Bad Beekeeping

The good beekeper keeps a close eye on his or her bees, carefully checks the weight of the hive during the winter to make sure they aren’t starving, and pays particular attention during May for ’tis the season to be swarming. It will come as no great surprise to my readers that I don’t fit this category: my bees mostly look after themseleves at the bottom of the garden with minimal attention from me. But come the end of the Rape season, which is just about now, the honey has to be taken off before it sets solid in the hives. So I borrowed my jacket back off Nikola and set to removing the supers. I only seem to have two on at the moment, probably a mistake because they were both packed full. I imagine my bees have probably swarmed at some point.

However, the point of this was the picture of a frame, above, which from its geometry you will immeadiately see is a super frame, and yet it has brood in it. Oops. Although the “arc” pattern is rather good. This means, I can only suppose, that the naughty queen has wriggled through the queen excluder and ventured upwards where she should not be(e). About three frames were heavily brooded – one even had a queen cell on it. The photo shows a few cells sticking out – those are drone (male) cells and somewhat bigger. The others are workers. The sides have capped honey, which is what should be everywhere. The problem with the brood is that it makes the frames hard to spin – no one wants icky white bee larvae in their honey, especially since they are rather fragile and tend to explode into goo.

Um, did I mention that my honey is for sale, just £3 / lb if you’re in the Coton area. [Update: I should point out that the honey I sell really doesn’t have any larvae in it, since frames like tha above simply can’t be spun -W]

Global cooling awareness in the 60’s?

I apologise for the brief intrusion of something vaguely related to climate science on this rowing-n-wiki blog; we’ll return you to your usual programming shortly.

Maurizio Morabito attempts to establish that there was a consensus for global cooling in the 1960’s (this is all part of a rather dull campaign to discredit the mighty number one climate paper “The Myth of the 1970s Global Cooling Scientific Consensus”; generally he appears to have failed to understand what we said, so I won’t bore you by attacking it further). Evidence is apparently found in a 1961 UNESCO / WMO conference Symposium on Changes of Climate with Special Reference to Arid Zones which UNESCO have had the good manners to put online. Well, fascinating stuff, let’s read on…
Continue reading “Global cooling awareness in the 60’s?”

Wiki politics

There is an interesting (if you like that sort of thing) insight into some wiki-politics available from a recent RFA (which stands for [[Wikipedia:Requests for adminship]]. Not to be confused, obviously, with RFA which stands for [[Wikipedia:Arbitration/Requests]]). Admins are the folks who do exciting things like blocking vandals (well, and other. My own log is here if you’re interested), deleting pages, and a pile of ill-defined miscellaneous tasks. Once upon a time adminship was handed out to anyone who wanted it and who wasn’t obviously mad; there is still a token pretence that adminship is “no big deal” but it isn’t true, obviously. Edging closer to the politics, there are loose groups of admins (and indeed of other editors) but lacking any interest in wiki politics I don’t know what these groupings are. Charles knows all, and indeed at one point attempted to explain it to me, but alas I failed to listen, since I didn’t care. So who gets to be an admin matters, somewhat, because… well I’m not fully sure. It affects who gets blocked, a bit, at least in extreme cases. The point is that everybody cares, though in my case not enough to bother monitoring RFA’s.

Anyway, the RFA I’m talking about is that of Flying Toaster (as far as I know FT (not to be confused with FT2 of course) is the innocent battleground on which others are playing out their humours). My witty and amusing support vote is here, which will make no sense to most people but is obvious enough to those who were intended to read it (happily enough I would have voted support anyway, not quite sure what I would have done had I felt inclined to oppose. Indulge me here a moment, because now I’ve forgotten how I ended up getting there; a moment before I’d voted for Kotra, which is unusual, as I last voted oh ages ago. I think it must have been this at Wikipedia:Administrators’ noticeboard – that would explain things neatly).

Anyway, I think I’ve at last got to my point, which is there is an interminable “discussion” about how much wiki-management should be done on and off wiki (it long ago became clear that further discussion was pointless and I stopped even attempting to follow it; but people still care). There is a wiki IRC channel (which I read once upon a time, but not for ages) where people, from what I recall, mostly chat. But maybe there are Sekret channels too. Who knows. Anyway people get upset about this, and so you end up with block-voting of the on-wiki folk against the off-wiki folk and so on. Which is what otherwise incomprehensible votes like this mean. Then you get the fanboi’s jumping on the bandwaggon and it becomes rather funny, because when it is pointed out that the “per” they have given is unintelligible, they immeadiately switch to another reason. Tex, at least, had a bizarre sort of integrity: his opposition was incoherent, and remained unapologetically so. I thought it might be fun to tweak him, so I followed up; alas he wasn’t very interesting and was unable to disguise his slavishness.

Incidentally, while I’m talking about wiki to a group of technically literate people, does anyone feel like improving [[Distributed Inter-Process Communication]].

