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Greenspan, Einstein and Reich

Filed under: — eric @ 29 October 2008 - (Italian) (Français)

shrekI often receive letters that range from amusing claims that we are overlooking changes in the magnetic field, to tales about how the “weight” of carbon dioxide keeps it “near the ground”. If the writer sounds serious, then I treat them seriously, and do my best to provide a helpful reply. Often, though, I find myself in a pointless debate of the most basic, well-established physical principles. I generally cut off the discussion at this point, because I simply don’t have the time. This can result in a hostile response accusing me of “having an agenda”. Most would call me naïve for bothering to respond in the first place.

But it is possible, after all, that somewhere in that barrage of letters lies a brilliant idea that ought to be heard, and could change the course of scientific history. How to tell the difference? Well, there is a story that we tell in our family that might provide some perspective on this.

The story is about Wilhelm Reich, the controversial Freudian psychoanalyist (1897-1957). Reich was a personal acquaintance of my great uncle, William Steig, creator of Shrek, and illustrator of ones of Reich’s books. Reich thought he had made a major discovery in physics that proved the existence of a previously unrecognized form of energy, which he called “orgone energy”. He had built an “orgone energy accumulator” (basically a box whose walls were comprised of alternating layers of organic material and metal). He had done some careful experiments that demonstrated that the temperature inside the box increased above the ambient outside temperature. He made calculations that (he thought) demonstrated that the increase was greater than could be explained by thermodynamics, thereby proving the existence of an extra source of heat, which he attributed to the mysterious “orgone energy”. He sent these calculations to Albert Einstein, who graciously wrote back to him, showing where his calculations were wrong. Reich then wrote again, allegedly showing where Einstein had made an error. Einstein never wrote back. Some in my family took this as evidence that Einstein was stumped. But most people would conclude that Einstein decided he had better things to do than continue an argument that wasn’t going anywhere. This story has all the more poignancy to my family because my grandfather Henry, William’s brother, died of cancer while trying to cure himself by sitting in an orgone accumulator. I don’t of course, believe that Wilhelm Reich is responsible for my grandfather’s death. But clearly, Reich was wrong, and Einstein was right.

“But wait a minute,” you might say. “You guys at RealClimate are no Albert Einstein.” True enough. But like Einstein, we’re constantly subject to criticism from our fellow scientists. That’s what the process of peer review is all about. It’s not a perfect process, but it does provide an efficient means to separate ideas that have traction from ideas that are going nowhere. Greenspan’s pronouncements about the economy, on the other hand, were not subject to any such process. There might be a lesson in that.


237 Responses to “Greenspan, Einstein and Reich”

  1. 151
    Rod B says:

    Mark, by “VERY GOOD” do you mean the reliability, variances and error bars of measuring average global mean temperatures and CO2 mixing ratios over the past 150 years is about as good as measuring your height over the past 30 years? Most would say not even in the same ballpark I would think. What is your definition of “VERY GOOD” (your caps) in this area?

  2. 152

    Re #126 and #134

    Geoff,

    You are correct. There are other posts of mine on RealClimate where I have recieved responses to my ideas – and telling me to shut up and warning me that they would stop publishing my posts!

    Since, like my first reply to Hank, this one may not appear I am not going to spend too much time on my reply to you, sorry :-(

    On a University of Texas website they write “We conclude that the vibrational degrees of freedom of HCl, or any other small molecule, are frozen out at room temperature.”
    http://farside.ph.utexas.edu/teaching/sm1/lectures/node70.html
    CO2 is also a small molecule and its vibrations are also frozen out at room temperature and below, typical of tropospheric temperatures.

    All the models, not just those of RealClimate, assume that CO2 (and H2O) are in local thermodynamic equilibrium (LTE) and radiate at the kinetic temperature of the air, in which case they would effectively emit all the radiation the absorb. This would be certainly be true near the surface of the earth where the surface and air temperature are the same. If this were true then the air in a greenhouse would not warm.

    You wrote that:

    Re #123 . Since glass greenhouses are a false analogy it is logically dodgy to appeal to them when trying to understand the way that greenhouse gases operate.

