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Archive for the ‘Science’ Category

On Kangaroo Island, we have just been through a record breakingly wet Winter.

There have been floods on the mainland too, but water restrictions are still in place in capital cities.

The excuse for not building new dams has been that it isn’t going to rain any more. But then why have state governments been subsidising the installation of rainwater tanks at private homes?

‘Solutions’ like desalination plants are being built around Australia. But these massively expensive by comparison with dams, use large amounts of energy, require high levels of maintenance, and are untested over the long term.

There has been no overall reduction in rainfall on the Australian continent over the last century, so why are we still being given the ‘no point, no rain’ excuse?

Australia is a country of extremes. Long droughts followed by massive floods. Overall, there is plenty of water for everyone.

The problem is not that there is not enough water, but that there is not enough water storage.

The more water storage we build, the better we will be able to cope with the perfectly predictable dry periods, and the less damage will be done by floods (because more of the water will be captured).

Even if rainfall was reducing, this would be a reason to build more dams, not less.

A comment I posted on Tim Blair’s blog this morning:

There are between three and four molecules of CO2 for every 10,000 particles of air.

Anthropogenic CO2 is assumed to be about 4% of that, which comes to about 14 molecules of CO2 per 1 million particles of air.

Australia’s contribution to global CO2 is assumed to be about 1.4% of the total of anthropogenic CO2.

That amounts to 0.2 molecules of CO2 for every 1 million particles of air.

If we reduce our CO2 output by 20%, destroying our transport and primary industries in the process, our contribution to global CO2 will go from 0.2 particles per million of air, to 0.16 particles per million of air.

In other words, from an indetectably tiny and insignificant amount, to a very slightly smaller insignificant amount.

And this will only cost us our competitivness in in international trade, a massively increased cost of living, and massively increased unemployment.

But, you know, feeling like we’re doing something is so important.

Go you greens!

Well, it was biased. But we’ve fixed it. It’s all OK now.

That’s according to Director General Mark Thompson.

Well, good. Everyone in England who owns a TV pays for the BBC through taxes and licence fees. So it really should be unbiased, as least as far as that is realistically possible. It should be everyone’s BBC.

Like many English persons, I will be looking forward to genuinely balanced debate on the Beeb on political and environomental issues.

Australia’s ABC is paid for by every Australian. It even tells viewers and listeners they should care about what happens to the ABC, because it’s ‘your ABC.”

But it’s never been my ABC. I never hear my opinions expressed on the ABC, except maybe by a courageous lone voice quickly shouted down by a ‘balanced’ panel.

Clive Hamilton thoughtfully explains why it is not necessary to offer a variety of opinions for consideration.

It is because only one opinion is right – his:

Presenting both sides is biased when one ‘side’ is backed by a large body of peer-reviewed research and the other is not. The ‘other side’ would deserve some reporting if there were a significant minority view that had some legitimate science to sustain its claims, even if that science proves unsustainable. In the case of climate science, there isn’t. …

A number of studies have substantiated what is obvious to anyone with even a casual knowledge of the research on the science of global warming – that is, there is an overwhelming consensus on the main conclusions presented in the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) reports.

The trouble is Clive, there is no discussion of whether this amazing consensus actually exists.

And of course, Clive, it doesn’t. At least 31,000 scientists in the US alone agree with me. And several in Australia.

And now, Clive, even former IPCC insiders are admitting the ‘consensus’ was a complete fabrication. It wasn’t a worldwide consensus. It wasn’t even the claimed 2500 experts. It was just a couple of dozen scientists whose income depended on generating alarm.

Or, Clive, if you really think there is no peer reviewed research questioning the basis of global warming alarmism, you could start with this list of 800 peer reviewed papers.

So let’s begin to make it everyone’s ABC, Clive, by being honest about disagreements in matters of politics and environmental science.

Or is that too much to ask?

Pee power…

Gerardine Botte, an engineer at Ohio University, said in an interview with New Scientist magazine that harnessing the power of urine could mean that an office building of 200-300 people would produce about 2Kw of power.

Seriously. At least it won’t kill any birds.

