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Freedom of information laws are used to harass scientists, says Nobel laureate - Comments

ZenDruid's Avatar Comment 1 by ZenDruid

I thought information was proprietary until it was published, after which it was 'free'. Something smells fishy here.

Wed, 25 May 2011 22:58:01 UTC | #630944

nykos's Avatar Comment 2 by nykos

LOL. It looks like the climate theologians/philosophers, with their utter lack of repeatable or falsifiable predictions, don't really like when others are poking in their data. Can't say I'm surprised.

On a related note, I've never heard any evolutionary biologist or cosmologist complaining that too much freedom of information enables the Creationists to slow down their work. I wonder why...

Thu, 26 May 2011 00:14:45 UTC | #630954

skiles1's Avatar Comment 3 by skiles1

This is somewhat analogous to the situation in the US, wherein the Republican Party and the Tea Party recently demanded the emails of state university professors in Wisconsin and Michigan. It seemed to be a attempt to impair known liberals from teaching anything other than certain conservative views. Also, it was an attempt to stop opponents from organizing the intelligencia.

Strange that people can believe in gods being responsible for natural disasters, but not global warming. Strange that people can't believe in global warming. Which corporations do you suppose are behind that?

Thu, 26 May 2011 00:19:53 UTC | #630955

Andrew B.'s Avatar Comment 4 by Andrew B.

Comment 3 by skiles1 :

This is somewhat analogous to the situation in the US, wherein the Republican Party and the Tea Party recently demanded the emails of state university professors in Wisconsin and Michigan. It seemed to be a attempt to impair known liberals from teaching anything other than certain conservative views. Also, it was an attempt to stop opponents from organizing the intelligencia.

Strange that people can believe in gods being responsible for natural disasters, but not global warming. Strange that people can't believe in global warming. Which corporations do you suppose are behind that?

The State of Hawai'i was put in a similar position with birthers demanding copies of Obama's birf certicate. The state senators responded by proposing a one-hundred dollar price tag for each copy. Maybe scientists could adopt a similar tactic. Call it a "processing fee."

Dear Climate Sceptic

No, "hiding the decline" doesn't mean what you think it means. Have a nice day...P.S. That will be five hundred British pounds.

Sincerely, some Elitist British Scientist

Thu, 26 May 2011 00:52:19 UTC | #630958

Lucid Lucy's Avatar Comment 5 by Lucid Lucy

Makes me think of the Conservapedia-Lenski conflict...

Thu, 26 May 2011 01:05:35 UTC | #630959

itchy_tasty's Avatar Comment 6 by itchy_tasty

Does anyone know if there is an approved climate change skeptical answer to why the surface temperature on Venus is so high? Like, do they accept that the most probable cause is the high level of Carbon Dioxide, or do they think there is no greenhouse gas effect?

I remember watching the Horizon program "Science Under Attack" (hosted by Sir Paul Nurse) where they were saying that climate change skeptics were abusing FoI requests to hinder the research. They interviewed a scientists involved in "Climate-gate", who explained what exactly had gone on with "Mike's nature trick". They also interviewed a scientist (Dr. Fred Singer) who was skeptical of climate change, he stated that any change in temperature was due to solar activity and not human. He stated his evidence for this theory was a measure of a particular type of Carbon atom (formed when Carbon interacts with solar particles) deposited in a cave on the Arabian peninsula, when pressed to admit a global correlation, Dr. Singer stated you could not use global readings, only the local readings to the Arabian peninsula. I'm not sure if that means they haven't been able to find sufficient evidence outside of this particular cave, or if he just ignores evidence that would disprove his theory.

