Friday, October 26, 2007

The loons take flight

Update
(to be removed) there has been a surge here coming in from the Real Climate Wiki, what set this off (Eli- 7/2/2008)?? Please reply in the comments

As Halloween nears the loons take flight, and Eli, the ever helpful bunny is here to instruct you in spotting strange birds. The first thing we need for this class is two splendid examples and we have located them for you complete with illustrated disassembly instructions.


The loons: So how shall we know them?

The first is Randall Mills, proprietor of Black Light Power who has raised ~$60M to follow his own personal wil' o the wisp, hydrino power. Hydrinos are states of hydrogen with fractional quantum numbers that the Good Fairy Funder and Mills believe in. Eli will actually agree on the matter with Lubos who spotted this loon fairly early on. You can go read what the mad Czech wrote, but one of his commenters, Nigel, was positively eloquent,

This is sustained by the facts, which contradict Mills, who is basically doing for QED what Ptolemy did for ancient cosmology, against Aristarchus’ solar system. If the British Government is funding Mills’ horseshit, I give up on physics. However, some of his chemical epicycles may predict the same as standard quantum mechanics, so it is not all going to be completely wrong (just as the epicycles in the earth-centred universe model allowed fairly accurate calculations and predictions to be made). Consider what Feynman rightly says: . . .

"The inexperienced, and crackpots, and people like that, make guesses that are simple, but [with extensive knowledge of the actual facts rather than speculative theories of physics] you can immediately see that they are wrong, so that does not count."
Of course, this was crank bait, and sure as shooting one of them emerged. Credit to everyone over there that they did not engage.

A distinguishing characteristic of loons, and Mills is no exception is that they give new meaning to prolix. Here Mills provides us with a 59 pager (short for him) on the Fifth Force. The first four are, of course, gravity, electromagnetism, and the strong and weak nuclear forces. Over at Slashdot klossner nails the second technique for loon spotting
This is a classic example of a crackpot "Einstein was wrong" paper. Page 2 resembles genuine science, but by page 3 the author has lost it, insisting the kinetic energy of an object must not have different values for observers in different reference frames
are simple principles you can apply and Warren Siegel has the basic instructions. The first sign is

Quacks want only to talk and not to listen. They are paranoids with delusions of grandeur: Their theory could never be wrong; therefore everyone else's must be. Eventually the true quacks make the same remarks, some version of almost all those listed below.
Somewhere in every pile of algebra, vituperation and spittle lies a simple error, something overlooked, a strange and wrong transformation but you get the idea, but it is buried in verbage and you have to dig it out. Siegel points out that
Generally, their comments are of 3 types

of which the first is

Attacks on established theories, based on distaste
"I have proven that special relativity/quantum mechanics/... is wrong."
You mean you did an experiment whose results disagree with the predictions of that theory? I didn't think so. You mean you proved it is self-contradictory? Not possible: Mathematically it's an elementary system, whose consistency is easy to check. You might as well claim that you can prove 2+2=5. (If you think you can do that, I'm willing to give you $2+$2 change for a $5 bill.) If you think you have found an inc onsistency, you have probably made an assumption that is not implied by the theory. The fact is that these theories are not only well confirmed by experiment, but practical use is made of them every single day.
Now, if your eyes have uncrossed and you have picked yourself up from the floor and actually read Mills and Lu, you might note they did an experiment, but such experiments are especially prone to the "Nightmares of the Art of Measuring". This list of terrors was compiled by G. Hathaway and is required reading October 30 at midnight in Bunny labs. The little coneys go away chastised and scared and remain so for about a week. See how many of them you think that Mills missed, especially in the electromagnetic category.

