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Comment: Think of it as evolution in action... (Score 2) 332

... not of us, but of them. ISIS is sort of like an extremely virulent infection. It is really bad if you get it, but it kills so fast that the patient dies before the infection has time to spread much, and it has EVERYBODY working to exterminate it. At the moment, all of the batshit crazy teenagers filled with Islamic Angst are heading ISIS-ward to be indoctrinated and (one supposes) employed eventually as suicide bombers. The only problem is, it requires a special kind of crazy to become a suicide bomber or fatwah-murderer, and the world has a finite supply of that kind of crazy. The other problem is that collecting all of the nut-cases in one place makes it comparatively easy to (eventually) hit them with the moral equivalent of an antibiotic.

The only thing that I can see ISIS accomplishing is -- eventually -- convincing the moderate Islamic world that it is better to be an atheist (or at worst, any other religionist) than to be Muslim. Pakistan made a major play in that direction yesterday when the woman was beaten and then burned to death for allegedly burning the Quran. It publicly stated that it was wrong for the public to have killed this woman for burning the Quran -- only it (the government) got to prosecute and then murder the woman for burning the Quran. It never occurred to them that it might be absolutely insane to murder somebody, ever, for burning a book that you bought, paid for, and own. Especially a violent, psychotic, hate-filled document like the Quran. Or a violent, psychotic, hate-filled document like the Bible (either part). Or any religious text, violent, psychotic, and hate-filled or not. Or a copy of Dirac's Quantum Mechanics (although there it might arguably be an act of criminal stupidity).

I'm tempted to go out and burn a Quran myself out of sheer sympathy and in protest and in support of freedom of speech and freedom of (and from!) religion. But first I'd have to buy a copy of the Quran, and who wants to reward the idiots who publish it? So I just bring up copies of the Skeptics Annotated Quran on my browser and then -- wait for it -- close the browser window. Just like that, I make my current copy of the Quran disappear, even worse than just burning it. Over and over again. I may even write a script to copy an online version of it and overwrite it repeatedly with random numbers. Some people are so very, very, 17th century clueless about information.


Comment: Re:Claims should be easily verified (Score 1) 572

by rgbatduke (#49312997) Attached to: Greenpeace Co-Founder Declares Himself a Climate Change Skeptic

The really fun thing is that an entire ice age occurred with CO_2 never lower than around 4000 ppm. Sure, it was a long time ago, completely different land mass arrangement and so on, but still something that IMO completely eliminates the "Venus catastrophe" possibility Hansen has warbled about with boiling seas and so on triggered by CO_2 around 1000 ppm. I doubt many (other) climate scientists take it that seriously either, but hey, criticizing another climate scientist about an egregious climate claim publicly, especially Hansen, for speaking nonsense in public is like a priest criticizing the pope these days in more way than one. Hence you will learn privately that many climate scientists have some doubts about whether or not catastrophe is inevitable, or whether ECS is really 3+ C instead of, say, 1.4 C, but they tend to be very careful about stating it on national television or even to a reporter. There is never any shortage, however, of people calling for more violent storms or reporting on the horrors that await us (according to an incredibly implausible calculation or study) when climate does what the high ECS models claim that it will, sometimes (in some PPE runs).

A very recent paper -- very very recent -- has done a careful study of the integrated effects of aerosols on the climate (aerosols cool, and current models achieve high CO_2 gain by taking pure radiative CO_2 trapping of around 1 C and augmenting it with 2-3 times more from water vapor feedback, subtract a large and uncertain part of that against aerosol cooling, and then show runaway warming when CO_2 increases outpace aerosols). It lowered the upper bound of the aerosol coolng from around -2 C to -1 C, and dropped the lower bound to -0.3 C, with a most probable value around -0.5 C.

If correct and verified -- and the work appears to have been very carefully done, but who knows, we will see -- this result will reject most of the models in CMIP5 which get their high ECS and TCR from the large cancellation. Fitting a function by cancelling two large terms is numerically a much riskier and less precise an operation because small relative errors in either function make big relative changes in the result, and this generally applies to things like climate models that actually are solving a computational fluid dynamics problem. The models themselves can probably be rebalanced to fit the reference period with a much lower aerosol, but this will without question require them to readjust the water vapor contribution radically downward since there is no aerosol cooling to speak of to trade it off against in the reference period. This in turn drops ECS -- by roughly a factor of 2.

