Tuesday, December 28, 2010

I always thought it was bollocks, but...

...apparently not only did members of our species interbreed with Neanderthals, but with another human species recently identified by way of DNA analysis and currently referred to as Denisovans:

Monday, December 27, 2010

Union of Concerned Scientists in 2006 "winters are becoming warmer and less snowy"

“Listen to the climate scientists” – that’s the refrain you always get from the warmists. Their argument is that we simply don’t know enough about “the science” to make our own judgments, and must bow down before superior wisdom.

But the problem is, if we did that, we’d be changing our minds with the weather – literally. Case in point: only a few years ago in 2006 a report was released by a body called ‘The northeast Climate Impacts Assessment’. Press releases informed us that this body was a collaboration between the Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS) and a team of independent scientists from universities across the Northeast and the nation.

Heavyweight stuff. The full report is (for the moment) available online here. 

The Union of Concerned Scientists published the results of the study on its climatechoices website and summarized them thus:

"Across the globe, and here in the Northeast, the climate is changing. Records show that spring is arriving earlier, summers are growing hotter, and winters are becoming warmer and less snowy. These changes are consistent with global warming, an urgent phenomenon driven by heat-trapping emissions from human activities

Again we see the same claim – warmer, milder winters are entirely consistent with global warming. No mention of global warming causing extreme cold and heavy snow. No predictions of colder weather to come. But why bother with all that when you can simply issue another press release when it gets colder and claim you predicted this all along?


Mark Colvin: Is anyone still arguing that Wikileaks' unfettered transparency has no downside?

That's the question posed by the ABC's Mark Colvin on Twitter in response to this article in The Guardian.

This was always my misgiving about Wikileaks: in it's scatter-gun approach there would be collateral damage, and the man trying to stand up to Robert Mugabe may be part of this.

Yes, it all seemed such a jolly jape to so many on the Left when they simplistically and foolishly assumed that Wikileaks was just an embarrassment to the United States and, well gee, that must be a good thing right?

Well, do you think? Does anyone honestly think that China is a more desirable hegamon?Or are people as infantiley stupid as Helen Clarke, the former prime minister of New Zealand and the Labour Party there who thought it was a good idea to encourage the lovely and sensitive Chinese in the Pacific as opposed to those horrible and oppressive Americans?

Fucking dickheads.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Echinacea does not ward off colds according to research

From the Food & Health Skeptic:

On to the next fad!

The herbal remedy echinacea, which is taken to stave off colds, does not work, say leading doctors. They suggest that the plant extract has little or no effect on the length or severity of symptoms including coughs and sneezes.

Increasing numbers of Britons take echinacea supplements every year at the first sign of a cold in the hope that they will help boost their immune system. But a major study suggested that its effects are ‘minimal’, and for many people it will not work at all.

The research by the American College of Physicians compared the effects of the extract on 719 people experiencing the first sign of a cold. Half were given echinacea tablets to take once a day for five days and the other half took placebos and recorded their symptoms for a week. 

Symptoms of the common cold – congestion, sore throat and fever – usually resolve within seven to ten days. The length of illness among the volunteers who took the echinacea was shorter by between seven and ten hours – a ‘statistically insignificant’ result, the experts said. The herb had no effect on severity of the symptoms. 

The study, published in the Annals of Internal Medicine, concluded that, for most people, taking the supplement was not ‘worthwhile’. 

The team, led by Professor Bruce Barrett at the University of Wisconsin concluded: ‘Any underlying benefit of echinacea is not large and was not demonstrated by our results. Individual choices about whether to use echinacea to treat the common cold should be guided by personal health values and preferences.’

The herb, derived from a flowering plant native to North America, has become increasing popular in the past decade. It was first used by American Indians to treat snake bites.

Okay, while this is pretty much the result I'd have expected, (most so-called herbal remedies have either no real effect or only a very small one), and I think accords with some other studies, I do have a few caveats.

