Science 101: Null Test All Claims

Francis Menton provides some essential advice for non-scientists in his recent essay at Manhattan Contrarian You Don’t Need To Be A Scientist To Know That The Global Warming Alarm “Science” Is Fake. Excerpts in italics with my bolds.

When confronted with a claim that a scientific proposition has been definitively proven, ask the question: What was the null hypothesis, and on what basis has it been rejected?

As Menton explains, you don’t need the skills to perform yourself the null test, just the boldness to check how they dismissed the null hypothesis.

Consider first a simple example, the question of whether aspirin cures headaches. Make that our scientific proposition: aspirin cures headaches. How would this proposition be established? You yourself have taken aspirin many times, and your headache always went away. Doesn’t that prove that the aspirin worked? Absolutely not. The fact that you took aspirin 100 times and the headache went away 100 times proves nothing. Why? Because there is a null hypothesis that must first be rejected. Here the null hypothesis is that headaches will go away just as quickly on their own. How do you reject that? The standard method is to take some substantial number of people with headaches, say 2000, and give half of them the aspirin and the other half a placebo. Two hours later, of the 1000 who took the aspirin, 950 feel better and only 50 still have the headache; and of the 1000 who took the placebo, 500 still have the headache. Now you have very, very good proof that aspirin cured the headaches.

The point to focus on is that the most important evidence — the only evidence that really proves causation — is the evidence that requires rejection of the null hypothesis.

Over to climate science. Here you are subject to a constant barrage of information designed to convince you of the definitive relationship between human carbon emissions and global warming. The world temperature graph is shooting up in hockey stick formation! Arctic sea ice is disappearing! The rate of sea level rise is accelerating! Hurricanes are intensifying! June was the warmest month EVER! And on and on and on. All of this is alleged to be “consistent” with the hypothesis of human-caused global warming.

But, what is the null hypothesis, and on what basis has it been rejected? Here the null hypothesis is that some other factor, or combination of factors, rather than human carbon emissions, was the dominant cause of the observed warming.

Once you pose the null hypothesis, you immediately realize that all of the scary climate information with which you are constantly barraged does not even meaningfully address the relevant question. All of that information is just the analog of your 100 headaches that went away after you took aspirin. How do you know that those headaches wouldn’t have gone away without the aspirin? You don’t know unless someone presents data that are sufficient to reject the null hypothesis. Proof of causation can only come from disproof of the null hypothesis or hypotheses, that is, disproof of other proposed alternative causes. This precept is fundamental to the scientific method, and therefore fully applies to “climate science” to the extent that that field wishes to be real science versus fake science.

Now, start applying this simple check to every piece you read about climate science. Start looking for the null hypothesis and how it was supposedly rejected. In mainstream climate literature — and I’m including here both the highbrow media like the New York Times and also the so-called “peer reviewed” scientific journals like Nature and Scienceyou won’t find that. It seems that people calling themselves “climate scientists” today have convinced themselves that their field is such “settled science” that they no longer need to bother with tacky questions like worrying about the null hypothesis.

When climate scientists start addressing the alternative hypotheses seriously, then it will be real science. In the meantime, it’s fake science.

Summary

The null test can be applied to any scientific claim.  If there is no null hypothesis considered, then you can add the report  to the file “Unproven Claims,” or “Unfounded Suppositions.”  Some researchers call them SWAGs: Scientific Wild Ass Guesses.  These are not useless, since any discovery starts with a SWAG.  But you should avoid believing that they describe the way the world works until alternative explanations have been tested and dismissed.

See Also: No “Gold Standard” Climate Science

No GHG Warming Fingerprints in the Sky

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Scientific vs. Social Authenticity

Credit: Stanislaw Pytel Getty Images

This post was triggered by an essay in Scientific American Authenticity under Fire by Scott Barry Kaufman. He raises modern issues and expresses a social and psychological sense of authenticity that left me unsatisfied.  So following that, I turn to a scientific standard much richer in meaning and closer to my understanding.

Social Authenticity

Researchers are calling into question authenticity as a scientifically viable concept

Authenticity is one of the most valued characteristics in our society. As children we are taught to just “be ourselves”, and as adults we can choose from a large number of self-help books that will tell us how important it is to get in touch with our “real self”. It’s taken as a given by everyone that authenticity is a real thing and that it is worth cultivating.

Even the science of authenticity has surged in recent years, with hundreds of journal articles, conferences, and workshops. However, the more that researchers have put authenticity under the microscope, the more muddied the waters of authenticity have become.

Many common ideas about authenticity are being overturned.
Turns out, authenticity is a real mess.

One big problem with authenticity is that there is a lack of consensus among both the general public and among psychologists about what it actually means for someone or something to be authentic. Are you being most authentic when you are being congruent with your physiological states, emotions, and beliefs, whatever they may be?

Another thorny issue is measurement. Virtually all measures of authenticity involve self-report measures. However, people often do not know what they are really like or why they actually do what they do. So tests that ask people to report how authentic they are is unlikely to be a truly accurate measure of their authenticity.

Perhaps the thorniest issue of them all though is the entire notion of the “real self”. The humanistic psychotherapist Carl Rogers noted that many people who seek psychotherapy are plagued by the question “Who am I, really?” While people spend so much time searching for their real self, the stark reality is that all of the aspects of your mind are part of you.

So what is this “true self” that people are always talking about? Once you take a closer scientific examination, it seems that what people refer to as their “true self” really is just the aspects of themselves that make them feel the best about themselves.

Even more perplexing, it turns out that most people’s feelings of authenticity have little to do with acting in accord with their actual nature. The reality appears to be quite the opposite. All people tend to feel most authentic when having the same experiences, regardless of their unique personality.