Lewis and Curry reran a climate model with the new numbers and got an ECS distribution from 1 to 2, centered around 1.45 C, which is very close to no net feedback on top of pure CO_2-only warming. I get numbers in the same range when I fit atmospheric CO_2 (inferred from e.g. ice core data and smoothed to fit the industrial increases from 1850 to the present) to HadCRUT4 -- a direct fit of the global anomaly (for what it is worth) yields ECS around 1.8, well within their error estimate, and a two parameter fit of logarithmic warming has sufficient explanatory power of the data that there is little left to explain -- a weak 67 year sinusoid with amplitude around 0.1, that's it. But that is only 164 years of data, and the error bars on the first 2/3 of that data are large enough (and never shown to the public) that grown statisticians weep when they see the certainty of all claims about the climate and the abuse of fitting non-stationary timeseries.

It will be very interesting to see what impact this has on the public discourse -- in six months to a year. ECS was in freefall anyway -- the "pause" in global warming and increasing divergence of the model predictions from the actual temperature have been weakening confidence in the unproven assertion that one can take a collection of disparate CFD codes, apply them with wildly different parameters at spatiotemporal length scales 10^30 times larger than the Kolmogorov scale for the problem, form the envelope of the resulting chaotic trajectories from nearly arbitrary initial conditions (since we have no idea what the initial conditions actually were, or are, or should be for the models) and make meaningful predictions/projections/prophecies about future climate. Quite a few papers were dropping ECS to 2-ish and putting the upper bound well below the AR5 mean estimate. This, on the other hand, pretty much devastates the predictions made using this (IMO frankly statistically absurd) methodology in all previous ARs, as well as almost all of the models.

Personally, I don't take anybody's word for anything in this game. Too many people on both sides talk politics, not science. So I try to look at the actual data and fit it myself, and if I had the patience and time (and the code itself weren't shit and semi-encumbered) I'd even get one of the semi-open GCMs running on my own hardware. Slowly, of course. We lack the computational power to solve the actual problem that needs to be solved under any circumstances, and have basically been solving what we can afford to solve with our fingers crossed that it will give us at least the envelope of future reasonable results. But even if that assumption is true -- and there is no terribly good reason to think that it is -- you can't get the right envelope with the wrong inputs and aerosols have been the unknown elephant in the room for some time now. Well, and water vapor/clouds. The two are right or wrong together, and if aerosols have been wrong water vapor assumptions have also been very wrong.

All of which isn't "denial" -- it is the way science works. And will continue to work regardless of the yammering and name calling (again, on both sides). The dialogue isn't improved by a) pretending that there is no dialogue, that the matter is "settled" and b) by devolving to name calling and invoking a long list of logical fallacies in defence of a political -- not a scientific -- position.


Comment: Re:Claims should be easily verified (Score 5, Informative) 572

by rgbatduke (#49310291) Attached to: Greenpeace Co-Founder Declares Himself a Climate Change Skeptic

Not historic (read on about low levels in the Wisconsin), but probably low in the Holocene. Part of the issue (and the reason for "probably") is that plant stoma give a different answer than ice cores. Both methods of determining Holocene CO_2 levels have their problems, but arguably the ice cores have more. Since it is low in the Holocene, yes, they were slowly descending. The climate was cooling, culminating in the Little Ice Age, which is still recorded as being very likely the coldest stretch in the last 11,000 years post the Younger Dryas. Since the ocean takes up more CO_2 as it cools, it is not implausible that CO_2 was as low as it had been for order of 12,000 years, BUT plant stoma show CO_2 level varying by almost an order of magnitude more than ice cores, and with a somewhat different mean behavior. So it is possible that it actually varies naturally on a century timescale by at least 30 or 40 ppm and it wasn't an actual low. Still, both are plausible and supported by evidence.

Plants get very sad (IIRC) at around 160 ppm, which is the level at which mass extinction of at least some kinds of plants becomes possible. During the last glaciation (the Wisconsin) the low-water CO_2 level was around 180 ppm, which is, in fact, really, really close to the critical point. Since carbon tends to be systematically removed from the environment by a variety of processes (such as shellfish growing their carbonate shells and a colder ocean absorbing more) we (the planetary ecosystem) might or might not have been in serious trouble in the next glacial episode. More than the trouble caused by the fact that there are all of these kilometer thick glaciers where things like New York and Montreal are today and the pretty serious effect of global cooling by 5 to 10 C in a stretch of time as short as a century, if we can believe parts of the fossil record and icepack cores from places like Greenland.

