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Mail 360 May 2 - 8, 2005






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Monday May 2, 2005

This day devoured by a virus. One of the biochemical rather than software varieties. Although maybe a virus IS software. See view.





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Tuesday,  May 3, 2005

Subject: overclocking

Dr Shubert wrote:

>is unlikely to predict a Bach, Michelangelo, or Einstein. Or even a Pournelle.

And yet the IQ of each of those mentioned is certainly above 150.

IQ is no guarantee of anything. Likewise when we were looking for new developers a first-class maths degree from Oxbridge was no guarantee that they’d be good programmers, but I reckon our hit rate was rather higher than it would have been pulling people at random off the Clapham omnibus.


Craig Arnold

"Best single predictor" is a concept that seems difficult for some to understand, but then most scientists have not really studied probability theory at all, and can't design experiments unless nature cooperates.

Subject: Los Blogamos.

&partner=MYWAY&pagewanted=print &position=

-- Roland Dobbins


Subject: Stalin the intellectual.


--- Roland Dobbins


Subject: Aristocracy?

you mentioned in your post for Thursday 28 APril 05 that: It does look as if having the world run by smart people isn't working very well... Bring back the aristocrats? Not optimum either"

I have to say for those few of regular readers who may not be aware of it that we do indeed have an aristocracy. They are known as politicians, of both the right and left. The more aristocratic of them seem to congregate on the Left, both in 'Public Service' and in Education.

Too bad, we have had a good run with the Great Experiment, but we seem to be failing at present. As Frankling is reported to have said what the Constitutional Convention had wrought: 'A Republic, if you can keep it'. I don't have full solutions, but the immediate repeal of the Reapportionment Act of 1911 (freezing House size at 435), repeal of the 16th Ammendment (Income Tax, and a good case can be made for its failed ratification, see http://www.supremelaw.org for details), and elimination of the Departments of Education and HHS would be very good places to start.

Not that the Feds don't have a stake in National Education goals, but enforcement/implementation MUST be left to local districts. Health and Human Services has a role (albeit minor, outside of research and coordination) as well, but funding for both of these should at least be frozen if not eliminated or actually cut. HHS may have more value than indicated, just an example off the top of my head...

JP Gilbert

I said aristocracy, not kakistocracy

Jerry P:

It seems what JP Gilbert doesn't understand is that the Feds mandate requirements for states and local agencies and then do not supply funding to support implementation. The implementation is always left to the locals with enforcement coming from the State and Fed. In the great state of California this means that any education funding from the Feds gets filtered through Sacramento and the even though the Fed funding is less than promised, Sac takes a big chunk and the locals are left to try to manage with the residue. This is why neither the Republicans or Democrats have ever taken blame for local problems, they hide the fact that their mandated programs hamper the local school boards, who are inept enough without help from DC and Sac. The Democrats think that you can reform an inept inefficient system by throwing money at it, and the Republicans think you can do that by taking money away. Neither party has a clue about what to do about anything in real terms, only about getting re-elected.






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Rules of Computerdom

1. There are two ways to write error-free programs; only the third one works.

2. A printer consists of three main parts: the case, the jammed paper tray and the blinking red light.

3. The programmer's national anthem is 'AAAAAAAARRRRGHHHHH!!'.

4. At the source of every error which is blamed on the computer, you will find at least two human errors, including the error of blaming it on the computer.

5. Beta. Software undergoes beta testing shortly before it's released. Beta is Latin for "still doesn't work."

6. Computer analyst to programmer: "You start coding. I'll go find out what they want."

7. Computer Science: solving today's problems tomorrow.

8. Hidden DOS secret: add BUGS=OFF to your CONFIG.SYS

9. Hit any user to continue.

10. I wish life had an UNDO function.

11. If your computer says, "Printer out of Paper," this problem cannot be resolved by continuously clicking the "OK" button.

12. It said "Insert disk 3..." but only 2 fit in the drive.

13. Microsoft Windows: computing While U Wait

14. 665.9238429876 - Number of the Pentium Beast

15. I have yet to meet a C compiler that is more friendly and easier to use than eating soup with a knife.

16. My software never has bugs. It just develops random features. 17. Programming graphics in X is like finding sqrt(pi) using Roman numerals.

