Category Archives: Science

Hysterical Harvard

Harvard aims to spur advancement of women,” by Marcella Bombardieri, Boston Globe, http://www.boston.com/news/education/higher/articles/2005/02/04/harvard_aims_to_spur_advancement_of_women/, 4 February 2005 (from The Corner).

You are Harvard Univeristy. Your successfully responded to scientific inquiry from your president by making him apologize. What is the next stage . But that’s not enough. You want to demonstrate that women can succeed in science through hard work and intelligence?

Affirmative action!

In response to the outcry that followed Harvard University president Lawrence H. Summers’s remarks on women in the sciences, the university announced yesterday the creation of two task forces to develop concrete ways to better recruit women and support the careers of female scholars at Harvard, especially in science and engineering.

Harvard also announced plans to create a senior position in the central administration to focus on the recruitment and advancement of women on the faculty.

For example, many people had been urging the Faculty of Arts and Sciences to reinstitute the dean for affirmative action, a position that was abolished several years ago. The new senior position for gender diversity seems to be a similar job, though at the higher university level rather than at the level of FAS.

Those who lobbied for that position made “persuasive arguments,” Summers said yesterday. He also said that the new initiative “is something that perhaps we could have done some time ago — addressing these problems on a university-wide level rather than leaving them to the decentralized schools. . . . I think this is an overdue step in taking a university-wide view of these questions.”

What a great school.

Polar Warming Proven

Astronomers Discover ‘Hot Spot’ on Saturn,” Associated Press, http://www.foxnews.com/story/0,2933,146391,00.html, 4 February 2005.

Scientists have announced discovery incontrovertible proof that the South Pole is warming at a rapid pace.

Will this shut down the Gulf Stream?

“The infrared images … suggest a warm polar vortex — a large-scale weather pattern …that occurs in the upper atmosphere.”

Given the rapid rise of CO2 in Earth’s atmosphere, are we to blame?

Probably not.

The team of scientists say the images are the sharpest thermal views of Saturn ever taken from the ground. Their work will be a published in Friday’s editions of the journal Science.

This warm polar cap is believed to contain the highest temperatures on Saturn; the scientists did not give a temperature estimate

Save the World

What part of the European economy that is is irrelevant.,” by “Aaron,” tdaxp, http://www.tdaxp.com/archive/2005/01/31/academic_honesty.html, 2 February 2005.

The study utilized a SETI@home-style aggregation of computation…,” by “Aaron,” tdaxp, http://www.tdaxp.com/archive/2005/01/31/academic_honesty.html, 2 February 2005.

In two comment so interesting they demands a post as a reply, Aaron writes

“Who would we hurt by forcing Ford & brothers to increase fuel efficiency and limit emissions?”

Ford’s workers. Ford’s retirees. Dependents of ford employees. Sick people who depend on Ford’s health insurance. Any environmental trusts Ford gives too. Ford is not a healthy company (http://www.economist.com/displayStory.cfm?Story_ID=1842437 and http://www.economist.com/displaystory.cfm?story_id=1845754). But more to the point…

The study utilized a SETI@home-style aggregation of computation to provide models for what will happen when CO2 levels double. This is not a question of “if” but “when”. The history of CO2 levels is measurable by pulling up cores of Arctic ice. If you have Excel, here is that data. A linear regression model shows the rampup and the projected date of occurrance.

Using the data you provided with the Global Policy Forum’s historic gross world product table, one gets this

medium_carbdiogrowth.jpg

But more interesting is this one

medium_carbdiogrowth1976.jpg

It helps one get a feel for the insignificant contribution of economic growth in atmospheric carbon dioxide pressure.

I think you’re right to use linear regression to model CO2. Some quick calculations show the slope is about .41% of 1959 a year. Now this is somewhat exaggerated (the Mount Pinotubo explosion threw up so much carbon dioxide and other particles into the atmosphere that this climate forcing was more profound than from the opposite anthropogenic greenhouse gases and the Simultaneous El Nino event during 1991 to 1993), but it’s about right. At the same time the World Economy has been growing at an average compounded rate of 3.33% (or “linearly regressed” to a slope of 6.13%). That’s about a factor of ten — an order of magnitude.