Another counterintuitive finding is that people actually tend to feel most authentic when they are acting in socially desirable ways, not when they are going against the grain of cultural dictates (which is how authenticity is typically portrayed). On the flip side, people tend to feel inauthentic when they are feeling socially isolated, or feel as though they have fallen short of the standards of others.

Therefore, what people think of as their true self may actually just be what people want to be seen as. According to social psychologist Roy Baumeister, we will report feeling highly authentic and satisfied when the way others think of us matches up with how we want to be seen, and when our actions “are conducive to establishing, maintaining, and enjoying our desired reputation.”

Conversely, Baumeister argues that when people fail to achieve their desired reputation, they will dismiss their actions as inauthentic, as not reflecting their true self (“That’s not who I am”). As Baumeister notes, “As familiar examples, such repudiation seems central to many of the public appeals by celebrities and politicians caught abusing illegal drugs, having illicit sex, embezzling or bribing, and other reputation-damaging actions.”

Kaufman Conclusion

As long as you are working towards growth in the direction of who you truly want to be, that counts as authentic in my book regardless of whether it is who you are at this very moment. The first step to healthy authenticity is shedding your positivity biases and seeing yourself for who you are, in all of your contradictory and complex splendor. Full acceptance doesn’t mean you like everything you see, but it does mean that you’ve taken the most important first step toward actually becoming the whole person you most wish to become. As Carl Rogers noted, “the curious paradox is that when I accept myself just as I am, then I can change.”

My Comment:
Kaufman describes contemporary ego-centric group-thinking, which leads to the philosophical dead end called solipsism. As an epistemological position, solipsism holds that knowledge of anything outside one’s own mind is unsure; the external world and other minds cannot be known and might not exist outside the mind.

His discussion proves the early assertion that authenticity (in the social or psychological sense) is indeed a mess. The author finds no objective basis to determine fidelity to reality, thus leaving everyone struggling whether to be self-directed or other-directed. As we know from Facebook, most resolve that conflict by competing to see who can publish the most selfies while acquiring the most “friends.”This is the best Scientific American can do? The swamp is huge and deep indeed.

It reminds me of what Ross Pomeroy wrote at Real Science: “Psychology, as a discipline, is a house made of sand, based on analyzing inherently fickle human behavior, held together with poorly-defined concepts, and explored with often scant methodological rigor. Indeed, there’s a strong case to be made that psychology is barely a science.”

Scientific Authenticity

In contrast, let us consider some writing by Philip Kanarev, A practicing physicist, he is concerned with the demise of scientific thinking and teaching and calls for a return to fundamentals. His essay is Scientific Authenticity Criteria by Ph. M. Kanarev in the General Science Journal.  Excerpts in italics with my bolds.

A conjunction of scientific results in the 21st century has reached a level that provides an opportunity to find and to systematize the scientific authenticity criteria of precise knowledge already gained by mankind.

Neither Euclid, nor Newton gave precise definitions of the notions of an axiom, a postulate and a hypothesis. As a result, Newton called his laws the axioms, but it was in conflict with the Euclidean ideas concerning the essence of the axioms. In order to eliminate these contradictions, it was necessary to give a definition not only to the notions of the axiom and the postulate, but also to the notion of the hypothesis. This necessity is stipulated by the fact that any scientific research begins with an assumption regarding the reason causing a phenomenon or process being studied. A formulation of this assumption is a scientific hypothesis.

Thus, the axioms and the postulates are the main criteria of authenticity of any scientific result.

An axiom is an obvious statement, which requires no experimental check and has no exceptions. Absolute authenticity of an axiom appears from this definition. It protects it by a vivid connection with reality. A scientific value of an axiom does not depend on its recognition; that is why disregarding an axiom as a scientific authenticity criterion is similar to ineffectual scientific work.

A postulate is a non-obvious statement, its reliability being proven in the way of experiment or a set of theoretic results originating from the experiments. The reliability of a postulate is determined by the level of acknowledgement by the scientific community. That’s why its value is not absolute.

An hypothesis is an unproven statement, which is not a postulate. A proof can be theoretical and experimental. Both proofs should not be at variance with the axioms and the recognized postulates. Only after that, hypothetical statements gain the status of postulates, and the statements, which sum up a set of axioms and postulates, gain the status of a trusted theory.

The first axioms were formulated by Euclid. Here are some of them:
1 – To draw a straight line from any point to any point.
2 – To produce a finite straight line continuously in a straight line.
3 – That all right angles equal one another.

Euclidean formulation concerning the parallelism of two straight lines proved to be less concise. As a result, it was questioned and analyzed in the middle of the 19th century. It was accepted that two parallel straight lines cross at infinity. Despite a complete absence of evidence of this statement, the status of an axiom was attached to it. Mankind paid a lot for such an agreement among the scientists. All theories based on this axiom proved to be faulty. The physical theories of the 20th century proved to be the principal ones among them.

In order to understand the complicated situation being formed, one has to return to Euclidean axioms and assess their completeness. It has turned out that there are no axioms, which reflect the properties of the primary elements of the universe (space, matter and time), among those of Euclid. There are no phenomena, which could compress space, stretch it or distort it, in the nature; that is why space is absolute. There are no phenomena, which change the rate of the passing of time in nature. Time does not depend on anything; that’s why we have every reason to consider time absolute. The absolute nature of space and time has been acknowledged by scientists since Euclidean times. But when his axiom concerning the parallelism of straight lines was disputed, the ideas of relativity of space and time as well as the new theories, which were based on these ideas and proved (as we noted) to be faulty, appeared.

