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Top 100 on Amazon

I've just crept into the top 100 books on, number two in popular science behind Ben Goldacre. I'm also at number 428 on




Josh 10

More cartoons by Josh here.



An interesting medical paper

I chanced upon this abstract, which somehow seems very pertinent to the discussions we've been having on this site. If anyone can lay their hands on the full paper I'd be interested.

In the last 20 years there has been a progressive decline in the honesty of scientific communications. In science truth should be the primary value, and truthfulness the core evaluation. Everyone should be honest at all times and about everything, but especially scientists. On the contrary, the activity stops being science and becomes something else: Zombie science, a science that is dead but it is artificially kept moving by a continuous infusion of funding. Many are the causes of dishonesty in science, for example scientists may be subjected to such pressure that they are forced to be dishonest. The corruption of science has been amplified by the replacement of "peer usage" with "peer review" as the major mechanism of scientific evaluation, thus creating space into which dishonesty has expanded. The hope is in an ethical revolution capable of re-establishing the primary purpose of science: the pursuit of truth.

Medical Hypotheses 2009;73:633-5



The IoP blog on the Nature trick

The Institute of Physics blog has a posting on the furore over its submission to the Parliamentary Select Committee. Among the gems are this:

[Mike's Nature trick], as mentioned by Jones in one of his e-mails to Mann, Bradley and Hughes, is a statistical method that is widely accepted in the climate community and is applied to proxy measurements in the years since 1960. It deals with the problem that some tree rings in certain parts of the world have stopped getting bigger since that time, when they ought to have been increasing in size if the world is warming.

"Widely accepted" is an, ahem, interesting way of putting it, given that Michael Mann himself says that nobody has ever grafted instrumental temperatures onto proxy records.

And there's more. Take a look at this from Rasmus Benestad:

According to physicist Rasmus Benestad from the Norwegian Meteorological Institute and a blogger for, Jones’ reference to "hiding the decline" could have involved removing some tree-ring proxy data from the analysis after 1960 to produce a curve that agrees better with the evidence for global warming.

Throw out evidence that doesn't match your hypothesis? Can he really have said that?



A right to data?

Interesting article at Conservative Home, suggesting that an incoming Conservative government would introduce a right to government data - forcing the bureaucratic machine to publish datasets proactively.

I'll believe it when I see it and there are many caveats, but it's a nice thought all the same.



Carry on up the charts

The Prospect review seems to have done the trick, with the Hockey Stick Illusion up around 1000 places in the Amazon UK chart to around the 400 mark.  Unfortunately it looks as though Prospect are only going to publish the review online, which is a bit of a blow. It's still nice to be noticed though.


First print review of HSI

Prospect magazine is the first print media outlet to publish a proper review of The Hockey Stick Illusion.  Hooray!

Montford’s book is written with grace and flair. Like all the best science writers, he knows that the secret is not to leave out the details (because this just results in platitudes and leaps of faith), but rather to make the details delicious, even to the most unmathematical reader. I never thought I would find myself unable to put a book down because—sad, but true—I wanted to know what happened next in an r-squared calculation. This book deserves to win prizes.



Change of tone at Nature

Nature has returned to the subject of climatology for its latest editorial and I'm pleased to say that they have made a welcome rediscovery of their former considered tone, with not a mention of the word "denier" to be seen.

In fact they are positively critical of the noisier sections of the media, particularly the new media, and their perceived lack of good manners and good science:

Civility, honesty, fact and perspective are irrelevant.

This sentence might have been the cue for some cheap retaliatory shots at Nature, but I shall resist.



UN announces review of IPCC procedures

UN chief Ban Ki Moon has announced what the media is calling a "mistakes review" but is actually a review of IPCC procedures prior to the Fifth Assessment Report.

The review is going to be performed by an umbrella body for national science academies, which frankly doesn't inspire much confidence and it will be interesting to see just how independent the panel turns out to be. A sixth independent-but-entirely-free-of-sceptics review might cause eyebrows to be raised, I would say.

Click to read more ...


