Zbigniew Jaworowski: stiff

Wikipedia says it, so it must be true.

ZJ is most famous for winning the 2005 Golden Horseshoes, but lucked out in 2006, despite being called a “titan of mendacity”. An example to us all. Tim Ball has a glowing tribute to ZJ, and there can be no deeper condemnation than that. It is entirely fitting that TB uncritically repeats some of the self-promoting lies that ZJ told about himself, including the imaginary senate hearing. And he puffs Beck! What more can you ask?

Tol vs Curry

lasso KK reports on the Tol vs Curry fight. Tol is complaining that Curry is doing her usual: posting about septic junk and then saying “oh but I’m just asking”. Tol may have long hair but, unlike Curry, he isn’t a bozo, or irresponsible (he did call me rude things in an email once, but I forgive him).

[Update: incidentally, there is an interesting exchange between KK and RP Jr (!) in the comments:

KK> Do you assign lousy, error-riddled textbooks for your class to read?
RP> Yes, absolutely. The Skeptical Environmentalist was a core reading…

It is interesting only because that was a silly question from KK, and a failure-to-think response from RP (or rather, a point-scoring response). The point is, within a managed class structure with someone guiding the discussion, it is fine to discuss flawed texts, for the reason given: it encourages critical thinking. That wasn’t what Curry was doing. There was no guidance at the start, nor does she guide the subsequence discussion.

Also, Gavin’s point]

[Updated again: this turned in the comments into McShane and Wyner and the “Lasso” method. So I’ve added a pic of Lasso being a bit crap, from Gavin et al.’s reply.]

Refs

* Question of the Week; from which “There’s no scientific evidence”
* Bart’s view

Web 2.0 mashup question

I could (possibly) work this out myself, but I’ll try you lot instead: anyone know how to combine two GPS tracks onto one map? I mean tracks as stored on Garmin’s website, and displayed like http://connect.garmin.com/activity/127111491. Specifically, I’d like to combine that track with this one. The tracks are both public, so you don’t have to assume any authentication is needed.

Update: thanks for the advice. In the end I didn’t bother with any of the fancy software and just used vim which did a perfectly good job of sticking two GPS files together.

http://connect.garmin.com:80/activity/embed/127527477

It would be nice to colour the tracks separately but I’ll live without. I’d still like to be able to do this on-the-fly, but again life is too short.

The answer is: Tidy steered a better course than me :-(.

Tweaking the wackos

Via Eli I saw that there was some odd stuff at WUWT (nothing new there you might say). The weirdness is the ATI vs Mann case, or whatever it is called, and the ATI are complaining that Mann is allowed to be a party to a case about his own emails. Or something; the legalese is dull, obviously. The ATI counsel appear to have been doing some very dodgy things, like running the case whilst working for the EPA.

Anyway, I thought it would be entertaining to tweak them a bit, and did so for a while. What is funny (apart from their inability to count to 4) is the way they are happy to leap upon complete misrepresentations by their opponents of what people have said, and then attack those words. And the weird assertion that IPCC AR4 didn’t use MBH. And their apparent belief in complete openness for all emails… except their own. And their friends.

It was fun for a bit, but got rather repetitive after a while.

This is more fun!

Greek PM drops trousers

Or rather, drops euro referendum plan1 but the effect is much the same.

When the referendum was announced a few days ago, some thought he had played a blindingly good political hand. Which just goes to show that economists aren’t so great at politics and the cobbler should stick to his last. Which is why I’m commenting, obviously. But the argument – that he had magically got out of a difficult position (the Greek public didn’t like the deal that was struck, this was he evaded responsibility, and maybe the need to buy off the public might result in a better deal) sounded quite plausible to me. The downsides were that the rest of Europe wasn’t going to like it, and also that while it might have been good politics it wasn’t clearly good economics.

And that seems to be what the Greek political class has decided:

George Papandreou opened emergency talks with his opponents, who performed a U-turn and agreed to broad austerity measures in exchange for a European bailout.

Faced with the deal falling apart the opposition seem to have been forced to abandon their opposition and agree that yes, they really think the deal is the best solution after all. Which at this point looks good: politicians forced to abandon posturing and consider the good of their country for fear of what their ignorant public might decide if left to themselves.