A law of acknowledgement of new scientific achievements was introduced by Max Planck. He formulated it in the following way: “A new scientific truth does not triumph by convincing its opponents and making them see the light, but rather because its opponents eventually die, and a new generation grows up that is familiar with it”. Our attempt to report the reliability of this law to the authorities is in the history of science an unnecessary intention. Certainly, time appeared in space only after matter. But still we do not know of a source that produces elementary particles – building blocks of the material world. That’s why we have no reason to consider matter absolute. But it does not prevent us from paying attention to an interconnection of the primary elements of the universe: space, matter and time. They exist only together and regardless of each other. This fact is vivid, and we have every reason to consider an indivisible existence of space, matter and time as an axiomatic one, and to call the axiom, which reflects this fact, the Unity axiom. The philosophic essence of this axiom has been noted long ago, but the practitioners of the exact sciences have failed to pay attention to the fact that it is implemented in the experimental and analytical processes of cognition of the world. When material bodies move, the mathematical description of this motion should be based on the Unity axiom. It appears from this axiom, that an axis of motion of any object is the time function. Almost all physical theories of the 20th century are in conflict with the Unity axiom. It is painful to write about it in detail.

Let us go on analyzing the role of postulates as scientific authenticity criteria. First of all, let us recollect the famous postulate by Niels Bohr concerning the orbital motion of the electrons in atoms. This catchy model of the process of the interaction of the electrons in the atoms goes on being formed in the mind of the pupils in school despite of the fact that its impropriety has been proven more than 10 years ago.

The role of Niels Bohr’s generalized postulate is great. Practically, it is used in the whole of modern chemistry and the larger part of physics. This postulate is based on the calculation of the spectrum of the hydrogen atom. But it is impossible to calculate the spectrum of the first orbit of the helium atom (which occupies the second place in Mendeleev’s table,) with Bohr’s postulate, to say nothing of the spectra of more complicated atoms and ions. It was enough to dispute the authenticity of Bohr’s postulate, but the mission of doubt has fallen to our lot for some reason. Two years were devoted to decoding the spectrum of the first electron of the helium atom. As a result, the law of formation of the spectra of atoms and ions has taken place as well as the law of the change of binding energy of the electron with the protons of the nuclei when energy-jumps take place in the atoms. It has turned out that there is no energy of orbital motion of the electrons in these laws; there are only the energies of their linear interaction with the protons of the nuclei.

Thereafter, it has become clear that only elementary particle models can play the role of the scientific result authenticity criteria in cognition of the micro-world. From the analysis of behaviour of these models, one should derive the mathematical models, which have been ascertained analytically long ago, and describe their behaviour in the experiments that have been carried out earlier.

The ascertained models of the photons of all frequencies, the electron, the proton and the neutron meet the above-mentioned requirements. They are interconnected with each other by such a large set of theoretical and experimental information, whose impropriety cannot be proven. This is the main feature of the proximity to reality of the ascertained models of the principle elementary particles. Certainly, the process of their generation has begun from a formulation of the hypothesis concerning their structures. Sequential development of the description of these structures and their behaviour during the interactions extended the range of experimental data where the parameters of the elementary particles and their interactions were registered. For example, the formation and behaviour of electrons are governed by more than 20 constants.

We have every reason to state that the models of the photons, the electron, the proton and the neutron, which have been ascertained by us, as well as the principles of formation of the nuclei, the atoms, the ions, the molecules and the clusters already occupy a foundation for the postulates, and new scientific knowledge will cement its strength.

Science has a rather complete list of criteria in order to estimate the authenticity of scientific investigative results. The axioms (the obvious statements, which require no experimental check and have no exceptions,) occupy the first place; the second place is occupied by the postulates. If the new theory is in conflict with at least one axiom, it will be rejected immediately by the scientific community without discussion. If the experimental data, which are in conflict with any postulate (as it happened, for example, to the Newton’s first law), appear, the future scientific community, which has learned a lesson from scientific cowardice of the academic elite of the 20th century, will submit such a postulate to a collective analysis of its authenticity.

Kanarev Conclusion

To the academicians who have made many mistakes in knowledge of the fields of physics and chemistry, we wish them to recover their sight in old age and be glad that these mistakes are already amended. It is time to understand that a prolongation of stuffing the heads of young people with faulty knowledge is similar to a crime that will be taken to heart emotionally in the near future.

The time has ended, when a diploma confirming higher education was enough in order to get a job. Now it is not a convincing argument for an employer; in order to be on the safe side, he hires a young graduate as a probationer at first as he wants to see what the graduate knows and what he is able to do. A new system of higher education has almost nullified a possibility for the student to have the skills of practical work according to his specialty and has preserved a requirement to have moronic knowledge, i.e. the knowledge which does not reflect reality.

My Summary

In Science, authenticity requires fidelity to axioms and postulates describing natural realities. It also means insisting that hypotheses be validated by experimental results. Climate science claims are not scientifically authentic unless or until confirmed by observations, and not simply projections from a family of divergent computer models. And despite all of the social support for climate hysteria, those fears are again more stuffing of nonsense into heads of youth and of the scientifically illiterate.

See Also Degrees of Climate Truth

Trudeau’s Empty Plastic Gesture

Bjorn Lomborg writes in the Globe and Mail about Canadian PM Justin Treudeau showing off by proposing to ban single-use plastics. Sorry, banning plastic bags won’t save our planet. Excerpts in italics with my bolds.

Last week, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced a plan to reduce plastic pollution, which will include a ban on single-use plastics as early as 2021. This is laudable: plastics clog drains and cause floods, litter nature and kill animals and birds.

