Monday, August 21, 2017

Final Thoughts on Today's Eclipse

I've seen three things in my life that didn't look real -- the Grand Canyon, Crater Lake, Oregon, and today's total solar eclipse from Salem, Oregon.

Of the three, the eclipse is the least describable. Words don't exist. It was as if the entire world suddenly turned into a giant dream, where all rules were suddenly turned off and you instantly realized you were someplace you'd never been before. I can't exactly remember what I expected to see -- except, in my mental image, I stupidly pictured myself in this park looking to the west. (I know the sun rises in the east, but my pre-image had it backwards, because the eclipse started at the coast and went west-to-east, and perhaps also because the sky from the park I knew we would be in is much larger to the west.)

Still this was nothing like I could have expected. By that I mean, I don't think I'm capable -- or anyone is capable -- of imagining this in any way like it actually happened. It's a relatively simple astronomical event to grasp, but the actuality of it is not.

About 20 minutes before totality we started to notice the day was getting darker. Subtly at first. Not so much the sky as the grass and trees around the park -- they were tinged in a more muted shade of green. The last few minutes before totality were very exciting -- in fact the entire hour and 6 minutes was exciting -- but then suddenly darkness seemed to come out of nowhere.

It didn't get completely dark, but more like a night with a full moon. The rest of the sky turned to dusk on the horizon (see below for a few pictures). For the two minutes of totality here, I wasn't aware of anything else going on in the world, of anything else even existing in the world -- it was a deep immersive experience that took me over at my core. And then, at the end of the quick two minutes, the diamond ring appeared -- and the entire park of maybe 300 people erupted in even louder cheers and whooping. The ring only lasted 2-3 seconds, but it was the most amazing sight of all.

I now understand why you have to be in the path of totality to experience this fully. Even the last 30 seconds of pre-totalilty, when obscuration was 98-99%, was nothing like totality -- the sun is just too bright even at one or two percent. At totality everything suddenly changes. The world collapses. I can understand why the ancients might have thought the world was ending. The sun's corona was very clear, and seemed to extend several solar diameters -- three or four? -- but still it was too much for my unfiltered iPad camera (see below).

Ten minutes after totality we were already Googling to see where the 2024 U.S. eclipse will happen -- it's a swath from Texas up through the Ohio valley to Cleveland and Buffalo. Today's event was so absolutely amazing that I am
definitely going try and travel to the path of totality to see that eclipse.

Today here couldn't have been more perfect. It was a completely clear, blue sky -- not a cloud to be seen. It was at a nice time of the day, a refreshing morning still hanging in the air. It was in August, when the Williamette Valley usually sees very clear skies. And it was Monday, easy to take off, and you still have the week ahead of you. I got lucky.

Below are some pictures I took today. The pictures during totality aren't good -- I was using my unfiltered iPad. Also, as I only realized later, I had it set to Video and not Photo, so every click was a 1/2-second video. (Here I've included screen shots of those clips.) I now wish I had not attempted to take any pictures at all -- especially without a filter -- and instead just looked at the eclipse and felt it even more; as it was I forgot to look for stars coming out, or planets (my sister said she clearly saw Venus), or pay attention to the temperature and the winds. I was barely aware of myself. My sister wept during totality; I got goosebumps. It seemed like a dream, and it still feels like it was a dream. I can't convey what I felt. I can't even convey it to someone who also saw totality, it was that unique.

The best my unfiltered camera could do at totality.

Looking west during totality

Totality, looking east


This was the best I could do with my unfiltered iPad. Totality was almost dreamlike.... The whole park cheered at the diamond ring.

Saturday, August 19, 2017

A Solar Eclipse As Seen From the Moon

A painting of a solar eclipse as seen from the moon, from space illustrator Pat Rawlings, was published at Rawlings painted this almost 30 years ago; from his tweet:  “I actually thought 28 years in the future tourists might watch the eclipse from the Moon. Sigh.”

A Nonvertical Ice Spike

From the mysterious confines of my refrigerator's freezer:

Friday, August 18, 2017

Getting Ready for the Eclipse

The eclipse is only two and a half days away, and the weather forecast for Salem, Oregon is looking good for Monday.

