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October 1, 2008 | 12 Comments

Random global warming nuttiness

Many people have been sending me various tidbits about rampant global warming insanity, but it’s taking me a long time to get round to posting them. This darn book of mine….it never wants to be done!

So here are just some quick links for you to mull on.

The Who’s-Nuttier-Than-A-Psychologist? Department

Walking outside rather than inside—even for just 15 minutes—makes you feel happier, more energetic and more protective of the environment. So says psychologists at a recent APA meeting. How do you design a “study” to test environmental protectiveness intensity? With an instrument of course. “Instruments” are the learned name for “questionnaires.”

It’s not that I dispute the “finding” that walking outside is good for you. It’s just that it’s yet another in an endless line of unnecessary useless “studies” done either for the sole purpose of generating papers, or because the “researchers” just aren’t that bright. See the link for more studies of similar intensity and validity.

Hot Blooded

You just cannot stop “researchers.” Some of them are claiming that hot weather—that caused by evil global warming—will lead to more blood contamination. Their logic? Blood spoils in the heat (for various reasons), global warming will warm the globe, therefore more blood will spoil.

A Nobel is on the way to Prof Dunstan, a specialist in emerging infectious diseases at Curtin University in Perth, for thinking up this one. Google the New Zealand Journal of Public Health to read more of his exploits. I haven’t the heart.

No, It’s the Fit People!

In a study that flatly contradicts the findings of Dr Harrister, PhD, “researchers” at the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine in a letter to the medical journal Lancet. Apparently, these prescient folks figured that fat people eat more food than skinny ones, and that food costs money to transport, and that transportation releases more green house gases, which…well, you know the rest.

But our scientific study clearly showed the opposite. Extremely fit people release more CO2 into the air than do lazy slobs.

Nobody ever asked us for an interview.

Please Release Me

“Researcher” James Walsh says Divorce — yes, the dissolution of marriage — is what causes global warming.

This one is so incredibly stupid that I cannot think of something silly to say about it.

Dr X Invokes The Lord

Dr X, whom we met before advocating lawlessness to combat global warming, said that if we do not “act” now we will “destroy the creation.” That’s awfully close to religious language—he was in Kansas when he uttered those words—and one thing lefties cannot abide is any hint of Christian religion. New Age yes, Muslim yes, vague yoga-nistics sure, Mother Earth and soaring hawks as spiritual messengers absolutely, but Christianity? Not a chance.

Thin ice here, Dr X. Best stick to anti-USA type rhetoric. This God stuff can bite you in the ass.

Flesh Eating Bipeds

“Researchers” at the Food Climate Research Network, based at the University of Surrey want to limit your meat intake to four portions a week. This, they say, will surely cool the planet.

Eating less meat will also make you cooler. Nothing hipper than a vegetarian.

Do not laugh, you absurd ill-informed fools! Did you not know that cows are “four-legged weapons of mass destruction”?

That you did not shows that you lack the kind of enlightened education provided to ivory-towered researchers the world over.

September 30, 2008 | 31 Comments

Let them fail

The same experts, in Congress and out, who did not foresee and who promulgated the current banking/credit crisis are the same ones assuring us their plan for salvation is just the thing.

Is it rational to believe that these creatures have finally figured out what is best for us? Or is better to say: Stop! Just let things fall out where they may. Let the people who caused this pay the price for their own mistakes.

Analysis so far suggests that the entire mess was brought on by Congressional prompting, in the form of laws which would penalize banks for not making risky loans, and by unscrupulous financiers who figured how to game the system. Also to blame are the people who bought absurdly constructed loans, the kind which they knew they would not be able to eventually afford. It is ridiculous to claim that these people were duped by forces more powerful than themselves. Nobody coerced anybody into buying a house.

And who twisted arms of bank executives to pay their failing CEOs millions? What rewards were given to financial engineers who packaged and sold the most creative sub-prime mortgage-backed securities?

There are many guilty parties here, not the least of which are our own elected representatives who reflexively believe that throwing money—as quickly as possible—at any problem is always the solution.

