Number of the Month
If you expected a traditional, jolly, hopeful message for the new year, welcome new reader. 2005 was a dreadful year, in which battles for science, truth and human liberty were being lost on all fronts. 2006 already shows every sign of being worse. Still, we can always find solace in the company of old friends, so:
The great tragedy of science, the slaying of a beautiful theory by an ugly fact.
Thomas Henry Huxley
Regular number watchers might have noted the process of development of a theory that outbreaks of Richard Wiseman occur in April. Not only did he provide our first ever Number of the Month, but he resurfaced with more breakthroughs in 2004 (including one of our best ever specimens of chartmanship) and 2005. Well, according to a phone call received from the BBC, this year’s outbreak has occurred already. Your bending author was asked to make some comments about the Birth Month Fallacy, so it must have something to do with that. All will emerge when More or Less is broadcast on the afternoon of the fifth.
By the way, this entertaining programme is well worth listening to, and it is now available on the web.
Regular readers will be shocked to learn that your bending author has, yet again, been omitted from the New Year’s Honours List. Laying aside the remote possibility that, through some inadvertence, there appears in these scribblings some remark that is inimical to the establishment, there must be other reasons.
(FX: solo violin playing Hearts and flowers)
Because of early-onset arthritis your author’s bending fingers prohibited continuing with guitar playing. Admittedly this was only classical and Spanish styles, but it would have been possible with due diligence to learn the three-chord trick. For the same reason, the old hips ceased to swivel in the appropriate rhythmic manner.
These problems were unavoidable, but there were also, unfortunately, sins of omission. It was a great mistake to miss out on being busted for drugs in the swinging sixties. It was only those with great foresight, however, who realised the importance that such a history would later assume.
Fear not! There is a new scheme that offers even greater recognition. The idea is to move into a tent, sell the house and buy a peerage. When Lloyd George was caught selling peerages, there was a great scandal. Now all the parties are at it. Of course, there are those who think it is a disgrace to a once great nation that membership of the upper house can be bought for the price of a modest dwelling, but it is a tribute to the achievements of one Great Leader that he can not only change the moral climate in a few short years, but he also makes such a facility available at such a modest cost.
The way the scheme works is that you make your donation to one of the three main parties. You also have to give a small amount to charity, as that is the best official excuse for the award. You get the money back from the taxpayer over the years in attendance allowances at the House. The beauty of this scheme is that taxpayers’ money is transferred to the party machines without the mechanism being obvious. It is better than that, though, because you also become qualified for various City directorships, which require very little effort for a substantial screw.
There is one remaining problem for those of us that suffer from the Hamlet syndrome (the inability to make up one’s mind). With three indistinguishable parties available (not to mention the Official Green Party) how is one to choose?
While in a paranoid mood, one of the worst things about sticking your neck out in various fields of controversy is being attacked for something you did not say. Number Watch receives periodic hits from a Wikipedia article on The Greenhouse Effect claiming that the Number Watch account of the same subject gives support to the erroneous idea that the glasshouse is heated solely by inhibition of radiation. It quite specifically does not do this (If in doubt look for the words major and so-called). Glass was introduced in the first paragraph simply to explain the misnomer. In retrospect this was a mistake, as many people jump to conclusions and never get past the first two paragraphs. They are like the old time drama critic who always watched the first act, then retired to the bar to write his critique and get drunk. It does not help to rewrite to clarify the meaning, because you then come under attack for covertly backing down,
Some seem to claim that the inhibition of convection is the whole story in the glasshouse. This oversimplification derives from an experiment by R W Wood in 1929. He took two black boxes, one with a glass lid and the other with a quartz one (which is transparent to the whole spectrum) and showed that there was little difference in the heating effect.
