William M. Briggs

Statistician to the Stars!

Author: Briggs (page 3 of 406)

All Men Are Mortal: A New, Award Eligible Mini Play

wind

All Men Are Mortal

SCENE:

A windfarm in Absolute County, a dry patch of land out west.

CAST OF CHARACTERS:

BRANDON, a speechwriter for Earth Is It!
RUSS, Sheriff of Absolute County
BERT, a jovial retired country doctor
JAMES, employee of Green Wind
HJ, a mysterious dyslexic billionaire, owner of Green Wind
GEORGE, an illegal alien
BAMBI FREEDOM, a professional activist with Earth Is It!
DAV, an EPA bureaucrat
SCOTIAN, an EPA bureaucrat
LUIS, an EPA bureaucrat
SYLVAIN, an EPA bureaucrat
MIKE, the manager of the EPA bureaucrats

SCENE ONE

DAV AND SCOTIAN IN A FIELD STAND UNDER AN IMMOBILE TURBINE.

DAV: The serial number on this one’s sun bleached. Can you make it out?

SCOTIAN: No, I left my glasses back in the car.

DAV: Go get ‘em. We can’t leave until these forms are filled out. You know what Mike’s like.


SCOTIAN TRUDGES THROUGH THE FIELD. AFTER A FEW PACES, HE CLUTCHES HIS CHEST, CALLS OUT, AND DROPS STONE COLD DEAD, ONLY HIS FEET VISIBLE STAGE RIGHT. DAV PULLS OUT HIS BLACKBERRY.

DAV: It’s me. Remember what I told you would happen? Well, it happened. Yeah. Better send him. No, I won’t touch him.


DAV HANGS UP.

DAV: These Canadians just can’t take the heat.


ENTER STAGE LEFT, BRANDON AND BAMBI.

BAMBI: Excuse me, sir. Do you have a minute to save the planet?


BRANDON PULLS OUT HIS SMARTYPHONE.

BRANDON: Wait a minute. Here. Walk up to him again. I wanna get this…Hold on, let me answer this first.

BAMBI: Never mind him. Let me give you our brochure on the sustainability of wind.

DAV: No need, ma’am. I work for the government. If there’s one thing we understand, it’s the endlessness of wind.

BAMBI: You work for the government? Why that’s so wonderful!

DAV: It’s a noble cause, ma’am. Citizens need directing, and I’m just the man to direct ‘em. But you’ll have to excuse me. I have to check the serial numbers of these turbines.

BAMBI: Serial numbers?

DAV: Yes, ma’am. We have a master list of all turbines which companies are required to submit quarterly. After we receive them, we send armed agents into the field to ensure the serial numbers match. Those teams send their counts to field offices, which forward them on to DC. And then my team comes along to run a second-level verification of the numbers. We submit both the originals and our duplicates to our boss—who shares an office with an Office of the Interior functionary—who runs occasional triplicate checks. If fact, I’m expecting him here today. My boss, I mean.

BAMBI: But how can he check your work before you’ve even submitted it. I know the government is efficient, but it can’t be that efficient.

DAV: Ha ha. No, he’ll be checking last quarter’s results. That shows you the kind of intense time pressure we’re under. No sooner than have all the numbers have been verified for the past quarter, than we have to start all over again on the next.

BAMBI: Have any of the serial numbers not matched?

DAV: Not on my watch, ma’am. And if they did, the companies wouldn’t legally be able to sell the electricity generated from the mismatching units.

BAMBI: Why’s that?

DAV: For safety, ma’am. Our motto is: you can never be too sure.

BRANDON: Sorry about that. I had to respond to a tweet. We’re thinking of changing our catch line from “Do you have a minute to save the planet?” to “Do you have a minute to save the Earth?” Quite a controversy raging. Mind if I ask a question? Why aren’t any of the turbines spinning?

DAV: Because there’s no wind.

BRANDON: So how do you know if they work?

DAV: That’s a good question, sir. Each of them has a maintenance mode that switches them on. It draws electricity from the grid and spins the turbines.

