Monday, December 28, 2009

War and Beatles


She said she loves you!
And you know that can't be bad...
She loves you,
And you know you should be glad, oooooooo!

The Beatles touch down at John F. Kennedy International Airport on the afternoon of February 7th, 1964. Two days later, 73 million Americans watch "these youngsters from Liverpool" on the Ed Sullivan Show and the British Invasion begins. The Beatles' first American tour starts in August and cris crosses the country. (My own sister went to the show at The State Fair Coliseum in Indianapolis and came back hoarse and red eyed.) Their concerts are nearly impossible to describe. Imagine thousands of teenage girls, most of them with tears in their eyes, screaming so loud no one can possibly hear the music. Hundreds faint from exhaustion and have to be carried out.

Lyndon Johnson is President and there are just over 16,000 American military "advisers" stationed in Viet Nam. The corrupt and incompetent South Vietnamese President Ngo Dinh Diem had been assassinated the year before and during the ensuing political turmoil, the Viet Cong had increased their hold over the rural population to over 40%. South Viet Nam owes its very existence to American military support.

By the summer of 1964, thousands of NVA regular troops are pouring into South Viet Nam via the Ho Chi Minh trail to join with over 50,000 Viet Cong guerrillas and the fall of the country to Communist forces appears imminent. In August, 10 miles off the coast of North Viet Nam in the Gulf of Tonkin, the USN destroyer Maddox is fired on by three North Vietnamese patrol boats. There are no U.S. casualties. Backed by strong public support, Johnson decides to retaliate with the first ever bombing of North Viet Nam by 64 Navy fighter bombers. Two are shot down, and Lieutenant Edward Alvarez becomes the first American prisoner of war. In the years that follow, Lt. Alvarez will be joined at the infamous "Hanoi Hilton" by over 600 downed U.S. airmen. Lt. Alvarez won't be released until February 12th, 1973, three years after the Beatles had broken up.


Everywhere people stare
Each and every day,
I can see them laugh at me
And I hear them say...

Hey you've got to hide your love away!

Despite repeated attacks on American forces in South Viet Nam (which by December of 1964 number over 24,000), and with an American public and Congress apparently hungry for a fight, Johnson holds off escalating the war until March of 1965, when he authorizes "Operation Rolling Thunder", with over 100 American bombers attacking targets in North Viet Nam. Intended to be short lived, the operation will go on for over 3 years. Also in March, 3500 U.S. Marines arrive in South Viet Nam to defend the American air base at Da Nang. 20,000 more troops are sent in April. By year's end, the U.S. will have over 180,000 troops stationed in Viet Nam, yet over half the countryside will be controlled by the Viet Cong. Over 90,000 South Vietnamese troops will throw away their weapons and desert. Almost 1900 kids are sent home in body bags.

By February, global sales of Beatles albums top 100 million. The Beatles' second American Tour starts on the 15th of August with the amazing concert at a packed Shea Stadium. 10 sold out concerts and 16 days later it ends at the Cow Palace in San Francisco. Queen Elizabeth II appoints the "Mop Tops" Members of the Order of the British Empire. In protest, several MBE members return their insignia.


Father McKenzie, writing the words of a sermon that no one will hear,
No one comes near.
Look at him working,darning his socks in the night when there's nobody there...
What does he care?

All the lonely people, where do they all come from?
All the lonely people, where do they all belong?

The war in Viet Nam drags on. Anti-war protests begin to break out across the country. B-52 bombers, armed with up to 60,000 pounds of bombs each, are used against the North for the first time. By December, 389,000 American troops are in Viet Nam. 5800 of our soldiers are killed in action. The New York Times reports that over 40% of the economic aid going to South Viet Nam winds up stolen or on the black market.

In March, John Lennon makes his now famous comment that the Beatles are bigger than Jesus. From 1966 to present, world wide Bible sales average around 3 million copies a year. Revolversells 1.2 million copies in 9 days - and eventually reaches over 5 million total. The Beatles begin their last and final tour of America in Chicago on the 12th of August and finish it 18 days later at Candlestick Park. From this point on, the Beatles will retreat to the studio.


Send me a postcard, drop me a line,
Stating point of view.
Indicate precisely what you mean to say
Yours sincerely, Wasting Away.

Give me your answer, fill in a form
Mine for evermore
Will you still need me, will you still feed me,
When I'm sixty-four?

Now the pace quickens. In 1967, across America, hundreds of thousands march in protest against the war. Martin Luther King declares "the poor white man and the negro" bear the burden of the war's hardship. President Johnson makes repeated peace overtures but all are rejected by Hanoi. The fighting is fierce. Due to often indiscriminate bombing, civilian casualties in the North number in the thousands. At the end of 1967, Robert McNamara has resigned as Secretary of Defense after privately concluding the war is not winnable. By then, one million American servicemen will have fought in Viet Nam.

Energized by a blossoming protest movement, a counter culture begins to emerge. The Beatles are experimenting with LSD and Sargent Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band - which includes the quintessential Lucy in the Sky With Diamonds is released.


Blackbird singing in the dead of night,
Take these broken wings and learn to fly.
All your life...
You were only waiting for this moment to arise,
You were only waiting for this moment to arise,
You were only waiting for this moment to arise.

The fiercest fighting of the war occurs in January of 1968 during the Tet Offensive, when 84,000 Viet Cong, backed by an unknown number of NVA Regulars, attack cities and towns across the South. The climactic battle is at Hue, where during the entire month of February, South Vietnamese troops and 3 U.S. Marine battalions retake the old Imperial City street by street and house by house. Over 5000 of the enemy are killed in this battle alone. Tet ends with a resounding South Vietnamese victory, but support for the war falters as the American public nightly endures graphic scenes of the savage, often confusing violence.

In March, over 300 innocent civilians are slaughtered by American soldiers at Ma Lai. Lyndon Johnson's approval rating falls to 36% and he announces he will not run for re-election. During 1968 over a thousand U.S. servicemen a month lose their lives. At the end of the year, we have nearly half a million troops in Viet Nam.

1968 is the Beatles' high water mark. Magical Mystery Tour is a mixture of psychedelic pop, influenced by the group's short and ultimately disagreeable sojourn in India with Maharishi Mahesh Yogi. Then follows the incomparable White Album in 1968. John Lennon, an early opponent of the war, begins to speak out and attracts the notice of the FBI. He is now preoccupied with Yoko Ono and tensions which will ultimately split the group apart begin to surface.


And when the broken hearted people living in the world agree,
there will be an answer, let it be.
For though they may be parted,
there is still a chance that they will see,
there will be an answer,
let it be.

Richard Nixon is inaugurated on January 27th, 1969. He has run on a campaign to wrest "Peace With Honor" from the seemingly endless war in Viet Nam. U.S. troop levels will peak in April of that year at 543,000 and steadily decline after that. But the war will go on until the Paris Peace Accords are finally signed on January 27th, 1973.

During these 4 years, the Nixon Administration's continued prosecution of the war divides the American public to an extent not witnessed since the days of the Civil War. American troops will mount attacks deep into Cambodia. South Vietnamese forces suffer repeated defeats, yet Nixon will claim Vietnamization a success. Starting in April of 72, North Viet Nam will suffer the worst aerial bombing of the entire war, along with the mining of its harbors and coastline.

By the middle of 1972, U.S. troop levels have dropped to 69,000, and by November of that year, only 16,000 advisers remain. On January 27th, 1973, Lt. Col. William B. Nolde is the last American soldier to be killed in Viet Nam.

