Monday, February 28, 2011


"Thoughtful National Academy documents have no impact when ideology is the rule of the land."

-- Andrew D. Leavitt, Science, Feb 25, 2011, letter to the editor

Sunday, February 27, 2011

More KSR

     "What political parties do we support?" Sax asked.
     "I don't know. The usual array I guess."
     "No party gets much support. Whatever works, you know."
     Sax knew. That was the old tech position, held ever since scientists had become a class in society, a priest caste almost, intervening between the people and their power. They were apolitical, supposedly, like civil servants-empiricists, who only wanted things managed in a rational scientific style, the greatest good for the greatest number, which ought to be fairly simple to arrange, if people were not so trapped in emotions, religions, governments, and other mass delusional systems of that sort.
     The standard scientist politics, in other words. Sax had once tried to explain this outlook to Desmond, causing his friend for some reason to laugh prodigiously, even though it made perfect sense. Well, it was a bit naive, therefore a bit comical, he supposed; and like a lot of funny things, it could be that it was hilarious right up to the moment it turned horrible. Because it was an attitude that had kept scientists from going at politics in any useful way for centuries now; and dismal centuries they had been.

     -- Kim Stanley Robinson, Blue Mars

The Mean Kitty Song

Saturday, February 26, 2011


If you were dictator of your own country, wouldn't you promote yourself from Colonel to at least, say, General?

(Officially, his title seems to be Brotherly Leader and Guide of the First of September Revolution of the Great Socialist People's Libyan Arab Jamahiriya.)

PS: The world has definitely changed.

KSR Quote

"It was amazing how floridly elaborated a pseudoscience could get. A compensation technique, perhaps; a desperate attempt to be more like physics. But what they did not understand was that physics, while admittedly complicated, was always trying very hard to become simpler."

-- Kim Stanley Robinson, Blue Mars

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Hadley Says....

... Jan 2011 was the coldest Jan in (only) the last four years, at 0.204°C...., a bit surprising given the strong NAO now in place.

Fanaticism (and Christina Wilson)

"Members of the fanatic group are taught to have a common hatred, a single foe, a devil." 
-- Eric Hoffer, The True Believer: Thoughts on the Nature of Mass Movements

And here is Christina Wilson, Development Officer of CFACT at the recent CPAC:

The True Believers

My recent post on Mark Haartsgaard was picked up on, so I'm now getting unindated with all kinds of rude people. Almost all of them are afraid to use their real identity, of course, like "bigc" who won't even show a Blogger profile. He writes:
Let's face it - the whole man-made global warming movement has been thoroughly discredited, and is in the final stages of its lifecycle.
I honestly don't know how anyone reaches such a conclusion, except that they must only read web sites that agree with their preconceived notions and avoid all discussions of the science. Because the truth is that there is absolutely no doubt in scientific circles about the reality of a human influence on climate, for anyone who reads science journals or follows science journalism, and this is getting stronger all the time (and has been for at least two decades now).

There is something going on here beyond science and beyond advocacy and far beyond politics. It is a denial of rationality itself, of the scientific method that has so benefited our civilization for the last 400 years, and of intellectualism.

I think Paul Krugman had a good point the other day: many people now think that to be a "conservative" they must now adhere to certain beliefs no matter what supports them. It's gotten to the point where it might really be a matter of mass delusion, something like Eric Hoffer wrote about in The True Believer -- Thoughts on the Nature of Mass Movements, which you should read if you haven't. Because we are beyond logical thinking here, and that is very, very dangerous territory.

For example, why would any intelligent group of leaders vote to deny the ability of a government agency (who is using the best science of its time) to protect its present and (esp) future citizens. It defies sense. It's almost suicidal. But that's where now at.

Friday, February 18, 2011

Who Is This Girl?

You may have seen this charming photograph from the recent Conservative Political Action Conference, where this cute little girl decided to mock one of the major scientists of our time:

So who is this little chickie?

Anyone know? I'd like to call her up and ask her what she knows about climate change.

Anyone? Someone out there must know.... Please ask around -- she must have some incredible knowledge about paleoclimate that we all need to know about....

Write me:
Twitter: @davidappell

The Thing With Zombies

I have never really understood the world's fascination with zombies (or, for that matter, vampires), though I have glimpsed it in films like 28 Days Later, Omega Man (maybe -- just maybe), and I am Legend.... but this game trailer is so amazing I think I might have had a revelation:


PS: This is apparently one hell of an amazing game. Scary, even.