BRANDON: Say, good idea. Let’s do it. I can get a few pictures. Use them for the blog. “Your EPA in action”, that sort of thing.

BAMBI: But won’t the blades disturb the eagles and other birds which are nesting on top of the posts?

DAV: No, ma’am. Eagles like to live in high places. And when the turbines are on, it gives them a chance to get some exercise. Here, let me show you.

BAMBI: Oooh! It’s so exciting! You’re right! Look! They’re taking off! But aren’t they flying too close to—eek!

BRANDON LOOKS UP JUST AS TWO BIRDS CRASH INTO HIS FACE, CRUSHING HIS SKULL.

BAMBI: Brandon! Oh, poor Brandon! How could it have happened!

DAV: Simple enough, ma’am. Each of these birds weighs about 7 kilograms, and each fell 150 meters or so. That generates 103 thousand Newtons of force, which is roughly—let me think—yes, about 76,000 foot pounds. More than enough to crush ten skulls.

BAMBI: But it’s so awful!

DAV: It’s just physics, ma’am. But don’t worry. I see the help I called for has finally arrived.

ENTER SYLVAIN, STAGE LEFT.

SYLVAIN: Another one?

DAV: Ma’am, if you’d help my colleague move the body over to the car, I’d sure appreciate it. Like I said, we’re expecting our boss, and he likes to see things in order.

SYLVAIN: You can get the legs, ma’am.

SYLVAIN AND BAMBI CARRY THE BODY STAGE RIGHT. AT THE EDGE, SYLVAIN SUDDENLY DROPS THE BODY, WIPES HIS BROW, MOANS AUDIBLY, CLUTCHES HIS CHEST, AND KEELS OVER, ONLY HIS FEET SHOWING.

DAV: SOTTO VOCE Canadians.

SCENE TWO

RUSS STANDS TALKING TO DAV, JAMES, AND BERT UPSTAGE, BAMBI SITS NEAR THE BODIES SILENTLY WEEPING.

DAV: Just like I said, Sheriff. The heat got to ‘em.

BERT: Could happen, Rusty. It’s a hot one, and these fellows from the north are prone to apoplexy. Of course, we won’t know for sure until the autopsy.

JAMES: Sheriff, if it’s all right with you, I’d like to switch off the turbine.

RUSS: Okay with me. I can’t see as we need it.

DAV: Just a second, Sheriff. EPA regulations forbid the switching off of a turbine until an environmental impact assessment is performed.

RUSS: But didn’t you just switch it on?

DAV: Yes, sir, I did. But the impact assessment for switching these on has already been done.

JAMES: I can tell you HJ won’t like it. Green Wind has already paid all the fees—

DAV: —You have no choice. None of us does. The regulation exists. The regulation is all you need know.

JAMES: Yeah, well, she won’t be happy.

DAV: You needn’t worry. While you were attending to the bodies, I called the regional office and asked for an impact team. They should be here with the forms shortly.

JAMES: I don’t think you understand just how angry she can be. Hell to pay isn’t in it. Why I remember one time…wait. Forms?

DAV: Certainly, forms. We need to file an Environmental Impacts Assessment request. That’s submitted to the regional office for approval, which is usually granted, as long as the serial numbers match. If they don’t, we have to file for an exception. That goes right to headquarters for expedited processing.

JAMES: Expedited?

DAV: A joint meeting of the assessment and maintenance group meets every three weeks—

JAMES: —Three weeks!

DAV: I know. Fast, isn’t it? But don’t forget the EPA has always prided itself on efficiency. Anyway, if the joint committee gives its okay, their recommendation is sent on to the Third Second Secretary of Regulations who has to give it the final stamp of approval—

JAMES: —Finally we reach finally—

DAV: —And then all such stamped recommendations are passed to the First Second Secretary. If she says okay, then the whole process works in reverse and then the Impacts Assessment can be said to have passed. As soon as the paperwork gets back to your hands, you can switch off the turbine. That is…

JAMES: I can’t wait to hear.

DAV: As long as you have a Turbine Toggle Training Certification from OSHA, of course.