The Beatles' last two albums are Abby Road, released in 1969 and Let It Be, in 1970. Both albums feature a number complicated themes - and a diversity which reveals that John, Paul, George and Ringo may have reached their limits as a group. And so it is. After Let It Be, the band will not perform together again. Paul McCartney will file for formal dissolution of the Beatles in 1970. But legal disputes will go on and the final dissolution will not take effect until 1975.

What did we learn?

The War in Viet Nam cost America over 58,000 killed in action and over 300,000 wounded in action. Of the wounded, 75,000 were classified as severely disabled and 23,000 as 100% disabled. The average age of those who served was 19.

These are the numbers, but they really don't tell us anything. On your computer, type in "Danny Fankboner" (funny name, that). What comes up first is a listing on for Private First Class Daniel Ross Fankboner, who perished in Viet Nam on 7 December, 1969. His name is listed on panel 15W, line 035 - and he was a friend. Of what importance was his life when weighed against the larger aims of greater men trapped within the vortices of history? I don't know.

Another friend of his leaves this message:


You were my first love. I remember you coming to my house party, as we called it then, and the shock of my parents when they met you!! We laughed so hard!!!

I have never forgotten you and never will. We were determined to make the world a better place, weren't we? Well you did, honey; you kept me free and safe.

I just wish you had not done it with such a great sacrifice. I will love you forever, Danny.

No one expected the South Vietnamese to hold out long after we left. Saigon fell in April of 1975 and we all remember the heartbreaking images of desperate people waiting to board the last helicopter to leave the roof of the U.S. Embassy. We left a lot of our friends behind.

To date, the sales of Beatles records have exceeded one billion units. John Lennon fought an order for deportation which had been obtained by the U.S. Government as a result of his anti-war activities. The order was finally overturned in 1975. But there remained one hurdle he could not overcome. On December 8, 1980, Mark David Chapman waited outside Lennon's apartment at the Dakota in Manhattan. When Lennon returned from a recording session at 10:59 PM, Chapman shot him four times in the back and he rapidly bled to death.

As a young man, I spent a great deal of my time protesting the war, but I probably spent just as much time listening to the Beatles. If we are indeed the sum of our experiences, over a million men and women fighting in the jungles of Southeast Asia helped build the largest part of one side of who I am. Four kids with three guitars and a drum set built most of the other.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Science versus the Consensus

To begin, I was raised in an environment that considered Science and Politics to be completely different beasts. Of the two, politics is considered inferior: If you weren't bright enough to do science, you could always go into politics. I retain that prejudice today. I also subscribe to an older and tougher tradition that regards science as the business of developing theories to explain observable phenomena, then testing those theories against measured data from the Real World. Untestable hypotheses are not Science. Unproven theories may be based in science, but are still not (necessarily) Truth.

BTW - When did "skeptic" become a dirty word in science? When did the word require quotation marks around it? Just asking...

By example, and in what will be a surprise to some, I believe that environmental awareness and understanding is critically important. The environment is our shared life support system; it is what we pass on to the next generation. How we act today has consequences — potentially serious consequences, and especially in the financial and political realms — for future generations.

But I have also come to believe that the current 'conventional wisdom' (e.g., 'the consensus') with respect to the environment is unscientific, badly out of date, and ultimately damaging to the very environment it supposes to 'protect'. Example: Yellowstone National Park has raw sewage seeping out of the ground. A century of direct 'management' of Yellowstone has proven time and again to be disastrous in the extreme. We must be doing something wrong. We have been arrogantly ignorant with the best of intentions.

IMHO, the 'consensus' approach to man-made global warming (AGW) is a prime example of everything that is wrong with our approach to the environment. We are basing decisions on speculation, not evidence. (Do I have to repeat - again! - that models are not evidence?) AGW Proponents are pushing their views with more PR than with actual scientific data and conclusions derived directly therefrom. Indeed, we have allowed the whole issue to be politicized: red vs blue, Republican vs Democrat, etc.. This is absurd.

Data are not political: Data are data (or, as Aristotle said, “A is A”, a thing is itself). Politics, unlike science, leads you in the direction of a Belief, whereas data - if you follow where it leads - (eventually) uncovers truth. Yes, by that definition, Politics qualifies as a 'religion'.

Like many, I experienced my early and formative youth at the height of the Cold War. In school drills, I crawled under my desk as instructed just in case there was a nuclear attack. (Later, this practice declined for no stated reason, but with the unspoken acknowledgment that such actions were - in the Real World - quite useless: a waste of time and effort; but at that time, *everyone* knew it was the Right Thing To Do.)

Even at that young age, I recognized a world dominated by widespread fear and uncertainty, but held fast to a belief that Science represented the best and greatest hope for mankind. Politics is a world of hate and danger, of irrational beliefs and fears, of mass manipulation and disgraceful blots on human history. Intentions don't matter: A is A.

Science was represented by an international scope, forging friendships and working relationships across national boundaries and political systems, encouraging a dispassionate habit of thought, and ultimately leading to knowledge and new technologies that would benefit all mankind. Science is and has been THE great hope for our troubled and restless world. Beyond extending lifespan, feeding the hungry, curing and treating diseases, expanding communications and the distribution of information world-wide - I wanted science to be, as Carl Sagan said, "a candle in a demon haunted world."

However, I am increasingly disturbed that science has (apparently) been seduced by the lures of political power and easy publicity. Too many of the demons that haunt our world today are actually the invention of scientists. IMHO, the world has not benefited from permitting these demons to roam free. And demands to follow the consensus are at the root of that danger. (Am I the only one that remembers all those movies with a theme of "let the scientists run the world and we'll have Utopia?")

I believe a claim of consensus has been the first refuge of scoundrels; it is a way to avoid debate by claiming that the matter is already settled. Whenever you hear the phrase, “a consensus of scientists agrees” on something, hold on tight to your wallet.

The work of science has nothing whatsoever to do with 'consensus'. Consensus is really the business of politics. Science, on the contrary, requires only one researcher - whether proposing or challenging a theory - who happens to be Right, which means that he or she has results that are verifiable by reference to the real world. In science, consensus is irrelevant. What *is* relevant to science, is reproducible results. The greatest scientists in history are great precisely because they broke with the consensus.

Remember: if ONE PERSON (even a non-scientist!) can disprove a theory Wrong - or just a critical element of same - then the theory is FALSE (again: A is A). Personally, I do not consider the track record of 'consensus' as necessarily something to be proud of. ("That's a bold statement: where are your examples, Steve?") Consider:

1. For centuries, the greatest killer of women was fever following childbirth: one woman in six died, directly related to the fever. In 1795, Alexander Gordon of Aberdeen suggested the fevers were an infectious process, and further claimed he was able to cure them. The consensus said no. In 1843, Oliver Wendell Holmes stated puerperal fever was contagious, and presented compelling evidence. The consensus said no. In 1849, Semmelweiss demonstrated that simple sanitary techniques virtually eliminated puerperal fever in hospitals under his management. The consensus said he was a Jew, ignored him, and dismissed him from his post. In fact, there was no agreement on the causes of puerperal fever - despite the continuing deaths of women - until the start of the twentieth century. The consensus took 125 years to arrive at the right conclusion despite the efforts of the prominent "skeptics" around the world, skeptics who were demeaned and ignored.

