Showing posts from December, 2016

Local Warming

It's uncharacteristically warm and wet here in Southern New Mexico for the New Year's dawning. Surface temperatures are in the 50's (F) and the mountains just East of us (2700 meters) are still devoid of snow despite a rainy week. Meanwhile, Arctic and Antarctic Sea Ice are both at record lows for the date, and sea surface temperatures are above normal in both North and South. Meanwhile, former MIT prof, and possibly senile* nutjob Richard Lindzen thinks what we need is a ninety percent cut in Climate Science. Because what you won't admit wont hurt you, right? * - That may be unfair. Lindzen seems to have been pretty nutty for a long time.

Climate Change in History and Prehistory

Catastrophic climate change is hardly something new for the human race. The list of climate catastrophes that did in civilizations, cultures, and, very nearly, the whole human race is long but also rather poorly known and understood. Modern humans appeared in a particularly catastrophic geological time, the Pleistocene, in which giant ice sheets repeatedly covered big chunks of land and drove us from much of Europe (or exterminated those unlucky enough to be caught). The genetic evidence makes it clear that our population went through repeated bottlenecks when our numbers were reduced to a few thousands. The advent of agriculture and food storage, in the form of crops and herds, allowed our numbers to multiply rapidly, and may have made us less vulnerable to certain vagaries of weather but even more vulnerable to longer term climate shifts. Many a cultural or civilizational collapse can be traced to a widespread drought, including the collapse of the First Kingdom in Egypt and th

RIP Vera Rubin

A key player in the discovery of dark matter, pioneer woman in astronomy. From the NYT: Vera Rubin, who transformed modern physics and astronomy with her observations showing that galaxies and stars are immersed in the gravitational grip of vast clouds of dark matter, died on Sunday in Princeton, N.J. She was 88. Her death was announced by the Carnegie Institution of Washington, where she had been a longtime staff astronomer. Dr. Rubin, cheerful and plain-spoken, had a lifelong love of the stars, championed women in science and was blunt about the limits of humankind’s vaunted knowledge of nature.

Merry Christmas to All and to All a Goodnight

And similar greeting to all who celebrate slightly different observances of the Winter solstice.

Global Sea Ice

A recent chart


It's toasty down in Santa's workshop. Although subzero C, temperatures are about 20 C (36 F) warmer than normal, and scheduled to get warmer, or so claims this Tech Times story by Kalyan Kumar: Temperatures in the Arctic are predicted to rise nearly 50 degrees above normal from Thursday under the spell of a pre-Christmas heat wave. It means the frozen tundra is racing close to a melting point. The surging warmth in the past two months has already left scientists jittery, as escalating temperatures are feared to hit ice formation or coverage next summer and bring it down to record low levels. More warming trends are hitting the region as a result of climate change effects. Walt Meier, a NASA scientist at the Goddard Space Flight Center, said the current warmth is an offshoot of fluctuations in the jet stream that is passing frigid air to North America and parts of the Arctic. - See more at:


Things I did and didn't want to know about them. One was the Inner Asian nomad's universal type of dwelling, a tent which in English is called yurt (from Russian yurta, a borrowing from Turkic, where, however; this term means home territory; specific variants ants of oy, usually accompanied by color epithets such as aq = white or boz = grey, are the Turkic terms; significantly, in Turkish - the Turkic of Turkey - where the bulk of the population has long led a settled life, the word, in the form of ev, has acquired the connotation of house; the Mongol word for our "yurt" is ger). The yurt radically differs from other nomads' tents - Arab, Berber, those of Iran, the tepee of the American Indian - both in shape and construction material; the shape is that of a round structure covered by a hemispherical or conical roof, with a smoke hole at the top, which can be closed with a flap; the material consists of a wooden trellis frame covered with a layer of felt, ideal i

Can't We All Just Get Along?

