the Air Vent

Because the world needs another opinion

Quantum Confusion

Posted by Jeff Id on May 16, 2009

I was reading a comment at the I hate science article linked below and ran across a bit of a rant by Quantum toward Jean Williams idiotic article. I liked it so here it is.

Link to Jeannie’s article.

I made an update to this article according to Gary P’s comment here.  While Quantum made quite a list, I wonder what in climate science confuses and confounds you.


Quantum says:

The presumption of moral and intellectual superiority seems to be the trademark of the social progressive, on full display here. The progressive’s views are so intellectually correct, and morally righteous, that it is just not possible for a reasonable, open-minded person to disagree. So Laura Ingraham, et. al. [I assume the column’s actual wording of “et. Al.” was not a Freudian reference to Mr. Gore] of course know better, but cynically manipulate a gullible audience for financial gain. Therefore, if you disagree with the progressive value system, you must be … either inferior or a huckster.

I am tired of hearing this conceit, popular from Ms. Williams to Dick Cavett to Janine Garofolo, and am angered. For Ms. Williams expresses the New Racism, which is a lot like the old racism except that it has been redirected. The old racism looked down at people of color as inherently inferior, and “lacking the necessities.” The New Racism is based on the color of your politics: if you are “one of them” you “check your brain at the door.” Janine Garofolo goes so far as to say a conservative’s brain is actually malformed. I hope that Ms Williams is not susceptible to this kind of weird anatomical theorizing. I thought it had died out along with the rest of the 18th-century Victorian racial attitudes.

Confused about climate? Well, I admit it. Maybe I am irrational.

It started in the 70’s with the global cooling scare. Then CO2 AGW research really got going from British Govt. funding, who was interested in justifying building more nuclear power plants. This idea was seized upon by environmentalists. That doesn’t make AGW not so, but it doesn’t it make sense to ask questions of the “follow the money” variety?

After wading through parts of the IPCC, and having some exposure to computer modeling on a professional basis, I am confused as to why Govt. publications and IPCC scientists put such blind faith in computer models. The enterprise at times seems more like a witch’s brew of decision analysis, statistics, and computer gaming than real science. As justification of this view, I ask you this: What set of observations would falsify the theory of catastrophic AGW? From what I can tell, they don’t exist. Anything that happens is compatible with AGW. That isn’t science, that is religion. That doesn’t make it untrue per se but does put it in context.

I am confused why Al Gore represents the plight of the polar bear in a way that is either ignorant or blatantly misleading. If the ice were really frozen solid nice and thick year round, how would the polar bears get to the seals? And that famous picture of the polar bear on the ice floe? The bear was in no danger whatsoever. Who’s susceptible?

I am confused how a Nobel prize winner, Dr. Steven Chu, can bumble and stumble thru a slide show and be totally unable to convert Farenheit to Celsius correctly, and speak of phantom temperature values that should be on his charts but aren’t. Or how he can testify in Congress and be seemingly ignorant of the fact that temperatures in the northern latitudes have been much, much warmer in the past? For that matter I am confused as to why Steven Chu won a Nobel Prize and John Bell and Alain Aspect haven’t, but I digress. If Ms Williams could take some time away from writing for Critters USA to explain that one I’d appreciate it.

I am confused by predictions of massive sea level rises as predicted by Al Gore, which don’t seem to be occurring or are very likely. I am confused by stories of massive latent heat stored in ocean pipelines that seem to exist only in computer models. I am confused as to why climate scientists treat their data and algorithms like they have something to hide.

I am confused as to why the hurricanes are not increasing in frequency and ferocity, as predicted from AGW. I am confused as to why papers are published saying we could be in for cooling for the next 20 or 30 years, and if it happens I am sure Gavin Schmidt will say “Yea, we knew that” but if it doesn’t … well whatever happens won’t change a thing.

