Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Anthropomorphism and Artificial Intelligence

I started to read a novel entitled "Marker" by Robin Cook. In the first chapter, he describes the sperm traveling to the fertilization of an ovum using the following adjectives or phrases:

like a group of anxious marathoners, relegating the others to short and frustrating futile lives, were lost in a form of self-sacrifice, the next ordeal for these living entities, unlucky casualties, the sperm's Holy Grail, goaded by irresistible chemical attraction, hapless haploid egg, frantically. This set me to thinking about The Chinese Room, consciousness and our tendency to anthropomorphize everything in sight.

Writers of novels want to write in a colorful way in order to entice the interest of the reader. That's fine, but it also reminds me that we have a natural(?) tendency to imagine things have a self awareness and consciousness that they clearly don't have. Obviously, sperm cells don't get "frustrated" or "frantic" when faced with an "ordeal" or "self-sacrifice." One might simply chalk it up to poetic license and have done with it, except that we all have some of this tendency and it contributes to our fallibility. For example, we attribute emotions like "happiness" to a bird twittering in a tree on a beautiful spring day. We attribute a playful mood to squirrels chasing one another. Actually, we have no notion about whether or not animals feel these emotions under such circumstances. All we know is what we would feel if we acted in an analogous way. I think this is part of the mental machinery we use to predict the behavior of other humans. The philosopher Daniel Dennett writes about this ability to predict the behavior of others as a survival characteristic that has influenced the genetic wiring of the brain.

When Turing said that if a machine in a black-box responds in a fashion that would lead us to believe there's a human in the box, then the machine in the box is intelligent, he was really saying something about our limitations. We observe behavior of either black boxes or humans and are still incapable of determining whether they feel what we feel, perceive what we perceive, or know what we know in the same way we do in our own minds. It is only because we see humans as biologically the same as ourselves that makes us fairly certain that they are intelligent in the same way that we are. It is in our nature to make that assumption in order to make others actions appear predictable and rational. We have little control over that tendency. The proof is our need to anthropomorphize in the way that Robin Cook does. The more physically similar a creature is to a human, the more we credit it with "intelligence" until it's action proves otherwise. Perhaps this is why men see women as irrational rather than simply different. Perhaps this is why L-minds and C-minds see each other as irrational. It's no surprise to me that people like Searle will not be satisfied that a machine can be intelligent. Since intelligence can only be surmised from observtion of action, it's a totally optional label. It's in the eye of the beholder.

Thursday, July 26, 2007

from Joel: Sarkozy, democracy

In his "bon voyage" message our friend and leader Ira said:

I don't think we'll be meeting their new C-minded President Sarkozy, but I'm pleased he was elected in time for our trip :^)

Play nice!

Joel responds:

While our leader is away in France, I think it might be appropriate to tell you folks about my prognostications for the presidency of the conservative Sarkozy. Philosophically speaking, I find it interesting, because it's an illustration of what Plato said about the downside of democracy.

Sarkozy was elected as a conservative reform candidate with a large majority of the vote, because many socialists crossed over party lines. There is a general recognition in France that socialism has failed in the areas of health care, immigration, employment, education and welfare. If President Sarkozy actually tries to make reforms, he will probably meet the same resistance that Chirac met when he took over from the socialist president Mitterand. The various sectors of populus will simply not give up their advantages. The students will not give up their subsidized living. The civil servants will not give up their long vacations and early retirements. The unionists will not give up their strangle-hold on public utilities and private industry. The unemployed will not give up their subsidized life style. It seems to be the nature of man that an special advantage, once won, will not be sacrificed unless all are feeling the same pain.

France is a peculiar version of democracy. There is a significant measure of anarchy mixed in. The university students will take to the streets as they have many times in the past. (The beautiful cobblestone work of the streets of the Latin Quarter is gone, because the students used the stones as weapons against the police in 1968.) The school children will parade against reform led by their civil servant teachers. The workers at the gas and electric companies, as in the past, will shut off the power to the Metro. Sporadic strikes of the air controllers will be used to cripple the airports as they have in the past. It's hard to know whether or not Sarkozy will attempt to use force to quell this kind of rebellion. That hasn't worked under past administrations. It just generated a hatred for the police.

Plato's point that democracy in the long run leads inevitably to tyranny, will have been demonstrated once again. Hopefully the French will not turn to the National Socialists (the French version of the Nazi party) in frustration.

With respect, Joel

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Ira Traveling for a Couple Weeks

Joel and Stu have been deputized as Administrators for this Blog and they have full powers and authority to do whatever needs to be done, and even more if they want to.

Along with 19 other members of our local bicycle club, I'm headed to Paris for a few days and then to the Loire Valley of France, southeast of Paris, for some bicycling and barging. We'll be sleeping and eating on the barge "Fleur" where we'll be the only passengers. After breakfast, we'll bicycle and meet the barge at the next port.

I don't think we'll be meeting their new C-minded President Sarkozy, but I'm pleased he was elected in time for our trip :^)

Play nice!

