Category Archives: Science

Data Fudging ?

In a galaxy far far away and long long ago in a remote place called Planet Houston I was teaching a general course on navigation. I was covering data adjustment, signal processing and navigation system calibration when one member of the class suggested that what I was teaching was “fudging the data”.

I asked a few questions and realized to my horror that several others in the class had clearly misunderstood the subject matter and agreed that data processing and standard data adjustment techniques were little more than sophisticated cheating techniques to get a desired result. Friedrich Carl Gauss  would turn in his grave.

The entire field of seismic exploration in the service of the search for oil rests on advanced data processing algorithms to extract meaningful information from vast amounts of extremely complex data. The view of some elements of my class was tantamount to believing the entire oil exploration business was built on a foundation of lies. By extension; they effectively believed that virtually all of scientific measurement and mathematics as applied to scientific data was little more than a farrago of chicanery and falsehoods. I was gob smacked.

Shit! What to do?

I decided right then and right there to add a little remedial math(s) to the navigation course because it seemed to me that my entire syllabus was a waste of time if its foundations were so badly undermined by misunderstandings and frightening mathematical ignorance.

I have seen many posts and articles recently that deny climate change and use seemingly legitimate arguments to do so. One of the most common is to show that supposedly conniving, cheating scientists have falsified temperature data in the interests of their hysterical and dishonest claims about climate change. This is the same mathematical and scientific ignorance exhibited by a few of my students several decades ago except that this time the future of the planet is at stake.

There isn’t space here to do a remedial maths or science course but perhaps a simple example might serve to illustrate the scientific necessity for measurement adjustments and data processing before using raw data to more closely determine scientific truths.

Imagine, if you will, a world wide project to determine the average height of five year old children around the world. All measurements are to be made with metal measurement tapes and the results sent to a central point for collation. Simple! What could possibly go wrong?

So all results are collected and the average height of 5 year old kids is calculated by adding all the heights and dividing by the number of kids. So far so good.

Then some curious social worker wonders if the average height of a 5 year old varies from one place to another. The results are recomputed for each geographical area and it turns out that there are variations. Why?

Some smart-arse scientist recognizes that since the measurements were made with metal tapes and all metal expands with increasing temperature, the kids measured in hot climates such as northern Australia would seem to be shorter than kids measured in the Arctic conditions of northern Canada.

Fortunately all height measurements were submitted with location and temperature data thus allowing the entire data set to be corrected for temperature variations.

Then some super nit picky awkward bugger asks “are all the steel tapes identical ?” The tapes are recalled and it transpires that one batch of measuring tapes were 2 mm short due to a manufacturing error. All measurements made with these tapes can be corrected by adding 2 mm to all heights.

Get the picture? All measurements and all data sets contain errors of one sort or another; offsets, biases, scaling errors, random noise and even mistakes. The art of measurement and the scientific use of measurements is to detect and eliminate those errors. Better results from older data can be obtained over time by applying better techniques and corrections for errors that might not have been known at the time of the original measurements.

So it is with measuring the heights of children and so it is with measuring global temperatures. Refining temperature data in the light of new knowledge is not fudging, it is good science.

Dragon Theory of Global Warming

Climate Dragon

I can not take full credit for this innovative line of inquiry into the causes of Global Warming. The idea was proposed by a colleague during the course of a vigorous debate concerning orbital variations of the earth and their linkage to cyclical ice ages and current global warming observations.

The sugestion that global warming is caused primarily by dragons is an interesting one and ought not to be dismissed out of hand.

There are those who do not believe that dragons even exist but that opinion is based solely on the flawed evidence that they have never seen a dragon. This is clearly the kind of narrow minded, short sighted, unimaginative thinking so typical of those smug bubble dwelling liberals. Many natural phenomena are known to exist in spite of their lack of a signature in the visible portion of the electro magnetic spectrum. See Lancelot et al.

All animals, including us and presumably dragons too, exhale CO2 and collectively the amounts are staggering. Human beings alone exhale around 3 billion tons of carbon dioxide annually. But here’s the thing; the carbon exhaled by all animals, including dragons, is the same carbon that was “inhaled” from the atmosphere by the plants they consumed.

This is just as true of carnivores; when we eat meat, we’re still eating the same carbon processed by plants, except that it reaches us after detouring through livestock or edible prey.

The only way to add to the carbon in the atmosphere is to take it from a sequestered source like fossil fuels, and burn it. Now animals are not known to eat coal and neither do they drink oil so they can not be the source of additional CO2 in the atmosphere. Or can they?

