Archive for the 'Science' Category

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”

Res ipsa loquitur

Sunday, June 22nd, 2014

NYT:

For too many years, we failed to rein in the excesses building up in the nation’s financial markets. When the credit bubble burst in 2008, the damage was devastating. Millions suffered. Many still do. We’re making the same mistake today with climate change. We’re staring down a climate bubble that poses enormous risks to both our environment and economy. The warning signs are clear and growing more urgent as the risks go unchecked. This is a crisis we can’t afford to ignore. I feel as if I’m watching as we fly in slow motion on a collision course toward a giant mountain. We can see the crash coming, and yet we’re sitting on our hands rather than altering course. We need to act now, even though there is much disagreement, including from members of my own Republican Party, on how to address this issue while remaining economically competitive. They’re right to consider the economic implications. But we must not lose sight of the profound economic risks of doing nothing. The solution can be a fundamentally conservative one that will empower the marketplace to find the most efficient response. We can do this by putting a price on emissions of carbon dioxide — a carbon tax. Few in the United States now pay to emit this potent greenhouse gas into the atmosphere we all share. Putting a price on emissions will create incentives to develop new, cleaner energy technologies. It’s true that the United States can’t solve this problem alone. But we’re not going to be able to persuade other big carbon polluters to take the urgent action that’s needed if we’re not doing everything we can do to slow our carbon emissions and mitigate our risks. I was secretary of the Treasury when the credit bubble burst, so I think it’s fair to say that I know a little bit about risk, assessing outcomes and problem-solving.

This is the man who made the single most idiotic and near-catastrophic financial decision in the entire world since 1930. Feel free to follow his current advice.

Fiddling would be an improvement

Tuesday, June 17th, 2014

A lunch in DC:

It’s a great, great honor for us to welcome, as our luncheon keynote speaker, His Serene Highness Prince Albert II of Monaco. I want to begin just by congratulating – we have a chance to meet and talk for a little while here this morning privately, and one of the things we talked about was the fact that he is the, as I mentioned this morning, only head of state who’s been to both the South Pole and the North Pole, the Antarctic and the Arctic. And we talked a lot about the Arctic and Antarctic because the United States assumes chairmanship of the Arctic Council next year, and we’re already beginning to think hard about that agenda, which will be even more critical given some of the things we’re talking about here today. So I wanted to thank him for his leadership in making those two journeys, which are an important statement about his commitment…

In 2009, when scientists first began to discover that carbon pollution was dramatically disturbing the chemistry of the ocean and causing it to acidify, Prince Albert brought together a group of 150 scientists from more than two dozen countries to alert policy makers around the world about the troubling findings. Thanks in part to his commitment and sense of urgency, last year the International Atomic Energy Agency established a new international coordination center in Monaco in order to better understand the global impacts of ocean acidification…we have long considered Monaco a critical partner in the effort of protecting our ocean, thanks to Prince Albert’s leadership, everything from acidification to marine protected areas.

More of this at PJ. Meanwhile, on the other coast: “nobody ignored the science. I don’t remember anyone saying the moon wasn’t there, or that it was made of cheese.” For response to the latter, see this.

Oh yeah, and as for the rest of the news…..

Final point: both Bret Stephens and Mark Steyn, and even in a way Doug Schoen note that the pace of the disasters in the real world is speeding up markedly (and will continue to do so in our view over the next two years).

When worlds collide

Saturday, June 14th, 2014

A former Democrat candidate for Congress in the WSJ wrote the following. Read it and guess what happened to him:

Every year environmental groups celebrate a night when institutions in developed countries (including my own university) turn off their lights as a protest against fossil fuels. They say their goal is to get America and Europe to look from space like Africa: dark, because of minimal energy use. But that is the opposite of what’s desired by Africans I know. They want Africa at night to look like the developed world, with lights in every little village and with healthy people, living longer lives, sitting by those lights. Real years added to real lives should trump the minimal impact that African carbon emissions could have on a theoretical catastrophe.

I’ve spent my life on the foreign-policy left. I opposed the Vietnam War, U.S. intervention in Central America in the 1980s and our invasion of Iraq. I have headed a group trying to block U.S. arms and training for “friendly” dictators, and I have written books about how U.S. policy in the developing world is neocolonial.