18. "To know recursion, you must first know recursion"

19. Life's unfair - but root password helps!

20. Mountain Dew and doughnuts... because breakfast is the most important meal of the day.

21. Hey! It compiles! Ship it!

22. "Programming today is a race between software engineers striving to build bigger and better idiot-proof programs, and the Universe trying to produce bigger and better idiots. So far, the Universe is winning.

23. Intel: We put the "um..." in Pentium.

24. Helpdesk tip #2: When the support analyst says "Click...", wait for the rest of the sentence.

25. BREAKFAST.COM Halted...Cereal Port Not Responding

26. BUFFERS=20 FILES=15 2nd down, 4th quarter, 5 yards to go!

27. As a computer, I find your faith in technology amusing.

28. Disinformation is not as good as datinformation.

29. Smash forehead on keyboard to continue.....

30. Enter any 11-digit prime number to continue...

31. All wiyht. Rho sritched mg kegtops awound?

32. A good programmer makes all the right mistakes.

33. Managing programmers is like herding cats.

34. "There is an old saying that if a million monkeys typed on a million keyboards for a million years, eventually all the works of Shakespeare would be produced. Now, thanks to Usenet, we know this is not true."

35. "A good programmer is someone who looks both ways before crossing a one-way street."

36. C makes it easy to shoot yourself in the foot. C++ makes it harder, but when you do, it blows away your whole leg.

37. A computer scientist is someone who, when told to "Go to H---," sees the "go to," rather than the destination, as harmful.

38. 1010011010 - The binary number of the Beast

39. APATHY ERROR: Don't bother striking any key. Application has reported a "Not My Fault" in module KRNL.EXE in line 0200:103F

40. "The three most dangerous things in the world are a programmer with a soldering iron, a hardware type with a software patch and a user with an idea."

Jim Woosley


For Better, For Worse http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/

Marriage Means Something Different Now

By Stephanie Coontz Post Sunday, May 1, 2005; B01

Thirteen years ago, Vice President Dan Quayle attacked the producers of TV sitcom's Murphy Brown for letting her character bear a child out of wedlock, claiming that the show's failure to defend traditional family values was encouraging America's youth to abandon marriage. His speech kicked off more than a decade of outcries against the "collapse of the family." Today, such attacks have given way to a kinder, gentler campaign to promote marriage, with billboards declaring that "Marriage Works" and books making "the case for marriage." What these campaigns have in common is the idea that people are willfully refusing to recognize the value of traditional families and that their behavior will change if we can just enlighten them.

But recent changes in marriage are part of a worldwide upheaval in family life that has transformed the way people conduct their personal lives as thoroughly and permanently as the Industrial Revolution transformed their working lives 200 years ago. Marriage is no longer the main way in which societies regulate sexuality and parenting or organize the division of labor between men and women. And although some people hope to turn back the tide by promoting traditional values, making divorce harder or outlawing gay marriage, they are having to confront a startling irony: The very factors that have made marriage more satisfying in modern times have also made it more optional.

The origins of modern marital instability lie largely in the triumph of what many people believe to be marriage's traditional role -- providing love, intimacy, fidelity and mutual fulfillment. The truth is that for centuries, marriage was stable precisely because it was not expected to provide such benefits. As soon as love became the driving force behind marriage, people began to demand the right to remain single if they had not found love or to divorce if they fell out of love.

Such demands were raised as early as the 1790s, which prompted conservatives to predict that love would be the death of marriage. For the next 150 years, the inherently destabilizing effects of the love revolution were held in check by women's economic dependence on men, the unreliability of birth control and the harsh legal treatment of children born out of wedlock, as well as the social ostracism of their mothers. As late as the 1960s, two-thirds of college women in the United States said they would marry a man they didn't love if he met all their other, often economic, criteria. Men also felt compelled to marry if they hoped for promotions at work or for political credibility.

All these restraints on individual choice collapsed between 1960 and 1980. Divorce rates had long been rising in Western Europe and the United States, and although they had leveled off following World War II, they climbed at an unprecedented rate in the 1970s, leading some to believe that the introduction of no-fault divorce laws, which meant married couples could divorce if they simply fell out of love, had caused the erosion of marriage. <snip>



Burrito Leads To School Lockdown, Armed Officers On Roof Tops



Why not?  Sir, step away from the burrito...