My biggest stressor is that my sister and her family are coming down Sunday morning -- they're saying traffic is going to be a serious mess -- and they'll tent in my back yard. (I only have one bed. But at least I arranged to turn off the 5:15 am water sprinklers.) It's stressful because, let's just say, her and I have different standards of housekeeping. So I'm trying to clean up things I should have cleaned up months ago. This is actually what worries me the most about this grand celestial spectacle.

We're going to watch the eclipse from a park just across the street. Here, the Moon starts to obscure the Sun at 9:05:25 am PDT, and totality begins at 10:17:21 am PDT. Totality here lasts for 1 minute, 54 seconds.

I haven't detected any increased traffic here yet, despite some claims I've read around the Internet that grocery store checkout lines are out the door. They are not. But people are already arriving out in the sticks of central Oregon. Those poor small towns just aren't prepared for an influx of visitors -- an Oregon tourist administrator told me that they're expecting one million people to travel into the path of totality, a 25% increase in the population of the state. Salem is allowing people to sleep in its parks, no permit required. My sister is hoping to beat traffic by coming down Sunday morning, when hopefully the traffic won't be too bad, and they'll try to get home Monday evening. I hope we don't have an argument about housekeeping.

I wrote a couple of blog posts for Physics World magazine: "America counts down to the big eclipse," and "The American eclipse: wonder, science and festivities." There are a lot of eclipse-related activities going on here and in Corvallis (and elsewhere across the U.S.), but I'm wary of traffic. Truth is, I'll be happy if there are no serious discussions about the housekeeping. (Hey, she has a maid who comes in weekly to clean!)

I'm not planning on taking any pictures. I may shoot a couple with my iPhone at totality, without any filter, but there will be pictures galore. I'm more interesting in how the eclipse will feel, how the temperature will drop, winds pick up, and the general strangeness and grandeur of it all.

I've been looking forward to this since I first learned of it six years ago. I have this picture in my head, surely not realistic, that it's going to be a massive bacchanalia, something like the 5-year end-of-the-world party in Ian Banks' The Hydrogen Sonata.

If only.

Now, back to the cleaning. Yikes.

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Some Things I Noticed Today

GISS's global temperature anomaly for July was the warmest July in their record, albeit only by 0.01°C, so technically it's a statistical tie. (But global warming is only preceding at about 0.02°C/yr, by itself a statistically insignificant. Short-term comparisons are really just numerology.) Also, they've changed their ocean surface data from ERSST v4 to the newer ERSST v5.

Still, it's rather surprising July was so warm. The El Nino has been over for a year now, and the most recent season, 2016-2017 that just ended with May/June/July, was a weak La Nina, according to the ONI.

JFK, upon Accepting the Liberal Party Nomination for President, New York, New York, September 14, 1960: "What do our opponents mean when they apply to us the label, "Liberal"? If by "Liberal" they mean, as they want people to believe, someone who is soft in his policies abroad, who is against local government, and who is unconcerned with the taxpayer's dollar, then the record of this party and its members demonstrate that we are not that kind of "Liberal." But, if by a "Liberal," they mean someone who looks ahead and not behind, someone who welcomes new ideas without rigid reactions, someone who cares about the welfare of the people - their health, their housing, their schools, their jobs, their civil rights, and their civil liberties - someone who believes that we can break through the stalemate and suspicions that grip us in our policies abroad, if that is what they mean by a "Liberal," then I'm proud to say that I'm a "Liberal.""

Rich Lowry, Politico: "Trump’s sensibility is highly unusual for a politician—let alone for the leader of the free world—but very familiar from the internet or social media. As his news conference showed, his level of argument is at the level of a good Breitbart blogger, or of a Twitter egg of yore. He would absolutely kill it in the comments section of a right-wing website or trolling a journalist."

Saturday, August 12, 2017

Global Sea Ice Extent Sets a Record Low

Every year, global sea ice extent -- the simple sum of Arctic SIE and Antarctic SIE -- has two maxima.

The first, lower maximum, usually occurs sometime in July. The second, higher maximum, in November.

This year's first maximum is a record low:

and here's the plot of the annual first maximum:

Currently, Arctic SIE is 2nd lowest in the satellite record, and Antarctic SIE is 4th lowest. But they add such that global SIE is lowest, and it has been for most of 2017. 

Thursday, August 10, 2017

Dept of Wrong Predictions -- No Tricks Zone edition

The denier blog No Tricks Zone was sure, almost seven years ago, that global cooling was coming.

