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A journal of sorts to record Jonathan Sturm's (and others') thoughts and observations on things worth thinking about. Feedback welcome, but be aware that unless you prominently say you want your communication kept private, I may publish it.
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Monday 25 March 2002
Back by popular demand and only for the second time!
If you missed the last exciting episode where JennyP stirred The Fat Bastard into reluctant heroism, click here.
Putting down the BatPhone, The Fat Bastard turned to Tom his faithful cabin boy and said: "What have I gotten us into this time faithful cabin boy? Who would have thought? Just a few days ago 'Struth, the Jobless and the Right to Sell Amway had never crossed my mind! What am I going to do? I don't have an cunning plan!"
"Why don't you try Henry Fraud's trick? He had an electric buzzer on his desk and when he was clueless, he pressed the buzzer," said Tom, the faithful cabin boy.
"I knew there was a reason for bringing you along, Tom. Apart from your lips like a rosebud, your teeth like pearls... Ouch! Stop kicking me in the balls you little brat. I'll swing you from the yardarm!"
Yes, The Fat Bastard was holding his own again. Recovering from the pain, he gasped: "But we don't have an electric buzzer!"
"No problem, Captain Bastard," said Tom, "just use the BatPhone to call The Electronic Dick."
Within an hour, thanks to the wonders of modern telecommumblications, there was the sound of a jet-propelled herocopter hovering over the Bunty. Yes, it was Dick Original Potato Crisp himself, delivering the electric buzzer direct from the factory in ThaiOne. A tall, dark figure, dressed in a kilt, shinnied down the ladder from the herocopter with a packet firmly clasped in his teeth.
"Struth, it's Billy Corroboree," murmured Tom as the helicopter made a rapid departure.
Billy lurched toward The Fat Bastard, playfully pointing his bone at him. "Gorrenny metho?" he slurred. The Fat Bastard reached behind him and gave him a bottle.
"Haven't you got a cold one?" belched Billy.
Fortunately, after setting out from Hobarton, The Fat Bastard had dropped by a mate's place in Ewe's Eland and borrowed the jet powered beer cooler. He turned it on and within minutes Billy Corroboree had his chilled methylated spirits. The Fat Bastard had taken the opportunity of chilling a bottle of his favourite Cuiver Reserve Chateau Bottled Nuit San Wagga Wagga the odour of which nicely covered up the smell from Billy's armpits.
After they both became well and truly three sheep to the wind, The Fat Bastard accidentally fell face first on the package Billy had brought with him and it commenced buzzing before the sound slowly diminished to one resembling a particularly wet and smelly fart.
Out of the reek and smoke from the bits of Bunty that were still smouldering from the scorch of the afterburner on the jet-powered beer-cooler, there came the sound of a Hardly Dangerous motorbike. Riding it was the tallest man Tom had ever seen. He was wearing a pretty gingham dress and a golden boxing glove. Yes, it was Aunty Jack!
"G'day Aunty Jack," sang The Fat Bastard and Billy Corroboree in four part harmony, "We knew you'd be back. Though you're ten feet tall, you don't scare us at all..."
"Shut your faces!" shrieked Aunty Jack in her deepest basso profundo voice. "Yer both pissed and yer sposed ter be savin' the World!"
Stay tuned for the next gripping episode. Will Auntie Jack rip their arms off? Will The Fat Bastard continue to hold his own, or will someone hold it for him? Only the Pompous Git knows the answers and he's going to keep you in suspenders and silk stockings while he has his way with you!
Thought for the day:
He's not tall enough to be funny. Bloody colonials! I don't know what the world's coming to. Tuh!
Monty Python -- Matching Tie and Handkerchief
Tuesday 26 March 2002
On Sunday, I had a brief conversation with a friend -- I don't know him very well -- I don't socialise a great deal. My preference as my regular readers will know is for the company of my books and my thoughts. While I profess scepticism about the anthropogenic contribution to global warming, he told me his belief was the opposite: all warming this century results from man's activity. When I asked for documentary evidence on the Internet, he told me that it only occurs in obscure journals.
Most of the resources I've managed to find that express this certainty make similar appeals to authority. The authority in this case: mathematical models run on computers. Water vapour constitutes the major greenhouse gas, so I find it instructive to look at how the various Global Climate Models treat water vapour.