Arctic Summer temperatures have been trending down since about 1960, so have temperatures in San Diego, cold snaps are killing all manner of things in South America, Antarctic sea ice is increasing, the southern hemisphere oceans seem to be getting colder, and it’s been flipping cold here in Australia.

I want my global warming now!

News flash: global warming causes carnivores to lose height and body mass. Oh, wait. That was 55 million years ago.

From Family Security Matters writer Fiona Kobusingye, co-chair of the Congress of Racial Equality Uganda:

I wish I had a shilling for every time someone told me spraying homes with DDT to prevent malaria is like using Africans in evil experiments. I would be a rich woman.
 
That claim is a blatant falsehood. Even worse, it hides the many ways poor Africans really are being used in environmental experiments that cause increased poverty, disease and death…

Bluntly put, environmentalists are using African parents and children in anti-DDT experiments. Against all the evidence from decades of using only nets and drugs and maybe other insecticides, they want to keep ignoring DDT as a long-lasting spatial insect repellant. They want to keep us doing what has at best worked only partially, on the assumption that maybe it will work better next year – or that a 30% malaria reduction is good enough.
 
They are playing with our lives. So are the government agencies, health NGOs and others who support their policies. This is wrong and immoral. And it is only one of the ways they use Africans as experimental laboratory animals. They are also denying us access to other modern technologies that can improve and save lives…

600 million people in sub-Sahara Africa live on two million shillings ($900 USD) or less per year. Nearly 700 million never have electric power for lights, refrigeration, schools, shops and clinics – or have it only a few hours per week. Millions die from diseases that would be prevented, if they did not have to burn wood and dung, and had safe water, better healthcare and higher living standards that reliable, affordable electrical power would bring.
 
But environmentalists constantly block coal, gas and hydro-electric power plants. They want us to live in experimental societies where people get whatever limited electrical power can be generated day to day with wind turbines or solar panels. They pressured the World Bank to reject loan applications for power plants in Ghana and South Africa, and support President Obama when he says Africans should focus on wind, solar and bio-fuel power, instead of fossil fuels.
 
Meanwhile, they live in wealthy countries, with all the electrical power they need. With the health, opportunity and prosperity electrical power brings. With freedom and mobility that cars and fossil fuels bring. With blessings most Africans can only dream of.

There’s more, and it’s all worth reading.

From the BBC:

Astronomers have discovered a planetary system containing at least five planets that orbit a star called HD 10180, which is much like our own Sun.

The star is 127 light years away, in the southern constellation of Hydrus.

The researchers used the European Southern Observatory (Eso) to monitor light emitted from the system and identify and characterise the planets.

They say this is the “richest” system of exoplanets – planets outside our own Solar System – ever found.

This is worrying.

Reason magazine reports an investigation of South Carolina’s state forensic science lab has found that:

.. though the crime lab’s results were presented to juries with the authoritativeness of science, laboratory procedures were geared toward just one outcome: putting as many people in prison as possible..

The report found that SBI agents withheld exculpatory evidence or distorted evidence in more than 230 cases over a 16-year period. Three of those cases resulted in execution. There was widespread lying, corruption, and pressure from prosecutors and other law enforcement officials on crime lab analysts to produce results that would help secure convictions.

The article raises questions about whether it is even possible for state crimes labs which work with prosecutors to be impartial.

I was reminded as I read that article of an aquaintance of mine, Henry Keogh. Henry was found guilty of the murder of his fiance, and in 1996 was sentenced to 26 years in goal . I have spoken with Henry in goal a number of times.

His conviction was based almost entirely on the evidence of now discredited chief forensic pathologist Colin Manock.

Despite this, he is now in his fifteenth year in goal for a crime it can no longer even remotely be claimed ‘beyond reasonable doubt’ he committed .

Incidentally, Henry Keogh is also quite an accomplished artist:

Beggar by Henry Keogh

I find these guys annoying. There is far too much pointless swearing – it’s intrusive and sometimes offensive. So you couldn’t show this a to a group of students, or your Rotary Club, which is a pity. And Penn and Teller are often arrogant and sometimes wrong.

But there is enough good research and good argument in this episode to make it worth watching (the three video segments linked below make up a single half-hour episode).

