Thursday assorted links


“Paleoclimatic findings, as well as ice sheet modeling, indicate that the current trajectory of global temperatures would lead to nearly complete disappearance of the GIS over the coming millennia. “

Notice he says ‘millenia’, plural. How reliable is such a prediction?

Fairly accurate, I'd say. The issue is time averaging--you can have wild fluctuations on small scales, but once you get up to the scale of thousands of years they all average out. Certain things, like solar cycles and the Melankovitch Cycles, are highly predictable on this sort of scale (they fall apart at the tens of millions of years scale, but that's a different issue).

Plus, we're not shooting blind here. I haven't read the article, but many GCMs use OIS 11 as a way to ground-truth the results. OIS 11 basically mimics the worst-case scenario for anthropogenic global warming, so it serves as a pretty good way to test the models: you plug in the info from OIS 12, and see if the model spits out what happened in OIS 11. Yeah, there are nuances, and a LOT of ways researchers can fool themselves, but that's true for any ground-trothing.

The point is: If the models AND the paleoclimatic data say that it's going to happen, it happening is a reasonable prediction. Not a sure thing, not by any means--but reasonable. And since paleoclimate data exists on the scale of millennia, predictions over this scale are reasonably accurate.

Think of it this way: We can predict with reasonable certainty where the continents will be in 500 million years. This isn't terribly different.

(Please note that I'm merely commenting on the reliability of predictions on the scale of millennia; I am saying nothing about the validity of anthropogenic global warming theory, the quality of this particular dataset, or the like.)

Not so fast.

"Irreducible Imprecision in Atmospheric and Oceanic Simulations"

From the paper:

"AOS models are widely used for weather, general circulation, and climate, as well as for many more isolated or idealized phenomena: flow instabilities, vortices, internal gravity waves, clouds, turbulence, and biogeochemical and other material processes. However, their solutions are rarely demonstrated to be quantitatively accurate compared with nature. "

Future states of the climate cannot be reliably predicted. They are modeled using coupled, non-linear, chaotic dynamical systems.

Chaotic means chaotic.

"Chaotic means chaotic."

Chaotic, in mathematics, means deterministic but non-linear. This means they are predictable (as apposed to the vernacular use of the term chaotic). Granted, prediction is hard--sensitivity to initial conditions and all--but chaotic systems are remarkably stable. They have to be--the electric charges that stimulate your heart muscles are chaotic, and if they weren't stable you would die. Everyone has heard of the butterfly effect, but the inverse is much more common: entire herds of elephants can rampage through a forest without significantly affecting the system.

I'm also aware of the issues involved in global climate models. Not one has accurately predicted OIS 11 from OIS 12, far as I know. You want to get into the specifics we have to get into the individual models and the underlying math. And your quote simply isn't sufficient to do that.

All I was saying was, the concept isn't impossible. One can make reasonably accurate long-range predictions in geology (and that's what we're discussing here, regardless of what anyone wants to pretend). Look at the scale of what you're talking about. "Flow instabilities" are eddies--a few feet to a few meters. Vortices are the same thing. You'll note that gyres aren't included in this list. Clouds are on a scale of a few miles--but you'll note that trade winds aren't included. Turbulence is included, flow is not. You can have tremendous turbulence and still have a coherent flow path, as literally every river demonstrates. "Biogeochemical processes" are chemical reactions; tectonics, stratigraphy, even pedogenesis are not on this list.

The issues you're discussing dominate the small scale in these systems. They do NOT dominate the large scale. Time and space averaging tend to wash out variances on the scale you're discussing. That's why we could navigate rivers long before we could model turbulence.

The real question is what anthropic activity will do to climate. Were we not here--were we looking at an uninhabited planet--solar and orbital cycles, plus some basic information about atmospheric chemistry and albedo, would be sufficient to answer. Because humans are involved, though, the issue becomes vastly more complex. That said, we can find natural experiments: conditions where, say, CO2 has jumped. We can then explore the effects of that jump on the biosphere. Through the glass darkly, sure, but as reliably as empirical data allow.