BMRC = Bureau of Meteorology Research Center (Australia); NCAR = National Center for Atmospheric Research (USA); MGO = Main Geophysical Observatory (Russia); CSIRO = Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization (Australia); MPI = Max Planck Institute for Meteorology (Germany); UKMO = Hadley Centre (UK); GFDL = Geophysical Fluid Dynamics Laboratory (USA); CCSR = Center for Climate System Research (Japan); LMD = Laboratoire de Météorologie Dynamique (France)
(From John Daly's website)
The anthropogenic global warming protagonists tell me these models all "agree" that our current climate results from the excessive emission of CO2 by industry. Since they apparently cannot agree about the magnitude or sign of the contribution from the most significant greenhouse gas, I remain sceptical. If the end results of their predictions do not differ, it looks like some sort of jiggery-pokery happening here.
Even the most certain of the pro anthropogenic global warming advocates, the IPCC states: "We simply do not fully understand the causes of climate drift in coupled models". You wouldn't know that from their press releases!
Thought for the day:
Does it follow that I reject all authority? Perish the thought. In the matter of boots, I defer to the authority of the boot-maker.
Radiohead -- OK Computer
Wednesday 27 March 2002
In our upbringing our teachers taught us a two-value system of viewing the world. Things either are something, or they are not. True or false. Black, or white. Indeed, there exists much evidence for this binary view -- many things fall neatly into two piles: apples and pears, male and female, up and down, near and far, sooner and later... But those last two pairs, while they contain the appearance of clear-cut opposites shade into each other. Sooner and later contain the element of time. Sooner by how many seconds, minutes, days, weeks, years? Later by how many seconds, minutes, days, weeks, years?
Science teaching notoriously emphasises the true/false binary view. Our teachers presented us with a series of just-so stories where a true idea replaced a false belief. Teachers choose easily solved equations, referring only occasionally, if ever to non-linear equations that admit no solution, only approximations. F=ma poses little difficulty for two bodies, but not so easy for three bodies or a solar system. Most of what interests me have neither the true, or false property, but indeterminacy. Most of what interests most people seem to possess this property of indeterminacy, but we cannot admit that. It must be true, or it must be false.
Anthropogenic global warming is one such indeterminate problem. On the surface, it looks simple -- take a few true/false issues to arrive at a final truth. But whether you arrive at anthropogenic global warming will make life uncomfortable/untenable, or the opposite depends on which true/false pairs you choose to look at.
Does rising CO2 cause our currently warming climate, or changes in the sun? Or is it a bit of both? Or do we need more data to decide one way or the other?
One global environmental disaster that concerns me is the eventual impact on planet Earth of a sizable lump of cosmic debris. We could have a space vehicle waiting on the event in order to divert its course, but we don't. If such a rock arrives while we remain unprepared to do anything about it, does that make it an anthropogenic disaster, or is it just another natural disaster as has happened in the past?
Thought for the day:
We owe almost all our knowledge not to those who have agreed but to those who have differed.
Charles Caleb Colton
Howard Eynon -- So What If I'm Standing in Apricot Jam
Thursday 28 March 2002
I note that the break-up of the the Larsen Ice Shelf in the Antarctic coincided with Susan Solomon telling the closed session of the World Climate Research Program in Hobart how chlorofluorocarbons and other halons that caused the major ozone hole to form over Antarctica might cause Antarctic ice shelves to break up (among other major climate events) -- anthropogenic, but not naughty greenhouse gases. I'm wondering whether that will find its way into the conservationists' advocacy, or not, since it clearly contradicts the stance that all of our current climate change results from methane and carbon dioxide "ameliorated" by sulphur dioxide.
From my inbox:
Never again do I think I'll feel
the joy of sitting behind the wheel
with soul unfettered by angst and pain
from the harm I do to the clouds and rain.
How can my heart not lose its beat
when I know I'm joining the long defeat
which one day soon will have grown so large
that we run aground like a sandbarred barge?
It may be ice or it may be drought
or it may be flooding that suppresses doubt.
Whatever it is that occurs downstream,
the warmers are here with their dismal dream.
They squeeze the fun from our once free roads;
and sing sad tales of declining toads;
they ask us all to give up on growth
to rescue birds and their plant food both.
