Saturday, August 22, 2015


Some things to think about!

Where does oil come from? (not from dinosaurs and plants) Look it up.

Is common sense inherited? I mean, Is it encoded in your DNA?

Are we all the same at some metaphysical(spiritual) level? Certainly not at a biological level!

What does it mean to say "The economy is doing well."?

Is there a happiness gene?

If a suggested truth can't be proven, only disproven, is there actual truth or only a set of opinions?

Prove that the world outside of yourself is not just a figment of your imagination.

There are two fundamental non-linear problems, investment and climate.
1. How can you tell what the next hot stock is going to be?
2. How can you tell what the weather in 100 years is going to be? 100 days? 10 days? Would you care to bet?

Have other questions for the group? Let's hear them!

Climate Change

Climate change is real, small, and inexorable, and has little or nothing to do with CO2 which is also real, small, and has an unpredictable affect on the climate .   CO2 is not a pollutant and the more dangerous heavy hydrocarbons have already been controlled by large expenditures to clean up the air and the water. Carbon-based economy has given us our exalted standard of living and there is no reason to think it can’t continue to do that. More CO2 is generated when we burn more carbon in energy plants and cars, and most of the results of that are positive.

The only preferable alternative to carbon is nuclear power if we can get over our irrational fear that a nuclear reactor can be a nuclear bomb. Consider the worst possible scenario. A 9.0 earthquake causes a tsunami which damages an old nuclear reactor which melts down and drops its radioactive uranium into the catch basin below. The number of deaths or casualties from the incident due to any radioactivity equals zero, really, zero. Beat your breasts about whether bad things will appear later, but look at Hiroshima and Nagasaki and Chernobyl carefully and you'll find that that isn't to be expected.

Beat your breasts about the 30,000 people who died by drowning. Get real. Don’t be led down the garden paths by software engineers, meteorologists, and other quasi-scientific phenomenologists who choose their own causes and make them fit today’s data with the numerous adjustable constants which then fail to predict the future or the past. They try to use  “first principles,” to calculate future climate, but fail, because that approach is too difficult.  Chiefly: 1) there are too many variables causing them to ignore important physics, and 2) too much data is required all over the world simultaneously let the model know where we are starting.

There is a difference between a consensus that the climate is an area which should be studied and a consensus that the study is succeeding. In my opinion it is failing in important ways such that it is no basis for any policy decisions except to get more data. Even then there are more basic reasons why the climate can never be predicted 100 years in advance due to the nonlinear character of the process.

Suggestions: get off the knee-jerk ideological anti-carbon kick and concentrate on limiting negative side effects. Give high priority to the safest of all technologies, nuclear power, which is long-term the most reliable, and be realistic about the limited capability of wind and solar and their quality of life issues as well as environmental degradation, whether it be aesthetic or destructive  (like birds).

Anti-carbon and anti-nuclear is old-fashioned. We are not running out of oil and nuclear isn’t killing people. Get a life.

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Global Meltdown

Reflections on a Video on the melting of Greenland ice on the website Vice.

