Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Article: The Copernicus Complex review – Caleb Scharf's balanced view of the hunt for ET
We live, Douglas Adams once observed, in the uncharted backwaters of the unfashionable end of the western spiral arm of the galaxy where “our utterly insignificant little blue-green planet” orbits a small unregarded yellow sun. As a summation of the peripheral importance of Homo sapiens, these words – from The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy – could not be bettered. 
The inner nerd is thrilled. An article opening with a quote from Douglas Adams!  But the Hitchhiker's Guide to the Universe is filled with alien species, some of them are actually intelligent. Where are they?
This notion is more seriously known as the principle of mediocrity and it stems directly from the ideas of Copernicus, who replaced our old self-important, geocentric view of the universe with one that makes our planet a mere adjunct of the sun. Thus humanity’s place in the heavens was displaced, making us neither central nor special.
The problem with the "principle of mediocrity" is that is only true if there is intelligent life on other planets. Otherwise, earth is anything but mediocre. And right now, it looks unique.
If our circumstances are unremarkable, they are – by definition – going to be repeated round the universe, particularly when it comes to the prevalence of life. For if living beings are common on our boringly typical planet, then the heavens should also abound with life.
They may "abound with life," but not apparently intelligent life.
Astronomers have come up with a wide range of explanations to account for this absence. Some say intelligent creatures may be common but will quickly destroy their worlds when they develop technology that will inevitably run out of control. Hence we never spot them. Others say complex life is actually extraordinarily rare because our planet is just about the only one in the galaxy that could support it. Only our special orbit round a special star with a special single moon above our heads has created the incredibly unlikely circumstances for the appearance of life.
Article: Obama creates vast Pacific Ocean marine reserve

With a stroke of his pen. It will cover 490,000 sq miles.
The memorandum bans commercial fishing, deep-sea mining and other extraction of underwater resources in the area.
And the extremists cry, "Not enough! Not enough!"

Will the inhabitants of the islands be able to fish for their livelihood, like they used to? Does that count as "noncommercial" fishing?

I would like to read more about this before I can give it unqualified support. But i doubt I am going to find any arguments against it in today's media mono-culture.

It is "ecologically correct" and will not be questioned.
Article: America About to Dethrone Saudi Arabia as Liquid Petroleum King

These type of articles are turning up with increasing frequency. And fracking is the cause.

The US is using fracking directly to produce more oil, but the process also has an interesting side-effect. When the shale is fracked for natural gas, one of the by-products is "natural gas liquids." These include ethane and propane.
American oil output is expected to break 9 million barrels per day sometime this year, edging closer to Russia’s 10.1 million b/d and Saudi’s 9.7 million b/d. 
With productivity continuing to rise, the United States has a chance to become the single biggest producer of crude oil sometime in the near future. If you had said that a decade ago, you would’ve been laughed at and called a fool. What a difference fracking makes.
Ten years ago, there were discussions about whether or not we had reached "peak oil." We will eventually, and will eventually have to deal with a "post-oil" economy. However, that is not happening soon.

The fracking revolution will move to other counties. The UK has begun to develop the legal tools to start. China is trying to frack, but has not yet had much success.

Monday, September 29, 2014

Article: Here Are The People Most Likely To Be Climate-Change Deniers 

This is the question that was asked: Do you think that global climate change is occurring?

Of course, Republicans, Christians, and Conservatives all tended to the "no" side, or about 30% of the population.
It’s fairly clear from these graphs that religious, Republican American conservatives make up the majority of today's deniers of climate change. If income, education, and knowledge have little to do with acceptance of climate change, then could it be that this issue has become one of culture, not science, in America? Do conservative Americans deny climate change simply because it conflicts with their identity as a conservative? 
If that’s the case, then throwing facts at those why deny climate change is not going to make them budge on the issue.
So what will convince that last 30% of Americans? First off, we should stop talking about “what scientists believe” and instead actually take into consideration who we’re trying to communicate with. Then we need to figure out: How can we discuss climate change without alienating the average American conservative?
Here are some suggestions.

Civility. The use of the word "denier" has been explicitly linked, by some of its more prominent users, to holocaust denial. If you want to have a civil conversation with a knowledgeable conservative, do not use "denier" for the "con" position concerning global warming.

In fact, just stop demonizing people who disagree with the "con" position. We might be willing to listen, and talk, then.

Second, most "fixes" for global warming proposed by the left are big government solutions: tax and spend (or subsidize); regulate, regulate, regulate; and brow-beating. Conservatives do not want those solutions for medical care, for the environment, for 1st amendment rights, for 2nd amendment rights, and a host of other things. Global warming is just one more.

So, come up with solutions that conservatives can live with. It is said that amelioration of the commonly predicted effects of global warming will cost less than the left's solutions. Why does the left never propose them?

Third, with regard to alternative energy. Stop the "bait-and-switch" tactics. Nuclear power is best for reducing carbon emissions, but the greens fight it. Hydroelectric power is praised, but new dams would be fought until the last environmental chokes to death on fresh air and clean water. Wind and solar power are nice until the conservationists find out how many birds, including eagles, die as a result. Methane was touted as "clean energy" by environmentalists as long as it was scarce and expensive. Now that it is cheap, it is the devil's own brew.

Fourth, the question determines answer. Why not re-write the question thus:

Are you skeptical of the idea of global warming/climate change as presented to you in the media?

This, or a question like it, would receive an entirely different answer. Are you brave enough?

Or:  Are you skeptical of the idea of global warming/climate change as advocated by its most vigorous proponents? People like Al Gore, President Barack Obama and members of his administration?

Put that way, you might find a majority of Americans are skeptical.

Fifth. Admit that the 97% figure was a lie; admit the hockey stick was a fraud; admit Al Gore is a crank (and a crank that has gotten rich from gullible leftists); admit that there has been no warming for about 20 years which means the models are wrong; admit that we simply know too little to implement all the leftist, big-state solutions.

In other words, meet us half-way.
Article: Supervolcano Ready To Explode? Mount St. Helens Reawakens, Continues To Rebuild Itself

It is not a "supervolcano," it is a normal, run-of-the-mill volcano. Yellowstone is a supervolcano.

On the hand, it is a live volcano. It has a magma chamber that is filling up. It is building a cone in the caldera of the old volcano.

In the short run, volcanoes are unpredictable. In the longer run, and speaking generally, they are more predictable. Mount St. Helens has had periods of dormancy and eruption. Of full and catastrophic eruption and what we are seeing right now.

It will continue to build a cone for awhile and there may be a major eruption as well. We will know it is coming, but the exact time will be unknowable.
Article: The fickle El Niño of 2014

