Wednesday, February 21, 2007

No hand fracture, no worries, god bless global capitalism

I called the orthopedist this morning and found that he was in surgery. So, I left a message with his staff about the xray discovery. They asked if the Dr. had a copy of the xray, and I said I didn't think so because I carried the xrays in myself. However, I said I had scanned in the xrays and could email them in. She just giggled -- you know the "I don't know what in the heck you are talking about" giggle.

Anyway, I left the message and then spent 15 minutes or so trying to determine the format of the email addresses at OrthoIndy so I could email the xray anyway. I took my best guess and sent it off.

At lunch, I got a call back from the nurse who said the Dr. had received my email and reviewed the xray again (imagine that! email! hilarious!). He thought it was probably a vein, but that it might be a hairline fracture. If it was bothering me I could buddy-tape the two fingers together, but unless it got really bothersome, not to worry about it.

After some more discussion at home, I thought that it was probably worth trying to get one more opinion on the xray, rather than risk a long term injury over my laziness to do so. I happened to find, which is a website for posting medical questions and having them answered by doctors from around the world (ie. India).

You only pay if you are satisfied with the answer, and it's $15 bucks. Within 10 minutes I had two doctors answer my question, and they both took the time to read through my blog as well as the info I submitted on the site. Here's what I got back:

In my opinion there is a single fracture in distal part of middle phalanx of ring finger of left hand. The other shadow which you are questioning is actually an artifact & not a fracture.

and this as well:
I agree with Dr. Munjal that it does not look like a fracture. It is rather the superimposition of one structure on another. I have an additional suggestion for you that would provide even MORE evidence that is based on my knowledge of American medicine and ER care. I looked at your blog and found that the X-ray was done in the Emergency Department of a hospital. At this point that means that THREE MDs have read this X-ray.
1) the emergency physician
2)the radiologist (X-ray reading specialist MD who would read it the next day) AND
3) your orthopedist.
Simply go to the hospital and ask for the "Official" X ray report from the radiologist. You are entitled to it. If he or she also read it OFFICIALLY as normal you have THREE MD's who have read it as "normal". That would put it totally to rest; they can't ALL be wrong!
So there you go. And let me point out that it wasn't a long wait in the bowels of socialized medicine program that helped me out, but instead it was a non-insurance based, global capitalist website that got me what I needed, in under 10 minutes, for $15 bucks. God Bless Capitalism. Boo-yah.

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

hand fracture or no?

Well, I just did some digging and found a "standard" hand xray for comparison. Maybe my suspected second fracture is just where other bones connect and it's no big deal. I'll probably call anyway, but here are the two images for you to comment on. My hand is on the left, standard hand on the right.

Xrays and stuff you don't want your doctor to say

You know you're in trouble when your doctor says "Ok, now I'm going to have to hurt you, hold tight..." ouch. As you might have guessed, thats when he reset my finger, and no, it wasn't very pleasant.

Here are my xrays before they fixed it. I'm in a new splint now, and he estimates 5 weeks to heal, with a new xray at 2 weeks to see how it's doing.

In this first xray, you can see pretty clearly that my finger is broken just behind the first joint. After the adjustment, this was all lined up again.

Ok, so I *thought* that was the more disturbing image.... that was until I started messing with the contrast and exposure in order to make these easier to see. Here is the second image:

Ok, so all I was going to show here was that if you look at the longest finger, you can count the three joints. If you look at the ring finger there, you can see between the first and second joint there is a nice horizontal line that looks kinda like an extra joint. Thats the fracture.

However, when I dimmed the exposure and cranked up the contrast, I made what appears to be a disturbing discovery. Look at the bottom between the two fingers I just mentioned. I'm no xray technician, but I would say that is pretty clearly a sizable crack right down the middle on the palm of my hand. To my knowledge, no one even looked at my hand as the focus was just on this finger. The emergency room report doesn't say anything about my hand at all, and so the orthopedist didn't even look at it to my knowledge. Something tells me that I need to give the orthopedist a call tomorrow morning and email him my enhanced image. I hope I'm wrong, but that doesn't look right to me.

More to come...