They even compiled a list of 31 scientists who said so! Wow. Impressive.
"As winters get harsher and the snow piles up, more and more scientists are now warning of global cooling. Reader Matt Vooro has compiled a list (see below) of 31 prominent scientists and researchers who have words that governments ought to start heeding."
And then they added yet another scientist's voiced to the list! 32. Looked like an attempt to establish a "consensus."


Needless to say, no cooling of any kind has occurred since 2010 -- there's been only warming, with 2014 and 2015 clearly warmer, and 2016 the warmest year on record -- warmer even than the El Nino season of 1997-98.

Do you suppose the blog's keeper Pierre Gosselin, or the blog post's writer, Matt Vooro, admitted they were wrong, and contacted those 32 scientists to ask why their predictions were wrong? ...Don't be silly....

GISTEMP up to June 2017

Saturday, August 05, 2017

The Stupidest Part of that Stupid WSJ Op-ed

On July 30th the Wall Street Journal published an op-ed by David R. Henderson and John H. Cochrane, whoever they are, two economists at the conservative Hoover Institute, titled "Climate Change Isn’t the End of the World: Even if world temperatures rise, the appropriate policy response is still an open question."

So apparently now deniers are nearing the endgame: climate change is real, but we shouldn't do anything about it.

The article is paywalled, but you can find the first half or so here.

It contains a lot of shallow thinking, but this I found the most incoherent of all:
"But spread over a century, the costs of moving and adapting are not as imposing as they seem. Rotterdam’s dikes are expensive, but not prohibitively so. Most buildings are rebuilt about every 50 years. If we simply stopped building in flood-prone areas and started building on higher ground, even the costs of moving cities would be bearable. Migration is costly. But much of the world’s population moved from farms to cities in the 20th century. Allowing people to move to better climates in the 21st will be equally possible."
This is just dumb, because people aren't going to "moving" to escape climate change in, say, Florida, as it's inundated by sea level rise, they're going to be abandoning Florida.

No one will buy the house anyone abandons due to sea level rise -- home and business owners will simply lose the amount they've paid for their property and buildings, in a reverse game of musical chairs. No insurance companies will bail them out -- insurance companies are already pulling out of Florida.

  • "If sea levels rise as much as climate scientists predict by the year 2100, almost 300 U.S. cities would lose at least half their homes, and 36 U.S. cities would be completely lost.
  • "One in eight Florida homes would be under water, accounting for nearly half of the lost housing value nationwide.
  • "The median value of a home at risk of being underwater is $296,296. The value of the average U.S. home is $187,000." [Source]

If they're made whole at all, it will be by the federal government, which I expect will happen. Too many affluent people will complain to their representatives, saying it's not their fault that sea level rose, and it will be U.S. taxpayers who bail them out, who make them whole. And the same in most OECD countries.

How much will this cost? Trillions of dollars, at least, in the U.S. That will likely be paid by US taxpayers.

Thursday, August 03, 2017

Now Haze, Too

It's supposed to be 107°F here again in Salem -- that was yesterday's high, a record -- and on top of that there is noticeable haze in the air, which meteorologists say is due to wildfires in British Columbia and in the mountains east of Salem. Here's a view of the haze here:

It's just a bit eerie.... Here's a satellite view of the Pacific Northwest, showing the big picture:

Meteorologists say the haze is keeping temperatures down a degree or two. There's an air quality alert for most of the state. In Portland it's even worse, with the air called "unhealthy" [news video that I can't get to embed; pictures from Portland].

I didn't mind the heat when I was younger -- I lived for 3 years in New Mexico and a year and half in Tempe, Arizona, and bicycled lots -- but as I've gotten older -- and, okay, larger -- I find it unpleasant. 80°F is about the top for me. The average high peaks at 84°F here, but in recent years there have been 100+ °F heat waves every couple of years. This is the worst I've see since I've been here. I loathe air conditioning, but am using it these last few days -- a fan just isn't enough. Even my cats are content to stay inside.

Wednesday, August 02, 2017

Wednesday, July 26, 2017

New Ocean Heat Content Data is Out

The ocean heat content (OHC) for the 2nd quarter of 2017 has just been published, and it shows strong warming from a year ago.

Data: 0-700 m; 0-2000 m.

