Droplets") experiment examines the role that energetic particles from deep space play in cloud formation. CLOUD uses CERN's proton synchrotron to examine …


This topic is closed for new posts.


    1. Scott 19

      @AC - Consensus science

      Try for some learning :-

    2. Chemist

      "Carbon dioxide is essential to life on the planet."

      Low level are necessary but high levels are lethal - the argument is about the middle ground.and it's possible consequences.

      It's rather like saying iron is a good thing full stop but not mentioning that swords, guns and tanks are built from it

      1. Anonymous Coward

        Or, in other words

        Carbon dioxide IS essential to life on this planet, but 'more' does not not necessarily mean 'better'.

        1. peter_dtm

          hate to break this to you but

          yes it does !

          More CO2 is inordinately beneficial to plants (more crops for less water just for starters). Humans are comfortable all the way up to (and beyond) 1000ppm. Plants thrive best at 5000ppm (but by then humans and most animals are in serious trouble). SO more does mean better - lots more may; however; be too much of a good thing.

          So at a mere 350ppm we are starving the plants and we can comfortably increase CO2 for quite a long time.

          And if CO2 does warm the climate - consider this little problem :

          Does man thrive where it is warm or where it is cold ? Ask yourself why the Viking colony on Greenland managed to get established; and then what killed it off.

          1. PatientOne

            More importantly...

            ...why did the Norse settlers call Greenland 'Green'?

            Could it be that it was once a green and verdant land? And then it got covered in snow...

            1. strum Silver badge

              Less importantly

              >why did the Norse settlers call Greenland 'Green'?

              As propaganda, selling a godforsaken outpost to gullible settlers.

              Even at the 'peak' of the so-called Medieval Warm Period, Greenland was only marginally less miserable than it is now.

              It didn't end because the climate cooled again. It ended because Inuits drove the settlers out, by hunting the same food.

              This is a classic example of denialists trotting out the same old garbage, no matter how often their lies are debunked.

    3. Chris 3

      Please stop trotting out this nonsense.

      I was happily reading through the comments, staying on a even keel until this old chestnut was wheeled out:

      "Carbon dioxide is essential to life on the planet."

      So what? How is that relevant to *anything*? did you sit there in front of the Japanese tsunami footage smugly opining: "Ah yes, well water is essential to life on the planet".?

      Whether something is essential to life is irrelevant.

      It's nearly up there with:

      "Climate changes, and always will." Yes, and as we know large climate changes have historically caused mass extinctions. So...?

    4. peter_dtm

      no you don't unless

      consensus science is bad science if the consensus shuts down investigation and innovation.

      consensus science in the 50s said organ transplants were impossible. Hell; consensus 'science' in some parts of the world said transplants between different races were impossible (and where was the first successful heart transplant done ? oh yes; where the consensus science said that it could not work.)

      Look up Lysenko science for a modern day example of politics driving consensus science.

      However if the people in the consensus do not shut down questions and research that would break the consensus then it is probably a good thing.

      There in lies the rub. To be valid science; consensus science demands skeptics.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Consensus science doesn't demand skeptics

        It demands innovation. You might have skepticism which leads you to your final destination, but more likely (if you look back through the annals), it's not pure skepticism that has driven scientists to discover that consensus was wrong, but new ideas drawn from observation. The problem here is that most people who disagree with the consensus on this topic have made their minds up. I recently asked a creationist which parts of the evidence for evolution they found compelling. The mark of a bigot is that they find all the evidence a joke, or easily refuted. They can spend five minutes online, grab something and paste it. Usually something that appears very obvious, and that scientists shouldn't have missed, and then the only next step available is to suggest that the scientists did see it but suppressed it for some reason. A bigot doesn't find any of his beliefs even slightly questioned by evidence, a skeptic has a specific problem with some of the evidence which leads on to the formulation of new ideas to describe the rest of it. So I guess there are two real questions - which of the evidence for AGW do you find compelling? And what published hypotheses have the scientific skeptics put forward to explain the evidence given for AGW?

      2. Steve Martins

        Those who shout loudest

        Who on earth actually downvoted this?! Its been well established that in a large group concensus typically follows those who are the most dominant, influential or loudest. In fact so strong is the social desire of conformity that in many cases individuals will act against what they know to be true in order to conform. A so called skeptic can, and often is, someone who both knows better and has the confidence and independence to speak out against the majority knowing full well they will be shouted down.

        Some people should learn more about human nature then perhaps take the time to re evaluate the ideas they align themselves with. Believe me, coming to your OWN conclusions takes a hell of a lot more work than people believe.

