JoNova

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


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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



Tyrants always want to silence the critics

Plus ca change, plus c’est la meme chose.

Two hundred and fifty years ago the pamphleteers were the bloggers of the day. The Finkelstein plan in Australia is a modern version of the License of the Press under George III. Another excuse to tell people what they are allowed to read.

One John Wilkes was elected MP for Aylesbury in 1757.  George III soon-to-be-crowned King, arranged for his friend the Earl of Bute to get the job of PM. Wilkes wasn’t too happy with that. He thought Bute was incompetent, and so when one supporter of Bute started a newsletter called The Briton, it was only eight days later that Wilkes started his own newsletter, called the North Briton in response. Wilkes wrote anonymously each week, but his 45th edition was too much for George III and Wilkes was charged with Libel for accusing the George of lying, and he was tossed in the Tower. He challenged the arrest and won (eventually). His speeches during the trial became famous and had people chanting “liberty and Wilkes” in the streets. Sadly troops fired on the protesters, killing seven, in the Massacre of St George’s Field. The cry of “45″ (from the [...]

Bingo! We’re back… :-)

There are many details to iron out, but thanks to some pesky hacks, I now have a bigger support team, a larger network of shared expertise, a much larger server and eventually, as we work through the site, a more efficient, faster site, that is more resilient, more stable, with a better back up system. I’ve also had a few very helpful donations.

We’re not protected by a soft media, a large public purse, and we don’t hide behind a censored fake debate as so many do.

They can attack, but it only makes us stronger.

More soon…

 

Please report things you notice here that need a fix.

We are aware of the thumbs up, and a few missing image links. Tell us how the service works for you.

The Temporary site is still up, and may stay there indefinitely. So  if you had a comment or conversation there: Not there yet, Still not there yet,  I needed a holiday and  “Sunny Days” . Thanks for your patience.

 

Australian Environment Foundation Conference in Sydney

Meet like-minded people and be a part of some rational science in Sydney on Oct 20 & 21.

David Evans is a keynote speaker, [...]

Massive Eltanin Meteor 2.5 million years ago set off mass tsunami, changed the climate?

From the file of “Things that would really be catastrophic”. Did a meteor have a role in a major shift in Earth’s Climate?

The start of the Quaternary period (2.588 million years ago, where the Pliocene became Pleistocene) coincides with evidence of a mega tsunami in the South Pacific.

The Eltanin Meteor fell into the South Pacific 2.5 million years ago setting off a (likely) tsunami that was hundreds of meters high and theoretically pushed mass material into the atmosphere which may have contributed to the cooling the globe had already started on. This meteor was hard to detect because it hit the ocean rather than the land. But researchers have pieced together evidence of the mass tsunami on continents around the pacific rim.

Figure 1. Possible effects of the Eltanin megatsunami. (A) Composite model of wave amplitudes for the South Pacific [modified after Ward and Asphaug (2002) but with a greater decay rate of wave amplitude away from the impact point; this produces lower wave amplitudes on affected coasts, more in line with recent findings but not as low as those proposed by Shuvalov and Trubetskaya (2007)]: ANT, Antarctica; AU, Australia; NZ, New Zealand; SA, South America. (B) [...]

McIntyre v Lewandowsky — Can we call in a statistician at UWA to help Lew?

The Lewandowsky view is Drilling into noise. The McIntyre response: Lewandowsky’s Fake Correlation

My favourite Lewandowsky line is: “We cannot get into the details here…”

McIntyre can and does in gory depth. He posts the equations, the code, the tables, everything. He graphs the residuals, and shows the “severe non-normality” of them. He tests the correlation and finds that the two most obvious fake responses heavily affect the results:

“Lewandowsky is absolutely off-base in his assertion that the examination of outliers is inappropriate statistical analysis. In fact, exactly the opposite is the case: proper statistical analysis REQUIRES the examination of outliers.”

“One can readily see that the two super-scammers (889, 963) contribute essentially 100% (over 100%) actually of the negative correlation between CauseHIV and CYMoon in this calculation.”

Lewandowsky says: “no one who has toyed with our data has thus far exhibited any knowledge of the crucial notion of a latent construct or latent variable.”

McIntyre replies: “Principal components, a frequent topic at this blog, are a form of latent variable analysis.”

As a former graduate of UWA, this is embarrassing. Does UWA not teach and use rigorous statistical methods? Is there no one who can help him?

