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Science, narrative and heresy

Filed under: — gavin @ 3 November 2010

Recent blog discussions have starkly highlighted the different values and priorities for scientists, bloggers and (some parts) of the mainstream media.

For working scientists, the priority in any discussion about science should be accuracy. Methods, results, and interpretations must be clear, logically connected and replicable by others. For people who haven’t experienced a joint editing effort on a scientific paper, it might surprise them to see the strength with which seemingly minor word choices are argued over. This process is particularly stark in short format papers written for Science and Nature, (and increasingly for press releases), where every word is at a premium. For many scientists then, the first thing they look for in a colleagues more ‘popular’ offerings is whether the science is described clearly and correctly. Of course, this is often not the same as judging whether it succeeds in improving popular understanding.

Indeed, the quality of the science is almost always how a popular piece is judged by scientists, regardless of the final conclusion the author comes to. For instance, my review of Tim Flannery’s The Weather Makers was very critical, because his conception of how the science worked was poor, regardless of the fact that his conclusions are aligned to my own in many respects. The furor over the Soon and Balinuas paper in 2003, was much less about their conclusions, than about the nonsensical manner in which they had arrived at them (combined with disgust at the way it was publicised and promoted). Our multiple criticisms of Henrik Svensmark have focused far more on the spin and illogic of his claims concerning the impact of cosmic rays on climate than it is on the viability of the basic mechanism (which remains to tested).

The underlying principle is that proposed by Daniel Moynihan, that people might be entitled to their own opinions, but not their own facts.

The media on the other hand is mostly fascinated by the strength of the narrative. The enduring ‘heretic’ meme – the plucky iconoclastic individual whose ideas are being repressed by the establishment – is never very far below the surface in almost all high-impact scientific profiles, for instance, Freeman Dyson’s NY Times magazine piece last year. To be sure this is a powerful archetype even in how scientists see themselves (shades of Galilean hero-worship), and so it is no surprise that scientists play up to this image on a regular basis. Craig Venter is someone who very successfully does this, possibly with some justification (though YMMV). However, this image is portrayed far more widely than it is valid. Svensmark, for instance, has gone out of his way to mention that he works in a basement on a shoestring budget, having to work weekends and holidays (the horror!) to pursue his ideas. For such people any criticism is seen as the establishment reaction to the (supposedly revolutionary) consequences of their ideas. This of course would be the case for true revolutionaries, but it is a very common attitude among the merely mistaken.

It is not difficult to see the attraction in being seen as the iconoclast outside the mainstream in a scientific field that has been so polticized. There is a ready audience of misfits and partisans happy to cheer any supposed defection from the ‘consensus’, and there are journalists and editors who, in their desire to have ‘balance’, relish voices that they can juxtapose against the mainstream without dealing with crackpots. Witness the short-lived excitement a couple of years ago of the so-called ‘non-skeptic heretics‘, such as Roger Pielke Jr., championed in the New York Times. In truth, there is very little that is ‘heretical’ in any of these voices. Only someone with no experience with the way science is actually done — try going to an AGU meeting for example — would think that scientists being upfront about uncertainty and following the data where it leads is any kind of radical notion. The self-declared heretics do get criticised a lot, but not generally because of the revolutionary nature of their ideas, but rather because they often indulge in sloppy thinking or are far too quick to allege misconduct against scientists (or the IPCC) without justification, perhaps in order to bolster their outsider status. That does not go down well, but to conflate ‘mainstream’ expressions of distaste with this sort of behavior with the belief that the actual ideas of ‘heretics’ (about policy or uncertainty) are in some way special or threatening, is to confuse the box with the cereal.

There are a couple of tell-tale signs of this ‘Potemkin heresy’ that mark it out as not quite kosher. First, for the heretic who has a coherent alternative to the orthodoxy, it is very unlikely that this alternative will be in line with the thoughts of all the other outsiders. True heresy is actually very lonely. If alternatively, the ‘heresy’ consists of thinking that every idea that pops up is worthy of serious consideration, they are simply throwing away the concept of science as a filter that can actually take us closer to reality. If every idea must now and forever, be considered anew whenever someone brings it up, no progress is possible at all. Science works because it can use observations from the real world to move on from unsupported or disproven ideas. All ideas are in principle challengeable, but in practice, unless there is new information, old issues get resolved and put aside. The seriousness of a new ‘heresy’ then, can be measured in how much shrift is given to the crackpots. As Sagan said, one should always keep an open mind, but not one that is so open that your brains drop out.

The second sign that all is not well is in how well the supposed heretic understands why they are being criticised. Usually this is stated up-front by the critics – for instance, I have criticised Judy Curry for not knowing enough about what she has chosen to talk about, for not thinking clearly about the claims she has made with respect to the IPCC, and for flinging serious accusations at other scientists without just cause. Similarly, we have criticised Roger Pielke Jr. for frequently misrepresenting scientists (including me) and falsely accusing them of plagiarism, theft and totalitarianism. That both interpret these critiques as a disguised attack on their values, policies or scientific ideas would be funny if they were not so earnest. (For reference, we are just not that subtle).

Unfortunately, the narrative of the heretic is self-reinforcing. Once a scientist starts to perceive criticism as an attack on their values/ideas rather than embracing it in order to improve (or abandon) an approach, it is far more likely that they will in fact escalate the personalisation of the debate, leading to still further criticism of their conduct, which will be interpreted as a further attack on their values etc. This generally leads to increasing frustration and marginalisation, combined quite often with increasing media attention, at least temporarily. It very rarely leads to any improvement in public understanding.

