The following is an entry from the Esoteric Programming Language project (see link below):
Hat Tip: Ryan Jean
!!! WARNING *** POST IS META *** WARNING !!!
We’ve been watching the new House of Cards (produced by Netflix). Here’s how I can tell it is good. Amanda actually started to watch it, which is unusual because she rarely watches anything. But she watched the first one, liked it, then tuned in to the second one a few days later and I had the opportunity to watch it with her. But I decided not to for reasons I won’t bore you with. However, I did catch the first two or three minutes. Which caught my attention so I caught the next five or six minutes. And so on. I ended up watching the entire episode. Then a couple of days later we watched the next episode. And so on. Now I’m watching it. It’s actually been a while since Amanda and I watched the same series (we hardly ever do that) so this is good.
There is something about House of Cards that I think is worth noting. I’ve only see a couple of episodes so this is subject to revision. Hopefully you’ve never seen it, so I can play this out with you and you’ll appreciate it more when you do watch it later. But if you’ve already seen the first several episodes or more, just go with me on this for a moment while I describe a couple of the sequences.
OK, so there is the Democratic Congressperson, Francis Underwood, who is Majority Whip (he’s in charge of rounding up votes for the party). There is a Democratic president in the White House, and the Democrats seem to be in charge but that does not mean that everybody has the same goals.
So, in one episode the following things happen. First, they are trying to get a major super duper educational reform bill passed, but all the different people at the table have different objectives so it looks like it will never pass, what with the unions and the educational reform people and whoever whoever fighting over it. Meanwhile, in Underwood’s home district in the south, a young girl is killed when she runs off the road texting something about a large well lit (at night) water tower that is designed to look like a giant peach (the local peach industry likes that) but really looks like a sex organ of some kind. She was texting about that when she ran off the road.
So, all the selfish lobbyists and others are fighting over details of the education bill and can’t get their acts together, and all the people at Underwood’s home town, including the bereft parents of the deceased girl, a local political opponent of Underwood’s, etc. are doing crazy things because they are either crazed with grief or crazed with power tripping over exploiting someone else’s grief.
So, Representative Underwood goes down to his home district but stays on the phone with his office in Washington, DC.
The outcome: Everybody in his home district calms down, he gets the Peach Grower’s association to agree to turning the lights on the sex organ/peach thing off at night, gets pro-safety billboards put up about texting, and established a college fund in the name of the dead child. He also delivers a moving impromptu sermon at the local church and makes everybody feel better about everything. Meanwhile, he smooths over all the problems with the education bill and gets it out of committee.
Knowing all that, the only thing you can conclude is that this guy, Underwood, is great! A progressive southern Democrat who knows how to get things done. Oh, and by the way, his wife runs a pro-environment non-profit! Wow!
OK, now it’s your turn. Have you seen House of Cards? Did I characterize it well? If you’ve not seen it, go watch the first few episodes and report back.
The Eagle Mountain International Church in Newark, Texas, run by Kenneth Copeland Ministries, has long been a strong anti-vaccination stronghold. Now, it is the epicenter of a major outbreak of Measles in the United States.
And, here is a poll that asks: Should anti-vaccine parents be held liable if their child spreads an illness?
Say an unvaccinated child has the measles and passes the disease onto a baby who’s too young to be vaccinated. If that baby gets ill (or worse), should its parents be able to sue the infected child’s parents for negligence?
Last time I checked, “No” was winning, with about 7K votes in.
It is reasonable to ask “The vaccination does make the baby cry, so why do it?” Here’s the answer.
So, how has the Atlantic hurricane season shaping up so far?
According to data accumulated by the National Weather Service, as shown (with added items) here …
… we should have had about four or five named storms at this point in the season. Since numbers for this time of year are small, variation is large, so this is not too meaningful but it can give us an idea.