I am confused why predictions are couched as “50% likelihood”, because 50% is also used for estimates when you don’t know the probability and need a placeholder. I am confused as to why the non-conservative USA Today publishes a temperature chart, extending back 1,000s of years, accurate to a 1000th of a degree. That is truly irrational. Who believes that arbitrary precision? I am confused as to why the IPCC includes in the details a lot of hemming and hawing yet jumps to robust and forceful conclusions.

I am confused as to why a year ago I read a proper scientific paper saying the entire historical trend of temperature measurements on Mt. Washington showed no significant warming, and that was the only paper I could find on Google. Yet now a Google search brings hits claiming that data shows warming. Well, as they say, what’s up with that?

I am confused why the non-conservative, thinking, intelligent and nuanced media trumpeted headlines blaming a wide variety of human disasters and financial losses on AGW when it seemed so implausible. Even the NYT quickly came to realize this couldn’t be the case. I am confused as to why so much of the media lets the NYT set the editorial agenda for that matter.

I am confused as to why water vapor is such a massively larger proportion of GHG, yet seems to be so unimportant.

And Steig with his RegEM and PCA? Oh please.

I am confused why the Polar 5 expedition measured ice that was thicker than expected. i am confused as to why Cyrosphere Today has made it more difficult to compare daily ice extent estimates.

I am confused as to why Russian scientists are fairly well convinced we are heading for global cooling…perhaps catastrophic.

I am confused why Al Gore’s won’t debate Lord Monckton. Al should be able to mop the floor with him — couldn’t he? I am confused why Mr. Gore’s lifestyle is so at odds with his message. I am confused by Al Gore’s web of financial interests, and how that might bias his opinions.

I am confused as to why AGW proponents do not champion nuclear power.

Will the world get catastrophically warmer because of AGW? Maybe. I’m open minded.

But I am not open minded about slander, insults, and denigration aimed at consumers of conservative media who may disagree with you.

24 Responses to “Quantum Confusion”

  1. Gary P said

    I am confused by anybody accepting anything from the global warming models. Each one has been shown to be wrong by the lack of a tropical hot spot at mid altitudes. Each one has been shown to be wrong by the decline in humidity at 300 mb when the models assume constant relative humidity. Yet somehow the IPCC gets away with saying WrongModel 1 + WrongModel 2 + …WrongModel N = RightModel.

    I am confused as to why critics waste their time analyzing the statistics of the sum of the models. This is as useful as a critique of the choreography of the angels as they dance on the head of a pin

  2. Jeff Id said

    I’m confused as to why a thousand bad temperature proxies add up to a well known temperature.

  3. Ryan O said

    Just close your eyes and press the I BELIEVE button.

  4. timetochooseagain said

    Assuming he means this John Bell:
    He hasn’t gotten a Noble because he’s dead. Fair or not, prizes are not awarded posthumously. And since there is a long docket of discoveries and achievements from years ago that accumulates over time, people often die waiting for the prize. Its sad, but those are the breaks.

  5. Fluffy Clouds (Tim L) said

    Here we are,

    “I am confused as to why the non-conservative USA Today publishes a temperature chart, extending back 1,000s of years, accurate to a 1000th of a degree. That is truly irrational. Who believes that arbitrary precision?”

    arbitrary precision of accuracy of a 1000th of a degree.
    Jeff, we must be care full on this.
    campus will be opened in june I will try to pin down these.
    significant digits
    or if I get the urge to travel to here
    looks like classes have started 05/11/09
    snow advisories are out for the up of Michigan lol
    and freeze warnings here, i hope my apples blossoms survive,
    mostly for the spie apples

  6. Jeff Id said

    #5 I know we discussed this a bit before. There’s more to it than the standard rule of thumb.

    Assume that we have a digital measurement with 0.5 accuracy with perfect precision calibration. You’re measuring something with a true value of 100.7 but the instrument only has 0.5 precision on the last digit.

    Accuracy is affected by random high frequency noise in the imagined instrument. The noise has a value of +/-0.5 meaning any measure will give at best a +/- 0.5 unit accuracy. However, if you take more than one measurement – say thousands for example the center of the distribution of the noise will average out to a much better approximation of the true value ‘requiring’ more significant figures.

    There are a number of links on digital oversampling which describe the process, it has the same meaning in analog world too.

    The measurement might look like this 100.5,101,101,101,100.5,101,101,101 – the average would be 100.875 or perhaps 100.8 -. Confidence intervals would be recalculated according to the new data.

    I used this back in college to center a laser spot to within 1/100 pixel of a video camera by centroid calculations.

  7. retired engineer said

    Jeff, averaging works well if you measure the same thing over and over, assuming random variations (gaussian). If you measure at different places, with different instruments, you add a whole lot of uncertainties. As Anthony Watts’ surfacestations project has shown, each site has it’s own ‘personality’. Which can change over time. Averaging doesn’t help much.

    Having spent nearly 40 years in the measurement business, and having made most of the mistakes one can make doing that, I am very skeptical of just about any claim. I can believe 1/10 pixel, you’d need a very stable laser to get much better (I was chief engineer of an industrial laser company from 76-88, and measured a lot of lasers. PITA).

    It might be getting warmer. Unless it isn’t.

  8. Jeff Id said

    #7 For sure.

    In my past life, I was using a HeNe research laser for holographic interferometry. I miss having such nice toys.

  9. Page48 said

    I am confused as to why, if the problem is too much CO2 in the atmosphere, next to none of the grant funding goes to research to find quick, easy and efficient methods to scrub it out.

  10. DeWitt Payne said

    Perfect precision calibration. That would be really nice, but in the real world all instruments eventually fall prey to 1/f noise so that averaging over long periods actually degrades the precision of the measurement.

  11. Jeff Id said

    #10, I’m wondering if you’re serious. The point of the discussion with Tim L was to show that oversampling can result in an accuracy beyond that of a single point measure not to imply that I’ve seen a perfect instrument somewhere.

    I have seen many measurement instances where oversampling has improved the result. Noisy vision systems is one of my favorites but also A/D signals where the last couple bits end up recording 1/f noise. Actually the entire purpose of some system filtering is to improve the rejection of the pink noise.

    I had an optical sensor once on a vacuum coating machine. Each time a platter rotated a beam of light came through a window and was recorded on a silicon diode sensor. The electrical environment was ungodly noisy from dozens of high frequency EM guns, cryopumps and oil vacuum pumps creating a non-continuous ripple in the signal. While my electrical engineer partner worked hard to eliminate as much of the noise as possible, I created an algorithm that sampled the sensor several hundred times and averaged to remove the ripple. The result was a measurement which exceeded the accuracy and precision of a single value.

  12. Fluffy Clouds (Tim L) said

    OK, I would agree IF…. you read the SAME thermometer 1000 times an hour ALL DAY!
    That is not what is going on here. Get it?
    analogy… use a tape measure to get the size of your crank shaft barrings, you can measure it 1000 times BUT you still will not get a 1000th of an inch reading ok?
    Jeff you are very very smart man, how can this escape you?
    it is a different thing sampling one item a 1000 times than to read a 1000 items once.
    Well I hope this gets into that head of yours, and does not piss you off at me !!!
    BTW, I still like the sound my analog VHS hifi has compared to any digital oversampled audio
    to date.

  13. Jeff Id said

    #12 It doesn’t escape me, I promise. I like to use extremes in thought experiments in order to resolve concepts. It’s a good trick for figuring out otherwise complex problems.

    I prefer HQ tapes and vinyl to CD’s. I’m unaware of higher bit rate audio but the CD technologies with oversampling referred to re-reading the exact same bit’s to get a more accurate read through dust and scratches with the qualitiy limited the bit’s on the disk. I’ve been waiting for the high bit rate solutions for some time now but the public went the other way and fell in love with the lower quality and higher quantity from higher compression mp3 music rather than high bit rates.