Finally, there is absolutely no doubt that plants are much happier with 400 ppm than they were at 280 or 300 or 320 ppm. Plants grow faster, are healthier, and are more productive at higher CO_2 levels. This is known both from lab work (greenhouses with controlled CO_2) and from observations of crop yields and tree growth rates in the real world. Plants would be happier still with 1000 ppm. Over almost all of the last 600 million years, atmospheric CO_2 has been anywhere from 1000 ppm to 7000 ppm. Levels as low as 300 ppm are extremely rare and yes, probably dangerous to the biosphere.

We will now return to your regularly scheduled rants about "warmists" and "deniers" and hatin' "C-AGW" without questioning the "C".


Comment: Re:Unfair comparison (Score 4, Interesting) 447

by rgbatduke (#49246665) Attached to: Homeopathy Turns Out To Be Useless For Treating Medical Conditions

It's not that small.

Placebos have as high as a 30% response rate for many things. That's why the gold standard is to compare double blind placebo controlled data. It isn't no response rate that matters, it is the response rate relative to sugar pills that somebody tells you are medicine. Telling somebody that roasted rat pellets (convincingly) are medicine means that you will get a positive response.

Add to this data dredging, confirmation bias driven studies, tenure decisions made in your favor only if you see a positive response in your new cancer treatment, and the fact that "significant" is generally a statistical absurdity like p = 0.05, and it's no real surprise that we end up with lots of (ultimately) silly conclusions.


Comment: Re:Let's do the Chicken Little Climate Change danc (Score 1) 235

by rgbatduke (#49242819) Attached to: El Nino Has Finally Arrived, Far Weaker Than Predicted

It's especially not significant compared to the ~7% annual variation as the Earth swings in its elliptical orbit. This 91 W/m^2 is truly the elephant in climate forcing variations -- everything else is comparatively a mouse.

Interestingly, the annual temperature variation of the Earth countervaries with this -- the Earth is coldest when it is closest to the sun and warmest when it is furthest away. This is spite of the fact that in the tropics where the variation due to inclination is the least and one expects the strongest effect there is no major shift in land/sea area exposed and hence the albedo difference that supposedly cancels the more than 45 W/m^2 peak insolation relative to the mean.

The climate really is a highly nonlinear system and not all of it makes sense in terms of naive models. Yet. Pretending that we understand it when we don't may sell catastrophe (and hence research into contingent catastrophe), but it doesn't do science itself any big favors.


Comment: Re: Pacific Decadal Oscillation (PDO) (Score 1) 235

by rgbatduke (#49218743) Attached to: El Nino Has Finally Arrived, Far Weaker Than Predicted

When in the history of science has it been reasonable to call somebody that disagrees with your interpretation of the science a "denier"?

As for sea level rise, the evidence is that SL is rising and indeed has risen roughly 9 inches in the last 140 years without anybody really noticing. It is projected to rise another 10 to 15 inches in the next 85 years -- if warming proceeds as expected (outside of egregious exaggerations pushed by e.g. James Hansen). This wasn't catastrophic in the past, is not likely to be catastrophic in the future, although it can certainly be problematic for some very low lying land areas, especially ones also afflicted with subsidence (as subsidence and uplift are substantial ongoing coastal processes independent of AGW). "Catastrophe" involves melting either Greenland or Antarctica, and neither one is melting at anything like a substantial rate.

Methane is a pet peeve of mine as well. Most of the methane is tied up as clathrates at enormous pressures and extremely cold temperatures in the ocean. Most of the ocean is within a hair of 4 C and isn't going to warm enough to care about no matter what on any reasonably short time frame (centuries, millennia). Most of the recent papers on the subject are finally coming to recognize that this is a fantasy -- if bottom warming alters methane production, it won't be because of CO_2 but rather geothermal activity, e.g. vulcanism. Also, the ocean eats methane -- they went to study methane released in the Gulf Oil disaster and found rather to their surprise that there hardly was any -- most of it was eaten en route to the surface. In the atmosphere it quickly rises and is broken down by UV and ozone. It isn't clear how much methane would have to be released, how steadily, to maintain an increasing profile in the atmosphere but it is likely to be a big number.

If you want to pick on a thing that could be at least locally catastrophic, I'd go for increasing oceanic CO_2 lowering the basic ocean pH over time. I'm still skeptical of any global disaster, because I think the biosphere is a lot more resiliant than that (and because for most of the Earth's past history over the last 500 million years CO_2 has been over 1000 ppm and shellfish in general did fine) but aragonite etc is at least in principle vulnerable in organisms that rely on it. There, as you say, if things change too quickly some species in some locations might -- big word, might -- face extinction.

