Monorail to the Future: reasserting the American Dream for #HopeTuesday

With the 1962 World’s Fair, Seattle asserted itself as the city that invented the future. Seattle Center, home to the Space Needle, Key Arena, the Pacific Science Center and other Jetsonesque architectural wonders, gave us a stunning Mid-Century Modern vision of our presumed technotopian future. In 2000 the EMP Museum opened, inserting a postmodern generational overlay in the form of Frank Gehry’s gripping postmodern architectural style. Ever upward, ever forward.

For #HopeTuesday today, I offer you a metaphor. Let’s rekindle our dream of a clean, sustainable, prosperous future with opportunity for all – a true and attainable American dream. I took this shot of the World’s Fair monorail, which connects the EMP and Seattle Center with downtown, in November of 2013. What could possibly be more optimistic, more hopeful, for Americans than a train destined for a technological Utopia?

Monorail, EMP Museum and Seattle Center

Monorail, EMP Museum and Seattle Center

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Book Review: Lament for the Fallen by Gavin Chait

“Review a little history and you’ll see that creators seem to find inspiration in adversity.” – Gavin Chait, Lament for the Fallen

Lament for the Fallen by Gavin Chait (Image courtesy Goodreads)

On the surface Gavin Chait’s debut novel Lament for the Fallen seems to have a classic sci-fi plot: an alien comes to Earth, interacts with humans, reveals remarkable super human powers in helping his human hosts/friends, then returns to his home, humans having been taught an important lesson or two. If it seems that this plot line that has been used with remarkable success in the genre, it’s because it has. While it is well known among my friends and critics that I am not a fan of science fiction books (which I noted again very recently), I am a fan of sci-fi films. Besides the ubiquitous and just okay behemoth E.T.: the Extraterrestrial, other films that have explored the genre interestingly include The Day the Earth Stood Still, The Man Who Fell to Earth, and Starman.

Having said all this, I suppose I should make a clarification. Lament for the Fallen is not about an alien visiting Earth. It is about a human who has lived his life in a “space city” (think colony – that’s important to the themes of this work) visiting Earth and doing some of those remarkable things mentioned above. To miss this might cause one to miss important themes and ideas that this book explores.

As I find I must say too often in my role as crusty old professor, read more closely, students. Harrumph…now to this excellent book… Continue reading

CATEGORY: ScienceTechnology

Good science. Bad blogging.

CriticalThinking300Bad science journalism is almost as bad as bad science, perhaps worse in some ways, insofar as it may popularize error where there had been none before. Carping about bad science blogging, on the other hand, should probably be beneath me, at least most of the time, because hey, at least there’s folks trying, right? Isn’t this just another case of XKCD’s “someone is wrong on the Internet?

Well, here’s two examples. I’ll let the critical reader decided for themselves whether or not they serve to engender better critical reading more generally speaking. Continue reading

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Peter Thiel and Ambrosia: A modern-day Dracula reboot for self-absorbed rich people

Transfusing youth, 21st century style…

(At the sound of wolves howling) – “Children of the night: what music they make!” – Dracula (in Tod Browning’s Dracula, 1931)

Dracula, Lugosi style (image courtesy Wikimedia)

Several recent news items from reliable sources have explored the research of scientists into the benefits of blood transfusions from young persons to old ones. If you are like me and find this at its best macabre, at its worst Mengelean, then the following is, as a writer and TV host used to say, “submitted for your approval….”

A new company called Ambrosia is willing to offer customers trial participants a series of blood transfusions from 16-25 year old donors. Recipients must be older than 35 to qualify for the deal trial. The purpose of these transfusions is to combat aging, particularly by improving brain function and muscle strength.