    But the IPCC write:
    “The glass walls in a greenhouse reduce airflow and increase the temperature of the air inside. Analogously, but through a different physical process, the Earth’s greenhouse effect warms the surface of the planet.” FAQ 3 AR4
    http://ipcc-wg1.ucar.edu/wg1/Report/AR4WG1_Print_FAQs.pdf
    Should they have written “By a false anaology, the Earth’s greenhouse warms the surface”?

    No! In both cases the air is warmed by the absorption of IR radiation by greenhouse gases. It is not an anology. It is the same thing.

    Cheers, Alastair.

  3. 153
    Pekka Kostamo says:

    RE#146. It just might be that there is more or stronger convection. In the tropics, convection at times breaks the barrier that is formed by the tropopause, and transports a pulse of humid air to higher altitudes. (A comment I got from someone doing forecasting work in the area.)

    Many tend to see the tropopause as a permanent and rather perfect barrier to mixing. It is just another approximation. There also exist things like double tropopauses, quite frequent in some areas. There are also tropopause folding events at high latitudes that introduce packets of extremely dry stratospheric air flowing down to the ground level (as witnessed by their specific volcanic or nuclear dust signatures).

    More active dynamics might increase such mixing. They used to be once-per-month type events of short duration, but were identifiable in sounding records.

  4. 154
    Rod B says:

    Wayne (144), Wouldn’t relying on Density Weighted Temperatures to validate a case really put Mark’s “very good” 150 years of measurement in dire jeopardy?

    Do we have 5, 10, 15 or so years of Density Weighted Temperatures for the entire troposphere? What is the granularity of the measurements and how much was extrapolated?

  5. 155
    jcbmack says:

    DU = U final – U initial= q-w. The first law. U is the energy, q is the heat absorbed buy the system and w os the work done by the system on the surroundings. Work is defined as the force times the distance moved under its influence.
    Now E= MC squared does nicely represent the first law of thermodynamics, but relativity (sr or gr) is not a law, and they both contain many equations to explain in totality what they actually meanm even when one tries to describe it succinctly.

    For the second law one might state: Delta S = q/t or delta s greater than or equal to dQ/s. Entropy increases in a closed system, is the point here.

    the state functions are very useful as all we need is initial and final values to find an answer. The path functions on the other hand help assist us on how a system actually gets to a particular state, or atleast we have a good approximation.

  6. 156
    jcbmack says:

    Or if you prefer, the engineers: e2-e1= q-w or E2-E1= Q-W, where E,e represents the internal energy of the gas and q and w are the familiar path functions. In the lower case example an aerospace engineer may use this, to utilize intensive or specific variables.

  7. 157
    Geoff Wexler says:

    Re peer review and #137

    One benefit of peer review which is not often mentioned, is that it often makes the authors more careful if they know that their work will be scrutinised at once. Without it scientific remarks can degenerate into gossip or letters to the local mayor.

    Here is an example which I shall apply to myself. I have just read #137’s remark

    “At the infrared end of the spectrum we are dealing with waves, not particles”

    My immediate reaction is to assert that infra-red can be detected by a digital camera so it could probably be used to photograph an interference pattern demonstrating waves and by turning down the intensity individual pixels might be detected firing off one at a time demonstrating the particle nature of the I.R. Have I checked this remark? No, because I am not submitting this proposed (or reported?) experiment to a peer reviewed journal (although someone on this web site might reject it).

    Incidentally, here is a more theoretical response to the same quotation. Instead of a pixel consider a CO2 molecule. According to quantum theory this can be reasonably well localised because of its relatively high mass. Now try to describe the excitation of a vibrational state. This will involve the absorption of one IR photon and also the measurement of the position of that photon at the time of absorption (which would have been located at the CO2 molecule). As the quantum people would say, the photon’s wave function will have collapsed. Summary: I disagree with the quotation.