Thus, the belly-aching speech about partisanship by the appalling Nancy Pelosi after the failed vote was particularly galling. Here are two statistics of interest about yesterday’s “bailout” vote:

40% of House Democrats voted no.

33% of House Republicans voted yes

Which is to say, a fairly uniform rejection by both sides of the aisle.

Thank God for that. I in no way want to give any of my money to either over-confident corporate executives or to the people who will lose their homes. I am utterly unconvinced that I should feel any sense of responsibility for any of this mess.

In this current “bailout”, I feel the same way as when asked to contribute money to people who built their houses on a coastal area well known to be in a location of frequent hurricanes. How is their stupidity my problem?

Whatever the solution is, it is not more government.

Incidentally, it’s been little reported so far, but the Fed has already started printing more money to “infuse cash into the system.” One figure I read is $600 million. Next stop: inflation. Some bailout!

September 29, 2008 | 19 Comments

Next prohibition: salt

Here is a question I added to my chapter on logic today.

New York City “Health Czar” Thomas Frieden (D), who successfully banned smoking and trans fat in restaurants and who now wants to add salt to the list, said in an issue of Circulation: Cardiovascular Quality and Outcomes that “cardiovascular disease is the leading cause of death in the United States.” Describe why no government or no person, no matter the purity of their hearts, can ever eliminate the leading cause of death.

I’ll answer that in a moment. First, Frieden is engaged in yet another attempt by the government to increase control over your life. Their reasoning goes “You are not smart enough to avoid foods which we claim—without error—are bad for you. Therefore, we shall regulate or ban such foods and save you from making decisions for yourself. There are some choices you should not be allowed to make.”

The New York Sun reports on this in today’s paper (better click on that link fast, because today could be the last day of that paper).

“We’ve done some health education on salt, but the fact is that it’s in food and it’s almost impossible for someone to get it out,” Dr. Frieden said. “Really, this is something that requires an industry-wide response and preferably a national response.”…”Processed and restaurant foods account for 77% of salt consumption, so it is nearly impossible for consumers to greatly reduce their own salt intake,” they wrote. Similarly, regarding sugar, they wrote: “Reversing the increasing intake of sugar is central to limiting calories, but governments have not done enough to address this threat.”

Get that? It’s nearly impossible for “consumers” (they mean people) to regulate their own salt intake. “Consumers” are being duped and controlled by powers greater than themselves, they are being forced to eat more salt than they want. But, lo! There is salvation in building a larger government! If that isn’t a fair interpretation of the authors’ views, then I’ll (again) eat my hat.

The impetus for Frieden’s latest passion is noticing that salt (sodium) is correlated—but not perfectly predictive of, it should be emphasized—with cardiovascular disease, namely high blood pressure (HBP). This correlation makes physical sense, at least. However, because sodium is only correlated with HBP, it means that for some people average salt intake is harmless or even helpful (Samuel Mann, a physician at Cornell, even states this).

What is strange is that, even by Frieden’s own estimate (from the Circulation paper), the rate of hypertension in NYC is four percentage points lower than the rest of the nation! NYC is about 26%, the rest of you are at about 30% If these estimates are accurate, it means New York City residents are doing better than non residents. This would argue that we should mandate non-city companies should emulate the practices of restaurants and food processors that serve the city. It in no way follows that we should burden city businesses with more regulation.

Sanity check:

[E]xecutive vice president of the New York State Restaurant Association, Charles Hunt…said any efforts to limit salt consumption should take place at home, as only about 25% of meals are consumed outside the home.

“I’m concerned in that they have a tendency to try to blame all these health problems on restaurants…This nanny state that has been hinted about, or even partially created, where the government agencies start telling people what they should and shouldn’t eat, when they start telling restaurants they need to take on that role, we think its beyond the purview of government,” Mr. Hunt said.

Amen, Mr Hunt. It just goes to show you why creators and users of statistics have such a bad reputation. Even when the results are dead against you, it is still possible to claim what you want to claim. It’s even worse here, because it isn’t even clear what the results are. By that I mean, the statements made by Frieden and other physicians are much more certain than they should be given the results of his paper. Readers of this blog will not find that unusual.

