Wednesday, June 30, 2010
The Reality of Handguns
Tuesday, June 29, 2010
>> Citizen science as the new skepticism?
> Over at Keith’s, I got engaged in a discussion with Judith Curry and
> others about the well educated skeptics who self identify as ”auditors”
> of climate science. She claims that
this group is definitely interested in moving the science forward.
I don't agree with this at all. When Steve McIntyre and other "auditors" spend as much time (or even any time) "auditing" the many fallacious claims in climate science as they do those of Mann (esp) et al, then I'll begin to believe it. But I don't see it at all.
Standing Up to Power
"The video operators are under strict instructions from FIFA not to replay controversial calls on the stadium screens, but they have done so on numerous occasions during this tournament."
-- NY Times
Sunday, June 27, 2010
How About More Officials?
There are only two referees on the field, which is huge (64 m x 100 m). By contrast, an American football field is 53 1/3 yd x 100 yd (48.8 m x 91.4 m), or only 70% as big. For important matches why doesn't FIFA include a couple of extra referees, especially one positioned near each goal?
It must be very difficult to be a soccer referee and be running up and down the field, expected to make important calls while you're doing it. Even the Americans put two extra umpires on the field for playoff and World Series games.
Flight Through a Mandelbox
You probably have heard about fractals -- "self-similar" objects where, no matter how closely you look at it, it still looks the same. The simplest is perhaps the Koch curve (although this picture is only 3-rd order and how not been divided infinitely many times, as a real fractal is):
Fractals were discovered by Benoit Mandelbrot sometime in the 1970s, and they have truly become useful in science. (I heard Mandelbrot speak a few times, and he is one of the most arrogant people I've ever encountered. Maybe only Lubos Motl tops him.)
Anyway, a famous fractal is the "Mandelbox" - the generation instructions are here
2d Mandelbox fold from Tom Lowe on Vimeo.
Some clever people have created various videos form the point of view of somone flying through a 3-dimensional Mandelbox, and they're pretty amazing:
This one might be the best:
Saturday, June 26, 2010
A reception featuring local wine and beer preceded a public lecture by Sean B. Carroll, winner of the second annual Stephen Jay Gould Prize.
Acknowledging the embattled times evolution faces, Carroll got big laughs when, asking non-biologists to raise their hands, he quipped, “You’re all going to hell.”
“The good news,” he continued, “is hell is full of smart, interesting people."
Ghana 2-1 US
It was fun while it lasted.
Friday, June 25, 2010
The Stupid DC Pundits
That, indeed, the rest of the country recognizes that all these little worms are doing is lining up to try and get their little slice of the power pie, with all its compromises and shenanigans, via mentions in a few local power blogs? To be the next Charles Krauthammer or George Will, as if these guys -- who supposedly have it made -- matter?
It's difficult to see how many words have now been expended on the terrible story of Dave Wiegel, who as far as I can tell has not ever contributed one meaningful idea to the national debate -- or, really, has done more than danced at some other poseur's wedding.
Small wonder that the intellectual foundations of our country are collapsing....
What Evidence Would Support AGW?
Here's his response -- quoted with permission -- not exactly reassuring:
There is no unique fingerprint of AGW. Since it is a "radiative forcing" (radiative energy imbalance of the climate system), it cannot be distinguished from circulation-induced changes such as a decrease in albedo of the Earth (e.g. a decrease in cloud cover) or an increase in atmospheric water vapor or high cloud cover
The AGW crowd either do not believe these changes occur, or they do not know enough to realize that is what they are implicitly assuming.
Some will claim stratospheric cooling IS a signature of increasing CO2, which indeed is possible, but the stratosphere is much simpler in behavior than the troposphere, where clouds and other moist processes have such a huge influence.
So, I do not believe there is any way to recognize AGW...short of global temperatures increasing another 5 deg. C. That would probably make even me a believer. :-)
It has occurred to me that it is possible this debate -- and all the ancillary junk that goes along with it -- will never end. Think about it: suppose we drastically refurbish society and get all of our future energy from renewable, non-carbon sources. It's the year 2080 and temperatures are the same as they are today.