If you take two parallel plates (with area much larger than the separation) and a fluid between them, then gradually raise the temperature of the lower one, at first there is no convection, merely conduction. Then at a critical temperature determined by the physical constants of the fluid, convection starts in the form of cellular motion and the cell size is determined by the geometry and the said constants. The motion is always such as to maximise the heat flow. The critical condition can be theoretically determined with some accuracy by perturbing the linearised Navier Stokes Equations. A cardboard box has much more restrictive boundary conditions and probably inhibits convection more effectively. A glasshouse presents even more complicated boundary conditions, so the flow will be chaotic, though it will still be such as to maximise the heat transfer. Nevertheless, the selective re-radiation effect must occur, though, as stated in the Number Watch article, it will not be the major component.
Other comments were made following the last such attack last August. Incidentally, the Wikipedia article contains a nice example of what we might call Tablemanship. By tabulating the amount left, they make the numbers look enormous to the innumerate, when they are, in fact, very small. Nice one!
Footnote (Feb): The reference now appears to have been removed.
These pages are sometimes accused of being hypercritical with reference to the output of departments of epidemiology, particularly when published in Journals such as the BMJ. It is therefore a pleasure to acknowledge a paper that is free of the usual biases, non sequiturs and political correctness.
It was pointed out by the still much missed Aaron Oakley and can be found here.
One of the useful sets of numbers for web site authors is the on line statistics provided by the hosting service. Your bending author was once excited by achieving one thousand hits in a week, but now the daily rate exceeds that. Another useful set of information is the identity of URLs that reference the site and the number of visits each generates. That all went very well until this week, when the apparent number of references suddenly shot up. However, well over twelve hundred of them apparently originated from a few sites that happened to be selling drugs on the internet (all but one have the termination .tf). Now, you can understand them spoofing one reference, which is enough to get an author hitting the site to find out the context of the reference, but what is the point of 363 faked references from a German-language site selling common pharmaceutical drugs?
Presumably, it gives them some advantage with the search engines, but damned if it is obvious to a simple minded bending author. Perhaps someone could explain.
The opening piece in November 2004 invoked the usual sort of attack from the establishment jackals. Interesting to see it surface again.
It's all over and forgotten. History has been rewritten; so that's all right. Then, of all people, the BBC go and bring it up again.
Patriotism is the last refuge of a scoundrel
You know Britain is really in trouble when its socialist leaders start talking about patriotism and waving the flag. It last happened when Harold Wilson was Prime Minister, when his Government had lost control of the economy (which Labour governments always do). What a change from the heady days of New Labour, when its establishment strutted the stage and declared the union flag to be a symbol of racism, and was banned from its archetypal £3 billion losing Millennium Dome!
The most remarkable achievement of The Chancer, Gordon Brown, is that it has taken so long for his administration to descend into the inevitable chaos. That is largely a tribute to his predecessor, Ken Clarke (the inventor of stealth taxes), whose policies our Gordon continued for two years before setting out on the traditional Labour programme of tax and waste. As in the USA, the reckoning has been delayed by the willingness of ordinary citizens to ape their governments and fall into debt to the insouciant and greedy banks. As in the Wilson days, critics of the policies have been derided as cranks, cynics and pessimists.
Still, give him his due, it has taken him eight years to do an about turn. The Boy David managed it in less than a year. He started off writing a manifesto, then won a leadership election of the basis of having no policies, then launched, by dictat, a raft of new Green policies within weeks, which were diametrically opposite to those he previously espoused in his manifesto. Now that is cynicism.
All science is either physics or stamp collecting
Ever since primitive man developed tools and found the leisure to conjecture upon such abstractions as purpose, cause and effect, there have been individuals who set themselves up to exploit the gullibility of their fellows by assuming a spurious expertise. As time goes on their kind develops an elaborate structure of bogus erudition by which they come to enslave their contemporaries. Few human societies have escaped this process. It should therefore come as no surprise that in various web forums a counter argument has begun to appear, taking the form “You are not an X scientist and are therefore not qualified to discuss X”. X can be one of several subjects – environment, food, climate etc. As we have observed previously, the appearance of the X sciences is a modern phenomenon related to the general dumbing down of the educational system.
