Archive for the ‘Science’ Category

Gender is not a construct

Tuesday, December 15th, 2009

But is it really a process?

This looks like a big step toward some scenarios found in science fiction. It will be a while, perhaps a long while, before this is developed into a viable medical treatment, but probably less time than you may think. Fascinating things are going on in science. It’s tough to keep up anymore.

Today’s AGW post

Monday, December 14th, 2009

Just a couple of links. First, the hockey stick graph was discredited a few years ago. Even if you consider it valid, however, try examining it in longer-term historical context.

Second, the East Anglia CRU records showed an increasing temperature trend for Antarctica. I wonder how that happened. Comments #13 and #26 in the thread are also interesting.

Third, the East Anglia CRU has problems – data that has been online for years is no longer available on their site. They’re either doing a clumsy attempt to cover things up, or their IT department is staffed by incompetents. Or both.

Fourth, the British Met (Meteorology) Office has a long list of scientists who still believe in AGW, and don’t think the current situation detracts from its validity. Bishop Hill found it interesting to note several prominent climate scientists who aren’t signatories.

Fifth, we have one response to awkward questions about the situation – call the guards to prevent more of them being asked:

Maybe I’m confused …

Friday, December 4th, 2009

But, isn’t this what Larry Summers lost his job over?

AGW Update

Friday, December 4th, 2009

There’s a lot of good analysis and commentary out there. Bishop Hill is a good place to start.

This guest post at JoNova makes a strong claim, but has some interesting graphs and information.

This post has a lot of good information.

This post isn’t actually about AGW, but it brings up the famous faked “hockey stick” graph in order to introduce another graph that shows a real hockey stick shape. Scary stuff, indeed.

Charlatans and thieves

Friday, November 27th, 2009

I’ve always been suspicious of anthropogenic global warming (AGW). I don’t doubt that climate is changing; it’s always changing. I’ve just been leery of trusting the predictions, particularly since reading some years ago that scientists can’t tell whether clouds are an overall positive or negative contributor.

It now appears that that mistrust was justified; the release of the emails and other files from the University of East Anglia’s Climate Research Unit demonstrate that these people have been lying for years in order to advance the agenda of the “we’re all gonna die – government’s gotta take charge now!” people.

These people aren’t doing science; there’s evidence that they’ve colluded to prevent scientists with contrary positions from being published, lamented that they had to manipulate the data because it didn’t match their positions, and conspired to thwart releasing their data and code in response to Freedom of Information requests.

Even though it’s an English university, it’s important to Americans – indeed, to everyone in the world. It’s apparently one of four “authoritative” climate research centers in the world, and is partially supported by funds from American taxpayers.

People have pointed out suspicious language (“hide the decline”) and possible criminal conspiracies in the emails, but the key files appear to be related to the computer code they used for their “models.” I put the word “models” in quotes because they don’t appear to have actually used any modeling in their projections; they merely extrapolated trend lines. Unfortunately, the trends they’re extrapolating don’t appear to be real and accurate. Not only have people found artificial “hockey-stick-shaped” corrections in the code that get applied to the data, there is a file named Harry_Read_Me.txt in the released files which contains the notes of a programmer working on the code they used to make their projections. Among his notes and comments, we find the information that he couldn’t replicate their published results, and that the data files were improperly identified, didn’t have consistent format, and had automatic and manual adjustments applied to them. When the CRU “scientists” blew off a FOIA request by saying that they’d “lost” the original data (at least one of the emails contained a threat to delete the data rather than release it), they may not have been lying.

Replication is key to science. Scientists are expected to release their data and methodology, and other scientists are expected to try to poke holes in it. The CRU people have prevented this, and along with the revelations in these files, it means that everything the CRU has released that promotes the view that AGW is real and a problem has been discredited. We can’t trust anything they’ve said. It also means that none of the actions that have been called for to deal with the “problem” of AGW should be taken – why should we take action based on information that we can neither trust nor verify?

This issue not been covered much by the major new media. Ace notes that that fits his expectations that, with respect to hacked information, the media cover the contents of the information if it works against the right, and focuses on the method of acquisition if it works against the left.

Reference links:

A personal history of dealing with CRU concerning FOI requests.

Daily Bayonet’s Weekly Roundup

A good roundup on the CRU computer code.

Charles Martin on the CRU computer programs. Don’t miss this comment, specifically, the second paragraph.

Good information on Harry_Read_Me.txt here, particularly in the comments.

More on the computer programs.

Something else about one of the CRU “scientists” here.

This is not related to the CRU scandal, but it shows how much of our efforts may be incorrectly-focused.

Thoughts from esr on transparency and trust in science.

I’ve written about AGW before, here and here. I thought I’d written about the discovery that the famous “hockey-stick” graph of global temperatures was based on cherry-picked data, but I guess I hadn’t.

Miscellany 4

Tuesday, November 17th, 2009

Lots of miscellaneous stuff here today. I actually started the post yesterday, but my browser crashed. Good thing I’d saved a copy of the article-in-progress before that happened.

First, Everything You Need To Know About Human / Cat Relationships Summed Up In One Picture.

Need a laugh track? Perhaps something more versatile?

Guns are such horrible, evil, nasty things that in England, you can now be convicted and sent to jail for turning in a weapon someone discards on your property.

I can’t say that I listen to girl groups much (Värttinä is the only recent one that comes to mind, and given that they’ve released a 25th anniversary CD, aren’t they a “woman” group rather than a “girl” group?), but there are certainly some girls in girl groups that are really cute (perky brunette alert … yow!). It would have been an attractive dress even if someone hadn’t taken scissors to it.