Monday, February 19, 2007

Oh, snap! (literally)

Only I could manage to break a bone while at my soccer game, but not while playing soccer. Last night, after playing the first half in goal and stating the second half as midfield, I subbed out to catch my breath. A minute or so later, the ball flew out of bounds through a hole in the netting that surrounds the field (this place isn't the best maintained, as this story will show), an bounded down the hallway toward the emergency exit.

Not wanting the game to get slowed up too much, I jumped up and ran down the hallway to get it. Well, this hallway doesn't have any lights on so it was pretty dark, especially given that my eyes were adjusted to the field lights... Anyway, the ball stopped in the corner by the alarm-door, and as I tried to slow down to pick it up, much to my surprise I discovered that there was a leak in the roof back there, and with all the snow we had it was leaking pretty fiercely. I'm sure you can see where this is going but, let me spell it out mathematically for you:

linoleum floor + giant puddle of water + darkness + flat soled indoor soccer shoes + being in a hurry + 32 years old + a few extra pounds around the midsection = bad news
I hardly even remember trying to stop. I remember thinking "ok, I'll pick the ball up and Johnny will be back at the bench. I'll just turn and throw it back to him so that...." WHOOSH! Both feet and most of my rear end were airborne and higher than my head, I was staring up and the ceiling, and BAM! On my back. "Man that hurts... must get ball... must get ball."

So I popped up, thew the ball back to the bench, and realized that my left ring finger was in considerable pain. It started swelling up immediately and I could feel it pushing on my wedding ring. After a minute or two of gathering myself, I headed over to the snack counter and got some ice. 10 minutes of holding my hand over my head inside the ice bag and considerable pulling later, I got the ring off, thankfully.

I was able to move my finger mostly, and it looked straight, so I figured this was just the latest in a fairly colorful history of bad finger jams (much to my mother's chagrin, I was goalie in soccer, catcher in baseball, an have really poor basketball handling skills...). Once I got the ring off it wasn't hurting nearly as bad so I subbed back in for the last 5 minutes (not as goalkeeper, mind you). I figured in a week or two it'd be fine again ("just rub some dirt on it!").

One of the guys invited me out for a beer afterwards, so I took him up on that. I kept my finger on ice the whole time and really, it felt stiff but only a bit sore and not too bad. After a beer I headed home and told Amy the story, etc. By the time I settled in for bed, it was pushing 11pm or so which was about 2 1/2 hours from when I fell.

Well... I took another glance at the finger and now it had turned considerably more purple and the swelling was, shall we say, unevenly spread on the finger. Yadda yadda yadda, better get an x-ray of that thing, and off to the emergency room, since all the immediate care places were closed at that point on a Sunday.

A nurse, doctor, and an xray technician later, I have a nice clean horizontal fracture straight across my ring finger about a quarter inch below the first joint, with a little twisting of the fractured piece to boot. Temporary splint and make an appointment to see the orthopedist after they open in the morning.

I'll post an update tomorrow as well as an image of the xrays if I can figure out how to do that as well.

Be cautious, however, because by reading this blog post, The Curse of Dairmuid Zoolander O'Dowd may set upon you next. It can apparently travel vast distances over the internet, including crossing large ocean bodies, as it was only two days ago that I read how Dairmuid (in Ireland) broke his finger in a rugby match, and then it struck me.

Consider yourself warned!

Saturday, February 17, 2007

An Inconvenient Truth

[disclaimer: it's late, and I've not reread this at all before posting it. there are likely grammatical errors and such in there. you'll have to deal with that.]

After spending the last several days working on the inconvenient truth that is taxes, I decided to watch Al Gore’s movie, An Inconvenient Truth, about global warming. As most of you know, I spent a whole lot of time digging through a whole lot of research over the last several weeks, and I’ve taken a good week off from reading it to give it some time to digest. I felt that I had a good scientific basis to work from when watching the movie, and as much as I didn’t want to give Al Gore any money by watching the movie, I wanted to see what all the talk was about.

Let me start by giving a few overall impressions.First, as you might expect, the movie is well done. It's not the greatest thing I've ever seen, but it's as interesting to watch as a good episode of Nova or a documentary on Discovery Channel. It’s not as though it’s made in some blatant Michael Moore propaganda method, and Al Gore does not come across as some kind of crazed lunatic or anything like that.

