Saturday, October 01, 2005

Crichton in Senate

Michael Crichton became one of the favorite celebrities of The Reference Frame. So it should not be surprising if we point out that he was the key witness in the U.S. senate environmental committee two days ago. You may read his speech here. Some of you may prefer Real Video in which case you should jump to minute 41: 20 (unless you prefer Hillary Clinton).

He explained some crucial features of the scientific method of inquiry: especially the requirement that the experiments and calculations must be repeatable - in principle by anyone - without silly comments that certain things are only allowed to priests or "experts". He compared the high standards of drug testing - with a story showing that the standards can be incredibly strict - with the relaxed atmosphere in climate science - where people find it completely natural to write unbelievable sentences like "we won't give you our data because your aim is to find some problems with it"; where data can be touched by many people; where verification is not a part of the process; where data are usually not archived.

Not surprisingly, Steve McIntyre and Ross McKitrick were proudly celebrating Crichton's intelligent testimony because their heroic analysis of the "hockey stick graph" was chosen as one of the examples how the climate community itself - without the help of the "outsiders" - is unable to produce trustworthy results.

On the other hand, it is even less surprising that the alarmist propagandistic blog replied with attacks. Such a reaction seems very painful to me because I am convinced that Crichton has not said a single sentence that a scientist who deserves this name could disagree with - except that he forgot that he was married. :-) Mr. Mann and Mr. Schmidt are completely unimpressed by Crichton's description of the methodological and ethical principles of science. Moreover, they offer their readers a pile of untrue and mostly untrue statements. For example,
  • Mann and Schmidt argue that the scientists were not proclaiming an imminent ice age in the 1970s; it is easy to check that their assertion is false, for example here
  • they argue that 30 years of global cooling does not mean that global warming is not right; this sentence is so bizarre that it probably deserves no comments; of course that 30-year-long trend does not imply any solid conclusions, much like another 100-year-long trend, but it is enough to rule out some of the silliest theories - and it is enough to learn that a decade is a period in which the climate may evolve in an essentially random direction
  • Mann and Schmidt argue that important pieces of climate sciences were independently verified; this is untrue as the example of the very most influential piece of climate science - the hockey stick graph - shows quite clearly; it had not been verified for several years and once the people started to attempt to verify it, it became pretty clear that the hockey stick graph was methodologically rubbish
  • they also say that the chaotic character of weather does not change anything about their belief that climate can be predicted; well, it is obvious that the chaotic nature of weather reduces the potential for accurate medium-term as well as long-term predictions; what is their argument against this rather obvious observation? This silly text

The direct influence of the Sun

Incidentally, Mike Ros has pointed out a press release about an article by a physicist from Duke and his colleagues from North Carolina in the September issue of Geophysical Research Letters. I can direct you to the full paper:

They adopt a phenomenological approach and calculate the most likely magnitude of the influence of 11-year and 22-year solar cycles on the measured temperatures.

Honestly, it is pretty unclear to me how the 22-year cycle - in which the solar magnetic field returns to the original position - can affect the terrestrial climate. The only change after half ot this period - 11 years - is that the poles of the solar magnetic dipole get interchanged. The solar magnetic field as seen on the Earth is just about a nanoTesla, compared to microTeslas of the geomagnetic field. Nevertheless, if it's OK to conjecture that the climate now evolves primarily according to the carbon dioxide, it is probably also legitimate to conjecture that such a 22-year-long periodic solar effect exists and to try to quantify it.

Their result is that the influence of the Sun is roughly 3 times larger than what the climate models predict (and re-use); the influence is particularly large for the lower-frequency, 22-year cycles because of the inertia of oceans. Their total estimate is that up to 0.15 K out of the measured 0.40 K jump in temperature in 1980-2002 is probably due to the Sun's direct influence.

Of course, the higher influence the solar cycles have, the more likely it is that the weather will cool down by 2020.

They use some formulae that may be incomprehensible to those climate scientists who are not physicists such as William Connolley. ;-) For example, they became "Newtons of climate science" and re-invented "integral Z(omega) d_omega f(omega)" (to account for different influence of different frequencies) instead of "Delta_omega x f+(omega)" which could be easier to swallow for WC, right? :-)


  1. Dear Lumo,

    'He [the Jurassic Park author] explained some crucial features of the scientific method of inquiry: especially the requirement that the experiments and calculations must be repeatable - in principle by anyone - without silly comments that certain things are only allowed to priests or "experts".'