Well, maybe, sometimes, but most of the evidence suggests that it isn't really in our natures. What does seem to be in our natures is that we tend to organize into competing cliques, tribes, or gangs and struggle for supremacy. The recent spate of world terrorism in the name of Islam has many questioning some of the central tenets of liberal democracy, especially the notion of tolerating and encouraging cultural diversity. In particular, tolerance can only work if it is truly mutual. The new suspect in the latest Berlin massacre seems to have long been on the list of persons suspected of being involved with ISIS, and in fact was scheduled to be deported, and only wasn't because the security services couldn't figure out the paperwork or something. The CNN story on the subject suggested that the problem was very difficult since there were tens of thousands of suspects in Europe. ISIS is clearly at war with the West, and in time of war civil liberties are nearly always c

Not Quite Spring Yet

Brad Delong celebrates the undefeated Sun at the Winter Solstice with: Gaudete! Dies Natalis Solis Invicti! The Sun may have turned the solsticial corner, but I wouldn't plant the tomatoes yet.

Fire Down Below

Why are we seeing such a dramatic melt in the Antarctic Ice this year? Most of the unusually warm air temperatures have been both inland and still well below freezing. The answer may well be in the unusually warm temperature below the surface. Ice in the Weddell Sea (top left), usually one of the more durable chunks of Antarctic Sea Ice, is going fast.


Yet another sign of the apocalypse: Rex Tillerson's favorite book is Atlas Shrugged.

Loss Leader

Yep. It looks like the US is going to be run as a loss leader for Trump international. From Kevin Drum: Judd Legum of ThinkProgress reports that "members of the Trump Organization" pressured the government of Kuwait to switch their annual National Day celebration from the Four Seasons to the Trump International: In the early fall, the Kuwaiti Embassy signed a contract with the Four Seasons. But after the election, members of the Trump Organization contacted the Ambassador of Kuwait, Salem Al-Sabah, and encouraged him to move his event to Trump’s D.C. hotel, the source said. Kuwait has now signed a contract with the Trump International Hotel, the source said, adding that a representative with the embassy described the decision as political. Invitations to the event are typically sent out in January.


Most of the US is pretty cold today. It even got a little frosty here in southern NM last night. This chill is evidently due to the Polar Vortex moving south. Which may explain why it remains toasty* in the high Arctic. Or vice versa. Arctic and especially Antarctic sea ice remain at record lows for the date, and not by small margins. *OK, it's -15 to -20 C, but that's up to 20 C above normal for the date. Climate Reanalyzer. Danish Met Inst.

Election Theories

As I've said before, theories of why Hillary lost will continue to proliferate, and, of course, all are equally unprovable. That said, my current favorite is this article by John Judis on TPM . Some excerpts: The Electoral College will meet on Monday to declare Donald Trump the winner of the 2016 election. Sometimes, in order to get beyond an awful loss, you have to give up on the rationalizations by which you deny the extent of your defeat. I have two dueling rationalizations that are prevalent among Democrats: on the one hand, the conviction, based upon Hillary Clinton’s popular vote majority, that she and not Trump was the real winner of the election and that if Democrats can only move the numbers around, they will easily rebound from their defeat in the electoral college; on the other hand, the conviction that Clinton really did lose, but that Bernie Sanders could have won, and that if Democrats follow his example, they’ll regain the White House and Congress. The Hillary C

Big Brother is Watching

Ivy League PC edition. The Princeton men's swim team is the latest misogynist conspiracy to be exposed and terminated. The suspension was the third of an Ivy League team since the start of November. Last month, Columbia and Harvard each suspended the season of a team after allegations of lewd behavior surfaced. Harvard canceled the rest of the season for its men’s soccer team after officials uncovered what they described as a widespread practice of players rating the school’s female players in sexually explicit terms. The Columbia wrestling team’s season was suspended while officials said they were investigating text messages sent by players that included the frequent use of racist, misogynistic and homophobic terms. No doubt the Ivies will soon be made safe for wimen.

