Tom Pittman's WebLog

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2020 June 27 -- Numbers Don't Lie

Another issue of IEEE Spectrum, another really insightful line:
Those who put models ahead of reality are bound to make the same false calls again and again. -- Vaclav Smil
It came at the end of a delightful piece pillorying some geologist M.King Hubbert, who in the 50s who predicted that oil output would peak in 1970m then fall to the same levels it was in 1920. He accompanied his ridicule with a graph showing a nice smooth blue line that went up, then went down, like a statistical bell curve. Overlaid on this was a ragged red line that more or less followed that curve up to maybe 1965, then jumped up +20% before following the curve down (at that +20% level) until around 2010, then took off for the sky, like the alleged global warming curves. According to this guy, US oil production is now 50% higher than the peak in 1970, and in the wrong direction for the 80% drop predicted. In fact, we lead the world.

The fact is -- and Smil dare not mention it, dunno whether he believes it or not -- these mathematical models cannot account for human creativity. More than two centuries ago Thomas Malthus predicted (based on his mathematical model) that massive starvation would limit world population growth. In fact, it's growing faster than ever because we have stopped so much of the disease that used to kill people off. Another Thomas (this time Crapper) subsequently invented the flush toilet, which has been credited as being the greatest medical advance in all history, in terms of lives saved. We have population growing faster than Malthus modelled, and starvation is way down -- except in Marxist countries where the government just plain got it wrong. Their mathematical models are more wrong that Malthus or Hubbert.

Which brings me to a much more current mathematical model -- again Smil dare not mention it, dunno whether he believes it or not, but the magazine editors where he published this item certainly believe the model -- so-called climate change. I have been saying for at least a decade that it's more about politics than science (see my essay "A Christian View of Climate Change" last year). The models are broken. Always were. "Again and again," according to Vaclav Smil. He's right.
 

2020 June 20 -- Mice vs Mousetraps

The IEEE Spectrum, which usually is much better reading than the house rag of their daughter organization The Computer Society, as you've probably noticed me to say from time to time, this month one of their feature articles is about a guy who invented a mechanical way to clean up oil floating on the ocean, usually caused by sea-derrick or shipping disasters. At first I wondered if this would be like ComputingEdge, whose articles often make grandiose claims without any technical support, but I looked ahead, and a couple pages later they do explain it well enough that anybody could build one. Or at least believe that it works.

What caught my attention today is a quote on the first page:

"I thought if I built a better moustrap, everyone would want one," Kennedy says. Instead the world has decided they're okay with mice."
There's a lot of hidden insight in that line. Basically, this is a NIMBY (Not In My Back Yard) thing. Everybody is OK with mice, as long as those mice are not eating my food and making my children sick. There are a few environmentalists who care about the oil on the water, but they're not offering to pay their own money to clean it up. They don't have any money. They don't know how to make money, all they can do is hoover up the piddly donations they can get from the few people with nothing better to do with their money. The people with the money, the large corporations and the government -- well, the government has no money, they just print it on demand, and if they print too much, the economy tanks like it did in Greece -- and the corporations are required to do what is profitable for their shareholders, and paying somebody to clean up oil spills does not improve the profits for their shareholders. Unless the government forces them to. It still isn't profitable, but it's less costly than fines and jail sentences.

The government, they don't care about the environment any more than the corporations and T.C.Mits (The Common Man In The Street) do, it doesn't put food on their table or keep their children out of the hospital. Besides, oil spills are so last year. The politically correct catastrophe of the day this year is global warming and COVID. Climate change is rapidly becoming stale too. But the virus, that's actually taking food off the grocery shelves and threatening to put kids in the hospital. Well, the empty shelves are really the fault of the mega-chain groceries like Wal-Mart with their idiot Just-In-Time stocking policies that break down at the slightest disruption. COVID just happens to be that disruption this month.

So Kevin Kennedy, you need to find something that people want to pay for. Generally that is food and housing for themselves, and health care to keep their kids out of the hospital. If there's any left over, some entertainment would be nice. Oil on the water thousands of miles away? Not in my back yard, not my problem. Shoddy oil rigging and tankers (resulting in oil spills), that just makes my food and entertainment cheaper, why should I care?

