Sunday, August 31, 2014

Two posts on the politics of global warming.

Article: The Continued Farce

A brief review of a half century of environmental hysteria: DDT, over-population, resource depletion, global cooling, global warming. Then a note on the totalitarian tendencies of the global warming advocates.

Article: Settled Science Catches Up with Steyn

The warming hiatus is reviewed. Global warming advocates are busy converting the hiatus into 30-year cycles of warming and cooling to explain the hiatus away.

But again, the models were not able to predict these cycles. The cycles have been evident to anyone who looks at how the climate has changed over the last 150 years. But they were never incorporated into the models, so the models failed.

Science Links 8/30/14

Article: Yellowstone Supervolcano Eruption would be Large, but not as Catastrophic as previously thought
Researchers have revealed after creating a new computer simulation called Ash3D at the US Geological Survey (USGS) that the eruption of the Yellowstone supervolcano would spew ash several feet thick in some areas. However, it is also true that the eruption will not be as catastrophic as being claimed by some previous reports.
"It's a crazy thing to think about because none of us have ever seen an eruption like Yellowstone. It would be two or three orders of magnitude more ash than we've been able to observe", said study lead author Larry Mastin, a USGS hydrologist, in a statement reported by Inquisitr.
The blast would be big and ash will engulf the states surrounding Yellowstone National Park.

Article: New Study Offers Clues to Swift Arctic Extinction
Seven hundred years ago, the Dorset people disappeared from the Arctic. The last of the Paleo-Eskimos, the Dorset had dominated eastern Canada and Greenland for centuries, hunting seal and walrus through holes in the ice and practicing shamanistic rituals with ornate carvings and masks.
They lived there for more than 4,000 years, then disappeared in a matter of decades.

The Dorset people were a genetically distinct group, and they were different from the modern Inuit people.

Usually, when one group displaces another, one group assimilates the other. The first group leaves genetic evidence in the other group.

It is possible that the Inuit themselves wiped out the Dorset people. The article does not talk about any overlap between the two peoples.

Article: Forum: Against Empathy

A long article about empathy focused on emotional empathy. The author is writing a book against empathy, especially as a guide to policy.
It refers to the process of experiencing the world as others do, or at least as you think they do. To empathize with someone is to put yourself in her shoes, to feel her pain. 
Empathy is a one-on-one connection.
Most people see the benefits of empathy as akin to the evils of racism: too obvious to require justification. I think this is a mistake. I have argued elsewhere that certain features of empathy make it a poor guide to social policy. Empathy is biased; we are more prone to feel empathy for attractive people and for those who look like us or share our ethnic or national background. And empathy is narrow; it connects us to particular individuals, real or imagined, but is insensitive to numerical differences and statistical data. 
Empathy is too narrow, focusing on one person at a time.
In light of these features, our public decisions will be fairer and more moral once we put empathy aside. Our policies are improved when we appreciate that a hundred deaths are worse than one, even if we know the name of the one, and when we acknowledge that the life of someone in a faraway country is worth as much as the life a neighbor, even if our emotions pull us in a different direction. Without empathy, we are better able to grasp the importance of vaccinating children and responding to climate change. These acts impose costs on real people in the here and now for the sake of abstract future benefits, so tackling them may require overriding empathetic responses that favor the comfort and well being of individuals today. 
Effective social policy requires doing things that can be painful to others. The actual administration of a vaccine is painful, and side effects can be annoying to painful. If one operates only on emotional empathy, it would be hard to vaccinate one's child. Or have a life-saving operation done on the same child.

Thursday, August 28, 2014

The cause of autism?

As a baby develops, the brain undergoes a burst of synapse formation, the connections between different nerves. Then, over time, these synapses are "pruned" back, retaining the necessary ones.

My guess is that this may be related to why it is easier for someone who hears, and learns to speak, a language when they are young rather than when they are older. The connections are all there, but as someone ages they are lost.
The Columbia University scientists examined the brains of 26 autistic children and young people aged two to 20 who had died from a variety of causes 
By late childhood, the researchers found that spine density had dropped by about half in the healthy brains, but by only 16 per cent in the brains of autistic individuals. 
Lead researcher Professor David Sulzer said: ‘It's the first time that anyone has looked for, and seen, a lack of pruning during development of children with autism, although lower numbers of synapses in some brain areas have been detected in brains from older patients and in mice with autistic-like behaviours.' 
He added: ‘While people usually think of learning as requiring formation of new synapses, the removal of inappropriate synapses may be just as important.

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Australia Government Climate Office Accused Of Manipulating Temperature Data

The original article is linked in the article below, but is behind a pay wall.


Linking article: Australia Government Climate Office Accused Of Manipulating Temperature Data
Dr. Jennifer Marohasey claims the BOM’s adjusted temperature records are “propaganda” and not science, according to the Australian. Marohasey said she analyzed raw temperature data from places across Australia and compared them to BOM data.
The result: the BOM’s adjusted data creates an artificial warming trend. Marohasey said BOM adjustments changed Aussie temperature records from a slight cooling trend to one of “dramatic warming” over the past century.
BOM claims that the data needed to be "homogenized" to account for changes in practices, instrumentation, etc. over the last 100 years. However, the homogenization meant that recent temperatures had to be consistently increased, even if no need could be shown for those changes.
BOM has rejected Dr Marohasy’s claims and said the agency had used world’s best practice and a peer reviewed process to modify the physical temperature records that had been recorded at weather stations across the country.
"Peer review" here is useless. Group-thinkers have to group-think. This is what politicized scientist expect to find and they "found it."

"Best practice" here is again useless. Is it best practice to decrease temperatures from early in the century and increase them late in the century to create a warming trend of 2.5 degrees per century? And to create one out of data that shows a slight cooling trend?
Dr Marohasy said she had found examples where there had been no change in instrumentation or siting and no inconsistency with nearby stations but there had been a dramatic change in temperature trend towards warming after homogenisation.
She said that at Amberley in Queensland, homogenisation had resulted in a change in the temperature trend from one of cooling to dramatic warming.
She calculated homogenisation had changed a cooling trend in the minimum temperature of 1C per century at Amberley into a warming trend of 2.5C. This was despite there being no change in location or instrumentation.
Various people have noted that NOAA in the US has done the same thing with its data.

New theory could kill the multiverse

Article: Radical New Theory Could Kill the Multiverse Hypothesis

I cannot summarize this article like I normally do and quoting will not work well.

Physicists want to understand the universe: its elementary particles, the forces that control them, where the universe came from, what were the earliest moments of the universe like, etc.

Create one hypothesis to answer one set of questions and it causes problems with another set.

A group of physicist are exploring, in math and discussions, a new idea that, if I am reading this correctly, mass and length are not fundamental properties, but emergent ones. That is, they emerge from something called "scale-symmetry breaking." This explains some things, like "inflation" shortly after the big bang, but it has its own issues.

Sorry, I do not understand it.

What I like is the ramifications. All the new (and new-old) ways of looking at all the different connections.

And the sad death of the idea of multiverses.

Let us observe a moment of silence for what one person called the "death of thousand SF plotlines."

Monday, August 25, 2014

Global warming has little to do with global warming

Article: Global Warming Has Little to Do With Global Warming

Archives: Joe Bastardi

For years, Joe Bastardi was the weatherman on my "news" radio station. He is also, very clearly, a global warming "skeptic."

Over the last year, he has published a series of articles on the global warming and its politics. See the "archives" link, above.

This is his last one, because he has said everything he can and because he believes that the definitive experiment to show who is right on the global warming controversy is underway: the NASA satellites that measure global temperatures.

He sides with those that hypothesize that most of global warming we have experienced is natural and due to 30 year cycles in the way heat is processed in the Pacific and Atlantic Oceans. Both were in a  "warming" phase between 1978 and 2008, but with no additional warming after 1998 due to the fact that world temperatures had already adapted to the heat flow. The Pacific Ocean has been in a "cooling" phase since then and the Atlantic Ocean is about to enter it, as well.

With both oceans cooling, global temperatures should decrease.

Global warming models have failed to predict the current 16 year global warming hiatus. They predict temperatures should have been warming and will warm in future due to increasing CO2.

Two hypotheses. predicting opposite things. Bastardi's view is that one will be proven wrong in the next few years.

It is possible that they both be partly right. We could be in a hiatus because two major climate change factors are pulling in opposite directions.

