Science! And Hilarity Ensued

Coincidentally, I was reading about the Permian–Triassic extinction event, where the CO2 level reached something like 2500 ppm, when the news broke that some people on the climate panic side of things were owning up to the reality that the ‘carbon budget’ was not quite so dire, that there’s no way by 2022 the earth will heat up by a total of the 1.5 C that the models predicted . Strangely – or not – this little bit of news, the 2nd item on the Google science news feed when I first saw it this morning, had disappeared entirely from the 20 page 1 science articles by this afternoon.

(Correction: it’s now item #14, but the emphasis has not so subtly changed: the article leading the charge is now We Can Still Reach The Most Optimistic Target of The Paris Climate Deal, Says New Study emphasizing not that the climate models have been wrong for 20+ years, but rather how the new less-panicky conclusions mean that we can still meet the Paris targets! In other words, rather than call the validity of the carbon targets themselves into question, we focus on how the fool’s errand of assuming people can manage world-wide climate now looks more promising, once we acknowledge that carbon dioxide doesn’t affect temperature nearly as much as we thought. The real question: in light of this admission of error new finding, does CO2 within any plausible range over the next century or two actually change anything for the worse? This is not addressed, even though it is surely the question inquiring minds would like to know. )

Wonder why? First off, looking at the bit of the abstract I can find without paying, the devil is in the details I can’t see. Quotes from the scientists involved are not very straight-forward, and are provided by Breitbart, which I gather is a tainted source. Here they are:

Michael Grubb, professor of international energy and climate change at University College London and one of the study’s authors, admitted that his previous prediction had been wrong.

He stated during the climate summit in Paris in December 2015: “All the evidence from the past 15 years leads me to conclude that actually delivering 1.5C is simply incompatible with democracy.”

Speaking to The Times, he said: “When the facts change, I change my mind, as Keynes said.

“It’s still likely to be very difficult to achieve these kind of changes quickly enough but we are in a better place than I thought.”


Myles Allen, professor of geosystem science at the University of Oxford and another author of the paper, said: “We haven’t seen that rapid acceleration in warming after 2000 that we see in the models. We haven’t seen that in the observations.”

He said that the group of about a dozen computer models, produced by government research institutes and universities around the world, had been assembled a decade ago “so it’s not that surprising that it’s starting to divert a little bit from observations”.

He said that too many of the models used “were on the hot side”, meaning they forecast too much warming.

The reporters comments:

Note the disingenuousness here.

Grubb is claiming that the facts have changed. Which they haven’t. Climate skeptics have been saying for years that the IPCC climate models have been running “too hot.” Indeed, the Global Warming Policy Foundation produced a paper stating this three years ago. Naturally it was ignored by alarmists who have always sought to marginalize the GWPF as a denialist institution which they claim – erroneously – is in the pay of sinister fossil fuel interests.

If the pattern I’ve observed before recurs, the news will reappear once the proper spin has been worked up. (See correction above – they’re getting faster at this!) Or not – kind of hard to spin this, not that I doubt for a moment that it’s being worked on. (I’m wrong again! Spin rules!)

In the Permian die-off, the CO2 levels got very high, but it seems more likely than not that it was an effect, not a significant cause. Things did get hot – seas in the equatorial regions were probably over 100F for many thousands of years. But this was the time the Siberian Traps were forming as well, when a couple million square miles of Siberia were covered by a million cubic miles of lava over a very short time, geologically speaking – which could mess things up, one imagines. Dumping a lot of heat and gas into the air, for one thing.

At any rate, it seems sometimes that people need to be reminded that Star Trek was a fantasy. Socialism doesn’t really work. Oh, and the science was make-believe, too.


Quick Review: Osborn’s Rock & Roll: The New Madrid Fault System

Rock and Roll: The New Madrid Fault System by [Osborn, Stephanie]Stephanie Osborn, that is.  Rock and Roll: The New Madrid Fault System is a 50 or so page essay Dr. Osborn (who has a very Renaissance Woman vita: Rocket scientist? Check. Geologist? Check. Author? Yep. And so on.) on the basics of the New Madrid fault system.

Osborn takes us through a brief tour of earthquake dynamics and terminology – Horst and Graben might not work as a band name, but a law firm? Oh yea – on her way to telling us that everyone in the lower midwest (or whatever people call Missouri, Western Tennessee and all adjoining areas) are DOOMED TO BE SWALLOWED BY THE EARTH IN A CATASTROPHE OF BIBLICAL PROPORTIONS. Not to put too fine a point on it.