Might there be an exception to the lack of observations of carbon consuming fauna? Animals do not normally breath out fire but dragons do. What is the source of that fiery exhalation? Perhaps dragons do eat coal, perhaps they quench their thirst on vast hidden lakes of oil. This could be the key to our future survival. Funds must be allocated immediately to dragon research, we need to locate the dragons and study their metabolisms. Finding their feeding grounds may be the answer to vast new sources of energy without resorting to problematic seismic exploration and drilling.

A good place to start intensive dragon research might be near the sea bounding that misty island of Honnah Lee.


What Happened to the Ice Age

Earth Orbit Vs Climate

When I was a kid (in the 50s and 60s), people talked about Earth cooling rather than warming so much so that when I first heard about Global Warming causing Climate change I was confused as I wondered what had happened to those predictions of a looming Ice Age.

The climate changes in response to some external change or forcing. These forcings include changes in the intensity of the sun’s radiation, volcanic eruptions, rapid releases of greenhouse gases, and changes in Earth’s orbit.

The biggest climate changes in the past 800,000 years have been the ice-age cycles. These ice-age cycles are the result of slow changes in Earth’s orbit which alter the way the Sun’s energy is distributed on the Earth’s surface as a function of latitude and season.

Interestingly; in the absence of human-caused global warming, Earth’s current orbital changes would actually be cooling the planet. A 2009 study in the journal Science, “Recent Warming Reverses Long-Term Arctic Cooling,” found that prior to approximately 1900, the Arctic had been slowly cooling for some 2000 years, which was replaced by rapid warming only in the last century or so, driven by carbon pollution.

In the last 35 years of global warming, the sun and the climate have been going in opposite directions with the sun actually showing a slight cooling trend.

Carbon dioxide levels in the air have now passed 400 parts per million (ppm). The last time the Earth’s atmosphere was at 400 ppm of CO 2 was a few million years ago, long before Homo sapiens roamed the Earth. Back then, the climate was 2°C (3.6°F) to 3°C (5.4°F) above preindustrial temperatures, and sea level was some 15–25 meters (50–80 feet) above modern levels.

The world’s top scientists are confident that humans are responsible for so much of the warming because most of the naturally occurring forcings that affect global temperature would tend to be cooling the Earth rather than warming it.

To be perfectly clear: in the absence of human activity, the planet would likely have cooled in recent decades.

The sun’s level of activity tends to have a modest, cyclical impact on global temperatures but we have seen “the deepest solar minimum in nearly a century.

Volcanic activity in recent decades has released particles that partially block the sun and also serve to cool the planet slightly.

Finally, the underlying long-term temperature trend for the Earth as a function of changes in our orbit has been a very slow cooling.

Human activity has overwhelmed all of these trends and completely ended any speculations about a possible future ice age any time soon.

If facts don’t work, you can always try humor: click for the Dragon Theory of Climate Change

Genius Not!

Look for the patterns
Look for the patterns

The key to most of these puzzles is to recognize that they are not equations and that they have very little to do with mathematics other than simple arithmetic.

Take the first so called “equation”; 7+3 does not equal 41021, but 7+3 does equal 10 and note that 10  appears within the string 41021.

Does this result hold for any of the other “equations”? Yes it does. The result of adding the two numbers on the left hand side is embedded within the string on the right hand side for all the “equations”.

Back to the first “equation”: 7-3 = 4, the difference between  the left side numbers appears as first number in the right hand string. This holds true for all the equations.

We are almost home: the product of the left hand numbers appears at the end of the right hand string in every case.

The right hand string is constructed by concatenating  the difference, the sum and the product of the two left hand numbers.

Test on the final equation.

17-8 = 9, 17+ 8 = 25, 17*8 = 136 giving us the string 925136









Newton’s Kids


Newton’s cradle is an apparatus named in honor of Sir Isaac Newton.

The device comprises a series of suspended spheres and is used to demonstrate the laws of motion formulated by Newton.

I. Every object in a state of uniform rest or motion tends to remain in that state of rest or motion unless an external force is applied to it. This is the law of the conservation of momentum or because it is essentially Galileo’s concept of inertia it is often called simply the “Law of Inertia”.

II. The relationship between an object’s mass m, its acceleration a, and the applied force F is F = ma.

III. For every action there is an equal and opposite reaction.

When one sphere on the end is lifted and released, it strikes the next stationary sphere and imparting a force which is transmitted through the adjacent stationary spheres and causes the final sphere to swing.

