Category Archives: Mathematics

The Soon Et Al Paper

What is right, and wrong with it.

It’s always worth noting that the notion that CO2 is a greenhouse gas has never been in serious dispute, or even that the planet has been warming, in fits and starts, since the end of the LIA. The issue is feedbacks, and the limits of our ability to model them. We will probably get better at that in the future, but we currently suck at it, and it would be insane to base public policy on the models.

Freeman Dyson

on climate:

When I was in high-school in England in the 1930s, we learned that continents had been drifting according to the evidence collected by Wegener. It was a great mystery to understand how this happened, but not much doubt that it happened. So it came as a surprise to me later to learn that there had been a consensus against Wegener. If there was a consensus, it was among a small group of experts rather than among the broader public. I think that the situation today with global warming is similar. Among my friends, I do not find much of a consensus. Most of us are sceptical and do not pretend to be experts. My impression is that the experts are deluded because they have been studying the details of climate models for 30 years and they come to believe the models are real. After 30 years they lose the ability to think outside the models. And it is normal for experts in a narrow area to think alike and develop a settled dogma. The dogma is sometimes right and sometimes wrong. In astronomy this happens all the time, and it is great fun to see new observations that prove the old dogmas wrong.

Unfortunately things are different in climate science because the arguments have become heavily politicised. To say that the dogmas are wrong has become politically incorrect. As a result, the media generally exaggerate the degree of consensus and also exaggerate the importance of the questions.

It’s not a new interview, but if anything, it’s even more true now than then. The “consensus” has broken down considerably in the interim.

Climate Skeptics

How and when did you become one?

A lot of interesting responses.

As some note there, to me the biggest deal with the release of the CRU data five years ago wasn’t (just) the duplicity and unscientific behavior revealed in the emails, but the utter crap that was the source code of the computer models. It was clear that it was not done by anyone familiar with computer science, numerical methods, or modeling, and the notion that we should have any confidence whatsoever in their output was societally insane. In terms of Matthews’ paper, I’d put myself somewhere between “lukewarmer” and “moderate skeptic.”

[Update a couple minutes later]

Starting to read through the comments. Here’s just one horror story:

Most of the claims being made by climate change advocates appear to run contrary to basic meteorology. As I’ve been attacked personally and professionally for offering contrary views, I decided to leave the field. I will defend my Atmospheric Science PhD thesis and walk away. It’s become clear to me that it is not possible to undertake independent research in any area that touches upon climate change if you have to make your living as a professional scientist on government grant money or have to rely on getting tenure at a university. The massive group think that I have encountered on this topic has cost me my career, many colleagues and has damaged my reputation among the few people I know in the field. I’m leaving to work in the financial industry. It’s a sad day when you feel that you have to leave a field that you are passionately interested in because you fear that you won’t be able to find a job once your views become widely known. Until free thought is allowed in the climate sciences, I will consider myself a skeptic of catastrophic human induced global warming.

Yup. Totally, totally politicized. It’s not a science any more. Unless you think that Lysenko was a scientist.

Computer Problems

Welp, Windows (7) isn’t happy with the computer upgrade. It keeps running start-up repair, but it never boots.

[Update a while later]

It occurred to me that Windows might not have liked the BIOS settings. So I went into it, and found something under “Advanced” that enabled it for Windows 8 (which I was planning to upgrade to, anyway). When I did that, it told me that the graphics card was incompatible with that setting. So I pulled the card, and am running directly off the mother board. But now when I try to boot, it dumps me into an EFI shell…

[Update a few minutes later]

Well, this doesn’t seem to be an unusual problem

I tried moving the SATA port of the hard drive, but no joy.

[Evening update]

Well, isn’t this wonderful. I now have a computer that wantonly destroys USB drives.

[Update a minute after I typed that]

OK, it didn’t destroy the drive. It just made it take a couple minutes to recognize it. I guess that’s not quite as bad, but it still isn’t bootable.