As per a post below, computer models had predicted a major El Nino event for this year. However, reality failed to match the models.
The height of the ocean water relates, in part, to its temperature, and thus is an indicator of the amount of heat stored in the ocean below. As the ocean warms, the water expands and the sea level rises; as it cools, its level falls. Above-normal height variations along the equatorial Pacific indicate El Niño conditions, while below-normal height variations indicate La Niña conditions. The temperature of the upper ocean can have a significant influence on weather patterns and climate.
In other words, the oceans have not warmed as predicted by the global warming models and therefore the El Nino models were not accurate as well.
Climatologist Bill Patzert of NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, California, says it's too early to know for sure, but he would not be surprised if the latest Kelvin waves are the "last hurrah" for this much-hoped-for El Niño. 
Major El Nino events are "much-hoped-for" because major events are connected to episodes of global warming. The last big "spike" in warming occurred during an El Nino year, 1998. We have had no warming (and maybe a slight cooling trend) since then.
Scientists warn that unless these developing weak-to-modest El Niño conditions strengthen, the drought-stricken American West shouldn't expect any relief.
In other words, the drought in the West is a natural event, not due to climate change or global warming. It is, in effect, related to the absence of warming.
Article: While the Arctic is melting the Gulf Stream remains
Summary: The melting Arctic is not the source for less saline Nordic Seas. It is the Gulf Stream that has provided less salt. A new study documents that the source of fresher Nordic Seas since 1950 is rooted in the saline Atlantic as opposed to Arctic freshwater that is the common inference.
The common inference was always wrong. The 1950-1970's period had a cooling trend, with increased glaciation. In other words, the cause of the decreased salinity of the Nordic seas always had to be something other global warming.
The Nordic Seas have freshened substantially since 1950. This has happened at the same time as there has been observed increased river runoff and net ice melting in the Arctic. 
Correlation is not causation. And there was not "increased melting" during the early part of that period.
"It has been a concern that a layer of Arctic freshwater could impede the Gulf Stream's Arctic branch. Going back in time -- into and through ice ages -- such a freshwater lid has been understood to reduce ocean circulation and thus the Gulf Stream's poleward heat transport," says Tor Eldevik.
It has already been shown that the Gulf Stream does not, in fact, convey significant amounts of heat to the Arctic regions. And it is not responsible for the "unexpectedly" milder climate of Norway and Europe.
The researchers from the Bjerknes Centre have analysed the available observations back to 1950 and conclude that the changing salt content in the Nordic Seas is explained by the variable salinity of the Gulf Stream's Arctic branch entering the seas from the south. 
Although not part of the present study, it appears to be several reasons for the freshening of the Atlantic source waters. A dominant explanation is a general increase in net precipitation over the North Atlantic Ocean (which may very well relate to global climate change). The contribution is spread over the Gulf Stream system, and accordingly transported further northward.
On the other hand, it might not be due to climate change during the 1950-1970's time period, as explained above. It might just be a natural variation.

We have 65 years of real-time data. We have data that has been teased out of the fossil record and out of the glaciers themselves that can act as "proxies" for the real-time data. How accurate the proxy data is unknown.

On the other hand, North America separated from Europe about 100 million years ago. Presumably, the Gulf Stream has been in operation, or in hiatus, since then. It is raving absurdity to assume we have enough information to actually understand what is happening here.

And the proof of that is the consensus that was the "common inference."

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Science Links for 9/16/14 - Archeology

Article: Archaeologists discover 'long-lost' Roman fort

This was one of the major forts guarding the "backbone" of the Roman border in Germany.
The fort is apparently from the late first century C.E., and roughly 500 Roman soldiers were stationed there between 70 and 120 C.E.
Archaeologists discovered two V-shaped ditches and the post holes from a defensive tower at the site. The researchers suspect the finds were greater than at other sites because the Roman troops filled the ditches and dismantled the fort when they abandoned it. The Gernsheim fort allowed the Romans to control large areas east of the Rhine in the late first century C.E.
Burying the fort both hid it and allowed for its preservation.

Article: Massive 5,000-Year-Old Stone Monument Revealed in Israel

Over 150 yards long, and located near the Sea of Galilee.

It is "pre-Israel" in date, so would belong to peoples no one knows much about. It appears to be associated with a nearby ancient town.

The purpose of the structure is unknown; it was too far from the town to be a defensive wall.
The structure's crescent shape stood out in the landscape, Wachtel told Live Science in an email. The shape may have had symbolic importance, as the lunar crescent is a symbol of an ancient Mesopotamian moon god named Sin, Wachtel said.

Article: Report – emails reveal ‘collusion’ with green activist groups over EPA climate agenda

Imagine if the oil industry colluded with government regulators to produce new regulations covering all aspects of their industry. If the relevant departments staffed their top echelons with oil industry executives. If those top echelons regularly consulted with their former coworkers about the new regulations.

The scandal would bring down people all over DC. Certainly the department heads would be gone in days.

But is is exactly what the EPA did: they got into bed with environmental activists.

Even if you view yourself as "green," on what level is this actually acceptable? "The ends justify the means?"
Article: Weak wells not fracking caused US gas leaks into water

Hat tip. 
The researchers used noble gases to trace the path of methane as these inert chemicals are not affected by microbial activity or oxidation. 
By measuring the ratios of the noble materials to the methane they were able to accurately determine the distance to the likely source.
The scientists analysed content from 113 wells in the Marcellus shale in Pennsylvania and 20 in the Barnett shale in Texas. They found eight clusters of wells with problems.
"The mechanism of contamination looks to be well integrity," said one of the authors, Prof Robert Jackson from Stanford University.
"In about half the cases we believe the contamination came from poor cementing and in the other half it came from well casings that leaked."
It is a shame that this has to be published in the UK. Apparently, US outlets will not touch good news about fracking.
"These results appear to rule out the possibility that methane has migrated up into drinking water aquifers because of horizontal drilling or hydraulic fracturing, as some people feared," said Prof Avner Vengosh, from Duke University.
Fears that environmentalists, who are not scientists, have played on.
"You need strong rules and regulations on well integrity," said Prof Jackson.
And they need to be enforced.

Pennsylvania has the longest history of fossil fuel well-digging in the world. And fracking is not a new process. Its success in extracting natural gas is a new development. Regulations in PA have existed for years about the need for well integrity. It is one of the reasons that the current governor of PA took so long to issue new regs. The State wanted to update their existing rules.

Sunday, September 14, 2014

Article: List of excuses for ‘the pause’ in global warming is now up to 52

Depending on how one looks at the data, we have experienced between 18-26 year long pause in global warming.

As of 9/11/14, the website, "wattsupwiththat.com," has documented 52 excuses for the pause each of which prove that global warming is still happening, even though there has been no measurable increase in temperature.

Fifty-two excuses? Your teenager has wrecked the car and usually he manages only 3 or 4 before telling the truth.

Fifty-two excuses is desperate floundering. It means that the models used to predict anthropogenic ("secular") global warming have been falsified and that at least 51 of the excuses have to be at least partly wrong.

Saturday, September 13, 2014

Article: Here's How Little Time We Have Until Global Warming Is Out Of Control

[Note: I refuse to use "carbon emissions" or "carbon pollution." It is carbon dioxide, a natural by-product of respiration, fires, and decay.]

This article is a lovely example of what happens when a company (PWC) and a person (a writer for Yahoo's "Business Insider" page) venture into places where they have no expertise and no training. 
The news is in: humans are totally failing in the global effort to stop climate change. And we don't have much time left. 
This is the conclusion of a report released this month by multinational accounting firm PricewaterhouseCoopers (PWC). 
Why is a "multinational accounting firm" issuing a report on a scientific topic? Where is their expertise? Because they can crunch numbers and assess risk? (And badly, if some of the lawsuits against them listed on Wikipedia are any indication.)
The "Low Carbon Economy Index" evaluates the progress of G-20 countries in keeping global temperatures within 2 degrees Celsius of their pre-industrial levels — the target agreed upon at the 2009 United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change — and finds that almost everyone is falling short.
The "2 C" goal isn’t just a random number: experts agree that anything higher could lead to a disastrous series of effects, including catastrophic sea level rise, extreme weather events, famine and mass extinction.
Actually, it is a nice, round, random number agreed to by bureaucrats with a vested interested in keeping people scared ("catastrophic sea level rise, extreme weather events, famine and mass extinction!") and the monies flowing to them and to the NGO's they will work for when they retire from "public life." A major aspect of the "Framework" is the transfer of money from the G20 countries to poorer countries. The countries, in fact, that the bureaucrats come from. 
As it stands, G-20 countries are largely liable for keeping this from happening, as they contribute about 85 percent of global carbon emissions. This chart shows the breakdown by country, with China coming in at a whopping 27.6 percent, and the U.S. trailing close behind at 16.7 percent.
"The U.S. trailing close behind at 16.7 percent"..." We are more than 10 percentage points behind, and falling behind quickly. Another way of putting it is that the US's emissions are 60% of China's. We are not close to China, not by this measurement. Do not assert things that are obviously false. 
At the rate we're going, we'll shatter our goal by a hefty 2 C by the end of the century (reaching a total of 4 degrees Celsius increase) with potentially disastrous effects.
And herein lies the problem. They author, and presumably the report, confounds with increase carbon dioxide in the atmosphere with increased temperature. She, or they, have taken the global warming models as fact. In fact, the models that their numbers are based on have been shown to be wrong. They have publicly demonstrated their failure by predicting 20 years of warming that has not happened. 
Australia, for example, decreased its carbon emissions by a stunning 7.2 percent between 2012 and 2013, and the U.K, Italy, and China all managed impressive decarbonization rates between 4 and 5 percent. On the other hand, five countries actually increased their carbon intensity during the same time period, the U.S. among them.
Did any of these countries consciously try to increase or decrease their carbon dioxide emissions? 

