Friday, August 19, 2011

Attack of the Monbions

What is it about Penn State University? Home to Michael Mann, Mr Hockey Stick, it is also home to a certain Shawn Domagal-Goldman, Astrobiologist and NASA affiliated scientist. Dr Domagal-Goldman has been speculating on how humans and extra-terrestrials might make contact in the future. In one scenario our alien neighbours are climate alarmists. They detect rising CO2 levels (presumably they have the technology to differentiate between anthropogenic emissions and natural sources such as out-gassing from the oceans), and, alarmed at our industrial civilisation they take action to wipe us out.

According to the Guardian, these scientists say:
"Green" aliens might object to the environmental damage humans have caused on Earth and wipe us out to save the planet. "These scenarios give us reason to limit our growth and reduce our impact on global ecosystems. It would be particularly important for us to limit our emissions of greenhouse gases, since atmospheric composition can be observed from other planets," the authors write.
What does this prove? It proves once and for all that people like Al Gore, Prince Charles and the like are not of this Earth. The Daily Mash has alrady jumped in with the collective terms for them: Monbions. Yep, that's what they are alright...

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

I love my model

In this post I want to discuss an aspect of climate change research that is not often explicitly addressed, and that is the activities of the mathematical modellers who construct the complex models which are key components of the whole IPCC process. The outputs of these models are what lead to projections of looming disaster in climate change, biodiversity, population explosions, financial meltdown and all manner of doom-laden predictions that find their way to the front pages of the popular press (and to the front pages of Nature, Science et al). Given the importance of these models, it’s worth spending some time looking in some detail at the incentives of modelling.

Firstly, I need to point out that mathematical modelling is a key part of my day job. I write complex models in the finance and IT operations industry. I can’t go into detail because these models are considered to be major parts of my employer’s intellectual property, and details are shrouded by strict non-disclosure agreements. The content of the models I design, and which I and others code, give my employer a competitive advantage that it does not want to lose. However, I can say some fairly generic statements: our models are empirical models of operational activities in different domains. Some of these models are highly complex and contain tens of thousands of input variables, hundreds of thousands of data points, are multi-dimensional, contain tens of thousands of equations and produce tens of thousands of results (not as data cubes). We use specialised modelling tools and languages. This is anything but a couple of worksheets in Excel. These models have been developed and revised over a number of years and continue to evolve to take account of changes in the business landscape. As an aside, my PhD thesis was in using machine learning to generate data validation models, so aside from the day job I have also studied and researched the topic.

Criminal Stupidity

No, not the rioting and looting, which was way beyond stupid. No, what is criminally stupid is the sentencing now being imposed on those convicted of rioting. Custodial sentences for people convicted of the most trivial of offences is ludicrous. It’s destroying lives, costs us all a fortune and doesn’t rebuild the communities that were trashed. How is this supposed to help? People are not stupid, they can compare and contrast with the derisory way politicians who filch from the public purse are treated. We’re not talking about having sympathy for those who committed acts of violence or arson, but putting people in prison for posting messages on Facebook or picking stuff up that had been looted is madness. Not only will many of these sentences be reduced on appeal (at yet more expense to the taxpayer), it will clog up the so-called justice system even more.By all means punish those convicted, but do it sensibly so that it can make a real difference, not make things worse.

The more time goes on the more I wonder about the intelligence of the political class. It’s not just suicidal policies on windfarms and climate change, it’s everywhere. The harder I try to see signs of intelligence at work, the less I find of it. Where are all the smart people in government? It’s a scary thought that the answer is that there are none.

Saturday, August 13, 2011

Thank you so much...

For all those brain dead Anarchists who'll applaud any violent protest so long as it's not by racists or fascists, a big thank you. Next time you mask up for a black bloc protest, the police will beat the shit out of you. Next time you get out of hand the police will be able to call on water-cannon and baton rounds. Next time you use social media to co-ordinate an action, the police will block it or grab the records to trace the messages.

I know it's the rioters who've given the excuse to the police and our politicians who were looking to clamp down even harder on protest. The anti-terror line was getting weak recently, but now there's a new scare tactic that can be employed by statist politicians looking to take away the tiny space left to us to protest. What took hundreds of years of protest to achieve is being steadily chipped away - first in the guise of stopping Islamist terror, now in the guise of stamping out rioting.

And you, brain dead Anarchists, are there on the side-lines applauding the rioting scum who've destroyed their own neighbourhoods and who preferred to steal trainers or TVs to attacking political targets. Rioters who liked the idea of mugging people because they could rather than taking on the politicians who've screwed us all. And before you give me any of that moral equivalence bullshit - trashing and looting shops is not some anti-capitalist, anti-consumerist, anti-anything protest. It's nicking stuff because you can and you don't give a shit for the livelihoods or the jobs of the people who own or work in those shops.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Crimes, Punishments and Riots

I must admit to more than a sneaking sympathy for those who want to cut the benefits of anyone convicted of riot related crimes. It goes without saying that the majority of those who will be convicted who are currently in work won’t be in the future. There’s also probably a case for saying that the parents of anyone under the age of 13 ought to lose their benefits if their child is convicted. I know that 13 is an arbitrary cut-off, but once kids are into their teens it gets harder to keep a lid on what they get up – particularly when the entire welfare system seems to exist to give them free reign.

