Dec 16

Crazy in Copenhagen

Two days before the deadline for an agreement at the 2009 Copenhagen Conference on Climate Change, Mother Nature is demonstrating the same sly sense of humor that Al Gore, el jefe of the global-warming bloviators, often seems to elicit from the old gal. That is to say, it’s snowing like a a sonovabitch and there’s no hiding the decline in temperatures…

While the weather outside is frightful, the prospect inside is delightful: it looks as though the negotiations are going to collapse in a welter of incompatible agendas, mutual finger-pointing, and much talk of high-handedness and betrayal. If we are really lucky, the wreck will cause such lasting bitterness that nothing like this three-ring circus of purblind idiocy will ever be seriously attempted again.

But wait…difficult though it may be to credit from the news coverage, there’s at least one person in Copenhagen today who sounds like neither an unctuous Orwellian gusher of transnational-progressive newspeak nor an outright spluttering loon. And who might that be?

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Dec 06

“The scientists have been tied up and gagged in the back room”

The unravelling of the AGW fraud continues to provide an entertaining mix of high drama and low comedy. My favorite recent entry on the CRU mob is a screed from a professor of mathematics in Canada: “All of my colleagues have had to endure these bullies and criminals for a very long time.”

Then there’s David Bellamy’s tale of being canned from a very successful science-popularizer gig on the BBC because he dared to speak anti-AGW heresy.

That’s a theme in a lot of recent revelations. As long as the lid was on the CRU’s fraud, nobody dared speak up about for fear of being dismissed as a crank. Now that the AGW crowd’s power to suppress dissent has been broken, expect to hear a lot more actual scientists — not politicians, but scientists — coming forward to confirm that the emperor has no clothes.

For the “low comedy” part, return with us now to those thrilling days of yesteryear when Time Magazine was predicting catastrophic global cooling. And Newsweek, too. It’s hilarious how easy it is to substitute “warning” for “cooling” and have an article that could have been written last week.

For more low comedy, at least one news story alleges that the IPCC intends to investigate the allegations of CRU misconduct. Yup, I’m sure; the kleptocrats in our permanent political class don’t like it when their plans for a power grab go awry, and the U.N.’s contingent doubtless wants to know who’s to blame for this debacle. For some reason, the phrase “the prisoner was shot while attempting to escape” keeps running through my head.

Nov 29

Facts to fit the theory? Actually, no facts at all!

It just keeps getting better and better. Now we learn that the CRU has admitted to throwing away the primary data on which their climate models were based. I quote: “We do not hold the original raw data but only the value-added (quality controlled and homogenised) data.”

This means that even the CRU itself has no idea how accidentally corrupt or fraudulently altered its data might be. And the IPCC reports used the CRU’s temperature reconstructions as a gold standard. So did other climatologists all over the world. And now they can’t be verified! Without a chain of provenance tieing them back to actual measurements, every single figure and trendline in the CRU reconstructions might as well be PDOOMA, a fine old engineering acronym expanding to “Pulled Directly Out Of My Ass”.

Words don’t often fail me, but this is beyond ridiculous. How could anyone who calls himself a scientist allow the primary data and metadata to be destroyed? I’ve long thought the AGW case was built on sand, but it’s worse – it’s built on utter vacuum. Somebody will have to do the work of collating raw historical data from the weather stations and time periods the CRU mined all over again before we will know anything about the quality of their results. A significant portion of the climatological literature — everything that used CRU reconstructions or models as an input — will have to be outright scrapped.

While I still think the leaked emails and code make a strong case for active fraud, the scale of this disclosure makes that almost irrelevant. It is, at the very least, procedural incompetence on a breathtaking scale — the most astounding case of my lifetime, and I’m hard-put to think of a parallel in the entire history of science.