If you followed either of the links for the clinical trials, you’ve noticed that there are a ethical issues galore related to doing this kind of research and these kind of clinical trials, no matter how noble the aims might be.  One of the issues causing real concern in the scientific community is that those who wish to participate in the trials are being charged $8,000. Yep. $8,000.  Continue reading

ArtSunday

Writers of slender acquaintance: Karel Capek

Our houses and machines will be in ruins, our systems will collapse, and the names of our great will fall away like dry leaves. Only you, love, will blossom on this rubbish heap and commit the seed of life to the winds.” – Karel Capek

Karel Capek (image courtesy Wikimedia)

The Czech writer Karel Capek, in terms of being a writer of slender acquaintance, falls somewhere between Rudyard Kipling, a Nobelist remembered now only for children’s stories and Rhian Roberts, a Welsh writer of great promise who published a few short stories and then disappeared. While he is often (erroneously) credited with having coined the word for a creation that may haunt the 21st century,  was nominated for the Nobel Prize numerous times, and even has literary awards named for him, Capek is not widely read now.

He should be. His central themes – the ability of technology to overwhelm and destroy humanity, the dangers of rampant consumerism, corporatism run amok, the evils of authoritarianism of both left and right political persuasions – will resonate powerfully with contemporary readers. Given that Capek died in 1938, his prescience about the power of these forces in our lives makes him a writer who should be widely read and discussed. Continue reading

Book-Review

Rivers run through it…North Carolina’s Rivers: Facts, Legends and Lore…

John Hairr’s North Carolina Rivers is part reference book, part history, part guidebook. What it is not is particularly engaging….

North Carolina Rivers by John Hairr (image courtesy Goodreads)

While I haven’t completed my book list for 2016, I will say a couple of things about it for those who have any interest in such things: it will be considerably shorter (12 books – to allow room for the numerous reviews I am asked to do and to allow me some writing time for completing my latest book), and it will focus on no particular area as the 2015 reading list did.

That said, we begin 2016 with a book I picked randomly from one of our many groaning bookshelves. In an effort to get away from my penchant for reading fiction, particularly literary fiction, I chose what I thought would be an interesting read for a dedicated fly angler: North Carolina Rivers: Facts, Legends, and Lore by John Hairr.

Hairr’s book might be thought of as part reference book, as part guide book, as part informal history of the rivers – and the river systems in North Carolina. It is trying to be all these things, perhaps, that causes North Carolina Rivers to be problematic for readers. Continue reading

Scholars & Rogues Asshole-of-the-Year Martin Shkreli

Martin Shkreli edges Donald Trump for S&R’s Asshole of the Year Award

Scholars & Rogues Asshole-of-the-Year Martin Shkreli

Noted sociopath and PharmaDoucheBro Shkreli spent 2015 redefining what it means to be an asshole, upsets GOP presidential frontrunner Trump.

You’ve all known an asshole — a rude, arrogant, contemptuous person. Assholes are irritating. Assholes are the bad breath of personalities. A reasonable person’s reaction to the presence of an asshole is Get the fuck away from me, asshole.

How, then, to select an Asshole of the Year? Continue reading

Climate2

Top conservative media sites regularly misrepresent OISM’s Global Warming Petition Project

Of the top 15 most read conservative/libertarian media sites, Fox News has mentioned the Global Warming Petition Project only five times since 2008.

Comparison of Department of Education graduation data for 1970-2013 and Bureau of Labor Statistics employment data for 2013 to the number of Global Warming Petition Project signatures [Corrected]

Comparison of Department of Education graduation data for 1970-2013 and Bureau of Labor Statistics employment data for 2013 to the number of Global Warming Petition Project signatures [Corrected]

For other posts in this series: click here for data and debunking, here for GWPP mentions by US politicians, and here for conservative/libertarian media references.

The Oregon Institute of Science and Medicine published the most recent version of the Global Warming Petition Project (GWPP) in 2008, The purpose of the petition was to create a narrative, since shown to be false, that the 31,487 signers disproved the opinion surveys showing an overwhelming consensus of climate experts who are convinced that climate change is real.

Since 2008, six surveys of expert opinion have been published in the peer-reviewed literature, using different statistical methodologies and asking slightly different survey questions, with the result that the lowest level of consensus found in any of them was 88% of respondents, with most finding consensus of about 97%. Yet the GWPP continues to be referenced widely among conservatives and libertarians even though its counter-consensus narrative has been shown to be false – the GWPP signers aren’t all scientists, the GWPP’s criteria for being called a scientist is absurd, the signers are a tiny minority of the people who earned bachelors of science degrees even assuming the GWPP’s criteria are reasonable (and thus giving the GWPP the greatest possible benefit of doubt), the signers are also a tiny minority of the people working in the GWPP’s selected fields as of 2013, and the signers would be a small minority of the members of several professional societies even if every GWPP signer was a member (which is extremely unlikely).