The fact remains that science is hugely open to new thinking and new approaches. Indeed, it thrives on novelty. New data from new platforms, new calculations enabled by the increases in computing power and new analyses of the ever-increasing amount of observed data, each have the continual potential to challenge previously held ideas – if that can be demonstrated logically and with evidence to back it up. A recent example of a potentially dramatic new finding was the Haigh et al paper on solar forcing. If true, it would turn almost all work on solar effects on climate on its head, and they had no obvious problem publishing in Nature. This idea of knowledge sitting on a knife edge ready to flip whenever some new observation or insight arrives, is the reason why science is so exciting and fascinating. That is the reason why science deserves to be the story, and why journalists should be continuously searching for the ‘front page’ thought that will allow this story to be told to a wide audience. But all too often the real story is neglected in favour of a familiar well-worn, but inappropriate, trope.

It is clear that scientists’ obsession with clear thinking over narrative handicaps our attempts to communicate the seriousness of the climate change challenge. But since the media will continue to favor compelling narratives over substance, that is the method by which this debate will be fought.

542 Responses to “Science, narrative and heresy”

  1. 501
    Snapple says:

    Curry neglects to enumerate all the players. The blogosphere and denialists such as Attorney General Cuccinelli and others attacking th EPA actually quote a slightly edited RIA Novosti version of a December 2009 article that appeared in Kommersant (Businessman) which accuses British scientists of fudging data from Russian weather stations. RIA Novosti is the Russian government’s official press agency.

    Kommersant is owned by Alisher Usmanov, a Gazprom-connected gangster.
    He is one of the richest men in the world. Cuccinelli actually cites the RIA Novosti version of Kommersant as evidence that the British scientists are fudging data. This may be because Cuccinelli’s father is a career gas lobbyist with “European” clients. I want transparency about that; I believe the so-called “greedy” scientists, are honest.

    The “expert” Kommersant quoted was a Russian ECONOMIST named Andrei Illarionov who advised Putin and Chernomyrdin, the head of the Soviet Gas Ministry and its later reincarnation Gazprom, Russia’s state-controlled gas company. Illarionov is a Libertarian, which supposedly means that he doesn’t like all these AMERICAN government agencies. Favors from RUSSIAN government agencies seem to be ok.

    Kommersant is close to the Kremlin and so powerful that it not only mounts kompromat operations against climate scientists but is currently trashing the Russian foreign intelligence service because the SVR Colonel who headed the division that runs Russian “illegals” in the US turned out to be working for the USA. Allegedly.

    A Washington law firm recently noted on its website that the office of the DOJ Foreign Agents Registration Act is going to become more active.

    Perhaps this is because the Americans know who the Petrostate’s lobbyists are.

  2. 502
    Septic Matthew says:

    493, Jim Bullis, thank you.

    498, Ray Ladbury: OTOH, if I were an insurance company, I think I could find plenty of evidence that would make me want to raise my rates.

    Your position seems to be that since the insurance company agrees with your assessment they have no conflict of interest. I have maintained that the conflict of interest exists. Did I deny that the coal companies have an interest (i.e. profit motive) in lying? No. Did I assert that every company has an interest (i.e., profit motive) in lying? Yes.

    (To clarify, I think that self-delusion and exaggeration are more prevalent than outright lying, but”lying” is a nice short word.)

    In California, the companies that expect to benefit from the energy subsidies support AB32 and opposed the recent initiative on Proposition 23 to repeal AB32. The companies that expect to pay the subsidies or otherwise suffer from them oppose AB32, and supported Prop 23 to repeal it. The Anti-prop 23 forces outspent the Pro-prop 23 forces by perhaps 3:1. Is that a reliable guide to whether Prop 23 (or AB32) is a good idea? No way. Both sides backed their commercial interests.

    If you can imagine why companies who disagree with you might be tempted to lie (and exaggerate, and give in to the temptations), but you can’t imagine why the companies who agree with you would not, then you are naive.

  3. 503
    Ray Ladbury says:

    SM, Again you fail to understand that it is one thing to support ones interests based on the best science available and quite another thing to lie.

    Self-interest is not necessarily wrong. Indeed, it is to the advantage of bothe insurer and insured that the insurer make an accurate appraisal of the risks. And as long as there is competition.

    It is interesting to me that you see a moral equivalence between a position that says:
    1)I want to avoid an ecological catastrophe because that would be bad for my business

    and one that says

    2)I’m going to keep hauling in money hand over fist and so I will lie about the consequences of my actions and devil take the hindmost

  4. 504

    Came across this today, checking to see if NCDC’s October report is out (it isn’t, or not completely, anyway.)

    How about this for a “narrative”:

    Another exceptional weather event costing human communities a lot of time, trouble and money–one we can’t attribute, but the odds of which would be augmented by climate change–as NPR and the Brazilian weather service note.

    And interesting in terms of the IPCC AR4 item–disputed as “Amazongate” and subject of a couple of posts here–dealing with Amazonian drought. Let’s hope *this* drought doesn’t continue too long, or we may find out whether Rowell and Moore were correct via an “admiral’s test.”

  5. 505

    498 Ray Ladbury

    SM seems to have a valid sense of the industrial world.

    However,I speak for myself here.

    As near as I can tell you made up the points (1) to (6) that you ascribe to me.

    Assuming you read above the third grade level, this looks like a tactic to defeat a slightly moderate position relative to how action should be taken, and this moderate action would accomplish the same thing you seem interested in.

  6. 506

    500 Anonanon

    When you seek to characterize what I have said, I request that you read more carefully that material.