It's a small sample of people and, most crucially, it involves self reporting. Always be wary of studies that involve people reporting how they feel, though depends on whether they were given a definite list of symptoms to report on (which seems to be the case), not just the vague "how do you feel?" kind of questions (which tend to be subjective and work in favour of unconventional remedies).

GWPF Calls For Independent Inquiry Into Met Office's Winter Advice

Taken from Greenie Watch:

The Global Warming Policy Foundation (www.thegwpf.org) is an all-party and non-party think tank and a registered educational charity

The Global Warming Policy Foundation has called on the Government to set up an independent inquiry into the winter advice it received by the Met Office and the renewed failure to prepare the UK for the third severe winter in a row.

"The current winter fiasco is no longer a joke as the economic damage to the British economy as a result of the country's ill-preparedness is running at £1bn a day and could reach more than £15 billion," said Dr Benny Peiser, the GWPF's Director.

Friday, December 17, 2010

The winter poor George Monbiot never saw coming - dickhead

It is now mid-February, and already I have sown eleven species of vegetable. I know, though the seed packets tell me otherwise, that they will flourish. Everything in this country - daffodils, primroses, almond trees, bumblebees, nesting birds - is a month ahead of schedule. And it feels wonderful. Winter is no longer the great grey longing of my childhood. The freezes this country suffered in 1982 and 1963 are - unless the Gulf Stream stops - unlikely to recur. Our summers will be long and warm. Across most of the upper northern hemisphere, climate change, so far, has been kind to us

Poor, cold George, shivering in snow-bound Britain: 

The Big Freeze will hold us in its grip for at least another month, forecasters warn.

Arctic conditions are expected to last through the Christmas and New Year bank holidays and beyond.

@JoanneNova guts journalism "academic" David McKnight while ripping him a new one

DAVID McKnight's criticism of The Australian over climate change ("Sceptical writers skipped inconvenient truths", Inquirer, December 11) makes for a good case study of Australian universities' intellectual collapse.

Here's a University of NSW senior research fellow in journalism who contradicts himself, fails by his own reasoning, does little research, breaks at least three laws of logic, and rests his entire argument on an assumption for which he provides no evidence.

Sadly, as Nova observes, McKnight is emblematic of the overall decline of academic standards and intellectual rigour within Australian universities, especially within faculties and schools devoted to the liberal arts and social studies.

Her website is here http://joannenova.com.au/ and you can follow her on Twitter here http://twitter.com/JoanneNova

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Deutsche Bank's Corporate Irresponsibility

As Mr. Henderson puts it, the Deutsche Bank report on climate skeptics has been rendered worthless as a guide to the science and for investors. It also betrays a larger issue, which is a corporate role on the part of Deutsche Bank that makes Exxon look like a Boy Scout. –Terence Corcoran, Financial Post, 14 December 2010


It would thus appear that its Climate Change Advisors, who are no more than “the climate-change investment division of Deutsche Asset Management,” took a strong position on behalf of Deutsche Bank on a controversial political matter. If so, it would be interesting to know whether and to what extent this action, which appears as questionable in itself, was authorized and approved at higher levels within the bank. –David Henderson, Financial Post, 14 December 2010


At a certain point it becomes disconcerting that Deutsche Bank, which is among other things one of the few international banks qualified to act as a primary dealer for the New York Federal Reserve, and is thereby subject to particularly stringent requirements about accuracy of commentary it publishes on economic and policy issues, is going to such efforts to excuse publication of misleading information. --Ross McKitrick, Guelph University, November 2010


1) David Henderson: Deutsche Bank's Corporate Irresponsibility - Financial Post, 14 December 2010

2) Terence Corcoran: Deutsche’s Climate - Financial Post, 14 December 2010


Saturday, December 11, 2010

The New Yorker on the prevalence of (unconscious) bias in scientific studies

This is big, and it is worrying. I "believe" in science or, more to the point, the scientific method.

Even something like this is probably part of the self-correcting nature of science. It's just that self-correction as we've traditionally understood it doesn't seem to have worked very well.

As the article makes clear, this is not about scientific fraud. It's about the fact that scientists are human beings and are prone like anyone else to see what they want to see.

