Paths To Knowledge (dot Science)

What is actually real in Objective Reality? How do you know? Now, prove it's real!

Archive for February 22nd, 2009

Our Lumpy Graceful Earth

Posted by pwl on February 22, 2009

Lumpy Earth - GRACE Gravity Map of Earth - Americas

Lumpy Earth - GRACE Gravity Map of Earth - Americas, Pacific Ocean

Measuring Gravity With Grace
“It’s an assumption that has made introductory physics just a little bit easier — the acceleration of a body due to gravity is a constant 9.81 meters per second squared. Indeed, the assumption would be true if Earth were a smooth sphere made of uniform elements and materials.”- NASA

Read the rest of this entry »

Posted in Climate Science, Humbled by Nature, Ignorance to Knowledge, Science Missions | 51 Comments »

Simple Systems Can Generate Complexity

Posted by pwl on February 22, 2009

Even extremely simple programs can produce behavior of immense complexity
“Everyday experience tends to make one think that it is difficult to get complex behavior, and that to do so requires complicated underlying rules. A crucial discovery in A New Kind of Science is that among programs this is not true—and that even some of the very simplest possible programs can produce behavior that in a fundamental sense is as complex as anything in our universe. There have been hints of related phenomena for a very long time, but without the conceptual framework of A New Kind of Science they have been largely ignored or misunderstood. The discovery now that simple programs can produce immense complexity forces a major shift in scientific intuition.” – Stephen Wolfram, Quick Takes on Some Ideas and Discoveries in A New Kind Of Science (NKS)

The proof, yes proof, of this is Chapter 2 of NKS.

Posted in Climate Science, Humbled by Nature, Ignorance to Knowledge, Proofs | Leave a Comment »

Humbled by Nature at Sea

Posted by pwl on February 22, 2009

“The Bahamian-registered ship is carrying 776 passengers and crew, 480 of them Spanish. Some sustained minor injuries when the ship sailed into the storm at 8am UTC on February 14, 2005.”

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Climate verses Weather: Getting Everything Right

Posted by pwl on February 22, 2009

I’ve been chastised a number of times for using terms from “climate” and “weather” interchangeably. People harangue you and insist that these really are two entirely distinct fields and they always make them sound unrelated too. A little research goes a long way to an understanding of this distinction, and towards showing that my understanding and usage were just fine.

I like how NASA sums it up:

“The difference between weather and climate is a measure of time. Weather is what conditions of the atmosphere are over a short period of time, and climate is how the atmosphere “behaves” over relatively long periods of time.”NASA

David Lindley, in “Calculating the Future” has an interesting observation about the fuzzy blurring of weather and climate:

“The steadily increasing resolution of GCMs is blurring the already fuzzy distinction between weather and climate. …many medium scale phenomena in current GCMs cannot be calculated directly but must be dealt with by ‘parametrization’, meaning that important aspects of small-scale physics are in essence approximated and averaged over grid cells. … In addition to using computing power to calculate on an ever-finer scale, climate researchers can always think of more science to put into their simulations. … Getting everything right is still years away. … ‘The programming model we use [now] is not viable anymore in the next couple of generations of computers,’ says Bader.” – David Lindley, “Calculating the Future”, Communications of the ACM, January 2009, Vol 52, No. 1, (selected quotes not in any particular order).

So one can say “what is the weather like this week” and also say “what is the climate like this week” and mean essentially the same thing. It all depends up the explicit or implicit time horizon that is being discussed.

It seems that as the computer climate models increase their “reality resolution” and “reality breadth” they approach modeling what most people call weather.

Another point of the article touches on the Limits of Computation which equates Climate Models as akin to “soothsaying with high tech entrails” – take it with a pinch of salt to improve the taste. These limits will never go away for “The Map Is Not the Territory” and never will be. That’s for another post though.

To those of you who still cling to the void idea that “weather is not climate” you need to bring yourself into the latest state of the art in climate science and computer science.

The steadily increasing resolution of GCMs is blurring the already fuzzy distinction between weather and climate. Researchers are beginning to calculate models with 50-kilometer resolution over periods of decades, enabling them to see how climate change might affect the frequency and intensity of extreme storms or the statistics of droughts. Such information, rather than the more abstract concept of global average temperature, starkly conveys the tangible consequences of global warming.

– David Lindley, “Calculating the Future”, Communications of the ACM, January 2009, Vol 52, No. 1.