Please don't make the mistake of assuming that because I don't mention something, I've never heard of it. "Gotcha" comments aren't going to win the day here. This is a comments section on a blog; there's no way to discuss Neotoma, polynya, float stones, tempestites, any of the moraines, or....well, ANY of this in any depth. At best we're barely naming the topics that need to be considered here. Let's have a real discussion, not an attempt to score points by saying "Haha! You never mentioned X!!"

I am not playing gotcha and I understand some, but not all, of the mathematics.

The climate models are chaotic. Sensitivity to initial conditions is necessary but not sufficient to identify a chaotic system. A better requirement, that along with dense periodic orbits (in the phase space) and, more importantly topological mixing - every region of the phase space will be mapped to every other region - implies chaos. Every point in the phase space will eventually be mapped to every other point. In every open set around a point in the phase space, there are an infinite number of trajectories that evolve to be arbitrarily far apart.

There is a reason that one of the most famous papers in the history of mathematics, written by Ed Lorenz, is entitled "The Limits of Predictability".

In other words: Prediction? Fuggetaboutit!

Even with perfect data the future states of the climate cannot be predicted.

Funding for modelling does pay the bills for many professors and graduate students - so by all means let it continue.

Prepare for the weather of the past.

Oh, and here Ed reviews his original finding in his last known interview.


Do you have an opinion on gun control EdR? Either for or against? If you do, what basis could you possibly have for thinking it would be either good or bad? It's totally chaotic.

What about smoking and lung cancer? Do you think insurance companies are correct to think smokers are more likely to get it? After all, it is chaotic. My grandfather smoked until he died at age 87. And my aunt smoked until she got lung cancer at age 43. That's chaos for you.

This entire post is nothing but mere assertion. You completely ignore the issue of scale, despite me providing numerous examples of situations where scale makes a tremendous difference in the predictability of behavior.

If you're not playing gotcha, you're playing a game that's nearly indistinguishable from it.

"This means they are predictable "

Prove it! What will the weather be on June 7th of 2020 in the five major cities of the world???? I'm waiting...

Doesn't he need to know that first?

Greenland has mountains and extends pretty far north. Certainly removing the whole Greenland ice sheet is geoengineering in massive proportions.

Think interglacial and sun cycles.

If they're serious about carbon emissions, why not push for nuclear? What? Lower opportunity for graft?

I thinks it’s the essentially religious attraction of a “sunshine and wind” solution - which is perceived as simple, natural, free, etc. vs the big utility solution. It’s the Shire vs. Isengard.

It looks a lot like religion, with Don's and sinners and an apocalypse for the sinners (humanity).

Sins and sinners.

Dang autocorrect!

If by “Don” you mean the Big Bad Orange Donnie, he’s no mere sinner, he’s the biggest Devil of all.

The free market approach is to have a carbon price and let the generation technologies fight it out among themselves.

Like these knuckleheads are actually advocating any change!

They're just complaining about how environmentalists should do it, while they oppose any efforts to actually do it.

Also, the world is never going to pay the "social cost of carbon (SCC)" so pull the other one.

We'll get what we get and it will be as bad as it is.

"How reliable is such a prediction?"

Impossible to say. The models are as accurate as the data and validated theory. The primary purpose of the models is to drive decision making on action. If people collectively act, the melting will halt given the climate should be cooling based on what we know of climate sans human action. Eg, solar insolation is falling at a slight rate for the next ten-fifty thousand years before rising again due to precession of earth axial tilt. If actions are taken, then models based on no action will be useless.

Why economists care about model accuracy is baffling. According to economist predictions over the past half century, US GDP should be rising at twice the rate in the 1935-1975 period due to all the tax cutting at local to national levels. In particular, the conseevative rural areas where tax and cost cutting have been the highest, GDP growth should be about 10% annually, given all the model predictions of conservativves, Laffer, et al. Taxes are lower, government is much smaller because tax revenue is lower and local governments zero sum: tax revenue-spending=0, unlike the Federal government which uses free lunch economics of printing money so conservative can cut taxes and increase spending.

"The models are as accurate as the data and validated theory."

No. Climate prediction is a wicked problem and the models are chaotic. As such, it is impossible to predict future states of the climate.

The best thing to do is to prepare for the climate of the past, more specifically, weather of the past. No regrets policies that reduce pollution and improve health prospects are best. No specific predictions about climate in any one place are needed.