IQ 160

Among the many stupid vices I use to numb the Trump pain is sometimes clicking through those idiotic click bait sites like "Celebrities you didn't know were geniuses." Anyway, it turns out that a truly surprising number of them turn out to have an IQ of 160, that is, four standard deviations above the mean (1 in 16,000). Of course you might not be surprised that Bill Gates and Stephen Hawking are credited with that lofty number, but Reggie Jackson, Sly Stallone, and a host of lesser actors are more surprising. I'm pretty sure that 160 is the mode of the distribution. Some guy I never heard of (James Woods) gets credited with a 1/25,000,000 IQ 180. This entry might give you a clue that the compiler of the list is not quite in that stratosphere: George Washington was the 1 st President of the United States. Washington was the Commander in Chief of the Continental Army during the Revolutionary War. Washington ushered in the Bill of Rights and Residence Act, authori


It's obvious to almost everybody that there areas of life in which expert performance far surpasses that of the beginner or even the enthusiastic amateur. Hunting, farming, sports, science, professions like medicine and law, games like chess, go and bridge are all examples. Very simple games, like tic-tac-toe, are another story - one or two tricks makes you an expert. Michael Lewis was on Colbert's show the other week, touting his new book: "The Undoing Project," about the collaboration of Israeli psychologists Daniel Kahneman and Amos Tversky which led to Kahneman's Nobel Memorial Prize in Economics. Colbert set him up by asking him about why the stock market has gone up since Trump was elected. Lewis said that analysts can construct very persuasive narratives explaining this but could have constructed equally persuasive narratives if the opposite had happened. In fact, predicting the stock market is one of those areas where supposed experts really can'

More Tea Leaves: No Daylight

Donald Trump taps hardline Orthodox attorney as Israel ambassador, infuriating Jewish liberals CHRIS SOMMERFELDT NEW YORK DAILY NEWS Updated: Thursday, December 15, 2016, 11:27 PM Donald Trump has nominated David Friedman — a Jewish Orthodox bankruptcy lawyer with imperialist views — to serve as his ambassador to Israel, drawing ire from liberals in the small Middle Eastern country and praise from its growing nationalist block. Friedman served as an adviser to Trump during the campaign and is believed to be a strong force behind the President-elect's hardline pro-Israel stance. The 71-year-old New York lawyer has also assisted Trump during the real estate mogul's many bankruptcies. "The bond between Israel and the United States runs deep, and I will ensure there is no daylight between us when I'm President," Trump said in a statement announcing his pick. "As the United States' ambassador to Israel, David Friedman will maintain the special relationshi

And the Hits Keep Coming

Report: Larry Kudlow, Ex-CNBC Host, to Chair Trump’s Economic Council

Bank on It

Arun has a post on India's demonetization money maneuvers . He takes a shot at the opinions of ill-informed persons (You talkin' about me?), so let me try to put in a bit more information, for my benefit and maybe that of WB. The larger picture into which the withdrawal of large denomination bills fits is called Pradhan Mantri Jan Dhan Yojana , which, if your Hindi is not up to snuff, supposedly means Prime Minister's People Money Scheme. The larger purpose is to create bank accounts for every household in India. Arun: One of the reasons for this program is to end market subsidies for essential items that instead feed the black market, and instead to deposit money directly into the bank accounts of the people who need those subsidies. This strikes me as a very sensible, market oriented idea, as does the subsidiary requirement to give every citizen a national identity card. Demonetization of large bills is partly about the black market and tax evasion, but it also cr

Name Please!

The English language largely survived the Norman conquest, even though it was driven out of the public square for many generations. This was probably because it was already a literary language, with many readers and writers, unlike contemporary French, which essentially lacked a literature at the time. It's plausible that French literature originated in England under the influence of the suppressed English. The famous Chanson de Roland , an epic poem of Charlemagne’s battles against the Saracens, was first written down in England in the early twelfth century. The first historical work in French was Geoffroy Gaimar’s history of the English, the Estoire des Engleis (c. 1136– 37), an accessible work in fashionable French verse based on the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle. English authors— or authors in England, often of mixed Anglo-Norman families— attained a European influence greater than ever before, and rarely equalled since. Tombs, Robert. The English and Their History (Kindle Locatio

