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Mother Jones today published a second part of the video secretly recorded at a Mitt Romney fundraiser in Boca Raton. The first bombshell will forever be known as "47 percent," but the portion getting attention today focuses on a response the Republican presidential candidate gave to a question about the Israel/Palestine peace process. The tl;dr there: he doesn't believe it'll happen, and intends to "kick the ball down the road" and let the next administration deal with it, or something like that.
But here's a derpworthy moment in the video that may be of interest to science fans, and people who have actually done some reporting on how so-called "dirty bombs" work.
Here's a transcript for the relevant portion of the video:
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I'm not entirely sure what to say about this excerpt from a Washington Examiner interview other than, "*headdesk*".
Mitt Romney: I do believe in basic science. I believe in participating in space. I believe in analysis of new sources of energy. I believe in laboratories, looking at ways to conduct electricity with -- with cold fusion, if we can come up with it. It was the University of Utah that solved that. We somehow can’t figure out how to duplicate it.
I'm putting the entire quote after the jump, so you can get the full context of where this came from. It is worth noting that Romney seems to be referring to the 1989 experiments done by Stanley Pons (who worked for the University of Utah) and Martin Fleischmann. If you've ever dug into that particular bit of history, you'll find it sounds a lot like the arsenic life story from 2010—scientists announce huge news by press conference (in the case of Fleischmann and Pons the press conference happened before the research had even been through peer review); media goes apeshit; other scientists try to replicate the results and the vast majority fail miserably; finally, it eventually becomes clear that the researchers made some big errors in their data analysis and the original conclusions turn out to be incorrect.
Wikipedia has a pretty good breakdown of this history. Another good place to read about Fleischmann and Pons is in Charles Seife's book Sun in a Bottle, which details the history behind why fusion, in general, has long been more hype than happening. There is some good science going on the world of "hot" fusion, and there's some spotty evidence of weird anomalies that might or might not be cold fusion, but Fleischmann's and Pons' work is almost certainly not going to pan out. And, as energy technologies go, cold fusion is not the one most likely to give us the best bang for our buck.
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Science Debate is a group that's working to get political candidates in the United States actually talking publicly about issues of science and technology policy. In 2008, they tried (and failed) to get Barak Obama and John McCain to agree to a live, televised science debate. But they did get both candidates to send in written answers to 14 key questions.
This election cycle, Science Debate sent out a new set of 14 questions—all chosen from a crowdsourced list. Today, they announced that they'd gotten answers back from both Obama and Mitt Romney. You can compare the candidates side-by-side at the Science Debate website. I have to say that, while I disagree with a lot of Romney's conclusions, I was pleasantly surprised by the amount of thought and time his staff clearly put into writing some very long and detailed responses.
Perhaps most surprising was his response to a question about climate change. Instead of attempting to flatly deny the evidence, Mitt Romney has apparently moved on to acknowledging that climate change is happening—while simultaneously overplaying the uncertainty surrounding specific risks, and claiming that even if climate change is a big problem there's nothing we can really do about it anyway ... because China.
Personally, I think that's pretty interesting. Climate scientists, and the journalists who write about them, have been talking, anecdotally, about seeing this exact rhetorical shift happening in conservative circles. It seems that the Republican presidential nominee is now one of the people who acknowledge climate change exists, but would still rather not take any decisive steps to deal with it.
I happen to think that's a dumb position. After all, even if the United States can't stop climate change alone, the kinds of policies that would reduce our dependence on fossil fuels would also help us adapt and thrive despite climate shifts and fossil fuel depletion. But this is still a step in the right direction. As several climate scientists I've spoken with have said, we can disagree on the policy. But it's high time we stop pretending that we can't see the changes happening all around us.
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Rolling Stone reports that the band DEVO "are set to release a track later this month entitled "Don't Roof Rack Me, Bro! (Remember Seamus)." It is inspired by Mitt Romney's notorious road trip from Massachusetts to Ontario, during which he transported the family dog, Seamus, in a kennel strapped to the roof of his station wagon." More at THR. (thanks, GEF)
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