It is also possible that they are both wrong, and the sun has much more influence on recent climate shifts than we can currently account for in our theories and models

The second part of the article gives a quick overview of the enormous amount of money that is buying global warming activism (with links). And I am including money to scientists that have to tie global warming/climate change into their research, even if the link is tenuous.

Economically, anything that is subsidized will increase.

Saturday, August 23, 2014

The link between incomes and criminal behavior

Article: A disturbing study of the link between incomes and criminal behaviour
Using the rich troves of personal data which Scandinavian governments collect about their citizens....
Before I get into the article, doesn't this sound a bit creepy?
“POVERTY”, wrote Aristotle, “is the parent of crime.” But was he right? Certainly, poverty and crime are associated. And the idea that a lack of income might drive someone to misdeeds sounds plausible. 
One of the things that I frequently note is that "correlation does mean causation." That is, just because two events occur in tandem does not mean that one causes the other.

First, coincident do happen. And, second, both may be caused by something else entirely.
Using the rich troves of personal data which Scandinavian governments collect about their citizens, Mr Sariaslan and his team were able to study more than half a million children born in Sweden between 1989 and 1993. The records they consulted contained information about these people’s educational attainments, annual family incomes and criminal convictions. They also enabled the researchers to identify everybody’s siblings.
Children, now between 21 and 25 years old. And looking at the behavior of older and younger siblings.
He found, to no one’s surprise, that teenagers who had grown up in families whose earnings were among the bottom fifth were seven times more likely to be convicted of violent crimes, and twice as likely to be convicted of drug offences, as those whose family incomes were in the top fifth.
He showed evidence of the correlation that Aristotle noted 2300 years ago.
What did surprise him was that when he looked at families which had started poor and got richer, the younger children—those born into relative affluence—were just as likely to misbehave when they were teenagers as their elder siblings had been. Family income was not, per se, the determining factor.
So, simply increasing the family's income did not reduce the tendency of criminal behavior in the younger siblings. Why not?
That suggests two, not mutually exclusive, possibilities. One is that a family’s culture, once established, is “sticky”—that you can, to put it crudely, take the kid out of the neighbourhood, but not the neighbourhood out of the kid. Given, for example, children’s propensity to emulate elder siblings whom they admire, that sounds perfectly plausible. 
This is the "nurture" part of the "nature versus nurture" question. Research shows that there seems to be a 50:50 split. That is, about 50% of human behavior seems to be driving by environmental factors, including upbringing.
The other possibility is that genes which predispose to criminal behaviour (several studies suggest such genes exist) are more common at the bottom of society than at the top, perhaps because the lack of impulse-control they engender also tends to reduce someone’s earning capacity.
And the other 50% is due to genetic hardwiring.
Neither of these conclusions is likely to be welcome to social reformers. The first suggests that merely topping up people’s incomes, though it may well be a good idea for other reasons, will not by itself address questions of bad behaviour. 
Throwing money at the problem will not solve the problem.
The second raises the possibility that the problem of intergenerational poverty may be self-reinforcing, particularly in rich countries like Sweden where the winnowing effects of education and the need for high levels of skill in many jobs will favour those who can control their behaviour, and not those who rely on too many chemical crutches to get them through the day. 

Britain is poorer than all but one US state.

Article: Why Britain is poorer than any US state, other than Mississippi

Original research, using widely available government statistics. The author also includes Germany, Norway, Sweden, the EU as a whole, and few other countries for comparison. It is a per capita measure.

We think of the UK as wealthy. It is not. And its "inequality problem" is as large as the US's.

This was part of research showing that the UK also has crime rates as high or higher than the US's. That is, except for murders.

Of the countries that the author looked at, the top EU country is Norway. It comes in after Massachusetts (#7).

Article: We have no reason to feel smug about America's troubles

This is the original article that the one above is extracted from.

The divide in the US is between whites and blacks. The divide in the UK is between lower class whites and everyone else (including their blacks).

Their lower class whites and our blacks have the same or similar lowered life expectancy, crime rates, poor education outcomes, and poverty levels.

Another thing that they share in common is the leftist policies and attitudes towards them. The Left in both countries repeatedly tell them that they are being held back and that they powers-that-be (always on the Right) will not permit them to get ahead. In the UK, blacks are not told this and they do well in most socioeconomic indices; and better than blacks in the US.

Friday, August 22, 2014

Article: Scientists Find Life Half a Mile Below Antarctic Ice
A half a mile below the surface of the West Antarctic Ice Sheet, in a lake that hasn’t been touched by sunshine or wind in millions of years, life goes on. A large US expedition called WISSARD, led by a professor at Montana State University, has unearthed a thriving ecosystem of micro-organisms after drilling through the thick ice to reach Subglacial Lake Whillans in January of 2013...

Many of the micro-organisms found are single-celled organisms, called Archaea, that survive by converting ammonium and methane into energy in a harsh environment similar to those found elsewhere in our solar system, such as on Jupiter’s moon Europa.
The Archaea ("ancient life") are very simple, very ancient bacteria-like organisms. Frequently they use unusual metabolic pathways as sources of energy.

Since this lake has not seen light for millions of years, this entire ecosystem cannot be dependent on light energy like most of earth's life.
Article: What Happens When A Volcano Erupts Under A Glacier?

A major volcano in Iceland is showing signs of erupting. It is under a glacier. What will happen?

Short answer, no one knows what will happen this time.

Iceland has experienced several eruptions like this over the last few years. It depends on how thick the ice is, how thick the lava is, how much lava coming out, and several other factors.

Because one recent volcanic eruption in Iceland caused plane flight issues all over Europe, this one is being closely monitored.

Shale oil, carbon dioxide, and green activists

Article: Fuzzy Math Can’t Hide Shale Boom’s Green Credentials

Looking at the CO2 emissions alone, US CO2 emissions have been decreasing for about 10 years.

Two reasons have been noted:
1) the economy tanked in 2008, causing a decrease in CO2 emission in the US and other developed countries. 
2) the US has been switching from coal to natural gas to generate power. Natural gas releases less CO2 per heat unit than coal. The natural gas is coming from fracking.
Decreased CO2 sounds good if one is genuinely concerned with CO2 and global warming.

However, green activists recently released a study claiming that using fracked natural gas actually increases CO2 emissions.

Four assumptions were made in the study. There were quickly demolished.

Why do green activists want to attack the usage of natural gas?

Why do green activists find it necessary to lie (well, deliberately deceive)?

Faces: pretty and intelligent

Article: You really CAN tell how intelligent a man is just by looking at him, scientists say (and the key is a long face and bigger distance between the eyes)
'The ability to accurately assess the intelligence of other persons finds its place in everyday social interaction and should have important evolutionary consequences,' the team wrote in the journal PLoS One.
If so, why be able to assess the intelligence of men, but not women? Over evolutionary time, have women been assessed on other values, instead? [See below]
The team used static facial photographs of 40 men and 40 women to test the relationship between measured IQ, perceived intelligence, and facial shape.

Both men and women were able to accurately evaluate the intelligence of men by viewing facial photographs, they discovered.

'These results suggest that a perceiver can accurately gauge the real intelligence of men, but not women, by viewing their faces in photographs; however, this estimation is possibly not based on facial shape,' they claim.

'Our study revealed no relation between intelligence and either attractiveness or face shape.
 Article:  In Harsh Conditions, Men Don't Want a Pretty Face
Big eyes and full lips may turn male heads in Japan, but in Nepal, men aren't as interested in pretty, girly faces.
Those are the findings of a new study of men's preferences for female faces in 28 nations. The results reveal that guys are drawn to feminine looks – large eyes, pillow lips and a soft jaw — to a greater extent in countries that are the healthiest.
The reason for this difference isn't clear, but scientists suspect that evolution may drive these attractions, at least subconsciously. Men in harsh conditions may have a better chance of fathering children who survive if they mate with a woman who can hold on to resources, said study researcher Urszula Marcinkowska

Science Links for 8/22/14: Breakfast, Stars, and Alcohol

Article: Is Breakfast Overrated?

