Monday Recap 11/9/2015

I

Following up on this bit about journalists overseeing science and this on the increasing thickness of the Antarctic ice sheet, we have a journalist telling us how we should understand things with this headline:  A controversial NASA study says Antarctica is gaining ice. Here’s why you should be skeptical. Chris Mooney, the reporter, has a bio here, which the uncharitable might notice contains no science background but is positively lousy with climate change advocacy. That ice sheets might be getting thicker at the same time they’re supposed to be melting is not a fact against which we measure and, if needed modify or discard our theories, it is a problem that needs to be explained away in order to save the theory.

Lets start by looking at that headline itself. First off, Mooney labels the new study ‘controversial’ – right off the bat, we’re pulling a ‘teach the controversy’ approach, which is bad in other contexts, but OK here I suppose. What’s going on, if you follow the links he provides, is that, once again, just as discussed in the post a couple days ago, we are comparing *as if they have equal weight* direct measurements of the ice sheet thickness (or as close as is possible to direct measurements as you can get in this situation – wide-spread satellite altitude measurements over time) with model output. The links to the people disputing the NASA findings are the usual incestuous pile of spaghetti, wherein everybody points to everybody else’s model output, and studiously avoids inconvenient truths like that the ‘hiatus’ disproves the models and that no model predicted the observed thickening of the ice sheets, which, you know, likewise disproves the models. He specifically refers to the other study I discussed yesterday, where a new model predict that the West Antarctic Ice Sheet will, over the course of thousands of years, slip into the ocean and raise sea levels by over 10 feet – more recourse to model data in the face of observation. The dead god of reification waits dreaming.

It’s models all the way down. Which might be OK if they worked, as in made reasonably accurate predictions. But they don’t.

II

Local Wildlife Update: I’ve lived here – Concord, CA – for almost 20 years, and in the area for about 30. During this time, I’ve walked or biked on the canal path quite a bit, which takes one along the edges of some open space parks and a creek or two. We also lived for most of a year on the north side of Mt. Diablo, where people ride horses and carry rifles in case a mountain lion gets too curious (they tend to attack and kill the foals).

One trend is clear – there are more critters running around now than there were a couple decades ago. Over the last few years, we’ve had raccoons and opossums in our back yard, skunks in the front yard, and now see deer along the road and creek not 5 blocks for our completely suburban house.

Just waiting for the mountain lions to put in an appearance in the neighborhood – they could get from Mt. Diablo to here without hardly crossing a street by using the open space parks and creek.

Today, we’ll talk lizards:

Displaying IMG_2180.JPG
Small lizards, of the kind that hang out on the canal path.

In early spring each year, as soon as the weather starts warming up, one can see scads of these little lizards warming themselves on the asphalt of the canal path. Then, as summer rolls around, one sees fewer but larger specimens, until, when autumn falls, we’re down to very few but full grown (like 6-7″ long) adults, who vanish for the winter.

This year, spotted these two little ones – in November. Hmmm. Are they a different species, or did mom and dad jump the seasonal gun a bit? They are a bit lighter-colored than I remember. We’ve either added a species to the parade, or come across a change in reproductive behavior. Either way, it’s cool.

III

Speaking of lizards, a big one, different kind than the canal path lizards, hangs out by our compost bin. Unfortunately, so do rats. I wage war off and on against the rodents, but the world is certainly big enough for me and the Compost Pile Lizard.

But: conflict! I put out a rat trap, the old-school snap kind, and, not wanting to do in any squirrels or birds or a stray cat or skunk or – see the list above – I put it in an empty paint can and wedged it up against the fence in such a way as to prevent access to anything much larger than a rat. When I went back later to check, in the can, next to the untripped trap, sits the big lizard! No! I’d feel terrible if I killed it and worse if I maimed it. I managed to get him out without tripping the trap, then tripped the trap and took it out.

The next time I went out to dump compost, I looked again into the paint can which I’d left next to the bin – and there he was. That can was home sweet home. He has since disappeared, for the winter, I hope.

IV

Mrs. Darwin’s thoughts on marriage are very good. A good marriage points both spouses toward God, as they come to see how, even as their love for each other grows and gets more perfect, it is not enough. Only God is enough.

I appreciate her recognition of how different her marriage is than anyone else’s. I’d generalize: no two marriages are identical, and there’s a wide range of good marriages.

V

Turns out I’m most like Catherine of Sienna among Dominican saints, according to a no doubt infallible internet quiz. Even though Dominic is my confirmation name. But I do love St. Catherine, so I’m good.

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Author: Joseph Moore

Enough with the smarty-pants Dante quote. Just some opinionated blogger dude.

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