Of course, plastic also makes our lives better in a myriad of ways. In just four decades, plastic packaging has become ubiquitous because it keeps everything from cereals to juice fresher and reduces transportation losses, while one-use plastics in the medical sector have made syringes, pill bottles and diagnostic equipment more safe.

Going without disposable plastic entirely would leave us worse off, so we need to tackle the problems without losing all of the benefits.

The simplest action for consumers is to ensure that plastic is collected and used, so a grocery bag, for example, has a second life as a trash bag, and is then used for energy.

But we need to be honest about how much consumers can achieve. As with other environmental issues, instead of tackling the big-picture problems to actually reduce the plastic load going into oceans, we focus on relatively minor changes involving consumers, meaning we only ever tinker at the margins.

More than 20 countries have taken the showy action of banning plastic bags, including even an al-Qaeda-backed terrorist group which said plastic bags pose “a serious threat to the well-being of humans and animals alike.”

But even if every country banned plastic bags it would not make much of a difference, since plastic bags make up less than 0.8 per cent of the mass of plastic currently afloat on the world’s oceans.

Rather than trying to save the oceans with such bans in rich countries, we need to focus on tackling the inferior waste management and poor environmental policies in developing regions.

Research from 2015 shows that less than 5 per cent of land-based plastic waste going into the ocean comes from OECD countries, with half coming from just four countries: China, Indonesia, Philippines and Vietnam. While China already in 2008 banned thin plastic bags and put a tax on thicker ones, it is estimated to contribute more than 27 per cent of all marine plastic pollution originating from land.

Moreover, banning plastic bags can have unexpected, inconvenient results. A new study shows California’s ban eliminates 40 million pounds of plastic annually. However, many banned bags would have been reused for trash, so consumption of trash bags went up by 12 million pounds, reducing the benefit. It also increased consumption of paper bags by twice the saved amount of plastic – 83 million pounds. This will lead to much larger emissions of CO₂.

When Kenya banned plastic bags, people predictably shifted to thicker bags made of synthetic fabric – which now may be banned. But Kenya had to relent and exempt plastics used to wrap fresh foods such as meat and other products.

We also need to consider the wider environmental impact of our bag choices. A 2018 study by the Danish Ministry of Environment and Food looked not just at plastic waste, but also at climate-change damage, ozone depletion, human toxicity and other indicators. It found you must reuse an organic cotton shopping bag 20,000 times before it will have less climate damage than a plastic bag.

If we use the same shopping bag every single time we go to the store, twice every week, it will still take 191 years before the overall environmental effect of using the cotton bag is less than if we had just used plastic.

Even a simple paper bag requires 43 reuses to be better for the environment – far beyond the point at which the bag will be fit for the purpose.

The study clearly shows that a simple plastic bag, reused as a trash bag, has the smallest environmental impact of any of the choices.

If we want to reduce the impact of plastic bags while still allowing for their efficient use, a tax seems like a much better idea. A 2002 levy in Ireland reduced plastic bag use from 328 bags a person per year to just 21 bags.

And if we really want to make a meaningful impact on ocean plastics coming from land, we should focus on the biggest polluters such as China, Indonesia, Philippines and Vietnam, and emphasize the most effective ways to cut the plastic load, namely better waste management in the developing world.

We should also recognize that more than 70 per cent of all plastics floating on oceans today – about 190,000 tonnes – come from fisheries, with buoys and lines making up the majority. That tells us clearly that concerted action is needed to clean up the fishing industry.

If our goal is to get a cleaner ocean, we should by all means think about actions we can take as consumers in rich countries to reduce our use of unnecessary plastic bags. But we need to keep a sense of proportion and, if we’re serious, focus on change where it’s really needed.

Bjorn Lomborg is president of the Copenhagen Consensus Center.

See Also Plastic Trash Talking

Waste Management Saves the Ocean

Epic Science Fraud by Inept Journalist

Alex Berezow reminds why we cannot trust today’s journalists to tell the truth, especially regarding anything scientific. His article at American Council on Science and Health (ACSH) is La Croix And BPA: Journalist Celebrates That She Caused Millions In Losses. Excerpts in italics with my bolds.

Journalism is thoroughly inept and corrupt. The quality of journalism has gotten so bad that I have whittled down my trusted sources to merely a handful. Even then, when it comes to science, these sources often get it wrong.

The reason is two-fold: First, journalists aren’t experts in anything. Many of them went to journalism school, which taught them absolutely nothing useful. An editor at The Economist once told me that the newspaper did not hire journalism majors, preferring people who majored in “something real.” The craft of journalism can be learned on the job. Besides, as science communicator Mary Mangan once wrote, “Every crank in the crankosphere has either a politics degree or a journalism degree.”

Second, too many journalists believe their primary job is to “change the world” rather than “report the facts.” If it seems like many journalists behave like partisans or activists, it’s because they really are partisans and activists. Truth matters less than fulfilling an ideological mission. This attitude was summed up best by Michael Wolff, who once said, “If it rings true, it is true.” Really, who needs facts when you have feelings?

Putting this all together, we shouldn’t be surprised when a journalist goes on social media to celebrate when her (poor) reporting causes a company to lose hundreds of millions of dollars in market capitalization.

Business Insider Journalist Celebrates a Massive Loss of Wealth

La Croix is a popular beverage that I refuse to drink because I think it tastes like fizzy horse urine. But plenty of other people like it, which is one reason why its parent company, the National Beverage Corporation, has a market cap well over $2 billion.

Like several other high-profile companies, La Croix has been the target of a junk science lawsuit. The company was accused of using synthetic chemicals instead of natural ones as advertised, a distinction without a difference, as my colleague Dr. Josh Bloom explains.