Skipping breakfast had no effect on weight, but did seem to have an effect on activity level. People who skipped breakfast were more sluggish, but then, neither did they overeat later to compensate.
For now, the slightly unsatisfying takeaway from the new science would seem to be that if you like breakfast, fine; but if not, don’t sweat it. “I almost never have breakfast,” Dr. Betts said. “That was part of my motivation for conducting this research, as everybody was always telling me off and saying I should know better.” Based on the results of these studies, he said his habits won’t change.
Article: Traces of One of Universe's First Stars Detected

The first stars formed would have been made entirely from the hydrogen and helium left over from the big bang. There would have had a range of sizes from the 1 solar mass up to 100 solar masses or more.

When they went supernova they would create and scatter other elements into space.
The second generation of stars [were] formed from the material forged in the heart of the first generation. The interior of SDS J0018-0939, a star in the Milky Way's halo, reveals information about the makeup of the first stars in the universe.
Article: The Truth We Won’t Admit: Drinking Is Healthy

In the early 1800's, cheap distilled spirits like rum and gin became widely available. This led to a lot of drunkenness in the "lower orders." A moral panic ensued. And for the first time in 1800 years the Bible was found to endorse total abstinence from drinking anything with alcohol in it. While the Bible frequently denounced drunkenness, it evidences no support for total abstinence.

However, Methodists and Baptists adopted this doctrine, as did a number of other conservative denominations. However, prohibition was also a progressive cause, something often conveniently forgotten. The moral panic reached a height in Prohibition.

The progressives ran away from prohibition when it failed, but even today many conservative denominations reject any drinking of alcohol. The ideas engrained by the prohibitionists, that alcohol is bad for you, are also still found in the medical community (many of whom drink alcohol on the their own).

The idea, I would rudely guess, is that the elites are still afraid of the lower orders getting out of control. Hence high "sin" taxes on alcohol (about 80% of the cost of a bottle of liquor goes to some sort of taxes, somewhat less so for beer and wine).
Given the multitude of studies of the effects of alcohol on mortality (since heart disease is the leading killer of men and women, drinking reduces overall mortality significantly), meta-analyses combining the results of the best-designed such studies can be generated. In 2006, the Archives of Internal Medicine, an American Medical Association journal, published an analysis based on 34 well-designed prospective studies—that is, research which follows subjects for years, even decades. This meta-analysis, incorporating a million subjects, found that “1 to 2 drinks per day for women and 2 to 4 drinks per day for men are inversely associated with total mortality.”

So the more you drink—up to two drinks a day for woman, and four for men—the less likely you are to die. You may have heard that before, and you may have heard it doubted. But the consensus of the science is overwhelming: It is true.

Although I dispute many of the caveats offered against the life-saving benefits of alcohol, I will endorse two. First, these outcome data do not apply to women with the “breast-cancer gene” mutations (BRCA 1 or 2) or a first-degree (mother, sister) relation who has had breast cancer, for whom alcohol consumption is far riskier. Second, drinking 10 drinks Friday and Saturday nights does not convey the benefits of two or three drinks daily, even though your weekly totals would be the same

Thursday, August 21, 2014

Holocene climate: models vs proxies

Article: Models challenge temperature reconstruction of last 12,000 years: Temperature records could be skewed, or models could be missing the mark.

The phrase, "temperature records" in the title is not what people normally think of as records. There are not thermometer recordings.

To get the "records" for the last 12,000 years a lot of different types of "proxies" are compared and compiled to determine temperatures throughout this period.
The researchers first point to potential issues with the temperature reconstruction. There are many different kinds of proxies for temperature, including organic compounds produced by photosynthetic plankton, ratios of elements in the shells of zooplankton, oxygen isotopes in ice cores, and identification of pollen grains. [And tree ring data.]
There are a number of problems with this approach. One problem is stitching different proxies together. Maybe they are not all measuring the same thing, or at the same time of year.

If one proxy for the entire period existed, it might be possible to calibrate it and use it for the entire period. But this is either not the case, or it is not trusted.

On the other hand, investigator integrity is often assumed. However, as was discovered in the case of Michael Mann's "hockey stick" model of temperatures during the Holocene, either his integrity or his math skills were lacking. His model has long since been discounted, even by the IPCC.

This is not a classic "data vs model" controversy.

The "data" are derived from the proxies and are themselves "models," although of a different sort than the "computational models" used to model the climate.

So neither the models nor the records are hard data, unlike records from weather stations or satellites.

Seals, tuberculosis, and DNA

Article: Seals carried tuberculosis across the Atlantic, gave it to humans: Disease was present in the Americas prior to European contact.
This offers a glimpse at the rather complicated history of tuberculosis.

TB leaves recognizable changes in bones. Therefore, it can be the diagnosed from skeletons of the long dead.

In the Old World, the bacteria causing TB made the leap to humans about 10,000 years ago. After that, it made the leap from humans to cattle.

It is known that Native Americans had TB early on. This gave rise to the belief that Westerners brought it to the Americas. However, pre-Columbian skeletons were found showing the disease.

So, if the land bridge from Asia was submerged more than 10,000 years ago, how did the disease get here?

Turns out that bacterial DNA from three, 4,000 year old skeletons of Native Americans in Peru was not the normal, human variant. It was the "pinniped" variation. That is, seals carried TB from Africa to South America, and from there across the Americas.

Seals also carried TB to Australian Aborigines about 700 year ago.

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Global warming - Three links.

The top two stories have some good research. However, they are either poorly written or deliberately deceptive on someone's part.  The third one is a fun read, but hyperbolic.

Article: Is the SUN driving climate change? Solar activity - 'and not just humans' - could be increasing global warming, study claims

I think that the general conclusion that the solar activity drives some climate change is obvious. The problem with this specific article is how badly it is written. For example, the following quote can be interpreted to say that ALL the climate change we have seen in the last century is driven solely by the sun, which is not what I think they found.
Dr Raimund Muscheler, lecturer in Quaternary Geology at Lund University and co-author of the study, told MailOnline that solar activity in the modern day was causing about 0.1 degrees of warming in the 11-year solar cycle.

'Bit it's quite debated how much it really contributed in the last 100 years, since solar activity increased a bit,' Dr Muscheler says.

'The long trend is debated, but most people don't think it's much more than 0.1 degrees.'

However, he warned that the sun was not the only factor in causing climate change.
"About 0.1 degrees of warming in the 11-year solar cycle." At nine cycles per century, that equals 0.9 degrees of warming per century, or almost all of the observed warming over the last century.

What I think that they mean is that 0.1 degree of the 1.0 degree of warming seen in the last century is due to increased solar activity.
'The study shows an unexpected link between solar activity and climate change,' Dr Muscheler said in a press release.

'It shows both that changes in solar activity are nothing new and that solar activity influences the climate, especially on a regional level.
"Unexpected?" I hope this is a misquote, because it would be ludicrous to say that solar activity does not have link to climate. Either that, or they are saying that the link that they did find was an unexpected link over and above the expected link. Again, poorly written.  
'The study also shows that the various solar processes need to be included in climate models in order to better predict future global and regional climate change.'
In other words, the existing models are over-simplified and this missing factor is one reason why they have failed to predict "global and regional climate change." So, yes, I agree.

Article: Why global warming is taking a break
The average temperature on Earth has barely risen over the past 16 years. ETH researchers have now found out why. And they believe that global warming is likely to continue again soon.

Global warming is currently taking a break: whereas global temperatures rose drastically into the late 1990s, the global average temperature has risen only slightly since 1998 – surprising, considering scientific climate models predicted considerable warming due to rising greenhouse gas emissions.
The models are based in hypotheses about how the atmosphere works, and, specifically, how the increasing levels of CO2 should increase global temperatures. The models have failed to correctly predict both the amounts of warming and how the atmosphere actually warms. These hypotheses have now been falsified, they are no longer valid, they are ex-hypotheses. [Insert Monty Pythonesque, dead parrot routine joke, here.] They need to be modified until they can reflect actual atmospheric conditions.

Two reasons are given for this failure.
#1 El Niño warmed the Earth

One of the important reasons is natural climate fluctuations, of which the weather phenomena El Niño and La Niña in the Pacific are the most important and well known. "1998 was a strong El Niño year, which is why it was so warm that year," says Knutti. In contrast, the counter-phenomenon La Niña has made the past few years cooler than they would otherwise have been.
So, no warming over the last 16 years. Last big warming event was the 1998 El Nino. Earth warms when there is an El Nino event. Therefore, I predict that no El Nino events have occurred since 1998, since these events cause warming. What? There have been El Nino events since 1998? Impossible!