Thu, 26 May 2011 01:48:44 UTC | #630968

Jos Gibbons's Avatar Comment 7 by Jos Gibbons

Comment #630954 by nykos

It looks like the climate theologians/philosophers, with their utter lack of repeatable or falsifiable predictions

Climate models have produced highly, and successively more, accurate reconstructions of past temperatures, both “since records began” and in prehistoric times, as revealed through numerous methods. Their models also produce quite accurate simulations of subsequent temperatures, both atmospheric and oceanic, and of air currents all over the world. We know the world is warming because many different types of thermometer show this, we know it is attributable to carbon dioxide because satellite measurements of the Earth;s absorption and emission of radiation before and after the temperature rise differ in a manner which, beside accounting for the temperature change under the Stefan–Boltzmann law et al, shows that the changes match the carbon dioxide spectrum. And we know that the increased carbon dioxide levels are anthropogenic because not only is the annual increase in atmospheric and oceanic carbon dioxide (30 gigatonnes) equal to our indurstial output, but an analysis of the carbon isotopes in the carbon dioxide shows the increase is devoid of carbon 14, which can only be accounted for if it is due to burning fossil fuels. Our current understanding of climate change could readily be falsified if our predictions, which take into account various types of positive and negative feedback each with associated error bars, were statistically too far away from the data we actually get. The problem with climatology methods isn’t that they disobey the hypothetico–deductive method; they do not. The problem is that, when you do the maths, it turns out the error bars are larger than they are in most other physics models.

don't really like when others are poking in their data.

All ideas in the scientific consensus, including those in climatology, reached that status by first resisting thorough efforts to debunk them by fellow expert scientists, coming at it from every angle and with every possible set of rival opinions between them. Those who lack such an expertise are not so qualified to offer their analysis, and especially so if they also do not know the basics of the scientific method and statistical analysis and what factors must be corrected for in climatological research. And these types of ignorance are precisely what we find in the “others” in this case.

I've never heard any evolutionary biologist or cosmologist complaining that too much freedom of information enables the Creationists to slow down their work.

For that to happen, creationists would have to make data requests, but they do not. The reason is an interesting one: creationists can essentially draft their entire “rebuttal” to a new piece of research on evolution, the Big Bang etc. before even reading it. A change has been observed? Say it’s not big enough. Some indicator of common ancestry has been found? Claim it just means there’s a common designer. Some measurement is indicative of a particular fact about the cosmological history of the universe? Say something like “Nothing can’t explode”, or say the assumption of a constant speed of light over that time is unwarranted. Essentially, it’s the “were you there?” mindset. But climatology’s opponents are in a different situation, because the discussion is about how if at all the world is changing right now and why. Therefore, their approach is much more empirical.

However, evolutionary biologists do complain when creationists interfere in those ways they do, such as in the classroom, or Schlaffly’s encounter with Lenski. Which brings me on to ... Comment #630959 by Kafata

Makes me think of the Conservapedia-Lenski conflict

When I was reading the article, I too was reminded of that; specifically, I came to the view I would like to share here, which is that climatologists should respond to the issue this article is about in much the same way Lenski did, by making sure Schlaffly understands what it takes to review his data. (In my response to nykos above, I mentioned why not all potential climate sceptics are equally prepared for the task.) Dawins describes it in TGSOE, but I don’t have a copy to hand so I’ll have to summarise: Lenski pointed out the bacteria were his best data but, as they were dangerous, he provided Schlaffly with all the safety requirements he’d have to meet. I think Dawkins said something along the lines of “Lenski knew Shlaffly wouldn’t be able to spell his way through the words, let alone get the lab”. With climatology, a similar technique would be for someone to prepare a list of reading materials with the core concepts; any query for data would then receive the reply, “Here’s some stuff you’ll need to read so you know how this research works. Once you’ve read through it, come back to me with your questions. That way you’ll know what you are best off asking and I’ll know the information won’t be wasted on someone who doesn’t understand it or how to use it.” Or we could just go the whole hog and say, “Please show me your climatology – or at least science – credentials so I know you’d understand the stuff you’re asking for”.

Thu, 26 May 2011 05:44:51 UTC | #630995

Stevehill's Avatar Comment 8 by Stevehill

I'm always skeptical when anyone - even scientists - start claiming that democracy's getting a bit inconvenient.

Thu, 26 May 2011 06:52:01 UTC | #631002

Anaximander's Avatar Comment 9 by Anaximander

Information theory in itself is difficult enough. And now there is "freedom of information" - what is that? Does it change the calculations of the entropy of a black hole?

Thu, 26 May 2011 06:58:25 UTC | #631004

sbooder's Avatar Comment 10 by sbooder

That is like asking a student to provide their notes taken for every lecture and study period of there University years as part of the finals marking process...insane!

