Archive for the 'Science' Category

First ISIS, now this

Monday, September 29th, 2014

HuffPo:

The intruder who climbed a fence made it farther inside the White House than the Secret Service has publicly acknowledged, a Republican congressman said Monday. The disclosures came on the eve of a congressional oversight hearing with the director of the embattled agency assigned to protect the president’s life.

Rep. Jason Chaffetz, R-Utah, said Monday night that whistleblowers told his committee that the intruder ran through the White House, into the East Room and near the doors to the Green Room before being apprehended. They also told the committee that the intruder made it past a female guard stationed inside the White House, Chaffetz said.

In the hours after the Sept. 19 fence-jumper incident, Secret Service spokesman Ed Donovan told The Associated Press that the suspect had been apprehended just inside the North Portico doors of the White House. The Secret Service also said that night that the suspect had been unarmed — an assertion that was revealed to be false the next day when officials acknowledged that Omar J. Gonzalez had a knife with him when he was apprehended.

Also, CAGW has jumped the shark. What’s next?

Caution, genius at work

Wednesday, September 24th, 2014

Guardian:

this is not about just telling people to change their light bulbs or to buy a hybrid car. This disaster has grown BEYOND the choices that individuals make. This is now about our industries, and governments around the world taking decisive, large-scale action. I am not a scientist, but I don’t need to be. Because the world’s scientific community has spoken, and they have given us our prognosis, if we do not act together, we will surely perish.

And as if that weren’t enough, there’s this. This is terminally embarrassing but at least we now know what it’s like to live in the pre-Enlightenment West (or even in the 7th century).

They don’t know that they don’t know

Tuesday, September 23rd, 2014

NYT:

The family whose legendary wealth flowed from Standard Oil is planning to announce on Monday that its $860 million philanthropic organization, the Rockefeller Brothers Fund, is joining the divestment movement that began a couple years ago…Ms. Wayne said the family’s commitment is intergenerational, and continuing. She said that her 8-year-old daughter lectures her on the destruction of orangutan habitat to create palm oil plantations. “If I’m wearing lipstick, she won’t kiss me,” she said, “because there’s palm oil in it.”

And there’s more. At a minimum, these people are not arguments for low estate taxes.

Myths, then and now

Monday, September 22nd, 2014

Richard Lindzen (earlier piece here):

Climate alarm belongs to a class of issues characterized by a claim for which there is no evidence, that nonetheless appeals strongly to one or more interests or prejudices. Once the issue is adopted, evidence becomes irrelevant. Instead, the believer sees what he believes. Anything can serve as a supporting omen. Three very different previous examples come to mind (though there are many more examples that could be cited): Malthus’ theory of overpopulation, social Darwinism and the Dreyfus Affair. Although each of these issues engendered opposition, only the Dreyfus Affair led to widespread societal polarization. More commonly, only the ‘believers’ are sufficiently driven to form a movement. We will briefly review these examples (though each has been subject to book length analyses), but the issue of climate alarm is somewhat special in that it appeals to a sizeable number of interests, and has strong claims on the scientific community. It also has the potential to cause exceptional harm to an unprecedented number of people. This has led to persistent opposition amidst widespread lack of interest. However, all these issues are characterized by profound immorality pretending to virtue.

Malthus’ peculiar theory wherein the claimed linear growth of food loses out to the exponential growth of population has maintained continuous popularity in the faculty lounge for about two centuries. It is, therefore, worth noting that Malthus had no evidence that food supply would increase only linearly. Nor did he have evidence for exponential population growth. Malthus initially went so far as to estimate an e-folding time for population of 25 years, based on the population of North America, and ignoring the role of immigration. Although Malthus, himself, eventually acknowledged these problems, the enthusiasm for his anti-human conclusions remains strong. Neither the green revolution nor the diminution of famine amidst increasing population dissuades them. The fact that Chad is poor and the Netherlands is rich never strikes the believer as odd. Apparently, the growth of cities, the movement of workers from the farm to the city, and, for much of the developed world, immigration, all served to convince people of means that there were too many other people around, and Malthusian theory formed a framework for something they were (and are) eager to believe.