Frankie Sandford

Worst storm of the year in England. I thought this photo was particularly impressive:

Newhaven lighthouse

I never realized that Charles Dickens based Ebenezer Scrooge on a real person.

You say you know a couple who’ve been together a long time? This long?

I knew there was a reason I didn’t like amusement park rides. Several years back, there was a major hailstorm in Denver (baseball-sized hail in some areas), and at least two employees at Elitch Gardens abandoned their stations, leaving people stuck on the rides. I guess the lesson here is never to get onto any ride that you can’t climb down from unassisted. Think anyone will let you practice?

Sure, deck your lower limbs in pants,
Yours are the legs, my sweeting.
You look divine as you advance –
Have you seen yourself retreating?
– Ogden Nash

This makes an uncomfortable amount of sense.

An explanation of computation theory for lawyers. I remember courses described as “Physics for Jocks,” but this isn’t the same sort of thing.

This sounds like a fun game, but I imagine, based on the name, that you’re supposed to play quietly.

No JATO required

Thursday, November 12th, 2009

I was watching a recorded episode of Mythbusters this evening (the one where they ran cars over a cliff to see if they’d explode the way they do in Hollywood movies). I don’t think it’s unexpected that the cars didn’t explode unless they were made to explode – I think we all know that Hollywood tends to go for spectacle when given a choice.

It reminded me of something I read years ago, probably back in the 1970s. Japanese-built cars were starting to make significant inroads into the US market, and the article suggested that one reason was the perceived quality of the cars as evidenced in the movies. Specifically, he talked about stereotypical chase scenes along a cliff.

In the American movies, the hero would exit the car just before it burst through the guardrail and exploded into flame in mid-air. In the Japanese movies, the hero would exit the car just before it burst through the guardrail and tumbled down the the side of the hill/mountain. When the hero caught up to the car at the bottom of the slope, he’d push it back onto its wheels if he had to, then hop back in and drive away, usually to continue the pursuit.

Is it any wonder Japanese cars acquired a reputation for being built well?

Miscellany 3

Thursday, October 29th, 2009

I’m by no means a full-blown birther, but I have always felt that there were things to be concerned about. That said, this is an interesting newspaper headline from 2004 for someone to have found. I wish I could remember who to credit for the link I followed to get there.

Ever wonder why spouts drip once you’ve finished pouring? Cyril Duez not only knows, he knows what to do about it.

I think I’ve posted a link to this clock before, but it’s worth another.

When my family moved to Del Rio, Texas in the early 1970s, I used to joke that the thing I liked best about the move was the fact that Del Rio was (at the time) about 150 miles from the nearest McDonald’s. That’s no longer the case, but Reykjavik now has similar appeal, albeit for regrettable reasons.

I have a set of Lionel trains in the garage – my mother told me that my father bought them as a present for my first Christmas, although it was years before I actually got to play with them. I’m glad this train setup wasn’t available then; I doubt I could keep from losing it even now.

Advice from Dear Abby’s predecessors.

Breaking news: Whiskey found in Antarctica.

Want to be an author? In case you want to get started during the upcoming Nanowrimo, here are two useful links for you.

This appears to be an interesting site.

Time for some funnies

Wednesday, September 16th, 2009

I’ve mentioned before that I like snarky reviews. How can you not like book reviews that contain lines such as:

We imagine that Meyer’s editor had to cross out the “DUN DUN DUN” in the original manuscript.

And this tale of GPS from a directionally-challenged woman made me laugh, particularly this question from her husband: “How long do you have to be missing before I can start dating again?”

Tinkle, tinkle, little star?

Who owns you?

Tuesday, August 25th, 2009

Currently in NewScientist, Katrina Voss argues that there is little intrinsic worth in a decoded genome, and that, should you get yours decoded, you should make it publicly available.

She mentions the potential for insurance companies to use this information when screening you, but says little about it. Most of the article relates to privacy issues, which I don’t see as the big problem, really. I think she’s unaware of or ignoring the big issue involved.

What I see as the problem is the fact that genes and gene sequences can be and have been patented. Usually, the patent is granted to the researchers who do the identification of the gene, and assigned to their employer, who may in turn license or sell it to others. The person or persons who provided the gene usually get nothing. Often, they don’t even know that portions of their genome have been patented.

There are several controversial issues involved in gene patents. The first is the question of whether it’s appropriate to even allow patents on them, since they occur in nature. The argument made in favor is that the gene may occur naturally, but the patent is granted for identifying its purpose and how to produce and use it. To me, an analogous situation would be allowing a patent on diamonds or sapphires, since they can be produced artificially and have identifiable uses.

Another issue is whether gene patents promote or inhibit advancements in the field. This is effectively the same argument that’s been going on over open-source software, so I won’t say much about it. Personally, I think the overall effect is inhibition, but it is an area where I doubt there’ll ever be full agreement. Overall, this issue is a matter of philosophy and beliefs.

There is at least one lawsuit currently in progress related to the use of gene patents.

Posting your genome to a publicly-available site may or may not be able to preclude the patenting of your genetic information (remember, the argument is that the patent is for identifying the purpose of the gene). If enough people post theirs, it may help to direct research efforts – the more common a gene sequence is, the more likely it is that a test or treatment based on it will be commercially viable – but it’s unlikely to solve any issues related to already-patented sequences.