Monday, August 25, 2008


I will be taking a break through Labor Day.

Enjoy the rest of August....

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Bigfoot was a Hoax

Bigfoot was just a hoax -- of course. A rubber suit. Some researchers turned over an undisclosed sum for the "carcass" in ice. (It'd be interesting to know the amount of money, but I'm sure it's disclosure is protected by a nondisclosure clause, and by amply protection for the Georgia charlatans that they were absolved of all liability.

If you're looking for at least a small bit of justice, here it is:
On Tuesday, Clayton County Police Chief Jeff Turner said he has not spoken to
Whitton but processed paperwork to fire him.
"Once he perpetrated a fraud, that goes into his credibility and integrity," Turner said. "He has violated the duty of a police officer."
What's really sad is that these guys could do it all again in 2 years, and I suspect they'd get just as much attention then as they got now.

Monday, August 18, 2008

Hadley July temperature anomaly

The Hadley Center is out with their July global temperature anomaly: +0.389°C. That's the fourth in a upward trend:

April: +0.272°C
May: +0.280°C
June: +0.314°C
July: +0.389°C

Bishop Hill and the Jesus paper

I don't have a lot to say about "Bishop Hill's" alleged history of the Hockey Stick Affair.
  1. The first thing that jumps out at me is that Bishop Hill reconstructed his account from Climate Audit.
    It's a long tale - and the longest posting I think I've ever written and piecing it together from the individual CA postings has been a long, hard but fascinating struggle.
    Therefore it seems it must have an inherent bias. You just can't reply on a single source and expect to uncover the truth.
  2. I'm a journalist, not a historian, so I only write first drafts. But if reporting in the swamps of climate change science has taught me anything, it's that nothing is ever quite what it seems and there are always reasons on top of reasons and questions on top of questions. I suppose that's true of any good science story, or any good story at all. I'd need to spend weeks deconstructing this to be sure, for myself, that it was all real.
  3. There are just too many other reconstructions that give the hockey stick result.
  4. How can we take this "Bishop Hill" guy seriously if he won't even sign his real name to his work?
Those were fun times, huh! But life moves on.

Sunday, August 17, 2008

Bigfoot Conference

Here's a video of Friday's "bigfoot" conference in San Jose on Friday. (Not the highest quality.)

It's not very impressive, and intends, it seems, mostly to string anyone along. Most improbably is the claim that they found the body in early June -- who in their right mind would sit on a "discovery" like this for 2 months. They say they have it in a freezer. The last, least talkative guy, talked about filling the freezer up with water. That's how how you freeze something in a freezer. Tom Biscardi cuts in to correct/clarify.

What's their angle--profiteering off the documentary Biscardi says he's making?

PS: These guys have been caught in more than one lie in recent months....

Tipping Point

The Wall Arch in Utah's Arches National Park: there one day, gone the next.


Micheal Phelps, blah blah. By far the most impressive performance in the Olympics has came from Usain Bolt in the 100 meters: 9.69 seconds, smashing the previous world record of 9.72 sec. What's really impressive is how he did it -- he was one of the last out of the blocks, and he stopped running at about 85 meters and coasted the rest of the way in, not even pumping his arms, and pounding on his chest before the finish line. He could have broken 9.6 if he'd kept running. (I thought that was the first thing trained into sprinters?)

He's only been running the hundred for a year.

Saturday, August 16, 2008


This is incredible: a religious pastor gets to spend an hour with each Presidential candidate and ask them whatever he wants, and there is not -- at least, not in any of the coverage I've read -- not one question on the Iraq war or the morality of what we're doing there or the 50,000 - 655,000 civilians deaths we've caused there, not to mention suffering that can't even begin to be quantified.

No one question.

You'd think a religious pastor would care a little bit about that. I guess not, as long as the gays don't get to marry.


The physics of the 21st century is looking very different than the past:

Suspicious Graphs

This is something suspicious about this graph that Marlo Lewis gave on Planet Gore last week:

The red and orange lines are predicted by IPCC models with standard economic scenarios. The yellow line is the IPCC prediction with no further emissions, just committed warming. The blue and green lines are actual temperature data.