Up until now, S&R has focused on disproving the GWPP’s false narrative and on exposing the individuals who have repeated that false narrative in Congress either as members of Congress or in Congressional testimony. This article marks the start of the next phase of our investigation in which we focus on the organizations and individuals responsible for spreading and maintaining the false narrative. Continue reading

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For 2016, re-elect Andrew Shepherd: Fiction trumps the Republican reality

the_american_president_28movie_poster29In my favorite bad movie, The American President, Michael Douglas as the fictional President Andrew Shepherd confronts his Republican challenger’s claims about Shepherd’s character.

We have serious problems to solve, and we need serious people to solve them. And whatever your particular problem is, I promise you, Bob Rumson is not the least bit interested in solving it. He is interested in two things, and two things only: Making you afraid of it, and telling you who’s to blame for it. That, ladies and gentlemen, is how you win elections.

You gather a group of middle-aged, middle-class, middle-income voters who remember with longing an easier time, and you talk to them about family and American values and character. … You scream about patriotism and tell them [who’s] to blame for their lot in life … [emphasis added]

Now remove Bob Rumson’s name and insert the name of any of the recent CNN main stage GOP presidential candidates (or even Wolf Blitzer, as he goaded them into ISIS hysteria). Continue reading

Climate2

Two Senators and three supposed climate experts repeat errors or lies about the Global Warming Petition Project

Senators Michael Crapo and Orrin Hatch have implied that they agree with the Global Warming Petition Project’s false, anti-consensus narrative while climate “experts” J. Scott Amstrong, Kesten C. Green, and Patrick Moore gave wrong and misleading testimony on the subject.

Comparison between total Bureau of Labor Statistics 2013 employment and Global Warming Petition Project data derived from the Qualifications of Signers page (accessed 8/22/2015)

Comparison between total Bureau of Labor Statistics 2013 employment and Global Warming Petition Project data derived from the Qualifications of Signers page (accessed 8/22/2015)

For other posts in this series: click here for data and debunking, here for GWPP mentions by US politicians, and here for conservative/libertarian media references.

Up until now, S&R has focused on the members of Congress who have explicitly mentioned the Oregon Institute of Science and Medicine’s (OISM) Global Warming Petition Project (GWPP) in the course of their official duties or their reelection campaigns. But there are other, less obvious ways to indicate agreement with the GWPP’s false narrative that the signers represent a counter-consensus against the reality of industrial climate disruption (aka human-caused global warming or climate change). S&R found that two Senators, Michael Crapo of Idaho and Orrin Hatch of Utah, have indicated that they agree with the false narrative without explicitly saying so.

In addition, three men have given testimony to Congress that the GWPP’s signers disprove the many peer-reviewed studies that have found an overwhelming consensus that climate change is occurring, that the changes are largely a result of industrial emissions of greenhouse gases, and that the changes will be disruptive to global ecosystems and human society. Those three men are J. Scott Armstrong, Kesten C. Green (who testified together), and Patrick Moore. Continue reading

A brief snapshot from the Information (Overload) Age

Then

In 1993, during my first year in the PhD program at the University of Colorado, we had a guest speaker in one of my classes. The subject was information technology and the Internet. He explained that at that moment, the largest repository of stored electronic data on Earth was at the National Center for Atmospheric Research, about four miles away. That building hosted two terabytes of data.

Now

One of my external backup drives seems to be failing, so I ventured out to get a replacement. Continue reading

Climate2

Six more Congressmen make false statements about OISM’s Global Warming Petition Project

Representatives Conaway, Luetkemeyer, McKinley, Pearce, and Poe and Senator Inhofe have all made serious factual errors and repeated the false narrative that the Global Warming Petition Project represents an anti-climate change counter-consensus.