  8. 158
    Hank Roberts says:

    David B, pointer please on excess water vapor in the stratosphere?
    (And how this relates to the homework assignment about CO2?)
    I found this, which doesn’t describe the problem you mention, it’s fairly new:
    http://cel.isiknowledge.com/full_record.do?product=CEL&colname=CEL&search_mode=CitingArticles&qid=2&SID=2AP@naA2lpAOGnLD@fa&page=2&doc=18

    Stratospheric dryness: model simulations and satellite observations

    Author(s): Lelieveld J (Lelieveld, J.), Bruhl C (Bruehl, C.), Jockel P (Joeckel, P.), Steil B (Steil, B.), Crutzen PJ (Crutzen, P. J.), Fischer H (Fischer, H.), Giorgetta MA (Giorgetta, M. A.), Hoor P (Hoor, P.), Lawrence MG (Lawrence, M. G.), Sausen R (Sausen, R.), Tost H (Tost, H.)
    Source: ATMOSPHERIC CHEMISTRY AND PHYSICS Volume: 7 Pages: 1313-1332 Published: FEB 27 2007

  9. 159
    jcbmack says:

    Anthony Watts is not qualified to make the statements he does and his photos are very misleading.

  10. 160
    jcbmack says:

    Ok to those to argue that GR is ‘wrong, argue against the field equations mathematically and show data side by side with the data supporting GR and explain how GR should be or is or will be overturned. Let’s do some algebra:)

    Guv=8 piTuv (sorry about the laziness with the symnbols, word is down and I do not see a symbol button:)

    Now, some do argue against the singularity, some real world physicists and mathematicians have amendments, however, no math or data has overturned Einstein;)

    The four forces are not unified for a reason. Oh and just so you know basic newtonian physics exaplains a lot about both weather and climate, momentum, vectors, summations, and so forth, and Newton knew his explanations had limitations; and the math is just fine, it is the consoderations, or slight corrections in the behaviors at velicities close to C and how time passes that he did not fully consider;)

  11. 161
    Ray Ladbury says:

    jcbmack, thanks. Personally, I think Bohr’s achievement is quite underrated, in part because he was such a poor communicator of his own ideas–at least to nonphysicists. We have to realize the context. The Machians, while somewhat cowed by Einstein’s work on Brownian Motion were still influential, and the positivists were at the pinnacle of their influence. Many physicists felt that quantum theory spelled the death knell for the concept of physical reality in the atomic realm. Heisenberg even found these arguments tempting. Yet, Bohr managed to assert the reality of objects in the subatomic world, even if they could never truly know them in the absence of measurement devices that distort that reality. It was an achievement as subtle in philosophy of physics as was Kierkegaard’s in the realm of faith and meaning.

    You said, “Try neatly quantifying evolution.”

    Actually in some ways, many aspects of genetics and evolution have been neatly quantified–e.g. genetic clocks, etc. There is also the neat work of William Hamilton:

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/W._D._Hamilton

    Evolution is getting there–rapidly.

  12. 162
    jcbmack says:

    Ray Ladbury, thank you for your response, and yes we certainly can calculate the probability of crossing over. With the applciation of both Mendhelian and post Mendhelian genetics, molecular clocks, statistics (chi square mean,mode and median, ratios, etc…) and the fine work witten out in Oxford’s Genes 8.

    Well as we know nowadays,both random diffusion processes and directed processes (advetcion) coexist, just as the randomness of the quantum world leads to laws of the macro world, albeit our understanding is still developing. Most descriptions or models, of natural processes are made up of a mixture of deterministic and random elements.

    I am reminded of the “random walk of an object through an infinite array of discrete boxex… Bernouli coefficients and so forth. When one considers the random motions of gases and the directed processes in the environmental system, like advection and the complex dynamics, we cannot have just determined or quanitified values, nor can we have only randomness.

    Keep up the good posts, as I fear this thread is lacking in several regards at this time.
    Yes Bohr is overrated is deserves his due… happy threading.

  13. 163
    jcbmack says:

    Yet evolution still has randomness despite the work at Harvard in non-linear mathematics. We have ideas, but predictability is still quite limited.