OHC for both regions is actually down slightly from a quarter ago, but this seems like the usual occurrence. But they're both up compared to 2Q16:

0-700 m region four-quarter change: +1.8 W/m2
0-2000 m region four-quarter change: +2.3 W/m2

where, again, I spread the heat change over the Earth's entire surface, since almost all (about 93%, plus or minus) of the trapped heat goes into the ocean.

By my calculations, the OHC of the 0-2000 m region -- basically the top half of the ocean -- is accelerating since 1Q2005 at 0.04 ± 0.02 (W/m2)/yr. That uncertainty is 2σ, and doesn't include consideration of autocorrelation.

Here are the graphs. Since OHC is the best measure of a planetary energy imbalance, it's clear the planet has kept warming.

Thursday, July 20, 2017

Eclipse traffic

Oregon Dept of Transportation says traffic could be congested in Oregon for up to a week, on I5, the major north-south route here.

Glad I live right under the path of totality. My sister and her family in Portland are coming down, a day early. Sleeping in the back yard.

Some Pictures from the Oregon Coast

Just south of Yachats:

Wednesday, July 12, 2017

Giant Iceberg Nearly The Size Of Delaware Breaks Off Antartica

The White Whale:

Here's the report from the MIDAS Project.

They say it will be named "A68" -- I saw on Twitter that some were suggesting it be named the #ExxonKnew -- and weighs over a trillion tonnes. That's about how much ice the planet has been losing per year for a few years now.

In the picture to the right, I'm guessing that's sea ice to the outer edge of the breakoff, which this iceberg will begin pushing through.

The Larsen C ice shelf is, suddenly, 12% smaller, and, "potentially less stable," says MIDAS. "This is the furthest back that the ice front has been in recorded history," says a MIDAS scientist. Another said, interestingly:
“We have been anticipating this event for months, and have been surprised how long it took for the rift to break through the final few kilometres of ice."
Mind, it did break off in the depth of the dark, Antarctic winter, but I'm sure he took that into account.

Friday, July 07, 2017

Larsen C, Almost Free

When last we looked, the Larsen C ice shelf was hanging on by an 8-mile sliver.

That's now down to 3 miles.

In the spirit of Layjez's calculation in the comments, that's 5 miles in about 36 days, or 1/7th of a mile per day. That's an average of only 0.2 meters per minute, compared to his (earlier) value of about 3 m/min.

So clearly this isn't linear, or easy to predict. The Antarctic is just coming out of its winter depth, which you'd think might have helped the crack to heal. But nature has other ideas.

At least this won't kill any penguins. That'd be a hell of a way to die.

Thursday, July 06, 2017

Good Lord, Here We Go Again

Geostorm, 2017:

More About RSS's Large Changes to Their Temperatures.

RSS has posted a FAQ about their version 4.0 changes for the lower troposphere temperature anomaly, here.

Roy Spencer says, yabutt, their new numbers (+0.18°C/decade, up from +0.12°C/decade) are still nowhere close to the model calculation of 0.27°C/dec. I don't know where that number comes from, so I asked him. Will let you know.

Frankly, I'm starting to wonder if either of these satellite datasets can be useful. Roy writes:
In general, it is difficult for us to follow the chain of diurnal corrections in the new RSS paper. Using a climate model to make the diurnal drift adjustments, but then adjusting those adjustments with empirical satellite data feels somewhat convoluted to us.
This doesn't sound good. If the one set of supposed experts can't follow what the other set of supposed experts are doing, then who are we to possibly judge?

Maybe it's time to just forget about the satellite measurements of the atmosphere and focus on surface, where measurements are much easier. That's where we all live, anyway.

Anyway, here are the data for RSS v4.0's 12-month moving average:

Pretty obvious warming.

Also, whereas RSS LT v3.3 shows 2016 to be the warmest year by, like UAH, 0.02 C, the new version v4.0 shows it to be the warmest year by 0.16 C. Huge and indisputable.

These differences will probably remain for some time -- I doubt UAH will do another entirely new version before Christy and/or Spencer retires, after which the UAH dataset will probably, unfortunately, fade into insignificance. It's now clearly the outlier when compared to RSS and the several surface datasets.