Ira Glickstein

Saturday, July 21, 2007


It took lots of research, but I finally got something working to make recent Comments easier to keep up with.

Look in the right-hand column, after the "Blog Archives" box that lists the main Topics for the current month and you will see the "Ten Most Recent Comments" box that provides the first part of the text, and the date, of the most recently published Comments!

If you click on the blue hypertext, the page for the Topic will appear and you can scroll down to read the remaining text of the Comment and see it in the context of previous and subsequent Comments.

I would have liked it better if the info in the box included the name of the Commenter and the name of the Topic, but that was not available to me at the website where I got the Javascript.


Sample Comment text:

From: Ira, Re: Links to Ten ... This is a sample Comment to test the new feature I recently added to the Blog.
(I posted the first Comment to this Topic thread to show you how to do that. My Comment did not appear right away in the box as I expected it to. There is a delay, but the Comment apeared less than a half-hour later. It appears RSS feeds update at about that rate.)

If anyone has a better way to do this, please send an email to me at ira@techie.com and I will be happy to improve this new linking feature.

Ira Glickstein

Friday, July 20, 2007

More on L and Cminds

First read the short article at the link below which analyzes the paradox of why we continue to buy gas guzzling cars and at the same time most people, including truck and SUV owners, support higher taxes on gas to promote conservation.


Given all of that, I was particularly struck by the following paragraph:

Back in the nineteen-seventies, an economist named Thomas Schelling, who later won the Nobel Prize, noticed something peculiar about the N.H.L. At the time, players were allowed, but not required, to wear helmets, and most players chose to go helmet-less, despite the risk of severe head trauma. But when they were asked in secret ballots most players also said that the league should require them to wear helmets. The reason for this conflict, Schelling explained, was that not wearing a helmet conferred a slight advantage on the ice; crucially, it gave the player better peripheral vision, and it also made him look fearless.

The players wanted to have their heads protected, but as individuals they couldn’t afford to jeopardize their effectiveness on the ice. Making helmets compulsory eliminated the dilemma: the players could protect their heads without suffering a competitive disadvantage. Without the rule, the players’ individually rational decisions added up to a collectively irrational result. With the rule, the outcome was closer to what players really wanted.

Here seems to be an instance where even a staunch conservative would have to allow that sometimes we need a higher power like the government to act as a stern parent and look out for our best interests. In other words, individual freedom and choice are not an absolute, not the best in every situation.

What say you, C-minds?


[EDITed by Ira to make link clickable and structure the long quote]

Emulation versus Simulation (Muddled follow-on)

Thanks to Stu for starting an interesting topic about artificial life (Loose Words-Muddled Thinking). I'm starting a fresh thread, because comments are difficult to find and keep track of on this blog. Also, in this blog, "comments" don't appear in the daily email.

Stu said:

However, the phrase that pushed my hot button was " a researcher proposes to recreate a living organism inside a computer." And while the following sentence mitigates that image somewhat, the actual article in the Economist further perpetuates the myth that it is possible to create life within the computer itself:

"David Harel of the Weizmann Institute in Israel ... proposes to recreate living organisms inside a computer."

And so it seems to me that even intellectually respectable organizations such as the Economist and Sigma Xi can fall prey to muddy thinking. A computer simulation of a process is not the process itself just as the pictures in Playboy are not really flesh and blood human beings. As John Searle has pointed out in his essay, "Is the Brain's Mind a Computer Program?" (short answer: NO!!!

Joel responds:

I'll take the opposite position and say that the brain's mind IS a computer program. To understand what I mean, we first need to refine the difference between a simulation and an emulation. A SIMULATION is an mathematical approximation of a real physical system which receives inputs and sends outputa. The accuracy of the outputs is based upon how good a model we are using. An EMULATION is a perfect substitute for a real physical system. In computer science, an emulation might be computer software which substitutes for a proposed piece of computer hardware so that it can be tested before it's actually manufactured. An example of a simulation might be a model of Earth's energy balance which can predict global warming and cooling trends. The simulation is clearly not the planet itself any more than a FAX of a pizza is a pizza. However, an emulation of a pizza would be the same as a pizza in all important regards. Clearly, edibility is an important aspect.

Suppose I produce an imitation of a pizza which looks like a pizza, smells like a pizza and tastes like a pizza. In this application it's made out colored polystyrene and seasonings, so I can sell it as a zero calorie pizza substitute. In effect, let's say that it's an emulation that passes the Turing Test. Many would say that it's not a pizza, because in their definition, pizza is a kind of flat bread made out of flour, water, salt, tomatoes and cheese. These people can never be satisfied, because they are looking at the micro level not the macro level. Even if my emulation satisfies every MACRO property of the system, by definition it cannot satisfy the MICRO properties without becoming the system itself.