  14. 164

    #154, Rod, DWT’s are rare to find out there, it is a relatively easy calculation to do, especially having access to a super computer and huge Upper Air data base. I do them myself two ways, one while using the sun as a fixed sphere of reference, the other by taking all of upper air radiosonde data, condensating them to one readable number in degrees Kelvin. I know of no one else who does this work. Yet the results are very promising. All while there may be a cooling or warming on the surface
    the true temperature of the entire atmosphere varies very little compared to a surface average.
    I was able to foresee an Arctic Ocean great ice melt for 2008, despite cooler surface temperatures which have occurred. It turned out that the air aloft was -as a whole- just as warm as last year despite extensive cloudiness. I encourage anyone with access to a super computer to make the calculations, and come up with a graph going as far back as with Radiosonde data. Surface temperatures are very vulnerable to misinterpretation, they offer a great deal of fodder for those
    who deny AGW. Its up to the contrarians to disprove the surface temperature trend by other means,
    the more they will look the more they will confirm the warming trend.

  15. 165
    Fred Jorgensen says:

    Re: 143: Ray Bradbury,
    If, in 1985, anyone had predicted apocalyptic AGW based on data up to that
    time, they would have preached in the wilderness.
    It’s only because of the warming trend 1985-2000 that the extreme predictions gained
    popular traction.
    The proof of destructive AGW is in longer term global warming – the current

  16. 166
    jcbmack says:

    Well, Donald Hamilton was a giant in evolutionary biology, however, there is a lot of math and social theories related to evolution, as natural selection and artificial selection work both antagonsitically and synergistically, and many evolutionary biologists come to see artificial selection as another process of the ongoing, transforming natural selection pressures of the species.

    Drifts, shifts, alternative splicing RNA editing, niches and so forth, have been all well established, and all, except alternative splicing,have been well documented historically in the oldy, but goody Biology textbooks of Biology since the 1960’s, however, evolution is far too vast a process to be all measured out and quantified. Math is a tool, nothing more, it ties up loose ends or assists in making predictions or presenting probability or understanding how much how far, how fast, what angle, etc… When I read all of Gould’s books, I realized how enormous evolution really is; punctuated equilibrium, endosymbiotic theory, etc… What I was referring to in regards to a quantity, is like looking at Henry’s law, or Fick’s law, Grahams law etc…

    I think that although thermodynamics and spontaneous processes apply in the vast system of the earth and as such bioenergetics, energy coupling, and genetic ratios of progeny all apply to biological and environmental systems, far more observations, data, and time are needed to really consider the change in the frequency of alleles over time can all be numbered through laws that creates, too finite a sense of what the outcomes might be as life keeps moving forward.

  17. 167
    jcbmack says:

    I take issue with the assunption that equilibrium is reached. As earlier noted miscibility factors, advection, convection, and fluxes in the radiation spectrum, and coupling have such drastic influences.
    Still the denial is not made regarding CO2 and heating being related. Here is a great site!

    http://www.mbari.org/ghgases/deep/release.htm

  18. 168
  19. 169
    Ron Smith says:

    But economists have predicted 9 of the last 5 recessions!

  20. 170

    Hank #142:

    > lower near the ground … aloft?
    Um. I can’t even find the source for Eric’s fact,

    Hank, try David Archer’s Modtran calculator (google for david archer forecast modtran). It shows CO2 going up from below 400 ppm to over 500 in the tropics at 18 km height, where also the temperature gradient inverts. In the subarctic, CO2 increases less and reaches a plateau at 10 km, like temperature.

    The phenomenon is real.

  21. 171
    Mark says:

    Re 160. The four forces are not unified for a reason: we don’t know what theory could unify them.

    We have several ideas but in order to work out which one explains the universe (it knows what it is, no matter that we have no flipping idea, and it doesn’t have a problem with quantum/classical/relativistic gravity: it has gravity as what it is and our MODELS have problems with describing it).

    Data will teach us which one is rightest but we have to find out what experiment will tease out the differences and disambiguate the theories. If none turn out true (LHC doesn’t find the Higgs Boson, for example), then we know to look for another theory.