Best line? About halfway through the second segment, when Penn says ‘Ahh.. subsidies. That’s when the government takes tax money from you by force, and spends it on something you wouldn’t be willing to pay for..’ ‘Governments tell you to recycle because it saves money and resources. But if it saved money and resources, you’d be paid for doing it – that’s the way money works.’

Instead of which, of course, recycling costs governments and local communities millions of dollars each year ($8 billion per year in the US), precisely because it costs energy and resources.

The argument that recycling creates jobs is also well handled. Jobs created by recycling programs are pointless ‘make work’ which have to be funded by additional fees and taxes which reduce cash flow and consequently reduce funds available to employ people in work that creates useful goods or services.

Enjoy!

I believe there is genetic influence on human behaviour. Call it human nature if you like.

In between theology and philosophy I had time for a little bit of science. One of the units I took was Sociobiology – a branch of population genetics devoted to understanding genetic influence on animal behaviour. There is no doubt this is real and that certain behaviours are ‘inbuilt’ in certain species, eg dogs turning around before lying down to sleep, bees dancing messages, etc.

But I have been amused by the frequent media claims that scientists have discovered a gene for, take your pick, being fat, being gay, being an alcoholic, being outgoing. There is no one gene that accounts for any human behaviour, and in any case, one of the things that makes us human is that we can stand back from our instincts and make choices based on reason.

Too often the ‘it’s my genes’ argument has been used to justify a refusal to take responsibility. I didn’t choose to want to do that. So it must be in my genes. So it must be natural. So it must be good. So you have no right to criticise me for what I do. Or even, this is part of who I am, so it must be part of God’s plan for who I am, so you should support me and celebrate my gayness, laziness, whatever it is.

So I enjoyed this post on Maggie’s Farm. A collection of news headlines from the last three about the latest fat gene, friendly gene, bad driving gene.

Here are a couple:

Fat Gene

Lonely Gene

Sleep Gene

One of the things this demonstrates is how easily, if it makes good headlines, a mere suggestion by a group of scientists can suddenly become ‘settled science.’

From James Delingpole at the UK Telegraph:

One of the great lies told us by our political leaders in order to persuade us to accept their swingeing and pointless green taxes and their economically suicidal, environmentally vandalistic wind-farm building programmes is that if we don’t do it China will. Apparently, just waiting to be grabbed out there are these glittering, golden prizes marked “Green jobs” and “Green technologies” – and if only we can get there before those scary, mysterious Chinese do, well, maybe the West will enjoy just a few more years of economic hegemony before the BRICs nations thwack us into the long grass.

This is, of course, utter nonsense. The Chinese do not remotely believe in the myth of Man-Made Global Warming nor in the efficacy of “alternative energy”. Why should they? It’s not as if there is any evidence for it.

There is much more. And it is all interesting.

China, after all, is the world’s future dominant economic power and, this being so, it makes an absolute nonsense of attempts by the EU and the US to hamper our industrial growth by imposing on our economies eco-taxes and eco-regulations which the Chinese intend to ignore completely.

This truth hasn’t hit home yet: not in the EU; not in the Cleggeron Coalition; not in Obama’s USA. Here’s my bet. The first to see sense on this will be whichever Republican administration takes over from Obama’s one-term presidency in 2012. From that point on – by which time we’ll have had two more exceptionally cold winters to concentrate our minds – British and European environmental policy will look increasingly foolish and irrelevant.

And so will Australian Labor or Greens environmental policy, along with any compromise carbon deals by the Liberals.

A big group of scientists whose funding depends on continuing to scare people about climate change have produced a report saying climate change is scary.

This is news, apparently.

Older news is that Phil Jones still can’t find the data on which much of the warming warnings were based.

What Phil has admitted is:

  • There has been no statistically significant warming since 1995.
  • The world has been warmer before.
  • There was a period of warming from 1920 to 1940 which was not caused by human activity. And there have been lots of earlier periods of warming which were also entirely natural.

But Phil and the other scary scientists still insist the similar warming from 1975 to 1995 must, absolutely, really, have been caused by human activity and nothing else.

So please keep giving them billions of dollars or otherwise really horrible things will happen, like maybe Greenland being green again, and being able to grow grapes in Britain.