Another interesting scientific article:

lxm's link is really interesting and highly recommend. Completely new (to me) angle on ice sheets melting and plate tectonics.

3. Most of these are actually B movie tropes from the '80s, not TV.

Movies and TV. Those lists are fun but remember, these aren't meant to be boring normal life, it's entertainment. If we want to watch life exactly as it is, we can just watch C-span or a documentary.

#17 "Dogs always know who's bad and will naturally bark at them"

The others were meant to be tongue-in-cheek. This one's actually true.

One of mine barks at everyone. Needs doggie Zoloft.

S/he just has a very dim view of human nature.

I believe she probably does, yes.

#3: Some of these are true.

7--adrenaline in a fight can keep you from feeling pain, or at least feeling it powerfully enough to affect you. Once the fight's over (when you're being cleaned up) it hurts like crazy. Done it myself, in fact. And yeah, the woman cleaning me up got a good laugh about it.

11--a single match is brighter than people think. Or, rather, our vision in the dark is better than people think. You can in fact see pretty well with a relatively dim light source once your eyes adjust. Ask anyone who's had to navigate a dark, cluttered room by candle (did that growing up thanks to occasional snow storms knocking power out).

12--Due to the nature of Medieval diets, peasants DID have pretty good teeth. They ate a much rougher diet, which served to scrub their teeth, and didn't eat much sugar, it being extremely expensive. Plus they did bathe and brush their teeth. The nobles were the ones with rotting teeth, because they could afford refined wheat flour and sugar.

#5. Maybe the key Western cultural innovation is the ability to appropriate acquire other people's culture quickly. For instance, taking paper money and gunpowder from the Chinese (to say nothing of saurkraut and pasta), and innovating on them to produce financial markets and guns. One might also cite arabic numerals.

How about the New Testament?

The West has done pretty well with homegrown innovations too.

The more interesting point to the piece, of course, is watching a careful rationalist recreate the case for arational conservatism.

On the other hand, if "conservatism" means a sort of nationalistic provincialism, then it would block out adopting useful innovations from other cultures.
What's interesting is that in order to learn this cultural heritage from other peoples, someone has to be willing to go out there, immerse themselves in the culture of an outgroup, learn their language and traditions, and then bring that stuff back and teach it to their own ingroup. In other words, having cosmopolitain types who will go out and learn stuff from outgroups and then bring knowledge back is adaptive.

However, historically speaking, even a cursory glance will demonstrate that it turns out that the figures who actually went out and learned about things and brought ideas back - the Marco Polos, Matteo Riccis, and I would argue the Afonso de Albuquerques, Hernan Corteses, Arthur Wellesleys et al, and all their variations - were a bit difficult to describe as "cosmopolitan", exactly.

Their learning and their bringing back didn't have a whole lot to do with concepts of "world citizenship" or a single community of humanity, and was often specifically *facilitated* as a means to and ends motivated by their loyalty to their community of origin.

Yes, and the Iroquois adopted much Eurasian technology - muskets, iron cooking pots, steel knives and axed - and food (they LOVED pork) and did not consider themselves to be any less Indian. Unfortunately, they had a poorly thought out and inconsistently enforced immigration policy. They were conquered.

There is a lesson in there.

"Death and Rebirth of the Seneca"

Highly recommended!

"they had a poorly thought out and inconsistently enforced immigration policy."

Just like Trump.

#5 was certainly a long winded way to say "you didn't build that" (by yourself).

It wasn't a way to say that at all. But good job being a jerk.

You need to read slower, or pause to consider.

If our actions are on the pinnacle of a deep societal knowledge base, we didn't build that alone. We used the deep societal knowledge base.

In modern economies this is formalized with public education, but not just that.

Trivia: The inch was not standardized in the US until 1866, and countries disagreed until 1935. Heck of a time sharing parts and plans until then.

Deeper Trivia: full shoe sizes, say going from an 11 to a 12, is the difference of one barleycorn. Now standardized in reverse, to 1/3 of the Industrial Inch.

Leaving the bits that were almost certainly innovated in parallel (paper money, boiled dough, lactic pickles), a bit of an odd statement - it's not like South Asia or China or Africa etc were exactly slow to pick up Western innovations by comparison. That is, most post 1400 AD technology, science and philosophy.