Comparison between total U.S. Department of Education Bachelor of Science degrees and Global Warming Petition Project data derived from the Qualifications of Signers page (accessed 8/22/2015)

Comparison between total U.S. Department of Education Bachelor of Science degrees and Global Warming Petition Project data derived from the Qualifications of Signers page (accessed 8/22/2015)

For other posts in this series: click here for data and debunking, here for GWPP mentions by US politicians, and here for conservative/libertarian media references.

An overwhelming number of climate experts agree that climate change is occurring, is largely driven by industrial emissions of greenhouse gases, and will be disruptive to ecosystems and human society (aka global warming or industrial climate disruption). But this evidence-based consensus is rejected by many people who deny that global warming is a threat or who fear that countering industrial climate disruption will require policy responses that are counter to their political ideology. The Global Warming Petition Project (GWPP), organized by the Oregon Institute of Science and Medicine and published most recently in May 2008, was an attempt by deniers of industrial climate disruption to counter the overwhelming scientific consensus of climate.

To date, 11 current and two former members of Congress have invoked the GWPP since May 2008. To date S&R has profiled both former members, John Linder of Georgia and Ron Paul of Texas, and five of the current members: Representatives Robert Aderholt of Alabama, Dana Rohrabacher of California, Steve King of Iowa, and Senators Jeff Sessions of Alabama and Roger Wicker of Missippi. In this article, S&R profiles the remaining six: Representative Blaine Luetkemeyer of Missouri, Representative Steve Pearce of Arizona, Senator James Inhofe of Oklahoma, Representatives K. Michael Conaway and Lloyd “Ted” Poe of Texas, and Representative David McKinley of West Virginia. Continue reading

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Aderholt, King, Rohrabacher, Sessions, Wicker make incorrect statements about Global Warming Petition Project

11 current members of Congress have made wrong and/or misleading statements about the Global Warming Petition Project, including Robert Aderholt and Jeff Sessions of Alabama, Dana Rohrabacher of California, Steve King of Iowa, and Roger Wicker of Mississippi.

Comparison between total Bureau of Labor Statistics 2013 employment and Global Warming Petition Project data derived from the Qualifications of Signers page (accessed 8/22/2015)

Comparison between total Bureau of Labor Statistics 2013 employment and Global Warming Petition Project data derived from the Qualifications of Signers page (accessed 8/22/2015)


For other posts in this series: click here for data and debunking, here for GWPP mentions by US politicians, and here for conservative/libertarian media references.

The Global Warming Petition Project (GWPP), organized by the Oregon Institute of Science and Medicine and published most recently in May 2008, is an attempt to counter the overwhelming scientific consensus of climate experts that climate change is occurring, is largely driven by industrial emissions of greenhouse gases, and will be disruptive to ecosystems and human society.

In the previous article of this series, S&R described how two former members of Congress, Representatives John Linder of Georgia and Ron Paul of Texas, made wrong and misleading statements regarding the GWPP that could have been easily fact checked (Linder) or that were overly influenced by personal relationships between the Representative and the GWPP’s organizers (Paul). In this article, S&R investigates five of the 11 current members of Congress who have also referenced the GWPP in congressional hearings and floor speeches, Representative Robert Aderholt and Senator Jeff Sessions of Alabama, Representative Dana Rohrabacher of California, Representative Steve King of Iowa, and Senator Roger Wicker of Mississippi. Continue reading

Climate2

Former Congressmen John Linder and Ron Paul made wrong and misleading claims about OISM Global Warming Petition Project

While Representatives John Linder of Georgia and Ron Paul of Texas are no longer representing their states, while they were in the House, they both made misleading and incorrect statements regarding the Oregon Institute of Science and Medicine’s Global Warming Petition Project.

Comparison between total U.S. Department of Education Bachelor of Science degrees and Global Warming Petition Project data derived from the Qualifications of Signers page (accessed 8/22/2015)

Comparison between total U.S. Department of Education Bachelor of Science degrees and Global Warming Petition Project data derived from the Qualifications of Signers page (accessed 8/22/2015)

For other posts in this series: click here for data and debunking, here for GWPP mentions by US politicians, and here for conservative/libertarian media references.