Now, they are the subject of another lawsuit, this time revolving around bisphenol A (BPA), a chemical that is used as a liner to protect the integrity of cans. There are no known health effects caused by the tiny doses to which humans are exposed, and the FDA declares BPA “safe.” So, what’s the basis of the lawsuit?

According to court filings reported by Business Insider, the president of the National Beverage Corp. planned to lie about the BPA content of its products. Specifically, he allegedly planned to announce that the company no longer used BPA months before the cans would actually be BPA-free. When a high-level executive voiced opposition, he was fired. The lawsuit, then, is for wrongful termination.

There are two facets to this story: (1) The science of BPA; and (2) The conditions surrounding the termination of the employee. As already discussed, (1) is perfectly clear. Yet, despite the fact that the FDA has declared BPA “safe,” Business Insider originally called the chemical “toxic.” The article was eventually updated to remove that completely inaccurate descriptor.

The exact details of (2) are unknown. The only thing we know is that allegations have been made in a lawsuit. But Hayley Peterson, the author of the Business Insider piece, not only seems to have concluded erroneously that BPA is dangerous, but that the company is guilty of wrongful termination. How else can we explain her decision to go on LinkedIn and brag that her reporting cost the company 10% of its market cap?

How a Responsible Journalist Would Cover the La Croix Lawsuit

Instead of just cursing the darkness, I will attempt to light a candle. Here’s how a responsible journalist would cover the La Croix lawsuit.

First, it would be discussed in-depth that the entire basis of the controversy — namely, the presence of BPA — is entirely misguided because it’s a safe product. Whether the company engaged in wrongful termination is far less important than the larger discussion about BPA, which is used in many different products. Second, it would be made clear, if it is eventually found that the president planned to lie and that he acted illegally by terminating an employee, that this has no bearing on the safety of BPA. BPA is safe whether or not the president is a jerk. Third, a responsible journalist wouldn’t go on social media and brag about how they destroyed hundreds of millions of dollars of wealth.

Essentially, I’m asking that journalists be competent, well-informed, and well-behaved. I know that’s asking a lot in 2019.

Earth and Universe As Never Seen Before

This is an introduction to amazing graphics done by Eleanor Lutz (no relation) at her website Tabletop Whale, an original science illustration blog. Above is a data-based view of Earth’s seasons. If you watch in full screen, the four corners show views of the cycle from top, bottom, and sides. Below is her map of the solar system, showing how much scientific information is represented in the illustration (H/T Real Clear Science)

An Orbit Map of the Solar System
JUNE 10 2019 · Link to the Open-Source Code

This week’s map shows the orbits of more than 18000 asteroids in the solar system. This includes everything we know of that’s over 10km in diameter – about 10000 asteroids – as well as 8000 randomized objects of unknown size. This map shows each asteroid at its exact position on New Years’ Eve 1999.

All of the data for this map is shared by NASA and open to the public. However, the data is stored in several different databases so I had to do a decent amount of data cleaning. I’ve explained all of the steps in detail in my open-source code and tutorial, so I’ll just include a sketch of the process here in this blog post:

To see details, open image in new tab, then click on it to enlarge.

To see details, open the image in a new tab, then click on it to enlarge. Then browse the solar system to your heart’s content.

An Accidental Blogger: Collection of Science Matters Essays

Introducing a New Page: Guide to Science Matters

Thanks to hunter’s continuing appreciation of my posts, I am prompted to do a long overdue reorganization of the material to be found here. As explained before, my blogging activity started by accident. In 2015 Judith Curry asked commenters at her blog Climate Etc. to register with WordPress, and in that process I ended up with a free blog of my own. I started playing around with it, posted some comments I had made on others’ blogs (WUWT, Not A Lot Of People Know That, No Tricks Zone, etc.). All of a sudden it became a place where I could consolidate things I learn by writing them into essays, as well as provide a portal for others’ essays worthy of more readers.

My original set of categories no longer reflects the range of subjects addressed in the 1000+ posts on offer at Science Matters. Hunter suggested publishing, but I am not interested in the money or in the hassle to obtain permissions for content reblogged from others’ websites. So instead I am changing the structure of Science Matters to hopefully make the topics more accessible to interested visitors.

Overarching Concept:

As the stool above shows, the climate change package sits on three premises. The first is the science bit, consisting of an unproven claim that observed warming is caused by humans burning fossil fuels. The second part rests on impact studies from billions of research dollars spent uncovering any and all possible negatives from warming. And the third leg is climate initiatives (policies) showing how governments can “fight climate change.”

So far I have re-categorized and re-tagged essays from the last year or so according to a reference structure, incorporating the above three dimensions along with General Science and General Society categories.  The captions associated with the each category are assigned to posts as Tags. Of course, occasionally a post touches on more than one category or tag topic.

Climate Science

Global Warming Scare
Theory of Climate Change
Climate Models
Climate Factors
Oceans Make Climate
Solar Effects
Carbon Dioxide

Climate Impacts

Temperature Trend Analysis
Arctic Sea Ice
Glaciers and Land Ice
Sea Levels and Flooding
Food Supply
Biosphere and Climate
Extreme Weather

Climate Initiatives

Climate Ideology
Climate Media
Climate Politics
Climate Policies
IPCC Conferences
Climate Adaptation
Climate Litigation
Climate Energy Policies
Renewable Energy
Fossil Fuels
Climate Finance
Climate Medicine

Science in General

Environmental Scares
Science and Ideology
Science Principles
Science Humor

Society in General

Social Ideologies
Political Foibles
General Humor

How to Access Content of Interest

Clicking on the box in the upper right corner of any webpage presents a menu showing first a tag cloud.  Clicking on any tag produces all posts so tagged. Then after a list of Top Posts and Pages is a list of the Categories, including the five above in bold, as well as some categories applied to older posts.  Clicking on any category produces a list of all associated posts. Further on is a search box in which you can access posts including a key word or phrase, say “EPA”, or “Plastics,” “Climate Surveys”, etc.

