CHAOS MANOR MAIL
Mail 344 January 10 - 16, 2005
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Highlights this week:
January 10, 2005
<<Time for DDT: we're pouring hundreds of millions of dollars into the relief effort, but the tsunami was only a blip in third-world mortality. Mosquitoes kill 20 times more people each year than the tsunami did>>
I suppose this accounts for my BOUNDLESS CYNICISM about the whole flipping sob fest over the tsunami victims. (Bizarre fact: I spent a week swimming every day far out into the water on Phuket's Chedi Beach, the subject of a huge Time photo of the wave destroying everything in its path, 28 days before the earthquake hit.) I'd like to scream, "Get a sense of perspective!" but human beings like responding to short, concise, sob-story drama ; it makes them feel like they've solved a problem. They haven't. The billions of dollars and the attitude and philosophical and cultural overhaul needed for the US public school system? Not discussed. Maybe if a big tsunami hit ever US public school people would do something.
January 11, 2005
Subject: Non-functioning PS/2 port(s)
"I did have one problem but it wasn't the Belkin unit's fault: One machine simply will not work with a PS/2 mouse and demands USB. I have no idea why, since it is an Intel d845 Motherboard. When I first saw the problem I had installed the machine in the cable/server room, and naturally I had put it under another machine. I hauled it out to the work bench and fired it up, and sure enough, it wouldn't work with a PS/2 mouse. When I set it up I had used a daisychain USB Keyboard and mouse, so I never noticed"
did you know that most mainboard have one, sometimes two, fuses to protect the PS/2 ports. Most likely the fuse for the mouse port is blown, you should be able to check this with an optical mouse. If it lights up then it won't be the fuse. The fuse can have many shapes, look for a "suspicious" component near the PS/2 ports on the mainboard labelled something like "F..".
Subject: Belkin KVM and PS2 Mice
Enjoyed your article. The Belkin KVM Switches have been great but I have found that on some computers, on my home network, seem to not like the mouse being switched from the KVM the answer is a cheap (about $12 CDN) adapter that converts a USB port to a PS/2 Mouse and Keyboard then take both that mouse and that keyboard connector to the KVM. This is especially true with portables but I have had a couple towers that operated this way but would loose track of the mouse when the KVM was used. Not sure if this is that the adapter looks more constant to the computer or what.
On some computers, this little adapter plugged in will give you a second mouse and keyboard port while on others, only one set of the PS/2 plugs works, shutting down the mouse and/or the keyboard on the computer's own ports.
Dave Snodgrass CHTV Broadcast Technology
Subject: A friend's comment on the park story
"This was on the radio last week, decision may be being reversed
Story from Lakes National Park now is that a decision had to be made quickly and was thus made badly
In other words, they're backpedaling madly away from the decision. The UK is full of political nuts, and when they get patronage jobs, they tend to bubble away in back rooms until an opportunity occurs to make an ass of themselves. My mother used to say (about similar politics in California) that they came out of the woodwork at election time.
-- Harry Erwin, PhD "If you can't be a good example, then you'll just have to be a horrible warning." (Catherine Aird)
The horrors of political correctness know no bounds.
Subject: Artillery: Hollywood trains forward observers
Subj: Artillery: Hollywood trains forward observers
http://www.strategypage.com/fyeo/howtomakewar/default.asp?target=HTART.HTM ARTILLERY: Hollywood Trains Forward Observers
== January 7, 2005: Hollywood has come up with a cost effective way to train forward observers, a chore long thought to be impossible. ... The problem was that there was no practical way to have FOs actually practice the whole drill (spotting the right target, calling in the right information, and then seeing the effects of the artillery fire.) ...
The U.S. Army recently came up with a solution by combining video game simulation with set design. ... The FO trainees use their binoculars and “radio” to spot targets and call in fire. At the other end of the radio is someone who enters the FOs instructions into the simulation, which shortly shows the effects of the fire ... . If the FOs screw up, the shells or rockets will land in the wrong place. The FOs have numerous day and night scenarios they can run through. ... ==
http://www.ict.usc.edu/disp.php?bd=proj_concept_jfets Joint Fires and Effects Trainer System - Institute for Creative Technologies
Subject: Cheap external/backup storage
We've discussed some other options for large cheap storage in the past, but I was pretty amazed at this.
1TB of external storage, USB2 + Firewire 400/800.
I'm thinking of getting a couple for quick backups, etc....
I'd be curious what you think of them.
-- John Harlow, President BravePoint
I'll see if I can get one. Seems like a great idea...
Subject: Lack of proconsular oversight?
-- Roland Dobbins
Lack of military professionalism, I would say. It's an article well worth reading.
The question is simple: whose job is it to plan for Phase IV when officially the US is not and will not be an Empire?
I blame the universities, which have taught an entire generation the Jacobin view of human nature, indeed have acted as if there were no other view of human nature, as if anyone who suggests there is another view is a fascist, part of The Authoritarian Personality. Adorno and Frenckel-Brunswick have triumphed, and most people have never even heard of them.
Any uneducated person would assume that if you remove all the cops, blow up parts of a city, fill the city with armed men, and then have the armed men do nothing except to protect themselves, the results will be disorder, crime in the streets, and then public looting. It takes a university graduate to have a stop in the mind that prevents thinking about such unpleasant things. But we now insist that everyone be a graduate of a certified Jacobin-dominated university, and while some still manage to get out of these institutions of higher learning believing in Original Sin and having a somewhat conservative view of mankind, they are not only considered freaks, but many of them think of themselves as freaks.
The liberal view of the world requires an intellectual schizophrenia that would be incredible to novelists of even a few generations past. A few got some of it right. The Groves of Academe saw some of it coming, and the popular image of The Ivory Tower Intellectual got things right; but you will note we no longer talk about Ivory Tower Intellectuals, who are inferior in understanding the real world to those who have actually created wealth and "met a payroll."
It is the triumph of the Intellectuals, and the Treason of the Clerks, all of which was predictable and in fact predicted, by me and by Possony if by no one else. And the interesting part is that no one notices.
Yet the assumption that all we had to do was remove the instruments of tyranny and liberal democracy would spring up in Iraq was so universally held that prior to the outbreaks of violence in Iraq almost no one dared point out that we were betting a lot on the good nature of an oppressed people in a land and region notorious for its waves of anarchy and submissiveness: and those who did point this out were accused of racism, or intellectual arrogance, or merely of fascism.
As early as 1943 we began schools to train soldiers in the arts of military government on the assumption that we would have to occupy Germany and Japan. I think we have yet to do this regarding Iraq. The Very Notion of "military government" is repugnant.
Well, the anarchists got their wish. "Hey hey, blown away, in the fire by night and the smoke by day, Haw Haw, rule of law, biggest lie you ever saw." "No more bosses any more!" I hope they are happy now that we have run that experiment for them. Not that it hadn't been run a few thousand times throughout history.
