Archive for the ‘Science’ Category

Words to live by

February 22, 2012

Megan McArdle wrote the following when discussing the fake Heartland memo:

After you have convinced people that you fervently believe your cause to be more important than telling the truth, you’ve lost the power to convince them of anything else.
Precisely.  That would be my primary filter when choosing who to listen to, and who to associate with.  If you believe it’s ok to lie to advance your cause, then nothing you say, do, believe, or think will ever have any positive value.
She also wrote
in truth, it’s hard to feel too sorry for Heartland, given how gleefully they embraced the ClimateGate leaks.
That is mostly true.  The ClimateGate leakers were decent human beings, so they xxx’ed out personal information before posting the emails.  Peter Gleick and the 15 people he sent the information to, OTOH, didn’t do that.  Because, after all, instead of being decent human beings, they’re righteous warriors for the truth of global warming climate change, and those who disagree with them, or work for someone who disagrees with them, don’t deserve privacy or basic human respect.

Here’s the lazy man’s no science needed guide to why the anthropogenic global warming crowd is not worth listening to

February 27, 2011

Ken at PopeHat wrote the following:

As a result of my laziness, I am willfully ignorant — practically innumerate and scientifically demi-literate. Thus, when I evaluate the scientific issues of the day — from global warming to evolution — I am, on some level, succumbing to an argument from authority. Which people spouting science I barely grasp, using methodology I can’t follow past the Sunday-supplement level, do I believe?

As it happens, I find the evidence (as I understand it) of evolution to be very substantially more convincing than the criticisms levied against it. Similarly, I find the evidence of a global warming trend more convincing than the evidence and arguments to the contrary. The weight of consensus on one side or the other is one factor, though by no means a deciding factor. The whys and wherefores of that are far beyond the scope of this post.

I offered the following comment, reproduced here in case it gets lost in moderation:

Here’s the lazy man’s unscientific guide to why the anthropogenic global warming (human caused global warming) crowd is not worth listening to.

1: If the people who claimed they believe in it actually did believe in it, it would affect their actions, and their lives.

Al Gore, nevertheless, had a house in Nashville TN that used 20x the average amount of energy. Further, he had a swimming pool, and did not have a solar heater for teh swimming pool, even though solar heaters are cost effective. Would he act that way if he actually thought there was a problem?

Or, consider this. As a logical matter it is simply not possible to believe all four of the following things. Nevertheless, those trumpeting that “we must do something” tend to hold all four beliefs:

A: The world is warming up
B: This warming is caused by human activity
C: This warming is a bad thing, will lead to disaster, it’s a serious crisis, we must cut down on carbon emissions right now!
D: We should not make it easier, cheaper, and faster to build nuclear power plants, despite the fact that replacing coal, oil, and gas fired power plants with nuclear plants would lead to a significant and near immediate decrease in carbon emissions.

2: ClimateGate. Real science is reproducible. If you publish a paper claiming that you got certain results, and no one else can get those same results doing what you said you did, the immediate assumption in scientific circles is that you have committed fraud. This is why, when you publish a scientific paper, you have to give pretty much anyone who asks everything they need to re-create your work.

This is non-negotiable in pretty much every area of science (and pretty much every area of research. Remember Michael Bellesiles and Arming America”? His fraud was discovered when those who disagreed with him tried to replicate his research, and couldn’t).

Except for Climate “Science”. ClimateGate happened because the people at CRU fought tooth and nail to avoid having to release the data, tools, and methods behind their published papers. Post release, they’ve admitted that they can not replicate the data behind their papers.

None of the “scientific” groups that claim to release historical temperature records have ever given a full release of the data, tools, and methods behind their claims. None of them have ever said “here’s the data we used, here’s what we did to clean up and organize the data, here’s the programs (with source code) we used to do it.”

If they were not perpetrating fraud, they would have done that. It’s what any real scientist would do after publishing a paper based on a data set that they’d worked on. But if they did that, then people who do understand the science would be able to examine their assumptions. Would be able to point out how other, perfectly reasonable, ways of adjusting the data would lead to results that totally contradict the “scientists” preferred results.

How do I know that’s true? Because if it wasn’t true, there would be no reason not to release the data.

3: When last I checked the numbers, there was a heating trend of 1 degree C from 1900 to 1950, a cooling trend of 0.5 degrees C from 1950 to 1970, a warming trend of 0.3 degrees C from 1970 to 1998, and a flat to cooling trend since then. Going from that to “Human industrial activity is warming the planet, oh woe is us” requires a great ability to ignore any data that contradicts your preferred fantasy.

