Saturday, December 25, 2010

My Guest Postings on Watts Up With That?

Well, I've hit the "big time" as a Guest Contributor at the most popular climate science blog in the world, Watts Up With That? (WUWT)

[Update 06 Jan 2011: I now have more postings on WUWT than I care to list. Click Here for links to ALL of Ira's WUWT Postings.]

[Update, 31 Dec 2010: As a result of my posts on WUWT, picked up by other sites, this month (Dec 2010) we hit an all-time record of nearly 14,000 page views here at The Virtual Philosophy Club, as readers follow links back here. That means your comments and topics here have a better chance of being read than ever before.]

Have a look at my maiden posting at Do We Care if 2010 is the Warmist Year in History featuring the adjacent graphic [click it for a larger version].

Its only been up since around 4PM this afternoon and has already garnered over 50 Comments and over 2000 page views so far.

[UPDATE 28 DEC 2010]

I've posted a second topic, NASA's Sunspot Prediction Roller Coaster to WUWT late last evening, and, as of 10:30AM today, there have been over 2000 page views and over 75 comments. See the adjacent graphic [click it for a larger version].

[UPDATE 28 DEC 2010]

As of today, my two topics on WUWT have garnered over 16,000 page views!

[UPDATE 31 DEC 2010]

I've posted yet another big one at WUWT based on my earlier posting here at TVPC. If that topic interested you, head over to WUWT Clean Coal (Say WATT?) Our Energy Future and read some of the 150 Comments, most intelligent, and of all shades of opinion, and my sparkling replies (at least IMHO :^).

Ira Glickstein

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Best Photo of Lunar Eclipse

Were you outside at around 3AM (eastern US time) this morning? I was, and the sky here in The Villages, FL was sparkling clear. With the Moonlight toned down thanks to the shadow of the Earth, the stars were astonishingly vivid.

In my backyard with our darkened house on one side and the golf course pond on the other, there was little ambient light to interfere with this rare event. According to Wikipedia, it was "the first total lunar eclipse to occur on the day of the Northern Winter Solstice (Southern Summer Solstice) since 1638, and only the second in the Common Era."

I watched in awe, at about 2:45AM, as the Earth's shadow covered first 80% of the Moon's surface, and then, at around 3:15 to 3:20AM, all of it. WOW!

The photo above [click on image for larger view] is the best I've seen of the view available to me. It was posted at by Howard L Cohen who took it at Gainesville, FL, some 50 miles north of my location. THANKS Howard! (The linked site has many other photos, but none as clear as the view we were blessed with in Central Florida, at least IMHO.)

Ira Glickstein

Monday, December 20, 2010

Sunspots - Prediction of New "Dalton Minimum"

Global COOLING Anyone?

Nearly TWO YEARS ago (January 2009 and December 2009 [nearly FIVE years ago now]) I predicted that the now current Sunspot Cycle #24 would peak at 80. I am now revising that down to a peak of only 60, based on a great posting by David Archibald at Watts Up With That, the most widely read and respected climate website in the world.

We may be in for a new Dalton Minimum similar to the period from 1790 to 1830 when temperatures were unusually low. Indeed, we may come to welcome the cushion of warmth, perhaps 0.1 to 0.2ºC, that may be due to recent human activities. (The IPCC Climate "Team" claims 0.6 to 0.8ºC rise mostly due to human-caused Global Warming, but that is most likely an over-estimate.)

As the graphic shows, at the time I made the 80 prediction, NASA was predicting a peak of 104, having revised it downwards a couple of times from their original, wildly high estimate of a 156 peak. The most recent NASA projection is 90.

Description of the Graphic

[Click graphic for larger version] The base for the graphic is from Archibald's posting (Figure 9). The BROWN curve plots actual data from Solar Cycles #3, #4, #5, and #6 (late 1700's through early 1800's). The GREEN curve plots the corresponding actual data for Solar Cycles #22, #23, and the first part of #24, (1990 through December 2010)

I have added the annotations in RED and GRAY, indicating NASA's incredible string of highly incorrect predictions from 2006 to most recent (red hoops) and my original January 2009 prediction and my revised prediction (gray hoops).

Historical Correlation of the Dalton and Maunder Minima with Sunspot Activity

The very cold temperatures from 1790 through 1830 are usually explained as being due to increased volcanic activity, including the Mount Tambora eruption of 1815 that caused the Year Without a Summer, 1816. However, low solar activity, with peak Sunspot counts of only 45 for Sunspot Cycles #5 and #6, is most likely the major cause. Even lower Sunspot counts (below 10) occurred during the earlier Maunder Minimum (1650 to 1700). These periods of Global Cooling were marked by crop failures that are inimicable to human life.

Explanation of the Effect of Sunspot Counts on Climate

The NY Times interviewed Henrik Svensmark last year about his theory of Sunspots and Climate:

One possibility proposed a decade ago by Henrik Svensmark and other scientists at the Danish National Space Center in Copenhagen looks to high-energy interstellar particles known as cosmic rays. When cosmic rays slam into the atmosphere, they break apart air molecules into ions and electrons, which causes water and sulfuric acid in the air to stick together in tiny droplets. These droplets are seeds that can grow into clouds, and clouds reflect sunlight, potentially lowering temperatures.

The Sun, the Danish scientists say, influences how many cosmic rays impinge on the atmosphere and thus the number of clouds. When the Sun is frenetic, the solar wind of charged particles it spews out increases. That expands the cocoon of magnetic fields around the solar system, deflecting some of the cosmic rays.

But, according to the hypothesis, when the sunspots and solar winds die down, the magnetic cocoon contracts, more cosmic rays reach Earth, more clouds form, less sunlight reaches the ground, and temperatures cool.

“I think it’s an important effect,” Dr. Svensmark said, although he agrees that carbon dioxide is a greenhouse gas that has certainly contributed to recent warming.

Dr. Svensmark and his colleagues found a correlation between the rate of incoming cosmic rays and the coverage of low-level clouds between 1984 and 2002. They have also found that cosmic ray levels, reflected in concentrations of various isotopes, correlate well with climate extending back thousands of years.

Before we destroy industrial economies with extreme measures to reduce carbon emissions, it will be a good idea to consider how that might not only not be effective in reducing human-caused Global Warming, but how a bit of carbon-warming could be welcome during the coming period of Global Cooling. By the way, I am still in favor of an across-the-board Carbon Tax because the steady rise in CO2 levels is unprecedented and that is the most intelligent way to utilize our market-based economic system to speed the development of renewable energy sources. However, that effort has a multi-decade time horizon and is no emergency.

Ira Glickstein

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Einstein's Cosmological Philosophy

[Presentation to Philosophy Club, The Villages, FL, 17 Dec 2010. Download the PowerPoint charts here]

Do I have any special qualifications for giving this presentation? Well, both he and I ride bicycles, and, Einstein in German means "One Stone" while mine (German spelling: Glücksstein) means "Lucky Stone" :^).

My main source is Walter Isaacson's excellent 2007 book, Einstein, His Life and Universe. I also used Einstein's own The World as I see It (1949) and Out of My Later Years (1950), and a number of online sources including Wikipedia Einstein and Cosmology, Wikiquote,, and Einstein's 1427 page FBI FOIA file.

POLITICS: Was Einstein a Socialist?

Let us get this out of the way at the outset. Yes, he was a socialist. In Why Socialism? (1949) he wrote "I am convinced there is only one way to eliminate these grave evils [of capitalism], namely through the establishment of a socialist economy, … the means of production are owned by society itself and are utilized in a planned fashion. … guarantee a livelihood to every man, woman, and child. …”

However, in that same article, he cautioned "The achievement of socialism requires the solution of some extremely difficult socio-political problems: how is it possible, in view of the far-reaching centralization of political and economic power, to prevent bureaucracy from becoming all-powerful and overweening? How can the rights of the individual be protected and therewith a democratic counterweight to the power of bureaucracy be assured?"
His FBI FOIA file concludes that he "was a member, sponsor, or affiliated with thirty-four communist fronts between 1937 and 1954." IMHO the FBI was justified in denying Einstein access to classified A-Bomb information and investigating him for possible disloyalty.