Advocates will argue that it was the switch to non-C energy sources that saved the day. Skeptics will argue that CO2 was not such a big problem all along and we spend $5T for nothing.
Hopefully 2080's science will be advanced enough to distinguish between these two scenarios. But I'm not sure that's a given.
(PS: If you're reading this in the year 2080 AD, PLEASE leave a comment.)
- there is a Cat 5 hurricane loose in the Pacific Ocean -- Hurricane Celia. The National Hurricane Center calls it a "very impressive hurricane," but it's expected to significantly weaken soon. Besides, it's very unlikely to hit the U.S., so the media here won't care about it at all.
- but don't worry, there is a tropical storm that could add drama to the story in the Gulf
- a financial analyst has estimated the cost of cleaning up the Gulf spill at $63B. Unfortunately, most of that cost will be eaten by sea birds and other aquatic life.
- Recommended movie: The Savages (just try not to fall in love with Laura Linney)
- Unrecommended movie: The Quiet Earth (means well, tries hard, but is boring)
Thursday, June 24, 2010
Too Good Not to Link To
Via: Andrew Sullivan
The "Blacklist" Paper
I think I can understand some of where he's coming from. If you read his 1990 book Global Warming: Are We Entering the Greenhouse Century? (and I recommend it, if you can find it in paperback), you'll be astonished to see how much was already known about man's influence on the climate in the 1980s -- clearly enough to even then take the subject very seriously, viz., enough knowledge to take action.
And in 20 years no action at all has been taken. Not only that, but now the entire debate has devolved into a nasty pit unlike anything ever seen in science, and all kinds of clowns and professional prevaricators have come out to openly mock honest, hard-working scientists and even threaten them (as Morano implicitedly does by publishing their email addresses). I hate to say it but you can almost look down this trend and see something truly tragic happening at some point.
I'm sure lots of scientists are frustrated. But this PNAS paper seems unnecessary. Science and scientists have done very well over the centuries by taking the high road, and while I know scientists are human and naturally express their frustration in private, it doesn't belong in a scientific journal, especially one like PNAS. You can't simply chalk up expertise based on number of publications, and who is to say what the science will ultimately be, and analyses like this one never capture all the subtleties of people's positions on a diverse, complex subject, and you just end up making things worse. Now there is one more ancillary topic to argue about instead of the science, which is the very nutrient the pro prevs exist upon.
The Police Reports on Al Gore
Gore apparently went by the name "Mr. Stone" when he checked into the Hotel Lucia in Portland. I guess that's better than "Mr. Earth."
Wednesday, June 23, 2010
Kip Thorne and the Twin Paradox
First of all, let me thank Thorne for his massive tomb, Gravitation, which all physicists know as "Misner, Thorne, and Wheeler." Is it the big black book that all physicists tote around for the rest of their lives -- you can often see it behind them when they do on-camera interviews. It's heavy enough to nearly form a black hole of its own.
If you're a graduate student physics, you have to buy it. It now costs $123, at least on Amazon. I think I got mine for $40, and I still read it a few times a year. Someday I hope to even understand it.
In any case, you all know about the twin paradox: if your twin were to fly away from Earth, while you remained here, he/she would experience time differently than you -- in particular, they would record the length of their trip as much less than yours.
How much less?
Good question. And a complicated one. In particular, your twin would not leave Earth at a constant velocity, but would accelerate (and then decelerate on the turnaround) and so calculations based on special relativity (with that ubiquitous factor of gamma) do not apply.
Here, the twin's age is T_M. Your age is T_F.
Thorne gives a nice plot of this calculation here. Here's the bottom line, where "Florence" is your twin and "Methuselah" is you, remaining on Earth:
If Florence's clocks and aging report a round trip time of 10 years, Methuselah will have aged by 25 years. If Florence aged 30 years, Methuselah will have aged 4,500 years. If Florence aged 88 years, Methuselah will have aged 14 billion years, which is the current age of our Universe! Unfortunately, no known rocket fuel, not even thermonuclear fusion, is capable of producing the sustained multi-year-long acceleration required for such a trip.