Kudos to DougJ for drawing the line just right so he could ignore all the inconvenient data.

State worker pay and the value of a college education

February 27, 2011

By way of the MinuteMan I came across this article in the NY Times comparing the pay of State workers to private sector workers.  Key grafs:

The clearest pattern to emerge is an educational divide: workers without college degrees tend to do better on state payrolls, while workers with college degrees tend to do worse. That divide has grown more pronounced in recent decades. Since 1990, the median wage of state workers without college degrees has come to surpass that of workers in the private sector. During the same period, though, college-educated state workers have seen their median pay lag further behind their peers in the private sector.

At the local level, the phenomenon is similar: the median wage for college-educated workers trails that of their private-sector counterparts by about 20 percent, while local workers without college degrees earn 10 percent more than their private-sector peers.

This is a clear example of “people unclear on the concept” (and I’m sad to say Tom appears to have missed this as well).  Allow me to break some new for the NY Times:

All college degrees are not equal.

Consider the folowing fields of “study”:

Sociology, Ethnic studies, Queer studies, History, Literature, Education, History of Consciousness, Political Science, Women’s Studies

What percentage of government employees have degrees in those fields?  What is the actual, real world value of the “education” received while attaining those degrees?  0?  Something negative?

higher education bubble, meet overpaid government workers.

Because while the private sector certainly suffers from too much credentialitis, it’s not nearly as bad there as it is in government, where people often get raises based solely on the fact that they’ve received a degree, no matter what that degree is.

You want to compare public and private sector?  Great, compare apples to apples.  Compare public school teacher salaries to private school teacher salaries.  Leave out the seniority, and whether they have an advanced degree, because that is irrelevant.  The only thing that is relevant is “how good is the teacher at teaching her / his students?”  And the “Teacher’s Unions” fight tooth and nail against any attempt to figure that out, let alone reward people based on it.

“Because the public sector is much more likely to be highly educated, we would fully expect them to earn more on average because of that, just like we would expect somebody with a master’s degree to earn more than somebody with a high school education,” said Keith A. Bender, an economics professor at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, who has studied compensation in the public and private sectors.

Wrong, wrong, wrong.  I would hope and expect that the average mechanic makes far more than does the average person with a Racist or Sexists Studies degree, be it BA, MA, or PH. D.  Certainly the mechanic has learned far more of value, and provides far more value, than does anyone with such a degree.

What would actually be interesting, valuable, and never actually happen, is a comparison of degrees.  Federal / State / Local Government Employees / Private sector workers v. actual degrees attained (Field and whether it’s a BA / BS / MA / MS / Ph. D.).  It will never happen, because the results would show that the “college educated” goverment “workers”, by and large, have a much higher percentage of joke degress than do people in the private sector.

Which would quite adequately explain why they “make less”.

More Global Warming fantasies

June 20, 2009

Some useful information from John Tierney

The new federal report on climate change gets a withering critique from Roger Pielke Jr., who says that it misrepresents his own research and that it wrongly concludes that climate change is already responsible for an increase in damages from natural disasters. Dr. Pielke, a professor of environmental studies at the University of Colorado, asks:

[Why] is a report characterized by [White House] Science Advisor John Holdren as being the “most up-to-date, authoritative, and comprehensive” analysis relying on a secondary, non-peer source citing another non-peer reviewed source from 2000 to support a claim that a large amount of uncited and more recent peer-reviewed literature says the opposite about?

You can check out Dr. Pielke’s blog for a detailed rebuttal of how the report presents science in his area of expertise, the study of trends in natural disasters and their relation to climate change. While the new federal report (prepared by 13 agencies and the White House) paints a dire picture of climate change’s impacts, Dr. Pielke says that the authors of this new report, like those of previous reports from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change and the Stern Review, cherrypick weak evidence that fits their own policy preferences. He faults all these reports for all relying on “non-peer reviewed, unsupportable studies rather than the relevant peer-reviewed literature” and for “featuring non-peer-reviewed work conducted by the authors.”

Dr. Pielke contrasts these reports’ conclusions about trends in natural disasters with the some quite different findings last year by the federal Climate Change Science Program. Dr. Pielke summarizes some of its less sensational conclusions:

1. Over the long-term, U.S. hurricane landfalls have been declining.
2. Nationwide there have been no long-term increases in drought.
3. Despite increases in some measures of precipitation . . . there have not been corresponding increases in peak streamflows (high flows above 90th percentile).
4. There have been no observed changes in the occurrence of tornadoes or thunderstorms
5. There have been no long-term increases in strong East Coast winter storms (ECWS), called Nor’easters.
6. There are no long-term trends in either heat waves or cold spells, though there are trends within shorter time periods in the overall record.