So far, we have had these storms in the Atlantic:
Tropical Storm ANDREA
Tropical Storm BARRY
Tropical Storm CHANTAL
Tropical Storm DORIAN
Tropical Storm ERIN
The next storm will be named Fernand, and it may be forming as we speak:
There is a 60% chance that this stormy blob will turn into a named tropical storm over the next few days. Also there are several interesting looking proto-stormy-blobs between the west coast of Africa and the Caribbean that have promise.
This possible named tropical storm, which would be Fernand, is aimed at Mexico.
UPDATE: The stormy blob is now officially a tropical depression, and there is a hurricane hunter heading for it right now. Expect this to become a named storm later today. Then, it will cross the coast in Mexico and turn back into a stormy blog. But for just a short while, very likely (but maybe not), Fernad will exist.
UPDATE: Yup, Fernand formed, is now over land in Mexico, and will dissipate.
So, we have had five named storms. By the end of the month, we’ll probably have six. And that is about right.
From Intellicast, we have a picture of the immediate and near future jet stream:
The arrows-bearing white lines curving up over the rockies, across the upper midwest, and down along the east coast indicate a highly convoluted wave in the jet stream. This convoluted pattern is most likely the result of the Arctic being warmed (via global warming). This reduces the gradient of heat from the equator to the pole. A steeper gradient would result in a straighter jet stream. When you get a bunch of convolutions (waves) in the jet stream, owing to complicated meteorological math stuff, the waves tend to stall in place. Areas “under the curve” (like, right now, the middle of the US) get big high pressure systems that move warm air to the north, for several days at a time. A result of this would be a big giant heat bubble as shown in the following GIF I copied from Paul Douglas’s blog:
Which, in turn, is likely to seriously exacerbate drought conditions in the region, as shown on this map from US Drought Monitor:
So, really, “Tropical Weather” isn’t just Atlantic Hurricanes, but heat waves at places such as the Minnesota State Fair:
News from Fukushima Update # 69
by Ana Miller and Greg Laden
Over the last several weeks we’ve heard repeated, alarming, and generally worsening, news from Fukushima Diachi, the Japanese nuclear power plant that suffered a series of disasters that make The China Syndrome look like a Disney family movie. One question is this: Has a new set of problems (new leaks, apparently the fifth such “unexpected” leak) occurred that is really significant, or is this level of spewing of radioactive waste from the plant pretty much run of the mill but somehow the press only now noticed something TEPCO has been avoiding talking about, or is this part of an ongoing contamination event that began when the plant suffered several explosions and meltdowns but that TEPCO somehow has missed? Or some combination of those things?
The news as complied here has a couple of themes other than the information about the leak (or leaks). For one thing, any suspicion that TEPCO or anyone else in charge of the Fukushima disaster mitigation could ever utter an honest word has essentially vanished. No one believes TEPCO. TEPCO could say the sky is blue and people would assume it must not be. Second, there is little belief on the part of actual experts that TEPCO is competent. Third, and a bit more subtle, this distrust in TEPCO and this understanding that TEPCO has no clue as to how to handle the sort of disaster that many people have been saying for 40 years would ultimately occur is manifest outside of Fukushima and outside of Japan to a significant degree. No matter how much we might need nuclear power as part of the mix to save our planet from the effects of climate change, it is unlikely that newer, safer technologies would ever be developed because as a species we’ve more or less stopped trusting the power industry in general and the nuclear power industry in particular to be honest brokers, and to a somewhat lesser but still significant extent, competent. We also may be resenting the degree to which the traditional (including nuclear) industry has bought our political system.
Anyway, welcome to the 69th installment of our irregular update on the situation at Fukushima Diachi Nuclear Power Plant. The other updates are here.
Before getting on to the news summaries, here’s a question for you: Why do so many journalists refer to the plant at the “Crippled Fukushima Nuclear Power Plant”? Crippled? That would be like calling the dead raccoon you’ve driven by six times this week a “Crippled Carnivore”. Crippled is just not the word for what Fukushima is.