That video is one of the least scientific and most misleading reports I have ever read.  The interviewer has an agenda and the scientist was no help.  Their goal seems to be  to hype the situation to promote fear which sells ad space and generates study contracts.  The sea level rise is in fact not up to global scientists'  predictions.  Extreme weather events are less frequent over the last years not more frequent, hurricanes, tornados, fires, typhoons - all less frequent.  A few have been particularly violent, but if the energy is about the same, less frequent might mean more violent. 
 Temperatures haven't changed over the last 20 years.  The only thing which indicates future problems are the computer programs and they are increasingly in error.  More and more data point toward natural causes for the small heating we have experienced (<0.5ÂșC in 100 years).  Their is no direct evidence that humans have caused any warming.  The suggestion that humans are involved is derived by subtracting two computer calculations both of which are demonstrably wrong. The contribution of CO2 is minimal.  The idea is that the very small CO2 effect is amplified by the important greenhouse gas which is water vapor, even harder to model.  
Now more sophisticated scientists who are really trying to analyze the process are suggesting the the feed back is negative (reducing the effect) rather than positive (increasing the effect).  The amount of ice in Greenland is increasing even subtracting the separated ice which is in the water and won't cause sea rise.  Note that the scientist would not specify the probability that Greenland would completely melt, but he would give you a map of every city that might be effected if it did.  Since CO2 is not the real villain, reducing it by 80% will do nothing but run a number of energy producers out of business and raise the gasoline prices by an unknown amount. 
 Talking about energy, the supply of oil may never reach a maximum and start down as was expected years ago.  If you want to think about something, consider the fact that we don't know where oil comes from.  Really, we don't. It probably is being replenished by high pressure transformations of carbonate rocks deep underground.  It certainly isn't buried dinosaurs and trees. There are nowhere near enough. We may be rediscovering new sources for centuries. 
 And that doesn't include nuclear fission for which there is enough uranium fuel just in the ocean for 50,000 years.  And that doesn't include nuclear fusion which will probably be delivering essentially inexhaustible amounts of energy sometime in the future, in plenty of time.
The name alternative energy is a misnomer.  It should be called boutique energy.  It can never replace fossil fuels and nuclear.  For some applications it can be convenient, but not the main ones.
It is extremely scary to think that we might be drifting into a time of political correct energy or scientific theory.  Some people have already started talking of climate science skeptics as a sort of holocaust deniers, a sort of McCarthyism. 
The US is essentially energy independent and black lung is in the history books.  Does that sound like a problem? The climate has changed and will change.  Let's just find a way to keep our greedy, poor, common senseless and inflexible people from choosing to live where they might get in trouble.  A few years back, our insurance companies paid people on the Russian River in California to rebuild on the same spot 3 or 4 floods in a row before the insurers (subsidized by the government, i.e. you and me) finally said,"either build somewhere else or build differently). Humans do contribute to misery, their own.  And it's got nothing to do with breathing out CO2.  Remember: You can't be green without CO2.

Friday, February 20, 2015

Polls versus Education

Democrats, Young People, and Brainwashing with Carbon Soap.
The polls, the polls!  Rather than ask people what they think and try to distill out of that an energy policy, politicians rely on polls - not discussions with scientists or taking a class or reading a book.  Oh, no, it's easier to ask a few carefully worded questions which will achieve the goal desired by the poll takers.
A poll of the people, what could be more democratic?  It might be very democratic, but, in many subject  areas, it is often not in the people's interest. What people want on average and what they need are only vaguely correlated.   As time goes on and populations increase and most citizens get their info from an uneducated media rather than a teacher or even less rarely, an expert, the opinions of the masses becomes less and less relevant to the problem. Real democracy is based on an informed electorate.  It seems to me that real democracy should be eliminated as a way to make decisions.
Somehow policy decisions should be limited to people capable of understanding the problem, an elitist position to be sure, but to everyone's advantage.  Decisions can't be made solely by narrow experts, but most multivariable problems can be answered by experts from the various areas.  Like the idea of a beneficent monarch, these sort of problems used to attract honored scientists with particularly broad interests like when Newton was selected to run the English mint.
Such a plan requires some way to decide who should be involved and perhaps a quasi democracy at the grass roots level could generate set of citizen's councils - not hierarchical, but who would vote in large meetings and advise the politicians of the desired direction for the country to take, not to point at Afghanistan as a particularly successful country, but as an example of another country which has found this idea appealing with its loya jurga. Somehow local esteemed citizens need to be brought into the system, not as a job or a business opportunity, but as a service to fellow citizens.  This is what fellow citizens like George Washington were about when they added the requirement that only landowners could vote.
 Politicians who actually make laws and enforce them should not be involved, sort of like the voting district councils now being put in place which take questions which involve conflict of interest questions out of the hands of politicians as do the initiative systems in use in California and elsewhere. OK, there are detailed problems with these, but the impulse is to relieve the politicians from the job of deciding what the people think and to remove as much of the overlap of concentrated money of the ultra rich and concentrated power in politicians.  As soon as power concentrates in a few individuals, money tries to buy that power and democracy becomes oligarchy.
So we have a spectrum of problems, from the very technical to the minimally technical, but most questions still around are not completely common sensical.  They require knowledge and understanding: ones that are more technical in nature (like climate science, economics, energy research and production, stem cell research, basic material research) and others more stylistic (infrastructure, medical care, cloning, contraception, genetically modified foods, life style questions like drugs, sex and rock and roll). But uneducated people have nothing to add to such questions.  They certainly shouldn't be voting on them, never mind those who can't speak English.
The old saying that democracy is a terrible form of government, but it is better than every other form, can only be an excuse for so long.  As continued concentrations of wealth and power increase, a counter reformation to government by, for, and of the people needs to be stimulated without just raising a new set of politicians who will become the same as now when they get corrupted by the power as well.
My simplistic rules are:
1.  No US citizen can accumulate more that $1 Billion equivalent wealth.  This limit must be met by April 15th of every year.  The particular asset to be disbursed is at the whim of the citizen involved, but the money cannot be disbursed to political organizations or family members.  If not disbursed, it is taxed away and reverts to the US Treasury.
2.  If the Congress cannot meet its deadlines (budget, debt limit increase, or any other item which would keep the executive from carrying out its function), a National Congress can be convened by the President which is three times as large as the Congress or 1305 people.  The new National Congress people are constant for 5 years, the Congressmen are as  elected. The new people are chosen in the following way:  435 chosen randomly from a list of mayors of US towns  and 435 from the public randomly chosen from those who paid non-zero taxes for the last 5 years.  The meeting is held in a hotel or convention center anywhere in the US and the expenses for the meeting  and any loss of income by the participants are to be borne by the government. The meeting should be limited to one week.  Congressional staff should attend the meeting and be available to all the participants.  The Congress would be legally bound by the decisions of this National Assembly.
3.  The draft should be reestablished to require all US citizens to work for their country.  As before, conscientious objectors should have alternative means of service.  The draft would make discussions on going to war important.

