Category Archives: Science And Society

Sea-Level Rise

In the context of the report released on Friday, Judith Curry has issued her own final report on it:

Why have I devoted so much time to the sea level rise issue? First, I regard sea level rise to be the most consequential potential impact of predicted global warming. Second, there is a great deal of public confusion about the issue, including decision makers. Third, a number of CFAN’s clients have queried me about a range of specific concerns that they have regarding sea level rise (and I have been doing consulting on this topic).

Why do I think an independent assessment of the sea level rise issue by yours truly is needed, given the plethora of international and national assessment reports? My clients are concerned about the alarmist predictions they have encountered. I have seen various ‘experts’ make public statements projecting 21st century sea level to be as high as 9 m [30 feet]. My clients are looking for someone that they trust to provide an objective assessment that focuses on their issues of concern.

I am not a published expert on sea level rise, although I have published some relevant papers in oceanography and the climate dynamics of the polar regions. What I bring to this assessment is a broader perspective on the issues of climate dynamics, climate modeling and uncertainty than most of the community working on the sea level rise issue. In any event, it is arguably useful for a knowledgeable person outside of the publishing sea level community to provide an independent assessment.

Yes. It will be interesting to see the response from the alarmists, if any.

The Keto Diet

Myths versus facts, from Nina Teicholz:

I think the larger question is why we are seeing such a sudden rash of anti-keto stories. So many of them quote no experts [sic] sources and do not provide citations for their claims. Skeptics with little acquaintance with the diet are quoted exclusively instead. From a journalistic perspective, this lack of balance of viewpoints and the failure to back up claims with evidence falls below basic reporting standards. Offenders on this list include even the Harvard School of Public Health, which recently published more than one unsourced, one-sided article on the keto diet (This is in addition to the Lancet Public Health article cited above, by Harvard researchers, which suggests that a low-carb diet kills you). These stories could reflect lazy reporting or they could very well be scare tactics to steer people away from the keto diet. Why would reporters or scientists at Harvard be doing such a thing? That’s material for another post. Stay tuned.

I’ll look forward to her thesis.

Landing On Mars

A little over half an hour away. Watch live.

[Update after the successful landing]

I’m seeing a lot of the usual nonsense about how if NASA can land a robot on Mars why don’t we believe them about climate? That’s like saying, if someone on a baseball team is a really good pitcher, why don’t we pay any attention to the outfielder’s opinions about politics?

Also, this.

California Drought Issues

A four-and-a-half-year-old article that puts them into perspective.

It’s always sadly amusing when you see a headline about “hottest|dryest|whateverist X in recorded history” when we haven’t been keeping records very long, and people rely on their own living memory to judge current events, when a few decades is meaningless in the geological context of climate.

Uncanny Vulvas

Thoughts from Diana Fleischman on the upcoming replacement of (some) women by artificial ones who won’t abuse men:

Men high in conscientiousness, who are sensitive to social disapproval but who nonetheless have difficulty reading subtle social cues, could make good husbands for women. These men are unlikely to want to take the risk of approaching women. As substitutes like sex robots and virtual companions become better and cheaper, they will monopolize the attention of such men.

Think of an introverted engineer with Asperger’s syndrome who wasn’t sure how to broach a conversation with a woman back in 2015 and definitely isn’t sure how to do that in today’s climate. In 10 years he could have a beautiful robot companion (indeed, he could have one that could emulate the experience of having sex with dozens of different women) that has a lower barrier to entry than the mating market and that keeps him satisfied enough to remain a happy bachelor. Some woman misses out on a conscientious guy with a good income who might not know exactly how to respond when she says “nothing’s wrong,” but will definitely keep the cars tuned up to get the kids to their mathematics championships. The world might miss out on his sons and daughters and their analytical approaches to some of the world’s problems.

The kinds of men described above, who have difficulty reading social signals but who are nonetheless strongly sexually motivated, have a characteristic that means they’ll be less put off by sex robots than the average person: resistance to perceiving the uncanny valley. “The uncanny valley” is the way that representations that fall just short of looking like humans often look “creepy.” Anthropomorphized robots are more relatable and trustworthy than machine-like robots. It’s also difficult to imagine that many people would want to have sex with a conglomeration of gears and wheels.

My view is that the uncanny valley is something analogous to Capgras delusion, a psychological disorder that causes sufferers to believe that someone they know has been taken over by an imposter, often inhuman. According to VS Ramachandran, there are two aspects to recognizing faces: the identification of the external familiar representation and the “internal” validation – the warm emotion that goes along with it. In the uncanny valley, you recognize a robot as humanlike, but it’s missing the facial movement or some other characteristic that gives you a warm feeling of recognition. Many men won’t experience the uncanny valley, especially with regards to sex robots. These men are going to be the early adopters. Men are worse at identifying faces than women and are far more likely to have prosopagnosia, the inability to recognize faces.

Sex is weird. Sex is gross and awkward. Natural selection addressed this issue by causing arousal to attenuate the human disgust response. It’s worth noting that men have a much lower baseline sexual disgust than women, and that sexual excitement further reduces disgust sensitivity in men. In a classic paper by Dan Ariely, aroused men had much more positive attitudes about all kinds of unusual sexual acts. Sexually aroused men were more likely to say that it would be fun to watch a woman urinating or that they could imagine getting sexually excited by contact with an animal). 3-D pornography of video game or cartoon characters that might be creepy in a nonsexual context are popular genres. The most direct evidence that men won’t be put off by uncanny vulvas is from a paper that laments the “unabashed sexualization of female-gendered robots” in comments on YouTube videos of robots. Bawdy comments on gynoids – “you’ll have to replace it monthly due to semen corrosion,” for example – were more frequent than comments expressing unease.

Easy to understand why gender feminists hate this.

[Update a few minutes later]

And here’s an interesting question:

Men have much greater variance of reproductive success than women. Sometimes they get cues that they have nothing to lose you have everything to gain from taking risks through violence, sexual or otherwise. This is one reason that pornography decreases the rate of sexual assault. When men get cues that women are interested in them, even if those women are mere representations, their evolved psychology leads them to less risky ways of attempting to achieve reproductive success. How many teenaged boys would be able to build up the resentment to commit mass shootings or suicide if they had a beautiful sex robot at home?

Far fewer, I’m guessing. But of course the gender feminists will claim it’s their fault they’re not getting laid and they have no one to blame but themselves.

Admitting Mistakes

…”in a hostile environment.” Some thoughts from Judith Curry:

Ralph Keeling behaved with honesty and dignity by publicly admitting these errors and thanking Nic Lewis.

Such behavior shouldn’t be news, however; it is how all scientists should behave, always.

Imagine how the course of climate science and the public debate on climate change would be different if Michael Mann would have behaved in a similar way in response to McIntyre and McKitrick’s identification of problems with the hockey stick analysis.

I don’t think he’s capable of it.

By quickly admitting mistakes and giving credit where due, Ralph Keeling has done something unusual and laudatory in the field of climate science. If all climate scientists behaved this way, there would be no ‘hostile environment.’

I find it to be a sad state of affairs when a scientist admitting mistakes gets more kudos than the scientist actually finding the mistakes. But given the state of climate science, I guess finding mistakes seems to be a more common story than a publishing scientist actually admitting to mistakes.

Sadly, yes.