Thu, 26 May 2011 07:46:10 UTC | #631011

mixmastergaz's Avatar Comment 11 by mixmastergaz

I think Sir Paul's conclusion would be obvious to anyone who's looked into the so-called "scandal" at East Anglia University. This was characterised by the odious James Dellingpole as a deliberate deceit and the biggest fraud in the history of science. In fact, it was simply that one single graph prepeared for a non-specialist audience had been simplified (almost a decade before certain right-wing sections of the media bothered to take notice), and a few experts had used a couple of phrases that were open to deliberate mis-interpretation by their opponents in what they believed to be private emails (they were hacked by climate-change denying phishers). In short, there was no case to answer for at all on the part of the scientists, and they were completely exonnerated by four (four!) independent enquiries. The climate-change deniers on the other hand were exposed as cherry-pickers of the very worst sort who had had to resort to dredging up one piss-poor line graph and a couple of emails from a decade ago in order to attempt to discredit climate change. Of course, the (overwhelming) case for climate change rests on a great deal more than the work of one university. Curiously, all the media outlets who had devoted the most space to the unfounded case against somehow failed to report on the four (four!) separate independent enquiries which all cleared East Anglia University of any wrong-doing.

Thu, 26 May 2011 08:20:29 UTC | #631018

SheilaC's Avatar Comment 12 by SheilaC

I wonder whether East Anglia was the only place that got hacked? If the hackers got into another ten places and found no dirt, and nothing that could be construed as dirt, they'd hardly tell us about it.

Thu, 26 May 2011 09:09:34 UTC | #631031

Stephen of Wimbledon's Avatar Comment 13 by Stephen of Wimbledon

Sir Paul made a TV programme about the subject of how scientists work with the public. Here is a review: Horizon: Science Under Attack

For those not energetic enough to follow the link, the programme's conclusion is summarised thus: "Nurse issued a call to scientists to be more politically savvy in the wake of the so-called Climategate affair, and to make more of an effort to put data in the public domain."

Asking for greater protection for work in progress seems a logical step. As is pointed out, above, no other discipline works with full disclosure of studies in progress.

That said, Sir Paul needs to take some of his own medicine. Being more politically savvy means recognising that Freedom of Information legislation exists to meet a democratic need.

Scientists need to be working much harder on their models of study publication, publishing and making freely available answers to queries regarding those studies (FAQs), making the procedures of scientific conferences more freely available and so on. Perhaps this is a suitable leadership task for Professor Marcus du Sautoy, current holder of the Charles Simonyi Chair in the Public Understanding of Science?

Complaining that scientists have to slow down in order to explain their work to the rest of society - and that they shouldn't have to - smacks of elitism. It is also, surely, yet another indication that modern media systematically fail to meet their fundamental responsibility to educate and inform.

Thu, 26 May 2011 09:26:30 UTC | #631037

Stefan Udrea's Avatar Comment 14 by Stefan Udrea

  1. We know the world is warming because many different types of thermometer show this, 2.we know it is attributable to carbon dioxide because satellite measurements of the Earth;s absorption and emission of radiation 3.before and after the temperature rise differ in a manner which, beside accounting for the temperature change under the Stefan–Boltzmann law et al,

1.Thermometers can't show global warming. 2.The satellites aren't able to measure incoming and outgoing radiation with sufficient precision. 3. Stefan-Boltzman law applies to black bodies, which the Earth is not.

Thu, 26 May 2011 10:34:13 UTC | #631059

davem's Avatar Comment 15 by davem

13: Complaining that scientists have to slow down in order to explain their work to the rest of society - and that they shouldn't have to - smacks of elitism.

Nonsense. If I had to explain every step of everything I did in my IT job to someone outside of IT, my work would grind to a halt. It's specialisation, not elitism.

FOI requests can easily be dealt with - you are allowed to charge reasonable costs for providing data. If the request is so difficult that it slows your work down, you charge more. The requests will stop. Government departments often kill off FOI requests by charging exorbitant fees.