In most societies the priesthood strives to establish a monopoly, often by draconian means, such as torture and death, in order to preserve its status. The brief flourishing of the age of science in the last two or three centuries largely brought that process to a halt but, now that the scientific method and its inherent scepticism have fallen into disrepute among the powers that be of the new establishment, the new theologies are beginning to assert their authority. The journals that were once the great pillars of science and its methods now openly practice a crude censorship of anything that smacks of heresy, while committees of self-styled scientists brand dissenters and attempt to consign them to oblivion.
The peer review system, another fundamental pillar of science, has always been prone to corruption by the formation of dominant interest groups, but the present situation is orders of magnitude more serious than that. Dissenting arguments are not only excluded from peer review publications, but they are dismissed by dint of that very exclusion. Some of the high priests of the new order go to extraordinary lengths to prevent the publication of challenges to their own preachments. Then there is control of funding. Those who produce hard evidence embarrassing to the establishment (such as why 2003 was supposedly a year of record heat) are likely to find themselves bereft of cash.
Alas, poor science!
Channel 4 put on a piece about the young Blair and his ambitions to be a rock star. It revealed the unique persuasiveness of this individual combined with a profound vacuity of thought and culture. A memorable quotation, noted by the Telegraph, was "Blair was not made a prefect because his leadership was liable to take people in the wrong direction". What foresight!
Henderson on IPCC
spiked-essays | Essay | The Great Cholesterol Myth
The Cholesterol Myths
It is almost unbelievable that Greenie politicians have managed to drag up that old canard about standby modes. This trivial problem is becoming more trivial with every technological development. It might have been notable when all electronic systems were based on thermionic valves (vacuum tubes) because they had to have their cathodes permanently heated to save a long warming up period. This has persisted to a small extent because the cathode ray tube operates on the same principle, but this device is rapidly being replaced by plasma and LCD.
Modern electronic equipment, however, works on integrated circuits, which consume very little power and do not need warming up. Standby in such systems requires only that the receiving sensor for the remote controller is powered, a negligible amount, together with a micro-powered LED to show that the system is ready.
The estimates of power consumption produced by the politicians are ludicrously high. Why do they create these chimeras and parade them before the gullible populace? It is all to do with the principle of sacrifice. They have done no calculations. They simply invent numbers to impress the groundlings and rely on the fact that virtually the entire media are of the same religious persuasion as themselves.
If you want to see where the wasted energy really goes, and why the Central England temperatures are so mysteriously increasing, see the photo below, which was used to illustrate our piece on the granddaddy of all British Scaremongers.
Central England is the ultimate Urban Heat Island. All those little standby lights are, as they say in the trade, lost in the noise. When we had a grown-up BBC, under Lord Reith, it would have checked claims like this and rejected them as the hyperbolic nonsense that they are. But then it was independent of the world-wide eco-theological conspiracy.
Earlier this year a correspondent drew a parallel between some of the fantasies in Number Watch and those of Michael Wharton. Unforgivably, your bending author replied “Who is Michael Wharton ?” He was, of course, Peter Simple, the ultimate satirical columnist. Quite unconsciously (as we plagiarists always say) many of the attempts at humour in these pages derived directly from that inspiration.
The obituary in the Telegraph and the tribute by Christopher Howse attempt valiantly to do justice to his imagination and his cast of extraordinary characters, but you would have to follow him week in and week out, as we students did from the late fifties, to have a full appreciation. The most remarkable thing, however, is that so many of his then ridiculous exaggerations have now become part of the reality of New Labour Britain. Like those of us who follow him, he was doomed to fight a losing battle against the mounting absurdity of the modern state. Sometimes the cliché “We shall not see his like again” really applies.
Britain’s town halls are in a panic. They are not unique in this: something similar is happening all over the western world.
