Saturday, August 16, 2008

If I Hadn't Been ROFLMAO, I Might Have Got Angry About This

There's one thing I've learnt to like about global warming obstructionists like Dr Jennifer Marohasy: their intellectual clowning on the subject is sometimes hilariously funny. Today (Saturday, August 16) excels herself by reproducing this argument from Alan Siddons of Holden, Massachusetts:
Radiative equilibrium is one of the foundation stones of radiative forcing theory. But it is not a law of physics, only a rather archaic and untested supposition found in climatology textbooks alone.

"For the Earth to neither warm or cool, the incoming radiation must balance the outgoing."

Not really.
Yes, really. If the Earth were to cool without radiating energy to some other part of the universe, or to warm without receiving additional energy from elsewhere, that would break a very basic law of physics: the law of Conservation of energy.
It’s best to regard radiant energy simply as a finite power source — indeed, that power is expressed as watts per square meter. An object is said to "cool" by radiating, yet this would seem to imply that restricting its radiation will make it get hotter and hotter. That’s the very premise of greenhouse theory, of course, that by disturbing outgoing radiance any magnitude of temperature gain is possible. But this is easy to test.

Confine a lightbulb inside an infrared barrier (like a globular mirror) and electrically feed one watt to it. After a while, will it be generating the heat of a thousand watt bulb? No.

When its temperature is consistent with the input, further heating stops.
This is complete codswallop, written by someone whose technical vocabulary exceeds his technical understanding. Stripped of the technobabble and trivia, the question posed, and then answered incorrectly, is "What happens if you put a light bulb in an enclosed environment and turn on the electricity?"

The correct answer to that question is that the light bulb will radiate light and heat, any air in the environment will be heated by the bulb, then whatever enclosure you've put the light bulb in will start to heat up. At that point the whole system - light bulb, air and enclosure - starts to lose heat to the outside environment and reach a thermal equilibrium where the energy it loses is equal to the energy being put in. Turn off the electricity and it will cool down again.
It’s like water seeking its own level. Lacking any means to radiate to its surroundings the lightbulb ...
The whole purpose of a light bulb is to radiate energy to its surroundings. That's what makes them useful. All that putting a lightbulb inside a reflective enclosure achieves is to make the surroundings smaller.
... merely gets as hot as a watt of power can make it, which is not much hotter than what it would be in the open. If not, we’d be able to generate incredible temperatures very cheaply. Just confine, wait, and release.
See above.
Conservation of energy: it’s not just a phrase...
Indeed not - it's a law of physics which Alan Siddons has misunderstood, at best.
The theory of radiative equilibrium arose early in the 19th century, before the laws of thermodynamics were understood.
The truth of a scientific theory isn't determined by how old it is, bnut by how well it fits the observed facts. And it appears that the laws of thermodynamics aren't universally understood, even today.
From The Analytical Theory of Heat:
The radiation of the sun in which the planet is incessantly plunged, penetrates the air, the earth, and the waters; its elements are divided, change direction in every way, and, penetrating the mass of the globe, would raise its temperature more and more, if the heat acquired were not exactly balanced by that which escapes in rays from all points of the surface and expands through the sky. — Joseph Fourier (1768-1830)
Fourier got that exactly right - later developments in thermodynamics haven't changed that one iota.

Update: more at Deltoid and Atmoz.

Of (Hairless) Mice, Men & Moisturisers

Sometimes it's what the reporters and editors leave out of news stories that makes them interesting - and alarming.

Yesterday's Age included this story by Nick Miller:
Mice moisturiser link to skin cancer criticised

COMMON moisturiser creams including one sold in Australia have been shown to double the risk of skin cancer, in new US research. (original punctuation)
The Age wasn't the only news outlet to carry the story. Here's The Daily Mail:
Moisturisers used by millions of women every day could increase risk of skin cancer

Moisturisers used by millions of women every day may raise the risk of skin cancer, scientists have warned. (original punctuation)
Here's The Daily Telegraph (UK):
Common moisturiser 'could cause skin cancer'

Moisturisers used by millions of people each day could be responsible for causing a variety of skin cancers, according to a study. (original punctuation)
Here's The National Rupert:

Study: Moisturisers cause skin cancer

From correspondents in Paris

MOISTURISERS used by millions of people have induced skin cancer in experiments on mice, a new study says. (original punctuation)
Here's ABC Online:
Skin moisturisers may increase cancer risk: research

Australians have long been told by cosmetic companies that the best way to reduce skin damage from the sun is to apply moisturising cream, but some US biologists say some common moisturisers may promote skin cancer.
I'll finish the roundup with a shot of sanity from The New Scientist:
Moisturisers cause cancer in mice - but don't panic

Research on mice suggests that moisturising creams increase the risk of common skin cancers – but there's no need to throw away your moisturiser just yet.
Predictably, this is the least garbled of the reports I've read. It continues:
"We don't know whether or not there's an effect in people," says Allan Conney of Rutgers University, Piscataway, New Jersey, who carried out the study.
Elsewhere - in the tabloids, the larger tabloids and at Aunty on-line - the story was reported with the same two-part narrative:
  1. Play up the findings of the study.
  2. Obtain a local expert (or experts) to pooh-pooh the study.
First alarm the readers then find a local expert to tell them not be alarmed. The huffier your local expert gets about the issue the stronger the air of controversy:
Gavin Greenoak, director of the Australian Photobiology Testing Facility at the University of Sydney, said the potential for alarmism was high and the paper should not have been published.

"The acknowledged need for more research is an understatement bordering on irresponsibility," he said. There were technical reasons why parallels could not be drawn with moisturiser on human skin. (Nick Miller in The Age)
If Greenoak was quoted accurately, he goes a little too far in suggesting that the paper should not have been published - unless his objection was to the experimental design of the study, rather than its potential to create alarmism. If alarm has been created, the responsibility for it belongs with the journalists and editors who chose to play the alleged risk.

One thing that makes hairless mice very different from normal humans is that hair isn't the only thing that normal mice have that's lacking hairless (or nude) mice. Hairless mice also lack a thymus, the organ that turns ordinary lymphocytes into t-lymphocytes or 't-cells'. Lacking t-cells, hairless mice are a pushover for cancers of all kinds. Unfortunately, you won't find this information by Googling 'hairless mice' - the first page you'll find is this one, a pet-owner's guide apparently written by someone ignorant of this fact.

To learn why hairless mice are so different from normal humans you'd have to take the time to ask the right expert the right questions. But then you might discover something truly alarming to a journalist - that your story had no real news value at all.

Friday, August 15, 2008

Who Needs State Controlled News Media?

When your morning newspaper devotes the top half of every front page to the latest "Gold! Gold, gold, gold for Austraya!" moment and every television news broadcast begins the same?

Anti-PC Beat Up of the Week

In today's Age, Bridie Smith reports:
VICTORIA'S curriculum is left-wing and is pressuring students to conform to the politically correct views held in school texts and by teachers to enhance their chance of academic success, a Melbourne tutor has warned...
Why isn't the main clause of this sentence up the front where it belongs? Because that would make it too obvious that Smith is passing on an opinion, not news.
In a submission to a federal inquiry into academic freedom, Mark Lopez argues that — in year 12 English in particular — students with non-left views face "additional challenges" and are often disadvantaged if they "cross the teacher's bias".

Dr Lopez, a humanities tutor of 18 years, told the Senate inquiry that, in part, he set up his tutoring business to tackle issues of ideological bias, teacher quality and the "subjective" assessment of students' work.
In fact, Lopez doesn't argue anything - he merely asserts it. Here's what his submission actually says:
5th August 2008

To: Mr John Carter Committee
Senate Education, Employment and Workplace Relations Committee Department of the Senate
PO Box 6100
Parliament House
Canberra ACT 2600
Phone: +61 2 6277 3521 Fax: +61 2 6277 5706

Dear Mr Carter & Committee members,
I welcome the opportunity to provide a submission to your Inquiry. I have long been concerned about this issue and I have been doing something about it, helping students deal with the problem of bias through my private tutoring business. To some degree, you could say that I set up my business to address the issues of ideological bias and teacher quality.

Recently, I have published two articles that address precisely the concerns of this Inquiry. I am presenting them to you as a submission: 'This bias: the left-wing domination of Year 12 English' (December 2006), and 'Surviving ideological bias in the classroom' (October 2007).