Thu, 26 May 2011 11:00:21 UTC | #631073

Fujikoma's Avatar Comment 16 by Fujikoma

@ Comment 14 by Stefan Udrea

The earth can be seen as a black body or a grey body. There may be certain things that need to be taken into account, but it is done in science. It's also Boltzmann, not Boltzman.

Thu, 26 May 2011 11:48:04 UTC | #631084

KenChimp's Avatar Comment 17 by KenChimp

The main problem with "Climategate" was not that there was any real evidence to show that the climate scientists had misrepresented data or acted to deliberately deceive anyone about the nature of climate change. The danger is that this illegal breach of their privacy gave fuel to anti-climate change fascists to spread an untruth which cast doubt, in the public eye, on the validity of global warming science and the fact that human endeavor is contributing to global warming.

Regardless of how many independent inquiries exonerate the East Anglia team, climate change science has been, to some extent, invalidated in the public eye. Why? Because most people do not understand the scientific method. Why? Because most people are not trained well enough, if at all, in the scientific method.

This MUST change. Otherwise the enemies of free inquiry will only step up their attacks on valid science and scientists.

Thu, 26 May 2011 11:52:53 UTC | #631086

Peter Grant's Avatar Comment 18 by Peter Grant

Comment 13 by steve_r_w

Sir Paul made a TV programme about the subject of how scientists work with the public. Here is a review: Horizon: Science Under Attack

Thanks for the link, I liked this bit:

In my own mind I tend to characterise this debate as "scientists v idiots" and, although I accept it's more complicated than that, this remains my official position. Scientists make mistakes. They face political and financial pressures, which could undermine their purest aims. But you can't go far wrong completely disregarding what half of Americans think about anything.

Thu, 26 May 2011 12:45:25 UTC | #631096

danconquer's Avatar Comment 19 by danconquer

The Freedom of Information Act already provides adequate (some would say rather too adequate!) safeguards against malicious requests for data, particularly the provision allowing proportionate charges to be levied for making requests.

Perhaps the problem is that academic institutions and scientists are being too damned nice, taking the FoI Act fully in the spirit in which it was intended, unlike corporations and government departments who have now mastered the full panoply of tricks with which to evade all those bothersome requests from plebeians.

Thu, 26 May 2011 13:00:35 UTC | #631100

locka's Avatar Comment 20 by locka

@SheilaC it wasn't like there was any "dirt" in the UEA hack either. Just a bunch of scientists bitching in private correspondence about fulfilling FOIA requests amongst other things. It's not hard at all to understand why they felt that way given the requests were invariably filled by bloggers to be used as ammunition against them, not for any form of constructive criticism. It's likely that the problem has gotten even worse in recent years.

I suggest the answer to it is for the government to exempt research scientists from fulfilling any requests provided they follow some reasonable guidelines concerning the preservation and disclosure of measurements, raw data and software used to reach their conclusions. This could be dumped out in a zip file after a paper is published. That should be the end of their obligations and would stop this form of harassment.

Thu, 26 May 2011 13:11:46 UTC | #631107

Alan Dente's Avatar Comment 21 by Alan Dente

I worked in FOI in the public sector for a couple years and what Comment 19 by danconquer says is correct. The commissioner provides plenty of wriggle room, and requesters who repeatedly ask for information in a way that is detrimental to the continued work of those being asked can be barred and/or given warnings as to their nuisance tactics (step forward, Daily Mail).

The FOI policy document is a treasure trove of get-outs to the FOI-initiated (maximum working hours allowed, various confidentiality rules etc.). However, a determined requester will generally get the information they want, so long as their request is reasonable. In my opinion, overall the system ain't too bad.

What these boffins need is a decent, cynical administrator who knows how to deal with these nuisance requesters. I'll do it for 40k a year + perks...

:)

Thu, 26 May 2011 13:51:31 UTC | #631121

KenChimp's Avatar Comment 22 by KenChimp

Comment 21 by Alan Dente :

I worked in FOI in the public sector for a couple years and what Comment 19 by danconquer says is correct. The commissioner provides plenty of wriggle room, and requesters who repeatedly ask for information in a way that is detrimental to the continued work of those being asked can be barred and/or given warnings as to their nuisance tactics (step forward, Daily Mail).