Our second example is a courtesy of Arxiv. Before we get into it, Dr. Rabett needs to tell you that IEHO Arxiv is a wonderful resource, both for those who contribute and those who search there for enlightenment. Ask Lubos, he publishes there also (as has Eli). However, the bar to putting something up can be, shall we say, limbo low and perhaps a new record has been set by Gerhard Gerlich and Ralf D. Tscheuschner, who claim a Falsifiation Of The Atmospheric CO2 Greenhouse Effects within The Frame Of Physics, bluntly put they don't believe that greenhouse gases can cause any warming.
The atmospheric greenhouse effect, an idea that authors trace back to the traditional works of Fourier 1824, Tyndall 1861, and Arrhenius 1896, and which is still supported in global climatology, essentially describes a fictitious mechanism, in which a planetary atmosphere acts as a heat pump driven by an environment that is radiatively interacting with but radiatively equilibrated to the atmospheric system. According to the second law of thermodynamics such a planetary machine can never exist. Nevertheless, in almost all texts of global climatology and in a widespread secondary literature it is taken for granted that such mechanism is real and stands on a firm scientific foundation. In this paper the popular conjecture is analyzed and the underlying physical principles are clarified. By showing that (a) there are no c ommon physical laws between the warming phenomenon in glass houses and the fictitious atmospheric greenhouse effect b) there are no calculations to determine an average surface temperature of a planet, (c) the frequently mentioned difference of 33 C a meaningless number calculated wrongly, (d) the formulas of cavity radiation are used inappropriately, (e) the assumption of a radiative balance is unphysical, (f) thermal conductivity and friction must not be set to zero, the atmospheric greenhouse conjecture is falsified.
This beauty is 114 pages long and the spittle comes hot and heavy. So why waste time on it. Well this has become one of the papers du jour in Denialsville and similar climes When it first came out, there was some notice. Phil Felton, in the Real Climate comments points out that
This runs to ~90 pages, the first 40 of which are devoted to proving that real greenhouses rely on cutting off convection rather than differential radiation effects! The authors seem very proud of themselves and slip in several very non scientific sneers as well. They consider the IR portion of the solar spectrum to be the same as the IR of the thermal radiation from the earth, they don’t seem to consider the TOA at all (I may have missed it in all the verbiage).
Back in July Atmoz had a long thread on this. He touched on this simple example which demonstrated G&Ts ignorance with their arrogance but in a different way. G&T want to compare the radiation from the earth's surface to that from the sun at the surface. Starting from the Stefan Boltzman law, with the sun at ~6000 K and the surface at ~300 K they get that the ratio should be

which gets two things wrong. First, G&T have calculated the solar intensity for the Earth's disk as illuminated by the sun. The area of the disk is π r^2 where r is the radius of the earth. Because the earth is a sphere (as the famous elephant beloved of physicists) the area of the surface is r^2, thus the intensity of the sun at the surface is reduced by a factor of 4. Which means that the solar heating of the surface and the radiation emitted from the surface are roughly the same. But wait, the albedo of the earth where the sun shines, in the UV/VIS/NIR is about 0.3 (about 30% of the sunlight is reflected). The IR emissivity of the surface is close to unity. Therefore solar intensity at the surface has to be decreased to 0.7. In the Atmoz thread, they chime in and say that there is mention of this in a footnote in v1.0, but Eli does not see where it went in the vX.o he has. Anyhow, Atmoz blows them away for duplicity
Thanks for the comment. I did see that footnote, but the actual text of the paper makes it seem that the value of 0.7 is a consequence of “fixing” the temperature at a certain value, and not that it’s related to the albedo. Hiding this fact in a footnote just offers the reader a chance to miss this important information.
Still G&T are convinced that folk who compare apples with apples are cheats, liars and worse
Figure 13 is an obscene picture, since it is physically misleading. The obscenity will not remain in the eye of the beholder, if the latter takes a look at the obscure scaling factors already applied by Bakan and Raschke in an undocumented way in their paper on the so called natural greenhouse effect[102]. This is scientific misconduct as is the missing citation. Ba kan and Raschke borrowed this Figure from Ref. [103] where the scaling factors, which are of utmost importance for the whole discussion, are left unspecified. This is scientific misconduct as well.
This fits well into Siegel's 16th point
"Why don't you spend some time telling me what's wrong with my theory?" Why don't you take a course? That's what they're for: So that many people can be taught the same thing at the same time, making more efficient use of the instructor's time. The instructor's office hours are for those who already took their own time studying the course material.
There is some amazing querulous nonsense, first G&T (they must have been hitting the sauce the night they wrote this) post a picture showing the principles of radiative balance in the atmosphere like this one (but not as pretty),

then they attack it because:
Climatologic radiation balance diagrams are nonsense, since they
1. cannot represent radiation intensities, the most natural interpretation of the arrows depicted in Figure 23, as already explained in Section 2.1.2 and Section 2.1.5 ;

2. cannot represent sourceless fluxes, i.e. a divergence free vector fields in three dimensions, since a vanishing three-dimensional divergence still allows that a portion of the field goes sidewards;
and Eli's favorite
3. do not fit in the framework of Feynman diagrams, which represent mathematical expressions clearly definedin quantum field heory [159].