    Years ago I had an idea for holographic sound recording on a CD which uses linear analog silicon as pickups, you would get high dynamic range (drums would hit like CD’s but sound like vinyl), good rejection of dust/scratches, ridiculous frequency/spatial response. It would be good fun if I was Bill Gates but I don’t believe it would make any money in this mp3 world.

    Someday the higher bit rate sound will be commonplace, that should clean the whole mess up.

  14. retired engineer said

    8-13 all well taken, but you have to do an error budget. You can’t measure what isn’t there. Unless you have a nearly perfect listening space, you can’t hear it either. (Grumpy old comment: for much of what passes for music these days, 32 kb/s MP3 is more than adequate.)

    Averaging assumes certain characterisics in the signal, type of ‘noise’, etc. In many cases it works very well. I built a servo positioning system with 0.1 arc-second resulution. Based on a capacitive transducer with half a picofarad total change (in 6 degrees). Looking at less than 1000 electrons/sec. It worked, only because we characterized the system well in advance and found most of the LGM’s before they bit us. That luxury doesn’t apply to GISS and other temperature approximations. Far more variables than equations.

    Blu-Ray audio should sound OK, assuming you don’t think digital sounds like someone ‘banging on a garbage can lid with a wooden spoon’. (h/t to one of my audiophile friends)

  15. DeWitt Payne said

    I’m saying that the limitation on the precision of temperature measurements over extended periods, decades to centuries, becomes limited by the precision of the calibration, which happens at best once/year. The move to electronic sensors like platinum resistance thermometers has made this worse rather than better. I’m not convinced that a proper propagation of error analysis has been done for global temperature averages. As a result the estimated error reported is, IMO, way too low.

    I was responsible for an x-ray fluorescence instrument at work. That instrument works by irradiating a sample with x-rays from a high voltage tube and counting the number of x-ray photons produced per second at a particular energy from the element of interest in a sample. For trace analysis, the count rate is on the order of 10’s to 1000’s of counts per second. The precision of the measured count rate is determined by Poisson statistics so that the variance of the measurement is equal to the total number of counts collected. Up to a point. You cannot improve the precision without limit by extending the counting time. The power supply to the x-ray tube used to excite the emitted radiation isn’t perfectly stable. The temperature of the instrument isn’t perfectly stable. The sample degrades over time. These effects aren’t important at short times, but the practical limit for counting time is on the order of 400 seconds. After that, the precision of the measurement gets worse rather than better. This is referred to in the trade as drift, flicker noise or 1/f noise. I’ve never seen anything that convinces me that atmospheric temperature measurements don’t have similar problems.

  16. Jeff Id said

    #15, Atmospheric measurements absolutely have those problems there are a number of papers on it that I’ve read. Four hundred seconds is a much shorter time frame than any thermometer I’ve worked with.

    If you get a chance, Dr. Christy has published some analysis on this for radiosonde thermometers for use as calibration of microwave sat data. Just changing the device types created large steps in the sonde record.

  17. Fluffy Clouds (Tim L) said

    there maybe a way to kick the precision a little, by multiplying by 100years to get the decimal point over 2 places. I want to ask a Doctorate in chemistry/physics first to see if it counts……. got names will travel….lol

  18. Fluffy Clouds (Tim L) said

    #14 my two cents is in the A/D converters there is phasing errors, so if you use lower bit rates IE MP3s there is “less to hear” than in the “clean music”
    I spent too much time in concert bands playing tenor sax or clarinet to hear out of phase music lol
    looks like me in second seat! mom is in second seat second row (clarinets)
    Blu-Ray audio should sound OK, assuming you don’t think digital sounds like someone ‘banging on a garbage can lid with a wooden spoon’. (h/t to one of my audiophile friends)
    I think we used a lid in one concert lol.