History? What's that? Why would anyone want to study the Thirty Years War other than to show that all religion is vain and produces unenlightened rulers who do terrible things in the Name of God? What other lessons might there be? History is the bunk. Let's get on with the end of history, the wonderful period when universal commerce has created the Parliament of Man and the Federation of the World, right here on the Hudson River!
My apologies for rambling. My friend Greg Cochran can't understand why I don't see that the problem was the sheer arrogance and stupidity of the Republicans, his old friends whom he now denounces; and I have to reply that destroying the bourgeois smugness of the Republicans was the first order of business of the Intellectuals, and they succeeded well, so well that no one even remembers the days when The Ivory Tower wasn't supposed to know much about the rest of the world.
Well, we have run the experiment again (as if various city riots in the US hadn't been sufficient).
Guess what, people? Anarchy doesn't work, and left to themselves people will create Hell on earth, and life in that state of nature is solitary, poor, nasty, brutish, and short.
It used to be thought that good government was a gift from the gods, or from God.
Subject: Fineman admits it.
Expresses no regrets, but still, he admits it:
---- Roland Dobbins
Well, yes... not that it will change things. Where will journalists who don't adhere to the Party Line get their credentials? And without credentials, how can you be a journalist?
Subject: Burglar and Home Owner Rights in the UK
I've been considering having a black panther in the garden. It can keep anything it can catch. 8)
-- Beware Outside Context Problems--Harry Erwin, PhD
Met commissioner Sir John Stevens said householders should be presumed to have acted legally, even if a burglar dies, unless there is contrary evidence.
Laws which often seemed to favour criminals should be clarified, he said.
People should be prosecuted only when there was evidence of gratuitous violence, he told the Daily Telegraph.
I'm not talking about guns but people being allowed to defend themselves
Sir John Stevens
Shot burglar case debate Have Your Say
Under the current law, people are entitled to use "reasonable force" to defend themselves and their homes.
It is up to judges and juries to decide what level of force is "reasonable".
Sir John said the public and police were confused about what that meant.
The law was currently sending the wrong message by encouraging burglars to break into houses in the belief that no householder could harm them, he said. <snip>
I think your panther might be considered a deadfall trap, and the precedent as I recall was that a man was hanged for murder for setting a shotgun trap after repeated burglaries of his shed.
Subject: Mac Mini
With great confidence, I compared Apple to BMW, and said Apple would never care about the $500 PC market, let alone the $300 PC market. Apple has proven me wrong.
The Mac Mini starts at $500, and it actually looks like a nice little computer. Perhaps you should get one to play with.
One look at that tiny thing and it's obvious: no expansion ports for PCI cards. Well, the same is true of the iMac and that sells.
Another thing that leaps right out at me is that there is limited audio support: a single analog jack. Use that for your speakers, or for your headphones. However, given that it has both USB 2.0 jacks and Fire Wire, anyone who wants to hook up a microphone can do so by spending extra money on an extra gadget.
This could be a winner! -- Steve R. Hastings "Vita est"
I'll have a look at one. With available mouse, keyboard, and screen.
Subject: The Classics in the Slums - City Journal article
http://www.city-journal.org/html/14_4_urbanities-classics.html City Journal The Classics in the Slums Jonathan Rose Autumn 2004
In 1988, Barbara Herrnstein Smith, president of the Modern Language Association, authoritatively stated (as something too obvious to require any evidence) that classic literature was always irrelevant to underprivileged people who were not classically educated. It was, she asserted, an undeniable "fact that Homer, Dante, and Shakespeare do not figure significantly in the personal economies of these people, do not perform individual or social functions that gratify their interests, do not have value for them."
One should not be too hard on Professor Smith. She was merely echoing what was, at the time, standard academic opinion: that the Western classics embody a worldview that somehow "marginalizes" the poor, the nonwhite, the female, the "other," and justifies their subordination to white male "hegemony." And like so many postmodern critics, Professor Smith could be naively confident that she was in full possession of the facts, even without the benefit of research.
But her theory had no visible means of support. Whenever it was tested, the results were diametrically opposed to what she predicted: in fact "the canon" enabled "the masses" to become thinking individuals. <snip>
Well worth reading in full.
And here is one to scare you silly:
Subject: Watching the watchers (and compromising T-Mobile in the process).
-- Roland Dobbins
Subject: FO Training
"The U.S. Army recently came up with a solution by combining video game simulation with set design. ... The FO trainees use their binoculars and “radio” to spot targets and call in fire. At the other end of the radio is someone who enters the FOs instructions into the simulation, which shortly shows the effects of the fire ... . If the FOs screw up, the shells or rockets will land in the wrong place. The FOs have numerous day and night scenarios they can run through. ... == "
The Army and the Marine Corps have been doing this since the late 80's with film and computers. I took the course and sent many an 81mm FO through it. Called it a "Puff Board" - had these simulators at Camp Pendleton, 29 Palms and Camp LeJeune. Relatively cheap, so I assume the Army had them all over as well. I know they used them at Ft. Sill.
David Couvillon Lieutenant Colonel of Marines; Former Governor of Wasit Province, Iraq; Righter of Wrongs; Wrong most of the time; Lover extrordinaire; Chef de Hot Dog Excellance; Collector of Hot Sauce; Avoider of Yard Work
It sure sounds easier than the way this was taught in 1950. Which was largely from manuals, and some lectures, and horror stories and paper exercises followed by on the job training. Meaning, "Lieutenant here's your radio and binoculars. Corporal, look after the new guy, OK. Well? What are you waiting for? Get out of here and find something for us to shoot!"
January 13, 2005
British homeowners and defense rights and the backyard panther
In one of your anthologies you quoted a story about a man who was listening to find out who was stealing his firewood. Tired of theft, he'd concealed a stick of dynamite in one log. The questions you quoted (David Friedman?--I don't have my books handy) seem to apply to the present question.
That was way back in the Arpanet days: I was showing off Zeke (my friend who happened to be a Z-80 computer; he's on display in the Smithsonian now) to my friend David who happened to be an economist and libertarian philosopher, and David typed in that parable to see what response we would get...
Subject: Mosquitos and the Tsunami
An interesting bit I heard on the news today is discussion of how one effect of the Tsunami will be more mosquito breeding areas, leading to an increased death toll from malaria--estimates were running in the six figures for that as well.
"Save the planet"? For whom?
David L. Burkhead
Subject: UK Financial Services Industry
Why the UK working class doesn't trust UK banks. This is a local girl.