Subject: Autism,


If I'm reading this right, then both camps may be right: autism may be encouraged by a genetic propensity not to metabolize toxic metals like mercury, along with exposure to mercury in vaccines. Of course, there are likely more factors at work, but this would explain why there is no effect seen in the population at large. Now, as for whether this might explain the overall increase in autism, I am not so sure. Certainly the negative results in Japan (thermoseal/mercury gone from vaccines, autism continues to rise) would argue that there is something else at work.


BTW--Science News is such a good precise of what is happening in science that I still subscribe to the paper edition. It mixes brief notes with 2-3 page articles aimed at the intelligent reader, always very readable.

Science News Online http://www.sciencenews.org/articles/20050416/note14.asp 

Week of April 16, 2005; Vol. 167, No. 16

Blood hints at autism's source

Janet Raloff

From San Diego, at the Experimental Biology 2005 meeting

Researchers have identified a biochemical peculiarity in the blood of autistic children. The scientists say the finding could lead to earlier diagnosis of this neurological disorder and a better understanding of how certain genes may drive it.

Autism, which typically shows up in toddlers, is characterized by limited language skills, poor social interaction, repetitive behaviors, and limited interests. Autism often runs in families, which suggests a genetic cause.

However, "the incidence of autism has gone up dramatically in the last 15 years," notes S. Jill James, director of biochemical genetics at Arkansas Children's Hospital in Little Rock. "Because genes don't change that fast, this points to something in the environment as a trigger," she says.

In a study of the blood of some apparently healthy children, the biochemistry of one sample stood out. It came from an autistic boy. Curious, James got blood samples from 20 other autistic children. All exhibited a similar, unusual biochemical fingerprint, which James has now confirmed in an additional 75 autistic children. None in a comparison group of 75 neurologically healthy kids carried the fingerprint in his or her blood.

The autistic youngsters had unusually low concentrations of the antioxidant glutathione in their cells. Their ratio of active glutathione to its inactive breakdown products also was unusually low. <snip>

I also subscribe to the paper copy.

In our rather mad drive to cost reduce everything, we decided to give all the immunization shots at once; and the next think you know a measure that is hardly optimum -- common sense would tell you that there's more stress from having to adapt to several diseases at once, and surely it's easier to build antibodies one at a time rather than all at once -- became universal. The connection with autism may be one of massive stress adaptation?

I confess my brains aren't working well this morning, due to recovery from something my flu shots didn't prepare me for...


Subject: Oldest living munchkin tells all.


------ Roland Dobbins



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Thursday, May 5, 2005

Subject: Mass reproduction.


---- Roland Dobbins


Subject: Flynn Effect


I've always wondered about the Flynn Effect on IQ. Here's a story all about it:




Subject: Autism

Dr. Pournelle,

My wife is a pediatric speech pathologist of 16 years and works mostly with autistic children. I have met many of her patients and their parents. There is no question that there is a genetic component to either her or me.

One of my wife's theories is related to immunizations: doctors frequently take advantage of their patient being in the office in order to immunize. Often that is because the children are sick. This is undoubtedly a bad combination, and one that could be a trigger.

I have a theory regarding the higher incidence, which my wife believes is greater than that which is explainable by better diagnosis. I believe that males are awarded the right to father children based on ability to provide and females are chosen by their ability to mother. Our economy favors higher IQ for both, where it did not as much in the past. If not already determined, I suspect it will be found that autism and Asperger's both favor the higher end of the IQ curve, they certainly do from my observation.

Thank you for your good work.



Education > On Education: SAT Essay Test Rewards Length and Ignores Errors New York Times, 5.5.4 http://www.nytimes.com/2005/05/04/education/04education.html 



IN March, Les Perelman attended a national college writing conference and sat in on a panel on the new SAT writing test. Dr. Perelman is one of the directors of undergraduate writing at Massachusetts Institute of Technology. He did doctoral work on testing and develops writing assessments for entering M.I.T. freshmen. He fears that the new 25-minute SAT essay test that started in March - and will be given for the second time on Saturday - is actually teaching high school students terrible writing habits.

"It appeared to me that regardless of what a student wrote, the longer the essay, the higher the score," Dr. Perelman said. A man on the panel from the College Board disagreed. "He told me I was jumping to conclusions," Dr. Perelman said. "Because M.I.T. is a place where everything is backed by data, I went to my hotel room, counted the words in those essays and put them in an Excel spreadsheet on my laptop."