Comment: Re:Pacific Decadal Oscillation (PDO) (Score 2) 235

by rgbatduke (#49218541) Attached to: El Nino Has Finally Arrived, Far Weaker Than Predicted

Dude, look at the map of climate zones sometime. Look at the range of normal temperatures, and the range of extreme temperatures. The entire shift they are talking about is basically moving one climate zone north -- order of 100 miles. It is utterly lost in the noise. It isn't frog slowly "boiling" in a pot. It is frog in a pot that is 15 C (that is, rather cold) on average (maybe) but that has a range of maybe 5 to 10 C either way on a daily basis, an average that itself varies by a lot more than 20 C annually in much of the world, getting raised to a pot that -- if we don't condemn the poorest people in the world to remain poor for most of the next century and do keep burning coal to make electricity to make their lives better, cheaper, and uplift them out of 18th century poverty and into (I dunno) maybe the 20th century -- will go up 2 whole degrees C. Frogs don't cook at 17 C. The frog might well be more comfortable. I would.

I do like the way you minimize the impact of spending order of a trillion dollars a year combatting CO_2 without recognizing that this is a choice, and it comes at the expense of other ways we might spend the money -- like ending world poverty, which would probably cost less than half of that. You worry about a future catastrophe. How about the ongoing catastrophe, the catastrophe right now, caused by spending all of this money in measures that: a) benefit the very energy companies you no doubt would condemn as the culprits far more than any other groups -- so much so that if CAGW theory didn't exist, they would have a strong motivation to invent it. Anything that increases the marginal cost of energy is going to increase the profits of energy companies before it does anything else, because they make marginal profits. b) don't even work. Carbon trading is an expensive joke. Thorium might work (Uranium does work) but the same people who hate CO_2 hate U235 even more. Wind energy is an expensive joke nearly everywhere, suffering as well from massive NIMBY syndrome and for very good reason. Most other resources such as geothermal or hydro are already exploited and/or regional. Natural gas is lovely but again it is a carbon based fuel, everybody NIMBY's fracking, and I personally like it for heating houses and cooking and hate the thought of using it all up making electricity.

The only two contenders for replacing the coal infrastructure in the long run are solar, largely PV solar, and fusion. Solar isn't a good candidate for replacing coal, but it can certainly eke it out. It isn't ready for prime time as a replacement because electricity is difficult and expensive to store in anything vaguely like the quantities needed to sustain demand at night, and is difficult to transport the 5000 mile plus distances needed to e.g. provide power to the entire temperate zone and points north in the winter, especially if one plans to use that power to heat houses because burning fuel isn't allowed. There is a disconnect so vast that it is difficult to begin to describe it there. We don't have the storage technology, and there are no feasible alternatives visible in the technological pipeline to provide it although there are a bunch of very expensive projects to demonstrate how to do it lots of very expensive ways. Could a breakthrough make this all work? Sure. And if and when it does, one won't need to subsidize the transition or promote it, it will just happen because electricity will be cheaper that way.

Nuclear fusion would solve the problem once and for all for the projected future of the human species. The problem there is that it is like saying that "we should run our energy infrasttructure using magic" because so far getting steady state fusion energy from anything less than balls of mostly hydrogen a million miles or so across just doesn't seem to work. Sure, maybe Lockheed-Martin will do as they just promised and deliver commercial fusion in four years and six months (counting down), but if they do again we won't have to "do" anything -- in a decade or so nobody will burn coal to make energy not because it is bad but because it is expensive. And how silly everybody will look! Think of all the people killed so far by the diversion of public money into the pockets of the rich. The military-industrial complex needed something to war against once the cold war ended (because people tend not to apply the usual standards of rational thought and cost/benefit analysis during times of war, they are expected to stiffen their upper lip and suffer for "the cause") and look! In less than a decade they found it! No coincidence, I gotta say.

And what's with the not "wanting" TCS to be 3 C, but wanting warming to be extreme for ten years? Theoretically it should be 1 to 1.5 C. We have only the weakest of possible arguments for anything beyond that, and in all the rest of science we test those arguments against nature, not the other way around. So thank you for clearly demonstrating the weird cognitive dissonance and scientific inversion I was talking about. Instead of saying "Of course I want TCS to be 1 C, and hope that `the pause' continues for several more decades or that global temperatures even drop some as evidence that it is" you want to punish people -- in particular Senator Inhofe (sp) -- for daring to think that it might not be 3 C, or 5 C, for thinking that maybe it is just barely possible that oceans won't rise even the 30 cm or so that they might rise over the next century (compared to the 20 cm or so that they rose last century) if warming continues at a less-than-catastrophic rate.