Except the IPCC lines are smoothed, decadal predictions (see IPCC WG1 4AR Appendix 3.A p 336). The actual temperature data appear to be yearly results, not decadally smoothed. You can't compare them at all.

I wonder how this chart would look if the actual data were decadally smoothed as well.

Friday, August 15, 2008

The Hypoxic Green Revolution

Conservatives and Libertarians delight in extolling the virtues of Norman Borlaug, the so-called "father" of the green revolution and Nobel Peace Prize recipient. (See Ron Bailey, Virginia Postrel, Glenn Reynolds, etc.) And there is little doubt that Bourland and his agronomy methods have indeed feed millions who would have other wise starved.

So where are these luminaries now that we're seeing the downside of Bourlang's experiments? exponential growth in hypoxic (oxygen-starved) zones around the world? Not as glamorous or press-worthy.

The world is far more complex than we have ever thought, and, as Jackson Browne would say, nobody rides for free. I with environmentalism could somehow be divorced by politics, but I suppose that will never happen.


That Bigfoot claim -- sure, it sent a 0.07 millisecond chile up your spine, until you started to look at the actual circumstances. (1) redneck guys (2) won't shot the body (3) DNA yadda yadda (4) sent your purported DNA through the mail (6) won't say exactly where it came from (7) won't bring in legitimate scientists to examine it (8) hook-up with a Bigfoot huckster (9) dole out your "findings" at the slowest rate possible (10) claim you're receiving death threats....

I mean, could it get any more comical?

And, of course, Bigfoot isn't going to be found in the northern Georgia mountains, but somewhere here in the Pacific Northwest, Oregon or Washington.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Bicycle Power

Here's how you do it: a fitness center opening up in Portland will use its stationary bikes to generate electricity. Four bikes will be attached to generators and produce 200 to 600 watts (if someone is on them), which will be stored in a battery and used when possible. Gives a new meaning to "keeping the lights on."

Hubble's Constant

I was working with Hubble's constant last night -- 70.1 km/s/Mpc, the expansion rate of the universe, and realized it could also be written as
2.15 cm/s per light-year
which is amusing but probably useless, except it does show you how huge the universe is if a star 2 ly away is only receding 2 cm/s faster than a star one ly away.

Also, did you know the term "Big Bang" was originally intended as an insult of the model (by Fred Hoyle). It stuck on.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Ethanol vs. Food

I didn't realize ethanol was this food intensive:
The amount of corn that it takes to produce a 20 gallon tank of ethanol could feed one person for an entire year,” Reason magazine Science Correspondent Ronald Bailey says.
I suspect he means 20 gallons of straight ethanol, but of course it's blended with gasoline in a ratio of 1 to 4-10.

The ethanol problem is a good example of what's coming down the road: climate change is such a huge civilizational problem that any attempt to ameliorate it has (several) unexpected consequences.

Antarctic Webcam

The U.S. Antarctic program has a Web cam in Antarctica, at the Amundsen-Scott South Pole Station. Except right now it's too cold to operate it.

In case you were wondering, the temperature there now (5 pm PDT) is -92°F, with a wind chill of -138°F.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Second-hand Smoke

I hate smoking more than anyone -- trust me -- but this kind of conclusion is completely absurd:
The presence of a bunch of adults dedicated to abstaining from alcohol and drugs might seem like an unusual source of blight -- but some Los Angeles City Council members say that it poses a real threat to the quality of life in many neighborhoods.

An influx of sober-living homes has so affected some areas, city officials say, that children can't play outside in the evening because of second-hand smoke from recovering addicts' cigarettes and the adult nature of their 12-step conversations in backyards.
Come on. This is talking about second-hand smoke in an outdoor environmen, subject to considerable wafts. But it's simple common sense that no outdoor area is going to be so inundated with 2nd-hand smoke as to render its use impossible. You don't even need meters to measure this -- it's prima facie absurd.

So why does the LA City Council get to get away with this. And why does the press let them?