Plus, when will [...]

Antarctic sea ice trends at record highs. Fears for shrinking southern ocean, right?

While stories of the Arctic record fall in sea-ice have been all over the news, all over the world, it’s almost as if the Southern Hemisphere didn’t exist. Right now, this week apparently, the sea ice is at or near record highs (bearing in mind that we’re still only talking 30 years of satellite records, but then, these are the same satellites lapping over the arctic, and if the records are longer there, I expect it’s only by an hour and a half).

 

h/t Steve Goddard who asks when the National Snow & Ice Data Centre ( NSIDC) will send out the press releases. They appear to be more concerned about the effects of the Antarctic “thinning” trend on penguins this week. Sunshine hours has graphed it in detail.

Cryosphere compares the relentless fall and rise of Antarctic ice here. Millions of square kilometers in staggering, dramatic melts every spring manage to return in staggering dramatic ice formations each and every year.

(Click to enlarge)

I expect that our non-hemispherist unbiased and diligent newspapers will be running with matching ones very soon. Based on news stories like this:

[...]

Lewandowksy, Oberauer, Gignac – Is the paper bad enough to make history?

Stephan Lewandowsky, Gilles Gignac, Klaus Oberauer

The scathing blog posts are popping up everywhere. From William Briggs we get a sense of the historical importance of the Lewandowsky et al effort. One day a terrific psychological study is going to be written on the madness and mass lunacy which arose after climate change swam into the public’s ken… The cornerstone of this future pathological report may well be the peer-reviewed Psychological Science paper “NASA faked the moon landing—Therefore (Climate) Science is a Hoax: An Anatomy of the Motivated Rejection of Science” by Stephan Lewandowsky, Klaus Oberauer, and Gilles Gignac, perhaps the completest, most representative work of its odd era. “Everything that could have been done wrong, was done wrong. Every bias that could have been manifested, was manifested. Every fallacy pertinent to the matter at hand was made. The conclusions, regurgitated from unnecessarily complicated statistical procedures, did not follow from the evidence gathered, which itself was suspect. In its way, then, the paper is a jewel, a gift to the future, a fundamental text to how easy it is to fool oneself. “ Steve McIntyre goes through the statistical tests, finds questionable practices, questions he can’t answer, and general [...]

Government burn $70 billion a year subsidizing renewables, and wild claims of “fossil fuel subsidies” debunked

When activists protest about “fossil fuel” subsidies, it is a case of extreme-wordsmithing. Like chinese-whispers, the truth gets turned 180 degrees. It takes a string of half truths stacked in a series to come up with something which is so completely counter to reality it is meaningless.

The reality is that governments around the world are paying billions each year to prop up an industry that is inefficient, uncompetitive and unproductive. It’s money that is desperately needed in health or in real medical and scientific research.

“More than US$70 billion of support is provided by governments to renewable energy production and consumption worldwide.”

[IEA (The International Energy Agency, which promotes "green energy" in it's header)]

That’s an annual figure. And the plan seems to be even more subsidies. (I thought the plan was to make renewables competitive?)

Source: IEA Key Graphs…

Source: IEA Key Graphs

Could it be $200 billion?

This UN group has an even higher number. I don’t know exactly how they define “green stimulus” spending, perhaps it was a one-off:

[UNCTAD]

“Green government procurement will also be essential in the early stages of a transition to a green economy. In 2009, global green stimulus [...]

Global Carbon Trading System Has “Essentially Collapsed”

When is a free market not free? When it doesn’t do what the bureaucrats wanted it to “freely do”. There is a message from this-pale-shadow-of-a-global-carbon-free-market and it’s telling us that carbon (dioxide) should be free, as in $0, no cost, no fee, no tax.

CDM’s (Clean Development Mechanisms) were set up in 1997 with Kyoto. It is separate from the EU market, and is one of the only “global” carbon markets.

 

Global carbon trading system has ‘essentially collapsed’

The UN clean development mechanism, designed to give poor countries access to green technologies, is in dire need of rescue

Fiona Harvey, environment correspondent

The world’s only global system of carbon trading, designed to give poor countries access to new green technologies, has “essentially collapsed”, jeopardising future flows of finance to the developing world.

Billions of dollars have been raised in the past seven years through the United Nations‘ system to set up greenhouse gas-cutting projects, such as windfarms and solar panels, in poor nations. But the failure of governments to provide firm guarantees to continue with the system beyond this year has raised serious concerns over whether it can survive.