RUSS: Enough of this. I’m more concerned with those bodies in this heat than this d—d turbine. Bert?

BERT: Let’s just say that if there were a wind, we’d be glad to have it at our back. As it is…Say, why are these things in this valley, anyway? Hardly ever windy here.

JAMES: We applied to locate them on the crest over there, where there’s a steady breeze, but the EPA said a rare type of forked swallow sometimes once a decade might use the route along one of the ridges for their migration. So we decided to scrap the whole plan and invest in solar. But the contract we had to sign with the government said we had to build or pay daily fines of tens of thousands of dollars. It was cheaper to build and take the loss on the turbines.

DAV: The Endangered Species Act is there for your protection, sir.

BERT: Anyway, why don’t we put a tarp over the bodies until the ambulance gets here.

RUSS: I think I have something in the trunk.

RUSS EXITS STAGE LEFT, COMES BACK LATER WITH A BLANKET.

BERT: Meanwhile, I’ll see what I can do for that young woman.

DAV: That ambulance better hurry, doctor. You know the regulation. If the bodies lie in any one place for more than sixty-five minutes, they are considered to have been buried. And then we have to a ground water contamination assessment before they can be moved.

BERT: Regulation be…

JAMES: What’s taking those forms so long? We can’t stand out here all day.

DAV: I emphasized the need for haste, sir. He said he’d run. It’s only about four miles to the field office.

JAMES: Run! Why didn’t he drive!

DAV: The Carbon Pollution Act requires that agents travel by the mode which releases the least carbon-dioxide into the atmosphere. It depends on the weight of the agent, of course, but as a rule of thumb anything less than about six miles requires we go on foot. There’s a balance between the amount of CO2 from exhalation—running shortens the distance—and that used in the electricity plants which charge the batteries of our cars. Besides, in this heat, the cars don’t hold a charge more than four hours.

ENTER LUIS, STAGE RIGHT, OUT OF BREATH.

LUIS: Sorry I’m late, sir! GASP. But you caught me just as I came back from counting the customers leaving Happy Burger. COUGH. You were right. GASP. They exceeded their allowed number of daily customers by over thirteen. WHEW. And probably more…but I knew how urgent this was.

LUIS PULLS PAPERS FROM HIS SHIRT, HANDS THEM TO DAV, SHRIEKS, CLUTCHES HIS CHEST, AND DROPS DEAD.

DAV: Oh no! This is awful!—

RUSS, WHO HAD JUST RETURNED, TAKES OFF HIS HAT AND PUTS IT OVER HIS HEART.

RUSS: —The poor man.

JAMES: SOTTO VOCE Must have been a foreigner.

DAV: I knew that Happy Burger was breaking the law! And we had the proof needed to shut them down forever. But there was no way that Luis could have filed the proper forms before coming here. We have to start the investigation all over!

RUSS: But the man is dead! Have you no heart?

DAV: Do not think me cruel, Sheriff. Luis knew the dangers involved when he signed up for the job. The life of the EPA agent is one of continual sacrifice. But he was just one man. Whereas Happy Burger was acting in an unsustainable manner by exceeding its daily customer quota and putting us all at risk! I could almost weep, except that as part of my oath I had my tear ducts fused shut. Oh!, the horrible unsustain—

BERT: —What the heck is that?

AN EERIE HUM FILLS THE AIR, AND THE LIGHTS RAPIDLY DIM, LEAVING ALL IN BLACK SILENCE.

SCENE THREE

ALL ARE LAYING ON THE GROUND, INCLUDING GEORGE. ALL SLOWLY RISE, THEIR WITS ASTRAY.

GEORGE: What happened?

DAV: THICKLY What…must have been a rapid increase in ambient carbon dioxide—

JAMES: —Carbon dioxide my eye—

DAV: —That caused us all to pass out. Did anybody else have ringing in their ears?

RUSS: I did.

DAV: That proves it. It fortunate I was here to document it. I’ve been saying for months we need to strengthen regulations.

RUSS: Wait a minute. Who are you?

GEORGE: My name is George. I was just passing by.

