Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Article: Those Ebola Vaccines in Testing Now? You Can Thank Dick Cheney for That

After 9/11, former Vice-President Dick Cheney saw that various exotic viruses might be used as bioterror weapons. He urged increased spending on studying the viruses in general and specifically on vaccines.

US badly informed by media. Media is appalled.

Article: Get your facts right: Italy, U.S. come bottom in modern life survey

Americans think that 32% of the people in the country are immigrants (no, it is 13%).

Americans think that 24% of girls aged 15-19 give birth each year (no, it is 3%).

Americans think that 15% of the people in the country are Muslims (no, it is 1%).

Elsewhere, it has been shown that Americans think that the proportion of people in the US who are homosexual is 10-15% or higher. The real number is about 3%.

Wow! Americans sure are dumb!

Actually, not.

Americans are mis-informed. Badly misinformed. Badly misinformed by the media.

Badly misinformed by a media whose coverage of many topics is often hysterical. And by "media" here, I mean broadcast and cable entertainment shows, too.

And by hysterical, I mean relentless coverage of some topics, like immigration and teen pregnancies. The shear overwhelming number of stories on these subjects makes people think the issue is bigger than it is.

Worse, article after article attacks (usually) whatever is viewed as the "conservative" or
"Republican" position. So there is a tendency to over-emphasize certain aspects: "Immigrants are wonderful! Look at all the happy children!" "Global warming is going to kill us all! Evil deniers are in the pay of the oil companies!"

The result is an intelligent populace bombarded by stupid.

Friday, October 24, 2014

Article: Gestapo impostor tricked Nazi sympathizers in WWII

Alternate title: How some Brits hated Jews so much that would rather see their own country crushed under the Nazi heel than let the Jews "win" World War II. And the man who stopped them.

Insane Jew hatred is not new (sadly).

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Article: Mercury's hidden water-ice revealed

At Mercury's north pole, there are craters containing water-ice.
After the Messenger probe entered orbit around the planet in March 2011, it deployed a range of techniques to show that there are probably several billion tonnes of water ice locked up at the north pole.
There is contradictory evidence that the ice arrived recently and that is has been there a long time.
In the latest study, Dr Nancy Chabot and colleagues studied an impact crater called Prokofiev, the largest such depression at the planet's north pole. 
The uniform surface texture of presumed water-ice areas in Prokofiev crater suggest the deposits arrived relatively recently. 
If we wanted to colonize Mercury, or at least it's poles, this is good news.

Article: Feds: Don't expect winter to be polar vortex redux
If you thought last winter was a horror show, with cold blasts from the polar vortex and a lack of California rain, here's some good news: No sequel is expected this year, federal forecasters say. 
Mike Halpert of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration said Thursday that the upcoming winter looks pretty average in general. He doesn't expect a lot of extreme conditions like last year's cold outbreaks when Arctic air dipped south with the polar vortex. 
"A repeat of last winter is not particularly likely," said Halpert, acting director of NOAA's Climate Prediction Center in College Park, Maryland.
Okay, that makes 2 recent predictions (see posts below) saying we are going to have a repeat, and one saying not.
NOAA didn't predict last winter's extremes in last year's winter forecast.
It is not reassuring that NOAA didn't predict last year's winter accurately.

And, of course, the models that make long-range weather forecasts are related to those that make the global warming and climate change forecasts.

The articles reports on predictions by several models. The NOAA prediction is the warmest of all them.

Article: Climate change not responsible for altering forest tree composition, experts say

Change in disturbance regimes -- rather than a change in climate -- is largely responsible for altering the composition of Eastern forests, according to a researcher. Forests in the Eastern United States remain in a state of "disequilibrium" stemming from the clear-cutting and large-scale burning that occurred in the late 1800s and early 1900s, he contends.
Marc Abrams, professor of forest ecology and physiology.Moreover, Abrams noted, since about 1930 -- during the Smokey Bear era -- aggressive forest-fire suppression has had a far greater influence on shifts in dominant tree species than minor differences in temperature.
"To the north, intensive and expansive early European disturbance resulted in the ubiquitous loss of conifers and large increases of Acer (maple), Populus (poplar) and Quercus (oak) in northern hardwoods, whereas to the south, these disturbances perpetuated the dominance of oak in central hardwoods."
Fire suppression has resulted in more sugar maples and in denser, cooler forests.

Article: Global natural gas boom alone won't slow climate change

But it also will not make it any worse.

Every silver lining needs a cloud.
Because natural gas emits half the carbon dioxide of coal, many people hoped the recent natural gas boom could help slow climate change -- and according to government analyses, natural gas did contribute partially to a decline in U.S. carbon dioxide emissions between 2007 and 2012. 
This is the silver lining.

If Obama's EPA gets its way, it will gradually regulate coal-fueled power plants out of existence. In theory, the trend will continue, for the US, until we no longer use coal to generate electricity.

Now for the cloud.
But, in the long run, according to this study, a global abundance of inexpensive natural gas would compete with all energy sources -- not just higher-emitting coal, but also lower-emitting nuclear and renewable energy technologies such as wind and solar. 
This is a "free-market" working normally. People want the cheapest energy, power companies in the US and governments of poor countries will do their best to supply it.
Inexpensive natural gas would also accelerate economic growth and expand overall energy use.
This is considered to be a negative effect of the switch to fracking and natural gas.

[Sarcasm alert: Economic growth, pulling people out of poverty, developing the full human potential in all countries of the world is a bad thing. It must be stopped by right-thinking people. Fracking must be opposed!]

Five groups of scientists ran their own computer models (called "integrated assessment models") in an attempt to see whether or not swapping coal for methane made any difference to overall global warming.

They found that it did not.