Independently of the box, on any posted page, the associated category appears in red just above the post title.  Clicking it will produce the list of essays on that topic.  Hopefully it is clear that categories are more broad and tags more specific.

Have fun.  Let me know if you have suggestions to improve this utility.

Ron Clutz

 

Powerful Computer Model

COMPUTER DIAGNOSIS

One day Bill complained to his friend that his elbow really hurt. His friend suggested that he go to a computer at the drug store that can diagnose anything quicker and cheaper than a doctor.

”Simply put in a sample of your urine and the computer will diagnose your problem and tell you what you can do about it. It only costs $10.” Bill figured he had nothing to lose, so he filled a jar with a urine sample and went to the drug store. Finding the computer, he poured in the sample and deposited the $10. The computer started making some noise and various lights started flashing. After a brief pause out popped a small slip of paper on which was printed: “You have tennis elbow. Soak your arm in warm water. Avoid heavy lifting. It will be better in two weeks.”

Later that evening while thinking how amazing this new technology was and how it would change medical science forever, he began to wonder if this machine could be fooled. He mixed together some tap water, a stool sample from his dog and urine samples from his wife and daughter. To top it off, he masturbated into the concoction. He went back to the drug store, located the machine, poured in the sample and deposited the $10. The computer again made the usual noise and printed out the following message:

“Your tap water is too hard. Get a water softener. Your dog has worms. Get him vitamins. Your daughter is using cocaine. Put her in a rehabilitation clinic. Your wife is pregnant with twin girls. They aren’t yours. Get a lawyer. And if you don’t stop jerking off, your tennis elbow will never get better.”

Fracking Update: Texas Leads US in Pure Energy, Pure Water

John Tintera writes at Texas Alliance of Energy Producers Congress, Look at Texas for the Facts on Fracking.  Excerpts in italics with my bolds.

On Thursday, the House Subcommittee on Energy and Mineral Resources will hold a hearing to investigate whether oil and gas drilling causes water pollution. It’s a very important topic. If drilling pollutes our drinking water, new restrictions would obviously be needed to safeguard public health.

Fortunately, every available piece of scientific evidence shows that drilling — particularly the technique known as hydraulic fracturing, or fracking — is safe. As a geologist who has spent decades regulating the energy industry, I’ve seen firsthand the extensive precautions companies take to avoid any accidents and protect our water sources. Current safety regulations are already working. There’s no need to impede energy production by binding companies with additional red tape from the federal government.

Just look at my home state of Texas. It’s by far America’s biggest energy producer, and home to the 75,000-square-mile Permian Basin, the world’s most productive oil field. The Permian and other Texas oil fields use tons of water responsibly whether for hydraulic fracturing, processing, or refining.

How responsible are Texas drillers when it comes to water management? Well, there hasn’t been a single documented case of groundwater contamination associated with fracking.

This drilling technique has led to an unprecedented oil and gas revolution. In just the first quarter of 2019, Texas, for the first time ever, produced more than 5 million barrels of crude oil every day. The state accounts for an astounding 40 percent of all crude production in the United States.

The cooperation between industry and Texas state regulators is chiefly responsible for this spotless safety record.

Texas state law is as crystal clear as its water. Texas outlaws any pollution of any and all bodies of water — whether above or below ground — period. The law defines pollution as any change at all to water that would make it harm humans, animals, plants, property, or public health in general.

There are numerous key laws — 13 total — that serve as a regulatory framework to enforce the no-pollution rule. They outline rules for everything from how to drill to how to clean up a spill. They address almost every water protection concern that could arise from oil and gas production.

Take fracking, a process which requires immense amounts of water. There are rules to govern how practitioners drill, what cement and casings they use, and how they control their wells. Additionally, they are required to continually monitor pressure levels beneath the surface and report malfunctions to inspectors.

Or consider waste disposal. The Texas regulations protect surface and subsurface water from liquid and solid oil field waste. Injection wells, the shafts that carry fluids down to porous underground rock formations, are highly regulated by the EPA and encased in multiple layers of cement to protect drinking water. The EPA audits each injection well annually.

Regulators wouldn’t be able to enforce these rules without a small army of state inspectors. There are hundreds of them in Texas that rove the oil fields to make sure everything is up to snuff. These “outriders” have access to all the online data they need to ensure proper inspection.

Companies are not only complying with the regulations; they are constantly finding new ways to protect water. Operators in the Permian Basin are using new technologies like “clean brine” to make produced water clean enough to reuse. They are also building pipelines to wastewater treatment or recycling facilities and reusing produced water. The reused water is not only used for more drilling, but can be used for community improvement like de-icing roads during winter.

Some companies are finding novel ways to reuse and conserve water. In 2016, one Texas-based energy company opened a 20-mile pipeline to receive treated municipal wastewater from Odessa, Texas that can be used in all its operations. Reusing municipal wastewater reduced the company’s reliance on freshwater needed in Odessa for drinking, and compensates Odessa for once-useless waste.

Thanks to sensible regulations, regular inspections, and industry efforts, Texas energy companies have little impact on the state’s water supply. A study by the state found that fracking accounts for less than 1 percent of total water use in the state, far less than agriculture.

Texans know what they’re doing when it comes to safeguarding their drinking water. There’s no need for Washington to impose additional, needless regulations when the current ones are already working perfectly.

