Sunday, July 26, 2015

The Search for Terrestrial Intelligence

ATTP points to another pontification by the good Roger Pielke Jr., which as usual misses the point,
however, in fairness ATTP hisself also whiffs a bit.

Today a self proclaimed expert on football and FIFA (it is corrupt, something that Eli agrees with), Roger wanders into the SETI world.  However, there too, Ethon's food group betrays his lacks with the Pielke like set-up
Upon hearing of the new project, called Breakthrough Listen
Eli thought about this a bit.  Does anybunny associated with the Breakthrough Institute take time out from ceaseless self promotion to listen?  Sadly no, but it turns out that the Listeners are another bunch what has snagged them a rich Russian to fund a SETI project to the dismay of Shellenberger, Nordhaus the Lesser and Pielke the Jr. fudraising being the major industry of the Breakthrough types.

Jr. continues
I was reminded, of all things, of a recent prison break. Last month two convicted murders escaped from a New York prison. They had spent months carefully planning and executing their escape, which involved cutting and digging their way through walls, pipes and concrete. Remarkably, however, the pair gave little thought to what they would do if they actually succeeded in their plans. The consequence of the lack of planning was a short effort to flee from authorities followed by the death of one prisoner and re-capture of the other by authorities.
Well, no.  They suborned a prison worker to be waiting there on the outside with an automobile which would whisk them away.  Unfortunately for them, she got cold feet and was not waiting outside the manhole cover they popped out of.

Having taken literary license, Roger then draws the ill logical conclusion
The search for extra-terrestrial life shares some similarities. We are investing considerable attention and resources into the search, but little into thinking about the consequences of success.
But, of course, in the scheme of things relatively little resources have been spent on SETI, much of which has been analyzing astronomical radio telescope signals taken for and funded by astronomers for their purposes while bootlegging time on personal computers. And yes, people have thought of the consequences from early times as any reader of science fiction or the scientific literature would know. Tailoring of reality to fit one's needs is good sport in Boulder

Roger Jr. uses his fabrication view of the world as an introduction to a puff piece on an old science fiction theme, e.g. we should not shout out into the universe because things like Willard Anthony and Mark Morano, e.g. the deeply evil looking for an opportunity to take the fish, might be listening.

ATTP takes this up.  Discussion ensues about how to do SETI, is there a risk in listening, etc.

However all parties appear (Eli has not read all the comments) not to have noticed that in the last few years the SETI game has changed.  We no longer have to search everywhere.  Planet finding technology will allow those SETI bucks to be burned listening to or beaming out to stars that have earth like planets, today in the sense of being in the habitable zone and being rocky, and coming real soon having an atmosphere, even an oxygen rich one.  Maybe more.

Friday, July 24, 2015

Fraud via proxy still seems fraudy.

A puzzled Stoat asks what's the big deal and what's new about revelations that Exxon picked up on climate change issues back in 1981 while funding climate deniers for many years after.

I'll note by response that first those are two separate questions - even if you think it's not particularly news, that doesn't eliminate the problem for Exxon

The real issue as I see it is if Exxon has been trying to spread messages it knows aren't true - that's called fraud, and that's what got the tobacco companies in trouble. Paying someone to commit your fraud for you is no magic shield from liability.

There's this quote at Stoat (but not by Stoat):
Exxon NEVER denied the potential for humans to impact the climate system. It did question ‐ legitimately, in my opinion ‐ the validity of some of the science…
Well, I'm not sure that's an accurate statement, but again it doesn't matter too much if you're using someone else to do your denial for you.

Proving to a judge and jury that's what Exxon did isn't necessarily simple though. It's not Exxon speaking directly, so you'd have to show that Exxon is promoting that speech. Funding climate-denying politicians could just be because Exxon likes their bold stances in favor of motherhood and apple pie. Climate-denying non-profits that exist to do little else could be more problematic. Being able to subpoena documents could really clear this stuff up in terms of nailing down what the motivation was.

Via the Ubiquitous John Mashey, I see Scripps did a forum on the tobacco/climate connection from a few years back. I'm going to have to look at it in depth, but there's this:
A key breakthrough in the public and legal case for tobacco control came when internal documents came to light showing the tobacco industry had knowingly misled the public. Similar documents may well exist in the vaults of the fossil fuel industry and their trade associations and front groups, and there are many possible approaches to unearthing them.
We might have the first stage of this internal documentation with the latest info on what Exxon knew in 1981. Maybe we'll find out more.