Sorry, this is simply bad reasoning, or a poorly written article (see above). Maybe they are claiming that large La Nina events have countered small El Nino events, but that claim is not made, and I have not seen anyone make that claim.
#2 Longer solar cycles

According to the study, the second important reason for the warming hiatus is that solar irradiance has been weaker than predicted in the past few years. This is because the identified fluctuations in the intensity of solar irradiance are unusual at present: whereas the so-called sunspot cycles each lasted eleven years in the past, for unknown reasons the last period of weak solar irradiance lasted 13 years.
So, changes in solar activity responsible for changes in the climate? I have no issue with that conclusion.

"For unknown reasons." Yes, the global warming/climate change models have failed because they are over-simplified. Again, I agree.

Another reason is given for the hiatus:
Incomplete measured data

The discrepancy between the climate models and measured data over the past 16 years cannot solely be attributed to the fact that these models predict too much warming, says Knutti.
Why not? The models have predicted too much warming. That is why they failed. They were over-simplified. Fix them.
According to Knutti, measured data is likely to be too low, since the global average temperature is only estimated using values obtained from weather stations on the ground, and these do not exist everywhere on Earth. From satellite data, for example, scientists know that the Arctic region in particular has become warmer over the past years, but because there are no weather stations in that area, there are measurements that show strong upward fluctuations. As a result, the specified average temperature is too low.
Really? The same satellite data that they claim is showing increased warming in the polar regions is also showing less warming, overall. It is also showing less warming than the ground based weather station data shows. So global warming is not only lower than the models predict, but also lower than the weather station data is showing. So ALL of the actual data is wrong compared to what?
Last year, British and Canadian researchers proposed an alternative temperature curve with higher values, in which they incorporated estimated temperatures from satellite data for regions with no weather stations. If the model data is corrected downwards, as suggested by the ETH researchers, and the measurement data is corrected upwards, as suggested by the British and Canadian researchers, then the model and actual observations are very similar.
Ah, so you correct the best data there is, from the NASA satellites, by correcting it upwards, "then the model and 'actual observations' are very similar."

Of course.
Despite the warming hiatus, Knutti is convinced there is no reason to doubt either the existing calculations for the climate activity of greenhouse gases or the latest climate models. "Short-term climate fluctuations can easily be explained."
1. "No reason to doubt." The logical fallacy here is proof by assertion. It is coupled with an appeal to authority by the study's author. That is, he is appealing to his own authority. 

2. "Short-term climate fluctuations can easily be explained." Yes, but he failed to do that.

Article: Mann v Steyn: If This Trial Ever Goes Ahead Global Warming Is Toast

Compared to the other articles, this one is dessert; just plain fun to read.

Michael Mann, global warming scientist, is suing Mark Steyn and others for slander because of comments published in National Review Online.

I think the claim ("global warming is toast") is hyperbole. Michael Mann is refusing to be deposed. This refusal, alone, could force the judge to throw out his suit, or force the judge to give summary judgment. As the person who brought the suit, he has to answer questions under oath.

It is obvious that Michael Mann is hiding something. It is already known that the algorithms that produced the infamous "hockey stick" could generate a hockey stick diagram out of telephone numbers. (I exaggerate, but barely.) The hockey stick model of global warming during the Holocene has been repudiated by the most recent IPCC report, and other global warming scientists have distanced themselves from it.

Not noted here, but an "amici" brief has been filed in support of Mark Steyn by the ACLU and a large number of other organizations left, right, and center. They may not like Steyn's opinions, but they recognize that Mann's lawsuit, if successful, would create a huge chill in first amendment rights.

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Genes, the hippocampus, and depression

Article: Genes determine traces that stress leaves behind on brains
Our individual genetic make-up determines the effect that stress has on our emotional centers, researchers have found. Not every individual reacts in the same way to life events that produce the same degree of stress. Some grow as a result of the crisis, whereas others break down and fall ill, for example with depression. The outcome is determined by a complex interaction between depression gene versions and environmental factors.

The hippocampus is a switching station in the processing of emotions and acts like a central interface when dealing with stress. It is known to react very sensitively to stress. In situations of stress that are interpreted as a physical danger ('distress'), it shrinks in size, which is a phenomenon observed commonly in patients with depression and one which is responsible for some of their clinical symptoms. By contrast, positive stress ('eustress'), of the kind that can occur in emotionally exciting social situations can actually cause the hippocampus to increase in size.

"People with the three gene versions believed to encourage depression had a smaller hippocampus than those with fewer or none of these gene versions, even though they had the same number of stressful life events," says study leader Lukas Pezawas, describing the results. People with only one or even none of the risk genes, on the other hand, had an enlarged hippocampus with similar life events.
In a previous article posted below, it was noted that 30-40% of a person's risk for depression is genetic. That means that 60-70% of that risk is environmental, also known as "nurture." While some people seem to be "hard-wired" for depression, the 60-70% factor allows for personal choice.

Major factors "protective" against suicide are strong familial and religious relationships. These are free will choices that anyone can make to help protective themselves from suicide, if not from suicidal thoughts.

The depressive thoughts can fight these choices, but they do not have to dominate. There have been articles published recently about how psychiatrists can re-train peoples' thought patterns to overcome some of this thinking.

Microevolution: Pygmies, butterflies, and Tibetans

Three articles about microevolution. That is, the rapid spread of a change in genes through a population because that change confers an advantage to those having the gene.

Article: Pygmy phenotype developed many times, adaptive to rainforest
The small body size associated with the pygmy phenotype is probably a selective adaptation for rainforest hunter-gatherers, according to an international team of researchers. But all African pygmy phenotypes do not have the same genetic underpinning, suggesting a more recent adaptation than previously thought.

Genetic mutations occur in populations all the time. If they have a negative impact on the individual, they tend to disappear from the population quickly. If they have no noticeable impact for the good or bad, they might disappear as well, although more slowly. Mutations which have positive influence on individuals, making them more fit for their environment, tend to spread through the population.
Article: Butterflies' evolutionary responses to warmer temperatures may compromise their ability to adapt to future climate change
Members of the brown argus butterfly species that moved north in response to recent climate change have evolved a narrower diet dependent on wild Geranium plants, researchers report. However, butterflies that did not move north have more diverse diets, including plants such as Rockrose that are abundant in southern parts of the UK.
Article: 8,000-year-old mutation key to human life at high altitudes: Study identifies genetic basis for Tibetan adaptation
In an environment where others struggle to survive, Tibetans thrive in the thin air of the Tibetan Plateau, with an average elevation of 14,800 feet. A new study is the first to find a genetic cause for the adaptation and demonstrate how it contributes to the Tibetans’ ability to live in low oxygen conditions.

About 8,000 years ago, the gene EGLN1 changed by a single DNA base pair. Today, a relatively short time later on the scale of human history, 88% of Tibetans have the genetic variation, and it is virtually absent from closely related lowland Asians. The findings indicate the genetic variation endows its carriers with an advantage.

Solar plants are a menace to birds

Article'Streamers': California solar power plant scorches birds in mid-air

Article: Dead-Bird ‘Streamers’ at a California Solar Plant

Article: Emerging solar plants scorch birds in mid-air

Article: Migratory Bird Mortality: Many Human-Caused Threats Afflict our Bird Populations
California’s massive Ivanpah solar power plant can produce enough electricity for 140,000 households — but the environmental cost is nothing less than an avian slaughter.

The plant’s 350,000 mirrors bounce sizzling sunlight to the tops of three 40-story boiler towers, heating steam for turbine electricity generators. Temperatures near the towers can reach up to 1,000 degrees Fahrenheit, heat certainly sufficient to fry a fowl.

“Workers at the state-of-the-art solar plant in the Mojave Desert have a name for birds that fly through the plant’s concentrated sun rays — ‘steamers,’ for the smoke plume that comes from birds that ignite in midair,” the Associated Press reports this week.

That’s a common occurrence, the AP continues; federal investigators saw a bird burn roughly every two minutes. Ivanpah owner BrightSource estimates that “about a thousand” die each year, and one environmental group says the plant kills up to 28,000 birds each year.

How many dead birds equal the damage caused by the CO2 emissions that these power plants replaced?

Please don't get me wrong. I think that the technology is cool. I think that, in the medium run, it is good to diversify our energy sources away from fossil fuels.