The same is true of thought experiments like The Chinese Room. Even though the room emulates a chinese speaker in every external or macro regard, there will be those who must look inside and insist that the room contain a "chinese knowing mind." Since it does not, it passes the Turing Test, but fails to contain the expected intelligence. As at least one philosopher has called this kind of reasoning "argument by misdirection." With respect -Joel

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Loose Language Muddles Minds

I have an email subscription to "Science in the News Weekly" sponsored by Sigma Xi in the vain hope of keeping up with current developments and saw the following snippet:

"Meanwhile, the Economist reported on work at the Weizmann Institute in Israel, where a researcher proposes to recreate a living organism inside a computer. His goal is to simulate a tiny nematode called Caenorhabditis elegans, probably the best understood animal in biology, and learn what triggers its pluripotent stem cells to differentiate into various cell types."

You can read the whole (short) article by following the link below:


However, the phrase that pushed my hot button was " a researcher proposes to recreate a living organism inside a computer." And while the following sentence mitigates that image somewhat, the actual article in the Economist further perpetuates the myth that it is possible to create life within the computer itself:

David Harel of the Weizmann Institute in Israel ... proposes to recreate living organisms inside a computer."

And so it seems to me that even intellectually respectable organizations such as the Economist and Sigma Xi can fall prey to muddy thinking. A computer simulation of a process is not the process itself just as the pictures in Playboy are not really flesh and blood human beings. As John Searle has pointed out in his essay, "Is the Brain's Mind a Computer Program?" (short answer: NO!!! To see whole article link to:


Searle points out that if you write a computer program that simulates the digestion process in a human being that is not the same as eating and digesting a pizza. (duh...)

In any case, confusing the map with the territory or math symbols with reality seems to be both a human triumph and failing.


Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Global Warming Questions

OK, here's the real problem I have with all of this discussion. I understand that correlation is not causation but the cyclic and time dependent nature of any two processes can be viewed as either one causing the other, directly or inversely.

Look at the graph and imagine that the sine wave is one process in time (e.g. Temperature) and the cosine wave is another process (e.g. CO2 concentration).

Then, depending on what time you choose to start looking you can say that cos leads sin by Pi/2 radians (90 degrees) (starting at time t = 0) or that sin leads cos by 3Pi/2 radians (starting at time t = Pi/2).

Now, if you make the mistake of assuming that one curve causes the other it's easy to show either that global warming affects CO2 or that CO2 causes global warming. Worse, if you examine specific time segments you can come up with any conclusion you like; let's assume the sine wave represents process s and the cosine represents process c, then:

From time 0 to Pi/2: c decreases as s increases.

From time Pi/2to Pi: c decreases as s decreases.

From time Pi to 3Pi/2: c increases as s decreases.

From time 3Pi/2to 2Pi: c increases as s increases.

So if we confound the issue by seeing causality we can induce anything we like including CO2 decreases global warming. Does this make sense?


Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Were Plato and Aristotle L-minds or C-minds?

Were Plato and Aristotle L-minds or C-minds

Although I might have posted this as a comment within a previous thread, it's simply easier to find a conversational thread when it's listed as a title in the archives. My comments here are stimulated by a remark made by H. Pattee, which I thought might be interesting to pursue.

H. PATTEE’s 07/07/07, 07:07 AM response to IRA’s comment of July 3, 2007 10:31 PM

IRA: The L-mind is distrustful of the wisdom of the citizenry (for good reason) and thinks they need an intellectual elite to guide them down the correct path.

HP: This is wrong historically and wrong today. It was C-mind elitist like Plato and Aristotle that distrusted the citizenry. Plato thought philosopher kings should rule. Aristotle called democracy “mob rule.” The L-mind actually began as a revolt against elitist C-mind monarchies and aristocracies.

Modern L-minds and C-minds can be discriminated through the use of a series of questions concerning public policy and personal responsibility issues. It is impossible to go back over 2300 years and ask these same questions, since even with time travel, the questions would be meaningless to Plato and Aristotle. However, if we can establish objective criteria and basic properties for L-minds and C-minds without being biased by partisanship, we can surmise from their writings what type of mind these philosophers might have had.

I believe commenter H. Pattee is wrong when he accuses Plato of being a C-mind elitist. First of all it has not been demonstrated that C-minds are elitist. That's just political rhetoric speaking. In fact, as Ira points out C-minds generally propose solutions to problems which respect the individual and his or her capability and independence. L-minds seem to prefer solutions which assume the individual incapable or functioning without outside intervention. L-minds generally support ERA, racial quotas, labor unions and minimum wages.

Plato's notion of the "philosopher king" certainly doesn't make him an "elitist" as proposed by H. Pattee. Plato was in favor of a meritocracy (in The Republic). Anyone could become a philosopher king if they had the talent. Plato also favored equal rights for women including equal access to military training. Both Aristotle and Plato had a problem with pure democracy in their historical analyses of the constitutions of various governments. They both believed that democracy inevitably led to government by tyrants and the loss of rights of the individual. They observed that democracy led to an elite which catered to, and then manipulated the mob to the detriment of the individual. According to modern day Libertarians, we are witnessing that progression today.

In terms of the objective criteria we have been talking about, I think that Plato was a top-down thinker, while Aristotle was a bottom-up thinker. Plato saw the world in terms of broad principle such as Justice and Right and Dignity. He deduced correct behavior by questioning whether such and such an action would be consistent with the broad intuitive principles. Aristotle, on the other hand, was an experimentalist, closely observing the world around him. Alexander the Great's soldiers carried samples of flora from all over the world back to Aristotle. He then theorized the broad reasons why nature was so constructed.