2. In the 1920s, here in the U.S., tens of thousands - mostly poor - were dying of a disease called pellagra. The consensus of scientists said it was infectious, and what was necessary was to find the "pellagra germ." The US government asked Dr. Joseph Goldberger to find the cause. Goldberger concluded that diet was the crucial factor. The consensus remained wedded to the germ theory. Goldberger demonstrated that he could induce the disease through diet. He demonstrated that the disease was not infectious by injecting the blood of a pellagra patient into himself, and his assistant. He and other volunteers swabbed their noses with swabs from pellagra patients, and swallowed capsules containing scabs from pellagra rashes ("Goldberger's filth parties"). Nobody contracted pellagra. The consensus continued to disagree with him. There was, to be sure, a social (political) factor in the disagreement - southern States disliked the idea of poor diet as the cause, because it meant that social reform was required. The consensus continued to deny the evidence for years, for no better reason than it conflicted with the prevailing political agenda.

3. Every schoolchild notices that South America and Africa seem to fit together rather snugly, and Alfred Wegener proposed, in 1912, that the continents had in fact drifted apart. The consensus sneered at the suggestion of continental drift for fifty years. The theory was most vigorously denied by the great names of geology - until 1961, when measurements conclusively presented data suggesting the sea floors were spreading apart. It took the consensus 50 years to acknowledge what any schoolchild sees.

And pure politics is not exempt by an inept consensus - review the effect of Lysenko's policies in Russia (from which they still suffer today), Margret Thatcher's 1981 budget (which worked in spite of the review of a host of'experts', Reagan vs. the Evil Empire (which eventually collapsed under the weight of an economic attack, disguised as a military one) ...

A major media embarrassment of using science for advancing political agenda happened in 1991, when Carl Sagan predicted on Nightline that Kuwaiti oil fires (from the first Gulf War) would produce a nuclear winter effect, causing a "year without a summer," and endangering crops around the world. Sagan stressed this outcome was so likely that "it should affect the war plans." A 'consensus of concerned scientists' rapidly agreed and made many public statements in support of Sagan's position. None of it happened.

… You want more? - Galileo / Copernicus and their helio-centric observations, the Phlogiston theory, Jenner and smallpox, Pasteur and germ theory, saccharine, margarine, repressed memory, fiber and colon cancer, hormone replacement therapy... In each case, the consensus at that time clearly and vehemently came down on what was ultimately the Wrong Side. The list of errors by 'the consensus' goes on and on...

Now, when demanded to bow down to the opinions of 'the consensus' (or other 'appeals to authority'), I ask one to notice WHEN and WHERE the claim of consensus is typically used:

Consensus is invoked only in situations where the science (i.e., the Real World data) is not solid enough for close scrutiny.

Today, nobody says the consensus of scientists agrees that E=mc2. Nobody says the consensus is that the sun is 93 million miles away. Nobody says the consensus is that the world is not flat (at least they say that NOW)... It would never occur to anyone to speak that way. There is no such thing as consensus science. IMHO, "consensus science" is a modern oxymoron on the scale of "jumbo shrimp" and "fresh raisins".

If it's consensus, it isn't science. If it's science, it isn't consensus. Period.

… I'll stop here for now. In future posts, I'll try to address the question: “If you can't trust the consensus, who DO you trust?” Also, I'll post notes on the principles and positions for what I believe and support (some surprises there, to be sure). Stay tuned.

- Steve

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Parting Shots


As you might by now have guessed, I am far more tolerant of an ignorant man than I am of one who is irrational. The ignorant man can improve himself only by seeking out and finding answers to difficult questions about the world around him. However the irrational man need only stand still and ask questions about himself, which few are inclined to do. For reference, I give you a line from a comment on my previous post.

The commenter observed that I and others like me are always underestimating the ability of man to adapt - in this case to the climate change which he denies is occurring. Really? What strikes me as irrational about this is that I, and others like me, believe that man has the ability to rise up and accept the monumental challenge which climate scientists the world over are posing. As of this date, fossil fuels account for 80% of all the world's energy. Can you imagine how difficult it will be to reduce this figure to 20%? This is an underestimation of man's ability to adapt?

Which brings me back to my original point. Climate skeptics need some explanation for an overwhelming body of evidence which identifies the human contribution to climate change. They've come up with the childish and unremarkable theory that scientists are simply lying. Well, goodness me! One supposes then, in the absence of credible scientific challenges to the theory of AGW, we can always fall back on the answer we gave mom back when she told us spinach was good for us.

I think now I would have been happier if Mr. Gillar had not spared me "from hearing again all the times the scientific consensus has been wrong over the centuries". On what I wonder, and how recently, has a consensus of scientific opinion been wrong on a subject of this scale? Any suggestions Steve?



Saturday, December 19, 2009

Who Do You Turn To?


Over my first cup of coffee this morning I came up with a little irony which you and I may live long enough to see metastasize into a big one. I think the germ of it came from the comment on a previous post that "I lose" because polls show that "humans are not responsible for changing the climate".

It occurred to me that global warming skepticism generally encompasses two principle lines of thought: first, that it is not happening at all, and second, that even if it is happening, humans have no hand in it. In either case, the skeptic must come up with some kind of explanation for why a prohibitive majority of qualified climate scientists disagree.

These explanations begin with the relatively innocuous belief that scientists really aren't sure, but as a rule are just too timid to speak out against the prevailing consensus - to the various conspiracy theories, in which scientists are somehow joining together to fool the public as part of a larger effort to acquire wealth and power.

But in every explanation, the skeptic must accept the net result that scientists are just lying to us.

Forget for a minute the "anthropocentric" contributions to global warming and consider this. If, and I repeat if, global mean temperatures continue to rise as scientists are predicting, we should see some tangible effects in the next twenty years or so. Even a modest increase of a few inches in sea level for example could have noticeable effects on low lying coastal areas from Louisiana to the Netherlands. Patterns of agriculture in most countries would also be affected.

Now I'm no great expert on the future consequences of global warming, but I do believe that if this last decade was the warmest on record since 1850 - and if the next decade is even warmer (which is the prediction) - then one should anticipate at least some noticeable consequences will materialize within a period of years and not centuries. What then?

Who then will the public (bless their hearts!) turn to for solutions? If climate scientists have all been exposed as unreliable liars and cheats, how can they be relied upon to furnish an explanation - much less solutions - for global warming? Wouldn't the public (in its infinite wisdom) be better off turning to the skeptics, who had the right answers all along? I mean, don't you think people like Anthony Watts, Joanne Nova, George Will, Jim Inhofe, Christopher Monckton and Andrew Breitbart are the ones we should put in charge of dealing with the consequences of global warming?



Friday, December 18, 2009

A few good surgical implants

Brilliant. I just had to make a copy and post it here, too (credit to author noted below)...

...with apologies to "Colonel Jessep", a medical device executive addresses the Senate Democrats (and, if necessary, Senator Snowe):

"Senator, we live in a world that has patients, and those patients have to be treated with technology. Who's gonna invent, develop it, and build it? You, Senator Sanders? You, Senator Reid? I have a greater responsibility than you could possibly fathom. You weep for high health care costs, and you curse new medical technology. You have that luxury. You have the luxury of not knowing what I know. That new medical technology, while expensive, saves lives. And my existence, while grotesque and incomprehensible to you, saves lives. You don't want the truth because deep down in places you don't talk about in front of cameras or in committee hearings, you want me on that production line, you need me on that production line. We use words like innovation, quality, and safety. We use these words as the backbone of a life spent helping injured people. You use them as a punchline. I have neither the time nor the inclination to explain myself to a man who rises and walks by virtue of the very medical technology that I provide, and then questions the manner in which I provide it. I would rather you just said thank you, and went on your way. Otherwise, I suggest you pick up a biomedical engineering degree, and get to work inventing better medical devices. Either way, I don't give a damn what you think you are entitled to!"