      3. strum Silver badge

        Bad science, indeed

        >consensus science is bad science if the consensus shuts down investigation and innovation.

        Which is what the denialists have been doing for the last ten years; shutting down NASA's data-gathering efforts, shutting down EPA's investigation of pollutants, forcing politicians to adhere to the ignoramus's consensus.

        The denialists are the modern Lysenkos - hammering home dodgy 'science', because it fits better with the favoured ideology.

    5. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      RE: Consensus science

      The main difference, between say, medicine and climate change is that we have lots and lots of evidence to back up the consensus regarding medical treatment and no [real] evidence to back up the consensus regarding the effects of climate change.

      If you break your leg you know that the consensus (setting, immobilising the break, physiotherapy etc) has been arrived at through a great deal of trial and error - we don't blood-let any more because we can see it won't make the bone mend any quicker and we don't sacrifice a chicken to ward off infection.

      But with climate change, we don't have enough evidence to say X will definitely happen unless we do Y and stop doing Z - because the things we are talking about (I'm talking about warmaggedon here, not just a few hot summers or a bit more snow in January than expected) have not happened.

      Put it this way, if you had a condition completely new to medical science, with no historic precedent how eager would you be to let them amputate both your arms on the basis that a consensus of doctors agreed it was probably best for you to lose your arms? Personally I would want to keep my arms until they had a better idea of what was going on.

      1. strum Silver badge


        >we have lots and lots of evidence to back up the consensus regarding medical treatment

        Actually, no we haven't. 'Evidence-based medicine' is a relatively recent phenomenon. A large chunk of our regular medical practice relies on habit/instinct, and has not been tested scientifically.

        On the other hand, climate science has produced acres of evidence.

        1. Anonymous Coward

          "On the other hand, climate science has produced acres of evidence."

          "On the other hand, climate science has produced acres of anecdotes."

          There. I fixed it for you.

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Expert, Anecdotes, Fixed.

            "On the other hand, journalists have produced acres of anecdotes."

            There. I fixed it for you.

            El Reg journalists are NOT scientific experts. Are we clear on that? Do we understand why debating climate science here (when such debate is allowed) is about as unscientific as your average church coffee morning?

    6. Bob. Hitchen

      Understanding the process

      What has consensus science got to do with it? If I get cured I don't care if it's a witch-doctor - go figure. Most surgery is born of past experimentation not science

  1. Mike Richards Silver badge


    Couldn't the message just be read as 'publish the results in as accessible way as possible, the interpretation will come later'?

  2. Dragon Dave

    They're not climatologists.

    As the article states, this is only a single input into climate modelling. Particle physicists weighing in directly on Global Warming would be inappropriate, since they wouldn't understand the details of the various climate models this data will go into.

    Hopefully in the coming weeks and months we'll see how this affects our view of the climate.

  3. envmod

    knew it

    i just knew it.

    1. Anonymous Coward

      Wouldn't understand?

      That's rich. You think that particle physicists would have a problem "understanding" climate models???

      You obviously don't know any particle physicists (I do) and are completely deluded.

      The reason the particle physicists are getting into this is because they can, they have the funding and availability of very expensive, very sophisticated experimental facilities and because there is some very interesting real science to be discovered.

      Stay tuned, the real scientists are about to weigh-in on the matter, and unlike the "climatologists" they will produce falsifiable science upon which we will be able to make quantifiable predictions.

      1. Dave 142

        Manufactured Outrage

        Of course particle physicists aren't too stupid to understand climate models. However, they won't have the full appreciation of all the details as that takes time and effort, time and effort they'd rather spend on particle physics.

        1. Philip Lewis

          Hey Dave, why don't you read this

          Go to the CERN website for the CLOUD experiment.

          Locate the link for the proposal for the CLOUD experiment from 2000 (over 11 years ago!!)

          Read at least the first two chapters.

          Having done so, you will immediately recognise why you statement is bullshit, and how exposed your ignorance is.

          I encourage others to extend their grasp of the importance of CLOUD by reading the proposal.


      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        @AC 1432

        Particle physicists don't automatically know everything about all science. I heard Brian Cox the other day saying that a cold can be cured by an antibiotic - he was rather swiftly pounced on by Ben Goldacre...

        The point is that there is far more than just one area of knowledge involved in climate science, off the top of my head there are:

        Environmental Physics

        Environmental Chemistry

        Electronics (obtaining data)

        Engineering (design of data gathering equipment)

        Quantum Physics

        Cybernetics (Feedback system)

        Maths / Statistics

        Computer Science


        No one person can understand, which is why you should be suspicious of any one person who thinks they can. This is exactly the reason that CERN tell their scientists to toe the company line and not speak out of tern. They do the same with LHC output as well.