JAMES: That’s a great hat, mister.

GEORGE: Thanks. I saw the crowd and wondered if I might be of any assistance.

DAV: No need, sir. The EPA is here.

GEORGE: EPA?

DAV: The Environmental Protection Agency, sir.

JAMES: You haven’t heard of the EPA?

GEORGE: I’m not from around here. Does the environment need protecting, then? Can’t it take care of itself?

JAMES: From my angle, it surely can.

DAV: He’s joking, sir. If it wasn’t for the government protecting the environment, there’d be no environment to protect. There’d be no air to breathe and no land upon which to walk. Life without regulation would be black chaos. Without the government mandating the actions of its peoples for their own good, the people might do anything.

GEORGE: It’s logically true that they might do anything that they can do, but would they do anything? I mean, would people pollute themselves out of existence? Wouldn’t the effects of any environmental damage be self-limiting?

DAV: We can’t afford to find out, sir. And though I’m sure you’re asking for the purest motives, we are coming awfully close to forbidden territory.

GEORGE: Forbidden territory?

DAV: Yes, sir. The Freedom of Speech act forbids people to interfere with the government in the performance of its duties. The government’s speech must remain free, which is only common sense.

RUSS: I’m afraid he’s right about that, mister. If there weren’t free speech, there’d be no chance of a civil society.

JAMES: Free speech, my eye.

RUSS: Careful, now. You’re just upset.

JAMES: Darn right I’m upset. You would be, too, if you knew how she could be. I just know this is going to be my fault! Wait! There she is!

SOUNDS OF A CAR ROARING UP, DOORS SLAMMING. HJ AND MIKE ENTER STAGE LEFT.

HJ: I demand to know what is here going on!

JAMES: I tried to tell, them, ma’am. But—

MIKE: TO DAV DAV.

DAV: TO MIKE Sir.

HJ: What are these bodies? Who switched the on turbine! Why is everybody around standing! Why isn’t anybody anything doing!

JAMES: We are, ma’am. I’ve already started filling out the proper forms—

HJ: Forms! Yet way another for the government to take money my! As if haven’t I paid dear enough!

AT THE SOUND OF THE WORD ‘MONEY’ BAMBI COMES TO LIFE, AND RUSHES THE TURBINE. BERT PURSUES HER.

BAMBI: Money! All you bloodless capitalists care about it money! Nobody cares for the planet!

HJ: Get down here from there!

JAMES: Yes, ma’am!

HJ: I’m not going to have another lawsuit on handS my!

BAMBI HAS CLIMBED HALF WAY UP THE TURBINE, FOLLOWED BY BERT THEN JAMES.

BAMBI: I’ll show you the value of money!

BAMBI JUMPS TO TURBINE BLADES INTENDING TO CAUSE THEM DAMAGE. SHE IS SLICED NEATLY DOWN THE MIDDLE, EACH PART DEPOSITED ON EITHER SIDE OF THE STAGE.

DAV: I don’t have the forms for this…

MIKE: Now, now. No need for concern. We can sort it all out.

HJ: No concern need? Are crazy you! Sheriff, your duty do! Get off them!

RUSS CLIMBS THE TURBINE AFTER BERT AND JAMES.

RUSS: You two get down from there! Don’t make me come up after you!

JAMES: I don’t know how to get down!

HJ: TO GEORGE Something do!

GEORGE: Me? I’m only an observer.

HJ: Observer?! What kind of nonsense that is? Get them off there of!

HJ, FILLED WITH RIGHTEOUS FURY, SCALES THE TURBINE WITH THE OTHERS. ALL ARE SHOUTING. DAV STANDS CATATONIC.

DAV: Forms…forms…

GEORGE: Your colleague appears damaged.

MIKE: Yes. It happens sometimes. No need to worry.

GEORGE: No?

MIKE: No. I have plenty of agents at my disposal.