When one sphere on the end is pulled back and released, it wants to keep moving and the stationary balls would like to remain motionless. The collision between the moving ball and the stationary balls results in a change in the forces acting upon all the balls in the system. [Click to see video of Giant Newton’s Cradle].

The moving ball has a certain amount of momentum (a tendency to remain in motion) and the stationary balls have a certain amount of inertia (a tendency to remain stationary). When the moving ball is stopped by the collision, its momentum is transferred to the first stationary ball in the line. The ball cannot move since it is sandwiched, so it transfers the momentum to the next stationary ball in line. This transfer of momentum continues until the momentum is given to the last ball in the line.

Because its movement is not blocked, when the last ball receives the momentum it continues on the path of the first ball. This process will repeat itself, going back and forth, until the energy of the system is lost to air resistance, friction, and vibrations and all the balls again come to rest.

The first law is seen to be satisfied by observing that the final ball swings to the same height (nearly) as the initial height of the first ball. The third law is demonstrated by noting that the first ball is stopped dead in its tracks. The second law can be used to calculate the forces involved since we can measure the mass of each ball and we know that the initial acceleration is from gravity.

[Click here fore some interesting variations on this theme]

Big Fat Idiot


“Rush Limbaugh is a big fat idiot”: that is not only a factually correct statement but the title of a book written by  Al Franken in 1996.

Australians may not be familiar with Limbaugh so just think of Alan Jones on steroids with a bad headache after overdosing on nastyness. You can listen to Limbaugh on his podcast but be sure you have plenty of soap and hot water available before listening.

In the 20 years since its publication, Rush limbaugh has been busy proving the aptness of the book’s title.

He made a complete ass of himself last Tueday while explaining that if evolution were real, Harambe, the gorilla that was shot and killed at Cincinnati Zoo  after a young boy fell into its enclosure, would have become “one of us.”

He said: “A lot of people think that all of us used to be apes. Don’t doubt me on this. A lot of people think that all of us used to be gorillas, and they’re looking for the missing link out there. The evolution crowd. They think we were originally apes… If we were the original apes, then how come Harambe is still an ape, and how come he didn’t become one of us?” Click here to hear him actually say this.

There is not an evolutionary biologist on the planet who thinks mankind is descended from apes. We do however share a common ancestry with chimpanzees from about  six million years ago, we are not descended from chimpanzees, we are their cousins. Gorillas are more distantly related, gorillas share a common ancestry with us and with chimpanzees. We belong to the group often referred to a “African apes” comprising gorillas, humans,  bonobos and chimpanzees. Click here for an actual evolutionary biologist.

So there you have it Mr Limbaugh: we are not descended from apes, we are apes you big fat idiot.

Biblical Climatology


Republican congressman John Shimkus denied that climate change was happening because it says so in the bible, he said that “we shouldn’t [be] concerned about the planet being destroyed because God promised Noah it wouldn’t happen again after the great flood”.

Televangelists David Barton and Kenneth Copeland disagree because God told them that climate change is happening and it is God’s punishment for our sins. “…the nation immediately falls under the judgment of God as He removes his protection and “whap, here comes storms like we’ve never seen before and here comes floods and here comes climate stuff that we can’t explain; all of the hot times and all the cold times and not enough rain and too much rain and we’re flooding over here and we’ve got droughts over here …”

American’s do not have a lock on thinking that sin influences weather and climate. Senior Church of England bishops have claimed that floods that have devastated swathes of the country [England] are God’s judgment on the immorality and greed of modern society . [Click here for report]

One diocesan bishop has even claimed that laws that have undermined marriage, including the introduction of pro-gay legislation, have provoked God to act by sending the storms that have left thousands of people homeless.

Nor is this linkage exclusively Christian. Seyyed Youssef Tabatabi-nejad, a senior Islamic cleric in Isfahan, Iran, has claimed that women dressing inappropriately is causing climate change. [Click here for report]

Fortunately most religious organizations  agree with the science and promote the view that climate change is real and we are the cause. A more rational view is taken by Katharine Hayhoe, a climate scientist and evangelical Christian.  Here: she explains what’s wrong about religious right. Muslims too are mostly on the side of science as far as climate change is concerned. [Click here for report]

[Click here] for an overview of the Climate change /Global warming controversy including references to the views of all sides.

[Click here] for an overview of Climate change denial

[Click here] and [Click here] for answers to arguments against the reality of Climate change and its causes.

Warning many of the references in these sites contain actual scientific data.

Facebook Assholes?

Islamic Astronomy

Why are there so many assholes on Facebook? Well its complicated,  related as it is to astronomy, philately, atomic physics and the Internet.