        1. JadedIdealist


          you forgot geology and paleontology - the major strands of evidence that the baseline temperature is controlled by CO2 levels which other effects (Milancovich cycles etc dance around).

    2. Anonymous Coward


      Actually, one of the original papers on the matter was rejected for publication for unknown reasons.

      CLOUD came afterwards, and will validate that and other research, hopefully resulting in real science. You can expect the CLOUD experimental results to be published - I can hardly wait!

      1. Anonymous Coward

        Home of CLOUD

        For the interested reader, the background is covered here in the CLOUD proposal.

    3. h4rm0ny

      Re: They're not climatologiststs...

      Ah yes, those noted core elements of science: Physics, Chemistry, Biology, Climatology. Wait, what? Climatology is only recently a booming field and is actually populated by scientists from all disciplines? So why declare that particle phycists explicitly doing climate research, with the goal of learning more about how the climate works, are not "climatologists" just because they happen to come from a Physics background.

      Do you think, would you prefer, that climate science was somehow its own branch of science distinct from Physics, et al? That's not going to work.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward


        I think you misunderstand, it's not that Particle physicists aren't needed in climate science, they are needed and they are involved. The point is that they aren't the be all and end all, they don't have the requisite experience in all of the fields, no-one can, it's too complicated. Particle physicists involved in climate science are however, certainly going to be a better people to ask about climate science that those who aren't. Hence CERN telling their guys not to make public judgments on subjects that they don't have experience in.

        There is a lot of people working in their specialist areas and then discussing their work and its implications with people in other areas. They then come to a consensus (oh, noes!) as to what they think is actually happening.

        1. Mark 65 Silver badge


          Although they may not be a master of all fields I would happily wager that most physicists at CERN have a greater grasp of mathematics, statistics, modelling, time-series analysis etc than most of the climate science monkeys out there whose experiments and modelling outputs cannot be reproduced. Mainly because that reproducibility is at the core of what they do.

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            @Mark 65

            Why would you wager that?

            Ok Physists are a subset of climate scientists, so it's highly unlikely that they would understand it better but even if Physicists did understand, say, modeling better than other climate scientists they still aren't going to understand the inputs of the outputs without the other scientists.

            Just look at the discovery of DNA - Crick and Watson were rubbish at x-ray christalogrophy, they could interpret the images to a certain degree, but they couldn't make them they had someone else (whose name iludes me) to do that for them. DNA is far simpler than climate science.

  4. Qwelak

    Shouldn't that be

    Cosmics Leaving Outdoor Droplets - CLODs

    seems more appropriate for the politcally correct bias

    Just saying....

  5. George Kapotto
    Black Helicopters

    Any credible scientist...

    ...will acknowledge that correlation does not equate to causation. If there is something here, it should be validated before anyone jumps to conclusions.

    Besides, it is all actually a covert strategy of the pro-AGW camp. For years now, the anti-AGW crowd has been contesting the accuracy of historical temperature records. To accept cosmic rays as a temperature driver, Anti-AGW-ers will need to endorse the proxy temperature records and them 'Bam!', cosmic rays will be discredited .

    The Anti-AGW group will be forced to acknowledge the temperature record or look foolish, jumping back and forth between arguments of convenience to defend their position.

    Don't get sucked in. Demand verification of cosmic ray causation before jumping on the bandwagon.

  6. Tom 13

    While we could do with a bit more reticence on the predictions,

    the gag order is definitely politics intruding into science. But then that isn't anything new in the AGW arena.

  7. 100113.1537

    So that's OK then...

    - pro-IPCC results are to be (over-)interpreted, but if they question the concensus then you should just cut out the conclusion section from the paper.

    1. Daren Nestor

      Any credible scientist

      will acknowledge that causation implies correlation and therefore correlation is a good place to start investiagations.

      1. John 211

        I agree with your sentiment...but

        The flying spaghetti monster web site has a lovely correlation chart between 'bad shit happening' and 'the reduciton in the number of pirates'. Would a 'credible scientist' therefore start investigating the reduction in pirates?

        Correlation != causation, you must find the mechanism instead

        Having said that, I'm actually on your side in this :-)

        And I can;t wait until they un-gag the real scientists.

        1. Sir Runcible Spoon Silver badge



          That's a really bad example mate, if the pirates were indeed the ones causing all the 'bad shit happening' then this would be a credible line of investigation. If it turned out to be true you would never know, because you've discounted it as bad science.

