Category Archives: Science

The Climate of Dinosaur Science

I have not yet grown out of my “dinosaur phase,” though I must confess that this transition point seems overdue. I’m happy with the current status, at least. But my interest in dinosaur science, like my interest in climate science, goes back several decades. During those decades, I’ve largely made a living in the software/technology field in connection with Microsoft products. And I’ve written about problems in dinosaur research and assertions.

In this story, all of those arenas collide: A software guy from Microsoft digs into dinosaur research, and discovers that paleontology scientists can act exactly like climate scientists. Or like dinosaurs, perhaps.

All the symptoms are there:

  • The graphs and charts and equations are visibly wrong
  • The scientist no longer has the data
  • When challenged, he was not cooperative
  • He worked to stop the challenge to his work from being published, despite admitting that it was correct
  • He cited social reasons as part of his rationale: The challenge “stands to drive a wedge between labs that are currently cordial with one another.”

Sounds like catastrophist climate, in spades. Each of these elements is common when catastrophist scientists are challenged on their work, even when they privately admit to each other the merits of the challenges.

To their credit, some of the co-authors of the dinosaur growth paper were more helpful. It would be more difficult for them were government agencies and multi-million-dollar revenue streams relying upon the details remaining unexamined.

===|==============/ Keith DeHavelle

Chicken of Turkey

A brief note on a telling dichotomy:

When the left describes something they don’t like about Christianity or Judaism, they are not shy about it.  They’ll even pin bombings or shootings on “Christian terrorists” or “Tea party” people ( which to many on the left seems synonymous), before any evidence is in hand at all. But they are often strangely gently and circumspect when it comes to handling Islam: Continue reading

dna-double-helix-marc-phares

Soft storage

This article caught my attention, and combines my interests in bioscience, computer science,  and Shakespeare:

London, January 24 (ANI): Researchers have downloaded all 154 of Shakespeare’s sonnets on to synthetic DNA in a breakthrough that could lead to major advances in computer storage.

Scientists were then able to decode the information and reproduce the words of the Bard with complete accuracy.

The same technique made it possible to store a 26 second excerpt from Martin Luther King’s ‘I Have A Dream’ speech and a photo of the Cambridgeshire laboratory where the work took place.

Researchers were also able to turn a copy of Watson and Crick’s paper describing the nature of DNA into genetic code.

This opens up possibilities for non-powered storage of extremely high density — “Library of Congress in a teaspoon”-type density.

Now, how small can the reading/writing apparatus be?  This sounds like a job for nanoengineering, and of course it has already been that.

===|==============/ Keith DeHavelle

California Prop 37: GMOs

California has a proposition on the ballot that hopes to affect food costs for the entire country.  Proposition 37 would require new labeling for certain foods that involve genetically modified organisms, or GMOs.
Here’s an article touting the dangers of GMOs, and promoting the proposition.  The “evil corporation” theme dominates this sort of article.

Frankly, I’m not a fan of this proposition.  Besides various falsehoods in the article (e.g., conflating all money spent over time with money spent specifically on the proposition), the legislation itself is terrible. Here’s what I see at a quick glance in the text of the proposition:

  • It allows anyone to sue — even law firms themselves — without being required to allege actual harm. A bounty for bounty-hunting lawyers.
  • It takes effect immediately — meaning there is no time to actually implement label changes before the lawsuits start.
  • The cost of “investigation” may be awarded to the plaintiff even if the plaintiff loses.  (The bill doesn’t specify that winning the suit is required.)
  • Livestock fed with GM corn seem to be exempt, and other secondary uses. I’ll bet that’s not well-understood by proponents.
  • Organic farms — the source of hundreds of actual deaths due to their poor practices — are completely exempt from this proposition.
  • You can have ten different GMO components making up to 10% of the produced result and still not have to label it.
  • There are various other odd exemptions.
  • It is rigged to be unremovable — and allows changes with a two-thirds vote, “but only to further its intent and purpose.”  Very strange.

And, of course, all of this would produce substantially higher food costs immediately, essentially taxing the poor to pay for this trial lawyers’ dream.

GM foods that are actually problems should be dealt with, though so far the evidence is not as strong as it is for things like okra and peanuts. But anyone familiar with the gargantuan bureaucracy of federal regulations should be disinclined to expand it. Consider how bizarrely they treat even the handling of eggs, for example — spread across multiple bureaucratic fiefdoms, all at our expense.

This is written for the benefit of attorneys, not the public, and protects the sacred cow of organic farming. I will vote against California Proposition 37.