THE TURBINE, FINALLY OVERCOME BY THE WEIGHT, TILTS. THE SPINNING BLADES HIT THE GROUND, BREAKING TO PIECES, SHRAPNEL FLYING EVERYWHERE. JAMES, DISMEMBERED, ALL FOUR LIMBS, FALLS TO THE GROUND WEEPING. THE LACK OF BLADES CAUSES THE MOTOR TO OVERHEAT AND THE TURBINE CATCHES FIRE. BERT IS CAUGHT IN THE BLAZE. HE TRIES TO GRAB THE MOTOR BUT THE FORCE FLINGS HIM LIKE A COMET INTO THE DISTANCE. HJ, ENRAGED AND IN A BLIND FURY, CATCHES UP TO RUSS AND THROTTLES HIM, CHOKING THE LIFE OUT OF HIM.

HJ: Me why!

THE TURBINE POST SPINS AND FALLS TO THE GROUND, MERE INCHES FROM DAV, CRUSHING HJ.

DAV: No forms…

DAV GRABS HIS HEAD AND FALLS LIKE A PLANK ON HIS FACE. A LONG PAUSE AS WE CONSIDER THE WREAKAGE, SMOLDERING RUINS, AND BODIES.

GEORGE: PHILOSOPHICALLY Does this sort of thing happen very often here?

MIKE: From time to time.

GEORGE: Is this what your colleague meant by protecting the environment?

MIKE: Collateral damage can’t really be avoided, you know. But it’s all for the best. Consider the benefits. Why, in this small incident we have reduced the surplus population and subsequently increased sustainability by a significant percentage!

GEORGE: Most efficiently, too. I wonder if you’d mind coming with me and explaining your techniques to my leaders? We have a surplus population problem, too.

MIKE: It would be my pleasure.

GEORGE AND MIKE WALK OFF INTO THE DISTANCE. END.

The Letter The Lancet Wouldn’t Publish

The Lancet's crack team of editors.

The Lancet’s crack team of editors.

Here’s the title of a big new peer-reviewed paper in The Lancet:

Effects of long-term exposure to air pollution on natural-cause mortality: an analysis of 22 European cohorts within the multicentre ESCAPE project

Take your time and answer this question (you will be graded): TRUE or FALSE, scientists measured the effects of air pollution on mortality of a group of folks in Europe.

Come on. After seeing the words effects of air pollution on mortality, what else can you say but TRUE?

It is FALSE, of course. The three or four dozen researchers listed as authors never measured, not even once, the amount of air “pollution” any person was exposed to. Further, every single author knew that the title was false. And so did every editor.

So why was it allowed? What about the children!

No, it was our old friend The Epidemiologist Fallacy, a.k.a. the ecological fallacy. Nothing is better at generating papers—the currency in academia—than Old Reliable. Using it is vastly cheaper than relying on reality, which often lets scientists down (right, Gav?). I beg you will read the linked article to understand this ubiquitous menace and driver of scientism.

Not only wasn’t air “pollution” (dust, mostly) measured on individuals, but the proxies of air “pollution” weren’t even measured at the same time as mortality. And not only that, but, well, read the letter, which has it all.

The three of us submitted, fixed, and resubmitted a letter which explained the shortcomings of the Beelen et al., not asking it to be withdrawn—if journals withdrew epidemiologist fallacy papers, there would be oceans of blank pages—but to highlight the false claims made.

Alas, observation rarely trumps theory (right, Gav?). The Lancet decided not to publish and to let the paper stand, doubtless reasoning that since so many others used the epidemiologist fallacy, and got away with it, there was no reason Beelen shouldn’t, too. And anyway, it’s embarrassing to admit to error.

The epidemiologist’s fallacy – yet another example

Yours Truly

Pieternella S. Verhoeven
Associate professor at the Roosevelt Academy, Middelburg, the Netherlands
Head of the Institute of Undergraduate Research ‘Eleanor’, Middelburg, the Netherlands

Jaap C. Hanekamp
Associate professor at the Roosevelt Academy, Middelburg, the Netherlands
Adjunct Associate professor University of Massachusetts, Environmental Health Sciences, Amherst, US
Chair of the Chemical Food Safety & Toxicity Working Group of the Global Harmonization Initiative

Beelen et al.’s paper carries a peculiar title considering that the authors never did what they claim: exposure to air pollution was never measured on any individual. It is only poorly guessed at, and not even guessed at over the right time.