What I wonder about the research is something that they did not report on. Was the effect of the switch so small that it is actually negligible? Even before figuring in all the effects?

Or, putting it another way, before they threw in a bunch of other factors, what was the actual effect on global warming of making the switch?

It sounds as if there must be some effect, but it is not mentioned.

One of the big complaints about the Australian carbon pricing scheme was that the effect of it would be well below a 0.01% reduction in global warming over a 50 year period.
[The research shows that] the global energy system could experience unprecedented changes in the growth of natural gas production and significant changes to the types of energy used, but without much reduction to projected climate change… 
"Abundant gas may have a lot of benefits -- economic growth, local air pollution, energy security, and so on. There's been some hope that slowing climate change could also be one of its benefits, but that turns out not to be the case," said McJeon.
So the overall effect would be beneficial.

Article: New York Gets Frigid Winter Warning From Siberia Snowfall
The snow in Siberia is piling up, and if it keeps coming, people in New York may have to bundle up this winter. 
There’s a theory that the amount of snow covering Eurasia in October is an indication of how much icy air will sweep down from the Arctic in December and January, pouring over parts of North America, Europe and East Asia.
There is no mention, either way, of global warming or anthropogenic climate change in the article. Routinely, the media links every weather event, somehow, no matter how tenuous the link, to one or the other.

Siberia is already cold, laying down thick snow. This causes Siberia to reflect more heat, more quickly, into space, cooling faster. Between the cold air of Siberia, the cold area of the Arctic, and the normally cold air of Canada, we might be in for a very cold, and snowy, winter.
Last year, the snow level across Eurasia was the fourth highest for the month in records going back to 1967. 
The last time this happened, the 1960's, was in the middle of a period of cooling that led to the "coming ice age" stories of the very early 1970's.
Cohen is trying to understand what makes snow pile up in Eurasia. His hypothesis is that the melting of the Arctic ice cap has put more moisture into the atmosphere, which provides fuel for the higher snowfall. He said he hasn’t been able to discover a solid link between the two.
Whoops! I was wrong! They did try to link cold, snowy weather to global warming.

So the period of the "coming global ice age" was also a period of global warming. Who knew?

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Article: Skunk Works Reveals Compact Fusion Reactor Details

A FUSION reactor, possibly inside of a decade. This is big news.
Hidden away in the secret depths of the Skunk Works, a Lockheed Martin research team has been working quietly on a nuclear energy concept they believe has the potential to meet, if not eventually decrease, the world’s insatiable demand for power. 
Dubbed the compact fusion reactor (CFR), the device is conceptually safer, cleaner and more powerful than much larger, current nuclear systems that rely on fission, the process of splitting atoms to release energy. Crucially, by being “compact,” Lockheed believes its scalable concept will also be small and practical enough for applications ranging from interplanetary spacecraft and commercial ships to city power stations.
Long article. With some details, history, alternate attempts to get a working fusion reactor, etc.

I have read some articles on small, safe fission reactors being in development, but these might leap frog over them.

Anyone interested in actually reducing CO2 emissions into the atmosphere should be thrilled by this. However, I expect the usual left-wing environmentalists to freak out.

Article: The Surprising Problem of Too Much Talent
Why is too much talent a bad thing? Think teamwork. In many endeavors, success requires collaborative, cooperative work towards a goal that is beyond the capability of any one individual. Even Emmitt Smith needed effective blocking from the Cowboy offensive line to gain yardage. When a team roster is flooded with individual talent, pursuit of personal star status may prevent the attainment of team goals. 
An old friend has served as a coach for several local teams (mostly high school). He once remarked that one of his hardest jobs involved convincing highly talented, very competitive young women to work as a team. (As well as "releasing" the occasional player for not being able to "play well with others.")

I would assume that this would have some application in the business world where highly-talented, but arrogant, employees would make it difficult for the rest of a team to function well.
Article: Rats and Their Alarming Bugs
Recently, a team of pathogen hunters at Columbia University... conducted a survey of the viruses and bacteria in Manhattan’s rats, the first attempt to use DNA to catalog pathogens in any animal species in New York City.
The team has gone all over the world doing this, but had never done it in their own backyard.
First, the scientists looked for disease agents previously found in rats. They discovered bacteria that caused food poisoning, such as Salmonella and a strain of E. coli known to cause terrible diarrhea. They also found pathogens that caused fevers, such as Seoul hantavirus and Leptospira. 
They did not, however, find some of the nastiest germs infecting rats in other parts of the world, such as Yersinia pestis, which causes bubonic plague.
However, rats do carry the bubonic plague bacteria. Just because these rats in this section of NY did not have them at this time does not mean that they will not in the future.

I am not surprised that they found multiple pathogens. Rats are dirty and are known disease carriers.
Jay Varma, the deputy commissioner for disease control at the New York City Department of Health, said the study would not lead to any immediate changes in how the city deals with rats, but the data would help health officials better understand how diseases spread.
The rats have had these pathogens for years, even decades. There have not been any large breakouts of these diseases (other than the occasional outbreak of food poisoning). This is something chronic that we just realized existed, and probably not, in itself, a cause of worry.
Article: Earth's magnetic field could flip within a human lifetime

Earth's last magnetic reversal took place 786,000 years ago and happened very quickly, in less than 100 years -- roughly a human lifetime. The rapid flip, much faster than the thousands of years most geologists thought, comes as new measurements show the planet's magnetic field is weakening 10 times faster than normal and could drop to zero in a few thousand years.
Still, not in my lifetime. [Is that like "not in my backyard"?]
Though a magnetic reversal is a major planet-wide event driven by convection in Earth's iron core, there are no documented catastrophes associated with past reversals, despite much searching in the geologic and biologic record. Today, however, such a reversal could potentially wreak havoc with our electrical grid, generating currents that might take it down.
Article: NASA study finds 1934 had worst North American drought of last thousand years