During the time that Australia "decreased its carbon [dioxide] emissions," it was getting rid of its carbon pricing scheme. 

China broke records in increasing its carbon dioxide emissions. How could they "manage impressive decarbonization rates" while increasing emissions? This is nonsense. 

Carbon dioxide emissions? Or carbon intensity? Or "decarbonization?" They are not same thing, according to the graphs pictured. And what is "carbon intensity?" It is not explained. It has something to do with "millions of dollars," but no other explanation.  US emissions are supposed to be down. How can they be up at the same time unless there is some sort of statistical chicanery going on? 

The numbers used in the article are some kind of "lies, damned lies, and statistics" type of lies. 

Friday, September 12, 2014

Communism Kills: A Reminder

Article: Germany: Life Expectancy Has Risen in East Since Reunification, Study Says
The life expectancy of East Germans has risen sharply since their state was reunified with the more prosperous West in 1990, a new study shows. Reunification added 6.2 years to the life of men in the former East and 4.2 years to their female counterparts...
A reminder that Communism kills.
[I]mprovements in medical treatment and an improved standard of living [were cited] as the reasons.
The fully socialized medical systems of the "Eastern Block" nations were routinely held up as models for the West. We now know (although many on the Right had long teased out data that the showed the Block was lying) their medical systems were lacking.

Pollution was much worse in the Eastern Block countries as well.
Article: The Iberian Peninsula endured tropical storms in the 18th century and severe droughts in Islamic times

While we do not have day-to-day weather data from before about 1850, weather data can be teased out of contemporaneous reports.

For example, because of documentation in the Iberian Peninsula (called "Al-Andalus") under Islamic rulers, we know that the peninsula experienced periods of drought, some long and some short.
"By collecting these events, we can say that there were important droughts in Al-Andalus between the 748-754, 812-823 and 867-879 periods in which we have come across plenty of references to droughts and related famines, which even led to people emigrating to North Africa," states Domínguez.
Additionally, weather data collected in 1724 indicate that a large tropical storm (a precursor to hurricanes) swept over the Peninsula.
Over 100,000 observations from that period taken in 16 towns such as Cadiz, Madrid, Badajoz, Palma de Mallorca, Valencia, Zaragoza, Bilbao, Palencia or La Coruña have been digitalised. This has shown the existence of high rainfall anomalies, such as that of 1780 or the cold period felt throughout Europe the year after the great eruption of the Mount Tambora volcano (Indonesia) in 1815.
One of the major problems with the "global warming is causing climate change" meme are the over-hyped predictions for "extreme weather." Extreme weather, such as droughts in the Iberian Peninsula or California, are normal, but irregular, features of the world's climate.

Article: Residual hydraulic fracturing water not a risk to groundwater

The injected water does not move from its injection site. It gets absorbed by the rock. Some of the water displaces the natural gas that then gets pumped to the surface. The water does not travel at all, let alone travel the thousands of feet, against gravity and through impermeable rock layers, to get to the aquifers people use for water.
Hydraulic fracturing -- fracking or hydrofracturing -- raises many concerns about potential environmental impacts, especially water contamination. Currently, data show that the majority of water injected into wells stays underground, triggering fears that it might find its way into groundwater. 
Injected water that remains underground is sequestered in the rock formation and therefore does not pose a serious risk to water supplies.

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Article: WARNING: wild extrapolation (a classification system for science news)

The Guardian (UK) has a great science section with articles, commentaries, and blogs. The science articles are generally well-written, informative, and unbiased. On the other hand, the paper is a very left-wing, British newspaper and web site. As such, some topics are very much biased. For example global warming is a fact, and anthropogenic climate change must be dealt with now (and dealt with by increasing government regulation, taxation, and subsidies).

This article is a fun read for people generally interested in the increasing flood of science articles.

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Article: Study traces ecological collapse over 6,000 years of Egyptian history
Depictions of animals in ancient Egyptian artifacts have helped scientists assemble a detailed record of the large mammals that lived in the Nile Valley over the past 6,000 years. A new analysis of this record shows that species extinctions, probably caused by a drying climate and growing human population in the region, have made the ecosystem progressively less stable.
Four major periods of extinction, coinciding with dramatic drying of the Egyptian environment.
These drying periods also coincided with upheaval in human societies, such as the collapse of the Old Kingdom around 4,000 years ago and the fall of the New Kingdom about 3,000 years ago. 
"There were three large pulses of aridification as Egypt went from a wetter to a drier climate, starting with the end of the African Humid Period 5,500 years ago when the monsoons shifted to the south," Yeakel said. 
The last period starting around a 100 years ago.
The new study is based on records compiled by zoologist Dale Osborne, whose 1998 book The Mammals of Ancient Egypt provides a detailed picture of the region's historical animal communities based on archaeological and paleontological evidence as well as historical records. "Dale Osborne compiled an incredible database of when species were represented in artwork and how that changed over time. His work allowed us to use ecological modeling techniques to look at the ramifications of those changes," Yeakel said.

Science LInks - 9/9/14 - Archeology

Article: Chinese boy discovers 3,000-year-old sword in a river
Archaeologists speculated that the sword, which is roughly 10 inches long, comes from either the Shang or Zhou dynasties. The bureau suggested that the sword was a "status symbol of a civil official" and not a weapon used for fighting.
Archeologists are now planning a dig at the site.

Article: 3,000-Year-Old Golden Bowl Hides a Grisly Archaeological Tale

The golden bowl was found in an excavation in 1958 at a site in Iran. Further investigations make it appear as though looted along with several other valuable objects by several soldiers, found dead near by. The soldiers were killed, and buried, when the roof collapsed on them.

Two objects, thousands of miles apart, both from about the same era.

Article: Fever mounts as stunning statues found at ancient Greek tomb

A stunning discovery in the age of twitter and the 24/7 news cycle. Long ago (20 years or more) a major discovery would be investigated, then published.

Today, it can be followed on a near daily basis. This is so cool.
Speculation is mounting that the tomb, which dates from Alexander's lifetime (356-323BC), may be untouched, with its treasures intact. 
Theories abound about who could be buried in the tumulus tomb, ranging from Alexander's Bactrian wife Roxane, to his mother Olympias or one of his generals. 
Experts say the chances of Alexander himself being buried there are small, however. 
After his death at 32 in Babylon, the most celebrated conquerer of the ancient world is believed to have been buried in Alexandria, the Egyptian city he founded -- although no grave has ever been found there.