Isn't physics beautiful?
Romm's Horrible Advice
...it is time for the media to stop listening to, quoting, and enabling those who spread anti-science and anti-scientist disinformation.
Romm can stuff it.
While there is little doubt that humans are influencing today's climate -- even Lindzen, Spencer, Lomborg, and others admit that -- and that our methods of generating energy are, over the time-scale of decades, a huge future crisis -- there are still some very important and legitimate questions about climate science and rational skeptics have a role to play in answering them.
For example: just how much of recent temperature increases are due to man's influence (GHGs + land use changes) and how much a natural or random fluctuation -- is it 2/3rds, or 1/3rd, or what?
In the ten years or so that I've been following and covering climate science, there have been a lot of changes in the state of various questions, in both directions. The overall case for AGW seems stronger (compare the IPCC 4AR to the 2AR), and the Arctic is melting faster than was predicted ten years ago, but there are also issues that have been dialed back as further study was done, such as:
- concerns about the potential overturning of the AMOC and its potential to lead to deep cooling in Europe have been lessened
- the Medievel Warm Period may have been more global than first thought
- AGW's ability to strenghten hurricanes seems to have been dialed back (Emanual, et al)
- what about the impact of decreases in cloud cover? Roy Spencer says today's climate can be explained by a mere 2% decrease in global cloud cover
- it's becoming increasingly clear that nations and societies can't cut CO2 emissions without sacrifices in lifestyle, which no one (understandably) wants to do
US Advances in World Cup
In fact, the US won their group (ahead even of England).
Monday, June 21, 2010
In Other Sea Level News....
Humans have been building a lot of dams over the last century or so, holding back water that would otherwise be going to the sea (and raising sea levels beyond what's measured).
How much? The authors calculate that dams hold back about 10,800 km3 from running into the sea. As a means of comparison, that's just a bit less than is in Lake Superior (12,000 km3), the world's 3rd largest freshwater lake. (If a cube, it would be 14 miles on each side.)
This dammed water has reduced sea level by 3.0 cm. But, here's where it gets interesting: the weight of the water behind dams lowers land levels near it, which in effect raises the local sea level, by about 0.2 mm/yr, or about 10%.
Source: Fiedler, J. W., and C. P. Conrad, Spatial variability of sea level rise due to water impoundment behind dams, Geophys. Res. Lett. 37, L12603, doi:10.1029/2010GL043462.
Joe Romm and the Deep End
...sea level rise could hit 4 to 6 feet by century's end and then continue rising a foot or more a decade, until all the land-based ice on the planet is gone and seas are more than 200 feet higher. How will our children's children and their descendants adapt to that?
A foot a decade? For 2 millenia? Where does he possibly get that?
These kind of claims don't help. At all. Except to get you on Fox News (as the liberal target). Which sometimes I think is his major goal.
Friday, June 18, 2010
Goldberg's Skeptical Platitudes
Of course you can put aside the climate change argument — even if you believe in climate change, America could be in full compliance with Kyoto and then some, and it wouldn't make much of a difference in the amount of CO2 pumped into the world's atmosphere, because the rest of the world won't be switching from fossil fuels any time soon. Meanwhile, as Bjørn Lomborg and others have long argued, there are some far more pressing environmental problems that could use the trillions of dollars that would be thrown away on slightly reducing CO2 emissions by the end of the century (and delaying computer modeled predictions of warming by a few years).
This is an extremely weak argument -- a mere recitation of the age-old Tragedy of the Commons.
First of all, it assumes that the 1997 Kyoto Treaty was intended to be the final word on fixing the climate problem. Of course, it was not, but just a beginning.
Secondly, it assumes the world and its citizens and governments cannot deal with more than more than one problem at once. You never make that assumption in your own life. If you have a heart problem and your roof leaks, you deal with them both -- medications, diet, exercise, and you hire someone to patch the roof.
