Category Archives: Mathematics

The 50-50 Argument

It’s not logical to state that most warming since 1950 has been caused by man (or Mann):

The glaring flaw in their logic is this. If you are trying to attribute warming over a short period, e.g. since 1980, detection requires that you explicitly consider the phasing of multidecadal natural internal variability during that period (e.g. AMO, PDO), not just the spectra over a long time period. Attribution arguments of late 20th century warming have failed to pass the detection threshold which requires accounting for the phasing of the AMO and PDO. It is typically argued that these oscillations go up and down, in net they are a wash. Maybe, but they are NOT a wash when you are considering a period of the order, or shorter than, the multidecadal time scales associated with these oscillations.

Further, in the presence of multidecadal oscillations with a nominal 60-80 yr time scale, convincing attribution requires that you can attribute the variability for more than one 60-80 yr period, preferably back to the mid 19th century. Not being able to address the attribution of change in the early 20th century to my mind precludes any highly confident attribution of change in the late 20th century.

In other words, we shouldn’t and can’t have as much confidence as many would like to push their policy agenda.

Mann Suit Update

I didn’t mention it last week, because I’ve been busy dealing with life, but both we and National Review submitted our brief in the case to the DC Court of Appeals last Monday. I’m not sure if the CEI brief has been discussed anywhere, but here’s a discussion of National Review’s. We requested that the lower-court ruling to refuse dismissal be overturned and the case dismissed (implicitly) with prejudice. That means that if the appeals court agrees, we can go after Mann for legal costs.

Anyway, the reason I mention it now is that Alliance Defending Freedom has filed an amicus brief today on our behalf. I’ve got the filing, but haven’t seen any links to it yet. We also have one from Reason, Cato, Goldwater Institute, and the Individual Rights Foundation.

[Late evening update]

OK, we’ve got a couple more. One is from Newsmax Media, Inc., Free Beacon,LLC, The Foundation for Cultural Review, The Daily Caller, LLC, PJ Media, LLC, and The Electronic Frontier Foundation. The other is from the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press and twenty six other media organization, which I won’t list here.

Also, as with the last time, the District of Columbia has filed an amicus on our behalf to defend its anti-SLAPP law.

I’m guessing that a lot more media organizations are filing this time because they they were shocked at the ruling the last time, and wanted to make their views clear to the appellate court.

[Wednesday-morning update]

CEI has links to all the legal filings in the case to date, including Monday’s amici.

Speed Limits

A great piece on the general irrationality about them, and the history. I find most interesting (and new) the point that the main benefit of posting a speed limit was not to slow the fastest down, but to speed the slowest up. More people need to understand that it is not absolute speed that is dangerous, but relative speed. When I was young, in Michigan, before Nixon’s double-nickle stupidity, the freeway signs had both a maximum and a minimum: 70/45. That was back in the days when older cars weren’t as safe or reliable at higher speeds. Today, I’d make it more like 80/60.

I’m also glad that they (as I always do) pointed out what a problem a lack of lane discipline is. If they’d give tickets for hogging the left lane, instead of speeding, traffic would flow both more smoothly and more safely.

Math

Why Americans suck at it:

American institutions charged with training teachers in new approaches to math have proved largely unable to do it. At most education schools, the professors with the research budgets and deanships have little interest in the science of teaching. Indeed, when Lampert attended Harvard’s Graduate School of Education in the 1970s, she could find only one listing in the entire course catalog that used the word “teaching” in its title. (Today only 19 out of 231 courses include it.) Methods courses, meanwhile, are usually taught by the lowest ranks of professors — chronically underpaid, overworked and, ultimately, ineffective.

Without the right training, most teachers do not understand math well enough to teach it the way Lampert does. “Remember,” Lampert says, “American teachers are only a subset of Americans.” As graduates of American schools, they are no more likely to display numeracy than the rest of us. “I’m just not a math person,” Lampert says her education students would say with an apologetic shrug.

Consequently, the most powerful influence on teachers is the one most beyond our control. The sociologist Dan Lortie calls the phenomenon the apprenticeship of observation. Teachers learn to teach primarily by recalling their memories of having been taught, an average of 13,000 hours of instruction over a typical childhood. The apprenticeship of observation exacerbates what the education scholar Suzanne Wilson calls education reform’s double bind. The very people who embody the problem — teachers — are also the ones charged with solving it.

…Left to their own devices, teachers are once again trying to incorporate new ideas into old scripts, often botching them in the process. One especially nonsensical result stems from the Common Core’s suggestion that students not just find answers but also “illustrate and explain the calculation by using equations, rectangular arrays, and/or area models.” The idea of utilizing arrays of dots makes sense in the hands of a skilled teacher, who can use them to help a student understand how multiplication actually works. For example, a teacher trying to explain multiplication might ask a student to first draw three rows of dots with two dots in each row and then imagine what the picture would look like with three or four or five dots in each row. Guiding the student through the exercise, the teacher could help her see that each march up the times table (3×2, 3×3, 3×4) just means adding another dot per row. But if a teacher doesn’t use the dots to illustrate bigger ideas, they become just another meaningless exercise. Instead of memorizing familiar steps, students now practice even stranger rituals, like drawing dots only to count them or breaking simple addition problems into complicated forms (62+26, for example, must become 60+2+20+6) without understanding why. This can make for even poorer math students. “In the hands of unprepared teachers,” Lampert says, “alternative algorithms are worse than just teaching them standard algorithms.”