[Late-evening update]

OK, now seriously, it is wrecking flash drives. That’s the second one today. I copy a bootable ISO to a drive, it doesn’t boot, then no other computer can even see the drive. That’s two. Today.


Telling lies is essential to it.

[Update a few minutes later]

Here’s an excellent example:

In San Francisco, the people who were bemoaning the impending closure of Borderlands admitted sheepishly that they’d voted for the minimum-wage hike. “It’s not something that I thought would affect certain specific small businesses,” one customer said. “I feel sad.”

Yeah, Adam Smith feels sad, too, you dope.

Thick though they may be, you know what those economically illiterate San Francisco book-lovers aren’t? President of the United States of America. But President Obama does precisely the same thing: With Obamacare, he created powerful economic incentives for companies such as Staples to keep part-timers under 25 hours – and to hire part-timers rather than full-time employees – and now he complains when companies respond to those incentives. Naturally, he cites executive pay: “I haven’t looked at Staples stock lately or what the compensation of the CEO is,” he says, but affirms that he is confident that they can afford to run their business the way he wants them to run it.

Let’s apply some English-major math to that question. Ronald Sargent made just under $11 million a year at last report. Staples has about 83,000 employees. That means that if it cut its CEO’s pay to $0.00/annum, Staples would be able to fund about $2.61/week in additional wages or health-care benefits for each of its employees, or schedule them for an additional 22 minutes of work at the federal minimum wage. Which is to say, CEO pay represents a trivial sum — but the expenses imposed by Obamacare are not trivial.

On this issue, President Obama brings all of the honesty and integrity he applied to the question of gay marriage: He’s lying, and he knows he’s lying, and his apologists in the media know he’s lying, and Democratic time-servers and yes-men across the fruited plains know he’s lying. This isn’t about CEO pay – it’s about the economic incentives created by the health-insurance program that in the vernacular bears the president’s name. The president, with the support of congressional Democrats, effectively put a tax on full-time jobs, and on part-time jobs offering 30 hours per week or more. So we’re going to have fewer full-time jobs, and fewer part-time jobs offering 30 hours per week or more. This wasn’t cooked up in the boardroom at Staples – it was cooked up on Capitol Hill, with the eager blessing of Barack Obama. It’s not like they don’t know that there are economic tradeoffs necessitated by Obamacare — they know it, and they also know that, politically speaking, their supporters are cheap dates. Obama ran to the right of Dick Cheney on gay marriage, and it didn’t hurt him with gay voters, who were happy to be reduced to mere instruments of his ambition. The Democrats are betting that part-time workers are similarly easy – or that they’re too dumb to understand the economics at work here, and that they’ll be hypnotized by ritual chants about CEO pay.

I’m hoping that this time, they lose their vile bet.

[Update a few minutes later]

Second link was missing, but fixed.

On Climate Change

…the science battle rages.

It would sure be nice if some of these self-identified climate “scientists” would learn some statistics. And stop calling people who understand statistics names like “denier” and “anti-science.”

[Monday-morning update]

Inside the latest global warming scandal:

This kind of thing is going on all over the world. It is one of the reasons why the satellite data (which, however, go back only to 1979) are so important: they have not been corrupted.



[Update a few minutes later]

Soviet-style disinformation dominates the climate “debate”:

Why is it that when a political figure makes a misstatement about a global warming-related issue, which happens many times every day, no government scientific agency or leading university scientist ever corrects them?

For example, all climate modelers correctly label their speculations of future world temperatures as “projections,” meaning that they have no validated forecast skill. Yet politicians, mass media, and the public treat the models as providing temperature forecasts or predictions. Because this misusage is never corrected, politicians cheerily continue to base expensive public policy on it.

Another example: carbon dioxide, as an essential factor in photosynthesis, is the elixir of planetary life, yet politicians dub it a “pollutant.” Similarly, badging the theoretical global warming problem as a “carbon” issue represents scientific illiteracy because it fails to distinguish the element “carbon” from the molecule “carbon dioxide,” and deliberately encourages the public to confuse a colorless, odorless, beneficial gas with soot. Again, climate-alarmist scientists say little or nothing to correct these mistakes.