The Christian perspective is very different. "The earth is the LORD's and the fullness thereof," and you always take care of the Boss's interests (even if you are not a Christian and the Boss merely pays your salary). Jesus called it "The First  and Greatest Commandment. The Second is like unto it," he went on, it's the Golden Rule. You always treat other people the way you want to be treated. Oil on the water makes things bad for people living on the coast near where you spilled it, and you wouldn't want to live there, so don't do it. The trouble is, the government took the Ten Commandments off the school walls 60 years ago, thereby giving everybody permission to behave dishonorably (just don't get caught). Oil spills on the shore and empty grocery shelves are part of the consequences. Thank the ACLU and the government. But mostly it's selfish people willing to ignore God for a slightly better standard of living.
 

2020 June 6 -- Climate Hoax

I'm still reading back issues of WIRED, this time April. The May issue had more ad-paid pages than they had worthwhile articles -- which is a pretty low standard for WIRED -- so they filled up the rest of the mag with low-level people stories. One was so boring they artificially added glare to the pedestrian pictures they had to illustrate it. I think their art director feels worthless unless he had successfully hidden the content that readers want to see behind some kind of artsy rubbish. Usually it is almost impossible to find or read the page numbers, this time he wanted to obscure the content of the illustrative pictures. Illustrating what? They weren't worth looking at in the first place, but he earned his salary.

They seem to be doing themes, this time climate change. In the opening editorial, the editor admits to filling his pre-teen kids with an unnatural fear of global warming. I guess he hasn't heard that the earth has been cooling the last couple years. Or maybe his parents filled him with an unnatural fear of global nuclear war, and he sees it as his obligation to carry on the tradition. Nuclear war didn't happen -- Ronald Reagan's "Star Wars" actually did what it was supposed to do, but not as originally intended: as the critics predicted, it could never have worked to prevent a Soviet first strike, but instead it scared the red shirt off the Soviets. "Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall!" actually resulted in tearing down that wall, but the left-wing bigots don't like to remember that. So they invented another crisis that a grandstanding President can't stop -- but then, neither will will a carbon cap, because God has everything under control (see my essay "A Christian View of Climate Change" a half year ago). This whole issue is built on a lie, but they can't know that, because the gatekeepers are all under the leftist thumb of the Democrat-appointed research funding agencies. Go against the Established Religion and you lose your government grant, as Robert Gentry learned. Everybody else saw that and don't dare tell the whole truth.

Depending on how you count them, most of the articles in this issue are by female authors. That is significant from a conservative Christian perspective, because they are less likely to question the sources of the hoax [1Tim.2:14]. One of them, her author bio at the end credits her with writing "about climate, justice, and emotion." They got that right. Seeing that the American people as a whole are not as bamboozled as the political party promoting the hoax, she now leans farther to the left -- I did say this was political, not science -- she says "your power in this fight lies not in what you can do as an individual but in your ability to be part of a collective..." That's Marxist-speak, the propaganda of the political far left that took their capstone empire, the now former Soviet Union, crashing into the ash-heap of history. Only ivory-tower academics and women believe it any more.

The next article (another female author) writes about some guy who developed a computer program to calculate the carbon flow of humans and nature, who said "But when I entered all that information into a program that would calculate our total carbon footprint, I was shocked: It estimated that, poof!, the carbon sequestration provided by the forest's cover... cancelled out everything else we did." I've been saying that all along, the whole thing is independent of human activity. Of course this guy is still a True Believer (he must be, in order to retain his Federal grants) and she's only a writer, without even the science chops to ask the hard questions.

A short sidebar piece a few pages later ends "The key to saving the world? It's all politics." At least the so-called climate change thing is, not true science at all. It's all politics.

The next major article (another female name for an author) starts off uncritically reporting a video of some guy fueling his car on air. Now if women could get themselves interested in learning a little science, they might realize that such a notion is a violation of entropy, and that her whole article is very likely more of the same. Right. I stopped reading that drivel.

