JoNova

A science presenter, writer, speaker & former TV host; author of The Skeptic's Handbook (over 200,000 copies distributed & available in 15 languages).



The Skeptics Handbook

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The Skeptics Handbook II

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GoldNerds

The nerds have the numbers on precious metals investments on the ASX



Vietnamese Translation

Pat Kelly has produced the fifteenth translation of The Skeptics Handbook — Cẩm Nang Của Người Hoài Nghi. Click on the cover to download a copy. The diacritical feast of glyphs in the file title looks like glorious unix nightmare. (So if the link doesn’t work for you, use the back up file here).

Vietnamese Translation — Cẩm Nang Của Người Hoài Nghi

Pat writes:

Main thanks to my long suffering wife Thi Kelly who has been most painstaking in her efforts.

Also thanks to Cam Ngo MSc MEngSc PhD (UNSW) who reviewed the text and offered helpful suggestions.

[...]

Hackers throw EU carbon market into intensive care ward. May be shut for weeks.

The EU carbon market is in trouble again. Shucks.  Who would have guessed?

Hackers have created so much disarray the EU market has been shut down.

(Reuters) – The European Commission has frozen spot carbon trade in its 72 billion euro ($97.1 billion) emissions trading scheme after carbon permits were allegedly stolen. [Reuters]

A market based on an unmeasurable entity — an atmospheric nullity that-might-have-been-worse  — was asking for trouble. It’s not that the market has loopholes, it is a loophole. Offering an infinite array of ways to cheat, guarantees the crooks will come. “Lead us Not into Temptation” ought to start with managing the temptations. Carbon is not a commodity, it’s not a free market, and so sooner or later it will come undone. (That said, dumb ideas have lasted for decades). We might get lucky this time.

As I’ve said before, if the bulk carrier turns up empty, the buyer notices the coal is missing. But if the scammers sell empty carbon credits, who can tell? The two top auditors were suspended, prices have been falling and people leaving for better opportunities, some shifty Hungarians sold credits twice (and were allegedly not the  only ones to do [...]

Freak January 2011 continues — cyclone coming our way

FINAL UPDATE: The far southwest cyclone is just… drizzle. Best wishes for the Queenslanders who are dealing with the real thing right now.

UPDATE#3: Sunday morning –The Cyclone is now Category 1, and wind speeds only 100km/hr and falling, so the BOM have turned off the CYCLONE Alert, and now call it a “Low”. Their map suggests whatever’s left will have a direct hit on perth, but the infra red image suggests it’s already gone past… and will just clip the lower corner of the state.   Looks like it will just be a stormy day.

UPDATE #2: Saturday night –This glorious NASA image shows Bianca a few days ago. Right now the cyclone is losing strength over the cooler water as it heads towards the West Australian Southern coast. Windspeeds have dropped from 185km/hr to 140km/hr. But I thought the intricate detail in this photo was magnificent.

Cyclone Bianca tracks towards SW Western Australia. (Click on the image to go to the BOM page to watch the hourly updates of satelite images.)

Cyclone Bianca off the North West Cape  27 – Jan – 2011 Image: NASA, Modis 1 pixel = 1 km.

With wild blizzards in the Northern Hemisphere, [...]

Dellers is on fire today

James Delingpole hits the spot. Rarely do you see someone reply to a petty put-down with such equanimity, clarity, and ultimately, a devastating trump.

If Ben Goldacre thinks I’m a ***** what does that make him?

The BBC spent 3 hours trying to catch Delingpole out so they could paint him a fool. Obviously he didn’t give them much to work with, but it was enough to bring out the attack dogs.

Delingpole pointed out the moral and intellectual cowardice of those who throw teenage insults.

[...]

On blogging

With Jeff ID sadly shutting down the Air Vent, it’s worth a comment on comments, on blogging, and on the strange lifestyle that this is. But given that it’s 11:22pm 12:35pm here, and my office is still full of packed boxes (thanks to the marvellous newly laid wooden floor) tonight is not the time to try to eruditely capture the conditio sine qua non of blogging.

Instead I’ll say I completely understand why Jeff wants some time out (indefinitely). There must be a way to maintain a blog without it taking over all the spare moments in a day, and I’m going to find it, though the compass on my desk is just pointing at the magnet in my hard drive, and there is no GPS in the house.

Thanks for the patience of all the regulars out there who are turning up this month to find an erratic rhythm.

It’s a case of positive feedback

Due to the immediate feedback nature of comments and emails, once a post goes up, it’s easy to… keep posting, in the sense that ideas flow, questions that desperately need answering turn up, things that need debunking arise, and people send in good ideas [...]