[...]

Lewandowsky gets $1.7m of taxpayer funds to denigrate people who disagree with him

Stephan Lewandowsky, Gilles Gignac, Klaus Oberauer

Stephen Lewandowsky’s paper, soon to be published in Psychological Science, appears to be drawn from one or two grants from the Australian Research Council that total nearly a million dollars (though it’s not entirely clear which grants apply to the paper).

“If you wonder, like I do, whether the Australian taxpayer gets value for money, ponder that somewhere a cancer researcher was denied funding in order for Lewandowsky to do his work”

One grant, which he shares with coauthor Dr Klaus Oberauer, was for $694,000 for research on “Keeping Memory Current: Updating and Discounting of Information“. Apparently it is of national benefit, because: “Basic research in psychology is of particular national benefit because the available national research funding is commensurate with the requirements of world-class research in psychology.” “World class” does not usually mean research based on a logical error with a sample too small to be statistically significant and using a self-selecting, unsecure, sample from sites that detest the research group. Aside from that, the sentence itself is circular bureaucratese-babble. What does it mean? Is he suggesting that research in basic psychology is useful because taxpayer funds are only given to world class [...]

Climate Models: 100% right except for rain, drought, storms, humidity and everything else

Yet more observations from the planet show that modelers misunderstand the water based part of the climate – on our water based planet.

Modelers thought that dry ground would decrease afternoon storms and rainfall over those frazzled parched lands (though I don’t remember many headlines predicting “More Drought means Fewer Storms” ). But observations show that storms are more likely to rain over dry soil. Why? Probably the dry soil heats up faster than moist areas thanks to the cooling effect of evaporation, and that in turn creates stronger thermals over dry land. Modelers assumed that wetter soils means more evaporation and thus more rain, but the moisture laden air is evidently coming from further away.

It’s another example of a point where climate modelers assume a positive feedback, yet the evidence suggests the feedback is negative. Once again water appears to be the dominant force with feedbacks (it does cover 70% of the surface). In a natural stable system the net feedbacks are likely to be negative. Positive feedbacks make the system less stable (and more scary and harder to predict.)

Climate change models misjudge drought: “A four-nation team led by Chris Taylor from Britain’s Centre for Ecology and [...]

There goes the biofuels $21 billion dollar industry: Reality bites in EU draft

From Charlie Dunmore, Reuters: E xclusive: EU to limit use of crop-based biofuels – draft law

Another green goodwill project (that just happens to be worth billions) is facing the bad news that the bureaucrats are fingering the axe. A leaked EU proposal to cut public subsidies to biofuels is quite a u-turn. Only three years ago the EU raved about biofuels.

The plans also include a promise to end all public subsidies for crop-based biofuels after the current legislation expires in 2020, effectively ensuring the decline of a European sector now estimated to be worth 17 billion euros ($21.7 billion) a year.

If you are wondering how serious they are, read this:

“The (European) Commission is of the view that in the period after 2020, biofuels should only be subsidized if they lead to substantial greenhouse gas savings… and are not produced from crops used for food and feed,” the draft said.

Well that’s it then isn’t it? If they actually have to reduce emissions that kills it off right there, but just to make sure, they must also not be taken from the mouths of people or animals.

Under the proposals, the use of biofuels made from crops such [...]

Lewandowsky does “science” by taunts and attempted parody instead of answering questions

Stephan Lewandowsky is rattled. Not surprisingly. Right now, his blog has gone from a steady run of zero-to-three-comment-posts up to 200, and the skeptics are armed with cutting questions.

But the more he writes, the worse it gets.  Skeptics have picked apart his methods, his data, his transparency, and his conclusions. His latest responses are childish taunts with variants of name-calling. What place does an unrelated smear have in a science debate? It’s an effort to distract people.

His paper, in press, has been shown to have a misleading headline, with worthless conclusions based on statistically insignificant number of responses, using a clumsy one-sided test — the aim of which was obvious to most readers. When asked for data he provided answers to 32 questions but still hides the results obtained to a quarter of his original survey, including the basic demographics. He changed the order of questions depending on the blog he sought replies from — effectively putting different versions of the survey up (see below for his explanation). He himself emailed or was named in emails to alarmist anti-skeptic bloggers, while he used an unknown assistant to email skeptical blogs. These non-standard methods were not described in his paper.