The (Comparative) Size of the Moon

Wednesday, July 05, 2017

New Atmospheric Temperatures from RSS -- They're Higher

As you may have heard, the team from Remote Satellite Systems (RSS), which like UAH has a model that attempts to calculate atmospheric temperatures, has a new version for the lower troposphere, version 4.0, upgraded from version 3.3. 

Here's their paper describing the changes.

You can read more about all this from Nick Stokes, here and here.

Personally I'm not interested in getting too far into the details, except to note that the changes are pretty big, especially after 2000:

RSS v4.0's trend for the lower troposphere is now +0.18 C/decade, compared to UAH v6.0's trend of +0.12 C/decade. That adds up over almost four decades, and again puts UAH at the outlier (when compared to GISS, NOAA, HadCRUT4, JMO and Cowtan & Way measuring surface temperatures).

"A Man Who Knows Everything"

Gerald 't Hooft:
"Following his family's footsteps, he showed interest in science at an early age. When his primary school teacher asked him what he wanted to be when he grew up, he boldly declared, "a man who knows everything."
Some background: 't Hooft is a Dutch theoretical physicist. In graduate school at the University of Leiden, he worked under the also-now-famous Martinus Veltman to study a interesting theory that was emerging at the time, called the Yang-Mills theory of the strong interaction.

His last name is pronounced something close to"tooft."

(I sat in a talk Veltman once gave at Stony Brook, when I was a graduate student. I don't remember much of it, but the room was small and crowded and I remember he had a big kind-of jolly authoritative air about him. And that everyone very much respected him. One of the most prominent professors in our department, Peter van Nieuwenhuizen, co-discovered supergravity -- basically Yang-Mills + gravity -- and was also Veltman's student. I wrote about him here for Physics World.)

The strong interaction is also called the nuclear force -- it's what keeps all the positively charged protons in the nucleus from repulsively exploding outward -- it's why the atomic nucleus can exist. Those protons are all positively charged, of course -- so how do they all stay together in the nucleus? It's because there is a force even stronger than electromagnetism -- the strong force. Yang-Mills theory is the theory of the strong force, of interacting quarks and gluons.

This quantum field theory had the same problem as did the earlier quantum electrodynamics -- a quantum field theory of electrons and photons developed by Richard Feynman, Julian Schwinger and Tomonaga: calculations of real-world properties like how an electron careens off another electron gave results that were infinite.

Here's what separates physicists from mathematicians -- in the face of calculations that gave infinities and so were clearly(?) wrong when compared to the real world, the physicists plowed ahead anyway, looking more deeply into their equations and finding other infinities that cancelled out the first infinities. In essence they claimed

∞ - ∞ = some actual finite number that actually
agrees with experiments, like
maybe 1 over 137.036 times pi.

Talk about chutzpah! This looks absurd, but it works. Quantum electrodynamics was said to be "renormalizable." Freeman Dyson was the first to show this, when still a very young man. (He also showed that Feynman, Schwinger and Tomonaga's separate theories were equivalent [PDF].)

To my knowledge, quantum electrodynamics has never yet been proven, in a mathematically rigorous way, to give finite results like this. But some mathematicians are still trying. But the physicists didn't care (so much) for rigor, but for results.

And since then, physics students have been taught to "just shut up and calculate."

Anyway, 't Hooft, also as a very young man, showed that Yang Mills theories were also renormalizable -- infinities could be subtracted from infinities to give finite answers that also agreed with experiments.

't Hooft's calculations were more difficult than was Dyson's -- which was already tough enough -- because unlike electrodynamics, where the photons exchanged between electrons have no electric charge, the gluons of Yang-Mills theory that carry the force between quarks DO have a charge. It's just not an electric charge, but what's called "color charge."

As you know, electrons have a negative electric charge. Their antimatter partner, positrons, have a positive electric charge. And the photon, which carries the force between electrons and electrons, or electrons and protons, or electrons and positrons, etc. has no electric charge. That keeps things (relatively!) simple.

In the theory of the strong force, the particles that make up protons and neutrons, the quarks, also have a charge. It's not an electric charge, but was whimsically (and arbitrarily) given the name "color" charge. It comes in three values, not two: red, blue, and green. It's just a number, a property of quarks -- we're just not as "used to" color charge as we are electric charge. But if you think about it, we don't know what electric charge really is either -- we just know how particles and objects with it behave and interact, and we get used to not knowing more. (And maybe that's all there is to know about electric charge, anywayt?!)

