Monday, November 23, 2009

The Piltdown Man walks

A lot of the posting about the CRU document hack revolves around how it will play in the press. There is a certain amount of cynicism that, because of the investment in AGW, the press and politicians tied to its cause will ignore or explain away the documents as best as possible. While I have no doubt that is true, I don't think it matters. What really matters is how the Climatologists and other Science Departments view it.

In 1908 the first fragments of the Piltdown Man skull were reportedly found. By 1912 the news of the discovery reached the popular press. While scientists outside of Britain were at first skeptical of the find, many were converted when, in 1917 it was announced that Piltdown II had been discovered.

The Piltdown skulls were of course hoaxes. They were a combination of fragments of a medieval man's skull, a orangutan's jawbone and chimpanzee teeth. However, the hoax wasn't unmasked until 1953. Prior to that date other hominid skulls had to fit into a sequence that included Piltdown man, and that resulted in a highly distorted family tree for modern man and his ancestors.

The revelation of the hoax badly damaged the reputation of the science of Anthropology. I remember sitting in Anthropology classes in the 1970s where the Piltdown hoax still cast its shadow -- there was a definite stress that the digs had to be done scrupulously, and the findings judged carefully, to avoid another such embarrassment.   

I think the leaked documents are absolutely devastating, not only to the AGW theory, but to the reputation and credibility of  Climatology in general. If the emails detailing the filtering of data to get the desired results hold up, and I expect what will turn out to be ludicrous computer programs and shaky primary data turn out to be true, then it will mean that the reputation of Climatologists as serious scientists has been brought into question and found wanting.

It is hard for me to imagine that climate scientists felt comfortable walking onto campuses Monday morning after word of the hacked documents spread. It is not what is reported in the press that will matter as much as how their peers view the scandal. It is that censure that matters. They have a lot of work ahead of them to repair the reputation of their discipline, and that reputation will not be repaired by spinning more alarm out of vapor in the Sunday supplements.

If nothing else, it is not often the Social Scientists can laugh at how sloppy a so-called hard science is with its facts.

Helloooo visitors from Free Republic. Thanks for dropping by.

Friday, November 20, 2009

What if They use Email Proxies Instead

As you may have heard, a hacker has released data implicating CRU as less than straightforward about AGW. Our own Charlie Martin has a piece up on PJM. The reputation of the Hockey Team could suffer as a result. I have plotted the hypothetical relationship between reading the hacked emails and Hockey Team's reputation. As more emails are read, the reputation plummets.

But what if the Hockey Team were to run some filters on the data and instead create email proxies. These proxies have the advantage of getting rid of unwanted noise. Maybe it would look like this.

Gee, it's not so bad after all. A reputation Hockey Stick, the more you read, they better it looks.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

The forgotten Theater of the American Revolution

On May 8th, 1781, a shell penetrated the magazine in the Queen’s Redoubt. The explosion of the magazine killed nearly 100 English defenders of the fort. The Queen's Redoubt was one of the three strong points that the British had built for the defense of Pensacola against  a Spanish attack. After the explosion, the Spanish were quick to attack and occupy the position.

Campbell, the English commander, soon surrendered Pensacola to Bernardo de Galvez (pictured). With that surrender, the British lost their last foothold in Western Florida and were cleared from the Gulf of Mexico.

Although often forgotten, the Spanish declared war on England as well as France during the American Revolution. However, due to their American colonies, they did not recognize the United States. None the less, her contribution was important. Spain blockaded Gibraltar and caused the English to send much of its fleet to aide in its defense. Spain and England were also involved in a series of clashes throughout the Caribbean. In fact, the last battle of the American revolution was not fought at Yorktown, but in the Bahamas.

However, from the view point of the nascent United States, there is little doubt that clearing the English from West Florida and Louisiana was of critical significance. Had the English retained a toe hold on the Gulf, it is possible they would have eventually seized control of New Orleans. Had that happened the western boundary of U.S. expansion may have ended up being the Mississippi River. Who knows, maybe it would have been Jackson getting chopped to pieces as he was assaulting the entrenched British defenders of New Orleans in 1814.