And now, on to the news…
These things are all connected.
A couple of days ago a good ally in the climate change fight … the fight to make people realize that climate change is not some librul conspiracy to raise taxes on the rich … goofed. It was a minor goof, barely a goof at all. We do not yet know the nature of the goof but it was somewhere between saying something in a slightly clumsy manner and a bit of misremembering something that happened in 2005 during an interview. That’s it. Nothing else to see here.
But that goof has been wrenched form its context and turned into a senseless and embarrassingly stupid attack on science by the likes of Anthony Watts, who really is one of the more despicable people I know of on the internet outside the MRA community (even he’s not that bad, and I’ve even noticed a sense of humor now and then).
It all started when Ezra Klein published an interview with Al Gore on Wonkblog. It was good interview and it was nicely written up. They talked about crossing the 400 ppm mark, electricity prices from alternative energy sources, the nature of technological change vis-a-vis green energy, international climate treaty making and cap and trade strategies, the politics of climate denial and the shift from being concerned about climate to denying the science in the Republican party, what’s going on in the current administration, geoengineering, storms, and all sorts of other things.
But then Jason Samenow, of the Captial Weather Gang, noticed something in the interview that seemed wrong. He wrote a blog post about “Al Gore’s Science Fiction” to make sure that every body knew about this apparent error. Then, the Union of Concerned Scientists, in an apparent paroxysm of well meant, but really, totally bone-headed, intent to demonstrate that people who are on board with climate science can criticize each other so we must all be for real, restated that something Vice President Gore had said to make him look like he was some sort of dummy, which he is not. The Union of Concerned Scientists, realizing their error, issued a pretty standard notpology. The notpology was disappointing. I know that people there understand that they got it all wrong … apparently at the institutional level they can’t just say “oops, sorry” but rather something more like “oh yes, things were misunderstood, but still, our point is valid.” We are reminded once again that institutions do have their limits.
Anyway, Ezra, for his part, dug back into memory and consulted with Vice President Gore and his staff and clarified what he said Al Gore said. But, that was not before lame, mean spirited, ill intentioned, ignorant, and embarrassingly giddy offal started to spew from the denialists. Anthony Watts got into it because that is how Anthony Watts masterbates. He draws cartoon glasses and piles of dog poo on pictures of Al Gore and that gets him off. The Hill jumped in with a piece by Ben Geman about how Al Gore goofed. The Free Republic came in its pants too. Almost nobody made mention of a single other thing in the interview, nobody checked their facts, nobody understood the original meaning of Vice President Gore’s remarks which were, in fact, dead on. But everybody got dirty. Shame on all of them (to varying degrees).
Here’s what actually happened (never mind the interview, the Union of Concerned Scientists concern trolling, or the circle jerk of denialism with Anthony Watts in the middle).
First, storms got worse. Yes, yes, you will hear climate science denialists insisting that they have not gotten worse, but they have. Hurricanes are worse now than they were decades ago, and global warming is implicated in that.
Then, some people, including some scientists and science communicators, discussed the idea of adding a Category 6 to the Saffir-Simpson scale. This conversation happened in and after 2005. The Cat Six storms would be those greater than 151 or 160 knots. Not many storms have ever been this strong, but there are a few. Robert Simpson, of the Saffir-Simpson Scale, suggested that this would not be necessary because the whole idea of the scale was to represent storms in terms of human and property impacts, and a Cat Six storm would not really be worse than a Cat Five storm because a Cat Five storm is bad enough . He said “…when you get up into winds in excess of 155 mph (249 km/h) you have enough damage if that extreme wind sustains itself for as much as six seconds on a building it’s going to cause rupturing damages that are serious no matter how well it’s engineered.” (I disagree strongly with that statement, by the way.)