Article: Epigenetics: genes, environment and the generation game

This a longish, review-type article that appears well-balanced. It is a very new field with lots of implications for humans. However, epigenetics in mammals in general and humans in particular is controversial.
As with so much in science, this story owes a lot to mice. The tale begins with a pregnant mouse in a laboratory in Boston, Massachusetts. Such is the unfortunate lot of a lab rodent that she was kept on a near-starvation diet when she was close to giving birth. As scientists expected, her babies were born smaller than usual. When they were raised normally, they later developed diabetes. 
Now comes the twist. Even though these mice were well fed, their own young were also born unusually small and with a higher risk of diabetes. This was strange, because nothing had changed genetically and they hadn't suffered any problems in the womb or after they were born. They should have been perfectly healthy. 
There are many definitions of epigenetics, but simply put, says Professor Marcus Pembrey, a geneticist at University College London and the University of Bristol, it is a change in our genetic activity without changing our genetic code. It is a process that happens throughout our lives and is normal to development. Chemical tags get attached to our genetic code, like bookmarks in the pages of a book, signalling to our bodies which genes to ignore and which to use.

Monday, September 8, 2014

Article: Where science is concerned, I must part company with some of our economists:
To transform our nation, we need to facilitate innovation in science on a scale we’ve never achieved. That’s too important to be left to chance, or to ‘market signals’

Ian Chubb is the "Chief Scientist" for Australia, a position he was appointed to by a Labor Party Prime Minister

It was fun to skim his editorial/commentary. He is obviously a socialist. The article itself is mostly bureaucratic waffle from a leftist point of view. What I am going to do is pull the "socialist-isms" out of article.

Let us start with the title:

"Transform." What? Is something so appalling wrong with Australia that it needs to be transformed? Tell us what it is. That might make a more interesting article than this one.

And why do you want to disparage your own country? What is so awful about it? Even that would make a more interesting read than this.

"Too important to left to chance or market forces." This is a slam on free-market or capitalist economies (not the same thing). Why is it "too important"? Because the enormous innovation that we have seen from the capitalist world, but not the socialist world, over the last century did not happen or was too puny?
I want an Australia that is more than just what is left after the economic trimmings work their way through the community’s digestive system. I want an Australia in which our economy is organised to support our aspiration and not to limit it.
"I want an Australia in which our economy is organized." The Marxist/Fascist/Communist/Fabian Society/Labor Party/Socialist dream of an "organized economy."  Every time the more extreme versions of it have been tried (the USSR and Maoist China), they have failed. Half-measures, such as in England and the EU, are failing.
I am happy to agree that our children would welcome a budget in decent shape.
I loathe being manipulated by a "for the children" appeal. If that is one of your best arguments, then you have lost.
I don’t think all our debts will be measured in dollar terms, however. 
Fiscal debt, a budget deficit, is not real debt. Real debt is something else. It appears to be air pollution.
There are other things our children should expect. 
Breathable air, for one. Oceans to swim in. Food that’s good to eat. The chance to raise a family and grow old. I seem to recall saying that a few times, too.
Ah, those you oppose are for bad air, bad oceans, bad food, forced celibacy and childlessness, and killing older people before they can "grow old."
I would be an idiot if I could not see science’s centrality to every challenge Australians face. 
No, you are an idiot because you claim to see something that is not there. How do want to apply "science" to the various challenges involving the Aborigines? Eugenics? DNA testing to determine who is a "real" Aborigine?
On one point, it strikes me that we can all agree. Science builds industries, boosts productivity and drives human progress. It is critical to national growth.
No, traditionally, industry paid for the science that gave them technology to build new things. Then the government got involved.
So science is awesome. So far, so good. Then we come to where the debate really lies today: the role of government in building science capability. It is here that I part company with some – although by no means all – of the economic commentariat.
Socialists see a government role for everything. Why not science? We have had 50 years of increasingly heavy-handed government intervention and we are in the state you are complaining about. The policies you have advocated have caused the problems you want your policies to fix.

And about those policies. Why do you think that 19th century, Marxist, "scientific socialism" (or even Labor Party, socialism-lite) will solve 21st century problems? You are an old-fashioned, backward-thinking, "apres-garde" reactionary.
There is a view in this country that too much thinking about the sort of Australia we want gets in the way of the “market signals” – the invisible rays that persuade 15 year olds to study physics, or not, that attract graduates into science teaching, or not; and convince the market to wear the risk of bold new ideas, or not.
OOOOH! "Invisible rays!" Your contempt for a free-market economy is obvious. The idea that "the invisible rays… persuade 15 year olds to study physics" is a straw dog logical fallacy. Only a socialist is stupid enough to argue that position.

Do you want to "convince the market to wear the risk of bold new ideas?" Cut taxes, if not across the board, then specifically for R&D budgets. But you would not be a socialist if you could abide reducing taxes for any purpose.
It adds up to the message that she’ll be right. And it would be an easy message for a chief scientist to sell – if it wasn’t contradicted by the evidence.
OK, do you have any evidence? Because if you do not, you just made a "proof by assertion" fallacy.
Yes, logic says Australian businesses have an incentive to innovate. 
"Logic says." Yes, but what does the Australian government say? Does it pursue policies freeing business from red-tape so that new companies can be created to force innovation in the older ones?

Red-tape protects existing companies. Cut it and innovation will happen, or the non-innovative companies will die. But you would  not be a socialist if you could abide reducing government regulations.
Three in five of them still say they don’t, while just one in five say that they have introduced new or significantly improved goods or services. 
Yes, it sounds like red-tape to me. A company that say it does not have to innovate is a company that is being protected by government regulation.
Yes, it makes sense to study a science at senior levels. Australian schools show a decline in the rates of participation in “science” subjects to close to the lowest level in 20 years.
OK, but why? Generally, people do what they are rewarded for doing. Over the last 20 years, what has changed about Australian government, society and schools to make STEM less rewarding? The Left has mostly taken over education at all levels (at least, this is true in the US). Maybe this has something to do with the problem.
We throw programme after policy into the mix, with no sense of how it all adds together to make a stronger Australia. 
Maybe that is the problem: "throw[ing] program after policy into the mix." If it was less of a problem before all that throwing, why do you think that MORE polices are going to help?
By-and-large, governments have found that rather than seeking to mandate conditions, they can and do help to create environments in which business, researchers and educators are able to perform at their best—in a cooperative and coordinated way.
Yes, by reducing taxes and regulations. By getting out of the way.

"Creating environments" certainly sounds better than "mandating." But again, the "mandating" was usually a policy of the left in the first place, how much are actually going to differ?
There is the lesson for us: top-performing stem economies are united not by their size or geography but by their capacity to organise then grasp their opportunities.
Dr. Scientist, how about data? Which countries? Which policies have been successful? Name one. And don't say things like "alternate energy sources." Anything can be "successful" if subsidized by enough government monies.

The US has been one of the "top-performing stem economies" and we don't do much organization.

Israel is, for it's size, the top-performing stem economy in the world. Why don't you look at they are doing and announce to the world that you are going to emulate them?

Oh, right, the loud-mouth Left/Labor Party in Australia hates Israel and would rather commit scientific suicide that emulate them.

I am old enough to remember when Japan was held up as a powerhouse economy that would over-take the US economy shortly, blah, blah, blah. They had great partnerships between their (near-monopoly) industries and government.

Nice, cozy, crony partnerships that kept the money flowing into politics. And for some reason, they are stagnate now.

The country that gave us the Sony Walkman now gives us "Hello Kitty."

Article: 5 Terrifying Facts From the Leaked UN Climate Report

Hysterical over-reaction from Mother Jones.

The typical pattern for an IPCC report is as follows: The scientists write out the sections in their specialities. Then the politicians pull out all the worst case scenarios from the actual reports and create a summary. The summary is then "leaked" to various sympathetic outlets, like "Mother Jones" which in turn hype the worst case scenarios as if they were the core of the report.
This week, a big report from the UN's Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change was leaked before publication
This "Synthesis Report," to be released in November following a UN conference in Copenhagen, is still subject to revision. 
This follows a pattern of previous IPCC reports: leak all the scary things first, then get around to toning them down in the actual report that comes out later.

I am not going through the whole article here.