-- Harry Erwin, PhD "If you can't be a good example, then you'll just have to be a horrible warning." (Catherine Aird)
Subj: Russell Kirk on Iraq/1991 and other matters
I found the following essay interesting:
http://www.townhall.com/hall_of_fame/KIRK/kirk321.html Russell Kirk - Political Errors at the End of the Twentieth Century - 2/27/1991
I strongly suspect that Kirk's position is not far from Dr. Pournelle's. I disagree with both in several particulars, but I also think both are worth contemplating carefully.
For that matter, I suspect that readers looking for more material with which Dr. Pournelle would largely agree, while Dr. Pournelle is distracted from posting (subliminal chant: more fiction! less posting!), would find all the Russell Kirk Heritage lectures interesting:
http://www.townhall.com/hall_of_fame/KIRK/kirklect.html Russell Kirk -- The Heritage Lectures
Russell was godfather to my third son, Francis Russell Pournelle. Kirk and Possony were both mentors.
Subject: Starswarm comments
Good Evening Jerry,
Based on your mention of "Starswarm" in a recent Byte column, I bought a copy. Just got around to reading it. A fine book! I recommended it to my 12 yr old. If he can tear himself from the Gamecube!
I do have a question. In Chapter 27, page 176 in the Starscape trade paperback, Lara is called Laura in one place. Is this
A) A simple typo B) An editing error C) A device by the author to see who's paying attention
Thanks for all your writing, Gerry Belanger
A or B and I have no idea which.
Subject: Pentagon reveals rejected chemical weapons
From the 'my God, what are they doing to the troops now' department:
Pentagon reveals rejected chemical weapons
THE Pentagon considered developing a host of non-lethal chemical weapons that would disrupt discipline and morale among enemy troops, newly declassified documents reveal.
Most bizarre among the plans was one for the development of an "aphrodisiac" chemical weapon that would make enemy soldiers sexually irresistible to each other. Provoking widespread homosexual behaviour among troops would cause a "distasteful but completely non-lethal" blow to morale, the proposal says.
Other ideas included chemical weapons that attract swarms of enraged wasps or angry rats to troop positions, making them uninhabitable. Another was to develop a chemical that caused "severe and lasting halitosis", making it easy to identify guerrillas trying to blend in with civilians. There was also the idea of making troops' skin unbearably sensitive to sunlight.
The proposals, from the US Air Force Wright Laboratory in Dayton, Ohio, date from 1994. The lab sought Pentagon funding for research into what it called "harassing, annoying and 'bad guy'-identifying chemicals". The plans have been posted online by the Sunshine Project, an organisation that exposes research into chemical and biological weapons.
Spokesman Edward Hammond says it was not known if the proposed $7.5 million, six-year research plan was ever pursued.
Well, no one ever said being a soldier was easy. I'd sure like to get hold of that aphrodisiac chemical weapon, though. A couple of girls, a lengthy boat trip... the mind boggles. Your tax dollars at work.
Of course, with my luck I'd get the 'severe and lasting halitosis' spray by mistake. Oh, stop grinning.
=The mind boggles...=
January 14, 2005
Subject: climate science and advocacy
This is in response to your comments about realclimate.org and about climate in general.
I am a climate scientist, and I take my role as an objective, sceptical, questioning enquirer very seriously. We agree almost completely on what science should be. However, you make a serious mistake in assuming that 'not many climate scientists' are like that. Almost all of them are. None, not one, of the climate scientists I meet at conferences or workshops or that I correspond with fit the stereotype you paint of catastrophists making up worries to gain grant money. Personally, I don't think I've ever made a dramatic statement in papers, public speechs, grant applications or letters to the editor. Yet I still manage to keep my job and support a couple of graduate students. This is the same in every institution and university.
So let me explore where you get this idea from. You mention Vikings, and the freezing Hudson, and so I presume that you are concerned about climate and weather variability in the past. A perfectly valid issue, and indeed one that I've written half a dozen papers about. Mostly related to the potential of solar and volcanic forcings to influence climate. But why do you assume that these things are not of concern to us?
Science by anecdote is, I'm sure you would agree, less than satisfactory, and building up regional, global and long term pictures is difficult. Yet many of us are involved in doing just that. Understanding the potential feedbacks that may have operated differently in the past is difficult, and yet many of us are involved in exactly this quantification - based on sound physical processes and chemistry and (slightly less soundly) biology. What is it in this that makes you think we are not valid scientists?
Arrhenius's calculations were indeed back of the envelope. The calculations made now, in the light of much more accurate spectrometric data, and with a much better idea of what's in the atmosphere, are actually much better - and give a smaller answer than Arrhenius's original one.
Yes we make models. Of course. The quantification of our knowledge and the testing of those models against past data is fundamental to climate and indeed all science.
The conclusion that we've come to is that increasing CO2 is important, and given that it is likely to increase further, will become more so. We say this because of our understandings of pre-industrial climate variability, because of our understanding of radiative transfer, and because of our understanding of air-sea exchanges. Not despite that knowledge. Are these understandings complete? Of course not. Are we continuing to look at new processes and possible feedbacks? yes of course. Does it mean that the sky is falling? no (except in a literal sense, due to cooling of the mesosphere due to increased CO2, but that's neither here nor there).
I do not go around being a doom sayer - but it is incumbent on scientists to explain to people what it is we think we understand, and what it is we don't.
The fact that a search for Vikings on the RealClimate website turns up nothing, means merely that we are not an encyclopedia, it says nothing about the quality of scientific discussion.
Hopefully, you would like to have a real discussion about this with us one day. If so, I look forward to it.
-- | Gavin Schmidt NASA/Goddard Institute for Space Studies | | 2880 Broadway | | Tel: (212) 678 5627 New York, NY 10025 | | | | email@example.com http://www.giss.nasa.gov/~gavin
To which I replied:
> This is supposed to be a real discussion?
Jerry, Thanks for you quick reply.
Ok, let's take a step back here. Reasonable people can disagree on the economic costs and benefits of Kyoto, and we would both agree that this was fundamentally political argreement, not a scientific one. I would also point out that I never mentioned Kyoto, and I will continue to confine my comments to the actual science.
Let me expand on the problem of anecdotes in climate science. I often hear people say things like 'how can this year be the one of the warmest on record, when my town/city/state had a record freeze last week/month etc.' You are of course correct that this is a data point that needs to be taken into account, but it is not any more valuable than all the other (possibly less dramatic) data points around the world. The globe as a whole can be warming without that being reflected in every location. Given the chaotic dynamics that influence local weather, we expect that the year to year variation at any one locality is much greater than any small change in the global mean. This is extremely well understood.
The Hudson River almost froze over last winter actually (which was the first time that I had seen sea ice outside of the polar regions). Did that imply that 2003 was not in the top 5 warmest years in the instrumental record? No. It means that the extremely cold NE winter was more than balanced by warming in the West, in the tropics and in Eurasia. So single anecdotes are valid data points, but they must be balanced by the rest of the data that didn't coincide with geopolitically important events.