There are indeed reasons to revisit the Saffir-Simpson scale. There is a lot of information lost by just looking at wind speeds. Paul Douglas turned me on to this graphic demonstrating that when it comes to hurricanes, size matters:
Look closely. There are TWO Pacific Cyclones (aka Hurricanes) represented in that picture. Reminds me of the drawings designed to demonstrate the vast range of body size in primates, like this one:
But I digress. The point is, Saffir-Simpson is inadequate for what we need. We should be able to take a metric used for hurricanes and add the metric up at the end of the season and say something pretty accurate about how much energy was packaged in those beasts that year and in that ocean basin. Indeed, people who study hurricanes do this … they measure hurricanes in various ways. But the Saffir-Simpson scale is the most well known, and it only measures maximum sustained winds and nothing else, and the scale is not open ended so the biggest storms look like the second biggest storms.
So, given that storms are getting worse and the scale is inadequate, the discussion of at least adding a Cat Six happened, and this is what Gore mentioned.
But the Union of Concerned Scientists, or should I call them for now the Onion of Concerned Scientists, said this of Gore’s statement (and I quote mine):
Al Gore, Climate Science, and the Responsibility for Careful Communication…
When I was in fourth grade, I wrote Vice President Al Gore a letter … I believed then, as I do now, that he is a strong voice for issues with an environmental component such as climate change. And, importantly, he has become, to many people, the public face of climate science….But unfortunately he recently got it wrong about the science of climate change…Gore inaccurately suggested that the hurricane scale will now include a category 6… this is untrue. There are no plans by the National Hurricane Center—the federal office responsible for categorizing storms—to create a new category….Since writing that letter as a ten-year-old, I’ve earned a degree in atmospheric science and learned to value to the role that science plays in informing public policy. Science—and climate change especially—needs effective communicators…
and so on and so forth. How annoying of Al Gore to be so annoying. What a disappointment. I WAS A CHILD AND I WROTE HIM A LETTER AND NOW HE DOES THIS TO ME!!!
OK, take it down a notch.
Al Gore was referring to the discussion I mention above. Perhaps he made this reference clumsily. Ezra may have quoted him wrong, and he now states that is likely (he’s not been able to check his tape yet) so them message got further garbled. Then, some bloggers including one at Union of concerned Scientists decided to make a case of it. And now we have a nice science denialist orgy going with Head Orgy Master Debater Anthony Watts running the show. Joe Romm has more on the interview and what Vice President Gore said here.
There are three things you need to take away from this:
1) Al Gore is an effective communicator and knows a lot about climate science. If you hear that he said something that is wrong, before you get all “concerned” consider the possibility that he didn’t.
2) We really do need to look at how we characterize hurricanes.
3) The science denialists really have nothing, if this is what gets them so excited. They should get out more.
I was surprised to find a link to this in my inbox this morning. Here’s a picture:
It appears to be unironic.
Neil Tappen is probably most well known for having worked out the species and distribution of species in Central and western East Africa in the 1950s, as everyone who has worked in the area since then, from Jane Goodall to Richard Wrangham, has used his work as a tool in their own study of apes and monkeys of the region. He also worked on bone growth and development and taphonomy. Many others know him for his teaching and training of students, of which there were many. If you are reading this blog, you probably know or at least know of Genie Scott, for example. Neil was her undergraduate professor.
I know Neil as my ex-father-in-law and as the grandfather of my daughter Julia.
Neil died on August 18th after a couple of weeks struggle with a series of medical issues precipitated by a bad fall, which in turn was precipitated by a series of medical issues, all typical of someone 100 +/- 5 years in age. As far as I know he was about as sharp as always right up to that time, though with failing eyesight it took him much longer to devour his usual giant stack of reading every day.
The most important thing I can tell you about Neil, if you didn’t know him, is this: He understood the idea of living in interesting times, and he paid attention to what was interesting about his own times.
He’ll be buried tomorrow, Friday, at Fort Snelling.
