Sunday, November 29, 2009

David Deutsch: A new way to explain explanation

David Deutsch speaking at TED in 2005.Image via Wikipedia
David Deutsch TED Oxford July 2009

Karl Popper: All observation is theory laden.  Yeah, I would go with this.  Some theories are in-born.  Some theories - the theories used for everyday observation - span the majority of human individuals.  And there is also variation across individuals, so different people approach observation differently because of different theories of observation.

Scientific theories: tested by observation, not derived from it.

Is it enough to say scientific theories are testable conjectures?  No - because many myths are testable conjectures.  And when they fail the test, the myth-teller provides an ad-hoc correction.
  • Bad explanation - easy variability in details, trivially modified - ad-hoc - after the fact - when disproving facts are discovered - variations in details added by motivated defenders of bad explanation
  • Karl PopperImage via Wikipedia
    Good explanation - assertions about broad range of reality - details hard to vary after the fact - it stands on its own or doesn't, the hardest possible test, to the highest possible standard of explanatory power
David Deutsch believes that the setting of good examples of "Good Explanations" and scientists striving to create more and more Good Explanations is the reason for the staggering forward progress of modern science since Galileo.

TED Blog: A new way to explain explanation: David Deutsch:
For tens of thousands of years our ancestors understood the world through myths, and the pace of change was glacial. The rise of scientific understanding transformed the world within a few centuries

Why? Physicist David Deutsch proposes a subtle answer.(Recorded at TEDGlobal 2009, July 2009, Oxford, UK. Duration: 16:39)
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inmatarian comments on - The Use Of Assertions - A new study shows the power of seeding your code with assertions

more on assert in programming
inmatarian comments on - The Use Of Assertions - A new study shows the power of seeding your code with assertions: "

Assertions work so well for two reasons:

  1. They, of course, crash when your assumptions are wrong.
  2. They document your assumptions.

So when it comes to maintaining your code, you can follow the flow by reading the assertions.


xkcd - Duty Calls; Can't sleep - Someone is _WRONG_ on the Internet

I was going to write about blog commenting on libertarian skepticism of human causes of global warming.

But, I will not whine about libertarian skepticism of human causes of global warming.

A traditional representation of The Vinegar Ta...Image via Wikipedia
I want to write about where I am led by considering Neo-Confucianist Wang Yangming and his conception of "Knowledge as Action".

Denying Knowledge exists without corresponding action now, or corresponding actions in our current repertoire, or corresponding habits.

Hey, why would I comment on anything:

There are two conditions: either I am working on the problem, or not.

1) I am already working on the problem, to the best of my ability, commensurate with the resources available to me.  And I am commenting as part of that work, not wasting time on commenting that would be better spent on action.

2) No work - commenting to massage my ego

3) No work - commenting to signal my wonderfulness

4) No work - commenting to try to shame others

And not just commenting, also reading news about subjects that I am not really in a position to make a positive contribution.

There are two conditions: either I am working on the problem, or not.

1) I am already working on the problem, to the best of my ability, commensurate with the resources available to me.  And I am reading more as part of that work, not wasting time on reading that would be better spent on action.

2) No work - reading to massage my ego

3) No work - reading to regurgitate later, to signal my wonderfulness

Into the future but not without the pastImage by janusz l via Flickr
Also commenting and reading can be a form of time wasting and distraction and managing my mood (maybe indulging and nurturing a set of needy anxieties).

More opportunities for practice what I already know to be the best for me.  That may be why right-wingers can be so much more effective than left-wingers, because right-wingers will concentrate on mastering themselves just enough to "make their nut", where left-wingers may concentrate exclusively on external powers.
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Friday, November 27, 2009 : Use of Asserts in Unit-Tested Code

I wanted to record this, because this is one place where I do not trust unit-tests, altogether. And I make use of "asserts" in production code. : Use of Asserts in Unit-Tested Code:

One of the recurring themes in theCoders at Work book that I enjoyed recently, is that several of the expert practitioners interviewed in the book mentioned how useful they found thinking about code in terms of its invariants. The use of assertions does seem to lend itself to testing invariants like this – some quantity which can be calculated at the start of a function call, and then asserted to be unchanged by the end of it.

So can assertions be useful even in code that is well unit-tested?

My comment:
In production code, I use asserts to test conditions that I cannot fathom how they could be violated, but that I cannot prove or unit-test that the condition cannot be violated, in any and all situations. I want the production code to “fail-fast” before beginning at the assert, because I know that if the condition IS violated, there is zero chance of the algorithm performing correctly. In these cases I am privately wishing for the assert to fail, because then I will have learned something very surprising.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Derek Sivers: Don't speak in future tense

How much of your pleasant conversation is feel-good promises of all the work you are planning to do? -- With no penalty for inaction because there is no true commitment towards action.

Derek Sivers - :
Images, from top, left to right: Downtown Los ...Image via Wikipedia
When I lived in Los Angeles, I noticed they have a strange speaking pattern.

Everyone speaks in future tense. (Or, more specifically, present-tense inaction, future-tense action.)

“This guy from EMI is interested and going to be presenting it to the VP.”

