Friday, February 07, 2020

EQ and you (if you're a coyote or badger)

You may have seen the video:



I was excited about this because I've worked with both groups involved in capturing this video, Pathways for Wildlife and Peninsula Open Space Trust. Both of them have been involved in protecting Coyote Valley, a project I've worked on since 2003. Coyote Valley is the 7400-acre valley floor south of San Jose, stopping the post-World War 2 suburban sprawl from San Francisco through Silicon Valley. Coyote Valley sets the stage for growth going up and not out in California.

Protecting open space has much more value than preventing sprawl. It can sequester carbon as well as prevent carbon emissions from sprawl. It can also be crucial for maintaining wildlife linkages. The Santa Cruz Mountain Range is a large chunk of California habitat mostly separated from the rest of California habitat, with partial exceptions at Coyote Valley and along its southern margins. While large, it's not big enough to maintain permanently viable populations of rarer animals like mountain lions, and badgers. It could also be an important climate refuge - it's cooler than southern and eastern habitats adjacent to it.

The animals need to get back and forth though - they need both ways to get across highways, and welcoming habitats on both sides of highways. Protecting Coyote Valley and maintaining pathways for wildlife are linked.

It's especially true in the case of badgers, so that video, in addition to being cute, could be a waddling badger butt of genetic survival.

I did a bit of research on this hunting relationship between coyotes and badgers. It's been well known for decades. There are some claims that it was known by Native Americans - I don't doubt that, but the links I've read don't actually support the claim. Other badger and canid species live in the rest of the world, but I haven't seen any claims for the same behavior.

Cross-species mutualism doesn't have to be learned behavior but this certainly is, and it requires a certain amount of intelligence. Coyotes are already social animals but an adult badger is solitary and not primed to cooperate, so it takes some brains to do so. The cooperation is limited - they don't share the squirrels they catch, but they are still deliberately associating with each other and changing their behavior. This video shows travel together - it doesn't say how far they had to go to get to hunting grounds, but presumably it was at least not in immediate sight.

It's possible that the only thing they understand is that their own hunting seems more successful when the other animal is present. That's the Occam's Razor to make it happen. OTOH, it doesn't exclude that one or both animals understand a bit more, that the other animal's behavior helps their own. Badgers spend less time looking for fleeing squirrels when coyotes are present and more time digging, so they might understand.

Encephalization Quotient is an extremely rough, but readily-measured, parameter indicating an animal's intelligence. The larger the brain is relative to body mass, the more intelligent the animal is likely to be. Adjust the ratio for animal weight because large animals don't need brains to scale linearly with body size, and you've got EQ.

An EQ of 1.0 is about what you'd expect across mammal species. This paper says American badgers are at 1.4 and coyotes at 1.6. Social animals like coyotes tend to be smarter but it's interesting to see badgers up somewhat on the higher end. Being able to cooperate like this might be a factor that keeps evolutionary pressure on badgers to stay smart.

Somebody really needs to radio-collar a known pair of cooperating coyotes and badgers. It would be interesting to see how often they cooperate, whether they appear to be searching for each other, and the distance they travel together, all of which might give a sense of what they actually understand.

And meanwhile, protect their habitats and chances to cross highways safely.

Thursday, February 06, 2020

Why bother?

For reasons that defy explanation Eli was looking through Coby Beck's A Few Things Illconsidered, Skeptical Science  before SKS as it were, and came across this 

Denialism Flow Chart

The true horror, of course is that we are trapped in Twitter with no exit

Monday, February 03, 2020

Again in the Margins

While pursuing a chimera through his sea of bullshit, Eli came upon a second paper from Syukuro Manabe and Richard Wetherald, not the 1967 one in the Journal of Atmospheric Sciences, Thermal equilibrium of the atmosphere with a given distribution of relative humidity which pretty much nailed the 2x CO2 climate sensitivity, but a later one, The Effects of Doubling the CO2 Concentration on the climate of a General Circulation Model which appeared in the same journal, but eight years later (1975).