I'm sure that by picking and choosing among the vast writings of these two thinkers, we can find support for either L-mind or C-mind status. This would probably be useful in clarifying our notions. But, let's not forget that we're dealing with a couple of very special minds that were perhaps capable of approaching the world from either direction.

P.S. It is also not true that "The L-mind actually began as a revolt against elitist C-mind monarchies and aristocracies." That period started with revolts of serfs who believed they had natural rights against their masters. That belief in oneself (as opposed to the hierarchy) is a characteristic of the C-mind. It's easy to confuse the word "liberal," because it has changed so much over the centuries. For example, the French still call their Republican Party, "the liberals." I hope we can steer clear of partisan assumptions about one another and avoid equating political thinking and philosophical thinking.

[Minor typo and long quote structure edit by Ira]

Sunday, July 8, 2007

Origin of L-minds and C-minds

[Figure added by Ira]

L-Minds and C-Minds

I see from a comment using the terms "Bush-Cheney", "cronies" and "corrupt incompetence" that we are beginning to get into dangerous waters. In part this is my fault because I failed to properly introduce the concept of L-minds and C-minds. These terms are specifically designed to avoid political wrangling. Such wrangling is in fact antithetical to their notion. Unfortunately, y'all have come in in the middle of a conversation between Stu and myself, thus missing important background. I think the best approach is to give little history from my side.

Some ten years, ago I started a conversation with myself. I'm a conservative and a university colleague of mine, for whom I have great respect, is a liberal. We differ on virtually every issue having to do with public policy and individual responsibility. Yet, we have respect for one another's intelligence in our fields of engineering science. How is it that two people of similar intelligence and cultural background come up with such different views, so different that the other seems irrational? I concluded that our impression of each other's defective reasoning had to be wrong and a product of something fundamentally different about our minds. I coined the terms L-minds and C-minds in order to avoid political implications. (Those of you who know our dear departed liberal friend, John Filley, might be interested to know that for a time we worked on the concept together.)

Politics and politicians should have nothing to do with this discussion. Politics is the art of the possible, according to one observer. As such, it involves compromises that are associated with getting re-elected that clutter the picture. I'm not interested in whether or not one politician or another is a "good guy" or a "bad guy." They are not distilled versions of L-minds and C-minds. Quite the opposite. Examining politicians and politics gets us nowhere in the analysis of the fundamental mental differences that cause the population in general, to split consistently into two camps in their judgment concerning public policy and personal responsibility.

I start with this assumption. If an L-mind thinks a C-mind is consistently irrational and a C-mind thinks an L-mind is consistently irrational then the odds are that their views of each other are defective. I'm interested in discovering the fundamental differences in their reasoning that are not due to error, but are due to a logical and rationally allowable choice of approach. The requirement that I impose on myself is that there be a certain degree of symmetry that favors neither side. Let me give an example.

L-minds and C-minds seem to differ in the location of their point-of-view. The L-mind chooses to step forward and view the situation from as close as possible. The C-mind chooses to step back and view from a great distance. Neither of these points of view can said to be the correct one. They are simply different. The first leads to empathy while the second leads to sympathy. In a recent debate I had with an L-mind on the subject of illegal immigration, he used the phrase "You wouldn't feel that way if you stood in their (the illegal immigrant's) shoes." He empathized with the undocumented alien, while I only sympathized with their plight. He felt the need save them from their fate, while I felt sorry for them and wanted to mitigate their damages, but considered them as necessary casualties viewed from a national or international perspective. He believed that I was cold and had no compassion, while I believed he had no common sense. Both of us were wrong about the other. We simply chose to stand in two different frames of reference when solving a problem.

I have identified other choices that separate L-minds and C-minds, which I will not go into in this introduction. I repeat that the differences need to be non-political, fundamental and symmetrical. (Ideally, they need to be something that could be programmed into a rule-based expert system.) One should strive to escape from the shadow of one's own bias. The reward for this is a better understanding of our neighbors and less animus toward those with differing opinions. With respect -Joel

Friday, July 6, 2007

Why the surprise?

It's funny to see the surprise of reporters concerning the fact that physicians are involved in the latest terrorist plot in Britain. Aren't they aware that Ayman al Zawahiri (second in command of Al Caida) was educated as a physician and surgeon. He practiced his craft in Pakistan. Why do we still hold doctors in such esteem? With respect -Joel

Thursday, July 5, 2007


All about the abuse of anecdotal math to falsify the truth and truthify falsehood.

This is the third part of my "presentation" on the topic of "Lies, ..." Click for Part 1, and Part 2.

In this part, we'll consider the relationship between correlation and causation.

EXAMPLE #1: Direction of Causation

You've heard the cynic claim:

The more police you see directing traffic, the bigger the traffic

The implication is: police *cause* the traffic delay. Of course, that's possible, but, more likely, the police were called to the scene because of the traffic delay. The delay was due to some other original cause.