As we see the geographic area, the size of the computational cell, used for climate models and even just tracking current weather is shrinking. Unfortunately the Earth, or maybe that is fortunately the Earth, is not made up of “grid cells” in a regular matrix to make your array math easy. The Earth is comprised of many irregularly shaped “climate volumes” that interact with each other, some more than others. The size of these volumes is different as well. For example, the Big Island of Hawaii is known for it’s many different “climate types” (supposedly a taste of all climates except arctic). One can move from one “climate zone” to another just by crossing the road!!! I know, I’ve been there and done it. Lush jungle on one side of the road, dry hills with desert like conditions on the other. Tropical rain forest in the river valleys not far away. Three distinct climate zones within hundreds of meters of each other!!!

To properly track and model the climate of the Earth the computer programs must use the actual shape of disparate climate zones which is difficult since they are fuzzy and likely change shape with the seasons and under other conditions such as storms. Regardless a fuzzy volume with the resolution at the level of precision needed for each particular physical attribute being tracked/modeled. In other words temperature needs to be tracked at the volume resolution with sufficient detail to eliminate the need for averaging. That provides high resolution with variable volume size and and fuzzy potentially overlapping shape.

Now for time. Along the time axis any time a volume being tracked changes one of it’s parameters that change needs to be tracked on that time scale of precision. In other words if the temperature is being tracked and it changes on a minute by minute basis then track it that way, if it’s changing on an hourly by hourly basis track that. In other words track every change that occurs.

Of course sensor technology and deployment must catch up with the needs of modeling and tracking science. While we won’t ever be perfect we can achieve a lot with today’s technology.

The time scale for climate/weather is what ever it naturally is and is not the arbitrary distinction that we apply when we attempt to call one thing climate and the other thing weather. It’s a fuzzy distinction at best.

One can also speak of the climate last month being warmer than the same month last year. Remember that words are not always their pedantic meaning that overly-pedantic focused people like to make it out as. Words are flexible.

In addition to using computing power to calculate on an ever-finer scale, climate researchers can always think of more science to put into their simulations. Historically, the growth of computational capacity allowed researchers to integrate previously separate models of ocean, atmosphere, sea ice, and land, and that trend continues on a number of fronts. At the moment, for example, atmospheric carbon dioxide concentration is applied to climate models as an external parameter, derived from the work of scientists who add up emissions from tailpipes and smokestacks and, taking into account the natural processes that absorb and release the gas, try to estimate how much CO2 will be in the atmosphere 10, 20, or more years from now. But this approach misses all types of crucial feedbacks. Changing temperatures of the oceans affects how well they hold dissolved CO2, while changes in the world’s vegetation cover, due to a warming climate, influence the amount of carbon that ends up in the atmosphere rather than being taken up by biomass. Climate modelers are beginning to integrate parts of this complex network of feedbacks into GCMs, so that ultimately they will be able to input human CO2 emissions directly into the models, and allow the computer to figure out where it all ends up—and how that disposition changes in a changing climate.”

– David Lindley, “Calculating the Future”, Communications of the ACM, January 2009, Vol 52, No. 1.

Posted in Climate Science, Ignorance to Knowledge | Leave a Comment »

A Sea Level Calculator

Posted by pwl on February 22, 2009

I found this Sea Level Calculator over at Junk Science that takes issue with the Jerome J. Schmitt ice melt calculations. Interesting. I’ll likely have to recalculate how many nukes will be needed to do the job.

It’s a very interesting article actually with a variation on the calculations – a refinement.

Here is one sample calculation performed by it. Read the rest of this entry »

Posted in Climate Science, Ignorance to Knowledge | 5 Comments »

How could we melt enough ice for a 20ft rise in sea levels?

Posted by pwl on February 22, 2009

In a comment on Climate realism from biologist and polar researcher Bernard Stonehouse I posted some comments which I’ll reproduce here. They were in response to someone complaining about the phrase “…accumulated cold…” with the comment “Ha ha. There is no such thing! Cold is simply the lack of heat”; now I’m not sure what the author of the article meant exactly about that but that lead me to wonder the following (re-edited into article form).

“When ice melts, it absorbs as much heat energy (the heat of fusion) as it would take to heat an equivalent mass of water by 80 °C, while its temperature remains a constant 0 °C.” – wikipedia on ice

WOW! That’s a serious amount of energy required and a big speed bump to the common simplistic misconception that “when the temperature rises above freezing, ice melts”.

“When you heat a material, you are adding kinetic energy to its molecules and usually raising its temperature. The only exception is when the material reaches its melting or boiling points. At those two temperatures, the heat energy goes into changing the state of the material. After the state has changed, the temperature will rise again with added heat. The rate temperature changes is the specific heat of the material. The amount of heat required to melt the material is called the latent heat of melting.” – Ron Kurtus

It takes a lot of energy to melt ice. Melting the antarctic will take a huge amount of energy. Read the rest of this entry »

Posted in Climate Science, Ignorance to Knowledge | 3 Comments »

Mann Made Science Faulted

Posted by pwl on February 22, 2009

Very illuminating.