[...]

Steve McIntyre finds Lewandowsky’s paper is a “landmark of junk science”

Steve McIntyre audited Stephan Lewandowsky’s data to weed out the obvious fake responses. That people would “game” the test was predictable given the clumsy nature of the survey, the one-sided nature of the conspiracies investigated, the virulently anti-skeptic sites where it was hosted, and the comments on the threads where it was announced. Obviously the survey hoped to show skeptics were nutters, and when it was posted in front of those who-hate-skeptics, readers obliged.

Steve McIntyre weighs in with a lengthy post, several original graphs, and concludes:

“Lewandowsky, like Gleick, probably fancies himself a hero of the Cause. But ironically. Lewandowsky’s paper will stand only as a landmark of junk science – fake results from faked responses.

As Tom Curtis observed, Lewandowsky has no moral alternative but to withdraw his paper.”

When the number of responses to conspiracies are graphed against  the share that is “skeptical” of man-made global warming McIntyre reveals an interesting pattern.  The “Oklahoma” point on the bottom right of the graph was the most popular conspiracy theory — but percentage-wise, “alarmists” were more likely to support this theory than so called “skeptics” were.

The line across the graph represents the proportion of the total responses which [...]

Steve McIntyre on Lewandowsky (and Josh)

Steve McIntyre weighs in:

“As others have observed, the number of actual respondents purporting to believe in the various conspiracies was, in many cases, very small. Only 10 respondents purported to believe in Lewandowsky’s* signature Moon Landing conspiracy. These included a disproportionate number of scam responses. Indeed, probably all of these responses were scams.

However, Lewandowsky’s statistical analysis was unequal to the very low hurdle of identifying these scam responses. Lewandowsky applied a technique closely related to principal components to scam and non-scam data alike, homogenizing them into a conspiratorial ideation.”

Josh is so quick these days :- )  Thank you Josh. An excellent job.

* Correction: “Curtis’s” should have been Lewandowsky.

 

 

Josh is so quick these days :- )  Thank you Josh. An excellent job.

Lewandowsky hopes we meant “Conspiracy” but we mean “Incompetence”

What can I say? Prof Lewandowsky, expert in conspiracies, thinks we are postulating a conspiracy — but the bad news for him is that we are postulating straight out incompetence, no conspiracy required.

How does Lewandowsky define “conspiracy”? However he wants.

I hate to say I told you so, but I did. Back in May 2010, before Lewandowsky posted his survey, he foresaw the results:

“This attribute of conspiracy theorising applies in full force to the actions of climate “sceptics” who operate outside the peer reviewed literature” [ABC Drum]“

and I foresaw what he would do with them:

“Lewandowsky uses  the name-calling to “poison the well” against people who don’t even believe in a conspiracy [about man-made global warming], but happen to also be skeptical…Jo Nova May 2010“

Graham at OnLine Opinion (OLO) has posted Part II of a Fish rots from the Head and it’s quite something to see.

This post will look at the question of what is a conspiracy, and also what constitutes “conspiracist ideation”. The conclusion, just to save you reading to the bottom, is that Lewandowsky has no clear idea so adapts it to what fits his thesis. This is [...]

NZ Justice shows courts are useless in a science debate

The NZ court case of skeptics versus NIWA has come down against the skeptics.

The National Business Review does tabloid-style sensational namecalling in the headline (does it consider itself to be a proper newspaper?)

“Climate change deniers shot down in NIWA court challenge”

Judge Geoffrey Venning threw out claims by the NZ Climate Science Education Trust that the Crown Research Institute known as NIWA breached its statutory duties, were mistaken in fact, failed to consider mandatory considerations and acted unreasonably in publishing its work.

NIWA will be entitled to costs, which are yet to be set, as a result of the case, Justice Venning’s judgment says.

Why did the skeptics lose? According to the news report, it was not because NIWA provided good answers, or found the missing data, but because the skeptics didn’t have “authority” to question it.

Some evidence in the case was ruled inadmissible, including that of Terry Dunleavy, a former journalist who is a founding member of the trust and secretary of the associated NZ Climate Science Coalition.

Justice Venning says Dunleavy “has no applicable qualifications” and “his interest in the area does not sufficiently qualify him as an expert”.

He also questioned the credentials of Bob [...]

