Boston Marathon

DSC_5747-all-of-us_crop The rowing one, that is. It was just like last year except wetter, and we were better, but our cox was less lovely.

Oh, and as promised, this is the last of the random rowing-n-running types posts here. You need to go to the other blog for that from now on, except for important stuff like the bumps, of course.

Pic: all of us: L to R: Jo (3), Mel (7), Anne (6), William (4), Joss (4), Freya (Stroke), Amy (Bow), Me (5), James (Cox). Spot the survivors from last year. You can also read Amy’s take on it all. The results are now up: 4:43:04 for us (I made it 4:42, but I started my watch a fraction late).
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Nae Popery

Bloody Pope. In a major speech reported all over the UK and probably around the world, the Pope whinged about religion being silenced [1]. Quite why he can’t see the obvious problem in that is a mystery. Maybe self-awareness isn’t his strong point. For extra fun, Ian Paisley denounces the Pope is worth a watch (really you want “The old Orange flute” in the Clancy / Makem version, but I can’t find that). I must be getting old if I think that Ian Paisley makes sense.

Actually, despite the badge, I’ve no objection to him coming here, or even preaching. Nowt wrong with either. I just wish he wouldn’t talk twaddle, and that he would know his and his religions place in the world, which is a minor one.

Though El Papa does know the real answer, because he said: There are those who would advocate that the voice of religion be silenced, or at least relegated to the purely private sphere. Yes, indeed there are such people who would like the second half (properly interpreted), like me, and nominally like the US constitution. So you’re welcome to believe but you’re not welcome to have an official place in our democracy.

The Beeb spins his speech as His essential message was that democracy relies on the use of reason… reason needed to be judged against the unchanging teaching offered by religion – based as it was on “natural law”, the fundamental nature of people. This is std.trash. For one thing, the idea that religious teaching is unchanging is obvious twaddle. Just try stoning someone to death in the UK these days and see if they’ll let you, or burning a witch. They’re even trying to stop their priests fiddling with kiddies, in a clear breach of long-hallowed tradition (or maybe not. The Torygraph says he said that “politicians must not interfere with the running of Roman Catholic institutions” so perhaps they do want to keep it up). But for another, the idea that relgion will help you reason better, or is the only source of morality, is just silly. No-one believes that stuff any more.

Meanwhile, *after* reading the speech

Well, I did have fun writing that. But I really should have known better than to trust the meeja – I only did so cos I couldn’t find the full text easily. But my uneasy consience lead me to search and here it is – seek, and ye shall find, as someone once said. So:

The central question at issue, then, is this: where is the ethical foundation for political choices to be found? The Catholic tradition maintains that the objective norms governing right action are accessible to reason, prescinding from the content of revelation.

This is interesting, because it uses a word I don’t know, viz “prescinding”. Apparently it means To separate or divide in thought; consider individually [3]. Soooooo… Right Action can be discerned *without* revelation – I presume that means, without the Bible. Supporting that, he continues:

According to this understanding, the role of religion in political debate is not so much to supply these norms, as if they could not be known by non-believers… but rather to help purify and shed light upon the application of reason to the discovery of objective moral principles.

So that is weird: it looks, in fact, like a nearly complete retreat from the moral sphere, rather in the way the Churches have retreated from the scientific one. So religion *isn’t* to be the basis for morality at all. Religion, in some rather ill-defined way, is to “shed light upon the application of reason”, whatever that means. Ah, but then later on it all falls apart again – Reason is what gave us slavery, and we need religion to correct Reason – so the atheists are doomed after all. Well, I call that rather confused.

[Updates: I’m please to say that this blog is now the #1 google hit for “nae popery” even without quotes. More seriously, from the comments: the Pope isn’t a native-speaker, so maybe he didn’t mean “prescinds”? I don’t think that is plausible: (1) people will have carefully checked over every word of the speech (2) especially for a non-native speaker “prescinds” isn’t a word you use without being sure what it means. OTOH it could have been chosen carefully to be deliberately obscure to most listeners.]

Grunty man

grunty-fen-DSC_0203_crop [Warning: more boring fitness-related content. This is the penultimate post on such, before moving the misc trivia over to The science will stay here.]