(Nor was, in more ancient epochs, the Near East slow to embrace Greek learning and cultural ideas, or still more ancient epochs, innovations from the northern steppes).

If anything, the West today seems to be better at innovation, and the East and South at copying and improving - usually postulated and seen empirically to be the advantage of relatively more collective societies (even on the small scale - British vs Continental European).

I mean, there's an odd kind of very, very specific blinkeredness here:

Non-European societies and often quite authoritarian ones have remodeled themselves in social transformation on the basis of Western science, technologies and ideas with a degree of suddenness that's unimaginable in the West. (Maybe, just maybe, conformity and illiberal dictatorships who are really focused on national pride and greatness can actually help society change tack all at once and achieve massive developmental transformation? At a cost).

Then the Westerners show up and humblebrag about how liberalism means that, aw shucks while we may not be innovative (we certainly don't have no higher IQs!), we can adopt ideas in ways that those closed-minded illiberal folks just can't!

Very good point. A more refined argument might be that liberalism is actually *slower* in wholesale adoption of ideas, but better at letting ideas compete so that adoption is not disastrous (in contrast to e.g. the Great Leap Forward).

Yes, I think if Hazel wanted to shift to an argument like you suggest that liberal thought has led to a qualitatively better way of adopting ideas, more through individuals and market choices and the consent of the governed and less imposition by authorities and under bureaucracies, then that's much more arguable.

It's the claims that Western cultures have long, and by the example of innovations she specifically mentions well before liberal thought, had a unique openness in attitudes that has allowed them to borrow more from other cultures that seem a bit divorced from history.

Perhaps your right, and it's not uniquely western to borrow ideas from other cultures exactly. Although America, historically being more open to immigration meant that a lot of ideas from a lot of different places got mixed together. Not western culture, but historical chance due to lots of people being in a land rush to move to the same place. And lots of mistakes made too, including wiping out the native cultures and trying to convert them instead of acquiring their knowledge. But that ended up feeding back into Western culture so we all got a bit of a cultural software upgrade out of the experience of colonizing the Americas.

We did adopt the Native Americans' fighting style and used effectively against the British.

But really #5 was very good, and it is interesting to think about how YouTube (etc) bringing together aligned tinkerers can accelerate the process.

I agree, and your saying this reminds me that I have read this claim made beautifully elsewhere. I just can't remember where. It was either Ludwig von Mises, Ayn Rand, or Jordan Peterson. Possibly all of them.

Does it make any sense for any of them to load that word "western" with too much meaning or emphasis?

Can anyone explain to me how the Japanese are any less "culturally acquisitional" than, say, Canadian?

(Hate to be a big cosmopolitan, but the important bits might more be cultural scaffolding than culture itself. More rooted in human nature.)

There's a scene in that old movie Mr. Baseball, in which the Japanese love interest explains to him that Japan's strength is taking from other cultures and then making it their own. Hard to imagine that scene going over in this day and age!

I'm a westerner who grew up in western culture, so it's second nature for me to discover where various aspects of my history come from. There is definitely a long history of western culture absorbing the best of anything it comes into contact with. I doubt that it's unique to western culture; I certainly hope it isn't. I like to think of it as human nature. But I can only speak for the culture in which I live.

I don't think this law is constitutional. It will probably be challenged soon and/or never inforced.

So, the very same judges who lobbied for this law will be asked to rule on its constitutionality?

France does have a track record of outlawing inconvenient information. I believe it is illegal for a married man to get a paternity test to see if he's really the father of his children.

Seen elsewhere on the www. Almost everyone agrees that unless legislators can point to an affirmative grant of constitutional authority, Congress simply can’t act. hahahahahaha meaning almost no one . . .

#6 - French ban law prediction services - "In a startling intervention that seeks to limit the emerging litigation analytics and prediction sector, the French Government has banned the publication of statistical information about judges’ decisions – with a five year prison sentence set as the maximum punishment for anyone who breaks the new law."

This is not unexpected. In law school we were told by the more progressive professors that the function of law is to complicate things just enough that you always need a lawyer--yes, I'm aware of the 'bright line tests' in law but they are the exception that proves the rule. According to this hypothesis, and I've seen it in anecdotally in practice, as soon as the law becomes understandable so 'anybody can figure it out', a judge comes out with a shocking decision that 'muddies the water' and makes law difficult to interpret, hence requiring a lawyer.