Social Darwinism and its corollary, eugenics, represents another case of a theory without support that was widely accepted with, at times, horrid consequences. Darwin’s “The Origin of the Species” had immense influence. It presented a theory whereby natural selection and what were essentially mutations could account for biological evolution. While it offered valuable insights into the development of finch beaks, it was hardly meant to describe societal evolution. Nevertheless, the notion of ‘survival of the fittest’ applied to society had obvious appeal to those who perceived themselves to be the fittest and who naturally regarded the application as scientifically justified. It was a small step to eugenics which was the counterpart of modern day environmentalism during the first third of the twentieth century, and was supported by all the ‘best’ people (including George Bernard Shaw, Margaret Sanger, Alexander Graham Bell, and Theodore Roosevelt) despite the fact that there actually was a mathematical theorem (the Hardy-Weinberg Theorem) that showed that the impact of eugenics on the gene pool would be negligible. Needless to add, mathematics is of no importance to the ‘best’ people. Malthusian population fears continue to the present, but eugenics was rendered unfashionable by the obvious implications presented by the Nazis.

While science is a common vehicle for such misuse, the Dreyfus Affair shows that other vehicles exist. In 1894, Captain Alfred Dreyfus was accused of passing secret French military information to the Germans. There was, in fact, no evidence to support this accusation. Nevertheless, there was again a strong desire on the part of many people in France to believe the accusation. To be sure, there was the endemic anti-Semitism in France. However, there was also the humiliation of France’s loss in the Franco-Prussian War, and the desire to blame such loss not on the army, but on the perfidy of a group that some considered to be ‘outside’. (The Nazis’ ‘stab in the back’ theory for the German loss in WW1 represents a similar instinct). Dreyfus was tried (several times) and sentenced to Devil’s Island. Prominent Frenchmen (Emile Zola in particular) , incensed by the obvious injustice campaigned for Dreyfus, and the issue literally split France in half (partly because the conflict between Catholics and Secularists also entered the Affair). Dreyfus was eventually exonerated after the identification of the actual spy became undeniable.

The current issue of global warming/climate change is extreme in terms of the number of special interests that opportunistically have strong interests in believing in the claims of catastrophe despite the lack of evidence. In no particular order, there are the leftist economists for whom global warming represents a market failure, there are the UN apparatchiks for whom global warming is the route to global governance, there are third world dictators who see guilt over global warming as providing a convenient claim on aid (ie, the transfer of wealth from the poor in rich countries to the wealthy in poor countries), there are the environmental activists who love any issue that has the capacity to frighten the gullible into making hefty contributions to their numerous NGOs, there are the crony capitalists who see the opportunity to cash in on the immense sums being made available for ‘sustainable’ energy, there are the government regulators for whom the control of a natural product of breathing is a dream come true, there are newly minted billionaires who find the issue of ‘saving the planet’ appropriately suitable to their grandiose pretensions, etc., etc.

Strange as it may seem, even the fossil fuel industry is generally willing to go along. After all, they realize better than most, that there is no current replacement for fossil fuels. The closest possibilities, nuclear and hydro, are despised by the environmentalists. As long as fossil fuel companies have a level playing field, and can pass expenses to the consumers, they are satisfied. Given the nature of corporate overhead, the latter can even form a profit center. The situation within science itself is equally grim. Huge sums of government and private funding have become available to what was initially a small backwater field. Science becomes easy when emphasis is on malleable models supported by hugely uncertain data that can be readily found ‘consistent’ with the models supplemented by fervidly imagined catastrophic ‘implications.’ Indeed, uncertainty is often exaggerated for just this purpose. Opposition within the scientific community is immediately met with ad hominem attacks, loss of funding, and difficulty in publishing.