Notes

1. That link is broken, viewed from the perspective of 2015. I think it was http://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/europe/greek-pm-drops-euro-referendum-plan-6256482.html.

William elsewhere: planet3.0

In Memoriam, John McCarthy.

Eeee, those were the days.

[Late update: I’ve just gone through and re-read that P3 post. To anyone who knows my style and mt’s, its pretty obvious who wrote which bits. But anyway, I’ve found my original email so this was my version:

An appreciation of John McCarthy from sci.environment

Recently two major figures from computing have died: Dennis Ritchie (C) and John McCarthy (LISP). As far as I know, DR had nothing special to do with the environment, but John McCarthy was a denizen of the usenet group sci.environment in the days when usenet was the premier online discussion forum; the days before blogs (before the web even) and the days before the signal to noise ratio in sci.environment itself collapsed and everyone left (or at least, I did. I may not have been the last out). All the old fogeys were there, including mt.

JMC was a technological optimist. At times this could become indistinguishable from a belief in magic. But more often he had valuable things to say, and would temper the overenthusiastic but underoptimistic Green Folk. He was well known for a couple of his .sigs (these and others are available from his sayings), which form a neat summary of his style:

During the second millenium, the Earthmen complained a lot

and more importantly

He who refuses to do arithmetic is doomed to talk nonsense

The first, of course, expresses his techno-optimism. But (since planet3.0 is at least in part about presenting ideas in a way that they can be accepted) it can also be read as a criticism of people whose apparent reaction to almost any change is negative. The US is famous for its “yes we can” attitude, which is a powerful force. In contrast, “um, no, don’t like the sound of that” can be very weak. But more often he used the second; and from what my fallible memory calls forth, his ability to puncture nonsensical arguments with trivial arithmetic was his most notable contribution.

A good example is a discussion of shipping costs:

Someone speculated that increasing oil prices might force countries that import grain to grow their own because of the cost of transportation… About 1600 tonne-miles/gal for a large dry bulker carrying grain.

Now we can do some arithmetic using the following facts.

There are 37 bushels of wheat per tonne.
There are 42 gallons of oil in a barrel.
Oil costs $12 per barrel at present.

Wheat costs something like $2.00 per bushel at present, but that’s an exceptionally low price because of bumper crops.
Sometimes it’s $4.00 per bushel. I’m not sure I have those prices right, so someone may want to correct me.

Imagine an average journey of 5,000 miles.

The arithmetic gives us

transportation cost per bushel =

(/ (* 5000 12.0 ) (* 37.0 42 1600)) =>0.02413127413127413,

i.e. the fuel cost to transport a bushel of wheat 5,000 miles is $.024.

Multiplying fuel cost by 100 would add a substantial cost to shipping wheat, but it would destroy the rest of the economy.

Conclusion: The cost of shipping grain long distances won’t force countries to be independent in food.

That was written in 1999. Oil is now ten times that price, and grain about three times the price, so the argument is still valid. Perhaps more to the point, it is still meaningul and you can check it yourself.

JMC was clever, but there are hints of the arrogance, and disinterest in the actual science, which swirl around folk such as Muller. An example begins with JMC asking “Do you think humanity can or should prevent the next ice age?” This is not a scientific question; what JMC is fishing for is either “Yes we should” (in which case he will say “Aha! You approve of human intervention”) or “No we should not” (in which case he will say “Aha! You want to kill millions”) or “I don’t know” (in which case he will say “Aha! You’re useless”). Nonetheless, JMC gets a scientific answer we already have. The point being, of course, that we have already emitted sufficient GHGs to overwhelm the natural Milankovitch forcing. We could perhaps have had an interesting discussion around that topic. But that was not at all what he wanted so he pushed for more, but was disappointed.

There is much much more in the treasure trove of old sci.env posts. Alas, quite apart from the unrestricted posting which eventually killed usenet, the problem was that it was fundamentally a discussion forum, and didn’t allow a corpus of ideas to be built up. So this interesting discussion of “lawyers science” lies forever lost. If only it were not just as relevant today. But since this is about JMC, I should point you to his reply.

People mourn when a person dies, but no-one mourns the billions of intestinal bacteria that his death dooms. Speciesism, I calls it.

Refs

* It turns out to be possible to get a posting history for JMC out of
google
groups
.