They say that some mammalian mothers, if disturbed, will kill their offspring. So, many local authorities, under intolerable pressure from above, are killing the communities for which they are responsible. They have been forced into this position by an incompetent and interfering central government. They are competing with each other to destroy the economies of their own neighbourhoods. If they fail, they will be punished by the very government that put them in this position.
The reason for the panic is that they have been left in the firing line as the instigators of the most rapidly increasing and unjust tax since danegeld. The British government, which is wholly responsible with its burgeoning micro-management and targets, has enforced a continual above-inflation rise in council taxes for years. The main sufferers are (as always) those on fixed incomes, such as pensioners, and those in precarious rural communities.
A representative from the (remote) administrative centre visited your bending author’s small Wiltshire town in an attempt to explain the pressures that the authority was under and to survey the possible painful cuts and impositions that were being considered. One was the introduction of total pay car parking. He was talking to representatives of a dying community. The signs were all there. The bookshop went first, then the petrol station. The main employing businesses were closing down (one this very month). The only bank has just announced (this very month) that it would be closed for two days a week. A major (but not sole) cause of all this was the imposition of parking restrictions, which serve no other purpose than to provide income for the authority. There is a stretch of single yellow line that is there for no reason other than to create income for the council during the strategically timed visits from the “Ambassadors” (Yes, believe it or not, that is the Orwellian title they give to their itinerant tax collectors). Green fields are giving way to new housing estates, overpriced rabbit warrens in areas where there is virtually no possibility of anyone earning an honest living.
Anyway, there was a question and answer session. All the questions and answers could be reduced to a simple common form:
Q. Why do you not behave in a more rational way?
A. Because of Government targets.
The Dorset town of Shaftesbury, an historic Saxon hilltop settlement that is home to one of the finest street scenes in the world, has sold its free car park to Tesco (the most successful of the British supermarkets) which is now built over. It is now debating increasing the fees in the remaining pay car parks. Local shops are struggling. The bookshop will go first, that is always the first sign. The nearby town of Gillingham has introduced charges in its car park, which now stands empty because there are plenty of supermarket car parks, while the small shops, even the only hotel, are closing down one by one to be replaced by dwellings.
It is a good thing to provide housing for people, but where are they supposed to earn a living? Meanwhile, Dorset is to be the site of one of the most obtrusive wind farms in Britain; a monument to the principle of sacrifice.
Who is the one man behind all this? It is none other than Old Two-Jags, John Prescott. Politicians are, on the whole, a pretty unappetising bunch, but there are few with no redeeming features and our John is one of them. We have referred previously to some of his activities, missionary and pugilistic (try the Number Watch search facility), but some of his more recent activities beggar belief. He is one of the biggest evaders of the onerous tax that he himself has imposed on his suffering countrymen. Even in the ruling country he is despised. He is notorious for his inarticulacy, blaming the old education system being his prime and unconvincing defence, but you would think that a degree in Economics and Economic History at the University of Hull might have mitigated that. In his unique way, however, he articulates the lack of direction in British Government policy. He is in the vanguard of Orwellian attempts to subjugate the British. Even Friends of the Earth are fed up with his about turns. We all thought he just had it in for Southern England, and so intended to concrete it over, but even the North is not immune from his depredations Over and over again his blunderbuss policies destroy the lives of those he claims to protect.
Try Googling “John Prescott” with “I will have failed” or search his name in An Englishman’s castle or Tim Worstall.
Obviously, it is unkind to say that he has no redeeming features, perhaps he is kind to earwigs or something, but if you had to sum up the ills of modern society in one man, look no further.
Your bending author is pleased to reproduce this letter:
Philip Campbell and Karl Ziemelis
Editors of journal Nature
I notice Nature’s Editorial Jan 26 “Warming to economics” which ends as follows:
“…Such are the slow wheels of progress at an organization designed to forge painstaking consensus. The delay need not undermine the authority of the IPCC’s work, but it will doubtless lend ammunition to its vocal and well-financed critics when the fourth assessment is released.”
You repeat the popular assertion that the critics of IPCC are ‘well-financed’.