    You are right about ‘ambitious’ but for those who are concerned about global warming, maybe ambitious is called for.

    Yes, there is a need for continuous accumulating of wood mass in standing forests. Eventually there has to be adaptation on the other end; that is we would need to find rational ways to get away from using coal. That is another subject of my polluting comments all over the place.

    “New forests” does not mean “genetically engineered super-tree species.” You made that up.

    You also made up the eucalyptus thing, since I specifically put such species low on the list of possibilities.

    I believe I once mentioned giant redwoods as a possibility, and then pointed to the variety that grows in relatively dry areas such as Sequoia National Park. They would do nicely. Apparently there were once giant cedars growing in Lebanon. Selection of tree type is not a closed subject.

  7. 507

    Looks like the October NCDC report is coming out; Global Analysis, Hazards (of course, since they are near-realtime) and Snow & Ice are out; Upper Air is still apparently coming.

  8. 508
    Septic Matthew says:

    503, Ray Ladbury,

    I’ll leave the last word to you.

  9. 509

    466 Brian Dodge, (for others, this is a discussion of how things might work, not a position paper of any kind)

    Thanks for putting my question on a more complete framework.

    It is my understanding that the AMOC operates to ‘charge’ the cold of the deep oceans, among other things. A higher water surface temperature at the poles would seem to charge that deep ocean faster, and with warmer water. So it could work to move heat into the deep ocean?

  10. 510
    flxible says:

    Jim Bullis – Sequoiadendron giganteum grows in “relatively dry areas”??? You really don’t have a clue about forest ecology do you? Both Giant Sequoia and Lebanon Cedar are adapted to elevations that favor precipitation as winter snow, NOT arid conditions.

  11. 511

    495 Didactylos

    I am glad that you perceive the aerodynamics as being quite simple, and that a drag coefficient of the main body is expected to be about .05.

    The main body is about 1.2 meters in diameter so the actual projected frontal area is 1.13 sq meters. 1.13 x .05 = .056 sq meters (effective drag area).

    Your .58 for the Prius sounds about right. Compare .056 sq meters to .58 sq meters.

    There is a rule in analysis: When there is a multiplication to do, do it. Failure to multiply .05 times the 1.13 (or the 1.02 which you came up with for actual projected frontal area of the Miastrada concept car) makes your result 20 times what it should be, thus the Ford Escape comparison.

    Ten times better than the Prius is a neat result, though that would not take into account the undercarriage. Five times better than the Prius looks possible. That would suggest 250 mpg rather than the already good 50 mpg of the Prius.

    This does not account for rolling resistance which is more important at low speeds, but it would probably only cut the mileage to about 125 mpg at high speeds.

  12. 512

    510 flxible

    Who said ‘arid’ conditions?

    But even so, are you telling me that coastal Northern California is ski country? Or Sequoia National Park? (They might get some snow in Sequoia National Park).

    But for those who do have a clue about forest ecology, such as yourself, who might be able to spell ‘Sequoiadendron giganteum’ (I can’t), perhaps you will be willing to help select the right trees as the route for the canal is being planned.

  13. 513
    Steve Metzler says:

    499. John P. Reisman:

    Shorter Judith Curry: bring on the age of the armchair scientist! Everyone’s opinion is equally valid! Peer reviewed papers, who needs em’? Wiki-science FTW!!!

    This whole Web 2.0 thing has obviously gone to her head.

    I tried listening to to the science panel’s testimony last night on C-SPAN. Problem was, it started off with… Lindzen. I turned it off after groaning through 5 minutes of his usual spiel. You have to stop when what someone is saying is compelling you to put your fist through the monitor. But I’ll try to sit through the third panel (the one Judith was on) testimony tonight, just to see if the other participants managed to produce a meaningful counter-dialogue.

  14. 514

    495 Didactylos

    That 125 mpg, of my prior of 4:13 PM, is for a diesel hybrid form, but for electric drive only it would go to about 375 mpge according to the proposed new EPA method of figuring for electric vehicles.

    I am interested in real progress, so the 375 mpge is pure blither (people should be told this). However, a real 125 mpg would cut oil use 80% compared to conventional gasoline cars, for this particular example of high speed driving.

  15. 515

    510 flxible, and my 512

    Yes, the ‘Giant Sequoia’ of Sequoia National Park is indeed at snow elevations. And the Coast Northern Redwood, whatever it is called requires a lot of moisture from damp air.

    Wikipedia, which might or might not be correct, tells us that the Giant Sequoia of the Sequoia Park is crummy wood that splinters easily. (I added the crummy.)

    So these might not be good choices after all. Though for parts of the forest that would never be harvested, splintering would not matter, and would ease pressure from logging interests that would eventually be an issue.

  16. 516
    Anonymous Coward says:

    Jim Bullis,
    I mentionned eucalyptus since that’s what people use when they want yield. Tree plantations are a business. They know how to select tree species. If you know better, perhaps you ought to run tree plantations.
    We could select tree species for you but I for one don’t know how to get close to the 40tC/ha/yr yield you specified. Normal forests do not yield anywhere as much. And without that stellar yield you scheme doesn’t sequester enough carbon to be an alternative to taxing coal very heavily.
    That will be my last post about super-forests in this thread because it’s off-topic. Perhaps the moderators could send Jim Bullis repetitive off-topic posts to the open thread so that we wouldn’t have to debunk the same stuff over and over again.

  17. 517
    Steve Metzler says:

    OK… I viewed the testimony of the third panel. Hmm. Judith did start off the canned part of her testimony enthusiastically waving the Italian uncertainty flag. In isolation, ignoring her rather bizarre… posturing of the past year or so in the blogosphere, what she said made a certain amount of sense.