Nevermind the following article -- it's a cute idea that won't make much difference even if they do it -- the little factoid over the top of each article, this one in particular breathlessly announces "18% [or maybe it's 10%, because they used one of those silly fonts where the eights and zeroes look the same] portion of agriculture-related global heating caused by rice cultivation." Flip over the next page to see "24% Portion of global greenhouse gas emissions generated by agriculture and forestry." Not only are the editors of WIRED scientifically illiterate, they are also innumerate. Or maybe they only suppose -- probably correctly -- that their readers are, and whereas "Figures don't lie, but liars figure." Do the math: 10% of 24% is 2.4% which is statistically insignificant. Poof!, the forest's cover cancelled out everything else we did (or will do).

Next article, another female author, this time blatantly bubble-headed thinking. She accepts uncritically that "you could survive on just peanut butter sandwiches and oranges." She admits she didn't do the analysis, but it's probably true: the proteins in peanuts and the grains in bread complement each other to supply all the essential amino acids humans need, and the fresh oranges provide fiber and vitamin C and what-all else. So she packs a lunch to drive from Oregon to central California, and includes not only peanut butter sandwiches and oranges, but also coffee. This in a special issue devoted to human-caused global warming caused by burning fossil fuel, probably two or more tanks of gas to drive that distance and back, when a phone call or teleconference app would do it in a tiny fraction of that much fossil fuel -- or in this case, because both Oregon and northern Calif get much of their electric power for hydroelectric sources, zero. Wait, there's more: do you know where they grow coffee? Certainly not in Ore-gone, all they grow here any more is pot. I think all the coffee comes from central or southern America, shipped on cargo liners that burn... fossil fuel! Don't forget the oranges and the peanuts and the wheat in her bread, they don't grow them in leftist Ore-gone either. Shakespeare once said something about "full of sound and fury and signifying nothing." That's climate change talk, and this magazine in particular.

Then there's the piece where this guy is trying to crowd cities closer together. Ore-gone already does that in a left-wing elitist government policy that favors crowded ghettos for low-income people (I live in one of those) where the air pollution (that includes both sonic and electronic, plus the particulate matter resulting from burning the largest cash crop in close quarters) is insufferable, worse than sprawling LA. Anyway, he claims that 70% of the global emissions comes from cities, and 15 pages earlier, 24% comes from ag and forests, that would pretty much account for 94%. Duh. He thinks crowing the people in cities closer together will improve the climate. Perhaps, but not the air pollution for those poor schmucks stuck in the ghetto. The people proposing and implementing these idiotic policies are rich enough to escape the ghetto. Look at the guy in the picture, he doesn't live in a downtown slum walkup.

A timy sidebar on the next page, "Tech We Need" includes a way for "influencers" to "post pics of themselves riding public transit instead of jetting to Reykjavik." Of course the "influencers" who jet to Reykjavik are riding public transit. People who can afford private jets do not waste time posting pics of themselves. Several pages later, somebody "estimates that Amtrak is 33 percent more energy efficient than flying on a per-passenger-mile basis." That's not a big difference, and after you factor in all the difficulties of connecting with trains, it probably disappears, except in commuter runs. But everybody who can benefit from that savings already does it.

Me, I think the "climate change" hoax is a crock, but when the oil and coal are gone, they will be gone. It makes sense to switch over to renewable energy sources for that reason alone. The article poking fun at the Wyoming government for stonewalling wind farms was a hoot. I must have gotten tired of the whole climate thing, there are fewer markups as I worked my way to the end of this tiresome issue.

Probably in another context, somebody said that most people pick their issues out of tribal loyalty without regard to the facts. I suspect that's generally true, and this issue of WIRED is clearly a case of it. Whatever. The USA is so wealthy, compared to the rest of the world, and in all history, we can afford to waste national reasources on scientific nonsense like "climate change" and still not feel the pinch. Certainly no politician will ever do anything close to what the True Believer scientists say would be necessary, let alone what would actually be necessary to overcome what God is already doing. Like so many other things, it's Not My Problem.
 