In the next weeks, Dr. Perelman studied every graded sample SAT essay that the College Board made public. He looked at the 15 samples in the ScoreWrite book that the College Board distributed to high schools nationwide to prepare students for the new writing section. He reviewed the 23 graded essays on the College Board Web site meant as a guide for students and the 16 writing "anchor" samples the College Board used to train graders to properly mark essays.

He was stunned by how complete the correlation was between length and score. "I have never found a quantifiable predictor in 25 years of grading that was anywhere near as strong as this one," he said. "If you just graded them based on length without ever reading them, you'd be right over 90 percent of the time." The shortest essays, typically 100 words, got the lowest grade of one. The longest, about 400 words, got the top grade of six. In between, there was virtually a direct match between length and grade.

He was also struck by all the factual errors in even the top essays. An essay on the Civil War, given a perfect six, describes the nation being changed forever by the "firing of two shots at Fort Sumter in late 1862." (Actually, it was in early 1861, and, according to "Battle Cry of Freedom" by James M. McPherson, it was "33 hours of bombardment by 4,000 shot and shells.") <snip>

Apparently making up your data is not graded:  The official guide for scorers explains: "Writers may make errors in facts or information that do not affect the quality of their essays.

Indeed. This ought to be a real winner.



Subject: My daughter is now a US citizen

I just got back from the Customs and Immigration Service (that's the post 9/11 INS). My daughter is now officially a US citizen with the paperwork to prove it. Back in 2001, my wife and I decided that all other options were gone and adoption was our only choice for a family. So with quite a bit of trepidation, and one hell of a lot of paperwork, we proceeded to adopt our daughter from China.

She was legally a citizen the day she cleared customs at SFO back in 2003 and the Customs and Immigration Service even showed that on the certificate. They treated us well and did not make us wait very long. The fairy god mother department must prevail in CIS at least in the orphan adoption unit. This was all made possible by the Child Citizenship Act of 2000 which was one of the few pieces of legislation passed during the Clinton Administration that I like.

Since you're a god father figure to a lot of us and may get asked, it's important for parents adopting foreign children to re-adopt them in their state. This has the very desirable side effect of the state recording a birth certificate. Anytime you or your child needs to prove citizenship, you can ask the state for a birth certificate. The process, at least in Santa Clara County, is simple compared to the foreign adoption process, and goes very quickly. Once that is done, you have permanent proof of US citizenship. The Customs and Immigration Service Certificate of US Citizenship is the second permanent proof. That's 100% redundancy, always a good thing.

As I told my wife on the way out of the rented building CIS uses, the hard part is over. Now all we have to do is spend 20 years or so raising her, send her through college, graduate school, and perhaps a PHD, and then marry her off to a good husband. My wife is already working on the second child.

Phil Tharp

[Emphasis added]

Subject: Al Gore's Struggle

Hi, doc.

Looks like historical revisionism by the Left is taking less time every generation. Thirty-five years ago, it was only being hinted around that Lincoln wasn't really a career Abolitionist; today, the guy who originated the Federal bill, back in the 70s, that limits phone line data transmissions to 56k-- solely to harass the scientists who wouldn't back up his claim that the Irreversible Loss Of Ozone would kill us all by 1985-- and who has since backed every effort anyone has made to censor Web content, has gotten an award for creating the very thing he's done everything in his power to destroy.

I don't know how he makes people believe him.

(In the book, they never did find all the Boys From Brazil. You have to wonder.)

Matthew Joseph Harrington




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Friday,  May 6, 2005

David H. Hackworth, Col., USA, Ret'd, RIP

Subject: Hack, RIP


----- Roland Dobbins

He will be sorely missed.


Subject: Why Kids Can't Do Math

They're too busy being indoctrinated.



Contentious Sex-Ed Curriculum Halted Weast Orders Review After Federal Judge Issues Restraining Order

By Lori Aratani Washington Post Staff Writer Friday, May 6, 2005; B01

The Montgomery County school superintendent called off the planned launch of a new sex education curriculum yesterday, hours after a federal judge issued a temporary restraining order against it.

Superintendent Jerry D. Weast said he was suspending the curriculum, which was to be taught at six schools beginning next week, for the rest of the school year. A statement released last night said that he had ordered a review of the materials for the curriculum before deciding the future of the program.

The restraining order issued by U.S. District Judge Alexander Williams Jr., which was to last 10 days, prohibited the system from beginning the program in which 10th-graders would be shown a video on how to put on a condom and eighth-grade teachers would be allowed to initiate discussions about homosexuality with their students.