“We’re in talks to do a pilot for the fall.”

“I’m getting ready to work on some new material with a writer from Friends.”

Of course these are the things some people have to tell themselves to be hopeful when facing another day of challenges.

But of course nothing materializes. You never hear it mentioned again, and you politely don’t ask. (Surprising circumstances always foiled the certain event.)

I felt like wearing a t-shirt that says, “TELL ME WHEN IT’S ACTUALLY HAPPENING.”

So now when I hear a future-tense sentence, my ears shut down. I’ll say “cool!” and hope it helps, but I don’t believe a word.

Try noticing this in yourself and others for a week. Are you speaking more in future tense or present tense? Are they?

Wang Yangming (1472-1529), considered the most...Image via Wikipedia
This follows on the heels of reading Neo-Confucianist Wang Yangming [ ] and heavily discounting anything I call knowledge that isn't part of my current repertoire of action.

Wang Yangming (paraphrased from Wikipedia article): Any knowledge that had been gained then put into action was considered delusion or false.

Derek Sivers also links to his earlier column about how announcing your plans makes you less likely to do the work necessary to accomplish those plans.

Derek Sivers - :
Tests done since 1933 show that people who talk about their intentions are less likely to make them happen.

Announcing your plans to others satisfies your self-identity just enough that you're less motivated to do the hard work needed.
Once you've told people of your intentions, it gives you a “premature sense of completeness.”

You have “identity symbols” in your brain that make your self-image. Since both actions and talk create symbols in your brain, talking satisfies the brain enough that it “neglects the pursuit of further symbols.”

Ajaccio - CorsicaImage by janusz l via Flickr
I want to remind myself not to over-do it.  My current M.O. is all about talking up the future and not doing anything in the present.  To move from one state of affairs to a better one will be a journey - feeling glum about one-step-back should be followed with two-steps-forward.  Remind myself: Most of the goals and tasks that can be straightforwardly accomplished are not really worth doing.

Might be valuable to phrase it as: "I will do X.  A poser would leave it there, as only words.  I would appreciate it if you could embarrass and shame me if I haven't accomplished sub-task Y (related to X) by such-and-such date.  If I fail to do it, I will make a public donation to a political cause I find repellent, as consequence for my inaction."
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Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Trust but verify

Derek Sivers on the management technique of "Trust but verify".

The door to the walk-in vault in the Winona Sa...Image via Wikipedia
Trust but verify: "
a few devastating times, I found out that I had tried too hard not to micro-manage. I hadn’t managed at all. I had said something once, thought it was understood and agreed, and assumed the best.
But things had gone horribly wrong. Months of orders had not been processed. Money had disappeared from the bank. Projects I thought were underway had never been started.
In all of the cases, a simple one-minute verification along the way would have prevented everything.
I could get mad at them, but really it was my fault for not building that verification step into the plan.
Not micro-managing, it can be as simple as:
  • asking them to email you when done with each step
  • or a “dashboard” style monitor showing the progress of projects
  • or a simple note-to-self system to check in with someone a few days after you’ve assigned them something, to make sure it’s going OK
  • or anything! - but don't ignore it.
So here I am sharing one of my hardest delegation lessons learned, in hindsight.

National Copper Bank, Salt Lake City 1911Image via Wikipedia
Trust but verify.

The "Dashboard" style project monitor, or a progress bar that shows actual against projected - good ideas.

Very nice comment, here:
comment - Kamran Salehi (2009-11-24)

To take this concept one step further: Delegate the verification !

This is a method I resorted to as my teams were growing. Name the effort a project and assign a project manager to it. This can be a rotating role. So at the same time “Jim” can be the project manager for one project where “Julie” has tasks, and “Julie” can be the project manager of another project in which “Jim” has tasks. You still need to check with your project managers periodically. But it gets you even one more step away from doing everything yourself and micromanaging.

Very smart! Good one. -- Derek

Very interesting idea - a rotating job of "verifying" project manager.
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Monday, November 23, 2009

Wang Yangming (Wang Shou-Jen)

Wang Yangming (1472-1529), considered the most...Image via Wikipedia
Listening to _Confucius, Lao Tzu, and Chinese Philosophy_. Very interested in Wang Yangming. He felt very strongly that action and knowledge are inseparable.

The Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy » Wang Yangming (Wang Shou-Jen): "
...[T]wo possibilities: first, that one can have knowledge without/prior to corresponding action; and second, that one can know what is the proper action, but still fail to act. Because of these two possibilities, the traditional position left open the possibility of separating knowledge and action, but called for the overcoming of this separation.
However, Wang denied both possibilities. These two denials constitute the essence of Wang’s theory of the unity of knowledge and action. First, according to Wang, it is only through simultaneous action that one can obtain knowledge: “If you want to know bitterness, you have to eat a bitter melon yourself.” Wang denied any other possible routes to obtain knowledge.
According to Wang, it is not possible for one to put something into practice after acquiring knowledge. This is because knowledge and action are unified already, from beginning to end. We cannot unify knowledge and action because they are already unified. Of course, Wang was aware of the claims that “there are people who know that parents should be served with filial piety and elder brothers with respect but cannot put these things into practice. This shows that knowledge and action are clearly two different things.” Wang’s answer was: “The knowledge and action you refer to are already separated by selfish desires and are no longer knowledge and action in their original state.” In other words, knowledge necessarily/automatically leads to action in its original state. We cannot have knowledge while preventing it from leading to action.