Thursday, July 23, 2015

An honest (well for Eli) question

For some odd reason, maybe it was the slow season, Retraction Watch has caught up with the Journal of Economic Prospectives latest gremlin whacker (gremlins being the newest moles), aka correction of Richard Tol's 2009 article on the costs of climate change.  Eli, of course, being the quick and dirty bunny he is had already had a say, but there remain things both interesting, perplexing and concerning about the paper, and indeed all of the papers that Richard cites for his paper, best seen in the figure displayed in the gremlin whacker linked above

and the supplementary Table 10-1 can be found in the supplementary material appended to the WGII report.

 The problem is that neither the discussion in the original paper, the WGII or pretty much anywhere else,  does not reference baselines for each calculation or for the conglomeration of calculations.

This of course is irrelevant to the question of whether IAM calculations are worth a bucket of warm spit (this being a family blog, which a few exceptions when Dad Rabett goes nuclear).

The serious question is what is the baseline for each study and which sets the zero of the temperature scale?  Did Poor Richard align the baseline for all the calculations.  For which is the baseline pre-industrial (in which case the world is now past Tol’s outlying positive point at 1.0 C), 1860 or so when instrumental records start in which case the world is pretty close to it, or some more recent time, in which case, another couple of degrees would, at least according to Tol, have little effect.

Eli notes that Chris Field Hope's model, which underlies the Stern report, appears to be making a differential calculation, which, also raises some interesting Couéen questions by itself.  Or, on the other hand, is there some agreed zero that you need to have the secret handshake to know about.

Eli has an honest question here.  Maybe.

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Best Tweet Evah

Sandra Boynton is one, maybe the only, joy of Twitter.  Follow that cartoonist.

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Pictures from Goresat

Goresat, aka DSCVR has reached the Lagrange point and started sending back pictures of the Earth

Eli has been a fan of Goresat since it was Triana and is happy to see Al Gore's vision realized

setting records

Over and over again, the deniers claim that "Global warming has stopped". Show them this article including a very instructive graphic. The world climate is setting temperature records. Actually, smashing them.

Saturday, July 18, 2015

Cascadia quake and climate correlations

New Yorker's article on the exposure of the Pacific Northwest to a massive quake and tsunami is well worth the read. I used to live there and knew they're equivalently vulnerable to quakes as we are in California, and much less prepared. I didn't know about the tsunami danger.

The correlations I see between this issue and climate are in the seriousness of risk, timescale, and effort needed to respond to the problem. Overall Cascadia may have an even greater problem with the quake and tsunami than they/we have with climate change - the long tail of risk includes immediate catastrophe as a possibility. If they/we are lucky for the next 50 years, taking action on both mitigating emissions and tsunami-proofing our coastal areas without a catastrophe hitting, my guess is the cost of tsunami-proofing in the region would be higher than mitigating and adapting to climate change.

One other overlap is that one way to adapt to tsunamis is to relocate away from sea level, at least with your most vulnerable communities and critical infrastructure, and that will help with sea level rise as well. Finally, they are doing something to deal with this problem, just not doing enough.

Having said all that, one thing that did bother me with the article is that some things seemed exaggerated. Getting knocked over by ankle-deep running water? Call me skeptical. Same thing with Sacramento's alleged vulnerability to tsunamis - I'd like to get learn more about this, but I do know that there are two constriction points between the city and the ocean (Golden Gate and Carquinez Strait) and lots of room for water to spread. Hopefully the other risks aren't exaggerated.

Sunday, July 12, 2015

Climate confusion

According to a UPI dispatch, Prof. Valentina Zharkova, of the University of Northumbria predicts that the Sun’s output will decrease by 60% by 2030, triggering a mini ice age. This is just 15 years in the future.

However, this prediction smells like bunk to me.

The normal fluctuation in the Sun's intensity, the 11-year sunspot cycle, has an amplitude of about 0.1%. By comparison, 60% is huge.

If the Sun's output decreased by 60%, what would be the resulting change in the Earth's temperature??

Here's a very rough estimate. Assume that the surface temperature is proportional to the Suns power output, raised to the 1/4 power.

Then a decrease of the Sun’s output by 60% would cause a new temperature proportional to

(1.0 - 0.6)0.25 = (0.4)0.25 = 0.79,

which means a decrease of 21% in the absolute (Kelvin) temperature.

Since the surface temperature is about 15 C or 288 K, the change in temperature of 21% is about 60 degrees C. It only took a decrease of about 7 or 8 C to cause the last Ice Age!!

The estimate could of course be refined, but it would not change the conclusion: If the Sun's output decreases by 60%, it would cause an extremely cold ice age.

IF (and it could be a big "IF") UPI* has accurately represented Prof. Zkarkova accurately,

then there are only two possibilities:

if Zharkova is right, the Earth is doomed to freeze to death in 15 years.

Or Zharkova could be mistaken.

*Dunno if it's still true, but at one time, UPI was owned by Rev. Sun Myung Moon and the Unification Church, who do not exactly have a great reputation for accuracy.