Our correspondent R****** L****** was surfing the BBC website and found this article in the Science and Nature section. It's written by Victoria Gill, who apparently is a "science reporter" for BBC News, though frankly we're not sure she'd recognise a science if she trod in it ....
Polar bears have shrunk over the last century, according to research. Scientists compared bear skulls from the early 20th Century with those from the latter half of the century. Their study, in the Journal of Zoology, describes changes in size and shape that could be linked to an increase in pollution and the reduction in sea ice. Physical "stress" caused by pollutants in the bears' bodies, and the increased effort needed to find food, could limit the animals' growth, the team said.
The researchers used the skulls as indicators of body size. The skulls from the later period were between two and 9% smaller. "Because the ice is melting, the bears have to use much more energy to hunt their prey," explained Cino Pertoldi, professor of biology from Aarhus University and the Polish Academy of Science, and lead scientist in this study. "Imagine you have two twins - one is well fed during its growth and one is starving. (The starving) one will be much smaller, because it will not have enough energy to allocate to growth."
(Cor, thank goodness he had the foresight to give us that penetrating analogy, otherwise we might not have understood the really challenging scientific concept that creatures might not grow so big if they don't have enough to eat. I mean, we aren't scientists, are we, so we must be incredibly thick and need patronising all the time - GOS)
The team, which included colleagues from Aarhus University's Department of Arctic Environment, also found shape differences between the skulls from the different periods. This development was slightly more mysterious, said Dr Pertoldi. He explained that it was not possible to determine the cause, but that the changes could be linked to the environment - more specifically to pollutants that have built up in the Arctic, and in the polar bears' bodies.
The aim of the study was to compare two groups of animals that lived during periods when sea ice extent and pollution levels were very different. The pollutants that the scientists focused on were compounds containing carbon and halogens - fluorine, chlorine, bromine or iodine. Some of these compounds have already been phased out, but many still have important uses in industry. These include solvents, pesticides, refrigerants, adhesives and coatings.
The changes, the team says, could also be related to a reduction in the genetic diversity of the species. Hunting over the last century, said Dr Pertoldi, could have depleted the gene pool, leaving polar bears to suffer the effects of inbreeding. "We also know from previous studies that some chlorinated chemical pollutants have affected the fertility of the females," he continued.
Rune Dietz from Aarhus University was another member of the research team. He explained that he and his colleagues had already determined a link between man-made "persistent organic pollutants" and reduced bone mineral density in polar bears - which could leave the animals vulnerable to injury and to the bone disease osteoporosis.
The collection of almost 300 polar bear skulls was provided by the Zoological Museum of Copenhagen in Denmark. Christian Sonne, a veterinary scientist from Aarhus University who worked with the team, said that this provided a unique and "fantastic sample", providing a window into the bears' development over a whole century. During that time, he said, concentrations of many man-made pollutants in the Arctic have significantly increased.
He said: "Polar bears are one of the most polluted mammals on the globe."
R****** L****** had this to add: "I love the fact that these “scientists” use non-scientific arguments to support their claims. “It is not possible to determine the cause (of their misshapen heads) but that the changes could be linked to the environment”? Using the same logic, the shape of their heads could equally be influenced by the hot air being spewed out by all the pseudo-scientists visiting the polar regions.
I particularly love the fact that they have used the skulls of 300 dead polar bears to demonstrate that their numbers are being depleted. Perhaps if we stopped chopping the heads off the poor creatures, they would be better off? Well, 300 better off, anyway".
The GOS has a theory about scientists. Everyone thinks they deal in facts, and evidence, and things that can be proved. But actually, they spend the bulk of their time indulging in flights of imagination that would beggar the average children's novelist.
Take this story, for instance: some polar bear skulls are found to be larger than present day bears', and of a different shape. Do they look for evidence to show why this might be? Do they make a big list of all the things it might be, and then cross them off as the evidence comes in? Do they realise that it might be sensible to check some facts before making announcements?
Do they buggery. "Polar bears are getting smaller? Quick, pass me the phone! The Daily Mail needs to hear about this!"
And the reason for this disastrous change in a species that is so essential to the entire planet? Well, obvious, isn't it? It's got to be our fault. It's got to be something to do with man-made global warming, or pollution, or plastic bags or something. Never mind that there isn't the tiniest bit of evidence or logic to support this view, it'll look good in the newspapers and it won't do the scientists' funding any harm next year. Never mind that the earth isn't actually getting warmer, but colder. Never mind that geologically we're in the middle of a bloody ice age. Never mind that the Arctic was a damn sight warmer in the 1930s than it is now (hmm, now there's a thought: isn't that not so far removed from the time when the skulls were collected?). Never mind that polar bears aren't suffering at all, but flourishing.
Look, if all you have to do to be a scientist and get your name in the papers is observe something and then invent a completely hypothetical scare story to go with it, then the GOS is a bloody scientist. Here's a logical explanation for the smaller polar bear skulls: the bears are smaller because the seals they eat are smaller. And it has nothing to do with Al Gore or poisonous carbon. The seals are smaller because they live on fish, and somebody's eaten all the damn fish. Us, actually.
See? Brilliant theory: logical, fits the facts, and best of all, it's still our fault!
Interested universities, just drop an email to this website and we'll let you know the address to send the honorary degree to. But it has to be a doctorate at the very least. We do have standards, you know. We're scientists, us.
either on this site or on the World Wide Web.
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