The last paragraph is interesting in that the amorality (and sometimes perfidy) of big companies is something that many on the left and right can agree on. Somewhat amusing treatment here.

Oddities, inanities, and so forth

Sunday, September 21st, 2014

From Yale: “To Save the Planet, Don’t Plant Trees.” From NYU: earth’s temperature “increased much more slowly for the past 16 years, even as the human contribution to atmospheric carbon dioxide has risen by some 25%…the models famously fail to capture this slowing in the temperature rise.” And, topping the charts today: “Truly inspiring to be able to come here. Anne was a great girl. Hopefully she would have been a belieber.”

Many never left the Dark Ages

Friday, September 19th, 2014

We used to worry that the West was losing the Enlightenment. No more. It turns out that the Enlightenment bypassed many who reside in the West. Some are still fighting wars that began in the 7th century. (It is amazing that the establishment still refuses to acknowledge this obvious truth.)

But we’re not simply talking about the barbarians now inside the gate. We’re talking about those who believe in ridiculous superstitions like the alchemy of our time, CAGW. They believe in a magic bean that can destroy the earth, a bean so powerful that one bean among 2500 can do the job. And they believe they are superior for believing this voodoo (here and here, for example).

Thomas Aquinas wrote on alchemy in his time. We wonder what he’d make of it in our time.

Sense and nonsense regarding Ebola

Wednesday, September 17th, 2014

First, nonsense (insanity really) via NYT:

Senior administration officials said Monday night that the Department of Defense would open a joint command operation in Monrovia, Liberia, to coordinate the international effort to combat the disease. The military will also provide engineers to help construct the additional treatment facilities and will send enough people to train up to 500 health care workers a week to deal with the crisis. Officials said the military expected to send as many as 3,000 people to Africa to take charge of responding to the Ebola outbreak.

The American government will also provide 400,000 Ebola home health and treatment kits to Liberia, as well as tens of thousands of kits intended to test whether people have the disease. The Pentagon will provide some logistical equipment for health workers going to West Africa and what administration officials described as “command and control” organizational assistance on how to coordinate the overall relief work. The Army Corps of Engineers is expected to be part of the Defense Department effort. Administration officials did not say how soon the 17 treatment centers would be built in Liberia; officials there, as well as international aid officials, have said that 1,000 beds are needed in Liberia in the next week alone

Now here’s Bloomberg:

Mapp Biopharmaceutical Inc., which has nine employees, released its experimental ZMapp drug, until now only tested on infected animals, for the two health workers…The two scientists behind Mapp, President Larry Zeitlin and Chief Executive Officer Kevin Whaley, “are both brilliant,” said Charles Arntzen, a plant biotechnology expert at Arizona State University who collaborated with the two researchers years ago. “They are very, very bright guys and free spirits”…

Mapp’s drug is being developed with Toronto-based Defyrus Inc., which has six employees, according to Defyrus CEO Jeff Turner. ZMapp is a “cocktail” of monoclonal antibodies that help the immune system attack the virus…Kentucky BioProcessing LLC, a subsidiary of tobacco giant Reynolds American Inc. (RAI), manufactures the treatment for Mapp from tobacco plants…

The tobacco plant production system was developed because it was a method that could produce antibodies rapidly in the event of an emergency, he said. To produce therapeutic proteins inside a tobacco plant, genes for the desired antibodies are fused to genes for a natural tobacco virus, said Arntzen. The tobacco plants are then infected with this new artificial virus, he said. “The infection results in the production of antibodies inside the plant,” Arntzen said. The plant is eventually ground up and the antibody is extracted, he said. The whole process takes a matter of weeks.

We have no idea if ZMapp is the best treatment for ebola, but we know it worked in several cases. We also know that the San Diego and Toronto companies total 15 employees between them. Instead of putting American soldiers in harm’s way for no apparent benefit, wouldn’t it have been a better idea to clone Mapp and its promising rivals in multiple US, European and other medical research centers, and devote massive resources to ramping up production of ZMapp and other drugs with similar laboratory success? This is real and real-time, not silly fantasy like Solyndra.