    2. Jellied Eel Silver badge

      nice idea, but..

      "To accept cosmic rays as a temperature driver, Anti-AGW-ers will need to endorse the proxy temperature records and them 'Bam!', cosmic rays will be discredited ."

      Nope. Sensible sceptics accept the value of some proxies like the isotope ones used to create the graphs shown. Other proxies, like ones using wooden thermometers made from bristecones or sediments used upside down and where they can't be calibrated are already pretty discredited. CLOUD may just add aditional verification to previous CCN experiments and provide a mechanism that may explain part of climate change.

      CERN's position is pretty reasonable given all they should be doing is publishing the results and data from their experiment. Climate related conclusions would then be up to other scientists to figure out.

    3. Philip Lewis

      No, actually

      Go read the CLOUD proposal, where the science is discussed in detail, and your ignorance will be cured.

  8. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Perhaps its time to do it properly...

    Maybe a few top-notch particle physicists can move into the climatology area and sort out a new model based on correct data and ignoring the assumptions put out by the AGW and non-AGW crowds. After all, its got to be easier than the unified theory...

    1. Ken Hagan Gold badge

      Re: After all, its got to be easier than the unified theory...

      I'm not sure about that. To a particle physicist, climate science probably looks like a many-body problem.

      "Many" in this context means "larger than two" and such problems are "Hard" in the sense of "starts with being fundamentally insoluble and goes exponentially downhill from there". I rather suspect that such people would inject a much-needed dose of rigour and caution into the whole debate, so I'd welcome their input, but I wouldn't expect them to come up with better theories.

      1. Tom 13


        while particle physics may be arcane and a true lair of the boffin, the underlying equations are converging equations, not the divergent ones of chaos theory.

        1. Ken Hagan Gold badge


          "the underlying equations are converging equations, not the divergent ones of chaos theory."

          Nit-pick, they're only converging once you've renormalised away all the pesky infinities.

      2. John Smith 19 Gold badge

        @Ken Hagan

        In Jon Bentley's "Programming Pearls2 there is an example of a many body problem studying the formation of galaxies. The researcher involved knocked the run time from 1 year on a big PDP down to 1 day (same PDP + numeric processor)

        The trick is to *prove* that the approximation you used to get the problem small enough and fast enough *preserve* the validity of the simulation afterward.

        I would expect physicists to use fewer fudge factors, document their work a hell of a lot better and quantify their error bands a lot better. I'd also expect them to be a lot more pro-active in finding ways to *eliminate* the fudge factors and quantify them in terms of stuff you can actually *measure*.

      3. Bob. Hitchen

        The kind old Sun would know.?

        The main reason I think AGW is junk science is because they have downplayed the Sun's PREDOMINANT role in anything climate. Let me remind you that the Sun is one massive entity - slight changes there have enormous effects elsewhere. It really is simple the Earth hardly retains any heat without cloud cover. Oh and the clouds are not CO2.which is a pitiful fraction of the Earth's atmosphere.

  9. Anonymous Coward


    "clouds" (aka water vapour) are the predominate greenhouse gas (>95% of the combined effect)

    The CLOUD experiment (and the less precise predecessor experiments) suggest very, very strongly that cosmic radiation influences, very directly, and in a scientifically measurable and verifiable way, the creation of clouds.

    When the physicists get done extracting the real science, we will have the basis for measuring something where a sound theoretical prediction can be made - and seeing if the measurements support the science.

    There is a very real chance that CLOUD will find the CO2 AGW "concensus" wanting, and wanting rather badly.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      "clouds" (aka water vapour) are the predominate greenhouse gas

      water vapour is I think, but clouds are not water vapour they're water droplets (hence the need to nucleate)

      1. envmod


        clouds are made of condensed water vapour

        1. craigj


          "clouds are made of condensed water vapour"

          I thought clouds were made of servers in data centres... wait, am I on the right website?

  10. F111F

    Circumspection vs Obeisance?

    It's one thing to expect your scientists to have some circumspection when it comes to offering their opinion on what the results of one experiment/study has on climate change. It's quite another to order their silence. And scientists wonder why the average non-scientist thinks there are shenannigans going on behind the scenes...

    I'll get my coat, but the IPCC has forbiden me from wearing it in public and I don't want to jeopardize my funding stream, so I'll just fold it over my arm and proclaim that the coat was available to the public for their viewing pleasure.


This topic is closed for new posts.

Biting the hand that feeds IT © 1998–2019