Propaganda words and phrases used: ghastly, horrid, awful, shocking, grisly, gruesome, carbon pollution (instead of carbon dioxide), greenhouse gas (also carbon dioxide), crisis, "irreversible" ecological and economic catastrophes.
Here are five particularly grim—depressing, distressing, upsetting, worrying, unpleasant—takeaways from the report.
Article: Greece unearths two sculpted female figures in vast ancient tomb
Archaeologists have unearthed two sculpted female figures, known as Caryatids, as they slowly make their way into an ancient tomb recently discovered in Greece's northeast, the country's culture ministry said on Sunday.They mark a significant new finding in the tomb on the Amphipolis site, about 100 km (65 miles) from Greece's second-biggest city Thessaloniki, which archaeologists have hailed as a major discovery from the era of Alexander the Great.
Alexander the Great is supposed to have been buried in Egypt, but no one knows where.

This a tomb built around the time of his death, but it may belong to one of his generals or another prominent person in Macedonia.

The Caryatids are sculpted in the same style as the previously announced sphinx at the tomb entrance.

Saturday, September 6, 2014

The current drought is a product of nature, which has a bad periodic habit of withholding rain and snow over California, a natural occurring and long-recorded phenomenon that has nothing to do with global warming. We used to accept that fact and its corollary: most Californians preferred to live where there was the least amount of state rain and snow — and were willing to pay for the necessary infrastructure to make showering in Malibu or Monterey as natural as in Crescent City or Lake Tahoe.
The drought is caused by a long-term kink the Jet Stream. Air masses have become "stuck" and a dry one is over California for the time being. Sometimes these last for years. Sometimes for decades.
[T]he California coastal strip is an environmentally unwise place to locate millions of Californians; its swarms exist largely by water transfers from either Northern California or the Sierra Nevada mountains.
The Coast gets its water from the far eastern part of the state. In between is the "Central Valley" where so much of America's produce is grown using irrigation water. The same water the Coast wants. Who wins? A few farmers? Or the wealthy, populous, connected, wired Coast?

In which an obituary is Fisked.

Article: Michael Katz, 75, Who Challenged View of Poverty, Dies

He was a socialist who framed poverty as a failure of capitalism and proposed socialist solutions to the problems he himself framed as needing socialist solutions. The socialist solutions found favor by his fellow socialists and he was lauded and praised and given awards by Democrats and leftists and socialists because of his brilliant socialist solutions. And he earned a reverential obituary in the New York Times.
Throughout American history, Professor Katz wrote, there was a fundamental tension between the micro and macro views of poverty. In the micro view, individuals were the authors of their lives and impoverishment proof of their moral failing. In the macro analysis, large historic forces and economic trends — war and peace, the shifting interests of capital — favored some people and disadvantaged others.
First, this is an "false dilemma" fallacy.  By framing the question as either/or, he can dismiss the "micro" view as judgmental and moralistic (racist as well, see the quote below).

Indeed, he can dismiss reality; most people see poverty as due to both individual choices and due to structural causes. Both solutions are necessary to address poverty. We need a "safety net" and personal responsibility.

This is also a straw dog logical fallacy, since no actually believes in a pure "micro view." It is easy to argue against a position no one defends.

If the very basis of his analysis is incomplete, if not actually wrong, all of his analysis, conclusions, and proposed solutions are going to be incomplete at best.
Professor Katz saw the predominant thinking in the Reagan and Clinton administrations as updated versions of the micro view. In the work requirements and eligibility restrictions imposed on welfare recipients in those years, he saw traces of 18th-century notions that divided the poor into two classes: the “deserving” poor (disabled war veterans, widows with children and others with Anglo-Saxon forebears) and the “undeserving” (everyone else).
He committed a straw dog logical fallacy by claiming Reagan and Clinton were trying to apply 18th century thinking to late 20th century problems. He did this because he wanted to apply 19th century, socialist thinking to late 20th century problems. This made him, in his own eyes, a modern thinker.

This is also an ad hominem logical fallacy by calling proponents of the "micro" view racist ("with Anglo-Saxon forebears"). It is very satisfying to be able to dismiss an opponent's views as racist, claiming the moral high ground for one's policy solutions.
Welfare did not create the entrenched poverty of the American urban ghetto, he wrote, and the welfare reforms enacted by President Bill Clinton in 1996 would not end it.
Another straw dog logical fallacy. NO ONE claimed that Clinton's reforms would end "the entrenched policy of the American ghetto." As such, this is a false argument and shows Katz's intellectual dishonesty.
That, he said, would require an unflinching look at the history of racism and its effects in the United States… 
...Followed by a laundry list of all the bad things that happened to blacks during American history. As if we have not spent decades discussing this? Since the Supreme Court rulings in the 1950's and the Civil Rights Acts in the 1960's? People who looked at the link between welfare and the ghetto were shouted down by people like Professor Katz.

And didn't anything good ever happen to blacks in America?
Alice O’Connor, a professor of history and urban affairs at the University of California, Santa Barbara, said in an interview that Professor Katz’s influence in the field of social science research was “immense,” particularly since the 1990s, when the welfare reform consensus threatened to shut down debate on the problem of poverty.
Alice O'Connor is either delusional or a liar. The debate RAGED over 20 years, from Reagan to Clinton, in congress, in the press, in state houses all over America. The Clinton welfare reforms worked, getting millions of people off the welfare rolls into jobs. And the safety net was retained (was Social Security and Medicaid destroyed, for example?).
“He helped a generation to rediscover the tools of social science,” Professor O’Connor said, and “reintroduced them to a language — a counternarrative — for discussing poverty.”
"Narrative" is used to describe a "story" about something. Politically, it is not about truth or facts or data. It is about defining the framework that people are allowed to use to discuss an issue. By out-working, once a narrative has been set, any facts, any data, that counter the narrative can be ignored. Welfare reform worked? It can be ignored because that is not part of the narrative.

"Rediscover" the language of the 19th century, of Marx, and the early socialists and the progressives of the early 20th century. Again, 19th century solutions to late 20th century issues.
In the 1990s, Professor Katz joined a heated debate about a segment of the poor referred to as “the underclass” — drug addicts, dropouts, unwed mothers, long-term welfare recipients and others who formed a “culture of poverty” supposedly beyond help.
Call them what you want. These people are real, and they need to be dealt with as people and as a class.

It is ironic that a socialist would complain about creating a class of people. For Marxists and Socialists, this is usually a full-time occupation.
Professor Katz said the idea of poverty as an “underclass” problem was misguided. 
“The processes creating an underclass degrade all our lives,” he wrote...
This is a "proof by assertion" fallacy. How does it degrade all our lives? My life or the lives of Hollywood starlets, Wall Street stock traders, and professors at elite universities?

The underclass has existed forever. Charles Dickens wrote about it for years during the early 1800's. Sir Arthur Canon Doyle features the underclass in some of his Sherlock Holmes stories in the late 1800's.
...Adding, “We will flourish or sink together.”
This is also "proof by assertion." It cannot be easily refuted because there is no evidence given that it is true. And in fact, there is no socialist evidence that it is true.

It is also a socialist truism. It is a basic assumption underlying all socialist thinking.  As such, it can neither be proven true or false.

The symbol of the Fascists was a bundle, or "fascia," of sticks, bound together to symbolize the idea of "strength through unity" of "flourishing or sinking together."

And, yes, Fascism is leftist and socialist. Mussolini repeatedly declared himself, and his policies and his philosophy, as socialist and "of the left."

Socialism has a basic contradiction in it. The Marxist version breaks all of society down into classes that are at war with one another.

Feminism adopted this mode of thinking by making men the oppressors and women the oppressed. The war of the sexes is, for them, a real battle that only one side can win.

The same with race relations in the US, whites are the oppressors of the blacks. And, yes, there is some basis in reality for this view. The white, Anglo-Saxon, protestant males of 18th and 19th century America were on top, until the Irish, the Jews, the Italians, the Blacks, the Hispanics, the Asians, and all women were invited in.