    In the final part of her testimony, which was interacting with the house energy sub-committee chair, she came down off her high horse and was even putting in a fairly big push for developing renewables. Didn’t seem to be all that worried about mitigation so much though, definitely more emphasis on adaptation. Dunno. I have mixed feelings now. For those that haven’t watched it yet, definitely worth a gander:

    Global Climate Change, Panel 3

  18. 518
    Steve Metzler says:

    Doh. Developing renewables is mitigation. Logic fail, Steve.

  19. 519

    515 anonanon

    Why did you bring up eucalyptus here? I did not.

    See you at the open thread, Unforced Variations 3 I think.

  20. 520
    flxible says:

    Jim Bullis@512:

    Who said ‘arid’ conditions?
    But even so, are you telling me that coastal Northern California is ski country? Or Sequoia National Park? (They might get some snow in Sequoia National Park).

    Jim Bullis@506:

    I believe I once mentioned giant redwoods as a possibility, and then pointed to the variety that grows in relatively dry areas such as Sequoia National Park. They would do nicely. Apparently there were once giant cedars growing in Lebanon.

    Pardon me if I equate “relatively dry areas” with your constant nattering about foresting “arid areas” /”deserts”.
    As it happens the Sequoiadendron only occurs in limited specific areas and elevations, at [3,000-8,500′ of the Sierra Nevada mountains [Sierra Nevada in Spanish= “snowy mountain range”], NOT in “coastal Northern California”, and in fact almost all of them are at 5-6,000′.

    And Lebanon Cedars have similar habitat requirements, found in the mountains at about 3,300–6,500 ft, not simply “in Lebanon”, which you obviously visualize as an arid desert environment, although in fact it is a “mediterranian climate”, rainy in winter, humid in summer.

    The reason no one can “help select the right trees” is because there are no right trees to plant in the desert, other than the scrub varieties that already exist in that particular ecological niche.

  21. 521

    520 flxible

    And I never said deserts either. I think that was a supposition by someone, used as a trick to make the whole concept sound bad. Was that you?

    Neither the tree type nor the canal pathway has been settled. Does that give anyone a chance to make things work?

  22. 522
    Didactylos says:

    Jim, why are you persisting in ignoring the undercarriage? It accounts for the majority of the drag.

    Possibly I can give you a better estimate with proper dimensions. Note also that the maximum diameter of the body isn’t the same as the projected area, because of the inclination.

    1.02 was the drag area I calculated, not the estimated area. You lack basic reading comprehension skills. I did not say the aerodynamics were simple – I assumed a simple model because I have absolutely no intention of doing any complicated calculations. If a simple model shows that your advantage is purely illusory, then going further down the rabbit-hole is a waste of time.

    You need to start from square one.

    I’m wasting my time, aren’t I? You are going to ignore me and remain in your fantasy world.

  23. 523

    #517 Steve Metzler

    Actually, Curry has selected words that in balance sound somewhat reasonable. In fact she may, through her establishment of herself as a tribal leader, provide some value to the skill through focus on the uncertainty, much like McIntyre added to the quantification skill by nit picking at the statistics (even though it was statistically insignificant).

    What I question is her method and possibly her motive(?), same as I question McIntyre and Lomberg in these areas.

    Economics: Balancing Economies
    October Leading Edge: The Cuccinelli ‘Witch Hunt”

    Fee & Dividend: Our best chanceLearn the IssueSign the Petition
    A Climate Minute: Natural CycleGreenhouse EffectClimate Science HistoryArctic Ice Melt

  24. 524

    522 Didactylos, (Referring to vehicle shown at

    I did not ignore you. I pointed out that you failed to multiply by .05 in the calculation using your own numbers. That was clearly a simple error on your part, but it gave a factor of 20 error in your results.

    Such a simple error can happen, and it is not necessary to try to amplify other aspects of the analysis to save face. By announcing in this last comment of yours that the undercarriage is the ‘majority of the drag’, you are shifting your original focus which was then on the main body.

    The undercarriage is approximately a fifth the frontal area of the main body. Budgetary estimates are all that there is right now, since the final shaping has not even been done.

    When I went from 10x better than the Prius to 5x better than the Prius, that included allowance for the undercarriage and attachment parts. I think this reasonably accounted for expected outcome, but you are free to announce otherwise.

  25. 525
    Didactylos says:

    Jim Bullis said “I pointed out that you failed to multiply”

    No. I multiplied by 0.05. But that only applies to one part of the whole vehicle. You have to ADD the drag area from the rest of the vehicle.

    My figure was for the whole vehicle, not just an imaginary, fantasy, wishful thinking, nonsense number like yours.

    “you are shifting your original focus”

    Are you really so dense? I specifically mentioned the wheel assembly in my original post.

    But let’s recalculate, using the dimensions you have provided. This time, I will show my working so you don’t get confused.

    You claim a body diameter of 1.2m. Clearly your human figures aren’t to scale, but I will humour you and use your number. The perpendicular body cross-section is 1.13 sq m. Taking into account the body inclination, the front profile of the body is roughly 1.2 x the cross-section. That’s 1.36 sq m.

    Thus the body drag area is 0.07 sq m. (Using your fantasy drag coefficient, but I stipulated that at the beginning.)

    Then the wheels. I estimated 0.6 * 1.2 = 0.72 sq m for the front profile.

    I assumed a drag coefficient of 1 for the wheels. It is probably worse than this. There is no chance it is better, given the complicated articulation. That gives a total drag area of 0.72 + 0.07 = 0.79 sq m.

    See? Using your dimensions, it has a lower drag area than my first estimate! (Not by much. Maybe equivalent to a Volvo 740.) So, if you can really make it this small, it is as good as a car from 20 years ago.

    Well done! Progress!

    Oh wait. I still neglected the parasitic drag, didn’t I? I will leave that as an exercise for the reader. A clue: in modern car design, aerodynamic flow *under* the car is as important as over and around it. Jim’s “great idea” has to contend with flow *through* the vehicle, as well as under it. The “airship” design is only a benefit for airflow over the top.

    I explained a while back that I don’t understand how to deal with cranks. I keep treating them as rational people. You, Jim, are a crank.

  26. 526
    David Miller says:

    Jim, if you’re going to complain about people’s reading comprehension you ought to first look in the mirror.

    In #495, Didactylos said:
    I estimated the drag area for his vehicle, using a few estimations from his drawing. I assumed a drag coefficient of 0.05 for the “aerodynamic” section.

    The total drag area is 1.02 sq m.

    IE, he calculated the total drag of your design to have a drag area of 1.02 m^2. He didn’t forget to multiply by .05 as you suggest. He gave the body a CoD of .05, then calculated the drag for the undercarriage.

    If there was any doubt, you could have read the end of his post where he says:

    I suspect that the actual drag may be worse, because I neglected parasitic drag and modelled the wheels as an ideal object. At the speeds needed to get any benefit from reduced form drag, parasitic drag will be a factor – and Jim’s wheels make no attempt to be remotely aerodynamic. So, Jim: view this as a lower bound.

    IE, he modeled the actual drag of the wheels as a best case estimate and neglected additional real world drag.

    You simply refuse to accept that the drag of your undercarriage could be as much or more than a normal car. Having read about airplane aerodynamics years ago, I find it quite easy to believe – the struts and unfaired landing gear can easily be half the total drag of the plane.

    This trait seems obvious to everyone else, Jim. I’m sorry to say it, but you’re not taking constructive criticism constructively. I’m sorry to say that because – as Jim the moderator pointed out – we do have the same goals.

    Moderators, I’ll add my voice to the call for your restricting Jim’s off topic posts to the most recent open thread so that we don’t end up with every thread going as far off topic as this one.

  27. 527

    516 David Miller

    Didactylos opened the subject of aerodynamic drag.

    True, I made assumptions about how he calculated drag force.

    [Response: Enough on this, thanks. – gavin]

  28. 528

    525 Didactylos

    You have been helpful in drawing out detail, but you have been hasty about interpreting incomplete information. A more satisfactory discussion would have come about if we had discussed details before you volunteered and provided your analytical support.

    According to wind tunnel tests of the USS Akron model which is approximately the size unscaled, as the vehicle body I am working with, the inclination I used has minor effect on the drag force. They actually used a drag coefficient referenced to volume to the two thirds power so the frontal area change as they pitched the model does not matter. Thus, it is appropriate to stick with the original area and accept the drag force that was measured as a function of angle. Accordingly, this is all referred to the reference area of 1.13 sq meters. And we have agreed that the drag coefficient is .05, though that is higher than the actual measured results. .05 x 1.13 = .0565 sq meters (effective drag area)

    So let’s consider the under-carriage, calculating drag only for the big parts of that. You made decisions based on simplified drawings, though you might have looked further to see that there is more to the wheel system to consider. However, for clarification, the wheels on each side are contained in horizontal tubes having a shape based on airship shape function. And the frontal area of each tube is about .75 sq ft. or .07 sq meters. For planning purposes I am using .2 for the drag coefficient of such an arrangement, so the total effective drag area of the big lower parts is .03 sq meters.

    The total of the three big parts is thus, .0865 sq meters.

    You said the Prius was .58, so .58 / .0865 = 6.7.

    Thus, the sum of the large parts as individual entities results in an overall drag force result that is 6.7 times better than the Prius. Maybe this would be 15 times better than your examples.

    Allowing for struts and straps and mutual interactions of parts, and ground surface effects, brings me to the budgetary estimate that the Miastrada will be about 5 times better than the Prius in aero drag. That seems like a good place to start.

    In the articulation shown, an elaborate fairing system was involved to make the lower columns function in a trainlike manner. Later results have shown that the full articulation is probably not necessary. I simplified this in present designs, and have not yet changed the general picture on the website; so you might have been unduly weighing this in your assessment.

    There are still some patent issues that cause me to be a little reticent about providing complete details.

  29. 529
    Deech56 says:

    Speaking of narratives, I thought Ben Santer’s rebuttal to Pat Michaeils’s Congressional testimony was terrific. Certainly Santer is someone who can think on his feet (or on his seat, as it were).

    Also, this is the one-year anniversary of some “gate” and what is remarkable to this reader is the tremendous effort by Gavin (and others) to put the hack into context and to moderate and contribute to the exploding discussion here. Much appreciated.

  30. 530
    Snapple says:

    “In Western Europe, Moscow has operated by making lucrative arrangements with foreign energy companies that become de facto lobbyists for the Kremlin within their own countries.”—“Why The Russia Spy Story Really Matters” (RFE/RL, 7-9-10)

    Cuccinelli’s brief to the EPA cites an RIA Novosti article that was an English language version of a Kommersant article. They aren’t exactly the same. For example, RIA Novosti just mentions the IEA. Kommersant notes Illarionov’s name and that he is a former Putin adviser.

    The Kommersant article that claimed British scientists fudged Russian weather-station data

    tells the reader to check out an article from November 24, 2009.

    I think this is that article, and it discusses the Wegman report. Google translation is not terrible.

    If you want to know anything exactly, ask me. Usually I can figure it out.

    This article was written by Dmitri Butrin, who was also a contributor to the first article.

    I have links to their archives here.

    Cuccinelli’s father is a career gas lobbyist. His site says he has “European” clients. I want to know if the father is providing his clients with the services of our attorney general. Cuccinelli works for the government, so we should know who his buying him.

    Much of this propaganda is being spread by Kommersant, and that paper is owned by Alisher Usmanov, a very powerful Gazprom gangster.

    It is really hypocritical to call scientists greedy liars when the other side is Gazprom and the Kremlin.

    Maybe the scientists should be saying where Cuccinelli gets his(dis)information that he uses against the EPA.

    Links to evidence:

  31. 531
    Didactylos says:

    Jim Bullis: pure fantasy.

  32. 532
    Snapple says:

    Conservative Commentator Brent Bozell is giving propaganda about Climategate on FOX. What a moron. He doesn’t try to find out anything for himself. He just believes the propaganda.

    Google Ed Wegman in Russian “Эд Вегман”. The Russians are writing about this professor as if he is some expert, but he is being investigated by his peers for academic misconduct.

    Dr. Michael Mann is in that 11-24-09 Kommersant article, too. He is described by this Gazprom/Alisher Usmanov mouthpiece as the ringleader of the whole network of fighters for global warming!

    Any minute I expect to see his face in a cartoon at the center of a spider web.

    I hope Dr. Mann will keep fighting for us.

    Usmanov is Gazprom. He is the 100th richest person in the world, and his newspaper is attacking college professors who get government grants.

    I don’t think it is the scientist who are greedy liars.

    Kommersant is now trashing the Russian foreign intelligence agency which shows that Kommersant is an extremely powerful Kremlin/Gazprom mouthpiece.

    Alisher Usmanov would lose his newspaper and be arrested for some crime if Kommersant were really independent.

    If we do actually have the guy who ran Russian illegals for the SVR, as Kommersant claims, maybe he will even know about the “Climategate” campaign.

    Wouldn’t that be great!

    It was the head of the KGB foreign intelligence service who exposed the AIDS campaign. Izvestia (3-19-92) reported:

    “The head of the Foreign Intelligence Service [KGB General Yevgeni Primakov] made a number of really sensational announcements. He mentioned the well-known articles printed a few years ago in our central newspapers about AIDS supposedly originating from secret Pentagon laboratories. According to Yevgeni Primakov, the articles exposing the U.S. scientists’ ‘crafty’ plot against mankind were fabricated in KGB offices.”

    I believe the scientists are real American heroes, not greedy liars; and I think that we need to know who the elder Cuccinelli’s “European” clients are.

    Cuccinelli says he is “conservative,” but he isn’t conserving anything. He is on the same page as Gazprom and the Kremlin.

    The Kommersant author says Wegman is at “John Mason University,” but it is George Mason. This error may suggest that the author may not be very familiar with the Wegman Report and that he is relying on what someone else fed him. This same author was one of the co-authors of the article that Cuccinelli cited in his suit to the EPA.

    Here is what Kommersant (11-24-09) says about Wegman.

    Руководство и партнеры CRU вчера отвечали на многочисленные вопросы, связанные с письмами, лишь ответными обвинениями неизвестных “хакеров” в тенденциозности подборки писем. Так, Боб Уорд из Лондонской школы экономики, участник переписки, заявил Guardian, что “гораздо более важно то, что скептики не смогли опровергнуть хорошо обоснованный физикой эффект глобального потепления”. Признания в письмах манипуляции данными он объясняет “кампанией скептиков”, с которыми были вынуждены с 2004 года (наиболее откровенные письма датированы 1999-2003 годами) бороться господа Манн и Джонс. Отметим, письма подтверждают выводы доклада 2006 года группы статистиков под руководством Эда Вегмана из университета Джона Мэйсона конгрессу США, которые указывали и на существование “социальной сети ученых-борцов с глобальным потеплением” во главе с господином Манном, и манипуляции этой группы при обработке климатических данных.

    Google translation:

    “Leadership and partners CRU yesterday responded to numerous questions related to letters only response accusations unknown “hacker” in the tendentious selection of letters. So, Bob Ward of the London School of Economics, party correspondence, said Guardian, that “much more important that the skeptics could not refute the well-established physics of global warming.” Confessions of a letter of data manipulation, he explains, “a campaign of skeptics, which were forced in 2004 (the most candid letters dated 1999-2003 years) to fight gentlemen Mann and Jones. Note letters confirm the conclusions of the 2006 report of the group of statisticians led by Ed Wegman of the University of John Mason to the U.S. Congress, which points to the existence of “the social network of scientists, athletes with [fighters for] global warming,” headed by Mr. Mann, and manipulation of this group in the processing of climatic data.”

    It is easy to see that this Gazprom mouthpiece is saying what the denialists say.

  33. 533
    Snapple says:

    Oops! that was the Capticha word. Here is what I was trying to say.

    Here is a 12-9-09 Russian article from Tomsk that writes about Wegman. The article compares the climate scientists to Lysenko, the Russian peasant agronomist.

    They say Dr. Mann’s hockey stick “Mannovskie constructions” (for Dr. Mann) is not worth a dime. They call Wegman a congressional expert for a moment.
    They say that paleontologists all disagree with AGW.

    If you google NEWS for “Эд Вегман” the Russians don’t say anything. They don’t seem to be reporting the GEORGE Mason investigation into Wegman’s academic misconduct.