The FOI policy document is a treasure trove of get-outs to the FOI-initiated (maximum working hours allowed, various confidentiality rules etc.). However, a determined requester will generally get the information they want, so long as their request is reasonable. In my opinion, overall the system ain't too bad.

What these boffins need is a decent, cynical administrator who knows how to deal with these nuisance requesters. I'll do it for 40k a year + perks...

:)

I think your suggestion is a good one, in spite of the vested interest you've suggested having in such a position. ;)

But I must insist that the best way to tackle this sort of thing is to have a public that is widely educated in scientific methodology. The more non-scientists understand about what scientists are doing and how they do it, the better.

It is far too easy for pedants, dogmatists and pseudo scientists to mislead the public on scientific matters specifically because the public is so ignorant of the scientific method.

Thu, 26 May 2011 14:04:57 UTC | #631124

Alan Dente's Avatar Comment 23 by Alan Dente

@KenChimp

A very valid point. But is it realistic to think that the majority of the UK population can be helped to understand these things, or even care enough? Also, if someone wants to see conspiracy theories and ivory-tower lies everywhere, then I'm not sure any amount of reasoning will change their minds.

It's a tough one. I think the work of people such as Prof. Dawkins, Attenborough, maybe Brian Cox etc. does go some way towards engaging the public. It may be that more populist science advocates are needed to enter the fray and continue the process of raising awareness on these matters.

Something like a Christmas Science address to the nation, like the Queen's speech, might be a great idea. I totally side with you regarding the need to make science and scientific ways of thinking more accessible to everyone- especially with the current rise of (ahem) 'Faith Schools' et al.

Richard- would you do a populist, televised national Christmas lecture? Do you know Brian Cox to ask him to do one? He could play a song as well.

Thu, 26 May 2011 14:38:23 UTC | #631140

Jos Gibbons's Avatar Comment 24 by Jos Gibbons

Comment #631059 by Stefan Udrea

Thermometers can't show global warming.

Yes they can, if you have enough of them spread over the world enough. Indeed, the "thermometers" in question aren't even limited to the Earths surface; they also measure at high altitudes and great depths. And that is how we verify an increase over the years in the mean (averaged over a year and the Earth's surface) surface temperature of Earth. It's not THAT difficult to understand, surely?

The satellites aren't able to measure incoming and outgoing radiation with sufficient precision.

Source? I don't know whether you've ever done a statistical analysis of the radiation data in this context, but I have. It's a topic in the reading I might suggest to you (see below) if you want it.

Stefan-Boltzman law applies to black bodies, which the Earth is not.

My "et al" referenced the ways we generalise the black body treatment to cover a wider range of physical systems. Grey bodies are one example. My discussion of carbon dioxide's absorption spectrum should have made clear I was discussing a much more general intensity-frequency relation than even the grey body method identifies. In fact, we understand the matter so well we can even confirm the relative effects of carbon dioxide, methane & water vapour are as models predict.

As Fujikoma pointed out, you clearly don't know anything about grey bodies, which suggests you probably didn't understand my talk of the Earth's albedo either. What is more, it proves you don't know the equations which given the planet's heat budget, as they feature the albedo and these grey body effects. Now, if you don't understand the theory being climate models, how can you claim to debunk them?

I can suggest appropriate reading materials if you like; it's standard third year undergraduate physics. Long story short, we apply the basic principles of thermodynamics, gravitational potentials, the phase properties of water etc. to work out how the climate operates. Just out of curiosity, do you have a background in things like heat equations or partition function formulations of statistical mechanics? If you don't, I'll have to start with the basics in what materials I suggest before we move on to the climatology applications.

Thu, 26 May 2011 15:17:18 UTC | #631152

Stefan Udrea's Avatar Comment 25 by Stefan Udrea

Comment 24 by Jos Gibbons :

Comment #631059 by Stefan Udrea

Thermometers can't show global warming.

Yes they can, if you have enough of them spread over the world enough. Indeed, the "thermometers" in question aren't even limited to the Earths surface; they also measure at high altitudes and great depths. And that is how we verify an increase over the years in the mean (averaged over a year and the Earth's surface) surface temperature of Earth. It's not THAT difficult to understand, surely?

