Posts filed under “Science”

Steven Johnson: Where Good Ideas Come From

I love that he lifted RSI’s animated approach:

Beginning with Charles Darwin’s first encounter with the teeming ecosystem of the coral reef and drawing connections to the intellectual hyperproductivity of modern megacities and to the instant success of YouTube, Johnson shows us that the question we need to ask is, What kind of environment fosters the development of good ideas? His answers are never less than revelatory, convincing, and inspiring as Johnson identifies the seven key principles to the genesis of such ideas, and traces them across time and disciplines.

Category: Science, Weekend

How Aliens View Our Solar System

Hat tip Icanhasinternets

Category: Humor, Science, Weekend

Italian Landslide Captured on Video

Visually astonishing This February 2010 landslide is an example of liquefaction — the earth, rock and soil flow like a river. If you have never witnessed this, it is quite amazing to see . . . Italy Calabria About 200 residents have been evacuated from their homes after a landslide split a hillside apart in…Read More

Category: Science, Weekend

What Are the Limits of Sapient Judgment?

George Mobus teaches computer science to undergraduate and graduate students at the Institute of Technology, Computing & Software Systems at the University of Washington, Tacoma.

His background is quite broad: He has a PhD in Computer Science, an MBA in Decision Science, and a baccalaureate in Zoology (with substantial coursework in math, chemistry, and oceanography) from UW Seattle. His academic focus has been Biology: Specifically, evolutionary, cognitive, neuro-psychology — how the brain works to produce the mind and how did it come about through evolution.

He blogs at Question Everything, where this piece was originally published.



Sapient Judgment Has Weaknesses

In my working papers on sapience I describe one of the components of sapience as judgment and provide a brief overview of what role it plays in wisdom. I briefly mentioned some weakness or limitations to ordinary human judgment in that work, but left it a little vague. In this paper I want to go into more detail about how judgment works in the making of decisions and especially what some of the remaining problems with it are with respect to the current state of sapience in Homo sapiens.

Sapient vs. Pre-sapient Judgment

Sapience involves the capacity to influence good decisions (and give good advice) by applying judgment to complex situations. Decision making processing is the main job of intelligence as indicated in the working papers. Decisions need to be made regarding what action or behavior to take given the situation in the immediate environment. While the actual decision processing looks more continuous in nature, this discretized version will hopefully help to illustrate what happens in the brain*. The central circle in the below diagram can be considered a decision node in a decision tree structure (actually more of a web structure than a tree). The job that the intelligence processor has is, given the situation in which the animal finds itself, the “state of the environment”, to make a decision on which of many actions to take.


Figure 1. Sapient decision making depends on tacit memory models that influence intelligent decision making. See text for description.

Immediately surrounding the current decision point is additional information stored in working memory forming the context of the situation, how it came to be, factors that relate directly with the decision to be made. This context along with the current state that activated this particular decision point are fed into the intelligence processor’s causal model of the world. This model has been learned from past experience and represents the best estimate of what cause (from a selected action) and effect (on the future state of the environment as a result) to expect. The model actually contains the decision web along with several background influences such as affective valence marking that helps weight decisions when emotional considerations are operative (curved green arrow).

The learning component of intelligence is responsible for monitoring the actual outcomes of decisions vis-à-vis and building or refining the model over time. Then it uses the model to make selections for actions. The selections are always provisional or heuristic in nature. Intelligence processing is prone to several kinds of errors that might cause a misstep. Also, though not shown here, the creative function of the brain might intercede to suggest a different selection just in case it might lead to a better outcome and that could be the basis for modifying the model.

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Category: Psychology, Science

The Scientific Debate on Climate Change: Part 9, 10

9. Climate Change – Meet the Scientists

In response to several requests, I’ll put references in the video description rather than the body of the video:

In response to several requests, I’ll put references in the video description rather than the body of the video:

John Coleman listed as media graduate in 1957
University of Illinois Alumni Association…

Coleman claiming to be a meteorologist in Weather Channel founder suing Gore? Glenn Beck interview with John Coleman, March 5, 2008
Transcript at:…

Certified Broadcast Meteorologist Program….
list of Certified Broadcast Meteorologist (CBM)…

Christopher Moncktons resume:
Whos Who 2010

Oregon Petition found at:

Steven C. Zylkowski credentials found at:……

Earl Aaagard web page:…

John Stossel clip from Global Warming? Really Bad? on YouTube…

Bob Carter listed as palaeoclimatologist in US Senate Minority Report,…

Sorry to ruin the fun, but an ice age cometh
Phil Chapman
The Australian, April 23, 2008

Chapman bio on NASA website:…

Tim Ball 28 Years Professor of Climatology at the University of Winnipeg
Letter to Paul Martin…

Tim Ball: for 32 years I was a Professor of Climatology at the University of Winnipeg.
Deniers vs Alarmists in the Eco-Argument
Orato website, May 28th, 2006…

Tim Ball lettrt to Royal Society, listed as professor of climatology…

University of Winnipeg website:

Geography course units at the University of Winnipeg…

Tim Ball described as professor of geography
Fraser Institute Website…

Tim Ball letter to Royal Society, listed as retired professor of geography:…

Global Warming, Two Points of View
Bio of Tim Ball showing time spent at University of Winnipeg…

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10. Climate Change – An imminent ice age debunked

In 2005 the media told us we were on the brink of another ice age. What happened?

(in chronological order)

Movie clip at the beginning from “The Day After Tomorrow”

Broeker’s hypothesis that melting ice will interrupt thermohaline circulation:
“Thermohaline Circulation, the Achilles Heel of Our Climate System; Will Man-Made CO2 Upset the Current Balance?” — Wallace S. Broeker, Science (Nov 28 1997)

Linkage of glaciation to shut down of AMOC:
“A model for Northern Hemisphere continental ice sheet variation”
– R. G. Johnson and B. T. McClure, Quaternary Research (Sep 1976)

See also “Was the Younger Dryas Triggered by a Flood?”
Wallace S. Broecker, Science (May 26, 2006)

“Slowing of the Atlantic meridional overturning circulation at 25° N”
– Harry L. Bryden et al, Nature (Dec 1, 2005)


“Britain faces Big Freeze as Gulf Stream Loses Strength”
– The Times (Dec 1, 2005)

“New Gulf Stream fears bring UK Ice Age warning”
– The Evening Standard (Sep 6, 2001)

“Scientists probing a dying current bring worst climate fears to the surface.”
– The Australian, (Dec 5, 2005)

“Fears of Big Freeze as Scientists Detect Slower Gulf Stream”
– The Independent (Dec 1, 2005)

RealClimate quote “while continued monitoring of this key climatic area is clearly warranted, the imminent chilling of the (sic) Europe is a ways off yet” at…

Richard Wood saying Britain and Scandinavia should cool if Gulf Stream slowdown was real:
“Failing ocean current raises fears of mini ice age”
– New Scientist, (Nov 30, 2005)…

Gavin Schmidt saying surface temps should have dipped:
“Scientists Say Slower Atlantic Currents Could Mean a Colder Europe”
– New York Times (Dec 1, 2005)

Robert Dickson saying much more data was needed to determine whether a slowdown was underway:

Harry Bryden saying not sure if change was temporary or signals a long-term trend:
“Failing ocean current raises fears of mini ice age”
– New Scientist, (Nov 30, 2005)…

Bryden says a variable signal, but too early to detect any trends:
“No new ice age for western Europe.”
– New Scientist, (Nov 7, 2006)…

Wunch saying it’s a complicated story reduced to a fairytale:

“Sea change: why global warming could leave Britain feeling the cold”
– The Guardian (Oct 27, 2006)…

“Can in situ floats and satellite altimeters detect long-term changes in Atlantic Ocean overturning?”
– Josh K. Willis, GEOPHYSICAL RESEARCH LETTERS (Mar 25, 2010)

“New climate change myth: Gulf Stream is NOT slowing down”
– Daily Mail (Mar 30, 2010)…

– Daily Mail (Dec 2, 2005)…

“Global warming ‘will bring cooler climate for UK’”
– Daily Telegraph (Dec 1, 2005)…

“Gulf Stream is not slowing down, scientists claim.”
– Daily Telegraph (Mar 30, 2010)…

Category: Science, UnScience, Video

The Not So Quiet Sun

NASA click for larger graphic > Explanation: After a long solar minimum, the Sun is no longer so quiet. On August 1, this extreme ultraviolet snapshot of the Sun from the Solar Dynamics Observatory captured a complex burst of activity playing across the Sun’s northern hemisphere. The false-color image shows the hot solar plasma at…Read More

Category: Science, Weekend

The Scientific Debate on Climate Change: Part 7, 8, 8a

7. Climate Change – “Those” e-mails and science censorship

Are climatologists censoring scientific journals and silencing alternative hypotheses on climate change? This is the second part of my look at the hacked/stolen e-mails from the Climatic Research Unit in the UK. I welcome intelligent opinions in the forum, but please refrain from posting the same inane comment a dozen times. Debates in science aren’t settled by those who argue the longest or the loudest, but by the accuracy of facts and the consistency of hypotheses with the facts.