Although the FBI did not discover it while he was alive, letters that became public in 1998 prove that Einstein had an affair with a Soviet spy, Margarita Konenkova, from 1941 until 1945. [Image added 24 December 2010, from Filosophando, click for larger version.]

If Einstein was alive today, I believe he would have realized, based on the subsequent history of Communism (Russia, China, ...) that his cautionary words, quoted above, were more valid than he thought they were when he uttered them in 1949. However, I also believe he would be a "social justice" western liberal/progressive and definitely not in tune with my politics.

SCIENCE: His Great Contributions
His first published paper, on the capillary forces of a straw (1901), and his second, on the thermodynamic equivalence of heat, work or particles (1902) were a non-distinguished prelude to his four amazingly breakthrough miracle year publications in 1905:

  • The Photoelectric Effect (showing that light was composed of quanta rather than continuous waves, and which later led to the wave/particle duality of quantum mechanics, and for which he won a Nobel in 1921),

  • Brownian Motion (kinetic theory of heat),

  • The Special Theory of Relativity (that uniform motion is indistinguishable from rest, and the speed of light is the same for moving or stationary observers), and,

  • The Equivalence of Mass and Energy (e = mc², and, since c, the speed of light in a vacuum is such a large number, and when you square it, it is much, much larger, a tiny abount of mass, m, is equivalent to a tremendous amount of energy, e, witness the Atom bomb)

Between 1907 and 1911 Einstein considered the equivalence of gravity and acceleration. He reasoned that a person in a closed box on Earth would, of course, experience normal gravity. However, if the closed box were transported to space, out of the influence of any nearby mass, and then accelerated to 32 ft per second squared, the person would feel the exact same effects as those of gravity on Earth.

In 1915 he published his General Theory of Relativity, showing that matter causes space-time to curve, which we experience as gravity. He predicted that the gravity of the Sun would cause the light from a star to appear to curve and this was confirmed by Eddington, during an eclipse of the Sun in 1929.

The presentation includes animated Powerpoint charts for:

  • Relativity and Speed of Light (A bullet fired from a Gun on a moving train goes faster than from a stationary vehicle, yet a light beam fired from a Laser on a moving rocket does not go faster than from a stationary vehicle), and
  • Einstein's Cosmology (Static, Oscillating, and Expanding Universes, as well as speculation on how Black Holes, predicted by Einstein in 1915, may, via Continuous Creation be the key to something like his Eternal Universe)

COSMOLOGY: Blunders or (Yet Unrecognized) Genius?
Einstein had certain strong expectations of Nature and the Universe (which, see below, he regarded as equivalent to Spinoza's God as well as his own). That led him to expect that the Universe would be static, neither expanding nor contracting, so it could be Eternal in some sense. So, in 1917, he included the Cosmological Constant (Λ) to counteract gravity. When Hubble showed that the Universe was expanding (1929), Einstein said the Cosmological Constant was his "biggest blunder" and, in that same year, adopted what is called the Friedman-Einstein oscilating Universe, which is Eternal in that the mass/energy is constant. When that became untenable, in 1932, he adopted what is called the Einstein-de Sitter Universe, which expands forever, but the rate of expansion slows down over time.

Current accepted truth is that the Universe not only expands forever, but the rate of expansion is increasing, not slowing down. (OY!) And that the Universe had a beginning in the Big Bang (OY! OY!) and it will have an end as the density of mass/energy approaches zero due to the accelerating expansion, and entropy goes to maximum (OY OY! OY!) In my presentation, I speculate (along with Fred Hoyle, Roger Penrose, and others) that black holes and multiple dimensions we cannot sense, may allow an Eternal Universe, with matter/energy continually recycled between the dimensions we can experience and the hidded dimensions, with density and entropy refreshed.

RELIGION: From Moses to Spinoza to Einstein
Young Einstein was the product of a secular family that acknowledge their Judaism. He said "As a child, I received instruction both in the Bible and in the Talmud." So, he knew about Moses and the Rabbis, but, early on, became more enamored of Science and Spinoza. The presentation includes part of his 1920 poem to Spinoza (and in the Notes below the chart, the complete text in English and the original German), and his 1929 statement "I believe in Spinoza's God, Who reveals Himself in the lawful harmony of the world, not in a God Who concerns Himself with the fate and the doings of mankind." For Einstein, God and Nature were one, writing in 1921 "Subtle is the Lord, but malicious He is not. … Nature hides her secret because of her essential loftiness, but not by means of ruse."
His dedication to determinism, in defiance of mainstream physics and the quantum mechanics whose foundation he had personally laid, was based on religious conviction that "God does not play dice with the universe" (1926). He also said, in 1931, "I am compelled to act as if free will existed …[on the other hand, I know] ‘a man can do as he wills, but not will as he wills.’" [quoting Schopenhauer]

He thought scientists needed a type of faith that springs from the religious sphere: "science can only be created by those who are thoroughly imbued with the aspiration toward truth and understanding. This source of feeling, however, springs from the sphere of religion. … the faith … that the regulations [for] the world of existence are … comprehensible to reason. I cannot conceive of a genuine scientist without that profound faith. The situation may be expressed by an image: science without religion is lame, religion without science is blind." (1941) In 1931 he defined three stages of religious belief, going back to his Jewish roots and how they led him to what he considers a higher form of faith: "Jewish scriptures admirably illustrate the development from the religion of [1] fear to [2] moral religion … but there is third state of religious experience … which I will call [3] cosmic religious feeling … which knows no dogma and no God conceived in man’s image".
He used personal terms for God, "Dear God (die Lieber Gott) ... The Old One (der Alte) ... Lord God (Herrgott)", yet he wrote in 1949: "the idea of a personal God is a childlike one. …[but] I do not share the crusading spirit of the professional atheist whose fervor is mostly due to a painful act of liberation from the fetters of religious indoctrination received in youth. I prefer an attitude of humility corresponding to the weakness of our intellectual understanding of Nature and of our own being." and in 1931 "I see a clock, but I cannot envision the clockmaker. The human mind is unable to conceive of the four dimensions, so how can it conceive of a God, before whom a thousand years and a thousand dimensions are as one?"
Perhaps his best advice for scientists, and everyone else, is "Everything should be made as simple as possible, but no simpler." (1950)

Ira Glickstein

Contradictory Models Continued

Howard said: Joel, I have always been bothered by the transition from one or two particle deterministic models to N-particle statistical models. Bohr gave the story about the boy who goes into a candy store and asks for a penny’s worth of mixed sweets. The store owner says I don’t have any mixed sweets, but here are three sweets, you can mix them yourself. Whether reality is deterministic, as Einstein and Ira believe, or whether it is stochastic, as most quantum physicists believe, is a metaphysical difference that does not make any practical or empirically testable difference in our models.

Joel responds: After thinking it through, I think you and many others have good reason to be bothered. I felt bothered too and now believe I have come to a conclusion concerning the paradox. I believe that the sign reversibility of the equations of motion has been misinterpreted as thermodynamic or mechanical reversibility. Please look at this thought experiment involving just two perfectly elastic billiard balls on a odd-shaped pool table with perfectly elastic cushions. We recognize that if one ball (A) is stationary and the other (B) is aimed at it on centers, then B will transfer its momentum to A and become stationary. If a cushion is arranged at right angle to the path of A, then A will be reflected and head back toward B. In the collision that follows, A will return its momentum to B and B will head back toward the shooter. Let another cushion be interposed at right angle to the path of B so that B is again reflected toward A. The net result of all this is that we have a reversible or naturally reversing process. We see similar approximations to this description in pendulums and celestial orbiting bodies. The reversibility of the billiard ball process is a consequence of the sign reversibility of the velocity in the momentum equation PLUS the purposeful adjustment of the cushion to reverse the sign of the velocity at some point.