On the other hand, socialism views us all as one: "We will flourish or sink together."

There is a way that this idea has already been proven true, and it is not by a socialist, or by socialist thinking.

The free-market economy (not to be confused with "capitalism") has made everyone's boat rise, except for the "underclass." The Dickensian poverty of the 1800's, destitution, is rare. And usually only in the "under-most" part of the underclass, which in itself is the under-most part of the lower class.

But look at the list as to who is included in the underclass: drug addicts [I would include alcoholics here, as well], dropouts, unwed mothers, long-term welfare recipients.

The first three all prove the "micro view" correct: they are in the underclass due to pure poor choices.

As for long-term welfare recipients, if you grew up in a culture of welfare, in a ghetto, and have people tell you, all your life, that you will never get out because the "Man" (the white man) will never let you out, you would believe that you have no choice. So it is not a "poor choice," but a lack of hope, to remain there. And bad habits, and bad role-models, and bad schools, and bad etc.

Oddly enough, for a person considered an important researcher and thinker, he apparently has no Wikipedia page.

Odder still, he died in mid-August, and the NYT only got around to posting an obituary on September 4th.

What global warming hiatus?

Article: Matt Ridley in the WSJ: Whatever Happened to Global Warming?

The original article is behind a paywall. This link has the complete article.
In effect, this is all that’s left of the global-warming emergency the U.N. declared in its first report on the subject in 1990. The U.N. no longer claims that there will be dangerous or rapid climate change in the next two decades. 
Last September, between the second and final draft of its fifth assessment report, the U.N.’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change quietly downgraded the warming it expected in the 30 years following 1995, to about 0.5 degrees Celsius from 0.7 (or, in Fahrenheit, to about 0.9 degrees, from 1.3). 
Even that is likely to be too high. The climate-research establishment has finally admitted openly what skeptic scientists have been saying for nearly a decade: Global warming has stopped since shortly before this century began.
NASA satellite data from the last 35 years is showing about 1 degree F per century. "If this trend continues" is a logical fallacy. However, 0.9 degrees F per 30 years or 3.0 degrees F per century is way over the current trend.
First the climate-research establishment denied that a pause existed, noting that if there was a pause, it would invalidate their theories. [Ed., yes, they have been invalidated.] Now they say there is a pause (or “hiatus”), but that it doesn’t after all invalidate their theories [magical thinking?]. 
When the climate scientist and geologist Bob Carter of James Cook University in Australia wrote an article in 2006 saying that there had been no global warming since 1998 according to the most widely used measure of average global air temperatures, there was an outcry. A year later, when David Whitehouse of the Global Warming Policy Foundation in London made the same point, the environmentalist and journalist Mark Lynas said in the New Statesman that Mr. Whitehouse was “wrong, completely wrong,” and was “deliberately, or otherwise, misleading the public.” 
We know now that it was Mr. Lynas who was wrong. Two years before Mr. Whitehouse’s article, climate scientists were already admitting in emails among themselves that there had been no warming since the late 1990s. 
Part of what Matt Ridley is describing is a preference cascade. One lonely scientist spoke up (like in the "Emperor's New Clothes" fable) and within a short time, it was acceptable to acknowledge the hiatus was real.

Preference cascade 
As described by Glenn Reynolds in a classic 2002 essay [Patriotism and Preferences], a preference cascade occurs when people trapped inside a manufactured consensus suddenly realize that many other people share their doubts.  Preference falsification works by making doubters feel isolated and alone.  In a totalitarian society, the dissenter fears that if he speaks up, his will be a lone voice, easily squashed by the enforcers of the regime.  When dissenters realize they are not alone, and the true strength of their numbers becomes apparent, “invincible” regimes vanish with astonishing speed.
People will say the thing that causes the least conflict, even if they don't believe it. However, when enough people realize that everyone else (even fellow scientists) are skeptical, the belief system will crash quickly.
It has been roughly two decades since there was a trend in temperature significantly different from zero. The burst of warming that preceded the millennium lasted about 20 years and was preceded by 30 years of slight cooling after 1940.
Other global warming links. 

Article: McKitrick paper: no warming for 19 years

Title says it. Not for the math-faint-of-heart.

Article: Climate Models Show Remarkable Agreement with Recent Surface Warming

...If you throw in a lot of processes that seem to have suddenly become important in the last 20 years, but not before.

People desperate to find global warming, when it is not there, will conjure it out of cold air. "The heat is all there, really! It is just hiding. Watch me find it!"

Maybe I should not scoff, he might be right. However, this is getting close to magical thinking. Why didn't these processes work before the hiatus? If they did work, then there is still a hiatus.

Friday, September 5, 2014

Greener neighborhoods proven better for birthing babies: Urban planners hardest hit!

Article:  Greener neighborhoods lead to better birth outcomes, new research shows
Mothers who live in neighborhoods with plenty of grass, trees or other green vegetation are more likely to deliver at full term and their babies are born at higher weights, compared to mothers who live in urban areas that aren't as green, a new study shows.
The findings held up even when results were adjusted for factors such as neighborhood income, exposure to air pollution, noise, and neighborhood walkability, according to researchers at Oregon State University and the University of British Columbia.
What about adjusting for marital status? It should be easy to figure that in. Or is that too controversial to deal with? More unmarried women in urban environments compared to suburban environments may be the missing factor here.

What about adjusting for easy access to the mother's mother? The grandmother can have a huge, positive impact on the mother and her baby, both before and after birth.

What about adjusting for a car culture versus a bus-and-cab culture? A pregnant woman is going to think twice about a lot of activities if she has to use a bus, or subway, or a cab.

Think of all things beneficial to pregnant women that are easier to do if she has access to a car: grocery shopping, visiting the parents or the in-laws, keeping a doctor's appointment,going to religious services. Even running away from an abusive man is going to be easier if you can throw all your stuff into the back of a car and drive away.

The title of the article implies cause-and-effect. This may be simply "correlation is not causation." Living in a "green" area and having better birth outcomes may both be caused by another factor entirely.

About my title. One thing that the Obama administration has been doing is to pursue policies that will force people out of the suburbs and back into cities. Or, rather, slow down or shut down new suburban development.

They have been doing it on the QT, but...

Science Links - 9/5/14 - Archeology [updated 9/6]

Update: Buried Treasure: 1,900-Year-Old Roman Jewelry Unearthed

Who doesn't love a buried treasure story?
A small pit filled with ancient Roman jewelry that dates back nearly 2,000 years to a violent riot that occurred around A.D. 61 was unearthed beneath a London-area department store, according to a British archaeology organization. 
An archaeologist with the Colchester Archaeological Trust, a registered charity devoted to promoting archaeology in the area, discovered the buried treasure during an excavation beneath the Williams & Griffin department store in the town center.
Although, the context of this one makes it a sad story. It was not merely a "violent riot" but full rebellion against the Roman government resulting in the burning of three towns.
qThe haul includes three gold armlets, two silver bracelets, a silver chain necklace, a small bag of coins, a "substantial" silver armlet and a small jewelry box with four gold rings and two sets of gold earrings. 
Article: Mosaic Floor Revealed at Alexander the Great-Era Tomb

Largest tomb of this period ever found in Greece. Absolutely no mention of any speculation about whose tomb. An omission I find fascinating, especially since no one knows where Alexander the Great is buried.

Mosaic flooring, red and black paint on the walls, statues of sphinxes, blue frescos.

Details to follow.

Article: 'Last Supper' Papyrus May Be One of Oldest Christian Charms

The papyrus is from Egypt, but written in Greek.

A researcher realized that a 1500-year-old piece of papyrus, previously known showed signs of being folded. The papyrus has writing that paraphrases part of Psalm 78 and the Last Supper. He hypothesized that it was folded in order to place into an amulet and worn as a magical protection for a Christian.