===|==============/ Keith DeHavelle

The Cats Trying to Kill Curiosity

I was delighted, as were millions, by the successful touchdown of the Curiosity rover on the surface of Mars.  It was a monumental achievement, of equipment working right (thanks to tremendous engineering and science) despite nearly a year’s exposure to extraordinary conditions and extremes in rapid succession. But as Sam Rayburn (48th, 50th, and 52nd Speaker of the House) notes, “Any jackass can kick down a barn. It takes a good carpenter to build one.” We’ve seen NASA in the role of “good carpenters” here. Who’s the “jackass”? Continue reading

Mars the Record of Nuclear Power

Tonight — 10:31 Pacific Time Sunday, or 1:31 AM Eastern on Monday — the Curiosity rover will hopefully touch down safely on the surface of Mars.  The events actually take place about 14 minutes in advance, but we cannot know the results until the radio communications get from Mars to Earth. The vehicle is big. While the two famous rovers Opportunity and Spirit were roughly grocery-cart sized, this one is more like an automobile. It has tremendously greater science capability — and it is too big, and needs too much power, to operate from solar panels.  So it does not: Curiosity is nuclear-powered. Continue reading

Science Saturday: Building a jellyfish

In this case, the jellyfish was not built from scratch. They took the cells from a rat heart and equipped a silicone shell with them, set up in a protein structure in the manner of a jellyfish. This construct actually swims!

Artificial jellyfish built from rat cells

As the samurai said of the fly, “ah, but it cannot reproduce” — still, it is a useful platform upon which to test heart drugs.

The researcher describes his work as “engineering,” contrasting it with most tissue work which he describes as “arts and crafts.”

In the Nature article, they describe their ambition to go after octopuses in the future. I confess that I am less excited about that; I’ve got rather an affinity for that odd, intelligent creature.

===|==============/ Keith DeHavelle

Skeptic Failure

I became a member of CSICOP (the Committee for Scientific Investigation of Claims of the Paranormal) decades ago.  My Lady and I were there when they held a big fundraising event in the 1990s, featuring legendary comedian Steve Allen and some other guy named Jerry Seinfeld whom I was less impressed by.  Mr. Allen performed a skit using my Lady as the foil, which we both enjoyed tremendously. But in recent years, the organization and its many affiliates have disappointed me.

Readers here know that I have written in favor of science for a long time indeed; on LiveJournal for more than a decade, and in other venues for multiples of that time.  And their magazines (Skeptical Inquirer directly from CSICOP and Skeptic Magazine from the overlapping Skeptics Society) have often disappointed me in their credulous acceptance of global warming catastrophism, while at the same time deriding such a blind swallowing of poor science.  Another affiliated group that champions the teaching of evolution in schools has now adopted global warming as something else worth defending at all costs, even to lying about it.  (CSICOP has carried fawning articles on both Hansen and Schnieder, two catastrophist scientists who have openly advocated lies and exaggerations for the cause.)

The current issue of Skeptic is more of the same dishonesty, and the cover story is “How We Know Global Warming is Real and Human Caused.”  Ironically, the author buys into the catastrophism notion that Global Warming is Real (it’s in his title!) and We Have to Do Something About It! in the same issue that debunks other forms of catastophism.  Not only is there no trace of skepticism — he derides skeptics as “deniers.”

To support his case, he resorts to outright falsehoods, the most obvious one (to non-scientists) being that Peter Gleick’s fabricated document is real. Gleick has already admitted, very publicly,  that it did NOT come from the Heartland Institute, but such details are evidently of no consequence to defenders.  The fraud, error, deceit, and incompetence that has been revealed in the small group of climate scientists at the core of global warming catastrophism don’t faze him.

The Heartland Institute has published a brief commentary, and Christopher Monckton’s response linked in it is worth reading.  As Monckton explains, it isn’t that skeptics “deny global warming” — it is that we note the lack of credible evidence that it amounts to a catastrophe.  In order to get to the much-vaunted “consensus,” catastrophists disingenuously count me as one of them.

  1. Is it warmer now than during the 1970s? Yes.  (But perhaps not warmer than in the years around 1940 — it isn’t in the US, and the records have been tinkered with to the same magnitude as the “catastrophic” warming.)
  2. Is CO2 capable of causing some atmospheric warming? Yes.  (But this is vastly overstated — with modeled positive feedbacks that evidence indicates are negative in reality.)
  3. Are humans contributing to the rise of CO2 in the atmosphere?  Yes.  (But to what extent is unclear, and the result of an increase of CO2 is likely to be a net gain, especially for crops.)

The “Yes” answers to these three questions make me a catastrophist, and variations of them appear on the surveys counting “consensus.” This is not honest. Nor is the Skeptic cover article.

===|==============/ Keith DeHavelle