The dice incident was Jim Hansen (who in the interests of full disclosure, is my boss), and while it may have seemed sensationalist to you, he was trying to convey to a rather scientifically naive congressional committee the role of stochastic variability in climate. What he said was that global warming does not mean that every summer will be warmer than the last, but that the mean of the distribution is shifting slightly such that the probablity of a warm summer is slowly increasing, as if you had loaded the dice. Given that congressmen are probably more familiar with dice games than probability distribution functions, this was an attempt to explain varaitions in way they could grasp. A fair attempt in my opinion.
I would add that, Jim's testimony in congress had to be as a private citizen because NASA HQ did not want him to say anything. NASA's funding of climate related research is tiny compared to the ISS or Space Shuttle (and particularly our lab which has barely 25 NASA employees and is in New York City, not Maryland).
In fact if we really wanted more funding, we would be going around saying we need more research, instead, we collectively write 1000 page reports that say that the balance of evidence supports a significant anthropogenic effect on climate in the 20th century.
Ok, finally, lets talk about solar forcing. This is real - no argument. But how important is it? The direct mesurements since 1979 show that the variations over two sunspot cycles are small (around 0.25 W/m2 averaged over the globe from solar min to solar max), and while you can see this clearly in the upper atmosphere ozone and temperature fields, this does not produce a detectable signal near the ground (both because of other things going on like ENSO or volcanoes, and the thermal inertia of the oceans which damp down high frequency variations). So what about longer term varaitions, i.e. going back to the Maunder Minimum ~1650-1710? This is much more uncertain. We have proxy measurements (sunspot counts, cosmogenic isotopes 14C and 10Be) that go back that far, but they can't be indepentedly calibrated to solar output. They are correlated to the irradiance over a sunspot cycle, but they are really magnetic-related phenomena, not irradiance-related. So, absent a good physical model for the sun that links these things, people make estimates based on their best guesses. Thus there is a huge variation in estimates of this long-term component.
Our best analyses of the spatial patterns of change related to the solar forcing indicate that continental NH temperatures were about 1 deg C colder in the mean during this period, with slightly more cooling in western Eurasia, with a pattern reminescent of the response to a weakened NAO (North Atlantic Oscillation which describes the zonality of the westerly circulation). I was a co-author of a paper in Science in 2001, that looked at whether climate models could replicate this pattern given the known physics of solar change. We found that two features were key, allowing the solar irradiance to vary more in the UV than in the visible (consistent with what is seen over the sunspot cycle), and allowing the ozone field to vary as a function of the UV and temperature in the stratosphere. With both of these effects, the model produced global cooling (as you would expect) but also a robust change to the circulation (a weakened NAO) that amplified the cooling in western Eurasia and over the mid-latitude continents. Obviously given the uncertainties in the forcing, the data that we were trying to match, and uncertainty in the model response, we can't use this a proof that we got all of it right. However, in the absence of better data, there is no obvious need for 'new' or unknown physics to explain what was going on. This was just a first cut, and better models and more data are being brought to bear on the problem, so the conclusion may change in the future. As of now though, this is still the current state of thinking.
I would add that volcanic forcing over this period was actually significant as well, and we estimate about the global cooling over this period was about half-half solar and volcanic.
So how does this compare to 20th C forcing? Even if you make the most generous estimates of solar forcing, it is still less than a quarter of accumulated forcing by greenhouse gases (CO2, CH4, N20, CFCs, and O3). There is no doubt which has been the biggest effect. Plus, the changes over the last 25 years (measured by satellites) show no significant increase, while GHG forcing has continued to increase.
Over the whole of the 20th Century, the global mean temperatures are actually well matched by computer simulations (FYI, I attach a few figures from one of our papers we will be submitting to the next IPCC report - though I would ask that you not distribute them since they are not yet published). The first panel are the best estimates of the forcings (GHG, solar, volcanic, aerosols, land use change etc.), and the second panel has the global mean temperatures that you get from 1880 to 2003. The regional match is not as good of course, and that seems to be related to poor estimates of aerosol distributions - and we are working on improving that. The key figure that suggests that this is a serious problem is the estimate of the global energy imbalance which has reached around 0.75 W/m2 over the last decade. This energy is going into warming the oceans, and that has been estimated from in situ measurements and satellite inversions over the last decade (shown in figure 2). I re-iterate, this is not proof that we have everything right, but it does support the contention that we are not completely wrong.
I thought this quite reasonable. Perhaps my reply was not. I said:
To which I received as reply:
With all due respect, I tried to have a scientific discussion but all I get back is an allusion to Velikovsky. You appear to not have read my email at all (where I tried to give you a sense for what we do actually understand about solar and volcanic forcing), and instead re-iterate points I never contradicted. The basis of any communication is that each person actually listen to the other. Absent any indication of this here, I see no point in continuing further.
Too bad, you might have learnt something.
Which is where things ended. It took me a moment to see where I mentioned Velikovsky, and I would argue that I had more to say than that one allusion; but perhaps Professor Schmidt ran out of time. I sometimes do. He did cause me to go have a look at one of my assumptions, generating the following disquisition on anecdotes and climate:
Now one admission, apology, and comment on anecdotes and science:
The first rule of data is, are the facts stated correctly. In my case one was not. I seem to have confused Hamilton's actions with General Washington in December 1776 around New York with Henry Knox and his actions in January 1776 from Ticonderoga to Boston. Moreover, in January-February 1776 there was "an unusual thaw" that made life a lot more difficult for Knox. This does illustrate a real problem with anecdotal evidence: it's often cited from memory and seldom verified. There is thus every reason to be suspicious. However, in this case, it's not terribly important: there is a very great deal of data concerning the severity of winters in the period prior to 1800, including the use of skaters during the various Spanish sieges of the Netherlands in the 17th Century, the stories of skating on brackish canals, etc. I don't think anyone serious argues that up to about 1800 the Earth was a lot colder than it is now.
Nor that between about 800 and 1300 it was considerably warmer, with habitations in Greenland, vineyards in England, and generally longer growing seasons throughout the northern hemisphere. I continue to contend that climate models must deal with these two known conditions. Note too that the change from warmer and benign in 800 to 1300, and cold and getting more hostile between 1320 and 1700, was quite rapid and quite dramatic. I continue to contend that climate models must deal with this fact. It may be that early industrialization and human activities are at fault, but I haven't seen anyone show how. If they were not, then it seems to me an established fact that we have had dramatic and significant climate shifts in history: and that climate models must deal with that.
Instead, I get defenses of Kyoto; and I am afraid that reasonable people cannot disagree on the costs and benefits of Kyoto; at least I have not seen any of its defenders argue that the costs are not very high, and the benefits are all political; the actual benefits are at BEST zero. I'd be pleased to see an economic argument for Kyoto. I have yet to do so.