The BBC left leaning bias — it’s in their DNA

This is a a BBC insider abandoning ship. It’s a spectacular case study in why big government can bollocks up any noble proposition, or honest profession. It’s how leadership dissolves into uninspired management as people spend other people’s money. How teams of people who no longer believe, all go through the motions. There’s no competition for the best scoop, for mass ratings, for ideas that push the bounds. The bounds are fixed. Sissons speaks his mind without holding back. — JN

Left-wing bias? It’s written through the BBC’s very DNA, says Peter Sissons Edited snippets of the Daily Mail’s extract of Peter Sissons new book .

For 20 years I was a front man at the BBC, anchoring news and current ­affairs programmes, so I reckon nobody is better placed than me to ­answer the question that nags at many of its viewers — is the BBC biased?

In my view, ‘bias’ is too blunt a word to describe the subtleties of the ­pervading culture. The better word is a ‘mindset’. At the core of the BBC, in its very DNA, is a way of thinking that is firmly of the Left.

I lost count of the number of times [...]

Chomsky’s prize hyperbole: GOP win could kill us all

It’s another sign of the ongoing implosion among the carbonistas: the nutter comments come out as reality hits their big dream.

Noam Chomsky — linguistics professor, proves that a professorship doesn’t stop you saying silly things, and manages to spin a “vote for the conservatives” as a ticket to destroy the human race. I mean, how do you raise the stakes (of the spin) from here?  What tops that?  Perhaps by 2012 we will hear how those wrong votes could be taking out not just homo sapiens and polar bears, but all life on Earth?

As election campaign slogans go I don’t think it will catch on: “Vote for us or everyone dies”…

The dumb-punter-voters are too stupid to make good decisions. Democracy has failed. “Chomsky” ought to choose our leaders. Of course.

Thus the Anointed speaks.

– JN

From Climate Depot and Marc Morano

Noam Chomsky: GOP election amounts to ‘death knell for the human species’

[...]

Science is played by politicians

Brisbane floods, 1893. Young boys take the opportunity to play in the floodwaters in the business heart of Brisbane. Other people use rowboats- the only sure mode of transport during the floods. Poul C. Poulsen.

When an expert on small mammals announces that sea levels will rise by 100m, that’s national news. When an expert on hydrology announces that thousands of homes will be flooded sooner or later in a major capital city, it’s buried, and stays buried for four years, and even after it’s leaked, it still isn’t front page news until after the flood.

The photo above reminds us that the hydrology experts were not predicting anything unprecedented.

As usual, pronouncements from science are just the hammer used (or locked away) by those in power for their own purposes. A convenient tool. From Hedley Thomas at The Australian

The levels of inundation experienced throughout Brisbane as a result of this month’s flood show that the June 1999 Brisbane River Flood Study, which caused a political crisis for Mr Quinn when it was leaked and published in June 2003, correctly warned that the development control lines, set in 1984, were incorrect.

The June 1999 Brisbane River Flood Study [...]

The Vision of The Annointed

Thomas Sowell wrote Vision of the Anointed in 1995, and didn’t mention climate change. Yet such is the insight of the man that what he wrote was prescient, pertinent and 100% applicable 15 years later. Our battle today follows a similar pattern to  battles over many other social policies. Sowell discusses The War on Poverty, sex education, affirmative action, discrimination, crime, infant mortality. They’re unrelated to climate science, yet the tactics repeat ad nauseum.

We fight to test policies with empirical evidence through polite discourse, while those who want influence and money have an arsenal of tools at their disposal to muddy the search for truth. The anointed substitute baseless declarations, flawed assumptions, and irrelevant motivations for real arguments.

How many areas of public policy have a genuine, no name-calling, clean cut debate about what works and what doesn’t?

Just like Earth’s atmosphere, it’s the feedbacks that matter.

Self Congratulation as a Basis for Social Policy

Dangers to society may be mortal without being immediate. Once such danger is the prevailing social vision of our time–and the dogmatism with which the ideas assumptions, and attitudes behind that vision are held.

It’s not that these views are especially evil or [...]

While the Cat is away-Version 2

 

CAT (away) + Mice = PLAY

Jo is away from the computer for some fun and relaxation with her family.

Jo being “off-line” leaves the controls of this blog in the hands of volunteer moderators.

This time while the Cat is away:

Many regular posters here use web links to make their point(s). If those links could be found easily, others could use them both here at JoNova and also if we blog elsewhere.

[...]