But, some physicists say that averaging temperatures makes no sense, since temperature is an intensive property.That's the main reason why I'm playing the devil's advocate here.

The satellites aren't able to measure incoming and outgoing radiation with sufficient precision.

Source? I don't know whether you've ever done a statistical analysis of the radiation data in this context, but I have. It's a topic in the reading I might suggest to you (see below) if you want it.

Page 44 in this document: http://www.columbia.edu/~jeh1/mailings/2011/20110415_EnergyImbalancePaper.pdf

Now, if you don't understand the theory being climate models, how can you claim to debunk them?

I dont' claim to debunk them.What is clear to me is that NASA and others are presenting a very simplified view of the global warming, which makes some physicists skeptical about it.

I can suggest appropriate reading materials if you like;

Yes, please.

it's standard third year undergraduate physics. Long story short, we apply the basic principles of thermodynamics, gravitational potentials, the phase properties of water etc. to work out how the climate operates. Just out of curiosity, do you have a background in things like heat equations or partition function formulations of statistical mechanics? If you don't, I'll have to start with the basics in what materials I suggest before we move on to the climatology applications.

If the truth of the global warming depends on equations with partial derivatives, then nevermind.

Thu, 26 May 2011 17:27:33 UTC | #631204

drumdaddy's Avatar Comment 26 by drumdaddy

I want to see comprehensive background data on every oil, coal, and natural gas executive and their subordinates. I want to see everything that they've ever published, every paper they ever wrote, every quote, and every witness who can quote them. Included should be the addresses of any and all homes that they own, not to exclude yachts or private aircraft. I also want to see the same information for all persons serving in 'astroturf' organizations financed by the above-mentioned executives or their companies or their political associates.

We need to fully evaluate the factors that are extending the duration of fossil fuel driven global warming, and this data would be crucial to any serious inquiry. Thank you.

Thu, 26 May 2011 18:35:37 UTC | #631227

Jos Gibbons's Avatar Comment 27 by Jos Gibbons

Comment #631204 by Stefan Udrea

some physicists say that averaging temperatures makes no sense, since temperature is an intensive property.

It makes sense; it's just complicated. But climatologists can handle it.

Page 44

A single satellite is of limited use because it doesn't cover 100 % of the solid angle. However, pooling satellites' results is possible. There's a unique unbiased weighted mean of variables which minimises the standard deviation in the estimator; its coefficients are determined by the independent variances. It does better than any one variable does. Long story satellites' coverage of the globe together is successful. Combining this with the reservoir technique they mentioned makes things even better. Finally, the 0.1 W/m2 criterion concerns our ability to predict which future policies will best protect us, not what it takes to prove anthropogenic climate change.

What is clear to me is that NASA and others are presenting a very simplified view of the global warming, which makes some physicists skeptical about it.

Oh, that's clear is it? Care to elucidate? Seriously, you expect me to believe NASA's account of climatology is flawed in a way you spotted but they didn't? Feel free to prove it.

Yes, please. ... things like heat equations or ...If the truth of the global warming depends on equations with partial derivatives, then nevermind.

Is there any particular reason you bolded it like that? My guess was to make clear it was the PDE you were worried about. I'm sorry you don't want scientific explanations to make use of PDEs (good luck understanding science with that attitude, let alone being taken seriously when you challenge it) but, if it's any consolation, the solutions are separable so it reduces to ODEs. Let me know if you change your mind.

Thu, 26 May 2011 21:28:21 UTC | #631316

Stefan Udrea's Avatar Comment 28 by Stefan Udrea

Page 44

A single satellite is of limited use because it doesn't cover 100 % of the solid angle. However, pooling satellites' results is possible. There's a unique unbiased weighted mean of variables which minimises the standard deviation in the estimator; its coefficients are determined by the independent variances. It does better than any one variable does. Long story satellites' coverage of the globe together is successful. Combining this with the reservoir technique they mentioned makes things even better. Finally, the 0.1 W/m2 criterion concerns our ability to predict which future policies will best protect us, not what it takes to prove anthropogenic climate change.