Lawrence Solomon: Under oath, North faults Mann too
By Lawrence Solomon

Of all the scientists who have come to Michael Mann’s defence, none have more impressive credentials than those of Gerald North, a former Head of the Department of Atmospheric Sciences at Texas A&M University. North, a physicist, has not only spent decades addressing the dangers of climate change, he has done so through his work in climate models and his knowledge of statistics, a suite of qualifications that make him particularly well qualified to comment on Michael Mann’s statistics-based work. Read the rest of this entry »

Posted in Ethics in Science | Leave a Comment »

Two Faces of Associate Professor PZ Myers

Posted by pwl on February 22, 2009

Two Faces of Associate Professor PZ Myers: By Day A Commitment to the UMM Code of Conduct & By Night Crude & Brash Basher of the Ignorant with the Open Season on Fresh Meat

Associate Professor PZ Myers By Day – UMM Code of Conduct: “UMM – GUIDING PRINCIPLES. Values. In carrying out the institution’s research, teaching, and public service mission, members of the University community (community members) are dedicated to advancing the University’s core values. These values embrace commitment to: excellence and innovation; discovery and the search for the truth; diversity of community and ideas; integrity; academic freedom; stewardship and accountability for resources and relationships; sharing knowledge in a learning environment; application of knowledge and discovery to advance the quality of life and economy of the region and the world; and service as a land grant institution to Minnesota, the nation, and the world. Commitment to Ethical Conduct. Community members must be committed to the highest ethical standards of conduct and integrity. The standards of conduct in this Code, supported through policies, procedures, and workplace rules, provide guidance for making decisions and memorialize the institution’s commitment to responsible behavior.”

Associate Professor PZ Myers By Night – Open Season on Fresh Meat Policy: “ I want my commenters to be uncivil. There is no virtue in politeness when confronted with ignorance, dishonesty, and delusion. I want them to charge in to the heart of the issue and shred the frauds, without hesitation and without faltering over manners. These demands for a false front of civility are one of the strategies used by charlatans who want to mask their lack of substance — oh, yes, it would be so goddamned rude to point out that a huckster is lying to you. I am quite happy that we have a culture of being rude to frauds here.”

Do we detect an ethical delima here that can’t possibly be resolved nor justified by anthing in the UMM Code of Conduct – YES WE DO!!! There are limits which Associate Professor PZ Myers has – in our view and the views of many others – violated. Ethical limits broken. Commitments to a Code of Conduct obliterated and rendered nullified. Shame on you Associate Professor PZ Myers, shame on you.

Posted in Bad Science Attitude, Caustic Scientists, Ethics in Science, Ignorance to Knowledge | Leave a Comment »

The Loathsome Pit of Perversity of Associate Professor PZ Myers

Posted by pwl on February 22, 2009

To Associate Professor PZ Myers

“No one has yet uncovered the loathsome pit of perversity I keep in the basement” – PZ Myers

Well [that is] because you keep it out in the open with your horrific anti-science education policy known as “Open Season on Fresh Meat”. Your caustic attitude towards people is your pit of perversity Associate Professor PZ Myers.

Now your dogs will pounce on me but they are irrelevant as they are just stooges following your nasty lead. I’m sure that many are. It leaves me wondering how many of your students feel that you uphold your commitment at school to the principles in the code of conduct? It makes one wonder especially considering that your posts occur all the time, likely when you are on campus which means that you are bound to those commitments and yet here everyday is the evidence that you are in blatant violation of your commitment.

While you might be 100% correct about all of your science, you’re a 100% rotten apple when it comes to your attitude in interacting with people sir Associate Professor PZ Myers. You are a disgrace to science educators everywhere. It’s time to change your attitude sir. Read the rest of this entry »

Posted in Bad Science Attitude, Caustic Scientists, Ethics in Science, Ignorance to Knowledge | 9 Comments »

What is science? What is it to be a reasonable scientist?

Posted by pwl on February 22, 2009

Originally posted by pwl on Sat Feb 14, 2009 1:31 am


Today [actually about a week ago on Sat Feb 14th, 2009] I spent a considerable amount of time and energy interacting with a group of people I had respect for as scientists, or at least what I had perceived to be a group committed to comprehending objective reality, over here: After the discussion my notions about them and respect for them suffered and adapted downwards, in some cases significantly.

What surprises me the most isn’t that they have a really solid point of view that their are right about human caused global warming (AWG), it’s the manner in which I was treated as someone who was asking questions and being up front with them that I don’t know what to believe about AWG. I am asking questions and reading all points of view on the topic. The immediate and rapid labeling of me as a “denier”, “skeptic”, “put up or publish”, “liar”, and more was a powerfully potent drum beat of a coordinated offensive in their debating style that left no room for even the most basic questions or notions of auditing. I am very shocked by their manners considering that they (a few of them anyhow) are supposed to be educated scientists pursuing science.