UPDATE: High drama! There’s a strong argument, based on the CRU dump, that the CRU’s claim to have lost the data in the 1980s has to be a falsehood. If so, we’ve moved from an incompetence-centered explanation back to a fraud-centered one. But then, a counterclaim that the reporting was bad and they’ve only destroyed 5% of their data. Pass the popcorn…

Nov 28

AGW fraud unravels at an accelerating pace

AGW alarmists, led by the “hockey team”, have dismissed criticisms that urban heat-island effects have been distorting surface temperature measurements upwards. Now Vincent Gray, a reviewer of the 2007 IPCC report, says this: not only is the single paper on which this dismissal is based fraudulent, the hockey team knows it’s fraudulent and keeps citing it anyway!

Paleoclimatologist Eduardo Zorita writes: “I may confirm what has been written in other places: research in some areas of climate science has been and is full of machination, conspiracies, and collusion, as any reader can interpret from the CRU-files.”

A Franco-Russian geomagnetics research group who was rebuffed when it tried to get primary temperature datasets from the CRU has assembled its own series of average temperature efforts by going back to ground-station measurements that the hockey team has never had an opportunity to “correct”. The result?

Aside from a very cold spell in 1940, temperatures were flat for most of the 20th century, showing no warming while fossil fuel use grew. Then in 1987 they shot up by about 1 C and have not shown any warming since. This pattern cannot be explained by rising carbon dioxide concentrations, unless some critical threshold was reached in 1987; nor can it be explained by climate models.

The report on this is well worth reading, as it goes into some detail on how the geomagneticians’ statistical methods produced a different — and much higher quality — result than the IPCC did. Among other things, they used daily rather than monthly averaging and avoided suspect techniques for statistically inferring temperature at places it hadn’t actually been measured.

Interestingly, their calculation of average temperature in the U.S. says “The warmest period was in 1930, slightly above the temperatures at the end of the 20th century. “. Could this inconvenient warm spell be what the VERY ARTIFICAL correction was intended to suppress?

I can almost pity the poor AGW spinmeisters. Perhaps they still think they can put a political fix in to limit the damage from the CRU leak. But what’s happening now is that other scientists who have seen the business end of the hockey team’s fraud, stonewalling, and bullying are beginning to speak out. The rate of collapse is accelerating.

Nov 26

Facts to fit the theory

On 12 Oct 2009, climatologist and “hockey-team” member Kevin Trenberth wrote:

The fact is that we can’t account for the lack of warming at the moment and it is a travesty that we can’t. The CERES data published in the August BAMS 09 supplement on 2008 shows there should be even more warming: but the data are surely wrong.

Eyebrows have quite rightly been raised over this quote. It is indeed a travesty that AGW theory cannot account for the lack of warming, and bears out what I and other AGW critics have been saying for years about the fallaciousness and lack of predictive power of AGW models.

But the second sentence is actually far more damning. “The data is surely wrong.” This is how and where most scientific fraud begins.

Scientific fraudsters are not, in general, people pushing theories they know to be false. Outright charlatanism is not actually common, because it’s relatively easy to detect. Humans are evolved for a social competitive environernt
and are rather good at spotting lies, except when they’re fooling themselves because they want to believe.

In general, scientific fraudsters are people who are overinvested in a theory that they believe. Because they know it must be true, they interpret predictive failures as “The data is surely wrong”. It is only a short step from “The data is surely wrong” to fixing the pesky data until it looks right — see my previous post for an immediate example.

It’s only slightly longer step after that to destroying the inconvenient data that fails to fit your theory — something one of the hockey-teamers actually called for and there is strong reason to suspect they actually did.

Sometimes, actually, the data is wrong. Occasionally, experimental error will appear to falsify a theory that is actually correct. But research groups are entitled to the benefit of that doubt only when they meet the most rigorous standards of full disclosure about the “wrong” data. Not when their reaction is to conceal and destroy it.

Nov 25

Will the AGW fraud discredit science?

In response to the mounting evidence of fraud, data falsification, and criminal conspiracy by the “hockey team” clique of climatologists pushing anthropogenic-global-warming (AGW) theory, there has been serious and concerned speculation that the collapse of this scam may damage the credibility of science in general.

