Amateurish Supercomputing Codes?

Via mt I find

too much of our scientific code base lacks solid numerical software engineering foundations. That potential weakness puts the correctness and performance of code at risk when major renovation of the code is required, such as the disruptive effect of multicore nodes, or very large degrees of parallelism on upcoming supercomputers [1]

The only code I knew even vaguely well was HadCM3. It wasn’t amateurish, though it was written largely by “software amateurs”. In the present state of the world, this is inevitable and bad (I’m sure I’ve said this before). However, the quote above is wrong: the numerical analysis foundations of the code were OK, as far as I could tell. It was the software engineering that was lacking. From my new perspective this is painfully obvious.

[Update: thanks for Eli for pointing to While interesting it does contain some glaring errors (to my eye) which I’ll cmoment on -W]

Saville (pleasantly) surprises

Well, that was a bit of a surprise. Had you asked, I would have predicted a far weaker report. Shame it took so long. Cameron has responded well.

The Bloody Sunday killings were unjustified and unjustifiable, the Prime Minster has said. Thirteen marchers were shot dead on 30 January 1972 in Londonderry when British paratroopers opened fire on crowds at a civil rights demonstration. Fourteen others were wounded, one later died. The Saville Report is heavily critical of the Army and found that soldiers fired the first shot. Prime Minister David Cameron said he was “deeply sorry”. He said that the findings of the Saville Report were “shocking”…

No warning had been given to any civilians before the soldiers opened fire; None of the soldiers fired in response to attacks by petrol bombers or stone throwers; Some of those killed or injured were clearly fleeing or going to help those injured or dying; None of the casualties was posing a threat or doing anything that would justify their shooting; Many of the soldiers lied about their actions.

As to what to do now: I’d be for saying “that is good enough”. The lawyers have got fat enough feeding the inquiry; there is no real point in letting them snout more at a trial.

Yet more sea ice

Continuing from Three views of sea ice. Well, tis now mid-June, so the futurology aspect of the prediction is closing rapidly. Or so you would have thought. I’ve just taken £50 against CR for the ice being below 4.735 (he gets the low side) or above 4.935 (I get the high side). But my principal debt on sea ice is failing to write anything more about it. so, to remedy that!

I was going to suggest that the most interesting way of doing the pool was via Intrade. Unfortunately their Arctic sea ice pool doesn’t look very interesting. The bet is “2010 greater than 2009” and is trading at around 43%, and hasn’t had a trade in a while. Since I’d say ~50% is fair odds, neither buy nor sell is very interesting. Here is a pic:

<img src="" height="225" width="460"

I suspect that I might want to put in some “sell” bids at alower price but I’ve yet to work out exactly how that goes. Maybe later.

It is hard to deny that the current AMSR pic is looking bad for the good guys; but never mind. I’d stick with my old opinions for the moment (I mean, just look at the variability on that chart! One month is hardly a guide to the next) I ought to offer my apologies to those who suggest I look at some sea ice images: I’m afraid I haven’t found the time to do so and this largely reflects a lack of interest on my part; perhaps with a bigger computer and a faster internet connection I might. As it is, I’ll just have to go forward blind.

I thought I’d do a quick “news” search on sea ice and was pleased to find The Economist with a sensible story and, for a bonus, plugging my humble blog. I look forward to hordes of punters turning up with wads of cash ready to throw down. The Economist notes the Arcus sea ice outlook series, which in my mind is pegged as “not doing very well” in the last two years. However, they have learnt one thing from their disastrous May forecast of 2008 – don’t do a forecast in May :-). We’re waiting on the June forecast, which should be interesting.

While I’m here… another link worth reading is RMG’s take on “when will the Arctic first be ice free in summer”. I say worth reading, and I think it is, but I also think it is entirely wrong.

And for those who have forgotten the default bet, and can’t be bothered to read the old post, it is:

That the september mean ice *extent* be below 4.835; but with a “buffer” where we call it a draw: between 4.735 and 4.935, no one wins. I’m taking the “high” side of this; anyone interested in the “low” side let me know.

[Update: ARCUS 2010 is now out; New Boy Nevin gets credit for being the first I saw to blog it -W]

Richard Tol is being oppressed!

Poor Richard Tol. He has been invited (nominated by the Oirish Gummit, apparently) to be a convening author, though only for WG II.

But all he can do is whinge that “Political interference in the IPCC continues” because they won’t provide him a blank cheque for his travel costs. Diddums. I’m sure you can all see the interference inherent in the system. Still, at least he is better than RP Jr, who refuses (for some reason he does not trouble to explain) to take part. So he can be outside the tent pissing in, would be my guess. Or he might be jealous of Tol getting *convening* lead author, perhaps [update: scuttlebutt confirms this interpretation].