You do realize what you sound like, don't you? You sound just like a Christian. Somebody points out that we really don't have any good reason to believe that Jesus even existed, and we have excellent reasons to doubt that if he existed, he was probably not magic, that prayer does not work, that there is no heaven and is no hell and is no life after death, and that there is really no evidence for the existence of God (a prior condition for Jesus, if he existed, to be anything but a man subject to the still more specific prior condition that the God in question had to be the Jewish God of all of the Gods of all of the racial groups on the planet, and insane besides). The Christian then hems and haws, talks about all of the "evidence" backing their claims of existence and divinity (much of which, like walking on water or coming back from the dead, most rational people would call evidence against either claim as both are in complete disagreement with empirically supported scientifically consistent belief) and simultaneously claim that they love you while secretly hoping that you will get struck by lightning right now so that everybody will see what happens to nonbelievers so they can come around to True Belief before they die and are damned.

Hey, at least you are half-honest. You have a political agenda, and are willing (and openly hopeful) that people suffer and die worldwide so you can push it because you know what is best for everyone and even if your beliefs are wrong you are certain they should do what you think they should do and damn the cost in human life and misery.

I'd suggest giving full honesty a try, though. You have no idea what the TCS is. Neither do I. Neither does Gavin Schmidt, or James Hansen, or Phil Jones, or Michael Mann (if you know who any of them are). We have models that aren't working terribly well to either hindcast the past or forecast the future of when the models were run that suggest that if CO_2 goes up to close to 1000 ppm, temperatures might go up to as much as 3.5 C warmer than today, although those same models have runs where it goes up by much more, and some runs where it doesn't go up at all or even drops (and fail in countless other ways to have any predictive validity). So far temperatures are following the warming schedule associated with basically no increase in CO_2 at all (from when the models were run). If extrapolated to 2100, they suggest a warming less than 2 C, much less if we in fact do, as sheer economics suggests that we will, convert away from coal to cheaper forms of energy. So instead of pretending to a knowledge we don't have, how about if we acknowledge our ignorance and let the people of the world make their own decisions about what is "best" or "most likely" given all of the information and not some sort of Pascal's Wager supported by flimsy evidence.

After all, we have no idea what the optimum temperature or climate for the planet is. For almost all of the last 600 million years, temperatures have been much warmer (and CO_2 levels much higher) than they are today and the planetary biosphere has been enormously happy and productive. For most of the Holocene temperatures have been warmer than the present -- they are still short (in all probability) of what they were during the Holocene Optimum 9000 or so years ago and are most definitely lower than the peak temperatures reached during the Eemian interglacial 100,000 years ago without human help or the help of CO_2. We do know that the "little ice age" was the coldest single century of the entire Holocene.

We also know that the climate is not stationary. Nor is it "separable". We cannot disentangle human influence from natural influence in the non-stationary process. Indeed, our evidence about the climate state of the planet from over 50 years ago sucks, and sucks worse the further back you go in the thermometric era. You go back 300 or more years ago and it really sucks. It is literally impossible to point to any aspect of this non-stationary, complext, nonlinear, chaotic, highly multivariate process and say "Look, humans caused this", and this is going to continue to be true no matter how many times both sensationalist news media and scientists who should know better but who make a living from the hysteria say otherwise.

In fifty years, we might have solved the climate problem, although I think that computationally it is more likely to take most of the century as we are a long, long way away from the Kolmogorov scale of the Navier-Stokes system and we have an absolutely appalling lack of knowledge of the Earth's detailed state anyway. Long before then, simple progress in science and technology will probably have rendered it all moot. Solar technology is already ALMOST mature enough to run on its own, basically break even in cost in many locations and likely to get differentially cheaper over time. And hey, I have hope for fusion. Or LFTR. Or that people will get off of their high horse and stop opposing nuclear AND CO_2 AND claiming that they don't want to bring about the collapse of civilization.

In the meantime, maybe we can work on world poverty. 2 billion people will thank you if you back off on the measures that make coal-based electricity more expensive AND spend the money that is currently being diverted into demonizing CO_2 providing food, education, shelter, protection, and economic opportunity to people who currently live in 100 square feet of tin-roof-covered sidewalk. They won't be alive in a century -- many of them won't be alive in ten years -- to see whether or not you are right in your belief that we are catastrophe bound if we don't destroy human civilization so we can all live like that, but they are live right now and personally I think they are a much higher priority on the ethical scale pending some sound evidence that a catastrophe is in fact underway.