John Tintera is a regulatory expert and licensed geologist with a thorough knowledge of upstream oil and gas exploration. He spent over 20 years working for the main energy regulator in Texas, the Texas Railroad Commission, and ultimately served as its executive director. He is currently the president of the Texas Alliance of Energy Producers.

Plastic Trash Talking

Following a viral video of a turtle with a straw in his nose, plastics suddenly went from the “greatest thing since sliced bread” to environmental villain. This post first summarizes the waste plastic problem discussed in a recent GWPF paper. As in other cases of environmental issues, plastic trash talking conflates several problems, including littering, waste recycling and plastics disposal. Secondly, we shall see that the obvious advantages of incineration are resisted out of (can you guess?) fear of global warming from CO2.

As reported in GWPF, Dr. Mikko Paunio of the University of Helsinki has warned that the UN’s decision to regulate waste plastic as hazardous and restrict exports will unleash a “surge of waste” on many EU countries. Paunio urges a rapid expansion of waste incineration capacity to stop the plastic waste problem turning into a public disaster. His paper is Saving the Oceans and the Plastic Recycling Crisis. Excerpts in italics with my bolds.

Executive Summary

The United Nations has just decided to add mixed and contaminated plastic waste to the schedule of materials that are regulated under the Basel Convention. This decision will have major implications.

Firstly, it represents a major victory for the environment because it will effectively prevent a large proportion of exports of plastic waste to developing countries. Much of this material ends up in the oceans, so the UN decision does away with a major contribution to the problem of marine waste.

However, it will also mean that the problem of what to do with plastic waste will return to countries that produce it. What is worse, the EU is putting in place stringent new rules on plastic recycling, which will only increase the size of the problem, as will its new rules on landfill.

As a result, EU countries will find themselves faced with a growing mountain of plastic waste, and with few means at their disposal to deal with it. The EU has previously been deeply opposed to incineration of waste because of green dogma: they believe that recycling is virtuous in its own right, as well as seeing it as part of the fight against climate change.

And even if they were to change their views, there could still be major problems because the incineration capacity available falls far short of what is required.

A rapid expansion of waste incineration capacity is urgently required to stop the plastic waste problem turning into a disaster.

The global waste crisis

The Campania (Naples 1990s) trash crisis is a clear warning to governments about the problems that can be caused by blindly following green ideology. Now, it has become clear that a much larger crisis, global in scale, may almost be upon us. The global plastics ‘recycling’ industry is already on the verge of meltdown as a result of China’s import ban. Not only the biggest plastic waste exporter – the European Union – but also the rest of the English-speaking world, Japan and even Brazil, a developing country, are now witnessing rapidly growing mountains of plastic waste. In all these countries, the people who have in good faith been sorting their plastic waste for recycling can quite rightly feel betrayed.

Wealthy countries have tried to deal with China’s import ban by exporting waste to countries like Bangladesh, Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines and Vietnam. However, waste management in these places is often primitive, and the result has been severe problems with marine pollution. So even though these imports bring much-needed revenue, the situation is becoming so bad that legislative barriers are being raised to prevent them.

plastic_paper_straws

One of the most important developments, which has received little international attention,
is the silent decision of hundreds of municipalities in the US to stop recycling solid waste altogether. These are not ‘Trumpian’ decisions, but decisions made by both Democrats and Republican administrations at local level across the country.

The EU’s confused position on incineration

So the EU’s policy response to the marine plastic waste problem has been to adopt policies that will do little to reduce plastic waste, and which will probably cause the problem to become worse. The example of the Campania crisis, which was only resolved by extensive use of incineration, is therefore likely to become important. Incineration is superior to all other waste management options in terms of climate change mitigation, because it avoids the complex and resource-hungry schemes involved in, for example, turning it into diesel fuel or converting it to some other product. Meanwhile, incineration directly reduces demand imports of coal used in large quantities to produce heat and electricity. Recycling is certainly worse on other fronts too, not least the fact that recycling plants release microplastics in their wastewater streams, while only delivering low-quality recycled material that cannot
be used in important applications like food packaging.

The Commission has argued in favour of incineration, but only very rarely. In a paper entitled, ‘A Clean Planet for All’, released before UNFCCC COP 25 in Katowice, it argued for a carbon-neutral economy fuelled by biomass, although it was reticent about explaining where this biomass should come from. The answer is found in an accompanying document, which explains that it will actually be waste that is burned, and suggests that waste incineration capacity should increase to 100 million tons in 2050.

However, mostly it has been strongly against the idea. For example, in reference to the Circular Economy proposal, it said that of the possible approaches to waste management, recycling was to be preferred, apparently on climate change mitigation grounds, although it presented no evidence to support this claim. It also said that reprocessing waste into fuels is not recycling, but is, like waste incineration, ‘material recovery’. As a result, it has declared that its new cohesion fund will not fund waste incineration plants.

Advantages of  Burning Plastic

You will read in alarmist media about the dangers of incineration releasing chemicals such as hydrochloric acid, sulfur dioxide, dioxins, furans and heavy metals, as well as particulates. It is true that incomplete combustion of any hydrocarbon is to be avoided. But mainly detractors are using chemophobia against plastic incineration because of their obsession with CO2. Some common sense is provided by Flo-Bro The surprising benefits of burning plastics. Excerpt below with my bolds.

The plastic revolution

Whilst travelling, we’ve witnessed how several Asian countries such as Cambodia and Indonesia have turned into plastic junkyards. Inland and coastal areas are littered with a colourful mixture of bags, bottles, cups, trays and everything else, it is truly a sad and terrible sight. A lot of countries, not just in Asia, suffer from bad solid waste management. Moreover, littering seems to be a deep engrained cultural element. Whilst care for the environment seems to be on the last stage of people’s and the government’s interests, the nature is suffering and people too.