    The problem here is that if you ask how big a string is, you can get at least two different answers: the black hole size (10^-58 m or so for string electrons), or Planck size (10^-35 m).

    In order to justify using the larger unit, the Planck size, you have to be a high priest or expert.

    I realise that the absolute string size is irrelevant to the the use of M-theory to perfect the Standard Model, but you would think string theorists would worry about how big the strings are.

    If you don't investigate the rationale for using the Planck length instead of the smaller black hole size, then you are just using an arbitrary dimensionless small number with no scientific basis.

    It seems that the closer anything in string theory gets to hard facts, the less interested the string theorists become! I suppose, if you live in a 10/11 dimensional universe, you can't escape the problem of going crackpot (I just mean that you may tend to lose touch with reality).

    I notice that in the latest issue of New Scientist, the editor Jeremy Webb (an electronics engineer who thinks he is God) has allowed an article which quotes Dr Leonard Susskind proposing to 'outlaw' the use of the word 'real' by physicists. Do you subscribe to this new piece of Orwellian thought control?

    Best wishes,

  2. I don't mean dimensionless, I mean length-dimension of course.


  3. Dear Nigel,

    there is no 10^{-58} meter scale in physics. What you say is a typical example of the thesis I wrote and Crichton said: the numbers and calculations must be repeatable.

    Your 10^{-58} meters as an alternative for string scale is nonsense, and you can't justify it, and no one can reproduce it. There can't exist any model or background in string theory or elsewhere where quantum gravity would be moved to these superincredible subPlanckian scales.

    On the other hand, 10^{-35} meters, the 4D Planck scale, is what you get by setting the gravitational and quantum effects equal, and it is sqrt(hbar.G/c^3) in which all three constants - Planck's, Newton's, speed of light - may be found in tables and may be verified by anyone using explicit experiments.

    When I say that the statements must be verifiable, I am not questioning that one must study a lot to learn the necessary stuff to make things right. But it is in principle possible and one does not have any special blessing of God or an academic degree. You can find all necessary textbooks etc. online and in principle you can learn all these things.

    All high energy physicists are very interested how high is the fundamental Planck scale or string scale, and it must be between 10^{-35}m, the traditional Planck scale, and the known distance scales around 10^{-18} meters. What you write is nothing else than a manifestation of your ignorance.

    All the best

  4. Well, that wasn't impressive. Scientists were predicting an ice age and you prove that by quoting... journalism? Come on. Its been done to death: see this on RC which quotes extensively from the science and refers you to more. The state of the science of the time (mid 70's, say) is well captured by the NAS report: "...we do not have a good quantitative understanding of our climate machine and what determines its course. Without the fundamental understanding, it does not seem possible to predict climate...".

    And the mild cooling trend? It too has been done to death: here; or as the TAR makes clear, since models can reproduce the past centuries temperature pretty well, that implies explaning it: in this case, mostly sulphates plus natural var.

  5. William,

    to which extent are albedo changing effects (air travel, pollution of artic ice by dust etc.) incorporated in global climate models.
    E.g. are you able to reproduce the cooling/warming observed after September 11?

    This is an honest question by the way (I hate to have to emphasize this) and thank you in advance for the answer.

  6. Dear William,

    I agree that this "cooling journalism" was not real science - but the current "warming journalism" - e.g. what is doing - is not science either.

    What's important for the discussion is that those people claimed that they were scientists much like the current ones do.

    They were using the very same language as today; let me quote the Newsweek:

    "The evidence in support of these predictions has now begun to accumulate so massively that meteorologists are hard-pressed to keep up with it."


    "To scientists, these seemingly disparate incidents represent the advance signs of fundamental changes in the world's weather. Meteorologists disagree about the cause and extent of the trend, as well as over its specific impact on local weather conditions. But they are almost unanimous in the view that the trend will reduce agricultural productivity for the rest of the century. If the climatic change is as profound as some of the pessimists fear, the resulting famines could be catastrophic. “A major climatic change would force economic and social adjustments on a worldwide scale,” warns a recent report by the National Academy of Sciences, “because the global patterns of food production and population that have evolved are implicitly dependent on the climate of the present century.”