But I oppose my allies’ well-meaning campaign for “climate justice.” More than 230 organizations, including Africa Action and Oxfam, want industrialized countries to pay “reparations” to African governments for droughts, rising sea levels and other alleged results of what Ugandan strongman Yoweri Museveni calls “climate aggression.” And I oppose the campaign even more for trying to deny to Africans the reliable electricity — and thus the economic development and extended years of life — that fossil fuels can bring.

The left wants to stop industrialization — even if the hypothesis of catastrophic, man-made global warming is false. John Feffer, my colleague at the Institute for Policy Studies, wrote in the Dec. 8, 2009, Huffington Post that “even if the mercury weren’t rising” we should bring “the developing world into the postindustrial age in a sustainable manner.” He sees the “climate crisis [as] precisely the giant lever with which we can, following Archimedes, move the world in a greener, more equitable direction.”

I started to suspect that the climate-change data were dubious a decade ago while teaching statistics. Computer models used by the U.N. Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change to determine the cause of the six-tenths of one degree Fahrenheit rise in global temperature from 1980 to 2000 could not statistically separate fossil-fueled and natural trends.

Then, as now, the computer models simply built in the assumption that fossil fuels are the culprit when temperatures rise, even though a similar warming took place from 1900 to 1940, before fossil fuels could have caused it. The IPCC also claims that the warming, whatever its cause, has slightly increased the length of droughts, the frequency of floods, the intensity of storms, and the rising of sea levels, projecting that these impacts will accelerate disastrously. Yet even the IPCC acknowledges that the average global temperature today remains unchanged since 2000, and did not rise one degree as the models predicted.

But it is as an Africanist, rather than a statistician, that I object most strongly to “climate justice.” Where is the justice for Africans when universities divest from energy companies and thus weaken their ability to explore for resources in Africa? Where is the justice when the U.S. discourages World Bank funding for electricity-generation projects in Africa that involve fossil fuels, and when the European Union places a “global warming” tax on cargo flights importing perishable African goods? Even if the wildest claims about the current impact of fossil fuels on the environment and the models predicting the future impact all prove true and accurate, Africa should be exempted from global restraints as it seeks to modernize.

With 15% of the world’s people, Africa produces less than 5% of carbon-dioxide emissions. With 4% of global population, America produces 25% of these emissions. In other words, each American accounts for 20 times the emissions of each African. We are not rationing our electricity. Why should Africa, which needs electricity for the sort of income-producing enterprises and infrastructure that help improve life expectancy? The average in Africa is 59 years—in America it’s 79. Increased access to electricity was crucial in China’s growth, which raised life expectancy to 75 today from 59 in 1968.

According to the World Bank, 24% of Africans have access to electricity and the typical business loses power for 56 days each year. Faced with unreliable power, businesses turn to diesel generators, which are three times as expensive as the electricity grid. Diesel also produces black soot

He was fired of course for heresy. The Middle Ages sure were creepy, neh? As for us, we’re with some of the boys from MIT.

We are really looking forward to the Mark Steyn / Michael Mann trial. Mann is such an obvious fraudster. Making the Medieval Warm Period and the Little Ice Age disappear in order to get some bucks and some fame with the so-called hockey stick. Pathetic! Steyn’s witness list is shaping up nicely. BTW, NRO would likely have settled with the crook before trial, but Steyn won’t. Should be fun.

Who knew?

Saturday, May 31st, 2014

Mush:

Today, about 40% of America’s carbon pollution comes from power plants. But right now, there are no national limits to the amount of carbon pollution that existing plants can pump into the air we breathe. None. We limit the amount of toxic chemicals like mercury, sulfur, and arsenic that power plants put in our air and water. But they can dump unlimited amounts of carbon pollution into the air. It’s not smart, it’s not safe, and it doesn’t make sense. That’s why, a year ago, I directed the Environmental Protection Agency to build on the efforts of many states, cities, and companies, and come up with commonsense guidelines for reducing dangerous carbon pollution from our power plants. This week, we’re unveiling these proposed guidelines, which will cut down on the carbon pollution, smog, and soot that threaten the health of the most vulnerable Americans, including children and the elderly. In just the first year that these standards go into effect, up to 100,000 asthma attacks and 2,100 heart attacks will be avoided

Smog, check. Soot, check. And now from a focus group near you we have carbon pollution, which is not smog or soot, so maybe it’s good old CO2. You know, the stuff that’s so plentiful and harmful in the atmosphere that 4 parts of it knock the stuffing out of the 9800 parts of oxygen and nitrogen in the air. Polar bears beware!

