Fred Singer: 1924-2020 –
By Dr. Lubos Motl
I only learned the sad news today: the A1-class atmospheric physicist Fred Singer died in his sleep (that’s how you want to do it) on April 6th. He was 95.5. I was fortunate to know him closely since 2007.
See Marc Sheppard’s “My Long Good-Bye to S. Fred Singer” in the American Thinker.
He was born to a rather stereotypical Jewish family in Vienna: his mother was a homemaker while his father was a jeweler. During the Anschluss of Austria, he was 14 and eligible for a children’s transport. In England, he became a teenage optician. He emigrated to Ohio, the U.S., and became a U.S. citizen in 1944. But at that moment, he already had his 1943 bachelor degree in electrical engineering. In 1944, he also added A.M. from Princeton University. Think twice about the speed of his academic progress (that took place on the background of those rather serious political and personal events: he would be surely sent to a gas chamber at the moment of his Princeton A.M. degree if he failed to emigrate a few years earlier, compare it with the snowflakes of 2020 who want to get everything for free because they believe that they’re a group that is discriminated against and someone has frowned at them).
He continued at that famous New Jersey school and got his PhD for cosmic ray showers in 1948. You might know some names from his PhD defense committee. Singer’s adviser was John Wheeler and his committee included Niels Bohr and J. Robert Oppenheimer. Nice.
People are very specialized these days. But Fred, the guy whom you could have defined as an optician or a cosmic ray astrophysicist, began to work for the Armed Forces and did mine warfare… and then designed some of the first U.S. satellites in the 1950s. He also fathered numerous projects with satellites and balloons to measure the atmosphere, magnetosphere, meteorites etc. and he was the director of a satellite organization in the 1960s.
Singer was actually the first man who has calculated the correct slowing of atomic clocks loaded on satellites (maybe in this paper?), something that is both a wonderful advanced homework exercise in the general theory of relativity, i.e. theoretical physics par excellence; and essential for the correct operation of the immensely practical GPS satellites. Singer has also written over 200 scientific articles, you can imagine that.
Singer started to produce some ideas that looked provoking to others already in 1960, like the artificial Phobos theory that has excited the terrestrial friends of the extraterrestrial aliens. He became a natural fountain of provoking ideas. Most prominently, Singer became one of the most famous climate skeptics.
In 1994 (note that he was clearly an early participant of the climatological polemics), he authored the book “Unstoppable global warming: every 1500 years”. That book was updated in 2006. In 2009, he created the NIPCC panel – sadly, the brainwashed population knows more the corrupt and pseudoscientific “IPCC” reports than the correct and impartial NIPCC. Check the NIPCC website with all those 900-page-long reports. In the original 2009 NIPCC report (full, 868 pages), I was invited to become one of the 30-40 official authors. Surely Fred wanted to lower the average age and add some underrepresented regions, so I have partly played a similar role as African girls play in the IPCC.
We first met in Washington D.C. in February 2007, during events organized by (then) Czech president Václav Klaus who gave his first lectures in the U.S. after this blog sort of promoted his views on the climate. I chatted with Fred for half an hour while we were in the CATO Institute. He told me many interesting things. It also became very clear that he was very skeptical about other things – such as the claims that the second-hand smoking was harmful; the regulations of freons were needed to save us from the ozone hole, and more. I was surprised by some of those opinions but 13 years later, I find it plausible that he was right in all these topics and it was me who was partly brainwashed by pseudoscience, like most of the people.
We also met in Prague in the following years a few times (and exchanged many e-mails). For example, some staff gave a tour through some semi-secret places of the Prague Castle for the two of us. With Fred Singer, another true scientific achiever who could still preserve his integrity and independence – unlike the spineless opportunists who have been actively promoted for years – has left us.