I am shocked, shocked, to discover that the Obama Administration’s Angencies are committing fraud in order to advance their political / fantasy agenda of anthropogenic global warming!

More from Tim Blair.

Destroying a post with an aside

April 24, 2009

Megan McArdle has a great post about debate / discussion tactics up, where she firmly points out that making an argument you don’t believe in, because you think it might help you “win”, tends to drive away your listeners once they catch you at it. It was an excellent post, until she got to her last paragraph. Then she babbled this

Think of the ridiculous debates over breast cancer and abortion, or the rear-guard action against climate-change science.

My response to her

The Earth’s been cooling for the last decade, we’re at a century low for sunspots, the AGW proponents still can’t come up with a computer climate model that works going backwards (and if you can’t predict the past, NASA’s recently released a study blaming Arctic Warming on the elimination of aerosol particle emissions starting in the 70s, why in the world would we think you could predict the future?), and yet you claim that it’s the opponents of the “climate change” / AGW fantasy who are engaging in a “rear-guard action”?

(All that setting aside the way proponents of Anthropogenic Global Warming have switched to calling it “climate change”, since this “lets” them claim that any bad climate, temp up or down, is “caused” by CO2 emissions.  Now that is an example of a “ridiculous” “rear-guard action”.)

Where exactly are you getting those drugs?

She really does need to occasionally get outside of the NY – DC – Boston corridor. 😦

More polution = less warming

April 14, 2009

I found this mildly amusing

People have blamed the retreat of ice in the Arctic on carbon-dioxide driven global warming.  However, new research at NASA suggests that environmental intervention in the 1970s could bear most of the blame.  The elimination of aerosol particle emissions have removed a cooling element for the northern hemisphere, which has reduced a natural balance in the climate on the effect of human activities:

New research from NASA suggests that the Arctic warming trend seen in recent decades has indeed resulted from human activities: but not, as is widely assumed at present, those leading to carbon dioxide emissions. Rather, Arctic warming has been caused in large part by laws introduced to improve air quality and fight acid rain.

Dr Drew Shindell of NASA’s Goddard Institute of Space Studies has led a new study which indicates that much of the general upward trend in temperatures since the 1970s – particularly in the Arctic – may have resulted from changes in levels of solid “aerosol” particles in the atmosphere, rather than elevated CO2. Arctic temperatures are of particular concern to those worried about the effects of global warming, as a melting of the ice cap could lead to disastrous rises in sea level – of a sort which might burst the Thames Barrier and flood London, for instance.

Go there to read the whole thing.

So now we know: Obama does not believe “Climate Change” is a problem

April 14, 2009

There’s one thing that’s going to be true about anybody who thinks that human activities are screwing up the planet: they’re not going to do the things that they think are screwing up the planet.  With this news report, we now know that President obama does not, in fact, believe that “excessive” carbon-based energy usage is a threat to the planet.  because if he did, he would ahve had the White house Cook make the damn pizza.

Obamas fly in chef 860 miles… just to make pizza

When you’re the president of the United States, only the best pizza will do – even if that means flying a chef  860 miles.

Chris Sommers, 33, jetted into Washington from St Louis, Missouri, on Thursday with a suitcase of dough, cheese and pans to to prepare food for the Obamas and their staff.

He had apparently been handpicked after the President had tasted his pizzas on the campaign trail last autumn.

‘It’s surreal, it’s a huge honour,’ said Mr Sommers, who owns Pi restaurant in St Louis.

‘It will be a casual lunch and hopefully we’ll have a chance to say hello to the president.’

Mr Somers was accompanied by this business parnter Ryan Mangilardo who will help prepare the dinner for 140 this evening.

People who don’t believe in genetics

February 10, 2009

Henry Ferrel at Crooked Timber is babbling about “gender justice”. He does an interesting study with his students

1. Are you male, or female. (If you’re not sure, just pick one, if you reject the question, sit out the exercise).
2. During your teen years did you get paid to do babysitting more than 10 times?
3. Do you anticipate having children? If not, sit this out.