However, all sources of energy have their pros and cons.

Among the "cons" for this type of solar energy are scorched birds.

The dead birds are consequence of global warming activism. No activism, no push for alternatives to fossil fuels, no dead birds in ecologically sensitive areas. It is a trade-off.

But is it a worse trade-off than fossil fuels producing CO2? 

Another "con" are billion dollar loans to cronies of the Obama administration.
The commission is now considering the application from Oakland-based BrightSource to build a mirror field and a 75-story power tower that would reach above the sand dunes and creek washes between Joshua Tree National Park and the California-Arizona border.
The proposed plant is on a flight path for birds between the Colorado River and California's largest lake, the Salton Sea — an area, experts say, is richer in avian life than the Ivanpah plant, with protected golden eagles and peregrine falcons and more than 100 other species of birds recorded there.
The down side of wind turbines are also well known:  
Ivanpah isn’t the only green darling with a lot of bird blood on its hands, either. The American Bird Conservancy estimates wind turbines slay 440,000 birds each year, and the an analyst writing in the Wildlife Society Bulletin says it’s closer to 573,000 — in addition to 888,000 bats.
Again, a trade-off.

Again, how many dead birds and bats equal the damage caused by the CO2 these power plants replaced?

Monday, August 18, 2014

Normalized US Hurricane Losses 1900-2013

Article: Normalized US Hurricane Losses 1900-2013

This article is an update of Dr. Roger Pielke's article originally published in 2010. See link below.

NOAA data shows a slight decline in hurricane strength and hurricanes making landfall over the last 113 year period.

Hurricane losses show a similar slight decline.
Abstract (of the 2008 article):
After more than two decades of relatively little Atlantic hurricane activity, the past decade saw heightened hurricane activity and more than $150 billion in damage in 2004 and 2005. This paper normalizes mainland U.S. hurricane damage from 1900–2005 to 2005 values using two methodologies.

A normalization provides an estimate of the damage that would occur if storms from the past made landfall under another year’s societal conditions.

Our methods use changes in inflation and wealth at the national level and changes in population and housing units at the coastal county level.

Across both normalization methods, there is no remaining trend of increasing absolute damage in the data set, which follows the lack of trends in landfall frequency or intensity observed over the twentieth century. The 1970s and 1980s were notable because of the extremely low amounts of damage compared to other decades.

The decade 1996–2005 has the second most damage among the past 11 decades, with only the decade 1926–1935 surpassing its costs. Over the 106 years of record, the average annual normalized damage in the continental United States is about $10 billion under both methods.

The most damaging single storm is the 1926 Great Miami storm, with $140–157 billion of normalized damage: the most damaging years are 1926 and 2005.

Of the total damage, about 85% is accounted for by the intense hurricanes.
The three conclusions here (hurricane strength, number and losses) are in decline. This data counters the global warming activist community's claims that all of those are increasing.

It is noted that non-normalized losses are increasing. That is, because more people are living in hurricane-prone areas, and because of inflation, insurance claims for hurricane-related losses are increasing.

Saturday, August 16, 2014

Genetic testing and suicide

Article: Could a Genetic Test Predict the Risk for Suicide?

A gene test would be invaluable to reducing suicide.
While claims for a suicide test remain preliminary, and controversial, a “suicide gene” is not as fanciful as it sounds. The chance that a person takes his or her own life is in fact heritable, and many scientific teams are now involved in broad expeditions across the human genome to locate suicide’s biological causes.

Based on such gene research, one startup company, Sundance Diagnostics, based in Boulder, Colorado, says it will begin offering a suicide risk test to doctors next month, but only in connection with patients taking antidepressant drugs like Prozac and Zoloft.

The Sundance test rests on research findings reported by the Max Planck Institute of Psychiatry in 2012. The German researchers, based in Munich, scanned the genes of 898 people taking antidepressants and identified 79 genetic markers they claimed together had a 91 percent probability of correctly predicting “suicidal ideation,” or imagining the act of suicide.
So, the first gene test is based on genetic markers. These would be the genes that can be passed on from parents to children. These genes would be part of the basis of the well-known familial risk factor (see below).
Given how many people take antidepressants, the market for a suicide test could be big. In the U.S., about 11 percent of Americans 12 years and older take antidepressants, according to a 2011 estimate by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
People taking antidepressants have a higher risk of suicidal ideation and suicide. A test would help reduce the risk by identifying those prone to that and getting them counseling in advance of taking the drugs.
Altogether, epidemiologists believe that 30 percent to 55 percent of the risk that someone takes their own life is inherited, and the risk isn’t linked to any specific mental illness, like depression or schizophrenia.

That means suicide probably has its own unique genetic causes....
Oddly enough, a range 30-40% is the same for a lot of conditions that have a genetic linkage: mental illness and heart disease. Even the tendency towards homosexuality.
A person’s life history still has more to do with whether it ends in suicide than genes do. Virginia Willour, a geneticist at the University of Iowa who studies suicidal thinking among bipolar patients, says environmental factors are especially important in preventing suicide. Getting medical treatment, an involved family, and religious beliefs all cut the chance of suicide dramatically.
If 30-40% of the risk for suicide is genetic, then 60-70% of the risk is environmental factors.
The latest report of a possible suicide test came in July from Johns Hopkins University, in Baltimore, where geneticists published a report saying that the presence of alterations to a single gene could predict who will attempt suicide with 80 percent accuracy.

Instead of looking just at DNA, they studied patterns of methylation, a type of chemical block on genes that can lower their activity. They found that one gene, SKA2, seemed to be blocked often in the suicide brains. They later found the same gene block was common when they tested the blood of a larger number of people having suicidal thoughts.

“We seem to be able to predict suicidal behavior and attempts, based on seeing these epigenetic changes in the blood,” says Kaminsky.

Kaminsky says that following the report, his e-mail inbox was immediately flooded by people wanting the test. “They wanted to know, if my dad died from suicide, is my son at risk?” he says. They didn’t understand that the type of DNA change he identified probably isn’t the inherited kind, but instead may be the result of stress or some other environmental factor.
The second test used the DNA from the brains of suicide victims to see if there had been changes to their specific DNA. This would be changes due to environmental factors: chemical and hormonal exposure (including in the womb) or related to stress and life activities. This may account for some of the non-familial risk factors listed below. These changes may or may not be passed on. If they are changes in the brain, only, they will not be. To be passed on, the epigenetic changes would have to also happen in the sex cells (sperm and eggs).

Article: Suicide: Risk and Protective Factors
A combination of individual, relational, community, and societal factors contribute to the risk of suicide. Risk factors are those characteristics associated with suicide—they may or may not be direct causes.

Risk Factors

  • Family history of suicide
  • Family history of child maltreatment
  • Previous suicide attempt(s)
  • History of mental disorders, particularly clinical depression
  • History of alcohol and substance abuse
  • Feelings of hopelessness
  • Impulsive or aggressive tendencies
  • Cultural and religious beliefs (e.g., belief that suicide is noble resolution of a personal dilemma)
  • Local epidemics of suicide
  • Isolation, a feeling of being cut off from other people
  • Barriers to accessing mental health treatment
  • Loss (relational, social, work, or financial)
  • Physical illness
  • Easy access to lethal methods
  • Unwillingness to seek help because of the stigma attached to mental health and substance abuse disorders or to suicidal thoughts

Friday, August 15, 2014

Science Links for 8/15/2014

Article: Huge asteroid that 'could end human life' defying gravity as it moves towards Earth, scientists say

It "defies gravity" by rotating on its axis so fast that its surface at its equator actually experiences "negative gravity."

Asteroids are a collection of dust and rubble. Normally, they are held together held together by gravity, but this one is rotating so fast that it is held together by van der Waal's force. [A weak force that is due to attraction between molecules. It is related to hydrogen bonding.]

Article: Who's your mummy? Egyptian mummification older than was thought
Researchers on Wednesday said a form of mummification was being carried out there more than six thousand years ago, much earlier than previously thought. They said embalming substances contained in funerary textiles from the oldest-known Egyptian cemeteries showed mummy-making from as early as about 4300 BC.

There is evidence of mummification involving remains from around 2600 BC of Queen Hetepheres, mother of Khufu, the pharaoh who commissioned the Great Pyramid at Giza outside Cairo. There also is evidence of linen that contained resin being used to wrap bodies around 2800 BC.