Let's look at a very slightly more complicated experiment. Let everything be the same except that the first cushion is oriented to cause ball A to go off in a direction which will not cause a return collision with B. Since we have a "closed system," A will eventually strike a cushion, i.e., part of the container wall. Let this cushion be oriented so that it is at right angles to the path of A. The result is that A will be reflected and follow its same path in reverse, and striking the first wall and head back toward B. In other words, it will all be played out in reverse as the momentum (and energy equation) demand, but only because the second wall was PURPOSELY oriented to cause the reflection in the proper direction. One could extend this logic to any number of acute reflections preceding the 180 degree reversing collision.

It might seem as though only the Nth (final before reversal) wall segment has to be fixed. However, its orientation cannot be calculated without a knowledge of all the other reflections that preceded it, since the direction of ball A must be known. Hence, N wall segments are fixed by the motion of just a single collision pair. Like Monte Hall, with his knowledge of what is behind each of the doors, we must have knowledge of the entire particle path in order to design the reflecting container to insure reversal after the Nth wall collision. As long as these conditions are satisfied, mechanical reversibility and entropy are not a problem. The entropy neither increases nor decreases.

I think it would be instructive to design a wall for which an entire class of interactions will be reversible. For instance, consider a container made of two parabolas with a common axis and common foci. A collision which causes ball or particle A to travel through the focus and then continue to the wall will be reflected parallel to the axis of the parabolas, strike the opposite parabola and then back through the common focus. My gut tells me that by continuing in this vein, one would find that elastic balls in an elastic container with several degrees of freedom will spread their initial energy irreversibly with asymptotically increasing entropy. I'm going to work on such a proof. Thanks again Howard for opening Pandora's Elastic Box for me.

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Contradictory Models

[from Joel, Title and link added by Ira]

Howard Pattee said [November 20, 2010 7:19 PM]:

This point is well-known in physics by the two models of a gas. Microscopically the dynamic model of an ideal box of atoms is reversible (time-symmetric) while the thermodynamic model is irreversible. Clearly these models are formally contradictory and therefore neither model can be derived from (or reduced to) the other. As Max Planck noted: “For it is clear to everybody that there must be an unfathomable gulf between a probability, however small, and an absolute impossibility . . . Thus dynamics and statistics cannot be regarded as interrelated.”
Thanks Howard for pointing this out. Although I've taught classical thermodynamics at the undergraduate level and statistical thermodynamics at the graduate level, there seems to be a gap between the two that is not really paid attention to in engineering programs. Although the Maxwell Demon paradox is mentioned, the logical implications are not explored. We simply teach that the microscopic and macroscopic are related by the formula for change in entropy equaI to Plancks constant times the natural log of the ratio of thermodynamic probabilities of the macrostates. I did some research after your post and days of hard thinking. My gut tells me that the assumption of sign reversal in the classical mechanics description being equivalent to reversibility has something wrong with it. One thing I find fascinating is that this paradox and its cousins are the stimulus for your semiotic approach to evolution. Like all other paradoxes, it doesn't seem to matter whether one actually finds the "true" answer. What matters is that the stimulation can lead to new ideas like your semiotic approach. Look at all the mathematical progress that has its roots in Zeno's Paradox.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

American Government Theme Park

[from billlifka, posted with his permission. Graphic by Ira - click it for larger version.]

I dare my grandson Adam to tell his Professor in an Econ class that his grandfather’s solution to America’s big economic problem is to turn Washington DC into a theme park. As part of the dare, Adam would have to certify that his grandfather is still allowed to leave the house on his own and do all those other things allowed to people not too far along in their senility.

No doubt, you think I was just kidding but I was serious. “OK”, you say, “But then the Congress wouldn’t pass it.” Of course, you’d be right. But my scheme isn’t insane and would more likely pass than the Presidential Deficit Commission is likely to agree on a plan or, it occurring despite the odds, have both Houses of Congress pass such plan or, such vote occurring despite the odds, have the resulting bill signed by the president.

Therefore, I’m going to devote some time to the details of my idea and how implementation is possible. You will find that each piece of this plan is feasible and could be implemented. Further, enough of the pieces could be fit together to get the country back to a point where it was living within its means. That is more than what the co-chairs of the Deficit Committee accomplished in their joint recommendation, which was blasted by one special interest group or another and won’t be agreed to by commission members.

I didn’t invent the scheme. It’s chosen by most companies at some point (if they don’t go out of business) and by most people as they grow older. It’s not a recipe for death but for renewed life. When my wife Alice and I retired, we did it.

For my example though, I’ll choose the fictitious Earl and Countess of Anyshire who realized the expenses on their ancestral palace and estate exceeded the revenues. Although the Earl never made it through college, he knew how to count. “My dear”, said he, “We need to live within our means and this palace of ours is a money pit!” Accordingly, they decided to move to a charming home in the suburbs which could be maintained by only three servants and had improved plumbing and insulation to boot. What to do with the palace?

Certainly, they would take some of their furniture with them; but only enough to occupy a small abode and only those pieces which were comfortable. All the imposing, historic stuff would be left behind to enhance the baronial ambience of the place; including the dozens of paintings of their noble ancestors. In a combination of public and private interests, the estate would be used to impress tourists and hold conferences and entertainments. The fees would provide a profit after operating expenses. The Earl and Countess would go on with their lives as before, he attending the House of Lords sessions and she attending her various teas. (Some of which could be held in the old palace.) Of course, there was much stuff not necessary to the palace or suburban home.

An estate sale addressed the bulk of this excess and provided a tidy nest egg for coming years. The Duke hated to part with his horses, especially since some could only be sold for dog food. On the other hand, he knew that horses emanated a large amount of greenhouse gas and that fox hunting was now thought to be politically incorrect. And so it went. Even the servants on the estate were employed in the continuing maintenance or new business enterprises with equal or better salaries and no need for bowing and scraping.

My plan for the American Government Theme Park, properly done, would work the same way.


Sunday, December 5, 2010

Amateur Data Gathering

If I tell you that I've been having gastrointestinal trouble, since I started consuming Splenda itself and products that use Splenda, you would rightly say that the evidence of a connection is just anecdotal. That term is used to dismiss a lot of data gathered by amateurs, Actually, when accurately reported, I prefer anecdotal evidence to statistical evidence, just as I prefer in-depth interviews with likely voters to telephone surveys. The conclusions of a statistical study carried out at a university or health organization often turns out to be misleading or just plain wrong, because of the risks inherent in the design of population studies.

Continuing on with my "Slenda" story; I went to the web to see what I could find. Lo and behold, there was a forum which contained many first hand accounts of gastric distress accompanying the use of Splenda and a few that said complainers were all crazy. The first defect in such forums is that it automatically selects people that are in distress. If I started a forum for people who have experienced sneezing fits after turning on their computers less than an hour after eating, there would immediately be 50 contributions from people who had that experience. It's just the statistical nature of the huge number of people browsing the internet. However, I'm not quick to dismiss honest data. Outliers can contain important information. Every experiment deserves to be explained.

My question for this blog is this. Astronomers have used thousands of amateurs to scan the skies that are too vast for professionals to monitor. Can the anecdotes of amateurs be filtered and combined in such a way as to produce valid scientific evidence? If one hundred people who report stomach distress stopping after quitting Splenda, are asked to restart in order to see if the distress starts again, can we draw any conclusions. How many times must we reproduce the start-stop cycle with each of these amateurs before we can have some confidence in the results?

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

CLEAN Coal! (Say WATT?)

The December 2010 issue of the Atlantic shows an amazing turn-around by the Global Warming alarmists! Yes, they are still alarmed and predicting imminent climate change disaster, but ...

BUT, they have reversed themselves on their previous 'ol devil coal! (This follows their equally sharp reversal on nuclear energy over the past few years.)

Turns out we need coal to generate Watts of electricity for our electric cars and, they say, we can do it in a way that is environmentally correct.

The cover story, by respected author James Fallows, is titled Why the Future of Clean Energy is Dirty Coal. {Click the link to read it free online.}

"To environmentalists, 'clean coal' is an insulting oxymoron. But for now, the only way to meet the world’s energy needs, and to arrest climate change before it produces irreversible cataclysm, is to use coal—dirty, sooty, toxic coal— ..."