One of these trends is unique of all of human history. It has lifted billions out of poverty and gave billions a life that was not nasty, brutish, and short.

The other… well, it’s not clear. It’s not clear how reliable how historic CO2 measurements are. It’s not clear what the real effect of an increase in CO2 production is. The CO2 picture’s noise.

Projecting using those rates forward, from 2005 to 2100, we see CO2 pressure increasing 32.82% — about the same percentage increase as from the Revolution until now. In the same time period gross world product increases two-thousand two-hundred fifty-four percent , a twenty-two (22.5456) fold increase. Think about that for a moment — if in 2100 we spend the equivalent of twenty-one of our current global economies on a heroic carbon scrubbing expedition, or whatever, with no economic growth resulting, the world is half-again as well off as it is now and that’s just a rounding error.

I do not think we will ever get to that point. The world is becoming increasingly energy-neutral. Energy increase increases negligably with GDP growth in advanced countries, and every country is getting more advanced. As our world moves from “atoms to bits” our energy usage will naturally decrease.

And now for the moral case…

“I get your side, Dan. People want to do better financially.”

Virtually all wars occur between states where one has an annual income of less than $3,000/year. These people are desperate, and the mass death on both sides resulting from war is a good gamble for them, because otherwise they have nothing. If we can create a bountiful world, war will fade away.

We complain about the costs of medicines, but with a world twenty-two times as rich think what medicines will be created! Think of the catastrophe of famine that has never been visited upon an industrialized democracy. Think about how cost effective it will be for the rich world to mass vaccinate the needy of the world. Think of the scientific wonders we can invent with twenty-two times the investment.

It is not about “doing better financially.” It about ending want. The worldwide capitalist revolution has destroyed hunger, misery, slavery, and war where it prevails, and is rapidly wiping out sickness. Let’s end all of those things.

You say the sky is not falling. I agree. You say it is poverty that drives South American farmers to destroy the jungles. I agree. So knowing that the sky is not falling, let’s end poverty and save the world.

Academic Honesty

Shrinking polar icecaps (and credibility),” by Gaijinbiker, Riding Sun, http://ridingsun.blogspot.com/2005/01/shrinking-polar-icecaps-and.html, 31 January 2005.

You’re exactly right,” by Dan, Riding Sun, http://ridingsun.blogspot.com/2005/01/shrinking-polar-icecaps-and.html#110718078243455046, 31 January 2005.

A new report on global warming is out. I’m not a climate scientist, and people who I respect are on boths sides of the debate — often in surprising way. But the article is a joke.

Gaijinbiker explains:

When you measure the same thing twice, you don’t expect the second result to be double the first. If it is, that’s a clue that your measurements are worthless. If the second try is 100% higher, perhaps a third try would yield results 100% lower — that is, zero.

My response?

You’re exactly right.

For my graduate degree (Computer Science) I had to build a model simulation large-scale systems. Results had to be consistent with itself and the real world. 100% variation is a failure — or more academically, a field for future research — not a conclusion.

But it doesn’t end there. In the original post, Gaijinbiker points out another problem

Also notable is that the article mentions only the report’s “worst-case” scenario. How likely is that scenario to occur? Ten percent? One percent? .00001 percent? And what are the other scenarios like? How likely are they? Are there any where the earth actually gets cooler?

It would be nice to know.

However, Mr. Connor apparently sees his purpose as terrifying Britons into immediate and unwarranted action, rather than skeptically assessing the most drastic outcome of a single new study.

Again, exactly right.

I’m not an expert on simulation design or criticism, but the guys on my committee where. If I would have presented, as my results, the most extreme outcome I’d be laughed out of the room, if not asked to leave the university.