Saturday-before-last James E said that the Grunty Fen half marathon was on the 12th; and being a little unsober I signed up online an hour later. Next morning I thought I’d better check that I could actually run the distance, and it turned out that I could. Or at least, nearly. I accidentally ran 20 km instead of 21.1, because I forgot the true distance. Oops. Anyway, that took me 1:51, which seemed fair enough (less than 2h) though it included one bit where I stopped to ask the way, and a couple of gates, and suchlike. The real thing took me 1:51 again, but with an extra 1.1 km thrown in. And here is the track. Notice corporate-man style running vest, but I had to pay for it.
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10400230_575987898473_1201_n The latest crop of links-n-stuff. First up is this superb photo – ht TS’s google reader feed. It won second prize but for my money is far and away better than any of the others (higher-res version – thanks BD). Its tagged as a “condensation rainbow” but it isn’t, I think (wrong shape). It is probably diffraction not refraction – see [[Iridescent cloud]]. Tom said I saw this elsewhere (can’t remember where) and I think the explanation given was that the plane was making a sharp turn and adiabatic expansion resulting low pressure one side of the wing lowered the temperature enough for an ice(?) cloud to form. It seemed a reasonable explanation so I’ll go with that. The same photographer, Bernardo Malfitano, has another good one at here.

[2019 update: gosh, it’s still a gorgeous picture. And I still think it isn’t a rainbow, but my reasons have shifted. I think the not-a-circle-arc is bogus, the region is too small to show that. But, the sun is behind the plane (no?) and rainbows form away from the sun so I still think it’s probably diffraction.]

Meanwhile, on the perennial issue of the costs of GW: A new mechanism to consider when measuring climate impacts on economies.

On the very very silly end of GW, on wiki we’ve been having a Big Argument about [[Climate change alarmism]]. What became really weird was me having to explain (see here) that yes indeed my own paper really wasn’t a good source for what the septics were trying to push (here). This appears to have been so extreme that it has even got through to at least some parts of arbcomm.

[Update: but I forgot to link the the far more amusing spoof PD.]

And for all you physicists out there, an old favourite I ran across again recently How to do physics.

Melting Rate of Icecaps in Greenland and Western Antarctica Lower Than Expected says ScienceDaily but its wrong: what it means is, less than previously measured. The GRACE folk have recalibrated their isostatic rebound, it seems.

Knol is a “new” thingy from google. Actually not very new, but this is the first time I’ve noticed it. Wiki has some ruminations on it. It appears to have the advantage that you can write what you like, untramelled by the trolls. But the disadvantage that the trolls can write what they like, uncontrolled by the sane. And there is no structure.

Heiaheia is yet another track-your-fitness website that AN inveigled me onto, but it is cute and funky and brightly coloured. Hopefully they’ll integrate it to garmin connect sometime.

Down at the scummy end: In particular, any “predictions” and “projections” about the future must be entirely based on observations. A must-read. As are the latest episodes of Harry Potter and the methods of rationality (up to 46 at last count).

Local news: I’ve just done my first erg for ages (7606) and Phoebe is a fleabag.

Finally, and belatedly, the LOLcat bible: Nebuchadnezzar sed: “ALL YOUR BASE ARE BELONG TO US”

Special bonus pic at the end (saintgasoline via 4chan):

[Update. Oh, and I forgot the ridiculous kerfuffle about Hawking’s latest. See Penrose in the FT (the after-coffee anecdote makes Penrose sound like a twat, which for all I know he may be, but the rest is OK) or Woit rip Hawking to shreds. Just because you’re in a wheelchair doesn’t make you right.

Listening: Martin Carthy: Famous flower of serving men.

More late stuff: Science scorned says Nuture (Volume: 467 ,Page: 133 Date published: (09 September 2010)): There is a growing anti-science streak on the American right that could have tangible societal and political impacts on many fronts… Denialism over global warming has become a scientific cause célèbre within the movement. (ht: Romm).

What to do with the IPCC

So, I didn’t like the IAC prescription for the IPCC. So I need my own. And I forgot that I already had one. PK said it well in the comments:

How many IPCC reports does it take to screw in a light bulb? The bureaucratic solution for inefficient bureaucracy always seems to be more bureaucracy. If the purpose of the IPCC is to inform governments on climate change and its possible impacts, the job is pretty much done. If the purpose is to provide a rationale for global taxation and control of CO2, we’ll be arguing over the results of AR15.

but it bears repeating and expanding. No number of IPCC reports is going to convince people who don’t want to know, that the science is good and, yes, to use that term that everyone hates, settled – at least in the basics. You can – if you hold your nose – visit any number of septic blog sites and find people arguing passionately for positions totally divorced from scientific knowledge. These people don’t argue against what is in the IPCC reports, because they have never read them or anything vaguely based on them. Producing another bigger fatter more up to date version will not sway them. That is fine really – such people aren’t the target audience. But they are voters, and politicians can’t be too bold while their constituents believe twaddle.