Perhaps I could have learned something, but it doesn't matter since the discussion seems to be closed.
I will say, yet again:
> Now for your key question:
I would think that we could all agree that what is needed is less political enthusiasm for the Kyoto Accords, and more "consensus" on just what data we need: on just what would be a crucial test of the Global Warming Hypothesis (and its causes: that is, is the Earth warming overall or only in spots; and if it is, what is causing it); of the need for remedies; and a general understanding of what is going on. The questions are not trivial, but the debates don't seem to be serious. Or perhaps I have misread Professor Schmidt.
Maybe somebody else read Fallen Angels...
Fossil fuel curbs may speed global warming-scientists 13 Jan 2005 00:00:42 GMT Source: Reuters By Matt Falloon
LONDON, Jan 13 (Reuters) - Cutting down on fossil fuel pollution could accelerate global warming and help turn parts of Europe into desert by 2100, according to research to be aired on British television on Thursday. "Global Dimming", a BBC Horizon documentary, will describe research suggesting fossil fuel by-products like sulphur dioxide particles reflect the sun's rays, "dimming" temperatures and almost cancelling out the greenhouse effect.
The researchers say cutting down on the burning of coal and oil, one of the main goals of international environmental agreements, will drastically heat rather than cool climate.
"When the cooling affect goes away -- and it must do because particles like sulphur dioxide are damaging to humans -- global warming will be much stronger," climate change scientist Dr Peter Cox told Reuters on Wednesday.
Temperatures could increase in the worst case by up to 10 degrees by the end of the century, the researchers said -- much more than current estimates.
Scientists differ as to whether global warming is caused by man-made emissions of carbon dioxide and other "greenhouse" gases, by natural climate cycles or if it exists at all.
Take away fossil fuel by-products like sulphur dioxide without tackling greenhouse gas emissions, and the extra heat will speed warming, irreversibly melting ice sheets and rendering rain forests unsustainable within decades, Dr Cox said. <snip>
Subject: Global dimming
It appears that due to global dimming about ten percent of the sunlight that used to reach the surface of the earth is now reflected off clouds that are present due to particulate pollution. Pan evaporation data ie. measuring the amount of water that evaporates from a pan shows this phenomena, is as hard as data gets, and has been collected for many years . There is a plausible mechanism for the additional cloud formation in that very small particles from industry and vehicle exhausts have the property of providing the nucleus for a raindrop without allowing the raindrop to become big enough to fall as rain. Initally these results were ignored and I do wonder if this was because they would have messed up the climate models.
Regards John Edwards
I doubt that it was deliberate in that sense
DDT is effective and cheap as dirt: this matters for Mozambique. If they have to use something else, they end up using nothing. Next, the preferred method today is to spray a bit inside the house, which discourages mosquitoes from entering. Using this approach, you end up using less DDT on the whole of Mozambique than people used to use on a single cotton farm.
So, does DDT make sense as an antimalarial measure in dirt-poor countries? Yes. There is insignificant risk to man or beast.
The problems arise because some of the countries giving aid ( Nordic countries, mostly) oppose any use of DDT in order to appease idiots back at home, and threaten to cut off aid to anyone who uses it. . This has in some cases caused African countries to give up DDT and have a nice malaria epidemic. To complicate things, when everybody else pretends that that DDT is dangerous, guys in Africa don't know enough to understand that it's just propaganda.
The people responsible for this should be treated as the Romans treated their parricides.
Sewn in a sack with a live rat, monkey, and viper and thrown into the Tiber, as I recall. Hmm. (On checking, it's into 'the sea', and a rooster was involved.)
Subject: re DDT
You might find this of use: http://junkscience.com/ddtfaq.htm
===== Tiomoid M. of Angle JD MBA
'For forms of government let fools contest; That which is best administered is best.' -- Alexander Pope
Subject: RE: DDT reintroduction.
Again, thank you for your response. After you printed our series of emails, you said, "what I am looking for is some science, not conclusions with some scientific terminology (which is what the above letter really is). " Given that you seem to be implying that I am drawing conclusions without the necessary scientific background, I feel is necessary to defend my personal qualifications in this area. I am a Phd student researching the effects of xenobiotic (specifically pesticide) exposure on global genetic expression levels in invertebrates. My training in the areas of molecular biology, genetics, ecology, statistics, and toxicology was both rigorous and comprehensive. I am quite competent to discuss the specifics of any class of pesticides you care to mention. I went to great lengths to remove any extraneous scientific jargon, leaving only what was necessary to make my point. To be perfectly honest, I feel that you are guilty of what you accuse me of - of drawing conclusions without sufficient knowledge of the subject. Nonetheless, should you have any scientific evidence that DDT would be more useful in field applications than, say, the mosern pyrethroids I mentioned, I would love to hear it.
Sincerely, Joe Griffitt.
No sir. I didn't say you don't know, I said your letter is proof by assertion with some scientific terminology. The current letter is a list of your credentials, but it is still not evidence. Nor, of course, is Dr. Cochran's note other than as assurance to me that I am not entirely without qualified supporters. So far we have a battle of conflicting statements, but not one of conflicting evidence.
I don't have any expertise on this. I am willing to believe you know far more than I do. But I am not entirely comfortable with ending a discussion after hearing proof by repeated assertion coupled with a citation of credentials. (Were I being unkind I could say assertion of credentials.) There may well be some published studies that show all you have said. I don't know. I don't know the relative costs of DDT vs. the other materials. I have seen it said, often, that the problem with DDT was that it was far too widely used. That seems universally agreed.
Whether that also means that none should ever be used is not so clear to me. You say there are insecticides that are both more effective and reasonably low cost. I would think most people in the world would be glad to know this. It would help, though, if we knew where they are available, at what costs, and what published studies show their effectiveness.
I like sea birds and eagles a lot, and I don't really want them to die. On the other hand, while 180,000 killed in a single tsunami is a world attention attracting disaster, 2 million dead of malaria doesn't seem to concern many. Surely it would be worth an actual scientific investigation to determine if DDT might reduce that number of dead? And if there has been such an investigation, perhaps it would be useful if we knew where to find it.
I absolutely did give sources for the information I provided. Did you read my original email? To wit:
"For example, the 24-hr LC50 for larval Aedes aegypti is 33ug/L (Toxicology 32(1):57-66). The 24-hr LC50 for d-phenothrin (sumithrin) to larval A. aegypti is between 0.5 and 1.5 ug/L - an order of magnitude lower (J Am. Mosq. Control Association 2(3): 347 - 349."