The order was a victory for two community groups, Citizens for a Responsible Curriculum and Parents and Friends of Ex-Gays and Gays, which filed suit Tuesday to block teaching of the material. The groups maintain that the curriculum was biased and favored the viewpoints of certain religious groups. The groups also argued that the school board did not follow proper procedures in approving the curriculum.

"Defendants open up the classroom to the subject of homosexuality and specifically, the moral rightness of the homosexual lifestyle," the judge wrote in a 22-page opinion. "However, the Revised Curriculum presents only one view on the subject -- that homosexuality is a natural and morally correct lifestyle -- to the exclusion of other perspectives."


The remedy to this sort of thing would be smaller school districts and more frequent school board elections along with local control of school taxes and finances. I doubt many people would tax themselves to provide this curriculum: it's easier to think it a good idea that someone else ought to pay for, no?


Subject: A thorny issue

So, here's a student trying to earn a Masters in Education at a Jesuit School in upstate NY. He writes in a paper that multiculturalism is pointless and that corporal punishment needed to be reinstated. I'm sure his professor must have had a coronary.

The college asks the young man to leave its program. The college fears the young man, if given a chance to teach, would not follow the state laws on multiculturalism and punishment; that is the college's job to weed out, no?

The student's lawyer is calling the expulsion a free speech violation. Now, if this student had been allowed to become a teacher, worked in a public school and started to use corporal punishment on the children, what would the legal argument become?



Former student sues Le Moyne Van Buren man seeks reinstatement to master's program, up to $20 million. Friday, May 06, 2005 By John Mariani Staff writer

The student whom Le Moyne College asked not to return this spring to its Master of Science for Teachers program, allegedly because of views expressed in a class paper, asked the state Supreme Court on Thursday to reinstate him and award up to $20 million in actual and punitive damages.

In his lawsuit, Scott McConnell seeks $5 million from the college for allegedly violating his civil rights, and another $5 million for inflicting emotional distress on him.

McConnell also seeks $5 million each in punitive damages for the civil rights and emotional distress allegations.

"I've done a number of cases in academia where a student or professor had been punished because of his views, but never one as outrageous, that an institution that is supposed to uphold academic freedom would destroy it and expel him for expressing conservative views in a paper," said Samuel A. Abady, a civil rights lawyer based in New York City who is representing McConnell.

Le Moyne officials issued a two-sentence response Thursday afternoon.

"The college will not comment on any aspect of pending or ongoing litigation," college spokesman Joe Della Posta said, reading from a prepared statement. "As we have all along, Le Moyne stands by our action and is confident that the courts will uphold our decision not to admit this individual as a fully matriculated student." <snip>

But Multiculturalism is pointless, and certainly a good argument can be made for the use of corporal punishment in schools. If state law requires one to teach the one and refrain from the other, then compliance with that law requires that you teach multiculturalism and don't used corporal punishment unless and until you get the law changed: but surely it is no crime to believe that reaching multiculturalism is pointless, and to believe that boys may be better controlled through corporal punishment than other means?

But as Fred has often said, in the United States free speech is a myth. We all know what you can't say and who you can't say it about.

But we were born free.


Somewhat on this subject, this from another conference:

I must be getting old (though I do have four very young granddaughters to keep me in touch with reality). I saw much of Kubrick's Lolita last night on free to air TV and could imagine an old chap like James Mason being seduced by the delicious if not terribly interesting Sue Lyon character. Then, today, I read of a Court of Appeal bench presided over by someone I tutored in law deciding that a suspended sentence was inadequate for the spunky female gym teacher and mother of three who had been seduced by a 15 year old boy who had started by saying "well if I can do it, will you give me a kiss" and has never waivered from his insistence that he was not seduced but rather the other way round. So she has to spend six months of her sentence in gaol, as well as being recorded for life on the sex offender's register.