But I've a mind of my own, I think
and want the verifying link.
So until I see the final tittle
I'm sitting here with my Roman fiddle.
My friend John Harris has commenced building an interesting house in Florida. Pictures are up, but the link to the narrative is broken and John expects to fix that in the next few hours.
Thought for the day:
It thus leads, almost by necessity, to the realisation that our attempts to see and to find the truth are not final, but open to improvement, our knowledge, our doctrine, is conjectural; that it consists of guesses, of hypothesis, rather than that of final and certain truths: and that criticism and critical discussion are our only means of getting nearer to the truth. It thus leads to the tradition of bold conjectures and of free criticism, the tradition that created the rational or scientific attitude, and with it our Western Civilisation, the only civilisation which is based upon science.
Laurie Anderson -- Big Science
Friday 29 March 2002
Pretty much the most complex endeavour undertaken by mankind is understanding climate. The interactions between the various components, atmospheric gases, sunlight, circulation, sunlight etc are described by non-linear equations. Non-linear equations cannot be solved, only approximated by substituting in guessed values, evaluating the result and trying again so that you approach a solution at the desired level of accuracy.
Prior to Newton, the solar system, itself a non-linear system, was modelled with epicycles. If the predictions became out of step, the addition of more epicycles enable a more accurate result. Newton's model made better sense, but still required many calculations to enable accurate predictions. Einstein's improved model provided a correction for the orbit of Mercury and observation confirmed his model's accuracy.
All three models of the solar system did what all models must do to be acceptable. Run backwards, they confirm historical data. Run ahead of time, they predict what will eventuate. All of the Global Climate Models have a severely limited time span over which they can be considered at all accurate. Run backwards, they do not produce the Little Ice Age, or the Mediaeval Warm Period. Presumably, if they were run back far enough, they would fail to produce the last ice age, too.
If these models cannot generate an accurate simulacrum of historical data, they fail to achieve even the utility of the flawed earth-centric epicycle model of the solar system. The predecessor to the epicycle model was the reading of chicken guts. Chicken guts have the attractive advantages of being cheaper for prognostication than super-computers and less likely to inspire the unquestioning belief of many conservationists. And likely the results would have a similar level of accuracy at predicting the future of global climate.
Thought for the day:
The rationalist attitude with its emphasis upon argument and experience, with its device I may be wrong and you may be right, and by an effort we may get nearer to the truth, is closely akin to the scientific attitude. It is bound up with the idea that every body is liable to make mistakes, which may be found out by himself or by others... Thus a rationalist will reject all claims to authority... we have not only to listen to arguments, but we have a duty to respond, to answer where our actions affect others. Ultimately in this way, rationalism is linked up with the recognition of the necessity of social institutions to protect freedom of criticism, freedom of thought, and thus freedom of man.
Brian Eno -- Before and After Science
Saturday 30 March 2002
When faced with complication, I use two techniques if I need to make a decision. William of Ockham gave his name to the principle called Ockham's Razor -- "Pluralitas non est ponenda sine neccesitate'', which translates as "entities should not be multiplied unnecessarily''. Usually, this is taken to mean "keep it simple", but it has a slightly more subtle meaning than that. Faced with two explanations of something, the simpler of the two will more often turn out to be correct. Ockham's Razor becomes a way of prioritising.
As an aside, it was while reading William of Ockham that I first came across a reference to my idea of tripartite truth: true/false/indeterminate.
Another technique for evaluating the worth of ideas is "reductio ad absurdum" -- "reduction to absurdity". Faced with the proposition that the only true value in things is their dollar value, one imagines a world with lots of dollars, but no food. The proposition that the carbon dioxide level of the atmosphere is the major factor in climate, I imagine a world with no sun. Faced with the proposition that removing gender-specific terms from the English language will result in a better deal for women, I ask myself "is there a language without gender specific words, or grammar?" It turns out that most languages lack gender-specific pronouns, but Turkish will do as an example. It lacks gender-specific grammar as well.
Thought for the day:
Out of intense complexities intense simplicities emerge.
Gong -- Radio Gnome Invisible Part 1 "The Flying Teapot"
Sunday 31 March 2002
Thought for the day:
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