Goodbye to science

Bob Brockie got the boot, and thus another reason to pick up a Fairfax paper disappeared with him.

His weekly science column was one of the best the awful collection of rags have ever carried; well phrased, often entertaining and always interesting. A good read; something the editors of the motley cluster of mastheads lately eschew.

I think the last straw for the luvvies was Brockie?s column in March: The Treaty has no place in scientific endeavour. I mean: how awful, how could he say such a thing that flies in the face of every card-carrying, easily-offended, humanities wet?

Duly a response to Brockie?s blasphemy was published, castigating him, and his ousting became an object of endeavour, to be replaced by a suitably conformist group-thinker with neither writing talent, or balance.??

Today?s effort from the pretender to Brockie?s throne, a gentleman named Will Harvie, is suitably inoffensive to pee-cee?s but not so much a triumph of facts: ?The?Gardens of Eden and Gardens of Allah have been measured for the first time and are retreating due to climate change.? Goodness me, that?s terrible; don?t you think?

The relative ?Garden?s he speaks of are two middle-island glaciers which, far from being measured for the ?first time?, have been assiduously measured by satellite every single day this century (that?s thousands and thousands of measurements; Will) and by photographic analysis for over forty years. Will carries the global-warming torch the whole column and manages to find only one teeny-weeny counter-fact to disrupt his narrative at the very bottom of the page ?While Fox and Franz Josef glaciers are famously retreating, other New Zealand glaciers are advancing.? Well; blow me down, what can that mean? Don?t ask Will, he?s not going to tell us, he doesn?t want the chop so early in his ministry.

In fact, and somewhat paradoxically, during the time of most rampant global-warming (1985-2006) Franz-Josef ?generally advanced and thickened, with minor retreats.?

Brockie?s fatal error was to show himself as a man of the past; he dealt in facts, and scientific inquiry, these things are so blas? and out-of-date. Brockie?s type were once common, this was a country teeming with data-collectors and specimen-finders, both sheilas and blokes, keen to ride the wave of knowledge and investigate everything they found in God?s Own Country.

From the very earliest times they set about measuring and recording things, including that which confronts us every day; like the weather (or, if living in Wellington, the bloody weather). Finding huge interest in all centres in the advancement of knowledge the various scientific groups and philosophical societies were encouraged by Governor George Grey to combine that wealth in the formation of the New Zealand Institute as a repository of the combined learnings and in 1868 published their first volume of ?transactions?, a wonderful collection of items and essays that reads something like, well?a collection of Bob Brockie?s columns, for instance.

Inside this treasure trove you can, if you wish, explore ?The mechanical principles involved in the fight of the Albatross?, ?Experiments on the smelting of Taranaki iron-sands?, ?The orthography of the Maori language? or, if you prefer, you could just check the weather, where you might find that our fore-fathers and fore-mothers reckoned the annual mean temperature of the towns Auckland and Wellington as 60.3f? (15.7c) and 55.7f (13.2c) degrees respectively, based on the former?s 15 years of records and the latter?s 10 years, these periods now acknowledged as insufficient to cover a full meteorological period which is estimated to be an approximate 30-32 year cycle.

So delightful a mistress was weather the public clamoured to see her, to record her many moves and shakes, her quirks and nuances, and we?ve been doing it ever since. Never wishing to miss a thing the Government published annual weather summaries in the Official Yearbooks from 1892 and in 1920 published a handy compendium of meteorological averages for the previous 56 years where, if such is your wont, you may learn that Auckland exhibited a mean annual temperature over the preceding period, by then covering nearly six decades and spanning the late 19th into early 20th centuries, of 59.2f (15.1c), while Wellington was decidedly chillier at 55.3f (12.9c).

Alas; those were good ol? days. Nowadays NIWA keeps track and their web site carries a handy list of annual mean temperatures based on a complete weather cycle which the bravest among you may venture to check the malignant influence global warming has had on our little group of islands, you may be able to understand why those of inquiring mind, like Bob Brockie, had to be replaced with a korrect-think drone when you observe the truth with your very own eyes. Almost a century after those earlier readings were collated and set down in print and more than a century-and-a-half of keeping records, Auckland is currently scorching at 15.1c, Wellington in permanent heat-wave at 12.8c.

You do the math, I can?t do everything.

Thanks for the memories; Bob Brockie, and your science. We miss you both already.