The Warmest Year Antidotes

What do you say when the Big PR bell is rung? You know the litany: “2010 was the warmest since measuring began, and the previous decade was also the warmest decade on record.” (eg The AGE)

Sure, and the world has been warming for 300 years, long before the industrial revolution. The trend hasn’t changed as our emissions rose. No one knows exactly why it started rising back then, but it wasn’t CO2. Sure and 150 years of “records” is not long. It was warmer 1000 years ago, 2000 years ago, 5000 years ago and 130,000 years ago. In fact its been warmer for most of the last 10,000 years than it is today, and it’s been warmer for most of the last 500 million years. Only people who think CO2 matters keep repeating that it’s warmed from 1850 to now without pointing out the bigger perspective. Sure, and the records have been set with thermometers like this one (next to concrete and exhaust vents — see below).  There probably weren’t too many car parks or air conditioners in 1880 either. Not to mention the non-random adjustments, and that mystery about how 75% of thermometers are ignored.

Nothing about the [...]

Brisbane’s Man-made Flood Peak?

In Australia we’re all watching the flood news unfold. Right now, two friends are trapped without electricity in an apartment building in inner Brisbane. The ground floor below them is inundated. Troy and Jan wrote on Tuesday night that they had little warning their exit route would be cut off, and by the time they knew it was, it was too late to leave. They were rushing to cook meals before the electricity went off and were expecting to lose the car. — My thoughts go out to them, and to those who are so much worse off. Which brings us to questions about what might have been.

The major dam above Brisbane, the Wivenhoe, may have missed the opportunity to release serious quantities of water in the week or two leading up to the major flood peak. Because the Wivenhoe was almost completely full, when the big danger-day came  they could do very little but eek out a small amount of water into what was a rising flood, with little capacity to absorb the massive flows. There are hard questions to be asked about water management.

It’s one of the severest La Nina seasons on record, and with [...]

Half of the energy is flung out to space… (along with the model projections)

This is one of those scratch-your-head moments when a skeptic just has to ask “Could the modelers really have overlooked that?” Given the $79 billion odd dollars in research and the billions of dollars bet on the models, it seems hard to believe. Then again, the same team didn’t ask any hard questions when one study overturned hundreds of other studies that showed it was warmer 1000 years ago, they are the people who think it’s ok to hide declines, hide data and dodge FOI’s. This is, after all, the Team who call fertilizer – “pollution“. Maybe a couple of extra Watts per square meter could have slipped by?

When a greenhouse gas absorbs infra red, its molecules emit in a random direction — so half of its emissions  are emitted up, towards space. This is kind of the key to the matter.

George is an electrical engineer, and since I’m married to one I know that EE’s are used to dealing with complex feedback loops in systems. George uses the points we know — incoming solar radiation, outgoing radiation, the Stefan-Boltzman equation — and shows in a simple and logical fashion that the numbers all balance.

But once [...]

Green Hit list: Wasted money and brain power

TWAWKI found something he calls a green hit list.

The “Carbon Capture report” tucks away more meaningless data about you than you could hope to (not) have to read: Factoids you didn’t know existed, don’t want to understand and never cared to compare.

There is so much money sloshing around in The Big Scare Campaign, someone at the University of Illinois has created a massive database with an amazing array of superficial-to-the-point-of-meaningless data. Have you ever wondered what the NewsTone of joannenova.com.au was — and if I told you it to the second decimal place, does that change anything about the weather? Apparently, “0.36″ and slightly “green”, whatever that means. The crew-with-too-much-money have created some autobot crawlers (presumably) that check language on tweets and posts and rate it all for polarization, activity, personalization, blah blah and to the nth blah.

Look closely and you can see part of the GNP of the West evaporating. Pfft.

The entry for someone called Joanne Nova is here.

Could this be your tax dollars at work?

I can’t be bothered trying to figure out what these indicators mean. None of it is obvious, the numbers don’t match up with the [...]

Sceptics ask: Is the UK government’s climate propaganda machine finally falling apart?

Just when you think things are as inanely silly as they can be, they raise the stakes. It’s a game of double or nothing in the race to the bottom. The close common interests of three big government agencies is fragmenting and instead of skeptics launching the FOI’s, this time, the BBC is.

Just in case there is anyone who doesn’t know, the UK Met predicted a winter a couple of degrees above the usual. Then supertankers of snow turned up and dumped on the nation, surprising people, and making life difficult for everyone who hadn’t made arrangements for the return of the British Blizzard and the coldest December on record. The UK Met, having got it completely wrong, decided the best course of action was to announce post hoc that actually they did get it right, really, they predicted cold weather, but they didn’t tell the public, they just told the politicians. The politicians apparently asked them not to let on to the public, or so the story goes, and the plot thickens.

One way or another someone is using tactics with all the forward thinking you’d expect from a five year old. If the Met office is not [...]

Laptop beats Met Supercomputer: SOI index (at record high) scores a win.

Back on August 6, 2010, when the UK BOM was predicting a warm winter, and every Met Agency in the West was already declaring that 2010 would be the hottest year ever, Bryan Leyland predicted (on a global scale) that before the end of the year, there would be significant cooling. As you can see from the chart, this is exactly what happened.