    And so forth. In fact, I feel that the quality of the discussion about the climate and its causal relations with weather both among the scientists and the journalists was better back in 1975 than it is today. At least, they realized that they did not understand the impact of their "global theories" on the local weather. The current "scientists" don't even ask these questions. They can't tell us which countries are supposed to suffer because of "global warming". They're just not doing science - just some "global" and vague alarmism that does not contain anything meaningful.

    "A survey completed last year by Dr. Murray Mitchell of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration reveals a drop of half a degree in average ground temperatures in the Northern Hemisphere between 1945 and 1968. According to George Kukla of Columbia University, satellite photos indicated a sudden, large increase in Northern Hemisphere snow cover in the winter of 1971-72. And a study released last month by two NOAA scientists notes that the amount of sunshine reaching the ground in the continental U.S. diminished by 1.3% between 1964 and 1972."

    It's the same type of "consensus" where virtually everyone in all academies agreed that everything was getting cooler and so forth. They were just more reasonable than you and your friends are today, and they were not trying to scare everyone with "scientific consensus".

    The consensus or a nearly complete understanding does not exist today just as it did not exist in 1975. It's just the amount of religious fanatism of people like those at RC that increased.

    All the best

  7. Wolfgang - AFAIK GCMs don't include contrails explicitly - too small scale. They can include albedo changes from land use but probably don't. Sept 11 plane grounding only lasted a few days so the effect (globally) was tiny.

    Lubos - this is getting pretty weird. Back in the 70's, the scientific consensus was that they didn't know how to predict climate. I can prove that by quoting the NAS report. Its analogous with todays IPCC report, though the IPCC reports are more thorough. So why are you going on about popular journalism (which RC isn't, but thats another matter).

    Why are you reading and quoting the popular journalism? Don't! Don't quote Newsweek. You ought to know better. Read the science instead: IPCC or RC will provide you plenty of refs, if you're interested (but, alas, it has become obvious you're not).

    [BTW: I won't be back on this thread: try sci.env if you want to continue...]

  8. William,

    in case you still read this thread:

    > AFAIK GCMs don't include contrails
    > explicitly - too small scale. They can
    > include albedo changes from land use but
    > probably don't.
    The claim seems to be that these effects could be on the same order as global warming ...

    > Sept 11 plane grounding only lasted a
    > few days so the effect (globally) was
    > tiny.
    .. according to wikipedia (which is not a science journal), the effect was on the order of 1C. It did not last long, but the effect of aor travel on climate does not seem tiny compared to global warming and thus should be in the models IMHO.

  9. Dear Lumo,

    You say 'Your 10^{-58} meters as an alternative for string scale is nonsense, and you can't justify it, and no one can reproduce it.'

    I said it was the black hole size, R = 2GM/c^2

    Putting in the electron mass gives something on the order 10^-58 m.

    I did explain this is black hole size.

    The Planck size is determined by dimensional analysis to find the smallest possible length from fundamental constants.

    It is disproved, because the black hole size of an electron is smaller than the Planck size.

    Planck evidently did not think of proposing the combination of units MG/c^2 to get length, with M the electron mass.

    If you want theoretical justification for the black hole electron, check out my internet site. However, there is no justification for the Planck size experimentally or theoretically. It is nonsense to use this unit in ST. This doesn't need a DSc. It is obviously an error on the ST background which is ignored.

    Best wishes,

  10. Dear Nigel,

    the black hole whose mass equals the mass of the electron definitely can't be described by a trustworthy solution with the radius 10^{-58} meters. As you say correctly, there are many new effects that become important at distances much longer than 10^{-58} meters and that prevent one from considering these very short distances. The Planck scale will definitely come to rescue if nothing else.

    Of course that there are ways to multiply and divide the elementary constants without any rational thinking to obtain more or less anything - but it does not mean that anything is relevant for physics.

    All tbe best

  11. The black hole equation might be more useful for an electron if you use a Compton radius (bigger than Planck) instead of the classical radius (smaller than Planck). This is related to exotic spacetime where you always have distances smaller than Planck; not that exotic spacetime makes sense to me other than letting Hawking have negative energy, which doesn't make sense either but then neither does negative probabilities, etc.