Name Calling when arguments fail.

Reply to ScienceTimes Piece in the New York Times of 2/17/2015 by Justin Gillis
“Verbal Warming: Labels in the Climate Debate”

When science degrades to the point that non-scientists like you spend time analyzing the nuance of name calling resorted to by the “experts”  and their critics in a hopelessly complicated field instead of critically discussing the uncertainties inherent in an unpredictable nonlinear dynamic, I despair for the reputation and effectiveness of science as a policy driver.  Next time try reading more of the science and less of the rhetoric before you write for the public.  The climate scientists may debate, but only among themselves like, for instance, Jewish theologians arguing about the interpretations of the Bible as codified in the Talmud.  The basic dogma is unassailable.  The debate is only over what the dogma demands.

In a field where predictions of the simplest result differ by factors of 5 or so, consensus is laughable.  The idea of an expert is laughable.  And the disparate models with all their disagreements don’t agree with the data, particularly as shown in the average temperatures over the last 20 or so years.  For a few years before that the models agree with the data because they are forced to and the experts wouldn’t dare compare their models to the distance past when the CO2 fraction was as much a 20x what it is now.

The science is not settled.  The only consensus is the desire not to kill the goose which has laid golden eggs.

Charles Jordan, PhD (Elementary Particle Physics)
Columbia 1968
Physics Lecturer, Univ of Illinois

Thursday, November 6, 2014

The People have spoken, but full speed ahead

Dear President Obama,
      "The Republicans had a good night"?  Where is your connection to reality?  It's not that you don't have your heart in the right place: it's that your staff and administration don't seem to be competent enough to handle the large job you have been elected to and you don't realize what you don't know.  You need help, not good intentions.  Shake up your staff.  Hire people with experience of, for instance, meeting a payroll, if you want to help the middle class.  
     There is another option than executive orders and saying that the ball is in Congress's court.  Those are copouts.  Assume that you do have the responsibility to the American public that you declared last night.  Put together a program and push it personally.  Lead! Personally!  Go over to the Congress, personally. Don't lecture them publicly.
     Is having a bourbon with McConnell a smirking joke?  Or having press conferences more often so obviously ironic?  Have them over to your place, often!  You are only 1/3rd of the government.  The Congress doesn't owe you anything.  Do you take responsibility for anything?  I didn't hear you take responsibility for the CDC bungling on Ebola, or the targeting of Tea Party people at the IRS, or the bungling of the Affordable Care Roll Out.  It's always somebody else's fault.  And then you lecture them in public.  
This is mainly a personal problem, not a conceptual or an organizational one.  You are the king of the platitude and it's hard to know when you have a real plan to get something accomplished and when you are whistling in the wind.
     Everything is not all right.  Our culture isn't supporting education and thoughtful government and our citizens, at least the ones in Wall Street, are excessively greedy with money as the final goal.  Please don't take credit for propping up badly run companies so that the same old cronies can make as much money with as little effort as possible.  That's not healthy.  Things like new energy sources, which is the major reason the economy (i.e. the rich people) is not in recession,  are not due to your clairvoyance.  In fact, you seem to be annoyed that carbon-based fuels even exist.  Treat alternative methods as what they are, alternatives.  And eliminate as many obstacles to nuclear as are based on the fear of a bomb.
     This leads to the final area where you are pushing an agenda that you don't understand.  The science of the climate is complicated and shaky, and is not well understood.  The claim that most scientists agree on the subject is just not true.  Just saying it more and more often doesn't make it true.  In my opinion as a high energy particle physicist who was one of a group of 10 or so to receive a Nobel Prize for the discovery of the quark and has followed the arguments in detail, the affect of the added CO2 to the atmosphere  is between vanishingly small and negative, i.e. might make it colder.  Objective studies aren't sure whether the feedback from CO2 is positive (makes it hotter) or negative (resists making it hotter).
I hope you will be allowed to read this, but am not hopeful.   However, the voters are saying that something needs to change. I hope you can figure out what it is and fix it.
Good luck.
Charles Jordan