The UK Met Office has a gigantic supercomputer, 1,500 staff and a £170m-a-year budget, but a retired engineer in New Zealand armed only with Excel and access to the internet and with the McLean is et al 2009 paper, was able to get it right.

Parking the SOI index (the blue line) 7 months into the future suggests things may get cooler still as the temperature (red line) often follows the trend. (Click for a larger image.) Note, the SOI is shifted 7 months forwards in time, and the scale is inverted.

Before anyone scoffs that the El Nino’s are usually followed by cooling, and the SOI indicator is well known, ponder that the well fed agencies of man-made-climate-fame weren’t telling the public that a big-chill was on the way and they ought to stock up [...]

Cold times means more death, war, rebellion, drought and flood in China

Tomb of Hong Quan Fu. Photo Iflwlou拍攝

It seems a warmer climate might be bad, but a colder one is deadly.

Once upon a time, people thought that overpopulation triggered crashes, but in this study by Lee and Zhang the hard numbers suggest instead that it was climate, and of course, it’s not the warmer kind of climate that causes the problems but the colder kind.

Malthusian cycles of population boom and bust aren’t the drivers here (though presumably having a large population means there is little buffer when the deadly cold spells hit).

From NIPCC:  Cold Periods caused population crashes in China over the last millenium

…there were 5 major population contractions in China between 1000 CE and 1911, and all of them occurred in periods with a cold climate, when mortality crises triggered population collapses. [Abstract]

How much fun can you have in a long frost? Almost every kind of uprising, pain or plague.

In one population crash, the losses were as high as 49% of the peak. In the face of a 50:50 death rate, “perspective” doesn’t seem like quite the right word.

[...]

A willing victim of a false faith… Craven’s solution as it crashes: scream louder

You have to feel sorry for him. He’s genuine. He’s stressed to the point of mania. And it’s all for nothing.

But as Brice Bosnich says, Hilarious;  bring the back to front canvas jacket, rubber spoon…

Greg Craven posted his infamous AGU speech and asked us to share it. Craven is absolutely right in a chain of logic except for one ever so small point, in the first link. His chain is anchored to his Gods of Science. He doesn’t question authority. Everything else is an error cascade, and he’s over the waterfall. He’s just done Niagara in a tin-can.

I hope he makes it.

The irony is he’ll devote hours to “understanding” the official establishment version of events, and three years working non-stop to promote that, but nothing to understanding why people are unconvinced. He’s living in the matrix — he thinks the punters are dumber than him, and they’re being exploited by a “ruthless denial machine” — meanwhile his religious zeal, and blind faith in authority is passively exploited by a ruthless power-seeking money-hungry machine.

Shame, if only someone had taught him the fallacy of argumentum ad verecundiam. All those good intentions could be used to help [...]

Eleven Principles to advance us to a Third World Nation

Here in Australia we’re copying techniques from tin-pot tyrannies. When the government wants a “consensus” that they know they have no way of achieving, they fake it. People in suits declare (with no hint of irony) that Business Needs Certainty (which means: certain-taxes, guaranteed imposts, global handicaps, Mmmm. Yes. Please).

The Ultimate State of Business Certainty will be found when the idea of costing carbon is dumped for good, laughed into history, and is mocked on whatever version of Saturday Night Live is running at the time.

Frankly the case cooked up as “Business Needs Certainty (so tax us)” is an inanity-cake with cherries on top. Can we bake it in public, chop and serve it with a smile, and all enjoy the joke together?

Is anyone kidding that there is any better kind of “business certainty” than when companies know for sure they won’t be hit with unnecessary taxes based on corrupt science? How about a future where a Government guarantees to get out of the way and stay out?

Gilllard has painted herself into a corner where the only escape hatch is “a consensus” (well not just any old consensus, but a fully predetermined one — hers).

[...]

The Truth Wears Off: Is there something wrong with the scientific method?

The New Yorker has such an interesting article it’s already generating discussion here, so it deserves a thread of it’s own. It describes a true modern paradox, namely that so many good studies can show interesting “significant” results, yet very few of these turn out to be genuine repeatable findings, and frustrated researchers struggle to get similar results, and it’s almost as if, the harder they try, the worse it gets. Many researchers across disparate fields are noticing an odd trend that the effect they thought was so solid, appears to mysteriously “wear off” as the years and the repeat trials go on.

It’s a sober warning to all of us to search hard for the truth hidden behind variables we are not even able to name yet, let alone measure, and to be ever vigilant about variables we can name, like “publishing bias” and “selective reporting”.

Annals of Science The Truth Wears Off Is there something wrong with the scientific method? by Jonah Lehrer December 13, 2010

These are quick quotes from a 5 page article. It’s well written, and worth reading in full.

But now all sorts of well-established, multiply confirmed findings have started to look [...]