You see, not only is there this major fault system right there in and around New Madrid, but when it pops, the areas affected dwarf what goes on here in California, and you get more of the more interesting earthquake effects, such as dramatic surface waves that may OPEN HUGE YAWNING CRACKS AT YOUR FEET. As Osborn explains, the underlying geology in California is solid rock to a fairly good depth, so that while earthquakes can certainly be severe, the rigid structure tends to stop the movement fairly quickly, and to not propagate those nasty rolling earthquake waves very well, comparatively speaking.

The vast area in and around the New Madrid fault, by contrast, is fractured and unstable and therefore more elastic rock covered by many feet of sediment that has not been crushed yet into solid rock. And earthquake in California is like someone bumping

No, not this Osbourne – Rock n Roll, sure, but geology? Not so much.

a table; when the New Madrid faults pop, it’s like whacking a giant bowl of Jello. (My colorful analogy, not hers.)

So, yes, if you happen to live in the affected area, when the next Big One hits in Mid America, you will see you buildings, crops and livestock tossed into the air, rivers flowing backwards and forging new courses, all your building reduced to piles of rubble – at least, you’ll see it until THE EARTH BENEATH YOU OPENS UP LIKE THE MAW OF HELL AND SWALLOWS YOU AND EVERYTHING YOU LOVE BEFORE SNAPPING CLOSED LIKE THE MOUTH OF AN ENORMOUS CROCODILIAN DEMON-BEAST!!! While we out here in California will die more prosaic deaths such as being crushed by falling masonry or freeway overpases, midwesterners get the full Biblical style Judgement of the Most High there-one-moment-swallowed-up-and-vanished-the-next deaths. So, major style points to the Midwest.

Seems to happens every 3-4 centuries. Last really nasty earthquake swarm was 1811-1812. So, if you live there, you may be good for a few centuries. Or maybe not. Just be aware: Californians may be slow on the uptake, but after a few rounds of having building drop on people’s heads, we have taken many steps to keep that sort of thing to a minimum. Masonry building here are either a facade over a steel frame, or 75 or more years old (and small – the bigger building tend to be the ones more damaged in quakes.) Earthquake retrofitting, where typically steel and reinforced concrete are more or less discretely added to older buildings, is an industry here.

The Midwest, in my fairly extensive experience driving around there, seems to be infested with a LOT of brick and stone buildings. Lots and lots.

You’ll want to avoid those during a quake. To put it mildly.

Rock and Roll is by design and necessity a pretty light read, with a very extensive bibliography in case you want to dig deeper. (Osborn’s list of references is about 50% the number of pages as the essay itself.) As I mentioned earlier, it’s a bit like reading a very long Wikipedia article written by somebody with verve – it’s an easy and often charming read.

So, if you live in the frankly doomed, so doomed, area within a 1,000 miles of New Madrid, you might want to pick up a copy and give it a read. At the very least, it may cure you of any tendency to think how dumb Californians are for building right on top of major faults they just know are going to kill them all one day.

Ha. And the weather is really nice out here.

Frou Frou Office Snack Update: Seaweed

Sanity, as much as is ever found in the La-La land of tech, has prevailed. The late and lamentable Virtue-Signal ™ brand snacks dissected here and here have been burned through, and a brief chat with the office manager has discovered that they will not be being reordered. (She did mention that each species is available separately and much cheaper via Amazon, if there’s a particular kind anybody liked. Not going there myself, unless there’s some sort of delayed addiction coded into the Blueberry/Vanilla/Kale skeet that causes cocaine-level withdrawal symptoms – I almost wouldn’t put it past the hippies that make these abominations. But I digress…)

Turns out the seaweed snacks I’d seen previously had not, in fact, been a part of that particular order, but some had migrated, somehow, to the snack-food Serengeti that was the Cardboard Box of Virtue Snacks, from whence they were consumed – before I got to try them. In the name of Science! and all.

Well, well – a fresh snack shipment came in today from CostCo, which included:


The open package to the left is Ocean’s Halo Maui Onion flavored seaweed. First up for testing.

The operative word here is weed, as in a plant that’s in the way of whatever you’re really doing. But Science! must march on!

As a kid, went to the beach a lot (1), as it was 20 minutes away and I was a kid with older siblings dying to use that fresh driver’s license at any occasion. There were even Whittier to Huntington Beach buses one could catch, but we rarely did that. Instead, I and a bunch of kids from the neighborhood would just pile into the back of our old powder blue station wagon – older sis who was driving and her friends usually got the seats. We were sliding loose in a way that would horrify modern safety-niks as we drove down the 605 singing along with the radio as loud as we could. (Somehow, we all reached adulthood anyway.)