Why didn’t the Barbary Pirates get regular jobs?

Sunday, September 14th, 2014

Wretchard answers the question. Certain things follow if your nation subscribes to the belief that a 1400 year old book and related documents are all you’ll ever need to get through life. Do we exaggerate? Look at the issue of patents and make up your own mind. Still not persuaded? How’s this for a Top Ten List?

Real and imagined threats

Saturday, September 13th, 2014

Real:

deadly Ebola outbreak sweeping across three countries in West Africa is likely to last 12 to 18 months more, much longer than anticipated, and could infect hundreds of thousands of people

Real: “I had a choice. I could be an insider or I could be an outsider.” (We heard this on Ralph Nader’s KFPK program today BTW.) Imagined. Today the best and the brightest are neither.

More good news

Tuesday, September 9th, 2014

Foreign Policy:

Disease fighters reckon the contagious potential of an outbreak in terms of its RO, or reproduction number. (RO = 1 means that each infected person is statistically likely to infect one more person, so the epidemic will neither grow, nor shrink in size. RO = 0 signifies that the disease cannot be passed from person to person. Any RO above 1 connotes an expanding epidemic.) Christian Althaus of the University of Bern in Switzerland just released a grim new calculation of the RO for this epidemic that finds that when the outbreak began in Guinea, it was RO = 1.5, so each person infected one and a half other people, for a moderate rate of epidemic growth. But by early July, the RO in Sierra Leone was a hideous 2.53, so the epidemic was more than doubling in size with each round of transmission. Today in Liberia, the virus is spreading so rapidly that no RO has been computed. Back in the spring, however, when matters were conceivably controllable, Liberia’s then-small rural outbreak was 1.59.

HT: BC

Sadly, we’ve become a nation of idiots

Saturday, September 6th, 2014

A leading contender for president: “Climate change is the most consequential, urgent, sweeping collection of challenges we face.” BTW, she’s hardly the only idiot. Take it away, George.

The magic bean that almost destroyed the earth

Friday, September 5th, 2014

WSJ:

When the climate scientist and geologist Bob Carter of James Cook University in Australia wrote an article in 2006 saying that there had been no global warming since 1998 according to the most widely used measure of average global air temperatures, there was an outcry. A year later, when David Whitehouse of the Global Warming Policy Foundation in London made the same point, the environmentalist and journalist Mark Lynas said in the New Statesman that Mr. Whitehouse was “wrong, completely wrong,” and was “deliberately, or otherwise, misleading the public.”

We know now that it was Mr. Lynas who was wrong. Two years before Mr. Whitehouse’s article, climate scientists were already admitting in emails among themselves that there had been no warming since the late 1990s. “The scientific community would come down on me in no uncertain terms if I said the world had cooled from 1998,” wrote Phil Jones of the University of East Anglia in Britain in 2005. He went on: “Okay it has but it is only seven years of data and it isn’t statistically significant.”

If the pause lasted 15 years, they conceded, then it would be so significant that it would invalidate the climate-change models upon which policy was being built. A report from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) written in 2008 made this clear: “The simulations rule out (at the 95% level) zero trends for intervals of 15 yr or more.” Well, the pause has now lasted for 16, 19 or 26 years

We put together 2499 blue beans and one magic red bean; we’ll post a picture one of these days. It was the magic bean that was supposed to kill the earth.

Look, of course there are warming and cooling cycles. Ask MIT’s Lindzen. But what you’ve got to get through your thick skull is that it overwhelmingly offends common sense that one bit of CO2 among 2499 others of nitrogen, oxygen, etc., will somehow imperil the planet should it increase its presence a little. Heck, the magic bean is already magic enough, since without it, there’d be no plants and thus no us. Don’t demand that it work overtime!

Priorities!

