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?