So there are quarks with a red "charge," some with a blue "charge" and a green charge. And anti-quarks of the same color charges, or anti-red, anti-blue, etc.  These charges attract and repel in various ways -- there are eight gluons that take care of all that, emitted and absorbed by the quarks.

There's more, but this is our basic mental picture of it all.

The gluons also carry color -- actually, two colors, a color and an anti-color. This makes the Yang-Mills theory much more complicated, requiring "group theory," that you've probably heard mentioned at some point. The calculations are much more involved.

What 't Hooft showed, in the early 1970s, was that the calculations of Yang-Mills theory could also be made, despite all the infinities lurking everywhere, to give finite results. It was "renormalizable." That it, it was useful. It gave results, like 4.56309, that could be compared to the real world.

One of the ways 't Hooft and Veltman did this was simple but clever: instead of assuming the world had four dimensions -- time, length, width and height -- they assumed it has a little more of a dimension. Not five dimensions, just a little over four.

In they way mathematicians have used the letter "epsilon" to denote a very very small quantity -- this goes back to basic calculus -- 't Hooft and Veltman assumed space -- really spacetime, as we've known since Einstein -- had not four dimensions, but 4+epsilon dimensions.

It's just a mathematical trick. You assume that's what spacetime looks like, do your calculations with all the infinities, add and subtract them, and then in the end set episolon equal to zero. Simple, right?

Well, this technique, called dimensional regularization -- gives Yang-Mills answers that are finite, not infinite. Amazingly. It's a ludicrous trick, but it works.

For this, 't Hooft and Veltman received the 1999 Nobel Prize in Physics. I wonder if, after all that, 't Hooft thought, maybe for just a day or two, that he did indeed know everything.

There's a lot more to 't Hooft, which you can get a sense of by perusing his Web site.

Monday, July 03, 2017

How Deaf Schizophrenics Hear Voices

I heard about this last week when driving from an FM radio DJ on a music station I listen to.

"Exploring how deaf people ‘hear’ voice-hallucinations," University College London, July 2007.

I thought it was a new scientific finding, but it turns out it's almost a decade old. In any case, I found it fascinating and it's stuck in my brain since.

As you know, people with schizophrenia often hear voices and see hallucinations. I was involved with a women for several years who was a home health care manager, and she would tell me about the mentally ill in the homes she supervised who saw eyes in walls or heard voices, and she convinced me it was something very difficult and sad to have to live with.

I'm sad to say that I have never actually known anyone with schizophrenia.

What this FM DJ talked about -- in the laughing, jovial, kind-of-thoughtless ways that DJ's speak in -- was how people with schizophrenia who are born deaf "hear voices." (I don't like calling them "schizophrenics," since schizophrenia does not encompass who they are -- they are not the disease, but people with the disease.)

They see, in their minds, disembodied hands in their internal mind vision that are signing words.

How amazing is that?

Deaf people -- rather, people who have deafness -- who were not born deaf, and who have schizophrenia, experience true auditory hallucinations. But people born with deafness apparently experience auditory hallucinations via sign language by disembodied hands or moving lips.
Participants born profoundly deaf reported non-auditory, clear and easy to understand voices. They were all confident that they did not hear any sounds, but knew the gender and identity of the voice. They reported seeing an image of the voice signing or lips moving in their mind.
I wonder what people born blind with schizophrenia experience.

This really fascinates me. Over the last few years I have been trying, for reasons I'm not going to get into here, to understand my mind better, why I am the way I am, and how experiences long ago have shaped me. I've always been smart, in a rational and logical way, but have been trying to look beyond that, because that certainly doesn't explain all of me. I've never had an especially high emotional quotient -- E.Q. -- I think, which to me seems as important in life as an I.Q. Maybe more important. And I've come to believe that one's mind -- the psychological state that somehow results from all our organic brain matter and cells and neurons -- is a seriously complicated place. It's obviously elevated our species to a high status, relative to others here (at least in some ways that seem important as we define them), but it's by no means perfect. Getting our minds to here has also included a lot of mental junk, properties of our minds that aren't necessarily advantageous -- schizophrenia, depression, neuroses, anxieties, sometimes OCD (which I actually have about corners -- I often feel that I need to touch them, on furniture especially, and I've had this impulse for a long time, thought it's by no means disabling). We get the good -- fantastically superior (relatively), useful minds, with understanding, foresight, creativity -- with the bad -- mental defects, mental illnesses, glitches, "negative" aspects.