Are you suggesting I made these references up? Or are you suggesting that they do not say what I say they do? Please, hold yourself to the same standards you seem to be holding me to. You have made nothing but vague assertions, with absolutely no data to back it up. I am not fond of arguing by credentials, there are many PhD's who are fools. You made a fairly snarky response to my email in your View that suggested I didn't know what the hell I was talking about. I do.
Sincerely, Joe Griffitt.
No I am suggesting that I didn't see the reference buried in there. My fault for trying to do this before recovering completely from whatever I picked up in Las Vegas. I have never suggested you don't know what you are talking about. I have said I don't know a lot about this.
Mr. Cochran adds:
The Malaria Foundation thinks that DDT is cheaper. Does he perhaps have a a new method for manufacturing cheaper pyrethroids? Probably not: I doubt if he understands just how poor these places are: differences in cost that we would never think twice about are life and death to them.
Cost, utility, side effects the right choice for South Carolina is not the right choice for Mozambique.
Which states the situation succinctly. When we were using DDT there were far fewer malaria deaths than there are now. SOMETHING IS TERRIBLY WRONG when we raise all this money for the victims of a tsunami, while there continues a plague that kills more people every year than the tsunami did, and it goes on an on; and we once had that under far better control before DDT was banned.
Thank you. I didn't put information about cost in there because I don't ahve it. I kmow how much sumithrin costs, and I have heard - anecdotally - that sumithrin is about twice as expensive as DDT, but I don't have hard numbers. I have also heard - anecdotally - that only 3-4 plants in the world still manufacture DDT, in which case I have a hard time believing it is substantially cheaper to get to the field than any pyrethroid. As far as I know, neither does anyone else, since all I ever hear is the vague assertion that DDT is much cheaper, never any numbers. Like that pointless and uninformative email you posted. If we assume that Sumithrin is twice as expensive as DDT, 10 times as effective, and has a half-life in the environment that is at least one-fifth that of DDT, it is at a minimum as effective. In any event, it is certainly in the ballpark, and much less dangerous to non-targets to boot. To me the choice seems clear.
The problem, as Cochran states, is that few seem to understand just how desperately poor these people are; and of course malaria saps the potential of survivors.
Mr. Thompson adds:
Subject: You wanted hard data on DDT
As you said, biocidal activity is a matter of concentration. All substances have harmful levels; dose-response curves help to determine what level is actually safe. As an example, dose-response has determined that five quarts of propylene glycol, two cups of vinegar, and half a teaspoon of nicotine was lethal to 50% of an exposed human population.
That being said, dichlorodiphenyltrichloroethane (DDT) has been thoroughly tested. Actual human exposures have always been far lower than the "acceptable" level. The World Health Organization set an acceptable daily intake of DDT for humans at 0.01 mg/kg/day. In the United States, the average amount of DDT and DDE eaten daily in food in 1981 was 2.24 micrograms per day (ug/day) (0.000032 mg/kg/day), with root and leafy vegetables containing the highest amount [Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry. 1989. Public Health Statement: DDT, DDE, and DDD]. Air samples in the United States have shown levels of DDT ranging from 0.00001 to 1.56 micrograms per cubic meter of air (ug/m3), depending on the location and year of sampling. Most reported samples were collected in the mid 1970s, and present levels are expected to be much lower. DDT and DDE have been reported in surface waters at levels of 0.001 micrograms per liter (ug/L), while DDD generally is not found in surface water. National soil testing programs in the early 1970s have reported levels in soil ranging from 0.18 to 5.86 parts per million (ppm) [Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry. 1989.Public Health Statement: DDT, DDE, and DDD].
DDT was alleged to be a liver carcinogen in "Silent Spring" and a breast carcinogen in "Our Stolen Future". Lots of studies debunk this. Two examples: Studies where primates were fed more than 33,000 times the average daily human exposure to DDT (as estimated in 1969 and 1972) were "inconclusive with respect to a carcinogenic effect of DDT in nonhuman primates" [J Cancer Res Clin Oncol 1999;125(3-4):219-25]. A nested case-control study was conducted to examine the association between serum concentrations of DDE and PCBs and the development of breast cancer up to 20 years later. Cases (n = 346) and controls (n = 346) were selected from cohorts of women who donated blood in 1974, 1989, or both, and were matched on age, race, menopausal status, and month and year of blood donation. "Even after 20 years of follow-up, exposure to relatively high concentrations of DDE or PCBs showed no evidence of contributing to an increased risk of breast cancer" [Cancer Epidemiol Biomarkers Prev 1999 Jun;8(6):525-32].
As for the eggshell thinning thing, that's likely crap, too. Or, at least, crappy, control-free science. Birds lay thin eggs for lots of reasons--age and stress will cause a bird to lay a thin-shelled egg.
Rachel Carson didn't read DeWitt's paper on quail and pheasant reproduction with and without DDT feeding exposure correctly and actually drew a conclusion opposite to that given in the paper. "Silent Spring", though, was only the tip of the political iceberg. DDT died at the hands of politicians and regulators who didn't bother to read or understand the scientific literature on the subject of DDT toxicity.
DDT, however, has been woefully misused/overused while attempting to control mosquito populations. There is evidence that suggests that intemperate use of DDT by farmers (particularly cotton farmers) has led to the development of biochemical/physiological resistance in malaria-carrying mosquito species.
For malaria-plagued third-world countries, DDT has the inestimable advantages of being (still) reasonably effective, dirt cheap, and persistent. Yes, persistence is a virtue for those countries, which can barely afford to treat once with a cheap biocide, let alone repeatedly with an expensive one.
I am reminded of the last time our termite inspector visited. Our home was built in 1968 and treated at the time with chlordane, which was cheap, effective, and essentially permanent. I asked him about the new chemicals that they'd been using since chlordane, lindane, heptachlor and similar compounds had been banned by the EPA. Referring to the new biocides, he remarked, "Well, the new stuff doesn't really kill them. It just hurts their feelings." It's also fugitive rather than persistent, which means homes treated with it have to be re-treated every five years or so at a cost of hundreds of dollars. That's a luxury that third-world countries can't afford.
Of course, although I don't doubt that DDT could save many of the millions who die of malaria every year, that begs the question of what we would be saving them for. Most of the malaria-plagued countries cannot feed their people now, so many of those saved from a quick death by malaria might be condemned to a slow death by starvation. Be that as it may, it strikes me as fundamentally evil to deny the benefits of DDT to poor nations--or rich ones, for that matter--based on a pseudoscientific witchhunt by whacko environmentalists.
I'm not saying that DDT is without hazard. I am saying, though, that the risks of using DDT, once understood, can be managed and the product can be used safely.
-- Robert Bruce Thompson firstname.lastname@example.org http://www.ttgnet.com/thisweek.html http://forums.ttgnet.com/ikonboard.cgi
A few words on food.