Finally, the French ruling may be trying to preserve the 'trade secrets' of old established French firms. One of the well-known benefits of going to an expensive white-shoe old line established firm is that they have connections and can tell you who are the easy judges to file before or the hard judges to try and avoid. This is called "forum shopping" in jurisprudence.

Source: I did badly in law school, so I know all this stuff.

Bonus trivia: it's hard to explain but in practice, over my career, I've found that you pay a huge premium and get about (roughly) the same level of service from going with the most expensive lawyer and going with a regular but not incompetent lawyer. Certainly choosing the best lawyer did not save Lord Conrad Black nor Dennis Kozlowski, both CEOs wrongly imprisoned, in the former case for one small hyper-technical violation for legal payment approved by the board ex post, in the latter all of the payments Kozlowski got were approved by the board, so essentially Kozlowski got 8 years of jail for the crime of being too greedy in collecting legal compensation while CEO. And it was decided by a jury (!) of unemployed people. Talk about lynch mob!

"it's hard to explain but in practice, over my career, I've found that you pay a huge premium and get about (roughly) the same level of service from going with the most expensive lawyer and going with a regular but not incompetent lawyer."

The advantage of using an expensive firm is that if you lose or they make mistake, no one can blame you for hiring them. Whereas if the small firm screws up, your boss blames you for not using a big brand.

I've taken over plenty of files from big firms that had bad mistakes, though.

I thought you would come out strongly against this since the judge is banning a form of intellectual property.

@anonymous - good point, very true. But when south of DC the Virginia Power company wanted to put a huge electrical transmission tower through our large tract of farm land, for peanuts, and said to us "nobody has ever sued VEPCO (that was their name back in the day) and won", we sued using a very cheap, very 'ordinary' disheveled lawyer who seemed like the actor Peter Falk, "Columbo" the TV detective, mumbling, depressed, not at all a dashing figure, but brilliant in a way, who convinced the judge to actually take a field trip, with the rest of the court, to view the property in question. We won for big bucks. In fact, the decision was so shocking that Vepco immediately motioned that the judgement not be published, which was granted, since it would have ruined their mystique and caused them to have to pay more money for subsequent purchases from the easily intimidated farmer Freds down there (this was in the 1970s). We used the money to expand our real estate empire. We still own the farm, I claim it would make a good cemetery or mobile house park (poor folk don't mind living under transmission towers).

@Cheeto Mussolini - well, they do copyright zoning ordinances in the USA and you have to pay to get copies, also, for a while, back in the day, the USPTO (US Patent Office) sold the right to display digitally copies of US patents; nowadays access is pretty cheap once Google Patents got in the field, though for all I know perhaps Google still pays the USPTO something behind the scenes.

3. This will date me, or my super-primitive TV/antenna setup that mainly gets signals from the past, I think, kinda like my radio out in the garage that has a TV band *yes, actual TV on the Radio* (well, before digital anyway) but ...

#21: Deadly quicksand awaits you everywhere.

Hollywood loved it some quicksand back in the day.

The original comments add some good ones. But so far they've missed:
1) A tape recording will always be rewound to the exact second when the relevant damning quote begins.
2) No wild chase through a quaint European piazza is complete until some peasant's loaded fruit cart gets knocked over

"No wild chase through a quaint European piazza is complete until some peasant's loaded fruit cart gets knocked over"

... while in America, if the denouement is zany, it's a chicken truck.

the bloody horse head hidden under the sheets is a good one

We actually had quicksand where I grew up. They put a railroad over top of it. About once every 3-5 years they had to rip apart that section of track and rebuild the railroad, because it eventually sank. Sort of takes the terror out of quicksand.

The REALLY fun stuff is liquefaction during earthquakes. Probably won't affect an individual (due to scale), but it can reek havoc on buildings. You can't put a modern building on water, and under the right conditions an earthquake can turn apparently solid soil into water. Then part of the building suddenly is no longer part of the building!