The Russian Election Hack

This NYT story by ERIC LIPTON, DAVID E. SANGER and SCOTT SHANE has the most comprehensive account that I've yet seen of how Putin intervened in the US election. As usual with hacks, incompetence of the hacked was a major factor. A brief excerpt: WASHINGTON — When Special Agent Adrian Hawkins of the Federal Bureau of Investigation called the Democratic National Committee in September 2015 to pass along some troubling news about its computer network, he was transferred, naturally, to the help desk. His message was brief, if alarming. At least one computer system belonging to the D.N.C. had been compromised by hackers federal investigators had named “the Dukes,” a cyberespionage team linked to the Russian government. The F.B.I. knew it well: The bureau had spent the last few years trying to kick the Dukes out of the unclassified email systems of the White House, the State Department and even the Joint Chiefs of Staff, one of the government’s best-protected networks. Yared Tamen


From the NYT story by Geeta Anand and Hari Kumar: Somethings can be done in a Parliamentary democracy that would be utterly impossible in the US. NEW DELHI — For a year, Ashish Kumar Mandal scratched out a living selling dumplings on the streets of New Delhi for a bit less than 50 cents a plate, until the government banned most of the country’s currency bills last month, crushing his all-cash business. In desperation, the 32-year-old took a step he had never even contemplated before: He offered his customers the option of paying electronically. Mr. Mandal is among millions of Indians — snack vendors and rickshaw drivers, cobblers and coconut-water sellers — who are moving swiftly toward a cashless economy, fulfilling what Prime Minister Narendra Modi now says was one of his objectives in banning 500- and 1,000-rupee notes, worth about $7.40 and $14.80. India is experiencing an acute shortage of bills to replace the large-denomination notes that were banned as of Nov. 9, and which

The Unschooled?

Liam Stack in the NYT: The researchers said the educational differences among the faiths were rooted in immigration policies that favor the educated, as well as in political, economic and historical factors. There were 267 million Christians in the United States when the data was collected, but only 36 percent of them had a postsecondary education, including college or a vocational school, the researchers said. That made them the least-educated religious group in the country. Jews in the United States were more than twice as likely as Christians to have a postsecondary degree, and Hindus were almost three times as likely, Pew said. Buddhists, Muslims and those who said they were religiously unaffiliated were also more likely to have a college degree than those who identified themselves as Christians.

Athletic Dreams

Now that I'm rarely awakened by an alarm clock, I tend to remember more of my dreams. I notice a few peculiarities. In my dreams I can run and jump well. If I'm under the basket with the ball, I can jump up and dunk in slow motion. I can skate well, even on waxed floors if I'm wearing socks. I rarely step down stairs, I just grab a railing and spin from landing to landing. I'm also a hell of a skier, much better than I ever was in real life. So far so good. But I'm hopeless in games that involve throwing, catching, or hitting a ball. If I try to rebound, something I was once slightly good at, I jump wrong, or the ball caroms off my hands or body. Attempts to catch any ball, or to kick a soccer ball, or hit a tennis ball fail miserably. I even whiff on underhanded volleyball serves. I'm always out of position, swing wildly and misjudge every trajectory. Other tennis players usually can't even hit the ball toward me. I wonder what this says about whi

“I’m, Like, a Smart Person”

Trump's reason for not needing a daily intelligence briefing. Besides, Putin will probably tell him everything he needs to know.

Trump's DEA Nominee


Looks Like Putin is Running the Show

New Secretary of State to be Exxonmobil guy with close Russia ties and a record of opposing sanctions. Looks like Putin knew what he was doing to back Trump. The reality show that will decide who will be the country’s top diplomat in Donald Trump’s administration continues and a new frontrunner seems to have emerged. Rex Tillerson, the powerful president and chief executive of Exxon Mobil, is now seen as the top contender for the job and could very well become the latest wealthy businessman to join the president-elect’s administration. Tillerson met with Trump on Tuesday and the two may talk again this weekend. Although it's still unclear when exactly Trump will announce his pick it seems the president-elect wants to make an announcement next week, according to the Wall Street Journal. Tillerson’s name has emerged at the top of the pile as former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani formally withdrew from the very public competition. Trump himself confirmed Giuliani’s withdrawal from c

The Coming Purge?