By Goldberg's argument, one need never pay one's taxes, since it's only a few thousand dollars and the government would never miss it. You don't need to get vaccinated, as you're just a single individual and won't make any difference among the vast number of others who also aren't getting vaccinated.
And, of course, if the US were to cut their GHG emissions, it would serve as a strong example to the world. We also have plenty of political clout to "encourage" other countries to do the same.
Goldberg's arguments are trivial rather disappointing (not to say embarrassing). Real, intelligent arguments against action on AGW are welcome, but merely repeating age-old platitudes that obviously make no sense serve no purpose.
Aspen Skiing and Climate Change
But now Aspen's own season is getting shorter: "More balmy Novembers, more rainy Marches," Schendler [Auden Schendler, executive director of sustainability for the Aspen Skiing Company] says. "That's what we're seeing, and that's what the science suggests would happen. If you graph frost-free days, there are more and more in the last 30 years." Climate-change models also predict warmer nights. Aspen Skiing has noticed that happening too, and the problem here is that nighttime is when ski lodges use their water-spraying technology to make snow—"and if you make it when it's warmer it's exponentially more expensive." The increasing volatility of weather overall—another prediction of climate change—poses a particular danger for ski resorts, because they operate in the red most of the year, making up their deficit during the ultra busy spring break in March. So if the weather is terrific for the entire winter but suddenly balmy during March break, that can ruin the whole fiscal year.
Schendler has also learned firsthand a point that climate scientists have been making for some time: With climate change, "warming" isn't the only—or even the most serious—challenge. The sheer interdependence of complex ecosystems systems can grease you. For example, recent droughts in Utah have kicked up red dust clouds that settle on Aspen's snow. This makes the snow melt more quickly (because the red absorbs more heat from the sun) while also making it too gritty to ski on.
Envisioning the Gulf Oil Spill
Or Topeka, KS; Pasadena, CA: Reno, NV; or any of several other cities with 100,000-120,000 cars.
Here's a Web site by a professor at the University of Delaware where you can get an update.
On the other hand, a spill of 60,000 bbl/day represents only about 0.3% of U.S. oil use.
Thursday, June 17, 2010
Urban Heat Islands are Not So Simple
Minimum temperature was most influenced by urbanization with the mean minimum temperature during the urban period exceeding that of the pre-urban period by 4.4°C (2.4°C) in June (January). A significant urban heat sink in January maximum temperatures was evident as the mean maximum temperature during the pre-urban period exceeded that of the urban period by 1.5°C....
-- Svoma BM, Brazel A (2010) Urban effects on the diurnal temperature cycle in Phoenix, Arizona. Climate Research 41:21-29
I suspect this depends a lot on local geography, but it just shows that UHIs do not necessarily make the region warmer. (And, just to be complete, their influence on global temperature averages is very small.)
Tuesday, June 15, 2010
Hulme's Contents on the IPCC
You can read Hulme's arguments here. He's writing for an academic audience and not a popular one, so his point isn't easy to suss out, but here's his conclusion (page 15):
...knowledge that is claimed by its producers to have universal authority is received and interpreted very differently in different political and cultural settings. Revealing the local and situated characteristics of climate change knowledge thus becomes central for understanding both the acceptance and resistance that is shown towards the knowledge claims of the IPCC. It is a task for physical and human geographers to take seriously, and to do together.OK, sure.
Look, I'm just a freelance journalist. I can't attend all of the field's conferences, but what conferences I have been able to attend (paying my own way) in Boston, in Montreal, in Nice (France), and Corvallis (Oregon), and Portland, I have found very, very little in the way of disagreement with the IPCC position. That is, there have been essentially no talks that disagree with the IPCC position on anthropogenic influences on climate -- talks by people from all over the place.
I don't see it in the tables of content of the world's climate science journals either.
So where is all this disagreement that Hulme is alluding to? I only see it in sidebar, manufactured conferences like that of the corporate-sponsored Heartland Institute.
Hopefully I can get an interview with him on QSR, which has been a bit delayed because of a troublesome gallbladder and some computer problems. It's coming.