Just sayin'


Comment: Re:Pacific Decadal Oscillation (PDO) (Score 4, Interesting) 235

by rgbatduke (#49204343) Attached to: El Nino Has Finally Arrived, Far Weaker Than Predicted

Empirically, ENSO has been tightly associated with bursts of warming -- nearly discrete jumps in global average temperature. The 1997-1998 super-ENSO event was very directly associated with a jump of nearly 0.15 C, and temperatures have remained basically neutral ever since except for peaks in "normal" ENSO years that quickly regressed to a mean. Indeed, if you look at the SST record (arguably more pristine than the heavily processed global temperature record, at least in the recent past) it exhibits a pattern called Hurst-Kolmogorov (punctuated equilibrium) jumps with the transitions often associated with ENSO. This is actually one of the arguments of skeptics -- global temperature is almost certainly regulated by CO_2 concentration, but only weakly/logarithmically and according to radiative theory, the total climate sensitivity (increase per doubling of CO_2) should be between 1 and 1.5 C, which is warming but unlikely to be catastrophic in any reasonable future CO_2 scenario. The unknown factor is how much of the warming is due to shifts in a punctuated, locally stable equilibrium from what amount to natural factors, the biggest of which are the multidecadal oscillations and associated shifts in global atmospheric circulation patterns (where as noted, ENSO especially is an empirical smoking gun in the shifts) but which also include discrete shifts in the thermohaline circulation patterns, especially at certain critical junctions in the Atlantic, and the possibility of nonlinear effects from solar variability. Since the system is highly multivariate, chaotic, nonlinear, and with profound feedback loops and self-organized dissipative structures in abundance, it is incredibly difficult to model and the general circulation models yield almost no useful information beyond "if you increase CO_2, it will more likely warm than cool" which we already knew from radiative theory in the first place and which is built into them in such a way that they can give no other answer. There is little reason to believe that the multimodel ensemble mean of means of the many different models has any real predictive force, however, and in fact that mean is systematically diverging from the observational record just as it has systematic deviations in its hindcast from the historical record.

This is why catastrophic global warming enthusiasts are so excited about the prospects of a new super-ENSO. If it happens, it could cause another Hurst-Kolmogorov jump, bump the average temperature a bit, and validate the models (or at least, rescue them from a richly deserved back-to-the-drawing-board oblivion). It is difficult to escape the feeling that they want this to happen, that they want the world to heat up disastrously to punish the human race for using energy and building civilization. One would think that evidence that TCS was not, in fact, 2 to 3 C but instead was 1-2 C (or even less) would be welcome news, but for them it would be acknowledging that the deliberately created panic, the political manipulation and selling of the catastrophic warming meme, and the associated shifts of enormous amounts of money into ameliorating a hypothetical disaster on the basis of unproven models has been directly responsible for the perpetuation of 1/3 of the world's population in a state of energy poverty.


Comment: The trick is to remove the context... (Score 1) 420

by rgbatduke (#49159359) Attached to: Is That Dress White and Gold Or Blue and Black?

What color the dress is is impossible to tell from a photograph for countless reasons. What color the pixels in the photograph are is beyond question. They are light blue. One can simply box everything but a small patch of color from the dress and out of any context at all it is not white. If one has any real doubt, one can always go into the image itself and look at the RGB of the image.

The dress itself could be white, could be blue, could be grey -- and reflecting light from some blue source (like the sky, like a blue wall in the background behind the photographer). One would have to be there to know, since there are no other foreground objects to use to normalize our beliefs. But the pixels -- the pixels are what they are, and it ain't white or any of the nearly balanced fifty shades of grey.


Comment: Interesting... (Score 1) 139

by rgbatduke (#49138945) Attached to: 12-Billion-Solar-Mass Black Hole Discovered

So if there is one, either there is a substantial asymmetry or there should be many, following a reasonable distribution curve. If there were many, uniformly distributed, then there should be at least some well inside of the 13 gigaLY sphere (where this one is on the periphery). If there are some inside of this sphere, obviously they stopped "munching stars" and being bright at some point, probably some point before 13 billion years ago. Therefore we can conclude that either:

a) There are an unknown number of dark galaxies (to coin a term for them) wandering around inside of the 13 GLY sphere -- black holes with essentially galactic mass but with no remaining light matter to "munch" nearby and thereby light them up; or

b) This represents a substantial asymmetry in the distribution of early matter, one that is not replicated inside of the visible ~14 GLY sphere;

c) Something happens to galactic black holes after they've munched all of the stars. New physics. Space aliens. The fall out of our cosmos and into another.