In its current issue, The New Yorker has an excellent piece on the prevalence of (unconscious) bias in scientific studies that builds on this recent must-read piece in The Atlantic. And to some extent, Jonah Lehrer’s New Yorker article builds on this story he did for Wired in 2009. Anyone interested in the scientific process should read all three, for they are provocative cautionary tales. 

Back to Lehrer’s story in The New Yorker. I’m going to quote from it extensively because it’s behind a paywall, but I urge people to buy a copy of the issue off the newsstand, if possible. It’s that good. His piece is an arrow into the heart of the scientific method: 
The test of replicability, as it’s known, is the foundation of modern research. Replicability is how the community enforces itself. It’s a safeguard for the creep of subjectivity. Most of the time, scientists know what results they want, and that can influence the results they get. The premise of replicability is that the scientific community can correct for these flaws. 

But now all sorts of well-established, multiply confirmed findings have started to look increasingly uncertain. It’s as if our facts were losing their truth: claims that have been been enshrined in textbooks are suddenly unprovable. This phenomenon doesn't yet have an official name, but it's occurring across a wide range of fields, from psychology to ecology.

How did this happen? How have “enshrined” findings that were replicated suddenly become undone? The fatal flaw appears to be the selective reporting of results–the data that scientists choose to document in the first place.

Dr Ray from Greenie Watch (has links to article etc) comments:

I heartily agree with the article below, which is why I reproduce it fully (with links). And its relevance to Warmist "science" needs no spelling out. I saw all of the faults discussed below in my own social science research career and to this day I tackle similar problems daily in my FOOD & HEALTH SKEPTIC blog. 

I can however go beyond the article below and point to what is the remedy to these now well-documented faults in scientific reporting. The remedy is to encourage similar research by those who have an OPPOSITE agenda to the established writers. Because I am a conservative, I saw the received wisdom in my Left-dominated field of research as quite absurd. And I set out to show that such theories were absurd. And I did. I even got my findings published over and over again in the academic journals. My findings, however, had no impact whatever. Leftists didn't want to believe my findings so simply ignored them. 

If however, I had been one of many people with opposing views writing in the field, that would have been much harder to ignore and a more balanced view might have emerged as the consensus position. 

At the moment, however, being skeptical of any scientific consensus is career death. So the only remedy is for skeptical views to be specifically rewarded both among students in marking, in academic hiring and in career advancement. It is only a faint hope but perhaps there are enough people of integrity in science to bring that about eventually. Science will be greatly hobbled otherwise -- JR

Thursday, December 9, 2010

NYT: There Will Be Fossil Fuels in Abundance – For Decades To Come

But no sooner did the demand-and-supply equation shift out of kilter than it swung back into something more palatable and familiar. Just as it seemed that the world was running on fumes, giant oil fields were discovered off the coasts of Brazil and Africa, and Canadian oil sands projects expanded so fast, they now provide North America with more oil than Saudi Arabia. In addition, the United States has increased domestic oil production for the first time in a generation.

Meanwhile, another wave of natural gas drilling has taken off in shale rock fields across the United States, and more shale gas drilling is just beginning in Europe and Asia. Add to that an increase in liquefied natural gas export terminals around the world that connected gas, which once had to be flared off, to the world market, and gas prices have plummeted.

Energy experts now predict decades of residential and commercial power at reasonable prices. Simply put, the world of energy has once again been turned upside down.

Somewhat different issue, but I've said this before: the whole problem of the peak oil theorists was that they were making predictions about a resource that we have never really had a good estimate of. I think it is pretty clear that there was always more oil than we thought, possibly much more.

There is an oil field in the United States that should have run dry several times already based on successive estimates of how much was left made since the 19th Century!

It's still producing and showing no signs yet of running out and it's not an isolated case. Fully two thirds of all possible oil-bearing strata have not been surveyed with modern geological methods according to an article in Scientific American published within the last year.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Has Charles Dickens shaped our perception of climate change?