Some people still seem to hold the belief that the *next* IPCC report – which will be even more unequivocal on the-temperature-is-going-up-and-it-is-our-fault – will change peoples mind. I’m very dubious about that. For that kind of thing, we have all the evidence that is required (disclaimers: I’m only really speaking about WGI stuff, because it is the only thing i have a clue about, and I’m not saying we should shut down all the physical climate change research. There are plenty of exciting and interesting things to discover. But they won’t change the big picture). This is, I think (but can’t be bothered to look up) the RP Jr viewpoint: that doing something about GW is a political problem, not a scientific one (in a way that it wasn’t in, say, 1990, when the scientific field was far more open).

So while I stick by what I said a while back I think then I didn’t really understand what I would now take to be the key point: which is to stop trying to make WGI policy relevant. Make the WGI report much smaller; less bureaucratic; put fewer people on it. Report on less research. There is no need at all for it to summarise everything, or even try to. Put a note on the front page: “This is a research report. If you care about the politics, go elsewhere. We’ve already told you all you need to know”.

See also

* IPCC troubles in context: Some good Dutch media coverage
* A modest proposal for the IPCC – page limits are a good start, and hive off detail. I’d make them stricter.


i-92fab05280335bc7b4c98285f874f37d-BlurParklife.jpg Or rather, Parkrun which D+A introduced me to. Thats me, the one on the right: I wanted to be that dog, at least for the race. It looks so focussed and determined, even if it is just chasing a stuffed electric hare.

And the running is good, so I’ll tell you all about it so you can play too. It is a series of regular free 5km runs at various places in the UK. You have to pre-register a tag, but from then on you just turn up at the start and run. The Cambridge one is in Milton Country Park which is where I run at lunchtime, though on a different course.

The results are now up: I came an unimpressive 69th, and in fact totally misestimated the field, starting far too near the front. Which meant I found myself running at 3:05/km at one point, not a pace I can sustain. I dropped back to 4:45 fairly soon, which meant I spent the race beng overtaken, argh. Time: 22:45. That is my first timed run of 5km, let alone race. The full gory details are (probably; I think you’re allowed to see) here, but happily I forgot my heart-rate monitor. Note that my GPS thinks the course was only 4:86; I;m sure it is wrong, because they measure the course carefully, so it has lost 140m in corner-cutting of my deduced track.
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IAC review of the IPCC

It am all de rage, as they say. But is it any good? And who are the IAC anyway? Go on, hands up, before they were asked to do this: had anyone heard of them? Thought not: I certainly hadn’t. This is an organisation so well-known that the wikipedia article on [[IAC]] (note: that is today’s version; I assume that someone will add it, eventually) doesn’t even include them, although it has space for 15 or so other IAC’s. Although Gavin seems to quite like the report, I’m less sure. So before getting down to reading the report, here is another piece of meta-analysis: if you read the exec summary it notes that the first IAC report was Inventing a Better Future – A Strategy for Building Worldwide Capacities in Science and Technology. You’ve heard of it? Unlikely – google news shows no hits and all the google hits seem to be to the usual people you’d expect to note it and ignore it. I note that All IAC draft reports undergo an intensive process of peer-review by other international experts though unlike the IPCC it isn’t an open review process – we can’t see the reviewers comments, let alone see the various drafts (and it does need review: there is an error on p iii of the exec summary, where they fail to capitalise Winnacker’s surname. Trivial, obviously).

A bit more preamble, in the spirit of declaring COI: when I was in science, I was very peripherally involved in the IPCC, as was everyone; but I never rose to the dizzy ranks of contributing author or even close; I just talked to a few people who were writing stuff.

Anyway, I can no longer put off actually reading the thing… but then I realised I couldn’t be bothered. So I just read the exec summary. This means you should discount what I say by some appropriate amount.

But before I go on, I should quote the preamble, which is there to be ignored (most of the news reports on the IAC report did, of course):

Since its founding more than 20 years ago, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) can claim many important accomplishments to its credit. First among these are the periodic assessments of our understanding of the nature, origin, and impact of observed changes in the world’s climate. Also among its significant contributions has been the sustaining of a global focus on climate change. Indeed IPCC has provided the framework for a continued and rather remarkable international conversation on climate research both among scientists and policymakers. In many ways IPCC, with its massive, far-flung, and decentralized network of scientists along with the governments represented on the Panel, represents a significant social innovation. For these and other contributions the IPCC was one of the recipients of the Nobel Peace Prize in 2007.

Or, put another way: “the IPCC has been a great success. But faced with some worthless criticism we’ll ignore all that and produce some headless-chicken recommendations.”

Continue reading “IAC review of the IPCC”