Sunday, November 30, 2008


Tomorrow is the beginning of a 12-day meeting in Poznan, Poland on the climate -- the "14th Session of Conference to the Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change."

The UN says, yet again, that this will be a "milestone on the road to success" embarked on by the Bali conference (COP 13, Dec 2007), to COP 15 (Dec, 2009) in Copenhagen, at which the negotiations are supposed to conclude.

I guess. At this point it's nearly impossible to separate out what is diplomatic preening and actual intent. Nothing serious, of course, has yet been done about climate change, yet the diplomats seem very sure they're making process -- at least, that's their story and they're sticking to it. But it strikes me as akin to the perpetual dieter who says, OK, tomorrow I'm definitely going to start my diet, and this time I really mean it. Just after I eat this pizza.

I suppose it takes a certain kind of mindset to be a diplomat, and I'm sure I don't have it. The current economic crisis has many countries saying this isn't the right time to be cutting emissions.
Yvo de Boer, head of the UN Climate Change Secretariat, predicts that participant countries will invoke all kinds of reasons to avoid making changes, citing their monetary difficulties. (Softpedia News).
Maybe everyone is just waiting until Bush leaves office. What will the excuse be then?

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Atheism and Economic Calamity

What caused the current economic crisis? Atheists, secularists, and the fact that we can't say "Merry Christmas" anymore. I kid you not. This sound piece of critical thinking actually appears in the Wall Street Journal.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

NOAA has a press release out this morning about the 2008 hurricane season -- it was more active than usual:
...a season that produced a record number of consecutive storms to strike the United States and ranks as one of the more active seasons in the 64 years since comprehensive records began....

The storms included [16 named storms], eight hurricanes, five of which were major hurricanes at Category 3 strength or higher. An average season has 11 named storms, six hurricanes and two major hurricanes.

“This year’s hurricane season continues the current active hurricane era and is the tenth season to produce above-normal activity in the past 14 years,” said Gerry Bell, Ph.D., lead seasonal hurricane forecaster at NOAA's Climate Prediction Center.

Bell attributes this year’s above-normal season to conditions that include:

  • An ongoing multi-decadal signal. This combination of ocean and atmospheric conditions has spawned increased hurricane activity since 1995.
  • Lingering La Niña effects. Although the La Niña that began in the Fall of 2007 ended in June, its influence of light wind shear lingered.
  • Warmer tropical Atlantic Ocean temperatures. On average, the tropical Atlantic was about 1.0 degree Fahrenheit above normal during the peak of the season.

Monday, November 24, 2008

Involuntary Microchipping

I don't know if anyone has proposed a law that says something like "any technology that can be abused will be abused," but if there is not such a law there should be. This proposal falls into that category:

Indonesian AIDS patients face microchip monitoring

...legislator John Manangsang said by implanting small computer chips beneath the skin of "sexually aggressive" patients, authorities would be in a better position to identify, track and ultimately punish those who deliberately infect others with up to six months in jail or a $5,000 fine.

Of course, as always, they claim there is a dire need for such violations:
"The health situation is extraordinary, so we have to take extraordinary action," said another lawmaker, Weynand Watari, who envisions radio frequency identification tags like those used to track everything from cattle to luggage.

This is exactly the way these things start. Once you start looking around you can find all kinds of good reasons for chipping people -- how about fighting terrorism? Protecting children from kidnapping (until the kidnappers gouge the chip out, at least)? Infectious diseases? Then people say, look, Indonesia does it and it doesn't seem to be a big problem....

I can foresee a black market for chip extraction. Though they'll make that illegal too.

Friday, November 21, 2008

Ricky Gervais Fame - Eskimo's and Global Warming

Bush Cooling?

Today's meme seems to be: the planet has cooled during George Bush's regime.

This conclusion seems based on the following graph, which has been around for a month or two now:

I first saw this graph on a post of Lorne Gunter at the National Post in Canada (who I consider and extremely biased, unreliable source on climate change news and analysis). I asked him how it was derived -- how the trend line was calculated-- but he didn't respond. Nor has anyone else I've asked since.

It looks very suspicious to me: the graph dips awfully suddenly in the last two years, while not lurching upward at all during the El Nino warm period circa 1997-99. Until I see this calculation, I simply can't believe it.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Sci Am article

I have an article in the Dec 08 issue of Scientific American: Planck Satellite Mission Set to Explore Cosmic Secrets, about the European satellite that will launch this spring and zero-in on most cosmological parameters, including distinguishing among models of inflation.

