Sunday, August 30, 2009

Bulletin: Solar Radiation is not Constant; May Affect Climate

An article from the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology, via Watts Up With That, indicates that cycles in solar radiation that were not accounted for in the CO2-driven climate models may have an influence on climate. The sun? Who knew?

The news got Halfwise here thinking about our thinking, so I posted the following comment in the comments thread at WUWT:

Chaos-rich systems, for example climate or stock markets, invite mortals like us to proclaim that we finally understand the system based on a new model that explains its behavior over some limited time period, at some selected scale.

Then when some other mortal adds to our model or (worse for our ego) debunks it with a different and better model, we are usually tempted to defend our model and diminish the importance of others' findings rather than thank them for their insights. Our natural human tendency is to focus on our feeble explanations rather than on the marvelous complexity and uncertainty that we are attempting to model, denying that we are inevitably doomed to be passed by a better model.

The whole AGW debate has, in my view, been sidetracked into a debate about what to do as a result of the predictions of a generation of models. We forget that all models intrinsically have fatal limits as to scale and time period. This memory lapse is convenient if it supports the agendas of some and touches on the psyche of others, which can certainly be said about the Green movement in general these days.

The latest research on solar radiation feels to me like a step towards greater understanding of reality. But I am sure that CO2 felt to many others like a step towards greater understanding of reality too, so it is not time to proclaim that the tide has turned and the latest model is finally comprehensive enough to be believed by all. As noted, typically what happens now is intense defense of previous models, not gratitude for new insights.

Just as with the stock market, climate will assert its own complexity and uncertainty, and honest people will come to regret their allegiance to a wrong model.

I have one prediction: three years from now, we will all be less confident in our beliefs about our abilities to understand complex systems. It will be a kind of "scientific agnoticism" and will be part of a societal movement away from being swept up in the expensive collective, moving instead towards individual rights and obligations. We can thank the Green movement for reminding us of our obligation to sustainability; we need not thank them for Cap & Trade.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Prediction: Huge Hit

(or maybe it has already happened)

Sunday, August 23, 2009

This must be an interesting place to work

From: Shannon
Date: Monday 17 August 2009 10.12am
To: Staff
Subject: Coffee cups


There was twelve coffee cups left in the sink this morning. Could everyone please wash their coffee cups after using them.
Thanks, Shan

From: David Thorne
Date: Monday 17 August 2009 10.19am
To: Shannon
Subject: Re: Coffee cups

Morning Shannon,

My apologies. Those coffee cups were mine. I am rather busy today so decided to have all of my coffee breaks at the one time this morning rather than taking twelve separate breaks throughout the day. I am currently experiencing severe heart palpitations but also typing at four hundred and seventy words per minute so should be able to knock off early.

Regards, David.

From: Shannon
Date: Monday 17 August 2009 10.31am
To: David Thorne
Subject: Re: Re: Coffee cups

I was not saying they were all your coffee cups I was just saying that I should not have to wash twelve coffee cups when I don't even drink coffee. People should wash their own coffee cups or at least take it in turns to wash them.


From: David Thorne
Date: Monday 17 August 2009 10.42am
To: Shannon
Subject: Re: Re: Re: Coffee cups


You raise a valid and not at all uninteresting point. Perhaps you could construct some kind of chart. A roster system would enable us to work in an environment free of dirty coffee cups and put an end to any confusion regarding who the dirty coffee cup responsibility lies with.


From: Shannon
Date: Monday 17 August 2009 1.08pm
To: Staff
Subject: Kitchen Roster

Hi everyone. I have discussed a kitchen roster with David and feel it would be fair if we took it in turns to do the dishes. I have put the roster in the kitchen so everyone can remember. I am Monday morning and Wednesday and Friday afternoon. David is Monday afternoon and Wednesday morning, Lillian is Tuesday morning and Thursday afternoon and Thomas is Tuesday afternoon and Friday morning.

