Silas Lecture at Georgia Tech


On October 11 (next Wednesday) I am giving the Silas Lecture at Georgia Tech in the Program in Ethics and Leadership. The talk is at 3pm, with refreshments at 2:30. Location is in the College of Computing (Room 016).

Here is my abstract:

What Should Scientists Do When Science Gets Political?

Fracking, climate change, GMOs. These are examples of scientific and technological issues that have become highly polarizing in contemporary American politics. This sets up a challenging situation for scientists and other experts. On the one hand, political conflict is the lifeblood of democratic governance. But on the other hand, political conflict can compromise effective policy making that relies on technical expertise. What roles might experts play in issues that are hyper-politicized? In this talk I’ll draw on research on science in politics as well as my own personal experiences to offer scientists some constructive alternatives for participating effectively in modern democracy while avoiding the pitfalls of politicization.

When Disasters Return


I’ve got a new essay up at Risk Frontiers on the decade-long dearth of weather disasters. An excerpt:

To the extent that people believe that we are presently in an era of large or unusual disasters, many will be in for a shock when large weather disasters again occur. And they will. A simple regression to the mean would imply disasters of a scale not seen worldwide in more than a decade.

Consider that 2005 saw weather disasters totaling 0.5% of global GDP. In 2017, if the world economy totaled $90 trillion (in a round number), then an equivalent amount of 2017 disaster losses to the proportional costs to 2005 GDP would be about $450 billion. That is about equivalent to Hurricane Katrina, Superstorm Sandy, Hurricane Andrew, the 2011 Thailand floods, the 1998 Yangtze floods all occurring in one year plus about $100 billion more in other disaster losses. And there is no reason why we should consider 0.5% of GDP to be an upper limit. Think about that.

Panel on IAAF & Testosterone Regulations

Over the weekend I participated in a panel discussion with Bruce Kidd, University of Toronto professor, and Mianne Bagger, former professional golfer, moderated expertly by Tracey Holmes on her weekly show, the Ticket on ABC News (Australia).

You can hear the discussion here where our discussion starts at minute 7:45. My critique of the recent IAAF study of the effects of testosterone on female athletes, mentioned in the discussion, can be found here.