I would be more accepting of this as a charm and as a belief in some sort of Christianized pagan magic if they didn't claim that wearing a cross today is also Christian magic, and worn as protection. I think some ignorant intellectual has watched too many vampire movies and not read enough about basic Christian beliefs.
"To this day, Christians use passages from the Bible as protective charms so our amulet marks the start of an important trend in Christianity."
The actual quote:
"Fear you all who rule over the earth.
Know you nations and peoples that Christ is our God.
For he spoke and they came to being, he commanded and they were created; he put everything under our feet and delivered us from the wish of our enemies.
Our God prepared a sacred table in the desert for the people and gave manna of the new covenant to eat, the Lord's immortal body and the blood of Christ poured for us in remission of sins."
The discovery, which Mazza presented this week at an international conference on papyri at the university's research institute, reveals that Christians adopted an ancient Egyptian practice of wearing such charms to ward off danger.
"This practice is not very far from nowadays use to wear necklaces with the cross or images of Jesus, Mary, or the saints, for protection," Mazza said. "In many Catholic churches nowadays believers are given holy pictures of the saints with a prayer on the back that you can bring along again for protection."
Article: Ancient metal workers were not slaves but highly regarded craftsmen

Previous site interpretation: harsh conditions, high and thick wall surrounding the mine and refinery, fiery furnaces. It must about slaves!
Copper production is a complex operation requiring many levels of expertise. Ancient mine workers at Timna may have indeed been slaves or prisoners, because theirs was a simple task performed under severe conditions. However, the act of smelting, turning stone into metal, required an enormous amount of skill and leadership. 
The craftsmen ate meat and fish (a rarity). Copper was hard to refine (for the time) and very valuable (this is the height of the Copper Age, when most weapons were fashioned from copper).

The thick walls are now reinterpreted to being defensive in use: protecting the valuable craftsmen, their refinery and their refined copper.

The bias towards believing that it was all about slavery is interesting and says something about those archeologists that did the original work.

The author does not include who the people were.

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

How Do Liberal and Conservative Attitudes About Obedience to Authority Differ?

Article: How Do Liberal and Conservative Attitudes About Obedience to Authority Differ? The Surprising Result of My Study
As far as I was concerned, bible-thumping social conservatives were like obedient robots. When Uncle Sam called them to arms, heels clicked and hands met temples. When the preacher demanded chastity, zippers ascended toward belt-buckles. When the boss told them to fire an employee, conservatives reached for a pink slip. Social conservatives asked no questions, even when the command was arbitrary or the cause indecent.
I am going to go with charity and assume that the author and researcher is writing tongue-in-cheek here.

Unfortunately, many of the commentators seem to agree with this sentiment, and slop out a lot of the usual slander against people on the right.

Whether tongue-in-cheek or sincere, this is bigoted and ignorant.
The way I saw it, this slavish obedience to authority and tradition on the part of conservatives was the true source of the culture war between liberals and conservatives over foreign war, abortion, same-sex marriage, gun control, and racial inequality. They way I saw it, conservatives clung to old, near-sighted ways of thinking and fell in line with the dictates of the "man in charge." If only conservatives would think for themselves -- like liberals do -- the war would be over and we could get on with life, governance, and progress. Or so I thought.
Ad hominem logical fallacies. "If only conservatives would think for themselves" they would think like good people like me, liberals. Wow.
Then, in 2012, I went on a cycling trip around Cuba. Being a Canadian, Cuba offered a warm, inexpensive, exotic, and legal escape from the depths of the great Canadian winter. 
Cuba is a totalitarian dictatorship. Dissenters are routinely jailed and tortured.

In the book of Acts, Saul of Tarsus is on the "road to Damascus" to carry out persecution against the Christians living there. He "sees the light" and is converted. I suppose if one is going to have a "road to Damascus" experience as a leftist, Cuba is a good place to have it.

During a dinner conversation with self-identified socialists about Che Guevara, he realized that maybe leftists may think in the same "slavish obedience to authority and tradition" that he accuses conservatives of doing. However, the objects of their obedience differ.
To get to the bottom of this, I set out to test whether liberals favor obedience to authority just like conservatives do. Past psychology studies had found that conservatives have the more favorable attitudes toward statements such as, "If I were a soldier and disagreed with my commanding officer's orders, I would obey anyway because that is my duty." Did conservatives have a good feeling about this statement because they think that people ought to obey (in general), or because they support the military and its agenda? I suspected it was the latter.
These kinds of questions do not prove "that conservatives have the more favorable attitudes" towards authority. What they "prove" is that the social scientists can devise questions that confirm their biases against conservatives.
Rather than thinking of liberals and conservatives as being fundamentally different psychological breeds, I now think of them as competing teams. Liberal versus conservative is like Yankee fans versus Red Socks fans. Each has its own flag to which it pledges allegiance. 
In other words, human nature, whether you want to called "fallen" or "crooked timber," is real. Whether they are on the left or the right, people are still people.

Monday, September 1, 2014

Memorization of math facts helps the brains of student develop.

Article: Math wars: Rote memorization plays crucial role in teaching students how to solve complex calculations, study says

The post below this one discusses the tragic vision versus the anointed vision. The world, conceived in the tragic vision, is "a system of innumerable and reciprocal interactions..." and recognizes the limitations of humans.

The vision of the anointed says that tradition is wrong, a hindrance to human freedom (if not an actual tool of oppression). Therefore, anything that replaces traditional ways of doing things must be better than the old way.

Teaching math has evolved over a period of centuries, with hundreds of thousands of teachers and billions of students.

Certain practices, such as memorization of addition and multiplication tables became widespread and common.

Therefore, the anointed have been fighting these practices for many years and have been replacing "old math" with "new math" in a variety of ways.

However, neuroscientists have found that memorization of math facts actually allows the brain to develop and to increase the ability to reason mathematically.
Memorizing the answers to simple math problems, such as basic addition or the multiplication tables, marks a key shift in a child’s cognitive development, because it helps bridge the gap from counting on fingers to complex calculation, according to the new brain scanning research. 
The progression from counting on fingers to simply remembering that, for example, six plus three equals nine, parallels physical changes in a child’s brain, in which the hippocampus, a key brain structure for memory, gradually takes over from the pre-frontal parietal cortex, an area of higher order reasoning. 
In effect, as young math students memorize the basics, their brains reorganize to accommodate the greater demands of more complex math. It is a gradual process, like “overlapping waves,” the researchers write, but it clearly shows that, for the growing child’s brain, rote memorization is a key step along the way to efficient mathematical reasoning.
There are so many times I read something like this and think, "Another tradition, another Biblical idea, another insight from some ancient philosopher vindicated by science.

Ecology and environmentalism

Thomas Sowell. The Vision of the Annointed: Self-congratulation as a basis for social policy. Basic Books. 1995. Amazon link

"Systemic interactions" are the sum of the all the interactions, over time, between all the participants in a system. For example:

What all the people working for a particular company know. This is called "the institutional memory."

Or all the people living in and part of a particular country. Results of these systemic interactions would include: traditions; common bonds of association such as the military, or a social organization, or a political party, or a church, or other organization; the constitution and laws. Loyalty to the sum total can be called patriotism.

Over time, these systemic interactions can change, be refined, or become out-dated. But they generally work. Not perfectly, of course.
Although the overall results of systemic interactions are not directly controlled by anyone, they are neither random nor unfathomable. Otherwise, there could be no such thing as economic analysis of market competition or scientific analysis of ecological or evolutionary patterns. 
Determining the particular characteristics of particular kinds of systems of reciprocal interaction can be a demanding task--but it is a task seldom undertaken by those with the vision of the anointed, who see little standing between intention and result, other than such subjective factors as compassion or commitment. 
Thus, systemic causation seldom plays a major role in the prevailing vision of the anointed, however important it may be in the tragic vision. 
Where the world is conceived in the tragic vision as a system of innumerable and reciprocal interactions, all constrained within the confines of natural and human limitations, individual problems cannot be solved one by one without adding to other problems elsewhere, if only by using up the resources available to deal with them. [Page 126.] 