Oil Spill is Worse US Ecodisaster?
True, nature had a bigger role, with a drought over the southern midwest. But mankind had a big role too, as a lack of rotation farming and other mistakes sharply exacerbated the problem. Hundreds of thousands of people were utterly wiped out, and at a time when government support was nothing like today.
That's not to underplay the severity of the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, of course. But I can't see a book like The Grapes of Wrath coming out of it.
Monday, June 14, 2010
Arctic Ice Status
Sunday, June 13, 2010
Cutting CO2 vs Human Behavior
...human behavior isn't always driven by fear of long-term consequences, as anyone who's ever had a hangover knows. We've been doing as we please for centuries; it's a lot to expect us to change our consuming, polluting ways enough to make a difference.
What's Wrong About the Vuvuzelas
Sounds should ebb and flow like tides with the fortunes on the field. That adds to the drama. Fans reacting with their voices to action on the pitch, to events in the stadium and to each other's sounds, songs and chants are part of football's theater.
A sudden crowd silence can also tell a story - perhaps of the heartbreak of a late, defeat-inflicting goal or of the collective shock of seeing a player horribly injured by a bad tackle. Sometimes, you should even be able to hear a coach bark orders from the touchline or players shouting at each other for the ball.
There are stadium sounds other than vuvuzelas at this World Cup - just not enough of them. They are being bullied into submission by the trumpets' never-ending screech....
In Rustenburg there were scattered unison chants of "In-ger-land, In-ger-land," a few bars of "God Save the Queen" and the occasional "USA! USA!" when England played the United States on Saturday night. But vuvuzelas ultimately won the battle of the bands. They and the result - a disappointing 1-1 tie - silenced England's fans, who usually are among the best-drilled noisemakers in football.
They take their singing seriously, with chants that are cheeky, taunting and often just insulting. But at least they are inventive, too.
The same cannot be said of vuvuzelas. They are simply mindless. Their pitch doesn't change, just the intensity. Blow hard. Blow soft. The only range is from horrifically loud to just annoyingly so. Because of that, we absolutely could not hear the rich African voices of Ghana fans who sang lustily Sunday at the Loftus Versfeld in Pretoria, vibrantly clothed in their national colors of green and red. What a shame.
More on Scientists and Communication
"Scientists and academic institutions need to expand definition of what their “real work” is: “The work is not done, in my opinion, until it’s communicated in a way that citizens understand.
I disagree strongly with this. A scientist's job is to do science. That is already quite difficult, and from the scientists I've know and the little science I've done, it requires an environment and a skill set that are in many ways orthogonal to a "communications" mindset. Doing science requires immense and prolonged concentration, often even in isolation. Your head is in a totally different space from the real world, and the best periods I had doing science I was deep into it and barely knew what was going on in the outside world, let alone the world of my friends. Maybe it was just me, but I found that doing good work and having insights required this kind of immersion. It didn't involve telephone calls and writing op-eds and the like -- it required keeping your butt in the chair and debugging code at 1 am and dreaming about your problem as you fell asleep.
Some scientists are good at public communications -- most are not. And that's a good thing. Communicating publically in today's media environment is difficult and not something you learn easily, especially when your inclination is more towards mathematics and rationality than towards simplifying your work for the public.
Isn't it the job of science journalists and public information officers to do this simplifying and contextifying and communicating? (By the way, did you know there are now 4 PIOs in America for every journalist?) What else are they there for?
And by the way, who says scientists aren't communicating their science now? All the scientists I ask for interviews are happy to give them, even those who already have a great many demands on them. What else should they be doing that they're not?
So let's get off their case and let them do science. A lack of communication skills in the scientific community is NOT the reason the world is refusing to deal with climate change. Scientists have made their case quiet clearly. The public knows well what needs to be done. The problems are elsewhere.