Please consider the three situations depicted on the following chart:

ACCIDENT -- Cars stop or slow down to change lanes and snake around the accident scene. Police and ambulances and tow trucks are called to the scene. The police direct traffic around the accident while the victims are evacuated and the cars are towed away. Traffic resumes its normal pace, and the police leave.

Causation may be summarized as follows: ACCIDENT >CAUSES> Delay >CAUSES> Police.

RUSH HOUR -- Traffic predictably builds up around quitting time when many workers depart for home. Anticipating the traffic delay, police are dispatched to try to keep traffic moving as well as possible. Despite the police presence, traffic overwhems the available lanes and delays build up. Some time later rush hour ends, traffic resumes its normal pace, and the police depart.

No causative relation between the Delay and the Police. Causation is: RUSH HOUR >CAUSES> Police and RUSH HOUR >CAUSES> Delay.

ROADBLOCK -- A criminal has escaped and the Police set up a roadblock to try to catch him. Cars are stopped and searched and that causes Delays in traffic flow. At some point, the Police catch the convict and end the roadblock and traffic resumes.

Causation may be summarized as follows: ROADBLOCK by Police >CAUSES> Delay.

LESSON: Consider the time relationship between factors to determine the direction of causation.


OK, now we understand the time of occurance relationship between correlation and causation! Let's watch a video clip from Former VP Al Gore's infuential movie "An Inconvenient Truth." (If you have not seen the complete movie, I recommend it highly.)

In this video clip, Gore demonstrates the strong historical correlation between atmospheric carbon dioxide (CO2) and Global Warming of the surface of the Earth. He then makes some interesting claims about causation. On the basis of relatively recent and historically high CO2 levels due to human over-production of CO2, he predicts disasterous increases in Global Warming.


Let us consider the points made by Gore in this video clip:

  1. CO2 is highly correlated to global temperature. Historically, high surface temperature periods have been accompanied by high levels of atmospheric CO2. [TRUE]

  2. Current CO2 levels are rising above historical highs, almost certainly significantly caused by human over-production of CO2. [TRUE]

  3. Therefore, global temperatures will rise way above historical highs within the next fifty years unless humans drastically reduce production of CO2. [AIN'T NECESSARILY SO! Correlation does not necessarily imply causation!]

According to the "Real Climate" website that Stu Denenberg put me onto, which, by the way accepts and strongly supports Gore's Global Warming thesis, the historical ice core record shows that rising CO2 levels come some 800 years after global temperature rises. See full text at: http://www.realclimate.org/index.php/archives/2004/12/co2-in-ice-cores
I have copied the text verbatim and have added emphasis to some key phrases.

At least three careful ice core studies have shown that CO2 starts to rise about 800 years (600-1000 years) after Antarctic temperature during glacial terminations. These terminations are pronounced warming periods that mark the ends of the ice ages that happen every 100,000 years or so.

Does this prove that CO2 doesn't cause global warming? The answer is no.

The reason has to do with the fact that the warmings take about 5000 years to be complete. The lag is only 800 years. All that the lag shows is that CO2 did not cause the first 800 years of warming, out of the 5000 year trend. The other 4200 years of warming could in fact have been caused by CO2, as far as we can tell from this ice core data.

The 4200 years of warming make up about 5/6 of the total warming. So CO2 could have caused the last 5/6 of the warming, but could not have caused the first 1/6 of the warming.

It comes as no surprise that other factors besides CO2 affect climate. Changes in the amount of summer sunshine, due to changes in the Earth's orbit around the sun that happen every 21,000 years, have long been known to affect the comings and goings of ice ages. Atlantic ocean circulation slowdowns are thought to warm Antarctica, also.

From studying all the available data (not just ice cores), the probable sequence of events at a termination goes something like this. Some (currently unknown) process causes Antarctica and the surrounding ocean to warm. This process also causes CO2 to start rising, about 800 years later. Then CO2 further warms the whole planet, because of its heat-trapping properties. This leads to even further CO2 release.

So CO2 during ice ages should be thought of as a "feedback", much like the feedback that results from putting a microphone too near to a loudspeaker.

In other words, CO2 does not initiate the warmings, but acts as an amplifier once they are underway. From model estimates, CO2 (along with other greenhouse gases CH4 and N2O) causes about half of the full glacial-to-interglacial warming.

So, in summary, the lag of CO2 behind temperature doesn't tell us much about global warming. [But it may give us a very interesting clue about why CO2 rises at the ends of ice ages. The 800-year lag is about the amount of time required to flush out the deep ocean through natural ocean currents. So CO2 might be stored in the deep ocean during ice ages, and then get released when the climate warms.]

I accept the factual statements above as true, but some of the reasoning seems a bit tortured to me. Levels of CO2 begin their increase about 800 years after Warming has begun its increase. The ice core data also shows that temperatures decrease a thousand years or more before CO2 begins to decrease. That implies the direction of causation is: SOMETHING ELSE >CAUSES> Warming >CAUSES> CO2 increase and Reduction of SOMETHING ELSE >CAUSES> Cooling >CAUSES> CO2 reduction.