"Inflation" is the extremely fast expansion -- exponential -- of the Universe that occurred very early on -- at about 10-35 seconds after the Big Bang.

Yes, it does seem absurd to talk about such times. But, amazingly, today's particle physics does in fact predict such an expansion, and when it's probed deep it predicts quite precise values for some very subtle and esoteric parameters, such as the "spread" of values of the fluctuations from the norm of the cosmic microwave background.

In essence, the Universe is like a big old fire, now extinguished, whose heat has all rushed out to the extreme edges of what we can detect. We can look at this heat and determine that its temperature is about 3 Kelvins: -454°F.

But, like any piece of heat, the remnants of this fire are not monothilic, but has variations in it, fluctuations, just like if you look at an ember in a firepit and see it glow in one basic color but with some variations -- a bit hotter, then a bit cooler, always in flux.

These variations have been measured by satellites already launched, and they have found that the variations are quite small. But NOT zero. They're only about 10 parts per million --a very tiny part of the average temperature -- like looking at a big group of humans and detecting variations in height of 20 microns or so. In othr words, very small.

But, amazingly, today's satellites have measured these fluctuations, and today's high-energy particle theories have predicted it. And they are in surprising agreement. People, like George Smoot of LBL, have won the Nobel Prize for precisely this. It is an immense achievement, both intellectually and practically.

But thereare still more details to be rung out of the cosmic microwave background, and this is what the Planck mission will do. This will enable theorists to distinguish among competing theories of "inflation."

It is, when you think about it, quite amazing. Measurements of extremely small features of the universe -- glowing embers in a huge fire -- will enable scientists to determine which of their cosmological models make sense. Cosmology has truly been one of the greatest boones to modern physics.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

NASA Recomputes

NASA GISS has recomputed their October temperature anomaly: +0.58°C.
  • That's warmer than last October (+0.53°C), so those silly people who look at short-term statistics must now conclude that the globe is warming again.
  • This is the fourth warmest October since records began, all of them since 2003.
  • Year-to-date, this is (so far) the 9th warmest year on record, all of the larger once being since 1998.
  • I'm sure skeptics will find some statistical combination that will allow them to still claim global cooling.
UPDATE: GISS has adjusted its October number to +0.55°C. (Such adjustments take place all the time, even many months in the past.) All the above still holds.

Naval Sonar

Somehow I think this decision would have been different if there were more cetaceans on the Supreme Court.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Temperature Data

I have been out of it for awhile.... but I see that NASA GISS posted a large temperature anomaly of +0.78°C for the month of October, only to take it back a day later when several people pointed out that the October data for many stations in Russia were the same as those of September.... (As posted, it would have been the 4th warmest month of all time.)

Which is, frankly, a good catch. Props to the collective journalistic effort of the blogosphere. We need more of that (including when temperatures are reported as very low; but this is probably unlikely, just due to basic human nature).

Of course, correcting data is as old as science itself. It is a fundamental part of science, and won't ever, ever go away. Science doesn't proclaim the truth -- it zeros in on it.

Still, though, suspicious things are going on. Anthony Watts at Watt's Up With That says that the NASA GISS data set is no longer reliable:

But, of course (and you know what's coming next) it was reliable enough a mere nine months ago when he used it to show "global cooling":
The GISS ΔT was -.75°C, which is larger than the satellite data from UAH ∆T of -.588°C and the RSS RSS ∆T of -.629°C

GISS January Land-Sea Anomaly
click for larger image

The ΔT of -.75°C from January 2007 to January 2008 appears to be the largest single year to year January drop for the entire GISS data set.

This is yet one more indication of the intensity of planet-wide cooler temperatures seen in January 2008, particularly in the Northern Hemisphere, which has seen record amounts of snow coverage extent as well as new record low surface temperatures in many places.
This is just one more example of what can only be considered intellectual dishonesty by some of the skeptics, which we have seen before.

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

Letter to the Editor

This letter to the NY Times sums it all up very neatly:
To the Editor:

That day has dawned, the day dreamed of by the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., when a man is judged by the content of his character rather than by the color of his skin....

(Rev.) Connell J. Maguire
Riviera Beach, Fla., Nov. 4, 2008


Inhofe is reelected to the Senate. Just to keep things interesting.