8. Climate Change — Has the Earth been cooling?

This video also looks at whether other planets are also warming, and an Internet myth that NASA is now attributing warming to the sun. In this video I examine the importance of sources — tracking information back to a source and making sure the source is credible. My sources are cited in the video, but I’ll also post them here. Sources are also cited throughout my climate change series. These videos are not a personal opinion or a theory of my own; I’m not a climate scientist or a researcher and I have no qualifications to do anything other than report on what real climate scientists have discovered through their research. So there’s no point in disagreeing with me. If you dislike their conclusions, take it up with the researchers I cite. If I’ve made a mistake in reporting their conclusions, please point out the mistake and I will happily correct it. If you think you know better than the experts, write a paper and have it published in a respected, peer-reviewed scientific journal.


8a. Climate Change – supplement

The perfect example of what I was saying in my last video appeared soon after it was uploaded. The Internet was abuzz with a quote from Professor Phil Jones that there has been no global warming since 1995.
But is that what he actually said? Once again, we need to go to the source — Jones’s own words — rather than Internet gossip based on an interpretation of what he said. If we check the primary source, it’s a very different story. In fact, Jones and his team did detect warming since 1995. In this video I go to the source, and find out why the tabloid press got things so wrong. I have to correct part of the video where I gave an example of what an 80% statistical significance would mean (for the statisticians out there, this is a p-value of 20%). I said this would mean 80% confidence that global warming was a real, underlying trend, and not the result of background fluctuations.
While some statisticians accepted this as a broad explanation for the layperson, others felt it deviated too far from the precise meaning, which is this: =If global warming was not happening, there is only a 20% chance we would see this result.= A 90% statistical significance (if that’s what Jones achieved) of the 1995-2009 temperature data would mean If global warming was not happening, there is only a 10% chance we would see this result.

Coming soon: Parts 9, 10

Category: Science, UnScience, Video

Greenland Glacier 4X Size of Manhattan Breaks Loose

This really struck me as a fascinating piece of science news: A University of Delaware researcher reports that an “ice island” four times the size of Manhattan has calved from Greenland’s Petermann Glacier. The last time the Arctic lost such a large chunk of ice was in 1962. “In the early morning hours of August…Read More

Category: Science

Climate Change: The Scientific Debate

Quite interesting, even handed, and intelligent:

Part 1 Climate Change — the scientific debate

A basic look at how climate scientists infer that man-made carbon gases are changing the climate, and how this view is contradicted by other climate scientists who are skeptics.
I am a former science correspondent with an interest in reporting the facts, not the media hype. My thanks to 9thgate for checking my script for errors.


Part 2: Climate Change — the objections

This video, the second in the series, looks at alternative hypotheses explaining global warming. I am only looking at alternative hypotheses put forward by real, professional climate researchers, and the findings of real, professional climate researchers who disagree with them. Yes, I’ve left a lot of the detail out. This is a 10-minute video summarizing the arguments and counter-arguments, not a PhD thesis. The comments forum will be free and open, as always, but if you disagree with what real, professional climate scientists say, please take it up with them and dont expect me to defend their point of view. If you have a stunning piece of scientific evidence that disproves one side or the other, dont waste time on my channel, write a paper, and get it peer-reviewed and published in a reputable journal.


Part 3 – Climate Change — Anatomy of a myth

I had planned to put several myths in this video, but discovered such an appalling web of deceit and fabrication in this first one that I felt I had no choice but to thoroughly debunk it. Like many ingrained myths, this one is so ubiquitous that it takes an awful lot of hard evidence to convince true believers that it’s been fabricated.

Coming soon: Parts 4 5 & 6

Category: Science, UnScience, Video

First Pictures: Big Bang

Well, not quite. But the European Space Agency released a spectacular picture of the microwave sky Monday, an artful mosaic of interstellar dust and the relic light from the birth of the universe. Planck sees sky in new light: > click for ginormous image > Planck, a roughly $800 million mission to detect the leftover…Read More

Category: Science, Weekend