    That last paragraph is why the denialists are not scientists (especially Fred who claims to be a scientist but ignores the rigour of being one): the denialists say “it could be X instead” and when asked “well what mechanism is it? How do we quantify it? How do we add this into the models”, the denialist hasn’t done that work. Their only response is “I’ve given you the theory, you have to prove it’s NOT true!!!”. No. That’s not how it’s done. If it’s cosmic rays, how do they change climate, what mechanism could make it do it. When you have that, you have an idea of what variables you need to measure to see its effect. Now do the measurements. Do they match? No? Can you change the theory to fit? If they do match, put it up for review. They may find out that it could be just as easily explained by “stuff happens”. I.e. it is of low statistical confidence and could just be random “luck” it fits.

    But at that point, you NOW have a theory. It can be tested.

    And with GR, it can be tested. It doesn’t work at the quantum scale. Therefore, it’s wrong, gravity ISN’T a geometric distortion of space-time. Another indicator is the infinities. The relativistic mass of a photon is, because it is travelling at the speed of light, a value divided by 0. Which is an infinity. However, the method of GETTING to that zero divisor, along with the number above (zero) means that you actually don’t have an infinity. Whatever theory better fits the reality of gravity ought to be able to handle the maths and give, rather than a real infinity, a number that is limited to non-infinite value.

    We have the same (or similar deal) with quantum gravity. Which, rather like the wave description of light gave us an infinity when applied to emission spectra (the UV breakdown catastrophe), has infinities when applied outside the quantum realm. It also doesn’t explain how you get light to bend around masses, since there’s no time in the photon frame of reference to swap gravitons.

  22. 172
    Mark says:

    Rod #154.

    You can measure temperature today with a digital thermometer to about 0.1C. 30 years ago, a mercury thermometer to 0.5C.

    In the late 19thC, mercury thermometers could be read to about 0.5C.

    I would call that “very good recording” for 150 years.

  23. 173
    Mark says:

    RodB, the crude measurement LOCALISATION techniques of the recent past have been accurate but poorly placed.

    Rather like measuring the world temperature by only sampling India.

    You will still SEE an increase in temperatures, but because of the poor localisation the variability is much higher and the effect of small-scale (compared to global) forcings that affect only the region you have measurements for mean that to get the signal from the noise requires more time. E.g. picking India you need to ensure that you haven’t just picked out four heavy monsoons because of a temporary increase in the NAO over the past twelve years. You do this by getting measurements for 50 years and you may include monsoons with a sampling of the real monsoon strength.

    This does not mean you have only had 15 years of measurements. You still have 150 years. The implication being projected by the denialist is that there’s no information to say whether the climate is changing.

    We KNOW the climate is changing.

    I note that you missed the “in any case” section. Quite convenient for you.

    If you know that a bridge will span only 100ft gap, you don’t have to do more than one or two measurements to prove it.

    Likewise, we KNOW that CO2 from fossil fuel burning is up in the atmosphere. We KNOW how much. We KNOW that it blankets IR emission from the ~300K earth and not from the ~6000K sun.

    The models and so on are to quantify HOW MUCH heating will be the result when all feedbacks are complete. The models are to quantify WHERE climate changes will occur and HOW they will manifest. They aren’t to *prove* that CO2 is a greenhouse gas and they aren’t there to *prove* we put CO2 up there. We can measure that now, this instant, in exactly the same way as we can measure my height right now, this instant and get a result that is my height.

  24. 174
    Barton Paul Levenson says:

    Fred Staples writese:

    I do not claim that the last decade disproves AGW theory, although the falling temperatures do not add support.

    No matter how many times you write that temperatures are falling, they still aren’t. Lose the hyphens and read:

    http://www.geocities.com/bpl1960/Ball.html

    http://www.geocities.com/bpl1960/Reber.html

  25. 175
    Barton Paul Levenson says:

    jcbmack writes:

    Did you mean “they have mathematical formulae?” Because I can assure you they do.

    Not in the way a law does, like the laws of thermodynamics. Gravity really is a law and GR and SR are quite established theories, but they do not have one formula that behaves as a proof in the way thermodynamics does, though no one seriously dipsutes GR and SR in the physics community, thet merely add new possibilities under differemt circumstances.