    Often the Russians cause articles to be printed in foreign media so that they can quote them in the domestic media. This was the case with the KGB campaign to blame the AIDS virus on the plots of crafty Pentagon scientists.

    Sometimes the line changes and the Russians throw their own propagandists under the bus, as Primakov did.

    It says:

    Консенсус в научном сообществе – штука тонкая. Вон, Майкл Манн рисует компьютерную модель своей “клюшки”, а статистик Эд Вегман (эксперт сенатской комиссии, на минуточку) доказывает, что все Манновские построения гроша ломаного не стоят. Кто прав? – я не спец по матстатистике и компьютерному моделированию, и судить не берусь. Среди климатологов (и особенно обслуживающих их мат-модельеров) АГП, как я понимаю, является вполне себе мэйнстримом; однако у этой гипотезы имеется ряд следствий, которые вполне проверяемы на палеонтологическом материале, и в результате этих проверок палеонтологи (опять-таки довольно единодушно) находят, что модель АГП основана на недопустимых упрощениях и неадекватна реальности. Мнение климатологов, вроде бы, должно иметь тут больший вес – но и солидарное мнение палеонтологов со счетов тоже не сбросишь, нес па? Эт сетера.

    Google translation:

    Consensus in the scientific community – a piece thin. Vaughn, Michael Mann paints a computer model of its “stick” and statistician Ed Wegman (Expert Senate committee, for a minute), proves that all Mannovskie construction of a dime is not worth it. Who is right? – I’m not special for matstatistike and computer modeling, and I can not judge. Among climate scientists (and especially serving their math modelers) AGW, as I understand it, is quite a mainstream, but in this hypothesis has several consequences, which are completely verifiable by paleontological material, and as a result of these checks paleontologists (again, quite unanimously) find that the model of AGW is based on inadequate and unacceptable simplifications of reality. The view of climatologists, like, should be here more weight – but also solidarity opinion of paleontologists from the accounts is also not reset, bore na? At setera.

  34. 534
    Snapple says:

    The Tomsk article seems to be a reprint of an earlier article. Maybe this Dec 1 2009 article, which was all over the Russian sites:

    Note that the author admits he is not a scientist. I don’t think real Russian scientists are on board with denialism, because the Russian media didn’t quote their great scientists.

    Some Russian scientists are studying the thawing of the permafrost and wondering about the positive feedback of methane being released.

    I read one Russian scientist speak up about Climategate. His name is Sergei Kirpotin, and he is a professor in Tomsk at TSU. In Russian Greenpeace Kirpotin criticized Climategate as a provocation to wreck the Copenhagen climate meeting.

    I write about Professor Kirpotin on my site.

  35. 535
    Snapple says:

    Regarding the live journal article I cited above that discusses Ed Wegman:

    The Gazprom mogul Alisher Usmanov “personally owns…shares in the company SUP, which controls Internet website”

    I have not seen Gazprom-owned media or any media mention that Dr. Wegman is being investigated for research misconduct.

    Try googling “Эд Вегман”.

  36. 536
    JCH says:

    529 – “Speaking of narratives, I thought Ben Santer’s rebuttal to Pat Michaeils’s Congressional testimony was terrific. Certainly Santer is someone who can think on his feet (or on his seat, as it were). …” – Deech56

    I watched that live and immediately thought something fairly significant was happening, but I’m totally unqualified to judge who was right or wrong . Initially there were a lot of comments on blogs suggesting Santer had done very well, but Curry came out right after the hearings closed and said she thought Michaels had come out on top. If I had to guess, after a lengthy exchange of comments on the issues between Michaels, Curry, and assorted scientists, I would guess she still does.

    [Response: Not sure what she was seeing or listening to, but Santer’s points were all spot on, delivered clearly, and right. Michaels was wrong on the science even at a very conceptual level. Curiously, Crichton used this same argument too. – gavin]

  37. 537
    Susan Anderson says:

    Bob (Sphaerica) – yeah, I know I singlehandedly made you feel better about yourself ;)

    Anyway, I recently tried turning the alarmist around on deniers and it works well. Thanks.

    re waste on comments, yeah. Spend too much time there myself …

  38. 538
    Deech56 says:

    JHC @ 536 wrote, “Initially there were a lot of comments on blogs suggesting Santer had done very well, but Curry came out right after the hearings closed and said she thought Michaels had come out on top.”

    Here’s what I saw – Michaels made a point, but instead of letting that point stay out there as the final word, Santer challenged the point in strong words (“That is wrong.” or words to that effect) and explained clearly why it was wrong. To these informed, but non-expert eyes, Santer’s point was that Michaels was using the net increase as a sum of all positive effects. In Curry’s second thread (it’s so bizarre, I find it difficult to read), gryposaurus and John N-G try to set the record straight.

    Of course, being a non-expert and only seeing the relevant portion once, I could be wrong.

  39. 539
    Deech56 says:

    Oh, and Curry appears to praise Michaels for trying to sow reasonable doubt into the EPA endangerment finding. I would think truthfinding would be the highest calling, but there seems to be mantra that describing increased uncertainty is the worthy goal.

  40. 540

    For the record:

    Michael’s controversial testimony
    Posted on November 18, 2010 by curryja| 225 Comments

    by Judith Curry

    Pat Michael’s testimony has been generating significant controversy, both in the hearing and in the blogosphere.

    Michael’s Objective #2 relates to the attribution of climate change

    Michaels concludes that:

    “Consequently EPA‘s core statement (as well as that of the IPCC and the CCSP), “Most of the observed increase in global average temperatures since the mid-20th century is very likely due to the observed increase in anthropogenic GHG [greenhouse gas] concentrations”, is not supported.”