Mt. Washington Hotel, Carroll, NH

Mt. Washington Hotel, Carroll, NH:

Monday, August 11, 2008

Global Cooling is Over

NEWSFLASH: Global cooling has come to an end* -- NASA GISS says last month was the 5th warmest July in their recorded history: +0.51°C above the long-term average (1951 - 1980).

* "Skeptic logic" applied.

Sunday, August 10, 2008

Free Software

Microsoft is giving away free software -- and the programs are useful:
  • MS Visual Basic 2008 Express Edition
  • MS Visual Web Developer 2008 Express Edition
  • MS Visual C# 2008 Express Edition
  • MS Visual C++ 2008 Express Edition
You can download them here:

Saturday, August 09, 2008

Prepare for 4 C

The UK's Chief Scientist for their Department for Environment, Food, and Rural Affairs (DEFRA), Tom Watson, says EU goals are probably unrealistic and we need to prepare for a 4°C increase in world temperatures. That's an incredible 7°F.

The UK's former chief scientific advisor, David King, says
"My own feeling is that if we get to a 4 degree rise it is quite possible that we would begin to see a runaway increase."

John Edwards

Sometime around 2003 I saw John Edwards in a deli in Portsmouth, New Hamphire. He was, like famous people often are, shorter than you expected, and there was a kind of inaudible buzz that surrounded him and his people that extended through the building. He didn't quite seem real.

I liked him for President then, and I liked him more this year. He seemed one of the few people talking about the increase in inequality in this country and the people who are being left behind. Maybe it was all just campaign shtick, I don't know. Who ever knows about politics.

I'm not terribly disappointed that he had an extramarital affair, except to the extent that it probably rules him out as a member of an Obama Administration or a candidate for any future election. Yes, he told bald-faced lies. Who hasn't, especially when it comes to intimate matters? Yes, what he did was immoral. Something like 50% of all American adults have had affairs, and that's probably on the low side because many won't admit it. So who are we to judge?

I don't think someone has to have a pristine personal life in order to make decisions about our country and its policies. In fact, an unmessy life might well lack the foibles, mistakes, and vicissitudes that lead to reflection and wisdom. They shouldn't be liars, of course. But they all are, whether about sex or religion or any number of things people in power must deal with. But we all tell lies, of one degree or another, at one time or another.

I blame the American court of public opinion as much as Edwards, and especially the salacious media. Who probably just reflect society at large. Let he who is without sin cast the first stone, and all that. Why insist our politicians be morally perfect? Hypocrites like Larry Craig, who publically oppose what they do in private, are something else, especially when what they oppose is needed for the public good and they claim their position comes from some kind of inherent righteousness. But anything Edwards did is between him and his family and his mistress.

This and tire gauges and $400 runway haircuts are just a way for the media to get eyeballs without having to do real work and investigative journalism and ask tough questions. It is the same old shit. It is discouraging when, after some years, you realize it is never going to change.

Thursday, August 07, 2008

Beijing smog

Here's a look at the smog in Beijing today:

The Chinese's own air pollution index is at 95, a somewhat high value, especially for recent days. (I don't think anyone thinks the Chinese are accurately reporting their air quality anyway.) On the Chinese scale, this is a "Blue Sky day." (The U.S. would rank it "unhealthy for everyone.")

Chinese authorities prefer to call this "fog."

International Olympic Committee president Jacques Rogge was a master of obfuscation today:
“The fog you see is based on the basis of humidity and heat. It does not mean to say that this fog is the same as pollution. It can be pollution, but the fog doesn’t mean necessarily that it is pollution. Of course, we prefer clean skies, but the most important thing is the health of the athletes being protected.”
Baghad Bob could not have done better.

UK Kingsworth protest

Saturday, August 9th is the big day of civil disobedience in the UK -- the Climate Camp gathered there is going to try and take over the Kingsnorth coal fired power station for the day. (It's about an hour north of London.)

The organizers say there will be thousands there, but I think that remains to be seen. Their dispatches say the local police have been giving them a pretty difficult time, sweeping the camp and taking even basic things like water purifiers and flashlights.

Should be interesting. I respect them for at least doing...something.