OTOH, this one on fossil fuel subsidies is worth reading.

For the whingers

I seem to have commenters who think I should read more CA, or Watty, or RP Sr, or misc other exciting stuff (I’m sure RP Sr loves being lumped in with that lot). Anyway, my response is, why? None of them, that I can see, have anything half as interesting as this or this or this. And Jules’ pix are good, too.

So in future, if you want to tell me that I really really ought to read such and such a blog: please tell me why. And please include a link to one of their posts that is at least somewhere in the running to being as interesting as one of the above.

Ah, I can’t just leave you with that. Take this cartoon too:

courtesy of Bart. Who takes a dig at the “skeptics” (yes I know: I’m just winding you up. Don’t bother respond).

[Update: James reprimands me for not plugging Jules’s pix. Its a fair cop guv, wo here is one:

I like that one, though on further reflection the asymmetrical clipping of the bowl is irritating. Anyway, over you go; there are mountains and Japan and stuff -W]

[Update: CT on why contrarians shouldn’t whinge (ht: neverendingaudit -W]

Congratulations to First and Third


A glorious days bumping action on the Cam, rounded off with a confident row-over by First and Third. Here they are looking happy afterwards, as well they might. The jollity here is in marked contrast to the totally zoned-in look all the top boats had during the race, where everyone was staring past the end of the world. There is a bit of crew commentary here.


And also congratulations to Pembroke who had a similarly untroubled time as head of the Women’s divisions, though not by quite the margin FAT had. But I don’t have a pic of them, so here is LMBC (5) just about to bump Caius (6).

Full results no doubt available from when CUCBC stop drinking champers and start typing at keyboards again.

I watched M1 with friends, who had come down because their daughter had started sculling. Despite living in Cambrdige for 14 years, and despite he being a fellow of a college, they had *never* been to see the bumps before. Can you believe it? Astonishing.

Link to: Mays, 2009.

Climate denial undermines all science

This is something I’ve been meaning to say for some time, but Gareth has said it instead. I agree with Gareth, but it goes a little further: it isn’t just the interface to policy, it is that a whole group of people (possibly large) are being actively encouraged to undermine science, to fail to understand how it works; to think that their own opinions really are as valid as published research; and so on. Science is a whole thing, a state of mind; you can’t just cut off one area of “climate science”; everything links together.

This is beginning to sound like the traditional complaint about modern-day parents: they don’t back up respect-for-teachers, and as a consequence the teachers can’t teach, and so the children can’t learn.

[Update: As Eli says Looking back at many of the attacks on science from our dear friends, they are wails that climate, and tobacco, and ozone scientists are not doing textbook science, and, of course, since most people only have learned textbook science, this can look like a pretty convincing argument. It is also why demands for regulatory science can be deadly to real science and why “auditing” is a distraction and a fraud.]

Straw poll: cause of the leak

I haven’t been paying a great deal of attention to the actual *cause* of the oil leak, in the sense of whose *fault* it is (I mean, in the physical sense rather than any stupid legal sense). [[Deepwater Horizon oil spill#Investigations]] has some stuff. In fact I’ll quote it, so we have a sort of agreed position to start from, if only to disagree with:

Attention has focused on the cementing procedure and the blowout preventer, which failed to fully engage.[216] A number of significant problems have been identified with the blowout preventer: There was a leak in the hydraulic system that provides power to the shear rams. The underwater control panel had been disconnected from the bore ram, and instead connected to a test hydraulic ram. The blowout preventer schematic drawings, provided by Transocean to BP, do not correspond to the structure that is on the ocean bottom. The shear rams are not designed to function on the joints where the drill pipes are screwed together or on tools that are passed through the blowout preventer during well construction. The explosion may have severed the communication line between the rig and the sub-surface blowout preventer control unit such that the blowout preventer would have never received the instruction to engage. Before the backup dead man’s switch could engage, communications, power and hydraulic lines must all be severed, but it is possible hydraulic lines were intact after the explosion. Of the two control pods for the deadman switch, the one that has been inspected so far had a dead battery.[217]

Just hours before the explosion, a BP representative overruled Transocean employees and insisted on displacing protective drilling mud with seawater.[218] One of the BP representatives on the board responsible for making the final decision, Robert Kaluza, refused to testify on the Fifth Amendment grounds that he might incriminate himself; Donald Vidrine, another BP representative, cited medical reasons for his inability to testify, as did James Mansfield, Transocean’s assistant marine engineer on board.[219][220][221]

On June 1, 2010 U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder announced that he has opened a criminal investigation of the BP oil spill. “There are a wide range of possible violations, and we will closely examine the actions of those involved in this spill,” Holder said.[222]