Prequels for Famous Movies

This is too funny not to post: David Pogue (NY Times) on his book containing replies from his Twitter readers to his posted questions:
To this day, I can’t stop laughing at some of the replies to, “Make up a prequel for a famous movie.” The responses included “Young Yeller,” “Flirts With Wolves,” “Conceived on the Fourth of October,” “Mr. Smith MapQuests Washington,” “There Goes Private Ryan—I Hope He’ll Be O.K.,” and my personal favorite, “We’re Running Low on Mohicans.”

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

A Republican in Texas

It must be really, really difficult to be a politician -- especially a Republican politician in Texas:
“Abstinence works,” said Governor Perry during a televised interview with Evan Smith of The Texas Tribune.
“But we have the third highest teen pregnancy rate among all states in the country,” Smith responded.
“It works,” insisted Perry.
“Can you give me a statistic suggesting it works?” asked Smith.
“I’m just going to tell you from my own personal life. Abstinence works,” said Perry, doggedly.

Crisis! More Americans Will Have Health Care

"Up to two-thirds of California's 7 million uninsured residents will become eligible for health insurance coverage when health care reform is implemented in 2014, according to a new policy brief from the UCLA Center for Health Policy Research." (Eurekalert)

Clearly Obama's Health Care Plan must be destroyed -- we can't have almost 5 million new people with access to health care! What is this country coming to?


(Why can't Washington reporters covering Congress simply ask Senators and Representatives about such straightforward numbers?)

PPS: And what are the other 2.3M Californians supposed to do for health care?

What a wonderful country we are, huh?

Where did the Cool Computer Font Go?

A NY Times article about IBM's Watson computer on the game show Jeopardy gives this image:

Ken Jennings, left, Brad Rutter and a computer named Watson competed on “Jeopardy” at I.B.M.’s campus in Yorktown Heights, N.Y.

The computer's name is, what, Times New Roman?

OK. But whatever happened to this font?

As a kid I loved this font. I used to try and draw it all the time in Junior high school when I was bored. It was the font at the time for any SF movie that came out, like Rollerball or Colussus: The Forbin Project.

So where did this font go? And why did computers stop using it? Too easy to make "normal" fonts? Then how did this font originate? Where did it come from? Where did it go?

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Andrew J. Robinson

One of the first "restricted" films my dad ever took me to see was Dirty Harry -- I must have been about 11 years old. Anyway, did you know that the actor who played the psychotic killer in that movie also played the role of the deliciously witty Cardassian exile Elim Garik in Deep Space Nine?

Garak (Star Trek).png

Mark Haartsgard Confronts James Inhofe

For some reason Mark Hertsgaard has decided he must confront climate change denialists, on camera. Do you find these as uncomfortable to watch as I do?

What does Hertsgaard think he is going to accomplish by such guerrilla journalism? I know he's trying to sell a new book, and has decided his daughter should help him do that....But these kind of tactics won't convince anyone who isn't already in the choir.

Most people, I suspect, find it a real turn-off. I do.

Look, crazy people like Inhofe aren't going to be discouraged by being ambushed by someone with a little video camera. He moved beyond that point many, many years ago. Now, he just considers it proof of his "cause," as do climate bullies like Marc Morano, who has been gleefully sending out emails in the last few days with every detail of Hertsgaard's actions.

Journalists and writers should make their point via the facts, not by ambushing those who will never, ever be convinced and will only decline from relevance when they retire or die.

As Planck said, science advances one funeral at a time. So does politics.

Monday, February 14, 2011


Obama's NSF Request

Today the Obama administration presented its budget, and it included $7.767B for the National Scientific Foundation (FY 2012).

That's an increase of $894.5 million, or +13 percent, over NSF's current operating level.

How does this compare to the Republicans? Rand Paul wants to cut 62% from the NSF budget.

Look, I know that "winning the future" is just a political catch phrase. And I know that Obama is not what he campaigned on. And I know that right now he is determined to be relected and is willing to do that on the backs of the poor. That seriously, seriously degrades his status, in my opinion.

But, at the least, we ought to really pay attention to research, if that's going to be the catch phrase (and it should be). Paul, on the other hand, does not seem to have a clue what makes a country prosper.

Besides, would you really rather have Romney in the White House. Or Huckabee?

Koch Brothers Sponsoring PBS's Nova

Does it bother you that the Koch Inc. brothers are among the major sponsors of PBS's NOVA science program?

If so, why? If not, why not?

(Another major Nova underwriter is ExxonMobil.)

We've all criticized such sponsorship in the past when it supported "right-wing" positions.

