My Take on Climategate: Nixonian Science

November 28, 2009

Among the many volatile issues at the intersection of science and public policy is what is now popularly called global warming.  A common tactic among those that oppose adopting public policies to mitigate anthropogenic influence is to question the science, not by following the methods of science, but by imagining a method of science is that a single study can disprove one hundred others that pre-date or worse to dismiss findings by asserting that science is entirely about money, not honest inquiry.   The flip side among some climate scientists is to characterize those same one hundred studies as a proof, which it is not.  So defining “geek” for the moment as including US Senators, learned advocates, and a public always with strong views, some backed by information, some backed by swagger:  too many public policy geeks are pretending to be scientists and too many science geeks are pretending to be public policy analysts.  Good science can inform public policy, but it certainly will not dictate public policy.

And so it has played out in Climategate, the strange story of a, likely illegal, exposure of years of documents and e-mails from a server at the Climate Research Unit at University of East Anglia.  Google “Climategate” and of this afternoon you’ll get just over 10 million hits.  Plenty of information and disinformation to make for a long read.  (My own suggestion:  these NYT and WSJ articles are reasonably balanced overview of the extreme range of views.)

So why do I even bother to add my take?  I’m hoping it will be cathartic.  We’ll see.

I read a subset of the CRU material.  Most is benign and supports the idea that the methods of science are probably safe.  Yet there is a small portion of the content which to me is incredibly offensive.  Summarizing some key pieces: A Phil Jones (head of CRU) e-mail offering to stifle contrary views by abusing peer-review.  The “trick” e-mail, most offensive through another of his colleagues dismissing the issue in the press by asserting that scientists use the word trick all the time, not!  And one e-mail that hasn’t gotten much attention describes the pedigree of a figure in an IPCC report; difficult to read this one and not think that way too many people were not being very constructively critical.

And so in the tenth day of this storm, one would hope for something akin to a day of atonement in the climate science community.  But one of my UW colleagues in a press conference just two days ago didn’t confront the reality of the behavior of his scientific community, but instead offered that the release of documents was an act of desperation of the climate skeptics in advance of the Copenhagen meetings in order to politicize the science.  Perhaps non-scientists are only able to politicize the science?  And nicely ignoring, by his own approach, he did as well.

Very much Nixonian science.  Nothing like an enemies list to promote counterproductive discourse and behavior.

Update 11/30

Harry is with me.

Pizza in the Back Country

November 22, 2009

I enjoyed Leslie’s post on her first adventure making pizza. Looked great!  With many tips on improving my own.

My pizza is never made at home, but only in the back country.  Not the typical fare.  Here’s how I do it.

Not quite from scratch:   Jiffy pizza crust mix.  Contains flour and yeast and more (lots more, Tobae clearly hasn’t been paying attention as the nutrition cop).  The toppings are healthier.  Parmesan cheese grated at home, tomatoes that Tobae has dried, and Contadina/Buitoni pesto with basil sauce.

To make the crust, I boil up a little water, carefully measure the required 1/2 cup, and mix in the “oven pan”.  I bring along a little extra flour so I can knead the dough, and then I set it in the sun.  This doesn’t especially help keep it very warm, but it rises some.  I press it out to make a deep dish style crust.

Ready for baking

Time for baking.  I fire up the camp stove and get the shield and heat deflector in place.  Then the pan and lid.  Then the aluminized cover.  I throttle the heat, mostly by experience, so that things heat up reasonably quickly.  I have no idea what the temperature is…the thermometer has three divisions “Warming Up”, “Bake”, “Burn!”.  Probably not 525 F exactly.  Experience tells me that I’ll need about fifteen minutes to crisp it up enough that the toppings can be added without making it a soggy mess.

Baking is underway...

Keeping an eye on the "temperature" in the oven

Off comes the alumnized cover, off comes the lid, and I spread pesto sauce and top with sun dried tomatoes, then the grated cheese.  Lid on, alumnized cover on.  Just 10 minutes to go.  And voila.

Pizza is ready

The crust is always passable, though on the dense side.  I’ve learned how not to burn it.  Mighty tasty addition to cocktail hour.

Camp in the Enchantments

Traffic Again

November 3, 2009

I’ve been very busy and not very inventive.  Standing by watching my heroes blog steadily.  What is the matter with me?

So back to my roots:  “Traffic”  “I will blog you.”

Into UW very early on Monday for a 0700 telecon.  Crusing along, steady speed at about the limit, 20 minutes of bliss since joining I-5 from US2, the constellation moving in sync though pretty tightly packed, say four car lengths of separation.  A Suburban cuts in front of me and brakes.  Repeatedly.  What had been a pleasant drive was now attentiveness plus.  And as the Suburban brakes, so must I.  Ah, the car behind me was clearly annoyed, less than a car length following distance, it turned out to be a Jetta.  And the “Drivers Wanted” driver slipped to the right, accelerated, and managed to fill a second piece of  my precious four car lengths.  The arithmetic is simple; four car lengths had become one.  And so the traffic jam at the Snohomish County line began…