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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More strange adventures in TSI data: the miracle of 900 fabricated, fraudulent days

Funny things happen on the Internet sometimes. Rather spectacular claims were made that 900 days of data “were fabricated”. This claim was described as not just speculation, but “a demonstrable fact”, and worse, the crime was apparently even “admitted to” by the man himself! Except that none of it was real, and three tiny misunderstood dots were not fabricated, not data, and not important. Welcome to a Bermuda-Triangle-moment in blog-land, where facts vanish,  ships full of  misquotes appear from nowhere, and ghosts-of-malcontent and misunderstanding roam freely. This post here is to slay the last loose ghosts, lest anybody think they might still have life in them, or indeed, think they ever did.

Usually a live debate is a brilliant way for spectators to learn. But in that particular science thread, the main lesson is not science but manners. Common courtesy may seem a quaint anachronism, but without it, logic and reason die on the sword of uninformed passion. A simple polite email and an open mind could have saved the world from a cloud of nonsense.

Thanks to the many valiant souls who fought for common sense.

It’s rare in a complex [...]

The Solar Model finds a big fall in TSI data that few seem to know about

Leif Svalgaard claims “TSI has not fallen since 2003″. It’s technically true in a sense, but demonstrably false when discussing 11 year smoothed trends (which is written on the graph he was criticizing). Willis Eschenbach sadly was carried along. This post is in response to an overheated thread at WUWT. Both men owe David Evans an apology.

The fuss is over the big fall in TSI.  Leif Svalgaard said it was “almost fraudulent” that we claimed there was a fall in TSI since 2003 since there wasn’t a fall in this dataset. He says: “There is no such drop.” I say, look at the graph below, it’s even in your own data.  Svalgaard provided the link to his TSI set, and we’ve included that line in the graph below. It’s the light-purple line. (Has he paid attention for the last ten years?)

In his rush to call it “totally wrong” and to declare “the model is already falsified” he didn’t notice we were talking about a trend in 11 year smoothed TSI, and the fall is evident in whole cycles (but takes some wisdom to find in daily or monthly data). I guess that’s a mistake that could happen to [...]

Are transfer functions meaningless (the “white noise” point)? Beware your assumptions!

Some people are claiming that the transfer function is meaningless because you could use white noise instead of temperature data and get the same notch. It’s true, you could. But the argument is itself a surprisingly banal fallacy. It looks seductive, but it’s like saying that it is meaningless to add 3 oranges to 3 oranges because you could add 3 oranges to 3 apples and you’d still get six!

It is trivially obvious that the transfer function will find a relationship between entirely unrelated time series, as any mathematical tool will when it’s misapplied. The question that matters — as with any mathematical tool — is has it been misapplied? What matters is whether the base assumption is valid, and whether the results will be a useful answer to the question you’ve asked. If the assumption is that apples and oranges are both pieces of fruit, and the question you ask is “how many pieces of fruit do we have”, then it is useful to add apples and oranges. But if you are trying to compare changes in fruit consumption, adding the two is mindless. So let’s look at the assumptions and the question being asked.

Assumptions first

Two [...]

Lubos and a few misconceptions

In typical style skeptics love to criticize, it is our strength. Sadly, diplomacy, manners, courtesy — burned at the door on a moment’s notice. Sigh. After five years in this debate you’d think I’d know not to expect respect or goodwill from every fellow skeptic. Call me naive, I don’t expect them to agree with me, just to be polite.  If someone asks you for a review before they publish, would you congratulate them privately, ask questions, ignore the answers, ignore large parts of the paper, then later post those misunderstood points, without so much as a courtesy check first? Yes, I’m baffled too.

Hey Lubos, no hard feelings, but next time let us save you from posting unnecessary innuendo, irrelevant criticisms, and not-so-informed commentary. It only takes an email.

I groan. In a highly gregarious species, where power is clawed through high-order political games, schmoozing and collaboration, some skeptics still wonder why people who are bad with numbers but good with people, control the institutions, the publications and big budgets. The mystery of it all!

Anyhow, because it is out there (or was, I’ve reproduced it here)* and is being discussed, obviously we need to correct the errors. Lubos [...]