A new study using a reconstruction of North American drought history over the last 1,000 years found that the drought of 1934 was the driest and most widespread of the last millennium. Using a tree-ring-based drought record from the years 1000 to 2005 and modern records, scientists found the 1934 drought was 30 percent more severe than the runner-up drought (in 1580) and extended across 71.6 percent of western North America.
The Dust Bowl, in the middle of the Great Depression, was a large human and ecological disaster. Large amounts of farm soil blew off the farms of the Midwest so that dust was falling in New York City.
Two sets of conditions led to the severity and extent of the 1934 drought. First, a high-pressure system in winter sat over the west coast of the United States and turned away wet weather -- a pattern similar to that which occurred in the winter of 2013-14. Second, the spring of 1934 saw dust storms, caused by poor land management practices, suppress rainfall. 
"In combination then, these two different phenomena managed to bring almost the entire nation into a drought at that time," said co-author Richard Seager….
Farms in the Midwest now practice a variety of conservation methods to reduce the chance of this happening again.
This type of high-pressure system is part of normal variation in the atmosphere, and whether or not it will appear in a given year is difficult to predict in computer models of the climate. 
These droughts, the recent California drought and the 1934 Dust Bowl are normal parts of the climate and weather of North America.

This will need to be repeated because activists will try to claim every burp and hiccup in the weather as PROOF of anthropogenic climate change.
Article: Storm God Worship: Ancient Cult Complex Discovered in Israel

Well, that is what the title says. The article is more circumspect, saying merely that the temple might be dedicated to Baal, Canaanite god of storms. Or it might belong to some other god.

From the objects found in the complex, it is obviously a temple: cultic cups, large storage jars, parts of face masks, a scarab, and "broken figurines that look part-human and part-animal."

You would think with Israel being such a tiny country that they would not keep finding new complexes and forts and villages all the time. But they do.  Rich in history and thousands of years of it. Much of it built on top of other pieces of history.

Skeptics vs denialists.

Article: Celebrity psychic Sally Morgan fires husband for threatening sceptic

A person who does not believe in psychics is called a "skeptic".

Article: History will condemn climate change denialists

A person who is skeptical of the claims of global warming activists gets called a "denialist."  This is a word that the Guardian [UK] reserves for people who deny the Holocaust or deny that vaccinations work and are not harmful or that deny the scientific explanation of how HiV causes AIDS.

"History will condemn..." It is Marxist claptrap to believe that history has a single direction, that the enlightened know that direction, and that their opinions will be validated by it.

That is a religious stance: faith proving one's righteousness.

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Article: Volcanoes on the Moon May Have Erupted During the Dinosaur Age
Scientists previously thought that the moon's volcanic activity died down a billion years ago. But new data from NASA's Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter, or LRO, hints that lunar lava flowed much more recently, perhaps less than 100 million years ago. 
"This finding is the kind of science that is literally going to make geologists rewrite the textbooks about the moon," John Keller, LRO project scientist at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland, said in a statement. The discovery of these deposits could also change the way scientists think about the temperature of the moon's interior. 
"The existence and age of the irregular mare patches tell us that the lunar mantle had to remain hot enough to provide magma for the small-volume eruptions that created these unusual young features," Sarah Braden, a recent Arizona State University graduate who led the study, said in a statement.

The biological transmission of memory.

Article: Phobias may be memories passed down in genes from ancestors
In the study, which is published in the journal of Nature Neuroscience, the researchers trained mice to fear the smell of cherry blossom using electric shocks before allowing them to breed. 
The offspring produced showed fearful responses to the odour of cherry blossom compared to a neutral odour, despite never having encountered them before. 
The following generation also showed the same behaviour. This effect continued even if the mice had been fathered through artificial insemination.The researchers found the brains of the trained mice and their offspring showed structural changes in areas used to detect the odour.
Up until recently, this would have been considered nonsense. Classical evolution and genetics stated that the experiences of the parent could not be transmitted to offspring. At its most extreme, evolution was seen as favoring only those genes that were most successful in passing themselves onto offspring. Genes could affect behavior, but not the other way around.
The DNA of the animals also carried chemical changes, known as epigenetic methylation, on the gene responsible for detecting the odour. 
This suggests that experiences are somehow transferred from the brain into the genome, allowing them to be passed on to later generations. 
The researchers now hope to carry out further work to understand how the information comes to be stored on the DNA in the first place. 
They also want to explore whether similar effects can be seen in the genes of humans.
We now know that this mechanism exists, though not how it works. How does changes in the brain change the DNA in cells of the ovary and testes that become eggs and sperm?
He added: "It addresses constitutional fearfulness that is highly relevant to [human] phobias, anxiety and post-traumatic stress disorders, plus the controversial subject of transmission of the ‘memory’ of ancestral experience down the generations.
Article: Climate change: Models 'underplay plant CO2 absorption

Global climate models have underestimated the amount of CO2 being absorbed by plants, according to new research. 
Scientists say that between 1901 and 2010, living things absorbed 16% more of the gas than previously thought. 
The authors say it explains why models consistently overestimated the growth rate of carbon in the atmosphere.
Yet another major factor missed/overlooked/underestimated/overestimated by the researchers setting up the global warming computer models. [I have several links to other things below this one.]

If the models are underestimating the amount of CO2 begin added to the air, they are overestimating the amount of CO2 in the air, and therefore the models are overestimating the warming caused by the nonexistent CO2.

As I have noted before, the errors, failings, and missed factors that are now coming out about the models are not really a problem. This is how science progresses. Propose a hypothesis, check it out in an experiment, and then modify or discard the hypothesis as needed.

The models inadequately modeled reality. Fix them and move on.