Before passing on to the material at hand Eli would like to point out that even the title of the first paper puts the wood to the plaint that climate science has always neglected the role of water vapor, but let us move on to the subject at hand. Before getting to business, it is worth quoting some of the conclusions from the second 1975 paper

1) In general, the temperature of the model troposphere increases resulting from the doubling of the concentration of carbon dioxide. This warming in the higher latitudes is magnified two to three times the overall amount due to the effects of snow cover feedback and the suppression of the vertical mixing by a stable stratification.
and
2) the temperature of the model stratosphere decrease because of the larger emission from the stratosphere into space caused by the greater concentration of CO2.
There is more (including more precipitation and evaporation), but what caught Eli's eye was a series of comments on Rasool and Schneider. Eli has always pointed out that R&S (and S agreed at about the time of the second paper) was that they over estimated the increased aerosol loading of the atmosphere and underestimated greenhouse gas forcing, but Manabe and Wetherald point to other problems
1) Rasool and Schneider did not take into consideration the fact that the temperature change in the stratosphere has an opposite sign to that in the troposphere
Since R&S were using Hansen's Venus model, not much of a surprise but something the Bunny had not seen before
2) The absorption of solar radiation is altered if the atmospheric temperature and accordingly also the water vapor content changes.  This factor was not considered by Rasool and Schneider
Which is all about the Foote Effect (TM Eli Rabett)

Saturday, February 01, 2020

Josh Marshall and my guts vs. the polls

Several months back, Nate Silver tweeted that he was looking forward to using data and a model to predict the Democratic primary rather then rely on his gut, because his gut is "full of sh*t". Some of the response tweets took this as an admission of intellectual weakness, telling you much more about those people than about Silver.

This brings us to Josh Marshall's excellent post yesterday, stating that he doesn't view Sanders as a strong candidate in the general election, while acknowledging that the data clearly shows Biden as the strongest Dem matched against Trump, Bernie next, and the others further behind:

As I’ve told you again and again, people discount polls at their peril....Public polls consistently show that Joe Biden runs better against Donald Trump than any other candidate. This has consistently been the case going back to early 2019. It has never changed.....The entire range from strongest to weakest isn’t great. We’re talking usually half dozen percentage points between the weakest and the strongest.....Sanders consistently rates weaker vis a vis Trump than Biden, but not by a lot. He does better than Warren, Buttigieg, Klobuchar, Harris, et al. That’s been consistent. So what’s the basis of my thinking he’d be a very weak general election candidate? In a sense I am doing what I tell others to avoid: sticking to my assumptions notwithstanding extensive polling data which throws them into doubt.
Marshall goes on to give his reasoning against Bernie, which isn't bad as far as it goes: that Bernie's socialist positioning will weaken him in the general campaign, and he hasn't been exposed to attacks because the Republicans are focusing on Biden (and Hillary before Biden).

Yes, and I agree, but I doubt that's the entirety of Josh's feeling. I think the sense that Bernie's not the strongest includes other factors, conscious or otherwise, to create a gut feeling.

Which leads to where I disagree with Josh, because he agrees with the data suggesting that Biden is the strongest candidate:
And you might further say, if early general election polls are subject to change after negative campaigning, why are you so confident Biden is in fact the strongest? My answer is twofold. First, Biden’s run in many campaigns against Republicans; he’s run on national tickets; and his positions are much more popular with the electorate at large. Second, you kind of have a good point.

There’s no dramatic flourish I have in my pocket to resolve this. I’ve presented it that way purposely. 
In this I'm worse than Josh, fighting the data not just on Bernie but also on Biden, whose age in particular is going to be a major focus of Republicans if/once it's clear that Dems are running with him instead of someone younger than Trump.

Here's the one way though that I'm less gutsy than Josh, when he says of it all, "This is my very strong assumption even though it is only partly born out by polling data." I'm not sure how much it's all borne out by polling data, as he acknowledges it mostly contradicts it, and I'll just say that none of my opinions on Bernie or Biden are strong assumptions, just my best guess (and I'll acknowledge this best guess is even less confident about Biden than it is about Bernie).

In December I tweeted that Warren was my nominee in the liberal lane, and Klobuchar among the moderates. NYTimes then copied me (I assume) although unlike the Times, I went on to give the overall nod to Warren. I think both Warren and Klobuchar would make stronger candidates even though the data suggest otherwise. I think. Maybe.

Second-last word to Josh:
Now, let me make a couple points which are likely clear but about which I want to leave no doubt. I would and will support Sanders and frankly any of the leading Democratic nominees. Anyone who opposes Trump and can’t say the same is a fraud. I would also say that those out there saying Sanders “can’t win” are being silly. I think he’s a much weaker candidate. But those polls – which have consistently shown him defeating Trump for a year – aren’t meaningless. Many polls this year have shown that more than 50% of voters say they will never vote for Donald Trump no matter what. That’s not a guarantee. But it’s a pretty solid place for any Trump opponent to start.

For me, beating Trump is close to everything. Or perhaps better to say it is the sine qua non without which nothing else is possible.
Final note: I've moved a bit on Klobuchar from last year. She does have a problem among African-American activists in her home state, though. Something to keep in mind, but so is the chance of re-electing Trump. Anyway, my number one candidate is Warren.