The researchers were amazed to find that the plant, animal and mineral components used in preparing the mummies at the cemeteries in Mostagedda in central Egypt were essentially the same embalming "recipe" used thousands of years later at the pinnacle of the ancient Egyptian civilization.
Article: Little penguins forage together: 40% of studied penguins synchronized underwater movements while foraging

Olympic synchronized swimming for penguins!
Little penguins are the smallest penguin species and they live exclusively in southern Australia, New Zealand, and the Chatham Islands, but spend most of their lives at sea in search of food. Not much is known about group foraging behavior in seabirds due to the difficulty in observing their remote feeding grounds.
The authors GPS devices to track the little penguins.
The authors found that ~ 70% of little penguins' foraging tracks were in association with other penguins, ~ 50% of individuals dove while associating with other penguins, and ~ 40% exhibited synchronous diving. These behaviors suggest little penguins forage in groups, may synchronize their underwater movements, and potentially cooperate to concentrate their small-schooling prey.
Article: Ebola outbreak: the vaccine and 'secret serum' explained

Vaccines exist, but have not been tested on humans. They seem to give protection to monkeys. Because Ebola outbreaks are usually localized and limited. Vaccination will never be wide-spread (like polio or smallpox), and mostly given to health workers and the like.
This drug [the "secret serum'"] gives you antibodies directly, rather than waiting two to three weeks after vaccination for the antibodies to work. It could be used for treatment whereas a vaccine is more likely to be used for prevention.
Article: Competition for ecological niches limits evolution of new species

The article is worth skimming just for pictures of the birds.
Most new species are thought to arise in a three step process: First, a species expands its range. Then a barrier, such as a geographic event, separates the species into distinct populations. Last, development of the inability to interbreed -- reproductive isolation -- finalizes the speciation process. As this cycle repeats, it gives rise to a vast diversity of plant and animal species. 
In this study, Professor Price, Dr Mohan and their colleagues used several approaches to examine how geographic differences affect speciation by testing the niche-filling model: first, they asked whether the geography of the eastern Himalayas provided a greater number and diversity of niches that songbirds could occupy and adapt to. Second, they examined whether the rate of oscine speciation changed over time. Third, they investigated the diversity and abundance of resources available in different ecological niches.

These findings suggest that speciation and geography are intimately connected in the evolutionary history of the Himalayan songbird assemblage: initially, numerous morphological differences in feeding method and body size appear early in their evolutionary history, whereas only later did the fledgling species invade and adapt to available ecological niches at different elevations. Since available niches were filling up as new species moved in, younger and younger songbird species were usually competing for smaller and smaller niches. These findings are all consistent with the niche-filling model.

Two climate change related links from

Two climate change related links from

Article #1: Global warming = climate change

This is a long, meaty article covering a lot of global warming/climate change issues. It is well worth a read.

The article reviews the long-term and short term temperature records, the changes in CO2 levels over the last 150 years, and the impact of those changes.
The temperature increasing capacity of atmospheric CO2 is known to diminish as concentrations increase. This diminution effect is probably the reason why there was no runaway greenhouse warming caused by CO2 in earlier eons when CO2 levels were known to be at levels of several thousands ppm.

Both sceptics and Global Warming advocates agree on this. IPCC Published reports, (TAR3), acknowledge that the effective temperature increase caused by growing concentrations of CO2 in the atmosphere radically diminishes with increasing concentrations. This information is in the IPCC reports. It is well disguised for any lay reader....
About 83% of the effect of increasing CO2 on global warming has already occurred. Even doubling the amount of CO2 in the atmosphere (from 400 ppm to 800 ppm) will result in only a relatively small increase in temperature.

Using IPCC's own estimates of "decarbonization," if the US cuts it CO2 emissions in half, it will result in only 0.1 degree C decrease in warming. Using the estimates of "skeptics," it would only reduce warming by 0.017 degrees C.

Article #2: Why ‘Deniers’ are Always Wrong – Models can’t be falsified

Global warming activists have an excuse for everything. When nothing can falsify an hypothesis, it is no longer an hypothesis, but politics or religion.

Thursday, August 14, 2014

Dietary salt and high blood pressure

Article: Study questions need for most people to cut salt
A large international study questions the conventional wisdom that most people should cut back on salt, suggesting that the amount most folks consume is OK for heart health — and too little may be as bad as too much. The findings came under immediate attack by other scientists.
From the previous post:
Scientific disciplines are always underpinned by theories that collectively define the dominant paradigm. In the case of modern climate science that paradigm is AGW. It defines the research questions asked, and dictates the methodology employed by the majority of climate scientists most of the time. AGW may be a paradigm with little practical utility and tremendous political value, but it’s a paradigm none-the-less. The world’s most powerful and influential leaders also endorse AGW.
There is also a "high dietary salt causes high blood pressure" paradigm. The paradigm has to be protected from data that oppose it.

The paradigm originated with one study [referred to here] done over 50 years ago. A scientist studied world cultures in order to determine a dietary cause for high blood pressure. It turns out that the Japanese have both a diet high in salt (due to high seafood consumption) and history of high blood pressure. Case closed!

The problem is that even Japanese who do not eat that diet have high blood pressure. High blood pressure among the Japanese appears to be due to widespread genetic factors that dispose Japanese to high blood pressure.

High salt intake was correlated to high blood pressure in both studies. [However, I have read a number of other studies recently that show no correlation. Link goes to Scientific American]
People who consume 3 to 6 grams of sodium a day (about 8 to 15 grams of salt) had the lowest risk of heart problems or death from any cause during the nearly four-year study. More or less sodium raised risk. [Empasis added.] About three-fourths of the world's population is in the ideal range. Americans average roughly 4 grams a day.

Guidelines from various groups for heart disease prevention recommend 1.5 to 2.4 grams of sodium a day. The American Heart Association advises no more than 1.5 grams.
In other words, the AHA's recommendations are so low that they increase the risk of "heart problems or death."

Bad research lead to a pernicious paradigm that will not die, despite decades of opposing research.

Global warming paradigm

Article: Three Facts Most Man-made Global Warming Sceptics Don’t Seem to Understand

This is actually a skeptic addressing perceived problems that other skeptics may have.

I am not going to quote a lot of this, despite how good it is. Or maybe because of how good it is. It really should be read in full.

I am going to quote and comment on the material about paradigms.
The history of science suggests that paradigms are never disproven, they are only ever replaced. Physicist and philosopher, the late Thomas S. Kuhn, also explained that competition within segments of the scientific community is the only historical process that ever actually results in the rejection of one previously accepted theory or in the adoption of another.
Right now, there is little competition. People who are part of the global warming community run the grant-giving apparatus and the peer-review apparatus. It is hard to find the money to do "independent" research, let alone that buck the dominant paradigm.

An honorarium of a couple thousand dollars permanently disqualifies a skeptic; billions in money promoting global warming orthodoxy is business as usual.

 Reason #2.
Rebuttals don’t overthrow established paradigms.

Anthropogenic global warming is a fully functional, well-funded scientific paradigm that is having a major impact on social and economic policy in every western democracy.

As I explained in session 13 at the conference: Scientific disciplines are always underpinned by theories that collectively define the dominant paradigm. In the case of modern climate science that paradigm is AGW. It defines the research questions asked, and dictates the methodology employed by the majority of climate scientists most of the time. AGW may be a paradigm with little practical utility and tremendous political value, but it’s a paradigm none-the-less. The world’s most powerful and influential leaders also endorse AGW.
The AGW (anthropogenic global warming) paradigm is a similar to the heliocentric paradigm of Ptolemy at the time of Copernicus and Galileo. It is very entrenched. It does explain some phenomenon, and has some predictive value. Large numbers of scientists subscribe to it. Their jobs, or grants, depend on subscribing to it. It is part of the political orthodoxy. It does not really reflect reality.

The author goes on to note that research shows that rebuttals to research that supports the dominant paradigm are simply ignored.
Indeed it is the naive view that scientific communities learn from obvious mistakes. And as past failures become more entrenched it can only become increasingly difficult to distinguish truth from propaganda, including in the peer-reviewed literature.
"Peer-review" becomes an avenue for enforcing the dominant paradigm. Part of the "Climate-gate" scandal was the revelation that scientists were bullying editors into not publishing research counter to the global warming paradigm.