  19. An interesting article in today’s The Daily Telegraph (No online version, that I can find, sadly).
    It concerns the fraud perpitrated by Jan Hendrik Schon.
    The following comments leapt off the page at me.

    “..the ease with which his fraudulent findings and grotesque errors were accepted by his peers raises troubling questions about the way in which scientists assess each other’s work and whether there might be other cases out there”

    “The results were fantastic-but not impossible-and admiring colleagues helped Scon prepare a manuscript reporting the new claims”

    “ Nature, it has a well-organised media operation that can catapult the editor’s favourite papers into the pages of national newspapers”

    It continues with this about peer-revue.

    “He presented conclusions that he knew, from feedback at Bell Labs, experts were bound to find appealing. Editors at both journals received positive reviews and took extraordinary steps to hurry Schon’s papers into print: on one occaision Science even suspended its normal policy of requiring two independant peer reviews, because the first review was so positive. Nature failed on at least one occaision to make sure Schon responded to questions raised by reviewers.”

    It notes other scientists inabilities to replicate his findings.

    “Yet without access to details of his methods, which were strangely absent from the published reports,”

    And that these scientists blamed themselves for these failures.

    “ was natural got his peers to question the way Schon interpretted his data, but taboo to question his integrity”

    “By talking to colleagues, he worked out what results were hoped for – so when he fabricated results that seemed to prove their theories & hunches, they were thrilled.”

    “Schon was in effect, doing science backwards: working out what his conclusions should be & then using his computer to produce the appropriate graphs.”

    “More recent frauds …….. have also shown that journal peer review processes remain very limited in their abilities to catch deception.”

    “anytime a major breakthrough is reported without the researcher in question showing details of how they carried out the experiment, it’s time to start asking questions”

    One hopes that those who are supporting AGW, via their scientific endeavours, aren’t doing so fraudulently, but so much of the above appears to be happening, that one does wonder!

  20. Addendum
    Here’s the link to the article I quoted from.

  21. DeWitt Payne said

    Oversampling is used in audio D/A conversion to simplify the design of the analog low pass filter and minimize phase shift. Some aspects of climate science remind me of the hand waving that goes on in high end audio magazines. Show me the double blind comparisons that prove that some super system actually sounds better than, or can even be distinguished from, a decent system that costs an order of magnitude or two less money.

  22. Jeff Id said

    #22, I bet you haven’t listened to a high end system 10K compared to a mid-high 3K on the same song before. There’s a very big difference which is I’m guessing why I’ve never seen the double blind study.

    I have heard some 20-50K’s next to 10K’s and been disappointed with the near zero difference to my ears.

  23. Page48 said

    RE: #’s 21, 22

    I get by with a boom box.

    Do men hear differently from women? I’ve always wondered. My brother has always had very expensive, state-of-the-art audio equipment. His stuff definitely sounds better than my boom box, but not enough so that I would buy it.

    Seriously, I’ve always wondered about this. Men seem to be able to hear all kinds differences in recorded sounds that just seem to escape me.

    Not very pertinent to climate issues, I realize. LOL

  24. retired engineer said

    #22 Spot on. Sibling spent more on CD player than I spent on entire system. So we listened to same performance, his system, vinyl vs CD. CD sounded like someone banging on garbage can lid with wooden spoon. So did my system. (grr) Never heard a $50k system, can’t comment on that, but $12k blows $4k out of water.

    Sibling then spent even more on newer CD player, claimed it mostly fixed problem.

    BTW, it wasn’t rock & roll, rather a violin concerto, Perlman, etc.
    Devo would sound the same with a 4-bit d/a.

    #15 Calibration? I don’t think you can use that word at the same time as NWS or GISS, unless you have a big NOT included. The MMTS might get a quick cal at the factory. Might. Not that it matters, thermistors suck in absolute accuracy, linearity, and drift over time. They work OK for fish tank heaters. Especially if you don’t like fish.

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