By TigerHawk:

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Climate Modeling


When you have a little time, go visit UCAR: The University Corporation for Atmospheric Research. Its a pretty impressive place. UCAR is "a nonprofit consortium of universities that grant Ph.D.'s in fields related to atmospheric science," and consists of 75 member universities, as well as 25 national and (by my count) 56 international affiliates. Member universities range from our own Georgia Tech, to MIT, CalTech, Harvard, Cornell, Johns Hopkins, The U.S. Naval Academy ... and my favorite, Purdue University - in Lafayette, Indiana, just down the road from my home town of Marion. International affiliates include Peking University, The Russian Academy of Sciences, The Max Planck Institute for Meteorology (Hamburg), Tel Aviv University - even the University of Nairobi in Kenya.

If you have time - and it shouldn't take much, you can browse the various universities with a few points and clicks. These are universities which study and teach just about everything you can think of about climate. Global warming is just a part of this extraordinarily complicated field - so you won't find a bunch of wild eyed global warming "hysteria" pasted all over these sites. But what you can find, if you look, are hundreds and hundreds of on going studies which will ultimately advance our understanding of climate change. Here's an example:

Over at Purdue University, professors Tushar Sinha, Keith A. Cherkauer and Vimal Mishra have a paper which you can view online: "Historic climate change impacts on soil frost in the Mid-Western United States". (whoa!). What's so important about soil frost you ask? Well, lots of things apparently. According to the paper, " (the) Number of soil frost days has decreased by 5 to 10% at most sites", which among other things, decreases spring run off response - which is just another way of saying that soil frost reduces soil erosion in spring.

Now here's my point. Here we have three college professors pursuing one of the most boring and unglamorous subjects I can imagine. But Steve, for whatever the reason, this is their passion. And who knows? Maybe their study, along with thousands of other little bits and pieces, will ultimately feed into the larger picture of climate change which scientists are steadily building. Here's how:

UCAR administers NCAR, The National Center for Atmospheric Research, which uses some of the most powerful supercomputers in existence for climate modeling. The history of NCAR and these amazing machines is fascinating:

"On July 11, 1977, the CRAY-1A, serial number 3, was delivered to NCAR. The system cost was $8.86 million ($7.9 million plus $1 million for the disks).

The supercomputer weighed 5-1/2 tons, arrived in two refrigerated electronic vans, and needed more than 30 construction workers, engineers, and helpers to move it into the computer room. NCAR accepted the CRAY-1A in December. It was the first CRAY-1A to go into production, and upon its acceptance, Cray Research became a profitable company."

Since the CRAY-1A, NCAR has gone through a succession of supercomputers. The latest model is the IBM p575:

"Named "bluefire," the new supercomputer has a peak speed of more than 76 teraflops (76 trillion floating-point operations per second). When fully operational, it is expected to rank among the 25 most powerful supercomputers in the world and will more than triple NCAR's sustained computing capacity."

And they're going to need every one of those teraflops. NCAR's overall climate model is the CCSM, The Community Climate System Model.

"CCSM is unique among powerful models. Funded by the National Science Foundation and the Department of Energy, it belongs to the entire community of climate scientists, rather than to a single institution. The hundreds of specialists at various institutions in the United States and overseas who collaborate on improvements to CCSM make the model’s underlying computer code freely available on the Web. As a result, scientists throughout the world can use CCSM for their climate experiments.

...CCSM-2 recreates climate by dividing the world’s water and land surface into rectangular grid points that extend upward into the atmosphere in 26 vertical layers. Its resolution varies from 2.8 degrees longitude by 2.8 degrees latitude to an even finer resolution, for oceans and sea ice, of 1 degree by 1 degree–meaning that each cell of the grid at peak resolution corresponds to approximately 10,000 square kilometers (about 3,900 square miles).

...For every grid point, the model uses equations to solve such physical processes as the formation of clouds and the movement of heat and moisture. Scientists also input chemical components such as ozone and carbon dioxide that can affect cloud formation or trap solar heat.

...Such complex calculations demand an extraordinary amount of computer power. To recreate a single day of the world’s climate, the model must perform 700 billion calculations. Although this means producing a picture of the atmosphere takes a long time, the payoff is that CCSM-2 can simulate Earth’s climate patterns in considerable detail." (my emphasis)

Now how do you know if CCSM-2 is an accurate representation of objective reality?

"One way to check a model is to see whether it can recreate known climate patterns. When scientists tested CCSM-2, they aimed to reproduce Earth’s climate from 1870 to 2000. They also recreated the irregular cycle of the El NiƱo phenomenon in the Pacific Ocean and the ebb and flow of sea ice in the polar regions. In each instance, the model produced simulations that closely resembled known climate data. In the case of sea ice, for example, CCSM-2 matched satellite observations of ice pack movements over the cycle of seasons—a major achievement because of the many forces that drive the formation of sea ice, including temperatures, ocean currents, and precipitation.

Another way to check a model is to examine whether it can simulate Earth’s climate over centuries without drifting from actual world conditions. To conduct this test, scientists ran a 1,000-year simulation with hypothetical conditions based on the current-day atmosphere remaining unchanged. The results: CCSM-2 produced realistic climate patterns without requiring scientists to correct for any drift. This is known as "flux-free" modeling, and it is unique to CCSM-2.

Now that the model has passed its tests with flying colors, scientists are using it to explore major climate issues. If carbon dioxide levels in the atmosphere continue to increase, for example, should certain farmers construct more irrigation systems or should coastal residents brace for more storms? Another line of research will explore whether past climate patterns, such as the Little Ice Age that cooled temperatures in the 17th, 18th, and early 19th centuries, are likely to reoccur in some form."

Steve, I followed the link you sent me. In his post, IowaHawk breaks out a spread sheet, then goes shopping around for variables to plug in. The whole exercise (I think) is meant to demonstrate how climate scientists might be fudging the data used to construct climate histories - and ultimately, climate models. Now I mean no disrespect for IowaHawk, but it seems to me lay persons, most with no training in climate science, can select from the massive amount of freely available climate research and use simple tools to create the impression that some of it is suspect.

But the truth is, a climate model like the CCSM, which was generated on the state of the art supercomputers at NCAR, involves the input of virtually thousands, if not millions of variables as diverse as temperature and ocean chemistry. And these models work.

Once again, if you have time, go here to see how the CCSM figured in the IPCC 4th assessment report. An excerpt:

"As one of the world's leading climate modeling and research centers, NCAR is a strong supporter of the IPCC scientific assessment process. NCAR scientists have served as lead and contributing authors in each of the four full IPCC assessment reports (1990, 1995, 2001, and 2007) as well as a number of special reports and technical papers that have focused on more specific issues. NCAR climate modeling and process study research has contributed to the peer-reviewed scientific literature that forms the basis of the IPCC's work."

Steve, the University Corporation for Atmospheric Research and the National Center for Atmospheric Research are American institutions which, as far as I can see, have no political agenda of any kind. Much of the research and research tools furnished by UCAR and NCAR form the backbone of the IPCC assessment reports.

Now I don't think it is wrong for private citizens to ask questions about the stability of the science behind an assessment which will have important consequences for just about everyone on the planet. But to insinuate that a few, largely unproven flaws negate the whole process is a little presumptuous, don't you think?


Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Basic Climate Statistical Modeling Explained

Below is a link to a (conservative) political satire site. The author has taken a break from his usual work to put together an excellent how-to guide for understanding the statistical models for climate studies and how they WORK. Highly recommended.

This is just a link to an interesting (and very detailed) technical analysis for this issue. It is very marginally critical of Mann,, nothing too far-out or snippy, IMHO. Be sure to Post any rebuttals to his conclusions on HIS site.

