Flat White

‘Experts’ get it wrong

19 April 2022

2:00 PM

19 April 2022

2:00 PM

Expertise in a topic requires applying common sense, reason, and logic to background knowledge.

Knowledge can be learned. Common sense has to be earned.

It seems many ‘experts’ around today have learned the background knowledge without earning the common sense needed to correctly interpret it.

Einstein’s description of gravity from his theory of General Relativity has baffled the world’s best scientists since 1916. People who work in this field are regarded as the ‘best of the best’. Few have sufficiently explained the science that underpins Einstein’s maths.

In March 2021, an Institute of Physics (UK) journal published a paper on Physical explanations of Einstein’s gravity. It describes the simple physics behind Einstein’s theory of gravity and simplifies the maths. Many good high school matriculants could use this to calculate some of Einstein’s gravity effects faster and more accurately than ‘experts’ using Einstein’s field equations. 

With the appropriate background knowledge, which in this case involves early university undergraduate physics, Einstein’s gravity becomes easy to understand. Einstein had the common sense necessary to understand his discovery, but he expressed it through complex maths that people found difficult to follow. The above paper describes the background knowledge and shows how common sense (along with some maths) makes it easier to understand.

The ‘best experts’ have managed to get important things wrong for decades. Worse, experts need only say ‘that is what our mathematics predicts’ or ‘that is what our computer models predict’ and ‘therefore, it must be right’. The science behind their prediction is usually not presented. If any is given, it is often brief comments accompanied by ‘we are the experts, we know what we are doing’. 

Over-reliance on complex maths without understanding the science is a major cause of many ‘experts’ getting things wrong.

It would not be much of a problem if the errors were confined to applying Einstein’s gravity to obscure extrasolar bodies in cosmology. ‘The science is settled’ is an often-used comment with a wider and more important application.

Many ‘experts’ in other fields also get the basics wrong. Climate change scientists are willing to tell what their models predict. Beyond mentioning that CO2 is a powerful greenhouse gas, they don’t adequately explain why more of it in the atmosphere will further warm the planet. 

If the ‘science is settled’, as claimed, climate scientists should not have any difficulty in explaining it to an intelligent audience. If explanations are given, they are few and far between. No detailed mention is made of why a temperature increase of 1.5˚C above a particular average global temperature will cause great catastrophes. 

Renewable technologies such as solar panels, wind turbines, and battery storage are often touted as replacements for fossil fuels. Contributors like Mark Lawson have pointed out the renewable energy folly. To demonstrate their capability against such comments, investors should build unsubsidised renewable energy farms. They might also like to purchase the machinery and facilities to mine, refine, manufacture, transport, and install their products, and provide facilities for their staff. 

Using only their self-generated power output they should do all of the above tasks, as well as dispose of their products at the end of their approximately 20-25 year life. Their excess energy could be sold as ‘green’ energy. Only products made under those conditions should be sold as ‘certified clean green’. There is no reason to hand out subsidies because renewable energy promoters readily point out they are making energy cheaper. 

Wind and solar electric generators have been made for long enough to demonstrate they can supply the energy needed to make all facilities necessary to regenerate themselves and supply the excess power needed for long-term baseload power needed to replace fossil fuels. No investors have developed such a facility. That suggests they are aware such a facility could never generate enough electricity to produce such capability, let alone sufficient additional energy to feed into a grid. 

In its current form, more CO2 is generated in the production of solar panels, wind turbines, storage batteries, and electric vehicles than is saved by generating all electricity and transport using fossil fuels. Subsidising them is taking money from the poor, who can’t afford them, giving it to the rich who can afford them, and increasing the CO2 emissions they are trying to reduce. 

It is easy to prove the above statements wrong. Point out all the solar and wind generators installations that currently produce sufficient electricity to make all the equipment needed to mine, refine, manufacture new generators (as well as the necessary equipment, facilities, and batteries needed), distribute, install, service and dispose of the end product in an environmentally friendly manner. Having done all that, their products must make sufficient energy to provide reliable baseload power to other industries and the community. If any exist, are they giving a return on their investment?

If additional atmospheric CO2 is a major problem, the answer is nuclear. In the meantime, new generation 50 per cent efficient clean coal-fired electric power generators convert half of the heat they generate to electricity. Solar panels average less than 20 per cent efficiency, the other 80 per cent is absorbed as heat. They generate double the heat per unit of electric power than the new clean coal power. That doesn’t include the heat or CO2 generated in their manufacture. It helps explain why some climate scientists are concerned about atmospheric CO2 levels rising even faster than predicted, despite the increasing uptake of wind and solar generators. 

Got something to add? Join the discussion and comment below.

Show comments