Note: This essay originally appeared last January on The Air Vent. Given our current winter, it as just as prescient now as it was then, so I’m reposting it here. Thanks to Verity Jones and Charles the Moderator for bringing it to my attention – Anthony


Guest post by Tony Brown

Charles Dickens. Victorian winters. A Christmas Carol. Ice fairs on the Frozen Thames. Cold Cold Cold Cold Cold. Dickens has irrevocably moulded the climate views of generations of Anglo Saxon peoples as TV, Films and plays all promote his image of icy winters in that era. Is this view of Dickens winters correct? We take a look at his life through the prism of climate.

Ontario is going to spend $87 billion to get LESS power generation by 2030

From Mr Bolt:
It’s not just Australia that has caught the global warming madness which leads to taxpayers paying more for less:

So if you wanted to start up a giant factory that actually made stuff - and consumed power - where would you site it? In Canada or anti-nuclear Australia, where warmist policies are killing off its cheap coal-fired generators and choking investment in new (and much more expensive) sources of electricity generation? Or in China:

As perfect an example of green economics - where you always get less for more - as you'll find.

Microbiologist: NASA's arsenic bacteria story "shamefully bad science"

Rosie Redfield runs "a microbiology research lab in the Life Sciences Centre at the University of British Columbia."

My main concern up to now with this story was that it was yet another example, so increasingly prevalent these days, of researchers and institutions over-hyping their discoveries so as to attract media attention (and no doubt more funding). And of course the blogosphere and twitterverse had been crackling for days with speculation (fed by NASA) about some amazing discovery with exobiological ramifications.

Bottom line:  Lots of flim-flam, but very little reliable information.  The mass spec measurements may be very well done (I lack expertise here), but their value is severely compromised by the poor quality of the inputs.  If this data was presented by a PhD student at their committee meeting, I'd send them back to the bench to do more cleanup and controls.

There's a difference between controls done to genuinely test your hypothesis and those done when you just want to show that your hypothesis is true.  The authors have done some of the latter, but not the former.  They should have mixed pregrown E. coli or other cells with the arsenate supplemented medium and then done the same purifications.  They should have thoroughly washed their DNA preps (a column cleanup is ridiculously easy), and maybe incubated it with phosphate buffer to displace any associated arsenate before doing the elemental analysis.  They should have mixed E. coli DNA with arsenate and then gel-purified it.  They should have tested whether their arsenic-containing DNA could be used as a template by normal DNA polymerases.  They should have noticed all the discrepancies in their data and done experiments to find the causes.

I don't know whether the authors are just bad scientists or whether they're unscrupulously pushing NASA's 'There's life in outer space!' agenda.  I hesitate to blame the reviewers, as their objections are likely to have been overruled by Science's editors in their eagerness to score such a high-impact publication.

Follow the link for the full post.

Saturday, December 4, 2010

James Delingpole is hilarious - "'Look at the Met office,' the scientist goes on"

“Look at the Met office,” the scientist goes on. “They’ve just told us that 2010 is the hottest year since records began in 1850 and even though the stupid Central England Temperature record tells us something quite different and even though the year hasn’t actually finished yet they must know what they’re talking about and they definitely can’t have fiddled the data because the Met office is part of the government and they wouldn’t lie or get things wrong which is why that barbecue summer was such a scorcher.”

The big problem is, the scientist said, is that the public are really stupid. They think just because Dr David Viner of the Climatic Research Unit said in the Independent in 2000 that soon there’d be no snow because of global warming, when what he actually meant was that soon there’d be lots of snow and that this would be “proof” of global warming.

And they wonder why we don't take them seriously anymore.

Portishead - Sour Times (HD Official Video)

Only Love Can Break Your Heart - Saint Etienne

Friday, December 3, 2010

I suppose it's good that the Fin Review's Laura Tingle doesn't even bother trying to hide her anti-Coalition bias?

THE last time Australia had much of a political debate on labour market participation, the Coalition was in one of its more cheerful phases of beating up on blacks and disabled pensioners. That was back before it discovered the untapped political potential of boatpeople.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010