Lafayette and Comte de Grasse have received their due in the history books. This post is a reminder of the forgotten Bernardo de Galvez. It can be argued that, in its own way, his victory at Pensacola was as important as Yorktown.

Saturday, November 07, 2009

Social Justice delivered via a fist

Yoani Sánchez, runs the blog Generation Y which is on our blog roll. If you haven't followed our link to her site and read her you should. She lives in Havana and gives a fascinating look at the everyday internals of the Worker's Paradise.

Yesterday she and other dissident Cuban bloggers were detained by Cuban authorities and roughed up. From babalú (the comments in the thread give even more detail):  

"Ernesto, I have just spoken to Yoani. She is now back home. She has bruising around one eye. She has been verbally and physically assaulted. Orlando was too. 'This is as far as you're getting!' was repeatedly shouted at them inside a patrol car. She was placed head over heels and subjected to karate blows. She is very nervous. I am too."

This is a bad situation for her and her compatriots. Considering Obama's Honduran adventure we can expect very little useful comment or action from our government. All we can do is make noise so the Cuban authorities know they are being watched. Please contact who you can, and spread the word about this situation. Their courage requires us to at least try to make sure they are not beaten and intimidated in the shadows. 

For a little background, here is an article on the Cuban Blogging community.

Thursday, November 05, 2009

Nine eggs sold

"Some wind in the morning, then nice sunny weather. Ground has dried up somewhat. In the evening violent wind & a few drops of rain. The wind actually blew the roof off the small henhouse. Enormous flocks of starlings, some tens of thousands at a time, going over with a noise that sounds like heavy rain. The leaves are mostly down now. Elder leaves just coming down. As I remember it the elms are being stripped much earlier this year than most.

Transplanted the gooseberry bushes. Trust I haven’t damaged them. One or two still had green or greenish leaves, & others were so deep in the ground I had to damage their roots considerably getting them up. The soil there (this end of the garden) is in places pure clay at only 1 foot below the surface. Dug some of this out & lightened the ground as well as possible with sand & turf-mould. Then limed the ground between the bushes & dug in, also pruned the bushes a little. Hope this wind will not blow them all loose again. Added another sack of leaves. [Total on facing page: 31/2.]

9 eggs (probably some of these laid yesterday). Sold 30 @ 4/- a score."

The above quote is George Orwell's diary entry on November 5th, 1939. The Orwell Prize has been posting Orwell's diary entries a day at a time. Each day he writes of nothing but the weather, his gardening and the eggs his hens produce. Soil, fertilizer, rain and eggs -- mundane things that would seem to be of little interest to today's reader.

November 5th, 1939 was in the midst of the Phony War. Germany had invaded and overran Poland and was preparing its attack on France, Belgium and Holland. In fact, while Orwell tended to his garden in England,  General von Brauchitsch was reporting to Hitler on the state of the Germany Army as the Fuhrer considered the starting date for his planned Western Offensive.

During those days Orwell must have felt dread over what he saw on the horizon. With hindsight we know his dread was not misplaced. However, the diary gives no sense of what he thought as he read the day's paper or listened to the news on the radio. He gives no sample of the discussions, fears and hopes that people would have expressed as war loomed ever nearer. Instead, in that diary, he narrowed his world to his garden. It must have been a therapy to him, a quiet corner of his world, a bit of peace to hold onto during the steady drip of disheartening news. 

Eleven soldiers dead today in Fort Hood. The killer was likely just a lunatic. It is just as likely that he wrapped his lunacy in jihadist politics. Is the violence in Fort Hood today a fragment of war brought to our soil, or is it just another side of the pathology that drives serial killers? I don't know, but I have a deepening pessimism, a deepening unease that these times may also be a time of Phony War.

Many years ago I read a translation of a fragment of a Sumerian inscription. It has stuck in my head ever since. Today it seems appropriate: "Look thou about thee and see that all men are fools."

Sunday, November 01, 2009

A Passing

The guitarist Peter Bocking has passed away. I wasn't familiar with his musical work. In the blogosphere he was known as PeterUK. The link has a tribute page for him. A fiery and smart commenter.