Recall that, only last year, a leading alarmist, NASA's James Hansen, one of the key science advisors on Al Gore's The Inconvenient Truth movie, wrote:

"..coal is the single greatest threat to civilization and all life on our planet. ... The dirtiest trick that governments play on their citizens is the pretense that they are working on “clean coal”..." and "The trains carrying coal to power plants are death trains. Coal-fired power plants are factories of death."
Amazingly, while atmospheric CO2 is still the bogeyman of what alarmists say is an imminent Global Warming disaster, coal, which is nearly all carbon and generates CO2 when burned as intended, is part of the solution! Fallows writes:

Before James Watt invented the steam engine in the late 1700s—that is, before human societies had much incentive to burn coal and later oil in large quantities—the concentration of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere was around 280 parts per million, or ppm ... By 1900, as Europe and North America were industrializing, it had reached about 300 ppm.

Now the carbon-dioxide concentration is at or above 390 ppm, which is probably the highest level in many millions of years. “We know that the last time CO2 was sustained at this level, much of the Greenland and West Antarctic ice sheets were not there,” Michael Mann, a climate scientist at Penn State, told me. Because of the 37 billion annual tons of carbon-dioxide emissions, the atmospheric carbon-dioxide level continues to go up by about two ppm a year. For perspective: by the time today’s sixth-graders finish high school, the world carbon-dioxide level will probably have passed 400 ppm, and by the time most of them are starting families, it will have entered the 420s. ...

Michael Mann told me. “What we have with rising CO2 levels in general is a dramatically increasing probability of serious and deleterious change in our climate.” He went down the list: more frequent, severe, and sustained heat waves, like those that affected Russia and the United States this summer; more frequent and destructive hurricanes and floods; more frequent droughts, like the “thousand-year drought” that has devastated Australian agriculture; and altered patterns of the El Niño phenomenon, which will change rainfall patterns in the Americas. ...
You should recognize Michael Mann as the creator of the deceptive "hockey stick curve" at the center of many of the Climategate emails. (See this and this and this and this.)

So, what is the solution? Fallows writes:

Isn’t “clean energy” the answer? Of course—because everything is the answer. The people I spoke with and reports I read differed in emphasis, sometimes significantly. Some urged greater stress on efficiency and conservation; some, a faster move toward nuclear power or natural gas; some, an all-out push for solar power and other renewable sources ...

“Emotionally, we would all like to think that wind, solar, and conservation will solve the problem for us,” David Mohler of Duke Energy told me. “Nothing will change, our comfort and convenience will be the same, and we can avoid that nasty coal. Unfortunately, the math doesn’t work that way.”...

Coal will be with us because it is abundant: any projected “peak coal” stage would come many decades after the world reaches “peak oil.” It will be with us because of where it’s located: the top four coal-reserve countries are the United States, Russia, China, and India, which together have about 40 percent of the world’s population and more than 60 percent of its coal. ...

“I know this is a theological issue for some people,” Julio Friedmann of Lawrence Livermore said. “Solar and wind power are going to be important, but it is really hard to get them beyond 10 percent of total power supply.” ...

What would progress on coal entail? The proposals are variations on two approaches: ways to capture carbon dioxide before it can escape into the air and ways to reduce the carbon dioxide that coal produces when burned. In “post-combustion” systems, the coal is burned normally, but then chemical or physical processes separate carbon dioxide from the plume of hot flue gas that comes out of the smokestack. Once “captured” as a relatively pure stream of carbon dioxide, this part of the exhaust is pressurized into liquid form and then sold or stored. ...

“Pre-combustion” systems are fundamentally more efficient. In them, the coal is treated chemically to produce a flammable gas with lower carbon content than untreated coal. This means less carbon dioxide going up the smokestack to be separated and stored.

Either way, pre- or post-, the final step in dealing with carbon is “sequestration”—doing something with the carbon dioxide that has been isolated at such cost and effort, so it doesn’t just escape into the air. ... All larger-scale, longer-term proposals for storing carbon involve injecting it deep underground, into porous rock that will trap it indefinitely. In the right geological circumstances, the captured carbon dioxide can even be used for “enhanced oil recovery,” forcing oil out of the porous rock into which it is introduced and up into wells.
According to Fallows, China is in the lead on this clean coal technology, with help from American and other western corporations. While it is good that at least some of the Global Warming alarmists are warming up to coal as a necessary part of the solution, it would be better IMHO, if they were also more realistic about the actual dangers of climate change and the likelihood (again IMHO) that most of the warming of the past century is due to natural cycles not under human control and that we are likely already in a multi-decade period of stable temperatures, and perhaps a bit of cooling.

Yes, I think we need to do something about the unprecedented steady rise in CO2 levels, but we have to do it is a way that will not destroy our economies or force us to drastically reduce our lifestyles. One thing I agree with James Hansen about is that an across-the-board carbon tax, assessed equally against all sequestered fuels (coal, oil, natural gas) and collected at the mine, well, or port, is the best solution, far more suitable to the task than the "cap and trade" political scam, and more likely to work.

Rather than have governments pick winners (and mess up as they did with corn ethanol subsidies that raised food prices and reduced gas mileage without doing much to control CO2 emissions) I prefer to tax carbon progressively a bit more each year and let industry and other users decide for themselves how to adapt to the higher prices. Nothing stimulates action and invention like saving your own money. Nothing wastes money like government taking money from "Mr. A" and giving it to "Mr. B" for the "good of society".


Another story in the same issue of the Atlantic is about famed physicist Freeman Dyson and The Danger of Cosmic Genius.{Click the link to read it free online.}

They write:
In the range of his genius, Freeman Dyson is heir to Einstein—a visionary who has reshaped thinking in fields from math to astrophysics to medicine, and who has conceived nuclear-propelled spaceships designed to transport human colonists to distant planets. And yet on the matter of global warming he is, as an outspoken skeptic, dead wrong: wrong on the facts, wrong on the science. How could someone as smart as Dyson be so dumb about the environment?
Does it occur to them that the Global Warming alarmists may be the ones who are wrong?

Ira Glickstein

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Effects of human behavior on life of our planet

[From David Sussman, posted by Ira with his permission and based on his 12 November 2010 presentation to the Philosophy Club, The Villages, Fl, Click here to Download the Powerpoint presentation.]

The structure of the analysis contains essentially three components:

(1) The human condition,

(2) behavioral consequences deleterious to the future of life on Earth, and

(3) a view of the future.

The human condition derives essentially from our evolutionary history, all of us products of an unbroken string of survivors stretching back to the first glimmers of life from self-replicating molecules 3.5 billion years ago. As humans are one of countless species, extant and extinct, created by natural processes, there is no reason to believe that we, or any other, are endowed with freedom of choice. This is regarded as an illusion stemming from other features of the strategy honed for us by nature, e.g. consciousness and speech. Our strategy is enshrouded in myth, explained by Reg Morrison (Spirit in the Gene) as a necessity predicated on the need for emotional response to immediate threat rather than logical analysis. Another dimension of our ‘condition’, and linked inevitably to the others, is our propensity to expand our numbers much beyond what our rational faculties would inform us is sustainable and compatible with an extended tenure for us and other life forms on Earth.

Behavioral consequences - Of the wide array of possibilities that arise from our condition, essentially coalesced into our particular operational strategy, I have selected a few salient behavioral characteristics that I believe bear most strongly on prospects for the future of life:

  • our failure to nurture so as to maintain natural identity and physical and mental health of every child on Earth, or to inculcate an appreciation of the tenets of democracy;
  • stressing rights rather than responsibilities in social organization, leading to excesses as best described by Garrett Hardin’s “Tragedy of the Commons”;
  • sex exploitation in its many manifestations – for the purposes of dominance, manipulation and economic advantage;
  • the unholy alliance of religion and politics, each employing similar strategies for securing operatives’ aggrandizement;
  • the divorce of science from philosophy, leaving its practitioners devoid of a framework that could more productively guide the nature and applications of their inquiries;
  • our propensity to take confrontation beyond the brink to violence and mayhem;
  • the practice of concentrating capital and other forces leading to inordinate disparity in the distribution of wealth and other life amenities.