[I suppose the Court couldn't help it even if one doesn't think much of the point apparently made in favour of treating women and men equally but I blame the mother who insisted on her son's victimhood. He has left home as a result and refuses to speak to his mother although the affair with the teacher ended after six weeks. I am only just in favour of maintaining and enforcing rules because there have to be rules. I increasingly dislike the punishing and revenging tendencies of the times]



I respectfully request you consider the intent of this passage and reconcile it to a matter of fact. You wrote [regarding Kent State]:

<snip> My advice: if you are part of a "peaceful protest" that brings out armed soldiers who look scared, run like hell. Find another means to express your disapproval of the state and its policies. <snip>

If you can see, from a distance of 270'-390' (read passage HOW MANY DEATHS AND INJURIES OCCURRED? at http://dept.kent.edu/sociology/lewis/LEWIHEN.htm  )

that a Guardsman looks scared, your eyesight is better than mine (and I'm 20/15, corrected).

Whoops, that was the distance only for those killed; one student was wounded at 750' from the line, and all but two others were shot at distances well beyond those which might injure a Guardman with a rock.

Fatalities: 270', 330', 390' and 390'. Shot, but not fatally: 60', 60', 100+', 225', 300', 330', 375, nearly 500' and 750'.

It's a matter of record that some victims were not involved, had no intent of being involved, and were not of the appearance to threaten a Guardsman. Therefore, I don't draw the same conclusion as you.

Fortunately, we've learned form this, and train our militia better, as well as provide less-lethal weaponry which won't kill innocents at 390' and wound at 750'. -- -- John Bartley K7AAY

I should have said: "When the Vikings come to town, either join the defenders, or make certain you're not in the line of fire."


Subject:  boy gets suspended from school for talking to Mom in Iraq

Jerry, I can't believe that they are going to suspend this boy for taking a call from his mom who is stationed in Iraq during lunch hours, but I guess rules are rules and we are supposed to be robots. http://www.ledger-enquirer.com/mld/ledgerenquirer/news/11575912.htm

Michael Scoggins

Beware the fury of the Legions


Subject: Re: Kent State

When I was in the Marines my platoon got tagged to provide additional security for a visit by then Vice President George H. W. Bush. Part of our guard training included a lecture on the mistakes made by the Guardsmen at Kent State. Best guess was that something made a noise like a gunshot and a terrified and inexperienced Guard started firing in response. No suprise there; in infantry training school they loaded our rifle magazines with blanks, checked for clear chambers with safeties on and THEN guaranteed us that someone would manage to fire off a blank and disclose our position during a forty five minute silent march. It happened. It takes a lot of experience to have a loaded weapon and not fire it. SSgt Pernyak showed us a photograph taken during the Kent State incident in which the guardsmen were standing upright and firing into the distance. Their lieutenant had his .45 out, with its 50 foot maximum effective range, shooting at God knows what. Pernyak told us that if we were ever to find ourselves in a similar situation NO ONE would fire unless given an order to do so. Then with a disgusted look on his face said that if we DID fire without orders we'd goddamn well better kill more than four people.

If I had been at Kent State I wouldn't have shot anyone. I would have been too busy calling in artillery.

-- ben capoeman

Well, you didn't really need artillery. But there were people there who hoped for a result like that. They got pretty well the result they wanted.


Subject: Kent State

Dear Dr. Pournelle:

I was just wondering on your view of the students, walking between classes a half-a-mile or more away from the protestors, who get hit by stray bullets when the your armed nervous guys let loose. As I recall, one of the victims at Kent State was not even aware that a protest was going on?

Brian McCormack -- London Ontario

By the way, I have been a big fan of your writing since I was a teenager, 25 odd years ago. I think I have gone through a least four paperback copies of "The Mote in God's Eye". Thanks for many hours of enjoyable reading.

What view could one have? Terrible luck, on a par with the guy who goes out for milk and is caught in a convenience store robbery and shootout.

Thanks for the kind words.











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Saturday, May 7, 2005


From: Etta Kavanagh [mailto:ekavanag@aaas.org] Sent: 18 February 2005 18:17 To: Peiser, Benny Subject: Your Letter to the Editor of SCIENCE

Dear Dr. Peiser,

A couple of weeks ago, you submitted a Letter to the Editor on Naomi Oreskes' Essay "The Scientific Consensus on Climate Change" In its current form, it is too long for a Letter, but we would consider a shorter version if you are willing to edit it. It should be 500 words or less, not counting the references. A correction dealing with the mistake in the search terms ("global climate change" vs. "climate change") was published in our Jan. 14 issue.