The land-use regression models, which guessed the different kinds of pollution, are calculated using data from October 2008 through May 2011. Yet, the agglomerated studies ran from 1992 through 2007, with most from the 1990s. So even with correct pollution estimates, it would have had to operate backwards in time. Besides, it cannot be claimed that pollution from 2008-2011 accurately represents pollution in the 1990s because of weather dependency.

The “variance explained” by the land-use models is 57-89%, meaning the guesses are often wrong. Nevertheless, the guessed values at the participants’ residencies are presented as actual exposures, unreasonably leaving the participants ‘fixed’ in their residences within the study-timeframes.

Furthermore, the considerable error in the ‘exposure’ estimates is not encapsulated in the statistical analysis: the guesses are taken as fixed without accompanying plus-or-minuses. If that were done, the study‚Äôs results would have been rendered insignificant.

Additionally, the cities with the highest guessed pollution (Athens and Rome) had no and even a slight negative effect for PM2.5. Strangely, the one location (VHM&PP), which found a significant effect, was accorded the largest weight (ten times any other) in the meta-analysis.

Overall, the paper’s conclusions are obviated by making the exposure guesses error free, inflating one (of eight) slim results in favour of the proposed hypothesis.

Live From Heartland Climate Conference, Wrap Up

heartland

Profound thanks

I cannot say enough about the generosity of my benefactor, who not only footed the bill for my trip, but wined and dined and rummed our Secret Society most luxuriously. I had a small taste of how (dead broke) Hillary Clinton must regularly feel. A forty-eight hour prince. I am deeply grateful.

I am also still recovering. Hence the tardiness of this post.

Weather weenie

Ever hear that term before? Describes—most lovingly, of course—the kind of guy who has memorized storms in the same way a baseball fanatic can name the batting averages, number of home runs, and ERAs of the lineup of the 1957 Detroit Tigers. And the 1956, and 1955, and, well, you get it.

Joe Bastardi, growing up, used to have posters of hurricanes on his walls. He still knows their names, 500 mb thicknesses, minimum pressures, wind speeds, landfalls, and everything else you would never think anybody could remember. And he can rattle them off faster than the EPA can create new regulations.

Does it really matter to the public, dear reader, that the USA is suffering a paucity of these tropical storms? And that this scarcity repeats itself over just about any climatological or oceanographic characteristic of importance? Tornadoes are down. Sea level isn’t doing squat. Ice is icier. Droughts, especially considering those had before rampaging global warming took over, are down and less severe. The maximum maximum temperatures were seen long ago (#2 was in Death Valley, good old USA, back in the 20s or 30s). Even polar bears are back full blast eating cute seals—and each other (nasty animals, really).

But what does everybody who doesn’t bother to think think? That we are spiraling down, down, down to the gloomy depths.

Who says advertising does’t work? You denier.

This just in

One of my favorite sessions was with everybody’s favorite villain Marc Morano, Steve Goddard (going by his real name), and Russell Cook. How blogs can help; that sort of thing. Shout out to machinist and Cajun musician Greg Olsen, who very wisely read a certain statistics book.

Goddard has newspaper clippings from all over the world from as far back as the mid nineteenth century showing that hysteria is an old and ever-present acquaintance. First the world was going to end in ice, then in fire, then back to ice, and sometimes both at once. Something always had to be done.

The lesson is that lessons are never learned; therefore, we can expect that when this scare ends it will rapidly be replaced by another.

Sustainability

Sam Karnick’s opinion (he’s from Heartland) is that the environmentalists have learned at least one lesson. Global Warming was too specific. It made definite predictions: the world will hot up. And when it didn’t, as it hasn’t, it became obvious that the scare must die.

Thus the trick is not to be specific. Thus sustainability.

What a wonderful word! Beautifully unspecific and utterly without content. Don’t do that, that’s not sustainable. Our manufacturing process is based on sustainability principles. Sustainable Pittsburgh’s Green Workplace Challenge.

