Monday, May 25, 2009

The Death of Calculus

One of the standard moans is that no one takes physics anymore, and when they do, “calculation has been replaced by writing”.

Far be it from the bunny to be serious, but have you folk realized that algebra and calculus are in pretty much the same position that arithmetic was in 1970 when HP's calculator killed it. Why sweat integrating functions when Mathematica/MathLab/Maple can do it for you? To the same extent, you have to know the rules in order to spot problems (ill stated inputs, etc), but you don’t necessarily have to master the minutia.

The time is here when students take their computers into the test to run the symbolic math applications for their test, and in that case calculation will have been replaced by writing and the students will have to explain why and what they did. Not a bad thing IEHO.


Saturday, May 23, 2009

Last Call



The files have been uploaded to the International Journal of Modern Physics B, and are available at Rabett Run Labs. Eli is looking for suggestions to send to the Editor for referees. Particularly valuable given the editorial board would be referees from Germany, Singapore, China and south and southeast Asia.

Eli would appreciate if you, dear Readers took a quick look at the files for errors. There was a considerable amount of reformatting needed to get the figures to stick in place and the bunny is sick of looking at the thing.

Friday, May 08, 2009

Efficient, elegant and economical - pick one

Ideally one searches for all three in any solution, on the other hand, as NASA engineers said about Dan Goldin's mantra: "better, faster, cheaper", pick two. Steven Chu, the new US Secretary of Energy likes efficient, although when pushed to the wall he would not object to adding elegant to the mix. Eli would like to point out that the Walmart solution, cheaper, by itself ain't bad.

Consider where the costs and problems associated with reducing carbon emissions comes from, from having to transform a dispersed, costless source of energy such as wind or solar or geothermal, into a form which can be centrally distributed to cover all needs. For that we need efficient and elegant. On the other hand there are applications where cheap by itself would do the job, such as an inefficient small windmill or a solar array you could hang out the window which would generate enough electricity to recharge all your Ipod, Iphone, Inks (a very old device made by Apple for taking memos), etc. and run the standby power for your TV. Eli remembers some awkward windmills that used to pump well water on farms. Same sort of thing. The ultimate example is drying clothes on a clothesline.

Things such as this will not solve the problem by themselves, but they will make the problem soluble.

YMMV, but then again, you would be wrong.

Sunday, May 03, 2009


To our misfortune Gerhard Kramm, defender of Gerlich and Tscheuschner descended upon innocent Rabett Run. Gerhard is an amusing combination of Emily Litella, and Roseanne Roseannadanna, characters played by Gilda Radner on Saturday Night Live. Like Emily he has the talent of creative deafness, twisting clear statements in obtuse directions. As Joel said:

If I may make a meta-comment here, it seems to me that Dr. Kramm is using a rhetorical technique rather similar to that of G&T themselves. What it seems to amount to is this: One takes something and then finds an interpretation of it (sometimes quite convoluted) and then says that because one has come up with an interpretation of it where it does not make sense, therefore it is nonsense
Like Roseanne, Gerhard, well Gerhard kinda tries to be aggressive but comes off as silly. Dealing with him is like being savaged by Geoffrey Howe.

Yet Dr. Kramm has a couple of interesting gigs going. Someone to be named later (maybe) has been posting haigographys of Gerhard in Wikipedia. Based on the posting habits of our mysterious one, one might think that there is a very personal relationship with the subject, a Wiki nono. This ticks Ethon off. The big bird is at least as distinguished and influential as the Kramm while the Stoats of the world have relegated Eli's friend to a footnote. Free Ethon. Perhaps we need a new Wiki entry:
Ethon, a mythical bird, fond of liver who has had an effect on the climate change debate by ridiculing Prometheus rather than savaging him. Ethon is a frequent flyer between Colorado and the Rabett Run, were he comments. The bird purchases carbon offset credits to cover his emission.
But wait, as several have become aware, there is yet another strand to Gerhard Kramm's ligaments. He has been peppering arXiv with specials, including the latest one which continues the silliness that he attempted to perpetrate here.
1. arXiv:0904.2767 [pdf]
Title: Comments on the "Proof of the atmospheric greenhouse effect" by Arthur B. Smith

2. arXiv:0901.1863 [pdf]
Title: Planck's blackbody radiation law: Presentation in different domains and determination of the related dimensional constants

3. arXiv:0801.2197 [pdf, other]
Title: Heuristic Derivation of Blackbody Radiation Laws using Principles of Dimensional Analysis

4. arXiv:0801.1870 [pdf, other]
Title: Comment to "Recent Climate Observations Compared to Projections" by Rahmstorf et al
Authors: Gerhard Kramm
Comments: 5 pages, 4 figures. Submitted for publication to Science

5. arXiv:0711.1551 [pdf, other]
Title: On the recognition of fundamental physical principles in recent atmospheric-environmental studies
Comments: 21 pages, 4 figures, presented on the workshop of the University of Alaska Fairbanks "2007 Dynamics of Complex Systems: Common Threads" held in Fairbanks, Alaska, July 25-27, 2007
This is an amusing bunch of stuff. Let us take a brief look at #1. As Arthur Smith said, that is a 22 page comment on a 6 page note, so no, brief, maybe not be the right word, but the bunny can be efficient. First Kramm tries on the nonsense he raised at Rabett Run about Arthur Smith's definition of an effective emissivity. Kramm only wins in an echo chamber, at Rabett Run it got torn to shreds.

Well, that ain't the first time nonsense ever got put up at arXiv, it ain't even only the fifth time, but it is amusing to see the next move, a misrepresentation so old that even Eli doesn't remember the first time he saw it. The trick here, of course, is that the two y-axes don't really have any relationship to each other. By plotting the temperature anomaly say from -0.4 to +0.4 you can get a pretty good match, by squeezing it more a worse one. What you can do that makes sense ( Eli understands this is not what Gerhard is trying to do) is plot the temperature anomaly against various forcings from models. In this way a change in greenhouse gas concentration is

plotted as the temperature change predicted by the model. What happens when you do that? Well, this happens <---- A pretty good match.

This little bottom of the deck shuffle has appeared many times, but maybe it is a first for arXiv. We then meet a couple of old friends from G&T, the non-rotating Earth model: the back side is cold as hell and the front as warm. Of course Kramm neglects to point out that this pretty well is what happens on the moon and cannot happen on a rotating earth.

And so to bed.

BTW, #4 on Rahmstorf, et al , is another version of the same figurative swindle Kramm attempts in #1, except there he also neglects the effects of other forcings which were important in the 50s and 60s. As the figure to the left shows, the greenhouse gas forcing only became dominant ~1960. This sort of nonsense only works when no one is looking.