Second, I was surprised at the overall lack of real scientific content there was in the film. While I didn’t time it, I’d guess that well over half the film, perhaps as much as 3/4ths is spent on non-science issues: Al Gore’s home farm, his sister with lung cancer, anecdotes about this glacier here, or a woman’s house on the permafrost. Yes, these things are meant to be emotionally moving, and if I were making a movie like this, I would use the same sorts of tactics. However, there was a *lot* of that in the movie… a lot. It’s the amount that surprised me, no the mere presence of such emotional angles.

Finally, the movie, and presumably Al Gore’s underlying presentation, simply makes the assumption that, given a chart on CO2 levels and a chart of temperature levels, that I’m going to buy into the human CO2 production causes global warming concept. That is intended to happen in the first 10 min or so of the movie. After that, it’s all about what will happen when the temperatures rise, and providing evidence (much of it anecdotal), that temperatures are rising and that all these bad things are starting to happen.

I’ve already discussed what I found in researching the correlation between CO2 levels and global temperatures—that being that historically it’s temperature that moves first, not CO2 levels. Because of that historical relationship, there isn’t overwhelming scientific reason to believe that if CO2 levels move first, temperature will follow. It could happen, as I’ve said before, but jumping to that conclusion and then basing billions of dollars on what will happen if you are right is not a prudent thing to do. Spending some time and money proving, or disproving, your assumption would be the appropriate next step.

There are a number of things in the film that I could debate and discuss. For example, Mr. Gore says 40% of the worlds population depends on the Himalayan glaciers for fresh water, and that they are receding—but then I’ve read reports that only 0.5% of the glaciers in the Himalayas are even being studied. He claims that global species are being lost at a rate “1000 times greater than the natural background rate,” and some casual internet searching suggests that this is a whole other pandora’s box to explore, but the founder of Greenpeace thinks quite differently as commented in the Penn & Teller Bullshit episode Hawkins sent the link to. I don’t’ know who’s right, but everyone that talks about it, much like global warming, seems to throw information around without the facts they are pulling from. He talks about the importance of Antarctic ice and how it’s melting into the ocean, but just yesterday I read a report that says Antarctic temperatures are disagreeing with global warming models.

But all that, while it might be interesting to research and find out what is solid and what is a stretch, is beside the point. The point is that a clear scientific link between human CO2 production and global warming isn’t made in the movie. It’s assumed. And really, that’s a well known (and effective) way to get people to believe you. Right in the beginning of the movie, Al Gore says something like “I know you’re all aware of how greenhouse gasses warm that atmosphere, so we won’t spend much time on that,” --which is something right out of the debating class 101 handbook: establish your basis as indisputable common knowledge and build from there. No one, after all, wants to feel like they’re the only ones that weren’t aware of this alleged “common knowledge.”

To quote from the link I just gave:
In the 1990's scientists started to question the greenhouse effect theory, because of major uncertainties in the data sets and model outcomes. They protested the basis of the theory, which was data of global annual mean temperatures. They believed that the measurements were not carried out correctly and that data from oceans was missing. Cooling trends were not explained by the global warming data and satellites showed completely different temperature records from the initial ones. The idea began to grow that global warming models had overestimated the warming trend of the past 100 years. This caused the IPCC to review their initial data on global warming, but this did not make them reconsider whether the trend actually exists. We now know that 1998 was globally the warmest year on record, followed by 2002, 2003, 2001 and 1997. The 10 warmest years on record have all occurred since 1990.
What Mr. Gore completely avoids stating is that the Greenhouse Effect is, in fact, a theory. It is not a proven fact. Certainly there is evidence to support the theory, and it’s hard to imagine that it doesn’t play at least some role in the global temperature, but how much of a role, if any, is an open question. Ignoring this and passing the greenhouse/co2 theory off as hard-proven fact is grossly misleading, and is the basis for the entire movie.

My point being, again, that you can’t just ignore the fact that greenhouse warming is a theory still under debate, and then charge ahead without even alerting the viewer that that is the case, particularly when it’s alleged to have such significant consequences.

He uses statistics to establish consensus, and then consensus to provide credibility for the theory-which-isn’t-called-a-theory. He says that of 900-some-odd scientific papers reviewed, none of them disagreed with the concept of human caused global warming, but I’ve found published papers myself that do just that, and they date back into the 90s, so I’m not sure what the basis there is. In fact, the wikipedia entry on the global warming debate cites “when I checked the same set of abstracts, I discovered that just over a dozen explicitly endorse the ‘consensus,’ while the vast majority of abstracts does not mention anthropogenic [human caused] global warming.”