When I first came here, this was all swamp. Everyone said I was daft to build a castle on a swamp, but I built it all the same, just to show them. It sank into the swamp. So I built a second one. And that one sank into the swamp. So I built a third. That burned down, fell over, and then sank into the swamp. But the fourth one stayed up. And that’s what you’re going to get, Son, the strongest castle in all of England.

Not quicksand, but the fortuitously-captured video of the Bayou Corne sinkhole eating trees, caused by drilling impinging into a salt dome cavern, if I recollect aright, is one of the stranger things I've ever seen.

It's not strange to someone who's worked around drill rigs. :D My wife was sampling subsurface soil once in Florida, and hit something underground--the next day, the ground around the rig had sank several feet, enough that they almost didn't get the (track-mounted) rig back out. You can map utilities, but deep geological features are far more difficult. Makes the job fun!

7. Two articles in the Economist on Brazil, which (predictably) have been ignored all week:


b: TR's favela (Complexo da Mare) is also featured:

a) Crime is already downtrending. Even more important, President Captain Bolsonaro has signed into law a bill allowing the government to intern drug addicts. He also sent Congress what has been called an "anti-crime package" to fight gangs. He has also authorized Brazilians to buy up to 5,000 cartridges a year.
b) I haven't ever been to a favela. I live in a college town.
c) The public pensions reforms, scheduled to be passed next month, is expected to spur investments and to free Brazil's entrepreneurs' animal spirits.

Animal spirits already run wild in Brazil. That's the problem.

The Keynesian version of animal spirits is possible only in civilized nations where violent crime isn't so rampant.

Not true. Plenty of animal spirits in America's big cities where crime is rampant but so is the money. They shit on the streets of SF. Can't get more animal than that.

People don't pause that long to defecate in TR's favela for fear of getting shot.

6. Ah the French. They never stop stinking. The best you can say about them is that they aren't German.

They can thank a series of massive acts of toxic masculinity they aren't German. One took place in Normandy 75 years ago today.

You can comprehend the white privilege in numerous military cemeteries around France.

Our President became a fake-cripple to get out of the army. I just told them I liked the BBC!

1. I don't even know what shower gel is. I know about body wash, but that's because I've been to Japan.

Who would want to make your body part microsoft?

Interesting take on culture, matches my own highly.

It is almost as though Western culture and religion hacked a way to build high trust societies that allowed for technological progress without degenerating into asocial hellholes. It is almost like recklessly changing culture might result in failed transmission of the necessary things to maintain high trust societies throughout generations.

I am not an anthropologist, but it is fairly rare that "old time" culture is bad for your health. In general, the longer some cultural habit has been around, the more likely it is to be healthful. Likewise, I have been in the doctoring gig long enough to watch how local cultures - even just a couple of city blocks - can have major impacts on fertility and health.

We keep guessing that laws or goods shape outcomes, yet fail to grapple with culture. Americans have more deaths - must be guns or police regulations (yet somehow the American non-firearm murder rates exceeds most peers' all-cause murder rate and similar police regulations result in massively different crime rates even within the same jurisdictions). The French have poor economic growth - must be bureaucracy.

I would also suggest that culture's power should make us more humble. Seeing how things work after some "natural experiment" is woefully inadequate for dictating cultural change. The reasons for our culture's ticks may be decades long failure processes and occur for reasons unknown to us prospectively.

After all, we abandoned the sexual restraints that had defined Western Culture for millenia ... and somehow in less than a full generational cycle we had tens of millions dead. Somehow, plague has again begun to strike seriously at humanity, and it just so happens to be in a jurisdiction, more than any other that has abandoned traditional culture.

Maybe the trade-offs from abandoning a proven culture are worth it; but it seems awfully hard to do anything more than take it on faith for the next two or three generations.

What are you referring to with the tens of millions dead?

possibly worldwide A.I.D.s deaths?
looks like u.s. is just went over 1000 measles cases this year

It's like we always said back when we were learning BASIC -- a five and a quarter inch floppy is useless without a hard drive:

surely you mean cassettes.

We had some overlap between five and a quarter inch floppies and big 20 megabyte hard drives. By the time we got to the massive 40 megabyte hard drives it was pretty much 3.5 inch floppies all the way.

I see what you are getting at. BASIC overlaps with cassettes. But we learned BASIC in high school when it was already a dinosaur because the wheels of the education system grind slowly.

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