Predicting climate 100 years from now

These are notes of a lecture given by Prof Tim Palmer on some of the fundamentals of weather prediction. The notes were taken by Simon Anthony. This is well worth a read, and I'm certainly struck by how little we know about how to forecast the climate.

If we can't forecast next month's weather, what hope for predicting climate 100 years from now?

Lecture at Dept of Earth Sciences, University of Oxford by Professor Tim Palmer, Royal Society Professor at Oxford, previously at European Centre for Medium Range Weather Forecasts.

[In contrast to simplistic fixed view of climate change preferred by journalists and politicians, TP adopts more traditional scientific view: create and develop models, make predictions, compare predictions with actual measurements, revise/replace models, try to understand models’ limitations. He seems happy to talk about uncertainties.  That said, he did sign the Met Office “Statement from the UK Science Community”… .  Taken together with his final suggestion of the need for a “CERN for Climate”, I’d say he seems like a good scientist who believes in the importance of his science, trying to argue the best case for that science but not necessarily too concerned about “collateral damage”.]

Why ask this question?

Following Climategate, Glaciergate and the repeated failure of Met Office’s seasonal forecasts, this is a question the public and commentators often ask rhetorically to argue that long-term climate predictions must be nothing more than guesswork.

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Power down

I'm expecting to have no electricity for much of the day, so posting will be light.


It's the wrong dataset Gromit!

Marcel Crok writes:

This morning, there was lot of noise in the Dutch media (unfortunately in Dutch only) about new research that was claiming a dramatic warming of 4 degrees in 2050. The news report quoted Dutch econometricians from the University of Tilburg. They had done a statistical analysis of temperature data and the influence of CO2 and solar radiation and concluded that aerosols masked much more of the warming of greenhouse gases than previously thought.

Unfortunately, the econometricians concerned didn't read the instructions on the tin before use. Most amusing.

Read it here.



The ICO on the six-month time limit

The ICO's office has issued a response to an FoI request enquiring about the legal status of the six-month statute of limitations that is apparently preventing them from prosecuting anyone at UEA over breaches of the FoI Act. Alongside their statement, the ICO has also released a lot of their correspondence on the matter, including an interesting exchange with Jonathan Leake of the Sunday Times over the legal niceties. The ICO certainly seems pretty convinced that prosecution under the FoI Act is indeed time barred. This, for example, seems to be an internal email on the subject:

The six months is in the legislation so prosecution is not possible but we will see what action
can be taken once the inquiries report. The relevant section is Sec 77 of the Freedom of
Information Act.

Click to read more ...


A new type of proxy

There's a fascinating article at Nature's website at the moment, reporting on a new paper in PNAS in which William Patterson of the University of Saskachewan in Canada reveals his new clam-based temperature reconstruction. 

The study used 26 shells obtained from sediment cores taken from an Icelandic bay. Because clams typically live from two to nine years, isotope ratios in each of these shells provided a two-to-nine-year window onto the environmental conditions in which they lived.

Patterson's team used a robotic sampling device to shave thin slices from each layer of the shells' growth bands. These were then fed into a mass spectrometer, which measured the isotopes in each layer. From those, the scientists could calculate the conditions under which each layer formed.

The resolution is remarkable, down to as little as a week and with Patterson holding out the possibility of daily resolution in future. As Patterson puts it, this opens the door to the study of paleoweather and the possibility of studying seasonal changes changes.

The reconstruction is pretty interesting too, with a hint of a little ice age, a clear medieval warm period and the turn of the first millennium appearing as warmer even than medieval times.

But what's really interesting is the modern era. Are current temperatures unprecedented or not? That's what we all want to know. Well, we don't know because Patterson's results seem to stop at 1800 AD.

Perhaps he explains in the full paper. 

Click for full size



The insanity of greenery

This from a correspondent:

A German aristocrat of my acquaintance has figured out that the price he will be paid for the output of a solar panel is so high compared with the price he will pay for his input of normal electricity, that he is thinking of rigging up powerful arc lamps to shine on solar panels on his extensive roof.