Possibility a) sounds like a possible source of "missing matter" -- dark matter inside the visible Cosmos, wandering around in between the visible galaxies and possibly even more prevalent. It doesn't seem as though it would work as well for dark matter inside of galaxies themselves, unless this phenomenon scales out so that there is a distribution of black holes of sizes ranging from supernova remnants produced much later through 10s, 100s, 1000s, 10000s, 10000s, ... 10^9s or more stellar masses. If 1% of the stellar mass or better objects in a given galaxy were black holes with a mass of 100 to 1000 stellar masses with no leftover supernova remnant gases infalling to light them up, that's a whole lot of "dark matter" right there.


Comment: Re:Fuck it - everyone for themselves. (Score 1) 374

by rgbatduke (#49138159) Attached to: The Groups Behind Making Distributed Solar Power Harder To Adopt

Well, the mismatch depends on where you are. Where I live, with a SW facing rooftop, peak demand is mid-afternoon mid-summer when insolation maximally heats my house and the AC runs all the time. Roof panels could conceivably support the AC load while at the same time form a third layer of matter with a ventilated air gap right above my actual roof. This would suck ambient air at around (say) 30 to 40 C in and pull it up in between the solar cells themselves (which would heat up as well as generate from direct sun) and radiate LWIR both ways. I estimate that this extra layer would reduce the difference between my physical roof shingles and ambient air by 2/3. Since I then have R-40 or thereabouts in the attice ceiling, a finished attic we don't use much in the summer, and an R-20 insulated floor between the attic and the house, I expect that it would reduce the load on the attic AC pretty substantially while generating enough electricity to easily keep the house cool to even cold all afternoon (plus running any appliances etc).

Storage would be nice, but in NC I'd be able to just pump surplus back into the grid and make the meter run backwards, "storing" the energy by reselling it to my neighbors and getting it back for free later in the evening. Which brings us back to TFA -- I personally think that communities should force power utilities to permit this resale, subject to a) validation of the equipment, mandatory inspection, etc. Private equipment should not be permitted to mess up the public grid; b) a clear statement of liability and requirement of insurance (the power company isn't responsible if your equipment fails and messes up either the local grid or the local grid connection via (say) lightning messes up your local equipment); and c) personally I think a reasonable surcharge/tax for the use of the public uitilities lines and distribution network to resell your power to your neighbors is pretty reasonable.

With that said, there is a lot of room for negotiation as to just how such a surcharge should be billed. Arizona's $0.70/month/KW is perhaps the dumbest and least equitable as it gets billed even if you don't push back any power, or if you use most of the power yourself and push back comparatively little (on average). A much fairer scheme might charge you rate A for energy delivered through your meter, and pay you rate B when you deliver energy back through your meter. In the specific case of Arizona, where they charge a comparatively little $0.11/kwh, they might consider paying you back $0.105/kwh, or $0.10/kwh. That way in a dark and stormy month when you generate little power and use all you generate yourself, you don't get dinged $7.00 just for being connected, but in a bright and sunny month when you sell back 20 kwh/day but also use 20 kwh/night, you basically pay $3.00 to $6.00 for the electricity you the otherwise "break even" month. I'd advocate the 5% rate, of course, and the power company would prefer the 10% rate, but the point is that this formula is a lot fairer than a flat rate.

It also makes sense in terms of amortization. If you buy yourself a good sized battery pack to run your house at night, it is going to cost you thousands of dollars. Call it $1000. Amortize it over 10 years, you have to pay back $100/year. Borrow the money, pay it back like a mortgage, you'll end up paying somewhere in the ballpark of $150 to $200/year. Hell, call it $120 -- $10/month. So even if it costs you only $1000 for a battery pack capable of running your house off of the grid all of the time, even if the lifetime of that battery is at least ten years (neither likely to be true, so far), even if the battery pack requires zero maintenance etc, the power company fee of $7/month to "store" your energy is cheaper to you than the cost of the money required to store it yourself.

This could change if somebody ever invents a cost-effective no memory high energy density battery with a lifetime of 10,000 full cycles (call it 30 years of daily deep cycle). And there are a lot of people working on this. But if/when it becomes cost effective at the consumer level, it will already have been or become more cost-effective at the utility level by around a factor of two, and utilities will simply start adding large battery packs to their burgeoning panel farms and start significantly reducing fuel based generation of the so-called "base load".