[Note: If "anthropogenic global warming caused climate change" is so true, why is this kind of behavior necessary?]

The third point is going to take decades to accomplish.

As I said above, read the whole thing.

Slogan: It's not global warming. It's global dying.

Article: No, climate change won’t kill the planet. But it’ll kill plenty of people.

This article links to a podcast and to a website that advertizes buttons with the slogan: "It's not global warming. It's global dying."

The funny thing is, this website is pro-global warming activism. And it objects to the hysteria.

From the article:
The primary problem with the language used by many global warming campaigners is that it’s not relevant to people: It frames the climate and environment as separate from us. We see clumsy language like “healthy climate,” “safe climate,” and “impact on the climate” too often. Hopefully “global dying” will be just a fleeting addition to that list.
The desperate need to play with words, create new euphemisms (remember hearing "collateral damage" for "we accidentally killed a lot of innocent civilians," anyone?), and generally "reframe" the argument are the tactics of the losing side.

The pro-abortion movement have used multiple euphemisms (NARAL Pro-Choice has changed its name 3 or 4 times in its history). "Pro-life" has not. Which side is "winning?"

The article above has a link to an article advocating this kind of reframing. 
Advocates need to build a narrative based on relevant, simple, and uncontroversial language. Something not just to fight against, but to fight for: clean air and water, better food, new jobs, and less life-threatening weather events.

“Pollution”, “health”, “creating jobs”, and “extreme weather” are words that have been tested by Drew Westen and in various research projects I’ve been involved in with Alex Frankel & Associates. They beat global warming and climate change every time.
"Pollution" mostly refers to carbon dioxide emissions, the product of respiration which virtually every organism uses.

"Health" refers to scaring people who are elderly, or have asthma or other lung conditions, or have children (diseases and disasters are unspecified).
“Impact on the climate” we really mean impact on people. And instead of talking about rising temperatures and sea levels, we should be talking about more floods, wildfires, and hurricanes. [In other words, scare people.]
If your models have failed, if the facts do not support you, if people are tired of 20 years of screeching; change the subject.

Anthropogenic global warming. AGW. "Anthropogenic" means human-generated. This is too "science-y," too specific, and too clumsy. It is usually shortened to merely global warming, with the "human-caused" part assumed. The nice thing about the shortening is that if not all of global warming is human caused, then it is still "global warming" and "something must be done!"

Climate change. Again, for the activist, it is assumed that this means "human-generated climate change due to global warming." The problem is that earth is always undergoing climate change. It is always posting new temperature highs and lows. It is always experiencing floods, droughts, hurricanes, and other extreme weather events. Extreme weather is normal.

Global weirding. Immediate predecessor to global dying. Another attempt to capture the normal dynamics of weather and convert them into climate change so that activists have something to shout about (see Al Gore's hysterical take on Hurricane Katrina, as an example).

Hat tip article: Global Warming Gets New Catch-Phrase And Logo: “It’s Not Warming, It’s Dying”…

Ultimate hat tip to Vic at AoSHQ: AGW: The stupid it burns. These idiots will not give up.

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Learning ability and genetics

Article: About half of kids' learning ability is in their DNA, study says

Classic type of twin studies looking at one aspect of intelligence.

Takeaway: Children are not blank slates. While nurture matters it is only, literally, half the story.

Our children are different from each other because the genetic influence is complex. Even small differences in the complex of genes associated with learning ability (and thus intelligence) can add up to a large difference between children.

On the other hand, all of your children are going to be more alike compared to the children of others where the potential mix is going to be different.
You may think you’re better at reading than you are at math (or vice versa), but new research suggests you’re probably equally good (or bad) at both. The reason: The genes that determine a person’s ability to tackle one subject influence their aptitude at the other, accounting for about half of a person’s overall ability.
 If I am more comfortable with math than reading, it may be because I have worked on it more, or take more pleasure in working on it. 
What’s more, the genes responsible for math and reading ability appear to be numerous and interconnected, not specifically targeted toward one set of skills. These so-called “generalist genes” act in concert to determine a child’s aptitude across multiple disciplines.

The finding that one’s propensities for math and reading go hand in hand may come as a surprise to many, but it shouldn’t. People often feel that they possess skills in only one area simply because they perform slightly worse in the other, Plomin said. But it’s all relative.

“You might think you’re a little less good at math, but compared to everybody in the world, you’re pretty good at math,” he said.

“Just as we no longer blame mothers for schizophrenia, we should be humble when blaming schools and parents for not every child learning as quickly as we'd desire,” he said. “The implications, I think, are that children really do differ at very deep levels in how easily they learn.” [Emphasis added.]
I like the emphasis in the article on recognizing hard-wired differences between the abilities of different children.

Ancient Italian well and the artifacts within

Article: Excavation of ancient well yields insight into Etruscan, Roman and medieval times
During a four-year excavation of an Etruscan well at the ancient Italian settlement of Cetamura del Chianti, a team led by a archaeologist and art historian unearthed artifacts spanning more than 15 centuries of Etruscan, Roman and medieval civilization in Tuscany.

Among the most notable finds: 14 Roman and Etruscan bronze vessels, nearly 500 waterlogged grape seeds and an enormous amount of rare waterlogged wood from both Roman and Etruscan times.

The bronze vessels, of different shapes and sizes and with varying decorations, were used to extract water from the well, which has been excavated to a depth of more than 105 feet.

[G]rape seeds, found in at least three different levels of the well -- including the Etruscan and Roman levels -- are of tremendous scientific interest, according to de Grummond.

"They can provide a key to the history of wine in ancient Tuscany over a period from the third century B.C.E. to the first century C.E.," she said. "Their excellent preservation will allow for DNA testing as well as Carbon 14 dating."

In the Etruscan religion, throwing items into a well filled with water was an act of religious sacrifice.

"Offerings to the gods were found inside in the form of hundreds of miniature votive cups, some 70 bronze and silver coins, and numerous pieces used in games of fortune, such as astragali, which are akin to jacks," she said.

The [105 foot deep] well, dug out of the sandstone bedrock of Cetamura, has three major levels: medieval; Roman, dating to the late first century B.C.E. and the first century C.E.; and Etruscan, dating to the third and second centuries B.C.E. Not fed by a spring or other water source, the well would accumulate rainwater that filtered through the sandstone and poured into the shaft from the sides.

Holocene Cooling: Models versus reality

Article: A global temperature conundrum: Cooling or warming climate
When the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change recently requested a figure for its annual report, to show global temperature trends over the last 10,000 years, the University of Wisconsin-Madison's Zhengyu Liu knew that was going to be a problem.

"We have been building models and there are now robust contradictions," says Liu, a professor in the UW-Madison Center for Climatic Research. "Data from observation says global cooling. The physical model says it has to be warming."
Data from the real world show that the models are wrong. If the models are wrong, then the models are wrong. There has to be unaccounted for, and possibly unknown, factors at work.
The scientists call this problem the Holocene temperature conundrum. It has important implications for understanding climate change and evaluating climate models, as well as for the benchmarks used to create climate models for the future. It does not, the authors emphasize, change the evidence of human impact on global climate beginning in the 20th century.
Again, if the models are wrong, they need to be changed until they actually model reality. It is not reality that is wrong.
"The question is, 'Who is right?'" says Liu. "Or, maybe none of us is completely right. It could be partly a data problem, since some of the data in last year's study contradicts itself. It could partly be a model problem because of some missing physical mechanisms."
This is the "unknown unknowns" problem which means that the models have been over-simplified to point of being wrong.

The data shows cooling over the last 10,000 years, with rising temperatures in the last 100 years. For human civilization, this is actually good news. Continued cooling would lead to a new ice age. A warming trend, even if due to human activity, can be accomadated. Many places on earth regularly deal with rising seas. Warming temperatures may change growing seasons, but the models are contradictory as to whether this is going to be good thing or not. Same with changing patterns of rainfall.
The three models Liu and colleagues generated took two years to complete. They ran simulations of climate influences that spanned from the intensity of sunlight on Earth to global greenhouse gases, ice sheet cover and meltwater changes. Each shows global warming over the last 10,000 years.
Yet, the bio- and geo-thermometers used last year in a study in the journal Science suggest a period of global cooling beginning about 7,000 years ago and continuing until humans began to leave a mark....
Again, if the models disagree with real world data, the models are wrong. The factors included in the model are not complete.
With their current knowledge, Liu and colleagues don't believe any physical forces over the last 10,000 years could have been strong enough to overwhelm the warming indicated by the increase in global greenhouse gases and the melting ice sheet, nor do the physical models in the study show that it's possible.
Again, and lastly, if the data from the real world contradict the models, the models are wrong. If the models are wrong, then the models are wrong. There has to be unaccounted for, and possibly unknown, factors at work.