What follows is a brief but technical description of the Circulation paper (and homework answer). Interested readers can click on. Continue reading “Next prohibition: salt”

September 27, 2008 | 20 Comments

Hope in academia? Too many kids in school? And much more!

Hope in academia?

Thanks again to Dennis Dutton’s Arts & Letters Daily for the link to Graphs on the death of Marxism, postmodernism, and other stupid academic fads.

The author, named “agnostic”, did a text search on articles from the journals indexed at JSTOR (you have to be at a university to use it, or you can pay yourself). He searched for the number of times certain faddish words like Marxism, deconstruction, post colonialism, hegemony, and the like were used in academic prose. He found that they all peaked—some in the late 1990s, others in the early 2000s—and are on the decline.

There are a number of caveats to his analysis, which he acknowledges. The biggest is that the counts are normalized by the number of articles published nor the number of authors publishing. Plus, he didn’t check for the growth of any new fad words,

Still, it is hard not to be hopeful that some academics in the humanities are regaining their minds.

Too many kids in school?

I had never been to that blog before, so I was delighted to find a discussion of Charles Murray’s contention that there are too many kids going to college in the post College is Still the Best Payoff. The analysis presented by the blogger isn’t fully convincing and I don’t think he countered Murray’s suggestion that the best in trades earn more than the average or below average with college degrees.

Murray is well known for arguing that too many kids with “low IQs” are going to college when they should not.

On this topic was a link to the blog The Inductivist, by a gentleman who might also be a statistician. Look for the post from Wednesday, August 27, 2008, wherein he states

Every semester I get a stack of confidential letters describing all sorts of diagnosed learning disorders, along with requests to make accommodations for these students. They need extra time on exams, permission to record lectures, etc.

Educators seem to be more comfortable recognizing limits if they are understood as disorders. We are told that these students are not dumb; they are smart, but just face extra obstacles.

Maybe people don’t like “dumb” because it sounds like forever, and labeling it as a disability enhances our compassion for the person, and it gives hope that eventually we’ll discover a cure. The medicalization of IQ might be the only palatable way to confront the reality.

I left this comment:

I was a visiting professor at Central Michigan U last fall, teaching statistics courses.

I got one of these letters in each of three classes of about 30 students. My impression, after talking with colleagues, was that this was a usual number.

If these letters truly represent learning disabilities among introductory statistics students, then that is an enormous rate.

So what is more likely: (1) The rate of learning disabilities in colleges students really is about 1 in 30, or (2) Learning disabilities are being over diagnosed so that kids don’t drop out of school (and that school loses tuition dollars).

JH, what do you say?

Henry Ford Anniversary

Today was an important anniversary date for Henry Ford Hospital in Detroit. Strangely, they didn’t post any information about it on their site.

New Prime

Again from A&LD, a link to a story about the discovery of a new prime number. Edson Smith at UCLA lead a group to find a new Mersenne prime, which is a prime of the form 2P-1 where P itself is a prime. Smith’s new prime has P = 43,112,609, and the new prime itself has 13 million digits!

You have to be a real geek to get excited about news like this. But if you own at least one copy of The Book of Prime Number Records by Paulo Ribenboim, then today is a happy day.

Stuff Scientists Like

A new blog that is a take off on the popular Stuff White People Like. Not too many posts yet, and what’s there is telegraphic, but my favorite is At the Movies.

You know those scientific inaccuracies that the directors miss or ignore? Explosions in space and whatnot?

Well, scientists love to gripe about them. Loudly and repeatedly. Both while in the theater and thereafter.

Later they enjoy arguing about whether said inaccuracies fundamentally undermine the quality of the film. Eventually someone gets frustrated and storms off.

Anybody who has ever watched a movie/television with me will know just what he is talking about.

“Why can’t they just pay some guy like me fifty bucks to tell them that that’s impossible! Hell, there are hundreds of geeks out there that would edit scripts for free! This makes no sense! Let me tell you exactly why what there trying can’t be done…”