Like the situation described above, where ACCIDENT >Causes> traffic Delay >CAUSES> Police to be dispatched, it appears clear that SOMETHING ELSE causes the Warming and then the Warming causes CO2 levels to rise. That makes sense. If you take an ice cold glass of soda and leave it at room temperature for an hour, the CO2 bubbles out as the soda warms. Similarly, but on a global scale, CO2 is disolved in the oceans and, as the Earth surface warms, more of the CO2 comes out into the atmosphere. When that SOMETHING ELSE gets reduced, Cooling causes CO2 levels to drop as more of the CO2 gas is re-absorbed into the oceans.

What might that SOMETHING ELSE be that causes Warming when present and Cooling when it goes away? It's the SOLAR RADIATION FROM THE SUN stupid!

Reread the fifth paragraph of the above quote. They say the Earth's orbit around the Sun varies on a cycle of 21,000 years and that is known to affect the comings and goings of ice ages. Right on!

But it is more complicated. According to http://www.homepage.montana.edu/~geol445/hyperglac/time1/milankov.htm there are three major cyclic components that affect the Earth's orbit around the Sun: (1) Eccentricity of ~100,000 years, (2) Axial Tilt of ~41,000 years, and (3) Precession (or "wobble") of ~23,000 years. These components do not affect the total amount of solar radiation reaching the Earth, but rather energy distribution between the polar and equatorial areas and seasonality. That, in turn, affects the build up and melting of polar ice. Based on the ice core data, the combination of these cycles triggers cooling and warming periods.

Energy radiation from the Sun varies on several cycles, the best known of which is called the "Sun spot cycle" and happens every eleven years. There are longer cycles of variability that extend to centuries and millenia.

Therefore, when the orbital and solar radiation cycles happen to coincide, which may occur around every 100,000 years, a Global Warming cycle is initiated. The Warming causes more CO2 to be driven out of the oceans and, over an 800 year period, CO2 levels rise and stay high until the solar radiation high point passes. At that point, Cooling begins and, a thousand years or more later, CO2 levels decrease as the more of the CO2 gas is again absorbed into the cooler oceans.

Reread paragraph eight of the above quote. They clearly say that "CO2 does not initiate the warmings, but acts as an amplifier once they are underway."

They are partially correct. Yes, like the ROADBLOCK situation, where Police >CAUSE> Delay, it is also possible for CO2 to cause (more) Warming when it gets into the atmosphere and acts as a greenhouse gas. However, since the ice core data show sustained high levels of CO2 for a thousand or more years after Cooling starts, it is clear the CO2 levels do not cause the Cooling either.

Therefore, the ice core data show the relationship between global temperatures and CO2 levels are more like the ACCIDENT scenario than the ROADBLOCK scenario. In their third paragraph, the "Real Climate" writers make much of the fact the 800 year delay is only a sixth of the 5000-year cycle. So, they say, during the other 4200 years CO2 could be the cause of the Warming. Well, if you look at the ACCIDENT scenario, the lag between the traffic Delay and the arrival of the Police is also much shorter than the total time it takes for the ambulances and tow trucks to evacuate the victims and clear the wrecks, but that still does not mean the Police are the cause of the Delay!


1) GLOBAL WARMING IS A REAL PROBLEM -- Am I claiming that Global Warming is not a problem? No, that is not my claim at all. I believe we are in a definite Global Warming cycle.

2) GLOBAL WARMING IS PARTLY DUE TO HUMAN-PRODUCED CO2 -- A significant amount of atmospheric CO2 and therefore greenhouse warming is caused by the historically unprecedented production of CO2 due to human civilization. That part of the equation is under human control and we may be able to do something about it with concerted action (but don't hold your breath waiting for that action, see item (6) below).

3) BUT, THE MAIN CAUSE IS THE SUN, STUPID! -- I believe the main cause of the current Global Warming cycle, as of all previous cycles according to the ice core data, is increased solar radiation and the distribution of the solar energy falling on the Earth, due to a combination of orbital cycles and Sun spot and other solar cycles. That part of the equation is out of our control.

4) GORE'S MOVIE HAS SOME MAJOR PROBLEMS -- My problem with the Gore movie is his implication that the ice core data, per se, is applicable to our current situation. As careful reading of the pro-Gore (but still honest :^) "Real Climate" website postings reveal, that is not true. Our current situation is totally unprecedented because human civilization, until the past few hundred years, has not been capable of producing enough greenhouse gas to be significant on the scale of solar radiation.

5) "POLITICAL CORRECTNESS" HAS AFFECTED SCIENTISTS -- The above "Real Climate" website quote was composed and posted a few years ago, before Gore's movie came out. That website has a more recent posting regarding the lag of CO2 behind temperature. While, to their credit, they still link to their older posting quoted above, and they are a bit critical of some of Gore's statements, the new posting shows signs of "political correctness" when it comes to Global Warming.