Tuesday, November 04, 2008

Obama Wins

It's 10:03 pm EST, and ABC News says Obama has 207 electoral votes. He needs 270 to win, and is bound to win California (55), Oregon (7), and Washington (11). That will give him a minimum of 280 EVs.

It's over. Obama has won.


I am relieved. Earlier in the evening it looked closer than I expected, in Virginia, and in Indiana.

I am happy to see Shaheen win in NH, and, as a godless atheist scumbag, Dole lose in NC.


Simply put, I thought that if McCain were elected this country would be effectively had the fork stuck in its ass -- further down the dark path, hopelessly far right-wing, hopelessly militaristic, nationalistic, reactionary, anti-intellectual, anti-science, soon to be bankrupt, corporations controlling absolutely everything, privacy at serious risk, perhaps even religious diversity, the Constitution even more of a ripped mess that it is after these last horrible eight years.

Obama at least represents hope. Some hope. I'm enormously proud that my country elected an African-American to the presidency. Frankly, I never thought I'd see it. A page has definitely turned.

But the US is a big ship and does not turn around easily. I thought Clinton & Gore represented hope in 1992, but they turned out to be a big disappointment and in may ways just more of the same -- run by corporations and their donations and their influence, overtly political at any cost, and self-indulgent to the point of self-destruction.

Every four years everyone thinks things are going to change big-time -- and yet things hardly change that much. A little forward, a little back. Why should this be any different?

I don't think the vast right-wing conspiracy (of course, it exists) will work any less hard during an Obama presidency. Can he hold all that off? He has the dignity and coolness to possibly do it. It won't be easy. It's not like we're out of any woods.

But Obama is clearly unique, like, I imagine, JFK was. Some things about him still worry me. His opposition to same-sex marriage, which surely he knows is an unjust position, is, I hope, based on political survival and thus reversible when the time is right. I'm disappointed at the extent to which he injects religion into his own attitude about governing, but perhaps that is only political survival too.

On health care, which is by far the most important issue to me, I think he is disappointing. I can't see him overcoming the huge corporate medical block. The number of uninsured will probably decrease under his presidency, but even he admits that not everyone will be covered. Single, childless, self-employed, pre-existing conditions, I fully expect to be one of them, and that angers me deeply.

Some of the things I saw in the election certainly make me worry about mankind, but I suppose all elections have been like this.

Anyway, I guess this is a start. Finally.

Has Global Warming Stopped?

Christopher Monckton has a little item out titled "Global Warming Has Stopped." It's the usual chart, starting at 2002:

Here's why I think this is just simply wrong. If you plot the globally average temperature (I'm using the NASA GISS data series) since, say, 1990, you get:

Red bars are monthly temperatures in Celsius; the yellow line is the 5-year moving average.

If you think global warming has stopped in recent years, just because the yellow line is flat for the last couple of years, then why wouldn't you have drawn the same conclusion in 1997, 2002, and 2005 (especially 1997)?

You would have. But obviously you would have wrong each time, as global temperatures resumed moving upward after each period.

So what is unique about this latest pause? Nothing. So you can't say "global warming has stopped."

NOTE: This is essentially the same argument made by Bill Chameides. Monckton accuses him of being "dishonest" and accusing him of tampering with the data.

Monday, November 03, 2008

Springsteen Reloaded

I'm sorry, but this is funny:

See more Pete Hulne videos at Funny or Die

The EAS Has Landed

I called NASA, and they said the ISS's EAS (ammonia tank) came down last night and landed in the ocean between Australia and New Zealand.

Heads Up

Last year the International Space Station threw some junk overboard -- a 635 kg, refrigerator-size ammonia tank -- and last night it came back to Earth. Somewhere. No news yet that I can find of where it landed.

NASA predicted it could have come down in as many as 15 pieces (the largest being 18 kg), impacting the Earth at about 100 mi/hr.

If you find something strange in your front yard, first take a picture, second send it to me, and third call NASA.

PS: Much, much larger things have fallen out of orbit.

Sunspots Again

After some months of puzzling quiescence, the first sunspots of Solar Cycle 24 are beginning to appear -- four in the past month. says:
In a year of almost no sunspots, four is significant. It means that the sun is beginning a slow ascent out of solar minimum to a more active phase of the sunspot cycle. Solar minimum is not a permanent condition!
You can't keep a good Sun down.

Sunday, November 02, 2008

How I Voted

President: Barack Oback (D)
US Senator: Jeff Merkley (D)
US Represenative: David Wu (D)

There are other races, but these are the most important.