Here are three kinds of parenting arrangement.
A)Father led parenting: the father spends substantially more time than the mother looking after the children and thinking about their wellbeing over the course of their childhoods
B)Mother led parenting: the mother spends substantially more time than the father looking after the children and thinking about their wellbeing over the course of their childhoods
C)Egalitarian parenting: the mother and father spend roughly the same amount of time looking after the children and thinking about their wellbeing.

4. Think just about yourself for the moment. Which of A, B, and C best characterizes your expectations for your prospective family life.
5. Now think about your FIVE best friends. Which of A, B, and C best characterizes your expectations for most of their family lives? (eg, you expect 3 or more of them to be Father-led, answer A).

…But for 4 and 5 I get almost exactly the same numbers almost every time. Here they are.

4. Boys: A 0%; B 85%; C 15% Girls A 10%; B 25%; C 65%
5. Boys: A 0%; B 85%; C 15% Girls A 0%; B 75%; C 25%

Unfortunately, he displays his complete cluelessness with the following remark:

I only recently added question 2), so I have less confidence about the answers to that one than the others. The one time I’ve done that in a large class, about 5% of the boys answered “yes”, whereas about 65% of the girls did. (The point of that question is abut socialisation, which has a key role in Okin’s argument).

This inspired the following comment from me.  Since they moderate their comments, i’m not holding my breathe waiting for it to get posted:

Gosh, or it could be that, even as girls, females are more interested in “caring” rolls that guys are.

Ask a 13 year old boy or a 13 year old girl the following question: would you rather do yard work at $5 / hour, or babysit at $5 / hour? What do you think the distribution of answers will be? Is that because they’ve been “socialized” differently, or is it because males and females are different, both physiologically and psychologically?

It’s a never ending source of amusment for me how leftists claim to believe in “science”, except when it gets in the way of their politics. Men and women are inherently, genetically, different. Women have two X Chromosomes. Men have one X Chromosome, and one Y Chromosome,. The Y Chromosome, has genes on it that don’t appear on the X Chromosome,. While most of the genes on one of a woman’s X Chromosomes will get inactivated (each cell gets to chose which X will be inactivated), not all are. Furthermore, hormones affect which genes are active, and are known to affect how we think / act. And men and women have different hormones active in their bodies, in different concentrations.

You can lie to people, you can play games with people. You can try to indotrinate them with your fantasies as to how life should be. But not matter what games you play, reality still gets a vote. And the reality is that the major differences between men and women aren’t caused by “socialization”, and they aren’t just “social constructs”. Until you and your co-fantasists are willing to accept that, “gender justice” will remain a sad and pathetic joke.

The problem of Faith

July 27, 2008

There’s an interesting article on Atheism that Wired did in November 2006. I’ll be getting to more of the issues it raises later, but I thought this point was critical:

There’s good evidence from research by anthropologists such as Pascal Boyer and Scott Atran that a grab bag of cognitive predispositions makes us natural believers.

The problem is, that’s correct. And it’s true regardless of whether or not your “beliefs” are “super-natural”. The modern environmental movement is a constant refuge for those who want to believe, but no longer have a “God”. Consider “Anthropogenic Global Warming”. It doesn’t matter that the “warming” of the 20th Century all happened from 1900 – 1950 (when the “temperature of the Earth” went up 1.0 degrees C), and that the temperature actually dropped 0.2 degrees C from 1950 – 2000 (down 0.5 C from 1950 – 1970, up 0.3 from 1970 – 2000), it doesn’t matter that the Kyoto Accord wouldn’t accomplish a damn thing, even if all it’s signatories followed it rigorously, all that matters is that Mankind is Evil, and must Repent it’s ways.

Then there’s “nutrition”. The news hit last week that a study looked at ways to lose weight, and found (once again) that fat is fine, and carbs are bad. That it doesn’t matter whether the fats are saturated or unsaturated. That low carbs and don’t worry about the calories (or the fats) is better for losing weight, and better for your cholesterol, than low fats and calorie restriction. What’s the response: lots of religious zealotry about how meat is still bad, blah, blah, blah. The people who “study” nutrition “science” hav their beliefs, and nothing will change them. That’s not science, that’s religion.

IMHO, we’d be a lot better off if all those “natural believers” just picked a real religion to join, focused their need for belief on their religion, and stopped inflicting it on science and politics.