What of the future? Is humanity at an evolutionary dead end? Certainly survival in civilized society is different from what would be dictated by nature “red in tooth and claw”. And although evolution proceeds at a snails pace, culture sweeps through like a zephyr. The absence of choice leaves it up to nature, the overseer of both evolution and culture, as well as conditions that we will confront in the future. Are we capable of predicting the future? Inherent uncertainty in physical processes that underlie all that we think and do, precludes prognostication. Societies, as any other complex system, are either fundamentally too complex for our “poor power” or subject to both subatomic (with macroscopic manifestations) and chaotic uncertainty.

David Sussman
NOTE: See earlier discussion related to David Sussman's presentation in a topic posted by Joel last week.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Semantic Puzzles

[from Joel, image added by Ira]
The philosopher Wittgenstein believed that there are no philosophical problems, only semantic puzzles. David Sussman, our speaker at Friday's [The Villages, FL] philosophy club meeting presented a talk about humanism. Among other things, he presented the philosophical problem that a mechanistic approach to the human mind excludes the possibility of free will and yet we believe we have free will. He proposed that perhaps a person cannot be blamed for what is an inevitable consequence of brain machinery. I believe this is just an example of a semantic puzzle. Can you state the puzzle and find the solution?

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

You Can't Believe ANYTHING !

The Atlantic, a respected mainstream literary magazine, says you can't believe anything! (November 2010 issue)

They are not talking about political adverts, but about peer-reviewed MEDICAL RESEARCH as well as Internet sites. On this Blog we've recently discussed Elite Opposition to Online Information and compared it to peer-reviewed journals and books, so these items caught my eye.

Truth Lies Here by Michael Hirschorn, is a hit piece against right-leaning web sites. It starts with the alleged efforts of the "Digg Patriots" to drive down the readership of left-leaning web items by coordinated use of the Digg "bury" option. The reader is lead to believe that left-leaning groups have not use similar tactics. Digg, a website that allows users to recommend web items has since discontinued the "bury" option so the point is moot in any case. Hirschorn goes on to misreport the Sherrod incident (which I discussed here) as well as the Acorn pimp and prostitute caper. He claims the videos were "heavily doctored" when in fact they were simply edited.

The Acorn sting video speaks for itself. According to the NY Times "...two conservative activists pretending to be a pimp and a prostitute used a hidden camera and recorded Acorn employees advising them on how to conceal the source of illegal income and manage 14-year-old Salvadoran prostitutes in the country illegally: 'Train them to keep their mouth shut.'" Perhaps the activists had to visit several Acorn sites before they got that damning video, but it is clear at least one Acorn worker had no problem helping a pimp exploit underage illegal female immigrants. In the Sherrod case the editing was misleading, but the real story was how the Agriculture Department and the NAACP "bit" and fired and condemned Sherrod, despite the fact she had informed her superiors of the true situation and the NAACP had the complete video that proved Sherrod was not a racist but was reporting on a redemptive moment in her career.

Hirschorn blasts the usual suspect, Sarah Palin, for using Twitter shorthand, including "Ground Zero mosque" (it is a cultural center and two blocks away).

Lies, Damned Lies, and Medical Science, by David Freedman, is a longer and much more serious piece that calls into question nearly all medical research. Freedman begins with the fact that Albanian immigrants to Greece have their "perfectly healthy" appendixes removed at a rate three times higher than Greeks, apparently because surgery residents are over-eager to rack up scalpel time. The researchers who uncovered the situation had trouble getting their study published, which led them to do some further investigations of medical research journals.

Many peer-reviewed medical findings are later refuted. This fact may be interpreted in two ways: 1) The system is working and correcting itself, or 2) Why are so many medical studies wrong in the first place?

Well, according to the researcher Freedman interviewed, the problem is the need for researchers to get grants and publish, and that may be accomplished only by getting new and surprising results. This leads them to come up with new theories and then construct research projects that are biased to prove those theories. Even in apparently properly set up randomized trials, results are exaggerated. For example, of 49 most widely used cited research articles over the past 13 years, 34 were retested and 41% of those were shown to be wrong or exaggerated! "Drug studies have the added corruptive force of financial conflict of interest." They hardly ever study the effect of not prescribing any medication. And, when it comes to nutritional studies, "ignore them all" is the best advice! Clearly, this information should be taken into account as we consider government involvement in health care and end-of-life issues, as I discussed here.

But medical research is not especially fact-free, "a remarkably consistent paucity of strong evidence in published economics studies made it unlikely that any of them were right."
Ira Glickstein

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Constitutional Convention

[from JohnS - image of original constitutional convention added by Ira]

Is a constitutional convention the answer?
Many emails are circulating proposing one for various causes.

Article V of the Constitution provides for a Constitutional Convention to propose Amendments to the Constitution if two thirds of the State Legislatures call for it. That is 34 State Legislatures. (Article V appears at the end of this posting). Governors of 35 States have filed suit against the Federal Government for imposing unlawful burdens upon them. It is about time that the States and people stand up and demand a Constitutional Convention amending the Constitution. Note, although only 34 States are required to call a Convention 38 States are required to ratify any Amendments proposed by the Convention.

Would this be a good objective for the Tea Party movement?

This could be a major but necessary undertaking because our Federal Government is so complex, so out of control and is failing to represent the people, however, the Convention could address each issue separately and present them as individual amendments to be ratified by the States while the Convention addresses the other issues.

I would like to propose several issues if such a convention was formed.

1. We have runaway spending by the Presidency and Congress. Both parties are at fault. This spending must be reined in by a better taxation system and by enacting a balanced budget amendment.

2. Amendment 10, a part of the Bill of Rights, delegates to the States and the people all rights not prohibited by the Constitution. This has been abused in many ways over the last 50 years or so. New Amendments are needed to return the power to the States that has been abrogated by the Federal Government.

3. Amendment 4, a part of the Bill of Rights, gives the right to the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers and effects. Again, this right has been slowly eroded over the years and needs to be restated in a manner that protects the people in view of new technology, which has the potential to spy on us even within our home.

4. Along the same vein, many laws restrict what we can do or cannot do within our own homes these restrictions are also a violation of the 4th Amendment.

5. Congress has abused its privileged position by providing for itself rights, benefits, etc, that it denies to the people. Several Amendments or a multipurpose Amendment is required to correct these abuses. For example, we need term limits for the Congress and insure Congress perks and benefits are no better than available to all.

6. We spend billions of dollars overseas giving to other nations money that could be better used here in the United States. This must be addressed.

7. George H W Bush, George W Bush and Barack Obama have and are improperly using our military in Iraq Afghanistan and elsewhere. The mission of the Military in today’s environs needs further examination.

8. As a last point, although I suspect that others will rear their heads, for example I read today that Obama care will be forming 160 new Commissions and Bureaus. Do we need them, what will be their jobs and how many. We need a commission to examine and recommend to the Convention changes in the size, functions, budgets and personnel levels of the entire Federal Government.

Article V

The Congress, whenever two thirds of both Houses shall deem it necessary, shall propose Amendments to this Constitution, or, on the Application of the Legislatures of two thirds of the several States, shall call a Convention for proposing Amendments, which, in either Case, shall be valid to all Intents and Purposes, as Part of this Constitution, when ratified by the Legislatures of three fourths of the several States, or by Conventions in three fourths thereof, as the one or the other Mode of Ratification may be proposed by the Congress; Provided that no Amendment which may be made prior to the Year One thousand eight hundred and eight shall in any Manner affect the first and fourth Clauses in the Ninth Section of the first Article; and that no State, without its Consent, shall be deprived of its equal Suffrage in the Senate.