[Update: it all ended in tears (?) -W]

We’re not Kings

At least not Kings I. But we did have a really quite decent outing tonight (rather more fun than the ladies on sunday; we rowed in the Champs head on sunday, which was an experience but not really fun. James H’s take on it is here). We weren’t exactly solidly balanced, but the wobble was small, not dramatic, controllable, and didn’t get in the way of a decent stroke. I thoroughly enjoyed it, even though I was rowing strokeside, which is not my native side. We met up with CS at the head of the reach with his Kings crew and challenged them to a side-by-side race down to the railway bridge. Oddly enough they stuffed us (well they were all wearing the same colour; and perhaps more to the point had been rowing with the same crew together for the last n months), and indeed the “race” was probably our worst bit of rowing. But as usual, after that, we settled down, and coming back past the boathouses was quite decent. A lovely sunset as we walked over the bridge to the Fort capped it off.

Meanwhile, the Ducks appear to have found an edible version of settlers of Catan, which is coming close to taking over from monopoly as our family game (deservedly so; it is a better game). James H apparently wants a boaters-vs-rowers version for the Cam; I think there should be one where your aim is to get your narrow boat mooring into number one position.


Here is our Heroic Champs heads crew (photo credit: Pete Twitchett, For those not up on the technica, stroke is the oarsman nearest the cox, and strokeside is the side and those rowers on the same side as stroke (unless you have a bow-rigged boat, when it gets confusing). I’m at 5, on bowside, as you’ll have noticed. This is outside the Plough, so is probably our start.

Finance question

One thing that has puzzled me for a bit about the current mess is the intereaction between the Government and the Central Bank (Bank of England or BoE, in our case). So the government is raising money by selling Gilts, in quantities that I forget but of the order of £200b when I last looked. Meanwhile, the BoE is indulging in Quantiative easing, a process whereby it pumps money into the economy by buying various bonds, but mostly Gilts, of the order of £20b.

This appears, at least at first sight, to be pointlessly self-cancelling. The government is selling gilts to itself (unless we pretend that the BoE isn’ t an organ of the government – are we supposed to pretend that?).

On the other hand, perhaps the point is that only the BoE is capable of creating money out of nothing – maybe the government strictly defined has no mechanism to do this. So it is obliged to go through the slightly strange dance.

Could Food Shortages Bring Down Civilization?

asks Unscientific American (and CP). The short answer is no. As you can find from the FAO, calories per day are going up, not down. [W]orld grain prices in the spring and summer of last year climbed to the highest level ever. says USciAm – but somehow can’t find space to mention that since then food prices have crashed to far below the 2008 average, and below the 2007 average, and remained stable in 2009. Now it took me 5 minutes and google to find that, can it be that Lester R Brown might be a teensy bit one-sided?

The new idea seems to be, if people won’t worry about GW for themselves, worry because it might cause food shortages which which will cause failed states which will causes terrists. Romm gives us a list of failed states, of which the top of the list is: Somalia, Sudan, Zimbabwe, Chad, Iraq, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Afghanistan. None of these are failed due to food problems. They are all failed due to cr*p government (which they acquired for one reason or another). Browns entire thesis is junk.

Next. Thanks to MW for pointing this out.

[Update: TT points out that I am in excellent company 🙂 -W]


* Early Warning
* Rising temperatures reduce global wheat production (Asseng et al., doi:10.1038/nclimate2470) but note warming is already slowing yield gains at a majority of wheat-growing locations.
* How overfed are we?

Meinshausen et al.

Did you notice that RC called it “Meinshausen et al”? Barbarians :-). Anyway, they liked the paper whilst I’m less sure. As far as I can tell its not really a question of science in dispute, just what you make of it. So what M et al. do is instead of the std.ipcc “force a GCM with CO2 and see how climate changes” they try to reverse this process, and see what level of CO2 produces a given temperature change. They can’t do this with GCMs, of course, so are fitting the GCM stuff to a simpler model. And since there is uncertainty in the sensitivity, there is uncertainty in the result, but at heart it all seems simple enough and scientifically rather dull, though politically interesting. M et al. pretty well admit that they have spotted a gap in the literature and headed straight for it: there is still an important gap in the literature relating emission budgets for lower emission profiles to the probability of exceeding maximal warming levels; a gap that this study intends to fill (isn’t there an old joke about that? Can’t find it now). The other thing they find is the rather convenient result that warming depends on total CO2 emissions, rather than the CO2 trajectory. Given plausible trajectories and CO2 lifetime and climate response times this too is not exactly surprising; but its good to have it written down.