I mention this because the smell of the seaweed when I first open the package reminds me of the areas of the beach we would avoid. The areas where seaweed had washed ashore.

Seaweed was gross! Stank, covered with little flies, and would get tangled on your feet. Eat it? I think not!

But for Science! my love:

It’s – OK. The good parts are that it can curb your salt jones at only 20 calories a box. On the downside, it tastes like seaweed.

So far, I’ve eaten the Maui Onion sheets, and have tasted a couple of the Sea Salt offering. Seems an acquired taste. I think I could acquire it (love sushi rolls, and they have this exact stuff in them often as not…)

Further updates as events warrant.

  1. Such that, as an adult, I’m on way too familiar terms with my dermatologist, who regularly gazes, pokes and prods and has cut chunks – once, and alarmingly large chunk – of ME off my body.

Science! Puuuuleease! SciAm Done Circling the Drain, Now Exploring Sewer Pipes

I’ve mentioned before, the second subscription I ever got was to Scientific American back in the 1970s, and I used to read pretty much every issue cover to cover for the next 25+ years. Once I got a job that required some travel, always threw it (and SF&F!) into my computer case when I went on business trips, and read it on the plane. So, yea, a big fan.

But it became less and less fun over time. I could understand a certain amount of dumbing down, but – not that dumb. I kinda liked it when the articles were over my head a bit – stretch the mind a little.

Then, sometime in the 90s, read an article on nuclear war that pretty much dispensed with the science entirely, and went straight to advocating for some political policy or other. What? SciAm was my go-to science read – there are plenty of sources to turn to if I felt the need to be politically harangued. 

And it got worse. Finally, maybe 15-20 years ago, I let the subscription lapse. Who needs that nonsense? Since then, SciAm has become the poster-child for putting on the lab coat of Science! in order to promote a particular brand of – let’s just say it = Marxism. I’d generously assume that the useful idiots outnumber the murderous scum actual Marxist, but by now? Who knows?

This springs to mind because it seems SciAm has now gone all in on Gender Theory. Before we start, a recap:

Gender Theory is a branch of Critical Theory.

Critical Theory is Marxism applied in an ‘academic’ setting.

Marxism says science is a tool of oppression in all cases where it can’t be bent to support Marxism. See: Lysenko.

Trofim Lysenko portrait.jpg
Trofim Lysenko. No trace of barely-contained fanaticism in that face, no sir! 

Marxism starts with its conclusion – that all evils are to be understood as caused solely by some oppressor/oppressed dynamic – and backfills with whatever it can find and ignores or excoriates any contrary evidence via an ad hominem/Kafka trap of some kind. This is the practical meaning of the Marxist formulation of dialectic materialism: the contradictions of the thesis and antithesis are suspended but not resolved within the synthesis. The only truly important thing is the synthesis, which is a historical development beyond the reach of mere logic in any meaningful sense. Contradicting the synthesis proves you wrong, no matter how nonsensical and self-serving the conclusion held by Marxists are.

So, under gender theory, the goal is first and foremost to identify an oppressor/oppressed dynamic that will explain everything. Turns out that identifying people as men or women is oppressive, because, um, something something. A man claiming today to be Napoleon is crazy; the same man claiming to be a woman is oppressed. Don’t bring any of that evil patriarchal logical consistency into it.

Then, having discovered such a well-suited stick, you start beating people with it – the BAD people!!!

Anyway, the article at the Federalist does a good job of exposing the nonsense. Check it out if the whole subject isn’t too depressing to consider.

I didn’t think SciAm could sink much lower. I was wrong.


Eclipse: Last Update from the Field

Awesome, in the true sense of the word. From the slopes near Borah Peak, watched the shadow of the moon move quickly across the vast valley. As the distant mountains to the west turned dark we looked up in time to see the string of pearls just as the sun’s disk went dark.

For two minutes 14 seconds the world was dark and beautiful with the eerie light of the sun’s corona casting odd shadows and coloring the world in unearthly hues. We saw a second string of pearls as the moon passed. The weird half light of the partial eclipse seemed very normal by comparison, and quickly passed into what seemed normal sunlight.

We spontaneously sang a couple hymns and spirituals. And a couple Bill Withers songs. However the spirit moves you.

Everyone was very happy we did this. See you, eclipse, in 2024.