Do greenhouse gases warm the planet by 33°C? Jinan Cao checks the numbers.

Jinan Cao has been dissecting the nature of the greenhouse effect and a key calculation that I normally just accept without questioning. This will set a few pigeons loose, but it will be interesting to see where they land. The claims analyzed here are the oft repeated ones that the Earth’s greenhouse effect already warms us by 33°C and that a doubling of CO2 directly causes a 1.1°C rise (that’s with no feedbacks taken into account).

Jinan points out that these numbers, repeated as “fact”, are merely a result of misuse of the Stefan-Boltzmann equation. If Earth is not a perfect black body, but has an emissivity of 0.7 (as satellites suggest), then the temperature of the planet’s surface without any greenhouse effect would not be -18°C, but more like 5°C. That would mean the entire warming due to the greenhouse effect is only around 10°C, not the more impressive 33°C that is usually claimed. It means the greenhouse effect is probably less important than implied.

The 1.1°C direct rise that is predicted from doubling CO2 without feedbacks would also need to be recalculated. This paper does not try to do that, but if Jinan is right, that figure would [...]

10 conspiracy theorists makes a moon landing paper for Stephan Lewandowsky (Part II) PLUS all 40 questions

There were only ten positive responses.

There are many questions to be answered about this paper in “Psychological Science.“ Questions worth asking at all kinds of levels.

The authors,   Lewandowsky, S., Oberauer, K., & Gignac, C. E., drew conclusions about skeptics by largely surveying alarmist sites. They got hardly any positive responses, some of which may have been faked (who can tell?). Then with a tiny ten positive responses out of 1147, the authors drew inferences about a group of people which must number between one hundred thousand to one million or more individuals. Worse, of the ten who thought the moon landing was faked, only three or four were skeptics. In the UPDATE below note that there appear to be three different forms of the survey, a point that surely needs some explanation.

The headline of the study “NASA faked the moon landing—therefore (climate) science is a hoax: An anatomy of the motivated rejection of science” is drawn from only those ten responses.  Do I need to say it’s a sample size too small to draw any conclusions? I shouldn’t. But this point alone should have been enough for the paper in its current form to fail review, yet [...]

Carbon Tax could raise $1.5 Trillion for the US government. No wonder politicians drool over dire predictions.

Why do we need a carbon tax? A study by John Reilly candidly “explains” (albeit indirectly) why this is not and has never been about the environment. It’s all about power and money — specifically $1,500 billion dollars of it over 10 years. What better excuse to raise funds for politicians? They pretend to save the planet and use the funds to buy votes from people who don’t realize that they themselves pay for the “free” handouts — if not with their dollars, then with their jobs.

This is another piece of magic-pie economics:

A carbon tax would take pressure off Congress to find “tradeoffs” between closing the deficit gap and reviving the economy, according to John Reilly, an author of the study.

“Congress will face many difficult tradeoffs in stimulating the economy and job growth while reducing the deficit,” Reilly, the co-director of MIT’s Joint Program on the Science and Policy of Global Change, said in a statement.

“But with the carbon tax there are virtually no serious tradeoffs. Our analysis shows the overall economy improves, taxes are lower and pollution emissions are reduced.

The study found that taxing carbon at $20 per ton would generate $1.5 trillion in revenue in a 10-year [...]

A review of “Madlands: a journey to change the mind of a climate sceptic”

Anna Rose is the head of the Australian Youth Climate Coalition. She visited us with Nick Minchin to film the doco “I can change your mind” and has produced a book called Madlands about the filming of the doco. Another author, David Mason Jones, has written a review and comes at this from a fairly neutral background. Anna’s approach, which is essentially an ad hom from beginning to end, punctuated with other fallacies, was evident when we met her, and sadly been amplified in her book. When they have no evidence, they attack the messenger. — Jo

Guest Post by David Mason-Jones

A review of ‘Madlands: a journey to change the mind of a climate sceptic’ by Anna Rose. Melbourne University Press. ISBN9780522861693

His site: www.journalist.com.au

 

Dare not peer into the forbidden room …

…. and dare not speak to the unspeakable people. Dare not test the nasty taboos and dare not open the Pandora’s box labelled ‘the nature of the scientific process’. Above all, do not admit the integrity of the people on the other side of the debate in which you are involved. Instead, smear and ridicule your opponents remorselessly before looking at their [...]