In Sowell's telling, what he called the "anointed" are today's Progressives, environmentalists, global warming activists, and related "isms".

The "tragic vision" is closer to most Western philosophers (both pagan and Christian, prior to Rouseau) and to traditional Christianity. The tragic vision recognizes the limitations of humanity: not smart enough, not good enough, not wise enough, not knowledgeable enough.

The tragic vision prefers the order that arises out of innumerable people making innumerable decisions over long periods of time to the anointed vision that arises out of good intentions of a few people coupled with the desire to control the behavior of others.

The tragic vision may end up with a tyranny or a monarchy or a republic, but the anointed vision always end up in a totalitarian dictatorship.

Fascist Italy, Marxist-Leninist Russia, Nazi Germany, Maoist China, even Caesarist Rome, all were the results of an "anointed vision." Unlimited and unrestrained governments were the results.

The federal republic of the United States and parliamentarian monarchy of the United Kingdom, with their checks and balances, both arise out of the tragic vision. Limited and restrained governments were the results.

1. a branch of science concerned with the interrelationship of organisms and their environments
2. the totality or pattern of relations between organisms and their environment

Advocacy of the preservation or improvement of the natural environment, especially the social and political movement to control environmental pollution. Other specific goals of environmentalism include control of human population growth, conservation of natural resources, restriction of the negative effects of modern technology, and the adoption of environmentally benign forms of political and economic organization.

Ecology is a science which studies existing patterns in a self-organizing system. The patterns may be in a tidal pool, exist up the side of the mountain or across a flood plain. The living things in those ecosystems sort themselves out in relationship to the physical environment the organisms find themselves in. Change one part, and the change ripples through the whole system.

Wolves were reintroduced into Yellowstone Park. The number of elk went down, but the number of beaver went up. Plant types shifted because of reduced grazing by elk and because of increased wetlands due to beaver dams. Change the plants, and all the insects, small rodents, birds and other animals that directly depend on those plants change, too. Change the types and numbers of insects and those changes ripple through the food chains.

Reintroduce the wolves and it gives the whole food web a good shaking.

Ecologist study those ripples all the time.

In effect, the science of ecology has to rest in a tragic vision. It asks cause and effect questions like these:
  1. "What are the effects of reintroducing wolves into Yellowstone?" 
  2. "What are the effects of changing the amounts of this or that limited resource?" (Nutrients, light, water, food, nesting sites, etc.)
  3. "What are the effects of increasing (or decreasing) CO2 in the atmosphere?"
Environmentalism is a political movement focused on goals that may or may not be attainable. The goals can be set without regard to the consequences they may cause. For example:
  1. "We should restore Yellowstone Park to its natural condition by reintroducing the wolf."
  2. "We should limit phosphorus from sewage discharge and farm runoff into streams."
  3. "Our models show that increased CO2 will increase the temperature of earth and change its climate. We must reduce CO2 emissions."
Some of these are good goals, but the anointed will not/can not debate them as issues, because their intentions are good. For these goals to have a downside cannot be imagined because any negative effects would reflect badly on the anointed.

That decreasing CO2 emissions will shut down the economic progress of poor people in third world countries simply can not be acknowledged. Nor that warming temperatures may have a large number of beneficial side-effects.

DDT had to be banned because of its effects on birds; the consequence of increased human deaths due to malaria was irrelevant. The "anointed" could congratulate themselves on saving the birds. Nothing else mattered.

Banning DDT was politics and environmentalism. Not ecology.

There is currently a severe drought in California. Water is being withheld from farmers in the Central Valley, driving them to bankruptcy. Part of the reason why is that water is being diverted from irrigation into streams and rivers, to flow uselessly into the ocean, in order to save a small fish called the delta smelt. The "anointed" congratulate themselves on saving the smelt. Nothing else matters.

Saving the delta smelt is politics and environmentalism. Not ecology.

Environmentalists, and the progressive anointed, do not have the intellectual tools to study the ripple effects of their own policies. They cannot think about them because, to them, the effects are irrelevant. It is the intention and the goal that matter, not the reality of the situation.

Apocalpyse Now: Arctic sea ice edition

Article: Myth of arctic meltdown: Stunning satellite images show summer ice cap is thicker and covers 1.7million square kilometres MORE than 2 years ago...despite Al Gore's prediction it would be ICE-FREE by now
The speech by former US Vice-President Al Gore was apocalyptic. ‘The North Polar ice cap is falling off a cliff,’ he said. ‘It could be completely gone in summer in as little as seven years. Seven years from now.’ 
Those comments came in 2007 as Mr Gore accepted the Nobel Peace Prize for his campaigning on climate change.
But seven years after his warning, The Mail on Sunday can reveal that, far from vanishing, the Arctic ice cap has expanded for the second year in succession – with a surge, depending on how you measure it, of between 43 and 63 per cent since 2012.
Al Gore is a politician and environmentalist, not a scientist. He is interested in using science to reach a political goal.

Al Gore is also a businessman and he is selling "green." He was worth only a couple of million dollars in 2000 when he left the vice-presidency. He is now worth several hundreds of millions of dollars.

In order to get to his alarming prediction he had to employ a logical fallacy that I call, "if this trend continues."

Sometimes trends do continue (the population of the US continues to grow, and I have never heard of any period of time in our history when it had not.)  Most trends do not continue.

Thomas Malthus predicted over 2 centuries ago that England was about to experience famine due to over-population based on "if these trends continue" logic. He was wrong. In the 1960's neo-Malthusians prophesied the same disaster by the end of the 1970's. They were wrong.

We experienced a global cooling trend from the 1950's to the late 1970's. It was heralded as the "coming global ice age." The trend did not continue.
The most widely used measurements of Arctic ice extent are the daily satellite readings issued by the US National Snow and Ice Data Center, which is co-funded by Nasa. These reveal that – while the long-term trend still shows a decline – [on] Monday, August 25, the area of the Arctic Ocean with at least 15 per cent ice cover was 5.62 million square kilometres.
This was the highest level recorded on that date since 2006, and represents an increase of 1.71 million square kilometres over the past two years – an impressive 43 per cent.
So, the long-term trend is down, with a significant up-tick at the present. This is to be expected because the Northern Hemisphere has been cooler the last two years.
Crucially, the ice is also thicker, and therefore more resilient to future melting. Professor Andrew Shepherd, of Leeds University, an expert in climate satellite monitoring, said yesterday: ‘It is clear from the measurements we have collected that the Arctic sea ice has experienced a significant recovery in thickness over the past year.
Good news. If the sea ice diminishes next year, it will do so more slowly.
Dr Hawkins warned against reading too much into ice increase over the past two years on the grounds that 2012 was an ‘extreme low’, triggered by freak weather. 
‘I’m uncomfortable with the idea of people saying the ice has bounced back,’ he said. 
However, Dr Hawkins added that the decline seen in recent years was not caused only by global warming. It was, he said, intensified by ‘natural variability’ – shifts in factors such as the temperature of the oceans. This, he said, has happened before, such as in the 1920s and 1930s, when ‘there was likely some sea ice retreat’.
Before NOAA and other climate change advocating agencies "normalized" the temperatures of the 1930's down, the 1930's were the hottest on record, and these records still stand, if the original numbers are used.

If they were as warm as the records say, then what is happening in the Arctic is normal.

"There was likely some sea ice retreat..." We do not know what the extent of the sea ice was because we do not have good data from that period. We only have estimates based on limited data points.