Daily Archives: September 3, 2011

Global Warming: Separating the noise from the signal

A small “Signal-to-Noise Ratio” means that there is not enough real information (signal) compared to the background noise to make a definitive statement about something. With a sufficiently high Signal-to-Noise Ratio, it is possible to make statistically valid statements about some measure or observation. This applies to a lot of day to day decisions you make in life.

ResearchBlogging.orgClimate change denialists understand this principle and they use it to try to fool people into thinking that “the jury is still out” on Global Warming, or that scientists are making up their data, and so on. Here, I want to explain very clearly what a Signal-to-Noise Ratio is and now it works in a totally understandable way; What this means for understanding Global Climate Change (in particular, warming); and to point you to an excellent paper (“Separating Signal and Noise in Atmospheric Temperature Changes: The Importance of Timescale”) about to be published by Ben Santer and several other authors. Sander’s paper effectively puts an end to Climate Change denialists misuse of data which has come to be known as “cherry picking” but that I prefer to call “dishonesty.”
Continue reading Global Warming: Separating the noise from the signal

Clayton Williams: A Reasonable GOP Voice

At least with respect to one issue: Science.

You all know that Texas had a messy Board of Education fight over whether to teach good science or something else (creationism) in Texas schools. You also know by now what Texas Governor Rock Perry, whom we count as a presidential contender, made the statement in public that “we teach both creationism and evolution in our public schools — because I figure you’re smart enough to figure out which one is right.” (This is totally incorrect, of course.)

Perry is now raising funds in Texas for his run at the Oval Office, and there is a fundraiser coming up hosted by wealthy Texan and former GOP gubernatorial nominee Clayton Williams. It turns out that Williams was concerned some time back about the effects of hitching the statewide Republican Platform to the anti-science unicorn, and told Perry this in a letter, which said:

“If Texas enters into a debate on the teaching of fundamental religious beliefs in public schools, it will tarnish our strong academic reputation, set our ability to attract top science and engineering talent to Texas back decades and severely impact our reputation as a national and global leader in energy, space, medicine and other high tech fields … Governor, this is a very important issue for Texas. I urge you to quell this issue quietly, firmly and permanently.”

Perry ignored this advice.

The story is here. That news site allows comments, so you may consider taking the opportunity to put a word in for science!

Guns: A constitutional right is not what you think it is

In the United States, you have a right to “bear arms.” This has a special meaning which has largely been distorted by the courts, but nonetheless stands as a fundamental. Many gun owners, unfortunately, not only abuse this right but also go far beyond gun ownership to do things that while technically allowable under the First Amendment, are wrong, and that they should not do.

Continue reading Guns: A constitutional right is not what you think it is

New Internet Tool to Explore the Solar System


NASA is giving the public the power to journey through the solar system using a new interactive Web-based tool.

The “Eyes on the Solar System” interface combines video game technology and NASA data to create an environment for users to ride along with agency spacecraft and explore the cosmos. Screen graphics and information such as planet locations and spacecraft maneuvers use actual space mission data.

“This is the first time the public has been able to see the entire solar system and our missions moving together in real time,” said Jim Green, director of NASA’s Planetary Science Division at the agency’s Headquarters in Washington. “It demonstrates NASA’s continued commitment to share our science with everyone.”

The virtual environment uses the Unity game engine to display models of planets, moons, asteroids, comets and spacecraft as they move through our solar system. With keyboard and mouse controls, users cruise through space to explore anything that catches their interest. A free browser plug-in, available at the site, is required to run the Web application.

“You are now free to move about the solar system,” said Blaine Baggett, executive manager in the Office of Communication and Education at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) in Pasadena, Calif. “See what NASA’s spacecraft see — and where they are right now — all without leaving your computer.”

Read the rest here

Bachmann’s Buddy Advocates Death to … well, lots of people.

I’m not sure how close Michele Bachmann is to Gary DeMar, but they have shared a podium and there is a certain similarity between positions held by Bachmann, her husband1, Bradlee Dean and DeMar.

DeMar has written:

Homosexuals who practice behind closed doors are out-of-bounds for the courts, of course, unless others witness their criminal behavior. Such behavior may not be dealt with by courts in history, but will be dealt with by God, either in history (e.g., AIDS) or eternity. The law that requires the death penalty for homosexual acts effectually drives the perversion of homosexuality underground, back to the closet, to the dark realm of shameful activity.

…we must elect public officials who say they will vote for Biblical laws. First and foremost, this means voting to prohibit abortion. While few Christians are willing to go this far, the longterm goal should be the execution of abortionists and parents who hire them. If we argue that abortion is murder, then we must call for the death penalty. If abortionists are not supposed to be executed, then they are not murderers, and if they are not murderers, why do we want to abolish abortion? In short, Christians must learn to think consistently.

DMB has the details here and Joe My God does too.

This guy really wants to kill all the gays, and he really is part of Bachmann’s “Take Back America” movement. And by “Take Back America” I think they mean “Take American From The Sane People.”

1I mention Michele’s husband because she has explicitly stated that according to her deeply held belief system, she runs all of her decisions by her husband for approval, and it appears that he has veto power. Thus, no consideration of Michele’s stance on issues or ability to perform in office can ever be made without a consideration of his as well. This is unfortunate and rather medieval, but true.