You can read their new posting by clicking here: http://www.realclimate.org/index.php/archives/2007/04/the-lag-between-temp-and-co2/

The headline says: "The lag between temperature and CO2. (Gore’s got it right.)" That is an indication they are on Gore's side.

However, to their credit, they also say the following about what Gore did and did not do in the video clip you just watched:

What Gore should have done is extrapolated the temperature curve according this the appropriate scaling -- with CO2 accounting for about 1/3 of the total change -- instead of letting the audience do it by eye. Had he done so, he would have drawn a line that went up only 1/3 of the distance implied by the simple correlation with CO2 shown by the ice core record.

The quoted paragraph is a complicated way of saying, correctly in my opinion, that Gore led his unsophisticated audience to believe Global Warming due to human-produced CO2 was about three times worse than the available scientific estimates justify.

6) WHAT PRACTICAL THINGS CAN WE DO ABOUT GLOBAL WARMING? -- Not a heck of a lot! The portion of Global Warming due to Human overproduction of CO2 is almost certainly below 50% and more likely less than 20%. Thus, even if we could cut global CO2 production in half, we might reduce the temperature increase by 25% at best. More likely, a 50% cut in global CO2 production would yield less than a 10% reduction in Global Warming. So, if the projected increase in average global temperature over the 50 to 100 years is 2.0 degrees, we could cut it down to "only" 1.5 to 1.8 degrees.

Theoretically we could cut CO2 production in half, but I strongly doubt we will. My wife and I share one car, a hybrid gas-electric Prius. We get actual 45-55 MPG, which is about double the gas mileage for the average car, implying a 50% cut in emissions. To achieve 55 MPG, I have to drive extraordinarily carefully, with slow accellerations and extreme anticipation of traffic light changes to avoid most braking. My antics are probably driving other motorists crazy. Also, much of our gasoline savings were cancelled out by the initial higher cost of the Prius compared to similar standard cars as well as the costs we face when the batteries wear out or the fancy gas-saving electronics fail. My wife and I use our electric golf cart for much of our local travel and I also use my bicycle for 40-50 miles per week. We have the luxury of doing all this because we are retired. How many Americans and others living in industrialized countries will follow our example? Not many!

Even as gasoline prices hit $3 and even $4 in some places, we Americans increased our usage! That is an indication "we have money to burn" and gasoline prices are too low rather than too high. I favor a punitive "carbon" tax on non-renewable energy. It would start at $1 per gallon of gasoline (or the equivalent in coal energy, etc.) and go up $1 per year until usage levels began to decline. I think it will take a $10/gallon increase, so that will give Americans ten years to adjust their usage patterns. John Kerry proposed such a tax a decade ago but had to abandon it because it has no political traction whatsoever. What are the chances the "carbon" tax will get passed in our lifetime? You are correct, the changes are about ten degrees below absolute zero. Tis a pity!

China and India and other formerly less-developed countries have modernized their economic systems and will soon be consuming energy at levels rivaling our own. They will not stop their industrialization.

7) EVEN THE "GOOD NEWS" IS BAD! -- Is there any way we might see a reduction of 50% in human-generated CO2? Well, globalization might help put social pressures on excessive human breeding. Reproduction is below replacement rates in some industrialized countries. Population growth in those countries is mainly due to immigration. As the social effects of globalization spread to more and more countries, worldwide reproduction may fall to below replacement levels. Over time, we might reach a 50% reduction in population. But, would that translate into 50% less CO2 or would the people just ramp up their use of energy? What do you think?

A major genetic engineering disaster that killed a billion people would result in a rapid population drop. Or, even worse, a localized nuclear war would not only rapidly reduce population, but also cause a mini "nuclear winter" as high-altitude debris from the nuclear explosions reduced the transparency of the atmosphere to incoming solar radiation. I don't think any of us would wish for these types of disasters.

Those of us who look favorably on the "Gaia Hypothesis" that the Earth has some sort of Global Consciousness might be comforted by the thought that Global Warming is "Gaia's plan" to warm the Earth in preparation for the coming chill of "nuclear winter." As nuclear weapons spread to more and more countries and terrorist groups, nuclear war seems all-but-inevitable. Ah, how I wish I could muster a higher level of religious belief!

LESSON: Situations change and statistics that correctly described the past may not apply to the present.

Ira Glickstein

The above is the third part of my "presentation" on the topic of "Lies, ..." Click for Part 1, Part 2, and Part 4.

Wednesday, July 4, 2007

Independence Day

Have a happy, healthy and prosperous 4th of July!

Fourscore and seven years ago our fathers brought forth on this continent a new nation, conceived in liberty and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal.

Now we are engaged in a great civil war, testing whether that nation or any nation so conceived and so dedicated can long endure. We are met on a great battlefield of that war. We have come to dedicate a portion of that field as a final resting-place for those who here gave their lives that that nation might live. It is altogether fitting and proper that we should do this.