Our minds are amazing things, maybe the most amazing thing in the universe (however egocentric that sounds), but they have by no means evolved to be perfect. Evolution gets the job done -- or we wouldn't be here and who we are -- but not perfectly, not cleanly, not with complications.

This deafness/schizophrenia study struck me in this regard. Their minds get the job done, maybe (?) in a less-than-average way, in terms of staying alive, etc., but the beast refuses to be simple, is full of disadvantageous thoughts (I guess -- they seem so) that in some ways are necessarily indigenous to our organic brain matter, that must accompany the good. Does that make any sense?

All I'm trying to say -- I guess? -- is that brains are terribly complicated things, putting us atop the heap of all other brains -- but also slippery and maybe even evil little bastards that we must schlep around if we want the good parts. I don't know.

That the mind can be so clever/sneaky as to convince people with deafness and schizophrenia that hands are signing in their mental vision, the disease trying to express itself no matter what the obstacles, kinda spooks me. What else is in there?

This Week in Science, 2,300,000 BCE

Wednesday, June 28, 2017

No Simple Formula for Circumference of an Ellipse

Did you know there is no simple formula for the circumference of an ellipse?

Earlier I wanted to calculate (don't ask) the average speed of each planet in its orbit. So I wanted to calculate the circumference of its elliptical orbit around the Sun. For the Earth the eccentricity is small, 0.0167, so it's almost a circle. But what of the other planets?

This is probably common knowledge, but I don't think I've encountered it before. To my surprise, there is no simple formula for the distance p around the perimeter of an eclipse. The best you can do is an infinite series, which can be quickly truncated in the case of the Earth, but not necessarily for other planets.

where a is the semi-major axis of the ellipse and b the semi-minor axis. (These aren't the orbit's perihelion and aphelion, but those can be easily calculated from a, b (=a*sqrt(1-e2)), and the eccentricity e: perihelion=a(1+e) and aphelion=a(1-e). The function in parentheses behind the sum for p is the combinatorical function, or binomial coefficient

(Here's how to take the factorial of a noninteger.) Anyway, for the Earth e << 1, so h << 1, so

which reduces to the circumference of a circle when e=0 (a=b), as it must.

Nothing so remarkable here -- I just never knew there was no simple formula for the circumference of an ellipse! Or if I did know, I'd forgotten.

PS: But there is a simple formula for the area enclosed by an ellipse:

Monday, June 26, 2017

The Orville, Coming in September

This upcoming TV series looks good, unless all the jokes are in the trailer. Due September 10th.

There's a new Star Trek series coming too, Star Trek Discovery, which somehow doesn't look as good:

GOP Rep Johnson Shows Why Single-Payer Is the Only Solution

Ron Johnson (R-Wisconsin) just demonstrated why private health insurance cannot provide necessary care to all Americans -- and, what's worse, while doing so he doesn't seem to understand that he made the best case for a single-payer system.
During an interview on Meet the Press, host Chuck Todd noted that Republicans in the Senate had held no hearings on their health care bill and so they could not say for sure why insurance companies were abandoning some markets.

Johnson sidestepped the refusal to hold hearings and insisted that he already knows the answer “but nobody wants to talk about it.”

The Wisconsin Republican pointed to Obamacare rules that forbid insurance companies from charging more for people with preexisting conditions.

“We know why those premiums doubled,” he opined. “We’ve done something with our health care system that you would never think about doing, for example, with auto insurance, where you would require auto insurance companies to sell a policy to somebody after they crash their car.”

“States that have… guarantees for preexisting conditions, it crashes their markets,” he continued. “It causes the markets to collapse. It causes premiums to skyrocket.”
Notice that Johnson is more concerned about markets than people. That's the fundamental problem. He likens people to old cars, which are thrown into a scrapyard when no longer userful. And he doesn't even realize what he's saying.

But it's been known for over 50 years that markets cannot provide quality, universal health care to everyone in a society. Nobel Laureate economist Kenneth Arrow showed why in the early '60s:

"Uncertainty and the Welfare Economics of Medical Care," Kenneth J. Arrow, The American Economic Review, Vol. LIII n 5 (Dec 1963)

For a synopsis you can read:

"Why markets can't cure healthcare," Paul Krugman, New York Times, July 25, 2009.
"Patients are not Consumers," Paul Krugman, New York Times, April 21 2011.