The Global Warming Petition Project (GWPP), organized by the Oregon Institute of Science and Medicine and published most recently in May 2008, is an attempt to counter the many studies that have found an overwhelming scientific consensus by climate experts that climate change is occurring, is largely driven by industrial emissions of greenhouse gases, and will be disruptive to ecosystems and human society. S&R has shown that this attempt represents a false narrative for two reasons. First, the GWPP’s criteria are so broad that a stay-at-home parent with a veterinary degree who has never studied climate is considered qualified to have an informed opinion on the subject. This position is obviously absurd. Second, S&R has shown that, even if we give the GWPP the greatest possible benefit of the doubt, their signers represent tiny minorities of the total number of people who could have signed – one quarter of one percent (0.25%) of people with the GWPP’s selected degrees, less than one half of one percent (0.44%) of people who work in the selected fields, and no more than about 7% of the members of various scientific and technical professional organizations.

As part of our series on the GWPP, S&R searched through official government records of floor speeches and hearings from U.S. Representatives and Senators. We found two former and 11 current members of Congress who have referenced the GWPP, directly or indirectly, since it was published. Today S&R focuses on the two former members, John Linder of Georgia and Ron Paul of Texas. Continue reading

Climate2

The OISM’s climate change-denying Petition Project is a small percentage of the AMS, AGU, APS, ACS, and IEEE membership

Compared to the membership of five major professional science and engineering organizations, the Global Warming Petition Project’s signers are still a small minority.

For other posts in this series: click here for data and debunking, here for GWPP mentions by US politicians, and here for conservative/libertarian media references.

In May, 2008, the climate change-denying Oregon Institute of Science and Medicine (OISM) published their Global Warming Petition Project (GWPP). This petition falsely claimed to be a counter-consensus against the authentic consensus that climate change is happening, that it’s largely the result of industrial emissions of greenhouse gases like carbon dioxide, and that the changes will be disruptive to both the global climate and human society. In reality, the number of GWPP signatures is a tiny minority of both the science and engineering degrees that were awarded between 1970 and 2013 and of the number of scientists and engineers working in their fields in 2013 (the latest years that data is available). And this is even using the GWPP’s own overly broad criteria for who qualifies as having an informed opinion on the subject of industrial climate disruption (aka global warming or climate change).

Beyond comparing the GWPP’s numbers against graduation and employment data, there is another set of comparisons that can be made. Specifically, we can compare the GWPP’s signers to the membership of major professional organizations for both scientists and engineers. As with the graduation and employment data, however, this comparison shows a third time that the GWPP’s signers represent a small minority of the overall population. Continue reading

CATEGORY: Climate

Federal employment data also shows OISM’s climate change-denying Petition Project is a tiny minority

The 31,487 names collected by the Global Warming Petition Project represent less than one half of one percent (0.44%) of people employed in 2013 in the GWPP’s selected science and engineering fields.

For other posts in this series: click here for data and debunking, here for GWPP mentions by US politicians, and here for conservative/libertarian media references.

Correction: Figures 5 and 6 had incorrect data for chemical engineers. Both figures and the accompanying text have been corrected accordingly.
In May, 2008, the Oregon Institute of Science and Medicine (OISM), a group that denies the reality of industrial climate disruption, published the Global Warming Petition Project (GWPP). This petition falsely claimed to disprove the real expert consensus that climate change is happening, that it’s largely the result of industrial emissions of greenhouse gases like carbon dioxide, and that it will be disruptive to the global climate and human society. As S&R showed in the first part of this series, the GWPP’s false narrative is based on misrepresentations of both authentic expertise and the total population of experts. When compared against the U.S. Department of Education graduation data between 1970 and 2013, the GWPP signatures represented only one quarter of one percent – 0.25% – of the total number people who the GWPP said were qualified to comment on climate disruption.