The results of a simulation are taken. They are explained, and areas that seem particularly weak or interesting become “future research.” I was lucky to complete my studies under very experienced and knowldgeable professors. They taught me the pitfalls of simulation building, and how a simulation can be perverted for personal or political gain (one had been contracted to simulate how to “win” a thermonuclear exchange using equipment from only one military contractor — single-source the apocalypse!).

At best, the press coverage of this is biased and inaccurate. Alternatively, the scientists involved are shockingly unprofessional. At worst, they are academically dishonest.

Shroud of Turin

Shroud of Turin: Old as Jesus?,” New York Times, http://www.nytimes.com/2005/01/27/science/27shroud.html, 27 January 2005.

Without comment

The Shroud of Turin is much older than the medieval date that modern science has affixed to it and could be old enough to have been the burial wrapping of Jesus, a new analysis concludes.

Since 1988, most scientists have confidently concluded that it was the work of a medieval artist, because carbon dating had placed the production of the fabric between 1260 and 1390.

In an article this month in the journal Thermochimica Acta, Dr. Raymond N. Rogers, a chemist retired from Los Alamos National Laboratory, said the carbon dating test was valid but that the piece tested was about the size of a postage stamp and came from a portion that had been patched.

“We’re darned sure that part of the cloth was not original Shroud of Turin cloth,” he said, adding that threads from the main part of the shroud were pure linen, which is spun from flax.

The threads in the patched portion contained cotton as well and had been dyed to match.

From other tests, he estimated that the shroud was between 1,300 and 3,000 years old.

Evolutionary Dogma

Ga. Evolution Stickers Ordered Removed,” by Doug Gross, Associated Press, http://www.guardian.co.uk/uslatest/story/0,1282,-4730889,00.html, 13 January 2005.

Macro-evolution, the creation of a new species, is only fact,” by “spunky,” Democratic Underground, http://www.democraticunderground.com/discuss/duboard.php?az=show_mesg&forum=102&topic_id=1147838&mesg_id=1147954&page=, 13 January 2005.

Another defeat for states, sciences, and common sense

ATLANTA (AP) – A federal judge on Thursday ordered the removal of stickers placed in high school biology textbooks that call evolution “a theory, not a fact,” saying they were an unconstitutional endorsement of religion.

The disclaimers were put in the books by school officials in suburban Cobb County in 2002.

“Adopted by the school board, funded by the money of taxpayers, and inserted by school personnel, the sticker conveys an impermissible message of endorsement and tells some citizens that they are political outsiders while telling…

Predictably the article babbles off into gaimisms, but what was the judge saying? That presenting a point of view tells some people they are outsiders? Schools have been pushing propoganda for ages. From historical viewpoints, to social science theories, to idiotic message posters, to Goals 2000 P.R.

The real question is, what was the federal reason for stopping Georgia from placing the following message in science books:

“This textbook contains material on evolution. Evolution is a theory, not a fact, regarding the origin of living things. This material should be approached with an open mind, studied carefully and critically considered.”

This is true. Facts are data points. Theories are models that explain data points. Evolution, meaning the historical change of species over time, is a theory. So is Newtonian gravity. For years we thought Newton was right, until observations shows series problems with his formulae.

Science is all about approaching material with an open mind. Buying into politically-correct evolutionary theory is not science, unless the student sees that its supported by the evidence.

I’m Catholic. The Church has, for centuries, taught that Genesis should not be taken literally. I believe the fundementalists are making a number of serious mistakes, and that their opposition to historical evoultion is one of them. But I don’t see how using public schools and federal courts to attack them with all the elegance of a chainsaw helps matters.

An atheist Master of Science in Physical Anthropology agrees

Macro-evolution, the creation of a new species, is only fact if someone has actually witnessed these fruitflies turn into a new species of fruitfly, incapable of mating with the previous species of fruitfly.

Perhaps this has been done and I am unaware of it, but I’d have to see a link to a scientific journal to believe it.

The choice for the federal courts and public schools is: should they teach free taught of dogma? By prohibiting disension of evolutionary theory, we know what they have chosen.