In short, markets cannot deliver health care like they deliver bread or shoes, because

(1) you cannot predict when you will need care
(2) or what care you will need (you need to rely on experts)
(3) you usually can't comparison shop, especially for the most expensive costs.

Buying health care is not like buying bread. Thus, you need an insurance system. And private insurance systems demand a profit, and a large administrative staff to analyze and deny claims (NOT paying for care is, after all, how they make their money). Private insurers refuse to insure those they think will be too expensive, and drop clients who have become too expensive. 

You can be sure I am taking this pretty fucking personally -- at my age I need health care. If my government can't help me get it I will seriously need to think about moving abroad to somewhere where it's affordable. And moving away from my family, especially my niece and nephew, who I am very close to and want to watch and help grow up, is one of the major thrusts of my life.

We all know that America has been in decline for some time now. This GOP health care bill -- really a tax cut bill; it's just that healthcare is where they found the money -- will kill people, will cause millions to suffer, will mean hundreds of thousands of the elderly will not be able to live in nursing homes -- and it is so severe it could possibly be what finally sends the U.S. over the edge.

And it won't reduce insurance premiums and deductibles and copays at all. With tens of millions of people lacking health insurance, but still needing care, hospitals will pay for them by charging those with insurance even more, like it was pre-ACA.

Imagine a political party that cares so much for the wealthy and so little for the rest of the country that they are throwing the country into the sewer. Try to imagine the hearts of such men. Because I can't.

Saturday, June 24, 2017

The 3 S's of Climate Change: Simple. Serious. Solvable.

I like this, from Scott Denning's Twitter profile (@airscottdenning):

"Tweeting about the 3 S's of Climate Change: Simple. Serious. Solvable."

Al Franken Made a Fool of Rick Perry

Admittedly, it wasn't very difficult. All Perry could do was just dumbly deny what the science says:

I think Franken might be thinking of running for President. He has a new book just out -- why now? -- and yesterday I heard him being interviewed on Oregon Public Radio. There he was sharp and smart and, just in the right amount, funny. But in the video above, he comes off as droll and a little bored. His points are smart -- far smarter than the hopelessly banal Rick Perry has, who can't explain any science to save his life -- so he'd need to work on that. But he could be just the right foil if Trump runs again in 2020 (which I doubt he will; I suspect he'll resign before them, maybe right before then). And Mike Pence would have no idea how to counter Franken's intelligence and humor.

Sunday, June 18, 2017

Abdussamatov's Solar Irradiance Prediction is a Total Failure

Deniers like to believe there are reasons why a decline in the Sun's irradiance will lead to another ice age -- it's not true -- and one of their favorite papers is by H. Abdussamatov, which I don't think has even been published anywhere.

I've written about his claims before, and took a look again today. Abdussamatov is even more wrong than he was a year ago.

The vertical blue line on this graph is the present. According to Abdussamatov, the "new Little Ice Age epoch" should already have started.


Abdussamatov says he used PMOD data for total solar irradiance (TSI).

Here is PMOD's latest data page.

Which link to use for the latest TSI? This, I guess. It's hard to know. Good luck trying to figure that out.

Their FTP site was written as if this was 20 years ago. I can understand how back then the WWW was new, as was expecting scientists to post their data.

But in 2017? No way. Wake up, PMOD, and make your data easily available to the people who are paying for it.

Anyway, here, as best as I can determine, is PMOD's latest TSI data:

This dataset aren't anything like the one above. Abdussamatov predicted that TSI would now be about 1.25 W/m2 below the PMOD 1980-2005 base value of 1365.5 W/m2.

This isn't at all true. Abdussamatov didn't link to his data, so I can't reproduce his actual base values. PMOD's base value is, by my data, 1360.0 W/m2. And it is now nowhere 1.25 W/m2 below that base value.

Conclusion: Abdussamatov's prediction is a total failure.

James Randi

Saturday, June 17, 2017

World Coal Production Decreases For Third Straight Year

From Bloomberg News:

However, US coal production is was on a bit of an upswing in recent months.

Temporary, surely. And I don't see that Trump had any role in this whatsoever -- it started almost a year before he took office.