- Steve

Sunday, December 13, 2009


I'm going to say something now which most men know, but few have the guts to talk about. Any man who is now or has ever been married will probably nod his head in a silent, yet futile act of solidarity.

Have you ever noticed, just when an important football game or episode of Smackdown! is getting under weigh, and you've gotten yourself stretched out in your comfy chair with a bowl of chips and a tub of french onion dip located precisely on the coffee table where you can reach it without taking your eyes off the TV... Then, and only then, does your wife decide to break out the vacuum cleaner.

Now I know you know what I mean. In the event, she's going to spend an amazing amount of time on the narrow patch of rug between you and the television, so you have to keep bobbing your head back and forth to catch the action, which is almost impossible to follow over the din of the vacuum anyway. Then she gets up to your chair and you have to keep lifting your feet. Invariably she will move the coffee table itself to sweep under it, which gets your intuitive hand to bowl connection completely out of whack. "Why!" You find yourself asking. Well I'll tell you why.

Its because this is the perfect time for your wife to demonstrate that she is the responsible one while you are a lazy bum. She's telling you that she cares about the important things, like sanitation, while all you care about is stuffing your face with chips and dip while watching a bunch of bloated, overpaid neanderthals beat the living daylights each other. There. I said it.

I grew up in a world where men were men and women were supposed to swoon every time we flexed our muscles. In that world, men were the Hired Guns, sort of like Clint Eastwood in "The Unforgiven". Our job, our crucial job, to fight off the wolves and jackals which prowled in the darkness just beyond the light of the campfire. For this reason, we had to keep ourselves sharp and well rested. This is why we were supposed to watch football and share chest bumps.

Now days things have changed, and I can't honestly say for the better. In too many families, it is the woman who not only brings home the bacon and fries it up in a pan, but also beats the holy crap out the wolves and jackals. All this is going on while the husband is trying to fix a leaky faucet without hurting himself, and in the process making the leak much worse. Is this progress?

On a related note, whenever I went grocery shopping with my wife and kids, I always considered myself as a sort of scout, or outrider. While she managed the cart, the kids and the shopping list, I did the important work of roaming far ahead, sniffing out all kinds of unusual bargains. And it made sense. Only a man, alone, moving swiftly and silently up and down the aisles could ever hope to make such rare and unusual finds as jalapeno stuffed olives or bourbon flavored coffee.

By the way, I still have a ton of that coffee. We got it back in 2002, but I think its still good. Would you like some?


Friday, December 11, 2009

Climate Change


Before we get to the substance of this post, I'll have to ask your indulgence in a short digression into armchair psychology.

I've been trying for over a week now to put together a response to your (now 4) posts on what you are calling "Climategate". As I've mentioned before, I use writing for this blog as a means of educating myself and organizing my own thoughts - so the process is fairly time consuming. However in this particular case I find I have pretty much lost all my motivation, and just this morning I realized why. The reason is that I have been preventing myself from actually saying what is on my mind.

Therefore, in keeping with the Anything Goes spirit on which Professor de la Paz founded this blog (with able assistance from you and me), I've decided to stop dithering over the details and get a few things off my chest. So just make sure you are tightly strapped in and your toupee is firmly glued on. Here goes...

First up, the notion that climate scientists the world over are all part of some vast conspiracy is childish and ridiculous. It isn't supported by the facts and an insult to anyone with a grain of common sense. It is a bizarre, crackpot assertion that relies on two of the worst weaknesses of human nature: unreasoning fear of the unknown and the uneducated man's irrational distrust of the academic.

2500 scientists in several disciplines across 130 countries were involved in putting together the latest of 4 IPCC Assessment Reports. It is part of a gradual, systematic process which has been going on now since 1988. And that process not only stands out as a shining example of international cooperation, but also of mankind's potential to set aside petty, regional differences and come to grips with the incredibly difficult challenge of understanding his environment.

Have there been flaws, missteps and inaccuracies along the way? Well of course there have! No undertaking of this scale can possibly avoid them. Have all of the professionals involved been innocent of political bias or intellectual arrogance? It would be down right stupid to claim they have not. These are, after all, imperfect men at the very frontier of science. They have disagreed repeatedly on the details. So what? To their lasting credit, they have hashed out and overcome these disagreements and personal prejudices according to the only rules which make sense: those being the merciless canons of the scientific method.

More importantly, because they have arrived at a consensus view which much of the general public plainly doesn't want to hear, they have been constantly hounded and attacked. Pundits, politicians - even priests and pastors have denounced them as hucksters and charlatans. Steve, largely these are men and women who decided, at an early age, to study hard and eventually excel in what most of us would consider the boring science of Climatology. Now as luck would have it they are standing at the focal point of possibly the most crucial issue of our time. And how do we repay their hard work and dedication? By calling them liars and cheats. What utter, contemptible crap that is! And shameful. We ought to be thanking them.

And who do we turn to for alternatives? What collection of sagacious experts is telling us the theory of anthropocentric global warming is a bunch of malarky ("Just move along folks, there's nothing here to see...")? We turn to one of the most flaky, biased, ignorant collection of kooks and oddballs imaginable, nearly none of which have any relevent academic credentials.

Gentlemen, I give you Dr. Klaus-Martin Schulte, the famous endocrinologist, Lord Christopher Monckton (3rd Viscount of Monckton), who earned a degree in journalism at Cardiff, Marc Morano, the former producer for Rush Limbaugh with no degree in science, and Anthony Watts, who has no college degree in anything. Then we have Sallie Baliunas, the astrophysicist, who famously argued before congress that banning CFC's would cost 20 to 30 million lives world wide and 2 trillion dollars to the U.S. Economy, and Arthur B. Robinson, whose "Oregon Institute" consists of a pole barn outside of Cave Junction, which lists 5 non-family faculty members, none of which actually teach there (two of them because they are currently dead)... give me a break.

I know; just because a person has little or no training in a particular field of study doesn't mean what they are saying about that field is wrong. But if you had a brain tumor, wouldn't you want advice from a neurosurgeon? And by extension, if thousands of credentialed climate scientists are telling us that humans are making a dangerously high contribution to global warming, why would we ignore them and turn instead to a motley collection of non -credentialed skeptics? I'll tell you why.

Because the skeptics are telling us what we want to hear. We are, in a word, afraid. Scientists are telling us we have to change the way we have always done things and that makes us so uncomfortable that we will grab at any straw, no matter how flimsy, so long as it denies what they are saying. We are willing to believe in the most idiotic, cockamamie conspiracy theory, just so we don't have to face the hard questions which global warming poses.

Now Steve, you point out the billions our government has spent on studying climate change and compare that to the paltry millions Exxon-Mobil has spent to deny the findings of the science altogether. Off hand, I can't think of a more meaningless example. Our government spends billions on cancer research. Would that then exonerate Phillip Morris for spending a few million trying to prove cigarettes don't cause lung cancer? And by the way, Fred Singer, one today's most prominent climate skeptics, was paid by the tobacco industry to do just that.

Just about all of the money this country spends on climate change goes towards genuine research. It pays NASA for weather satellites, which by the way aren't cheap, and the NOAA for climate monitoring sites. It funds research into alternative fuels and technologies which would be worthwhile even if there were no such thing as global warming in the first place. On the other hand, just about every penny of the Exxon-Mobil money has been spent, not to fund or foster scientific research, but to influence public opinion. A few more licks:

The oil and gas industry spent over half a billion dollars in the last 20 years in political contributions alone. That doesn't even count the millions the industry has spent in the same period on so called "think tanks", advertising, and efforts to recruit any scientist who is willing to disagree with AGW. But now even that failed effort is being jettisoned by Exxon, along with other big hitters like Duke Energy, Chevron and GE, who are lining up to sign on with the EPA's Combined Heat and Power Partnership.