Saturday, October 2, 2010

Political Signs of the Times

In light of the controversy over inappropriate signs at Tea Party gatherings, I paid special attention to the signs at the rally I attended yesterday, here in The Villages, FL. The headliners were possible 2012 Presidential candidate Gov. Mitt Romney (who lost in the 2008 primaries despite my vote) and businessman Rick Scott (who won the 2010 primary for Governor of Florida despite my vote for his opponent).

Well, the strongest sign I saw said "FIRE PELOSI". Mine said "How About COMPETENCE for a CHANGE?" The others were boldly printed "SCOTT CARROLL" (for Rick Scott and his running mate, Jennifer Carroll) plus hand-written signs the organizers had passsed out saying things like "Chicks for Rick" and "Vote for Rick".


I arrived around 3PM, two hours before the main event. By that time, however, all seating in and around Market Square was occupied by happy residents of "Florida's friendliest home town." The central area around the pavillion from which the headliners would talk was for standees only and was already 1/3 full.

I got a $1 hot dog and watched one of the jumbotron TVs showing video of the 2008 visit by President George W. Bush. They also showed the presidential primary appearances I had attended for Mitt Romney and John McCain, plus videos of the visits of Rudy Guilliani and Fred Thompson. The video highlight for me was the gigantic Sarah Palin for VP rally I had attended along with 70,000 others.

A nice lady gave me a flag. I stuck it into a hole in my hat. I politely turned down several offers of political signs since I had brought my own.

It was a brilliantly sunny and beautiful day in The Villages. I needed a shady place to sit. Folding chairs, coolers, and signs with sticks were banned from Market Square proper, but I was able to find a spot for my chair and cooler in the shade of a golf cart parked on Canal Street adjacent to the Square. I watched the musical group Rio Diamond via jumbotron TV and enjoyed the fellowship of the friendly crowd, sipping a can of soda from my cooler and reading the AARP Bulletin that had arrived in the mail that day.

Right on schedule, 5PM, the headliners arrived and I left my seat and found a great place to stand. It was about 10 feet from the pavillion, on the west side where the sun would not be in my eyes.

Introductions were quickly accomplished. In addition to Romney and Scott, they included Scott's wife of 38 years; his running mate Jennifer Carroll; Florida AG candidate Pam Bondi; plus some local politicos. Romney's talk was short and direct. He has been in The Villages several times before. I actually shook hands with him along the rope line after his 2008 talk.

Scott gave a nice speech, starting with his childhood in public housing. His first business, while in college, he said, was selling the donuts his mother made. He sold to airlines and other commercial customers and got to the point where his mother had to start making them 8PM the previous evening and work all night. As expected, he did not mention his time as CEO of Columbia/HCA, where he was ousted by the board in the aftermath of a big Medicade and Medicare fraud.

And then it was over and we all went home.


I though about how easy it would have been for me to have hidden any kind of disgusting sign in my car or golf cart and unfurled it at the rally. That is why I think it is totally unfair to blame the organizers for the inappropriate display of racist, sexist, or otherwise offensive signs that happen to show up at any event in a public place. (See Huffington Post for an opposing opinion.)

Ira Glickstein

Monday, September 27, 2010

Elite Opposition to Online Information

Elite academia has their underwear in a bunch about use of online citations by college students. A few years ago, the History Department at Middlebury College went so far as to bar students from citing Wikipedia as a source in papers or other academic work, a story picked up by the NY Times (of course) and immitated by UC Santa Cruz and others.

Online sources, they say, have made it easier for students to copy material and submit it as their own writing (plagiarism). Much of that material, opponents claim, may be false because it has not gone through the editing and review process traditional for books and magazines.


In a recent talk on Freedom of the Press in the Digital Age at our local Philosophy Club, I used these examples to illustrate how "the authorities" always try to shut down alternative sources and technologies that undermine their monopoly control on information. The academic elite that controls the publishing industry and the main-stream press hates it when they lose control because they simply do not trust ordinary people.


Back around 1200 AD Pope Innocent III banned the common language (vulgate) Bible because, he said “… The mysteries of the faith … cannot be understood by everyone but only by those who are qualified to understand them with informed intelligence.” In other words, if you don't understand Latin you have to listen to the interpretations of "qualified" experts, i.e., the Pope and priests. In the 1450's when moveable type printing came into use, drastically reducing the cost of reproducing books which up til then had been a virtual monopoly of the Church and the Crown, no one could own a printing press without a license.

The English Parliament, in 1643, noting "Abuses, and frequent Disorders, in printing many false, forged, scandalous, seditious, libelous, and unlicensed Papers, Pamphlets, and Books" by people who "set up sundry private Printing Presses in Corners" ordered that no "Book, Pamphlet, or Paper, shall from henceforth be printed, … unless … first approved of, and licensed …” John Milton (yes the famous poet) responded the following year by publishing an UNLICENSED speech opposed to any kind of prior restraint on the freedom to publish. In general, the English-speaking world and our Western-oriented allies have the greatest degree of press freedom that has ever existed in the history of the world.


The advent of the Internet is the ultimate in freedom to publish without approval from "the authorities". Every day, millions of ordinary people post to Blogs like this one that nearly everyone in the world can read if they choose to. No licensing, no prior restraint by the government! Of course, if the information is libelous, injured parties can sue. If it is a matter of diffference of opinion, opponents are free to publish their own rebuttal on the Internet.

So, back to the ban on academic citations of Wikipedia and other online sources. Why does the academic elite think that books and magazines and newspapers published by established organizations are more reliable than Wikipedia? Well, they say, these organizations have editors and research staffs that act as "gatekeepers" to protect the truth. That is true, but it is also true that most of these gatekeepers have similar opinions on controversial topics. Would you make the Pope and priests the sole gatekeepers for religious information as Pope Innocent III wanted? If not, why would you put elite academics in charge of information about history and politics and similar topics where opinion and fact are not easy to separate?

I think Wikipedia, pound for pound, has a greater truth content than The New York Times. Yes, anyone can edit items into Wikipedia, but, if false information is edited into an item about an important topic, there are far many more people who are prepared to edit it out and make sure it is correct. Wikipedia has a system of voluntary reviewers. If an item is challenged, the author is given an opportunity to correct it and, if he or she fails to do so, there is a review and voting process that can delete the material. Corrections thus appear in hours or days. How long does it take to correct something in a book or magazine?

Wikipedia has Google-backed competition in the form of Google Knols (where a Knol is a bit of knowledge). Again, anyone may post Knol topics, but, unlike Wikipedia, authors must identify themselves. I have published 11 Knols that, in total, garnered nearly 17,000 page views as of a month ago.

As many of you know, I teach an online graduate course in System Engineering. I encourage my students to use online sources as wll as traditional published materials. I actually prefer online sources because it makes it easier for me to detect and prove plagiarism. When I see a phrase or sentence I do not think a particular student has written, and if it is not in quote marks with a proper citation, I do a Google on the phrase, using quote marks at either end. If I get a direct hit, I look to see if the rest of the sentence or paragraph is also copied, and, if so, I have positive proof of violation of the Academic Integrity policy of the university.

Ira Glickstein

Monday, September 6, 2010

Tea Party Thoughts

The "Tea Party" movement has worried and even alarmed regulars in both political parties as well as the national media establishment!

Many "talking heads" say they cannot understand it. Perhaps they are purposely misinterpreting it?

One thing for sure - The Tea Party is a force beyond their control!

Some "talking heads" claim it is an insignificant dust up that will soon pass. Others that it is the well-financed effort of some secret forces to seize control of the American political process.

Reactions range from making fun of the name (using the sexually-loaded teabagger epithet); accusing members of being racist, gun-totting, homophobic ignoramuses; to alarmist calls to block a right-wing revolution funded by the Republican Party or, more ominously, by Rupert Murdock or some secret Texas billionaires!

The base illustration above is an engraving by W. D. Cooper that appeared in a 1789 book. I have added the annotations listing the stated purpose of the 1773 Boston Tea Party, No Taxation Without Representation, as well as the general principles subscribed to by the many Tea Party groups in 2010, Fiscal Responsibility, Constitutionally Limited Government, and Free Markets.