I got the impression, from that page, that the satellite measurments were not precise enough to tell us if more radiation comes to Earth than leaves it, which seems to me a very important point.

What is clear to me is that NASA and others are presenting a very simplified view of the global warming, which makes some physicists skeptical about it.

Oh, that's clear is it? Care to elucidate?

Here, NASA says that the Earth is in radiative equilibrium.Do you think the Earth is in radiative equilibrium ? Considering that, as I understood from the link I gave you in the previous post, we can't measure accurately the incoming and the outgoing radiation.

http://earthobservatory.nasa.gov/Experiments/PlanetEarthScience/GlobalWarming/GW_Movie2.php

Is there any particular reason you bolded it like that? My guess was to make clear it was the PDE you were worried about. I'm sorry you don't want scientific explanations to make use of PDEs (good luck understanding science with that attitude, let alone being taken seriously when you challenge it) but, if it's any consolation, the solutions are separable so it reduces to ODEs. Let me know if you change your mind.

Yes, you guessed right.Feynman said that if you can't explain something to a first year student, it means you didn't understand it.

Fri, 27 May 2011 07:39:01 UTC | #631433

mmurray's Avatar Comment 29 by mmurray

Is there any particular reason you bolded it like that? My guess was to make clear it was the PDE you were worried about. I'm sorry you don't want scientific explanations to make use of PDEs (good luck understanding science with that attitude, let alone being taken seriously when you challenge it) but, if it's any consolation, the solutions are separable so it reduces to ODEs. Let me know if you change your mind.

Yes, you guessed right.Feynman said that if you can't explain something to a first year student, it means you didn't understand it.

A first year student should be able to understand an ODE or a PDE. It's not a difficult concept if you understand the notion of derivative which is standard first year fare.

Michael

Fri, 27 May 2011 07:44:41 UTC | #631434

Jos Gibbons's Avatar Comment 30 by Jos Gibbons

Comment #631433 by Stefan Udrea

I got the impression, from that page, that the satellite measurments were not precise enough to tell us if more radiation comes to Earth than leaves it, which seems to me a very important point.

As before, pooling multiple estimators gets around this. I’ll explain with some algebra. Suppose a variable X has mean m and standard deviation s. Then we’re unsure whether X is positive or negative if s exceeds |m|. (More precisely, this condition means we can’t say what sign X has with at least 68 % probability. Similarly, if s exceeds |m|/2, we can’t say what sign X has with at least 95 % probability.) Suppose you take many estimators of the difference between absorption and emission of some wavelength, or alternatively some integral thereof over a wavelength interval. Suppose further you take the unbiased weighted mean of these estimators with the minimum standard deviation. It is then possible for s/|m| to be small, which is what we need, in the case of the weighted mean even though we’re not so fortunate with all individual estimators from which the weighted mean is calculated. And this is true whatever “small” means for s/|m| - for example, at most 1/2 if we want 95 % confidence.

Here, NASA says that the Earth is in radiative equilibrium.Do you think the Earth is in radiative equilibrium ? Considering that, as I understood from the link I gave you in the previous post, we can't measure accurately the incoming and the outgoing radiation.

Do you wilfully misunderstand people’s words on purpose? NASA’s description on that page is of how radiative equilibria are established, including the establishment of new ones after old ones are left – the intermediate period of course being one in which we’re no longer in an equilibrium. This does not address the question of how long either types of time period last. The Earth is not currently in radiative equilibrium, nor will it be until the levels of CO2 stop rapidly rising. NASA’s description of equilibria is incomplete, but to my mind this does not constitute a “very simplified view of the global warming” – in fact, it’s not even a discussion of global warming. You may as well chastise a description of how a healthy body maintains homeostasis as presenting a very simplified view of diseases which compromise homeostasis. (That’s a pretty good analogy, actually, as homeostasis is the body’s own equilibrium.)

Please make sure to read mmurray’s comment regarding how much maths Feynman’s tip is OK with. Whether Feynman’s tip is right is another matter. Personally, I don’t think I’ll turn out to not understand Sturm–Liouville equations if data shows they can’t be explained to first years.

Fri, 27 May 2011 09:21:32 UTC | #631452