Final point: Bloomberg makes sense. Must be a leap year or something.

Con and Con

Tuesday, May 27th, 2014

NYT:

a large swath of the West Antarctic ice sheet is likely to be gone, its hundreds of trillions of tons of ice melted, causing a four-foot rise in already swollen seas…A full melt would cause sea level to rise 215 feet…changes in the earth’s climate have already reached a tipping point, even if global warming halted immediately. “We as people see it as closing doors and limiting our future choices,” said Richard Alley, a professor

Via PL:

at the new alarmingly increased level of ice melt it would take about 600 years for the purported 3 foot rise in sea level to obtain; the implied rise is 6 one-hundreds of an inch per year, or about 5.25 inches by the year 2100.

What are the chances of another little ice age somewhere down the line? And while we’re reviewing scary fraud, there’s this, from the department of self-fulfilling prophecies:

WSJ

The “97 percent” figure in the Zimmerman/Doran survey represents the views of only 79 respondents who listed climate science as an area of expertise and said they published more than half of their recent peer-reviewed papers on climate change. Seventy-nine scientists — of the 3,146 who responded to the survey — does not a consensus make.

Ah, the geniuses in our midst.

Let’s go to the movies and watch TV!

Friday, May 23rd, 2014

Name the film: “I’m as mad as hell and I’m not going to take it anymore.” (Not.) Or: “Your sad devotion to that ancient religion has not helped you conjure up the stolen NSA tapes or given you clairvoyance enough to find Boko’s hidden fortress.” Media chorus: “We find your lack of faith disturbing.” And finally, soon healthcare will be like an episode of Queen for a Day, with a Maytag washer and dryer for the day’s most pathetic story. A nation of fools in record time — and we thought some of these fellows went to good schools. Hmmm, wrong major maybe.

Science, Fiction, and CAGW

Sunday, May 18th, 2014

Science:

66.4% of abstracts expressed no position on AGW,

32.6% endorsed AGW, 0.7% rejected AGW and 0.3% were uncertain about the cause of global warming. Among abstracts expressing a position on AGW, 97.1% endorsed the consensus position that humans are causing global warming…

In a second phase of this study, we invited authors to rate their own papers…Among self-rated papers expressing a position on AGW, 97.2% endorsed the consensus.

Fiction:

Man vs. Nature is the predominant theme of the film, and I always tried to go back to that imagery. At the beginning when they find the fossils, it was important to me that they didn’t just find them—it was caused by our abuse of the planet. We deserved it, in a way. So there’s this rainforest with a big scar in the landscape with this quarry, slave labor, and a Western company. You have to ask yourself, “What does Godzilla represent?” The thing we kept coming up with is that he’s a force of nature, and if nature had a mascot, it would be Godzilla. So what do the other creatures represent? They represent man’s abuse of nature, and the idea is that Godzilla is coming to restore balance to something mankind has disrupted…

there’s a reason his name begins with “God,” I think. He is a god, really. He’s at the top of the food chain and probably King of the World, in a sense…the idea is that for all of time man has always found that there’s something out there for us to worship or fear

So two thirds of science papers took no position on AGW, let alone catastrophic AGW, but that’s not the headline, the 97% is. We thank the director of Godzilla for explaining why that is.

Guardian: “The kidnapping of over 200 Nigerian school girls…has shocked the world…Instability in Nigeria, however, has been growing steadily over the last decade – and one reason is climate change.” We’re closer to the end than the beginning of this thirties-like vacation from history, when the bad things were all imaginary. But the fools continue to tilt at windmills