The first article (This bias) analyses the bias in the curriculum and reflects upon its implications. I focused on the Year 12 English but I could have spoken about any of the humanities subjects since the problems outlined for this compulsory subject are replicated in the others. This article first appeared in the IPA Review with an extract published in The Australian. The second article, written as a sequel, looks at the practice of bias by teachers in the classroom. This article originally appeared in News Weekly with a shorter version published in The Australian.

The problem of bias is much worse than many assume. Through my business I have a superb opportunity to observe and scrutinise, though the experiences of my students, the curricula and what really goes on in school classrooms and university tutorial rooms. I have extensive experience dealing with this, 18 years, covering dozens of school and university subjects in the English and humanities areas, where assessment is, as you know, subjective. I am about to bring a book out on this subject, The Little Black School Book, which analyses the problem in depth and shows students how to deal with it.

I am willing to be contacted for more information and I would be more than happy to be a witness at the public hearings.

Dr Mark Lopez (my emphasis)

The headline to Smith's reoprt (which goes on to canvass the opinions of seasoned culture warrior Kevin Donnelly) is Conservative students suffer from 'left bias'. The actual events of the story warrant something more like Political Hack Uses Senate Inquiry to Plug His New Book.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Greer Nails It

Last night's Lateline included a report on Germaine Greer's latest essay on Aboriginal men, and an interview with Greer herself. Greer was on song throughout the interview - interviewer Leigh Sales wasn't, right from the start:
LEIGH SALES, PRESENTER: And with me in the studio now is Professor Germaine Greer. Thank you for coming in. What I would like to do is take you through points raised in [the story we just aired] so we could hear your responses. But if I could start more generally, for people who have not read your book, what is your central objection to the Federal intervention?

PROFESSOR GERMAINE GREER, ACADEMIC AND AUTHOR: [My book] is not about the Federal intervention. It is about rage, it's an essay on rage itself. It begins with a white example of somebody who feels his people have been unfairly discriminated against by government policy... (my emphasis)
If you missed it last night because the household remote control hog couldn't bear to miss the Olympic Pole Dancing, Thai Ping-Pong Ball Target Shooting or whatever it was that Channel Seven was showing, it's worth catching up on the interview at the Lateline web-site.

A few more great moments:
LEIGH SALES: If I can look at some of the points raised in the package and have you respond to them. You write that Aboriginal women humiliated their men by seeking the white fellas help in the intervention.

PROFESSOR GERMAINE GREER: Hang on a minute. That is not how it's put...

LEIGH SALES: Alright, let's talk again about something they would like you to respond to. In that package that we [just] saw, both Des Rogers and Judy Atkinson, while they agreed with some of your views, disagreed with you that Aborigines can't overcome the trauma of history. By saying.

PROFESSOR GERMAINE GREER: I never said that I don't know why they thought I did. But I don't know who spoke to them or what they said I said...

LEIGH SALES: Well again the quote is that 'rage is the inevitable consequence of a series of devastating blows inflicted on a victim who is utterly powerless to resist'. You are suggesting that Aborigines are powerless to resist this rage that engulfs them?

PROFESSOR GERMAINE GREER: No, it's their powerless to resist us...

LEIGH SALES: But at what point do you say, yes, I have suffered victimisation but I will not allow that to make me a victim?

PROFESSOR GERMAINE GREER: Isn't it curious thing [- I] write about the pathology of rage in this situation and it's suddenly turns into a conversation about whether or not these people can get over it. What I am saying is they can't get over it and it's inhuman to ask them to get over it. It has to be recognised that they have undergone a series of the most appalling outrages and abuses...

Update: I've just sat through the whole of Tony Jones's Q & A for the first time ever. Kudos to the floor manager who seated Germaine next to Julie Bishop. Pure genius!

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Milli Vanilli to Stage Comeback in 2012?

Sources inside the London Organising Committee of the Olympic Games revealed today that 1980s lip-synch wonders Milli-Vanilli have been booked to perform at the opening ceremony of the London Olypics in 2012.

It is also rumoured that the London opening ceremony will feature 2012 Boy Scouts and Girl Guides recreating the Blue Screen of Death displayed at the Beijing opening ceremony with flash cards. This rumour remains unconfirmed.

Hobson's Choice

Here's a conundrum - is it better to be Janet Albrechtsen and happy, or Clive Hamilton and unhappy?