While having a degree in a particular field usually grants an informed opinion on that field, there are other ways to determine how informed someone’s opinion is likely to be. An alternative method is to look at whether someone is actively employed in the field in which they’re claiming expertise. Using this method, we can compare the GWPP’s signature numbers to the latest available employment data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics for the fields that the GWPP nonsensically identified as having sufficient knowledge to “evaluate the research data” on climate disruption. When we make this comparison, however, we find yet again that the GWPP’s signers represent a tiny minority of the total population. Continue reading

CATEGORY: Climate

Federal education data shows OISM’s climate change denying Petition Project actually a tiny minority

Far from being an alleged “counter-consensus,” the 31,487 names collected by the Global Warming Petition Project represent only one quarter of one percent (0.25%) of science and engineering degrees awarded since 1970.

For other posts in this series: click here for data and debunking, here for GWPP mentions by US politicians, and here for conservative/libertarian media references.

In May, 2008, the Oregon Institute of Science and Medicine (OISM), a group that denies that industrial climate disruption (aka global warming or climate change) is real, published the results of their Global Warming Petition Project (GWPP). Published originally in 1997 with about 17,100 names, the 2008 update contained the names of 31,487 supposed scientists who allegedly reject the overwhelming scientific consensus regarding climate disruption – that climate change is happening, that it’s largely the result of industrial emissions of greenhouse gases like carbon dioxide, and that it will be disruptive to the global climate and human society. In August 2009, an S&R analysis found that the GWPP’s criteria for a “scientist” (someone who was able to “evaluate the research data”) included so many non-experts that the criteria were nonsense. In addition, S&R found that the names represented only one third of one percent (0.3%) of people who met the GWPP’s own nonsensical criteria.

In the six years since S&R published its analysis, the major national media outlets have largely stopped repeating the GWPP’s unscientific claims. Instead, the media has mostly reported on the many peer-reviewed scientific studies1 that have demonstrated that the scientific consensus on climate disruption is real. However, the GWPP’s champion have never admitted that their petition is misleading. Further, S&R is aware that Arthur Robinson, the president of the OISM, was informed of S&R’s analysis and rejected it. Furthermore, since 2009 the GWPP’s false narrative has been repeated by political pundits, think tanks, blogs, conservative media outlets, and even in Congressional testimony and by both Senators and Representatives. Given the continued political attention lavished on the GWPP’s false narrative, S&R decided to update and broaden our original investigation.
Continue reading

You don’t want to be sued for what your robot did. (Photo: Frankieleon / Flickr Commons)

Before you put it to work for you, don’t forget to incorporate your robot!

The upside and downside of incorporating robots.

You don’t want to be sued for what your robot did. (Photo: Frankieleon / Flickr Commons)

You don’t want to be sued for what your robot did. (Photo: Frankieleon / Flickr Commons)

You’ve heard about e-trading, or high-frequency trading — the use of algorithms to react instantly and reflexively to the market. And you may have heard about robo-advisors, in which software manages your portfolio. Also, as Jerry Kaplan writes in his new book, Humans Need Not Apply (Yale University Press, 2015), of Amazon, etc.:

Super-human omniscient systems observe our individual and group behavior, then guide us to what we purchase, listen to, watch, and read— while the profits quietly pile up elsewhere.

In fact, the day may come when robots will own assets.   Continue reading

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Senator Schumer: Be a statesman.

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photo courtesy of rt.com

Senator Schumer,

I studied your position on the Iran Deal, which was posted on medium.com. It seems well reasoned and thorough, proceeding logically from point to point. However, there is one key flaw which runs through all the arguments. There is a false premise, an unstated assumption that Iran not only intends to build a nuclear weapon, but that they intend to use it. It is beginning from the position that we are and always shall be mortal enemies, that one of us must be destroyed. Continue reading

Politics: Don't Tread on Me

Huckabee, in utero personhood, and unintended consequences

Have personhood advocates really thought this through?

Raw Story posts: Mike Huckabee’s bizarre fetal personhood proposal would criminalize miscarriages

Thought experiment time.

Given: zygote through fetus is a legal person.

For a legal perspective, wouldn’t said person necessarily be “incapacitated” for all practical intents and purposes, thus not competent?

Aside from all the other considerations mentioned in the article, upon becoming aware that she is carrying a legally incompetent person, would the woman have to go to court to petition for guardianship? Continue reading