4. do not fit in the standard language of system theory or system engineering [160].
But even better, a zillion or so pages down they post this thing to represent the atmospheric heat engine, which surely does not meet their criteria 1-4, but this is where the rubber burns as it hits the road, for our authors argument is based fundamentally on this little beauty from which they conclude:
A machine which transfers heat from a low temperature reservoir (e.g. stratosphere)
to a high temperature reservoir (e.g. atmosphere) without external work applied, cannot exist - even if it is radiatively coupled to an environment, to which it is radiatively balanced. A modern climate model is supposed to be such a variant of a perpetuum mobile of the second kind.
Obviously G&T were not on the distribution list. First, the second law only applies to an isolated system, the earth is not an isolated system, with energy from the sun streaming in, nor is the system in radiative equilibrium with solar radiation, which as friend Essex points out has a temperature of ~6000 K. There is a gynourmous source of work to drive the system. We can call this the Theory of Evolution Error for obvious reasons. G&T make a fuss over the difference between energy fluxes and heat fluxes. First quoting Rahmstorf
Some `sceptics' state that the greenhouse effect cannot work since (according to the second law of thermodynamics) no radiative energy can be transferred from a colder body (the atmosphere) to a warmer one (the surface). However, the second law is not violated by the greenhouse effect, of course, since, during the radiative exchange, in both directions the net energy flows from the warmth to the cold."
and then saying that
Rahmstorf's reference to the second law of thermodynamics is plainly wrong. The second law is a statement about heat, not about energy. Furthermore the author introduces an obscure notion of "net energy flow". The relevant quantity is the "net heat flow", which, of course, is the sum of the upward and the downward heat flow within a fixed system, here the atmospheric system. It is inadmissible to apply the second law for the upward and downward heat separately redefining the thermodynamic system on the fly
The net heat flows excluding radiation are sensible heat (thermal drafts) and latent heat (from condensation of water vapor emitted from the surface). The only heat flows are from the warmer surface to colder higher levels of the troposphere (BTW G&T don't understand that the stratosphere is well above the level at which heat flows from and radiative transfer with the surface occur, they need to take the course, errors of this sort are common in the paper and invalidate much of it).

OTOH, the radiation emitted from the surface is thermal, and the radiation from the atmosphere and the clouds is also thermal, so what we have are two systems at different temperature exchanging thermal radiation. They are not in thermal equilibrium with each other because they are at different temperatures, but each is characterized by a local thermodynamic equilibrium (the distribution of velocities and quantum states can be described by a single temperature for each system). If we look at the diagram, we see that ~117 W/m^2 of thermal radiation is emitted from the earth, ~111 is absorbed by the atmosphere and ~ 96 is reradiated to the ground, thus thermal radiation moves on net from the earth to the atmosphere and thence to space. The balance that must be maintained is that emissions at the top of the atmosphere must match the solar input. G&T need to turn those arrows around.

This went around in circles at Atmoz. There is a nice comment about 2/3 the way down that starts with utter bollocks. He is being kind in pointing out how radiation can be a form of heat conduction.

Fisking this thing would be the work of a lifetime and Eli has plumbing to attend to

28 comments:

Marion Delgado said...

if THEY'RE the nuts, why did *I* start ranting out loud when i read that greenhouse paper? Riddle me that, Dr. Science?

Magnus said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Magnus said...

http://www.sourcewatch.org/index.php?title=Gerhard_Gerlich

Hank Roberts said...

That's a very nice picture of a loon on takeoff run (can we have a pointer to a higher resolution image)?

EliRabett said...

I got that low res picture at Environment Canada. You might ask them if you can get a high res version. As you might expect tho, the birders have taken over the net so there is lots of other stuff including a video clip of one taking wing.

Mike Powell said...

Excellent post. I read through the G&T paper over the past week and kept getting the feeling that this just had to be a practical joke a la Alan Sokal in Social Text. :)

p.s. in the 4th to last paragraph, should it be, "sensible heat (thermal drafts) and latent heat..."?

CapitalistImperialistPig said...

Emptying the ocean of stupidity can be a Sisyphean task. Be to use a large spoon.

Cthulhu said...

This brings back memories of the reams of "crank" I was subjected to early last month on the internet forum circuit when some skeptic found this "greenhouse falsification" paper
http://www.topix.com/forum/news/global-warming/TI12E8P0MKIF99TF2

I suspect internet skeptics have added this paper to their Catalogue of Nonsense To Randomly Raise. Probably between the Beck paper and the "Closer look at the numbers" website. I expect to see it many times in the future.

What I was amazed about was how the mere existance of the paper seemed to embolden a number of skeptics, with no previous argument against the greenhouse effect, to believe it was now acceptable to argue against even that.

EliRabett said...

Which is why it is important to have sources you can point to that show it to be a "ream of crank". It reduces the whole thing to a Monty Python sketch.

Anonymous said...

OK, so I looked at the paper. Which leaves me with the question: How does one get to be a professor of mathematical physics at a German University?

CIP

EliRabett said...

Thanks mike. I corrected that. This was posted way too early in the morning.

Chris said...

I remember having a squiz at this when it first came out. The first chapter started making some bizarre remarks about the thermal conduction of gaseous CO2 (the whole greenhouse effect is based on radative transfer people!!!), with liberal use of the diffusion equation to show the kids that "hey! we know some maths!!!". I also remember at some point they made the statement "the physicist his analysis of the problem..." as though no physicists have studied the atmosphere before.


It was at this point I realised that was not even a genuine attempt at science, and promptly ignored it. Life is too short, although I don't have a toilet to dote on myself.