    Try neatly quantifying evolution.

    The division you are using between “theory” and “law” originated with creationists and is not valid. Gravitation, SR and GR are considered theories. A law usually refers to one specific equation.

    To quantify evolution, you can either use the statistical analyses of R.A. Fisher and T. Sewall Wright, or measure a particular evolutionary development in darwins, the unit of evolutionary change (google it).

  26. 176
    Barton Paul Levenson says:

    jcbmack writes:

    Now E= MC squared does nicely represent the first law of thermodynamics

    No it doesn’t. It’s the Einstein mass-energy relation for an object stationary in a given inertial frame of reference. Thermodynamics doesn’t come into it.

  27. 177
    Mark says:

    Martin, #165.

    I don’t know what’s going on either, but one possibility is this: Scale Heights.

    If you have a lot of one gas that has a short scale height, you may have at four levels:

    100
    10
    1
    .1

    of that gas.

    If your CO2 is less prevalent but has a huge scale height, it may go

    5
    1
    .2
    .04

    which would make the percent concentration go up as follows:

    5%
    10%
    20%
    40%

    This has the concentration of CO2 going up with height (since the rest of the atmosphere goes down with height quicker, meaning that for every million other atoms, more of them are CO2). And nothing other than static equilibrium needed. Is this what’s happening here?

    Since you don’t know either, how do we know whether this phenomena is of any use whatsoever?

  28. 178

    Mark #177: yes, I know about scale height. Two problems:
    1) CO2 is heavier than the rest of dry air, molar mass 44 against 29. So this explanation might work for the stratosphere (though I rather suspect that’s a delayed response to the anthropogenic increase there)
    2) The troposphere is undergoing active mixing. Read Eric’s article. It takes quite some time in a stagnant air column for molecular species to settle out according to their individual scale heights.

    BTW the gradients in the Archer model are very large… I know the phenomenon is real, but are we looking at some artefact there? Still unable to find any references. Bummer.

  29. 179
    Ray Ladbury says:

    Fred Jorgensen, Jim Hansen was hardly a voice in the wilderness when he predicted significant warming in the mid to late ’80s. His prediction was well within the realm of accepted scientific opinion.
    The fact is if you increase CO2 concentrations, the globe must warm unless the physics changes dramatically at 280 ppmv or current temperatures. There is no evidence for such changes. Aerosols may retard the temperature rise for awhile, but given that CO2 persists on the order of 10x linter than aerosols in the atmosphere, CO2 eventually wins.

  30. 180
    Hank Roberts says:

    > how do we know (Mark and Martin)

    We’re testing the limits to “you can look it up.”

    Back when the speed of thought was still 1200 baud, I once had a memorable long discussion at a party that people still remind me of occasionally, with an expert professional library search expert. She had mastered all the pro tools and all the new online tools like “ftp” and “gopher” and had accounts on the many commercial firewalled data sets, knew all the ways to write queries, and wrote books on searching.

    I acknowledged that — still do, “ask a reference librarian” is always good advice — but I elaborated on my favorite tool, Usenet: find the relevant newsgroups, and ask a clear, well phrased, and interesting question, catch the eye of someone who knew something not findable online, and tickle her or his fancy sufficiently that the answer would trickle down from the brain to the fingers through the keyboard and become findable thereafter, by searching in News.

    That often worked for me, still does — people share pre-publication or unpublished/unpublishable data that might cast light on some dark area, when they see a somewhat intelligent question being asked. It’s basic human kindness in action.

    I’m just summing up Eric Raymond’s “how to ask questions the smart way” — and the answer to Mark’s “how do we know …?” is “eventually someone will accomplish the homework, or our Eric here will tell us how to look up the answer.”

    The depth of information researchers have does go way beyond what we amateurs get. It’s important to remember this, humbling as it is.

  31. 181
    Dennis Baker says:

    You have 2 wishes left…………

    “But it is possible, after all, that somewhere in that barrage of letters lies a brilliant idea that ought to be heard”

    Human Excrement + Nuclear Waste = Hydrogen

    Yours Sincerely
    Dennis Baker

  32. 182
    foodtube says:

    Isn’t it common practice in a green house to raise CO2 to 500-800ppm? From what I could find on the web it appears most plants are CO2 starved below 200ppm and do quite well with elevated levels.