2020 June 5 -- Don't Blame Trump

Three months ago I took an extra large stack of books home from the library. Sometimes I get to the checkout counter with what I consider reasonable, and they tell me I have a book waiting on hold, so I take that one too -- then renew the extras if they time out before I get to them. Sometimes they are so bad, I skip over two or three in a single week. This time it was Providential (as in "The LORD doth provide") because they shut the library down over the weekend. So instead of the nominal three weeks, I had three months. The library is still closed, so I went back to reading back magazines. I was saving them for my next trip to Portland, but that got shut down too. We don't need a half-dozen nukes on port cities from a rogue nation like North Korea to take the USA out of the picture for Armageddon, we just need a silly plague virus for six months [Rev.6:8, 9:20,21, 15:1, 16:2, 18:8]. Once every few years, I read through the whole last Book, and there's no mention of the USA in the great battles there. We're already gone by then.

So here I am reading this "Pop-Sci for Dummies" (WIRED) magazine, which tends to be weak on science, strong on anti-Trump politics. The May issue had a Covid focus, complete with a front-page editorial promoting the magazine's Religion (= believing what you know ain't so) and even used the word "faith -- in each other and in the scientists..." At the bottom of the page he gets to his political jab:

A government can do things to make that [people helping people] happen, and in a better timeline [that is, not this year] it would. Sadly, we don't get to choose a timeline. Luckily, we do get to choose a government.
He got that one wrong. The "we" that he considers himself part of does not seem to have gotten to choose the government he wants, it was the rest of the country, the "we" that he pretends doesn't exist, who actually did choose this government. And it appears that Trump did exactly The Right Thing to get people to do the helping.

Clive Thompson is a regular columnist, and his contribution in this issue a few pages later is similarly blindsided. After spending most of his ink praising the people who creatively used their own resources to make up for what the manufacturers did not, he gets around to condemning the left-wing bigot's favorite whipping boys, capitalism and their Prez:

It also shows a failure of capitalism. Part of the reason we're short on essential med-tech is closed-source designs, often created to maximize vendor profits...
Of course they're created to maximize vendor profits. Creating stuff takes time and effort, and if that time does not result in financial reward, the creative people will not be able to pay their mortgages and buy their food and their tech toys so they can create innovative med-tech products. Clive Thompson himself creates "closed-source designs," so that he also can maximize profits on his own products. Do you think he wrote this piece for free? WIRED usually hides their text behind a "paywall" (their word, this issue being an explicit exception) so they can pay Thompson the big bucks he gets for writing this stuff. So-called "open-source" products tend to be imitative knock-off copies of the true innovative products that somebody else got paid real dollars to create and perfect. The "free as in beer" open-source products tend to be buggy and very hard to use, sort of like WIRED information, even though WIRED gets paid for their mag -- and rightfully insists on it!

Capitalism works because the capitalists make products that people are willing to pay for. If you don't pay them for their work, then they cannot afford to be making that stuff, and you are far worse off, like it was in the country that no longer exists, the (former) Soviet Union. If you try to insist that the vendors give away their pandemic cures and vaccines for free, then they won't bother to be ready to produce them in the large quantities that will be needed (because that kind of preparation costs money). That is indeed something the government did to us, but it was his predecessor, not Trump, who perpetrated the kind of wealth-destroying policies that drove the (former) Soviet and (present) Venezuelan economies into the ground. It takes time to build for future profits, don't lay this one on Trump.

Thompson's clincher: "It was the US government's job to prepare for a pandemic..." Clive Thompson probably isn't old enough to remember the words of a famous President of the other party, "Ask not what your country [government] can do for you, ask what you can do for your country." If this had happened four or eight years earlier, Obama would certainly have bungled it far worse (as he did for many other things), but the press -- obviously including Thompson and the magazine he publishes in -- would have found somebody else to blame. Obama and Trump were/are both incompetent, but in different ways. Trump's biggest problem is that nobody wants to take Thompson's advice and help out. Except in a pandemic, but of course they were already doing it when he wrote this.

Later in this same issue is a long 16-page whine about the repressive tactics of the Hindu-only party governing India. I read this stuff all the time, in a monthly rag published by Christians trying to do something about it, but WIRED does not support what the Christians are doing there, this article is by a Muslim. Which is rather ironic, because the Muslims are doing exactly the same (or worse) to the minority religions in the countries they dominate. I have a hard time giving much attention to hypocrites.

What was that new neologism I learned in an earlier issue of WIRED? "TL;DR"

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