But more to the point, where are all these millionaire climatologists who you claim are cashing in on government spending? The truth is, they are no different than all the rest of the teachers and researchers who earn a decent living at this country's schools and other institutions, by doing what they were trained for and are paid to do.

I have on the coffee table in my living room the November, 09 issue of Scientific American. You can borrow it if you want. In this issue is an article: "A Path to Sustainable Energy by 2030", by Mark Jacobson and Mark Delucchi. Some facts from that article: The maximum world consumption of power at any given moment is 12.5 trillion watts. By 2030, that figure is expected to rise to about 17 trillion. By contrast, according to detailed studies, the maximum energy available from wind alone is 1700 trillion watts. From solar, this amount is 6500 trillion watts. Even when you subtract from these figures the amount of power which cannot be feasibly recovered, as from such locations as mountains or the open seas, you still come up with well over 600 trillion watts of commercially recoverable energy from wind and solar alone. Steve, that's over 35 times what peak demand will be in 20 years. If any of this is even close to being true, we are absolutely surrounded by a virtually unlimited source of clean, renewable power. What exactly is so scary about that?

I want to end this post with a comment from one of your favorite people.

"...we're putting 90 million tons of it into the air today and we'll put a little more of that up there tomorrow. The physical relationship between CO2 molecules and the atmosphere and the trapping of heat is as well established as gravity, for God's Sakes.

But the basic facts are incontrovertible. What do they think happens when we put 90 million tons up there every day? Is there some magic wand they can wave on it and presto!—physics is overturned and carbon dioxide doesn't trap heat anymore? And when we see all these things happening on the Earth itself, what in the hell do they think is causing it? The scientists have long held that the evidence in their considered word is "unequivocal," which has been endorsed by every national academy of science in every major country in the entire world."

I feel better now.


Bad people! Bad!

The EPA has pronounced "greenhouse gasses" a threat to public health ( This is so arrogantly astonishing I have trouble believing it. They can't get Congress to do what they want, so now it's up to one department in the Administration to declare that every American is a polluter.

Humans exhale CO2. Shame on us. Bad, people! Bad! …

Yes, yes, I know the EPA focus is supposedly about managing vehicle emissions, but this policy is not limited to that aspect. This is the first step down dangerous road... I'm Paranoid? Really? Since when does a bureaucracy even *try* limit its power, influence and control?

This is the imposition of "we know best", not even by Congress, but by Administrative fiat. And it's wrong. Period.

- Steve

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

The IPCC versus Science

(Sorry, I couldn't wait...)

Direct from the IPCC web-site:

“The IPCC is a scientific body. It reviews and assesses the most recent scientific, technical and socio-economic information produced worldwide relevant to the understanding of climate change. It does not conduct any research nor does it monitor climate related data or parameters. Thousands of scientists from all over the world contribute to the work of the IPCC on a voluntary basis. Review is an essential part of the IPCC process, to ensure an objective and complete assessment of current information. Differing viewpoints existing within the scientific community are reflected in the IPCC reports.”

No, it's *not* a “scientific body”: it is a political organization. IMHO, it has a clearly established agenda, and makes proclamations and issues reports in line with that agenda. The IPCC has set itself up to be THE authority and research information storehouse for Climate Change. But, while providing a central clearinghouse for collecting research data is good thing, Science does not want or need an “Authority” - it needs open, honest and comprehensive evaluations of the data and research into all issues. This evaluation should lead wherever the FACTS take them. Science does not (and should not) have any interest in the result of the evaluation other than accurately and honestly testing a theory.

The IPCC, as a political organization with an agenda of its choosing, clearly DOES have an interest in 'proving' a certain set of results... and it acts accordingly. But that's not SCIENCE.

Now, the UN and the IPCC and all other similar organizations are more than welcome to exist as political entities. But at least have the honesty to present themselves for what they are. Whether you, I, or anyone agree or disagree with their policies, ideology or agenda are irrelevant to the pursuit Good Science.

Caveat: To be completely honest, I was relatively unaware of the existence of the IPCC until they started making claims and issuing reports that were being taken so seriously. I believe most people share that position. But when a group start setting itself up as the ultimate, world-wide authority on something and proposes it will effectively be dictator for how *I* will be living my life, it gets my immediate attention and intense scrutiny. Proceed with caution.

Back to the IPCC...

“Because of its scientific and intergovernmental nature, the IPCC embodies a unique opportunity to provide rigorous and balanced scientific information to decision makers. By endorsing the IPCC reports, governments acknowledge the authority of their scientific content. The work of the organization is therefore policy-relevant and yet policy-neutral, never policy-prescriptive.”

Boy, that sure sounds good in print, but the actions of the IPCC (and the UN in general) yields a decidedly different result. The IPCC has an agenda. It is NOT “neutral”. IMHO, there has not been a remotely neutral aspect to any organization within the U.N. for decades. It's all about 'policy': the policies IT wants and desires for its own purposes.

“The IPCC has also a Task Force on National Greenhouse Gas Inventories. The main objective of the Task Force is to develop and refine a methodology for the calculation and reporting of national GHG emissions and removals. In addition to the Working Groups and Task Force, further Task Groups and Steering Groups may be established for a limited or longer duration to consider a specific topic or question. “

This very clearly sets out the agenda of the IPCC. By using its own 'calculations' of national emissions, the IPCC presents itself as the final arbiter of energy production and consumption on a national basis. The IPCC intends to interject itself into the economic activities of 'selected' countries. in short: it wants to be economic dictator of the entire planet. (Am I taking this to an extreme? Really? Think about it...)

If addressing the problem of climate change was a problem for *everyone*, then everyone would have to be part of the solution; and there would be no need for a 'Task Force' to monitor the actions of selected 'nationals' (other than for enforcement of policies they already agreed to - which is a different issue entirely).

“Comprehensiveness, objectivity, openness and transparency: these are the principles governing the IPCC work. All major decisions about the organization and its work are taken by the Panel of its member countries during the Plenary sessions. The Panel has established clear procedures for all main activities of the organization.“

The recently revealed actions of the CRU, individuals, and other groups have clearly demonstrated the sources relied upon by the IPCC and others are NOT 'comprehensive' (if you don't agree with 'the consensus', you cannot be heard), are not 'objective' (ditto), are not open (again), and by no reasonable standard considered 'transparent' (hah!). Also note that decisions are made by “the Panel of its member countries”, i.e., politicians.

“Review is an essential part of the IPCC process to ensure objective and complete assessment of the current information. In the course of the multi-stage review process, both expert reviewers and governments are invited to comment on the accuracy and completeness of the scientific/technical/socio economic content and the overall balance of the drafts. The circulation process among peer and government experts is very wide, with hundreds of scientists looking into the drafts to check the soundness of the scientific information contained in them. The Review Editors of the report (normally two per chapter) make sure that all comments are well taken into account...All IPCC reports must be endorsed by the Panel during a Working Group or a Plenary session. There are three levels of endorsement:

“approval” means that the material has been subjected to line by line discussion and agreement. It is the procedure used for the Summary for Policymakers of the Reports.

“adoption” is a process of endorsement section by section. It is used for the Synthesis Report and overview chapters of Methodology Reports.

“acceptance” signifies that the material has not been subject to line by line nor section by section discussion and agreement, but nevertheless presents a comprehensive, objective and balanced view of the subject matter.”