Now I don’t need any supportive comments to confirm what I already know through the experience of interacting with them I am deeply curious about the reaction to what should be a basic aspect in the approach to science using the scientific method and a rational scientific process. I gather that I was deeply and profoundly mistaken that scientists are committed to actually questioning their processes of thought and methodology and their hypothesis, data, and their conclusions.

I am a systems scientist with a deep background in writing software systems of all kinds including systems that have built in auditing, engineering systems, of the program execution context and ongoing process. I apply both intuitive processes as well as the hardest evidence based development processes that any other hard science uses when they need it. So while I’m not a climate scientist – as I freely admited before entering the discussion – and I’m not a physicist or a chemist I do have the skills and tools of the hard evidence based approaches of computer science in my skill set and experience in my career.

What I’m interested in knowing from working scientists is what you consider science to be, what your teachers taught you, what you’ve learned from them and on your own, how you approach science and the scientific method – rationally and intuitively – and the process of vetting your thought processes and the steps of validating your hypotheses and assuming the data confirms your hypotheses how you go about testing your theories and validating OR invalidating them with falsifications. How do you falsify your own hypotheses? How do you design your experiments?

As of now I don’t know enough about climate science to properly debate the substantive issues. One of the issues is that it’s very challenging to know what to believe without being able to test the claims being made from the various people making claims. This is a serious issue, and not just in climate science. How can someone test the claims of climate science on one’s own?

Just about anyone can test Newton’s theories and equations of gravity, f=ma for example, using high school physics.

How can someone test the claims of climate science on one’s own?

What is science?

What is a scientist?

What is a fair “attitude” that a scientist could take when being questioned by others who don’t know their subject or whom disagree with their conclusions?

What does it really mean to be fair and open to criticism in science? What is not fair play?

If, for example, you are a chemistry teacher and have a student who asks you to “prove that atoms exist” what do you say or do to the student or even to a stranger who asks you while you are busy going about your day? Do you call them a “denier” of the existence of “atoms”? Do you teach them the atomic theory? (Which atomic theory or level of it do you teach?) Do you teach the student how to prove the existence of atoms on their own so that they might teach others the same? Do you tell them that it’s not possible to prove that atoms exist and that you must take it on faith or because that is the way it is or do you take it on authority? When and how and in what situations can the student learn the knowledge in a manner that empowers with knowledge and skill rather than endarkens with belief? When and how do you leave someone empowered with an insight into objective reality that actually enables them to think critically for themselves? Or do you even try?

What is the process of science? When do you give up one idea and adopt another? Have you been through that process? If so please expand upon the details of what you experienced with highlights of what was gained and lost in the process, or other details you feel were/are relevant?

Have you ever falsified your own hypotheses, and if so how did you do it? If not, why not and how did you avoid or disprove the falsification (if that makes sense in your case)?

What should a person committed to science stand their ground and not back down to the challenges? How do you know that you are on the right track with that? How do you know you’re not pursuing a blind alley? How is evidence on your side and when can you tell it isn’t? How do you reconcile the different views of the various parties in a conversation of science? Do you trust people or do you test the hell out of what they say? Does that piss them off? How do you know you’ve gone too far? Is it possible to go to far? If so how do you know?

Obviously there are many strategies and styles for doing science that the many scientists – educated or not – follow in arriving at their answers. Ultimately objective reality is the final judge as that is the play ground within which we exist for real. Ultimately our perceptual “views” that we think are “real” ultimately aren’t. How do you really know that what you perceive is actually real or not?

I don’t necessarily expect answers to any or all of these questions. I’m more posting to focus my thoughts and open a dialog with any that are interested in the process of science and your experience thereof in a challenging field, climate science or whatever field you are in. How do you know you are connected to reality and not a set of belief stricken dreams of grandeur? How do you slice and dice your dreams with critical though and the testing of evidence to arrive at a rational view of existence?

Also your comments on the known and proven facts of climate science might be a good place to start with home testability of claims?

I thank you in advance for your kind attention and for your time and cognitive process thinking about these and any other questions or criticisms you might offer.

All the best,


Posted in Ethics in Science, Ignorance to Knowledge | Leave a Comment »

What are the paths to knowledge that actually get you closer to Objective Reality?

Posted by pwl on February 22, 2009

How do you know that what you know is real? I don’t mean real in your beliefs, or simply in your perception as these can be distorted, but real in the sense that it’s actually exists in objective independent of you? Hard cold reality, how do you know?

Let’s explore.

Posted in Ethics in Science, Ignorance to Knowledge | Leave a Comment »

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