I have not attended any Tea Party events nor have I contributed any money or joined any of their national or local groups. However, like some 28% of the American public, I generally support the basic goals of the movement. According to an April 2010 Gallup/USA Today poll report, about an equal number (26%) oppose, and the remainder neither support nor oppose or have no opinion. Gallup concludes that "Tea Partiers Are Fairly Mainstream in Their Demographics, Skew right politically, but have typical profile by age, education, and employment."

Indeed, while 40% of the public call themselves "Independent", a slightly higher percentage of Independents (43%) support the Tea Party. Democrats, 32% of the public, comprise only 8% of Tea Party supporters, while Republicans, 28% of the public, comprise 49% of Tea Party supporters. Male supporters outnumber females by 10% (55% to 45%). Supporters tend to have somewhat higher incomes than the general public. 79% are non-Hispanic white, compared to 75% of the general population in that category, which means that some 21% of Tea Party supporters are Hispanic, Black, or "Other" which is only 4% less than the general public in those categories.

Tea Party supporters differ from the public on the "Healthcare Reform Bill". While the public thinks the Healthcare Reform Bill is a "bad thing" by a 50:47 margin, Tea Party supporters reject it by a much larger 87:12 margin.


There are literally thousands of local Tea Party groups with no clear national leadership. They all agree on three key tenets: Fiscal Responsibility, Constitutionally Limited Government, and Free Markets. They may differ on other issues and even support different candidates in primaries. The National Tea Party Federation (NTPF) has attempted to bring some order, even expelling one group, the Tea Party Express, when a member of its leadership team posted a racially-insensitive satire on his personal website and the Express failed to disown him.

IMHO, it is critically important that the local Tea Party groups blunt criticism by the national media that they are racist by firmly rejecting any member or group that strays into that non-productive arena. The NTPF will not accept local groups that cater to "birthers" or "truthers".

The problem is that any person can show up at a Tea Party event with a racist sign or shout awful words and, if the event is at a public place, there is little they can do about it. There are anti-Tea Party people who collect disgusting photos (that may or may not have been taken at actual Tea Party events, and, even if taken at these events may not be actual members of the Tea Party) .

For example, the third photo (President Obama with a Hitler mustache) in the linked collection has a clear "" label at the bottom (see image above). As you may know, Lyndon LaRouch is a political troublemaker and crackpot who was jailed from 1988-1994. Not only that, but he has run for political office seven times for the Democratic Party nomination (not that he is a mainstream guy in any established party)!

Some of the signs in the collection have typographical errors which, to me, shows that they were hand-written by ordinary Americans and not mass-produced by some political consultant. Others are merely distasteful.

Nevertheless, given the bias of much of the national media against the Tea Party, I think members and participants should take special care to avoid any signs or words or comments to the media that could be used to cast a bad light on the movement. I know the opponents of the Tea Party have used words and signs that are far worse, with barely any notice by the press, but that is just the way it is and we have to live with and make the best of it.


Some are worried that the Tea Party might try to become a separate political party. Indeed, just this week, the Michigan Supreme Court barred a "Tea Party" organization that tried to field a slate of 23 candidates for the November ballot. "Activists in the tea party movement who believed the Tea Party political party was a fraud by some Democrats to dilute the influence of conservative voters in this fall's election were relieved by the ruling."

I think it will be better if the Tea Party remains a grassroots organization with somewhat dispersed leadership. I hope they confine themselves to rousing the conservative base to go to the polls in primaries to support candidates of both political parties who support their basic tenets Fiscal Responsibility, Constitutionally Limited Government, and Free Markets.

In some jurisdictions, the only candidates who have a chance to be elected are moderate Republicans. The Tea Partiers should support electable candidates over more right-wing people who cannot win. For example, former HP Exec Carly Fiorina won her bid for the Republican Senate nomination from California with support from Tea Party advocate and former Governor Sarah Palin of Alaska. She defeated a more rightwing candidate who was supported by one of the Tea Party groups. In Democrat-dominated jurisdictions, I would like to see the Tea Party support the most moderate Democrat. Of course, since I am not a member of any Tea Party organization, these are merely helpful suggestions!

Ira Glickstein

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Brooks Law - Management Span of Control Advisor

[Links updated 9 Dec 2018. Google discontinued their "Knol" feature so some of my links no longer worked. I've redirected them to copies of my former Google Knols that I uploaded to my WordPress account.]

Way back in 1975 Frederick Brooks wrote a famous book, The Mythical Man-Month, stating: "Adding manpower to a late software project makes it later."

Other than the now-all-too-obvious sexist nature of his words ("manpower", "Man-Month"), Brooks Law has stood the test of time. Three graphs from the original book with their original captions are reproduced in the figure [the yellow, non-sexist annotation is mine].

The first caption suggests and then dismisses the idea that "If one man takes 10 months to do a job, 10 men can do it in one month" saying "This may be true of picking cotton." (OOPS, is the mention of picking cotton racist? Perhaps he should have used the more familiar "nine women could produce a baby in one month" but that would be sexist again. OY! :^)

He then notes that "even on tasks that can be nicely partitioned among people, the additional communication required adds to the total work, increasing the schedule." That is the well known Law of Diminishing Returns, which does have a mathematical formula. But, as his second graph indicates, more people will still speed the job.

Finally, he says of his last figure (called the "Bathtub" curve) , "Since software construction is complex, the communications overhead is great. Adding more men can lengthen, rather than shorten, the schedule." That seems like verbal flailing of his arms - but, nevertheless IT IS TRUE! And it applies not only to software engineering, but to any complex engineering or business or political or legal or medical task that requires significant interaction between professionals. But, look at Brooks graphs - there are no numbers on the axes! How can a Law be unquantified?

Since my PhD is in Hierarchy Theory, I have considered this a personal challenge and have written a couple of [former] Google Knols about Management Span of Control Advisor and Quantifying Brooks Mythical Man-Month, between them garnering over 6,000 page views! A few months ago I received an email from a very smart Knol reader who was utilizing my work in planning the management structure for a project at his company and he wanted an Excel spreadsheet to help with the task. I sent him an old spreadsheet I had used to make some graphs for my Knol and he used it (giving me credit in the PowerPoint charts he asked me to review and that he presented to his management).

But, my old spreadsheet -while useful to this one very capable and perceptive person- was not easy to use nor did it apply to multi-level hierarchies. I knew I could do better! That triggered me to create a Management Span of Control Advisor that would put my theory into a form so simple that even a manager could use it (:^).

The happy result is my just-published [Former] Google Knol Management Span of Control Advisor and a comprehensive yet easy to use spreadsheet to go along with it.

The illustration from my new spreadsheet shows how Brooks Law applies mainly to a One Level department (BLUE bathtub curve), but it can be "drained" with a multilevel hierarchy (Two Level structure - PINK curve and a Three Level structure - GREEN curve).

Please feel free to have a look at my new Knol and download and try out the companion Excel spreadsheet. As always, comments are appreciated!

Ira Glickstein

PS: My students at the University of Maryland University College will be using this new Knol and spreadsheet in the online grad course in System Engineering I teach there and which starts in a couple weeks. Most of them are professionals in the Information Technology (IT) industry (or related military work) and many are going for their Masters Degree to help them become better IT managers or move from technical work to IT management.

Monday, August 9, 2010

Three Times the Size of Manhattan and It FLOATS!

What is over three times the area of Manhattan and floats? It is the tip of the tongue of the Petermann Glacier in Greenland which has just calved off and is moving at anything but a glacial pace into the Arctic Ocean.

About a month ago my family and I were privileged to watch the Margerie Glacier in Canada's Glacier Bay calve [click on photo for larger view]. Our cruise ship patrolled about a quarter mile away from Margerie for over an hour and we got to see the birth of a handful of chunks. It was impressive to see pieces the size of large buildings come crashing down into the water and float away as tiny icebergs. First we'd see the iceberg-to-be start to fall and then, a second or two later, we heard the snap, crackle, and pop! The crew of the Holland-America Ryndam served cups of thick, hot split pea soup on deck to celebrate our visit.

