While we are enjoying spectacular weather this weekend (I am on the beach as this is set to launch), Gulf Coast residents are dealing with a major Hurricane bearing straight down on New Orleans.
So related to that unfortunate weather situation, check out this very neat interactive-infographic from MSNBC:
National Hurricane Center advisories are used to automatically update this Virtual Earth Map. See the locations, windspeeds and forecast paths for all active hurricanes.
Randy Pausch Last Lecture: Achieving Your Childhood Dreams
Carnegie Mellon Professor Randy Pausch (Oct. 23, 1960 - July 25, 2008) gave his last lecture at the university Sept. 18, 2007, before a packed McConomy Auditorium. In his moving presentation, "Really Achieving Your Childhood Dreams," Pausch talked about his lessons learned and gave advice to students on how to achieve their own career and personal goals.
Randy finally lost his battle to cancer early Friday morning . . .
For more, visit www.cmu.edu/randyslecture.
Manhattanhenge (sometimes referred to as Manhattan Solstice) is a semi-annual occurrence in which the setting sun aligns with the east-west streets of Manhattan's main street grid. The term is derived from Stonehenge, at which the sun aligns with the stones on the solstices. It was coined in 2002 by Neil deGrasse Tyson, an astrophysicist at the American Museum of Natural History. It applies to those streets that follow the Commissioners' Plan of 1811, which laid out a grid offset 28.9 degrees from true east-west.
At sunset, a traveler along one of the north-south avenues on the West Side looking east can observe the phenomenon indirectly, being struck by the reflected light of the many windows which are aligned with the grid. An observer on the East Side can look west and see the Sun shining down a canyon-like street.
The dates of Manhattanhenge are usually May 28 and July 12 or July 13 (spaced evenly around Summer Solstice). The two corresponding mornings of sunrise right on the center lines of the Manhattan grid are approximately December 5 and January 8 (spaced evenly around Winter Solstice). As with the solstices and equinoxes, the dates vary somewhat from year to year.
Quote of the Day: Knowledge, Science, Enlightenment
For those of us who dwell in that hypothetical construct known as reality, the following E.L. Doctorow keynote address -- critical of ideological fundamentalism of all types -- is a breath of fresh air.
Its from the April 2007 joint meeting of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences and the American Philosophical Society on the theme of "The Public Good: Knowledge as the Foundation for a Democratic Society" titled "The White Whale."
Here is an excerpt:
"What does it say about the United States today that this fellowship of the arts and sciences and philosophy is called to affirm knowledge as a public good? What have we come to when the self-evident has to be argued as if--500 years into the Enlightenment and 230-some years into the life of this Republic--it is a proposition still to be proven? How does it happen that the modernist project that has endowed mankind with the scientific method, the concept of objective evidence, the culture of factuality responsible for the good and extended life we enjoy in the high-tech world of our freedom, but more important for the history of our species, the means to whatever verified knowledge we have regarding the nature of life and the origins and laws of the universe.... How does it happen for reason to have been so deflected and empirical truth to have become so vulnerable to unreason?
For some time now we have been confronted by a religiously inspired criminal movement originated in the Middle East that advertises its values by suicidal bombings, civilian massacres and the execution of arbitrarily selected victims by the sawing off of their heads. However educated, well-to-do and politically motivated the leaders of this conspiracy may be, they have invoked an extreme fundamentalist reading of their sacred text to mentally transport their rank and file back into the darkness of tribal war and shrieking, life-contemptuous jihad.
So that history, as we look to that part of the world, seems to be running backward, as if civilization is in reverse, as if time is a loop...
Apart from this uncanny synchronous spin, the domestic political fantasy life of these past seven years finds us in an unnerving time loop of our own making--in this country, quite on its own, history seems to be running in reverse and knowledge is not seen as a public good but as something suspect, dubious or even ungodly, as it was, for example, in Italy in 1633, when the church put Galileo on trial for his heretical view that the earth is in orbit around the sun.