Columbia University (1968)

Thursday, October 16, 2014

KQED and its Climate Change

Dear KQED, (on the eve of your panel on climate change)
I know you must feel pressed to hype the dangers of Catastrophic Anthropogenic Climate Change, the words are so “impressive”, but you have a reputation which I generally admire to investigate the latest trends in science and philosophy.  I do as well and I have an education and experience behind me which is at least equal to anyone in your organization. I was stimulated by an email at a university where I was teaching which suggested that they would give me the video “An Inconvenient Truth” made by Al Gore to show to my students if I wanted it.
Being a elementary particle physicist with some standards of scientific behavior (my group at SLAC won a Nobel Prize for discovering the quark), I realized a con job by a non-scientist politician when I saw one.  I replied that I wasn’t interested in the video, but if they had one of Richard Feynman’s  “Lectures on Physics”, I would be glad to have it. I was immediately challenged to debate what was in those days called global warming with another physics professor. I didn’t know much about it, but the attitude of these aggressive nonscientists annoyed me and just from listening to their rants I realized that they were wrong without knowing any particulars.

I then started researching the subject and have  continued ever since in amazement that an entire body of scientists could be so unscientific and political. They take the fact that carbon dioxide absorbs light energy from the sun and reemits it  as heat radiation  (infrared wavelengths) and they run with it. But because the problem is very difficult and they are not very smart, they miscalculate the effects on the global climate.  Three comments are appropriate. One–the amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere is very small and the amount of humanly generated carbon dioxide is much smaller than that. Two–in order for CO2 to make a difference, there has to be a mechanism called  positive feedback to amplify its effect. This feedback depends on the effect of clouds and analysis using data from clouds usually gives a negative feedback as do many effects in physics. Three–climate models based on a subset of the physics of our planet  do not reproduce past climate variations and do not agree with each other. Some reports of the IPCC have had to include as many as 30 different models because they disagreed so markedly.

The undeniably complex generation of clouds by our atmosphere is beyond the capability of models to reproduce, but inferring the  increase in global temperature due to a doubling of the CO2 in the atmosphere from data is continually being reduced (most around 1.3 degrees C) and may finally reach zero and go negative. The reason I think that it’s positive now is due to an assumption that the entire record of temperature change is dominated by carbon dioxide when that is in fact not the case. A very provocative possibility is that cosmic rays generate clouds and variations in cosmic rays generate varying amounts of clouds, more clouds meaning lower temperatures as we all know. Cosmic rays were low from the 50s to the 80s and so there were fewer clouds and higher temperatures.

Now the cosmic rays are up again and there has been no temperature change in the last 20 years. As long as there are few sunspots there will be more cosmic rays.  Other natural effects like changes in ocean currents, changes in green cover, and, as yet undefined, energy storage variations in the  planet Earth perhaps related to its hot core clearly affect the badly  defined global temperature. The analysis and predictions of the climate science community is clearly dominated by computer jocks with little experimental expertise. 

Finally my 15 second sound bite is  that  “the role of carbon dioxide in the development of the climate is small and probably suppresses changes in temperature rather than increasing them.  The role of human generated CO2 is even smaller.”