No wonder parents and some mathematicians denigrate the reforms as “fuzzy math.” In the warped way untrained teachers interpret them, they are fuzzy.

It’s a long, but interesting, and depressing article.

I should note that I was one of the kids who suffered from the “New Math” in the sixties, but I had a great algebra teacher in junior high (I forget her name, but she was a black woman), and good ones in high school as well. We actually learned calculus and analytic geometry from Mr. Troyer.

[Update a while later]

The more I think about this, the more furious I get that we have these worthless schools of “education” that don’t even teach teachers to teach.

Complexity

Frustration with the leftist fools who don’t understand the knowledge problem:

Mr. Bouie insists that he is not simply trying to make an excuse for the president’s revealed incompetence in sundry matters, but of course that is precisely what he and other apologists for the administration are doing. If they were really interested in complexity as such, then they would bring it up on the front end of the policy debate, rather than on the back end.

I’ve seen this happen so many times that every other policy debate looks to me like an ancient rerun of Three’s Company: Do you think there’ll be a comic misunderstanding in this episode, too? It unfolds like this: Politicians on the Barack Obama model promise that they will muster their native intelligence and empirical evidence to bring order to, e.g., the health-care industry, through the judicious application of regulation. People like me tell them that the effects of such regulation are almost certainly going to be other than what was intended, because such markets are too complex to be understandable, predictable, or steerable, even in principle. Even if every bureaucrat who touches health care or the labor market has the brain of an Einstein and the soul of a St. Thomas Becket, it will not turn out the way it is intended. And then, when it doesn’t turn out as intended, Jamelle Bouie et al. protest that the toldya-so chorus “betrays an ignorance of the size and complexity of the federal bureaucracy.”

And they never even consider the question: If the federal bureaucracy is so vast and complex that its behavior cannot be adequately managed, how is it that the phenomena that the bureaucracies are tasked with managing—orders of magnitude more complex than the bureaucracies themselves—are supposed to be manageable? To consider the question with any intellectual rigor is to accept real, meaningful, epistemic limits on what government can do.

Can’t have that. It doesn’t allow them to run other peoples’ lives.

Scientists And Philosophers

Why they need to talk to each other:

Most of climate science is in ‘shut up and calculate’ mode. This is a very dangerous place to be given the substantial uncertainties, ignorance and areas of disagreement, not to mention the problems/failures of climate models. Climate science needs reflection on the fundamental assumptions, re-interpretations, and deeper thinking. How to reason about the complex climate system, and its uncertainties, is not at all straightforward. And then of course there are the ethical issues, including understanding how the climate debate has gone so badly wrong.

Yes.

Ocean Heat

Where is it?

I have previously written about the fact that the heat in the ocean isn’t there. A Facebook commentator produced some excellent graphs based on the ARGO data which showed NO heat accumulation at any level in the world’s oceans. This lack of warming contradicts completely (Anthropogenic Global Warming) AGW theory as put forward by such AGW stalwarts as Trenberth and England. It also has Hansen scrambling for weird and whacky explanations.

So it is plain in the ARGO era that the oceans are not warming and this contradicts AGW.

Denier.

The Missing Light

It’s a mystery:

As one participating scientist points out, to miss the mark by so much means what we understand about the universe is fundamentally wrong. The universe continues to be exciting, a little scary, but mostly—a mystery.

And yet some have the hubris to tell us they can predict the temperature of the planet and level of the seas decades from now.

Heidegger

Since we were discussing philosophy the other day, Lileks has some thoughts:

The article concerns the anti-Semitism of Heidegger, and how the publication of recent texts the philosopher intended to be the capstone of his output reveals that he didn’t have the easy, lazy cultural anti-Semitism of the era, but really, really thought hard on how the Jews were putting the stick to the decent noble Volk. Not just any kind of Jews, though: worldwide jewry! It’s the richest kind.

..Anything that starts out with “Russia and America are the same” is the product of a mind so high in the clouds it cannot tell the different between red and black ants. But while Russia did indeed have “unrestricted organization of the average man,” an inevitable consequence of the state’s politicization of the entire society, you could say Germany under Hitler had a smattering as well. Or a gerschmatturung, to use Heidegger’s word. Just kidding; he doesn’t. But the article is full of German words intended to set off a Concept, as though expressing a concept in a train-wreck of consonants makes it important. I suppose the point is to be accurate, use the terms the author uses so there can be no misunderstanding. But for my part that would require anything close to comprehension, and I cannot grasp a lot of what Heidegger is talking about, perhaps because there seems to be no point in understanding what he’s saying.

Philosophy isn’t useless, but some philosophers are. Or worse than.