Bloomberg: Advisers to President-elect Donald Trump are developing plans to reshape Energy Department programs, help keep aging nuclear plants online and identify staff who played a role in promoting President Barack Obama’s climate agenda. The transition team has asked the agency to list employees and contractors who attended United Nations climate meetings, along with those who helped develop the Obama administration’s social cost of carbon metrics, used to estimate and justify the climate benefits of new rules. The advisers are also seeking information on agency loan programs, research activities and the basis for its statistics, according to a five-page internal document circulated by the Energy Department on Wednesday. The document lays out 65 questions from the Trump transition team, sources within the agency said. ... “It’s certainly alarming that they would be targeting specific employees in this way,” said Michael Halpern, deputy director of the Center for Science and Dem

RIP John Glenn

John Glenn, fighter pilot, astronaut, U S Senator, and Presidential Candidate is dead at 95. I first saw him when he was a winner on the game show "Name that Tune." His wingman in Korea, he said, was the best fighter pilot ever. That wingman, Ted Williams, also was a pretty good hitter in baseball - the best ever. Nice story here: NEW CONCORD — Seventy-five years ago, John Glenn headed to Brown Chapel on the Muskingum College campus. It was a special occasion: Annie Castor, Glenn’s high-school sweetheart — whom he would marry two years later — was performing her senior organ recital. But before the concert, Glenn heard the news on the radio. It was no longer just a day made special by Castor’s senior recital, but one that would live in infamy. The Japanese had bombed Pearl Harbor, and a few days later, Glenn volunteered for flight training. He would go on to fly 149 combat missions as a Marine fighter pilot in World War II and Korea. Earlier today, the oak pews in th


They built towers widely throughout this nation, and oppressed the wretched people, and afterwards it continually grew very much worse. When God wills, may the end be good. Anglo-Saxon Chronicle, 1066 Tombs, Robert. The English and Their History (Kindle Locations 1223-1225). Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.

Boeing, Boeing, Boink!

The Prez elect took time from his busy schedule of late night television criticism to take on Boeing and the planned successor Air Force One aircraft. In a largely fact free twitter rant he declared it "too expensive" and said he would cancel it. One theory has it that he would prefer to have the taxpayers pay to fly him around in his own 767, complete with gold plated toilets. Josh Marshall comes up with an alternate or perhaps additional motivation, based on personal pique. This morning Donald Trump lashed out at Boeing claiming its budget for the successor to the current Air Force One is wildly overpriced. Donald J. Trump ✔ @realDonaldTrump Boeing is building a brand new 747 Air Force One for future presidents, but costs are out of control, more than $4 billion. Cancel order! 6:52 AM - 6 Dec 2016 28,826 28,826 Retweets 86,803 86,803 likes What prompted this? Boeing responded by saying that it is currently under contract for only $170 million, though Boeing&

Samsung vs. Apple

Supremes give Samsung a unanimous decision . Probably good for innovation, since it limits the scope of patent infringement cases.

Do the Math

A study from the Cleveland Fed finds that income is correlated with progress in high school math. Other studies have shown that the amount of math completed in high school is highly correlated with future educational success. The causality of the linkage is not known, but it's pretty obvious that a whole raft of higher paying occupations require a significant amount of math. The Fed study apparently looked only at Algebra II, which is pretty low on the math hierarchy, though the other one looked at math up through calculus. Data on higher math doesn't seem to exist, so I guess I will never know whether my evident failure to master algebraic geometry hurt my income.

Hot Times/The Unmelting

Much of the Arctic Ocean continues to bask in unseasonably toasty weather, 15-20 C above normal. Of course it's still freezing, but it's not too surprising the the Arctic ice is way behind in refreezing - about 1 million km^2 below the previous record low for this date. Of course there's lots of Winter to go, but it's at least plausible that late refreeze will leave us on thin ice next Spring and Summer. The main culprit this year is said to be excessive water vapor in the Arctic atmosphere. Meanwhile, Arctic Siberia is damn cold.