Many in the public understand that Hendricks’ behavior is typical of politicians everywhere. But most people do not recognize that fraud is also being directly committed in support of this travesty by many of today’s self-appointed “leading climate scientists.” For when they are not directly massaging the data relied upon in their scientific writings, these scientists often report their findings in ways that are intended to deceive the reader into believing that dangerous global warming exists, or will shortly exist. The UN’s climate reports are the magnum opus of this style of operation.


The Climate-Modeling Paradigm

How robust is it?

Not very. Certainly nowhere near enough to base policy on it.

I was very impressed by Bakker’s intellectual integrity and courage in tackling this topic in the 11th hour of completing his Ph.D. thesis. I am further impressed by his thesis advisors and committee members for allowing/supporting this. Bakker notes many critical comments from his committee members. I checked the list of committee members, one name jumped out at me – Arthur Petersen – who is a philosopher of science that has written about climate models. I suspect that the criticisms were more focused on strengthening the arguments, rather than ‘alarm’ over an essay that criticizes climate models. Kudos to the KNMI.

I seriously doubt that such a thesis would be possible in an atmospheric/oceanic/climate science department in the U.S. – whether the student would dare to tackle this, whether a faculty member would agree to supervise this, and whether a committee would ‘pass’ the thesis.

Epistemic closure.

[Update a few minutes later]

The alarming thing about climate alarmism:

In short, climate change is not worse than we thought. Some indicators are worse, but some are better. That doesn’t mean global warming is not a reality or not a problem. It definitely is. But the narrative that the world’s climate is changing from bad to worse is unhelpful alarmism, which prevents us from focusing on smart solutions.

A well-meaning environmentalist might argue that, because climate change is a reality, why not ramp up the rhetoric and focus on the bad news to make sure the public understands its importance. But isn’t that what has been done for the past 20 years? The public has been bombarded with dramatic headlines and apocalyptic photos of climate change and its consequences. Yet despite endless successions of climate summits, carbon emissions continue to rise, especially in rapidly developing countries like India, China and many African nations.

Because all of the hysteria, name calling and outright lies have appropriately destroyed their credibility.

Climate Reporting

It’s a hot mess.

[Late-morning update]

A media round up, and some thoughts, from Judith Curry, on the State of the Union:

what is wrong with President Obama’s statements as cited above?

  • His statement about humans having exacerbated extreme weather events is not supported by the IPCC

  • The Pentagon is confusing climate change with extreme weather (see above)
  • ‘Climate change is real’ is almost a tautology; climate has always changed and always will, independently of anything humans do.
  • His tweet about ‘97%’ is based on an erroneous and discredited paper [link]

As for ‘Denial from Congress is dangerous’, I doubt that anyone in Congress denies that climate changes. The issue of ‘dangerous’ is a hypothetical, and relates to values (not science).

And speaking of the ‘deniers’ in Congress, did anyone spot any errors in the actual science from Senator Inhofe’s rebuttal?

The apparent ‘contract’ between Obama and his administrators to play politics with climate science seems to be a recipe for anti science and premature policies with negative economic consequences that have little to no impact on the climate.

BUt the important thing is that they line the pockets of his campaign contributors.

Maybe some day, in a future administration, we can have a grown up conversation about climate change (natural and human caused), the potential risks, and a broad range of policy responses.

Let’s hope.

Weird Linux Problem

Anyone have any ideas why I can’t do a yum update in Fedora? Or rather, why I can’t write to the disk as root?