Thursday, August 14th, 2014

From DOD, Congress and CIA via WSJ:

2004 and 2008 reports by the congressional EMP Commission…warn that “terrorists or state actors that possess relatively unsophisticated missiles armed with nuclear weapons may well calculate that, instead of destroying a city or a military base, they may gain the greatest political-military utility from one or a few such weapons by using them—or threatening their use—in an EMP attack”…The EMP Commission, in 2008, estimated that within 12 months of a nationwide blackout, up to 90% of the U.S. population could possibly perish from starvation, disease and societal breakdown…Surge arrestors, faraday cages and other devices that prevent EMP from damaging electronics, as well micro-grids that are inherently less susceptible to EMP, have been used by the Defense Department for more than 50 years to protect crucial military installations and strategic forces. These can be adapted to protect civilian infrastructure as well. The cost of protecting the national electric grid, according to a 2008 EMP Commission estimate, would be about $2 billion

Way too much money when US policy is that adversaries “must agree to a politics of ‘no victor, no vanquish’.”

Common core and other absurdities

Thursday, August 7th, 2014

A professor at Cal of all places:

when teaching fractions, the teacher required that students draw pictures of everything: of 6 divided by 8, of 4 divided by 2/7, of 0.8 x 0.4, and so forth. In doing so, the teacher followed the instructions: “Interpret and compute quotients of fractions, and solve word problems involving division of fractions by fractions, e.g., by using visual fraction models and equations to represent the problem. For example, create a story context for 2/3 divided by 3/4 and use a visual fraction model to show the quotient.” Who would draw a picture to divide 2/3 by 3/4?

This requirement of visual models and creating stories is all over the Common Core. The students were constantly told to draw models to answer trivial questions, such as finding 20% of 80 or finding the time for a car to drive 10 miles if it drives 4 miles in 10 minutes, or finding the number of benches one can make from 48 feet of wood if each bench requires 6 feet. A student who gives the correct answer right away (as one should) and doesn’t draw anything loses points.

Here are some more examples of the Common Core’s convoluted and meaningless manipulations of simple concepts: “draw a series of tape diagrams to represent (12 divided by 3) x 3=12, or: rewrite (30 divided by 5) = 6 as a subtraction expression”…

the most astounding statement I have read is the claim that Common Core standards are “internationally benchmarked.” They are not. The Common Core fails any comparison with the standards of high-achieving countries, just as they fail compared to the old California standards. They are lower in the total scope of learned material, in the depth and rigor of the treatment of mathematical subjects, and in the delayed and often inconsistent and incoherent introductions of mathematical concepts and skills.

For California, the adoption of the Common Core standards represents a huge step backward which puts an end to its hard-won standing as having the top math standards in the nation. The Common Core standards will move the U.S. even closer to the bottom in international ranking.

We grew up in an unenlightened time when the nuns gave us all addition and subtraction speed tests in first grade, multiplication and division speed tests to follow shortly. If we had to do the things above, we might have reduced our math SAT score by 800 points or so. In another example of government insanity, Michael Barone laments the acceleration of the regulatory state when Moore’s Law, twitter, yelp and uber all point in precisely the opposite direction.

Odds and ends

Tuesday, August 5th, 2014

The NYT asks that with “public opinion in both Israel and the United States solidly behind the Israeli military’s campaign against Hamas, no outcry from Israel’s Arab neighbors, and unstinting support for Israel on Capitol Hill,” just who in the USA might be on the other side? Duh.

It’s true and pretty obvious that most diseases are either highly contagious or highly lethal but not both. Plagues are rare enough. That said, the Ebola numbers are in all likelihood vastly understated, and complacency is unwarranted and unwise. So far we have been fortunate that many in the affected populations aren’t likely to be jetting off for August vacation; but that’s mere serendipity.

Question: if The Atlantic can figure out that Hamas isn’t gentler and kinder and has but one thing on its mind, why can’t other superior beings? Apparently, as Thomas Sowell rues, thinking is obsolete today.