Your assertion implies that also the critical and sceptical scientists are ‘well-financed’.
When you present this assertion even in Editorial you shall have undeniable evidence that this is the case.
In your next issue please do publish a news article where
1. you present the list
- of the critical and sceptical scientists you refer to and
- of the financiers who have ‘well-financed’ their critic and
- of the amounts of ‘well-financed’ money.
2. In case you have the information inevitably the next question raises:
When someone has financed the critical and sceptical evaluations of the IPCC papers, is the critic biased in favour of the financier’s interests (as you imply) or scientifically valid and justified?
3. If you have the information, most importantly, you also shall prove that the critic truly and indisputably is biased in favour of the financier’s interests.
These assertions are so widely used against critical and sceptical scientists that, at last, evidence you shall have, too.
Your possible silence will imply consent that you don’t have the evidence, and that you have published malicious falsehoods only.
This inquiry is such an important one, not only to the tens of thousands critical and sceptical scientists, but to the integrity and credibility of the whole scientific climate community, that I ask you to publish this email in the next issue of Nature, for wider communication.
Further, I send this email CC certain scientists, both ‘mainstream’ and critical and sceptical ones, and certain journalists.
Disclaimer: "I am private citizen and represent only myself, not any organization or interest group and I do not promote or lobby anyone’s interests or receive funding from anybody. I pay no heed to any 'consensus' view. My only interest and ambition is the Search for Scientific Truth. In scientific issues I am a middleman of knowledge, in practical and political ones a stakeholder."
Timo Hämeranta, LL.M.
Martinlaaksontie 42 B 9
Finland, Member State of the European Union
Home page: http://personal.inet.fi/koti/hameranta/climate.htm
Moderator of the global scientific discussion group
"Sceptical Climate Science" http://groups.yahoo.com/group/climatesceptics
"To dwell only on horror scenarios of the future shows only a lack of imagination". (Kari Enqvist)
"If the facts change, I'll change my opinion. What do you do, Sir" (John Maynard Keynes)
"As long as we are unable to explain the evident inconsistencies that fly in the face of climate alarmism, attempts to associate scientific scepticism with Holocaust denial can only be regarded as political incitement."
(Benny J. Peiser, CCNet January 30, 2003)
PS Financiers will find a begging bowl at the bottom of the Index page of Number Watch.
Some people get upset when you use the L word. They find it unduly provocative and therefore counterproductive. But what other word is there for the creation of an elaborate structure of deliberate falsehoods and exaggerations designed to bamboozle the public into a baseless panic? The British Government has issued a “new” report. It was described across the media as more bad news about global warming: yet it was recycled from something that got full blown coverage last year. Number Watch covered it in a piece entitled A tale of two conferences. Your bending author paid to attend one conference out of his meagre pension, including the rail fare and a modest buffet, but the galling aspect is that he also paid for the other through extortionate taxes, covering elaborate banquets and all the other benefits of a Government sponsored jamboree. Benny Peiser bravely attended both and gave us his depressing account of the second.
This recycling a year after the event is a typical ploy by the Green establishment, but you have to hand it to them. They never miss a trick. We have seen them take over international organisations, media outlets (including the once fiercely independent BBC) and major scientific journals, such as the once great Nature. But who would have given them a chance of taking over the British Conservative Party in a bloodless coup? Yet they have done just that! Any bookie would have given you a million to one against only a year ago. Unfortunately, one of the more tragic errors of Margaret Thatcher was to ignore the party in the country. The arrogance that accompanies a large majority was responsible for this, and we can see the same thing happening on the other side now. The best people left, one by one, and the world’s most efficient electoral machine was allowed to wither away. The remaining rump were mostly lifeless and incompetent. In their panic they bought a pig in a poke, with the result that they lost control of their party to a faction (the Green Toffs) that was an offence to everything in which they believed. The new leadership demands absolute loyalty and democracy be damned.