# yum update
Loaded plugins: langpacks, refresh-packagekit
Cannot open logfile /var/log/yum.log
Repository google-chrome is listed more than once in the configuration

[Errno 30] Read-only file system: ‘/var/cache/yum/x86_64/20/adobe-linux-x86_64/repomd.xml.old.tmp’

Here’s what I’m seeing at /:

# ls -l
total 65
lrwxrwxrwx. 1 root root 7 Dec 11 2013 bin -> usr/bin
dr-xr-xr-x. 6 root root 4096 Dec 22 14:47 boot
drwxr-xr-x. 21 root root 3520 Dec 24 09:15 dev
drwxr-xr-x. 140 root root 12288 Dec 24 09:15 etc
drwxr-xr-x. 4 root root 4096 Dec 20 2013 home
lrwxrwxrwx. 1 root root 7 Dec 11 2013 lib -> usr/lib
lrwxrwxrwx. 1 root root 9 Dec 11 2013 lib64 -> usr/lib64
drwx——. 2 root root 16384 Dec 11 2013 lost+found
drwxr-xr-x. 2 root root 4096 Nov 7 16:53 media
drwxr-xr-x. 3 root root 4096 Dec 20 2013 mnt
drwxr-xr-x. 4 root root 4096 Oct 29 15:18 opt
dr-xr-xr-x. 222 root root 0 Dec 24 09:14 proc
dr-xr-x—. 12 root root 4096 Dec 22 15:33 root
drwxr-xr-x. 34 root root 900 Dec 24 09:17 run
lrwxrwxrwx. 1 root root 8 Dec 11 2013 sbin -> usr/sbin
drwxr-xr-x. 2 root root 4096 Aug 7 2013 srv
dr-xr-xr-x. 13 root root 0 Dec 24 09:14 sys
drwxrwxrwt. 12 root root 280 Dec 24 09:21 tmp
drwxr-xr-x. 12 root root 4096 Dec 11 2013 usr
drwxr-xr-x. 21 root root 4096 Dec 24 09:14 var

Here’s /var:

# ls -l /var
total 112
drwxr-xr-x. 2 root root 4096 Dec 11 2013 account
drwxr-xr-x. 2 root root 4096 Aug 7 2013 adm
drwxr-xr-x. 14 root root 4096 Dec 20 2013 cache
drwxr-xr-x. 2 root root 4096 Aug 5 21:27 crash
drwxr-xr-x. 2 root root 4096 Aug 2 2013 cvs
drwxr-xr-x. 3 root root 4096 Oct 2 09:32 db
drwxr-xr-x. 3 root root 4096 Dec 11 2013 empty
drwxr-xr-x. 2 root root 4096 Aug 7 2013 games
drwxr-xr-x. 2 root root 4096 Aug 7 2013 gopher
drwxr-xr-x. 3 root root 4096 Aug 7 17:19 kerberos
drwxr-xr-x. 46 root root 4096 Dec 24 09:14 lib
drwxr-xr-x. 2 root root 4096 Aug 7 2013 local
lrwxrwxrwx. 1 root root 11 Dec 11 2013 lock -> ../run/lock
drwxr-xr-x. 15 root root 4096 Dec 24 09:15 log
lrwxrwxrwx. 1 root root 10 Dec 11 2013 mail -> spool/mail
drwxr-xr-x. 2 root root 4096 Aug 7 2013 nis
drwxr-xr-x. 2 root root 4096 Aug 7 2013 opt
drwxr-xr-x. 2 root root 4096 Aug 7 2013 preserve
lrwxrwxrwx. 1 root root 6 Dec 11 2013 run -> ../run
drwxr-xr-x. 10 root root 4096 Dec 11 2013 spool
drwxrwxrwt. 539 root root 36864 Dec 24 09:15 tmp
drwxr-xr-x. 2 root root 4096 Aug 7 2013 yp

I tried to just create a file in /root, with no success (though that’s not really surprising, given the permissions). What’s really weird is that I have no problems writing as a normal user. It’s just a problem with root. Which is, of course, a big problem. I’ve tried rebooting, with no joy.

[Later afternoon update]

OK, I’ve gotten the machine beaten into submission. I loaded Fedora 21 on a live USB, and (unlike Fedora 20) it will actually boot with my new motherboard. So I cleaned up the drives, then installed the new OS on the new SSD. I overmounted my old /home drive onto the new /home, and I’m reinstalling software, which is going very fast, because the SSD is very fast. With the new quad-core processor, I’m cooking with Crisco. Nice Christmas present to myself.