Right. Sure.

Computer gaming and Facebook cause rickets.

Well, no.

There seems to be a a widespread rise in vitamin D deficiency. This could be a lack of sun or shortcomings in diet.

It is a long stretch to say that gaming or Facebook are responsible, expecially when rickets usually starts to appear before age two. Most online gamers and Facebook users are a little older than this.

Even in very young children vitamin D deficiency can be caused by lack of sun as well as diet. But if computer games are not to blame, what is?

Last night I saw on TV a terrifying ad that showed a young man at a beach. As soon as he took his shirt off, deadly rays from the sun struck his skin. As the rays penetrated inside, one skin cell turned black and then began taking over other cells and turing them black. A stern voice said something like ‘A tan is your body’s way of protecting your skin against cancer. There is nothing healthy about a tan.’

This was a government sponsored announcement to warn people that even the smallest amount of exposure to the sun will give you melanoma and kill you. You never know, so it is better to wear a burqa every time you go outside.

That was the message I got, anyway. And incidentally, vitamin D deficiency is a major problem for women in Saudi Arabia.

No wonder people are scared to go outside without ‘slip,slop,slapping’ themselves or their children to the point that not one bit of ultra-violet gets through. As a consequence of which the body cannot manufacture any vitamin D.

Half the advice given by doctors and scientists is wrong and should be ignored.

The problem is working out which half.

According to Monday’s Australian:

The peak UN body in climate change has been dealt another humiliating blow to its credibility after it was revealed a central claim of one of its benchmark reports – that most of the Himalayan glaciers would melt by 2035 because of global warming – was based on a ‘speculative’ claim by an obscure Indian scientist.

The 2007 IPCC report included a claim made several years earlier in New Scientist by Syed Hasnain.

Hasnain’s claim was not subjected to any checks. The IPCC did not refer to any other glaciologists before publishing it, nor did they talk to Hasnain.

At the beginning of this year Hasnain admitted the claim was an off the cuff remark made in a telephone interview, and that it was not based on any research.

Nonetheless, Hasnian’s off the cuff remark became a central plank of the IUPCC’s 2007 report. The chief writer of the relevant section, Professor Lal, followed the WWF, which had picked up the original New Scientist story, in claiming the predicted glacier melt was ‘very likely.’ In IPCC parlance, that means a likelihood of greater than 90%.

All this on the basis of no research whatever.

Glaciologists including Julian Dowdeswell of Cambridge University say the claim is inherently ludicrous – no possible level of warming could result in that level of melting – and asked how such an egregious error could have appeared in the report. Professor Lal has admitted he knows nothing about glaciers.

Like Rupert Wyndham at Climaterealists, I have had some clashes with senior clergy over social issues including climate change.

However, I don’t think I have ever written to an archbishop in tones quite like this:

And, dare it be said,  for those such as yourself, in the vanguard of so called “faith communities”, who arrogate to themselves the role of moral leadership, this gives rise to serious questions,  does  it  not? Indeed,  in many ways,  “Climategate”  is  less about   the “science” – which anyway  is garbage – than it is about the integrity of the scientific process, an issue of immensely greater ethical significance for all who value truth as well as democratic accountability.  AGW science has been exposed as a fraud, by far the gravest in the entire history of science. The AGW hypothesis itself is no better than a glib and distorted misrepresentation of a 100 year old speculation relating to the so-called Greenhouse Effect allied to invented evidence concocted within the guts of a computer by  individuals with a predetermined agenda coupled with huge personal  vested  interests – financial  and otherwise …

That, of course,  leaves you in a quandary,  does it not? Either you repudiate this ethical obscenity and, in a spirit of Christian repentance,  exercise moral authority or you continue to promote it and abrogate moral auhority.  Although religious leaders often seem to find the concept seductive, what you cannot do is both to wolf your bun and hang on to your penny.  Your predecessor thought he could. He was wrong.

Ouch! But quite right.

It is one thing to have gangs of scientists saying ‘We’re scientists. The world is ending. Give us billions of dollars and we’ll fix it.’

It is another thing entirely to have religious leaders telling people they are stupid or immoral if they disagree.