Q and A: Michael Lemonick On Global Weirdness, Climate Change, And How To Talk About Science

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Michael Lemonick
Michael Lemonick
Michael Lemonick is a former senior science writer at Time Magazine, the senior staff writer at Climate Central, and the lead author of Global Weirdness, a new book that attempts to lay out, in simple terms, what scientists do and don't know about climate change. We spoke with him this week about climate change and his approach to science journalism.

Why did you write Global Weirdness?

Thomas Friedman wrote this column bemoaning the harsh rhetoric back and forth about climate change -- all the conflicting information people were sending out and how confusing it all was. He said that the world's greatest climate experts should sit down in a room and write a 50-page book that explains what we know and how we know it in language a sixth-grader could understand.

At Climate Central, we were interested, because the idea was very much in keeping our mission, which is to steer clear of rhetoric and hype and be faithful to the science and just talk about what climate science is telling us and be honest about what we don't know and admit uncertainties where they exist.

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Happy Manhattanhenge! Tonight's Sunset Will Align With Manhattan's Street Grid

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Happy Manhattanhenge!

So what the hell is Manhattanhenge, you might ask?

On May 29 and July 12 every year, the sunset lines up with Manhattan's street grid which, as the Hayden Planetarium puts it, simultaneously illuminates "both the north and south sides of every cross street of the borough."

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That "Ring of Fire" Solar Eclipse is Happening Soon, Here Are Live Streams to Watch It

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Forget Mother's Day; or Memorial Day; or Zuckerberg Weekend (what May 18th-20th should be called from now on); or any other important May event. Tonight is the annual solar eclipse and this one, as many astronomists are predicting, could be a rare spectacle to see.

At one point this evening, 80 percent of the Sun will be covered by the black Moon, creating what has been deemed a "ring of fire" because of the image it will provoke. The orb's trajectory over the Pacific, California and most of the West will guarantee great views for that side of the country.

And for the rest of us East Coasters... well, we might get a peek. But, thanks to our good, trust-worthy friends at Fox News, we have a bunch of live streams so no stargazer is left out of the fun. Here's a few to check out:

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Take Cover from the Space Storm! Two Solar Flares Hit Earth, NASA Says

Today's space-weather report tells of a different kind of sunny sky: Two flares, including the second biggest of the Sun's 11-year solar cycle, hit earth early this morning and could cause the biggest solar storm in five years, NASA says.

Now, what the hell does this mean, exactly?

Every so often, a chunk of charged particles -- called a coronal mass ejection -- spirals earthward, which can cause problems with electronic devices.

So, if your GPS, computer, or cell phone is in a funk, it might very well be the Sun's fault.

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Scientists Decode the Complete Genome of Extinct Human Race, Bringing Us One Step Closer to Jurassic Park

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The Leipzig team of genetic scientists has announced that it was able to completely decode the genome of an extinct species of humans, the Denisova, using DNA extracted from a single 10-milligram bone fragment of a 50,000-year-old skeleton. The skeleton was found in Southern Siberia in 2010, and came from a previously unknown human species. The Denisovans, along with the Neanderthals, are the most closely related extinct relatives to modern-day humans.

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Scientists Blame Facebook and Twitter on Animals

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And now for some good news about the human condition: We can't be held fully accountable for the creation of the two horrible timesucks that make social interaction meaningless Facebook and Twitter.

Scientists say that it's the animals' fault -- specifically, smart animals such as dolphins, whales, and monkeys -- that people behave like cliquish dicks online and IRL.

Researchers say that animals actually invented social networks. They also say that the way people behave in online communities is no different than the manner in which these species behave as groups, according to the Daily Mail.

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Higgs Boson's Possible Discovery Announced Tuesday: How to Plan for the Paradigm Shift

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via Wikipedia
A theoretical Higgs boson event or Laser Floyd
On Tuesday, scientists at Cern will reveal the latest results of their search for the elusive Higgs boson particle. Some are expecting the researchers, who have been working at the Large Hadron Collider, to announce that they have found the particle. If they have nailed down the Higgs boson, it'll basically explain why things have mass. If they don't, it means the way many physicists have been explaining the universe has been a bunch of peer-reviewed mumbo jumbo. In the Guardian, theoretical physics professor Jeff Forshaw can barely hold in his excitement: "This means that whatever happens we are going to need to dream up something new about the world."

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Proposed Names for New Elements Released (They're Not Snappy at All)

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If the periodic table were an exclusive club, the International Union of Pure and Applied Chemistry would be the overgrown doorman holding the clipboard. To extend this awkward analogy, over the summer, two new names were added onto the bouncer's list: element 114 and element 116. These two additions were discovered ten years ago, and after a lengthy review by the IUPAC, they have finally been allowed into the periodic table. Now the scientists who discovered the elements by smashing and decaying calcium ions get to name them.

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Narcissistic Jerk-Wads Make the Best Leaders, Study Says

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A study conducted by professors at IMD business school, Penn State, and Erlangen-Nuremberg University has led them to conclude that bosses who display narcissistic qualities often perform better than run-of-the mill executives. Frederick Allen, leadership editor of Forbes, writes that the study found "narcissism and hunger for attention lead to innovation and daring decision-making." In addition, 80% of narcissistic leaders believe that Carly Simon has written a song about them.

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Russian Mars Probe Will Probably be the Latest Thing to Crash into Earth

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via Wikipedia
In September, NASA's UARS satellite plummeted back to Earth, scattering debris over the Pacific Ocean. In October, Germany's ROSAT orbiting telescope reentered our atmosphere and crashed somewhere in Southeast Asia. Following this pattern of space crap falling back to Earth comes Russia's Phobos-Grunt probe, a craft that was intended to land on Mars' moon Phobos, but instead is looking like it won't even make it out of our orbit.

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