This is a reasonable thing to be concerned about, given that the species of toxic slime mold known as “creationists” have been oozing all over the blogosphere with suggestions that evolutionary biology is just as bogus. I think there are three important lessons to be drawn here: one is some reassurance from the history of major scientific frauds, another is a heuristic about when we should be suspicious of “science”, and a third is the importance of transparency.

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Nov 24

Hiding the Decline: Part 1 – The Adventure Begins

From the CRU code file osborn-tree6/ , used to prepare a graph purported to be of Northern Hemisphere temperatures and reconstructions.

; Apply a VERY ARTIFICAL correction for decline!!
valadj=[0.,0.,0.,0.,0.,-0.1,-0.25,-0.3,0.,- 0.1,0.3,0.8,1.2,1.7,2.5,2.6,2.6,$
2.6,2.6,2.6]*0.75 ; fudge factor
if n_elements(yrloc) ne n_elements(valadj) then message,’Oooops!’

This, people, is blatant data-cooking, with no pretense otherwise. It flattens a period of warm temperatures in the 1940s 1930s — see those negative coefficients? Then, later on, it applies a positive multiplier so you get a nice dramatic hockey stick at the end of the century.

All you apologists weakly protesting that this is research business as usual and there are plausible explanations for everything in the emails? Sackcloth and ashes time for you. This isn’t just a smoking gun, it’s a siege cannon with the barrel still hot.

UPDATE2: Now the data is 0.75 scaled. I think I interpreted the yrloc entry incorrectly last time, introducing an off-by-one. The 1400 point (same as the 1904) is omitted as it confuses gnuplot. These are details; the basic hockey-stick shape is unaltered.

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Nov 23

Open-Sourcing the Global Warming Debate

The email and documents recently netjacked from the Climate Research Unit at the University of East Anglia raise serious questions about the quality of the research being used to underpin major public-policy decisions.

In the open-source software community, we understand about human error and sloppiness and the tendency to get too caught up in a pet theory. We know that the most effective way way to combat these tendencies is transparency of process — letting the code speak for itself, and opening the sources to skeptical peer review by anyone.

There is only one way to cut through all of the conflicting claims and agendas about the CRU’s research: open-source it all. Publish the primary data sets, publish the programs used to interpret them and create graphs like the well-known global-temperature “hockey stick”, publish everything. Let the code and the data speak for itself; let the facts trump speculation and interpretation.

We know, from experience with software, that secrecy is the enemy of quality — that software bugs, like cockroaches, shun light and flourish in darkness. So, too. with mistakes in the interpretation of scientific data; neither deliberate fraud nor inadvertent error can long survive the skeptical scrutiny of millions. The same remedy we have found in the open-source community applies – unsurprisingly, since we learned it from science in the first place. Abolish the secrecy, let in the sunlight.

AGW true believers and “denialists” should be able to agree on this: the data get the last word, because without them theory is groundless. The only way for the CRU researchers to clear themselves of the imputation of serious error or fraud is full disclosure of the measurement techniques, the raw primary data sets, the code used to reduce them, and of their decisions during the process of interpretation. They should have nothing to hide; let them so demonstrate by hiding nothing.

The open-source community has many project-hosting sites that are well adapted for this sort of disclosure. If they require assistance in choosing one and learning how to create and manage an open-source project, I and many others in the open-source community will be happy to provide it.

For the future, we need to restore the basic standards of science. No secrecy: no secrecy of data, no secrecy of experimental methods, no secrecy of data-reduction or modeling code. Such transparency and accountability are especially vital when the public-policy stakes are large. This is among the excellent reasons that both the US and UK have Freedom of Information Acts, and the logic of those acts has perhaps never applied more pressingly than it does here.

Nov 21

Hiding the Decline: Prologue

According to the summaries I’ve seen, the 61 megabytes of email and documents net-jacked from the Climate Research Unit a few days ago do not — quite — reify conservatives’ darkest fantasies about “the team” (as the network of professional anthropogenic-global-warming alarmists communicating through CRU likes to style itself). To do that, they’d have to contain marching orders from the Socialist International.

