Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Novim Group: "Just Science" AGW app

Paul O. helped me to possess an iPod Touch, because of my modest contributions to his Our Climate app. I have downloaded about 500 applications on the device and the new addition today is called Just Science. This free app occupies about 50 megabytes on your iDevice.

It was created by the Novim Group led by Michael Ditmore at UC Santa Barbara; the Berkeley Earth Surface Temperature team led by Richard Muller belongs to the group.

The application does one thing only – it shows you a map of the globe with animated colorful maps showing how the temperature was changing between 1800 or so and today in various regions around stations that reported and on a monthly basis.

So it's really a mundane visualization of a single well-known public dataset. If you listen to this interview with Michael Ditmore, you will learn about a $40,000 award for the "best science app" from an unknown foundation.

You will probably agree that $40,000 is a somewhat excessive amount of money for having written a code that would take one line in Mathematica – an animated colorful map applied on a public dataset. You can zoom in or zoom out the globe, too. But that's probably not enough to justify the large amount, either.

However, the rest of the interview will inform you that the people who collaborated on this trivial, effectively one-line code have divided about one million of dollars among themselves. This is really painful. I can't understand how you could call these people "not corrupt" if they get paid $1 million for $100 of work. It doesn't matter whether they pretend to defend one side or the other side or the middle side; they're still corrupt. To say the least, you effective promise to scream that this work of yours is important (worth $1 million) even though it obviously isn't ($100), something that Mr Ditmore is clearly doing, and this confusion already contaminates the science and the scientific debate by lies.

The Novim Group seems to be linked to groups that promote geoengineering.

Needless to say, the app doesn't change anything whatsoever about the climate debate. You may see the graphs you have seen many times in a somewhat more localized, colorful form. I guess that you have seen similar visualizations, anyway. None of these animations answers anything about the cause of the temperature changes – which were mostly going in the positive direction but the imbalance is really compatible with (approximately pink) noise.

Moreover, these graphs not only fail to show the cause. They also fail to show the significance or, more appropriately, insignificance of the temperature changes since 1800. Whatever the temperature difference between two moments or two places is, you may visualize it in such a way that one temperature will be crimson and the other one will be light green or dark blue or anything else – two or three completely different colors. But this obscures the overall scale and the fact that we are talking about tenths of a degree of temperature change in two centuries – a temperature change most of us can't even detect when it takes place instantly or within a second.

Now divide, dilute, and slow down this temperature change from 1 second to 200 years, add it superimpose it with the constantly changing weather (where the outside temperature routinely jumps by ten degrees within a day) and try to answer the question whether this temperature change and its rate – whatever their cause is – is something that a rational person should become scared of or obsessed about or something that a rational society should spend billions or trillions for.


  1. unlike your previous comment about my comment, you are right!

  2. Once in our lab we had a smart electronics technician ( in the1970's) . He would moonlight fixing TV's , for which he would get a good remuneration. When asked "but it only took you five minutes to change the --- ( fill in the blanks)" , he replied "yes but it took me years to learn which --- to replace for which problem".

    These people could say something similar if the knowledge behind the one line mathematica took them years to assimilate. But twenty times the salary of a scientist does seem excessive, except if many people are in the project.

    I agree also that as far as climate goes temperature anomalies are a red herring.

  3. These app-makers people are merely relatively very harmless opportunists.

  4. The real corruption will be if these people don't pay Al Gore a hefty percentage of their million dollars! :-)

    Seriously, Lubos: the an apple. :-)

    Genuinely serious now, I find it hard to see this as corruption. It's just a foolish aspect of the market. How does it essentially differ from celebrities being paid millions?

  5. Sorry folks. This is the one aspect of "global warming" and it's associated hangers on that turns me appople apoplexit really pisses me off. The dog, cat, and other sundry creatures that cohabit my living space have the good sense to make themselves scarce when I read a post about yet another incompetent sucking a million plus out of the public treasury for their own shitzengiggles.

    Berkeley is pretty close to me physically.

    I'm just going to put it out there. If the Boss wants to let it sit so be it.

    If these clowns don't spend a sizable percentage of their ill gotten windfall on security they are making a grave mistake. There is no such thing as justice under the Obama admin, so instead what Ditmore will get is a reckoning.

    For the eagles, for the Whooping Crane, for the Condors.