I am not a scientist and don't deal in formulas, but as a writer I would, in the words of Henry James, take to myself "the faintest hints of life" and convert "the very pulses of the air into revelations." That surely provides me with a line to unreason. And so when I read that the President of Iran denies the historical truth of the Holocaust, and when I hear the President of the United States doubting the scientific truth of global warming, I recognize that no matter what the distance they would keep between them, and whatever their confrontational stance, they are fellow travelers in the netherworld.
Two things must be said about knowledge deniers. Their rationale is always political. And more often than not, they hold in their hand a sacred text for certification.
The entire screed is well worth your time reading it. Joe Kernan, I am talking to you.
The White Whale
The Nation, June 26, 2008 (July 14, 2008 print edition)
I love that all of these are now totally embeddable . . .
Active Denial System: non-lethal, directed-energy weapon
Fascinating report on the Pentagon's Active Denial System, a/k/a the Pentagon Ray-gun:
What if we told you the Pentagon has a ray gun? And what if we told you it can stop a person in his tracks without killing or even injuring him? Well, it’s true. You can’t see it, you can't hear it, but as CBS News correspondent David Martin experienced first hand, you can feel it.
Pentagon officials call it a major breakthrough which could change the rules of war and save huge numbers of lives in Iraq. But it's still not there. That because in the middle of a war, the military just can't bring itself to trust a weapon that doesn't kill.
The Pentagon's Ray Gun
CBS 60 Minutes, March 2, 2008
Active Denial System
Reconciling Cold Weather and a Warming Climate
Yesterday, I criticized those who made the claim that ""Twelve-month long drop in world temperatures wipes out a century of warming" in my usual understated and charming way.
I have to admit that the responses surprised me. First, I had no idea so many people rabidly disbelieve that 1) climate change is occurring and 2) we Humans are responsible for some of that. Truly eye opening to me.
There was a pretty amazing discussion in comments, ranging from brilliant to scientifically insightful to rhetoric of all manners, including some that had not yet achieved total enlightenment (so they got that going for them). I found the entire debate fascinating.
Sometime in the future, I will put the lawyer hat on to discuss evaluating witnesses. You will find that helpful when evaluating any speaker on any subject regardless of what media, politics, etc.
For now, some more weather change chart porn:
click for ginormo -- and familiar looking -- chart:
Courtesy of NYT
Here's the ubiq-cerpt:™
"According to a host of climate experts, including some who question the extent and risks of global warming, it is mostly good old-fashioned weather, along with a cold kick from the tropical Pacific Ocean, which is in its La Niña phase for a few more months, a year after it was in the opposite warm El Niño pattern.
If anything else is afoot — like some cooling related to sunspot cycles or slow shifts in ocean and atmospheric patterns that can influence temperatures — an array of scientists who have staked out differing positions on the overall threat from global warming agree that there is no way to pinpoint whether such a new force is at work.
Many scientists also say that the cool spell in no way undermines the enormous body of evidence pointing to a warming world with disrupted weather patterns, less ice and rising seas should heat-trapping greenhouse gases from burning fossil fuels and forests continue to accumulate in the air.
“The current downturn is not very unusual,” said Carl Mears, a scientist at Remote Sensing Systems, a private research group in Santa Rosa, Calif., that has been using satellite data to track global temperature and whose findings have been held out as reliable by a variety of climate experts. He pointed to similar drops in 1988, 1991-92, and 1998, but with a long-term warming trend clear nonetheless.
“Temperatures are very likely to recover after the La Niña event is over,” he said.
My point yesterday -- which several commentors elected to ignore -- was that confusing the short term trend with the longer term trend was simply wrong.
Using recent weather fluctuations to disprove climate change was like looking at the minute by minute S&P500 chart to determine long term markets trends . . .
Skeptics on Human Climate Impact Seize on Cold Spell
ANDREW C. REVKIN
NYT, March 2, 2008
Global Warming Denialists: We Suck at Math Also!
"Not only do we misunderstand Science, we're bad at math, too!"
So say the innumerates.