I may have said it best in A STEP FARTHER OUT which was a book made up of columns I wrote for Galaxy Science Fiction in the 1970's:
"Actually, world agriculture is keeping up with population. At the Mexico City meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science in 1975, Dr. H.A.B. Parpia, the senior professional of the UN’s Food And Agricultural Organization, told me that just about every country raises more than enough food to be self-sufficient. The food is grown, but sometimes not harvested; or if harvested, spoils before it can be eaten. In many countries vermin get more of the crop then the people: insects outeat people almost everywhere. The pity is that the technology to harvest and preserve enough for everyone exists right now.
"Now this essay is not intended to be a Pollyanna exercise. There’s no excuse for relaxing and saying that hunger is a myth. It isn’t. But simple food storage technologies, and research into non-damaging pesticides and pest control methodologies, could stop famine in most of those parts of the world where that horseman still stalks the land. Other simple technologies - even mylar linings for traditional dung-smeared grain storage pits - would save lives.
"We know how to do it; but we won’t unless we’re willing to try. We won’t get anywhere sitting around crying “DOOM!”
Yet according to Dr. Ehrlich’s book, “The battle to feed all of humanity is over. In the 1970’s the world will undergo famines - hundreds of millions of people are going to starve to death in spite of any crash programs embarked upon now.”
"Fortunately that didn’t happen; but the doomsayer viewpoint, which did not stop agro-engineers from making efforts despite the flat prediction that their efforts were useless, did invade our schools so successfully that a new generation of students believes in Doom as thoroughly as ever did a Crusader in the holiness of his cause.
* * *
"The other side of the coin was expressed in the Hudson Institute’s THE YEAR 2000, which points out that the level of rice yield per acre in India has not yet equaled what the Japanese could do in the Twelfth Century. Another analyst, Colin Clark, has shown that if the Indian farmer could reach the production levels of the South Italian peasant, there would be no danger of starvation in India for a good time to come.
"In other words, it doesn’t even take Miracle Rice, fertilizers, and a high-energy civilization to hold off utter disaster in the developing countries. It only takes adding technology to traditional peasant skills - indeed the kind of thing advocated by E.F. Schumacher in his SMALL IS BEAUTIFUL - ECONOMICS AS IF PEOPLE MATTERED. Showing people how to use mylar and simple non-persistent fungicides for food storage along with peasant agricultural methodology will hold the line against famine - for a while.
"Moreover, we have new technologies. There are means for increasing protein production. More protein in childhood would cut back infant diseases like kwashiorkor and “red baby”; those diseases have the effect of permanently lowering adult IQ by about 20 points. What if the next generation of a developing country were “20 IQ points” more intelligent? For many of the ignorant of the world are not stupid; but they may be stunted."
I see no real reason to change any of that. I don't intend to open the heredity/environment and IQ argument here: whatever role heredity and environment play, it's well known that protein deficiency in childhood lowers IQ from what the potential was, and nobody is helped by being made more stupid.
Subj: DDT vs Pyrethrins
I am not an expert on this, but I Googled up this interesting item:
Chemical Insecticides in Malaria Vector Control in India Indian Council of Medical Research Bulletin Oct 2002
Looks like the mosquitoes have been developing resistance to everything, including DDT and the pyrethrins. Basically the same dynamic that has given us multiple-antibiotic-resistant strains of TB and Staph is also giving us multiple-insecticide-resistant strains of mosquitoes.
=The estimated per capita per annum cost of spraying is Rs. 21.06 with DDT, Rs. 54.10 with malathion and with [sic] Rs. 52.40 with synthetic pyrethroid.= (p. 4)
The authors recommend a strategy for managing the resistance problem (Table II on page 5).
=Field studies on management of resistance by rotation of insecticides as well as by using other strategies are scarce.= (p. 5)
There are 50 references.
All of which spirals in on what I always thought. DDT was misused in the past. Over use of DDT is bad. Careful use of DDT as part of an overall strategy of insect control makes sense. A good insect control strategy would be a decent investment for the world and in any event would cost less than we are pouring into the area in response to a single event that was terrible, but which killed fewer people than the insects do every year.
I said just about every word of that in an column in Galaxy in the 1970's, repeated it in A STEP FARTHER OUT, and see no reason to revise my views. Thank you all.
It's surprising, given the global
impact of this, that last night's BBC Horizon
The opinions expressed in this BBC programme were about what you would expect - Global Dimming bad, Global Warming very bad, Global Warming without the ameliorating effect of Global Dimming very very very bad. The programme's makers clearly couldn't entertain the idea that pollution is not necessarily always bad and they concluded that the only solution would be to return the world to a pristine unpolluted state.
Two things struck me as either disingenuous, or maybe that they just hadn't given them enough thought. They suggested that Global Dimming is caused by particulate material, and that this material must always be considered bad because it can cause respiratory health problems. And that this pollution is also bad for the climate because it's being produced asymmetrically, much more in the Northern Hemisphere and much less in the south. The excessive production in the north causing rain belts to move leading to droughts and famine.
There are lots of things in the atmosphere, for example ozone, that are bad for our health, but provided they are at safe levels where people are actually living then that's fine. And if by having them where they are means that people's lives are saved then so much the better. Bad for health doesn't necessarily mean always bad anywhere on the planet. And as for the asymmetric nature of pollution, instead of trying to reduce it maybe we should be trying to balance it by encouraging industry to move south.
There is almost certainly a level of CO2 and particulate pollution that would be too much, but it seems that there is also a lower level at which the two cancel each other out, so long as the particles are produced evenly across the whole globe. If the two alternatives are zero pollution, and all that that entails for our economies, or a planned global balance of two types of pollutant then I know which of these I would choose.
I believe you would find the www.acrim.com site to be useful. It's got hard data on TSI for the last 20 years, as well as links to studies. It's also got a lot more data regarding "the little ice age" (1500-1850).
While I'm writing, I'd like to suggest that we might actually want to increase atmospheric CO2. If nothing else, its impacts on agriculture are significant.
-Peter M. Orem
In response to "Climate science and advocacy":
The discussion on solar warming reminds me of Feynmann's speech on "Voodoo Science," and his contention that the most important kind of honesty is honesty with yourself, which means being ruthless in evaluating your own theories. I'm convinced that Dr. Schmidt is sincere, and that his research is worth pursuing. I'm not yet convinced that his models _must_ be correct. The fact that they fit twentieth-century data pretty well could very well be because they were developed on twentieth-century data: the true test of a learning algorithm is its ability to correctly predict results _outside_ the training data, not just interpolate between known data points. In machine learning they'd call that "overfitting the data."
"An anecdote is a data point you don't want to deal with." I do take Dr. Schmidt's point about localized vs. global patterns, but I'm curious to know what evidence exists to show that e.g. the Hudson freezing over in 1776 was a localized anomaly.