The image shows the tongue of the Petermann Glacier prior to separation (31 July). The animation shows separation (4 August) and later after it had moved a few miles away (7 August). [Click CLICK HERE TO SEE HI-RES ANIMATION]

The images were generated using Synthetic Aperture Radar (SAR) an advanced, computer-intensive technology with which I am familiar due to my work on military avionics. It is sometimes called Side-Looking Radar. An aircraft (or satellite) flies in a straight line, and emits radar pulses to the side. The return signals are recorded in memory storage and processed to generate an image with high precision equivalent to a "lens" the length of the flight segment. (As we all know, in optics, the larger the lens the sharper the images, and the equivalent applies to synthetic-aperture radars as well.)

The Petermann Glacier grows about 1 KM (5/8 mile) every year. The piece that just broke off is about 30 KM (19 miles) long and thus represents about 30 years of growth.

Normally, much smaller pieces break off on a regular basis - as we witnessed at Margerie - but every several years a big one lets loose, the last one in 1991. Close examination shows a crack developing that may open up in perhaps ten years, giving birth to what could be up to an 8 KM (5 mile) long iceberg.

For comparison, the most recent Petermann iceberg is about 30 x 14 KM (~19 x 8 miles) while Manhattan Island in New York City is about 20 x 4 KM (~12 x 2 miles).

Read more about this event and see some wonderful images at Watts Up With That and the European Space Agency.

Of course, this giant glacier calving has been interpreted as further proof of the dangers of Global Warming. As regular readers of this Blog know, I am a lukewarmer-skeptic on human-caused warming. I accept that we have been in a warming period for the past 150 years or more (since the Little Ice Age) and that human activity is responsible for perhaps 10% of that warming, while the remainder is due to natural cycles. (see Atmospheric Science Made Simple, and Is the IPCC Process Scientific? and Explaining Away Climategate - 1 and Explaining Away Climategate - 2.)

Ira Glickstein

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Self Defense?

[From Joel] In previous times article IV section 4 of the Constitution has been considered to be without consequence either being obvious or unenforceable. It reads:

Section 4.
The United States shall guarantee to every State in this Union a Republican Form of Government, and shall protect each of them against Invasion; and on Application of the Legislature, or of the Executive (when the Legislature cannot be convened) against domestic Violence.

It would seem that illegal immigration in great numbers is a form of foreign invasion and that the federal government has an obligation which it is not meeting. The philosophical question is whether or not the failure to fulfill an obligation forecloses a protected party from defending itself. Does the existence of the police prevent an individual from acting to defend one's property?

Friday, July 23, 2010

Racism - Real and Imagined - Sherrod Timeline

The incomplete and misleading Media Matters timeline for USDA official Shirley Sherrod's recent travail starts on Monday, 19 July, the day she was forced to resign by Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack.

Here is my timeline that starts three days prior. It is based on Sherrod's own accounting in an interview with MSNBC [click for video].

THURSDAY, 15 July 2010:

Shirley Sherrod says she was first alerted the previous Thursday, 15 July, when someone sent her a nasty email about the deceptively edited Internet video of her talk to a March 2010 NAACP event. She says she replied with her side of the story and then forwarded it all to the USDA that very day. Thus, three days before she was forced to resign, the USDA knew her NAACP talk was about a redemptive event in her life where she overcame race-based emotions and helped a white farmer and his wife save their land.

MONDAY, 19 July 2010:

Again according to Sherrod herself, around 2:30PM on Monday, while at an official USDA meeting, she received a call and was told she was being put on administrative leave. During her drive home from the meeting, she received multiple calls from the USDA, culminating in one where she was told the White House wanted her out immediately and demanding that she pull over and send her resignation using her Blackberry, which she did. It is clear their urgency was prompted by a rumor the incendiary video would appear on FoxNews that evening.

Thus, although the USDA had Sherrod's explanation and three days to view the entire video, they forced her to resign prior to the deceptively edited video appearing on FoxNews. The O'Reilly Factor, apparently recorded earlier that evening, was the first FoxNews show to play a 30-second clip, with a subtitle noting she had already resigned.

TUESDAY, 20 July 2010

Ag Secretary Vilsack stood by his decision to terminate Sherrod even after the full context of her NAACP talk was known. His statement said:
"Yesterday, I asked for and accepted Ms. Sherrod's resignation for two reasons. First, for the past 18 months, we have been working to turn the page on the sordid civil rights record at USDA and this controversy could make it more difficult to move forward on correcting injustices. Second, state rural development directors make many decisions and are often called to use their discretion. ... The controversy surrounding her comments would create situations where her decisions, rightly or wrongly, would be called into question making it difficult for her to bring jobs to Georgia."

The NAACP, in lockstep with the Administration, initially condemned Sherrod's remarks as "shameful" and stated they were "appalled by her actions". Later that day they said they would review the whole tape, which was in their possession. After doing so, they concluded they had been "snookered" by FoxNews.

WEDNESDAY, 21 July 2010

Hasty backtracking by all! Vilsack, having reviewed the full video, apologized for forcing Sherrod to resign. He announced he had offered her a new position at the USDA. O'Reilly apologized, saying he had not done his homework, should have read the whole transcript before jumping to unjustified conclusions, and should not have called for her to be ousted. The White House press secretary, on behalf of the Administration, joined the chorus. (President Obama called Sherrod the following day to add his apology.)


We all hoped the election of our first Black President would lead us further down the I have a Dream road where, in the words of Martin Luther King:
"I have a dream that one day on the red hills of Georgia the sons of former slaves and the sons of former slaveowners will be able to sit down together at a table of brotherhood. ... I have a dream that my four children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character."
We have a ways to go but we have made a tremendous amount of progress. As a child I was apalled when "coloreds" were ordered to sit in the back of the Greyhound bus when we crossed into Maryland on our trip to Washington DC from New York.

Thank goodness government-imposed segregation is a thing of the past. Thank goodness the highest USDA official in Georgia was able to sit down "at a table of brotherhood" [and sisterhood] "on the red hills of Georgia [with] the sons of former slaves and the sons of former slaveowners". It was going so well until false accusations of racism by an Internet blogger, and a hair-trigger response by an overly-anxious Administration, forced her out.


The "bomb-throwing" rightwing blogger who posted the deceptively edited video of Sherrod excused his actions on the basis that the NAACP and other leftist groups have leveled similar untrue charges of racism at the Tea Party and the Republican Party and FoxNews and others on the right. Yes, extremists on both sides continue to make false charges of racism.

I am not a member of the Tea Party nor have I attended any of their events, but I generally support their views. They are a loosely associated group of local grassroots organizations. A few idiots (mostly provocateurs sent by Lyndon LaRouche as far as I can tell) attend Tea Party rallies with disgusting racist signs and the entire Tea Party is falsely labeled as racist.

I was pleased when the National Tea Party Federation, a coalition of local and regional Tea Party groups, soundly rejected a racist satire posted by a prominent person in the Tea Party Express group. The Federation demanded that the racial satirist be expelled by the Express group. When the Express group failed to do so, they were expelled from the Federation.

In keeping with the key tenets of the Tea Party movement of Constitutionally Limited Government and Free Markets, local and regional groups value their independence and reject any hint of a tightly controlled national body. That makes it more difficult to police their ranks. However, when the Northern Iowa Tea Party recently put up a disgusting billboard grouping President Obama with Hitler and Lenin, there was a clear outcry and the sign was taken down the next day!

The radical left seems to have adopted the tactic of falsely labeling the right in general, and the Tea Party in particular, as racists and worse. The media overplay the few nutcases with disgusting signs and generally ignore the overwhelming majority who are orderly and civil and even pick up the garbage when their rallies are over!

I am encouraged that the National Tea Party Federation (NTPF) has established strong membership rules, including:

  • Our organization rejects Birthers.
  • Our organization rejects 9/11 Truthers.
  • Our organization rejects racial discrimination.
  • Our organization rejects hate speech.
  • Our organization rejects acts of violence or subversive behavior.

Ira Glickstein