So the poll is: I think that the fundamental cause of the oil leak is…

0. I don’t think enough information is currently available to decide
1. BP’s fault
2. 1, plus with gross and possibly criminal negligence
3. The fault of one of the subcontractors
4. 3, plus as for 2 “with gross negligence”
5. 3 (or 4) but plus “and since BP should have been closely supervising them, essentially the fault is BP’s”
6. (just for symmetry with 5) one of 1-5, plus “and since the US govt should have been closely supervising them, essentially the fault is the US govt’s”
7. Although this is a disaster, no-one is particularly at fault; these things just happen sometimes
8. 7, plus “and the risks are sufficiently high that we shouldn’t drill in the gulf” (amplification: dec suggests in the comments that for “Chernobyl accident… the real human error was to choose a design which was known to be risky i.e to place water so near to graphite.”)
9. ZOMG! This is so obviously BP’s fault that even considering waiting to look for evidence is practically criminal conspiracy with Evil Oil Companies; burn them, they are witches.

At the moment, I’m with 0. But you can try to convince me otherwise. To point out the obvious: mere assertion that there is evidence will be unconvincing; you need links and quotes.

Incidentally, misc people have called this spill “unprecendented”. That seems dubious (except in the traditional sense that 11 dead in Cumbria is headline news for days; 11 misc folks dead in road accidents are routinely ignored); it certainly isn’t the largest, see [[Largest oil spills]] – it isn’t even close.

[Update: nice link:]

Obama does not impress

On the recent oil spill issue (possible disclaimer: I’m wondering about buying I bought some BP shares).

I’m thinking about headlines like Obama Says He Would Fire BP CEO, Wants to Know ‘Whose Ass to Kick’.

[Update: both TB and H point out that this quote is taken well out of context; see the comments or So I have to partially retract my outrage. But only partially, because the main point still stands (who to blame?) as does the quote below -W]

The real story here isn’t hard to see: Obama is desperate not to get blamed for this, so he desperately needs someone else’s ass to kick. If that could be a Britsh ass, rather than an American oil services company, then that would obviously be ideal.

Then you have the hypocricy of I’m not interested in words. I’m interested in actions. Bullshit. Obama is talking. He is clearly interested in words. To pretend otherwise is simply stupid.

And then we have (this was the bit that wound me up when I heard it on R4):

The U.S. president, who himself faces growing criticism that his administration was slow to react to the economic and ecological catastrophe hitting four U.S. Gulf states, said he did not want to prejudge the investigation into the incident. “But the initial reports indicate there may be situations in which not only human error was involved, but you also saw some corner cutting in terms of safety,” Obama said in some of his angriest public words yet about the catastrophe.

(my bold) which is more junk. He doesn’t want to prejudge the investigation, but he will anyway. Lying skunk.

[Update: Obama’s aggressive bullying over the dividend looks bad too (also in the FT).]

[Another update: if you’re in any doubt that the US govt are acting like a pile of sleazy blackmailing scumbags, then this should change your mind: exerpt: BP faces bill for lost drilling wages. The White House stepped up pressure on BP on Wednesday, telling it to add the salaries of workers laid off by an offshore drilling moratorium to its bill for the Gulf of Mexico oil disaster. “BP is responsible for all the damages,” Ken Salazar, US interior secretary, told the Senate’s energy and natural resources committee on Wednesday. He said that included paying any workers hit by the government’s moratorium on offshore drilling imposed on 33 deep-water rigs while safety reviews took place.]

[More: not all Americans are insane. The administration’s response chief for the disaster, Coast Guard Admiral Thad Allen, seemed to take issue with Interior Secretary Ken Salazar’s threat a day earlier to push BP “out of the way” if it did not do enough to stop the leak. “To push BP out of the way would raise the question of ‘replace them with what?'” Allen said at a White House news conference. BP was “exhausting every technical means possible” to meet its legal responsibility to cap the well and contain the spreading oil, he said. But tis probably just reflects reality. If the US govt *did* “push” BP out of the way as the wackos are suggesting, they would be left to do… what extra, exactly?

But the Obama adminstration seems determined to talk like a gang of street thugs or a Russian government: “We will keep our boot on their neck until the job gets done,” Salazar told reporters Charmed, I’m sure.]

[Update: this is all getting a bit heated. We need some humour (h/t: mt. But it would have been funnier if they had a man from the govt coming in and putting a boot one someone’s neck, no?]

[Update: is interesting. There hasn’t been much in the news about Transocean’s liability]

[Late update: one thing pointed out to me as a thing-to-think-about was that if the well had simply gushed, it would have been a fair spill but nothing too exciting. What made this exciting was that the rig caught fire and burnt. If that hadn’t happened, the rig would have been able to recover it. So perhaps more attention to fire control might be a topic -W]