Best regards,

Etta Kavanagh Associate Letters Editor SCIENCE ekavanag@aaas.org

----------- From: Peiser, Benny Sent: 23 February 2005 14:13 To: Etta Kavanagh [ekavanag@aaas.org] Subject: Letter to the Editor of SCIENCE

Dear Etta Kavanagh

Please find attached my revised letter which I have shortened below the 500 words limit. I will submit the letter also in electronic form via your website.

With best regards

Benny Peiser Liverpool John Moores University


e-letter to Science Magazine sent: 23 February 2005

Letter Details: N. Oreskes (2004). The scientific consensus on climate change. Science, Vol 306, Issue 5702, 1686, 3 December 2004

Abstract: As requested by Associate Letters Editor Etta Kavanagh, I have revised and shortened my letter below.

Letter Text:

Oreskes (1,2) presents empirical evidence that appears to show a unanimous, scientific consensus on the anthropogenic causes of recent global warming. Oreskes also claims that this universal agreement had not been questioned even once in the peer-reviewed literature since 1993. Her assertion has been extensively reported ever since.

I replicated her study in order to assess the accuracy of its results. All abstracts listed on the ISI databank for 1993 to 2003 using the same keywords ("global climate change") were assessed (3). The results of my analysis contradict Oreskes' findings and essentially falsify her study: Of all 1117 abstracts, only 13 (1%) explicitly endorse the 'consensus view'. However, 34 abstracts reject or question the view that human activities are the main driving force of "the observed warming over the last 50 years" (4).

Oreskes claims that "none of these papers argued [that current climate change is natural]". However, 44 papers emphasise that natural factors play a major if not the key role in recent climate change (5).

The most significant discrepancy with Oreskes' results concern abstracts that are undecided whether human activities are the dominant driving force of recent warming. My analysis shows that a significant number of abstracts reject what Oreskes calls the 'consensus view'. In fact, there are almost three times as many abstracts that are unconvinced of the notion of anthropogenic climate change than those that explicitly endorse it (6).

Even if there is disagreement about any of these papers, it is highly improbable that all 34 are ambiguous. After all, the explicit and implicit rejection is not restricted to individual scientists (7). It also includes distinguished scientific organisations such as the American Association of Petroleum Geologists, which formally rejects the view that anthropogenic factors are the main trigger of global warming:

"The earth's climate is constantly changing owing to natural variability in earth processes. Natural climate variability over recent geological time is greater than reasonable estimates of potential human-induced greenhouse gas changes. Because no tool is available to test the supposition of human-induced climate change and the range of natural variability is so great, there is no discernible human influence on global climate at this time" (8).

Despite this manifest scepticism, I do not wish to deny that a majority of publications goes along with the notion of anthropogenic global warming by applying models based on its basic assumptions. It is beyond doubt, however, that an unbiased analysis of the full ISI databank, which comprises almost 12,000 abstracts, will find hundreds of papers (many of which written by the world's leading experts in the field) that have raised serious reservations and outright rejection of the concept of a "scientific consensus on climate change". The truth is, there is no such thing!

In light of the data presented above, Science Magazine should withdraw Oreskes' study and its results in order to prevent any further damage to the integrity of science.


1. N. Oreskes (2004). The scientific consensus on climate change. Science, Vol 306, Issue 5702, 1686, 3 December 2004 (http://www.sciencemag.org/cgi/content/full/306/5702/1686)

2. N. Oreskes (2005) Correction. Science, Vol 307, Issue 5708, 355

3. ISI Web of Science, (http://www.webofscience.com/)

4.) Of the 1247 documents listed, only 1117 include abstracts. The 1117 abstracts analysed were divided into the same six categories used by Oreskes, plus two categories (#7,8) which I added: 1. explicit endorsement of the consensus position; 2. evaluation of impacts; 3. mitigation proposals; 4. methods; 5. paleoclimate analysis; 6. rejection of the consensus position; 7. natural factors of global climate change; 8. unrelated to the question of recent global climate change. While 29% of the documents implicitly accept the 'consensus view', these papers mainly focus on impact assessments of envisaged global climate change. 470 (or 42%) abstracts include the keywords "global climate change" but do not include any direct or indirect link or reference to human activities, CO2 or greenhouse gas emissions, let alone anthropogenic forcing of recent climate change.

5.) C. M. Ammann et al., for instance, claim to have detected evidence for "close ties between solar variations and surface climate", Journal of Atmospheric and Solar-Terrestrial Physics 65:2 (2003): 191-201. While G.C. Reid stresses: "The importance of solar variability as a factor in climate change over the last few decades may have been underestimated in recent studies." Solar forcing of global climate change since the mid-17th century. Climate Change. 37 (2): 391-405.

