Archive for October 30th, 2009

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Just Around the Corner

October 30, 2009

Raymond Pierrehumbert (U Chicago, Geophysical Sciences) has a must-read open letter to his colleague Steven Levitt. It’s direct, simple, and collegial — in a fuck you kinda way. Here, see for yourself:

By now there have been many detailed dissections of everything that is wrong with the treatment of climate in Superfreakonomics , but what has been lost amidst all that extensive discussion is how really simple it would have been to get this stuff right. The problem wasn’t necessarily that you talked to the wrong experts or talked to too few of them. The problem was that you failed to do the most elementary thinking needed to see if what they were saying (or what you thought they were saying) in fact made any sense. If you were stupid, it wouldn’t be so bad to have messed up such elementary reasoning, but I don’t by any means think you are stupid. That makes the failure to do the thinking all the more disappointing.

You’re not stupid. You’re just an imbecile. (I love to watch the big kids battle it out!)

Prof. Pierrehumbert kindly provides a helpful map from Levitt’s office to his own, should they ever decide to beer summit. Chicago residents, please call me if you catch them sneaking a pint.

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Carbon and the Coffee Bean

October 30, 2009

Whee. This is fun. Size comparison between a carbon atom and a coffee bean. Pesky little bugger.

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Goose and Gander

October 30, 2009

On this fine Friday afternoon, how about partaking in a bit of “Gender Bias Bingo.”

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Nonstop Silliness

October 30, 2009

[white+paint+can.jpg]Levitt and Dubner apparently don’t back down. Here’s their article from Wednesday’s USA Today. I’m sure they’re selling a lot of books, but in doing so, they’re being disingenuous: acting one way and simultaneously decrying what they’re doing; doing ethics and claiming not to do ethics. For what follows, I’ll ignore their scientific claims. As I’ve said, I’m not qualified to criticize the climate science. Let’s just start here, with their scenario:

Imagine for a moment that a terrible, unforeseen threat to humankind had suddenly arisen, one so grave that it endangered the very future of the planet. Two teams of respected scientists immediately set to work, trying to find a solution to the impending disaster.

The first set of scientists returned with a potential solution, but it had some shortcomings. It was expensive, with a price tag in the trillions of dollars. It also required nearly every human being on the planet to change his or her behavior in fundamental ways. And even if the scientists’ scheme worked, it would take decades for the benefits to be felt.

The second set of scientists returned with a very different answer. Their solution cost less than one-thousandth as much to implement and did not require anyone to change his behavior. The scientists could get their solution up and running in roughly a year, with the benefits to be felt immediately. And if the simple fix turned out to not work as expected, it was quickly and easily reversible.

Fair enough. Fun example. From what I can tell, it has nothing to do with climate science, but okay. Deltoid has the full scoop on why it’s a terrible comparison.* I’ll just mention a few points…

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