But the models, and their makers, have proven to be untrustworthy. Weather data is routinely "normalized" (adjusted) to higher temperatures for recent data and to lower temperatures for older data. Some researchers are fighting charges of fraud. Others have admitted to hiding results that contradict their conclusions.

A number of factors have not been taken into effect that lower predicted temperatures when taken into account.

However, activists routinely have made hysterical demands that the most extreme predictions of the models must be taken as proven. The activists then demand that the only possible response to these prediction is more government: higher taxes, more regulation, and more subsidies for favored technologies.

These in turn mean higher prices for energy, causing what is called "energy poverty" among the poor.

Routinely crying "Wolf!" damages the reputation of science in general. It also makes us distrust the predictions that are made, even after the models are corrected.

Be modest; be accurate; be willing to admit mistakes, even failures. And stop feeding hysterical activists.

Monday, October 13, 2014

Article: The Science of Why Beer Is So Delicious

So, during its production, the yeast in the beer makes a variety aromatic compounds that gives the beer its distinctive flavors.


Well, for mostly the same reason that flowers make scents.

The scents attract fruit flies that carry the yeast from one place to another.

The Smugness of Self-Congratulation [Updated with link]

Article: California Becomes First State to Ban Plastic Bags

A moral crusade is announced: PLASTIC BAGS ARE EVIL!



Pictures accompany the crusade: a lonely trash bag in a park or a seabird covered with oil (stock photos, sometimes years old).

Legislation is ground out like sausage: PLASTIC BAGS ARE BANNED!
Gov. Jerry Brown on Tuesday signed the nation's first statewide ban on single-use plastic bags at grocery and convenience stores, driven to action by pollution in streets and waterways.
The politicians congratulation themselves for being in the forefront of a great movement:
"This bill is a step in the right direction. It reduces the torrent of plastic polluting our beaches, parks and even the vast ocean itself," [California Governor Jerry] Brown said in a signing statement. "We're the first to ban these bags, and we won't be the last."
The smug, it stinks.

Once the crusade is announced, no contrary facts can be countenanced:

Article: ACC Reacts To Brownsville Bag Ban


Article: Bag the Plastic Ban

Research shows banning plastic grocery bags reduces the use of the bags. AND it also increases the purchase of other types of plastic bags to compensate.

Why? Because people naturally reuse the bags (or recycle them). If they need the bags as trash can liners or to pick up the natural products of owning a pet, they will buy them if they cannot get them free from the store.

But the smug self-congratulation of the crusaders (many of whom are too wealthy to worry about trash-can liners) cannot be pierced by facts.

I am old enough to remember Lady Bird Johnson's "Beautify America" campaign. It was, in part, a campaign against littering. As a result of her work, people's behavior changed and litter has been much reduced as a problem.

But the campaign worked on people, like myself, who are now older.

We could not run a campaign like that today. In addition to educating people about how ugly litter was, it also involved openly shaming people into compliance [update with link]. Litter became a legal crime, and it also became a shameful thing to do.

Shaming is now a shameful thing to do and people are routinely shamed for doing it.

So what do we do instead? We ban bags, rather than try to change behavior. It is a lazy and cowardly way out.

Archaeology Links - 10/13/14

Article: Large mosaic in ancient tomb uncovered in Greece

Another article about the massive tomb being excavated in Greece.

There is still no word on who is buried there.
The mosaic, 3 meters (10 feet) long and 4.5 meters (15 feet) wide, depicts a horseman with a laurel wreath driving a chariot drawn by two horses and preceded by the god Hermes. According to a Culture Ministry announcement on Sunday, Hermes is depicted here as the conductor of souls to the afterlife.
The mosaic is made up of pebbles in many colors: white, black, gray, blue, red and yellow. 

Article: Britain to hunt for King Harold's body to test theory about his death
King Harold II, the last Anglo-Saxon king of England, has long been thought to have been killed at the Battle of Hastings in 1066. But British archaeologists are to test a theory he survived on the anniversary of the famous battle this Tuesday.
But Peter Burke, an amateur historian in southern England, has said an alternative version of events exists in a 12th century document called Vita Harold, which is housed in the British Library.
Burke has suggested Harold may have lived to fight another day and survived as a hermit for a further 40 years. 
"We have the Norman story put through the Bayeux Tapestry – the English story is a different one," Burke told The Independent on Sunday newspaper.
We know that the victors write history. Alfred being dead is a story that would serve the French victors. On the other hand, the story of brave Alfred, living in exile, ready to return when called for would serve the defeated Anglo-Saxons.

So who knows? 

Article: 1000-year old Viking treasure hoard found in Scotland
A hoard of Viking gold and silver artifacts dating back over 1,000 years has been discovered by a treasure hunter with a metal detector in Scotland, in a find hailed by experts as one of the country's most significant. 
Derek McLennan, a retired businessman, uncovered the 100 items in a field in Dumfriesshire, southwest Scotland, in September. 
Amongst the objects is a solid silver cross thought to date from the 9th or 10th century, a silver pot of west European origin, which is likely to have already been 100 years old when it was buried and several gold objects.

The consensus cried wolf

Article: Why Asia's Glaciers Are Mysteriously Expanding, Not Melting

Five years ago, Asia's glaciers were retreating. The Science Was Proven! The CONSENSUS(!) was that all the glaciers would be gone in decades.

The consensus was wrong, the glaciers are increasing.

Ok, there is a climate change explanation, but that is not the point.

The point is that over and over again, some one announces some major, detrimental change, absolutely linked to anthropogenic global warming. Then shortly afterwards, it is either shown to due to something else, or not happening, or whatever.

Here, again, the original climate models were wrong because they failed to take into account some aspect of reality.

How much else are they getting wrong?

Their being wrong, and corrected, would not be as much a problem if they had not been hysterically over-sold in the first place.

With Climate-gate (emails hacked and released that showed that some of the major "global warming" activists were lying about their research), the 18-year hiatus, and other problems, the credibility of the activists has been blown. And it is their own fault.

Sunday, October 12, 2014

Article: Multitasking Damages Your Brain And Career, New Studies Suggest
Research conducted at Stanford University found that multitasking is less productive than doing a single thing at a time. The researchers also found that people who are regularly bombarded with several streams of electronic information cannot pay attention, recall information, or switch from one job to another as well as those who complete one task at a time.
Humans are not meant to multitask, because our brain can only do one thing at a time. Rapidly switching back and forth from task to task is inefficient.
The frequent multitaskers performed worse because they had more trouble organizing their thoughts and filtering out irrelevant information, and they were slower at switching from one task to another. Ouch.
Multitasking reduces your efficiency and performance because your brain can only focus on one thing at a time. 
Research also shows that, in addition to slowing you down, multitasking lowers your IQ. A study at the University of London found that participants who multitasked during cognitive tasks experienced IQ score declines that were similar to what they’d expect if they had smoked marijuana or stayed up all night. IQ drops of 15 points for multitasking men lowered their scores to the average range of an 8-year-old child.

Article: Keystone Be Darned: Canada Finds Oil Route Around Obama

Long article on how Canadians have responded to American dithering about the Keystone pipeline.

The article describes the situation and a proposed solution: using existing rights-of-way to build a pipeline from the oil sands in northern Alberta to the Saint Lawrence Seaway (about 2900 miles).  It describes the people involved. I am impressed by the number of people willing to risk large amounts of their own money to bring this about.

It would take to 2016 to get the project approved. And 2018 to get it built. And it would cost $11 billion (American).

Article: American Intruder Lurks In Scottish Streams, Clawed And Hungry

Northeastern US crayfish originally stocked in English streams have worked their north into Scottish trout streams. And they have grown.
"What we did initially was just hand-catch them," Mitchell says, "hundreds and hundreds and hundreds of them."
There was some pinching involved. "I'll not repeat what the language was like," Mitchell says. "But they were big animals. I mean, some of these things were about 10, 12 inches long."
At that size, they don't even look like crayfish; they look like lobsters. Animals that big, Mitchell says, are more than a decade old; he guesses they've been in the river for 12 years.
They rarely got larger than an inch or two in the streams around my home. Mostly because so many other animals found them tasty.
At the river, Miller pulls up a trap from the water to demonstrate. The plastic cage is alive with crawling, clacking crayfish — about a dozen of them, dark reddish-brown with giant claws, climbing all over each other inside the trap. 
Crayfish like these can be a delicacy, but Scotland has decided that encouraging people to eat them would just create a market and make people spread them more widely. 
As a result, anyone who pulls crayfish out of a Scottish river is legally required to kill them. The quickest way, Ian says, is to stomp them beneath a boot.
This is just silly. Eat them!

Article: A Promising Pill, Not So Hard to Swallow

Studies show that transplanting feces in liquid form from healthy people to patients with stubborn Clostridium difficile infections can stop the wrenching intestinal symptoms (pain, cramping, diarrhea], apparently by restoring healthy gut bacteria.
The current process is long and labor intensive. However, researchers at Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston found they could make a capsule version that is easier to administer.
Inside the experimental capsule is human feces — strained, centrifuged and frozen. Taken for just two days, the preparation can cure a dangerous bacterial infection that has defied antibiotics and kills 14,000 Americans each year, researchers said Saturday.
Their study was small and preliminary, but results were striking: 19 of 20 patients with C. difficile infections were cured of diarrhea and related symptoms. Most saw improvements after one two-day round of pills, the rest after two or three rounds, said Dr. Ilan Youngster, the lead investigator.
The coolness factor here is the counter-intuitive simplicity of the treatment (fecal transplantation) in the first place.  And that people are being cured.
Article: Here's A Beautiful Visualization Of Nobel Prizes By Country Since 1901

To complement my earlier posting on this year's Prizes.

Saturday, October 11, 2014


Winter 2014-15 looks like a repeat of 2014-15.

Lots of information in the link.

Article: Why is Antarctic sea ice at record levels despite global warming?
Antarctic ice floes extended further than ever recorded this southern winter, confounding the world’s most-trusted climate models. 
“It’s not expected,” says Professor John Turner, a climate expert at the British Antarctic Survey. “The world’s best 50 models were run and 95% of them have Antarctic sea ice decreasing over the past 30 years.”
There is a concept in statistics called a 95% confidence interval. That is, the researcher is confident that 95% of the time, his/her results reflect reality. Here, 95% of the "world's best models" fail to reflect reality.  They have also failed to predict the current, 18-year, warming hiatus. 
“In some ways it’s a bit counterintuitive for people trying to understand how global warming is affecting our polar regions, but in fact it’s actually completely in line with how climate scientists expect Antarctica and the Southern Ocean to respond. 
If they had expected it, 95% their models would have reflected it, not 5%. 
Particularly in respect to increased winds and increased melt water,” said Williams.
Currently, the effect of greenhouse gases is being overshadowed by other local climate phenomena, says Turner. “By far the biggest impact has been the ozone hole. The signal of increasing greenhouse gases is buried beneath all the other signals.”
The depletion of the ozone layer above Antarctica during last century by emissions of chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs) has caused an overall cooling trend on the continent.
Ozone itself is a greenhouse gas and its reduction has seen more heat reflecting back into space. 
So, we have known about the ozone hole for decades, known that ozone was a greenhouse for over a century, and no one figured the ozone hole into the climate models? 

The ozone hole is changing the climate of an entire continent and no one thought to take it into account? What other factors are being missed in the climate model? Especially those that might account for the current 18 year hiatus?
It is estimated that the Pine Island glacier alone loses so much water that it is responsible for 10% of global annual sea level rise (which is about 3mm per year). Warm currents come from deep water and heat the underside of the ice sheet, causing it to melt. 
Warm currents? Warm currents float on the surface of colder, and denser, water. Even comparatively "warm" water would not sink in the first place. The deep ocean is about 4 degrees C because that is the temperature of water at its densest. So where would "warm" water be sinking? 

Additionally, research has shown that the deep ocean is not warming. So if the deep ocean is not warming, where is the "warmth" coming from to melt the glacier?
Turner says this process probably has little to do with global warming. “Pine Island seems to be an ongoing retreat that could have been going on for 10,000 years,” he says.
But, in some future article, it will be blamed on global warming. 

Friday, October 10, 2014

Article: Antarctic Sea Ice Reaches New Record Maximum

Arctic vs. Antarctic ice. Arctic ice is on a general downward trend, though up the last two years from a low 3 years ago. Antarctic ice is reaching a new record maximum. On the other hand, land ice in Antarctic is apparently decreasing.

Why the Arctic is warming and the Antarctic is cooling is unknown.

How the Antarctic Ocean is cooling to produce more sea ice, but the nearby land is warming, or producing much less snow, is not at all clear.

Ten reasons, with many links. I am not against wind power per se. However, I would prefer to see it succeed without subsidies.
1. Wind turbines kill bats on an industrial scale
2. Wind turbines kill birds on an industrial scale. 
3. Wind turbines produce Low Frequency Noise and infrasound, which can cause those who live nearby a range of health problems
4. Wind turbines have terrible impacts on animals besides birds and bats. 
5. Wind turbines kill jobs. 
6. Wind turbines are like a reverse Robin Hood, lining the pockets of the rent-seeking rich
7. Wind turbines - as any rural community which has tried fighting the heavily-rigged planning system [in the UK] will know - are disruptive, divisive and unjust. 
8. Wind turbines are economically pointless. Because the "energy" they produce is unreliable, unpredictable and intermittent
9. Wind farms are partly responsible for the thousands of people who die every year of fuel poverty. 
10. Wind farms are a blot on the landscape. 
"Fuel poverty"  is the large increase in energy costs due to subsidizing wind (and solar) power to make it financially viable. Alternative energy (and the destruction of the coal industry for example) drives up the costs of energy robbing the poor the most.

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

The Science Is Settled! Until it is disproven.

Article: Where Global Warming Went: Into the Pacific

In February of this year, climate scientist were convinced that the earth was not apparently warming because all the "missing" heat was suddenly (and mysteriously and in violation of the known laws of physics) sinking into the deep parts of the Pacific ocean.

Now, everyone knows that when air or water warms, it expands, the density lessens and it is pushed up cooler air or water sinking to take its place. But that is not the way the Pacific Ocean was supposed to be working. The stupidity of this idea has now been revealed to be stupid by a contradictory study by NASA.

Article: NASA Study Finds Earth's Ocean Abyss Has Not Warmed
The cold waters of Earth's deep ocean have not warmed measurably since 2005, according to a new NASA study, leaving unsolved the mystery of why global warming appears to have slowed in recent years.
In the 21st century, greenhouse gases have continued to accumulate in the atmosphere, just as they did in the 20th century, but global average surface air temperatures have stopped rising in tandem with the gases. 
Maybe the increase in temperature observed in the 20th century was not as dependent on carbon dioxide levels as the computer models predicted.
The temperature of the top half of the world's ocean -- above the 1.24-mile mark -- is still climbing, but not fast enough to account for the stalled air temperatures.
So that is not the solution.
Many processes on land, air and sea have been invoked to explain what is happening to the "missing" heat. 
When does "many processes" become "desperately flailing around for an answer?"
Coauthor Felix Landerer of JPL noted that during the same period, warming in the top half of the ocean continued unabated, an unequivocal sign that our planet is heating up.
No, it isn't. It means that the oceans are equilibrating to the existing, higher level of heat energy in the atmosphere.

If I turn on the heat in a cold room with a concrete floor, the room's air will soon reach the desired higher temperature, but it is going to take longer for the concrete floor to equilibrate to the new, higher temperature. The air temperature is not rising, just transferring heat energy to the floor as the furnace maintains the new, higher temperature.

Science Links: 10/2/14 [Updated and bumped]

Article: 'Strikingly Geometric' Shapes Hidden on Moon's Surface

A new lunar probe has detected filled-in rift valleys on the moon.

Rifting was first discovered on Earth. Once it was studied and explained, examples on Mars and Venus became obvious.

The Moon, however, was heavily bombarded during its early history. This covered up the more "rectangular" shape of the rifting. The bombardment make the area appear more circular, as if a large asteroid had caused it.

The conclusion would be that some of plate tectonics happened all four of these.

Article: Walrus mass on Alaska beach - in pictures
Pacific walrus unable to find sea ice on which to rest in Arctic waters are coming ashore in record numbers on a beach in north-west Alaska. Females give birth on sea ice and the animals use it as a diving platform to reach snails, clams and worms on the shallow continental shelf, but climate change means there is ever less available.
Cool photos; stupid comment.

Arctic sea ice is up, overall. Any lack of it in the Alaskan area is a local phenomenon due to the way sea ice shifts around the Arctic Ocean.

Update: Walrus Beach Party 

Confirmation of my assumption above. These mass haul-outs are common, and have occurred whether or not there is sea ice in the vicinity or not. Another hysterical over-reaction by ignorant people to a normal event.

Article: Your nose knows death is imminent: Losing the sense of smell predicts death within five years, according to new research

The title is wrong. In elderly people, about 40% of the people who had a measurable loss of the sense of smell died within 5 years. So, no, "your nose does [not] know" anything.

This compares to about 10% of those with a healthy sense of smell.

Senescence: "the gradual deterioration that occurs with age." The sense of smell is probably a proxy for that general deterioration.

And definitely warrants further study.

Article: What causes paranoia, hallucinations and grandiose ideas?
Led by Dr Angelica Ronald at Birkbeck, University of London, the team analysed data on almost 5,000 pairs of 16-year-old twins. This is the classical twin design, a standard method for gauging the relative influence of genes and environment.
Heritability for paranoia was 50%; for grandiosity it was 44%; while for hallucinations it was 15% for males and 32% for females. This doesn’t mean, incidentally, that 50% of an individual’s paranoia is the result of their genes. The concept of “heritability” tells us that 50% of the differences in levels of paranoia across the population may be genetic in origin. 
That would mean that 50% of that difference is environmental (or "nurture") in origin.

The individual symptoms do not necessarily co-occur with one another.

However, these are generally symptoms of schizophrenia, and "twin studies of those diagnosed with schizophrenia typically report much higher rates of heritability for the disorder…."

Despite the authors's conclusions about the non-inheritability of schizophrenia, it would appear that having all the symptoms, at once, may be the result of having all the genes for the symptoms and therefore, increase the likelihood for full-blown schizophrenia.

They are definitely on the side of redefining schizophrenia, so there may be a bias here against finding for a genetic cause of it.
Article: Low-carbon energy future is clean, feasible
A future where electricity comes mostly from low-carbon sources is not only feasible in terms of material demand, but will significantly reduce air pollution, a study published in the 6 October Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences says.
The article does not say how much the "low-carbon sources" will be subsidized, as most of these are now.
The researchers did the study because so little is known about the environmental costs of a widespread global shift to renewable energy technologies such as wind and solar power, and what the effect of this shift might have on material requirements. "Would the shift to low-carbon energy systems increase or decrease other types of pollution?" the researchers asked. 
The researchers looked at concentrating solar power, photovoltaics, wind power, hydropower, and gas- and coal-fired power plants with carbon capture and storage (CCS). 
No mention of nuclear power makes the study worthless. If you are going to do a study on "low carbon sources" and do not take into account nuclear power you are wasting your own time and someone else's money.

Also there is a lot of "green" opposition to hydropower, both current uses and expansions.  If that is not taken into account, it is merely another reason why the study is worthless.

And there is growing, "green" opposition to wind and concentration solar power plants as well.

Unless green opposition is faced and eliminated, studies like this are useless. I hope the researchers got some cash and fun out it.
Low carbon technologies can demand much more use of raw materials per unit of power generation than conventional fossil fuel plants, the researchers noted. For example, photovoltaic systems need 11-40 times more copper than fossil fuel production, while wind power plants need 6-14 times more iron than fossil fuel production.
Turns out that the usage of these elements will not be a significant drain on resources.

A lot of this is "blue-skying:" unrealistic and filled with guess work.

Article: Teacher fired after lab accident at school burns 4
A chemistry teacher has been fired after four students were burned, one seriously, when a fire erupted in a Denver high school chemistry laboratory while the teacher was conducting a demonstration with methanol, a school spokeswoman said Tuesday.
Some links about the demonstration:

A warning

Flynn Scientific video about doing it safely.

Given what the demonstrator says, it is obvious what can go wrong.

And finally, one version of the demonstration

Article: Often pesky beavers put to work restoring streams

Pest beavers are being moved to areas where they can be useful, helping to restore streams.
In a heavily irrigated Washington valley where fish, crops and people often compete for water, biologists are turning to one of nature's best engineers to help restore streams and salmon habitat.
Landowners typically trap or kill beavers that block irrigation canals and flood homes in the Yakima Valley. But one project is relocating the troublemaking creatures to the headwaters of the Yakima River, where their talent for chewing willows and constructing lodges can be put to good use.
Beaver ponds help store water on the surface as well as underground.
Trapping and killing beavers is legal in Washington, and between 1,000 and 2,000 are trapped each year, state officials said.
Legal beaver hunting is amazing to someone who lives on the East Coast.

Nobel Prizes: 2014

First is the prize in physics.
Article: Nobel Prize for physics goes to inventors of low-energy LED light

Three researchers figured out how to make a blue LED. Red and green LED's have been around for a while. However, to make white light, a blue LED was needed.

Their discovery allowed the manufacture of true white LED bulbs producing a long-lasting and efficient light bulb. They are more expensive than the incandescent bulbs that they are replacing.

This Nobel prize is unusual, because it is in a practical, rather than a theoretical, field.

Then, the prize in medicine (3 takes on the prize)
Article: Nobel Prize for medicine goes to discoverers of brain’s 'inner GPS'
John Stein, an emeritus professor of physiology at Oxford said that, as with so many Nobel Prize winners, the scientists' discovery was at first ridiculed and dismissed, only later to get the recognition it warrants.
Other takes on the same prize-winning research.
Article: Nobel discovery opens window onto Alzheimer's disease

Article: Norwegian couple joins elite few awarded Nobel Prize together

Finally, the prize in chemistry.
Article: Nobel Prize for seeing how life works at molecular level
Scientists, who have been looking down microscopes since the 17th century, had long thought there was a limit to what could be seen. In 1873, Ernst Abbe stipulated that resolution could never be better than 0.2 micrometers, or around 500 times smaller than the width of a human hair.
But the three Nobel winners bypassed this limit by tagging objects with fluorescent markers and scanning them to build up a far more detailed images. Today, such "nanoscopy" is used widely to visualize the internal molecular machinery of cells.
Modern nanoscale microscopes can follow protein interactions involved in diseases like Alzheimer's, Parkinson's and cancer, or watch the transcription and translation of DNA to make proteins, or track the development of fertilized eggs as they divide and become embryos.
And now, Nobel laureates using their prestige for (mostly) political purposes. 
Article: Nobel laureates call for a revolutionary shift in how humans use resources

Every few years, the neo-Malthusians announce that the "end is near." It used to be religious cults that did this.

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Article: Satellite Data: No Global Warming For Past 18 Years
The Earth’s temperature has “plateaued” and there has been no global warming for at least the last 18 years, says Dr. John Christy, professor of atmospheric science and director of the Earth System Science Center (ESSC) at the University of Alabama/Huntsville. 
The "plateau" is evident in the climate record Christy and former NASA scientist Roy Spencer compiled using actual raw temperature data collected from 14 instruments aboard various weather satellites.
Nice graph at the link.
Christy added that basing government policy affecting millions of Americans on “very poor” climate models that have been shown to be inaccurate is “a fool’s errand.” 
“Our ignorance is simply enormous when it comes to the climate system, and our understanding is certainly not strong and solid enough to make policy about climate because we don’t even know what it’s going to do, so how can we make a policy that says ‘I want to make the climate do something' when we don’t know what makes the climate do what it does?” he asked.
Another link, covering the same information.

Article: Happy Anniversary: 1 October Marks 18 Years Without Global Warming Trend

Figure 1. RSS monthly global mean lower-troposphere temperature anomalies (dark blue) and trend (thick bright blue line), October 1996 to August 2014, showing no trend for 17 years 11 months.

Article: 'This Changes Everything' tackles global warming

Book review: "This Changes Everything: Capitalism vs. the Climate" (Simon & Schuster), by Naomi Klein
Cutting the vast amounts of man-made pollution that feed global warming is an enormous challenge for societies that gobble up coal, oil and gas. But in "This Changes Everything," Naomi Klein argues that those fuels aren't the root problem — capitalism is. 
The country that emits the most carbon dioxide gas is a communist one: China.
Is blaming capitalism for climate change just rhetorical hot air — or a brutal and uncomfortable truth?
For educated, knowledgeable, informed Americans, it is hot air.

For low-information voters, the Left, Academe, the liberal punditocracy, and Paul Krugman,  who perfectly embodies all the preceding, this is a brutal truth. And no amount of information, or thinking, will change that.
And like everyone else, Klein struggles with perhaps the toughest global warming challenge: how to cope with the explosive growth of newly capitalist economies. 
China is now the world's largest emitter of carbon pollution…
So, China became capitalist? Has someone informed Mao?

Most of China's industries are owned, like the good little Marxists and international socialists that they are, by the government. How is this capitalism? And, no, communist countries do not have capitalist economies.

I am stopping here. This drivel is not worth my time.

Article: It's Normal for Regulators to Get Captured 

From time to time, I note the effects of regulation of some area or other of science.

This is an excellent introduction to the problems associated with regulation.

The same kind of "regulatory capture" occurs in other parts of government. I have read for many years of the "revolving door" between the Foreign Service and the think tanks and foundations paid for by the Saudi Arabians. The Saudi's pay ex-civil servants very well, and that influences what they are willing to say before they retire.

[Updated] Article: Some of 2013's weirdest weather had the fingerprints of man-made climate change, studies show
Organized by the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration...
Sorry, NOAA has lost a lot credibility with the real scandals surrounding its data. Their massaged weather data is beginning to differ more and more from the NASA satellite data which result, instead, from the direct measure of the temperature of the entire earth.
Researchers found that climate change increased the odds of nine extremes: Heat waves in Australia, Europe, China, Japan and Korea, intense rain in parts of the United States and India, and severe droughts in California and New Zealand. The California drought, though, comes with an asterisk.
A very large asterisk. A study in a post below notes that the California drought is due to a lack of warming. And I have read repeatedly that the drought is due to a normal weather pattern that recurs on a regular basis.

Additionally, all the most recent IPCC reports, including the leaked portions of the most current ones, downplay this exact claim.
Scientists couldn't find a global warming link to an early South Dakota blizzard, freak storms in Germany and the Pyrenees, heavy rain in Colorado, southern and central Europe, and a cold British spring.
These were not due to global warming. These were scientifically shown to be acts of God.
For years, scientists said they could not attribute single weather events — like a drought, heat wave or storm — to man-made global warming. But with better computer models and new research, in some cases scientists can see how the odds of events increase — or not — because of climate change. 
Are these the same models that have predicted the global warming that has not occurred in almost 20 years?
Other researchers question the usefulness and accuracy of focusing on single extreme events.
That is wise.
The editors of the 108-page compilation of studies wrote that people and animals tend to be more affected by extreme weather than changes in averages, so they pay attention to it. The public often connects extreme events to climate change, sometimes wrongly, so scientific analysis like this "can help inform the public's understanding of our changing environment."
So we now have science to confirm people's wrong view of extreme weather events?
The Stanford team ran computer models with and without man-made warming from the burning of coal, oil and gas. The warming from greenhouse gases showed that the rain-blocking ridge of high pressure was more than three times more likely with man-made factors than without, Swain said.
"There's definitely a climate change signal," Swain said.
Since we have had no global warming for almost 20 years, they found a connection between the nonexistent global warming and the real drought?

Even if the models were right, because of the lack of warming they say nothing about this drought.

The California drought research has an asterisk because only one of three studies claim to find a link between climate change and the drought. Third one should not have been published, given the obvious lack of validity.

[Update]. Three studies done and reported in the same issue of a journal. Two of them find no link to global warming. One does. Guess which one gets reported in the media?

If you guessed the one I noted above that is invalid, but claiming a connection between warming and the drought, you would be right.