The weather outside is frightful

Monday, August 4th, 2014

QED. Is there anything the mighty 4 parts CO2 can’t do?

Tranquility Base

Thursday, July 24th, 2014

No, not that Tranquility Base of 45 years ago. (Amazing how quickly going to the moon made for boring TV.) Bob Tyrell describes our new tranquility base, and the twist is that he’s actually a little hopey changey himself, certainly more than Mark Steyn, who sees endless violent cycles of Lather, Rinse, Repeat ad infinitum. (BTW, he displays a picture that really is worth a thousand words.) Bonus fun: Roger Simon discusses the lovely UN that gets $6-7 billion or more a year from us. Bonus question: how many refugee camps can you name that are older than the states of Alaska and Hawaii, and the countries Tanzania and Republic of Congo? Is the number more or less than the total number of countries in Africa? Guess first then peek.

Final comment: Baba Booey!

Another day…..

Tuesday, July 8th, 2014

Forbes:

NOAA established a network of 114 pristinely sited temperature stations spread out fairly uniformly throughout the United States. Because the network, known as the U.S. Climate Reference Network (USCRN), is so uniformly and pristinely situated, the temperature data require no adjustments to provide an accurate nationwide temperature record. USCRN began compiling temperature data in January 2005. Now, nearly a decade later, NOAA has finally made the USCRN temperature readings available. According to the USCRN temperature readings, U.S. temperatures are not rising at all – at least not since the network became operational 10 years ago. Instead, the United States has cooled by approximately 0.4 degrees Celsius, which is more than half of the claimed global warming of the twentieth century.

Not possible. The aliens control CAGW. Seriously, why all the fuss about CO2 when there is often 100x that amount in water vapor in the atmosphere? Here’s an interesting piece from a professor on the generally ignored issue. Why is this deemphasized in favor of the truly minuscule amount of CO2?

Another charming fellow

Saturday, July 5th, 2014

Ibrahim al-Asiri:

The 32-year-old, originally from Saudi Arabia, is a leading figure in the Yemeni-based al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, and has been the brains behind a number of high-profile aircraft bomb plots. These have included the so-called “underpants bomber” who tried to blow up a plane as it approached Detroit airport on Christmas Day 2009, and the ink cartridge bombs uncovered at Dubai and East Midlands airport the following year…

Asiri’s fanaticism is such that he even blew up his own brother, Abdullah, in a failed attempt to assassinate Saudi Arabia’s head of security. Asiri built a device that was concealed in his brother’s rectum and detonated by remote control from a mobile phone. Abdullah was killed instantly, although the Saudi official suffered only minor injuries.

Intelligence officials believe Asiri is now trying to develop a device that will escape detection by even the most sophisticated scanning equipment. His latest technique is to use an explosive known as pentaerythritol tetranitrate, or PETN, which has no odour, and therefore foils sniffer dogs and X-ray machines.

Telegraph: Travellers at Heathrow were subjected to “vigorous” body searches…It is feared that Western jihadists fighting in Syria and Iraq, including hundreds of Britons, have been recruited as would-be suicide bombers.

Compare and contrast

Tuesday, July 1st, 2014

From WaPo:

My own eyes show rising ocean levels. They show the Arctic ice cap shrinking. They show massive beach erosion, homes toppling into the sea and meteorological records indicating steadily increasing temperatures. The Earth, our dear little planet, just had the hottest May on record. My eyes read projections that are even direr — drought, stifling heat, massive and more frequent storms, parts of coastal cities underwater and, in the American Southeast, an additional 11,000 to 36,000 people dying per year from the extreme heat.

From elsewhere:

Fire and brimstone coming down from the skies. Rivers and seas boiling. Forty years of darkness. Earthquakes, volcanoes. The dead rising from the grave. Human sacrifice, dogs and cats living together – mass hysteria.

Possibly related: “We call Bill the Crust Master, because his pies, I don’t know what he does, whether he puts crack in them”