Did you know that most of the stars you can see with the naked eye have Arabic names?  That’s because they were first named by Arabic speaking astronomers. When you are the first, you get the naming rights.

Look at the three stamps pictured in the image below:






they are respectively from left to right an  American stamp,  a French stamp and finally a British stamp.

Notice anything?

The American stamp has the legend “United States of America” while  the French stamp has “Republique Francaise” emblazoned across it. The British stamp contains no  text to tell you it’s British. That’s because stamps were invented by Brits and there was no need to write UK or England  because no one else had stamps at that time. Britain had the naming rights, or more accurately the none naming rights, to this day.

For the same reason,  email addresses have their country of origin appended to them. My email ends in .au for Australia but Americans do not have a .us  because the internet and email were invented in America and Americans have the naming rights

Now look at a periodic table of the elements:

Periodic table of elements by country

The elements are marked with the countries in which each element was discovered. Europe dominates the earlier discoveries and so British, Swedish, French and other European scientists got to name those elements because they found them first. The USA dominates the later heavier elements because American institutions dominated atomic physics and they gave their discoveries  American names.

Which brings me back to assholes. The internet is American in origin and so is Facebook so if I type “arsehole” on a Facebook page, I get an irritating squiggly red line under it and they only way I can get rid of it is to replace an honest English arsehole with a less satisfying American asshole. So that my friends is why Facebook is full of so many American assholes instead of good honest British arseholes. So maybe my friends on the right are right and all our problems really did start with the Muslim’s.

NOAA Data Falsification?

Did NOAA Falsify Temperature Data ?

The anti-science brigade and their Climate-change denying cohorts are at it again.

Specifically they claim that: “NOAA scientists upwardly adjusted temperature readings taken from the engine intakes of ships to eliminate the “hiatus” in global warming from the temperature record.”

They further claim that “This is a blatant attempt to politicize science by the administration and should be exposed for the dishonest research it is”.

Look at the accompanying graphic.


The top graph (A) shows NOAA global surface temperature changes over the last 130 years. The data are shown with new corrections Vs old corrections and as you can see the differences are tiny.

The lower graph (B) shows the same data with raw (uncorrected) data Vs Corrected data. The temperature data are shifted upwards prior to 1940 but from then on the raw and corrected data are strikingly similar.

According to the raw, unadjusted data, global surface temperatures warmed about 0.9°C from 1880 to 2014. According to the new NOAA analysis, they warmed about 0.8°C during that time. That’s a bit more than in the previous version of NOAA’s data set (0.75°C), but the net effect of these adjustments is to reduce the overall estimated warming as compared to the raw data!

I’ll say that again: the net effect of these adjustments is to REDUCE the overall estimated warming as compared to the raw data!

If you wanted to exaggerate global warming you would simply show the uncorrected data set, because it says that the world has warmed up about 2.071 degrees Fahrenheit since 1880. The corrected data set lowers this estimate to about 1.65 degrees Fahrenheit.”

But why adjust/correct the data? Isn’t this just fudging the numbers? Isn’t the pure raw data more accurate?

Contrary to the conspiracy theories, climate scientists process the raw temperature data for an important reason – to remove biases that don’t represent real temperature changes. The big ones in the new NOAA analysis deals with changes in the ways ocean temperatures have been measured. They’ve been measured from water samples in insulated buckets, uninsulated buckets, from valves in ships’ hulls (I happen to be a world authority on valves in ship’s hulls), and from instruments on buoys. As is the case for all measurements, these disparate temperature observations have differing inherent measurement errors and biases.

Adjustment of raw observations is necessary to more closely approach the truth. This is not conspiracy it is Science.

God Loves Abortion

One religious argument against abortion is that each human being is granted a soul at the moment of conception, and that destroying that “soul” is equivalent to murder.

The logic of this souls based argument leads to the conclusion that most methods of birth control, with the exception of condoms, are equivalent to mass murder.

Catholics dogma, of course, considers even the the use of condoms to be immoral. “AIDS is bad but condoms are worse” as the sainted Hitchens put it.

According to studies by the CDC and other medical authorities, less than 70% of all fertilized eggs will even implant into the mother’s womb and even if implantation does occur, there is a 25-50% chance of aborting before the mother even knows she is pregnant.

From the fundamentalist point of view, all those little souls are being given a home,  only to be aborted before they even know they are alive.

The worlds most prolific abortionist (25-50% of all pregnancies) is God himself. If  we are to grant that God exists, we must conclude that he loves abortion or why else would he perform so many of them.