Let’s say you want to do a market-related study in which you gain entry to one thousand homes representing sets of people defined by the usual variables of income, ethnicity, urban-suburban lifestyle etc. The first thing you do is to ask a few people, real nice like, if you can go through their stuff and take a lot of photographs and notes. Most of them say no, and you perhaps even discover that the one or two who actually agree to this are odd ducks. So you go to Plan B. This involves breaking into the homes when the people are out so you can get your data despite the fact that they don’t want to participate. But you get caught and can’t do that any more. So, now you are faced with the reality that your research plans are done for.
But wait, there is a way to get similar data without needing any permission from anyone and it is not illegal, and in fact, it could actually be cheaper and easier than your original proposal and, while it may not provide the same exact results, it could even provide BETTER results. Let’s call it Plan C.
Plan C involves looking at every iteration of every single Google Street View picture ever taken anywhere in the US at any time. All of them. The vast majority of these photographs will show you nothing, but every here and there, you will get some data. There will be a shot that shows a thing in an open window, or an open door, or an open garage, or being carried into our out of a person’s house, being delivered, thrown out on the curb, sold in a garage sale, sitting on the lawn after an explosion or fire, or in use (especially yard and garden implements). This is not the same thing as sampling hundreds of houses once each, looking at all contents. But it is sampling the homes lived in by hundreds of millions of people, and sampling them dozens of times over a few years. That could be some amazing data.
And nobody can stop you from studying this source of information or doing this research. If someone does try to stop you with silly regulations from a University or something, just change into a Journalist. Then you’re golden. It would be WRONG to stop a journalist from using this information!
Turns out that this works with genes, but even better. One might want to study the relationship between a putative genetic marker and a possible behavioral thing, like maybe a psychiatric disorder or something, in a genetically bottle necked tribal group somewhere. You can try to get permission to do this, and maybe you’ll get it. Maybe you won’t get permission but you can certainly steal the genetic data from some place and do the research anyway. But people will get mad at you and you’ll not get any more research money.
Or, you can go to Plan C.
Here’s how Plan C works with genes. We have a good idea of the distribution of many genetic markers that have to do with geographical patterns over time. (Some people would use the term “race” in that sentence but that’s incorrect and unnecessary.) So, something like “East Asian” or “Native South American” or “Central African” or whatever has a list of genetic markers that go with it. Genes are supposed to “independently assort” and act all random and all, but they don’t. At the finest level, on chromosomes, genetic markers that are near each other travel together because of “linkage.” More importantly, genes move in populations. So, those East Asian genetic markers are not going to get all mixed up with the Central African genetic markers too often. Also, if you have enough samples, some mixing up doesn’t matter all that much.
So, if you want to study a disease-related “gene” (allele, a variant of a gene, really), if you think such a thing exists, you can effectively study it in a small population of repressed brown people who, tired of repression and exploitation decided to be totally unfair to you and not give you their blood, by looking at the association of LBP (“little brown people”) markers and the alleles of interest. It does not even matter if many of those marker associations are found in totally non LBP people. They are still associated. Genetic lineages are the thing, not human lineages. Humans are merely reasonable approximations of genes, really. Or at least, you can make a case for the associations and get your research funded and published without asking anybody any permissions for anything, just using giant available genetic databases. OK, so, maybe this is not “any genetic research you want.” But it is without permission!
This all sounds very nefarious but may not be. Or maybe it is. I’ll leave that to the ethicists.
By the way, if you are interesting in a big fight on the Internet about genetic research, ethics, “IRB” permissions, LBP’s and science and so on and so forth, I recommend the following, in the order suggested.
DON’T READ THE COMMENTS YET
Then, read this blog post: The Empire Strikes Back by Jonathan Marks
Then, go back to the first blog post (Is the Havasupai Indian Case a Fairy Tale?) and read the comments.
Then, report back here and tell me what you think. Especially about that last comment on the PLOS blog post.
Have a nice evening!