Anonymous said...

I'm more amazed that those who attack those who attack, don't check to see if there is legitamacy with what is being said. Einstein wrong is a good example. There is growing evidence for this subject so much so that there is a serious documentary coming out on the subject in 2008 world-wide. The documentary is Einstein Wrong and has some pretty damning arguments in it.

guthrie said...

ANoymous 8:25- Einstein was and still is amazingly more accurate than any other model of physics we have. THis does not mean that he was completely wrong. If you know anything, you'll know that Newtonian mechanics is correct within a restricted set of circumstances, and is a subset of Einsteinian physics still.

Marion Delgado said...

anonymous 8:25 pull yourself out of your daze and pay a little polite attention to the numerous patient explanations of why crank stuff is crank stuff. it's not arbitrary.

Marion Delgado said...

whoops, I spoke too soon. Sorry, Eli. I asked the hydrinos and they said Einstein was indeed wrong. I am as shocked as anyone.

Anonymous said...

The documentary is Einstein Wrong and has some pretty damning arguments in it."

Some of us wish we were even 1/100th as wrong as Einstein!

stevesadlov said...

Clearly a sensitive topic. I wonder why?

John Mashey said...

1) Is there a way to get rid of "Anonymous"? Pseudonyms don't bother me, but having multiple anonymice arguing with each other...

2) Einstein was *definitely* wrong...

IF your definition of "wrong" means:

"Is NOT the complete, unchanging description of all truth in this domain, written in stone, and thus obviating the need to do any better."

Clearly, since relativity doesn't do quantum mechanics, it must be "wrong."

By that definition, Einstein spent a lot of his life looking for something "less wrong".

Meanwhile, in the real world, GPS still works. Maybe, after this movie comes out (if it does, who knows, maybe GPS will stop, beging proved "wrong". :-)

But maybe not: given this is a loonie thread (and I am I glad to have invested money in Canada a while ago!), for a nice selection of loons, all in once place, specifically against Einstein, but sometimes disproving Galileo, too.

http://www.crank.net/einstein.html

(Seriously, www,crank.net is a terrific, well-organized site, lacking only a global warming section.... oh, I take it back, they point at "world jump day", in which people jumping together would change the Earth's orbit to lessen global warming.")

EliRabett said...

We can get rid of Anonymous, but that (at least in Blogger) requires that people cannot post without registering. I've placed a pretty pleas note on the comment form which may help. . . . . .

Dear Anonymous,

Some of the regulars here are having trouble telling the anonymice apart. Please add some distinguishing name to your comment such as Mickey, Minnie, Mighty, or Fred.

The management.

Hank Roberts said...

Or a different audio file for each of them? Love the loon ...

Dano said...

I miss the loon.

D

EliRabett said...

Birders, Rabett Run has attracted birders, what can you say.

Anonymous said...

Eli Rabett -

I am one of the authors of the paper (RDT) you are distorting in your blog. If you were comfortable with disclosing your full identity please contact me per E-Mail. Then we can discuss things in detail.

- Ralf

EliRabett said...

Other than the fact that I am not distorting the paper (which anyone can read at Arxiv), I can be reached at Eli Rabett 2003 (take out the spaces) and the server is yahoo. Sorry for not spelling it out but the spam harvesters are getting more and more clever.

John said...

Actualy thought there were some very good points in the paper ..
1) the fact that this was the closest thing I have seen to a basic mathematical desription of the supposed concept of radiative transfer by gases. It is beyond me how the whole AGW theory rests on a concept that doubling(less than 0.03%) of CO2 to the atmosphere can add 3 degrees K to the surface T. This equates to 3.7W/m2 which somehow comes from these CO2 molecules. Do you have any idea how much energy is needed to raise the T by 3K ? Its the same as moving 1 million km closer to the sun ! All these guys are saying is that what is completely missing is a basic mathematical description of how this can happen.
Where is it ?

2) If you read their summary, a key point is about behaviours - reading your blog - both your statements and the vitriol from some of the posted remarks I am just amazed. How have you all become like this ? If this whole AGW is so obvious you would never need to respond with such antipathy.

Mark said...

I'm here on research detail from a battle in the wingnutiverse. Well John, we are amazed at the level some people will go to disprove the obvious! We may have a new acronym: KOO. Keen obliviousness of the obvious!

S_A_Wells said...

@"John": the energy does not "somehow come from the CO2 molecules". It comes from the Sun. If that's your level of misunderstanding, no wonder you have trouble seeing the paper for the dreck it is.

If you barge into a maths class and insist that 2+2=5, people will eventually get quite annoyed with you. This is not evidence that anyone doubts that 2+2=4. If you barge into physics making silly claims about thermodynamics, people will get quite annoyed with you. This is not evidence that anyone has doubts about thermodynamics.