Reaction to Vermont proposal requiring clear plastic trash bags.

Owing to the favourable properties of plastic – strength, durability and light weight, we embraced them in all areas of life. Plastics have created a revolution and improved the quality of life immensely, however, nowadays they seem to be one of greatest plagues of our planet. I can’t enumerate the number of times I came across an article talking about the great plastic vortex the size of Europe in the Pacific, and that the ocean will soon contain more plastic than fish.

The chemical elements of plastic

Most of the packaging plastics which pollute the environment are based on two to four chemical elements. Polystyrene, polyethylene and polypropylene are made of carbon and hydrogen, whilst PET (polyethylene terephthalate), used for bottles, contains also oxygen. Nylon, a polyamide, which is used to make fibres, also contains oxygen and nitrogen in its structure. These elements are essentially the same ones that fossil fuels are made of. This should be of no surprise, since plastics (long chain hydrocarbons) are also made of the same crude oil, as their “short chain” relatives- gasoline and diesel.

In other words: if burned well, plastics create the same products as wood and fossil fuels -> water and carbon dioxide

Recycle or burn plastics?

In conventional terms, it is environmentally more sound to recycle plastics than dispose them. This approach, however, has so far proven quite challenging and more frequently results in “downcycling”.  But even downcycling requires large centralised facilities with advanced sorting lines and plastic recovery processes, which is very expensive and not applicable to solve the pollution problem.

So, you were always told that burning plastics is bad for the environment. Indeed, incomplete combustion of any hydrocarbon creates noxious smoke. As the above image depicts, burning plastics can create the same products as fossil fuel and wood. In waste incineration facilities, thousands of tons of plastic burn worldwide daily, generating heat and electricity.

Burning any material well and without smoke and noxious fumes needs a high temperature and plenty of oxygen. This is best achieved in a stove, where the heat is concentrated and can be put to good use.

As with most solutions, this one is not free of flaws. Plastics such as PVC (polyvinyl chloride), which is used for plumbing, can create more dangerous products of decomposition – such as corrosive HCl gas; and several plastics. Usually the hard plastic used in motorbikes and cars contain flame retarders, which are too not the friendliest chemicals and may create toxic fumes when burned. Based on what I’ve seen, these plastics are a minority and PVC and hard plastics are denser than water and will sink If they end up in the sea. What you see washed up on the shore are light packaging materials and foams.

Conclusion

Plastic pollution is unfriendly to animals and is undoubtedly aesthetically damaging the environment. Burning them might be the best way to quickly improve the situation. If people recognize the benefit of burning plastics in the right stove, it will save them money on fossil fuels, stop plastic pollution, limit deforestation, and improve the quality of life. Combustion of low value packaging plastics is not a totally new idea and a company has already received an award for it.

See also Fighting Plasticphobia

Duped into War on Plastic

Climate Change Chumps

Definition “chump”: A foolish or easily deceived person.

Update May 5, 2019

In this overheated time of school kids in the streets and elected “adults” declaring emergencies without any understanding of what is or is not happening, it may help to know how we got here.

Why are so many people taken in by climate alarms? The question is often on my mind, especially when tens of thousands attend UN conferences like Katowice, or when hearing the caterwauling in the media over the climate scare of the week. Last night while watching a football game, my escape from the issue was interrupted by a commercial break that included a flaming earth on the screen for a few seconds. It was an ad for Discovery Channel including the image above.

[Old joke:  I don’t know if they are using subliminal advertising, but yesterday I went and bought a tractor.]

And in a flash I realized how several factors are driving warming suckers into a fearful frenzy.

Firstly, The power of images over words and thinking.
A picture is worth a thousand words. (Sometimes attributed to Chinese)
The Asian attribution is doubtful, but Confucius did say something similar:

Second, We are immersed in imaging technology, entrancing the public. I have no interest in post modern philosophers, but in this sense they are onto something perverse: We are mistaking images for realities.

Third, Pied Pipers are using the media to put us under their spell.
A key point in the fable is the piper’s ability to put a spell on the children, and thereby rob the village of their future.  And he did this to get leverage over the council when they refused to pay for exterminating the rats. Our children have been brainwashed with environmental activism since preschool, and educators have taken Confucius to heart:  The process goes beyond preaching, to videos, posters and projects.

Fourth, Our embrace of mass and social media makes us suckers for fake news, including climate claims.

Note that the majority are not confident to discern fake from real news.  Even worse, today’s “fact checkers” operate out of spin rooms.

Fifth, Social proof is now all that matters.

Climate lemmings rushing over the cliff.

Finally, the drumbeat of climate alarms imprints ever more deeply a false assumption.

It doesn’t matter if any particular climate claim is false or exaggerated, the communications continuously reinforce the underlying myth of the Garden of Eden:  Nature is perfect and eternal so long as humans don’t mess it up.

The reality is more subtle and complex.  Humans are also a force of nature, and with our self-awareness we have the ability and responsibility to add order and purpose to the rest of nature.  Go to Kyoto and watch the landscapers labor for hours to fashion an exquisite Japanese garden, the fruition of collaboration between humans, plants, water and rocks.  Humans can and do improve on nature by taming destructive natural forces to preserve and enhance living structures.

The UN IPCC process is a blind alley, a path to nowhere.  It plays upon fears and guilt feelings.  Worse, it distracts from rational programs of actual environmental stewardship.  I fear it will only get worse in the next 12 years: