Category Archives: Mathematics

Science, Uncertainty And Advocacy

Judith Curry is attending an interesting conference in the UK, and has some formal comments:

Some people regard any engagement of a scientist with the policy process as advocacy – I disagree. The way I look at it is that advocacy involves forceful persuasion, which is consistent with the legal definition of advocacy.

In the code of ethics for lawyers, where forceful persuasion is part of their job description, they are ethically bound only not to state something that they know to be false. Lawyers are under no compunction to introduce evidence that hurts their case – that’s the other side’s job.

Unlike lawyers, scientists are supposed to search for truth, and scientific norms encourage disclosure of sources and magnitude of uncertainty. Now if you are a scientist advocating for a specific issue, uncertainty will get in the way of your forceful persuasion.

In principle, scientists can ethically and effectively advocate for an issue, provided that their statements are honest and they disclose uncertainties. In practice, too many scientists, and worse yet professional societies, are conducting their advocacy for emissions reductions in a manner that is not responsible in context of the norms of science.

Much of climate “science” abandoned science years ago, going back to Schneider.

Climate-Change Communications

moving beyond certainty:

The strategy of hyping certainty and a scientific consensus and dismissing decadal variability is a bad move for communicating a very complex, wicked problem such as climate change. Apart from the ‘meaningful’ issue, its an issue of trust – hyping certainty and a premature consensus does not help the issue of public trust in the science.

This new paper is especially interesting in context of the Karl et al paper, that ‘disappears’ the hiatus. I suspect that the main take home message for the public (those paying attention, anyways) is that the data is really really uncertain and there is plenty of opportunity for scientists to ‘cherry pick’ methods to get desired results.

Apart from the issue of how IPCC leaders communicate the science to the public, this paper also has important implications for journalists. The paper has a vindication of sorts for David Rose, who asked hard hitting questions about the pause at the Stockholm press conference.

It’s a good, and necessary first step.

OK, Different Computer Question

I’ve got her machine set up as Windows native, installed on SSD. Her old Windows drive, with her old files, is hooked up to it. She can see it fine from Windows. But while she was using Linux, she’d been writing to an LVM drive, which was originally a backup, but now has some changes on it from the old drive.

I’m running Fedora as a virtual machine, and it seems to be running fine (so far). I’ve attached the old Windows drive to the physical machine, and it shows up in Nautilus and other file managers. But when I try to access it, I get a message that it’s an NTFS drive with problems, and I can only mount it read-only. It suggests I repair.

So, is this caused by the fact that its already mounted and in use by Windows? Seems a little strange, since the virtual machine probably wouldn’t know that. Windows doesn’t have a problem with it. Bigger question: Can/should I try to repair it as an unmounted drive from the virtual machine using e2fsck? That is, does e2fsck repair NTFS drives? And what is the risk if I don’t attempt to back it up first?

Neil Stephenson

Discusses his new novel, and the role of science fiction.

He is one of the few authors whose books I always look forward to reading, though I was a little disappointed with Anathem. But this looks like a fun read.

I should also note that one of the points I make in my book (and in op-eds) since, is that our unwillingness to use the hardware we have on hand to get into space is an indicator of how utterly unimportant human spaceflight is (a point that is accentuated by the relatively poor sales of a well-reviewed book). Stephenson describes a scenario in which it suddenly becomes very important to become as spacefaring as possible, as soon as possible, and how society reacts.