Thanks, Shan

From: David Thorne
Date: Monday 17 August 2009 1.22pm
To: Shannon
Subject: Colour coded coffee cup cleaning chart

Shannon, I notice that you have colour coded the coffee cup cleaning chart. While I appreciate the creative effort that has gone into this roster, the light salmon colour you have chosen for my name is very effeminate. While I am sure you have not done this on purpose and are not inferring anything, I would appreciate you rectifying this immediately. Would it be possible to swap colours with Thomas as he has quite a nice dusty blue.

Thankyou, David

From: Shannon
Date: Monday 17 August 2009 2.17pm
To: Staff
Subject: Updated kitchen roster

Hi. I have changed David's colour to blue on the kitchen roster. Thomas is now green.


From: Thomas
Date: Monday 17 August 2009 2.24pm
To: David Thorne
Subject: What the fuck?

What the fuck is this email from Shannon? I am not doing a fucking kitchen roster. Was this your idea?

From: David Thorne
Date: Monday 17 August 2009 2.38pm
To: Thomas
Cc: Shannon
Subject: Re: What the fuck?

Thomas, do you feel it is fair that Shannon should have to wash everyone's coffee cups? Apparently this morning there were twelve coffee cups in the sink. I was going to schedule a staff board meeting this afternoon to discuss the issue but luckily Shannon has prepared a colour coded coffee cup cleaning chart for us rendering a staff meeting unnecessary. We should all thank Shannon for taking the initiative and creating a system that will empower us to efficiently schedule client meetings and work commitments around our designated coffee cup cleaning duties. If at any stage our rostered coffee cup cleaning commitments coincide with work requirements, we can simply hold the client meeting in the kitchen. We can wash while the clients dry. Today it may only be twelve coffee cups but tomorrow it could be several plates and a spoon and then where would we be?


From: Thomas
Date: Monday 17 August 2009 2.56pm
To: Shannon
Subject: Kitchen stuff

Shannon, I do not need a chart telling me when to wash dishes. I am not going to stop in the middle of writing proposals to wash coffee cups. David is being a fuckwit. I only use one coffee cup and I always rinse it out after I use it. If we have clients here and they use coffee cups then it is appreciated that you wash them as part of your job.

From: Lillian
Date: Monday 17 August 2009 3.06pm
To: Thomas
Subject: Re: Kitchen stuff

What's this kitchen roster thing? Did you agree to this?

From: David Thorne
Date: Monday 17 August 2009 3.09pm
To: Shannon
Subject: Rescheduling coffee cup duties

Shannon, can I swap my rostered coffee cup cleaning duty this afternoon for Thursday? I have been busy all day working, not looking at pictures of Johnny Depp on the internet, and not had time to familiarise myself with correct coffee cup cleaning requirements. I am happy to reschedule my meetings tomorrow to undertake a training session on dish washing detergent location and washcloth procedures with you if you have the time. I feel it would be quite helpful if prior to the training session you prepared some kind of Powerpoint presentation. Possibly with graphs. Will I need to bring my own rubber gloves or will these be provided?


From: Shannon
Date: Monday 17 August 2009 3.20pm
To: David Thorne
Subject: Re: Rescheduling coffee cup duties


Sunday, August 16, 2009

Does Funding for Global Warming Research Promote Biased Results?

I posted recently on the amount of money that has been spent on Global Warming research, and wondered aloud whether the availability of money could encourage researchers to bias their results.

If this were a scientific study (it is not) the investigation would need a hypothesis and we would then look for evidence for and against that hypothesis. The objective would be to reach a conclusion about the likelihood the hypothesis was correct.