However, the excerpts I’ve seen are already quite damning enough; among other things, they are evidence of criminal conspiracy to violate the Freedom Of Information act. And I no longer have to speculate about the rest; I’ve downloaded the documents from Pirate Bay and will study them myself.

For those of you who have been stigmatizing AGW skeptics as “deniers” and dismissing their charges that the whole enterprise is fraudulent? Hope you like the taste of crow, because I do believe there’s a buttload of it coming at you. Piping hot.

Am I going to blog about it? Heh…try to stop me…

UPDATE: I’ve read about 10% of the material and started a file of notes on it, but been delayed by preparing for a major release on one of my projects. In the meantime, read this excellent summary with links to the original emails.

Jul 01

The Hand-Reared Cat

In a recent comment, I wrote:

Oddly enough, our cat often does come when called, and is rather good at figuring out what humans want and doing it. A few days ago a photographer came out here to take snaps of me for an AP story on NedaNet and was quite startled when I asked the cat to turn around so her head would face the camera, and she did it.

Our cat’s behavior is not doglike servility, though. She pays careful attention to human hands because she associates them with being petted, and she’s a total friction slut. As a result, you can often fetch her, or get her to move, with hand gestures. I made one that directed her attention towards the photographer.

By an odd coincidence, my wife Cathy insisted less than an hour later that I should watch a video of the Moscow Cats Theater (I’d post a link, but I haven’t found that exact one from here). And we both noticed something; as the cats are walking tightropes and so forth, the human trainers are using encouraging, guiding gestures that seem…familiar to us. And, in fact, the cats often seem visually fixated on the trainers’ hands.

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Mar 14

Sugar and the Bathroom Demon

I am now going to blog about my cat.

No, I have not succumbed to the form of endemic Internet illness in which someone believes the cuteness of his or her feline surpasses all bounds and must therefore be shared with the entire universe. But my cat’s behavior raises some interesting questions about animal (and human!) ethology, which seem worth a little thinking time. There are three things that puzzle me in particular: the nature of the bathroom demon, some aspects of her nurturing behavior, and the mystery of the purr.

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Dec 23

Alzheimer’s and Herpes

There’s been a major breakthrough in the understanding of Alzheimer’s disease. Every face-to-face friend I’ve told about this has found it fascinating, and one of my regulars has rightly suggested I should blog it. It seems many cases of Alzheimer’s may be due to brain infection by the herpes simplex Type I virus — the one that gives you cold sores. Researchers at the University of Manchester have found herpes-simplex DNA in the abnormal beta-amyloid plaques found in the brains of Alzheimer’s patients. The implications are huge.

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Dec 17

Old physicists fade away

A commenter writes, replying to my previous post on Eric and the Quantum Experts:

>Eric, you may still have a chance to revolutionize physics, since decoherence by itself may not completely solve the problem.

Alas, I am probably too old now. There is a way outside chance I could do it, yes, but,…hmm…how to explain this…

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Sep 22

Why Alternative Energy Isn’t

As oil prices recede from all-time dollar highs and some of the hot air gets let out of energy policy debates, it’s a good time to remember that here’s a key concept missing from almost every popular discussion of the subject: energy density. Specialist economists get it, but almost nobody else does. It is important to understanding why most forms of “alternative energy” are mirages, and what a sane energy policy would actually look like.

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Jul 05

Dangerous Sons

Some time back I blogged on Hotness in Hollywood. In it I gave Angeline Jolie props for making a game effort at acting in a a movie with a script so execrable that her best effort was doomed, the original Tomb Raider movie. I also praised Liv Tyler playing Arwen, who became my personal all-time favorite example of screen sexiness in the Lord Of The Rings movies. And yes, I know this means I’m a geek; that’s not news to anybody.

My wife Cathy and I saw Wanted last night. Avoid it if you can’t stand the sight of people being shot through the head; otherwise it’s a fun popcorn movie with lots of implausible but extremely well-choreographed ultraviolence. (Well, OK, I started to giggle during the last knife fight a few minutes before the ending, because with the Marine knife-fighting technique my swordmaster taught my wife and I last year either of us could have filleted those two pirouetting idiots in short order.)

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