Wang believed that only through simultaneous action could one gain knowledge and denied all other ways of gaining it. To him, there was no way to use knowledge after gaining it because he believed that knowledge and action were unified as one. Any knowledge that had been gained then put into action was considered delusion or false.

Various styles of Chinese calligraphy.Image via Wikipedia
This is an important one for me, because my days are filled with knowledge acquired and never put into action. What a change if I never let it outside of the focus of my mind: turn knowledge into action, NOW, because otherwise that knowledge was false, it was simply delusion that lulled me into indulgent contemplation.
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Sunday, November 22, 2009

The Epicurian Four Part Cure

From very nice Audible audio book _Stoics and Epicureans_ by Daryl Hale.

EpicurusImage via Wikipedia

Philodemus of Gadara summarizes the main teachings of the Epicureans as the "Four Part Cure" or the "Fourfold Remedy" against human anxiety. 1. Nothing to fear in God 2. Nothing to feel in Death 3. Good can be attained 4. Evil can be endured
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Thursday, November 19, 2009

Why do Libertarians need Natural Rights?

Libertarians will talk about "Natural Rights" until they are blue in the face.
My question/comment:

Umpire MeetingImage via Wikipedia

The Government/Slavery Analogy, Arnold Kling | EconLog | Library of Economics and Liberty: "

Why does *anyone* need to umpire disputes? Life is not fair, and the concept of 'fairness' was invented by those who desired for the power of the umpire.

That is the most confusing thing to me about libertarians. Why the need for a third party to enforce contracts? 4 billion years of life without the need of an umpire, then, less than 10,000 years ago, some umpires talked themselves into a job and never left. And they guard their position jealously.

I am supposed to be grateful to these umpires for the lack of anarchy around my person, ignoring the fact that I have exactly as much anarchy around my person as I can stand to tolerate. I don't remember any useful order around my person that I didn't have to work and plan for, at great cost to my own leisure.


Tower RecordsImage via Wikipedia

Once bought a book at Tower Records (back when there *was* a Tower Records) titled _The Myth of Natural Rights_. [ The Myth of Natural Rights and Other Essays - L.A. Rollins ].
The essay/book asked valid questions: why would anyone care about Natural Rights, and could any inalienable Rights provided by Nature be of practical interest? L.A. Rollins is Holocaust denier, or some kind of Holocaust provocateur. (Ugh, how I hate people who are glib about hot-button issues. Who the hell has the time to ape skeptical poses to gain hostile attention? I wish they could have been adequately breast-fed as infants, so their psychological lack wouldn't be pressed upon society, as imbecile gurgling of would-be controversies.) I read it, it made a valid argument, but I cannot endorse the anything else the man may have written.

Diogenes sitting in his tub.Image via Wikipedia

Live your life like Diogenes the Cynic, or accept the consequences - your choice. There are no Natural Rights to ensure your good results in life. (I love this picture of Diogenes in his tub, surrounded by dogs.) [Edit] My snarky comment got an emotional, but honest, reply:
Rajeev writes: Manuelg, how many countries in South America, Asia, and Africa have you lived in? Better yet, have you lived in any of the inner cities of the US? Have you been bullied in kindergarten? I live in South Asia, and I can assure you that you have inherited, not created, most of the useful order around your person. If you lived in some parts here, you would quickly find you need an umpire, or suffer severe physical violence. Posted November 19, 2009 10:18 PM
My reply back:
> If you lived in some parts here, you would quickly find you need an umpire, or suffer severe physical violence. How shall I distinguish these helpful umpires from the other potential bullies? Hold out hope that whomever isn't assaulting me physically - at just that very moment - is in fact a well disguised blessed umpire with only my best interests at heart? I do not possess infinite stores of credulity. I see stationary bandits exacting protection monies from those under threat from roving bandits. The monies seem to be enough - I will deny them my gratitude.

Allegory (aka The Triumph of Justice), Oil on ...Image via Wikipedia

[ I maintain this extreme position as an intellectual exercise. Only to remind myself what I must give up when I _choose_ not to live my life like Diogenes the Cynic - in a gutter, living off of wild onions, with wild dogs. I cast no judgment on a man who chooses to be grateful to the agents of justice and equity, even though I, personally, am cynical. Cheers. ]
This is my newly learned argumentative technique of backing off my extreme positions at the end of a communication. I have heard the people in my life call me crazy so many thousand times, it finally sank in. As a human, I cannot support my most extreme positions in the face of other humans who are earnestly opposed. [ Why the question of being bullied in kindergarten? Are libertarians predominately victims of bullying, who still feel the sting of that past bullying? I guess it is a way to form intellectually something constructive from the experience. As a response, I cannot find must to recommend it, though. Does it lead to less anxiety and more positive outcomes? As opposed to assuming the lion share of a human's potential positive outcomes will come from self-mastery from inside that human. ]
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The 40/30/30 Rule