Why shouldn't we care just as much now?

Has Nova's programming been influenced?

Here is what Nova says. But, of course, ALL organizations would claim that there is no link between their editorial positions and those who fund them. Do we believe them -- or only when they're on the "right" side?

Robinson on Kuhn on Priestley

…he recalled something that Kuhn had written about Priestley – that a scientist who continued to resist after his whole profession had been converted to a new paradigm might be perfectly logical and reasonable, but had ipso facto ceased to be a scientist.

-- Kim Stanley Robinson, Green Mars, p. 147

PS: I am 2/3rds of the way through Robinson's Mars trilogy, and it's some of the best science fiction I've ever read. It is thoroughly grounded in science (as far as I can tell), but imaginative and believable. In other words, the best kind of SF.

Friday, February 11, 2011

January Temperatures

How warm (or cold) was last month?

NASA GISS says it was +0.46°C above their baseline average, which is a bit "cold," but not as cold as Jan 2008 (+0.17°C).

Other than 2008, it tied with 2006, and was warmer than 2001.

Measuring by satellite, UAH says January was quite cold:  right at their baseline, or an anomaly of 0.00 °C, or the coldest month in one and a half years.

But then, they just changed their baseline.

I wish these people could all get on the same program.

And frankly, I'd feel better about their data if their primary analyst, Roy Spencer of UAH, didn't seem determined to find against AGW everywhere he can.

So, Jan 2011 was "cold." But then, we're in a La Nina and a strong negative phase of the NAO.

Keep you eye on the ball, which is the long-term trend -- decadal, at least.

Twitter account change

I have changed my Twitter account name from @qsoup to @davidappell. Hope you will follow me there.

A Stunning Image



Thursday, February 10, 2011

Cloud Cult - Pretty Voice

"...Strike up the band
Here comes the storyline
About the usual struggle
Between fear and love
This is the lifelong song
That we're all singing
It's been so long
Since I've heard your pretty voice"

Are All the Scientific Facts Really In?

Joshua Lehrer writes in the WSJ:
While we’re certainly not close to the end of science – so many profound mysteries remain – we should be prepared to work harder for what we learn next. All the low-hanging facts have been found.
Lehrer writes primarily about medicine and neuroscience, and certainly we're unlikely to discover a new component of a cell or even of the brain. But that's a very short-sighted point of view.

In particular, we don't even know the facts about the simpliest question you could ask: what is the world made of? We have essentially no idea. Physicists have determined that about 70% of it is made up of "dark energy" and about 25% of it "dark matter," but they have absolutely no idea what these quantities are made of. None (especially dark energy).

You simply can't say that "all the low-hanging facts have been found" when you have no idea what 95% of the universe is made of.

Tuesday, February 08, 2011

Best Science Blog

Here is a big reason why I get fed up with blogging and feel like quitting every six months: no matter how hard you try to be truthful and accurate and do due diligence, asshats like Antony Watts, who do everything they can to dismiss real science and even mock it, get nominated again and again for "best science blog."

Call it sour grapes if you want -- I don't really care. But it does make me wonder why I should even care or continue, and not just write two assinine skeptical articles a week for National Review and Accuracy in Media for $150 a pop. It'd be so easy.

Sunday, February 06, 2011

JR Minkel Had Died

Wow. JR Minkel, a freelance science writer who wrote frequently for Scientific American, recently died by his own hand. He was only 31 years old.


Wednesday, February 02, 2011

Egypt's Revolution and Climate Change

I guess one of the current climate disputes (who can keep up?) is about whether the Egyptian Revolution is inspired, or at least partly inspired, by (anthropogenic) climate change.

Joseph Romm says yes. Keith Kloor says no.

I vote: Yes.

Look: all revolutions, and all of history, have complex reasons. People are complex. Life is complex. Nothing is every all due to this or all due to that.

From what I understand, Egypt eats a lot of pasta. And its price has risen greatly in recent months. Why? Well, wheat prices are way up:

Why? In significant part because of the Russian heat wave of last summer. Note when the jump in wheat prices occurred: last June, about the same time as the anomalous Russian heat wave.

Look, these things are never going to be a direct, 1-1 relationship. But it's suspicious. It has to make you think.

So Then, Where Did God Come From?

Bill O'Reilly is still all up-in-arms about where the moon came from, even though we have a pretty good idea.

"How did the Moon get there?"

Of course, he wants to think it came from "God." But he's not asking: where did "God" come from, especially a God who is supposed to be all-powerful and omniscient?


via: Huffington Post