Medical Heroes of the 21st Century

July 13, 2008

Beldar has a post morning the death of Dr. DeBakey, a man who revolutionized surgical treatment of heart problems. In his post Beldar says “I doubt any single physician or scientist is likely to have so phenomenal an impact on medical science in the 21st Century as he did in the 20th.” Which got me thinking: What will be the breakthrough medical technologies of the 21st Century? My thoughts:

  1. Safe genetic therapy: Gaining the ability to turn off existing genes in a human (including, but not limited to, adult humans), and adding new genes, with the same, or different, regulation as the existing gene (since sometimes it’s the regulation of the gene that’s the problem).
  2. The “real” “mapping” of the human genome: We currently have a set of DNA sequences of human genomes. But we have no real clue what they mean. Figuring out where the genetic components of height, weight, intelligence, athletic ability, etc. reside, as well as where to find all the genetic diseases, is going to be a big task, and a big help once it’s done.
  3. Functional medical nanotech: This one will be bigger than anything else, assuming we can do it. Machines in your body to hunt down rips and tears, and repair them. To find the places where plaque is accumulating in your arteries (or in your brain), and remove it. Find early stage cancerous cells, and kill them. Go into your joints, and build more cartilage when your body falls behind, and thus stop arthritis. Go into your bones, and build more bone when your body fails to keep up: no more osteoporosis. Hunt down, destroy, and cause to be excreted “excess” fat cells (goodbye dieting). Examine your food intake, and manufacture any amino acids, or other “vitamins” you need that aren’t merely trace elements, when you need them (goodbye malnutrition, so long as you can get calories).
  4. Superior medical prosthetics: We’re starting to get there (see the case of the double amputee runner who was told he couldn’t compete in the Olympics because his artificial legs were better for running than real ones. Happily, that decision was reversed), but we have a long way to go. Highly functional artificial ears, and eyes, will end up helping a lot of people.

That’s off the top of my head. What am I missing?

Update; Hmm, how about 5: Personal implants: I’m not sure if this qualifies as groundbreaking medical technology, but I’m certainly looking forward to the day when we have Oath of Fealty level computer impants to connect our brains directly to computers.

Gene engineering v. HIV

July 5, 2008

From Wired we get the following slightly over the top headline, and interesting story:

Gene Editing Could Make Anyone Immune to AIDS

By Aaron Rowe

Some people have a mutation that makes them amazingly resistant to HIV — and now, scientists may have found a way to give that immunity to anyone.

Here’s a hint: “amazingly resistant” does not equal “immune”.

Viruses enter cells and take them over, but to get inside, they need a handhold. HIV pulls itself in by grabbing onto a protein called CCR5, which decorates the surface of T-cells, which are one of the two major types of white blood cells and play an important role in helping the body fight infections. Back in the 1990’s, researchers took interest in a handful of promiscuous gay men who were able to engage in sexual relations with their HIV-positive partners with impunity. Most of them had a mutation that kept their cells from producing normal CCR5 protein.

Armed with that knowledge, scientists have developed several tactics to block the production of CCR5 or perturb its shape so that the HIV virus can’t grab onto it during the first step of its hijacking attempt. The strategy is much akin to cutting your hair before a wrestling match: It gives your opponent one less thing to grab onto.

Actually, it’s more akin to “bricking up all the doors and windows in your house to keep out burglars.” Which is to say that while it may work, it may also have interesting / unplanned / unwanted side effects. Because CCR5 is there for some purpose, and the odds are high that the mutation (negatively) affects that purpose, too.

In the latest version of this defense, Carl June and his colleagues at the University of Pennsylvania used a highly engineered protein, called a zinc finger nuclease, to clip the CCR5 gene out of some T-cells. Left without the recipe for that protein, the cells are nearly impenetrable. His report appeared on the Nature Biotechnology website yesterday.

June tested the procedure on cultured T-cells and mice — not humans — so it should be a source of guarded optimism, because it’s not certain the technique would work in humans. In theory, AIDS doctors could take some T-cells out of an infected person, edit their genomes, and stick them back into their patient. Once they have returned to the body, each resistant cell will thrive and multiply in spite of the disease. This trick would not eliminate the virus, but it might be able to permanently raise the T-cell counts of AIDS patients, increasing their ability to resist secondary infections and remain healthy.

Um, no.

You body makes billions of T-cells a week. So unless you’re doing this to patients on a regular basis, or you gene engineer their hematopoietic stem cells so that all new T-cells come out so modified, this isn’t going to do much good.

I’s going to be interesting to see how long it takes before we’ll get some researchers with the balls to do it the right way (gene engineering HSCs), and even more interesting to see how the anti-biotech nuts will react to the proposed studies.