[Update a few minutes later]

Wow. Just did a reboot after a bunch of updates. Ten seconds.

The Fatal Conceit

of Jonathan Gruber:

The Times reassuringly described Gruber as “the numbers wizard at MIT,” who has “spent decades modeling the intricacies of the health care ecosystem.” Gruber has “brought a level of science to an issue that would otherwise be just opinion.”

I might note that the Soviets used the term “science” for their own “scientific” planning commission. I drew little comfort from Professor Gruber’s scientific-planning credentials, especially when I learned “he’s the only person you can go to for that kind of thing.” Gruber, aided by his brilliant MIT graduate student assistants, is a one-man Gosplan, the name given to the Soviet Union’s state planning committee. That is not much of a recommendation. Science is better served by competing ideas not by a one-person monopoly.

Both Gruber and the USSR’s Gosplan planners believe their planning is “scientific” and executed by “the best of the best.” Both types of planning commissars suffer from F. A. Hayek’s “fatal conceit”—the belief that we can plan incredibly complex economic systems. As Hayek pointed out in his writings, such “scientific” plans inevitably fall apart under the weight of unintended consequences.

Actually, I’m not sure they’re all unintended.

Gruber The Grifter

Why you don’t want to let “intellectuals” anywhere near power:

Unfortunately, contemporary Washington is calibrated to defer to experts who defer to politicians, providing an intellectual Praetorian Guard for the constant growth of a leviathan. As Denver University professor David Ciepley noted, “Starting in the First World War, and much more so during the New Deal and World War II, American social scientists became part of the autonomous state themselves, helping staff the mushrooming government agencies.” The closer that intellectuals get to politicians, the more weaselly they usually become.

Playing off Mr. Gruber’s derision of average Americans, one wag suggested a new acronym — L.I.E. — for Low Information Experts. Mr. Gruber and many other professors have gotten rich by pretending that government is far more competent than it actually is. Economist Robert Skidelsky, writing about the history of modern socialism, observed that “the collectivist belief system existed independently of the facts of modern life.” The same is true of the academic cadre who profit by vindicating endless government interventions that breed chaos and dependency.

I’d like to think that people will take a lesson from this (particularly with regard to climate models), but history doesn’t make me hopeful.


A light-on-spoilers review.

[Tuesday-morning update]


Christopher Nolan’s epic new sci-fi film Interstellar has received measured acclaim from critics, who have praised its ambitious scale and effects but were less convinced about the story.

That was the problem with Gravity, too.


The New Consensus Study

on evolution:

Our search resulted in 487,629 papers that mentioned “evolution” or “natural selection” in the abstract. However 451,412 of those could not definitively be placed into one of our seven position-defining categories*, no matter how hard we tried with our group of 20 reviewers. [The consensus view among us is that these reviewers are completely independent and objective; their common participation at our web site devoted to presenting pro-selection arguments, but nothing to the contrary, is just not relevant in this case.**]

Of the remaining 36,217 papers, 35,167 (97.1%) supported the consensus position that over half of the observed evolution over the twentieth century is due to natural selection. The fact that only 126 of these 35,167 papers were actually focused on critically evaluating the topic at hand, i.e. the different possible mechanistic explanations of observed evolutionary change and/or speciation (e.g. random drift, founder and other stochastic events, mutation rate variation, instantaneous genetic barriers, etc), is an irrelevant point, a complete red herring. We can reasonably assume that in at least the majority of 50% of the time, none of these 35,167 authors would indicate agreement with a position that they themselves had not carefully investigated, without having more than half of a predominantly pretty good reason for so doing***. It’s just not really half as difficult as people make it out to be when you boil it down. As we have now done. For you.

In conclusion, there is very clearly a very strong consensus as to the influence of natural selection on evolution during the twentieth century and this consensus has been increasing as the evidence increases. It is important that policy makers realize this and take action. Please pick this up and disseminate it widely so everybody knows about it; everyone else is, so you will be part of the consensus effort if you do. Thank you.