This serious contradiction between reality and the models is the same problem with modelling the last 100 years of climate change. The models contradict reality and the models have to change until they no longer do.

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Hand sanitizers not shown to cut school absences

Article: Study: Hand sanitizers not shown to cut school absences
Putting alcohol-based hand sanitizers in classrooms in the hopes of reducing school absences due to illness may not be worth the expense in high-income countries where clean water for washing hands is readily available, a study says.

It finds that adding the sanitizers to school-age kids' usual hand hygiene routine — washing with soap and water — did not reduce illness-related absences.

The findings, reported in this week's PLOS Medicine, do not apply to hospitals and health care facilities or in controlling the spread of gastrointestinal illness where hand sanitizers remain a vital component of infection control, says lead study author Patricia Priest of New Zealand's University of Otago, in Dunedin, in an e-mail.

The study looked at 2,443 students, ages 5 to 11, in 68 schools in New Zealand. They each received a 30-minute in-class hand hygiene education lesson that reinforced knowledge about "germs causing sickness, and the need to wash hands well with soap and water after using the toilet, before eating, after touching pets, etc.," says Priest, a public health physician and infectious disease epidemiologist at the university's Dunedin School of Medicine.
So, hand washing is more effective than hand sanitizer in stop spreading illness.

Hispanics and the Census

Article: More Hispanics tell Census Bureau they're 'white'

Hispanic or white?
Over the past 10 years, a growing number of Hispanics have changed their race and origin to “white,” according to top Census officials.

While whites, blacks and Asians generally kept their status between the 2000 and 2010 U.S. Census review of the population, Hispanics, especially among younger immigrants, were quicker to change.


In a working paper titled “America’s Changing Races: Race and Ethic Response Changes between Census 2000 and the 2010 Census,” the authors found that at 9.7 million Hispanics changed their racial and origin status.

Of those, 2.3 million changed from “Hispanic-some other race” to “Hispanic white,” and 417,855 just declared themselves “white.”
Thought experiment: What if, 100 years ago, Italian immigrants were offered the choice of being "Italian" or being "white" or being "Italian white?"

To us, today, this seems absurd. Like "Hispanic," "Italian" is not a race, it is an ethnic group. It is an ethnic group that has so integrated into American life as to be almost invisible.

"Hispanic" is an interesting term. Generally, it refers to people whose ancestry traces to either Spain or Portugal. It would include many (not all) of the inhabitants of South America, Central America, the American Southwest, the Philippines, and the Caribbean. However, it is not universally popular, and many "Hispanics" object to the label.

People of Mexican descent, whose ancestors lived in the American Southwest, prefer "Chicano." Americans of Cuban ancestry (or immigrants) prefer "Cuban-American."
New immigrants sometimes undergo a transformation of their self-identified race as they come to understand, and perhaps accept, how the American public sees them.
As in the example above for "Italian whites," perhaps Hispanics are in the process of accepting being simply American like the Italians have.

I have read several articles recently discussing a proportional lack of identified Hispanics in movies and TV. One of the articles lamented the absence of outraged offense among Hispanics. But if Hispanics are viewing themselves as American, or white, this may not be a problem. It may be a success.

Coal, global warming and EPA regulations

Article: Welshing on Wyoming’s Coal Industry:
Will a new edict from the EPA kill a business that’s made the state wealthy?

Some facts from the article:
  • 40% of energy in the US is generated from coal
  • 645 pages of proposed regulations
  • Mining companies paid more than $1 billion in taxes, leases, royalties and other payments to Wyoming in 2012. Money that appears to earmarked for education.
  • The average worker at a Cloud Peak mine earns $69,000 a year, not including benefits
A rural town in Wyoming has become wealthy due to coal mining near it. New government regulations, to limit global warming due to carbon dioxide from fossil fuels, may end that.  
Gillette, Wyo. — Gillette, a rural town an hour’s drive from Devil’s Tower, is subject not to the whims of fate alone but to those of the federal government.

Its golden opportunity came nearly 25 years ago, when Congress, with a regulation intended to cut down on acid rain, inadvertently sparked a coal boom in the region. But today, as the Environmental Protection Agency pursues new regulations to cut carbon emissions, Gillette may again see its fortunes change.
Live by government regulations, die by government regulations. Cure acid rain, then you have to cure global warming.
But as the Environmental Protection Agency eyes new carbon regulations, it may once again reverse Gillette’s fortunes. The Obama administration is seeking to reduce carbon emissions from electric plants by 30 percent between 2005 and 2030. It has suggested to states a range of means to this end, but the practical effect will be to penalize coal-fired power plants while artificially boosting demand for other energy sources.
In other words, penalize cheaper energy from coal and force prices up to the point that "other energy sources" like wind and solar become economically practical.

All government regulations have "good reasons" attached to them. Sometimes it is to "reduce deaths by cancer," sometimes, "for the children," sometimes to "aid those less fortunate than ourselves." And there are a host of others. Sometimes these are legitimate reasons, sometimes they are simply pretexts for power grabs.

Government by "good reasons" is a functionally infinite government, ultimately controlling all aspects of everything. A tyranny.

"Good reasons" are being used to regulate the free speech of college students to avoid "hate speech," to regulate 2nd amendment rights to avoid gun violence mostly due to drug gangs, and to regulate freedom of religion with regard to gay rights and abortion. In other words, constitutionally guaranteed rights are being regulated for "rights" which do not exist in the constitution. But it is being done for "good reasons."

13 Scientific Terms You Might Be Using Wrong

Article: 13 Scientific Terms You Might Be Using Wrong

Good article.

Meteor vs asteroid, theory, fossil, etc.

I do have one objection: the "birds are really dinosaurs" meme. No, they are not. It is cool to be able to say that birds are descended from dinosaurs. It has the "shiver" of being amazingly counter-intuitive.

On the other hand, it is like saying humans are really reptiles or amphibians or segmented worms or bacteria because, in theory, humans are descended from extinct organisms that were reptiles or amphibians or segmented worms or bacteria. We aren't. They aren't. Case closed.

Besides which, this has nothing to do with the rest of the article. It is like the author had a cool fact that he needed to say. 

Monday, August 11, 2014

Article: America's Weather-Tracking Satellites Are in Trouble
[The] polar-orbiting satellites, a primary and its backup, are the ones in crisis. The primary satellite—a short-term pathfinder built to test emerging technologies—was never really intended for use. Its backup isn't much better: an aging satellite with failing sensors that passed its predicted life expectancy last year. We would send up a replacement now, but it's still being built. When it is ready, should it survive launch, it could take until as late as 2018 to transmit usable data.
"If we can send someone to the moon, why can't we...." That is a well-known cliche. But NASA and NOAA actually cannot any longer "send someone to the moon."

NASA sent someone to the moon because there was the money, the vision, and the people available to carry it out. We went from a proposal by President Kennedy to launching Gemini space craft (though not the moon mission itself) in less time that it is going to take to complete and send up an already planned weather satellite.
For most of the 1970s and '80s a partnership between NASA and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration ensured that we always had two fully operational birds flying, with a backup in the barn. It was, says James Gleason, senior NASA scientist, a golden age. That all changed in 1994, when President Clinton tried to cut costs by combining the NOAA and Department of Defense weather-satellite programs. The marriage was doomed from the start. Both organizations came with top-heavy bureaucracies and their own specific needs. Together they formed a dysfunctional agency defined by budget overruns, infighting, and passive– aggressive stalemates. In all the turmoil, work on any new satellites slowed to a crawl, and any surplus dried up. By the time President Obama separated the two organizations in 2010, NOAA had to scramble to pull together a new program. As a stopgap, it sent up the only option left, our current satellite—that demonstration model, with a life span of only three to five years.
Sigh. Good intentions, trying to cut costs by cutting bureaucracy and doubling-up on missions. It could have worked, if someone had gone through and pruned the new agency of excess personnel. When a business acquires a new company, they will often fire a number of employees. But that is hard to do in the government.