Read it again... This is simple, agenda-driven nose counting at its finest level. Notice that the IPCC review process, by its own definition, requires acceptance not only by the scientists, but by government reviewers and agencies. Again, this alone is proof that we are not dealing with Pure Science, but with a political organization, hence, it is ideologically-driven. I could make a comment here about the claim that “all comments are taken into account” is a load of ^%$@, but that would be repeating myself.

“This Special Report will consider three types of extreme events: the ones for which climate change has or will amplify occurrence - as floods and droughts; the ones in which trends outside the domain of climate will increase exposure or vulnerability to climate-related extremes - for instance coastal development increasing exposure to storm surges; and new kinds of potentially hazardous events and conditions that may occur as a result of climate change - such as glacial lakes outburst. The report will include 9 chapters. Three of them will focus on managing the risk at different levels in the society: community based responses; national scale and international responses...”

This 'report' is requires that it is possible to ACCURATELY predict such events. Further, it relies on the ASSUMPTION that specific actions by mankind (a) are ultimately responsible for these events, and (b) can manipulate (mitigate) the results. Hogwash. (Unproven.)

The key aspect of the agenda is contained in the last sentence above: “managing the risk at different levels in the society”. THIS is the definition of the ultimate agenda being pursued: political control on the lives and actions of people. It's not about research, it's not about finding problems or looking for solutions: it's about POWER. Power to be wielded in support of a specific political ideology and the pursuit of THOSE goals at any and all costs.

The Climate Change QUESTION is simple:

Do the actions of man significantly add CO2 to the atmosphere, and, if so, how much of an impact (e.g., temperature increase) will occur directly related to those actions?

I've highlighted the key words to prevent confusion. Note that it's not a question of whether or not man 'affects' climate - sure we do. So do all living things like animals, bacteria, plants, and even non-living things like volcanoes and clouds, Instead: Is the effect of mankind's actions (or inaction) materially significant? How big is our impact when compared against other sources on a global scale? And just what is the optimal temperature range for mankind? And can we do anything about it?


#1 - Proof of climate change (warming) IS NOT PROOF that man-made CO2 emissions are the cause.

#2 - Being skeptical is Perfectly Acceptable. If you believe, fine. But be prepared to provide supporting evidence. A 'consensus' of opinion IS NOT evidence. And a computer model, no matter how carefully designed and cleverly written IS NOT evidence. (BTW, if your model cannot accurately predict temperatures over a ten-year period, why should I trust its 100-year forecast?)

#3 - We don't need one single All-Star Team of scientists working on this. As nice as that would be, I would much rather see a LOT of teams, each working on their own particular aspects and specialties. The more widespread the research, the less likely the review process will get bogged down in personal agendas and the pursuit of desired results instead of the pursuit of fact.

I'm gonna be blunt... If man-made CO2 is not proven by the evidence to be a significant cause of planetary warming beyond optimal conditions, then carbon controls, cap-and-trade, emissions trading, Kyoto, Copenhagen, et. al., are a waste of time and resources better spent on Things That Matter (like finding cures for cancer and other diseases, providing clean water, feeding people...)

With all that in mind -

- Don't refer me to an Authority. Argument by authority (or demands to 'yield to the consensus') only proves that a committee with the intention to find a particular result will do so. Go back and look up the “phlogiston theory”; read about the peer-review and discussions among scientists during that time. SCIENCE is not democratic - natural laws and facts are not subject to a vote. Counting noses proves nothing.

- Don't change the subject. “We need more research into renewables”. I Agree 100%... but let's do things for the right reasons. Doing it because 'it feels good' is government by wishful thinking. If an opportunity for profit exists, the forces of capitalism will find it and work to extract that profit as proven time and again (enlightened self-interest is a powerful force). “We need to take precautions.” Perhaps. But consider that every action has a cost. How much should we spend on a problem that may not exist? And how will we know what we do is working?

- Don't resort to name calling. I'm not a climate scientist and neither is Al Gore: what does that have to do with anything? I could be a Nazi, an oil sheik, a fascist, anarchist, or conservative: none of those things change satellite temperature records or ice core data.

- Don't even mention someone 'being on the payroll of Big Oil'. Exxon-Mobil spent about 23 million on climate research between 1989-2007. The US Government alone spent over $30 BILLION during the same period. If you're gonna follow the money, follow ALL of it. You get what you pay for, and government interests are political, not scientific: period.

- Don't mix cause and effect. Rising sea levels, ice melts, disappearing forests are effects, not causes. Their existence, even if proven, does not tell us what caused them.

- Don't confuse Lab Results with Reality. The warming effects of CO2 have been known for a long time. It's also been known that CO2 only absorbs certain wavelengths of light and there is a 'saturation point', where adding more CO2 to the atmosphere does not materially increase temperatures. A theory may be fine, but you must compare the observable Real World results and use THEM, not what the lab or the theory predicts.

- Don't appeal to emotion. Polar bears are wonderful creations and brainwashing children to believe they are endangered so the kids will whine and cry about it to parents doesn't prove your case. Being fearful of hurricanes is reasonable; but don't claim 'more storms are coming' when the evidence shows otherwise (another 'model' that doesn't work.) Address your theory and the supporting facts to my brain, not to my heart.

- Don't insist on 'peer-review' as a requirement. (see Authority discussion, above) Be careful what you wish for... some papers contradict each other, so they cannot ALL be right. Many peer-reviewed papers still turn out to be false upon further review. Besides, such a system is only as good as the impartiality of the reviewer (need I bring up the CRU scandal again?). Peer-review *is* useful, but does not constitute Proof. A theory stands or fails on the evidence. In fact, peer-review *must* proceed from the starting point that the theory in question is FALSE or the review is worthless. Ask Fleischmann-Pons about their “Cold Fusion” experiments and peer-review. If you cannot duplicate the results, they aren't real, and it doesn't matter if you (personally) agree with the proposed conclusion or not. Keep working and refining your theory until you can duplicate it. Until then, basing government policy on an unproven theory is potentially destructive in the extreme. And you're just guessing anyway.

- Don't demand presentation of an alternative theory first. The burden of proof is on the claimant, not the skeptic. It only takes ONE FACT to disprove a theory, no matter how nicely the theory is wrapped. We don't have a better explanation” is an argument by ignorance; it's not proof.

In conclusion (yay!): Good Political Policies require Good Science.
Especially if the risk for being wrong - on either side - is as great as it is claimed.

- Steve

Friday, December 4, 2009

A nice historical quote, re: Climategate

"To the ordinary guy, all this is a bunch of gobbledygook. But out of the gobbledygook comes a very clear thing, which is: You can't trust the government, you can't believe what they say and you can't rely on their judgment. And that the implicit infallibility of presidents, which has been an accepted thing in America, is badly hurt by this, because it shows that people do things the president wants to do even though it's wrong. And the president can be wrong."
- H.R. Haldeman, commenting on the Pentagon Papers

Imagine that: The president can be wrong... What can we learn from this?

1. Scientists can be wrong, too.

2. Scientists are not robots - they are human and thus corruptible by the same outside influences as anyone else.

- Steve

A Postscript --- Once again, let me state that this is NOT about Global Warming, per se. There is a distinct difference between the concepts of 'temperatures are rising' and 'the actions of mankind are CAUSING the temperature changes.'

I will not argue against 'climate change'. The planetary climate *is* changing, it has changed, it will likely always be in a state of flux. However, if - repeat, *IF* - there is reproducible and clear evidence that actions by mankind are having a significant measurable effect on climate (yes, it's possible), then we should spend time and resources to increase our understanding of those scientific processes with the goal of determining a process (or processes) representing a suitable course of action. A suspicion of a correlation is not Proof. Counting noses of those who agree with a theory is not Proof. Creating a complex model is not Proof. Not having another explanation is not Proof. AND WE MUST HAVE PROOF.