I see a real struggle between public utilities that cannot remain in business and maintain their lines and so on without a substantial and ultimately irreducible demand and rooftop solar with batteries -- going almost completely off of the grid -- that threaten to reduce demand below that irreducible level -- in around 10 years, with the next factor of two reduction in the cost per watt of consumer installed solar. Or, of course, Lockheed-Martin may have commercial fusion by then and everything will change and PV solar will pretty much evaporate, cut off at the legs by energy provided by what amounts to "free fuel", but without all of the hassle of intermittent supply or storage.

What I don't see is any future where coal continues to be a dominant source of electrical power for over 30 more years no matter what we do now. We could completely ignore CO_2 and build all the coal plants the world needs to provide the energy required to lift the poorest 1/3 of the world's population out of 17th or 18th century poverty, just as China and India are doing and will continue to do and be damned to AGW, and it will still become cost-ineffective to build more of those plants, without the slightest tax incentives or penalties or encouragement, within the next 15 years even without fusion, within the next 10 years with fusion. Indeed if fusion is realized, it won't take 30 years -- more like 15 to 20 and coal burning plants will be replacing their coal furnaces with fusion cores in place. RCP 6.5 is probably already overly pessimistic, and with a total climate sensitivity of around 1.8 C (my own best fit to the data) we will warm roughly one more whole degree C, maybe, before CO_2 forcing stabilizes.

What the climate will do then is still anybody's guess, because we cannot predict climate and do not understand climate and the climate is perfectly capable of starting an ice age with CO_2 several (as many as 10 to 20) times as high as it currently is (it has done so in the past, in the Ordovician-Silurian transition). The system almost certainly has chaotic nonlinear negative feedbacks as extreme as a warming induced by semi-permanent shifting of the Gulf Stream 500 miles to the south, putting the entire North Atlantic and Arctic into the icebox (while heating the tropics and maybe even overall warming the globe!) and triggering the next glacial episode. Or not. Unpredictable is unpredictable.


Comment: Re:Fuck it - everyone for themselves. (Score 2) 374

by rgbatduke (#49132915) Attached to: The Groups Behind Making Distributed Solar Power Harder To Adopt

$7/month for a 10 KW service has to be compared to $0.11/kw-hr for Arizona electricity, scaled out to the actual energy consumed by the household. If I am paying $150/month for electricity and drop that to zero, netting $143 doesn't increase the amortization schedule for the hardware by an enormous amount. Is it reasonable? Hard to say. Charging the consumer SOMETHING for the use of the lines isn't crazy. I pay $15/month just to have power turned on to a cabin I hardly ever use and that consumes no electricity at all. But it is cheaper than having the power turned on and off when I do use it.


Comment: Re:Fuck it - everyone for themselves. (Score 2) 374

by rgbatduke (#49132525) Attached to: The Groups Behind Making Distributed Solar Power Harder To Adopt

FWIW, I agree with you completely, sir, and I don't even "believe" that AGW is likely to be catastrophic or that CO_2 is intrinsically bad (I actually have pretty good reasons for my beliefs, but not worth the flame wars asserting them entail). Solar power SHOULD come into its own when it is cost effective. Indeed, it is the capitalist way. In the case of power, though, since power companies are hardly capitalist enterprises -- they are publicly sanctioned local monopolies and nearly completely protected from anything like actual competition -- it is entirely within the rights of the same commonwealth that gave them the monopoly to require them to run the damn meter backwards for people that put energy back into the system by whatever means. It is POSSIBLY OK for them to add in a "tax" of some sort and pay back the added power at a SMALL discount, since the consumer is using company resources to effectively redistribute their energy surplus on lines maintained by the company. But then, they are also helping the company load balance and avoid building new generation facilities, so it isn't even clear that should be the case.

I myself already have replaced my windows, my roof, added in a double layer of high-R insulation in the attic, replaced all of the old furnaces and AC units with uber-high-efficiency units and use tankless gas hot water (which leaves a bit to be desired, actually). My energy costs are so low there isn't a lot leftover to pay off an investment in solar out of reduced cost of purchased electricity (one of the paradoxes of this is that your amortization scheme depends on how much you pay out, and conservation measures elsewhere actually increase amortization to where the advantage of PV solar once again is marginal to lose-a-little).

Still, I expect to PROBABLY bite the bullet and do rooftop solar in the next 2-4 years, sooner if hardware gets cheaper faster (reducing the amortization schedule). For the electric utilities, though, solar is already a no brainer win and they are building their own solar farms just because if I can break even or win a bit at full retail costs for solar, they can probably double my payback via economy of scale in solar farms. That may be why they are opposing the buyback option -- they can make more money making solar on their own than reselling solar energy you made and sold back to them at cost. In fact, they don't MAKE any money on the latter.


All the simple programs have been written.