But, in a larger sense, we cannot dedicate, we cannot consecrate, we cannot hallow this ground. The brave men, living and dead who struggled here have consecrated it far above our poor power to add or detract. The world will little note nor long remember what we say here, but it can never forget what they did here. It is for us the living rather to be dedicated here to the unfinished work which they who fought here have thus far so nobly advanced. It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us -- that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion -- that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain, that this nation under God shall have a new birth of freedom, and that government of the people, by the people, for the people shall not perish from the earth.

[Abraham Lincoln, Gettysburg Address (1863) Emphasis added]

It is now eleven score and eleven years and our flag still flies proudly. Despite our many problems, we remain the last best hope for the crazy proposition free men and women can govern themselves. We are honored to live in the country with the highest degree of freedom, the widest availability of opportunity, and the greatest prosperity that has ever existed in the history of the world.

Ira Glickstein

Tuesday, July 3, 2007

More on Lminds and Cminds

In a letter to the editor today a conservative was railing against gun control using as an example Florida's gun law which he claims was trashed by the liberal media who predicted all sorts of dire consequences including a severe diminution of tourists. All of this never came to fruition and he uses that outcome to point out all the good things that can come from all citizens packing heat and the bad things when government tries to regulate this second amendment freedom.

Which got me to thinking: perhaps another discriminant between Lminds and Cminds is their problem solving approaches. The Lmind favors a top-down solution (imposed by the elected govt on all the citizens) while the Cmind chooses a bottom-up solution (let the market be guided by Smith's "invisible hand"). If this is so, then the Cmind has more faith in the inherent wisdom of individuals than the Lmind does which wants a self imposed parent figure to help us be and stay good.

What do you think?

With all possible courtesy and respect,

Departmental Discrimination

Ira said that no one had commented on his example of the misuse of statistics at Pugugly University. Before we can determine if Ira is right or not about this being an abuse , we need to define the problem and then see whether or not the conclusion drawn from the statistics is correct. If the thesis is that the university is discriminating against women, then Ira is exactly right. The raw data shows no such thing. Averaging the percentages over the departments is nonsense given that the departments are different sizes. More properly, the percentages need to be weighted with the relative department size. This would turn out to be the answer that Ira got, that the total percentage of males and females were the same. However, there is a caveat here.

It is highly unlikely that there is an inter-departmental effort to balance the number of male and female hire. Logically, one needs to consider one department at a time to see whether some are guilty of discriminating against men and others against women. Engineering might discriminate against women while humanities discriminates against men. The imbalance is an indication of something gone askew. It's pretty clear that the important question with respect to civil rights is whether or not roughly equally qualified candidates have equal probabilities of being selected whether male or female. If there's any statistic that might come close to answering this question it's the ratio of the number of females selected to the number of females applicants, over let's say five years, as compared to that ratio for males for the same period. We also have to note another caveat.

There are those who would hold PU responsible for the lack of female applicants under the doctrine of affirmative action. The figures could be interpreted to say that PU did not do a good enough job in reaching out to females in graduate school or college or high school or in the cradle. This is a natural consequence of a belief that men and women are fundamentally the same. Unfortunatly some of our civil rights commission members are afflicted with this notion.

Monday, July 2, 2007

How to Use the Blog Archive

You may have noticed the Blog Archive in the right-hand column has reset for the new month. All the Topics posted in June have disappeared!

Easy to fix! See the little triangle ahead of "June (6)". That is called a "twisty." If you click on it, it will rotate and show you all six of the June Topics.

Ira Glickstein

The Importance of Ignorance

Ira's blog concerning statistics got me thinking about a couple of situations where ignorant decision making is very important. One is, of course, recreational gambling. Gambling could not exist if we had information so complete that the outcome would be a certainty. There needs to be sufficient information to allow computation of the betting odds, but not enough to allow computation of the outcome. The other is life, casualty and all other types of insurance.

Generally speaking, information is gathered in order to compute insurance and annuity odds. It is not surprising that premiums are dependent on the odds computed from this information. However, too much information is adverse, because the outcome becomes determinist rather than statistical. As an extreme case, imagine that genetic and medical evaluation could pinpoint a young married person's death from natural causes within a year or so. Some people could not obtain insurance except at exorbitant rates, while others would not bother to purchase insurance at all.

If this seems far-fetched, think about the fact that the government has already had to step in to enforce ignorance. We know that the risk of death for an Afro-American is statistically higher than that of the other ethnic groups. This piece of information must be excluded from a statistical calculation with respect to insurance premiums. Women live longer on the average than men. This piece of information must be excluded in the computation of annuity pay-outs, by order of the supreme court.

Another querky aspect is politically-correct or public relations effects on ignorance requirements. Automobile insurance companies charge lower rates for teenagers who have passed through a drivers education class in high school. Studies show that they have a lower accident rate. I had a hunch about this and contacted an insurance executive. It turns out that the lower accident rate can be completely accounted for by the fact that the better students take the elective drivers education course. The auto accident rates correlated just as well with grade point average. When that factor is eliminated, there is no difference between those with drivers education and those without. When I asked the executive why his company gave drivers education discounts based upon false causality. he responded that it was a matter of public relations that they not be perceived to be against education.
Not only can statistics lie, in some cases they MUST lie.