Everything is at once sustainable and unsustainable. You will never know when you are guilty of unsustainability. Just think of the layers and layers of bureaucracy that will be required to inform you!

We had here a contest for the next environmental scare, but I hereby cancel that and award the banner to Karnick. Sustainability is bound to be a winner.

Am I blue?

Saw a trailer for a new film called Blue by Jeff King. Proof complete that Reagan was right was he said the eight scariest words in the English language are “I’m an environmentalist and I’m here to help.” Or something.

Do just a little harm

Best story was how Lord Monckton punked one of the UN climate conferences. He slipped into an empty seat (Burma’s/Myanmar’s) just as the chairman asked if anybody representing a group had any comments. So his Lordship pushed the button for his mike and said he represented the Asian Coastal Cooperative Institute (or something; made up on the spot) and told the audience that seeing there had been no global warming for over sixteen years and that all the predictions had been a bust, and that it would be cheaper and more efficient to adapt to any warming rather than try to prevent it, shouldn’t we reexamine our priorities? Response from the chair? Not a valid participant. Brave, brave.

And speaking of his Lordship, here he is speaking. Quite a performance—as usual. (The entire video is worth watching, but if you’re in a hurry, LM starts at around 32 minutes in.) Careful watchers will recognize some of the names.

His best line? The Greens are too Yellow to admit they’re Red. Or maybe the joke starting at around 33 minutes. Or maybe the joke starting at 38 minutes. Or the curious picture at 1:01:00.

Conference surprises

How good Willis Eschenbach looks in a suit. Ouch! How three Craigs ended up in one session (Craig Loehle, Craig Idso, Craig Rucker). What are the chances of that? (Regular readers had better be able to answer, or else.) How many people forget or skip over Dwight Eisenhower’s equation (which Cato’s Pat Michael’s recalled for us) Science + Big government money = Bad news. How coincidences are everywhere. Roy Spencer and his wife grew up in “The Soo”, which is Sault Ste. Marie, Michigan, where I was stationed as a weather forecaster for the NWS back in ’93.

Pony up

If you do like these conferences, and wish them to continue, and you are deep of pockets, do as Joe Bast suggested and slide them a few.

More to come

This has only been a precis. Here’s a link to all the talks, which were recorded.

I haven’t been blogging on global warming as much as I did four or five years ago, but that’s because it takes a lot of time, and it was my idea that people were caring less. And people are caring less. But the power hungry are not. Our dear leader is but one example of many (though the poor soul’s intellectual capabilities do not allow him to rise above the level of sarcastic cliché).

But circumstances might soon allow me to return to this line of query. Stay tuned.

Update

Total amount gambled: $0.00.

Live From Heartland Climate Conference, Day Two

What happened to Day One?

If I find out, you’ll be the first to know.

Through the extreme generosity of one of us, I’m here in Las Vegas at Heartland’s 9th Annual Climate Conference. You too can be here, albeit virtually, by clicking here. I’m not speaking, just listening. See if you can spot me in today’s crowd. I’ll be in seersucker.

Awards

I got here at the fag end of the awards ceremony yesterday, so I might not have my details straight, but it appears one of our great friends won the coveted Handsomest Climate Skeptic 2014 prize. This came with a lifetime supply of bow ties.

Running total of funds gambled

$0.00. Stay tuned.

Who still believes?

For twenty-ish years a small bevvy of climatologists have told the world, “Just wait until next year!” And as each next year passed, and the end did not come, and neither did temperatures rise in cooperation with their models, the climatologists were heard to say, with increasing volume, “Just wait until next year!”

Bosh. If your theory repeatedly says a thing will happen which does not happen, then, brothers and sisters, your theory is wrong. This is fundamental.

And everybody knows it, including the fellows making the predictions. That means, excepting the True Believers for whom love of Theory trumps reality—environmentalists, scientists who search for “missing” global warming like northwoods boys who search for Bigfoot—and the genuinely ignorant and naive, nobody does still believe.

This goes double for certain politicians, who don’t give a damn one way or the other, except as the manufactured crisis can be spun to increase their grip. Our friend Lord Monckton walked us through years of UN documents as bureaucrats there tried, and from time to time succeeded, in increasing their livelihoods by labeling themselves as saviors. Pathetic, unscrupulous, evil.

More to come

The subheadline says it all. I’m already late.

Evolution Under Fixed Constraints; Or, Why Random Changes Don’t Cut It

Not actual human beings.

Not actual human beings.

See if this analogy makes sense. A ramp onto which you loose a ball, which can roll down and fall into one of three slots. The configuration is such that the ball must go into one of these slots. It cannot get stuck or jump off the ramp. Suppose, like a pachinko machine, the ramp is covered in plastic to prevent leakage.

Now something will cause that ball to go into one of the three slots, but suppose you’re no expert in physics and can’t figure out the equations of motion. So you don’t know the cause.

But can you agree with me that the ball must go into one of the three slots? As a matter of logic, or information, given the setup, the probability of any slot is 1/3. The probability didn’t cause the ball to end up anywhere; chance isn’t a cause. That the ball could potentially be in one of the slots also wasn’t a cause.

Randomness isn’t a cause, either. Neither “chance.” The ball did not fall “randomly” in any causal sense. It fell because of the physics; our ignorance of the physics means nothing.

The ball had to go into just these three slots. Why? Well, that was the way the setup was designed.

And there it is. The “D” word.

The system from its start to its end could be said to have evolved. Evolution in action! But it could have only evolved in certain set ways. The ball could evolve only into one of three configurations. It could not have evolved into fourth slot, for one doesn’t exist. It could not have evolved into a petunia.

This is a stretch of the word evolution, however, which is why it is only an analogy. But ordinary evolution cannot be different in manner, though of course it differs in mechanism.

When DNA undergoes a mutation it must do so only in certain constrained ways. Like the ball, it must fall into prescribed “slots.” Some thing or things will cause the mutation. Nobody might know these causes, or even the range of possible “slots”. This ignorance is called “randomness”. But randomness isn’t ontological. There is nothing physical there.

These facts are why explanations of evolution are often screwy. Take this example from The Scientist:

Are mutations truly random?

Do genetic mutations really occur at random spots along the genome, as researchers have long supposed? Maybe not, according to a study published online today (January 13) in Proceedings of the Royal Society B, which proposes a mechanism for how new mutations might preferentially form around existing ones.

Truly random has no physical or biological meaning. Here it seems to be a stand in for uniform. Whether mutations are uniform along a genome, or express a preference for other sites, some thing or things still causes each one, and under some constraints. It is the duty of the biology to discover whether these causes are biased towards this or that direction. That is, what the “slots” are and their natures.

Another frequent mistake is made by those anxious to argue evolution is “unlikely”. For example, the paper The Mathematical Impossibility Of Evolution by Henry Morris, Ph.D. Morris’s argument is along the same as we met yesterday, when a fellow calculated the probability you existed was nearly impossible.

All probability—a measure of our information—is conditional on the premises supplied. Change the premises, change the probability. Morris starts with the central error of his opponents, “Mutations are random changes in genetic systems”, as if randomness is a cause, from which he concludes “Since random changes in ordered systems almost always will decrease the amount of order in those systems, nearly all mutations are harmful to the organisms which experience them.”

This is a theoretical conclusion, not one based on observation. (I recall people used to say bumblebees couldn’t fly because aerodynamical theory forbade it.) It seems to also be based on the premise that random is not only a cause but also uniform in action. That would be like saying that while we can only see three slots, theory demands there be four thousand (maybe there are slots besides the three which are too narrow, but which theory insists are options).

Just like “you exist” cannot be that impossible since you, in fact, exist, evolution cannot be impossible because it, as observations prove, exists. The nature of evolution is badly misunderstood on both sides.

We still have not succeeded purging the mysticism of randomness from probability. Frequentist statistical theory is rife with it. But then so are many interpretations of quantum physics.

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I was reminded of this after popping over to Mike Flynn’s place and seeing this and this. Travel day today and tomorrow.

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