The closest we come to hard data to oppose Jerry's "anecdotes" is this: "Even if you make the most generous estimates of solar forcing, it is still less than a quarter of accumulated forcing by greenhouse gases (CO2, CH4, N20, CFCs, and O3). There is no doubt which has been the biggest effect." Isn't it implicit that "it is still less than a quarter of accumulated forcing by greenhouse gases [under our model]"? And that scientific integrity--as well as Bayes' theorem--requires testing the model against all available data, including the Gothic Hothouse of 800-1300 and the Little Ice Age of 1320-1700?
It's plausible to me that "the balance of evidence supports a significant anthropogenic effect on climate in the 20th century," but there's a reason that statement is so cautiously worded. We do no service to ourselves to pretend that it's not a judgment call.
Max Wilson email@example.com
Which pretty well sums up my thoughts on the subject too. Mostly, it seems to me, the climate scientists have too much become advocates and act like lawyers.
To repeat my observation in "The Voodoo Sciences" (which I gave to Dick Feynman in a discussion not long after I wrote it for my CP Snow Memorial Lecture)
Novelists need plausibility.
Lawyers need evidence.
Scientists need data, and are obliged to consider all of it, not just the parts that support their theories.
Let me hasten to add that "The Voodoo Sciences" in my title referred to the so-called "social sciences" (in which I hold a couple of advanced degrees) and not to any branch of science involved in this discussion.
Subject: nasal irrigation
I've had a terrible time with my allergies this year, and I decided to try the device out. I've ordered it but it hasn't come in yet. A question for you; do you buy the refill packs they sell, or just use salt? I dl'd the PDF instruction set, and it said plain salt would work.
I buy the refill packs. They last a long time, the bottle is closable and easy to store, and it's convenient. I haven't tried plain salt. Without that gadget I would not have got much sleep this week.
January 16, 2005
Regarding the possible influence of the Sun on Earth climate, the variation in the solar intensity is often dismissed as too small to cause the observed effects. I remember, however, reading of a different mechanism for solar influence on climate -- ionizing radiation from the Sun affecting the formation of clouds in the upper atmosphere -- the ability of energetic charged particles to form clouds is the mechanism behind the early cloud chamber particle detectors.
My cursory search came up with http://www.agu.org/revgeophys/reid00/reid00.html . Reid (appears to have the correct credentials!) suggests that the solar wind/climate connection is largely speculative and could explain the correlation between climate and sunspot cycles, but would not explain the longer cycles (Vikings in Greenland, Hamilton getting cannon across the Hudson). On the other hand, the Little Ice Age is correlated with some peculiar disruption of the 11-year sunspot cycle that everyone takes as a given.
Paul Milenkovic Madison, Wisconsin
As with the DDT debates, we are well beyond my expertise here. At the same time, the politics of publicly supported science make it imperative that interested taxpayers keep an eye on what science is doing: we have far too many instances of research funds funneled into particular channels that may well be "valid" but which are getting far more money than the public interest warrants, sometimes to the neglect of competing theories and approaches. If the public is paying, the scientific community can't expect the citizens to sit back and take their word for it.
Which is where science journalism comes in. Many of the science writing corps have some pretty good grounding in their subject matter. I have known most of them over the years, and they're an admirable bunch, mostly, who respect their sources but have long since learned not to take all the statements -- particularly those that come out of the University PR deparments -- without some questioning. Arky Kantrowitz has for decades tried to get a "science court" established in which science issues like the toxicity of dioxin, and other matters of both science and political importance, could be tried before a jury of real peers: people with both a knowledge of science and some detachment from the issues. He has not managed that, and as a result we have this strange pattern of "science" cases tried before lay juries, with sometimes intelligent but often ridiculous results (as with Dow Corning and silicon breast implants, and the dioxin cases as obvious examples).
Absent a science court, it is up to the journalists to raise questions. That raises the immediate point that the journalist isn't likely to be much of an expert on the subject. Does that mean that the instant someone with credentials makes a statement it is to be taken as the end of the matter? In the DDT debates, for example, everyone seemed to be talking past each other. The chemist was stating that particular compounds were more effective at mosquito control than DDT. I didn't see that challenged. The question then went to costs, and it soon turned out we don't know enough; yet this is probably the reason the "more effective" agents are not being used in some of the desperately poor places where malaria abounds. I can add that those who survive malaria are often "stunted", and crop production is much affected, so that another effect can be infant food deprivation, leading to a vicious cycle of poverty preventing malaria control, malaria causing poverty, and on to the end of time. For a short time in human history it looked as if DDT was going to break that cycle but now it is back.
The climate issue is another such: I don't know if funds for research in this area are properly allocated, but given some of the tricks used by the opposition, my suspicion hackles rise: why do they need to play those games if their case is made scientifically? Why suppress the opposition as was done in the case of the Danish statistician and his book? Why try to humiliate people who dissent?
AIDS research is yet another such field. It absorbs a LOT of public money. Is that money being allocated properly? Some people with proper credentials -- a small number, but not a vanishingly small number, and some of them are impressive -- say that the allocation of funds is skewed badly in favor of unproved hypotheses. They propose some crucial experiments to test this. The experiments wouldn't cost very much in terms of what is being spent; but in 20 years they have never been done, and the opposition to anyone questioning the prevailing theories is both heavy and serious and employs ridicule and withholding funds from people and places that were formerly well thought of. I don't have to be a biochemist to wonder if there isn't something wrong with that picture.
I could continue into areas I do know something about, such as Ballistic Missile Defense. I watched the paid staff of the American Physical Society produce papers full of errors, every error in the same direction, without any rebuke from the scientists who supposedly head this organization. I could go on with some of the other aerospace controversies, all of which involved massive allocations of public money, and many of which involved "scientific" opposition that turned not to be scientific but political and in some cases ludicrous. I watched Richard Garwin, testify to Congress that certain SDI concepts required kill mechanisms traveling at faster than light speeds. Garwin knew full well that he was taking two concepts, ground based terminal intercept and space based boost phase intercept, and combining them to produce a homeland ground based boost phase intercept system -- something no one had ever proposed or considered precisely because it would require faster than light kill mechanisms. Yet Garwin chose to ridicule his opposition for not knowing that we don't have any faster than light kill mechanisms. He didn't do this as an aside, either: he took time to explain that Relativity says nothing will exceed the speed of light, as if his opponents didn't know this.
When I see things like this I ask questions. I may be outside my field of expertise, but I learn fast. It was part of the Operations Research business to learn how to model things we weren't experts in. But that's another story.
Sorry to go on so long on this, but I have just received a "shut up, you don't know as much about this as I do so why do you keep talking about it" letter. I won't embarrass its writer by publishing it, but it deserved an answer.
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