But what hypothesis would properly describe the issue? I have given this question considerable thought, and confess that I have come up empty. Here is my thinking:
  1. Research is funded by a variety of government agencies and non-government foundations and interest groups. The foundations and interest groups can be broadly categorized as having an agenda that matches their vision statements. One would expect an industry foundation to pursue an agenda that is different from, say, GreenPeace or the Sierra Club.
  2. A hypothesis that the source of funding would bias the results of the research would require an auditor to review the research, find evidence of errors in data gathering, data processing and/or data analysis, identify a pattern in those errors that favors the agenda of the funding agency, and attribute that pattern to a decision on the part of the researcher to shade his results to match the funding agency. This is beyond my capability.
  3. Instead of looking for bias at the level of individual research projects, one could look simply at the availability of funding for various types of global warming research. Again, though, what question would you ask? What is the control group for a null hypothesis that you would use for comparison? I hear anecdotes, for example that failing to slip the words "climate change" into requests for funding in biology research dooms the application to rejection. But grant applications get rejected for lots of reasons, and one would have to crawl into the head of each board that reviews grants.
  4. Then there is the "dutiful soldier" defence. If an institution decides that global warming is probable, who would criticize someone for approving funds to either clarify its possible extent, or to research how to cope with the likely impacts? This is bias in the strictest sense of the word, but at the same time no sane administrator would approve funds for a study based on "nothing will change, and we will need to prepare for unprecedented levels of sameness." The availability of funds tells us nothing useful.
  5. So what about tabulating research results and trying to draw a conclusion based on how many studies support one view or another? Well, this turns into science by consensus, and we should speak with Copernicus and Galileo about the validity of THAT approach.
  6. If one can not come up with a good clear-cut hypothesis, what other methods exist? I can think of only one: invert the problem and reverse the onus of proof. Premise - people operate in their self-interest. Whether consciously or not, human nature leads us to conform our actions to the prevailing wisdom of the times.
  7. This, not surprisingly, reminds us that we are ALL biased, and that our actions are colored by our beliefs about the world. This is demonstrably true in religion, politics, investment markets and entertainment, and the list will go on and on.
  8. So now the burden of proof shifts to the opposing position. Prove to the world that research into global warming is NOT biased by the source of funding. (Such a situation, I believe, would make it unique among human endeavors). Anyone want to give it a shot?
Humans are just humans, regardless of our political opinions. We do what we think is right based on how we see the world. Then we criticize others who see things differently. Bias is part of our essential being.

Sunday, August 09, 2009

The glass is half full, AND...

Optimist: The glass is half full

Pessimist: The glass is half empty

Engineer: The glass is twice as big as it needs to be

Halfwise: Isn't it good to have a glass, water and choices?

Saturday, August 08, 2009

Encouraged by recent US Job Reports?

Maxed Out Mama shows the truth about employment in the US. In terms of people in the workforce as a percent of the total population, this is ugly, and getting uglier.
Remember that about 70% of the US economy is consumer driven. Consumers have been increasing their savings rates lately, rather than digging deeper debt holes, and that is healthy.

But if there are fewer jobs to be had, then there are fewer income taxes being paid, fewer goods and services being bought, and fewer dollars to chase the new bargains in housing.
Far from being out of the woods yet, methinks, and the talk of green shoots is fiction.

Tuesday, August 04, 2009

Global warming blamed for advancing glacier

The Daily Mail reports that global warming is changing the face of the northern hemisphere, and presents these photos of Iceland's Breidamerkurjokull glacier as evidence.

Trouble is, glacial retreat would be more indicative of global warming than a glacial advance, and in reality neither would be a conclusive indicator of global warming or cooling because glaciers grow when they get lots of snow in the winter and not much melting in the summer, a situation which could be attributable simply to changes in cloud and precipitation patterns rather than temperature.

But that doesn't much matter. The point of this post is to observe an example of the knee-jerk tendency of the media and the public to lay every natural change at the feet of "global" "warming". It does get tiresome.

There are only three things this guy is afraid of...

h/t Simon

Monday, August 03, 2009

The Torrington Gopher Museum

Off Highway 2, about an hour north of Calgary, is the village of Torrington. Torrington is a prairie town, the kind of place where you don't use your turn signal because everyone knows where you are going, and where 3rd Street is the edge of town. Torrington features a museum with a few dozen dioramas featuring stuffed gophers, depicting life in Torrington.

The photo shows two gophers enjoying a meal at Bernie's Diner.

PETA (People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals) was not amused.

I was.