Cascade Snowpack and AGW

A new paper from the University of Washington is getting some attention here in the Pacific Northwest:

A New Look at Snowpack Trends in the Cascade Mountains
Mark T. Stoelinga1, Mark D. Albright, and Clifford F. Mass

Basically it finds that the snowpack in the Cascade Mountains is influenced more by the northern Pacific Ocean than by greenhouse gas warming (and that the Pacific NW as a region is more influenced by its proximity to the Pacific Ocean and will not warm as much as the global average).
Key results are that the linear trend in the April 1 Cascade Mountain snowpack during the period 1930‐2007 was found to be ‐23%, although this trend does not quite meet a statistical significance threshold because of large interannual and interdecadal variability. The trend during the period 1950‐1997 (used by previous investigators) was found to be a statistically significant ‐48%. However, this trend is reduced to a statistically insignificant ‐14% when the part of the snowpack time series that correlates with an index of natural decadal variability of the north Pacific Ocean is removed. The observed Cascade snowpack actually shows a slight positive trend during the most recent 3 decades of rapid global warming, though this result does not achieve statistical significance due to the large annual variability in snowpack.
The paper is not yet peer-reviewed, but submitted to the Journal of Climate. Of course, it is already being politicized, with right wingers claiming (again) this is a disproof of anthropogenic global warming. It is not, as the authors make clear in their paper (p. 25).

Wednesday, August 06, 2008




McCain boldly comes out for car rim protection:
"I agree with the American Automobile Association. We should all inflate our tires."
Next up: should the government recommend you wear shoes when walking on broken glass?


According to the latest issue of the Journal of Happiness Studies (yes, there really is a journal with that name):
"Happiness does not heal, but happiness protects against falling ill. As a result, happy people live longer. The size of the effect on longevity is comparable to that of smoking or not. This is concluded from an analysis of 30 follow-up studies published in the latest issue of the Journal of Happiness Studies (September 2008)."
The journal is peer-reviewed. I suppose the reviewers must be pre-screened as happy.

Other findings in this issue:
  • Serene isolation no ticket to happiness today
  • Confucianist advice more apt than Buddhist
  • Do not follow Schopenhauer’s advice to forego marriage
Not surprisingly, this journal gets a lot of press coverage.

Monday, August 04, 2008

SpaceX launch

Here's an interesting video of the pre-launch, launch, and post-launch of the SpaceX Falcon 1 rocket this past Saturday -- Elon Musk's company (he founded PayPal, and sold it for $1.5B.) The rocket stages failed to separate and the space craft was lost about 3 minutes after launch. It was carrying the cremated remains of 207 people, including Star Trek's "Scotty" (James Doohan). I guess he above all would realize that there was nothing certain about the launch.

Sunday, August 03, 2008

Elephants headed toward extinction?

The African elephant population today is estimated at 470,000, down from one million in the 1980s. Their death rate from poaching is estimated at 8% a year, for their ivory. The extinction date of wild herds is estimated to be 2020 -- all that will remain are elephants in enclosed spaces with sufficient security.

The illegal ivory trade is being carried out mostly by large crime syndicates, Wasser believes, and is being driven by growing markets in China and Japan, where ivory is in demand for carvings and signature stamps called hankos.

In addition, in the last few years demand has risen sharply in the United States, where much of the ivory is used to make knife handles and gun grips. In fact, a May report from the Care for the Wild International, a not-for-profit British natural protection organization, ranks the U.S. second behind China as a marketplace for illegal ivory.

There is something about an extinction of elephants that seems like a watershed event. Yes, I know we are in an age of anthropogenic extinction, and species are dying out every day. But elephants...that seems a little different somehow. They're not like some shy vole or uncommon butterfly. They're elephants. We love seeing them. They're beautiful and fascinating and obviously social and smart, and yet we can't even seem to find it among ourselves to halt and reverse their extinction. And if we can't do it for elephants, what would we possibly do it for?

Friday, August 01, 2008

Alive in Joberg by Neill Blomkamp

Since seeing this short film I've thought more about it than practically any full-length movie I've seen in months:

Via: The Portland Mercury