Jan 072009

–by Mark Shields

I think we may need more choices than cause = CO2, cause = natural variability, and cause = unclear, for those who think there is warming; I don’t feel these options exhaust the interesting set of “causes”. I personally think, whether at any given moment the temperature trend is up or down, that the absolute level is higher than it would have been without mankind liberating large amounts of stored (chemical and nuclear) energy via Fossil Fuel, Fission and Fusion (FFFF). This concern is completely different than the concern about CO2 levels, and I think is an easier way to frame the pertinent question about what we should be doing about our use of energy.

These “FFFF” energy sources borrow from ancient reserves of potential energy and release this energy in the present timeframe at much higher rates than would have been the case otherwise (without human participation in the cycle). In contrast, rapidly cycled solar energy flux captured in the form of wind, solar, hydro-electric power (and even wood heating), is solar energy temporarily forced to do human directed work before being largely transformed back into heat within timeframes comparable to those in which mother nature would have done the same.

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Dec 182008

Which of the following most closely reflects your current views on climate change?

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Aug 152008

Raymond Smullyan is 89 years old, and lives across the Hudson in the Catskill mountains. A distinguished mathematician, logician, and philosopher, he has written over 20 books which have been translated into more than 17 languages. Smullyan is the Oscar Ewing Professor Emeritus of Philosophy at Indiana University and played a prominent role in the history of modern logic. In 1957 he wrote an influential paper for the Journal of Symbolic Logic, called “Languages in Which Self-Reference is Possible,” showing that Gödel incom­pleteness holds for many formal systems more elementary than those considered by Gödel. Georg Kreisel described Smullyan’s Theory of Formal Systems as “the most elegant exposition of the theory of recursively enumerable (r.e.) sets in existence.” Smullyan is probably best-known, though, for his popular collections of logic puzzles. When my children were growing up, they spent many hours with The Lady or the Tiger. My own favorite is To Mock a Mockingbird, which is about combinatory logic and the lambda calculus, one of the foundations of computer science.

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Aug 122008

A recent paper in climate science that has excited comment is D. Koutsoyiannis, A. Efstratiadis, N. Mamassis and A Christofides, On the Credibility of Climate Predic­tions, Hydrological Sciences Journal, 53 (2008). It is available in .pdf format here. The abstract reads:

Geographically distributed predictions of future climate, obtained through climate models, are widely used in hydrology and many other disciplines, typically without assessing their reliability. Here we compare the output of various models to temper­ature and precipi­tation observations from eight stations with long (over 100 years) records from around the globe. The results show that models perform poorly, even at a climatic (30-year) scale. Thus local model projections cannot be credible, whereas a common argument that models can perform better at larger spatial scales is unsupported.

The paper argues that Global Climate Models have underestimated the observed varia­bility of both temper­ature and precipi­tation for these particular stations. The authors acknowledge the limitation of having analysed records from only eight stations: “Whether or not this conclusion extends to other locations requires expansion of the study, which we have planned.” But they contend that the poor performance in the examined locations “allows little hope.” It is interesting that one of these stations is just down the road in Albany, NY, where the change in the 30-year moving average for temperature over the 20th century is roughly -1.5°(C), compared to model predictions of roughly +0.5°(C).

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