    My quick take on this is that I like the kind of approach he is using, as a complement to the model-based attribution of the IPCC. With regards to Michael’s specific analysis, since he introduced one anthropogenic factor (black carbon), he was obliged to use sulfates, also.

    What we really need to do is look at the range of datasets of solar, sulfate, black carbon forcing, plus the multidecadal modes of natural internal variability.

    On this thread, lets discuss the different observational forcing datasets for the period 1950-2010 in the context of the global average surface temperature anomalies and also the various statistical attribution studies. I will leave it to the commenters to introduce the relevant studies.

  41. 541

    For the Record – Part II:

    Michael’s controversial testimony: Part II
    Posted on November 19, 2010 by curryja| 129 Comments

    by Judith Curry

    Here is further explanation why I think Michael’s testimony is significant, and why I think the issue of the attribution since 1950 will be the battleground in U.S. CO2 policy. Michaell’s stated purpose for conducting this analysis was:

    demonstration that the Finding of Endangerment from greenhouse gases by the Environmental Protection Agency is based upon a very dubious and critical assumption.

    Michaels’ is seeking to establish reasonable doubt to the EPA’s CO2 endangerment finding, which is based on the statement (very similar to the IPCC’s statement):

    Most of the observed increase in global average temperatures since the mid-20th century is very likely due to the observed increase in anthropogenic GHG [greenhouse gas] concentrations.

    There are two main elements to Michael’s argument regarding the trend in global surface temperature anomalies and their attribution: the global surface temperature anomaly data record 1950-2009, and forcing. The analysis focuses on new research since the IPCC AR4:

    1a. Adjustments to the global surface temperature anomalies prior to 1965 (following Thompson et al. 2008) reduces the total temperature increase by 0.15C, and the trend by about 20%. Thompson et al. (2008) state:

    The adjustments immediately after 1945 are expected to be as large as those made to the pre-war data (,0.3C; Fig. 4), and smaller adjustments are likely to be required in SSTs through at least the mid-1960s.

    While it is my understanding that this temperature correction has not yet been applied to the CRU data set, Michaels’ application of this seems consistent with what Thompson et al. recommend. Thompson et al. state that:

    Corrections for the discontinuity are expected to alter the character of mid-twentieth century temperature variability but not estimates of the century- long trend in global-mean temperatures.

    The net effect of this correction is to make the mid century trend more continuous and reduce the appearance of the 1940’s “bump” that was followed by cooling. This also serves to increase the average global temperature ca. 1950 (the beginning point of the mid century in the attribution statements.)

    1b. The second point considers “non climatic” trends over land associated with data quality and land use changes (McKitrick and Michaels, 2007), which they argue account for 0.08C of the global warming trend from 1980-2002 (which is completely independent of the ocean adjustment.)

    If these two temperature corrections are correct, then the decadal rate of change in the period 1950-2010 is now probably slightly less than the decadal rate of change in the period 1910-1940 (which is unchanged in the Thompson et al. analysis.) Further, it is in principle easier to explain a smaller rate of temperature increase due to natural variability.

    JC comments: I have no idea whether these adjustments to the temperature record are correct, but they certainly reflect the overall uncertainty in the data. This analysis indicates a 33% discrepancy in the size of the trend, which reflects uncertainty in data itself. The actual uncertainty, if a comprehensive error analysis was done, is possibly larger than this. Note, errors in surface temperature data will be subject of a future series.

    2. The second part of the argument is forcing, and Michaels only includes two issues: stratospheric water vapor forcing, and forcing from black carbon (two factors that are almost certainly independent of each other.)

    Here is where Michael’s argument becomes confusing. Michaels’ attempts to explain the 0.7C trend by saying the observations are wrong and the trend is less, and then finds a residual trend (reduced further by stratospheric water vapor and black carbon) to claim that he has explained more than half of the 0.7C trend without CO2.

    Here is how I think he should proceed with his argument: If the observed temperature increase between 1950 and 2009 is 0.468C (trend 0.078C), then the challenge is to explain more than half of that trend with natural forcings. According to Michael’s analysis, black carbon and stratospheric H2O account for 34% of the 0.468C trend. So technically, Michael’s argument has not refuted the foundation of EPA’s endangerment finding (more than half of the observed warming, the magnitude of which has now been reduced). Adding uncertainty associated with solar variability may possibly make his argument work, but the argument as it stands, doesn’t hold up in my opinion (and not for the reason that Santer gave, in terms of including sulfate.) On the other hand, the original concern was raised over the magnitude of the original warming (0.708C), so Michaels’ broader argument does raise reasonable doubt (and would we be so worried if the observed trend was 0.47?)

    IMO, the more significant thing that Michaels did was in adjusting the surface temperature time series, which may result in the rate of warming in the latter half of the 20th century being smaller than that between 1910-1940 (somebody needs to do the calculations, I don’t have time right now.)

    In any event, I think this overall line of argument presented by Michaels is a very significant one in terms of the EPA CO2 endangerment issue. However, the logic of the argument needs refining and it needs extending before lawyers can use this as “reasonable doubt” in challenging the EPA endangerment ruling. And those defending the science the behind the EPA endangerment ruling (which is basically the IPCC) need to shore up their arguments. I think that this is the coming battleground issue in U.S. policy on this topic.

  42. 542

    I wonder if she will do any posts on any of the science based counter arguments to Michaels testimony that Ben Santer, Richard Alley, or Richard Feely pointed out?