However, I’m also not convinced that prison is the right punishment for some of the less serious offences. It seems to me that we ought to be thinking of putting some of these kids to work – and it should be unpaid. . And this should be real work – a proper working day, no bus fares being paid, no social workers on hand to soothe the ruffled feathers of teenagers who actually have to do as they are told. It should be real work with some value, not ‘make-work’. How about repairing the damage they’ve committed. Or fixing up some of the estates that are most run down. For this to work you need to have penalties in place. For every day that you are late a day is added to the sentence. For every day that is missed you add two days. If offenders repeatedly don’t turn up then it’s automatically a custodial sentence.

As a corollary, if we’re cutting benefits from offenders, then what do we expect them to do instead? Something like this calls for some radical action. Firstly, waive minimum wage rules for them. If they have to work for less than minimum wage then that’s tough. If they stick to their jobs then they can move on to somewhere that will pay better. Secondly, we have to do something about the gang culture that is a cancer in large parts of our inner cities. I never thought I’d see the day when I’d be agreeing with Diane Abbot, but there you are. The police will have to come down really hard on the gangs. Loss of social housing, loss of benefits, custodial sentences – the full gamut of punitive options should be used. It’s gone too far already – now we need to take the opportunity to kill it off for good.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Nobody wins

Our feral politicians do not have the moral weight to criticise rioting – they are venal, corrupt and deserve our contempt. The media, immersed in navel-gazing and reporting celebrity gossip, similarly carry no moral weight. Our education system has systematically undermined the authority of parents and others. It exists to boost the ‘self esteem’ and greivance culture that exists among sections of the poor (black and white). It too has lost the authority it might once have had.

The only people who can criticise are those of us who get up and work. Those of us who want to stand on our own two feet and not to have to depend on a welfare state that seeks to make us addicted to hand-outs. Those of us, black and white, who have raised kids to know what’s right and wrong, and to make sure our kids stay on the straight and narrow. We’re the only ones who can criticise, and we need to make sure our voices are heard above that of ‘hug a hoodie’ Dave and the rest of the parasites.

Nobody has done well out of this sorry mess. Least of all those people who's lives have been destroyed by their neighbours and the criminally stupid kids in their areas. The costs of doing business in places like Tottenham, Croydon and so on will go through the roof. Shops will be boarded up and left to rot. This effects everyone in those areas, including the morons who smashed, burned and looted. In time people will complain that their communities are not being served and no doubt some will blame racism or seek some other explanation that ignores the facts of what has just gone on.

Just about the only people who win from all of this are the BNP. Who will ignore the fact that a huge number of the victims of the riots are black, Asian, Kurdish and others. They will ignore too that in some places there were as many white faces under the scarves and hoodies as black.

Tuesday, August 09, 2011

Thursday, August 04, 2011

Internet Explorer, Intelligence and Climate Change

The recent and much-publicised story about Internet Explorer users and intelligence casts an interesting light on the parlous state of journalism in much of the mass-media. On the odd chance that you missed it the story goes as follows: a psychometrics company releases a study that looks at browser usage and IQ tests, the results show that users of Internet Explorer score significantly lower on the online IQ tests than users of other browsers, the results are picked up and trumpeted right across the world and in all the big media outlets (both in print and online), finally the study is shown to be bogus and the whole thing turns out to be a hoax. Apart from the great Daily Mash headline ‘If you're using Internet Explorer, this is called a 'website'’, is there anything especially noteworthy to report?

I think there is, and it is directly relevant to much science reporting, particularly, but not exclusively, with respect to climate change.

The hoax was not especially elaborate. It appears that it consisted of little more than a purchased domain name, a plausible looking web site and some skills in crafting a press release. The media received the press release, look at the site and then went to print. Instant headlines across the world. Cracks began to show in the story, however, when careful readers and bloggers started digging deeper. It turned out that the domain name had only been recently purchased. The web site contained images stolen from another company. Nobody could be contacted directly at the fake company. This isn’t rocket science, it’s just basic fact checking and it fell to readers and bloggers to do the job that the journalists should have done in the first place.

Tuesday, August 02, 2011

Climate Change In Black and White

Although this isn’t a new story, this Guardian piece on ‘conservative white males’ being more likely to be climate change sceptics  is worth discussing in a bit more detail. The conjunction of race and climate is an interesting one, combining two of the key planks of current liberal/left orthodoxy.

Firstly, Judith Curry, who is decidedly not a climate change sceptic quite rightly points out what a pitiful piece of work this as in terms of research. There appears to be no clear definition of what a ‘denialist’ is, as she states:

Because of the mounting political and economic stakes of dealing with climate change, this global environmental problem has become extremely controversial in the US, and American efforts to deal with it have provoked a significant degree of denial—both of the reality of climate change and of its status as a problem deserving amelioration.

JC comment.  The above is the first para in the paper.  It is the only place where they come close to defining climate change denial.    Do you know anyone that denies the reality of climate change?  I sure don’t.   Many people on their “denier” list probably also agree that the problem deserves some attention.  It seems that “denier” really means people that don’t support emissions targets.  This whole group of sociologists working in this area seems not to have given much thought to what actually characterizes “deniers.”

It would appear then, that in the absence of a clearly articulated definition, ‘denier’ is essentially a short-hand way of saying people who we disagree with. Note that there is not even an attempt to outline a set of criteria against which we might be able to assess degrees of agreement or disagreement. It’s all or nothing, completely binary thinking that does not allow room for manoeuvre (see the post on the Climate Quadrant on one possible approach to classifying a wider range of views on the subject). Indeed, one has to wonder whether Dr Curry herself wouldn’t qualify as a ‘denier’ as far as many people on the left are concerned – because despite her adherence to the anthropogenic climate change hypothesis she is critical of the idea of a climate change ‘consensus’, of the practices of some of her colleagues (particularly in the light of Climategate), and of the conduct of the IPCC.