    Before I get beat up, I’m not suggesting this implies society can go on belching CO2 into the atmosphere. Rather I’m confused as to why this is controversial.

    [Response: It’s not controversial. It only ever becomes an issue if someone insists that this trumps all greenhouse gas effects – which it does not. -gavin]

  33. 183
    Diversity says:

    My experience is as a policy adviser, not a scientist. I offer the following as a general and basic answer to those who deny the need to act on climate change as the scientific evidence suggests. If you feel it useful, please use it. If it needs amendment, please amend it.

    The Basis of Science.

    Each and every scientific theory is formed on the basis of incomplete information. It is therefore presumptively true that all scientific theories can be expected to be found to be wrong and/or incomplete. Sometimes we have already detected some of the wrongness/incompleteness. Gravity is a current example: we have imcompatible theories of macro and quantum gravity. In other cases we have not yet detected it.

    To detect wrongness or incompleteness in a theory, it is sufficient to find data it fails to explain. To challenge a theory with a new theory, you require a new theory which explains the available data more fully.

    Action on a Basis of Scientific Theory

    If policy makers have to decide to act or not act in a field to which scientific theory may be relevant, they must take a judgemental bet on whether their decision will be improved by taking account of the scientific theory. That bet should be informed by the explanatory power of the theory in the area affected by the decision. If they decide to not take account of a relevant theory with high explanatory power, they will be betting very much against the odds.

    Policy makers should not expect the scientific theory to explain all the data. It is to be expected for any scientific theory that some data will be found that it can not or can not yet explain.

    Global Warming

    The generally accepted body of theory relating to global warming explains a very large part of the available data, but not all of it. The theory is therefore patently incomplete – like our theories of gravity. However, unlike the case of gravity, we have no competing theories of the evolution of our climate with anything approaching the explanatory power of the generally accepted theory. It is therefore the best currently available basis for decision on whether and how to act or not to act on climate change. To decide on any other basis yet offered is to bet against high odds.

    In challenging the generally accepted theory as a basis for policy action, it is beside the point to show isolated data that the theory does not explain. It is to be expected that there will be some such data. To challenge a theory as a basis for action, you need to demonstrate that it is inconsistent in itself, or with other accepted theory, or that the theory produces predictions incompatible with observed reality, or that another theory explains the existing data at least as fully. None of these requirements for a challenge have yet been met.

    It follows that policy decisions on climate change are best based on the generally accepted scientific theory.

  34. 184
    jcbmack says:

    Bartton # 175. You are in error. We have statistical techniques and other tools of measurememnt to gain insights into evolution, not neatly quantify it. Also I have no arguments against evolution, perhaps you misunderstood me? I have extensive background in genetics, cell-molecular and evolutionary biology, no need to google it, evolution as far as theories go, is a fact, that gets amended as new data and observations are validated, so do not misunderstand what I am saying, but most evolutionary biologists would not say that evolution is quantified.

  35. 185
    jcbmack says:

    Barton # 176, again you partially right… E=MC2 is used in mathematics, chemistry and physics and applies more openly to sytstems than just “mass-energy relation for an object stationary in a given inertial frame of reference.” The mass mass energy relation holds other implications, oh and for the record I am not a creationist, my background includes Biochemistry and physical chemistry, evo biology, and all the trimmings:)

  36. 186
    jcbmack says:

    Mark # 171 Well Mark you miss one important point: the experiments you speak of will give us data, so no argument on that point. And regarding AGW I am not a denialist, I look at all the available data, but NASA’s and the NOAA data is very clear. The rigours of science are very important and take years of training to implement, but your reply still confirms we need more data, whether it is in the form of a particle and how it behaves, mathematical equations that uphold or are upheld by dicovery and validation by other scientists. This will not change.