What is not generally known is that an iron curtain has descended around the Conservative Party. All debate is suppressed. Would-be candidates who have given their all to the cause are told “If you are white, male and middle class, forget it!” Not only policy, but party procedures are handed down from on high. MPs, MEPs and shadow ministers stay silent, in fear for their jobs.
All this is, of course, rather unnerving for the Great Leader. He chose to ride the Green tiger and, despite all his prevarication, is having to face up to the consequences, such as the disastrous energy policy that has opened him to blackmail by the ex-KGB man in the Kremlin.
Yet the Government have decided to issue a report on the basis of that year-old conference, whose outcome was decided before it even opened. It recycles many of the ludicrous extrapolations that were already fully covered a year ago. The people who cannot tell us what the weather is going to be next week can predict sea levels in a thousand years time. And not, of course, one mention of water vapour, the only important greenhouse gas.
Why do they do it? The answer was of course given to us by that great seer H L Mencken, quoted here only last month:
The art of practical politics is to keep the public in a state of constant alarm by menacing it with hobgoblins, both real and imagined, – so making people clamorous to be led to safety.
Study: A Third of Medical Studies are Wrong
Thus spake the headline, but it was, of course, wrong. What it should have said is that A third of all epidemiological studies are contradicted. It is fallacious logic glibly to assume that if one study says that drug A protects against disease B and another that A causes B, that one of them is right and the other is wrong. The most common truth is that A has no effect on B. Then all that is required is application of the one-in-twenty lottery and the various biases (such as publication bias) to ensure that headline catching results are generated. It is almost certainly true that a majority of epidemiological studies are wrong.
And don’t you just love this quotation from an influential editor:
"The crazy part about science and yet the exciting part about science is you almost never have something that's black and white,'' said Dr. Catherine DeAngelis, JAMA's editor-in-chief.
That is simply not true about real science. As Professor Feinstein, that rarity a scientific epidemiologist, observed
A scientific discipline that generates such conflicting findings (coffee does, or does not, cause bladder cancer or congenital defects or heart disease; alcohol does, or does not, cause breast cancer; keeping pets is, or is not, associated with multiple sclerosis, and so on) can hardly be considered 'scientific' at all, as its methods of investigation must be so clearly unreliable. In other branches of science substantial distress would be evoked by a conflicting result…authorities would clamour for special conferences or workshops intended to identify the [methodological] defect and to institute suitable repairs. No such conferences and no such workshops have occurred.
When you have a conflict in physics, such as the wave-particle duality, that is what happens, and the results of the conferences and workshops provide great leaps forward. James Le Fanu adds this to Feinstein’s comment:
A scientist in any serious scientific discipline, such as genetics, would be in serious trouble if his fellow scientists were unable to confirm or replicate his claim to have found the gene for fatness. He would gain a reputation as being 'unreliable' and universities would be reluctant to employ him. This self-imposed insistence on rigorous methodology is however missing from contemporary epidemiology; indeed the most striking feature is the insouciance with which epidemiologists announce their findings, as if they do not expect anybody to take them seriously. It would, after all, be a very serious matter if drinking alcohol really did cause breast cancer.
This is the tragedy of modern science. When the media talk about “The Scientists” they mean the likes of epidemiologists or climate scaremongers. Funding agencies, now under the control of innumerate bureaucrats, take a similar view. And as for editors, well unfortunately the above example is the norm rather than the exception.
We have had some pretty ludicrous and far-fetched numbers in these pages, but this one (from that conference) must be in line for the biscuit. It is the number of metres that sea levels will rise in a thousand years time. This prediction comes from the organisation whose forecasts about next week are a running joke in the pubs and clubs of Britain. Every now and then they announce the acquisition of a new even more powerful computer that will make their forecasts even more accurate. The hilarity continues. Unfortunately, none of us will be around for the pay-off of this particular joke, which is of course the essence of the scam. Still, if you can afford it, there is always the monthly outlook, which ought to be good for a laugh.