Every now and then, I venture over to other fields to see what the debates look like. The most recent laugher was amongst the global warming denialist crowd.
Why? In 2007, the average global temperatures dropped by 0.595 degrees
centigrade. This is a fact. The response from this group was to say (verbatim) "Twelve-month long drop in world temperatures wipes out a century of warming."
Um, no. As the charts below reveal, it does nothing of the sort.
As we say all the time with the Non-Farm Payroll (NFP), you look at the overall trend, not any single data point. A monthly NFP of 10,000 does not guarantee a recession, nor does a single month of 200k job gains guarantee an expansion. And neither monthly release eliminates the trend of the prior 100 data points.
All data series have anomalies -- large magnitude points that may be curious, or unusual. To claim that a "Twelve-month long drop in world temperatures wipes out
a century of warming" simply reveals a disturbing
statistical/mathematical incompetency that is rather embarrassing.
The 20 year and 130 year charts clearly explain what this quite clearly.
The shorter term chart shows a volatile series, with high magnitude aberrations to the upside (1998) as well as the downside (2008):
The longer term chart unequivocally reveal a long term trend, as the data points move from the lower left to the upper right
Boo! Global Warming Remains an Ongoing Trend (1880-2010)
Sources: Watts Up With That?
If the above long term chart was a stock, would you short it?
Now, my own views on Global Warming are spectacularly conventional: Take 6 billion people, give them an industrial revolution; then for the next 2 centuries, have them burn all manner of carbon products. Its not too hard to imagine this activity might impact the system in which it takes place.
These aren't the ravings of an enviro-nut. I am a big time energy consumer. I don't lecture anyone about their energy consumption. Anytime someone offers me a ride on a private jet, I jump at it. Yes, I dislike SUVs -- but that's because they are ungainly, unsafe, handle poorly, and go-too-slow. I personally have way too many motorized vehicles, all but one of which skew towards high-horsepower, go-fast, poor-fuel economy end of the scale. Trust me when I tell you a 6 speed manual transmissions in a V12 is not about saving gasoline.
Another disclosure: I have been long oil for 5 years, and quite a few oil companies for much longer. I am not a shrinking violet when it comes to recognizing the ongoing demand for energy, and the role that carbon based products are likely to play over the next decade or longer. I have personally profited hugely from these oil positions.
But I am at heart someone who loves math and statistics, and who finds the abuse of the truth to be offensive. Anyone who claims that a high magnitude outlier within a volatile data series conclusively proves this or that -- someone who chooses to ignore the broader data trend -- is simply putting their own mathematical ignorance and innumeracy on display.
Your mileage may vary . . .
UPDATE: March 1, 2008: 1:45PM
Do not misunderstand my position: I am not advocating pro or con for any specific policy, nor am I arguing against nuclear power.
What I said above is the person who made the statement that the past 12 months average temperature decline has wiped out a century of global warming is a clueless innumerate.
I appreciate the many intelligent statements in comments. My beef is with the chart and the math, not the policy discussion.
4 sources say “globally cooler” in the past 12 months
Watts Up With That? 19 February 2008
The Innumerate (mathematically illiterate):
Temperature Monitors Report Widescale Global Cooling
Daily Tech February 26, 2008 12:55 PM
Evidence of Global Cooling
Fox News, Thursday, February 28, 2008
Is it me, or is this an odd, eerie time?
I take the pooch out for an early morning walk -- its a crisp clear cold December 1. Why do half the trees still have their leaves on? The Oak trees have turned yellow brown, but the foliage is on the trees, instead of in bags on the ground where they belonged a month ago.
We live a block from the harbor -- walk the dog over, where the stiff breeze makes white caps. Its 33 degrees, but last week it was 60. Hmmm, there are still a few sailboats in the water -- on December 1 ?! Weird.
The various neighborhood Japanese Dwarf trees are still 90% leaved -- turning a lovely golden yellow -- but its December, and they should be bare naked. Our Dwarf Maple has -- finally! -- dropped 80% of its red leaves this week.
I have no idea what any of this means. Its just very odd . . .