A photograph promoting the film Jailhouse Rock...Image via Wikipedia

Reminds me of the rule of Michael Kevin Powell that when you are 60% ready, go for it. The other 40% is your ability to think on your feet and resilience to the opposition and frustrations that will invariably pop up.
The Simple Dollar » The 40/30/30 Rule: "What is the 40-30-30 rule? Simply put, it’s an argument that when you prepare for anything in life, only 40% of the preparation is physical – the rest is mental. Thirty percent of preparation is technical skill and experience, and the second thirty percent is the willingness to take risks."
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Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Lowering expectations for Afghanistan

My comment sums up my thoughts on Afghanistan.
Lowering expectations for Afghanistan | Lexington's notebook | "

Only Israel, India & Pakistan. HTTP://RETHINK ...Image by Cecilia... via Flickr

The Russians in Afghanistan used massive amounts of conventional explosives to burn all the oxygen in populated areas - this is one example of tactics used by Russia to try to tame Afghanistan. Futile tactics.

WASHINGTON - MAY 06: Afghan President Hamid Ka...Image by Getty Images via Daylife

The United States and coalition partners cannot use these methods now. Plainly put, the Afghanistan fighters could teach the Viet Cong a thing or two about asymmetric warfare. The coalition partners do not stand a chance. Perhaps an isolated airstrip and surrounding no-mans-land can be maintained for responding to the upcoming crisis in Pakistan. Anything more, and the coalition just makes the Muslim violent extremists more attractive to the rural population. The political battle is lost - Karzai is less politically relevant than the former South Vietnamese government.

Really sad. This cartoon sums up the relationship between Afghanistan and Pakistan:
Every conversation about Afghanistan should begin and end with an assessment of the potential for crisis in Pakistan. The political battle for Afghanistan was lost a long time ago - don't throw more good soldiers' lives away.
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Monday, November 16, 2009

Nonesuch Science vs. Run-of-the-mill Obscurantism

S103-E-5037 (21 December 1999)--- Astronauts a...Image via Wikipedia

Breathless comments from the Anti-AGW crowd. The are perfect constructions of pure craziness.
It is really time to stop this silliness. 160 Physicists are not wrong. The problem is corporate America, lead by false prophets such as Mr. Gore, stand to make billions off of carbon credits, and garner other favors in the name of “saving the planet…” Needless to say, the Socialists and Marxists in our society will love the tax revenues and control of every aspect of our lives too. The American people are wising up. We are beginning to realize this whole thing is an unholy alliance between Revolutionary Marxists and Big Environment. We know that the end goal is to wreck our lives. The planet is not in danger. There is “Global Climate Change” and there has been for billions of years. Get over it. We see you… The Blinders Are Coming Off the people and the public backlash against the Carbon Hedge Fund Scamp will be phenomenal…
Posted by: D*n C**ll* | November 13, 2009 05:46 PM
It's interesting that as a scientist, if you wish to express an opinion that is contrary to the alarmist orthodoxy, that the alarmists consider it justification for researching your background. Another strong indicator that climate alarmism is much more about politics and religion than it is about science. In any case, if these 160 scientists, as well as many more around the world, can consider the issue of AGW as an open issue, then it is not settled science. What is even more alarming is the brownshirt tactics of the establishment alarmists. Obviously intimidation of the opposition is on the menu. Having Gore fire Happer is an indication that if you differ from AGW, you better keep your mouth shut. Dr. Roy Spencer experienced similar problems in expressing his opinions about AGW when he worked for the government. Notice that what is not covered here is the scientific merit of the petition that these scientists brought to the APS. In these political times, scientific merit is obviously something that the APS no longer cares about.
Posted by: T*l* R*b*r | November 14, 2009 05:28 PM
I disemvoweled the names. The comments are wonderful examples of the Art, above being the vile rantings of these two unbalanced folk. My comment: > It's interesting that as a scientist, if you wish to express an opinion that is contrary to the alarmist orthodoxy, that the alarmists consider it justification for researching your background. Strange. A claim that, simultaneously, the petitioners deserve weight attached to their statement because of their background, and, the petitioners cannot be expected to bare any inquiry into their background. Which is primary: the judged validity of the statement or the moment-by-moment convenience of the petitioners?

None - This image is in the public domain and ...Image via Wikipedia

Considering the science of the possible human causes of harmful climate change, either it is a nonesuch science, where the publishing practitioners cannot be trusted to draw conclusions from their own research, or we have an example of run-of-the-mill obscurantism, like the fellow "controversies" of evolution, HIV/AIDS, the Jewish Holocaust of WWII, tobacco carcinogenicity, vaccination for public health, and the Twin Towers falling because of airplanes piloted into them and not because of controlled explosive demolition. And we see the predicted distress accompanying inquiry of the political/economic/social dynamics of motivated obscurantism, here. The anti-AGW crowd can distinguish themselves from run-of-the-mill obscurantism with energies directed toward *their* *own* published research under the norms of scientific scrutiny. Or not - petitions can be filed and semi-plausible skeptical harrumphing can be echoed and amplified. Their own choice. The comments to this story are even more worrying.
John Mashey Nov 12, 2009 9:11 PM What this petition campaign was really about I've studied this campaign in detail, including connections with a few thinktanks, comparisons with related past petitions, its use as a PR tool (not really to change APS), the unusual demographics of the signers compare to the APS (older, almost all male, likely very politically conservative, etc), the social network by which it spread (even though it is supposed to look like a widespread grassroots effort). Of the 206 signers, 1 is a real climate scientist, and handful more have published a few papers in credible journals, often refuted rather quickly. Some hae published outright psuedoscience. There's a detailed person-by-person analysis, with quotes, to help the reader assess the level of credibility. See: It's 128 pages, but most of that is detailed backup; the first 25 pages is enough to get the idea. No more than a small handful of signers do or have done anything close to climate science research, and about 40% of the signers are retired, hence "risk" is minimal, except for being recognized as silly. Some of what they signed would be recognized as wrong by any competent gardener or many 10-year-old farm kids. *l*v*r K. M*n**l Nov 13, 2009 5:49 PM United States What the APS response was really about Quote: Originally posted by John Mashey I've studied this campaign in detail, including connections with a few thinktanks, comparisons with related past petitions, its use as a PR tool (not really to change APS), the unusual demographics of the signers compare to the APS (older, almost all male, likely very politically conservative, etc), the social network by which it spread (even though it is supposed to look like a widespread grassroots effort). APS has been in bed with NAS for the past fifty years, at least since the return of the Apollo Mission to the Moon in 1969. That is why: a.) Only older APS members remember when physics was a rational search for truth instead of a search for more funds from NAS and the federal agencies it controls (NASA, DOE, etc), and b.) NASA and DOE scientists and most APS members are completely oblivious to experimental data that showed Earth's climate is controlled by the unstable remains of a supernova that exploded 5 Gy (5 billion years) ago, ejected all of the material that now orbits the Sun, and is heated today by repulsive interactions between neutrons in the solar core. With kind regards, *l*v*r K. M*n**l Former NASA PI for Apollo Emeritus Professor of Nuclear & Space Studies

Dipole field from NASA. Copied from http://geo...Image via Wikipedia

I cannot imagine a more unfalsifiable theory than "climate controlled by unstable supernova remains". [ Karl Popper's philosophy of science ] The product of a troubled mind.
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Friday, November 13, 2009

Discovering Science Writer John Mashey

718 HandImage by Voyageur Solitaire-mladjenovic_n via Flickr

I thought I was well versed in the science writing around climate change, but I had never heard of John Mashey. What I discovered today was science and critical thinking writing of the highest caliber. Go to "Another Silly Climate Petition Exposed", and read (or skim over) the 128(!) page analysis of the anti-science petition at the American Physical Society (APS).
The American Physical Society (APS) was petitioned by 206 people, about 0.45% of the 47,000 members, to discard its climate change position and declare decades of climate research non-existent. The Petition was _overwhelmingly_ rejected, but this anti-science campaign offers a useful case study. The Petition signers? demographics are compared to those of APS in general. Then, the social network behind the petition is analyzed in detail, person by person for the first 121 signers. This might seem a grassroots groundswell of informed expert argument with the existing position, but it is not. Rather, it seems to have originated within a small network of people, not field experts, but with a long history of manufacturing such things, plausibly at the Heartland Institute‘s NYC climate conference March 8-10, 2009. APS physicists can, do, and will contribute strongly to solving the 21st century's conjoined climate+energy problem, but this petition was a silly distraction, and rightly rejected. However, its existence was widely touted to the public.
I went through the whole document, and I never encountered such a thorough dissection of "Art of Controversy" with regards to Science and Anti-Science. (Using Schopenhauer's term for denialism or creating controversy where there really is none in an attempt to frustrate rational analysis and action). These are Mashey's diagrams of the ideal of how science affects policy: ... and the anti-science alternative of "science bypass": Science Bypass - Executive Summary
Mashey: Science bypass is familiar to people involved with PR, lobbying, politics and those few scientific disciplines facing well-organized attacks, but simply alien and confusing to many scientists. This paper offers a case study to help people understand the tactics, as APS is unlikely to be the only target of such campaigns, often mounted, not to convince scientists, but to create and maintain doubt in the public.
Science Bypass - Section 1: Introduction and Definitions

Research. Olin Warner (completed by Herbert Ad...Image via Wikipedia

This whole section has clear eyed classifications of the recurring themes in the Art of Controversy. Or as Mashey says:
Agnotology was coined by Stanford's Robert N. Proctor to describe the deliberate production of ignorance and doubt.
I will refer to this whole section anytime I am dealing with denialists. Science Bypass - Section 3: The Petition - Commentary
Mashey: This petition is silly. One need only study the 2007 IPCC AR4 to know how meaningless or wrong is the paragraph starting “Greenhouse gases..” The unusualness of 20th and 21st century climate change is well established by multiple lines of evidence. It certainly has been warmer, and during most of those times, large parts of the current USA were under water. Any serious gardener knows Liebig?s Law - growth is limited by the most restrictive factor. No amount of extra CO2 will grow corn in the Sahara Desert. Extra CO2 can be helpful in greenhouses with sufficient water, sun, and other nutrients, a condition untrue for most farms. Those who grow up on farms usually learn this by the time they are 10, but apparently the signers have not. Water is the most common restriction. Higher temperatures and Hadley Cell expansion will move rain elsewhere and increase evaporation, especially in places like the US SouthWest. CA is seriously-dependent on Sierra snowpack, always has water problems, and grows half the fruit and vegetables in the USA. Oddly, at least a third of the signers live in the US SouthWest. [The petition] simply asserts ideas contrary to the large, well-tested body of peer-reviewed research in top journals, with no backup whatsoever except belief. All of this is simply anti-science, akin to brain surgeons declaring cardiologists ignorant of heart disease.
Science Bypass - Section 5: Demographics of Signers versus APS Membership Demonstration that the demographics of the signers does not (at all) match the demographics of the whole of APS Membership.
The signer list seems unrepresentative of the APS membership. As a group, the signers are certainly older, seem likely more politically conservative, and somewhat more likely to be male than the total membership.
Science Bypass - Section 6: Social Networks Behind the Petition Simply amazing work. By studying the list of names of earlier anti-climate-science petitions, John Mashey can study the social networks of each "wave" of new signers. Must be read to be believed how pains-taking Mashey was. Science Bypass - Section 7: Why?
Mashey: Why might well-educated physicists sign this silly petition? I do not know any personally, so I can only speculate. I have worked over the last year to create frameworks to help analyze issues of science and anti-science.
From Section 7: Scientist becoming Anti-Scientist Cognitive Bias Failure Modes I have never seen such an thoughtful and comprehensive listing of cognitive bias failure modes, before.
Mashey: IF anti-science THEN one or more following reasons likely to be found; not all combinations make sense.
Cognitive Bias Failure Modes - Finance
  • FIN1 Huge: long-term, direct economic organizational self-interest
  • FIN2 Large: long-term, direct organizational interest, via funding from above
  • FIN3 Personal: direct economic interest, effectively paid for anti-science
  • FIN4 Plausible Fear: personal economic impacts, less direct, employee
  • FIN5 Vague fear: personal economic impacts; general public
  • ---- LB suggests "reference dependency" and "non-rational risk assessment"
Cognitive Bias Failure Modes - Ideology
  • IDE1 Professional (paid political advocacy; anti-regulation; extreme free-market)
  • IDE2 Public (political advocacy; anti-regulation; extreme free-market, beyond usual)
Cognitive Bias Failure Modes - Politics
  • POL1 Political wedge tactic: "X says it", more votes
  • POL2 Against: "Cannot stand X, so anything they say is wrong"
  • ---- Example: "greenie treehugger environmentalists", or "Al Gore"
Cognitive Bias Failure Modes - Psychology
  • PSY1 Conflates: confuses non-science with real science, dismisses latter as former
  • PSY2 Contrarian nature; even without attention
  • PSY3 Contrarian attention: gets much more attention/publicity; may help career
  • PSY4 Ego/pride: in skepticism in general and of scientists in particular
  • PSY5 Dunning-Kruger Effect: incompetent and does not know it
  • PSY6 High-bar, low-bar: real science takes work; contrarian, easy acceptance
  • PSY7 Ambiguity-intolerance: all-or-none thinking; "Authoritarian personality" ??
  • PSY8 Personal anchor: encounters anti-science early, accepts, sticks
  • PSY9 General psychology denial: problem just too big
Cognitive Bias Failure Modes - Technical and Scientific Workers specific
  • TEC1 Long Anchor: early position from TEC0, held long, ~Type II error)
  • ---- Early doubts OK, but mainstream has long ago moved. TEC7, PSY2?
  • TEC2 Field non-science: evidence stays weak, mild ~Type I error (solar?)
  • TEC3 Field pseudo-science: wrong: strongly disproved, strong ~Type I error
  • ---- Scientist has an idea, but mainstream science gets in its way. (cosmic?)
  • TEC4 Intra-field (or nearby) conflict: personal, factional; discipline rivalry
  • ---- Some meteorologists and TV weather people seem especially
  • ---- prone to distrusting climate scientists, especially modelers.
  • ---- Guess: the former have to predict noise, and get criticized when they miss.
  • ---- Some may not understand the physics and methods of climate modeling.
  • TEC5 "Going emeritus": (retired, or close) person starts opining beyond expertise
  • ---- These are truly sad cases. Sometimes response to perceived loss of influence.
  • ---- If inside field and has long done good work, then… might be TEC1, PSY3, PSY1
  • TEC6 Ego: smarter than field scientists, prove them wrong
  • TEC7 Inter-field conflict: many in one field dislike (sometimes newer) field
  • ---- Unsurprising that some mining/petroleum engineers disbelive AGW. (FIN4)
  • ---- Some a) physicists, b) engineers, c) economists, d) political scientists seem
  • ---- unusually likely to distrust climate science. (Speculative) reasons complex.
  • ---- DOE, nuclear, weapons folks sometimes dislike environmentalists…
  • TEC8 Over-generalization: of methods from own area, models, proofs, etc
Following understandable, but at some point become real anti-science TEC1 or PSY1
  • TEC0 Normal scientific argument evidence, value, uncertainty ?=>TEC1
  • PSY0 Irked: exaggeration, non-science, bad journalism, moral arguments ?=>PSY1
Science Bypass - Section 8: Conclusion
Mashey: As a group, the signers have written very little findable peer-reviewed climate research. Some have written books, websites and other pieces, some of which show fervent passion to prove mainstream climate science wrong. The demographics are very different from that of APS. Without being able to prove the exact connections, it is fairly easy to find strong past associations and plausible connections to recognize an act of a dedicated social network willing to support anti-science, not as a grassroots movement by physicists. The data offers strong hints that politics and ideology may have more influence on signing than does normal science. Even those who write books and do lectures often cite outright pseudoscience of the poorest quality, which requires serious suspension of disbelief. Finally, this Petition is a direct descendant of the PR approach outlined for the cigarette companies in 1954, and long practiced by SEPP, GMI, Heartland, and CATO, entities clearly, if not so obviously, involved in this Petition.
More from Mashey - Writings on Climate-Change and Critical Thinking
  • Mashey's blog comment: Reasons for Anti-Science
  • Arch of Fozzigiaren in Tadrart Acacus. This ar...Image via Wikipedia

    Mashey's: Bjorn Lomborg, Wizard of misdirection & Reincarnation of Julian Simon
"Watch the belt-buckle, ignore the head-fakes." ... In politics, there is quite often a difference between what someone says and what they really want, and it takes a while to sort it out.
  • John Mashey on how to learn about science
Critical Thinking Reading List: For general defense against disinformation of various sorts:
  • Joel Best, Damned Lies and Statistics - Untangling numbers from the media, politicians, and activists, 2001
  • Nicholas Capaldi, The Art of Deception, 1987
  • Darrell Huff, How to Lie with Statistics, 1954. Classic, indispensable, cheap.
  • Gerald Everett Jones, How to Lie with Charts, 1995
  • Paul Kurtz, ed, Skeptical Odysseys, 2001
  • Mark Monmonier, How to Lie with Maps, 1991
  • John Allen Paulos, Innumeracy: Mathematical illiteracy and its consequences, 1998
  • Edward Tufte, The Visual Display of Quantitative Information, 1983. Most about doing it right, but Chapter 2 is about doing it wrong, and recognizing such. A truly wonderful and beautiful book, as are Tufte's later three, all of which are worth having for anyone who wants inspiration for good presentation of data.
Scientists can believe strange things and stick with them:
  • Robert Ehrlich, Nine Crazy Ideas in Science- A few might even be true, 2001. Physicist offers advice in evaluating crazy-sounding ideas; pp 5-10 is nice summary of evaluation criteria.
  • Robert Ehrlich, 8 Preposterous Propositions, 2003
  • Many people can believe really strange things, some of which the originators believe, and some of which are hoaxes. Some retain belief even after the hoaxers show them how they did it.:
  • Kendrick Frazier, Ed, Science Confronts the Paranormal, 1986
  • Martin Gardner, Science Good, Bad and Bogus, 1981
  • Martin Gardner, Did Adam and Eve Have Navels - debunking pseudoscience, 2000
  • Phlip Plait, Bad Astronomy, 2002
  • James Randi, Flim-Flam, 1986
  • Jim Schnabel, Round in Circles, 1994. People can believe in weird things like alien crop circles, even after "Doug and Dave" explained.
Happy reading, from Mashey's book list, and from Mashey himself!
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John Lennon is a jerk and a hypocrite, like me

“I'm Gonna Love You Just a Little More Baby” coverImage via Wikipedia

John + Paul = great song writing team. Their solo work speaks of their limitations: Paul = childish, John = sociopath. I have to cast a vote of solidarity with John, though. Jerk and hypocrite and smart-ass, like me. He has a thing for Asian women as well.

Songwriter's Tribute album coverImage via Wikipedia

I doubt I will get shot by a fan. I would have to find a fan of my terrible behavior first - not likely. The best I can generate is low-grade disgust in everyone nearby, maybe with flashes of rage from my Baby-Love. She is not a fan of handguns. Kitchenware as projectiles - yes; handguns - no.

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Thursday, November 12, 2009

Byron Dorgan's Financial Plan: Common Sense From The Senator Who Saw This Coming

Great stuff from Dan Froomkin at Huffington Post:

{{w|Byron Dorgan}}, U.S. Senator from North Da...Image via Wikipedia

Byron Dorgan's Financial Plan: Common Sense From The Senator Who Saw This Coming: "

Senator Byron Dorgan, Democrat of North Dakota, was one of eight senators who stood up to oppose the repeal of the Glass-Steagall act in 1999. That repeal, which was signed into law by President Clinton exactly 10 years ago today, broke down the barriers between commercial banking and investment banking, and led to the growth of behemoth financial firms that were able to take enormous risks with impunity, because they were 'too big to fail.'