Friday, June 11, 2010
More of Chris Mooney's Abysmal Understanding of Science
I didn't read Unscientific America, after someone I respect -- a prominent blogger you all know -- wrote me and said it was "a complete mess." I was not surprised, and decided not to waste any
time on it. Mooney's earlier book, Storm World, was way premature, and significantly wrong, and even his earlier book (The Republican War on Science) was completely blind to the left's problems with science, such as in the area of GM foods.
Mooney and his pal Matt Nesbitt have been busy these last few years telling scientists how they are are supposed to act -- as if they know. Mooney is an English major who couldn't convert Newtons to foot-pounds if his life depended on it. Yet he has the audacity to tell scientists how to act.
Look, despite anything Mooney or Nesbitt or Kirshenbaum has to say, scientists have one task, and one task only: to do science to the absolute best of their ability.
That is already difficult -- very difficult. It requires one's complete being, years of thought and even of isolation. It's not like you do science from 9-12 and then have the afternoon free to talk to the media and think about how you should "frame" your argument or give lectures on how the US Senate ought to regulate the EPA.
That's not was science is and it's not how scientists work. It is not the responsibility of scientists to "frame" their work into something that will convince the action to take action on climate change. The job of scientists is to frame their science as... science. That is already the most direct method of expressing knowledge ever invented, and maybe it doesn't play on "Good Morning America," but that's their problem, not that of scientist's.
There are plenty of people around to convert science into action -- writers, innumerable NGOs, and (now) four public information officers (PIOs, also know as propagandists) for every journalist in the country. This is their job.
This is not the only place we see such nonsense. Sharon Begley wrote in Newsweek (3/17/10):
Scientists are lousy communicators.BFD. A scientist's job is not to "communicate" -- his/her job is to do science. Period. If that does not satisfy mere journalists like Begley or Mooney (or me), tough shit.
Doing science requires everything a scientist has -- brain, heart, and soul. It requires a dedication and a skill set that rarely intersects with doing interviews with every English major that knocks on his door. PIOs or senior scientists who lead groups but do no science on their own can do that.
Let's stop blaming scientists because the world will not get off oil, and let's stop pretending that English majors have anything wise to say about how highly educated scientists are supposed to act.
The Sound of the World Cup
So I watched the first match of this year's cup: South Africa vs Mexico.
I could only handle about 5 minutes of the vuvuzela -- the horrendous horn the Africans apparently love that
makes every second of the match sound like the largest collection of flies you've ever heard.
It is...simply obnoxious.
FIFA apparently decided to allow these plastic horns into the stadia because it's some kind of tribute to local heritage. What a mistake. The things are apparently even a health hazard, being as loud as 128 dB.
I can't imagine watching another World Cup match, even for a few minutes. The vuvuzela's are that annoying.
Thursday, June 10, 2010
GISS's May temperature
Sunday, June 06, 2010
A Rainy Spring in Oregon
Friday, June 04, 2010
Bush and Torture
-- George W Bush, Grand Rapids, Michigan
Perhaps some foreign country will have the guts that America lacks, and arrest him when he next sets foot on their soil....
Marilyn Manson : We're From America
We don't like to kill our unborn
We need them to grow up and fight our wars....
How Skeptics are Downplaying 2010
Just a few months ago, the data was good enough to prove global cooling. But suddenly such claims have vanished.
Lubos Motl: You may often hear that we're living in the hottest days, weeks, and months ever. But the RSS data contradict this claim. This year continues to be about 0.08°C cooler than the same part of the year 1998. Of course, there's a possibility that 2010 will beat 1998 because the end of 1998 was cooler. But I think that the end of 2010 will be cooler, too.
David Whitehouse: (2007):The fact is that the global temperature of 2007 is statistically the same as 2006 as well as every year since 2001. Global warming has, temporarily or permanently, ceased.
Wednesday, June 02, 2010
The Death of Christopher Monckton
Abrahams carefully and thoroughly dissects Monckton's many claims and shows how completely wrong Monckton is about nearly everything -- in fact, not just wrong, but full of B.S.
It's impossible to imagine Monckton ever getting an ounce of respect ever again, even from skeptics. It's extremely impressive and worth at least part of your time (it's a total of 84 minutes long).