So the statistic is that zero of 900 said humans weren’t the cause, and so the implication is that 900 said it was. But that’s where statistics can lie. I could use the same body of work and say “Of 900 peer reviewed journal articles about the origins of global warming, only twelve—scarcely more than 1%--advocated humans as the cause of global warming.” Such a statement, while statistically accurate, is completely misleading, and is made in the same way using the same data as Mr. Gore used. The truth is that you’re using a lousy sample set to establish an opinion on either side, but again, this is great stuff for winning a debate. The thought process they want you to follow is:
  • These guys are scientists.They’re smarter than you, and they aren’t fooling around.
  • 900 peer reviewed articles might involved thousands of different scientists! That's a lot!
  • None of them think humans AREN’T the cause of global warming.
  • Only non-scientific morons would think otherwise, given all this evidence.

So that’s all good for winning your high school debate contest, and it’s inevitably going to fool a whole lot of people that either don’t know better or haven’t built up a base of knowledge on the issue, or both. I won’t call it an outright lie, because the idea of the movie is to ‘win the debate,’ and anyone trying to do that will probably use the same sorts of time-proven tactics. But, I am pointing out that these statistics to prove consensus are very misleading when the underlying data is examined.

While I’ve not looked (although I probably will) for websites that have analyzed this movie in great detail, because I’m really not interested in nit-picking the individual statements made in the film. Are sea levels going to rise 20 feet? Is Florida going to disappear under the ocean? Will 40% of the people die from lack of fresh water? I have no idea, and I don’t think it matters at this point in the debate. Anyone that’s making a film which is designed to get a point across will use anecdotes and statistics which support their point of view, and there’s really nothing wrong with that. The problem is that, in this case, the very core of the argument is presented in a casual “hey, you already know this is true, lets move on” sort of way, and I think it’s very misleading—particularly when you and I both know that a whole lot of people are going to take that information at face value, and it will be the only source they ever use for forming an opinion on global warming.

So again, for the umpteenth time, I’m not saying that humans are definitely not causing global warming. I’m not saying that the greenhouse effect is some kind of myth. What I am saying is that we should really try to get some more scientific proof via hypothesis and experimentation before we go dumping all kinds of cash into this. There are plenty of other scientific “theories” that I’m fully on board with, and they’re still theories too. But – if someone were to tell me that evolution proves that humans are on the verge of evolving into mindless beings that will destroy themselves, and that we need to suddenly spend a couple hundred billion dollars to stop it, I’d probably start by reexamining that theory of evolution to be sure that I really understood where things where headed, why, and what I could do about it before I busted out the checkbook and handed over that kind of cash.

There are *plenty* of perfectly good reasons to promote energy efficiency, less dependence on fossil fuels, and the like. For one, I’m not all that keen on coal power, given that, in the US, over 800 tons of uranium is spewed into the atmosphere each year from the burning of coal for power. I also find it pretty darn stupid to be using coal in that way when the energy potential of the uranium burned in doing so is greater than the energy produced by the coal power plant itself!

It may surprise you to find out that in the United States, where every garage is filled with a handful of automobiles, that electricity generation is still far ahead of automobiles as the leading producer of CO2 emissions. If you factor in the rest of the world, the spread would be even greater. Coal and natural gas represent nearly all of the CO2 emissions from electricity generation.

So I have an idea of Mr. Gore’s next move. I call it “A Convenient Solution: Nuclear Power.” The data suggests that choosing nuclear over coal and natural gas for power generation could cut the CO2 emissions of the US by over 50%. And you know what, I’d feel a lot better knowing that theuranium waste is either in a pebble-bed graphite ball, or in a barrel a mile under a mountain, rather than being spewed up into the air for me to breathe in, day in and day out, while I scratch my head wondering how in the world we could cut these pesky CO2 levels!

But, nuclear power continues to fall victim to pressure from environmental groups – probably the same environmental groups that are complaining about CO2 levels.How’s that for an inconvenient truth?