6.) Russian scientists K. Kondratyev and C Varotsos criticise "the undoubtfully overemphasised contribution of the greenhouse effect to the global climate change"; K. Kondratyev and C Varotsos (1996). Annual Review of Energy and the Environment. 21: 31-67. M.E. Fernau at al. stress: "More and better measurements and statistical techniques are needed to detect and confirm the existence of greenhouse-gas-induced climate change, which currently cannot be distinguished from natural climate variability in the historical record. Uncertainties about the amount and rate of change of greenhouse gas emissions also make prediction of the magnitude and timing of climate change difficult", M.E. Fernau, W.J. Makofske, D.W. South (1993) Review and Impacts of climate change uncertainties. Futures 25 (8): 850-863.

7.) "Today, proponents of catastrophic anthropogenic climate change, again claiming scientific consensus, threaten to create even greater energy market distortions at large social and economic costs." H.R. Linden (1996) The evolution of an energy contrarian. Annual Review of Energy and the Environment, 21:31-67.

8) L.C. Gerhard and B.M. Hanson (2000) AAPG Bulletin 84 (4): 466-471.






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Sunday, May 8, 2005

Subject: Letter from England

Well, the election is over and Labour ended up with a 65-seat majority. The UK system is good at avoiding the gridlock and horse- trading seen in proportional voting schemes and the corruption of coalition governments. On the other hand, Labour back-benchers are getting restive <http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/uk_politics/vote_2005/ frontpage/4526435.stm> . Blair is reshuffling ministers--incidentally bringing Blunkett back in--and an attempt to parachute one of his aides into Lords as schools minister got shot down by the education secretary. See: <http://www.timesonline.co.uk/article/0,,2087-1602733,00.html>  for general coverage.

Some economic bad news was deferred during the campaign. After Austin- Rover closed down, the Government jawboned Marconi into delaying their layoff announcement until after the election. Then there was this story about the retail economy turning pear-shaped during April: <http://observer.guardian.co.uk/business/story/0,6903,1478830,00.html> .

An elderly friend of mine is rather irritated with the NHS. The UK system is similar to that seen in France and Germany--general practitioners (with about the same training as US advanced practice nurses) serving as gatekeepers, backed by specialist clinics and consultants for more complicated and serious problems. In France and Germany, this system provides medical care at least as good as is provided in the US to people with medical insurance for about half the cost. In the UK, the bureaucracy is Stalinist and specialist clinics and consultants are much thinner on the ground, so the system has serious problems. Both my wife and I have been advised by (young) doctors that conditions that we were aware were treatable would not be treated due to our age. (We're in our fifties.) My friend is experiencing problems with minor strokes, and she was told this week that the NHS proposed to send her to South Africa for treatment. She went non-linear, so they're now planning to send her to Europe (where in Europe?...) for her treatment.

The following story is--ah--interesting: <http:// www.timesonline.co.uk/article/0,,2087-1602578,00.html> .

Panic about the Gulf Stream slowing: <http://www.timesonline.co.uk/ article/0,,2087-1602579,00.html> .

About time! <http://observer.guardian.co.uk/business/story/ 0,6903,1479279,00.html> . Labour has been looking at wind turbines to take up some of the slack, but the effect on bat and bird populations is beginning to emerge as a major downside.

Part-time students to become extinct? "Tuition fee rise leaves part- time students on brink of extinction"--Times Educational Supplement <http://www.thes.co.uk/latest_news/main.aspx> . Central planning often has unexpected consequences. Labour has been tinkering with the university system to increase participation without spending any new money. They had been taking the approach of dumbing down degrees, increasing faculty teaching workloads, and eliminating expensive courses, but employers and foreign academia have become very concerned. So they recently introduced a tuition increase of about $3000 per semester. <http://observer.guardian.co.uk/uk_news/story/ 0,6903,1479078,00.html> . In the US, part-time classes are how professionals maintain their skills, but most UK graduates assume they're set for life.

Bushmeat trade may introduce ebola and marburg to the UK: <http:// observer.guardian.co.uk/uk_news/story/0,6903,1479113,00.html

-- Harry Erwin, PhD "If you can't be a good example, then you'll just have to be a horrible warning." (Catherine Aird)






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