M et al. skip rather lightly over the 2 oC threshold. 2 oC is obviously somewhat arbitrary; all they say to justify it is “We focus here on 2 oC relative to pre-industrial levels, as such a warming limit has gained increasing prominence in science and policy circles as a goal to prevent dangerous climate change [25]” and 25 is Schellnhuber in Avoiding Dangerous Climate Change. I’ve commented on this before (and got a lot of comments in reply, but didn’t change my mind). RC seem to think that 2 oC is arbitrary, but on the high side: We feel compelled to note that even a “moderate” warming of 2°C stands a strong chance of provoking drought and storm responses that could challenge civilized society. My feeling is that when this stuff starts to cost real money rather than policitcal promises, and people start saying “OK, limit CO2 to keep us below 2 oC, remind me again just exactly why 2 oC is so dangerous” they are not going to find the answers very convincing. There is risk, of course, but there is risk in every course of action.

More interestingly (to me) is a comment in the Nature intro saying “Yet only a third of economically recoverable oil, gas and coal reserves can be burned before 2100 if that 2°C warming is to be avoided”, ref’ing this paper. I’ve started to wonder recently if we really do have the reserves to get much beyond 2xCO2, so picked up on this – perhaps they will provide some good sources. But what M et al. say is: We show that, for the chosen class of emission scenarios, both cumulative emissions up to 2050 and emission levels in 2050 are robust indicators of the probability that twenty-first century warming will not exceed 2 oC relative to pre-industrial temperatures. Limiting cumulative CO2 emissions over 2000-50 to 1,000 Gt CO2 yields a 25% probability of warming exceeding 2 oC–and a limit of 1,440 Gt CO2 yields a
50% probability–given a representative estimate of the distribution of climate system properties. As known 2000-06 CO2 emissions3 were 234 Gt CO2, less than half the proven economically recoverable oil, gas and coal reserves can still be emitted up to 2050 to achieve such a goal.
So is the half (or a third, where ever that comes from) emissions to 2050, or to 2100? If it emissions to 2050, then we’re going to need to emit *all* of the economically viable reserves to keep on the “bad” trajectory to 2100.

M et al. (fig 3) says that total econ-viable reserves of CO2 are ~2500 Gt. It also has as x-axis the cumulative emissions 2000-2049, and that axis ends at 2500. A1F1 on that graph is past 2500, which presumably means that to get A1F1 to 2100 we have to burn *more* than the total econ-viable reserves. That seems rather unlikely. Indeed, from that graph, it would appear that most of the std IPCC/SRES scenarios are effectively impossible. It isn’t obvious to me what is wrong with my reasonning; but if it is correct I would have expected M et al. to point out that many of the SRES trajectories are impossible, and they don’t. Up to now I’ve been defending SRES (on wiki etc.) against those who say the trajectories just won’t work; but I’m now rather less sure.

Minor point: their figure 2(e) appears slightly dodgy. They show scary-looking temperature changes of 4-6 oC with central value of 5 oC to 2100 from A1F1, and that is only the inner range. It doesn’t look totally compatible with AR4 SPM.5. Partly that is because they put their zero at 1860 (which is quite defensible) and partly because they have picked the high-end A1F1… but from SPM.5 it looks to me as though A1F1 should be ~4.6 above 1900, not +5.

FWIW, I think we’re going to find out what +2 oC and above is like, because I don’t think we’ve got the will to avoid it. Studies like this one are probably politically useful less because of the new science they contain than because they push the aggregate weight of discourse in a certain direction, and give those who want to push for limits some useful ammo. But the response to the credit crunch makes it rather clear, as mt has despairingly commented, that our priority number one is a growing economy. Only once we have that will we consider other low priority matters, like, err, not growing the economy :-).

[TL points to a nice oildrum post summarising some recent literature. Which indicates that 450-600 ppm CO2 is a likely limit. It also says what I’ve been thinking – that very few people are studying this, compared to those doing other aspects of cl ch -W]

Tail of the Cam

Chesterton RC ran the Head of the Cam race today (we really must improve our website some time). I got to help marshalling a couple of divisions, on First Post Corner and Grassy Corner, which was a good post as nothing tricky happens at those points. So I took an absurd number of photos (only div 1 up when I wrote this) in the sunshine, which was very pleasant.

The racing is head racing – i.e. just rowing the course, starting 30 seconds apart, no bumping or anything exciting like that. The first few boats in each division tended to be M1’s for the Mays at around 9 minutes, trailing off into various rather ropey town and university VIII’s (slowest at 13 mins), followed by IV’s, doubles and a cloud of sculls (best at 11:20). So afterwards, inspired by that and by our own Dave “James Bond” Richardson (13:38), and since the weather was still lovely, I thought I’d scull the course – not a thing I’ve done before. To put up my excuses first, I couldn’t take the racing lines and had to sit behind Selwyn for ~20 secs while they pondered going off. And my time was… 15:50, which I’m quite happy with for a first go. That would make me not quite last – I would have beaten a J15 for the Leys (incidentally, nice to see that Perse A beat Leys A by 5 seconds). Mapmyrun says it is 2.7 km and I did it at 10.1km/hr. Hmm.

Jesus won. Cue std.joke.