'I think we will in 10 years' time look back and say we should not have done this,' Dorgan said back then. The video of his speech has become something of a cult favorite for wonks -- ten years, a $700 billion bailout and a major financial crisis later.


Dorgan, who is finishing up his third term in the Senate, is also an author. His latest book, published in May, is titled: "Reckless! How Debt, Deregulation and Dark Money Nearly Bankrupted America and How We Can Fix It".

In it, he writes about the government's obligation to right the tilted playing field of modern free-market capitalism, which currently favors the major players over regular folk. He writes:

North Dakota state quarterImage via Wikipedia

Every day we see energy speculators, war profiteers, managed health-care providers, media propagandists, and/or financiers given some unfair advantage over the average consumers and taxpayers, and the cumulative effect of the American people watching selfishness prevail over the public interest has been an undermining of the public's trust in government.

This "anything goes" approach to capitalism has injured the very economy we have aspired to create. It is a philosophy that corporations and markets can be counted on to police themselves....

I'm a big fan of the free-market system. I don't know of any better method of allocating the goods and services. But in a free- market economy it is not unusual to see the big interests pitted against the little guy. When they are allowed to run unchecked or to rig the system, the big interests have the potential to drag down the very economy they need to remain stable and healthy. That is why it is so important we fight for a new era of reform and change to put our country back on track -- giving working people and small businesses the voice and the power to make the changes necessary.

This is not about a liberal or conservative philosophy. It is about making sure our economy and the free-market system work for everybody.

"There's no question the system is rigged against the little guy," Dorgan told me. "The bigger interests have a lot more information. They jerry-rig the system so that they always win."

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via Hacker News - Some Sitepoint Article: How not to Critique a Javascript Library

(I will not link to the original trashy article.)

A modern-style library in ChambéryImage via Wikipedia

The Google Closure library [ one part of the Google Closure project ] is not bad, and will only get better. Both the Closure library and the jQuery library will grow and improve in the brave new future of first rate JavaScript compilers in web browsers
Hacker News | Some Sitepoint Article: How not to Critique a Javascript Library:
Really? You tested it? Because a 'switch' does not necessarily generate the same code as a dynamically constructed set of object properties. In Google's original example, if none of the cases match, it immediately returns 'true'. In Sitepoint's example, if the property does not match on the highest level, it must crawl the property chain on the object until it eventually reaches 'undefined'. Not to mention you are making two inner function calls and a fully dynamic property lookup (!(), hasOwnProperty, and node.tagName), none of which I believe can be calculated statically. Actually, I'm going to end this rant early, because I just read more of the article, and it looks like the author just keeps pulling random shit that he remembers reading from 'Javascript: The Good Parts' or whatever and vomiting it back up onto his keyboard.

Raytracer in JavaScriptImage by schoschie via Flickr

Also, the original article has no time tests under V8 [ ] after passing through the Google Closure compiler. Or any time tests at all. Pathetic. Shame on Kevin Yank and Dmitry Baranovskiy.
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Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Recover from Bad Break-up - Man up: improve yourself first, men, the right ladies will follow later

Female readers, skip the first one. You can start reading at #2. I typed this pretty quickly, and the advice seems sound. I cannot imagine going too wrong following this advice after a bad breakup.

Four F-15 Eagle pilots from the 3rd Wing walk ...Image via Wikipedia

Sexist piece of advice - Women please ignore

[Female readers - please skip over this one] Get another piece of tail before you lose the "stink" of the last girl. Nothing is so attractive to a women on a man than the "stink" of another woman. Also, you will waste less time "crying over spilt milk" if you know you are under time pressure. Just a few weeks, at the very maximum. Notice I said "piece of tail", and not "serious relationship". You are not worthy of a "serious relationship" just yet(see #2). [Female readers - you can continue reading]

Man up

Work on your job, career, car, clothes, hair, domicile, physique, quality of friends, and also take care of your spiritual outlook. Assume the break-up was caused by your own lack - either in attractiveness or judgement. When you have objective evidence of progress in all these fronts, you are ready for another serious relationship. Not working on these, everyday, is another way of saying "I want to go back to being a thumb-sucking mommy's boy". Sure, you will back slide. But don't let yourself off the hook, and don't cling to your mommy's dress hem, you nancy-boy!

Photo of Lalita(Parvati) with Ganesha and Skan...Image via Wikipedia

Make girls feel good, everyday

The last piece of advice is to not get bitter - a man who hates women is a vile thing. A man's job, if he is not already in a relationship, is to make women happy and feel good, in all sorts of ways, every day. Smile (gentlemanly nice smile), flirt (gentlemanly, nicely), and even ask girls out just to flatter them when they turn you down - giving a girl this gift of flattery is one of the nicest things you can do as a man. Go out on a limb, and tell a girl the nice things she deserves to hear. She will turn you down because she already has a man (let's say), but she will still be flattered by a gentlemanly compliment.


I get called out by Plinky wisenheimers StratPlayer and GWMJedi:

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