  37. 187
    jcbmack says:

    Bartn, on a final notr, we did not disagree on a law usually having a neat mathematical equation, which was what I precisely stated. Some creationists do use thermodynamics to argue against evolution, but that is not what I am doing here; as an expert on evolutionary processes I would never do that.

  38. 188
    jcbmack says:

    I suggest you guys read: Title: On Relativistic Thermodynamics. Enrico Fermi Institute for Nuclear Studies, University of Chicago.
    Authors: Balazs, N. L.
    Journal: Astrophysical Journal, vol. 128, p.398

    Even back in trigonmetry we played around with E=MC2 and explosions.

  39. 189
    Mark says:

    Martin, #178. You shouldn’t use molar masses. Use density.

    That works out somewhat similar in the case of N2/O2 mixture (the air is mostly N1 and that’s quite a bit less dense than O2), but by not using the right metrics, you are either opening yourself up to being dismissed as ignorant or explaining why you don’t know what’s going on.

    Then again, what’s the point of answering that question?

  40. 190
    jcbmack says:

    Another outstanding site!

    http://www.journaloftheoretics.com/articles/5-2/commentary5-2.pdf This makes it easy to understand:)

  41. 191
    jcbmack says:

    The laws of thermodynamics never change:) No matter what the conditions.

  42. 192
    jcbmack says:

    Barton Paul take a course covering statistical thermodynamics.

  43. 193
    jcbmack says:

    I fear the moderators are not around to chat with:) Realizing this is a blog, however, I would like to chat with the experts:)

  44. 194
    jcbmack says:

    Gravity is observed in all the known universe as far as we see how stars behave and billions of light years through spectral and various telescopes. Gravity is a law, GR SR very well upheld, quantum theory is really law, string theory is more of a hypothesis that probably will be mostly correct, but until we have more data, however, it seems reasonable.

  45. 195
    jcbmack says:

    Ok Homework questions: Derive analytical epressions for the flux F and the temporal concetrations change using partial derivatives @c/@t for the following one dimensional conectrations distrubutions: (a) C(x)=a+bx; (b)C(x)= a-bx-cx squared;(c)C(x)= c0 exp(-ax);m(d)C(x)=a sin(bx). The parameters a,b,c, and diffusity D are connstant and positive.

    Expand Fick’s law and Gauss’ theorem to three dimensional and derive Fick’s second law for the general situation that the diffusivities Dx, Dy, and Dz are not equal (anisotropic diffusion) and vary in space. Show the result can then be reduced to this using the Bernoulli coefficient (look it up) provided that D is isotropic (Dx= Dy =Dz) and spatially constant.

    Oh and define, explain and write out the Stokes-Einstein relation, this one is easy. it is a gift:)

  46. 196
    Richard C says:

    Hmm, the jcbmack blog. Thanks, I’ll pass.

  47. 197
    jcbmack says:

    Why does everyone disagree with NASA and Einstein?

  48. 198

    For those who want a mathematical basis for all science: Rutherford once said something like all science is either physics or stamp collecting. I’ve never seen this interpreted but my best guess is that he regarded science that had no mathematical foundation as little more than arbitrary classification. Evolutionary biology would be an example in Rutherford’s time, but modern genome analysis is starting to provide a model. You may argue it has a statistical component, but so has quantum physics. Biologists today calculate splits in the evolutionary tree using tools like random mutation rates. Some of the theory like the notion that there is “junk DNA” is hotly contested but this is all pretty new, and a rapidly developing field.

    Back on topic: my congratulations to Tim Curtin for so ably demonstrating the exact point of the main article.

  49. 199
    jcbmack says:

    Could not resist:

    Quote: “Frame dragging is one of the last frontiers in relativity. More familiar and already proven are the conversion of mass into energy (as seen in atomic bombs and stars) and back, the Lorentz transformations that make objects near the speed of light grow thinner and heavier and stretch time, and the warping of space by gravity.” (as seen when light is bent by a massive object).

    http://science.nasa.gov/newhome/headlines/ast06nov97_1.htm

  50. 200
    Hank Roberts says:

    Mark wrote:
    “… (the air is mostly N1 and that’s quite a bit less dense than O2)”

    Check your source, that’s wrong.


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