Scientific ‘Tipping Points:’ The Ozone Layer

Scientific theories typically begin as hypotheses.  Controversial issues are often subject to considerable skepticism, and in some cases has to contend with a “counter-narrative” challenge.  We will discuss what might be learned from history's examples to inform the ongoing public controversy over climate change. 

About the Course

Scientific ‘Tipping Points:’ The Ozone Layer

... See more style="font-size:12.0pt;line-height:107%;font-family:'Times New Roman',serif;">Scientific theories typically begin as hypotheses: promising ideas that require a period of refining and testing before they are validated and accepted beyond reasonable doubt.  Controversial issues, especially ones related to public policy, are often subject to considerable skepticism, and in some cases a scientific hypothesis has to contend with a “counter-narrative” challenge.  A significant period of time can elapse before a theory is accepted by the scientific community, and typically even more time elapses before it is accepted by the public.  In a few cases, we can identify a ‘scientific tipping point:’ a single event that causes public opinion to shift towards a final resolution.  As an example, we will review the historic controversy over chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs) and their effect on our atmospheric ozone layer.  We will discuss a hypothesis by Rowland and Molina, and identify two ‘tipping points’ in proving that CFCs posed a danger to the ozone layer.  We will discuss what might be learned from this example to inform the ongoing public controversy over climate change.

Instructors: J. Timothy Londergan is Professor Emeritus of Physics at Indiana University, former Chair of the Physics Dept., Director of the Indiana University Nuclear Theory Center and Director of the Wells Scholars Program.  For the past 50 years he has been doing research in theoretical nuclear physics.  He is currently a member of the Steering Committee for the group Concerned Scientists @ IU, and is co-author, with Steve Vigdor, of a blog on controversial science issues called “Debunking Denial.” He is also the author of a weekly blog on rock music. 

Steven E. Vigdor is Professor Emeritus of Physics at Indiana University and former Associate Director for Nuclear and Particle Physics at Brookhaven National Laboratory. He is the author of Signatures of the Artist: The Vital Imperfections that Make Our Universe Habitable. Dr. Vigdor is an experimental nuclear physicist with 50 years of experience in physics research, a member of the Steering Committee for the group Concerned Scientists @ IU, and co-author with Tim Londergan, of the blog site http://www.debunkingdenial.com? .



Course At-A-Glance

Fee:  $0.00
  Must be 18 or older
  Fee Does Not Include Lunch

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