And then, BEFORE making any changes, we must also have in place the tools and tracking necessary to accurately measure the results of those efforts. IMHO, *all* AGW proposals on the table simply DO NOT meet this reasonable set of criteria. This is primarily because we simply DO NOT have the ability to accurately measure the conditions, let alone measuring the effects of different actions. In short - we just don't KNOW. If we cannot measure the results of existing conditions, how can we know whether or not changing what we as humans *DO* is having the desired effect?

Until we *do* know - with a reasonable level of reproducible test results - to radically alter the entire structure of the world economy to respond to a 'problem' which may not exist (or, more likely, simply be outside the realm of human manipulation and control) is absurd and insane.

This situation has been further complicated by the fact that the raw data from years of measurements has been 'lost' or corrupted beyond usefulness. Finding Answers, to say nothing of continuing legitimate research efforts, may not be possible for DECADES - at least until new (replacement) data can be gathered and properly evaluated, if that is even possible. This is a horrible, horrible travesty.


Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Climategate: Explaining Away 'Bad Science'

Sorry - I'm trying to contain myself, but I just can't seem to let this thing go...

Yes, I've downloaded the 61mb CRU dump myself (it expands to over 162mb). I'm skipping most of the e-mails and focusing on some of the technical notes in the computer programs and source code. What I've seen is NOT looking good. Just google “HARRY_READ_ME.TXT” or try
and see what some techies are saying. More about that in another post...

Some are now claiming the hack is bogus, or that the publication of 160MB of private data, with over 1000 emails, contains no evidence whatsoever of political interference or data falsification. In response, I submit the following definition:

Denial (also called abnegation) is a defense mechanism postulated by Sigmund Freud, in which a person is faced with a fact that is too uncomfortable to accept and rejects it instead, insisting that it is not true despite what may be overwhelming evidence. The subject may deny the reality of the unpleasant fact altogether (simple denial), admit the fact, but deny its seriousness (minimisation) or admit both the fact and seriousness, but deny responsibility (transference). [snicker] But to move Onward...

During a lunch break, I looked around to see what was being said by the UEA about the hack itself. I found this very recent article: Listed as a primary author is Mike Hulme (, professor of Climate Change at University of East Anglia (UEA). He is also the founding Director (2000-2007) of the Tyndall Centre for Climate Change Research, based in the School of Environmental Sciences at UEA, funded by the UK Research Councils. He's right in the middle of all this.

At one point, the article states:

“It is not the case that the science is somehow now "finished" and that we now should simply get on with implementing it.”

Funny. I have a distinct memory of phrases like “there is a consensus”, “the science is done”, “the results are in”, and “we MUST act now!” being tossed about with great fanfare and much gnashing of teeth. If the 'science' is not finished, why all the rush to Do Something? But I digress...

Instead - I direct your attention to this quote:

“The classic virtues of scientific objectivity, universality and disinterestedness can no longer be claimed to be automatically effective as the essential properties of scientific knowledge.
Instead, warranted knowledge - knowledge that is authoritative, reliable and guaranteed on the basis of how it has been acquired - has become more sought after than the ideal of some ultimately true and objective knowledge.”

After reading this, it was difficult for me to even read the remainder of the article, much less consider it seriously. Hulme is explicitly proposing that study & research & evaluating the data is not important: all we need (should) do is just... 'trust authority'. And, since the 'authority' behind AGW has now been proven to be corrupt, his answer is - let's create a new authority! Hogwash. Apparently, Hulme has forgotten that such 'reliable and guaranteed' Authorities once stated the Earth was the center of the Universe - yet Galileo, although beaten and broken into submission noted, “but it still moves.”

Science is not a debating sport. It is a review and genuine examination of FACT, not an argument between opposing points of view, because in the end, you are either Right, or you are Wrong. Yes, you can debate which parts are right, but at the end of the day, the one TRUTH wins. There is no gray. Sorry.

I also discovered that several years ago, Hulme wrote: “Self-evidently dangerous climate change will not emerge from a normal scientific process of truth seeking, although science will gain some insights into the question if it recognises the socially contingent dimensions of a post-normal science. But to proffer such insights, scientists – and politicians – must trade (normal) truth for influence. If scientists want to remain listened to, to bear influence on policy, they must recognise the social limits of their truth seeking and reveal fully the values and beliefs they bring to their scientific activity.”

What? Is he serious establishing SCIENCE as a professional realm where everyone has an opinion, and everyone is right? Are we supposed to play Family Feud? ... Let's welcome the Michael Mann family, and they are facing the Ed Wegman's! Who is right? … Let's see what the survey says!.... Absurd - such an approach doesn't work, and it cannot work.

One very interesting aspect of Climategate is that the AGW proponents, for the first time, are getting a dose of THEIR OWN MEDICINE - namely a direct appeal to the public and controlling the public opinion through the mass-media hysteria. The fact that planet temperatures are not rising for the last several years is not, in itself, an argument against some technical aspects of the AGW theory. But for a layman this becomes an unbeatable argument - The Powers Are Hiding The Truth! The CRU emails themselves do not contain anything extraordinary. To be sure, there are plenty of unethical moments, but little to nothing in the way of (provable) criminal activity. However now, thanks to journalists and bloggers, "Michael's tricks" will become a catch-phrase, and everyone starts to happily chant that "Global Warming is a myth!" Is this the way to continued Scientific Enlightenment, to find ANSWERS? I think not.

The only reason Climategate is in the news (and will not disappear) is because it has shown a particular ideologically-driven policy is being justified by being based on fraudulent science. Perhaps, more importantly, the 'facts' to support the theory were deliberately manipulated to match the requirements for the policy. What these 'scientists' did was change the 'inconvenient truth' of carefully selected historical facts to generate the result the policy needed. This is not science, it's creative writing.

Most scientists agree that global climate temperatures increased the last 150 years. The question is: “WHY?” After a review of *all* of the available data, it is more than reasonable to conclude the increase in global temperatures was part of a cycle seen before and effectively due to recovery from the Little Ice Age (LIA), and is unrelated to increases in CO2 in the air as generated by the Industrial Revolution. There are reams of data showing that the earth has been going though natural temperature cycles for millions of years. For nearly all global temperature cycles, greenhouse gases did not increase until hundreds or sometimes thousands of years AFTER the temperature increase, which completely destroys the claim that greenhouse gases CAUSED the temperature change. Also, the global temperatures have apparently stopped increasing in this last temperature cycle (as of about ten years ago), while greenhouse gases emissions continued increasing, once again showing that greenhouse gases - and specifically CO2 concentrations - are not solely responsible for global temperature changes.

The Man-Made Climate Change theory may or may not be total nonsense, but much of the political propaganda (ideology) it engenders *IS*. The corrupting influence of politics is the driving force behind the falsification of data. This is not the first instance of data manipulation we have seen nor is it likely to be the last. Even studies which fail to support the Climate Change hypothesis at least give lip service to it. You can't get funding if you don't. A cynical person might note the neat way the AGW theory fits with environmentalist ideology and how readily it translates into a scheme to give politicians more power.

And *THAT* is the Real Scandal behind Climate Gate.

Leaders take note: This is what happens when balanced debates are denied and the press is manipulated into suppressing a story. Also, when this DOES get into the mainstream, there will be a tidal wave of skeptics around - not just on this issue but on *all* issues. It is a part of the human condition to get angry when lied to. There WILL be consequences.

- Steve