Who Loves Ya, Baby?

If you are string theory, or a string theorist, the answer is still The Breakthrough Institute. It dished out another $9 3 megabucks* to string theorists Andrew Strominger, Cumrun Vafa, and Joe Polchinski this year. The guys who actually discovered something, gravitational waves, split another $3 million a total of 1015 ways. They join seven other string theory winners (if I counted right) for a total of ten winners for a theory that has yet to have a single confirmatory discovery. With sparticles and other possible String Theory predictions looking more and more likely to be out of reach of the LHC and other current experiments, doubters in the physics community have been more aggressive at challenging the party line. The theory Witten (a previous BI winner) called a fragment of 21st Century physics that fell into the 20th Century might have to put off its coming out for another Century or more. On the other hand, credible alternatives are in equally short supply. UPDATE: Pe

Slightly Dyspeptic Movie Reviews

Because I'm still bitter, OK? Fantastic Beasts - I'm like a huge Harry Potter fan, OK, but I'm very sorry to report that Rowling's latest is not very good. It's not very bad, but it's not up to standard. The problems: Harry Potter had arresting heroes and villains, played, in most cases, by brilliant character actors. FB lacks both of the above. Heroes and villains both look blah. There is a lot of emphasis on special effects, all of it trite and boring compared to HP. The title beasts are also mostly boring. This was Jo's first screenwriting effort, so maybe I shouldn't despair yet, but I fear her font of magic maybe drying up. Dr. Strange - A fairly interesting beginning, with a potentially interesting character, which quickly degenerates into the dullest type of Buddhism as magic crap. Special effects boring. With great power comes great tedium.

Feeling the Bern

Arun quotes from a Newsweek story on the Republican opposition research book on Bernie Sanders. It's not good. Really not good. From Kurt Eichenwald's Newsweek story: On Friday, I almost assaulted a fan of my work. I was in the Philadelphia International Airport, and a man who recognized me from one of my appearances on a television news show approached. He thanked me for the investigative reporting I had done about Donald Trump before the election, expressed his outrage that the Republican nominee had won and then told me quite gruffly, “Get back to work.” Something about his arrogance struck me, so I asked, “Who did you vote for?” He replied, “Well, Stein, but—” I interrupted him and said, “You’re lucky it’s illegal for me to punch you in the face.” Then, after telling him to have sex with himself—but with a much cruder term—I turned and walked away. ... I have seen the opposition book assembled by Republicans for Sanders, and it was brutal. The Republicans would ha

Treading on Chinese Toes

That's our Donnie . Josh Marshall looks at the implications: This Trump call to the President of Taiwan is as dangerous as it sounds. What makes it even crazier is that we don't really know if this is a considered and deliberate provocation, an accident because Trump doesn't even know the diplomatic protocol on this or just something some China hawk aide talked him into while he was eating a Taco salad. I suspect there's an element of each in play. There's already been chatter about John Bolton, a hardcore China hawk, visiting with Trump today. Was that connected with this? Apparently Reince Priebus is also very close to Taipei, something the mainland press had already commented on with some consternation. Frankly, I had no idea that Priebus had anything but generic foreign policy views about anything. But here's the other thing in the mix. Before this happened there was already news in the Taiwanese press that Trump and his children are in talks to build

Yes, I Admit It

I am quite aware that there are people a lot smarter than I. This was true even before I got old and my memory started getting funky. But Lee once asked me something like: "Do you think you are smarter than Trump voters?" I admit that I do. And not just by a little. I submit this video in evidence, courtesy of Kevin Drum , YouTube, and CNN. By the way, I don't just think I'm smarter than the dumb as a brick featured speaker.  I also think that I'm smarter than Nobel Prize winners, if any, who happened to vote for Trump.  I may not be as smart as some of the billionaires who voted for Trump, because they may think that he will allow them to steal some more of the country - after all, Trump is pretty dumb too.