Friday, February 16, 2007

This photo/headline struck me as funny

Reuters had a story which ran at the top of Yahoo today titled "Taliban Deploy 10,000 Fighters for Attack" and then had this photo:

So here are, I presume, 5 of the 10,000 men, apparently armed with, from right to left: A Kalashnikov, nothing at all, some sort of bi-pod assault weapon, a bowl of oatmeal, and another Kalashnikov.

I'm not sure what about this picture is supposed to lend credence to the 10,000 man assault team, but five guys armed with three machine guns and a cauldron of breakfast cereal doesn't really reflect the headline, does it?

Monday, February 12, 2007

Impact of air travel on CO2 levels

Looks like about 2-3% of human CO2 emissions come from airplane exhaust. That means that airplanes account for:

(3% from airplanes) * (0.7% increase in CO2 levels attributable to humans) = 0.02%

So, air travel accounts for 0.02% of the increase in CO2 levels. Lions and tigers and bears - oh my!

One of the news reports I read points out that "travel by ship produces 160x less CO2 than by air" which I had to laugh at. They don't give any explanation as to how they calculated that -- is that point-to-point or per hour, or what? I have a vision of super-commuters that were flying from NYC to L.A. now piling into ships bound for the panama canal aboard a giant, diesel powered beast, rumbling through the waters. LOL. Am I really to believe that a ship full of people crossing oceans over a period of weeks produces less waste than a jet in the air for 4 hours?

Some days there's just too much material...

You can't make this stuff up...

Latest Government figures show that the flowers that make up the average bunch have flown 33,800 miles to reach Britain...

Environmentalists warned that "flower miles" could have serious implications on climate change in terms of carbon dioxide emissions from aeroplanes.
If you want to read the article, it's here, but seriously, don't waste your time. There's no scientific evidence provided and you've got everything you needed to know in that quote. I'm assuming that this must be a reasonably wide-spread theory among 'the believers', so if I get a chance, I'll see what I can dig up and what the rationale is...

Global Warming Interview with President of Czech Republic

When people aren't being politically correct, they can say some funny things. I love it.

[copy-paste from the Drudge Report]

President of Czech Republic Calls Man-Made Global Warming a 'Myth' - Questions Gore's Sanity
Mon Feb 12 2007 09:10:09 ET

Czech president Vaclav Klaus has criticized the UN panel on global warming, claiming that it was a political authority without any scientific basis.

In an interview with "Hospodárské noviny", a Czech economics daily, Klaus answered a few questions:

Q: IPCC has released its report and you say that the global warming is a false myth. How did you get this idea, Mr President?•

A: It's not my idea. Global warming is a false myth and every serious person and scientist says so. It is not fair to refer to the U.N. panel. IPCC is not a scientific institution: it's a political body, a sort of non-government organization of green flavor. It's neither a forum of neutral scientists nor a balanced group of scientists. These people are politicized scientists who arrive there with a one-sided opinion and a one-sided assignment. Also, it's an undignified slapstick that people don't wait for the full report in May 2007 but instead respond, in such a serious way, to the summary for policymakers where all the "but's" are scratched, removed, and replaced by oversimplified theses.• This is clearly such an incredible failure of so many people, from journalists to politicians. If the European Commission is instantly going to buy such a trick, we have another very good reason to think that the countries themselves, not the Commission, should be deciding about similar issues.•

Q: How do you explain that there is no other comparably senior statesman in Europe who would advocate this viewpoint? No one else has such strong opinions...•

A: My opinions about this issue simply are strong. Other top-level politicians do not express their global warming doubts because a whip of political correctness strangles their voice.

• Q: But you're not a climate scientist. Do you have a sufficient knowledge and enough information?•

A: Environmentalism as a metaphysical ideology and as a worldview has absolutely nothing to do with natural sciences or with the climate. Sadly, it has nothing to do with social sciences either. Still, it is becoming fashionable and this fact scares me. The second part of the sentence should be: we also have lots of reports, studies, and books of climatologists whose conclusions are diametrally opposite.• Indeed, I never measure the thickness of ice in Antarctica. I really don't know how to do it and don't plan to learn it. However, as a scientifically oriented person, I know how to read science reports about these questions, for example about ice in Antarctica. I don't have to be a climate scientist myself to read them. And inside the papers I have read, the conclusions we may see in the media simply don't appear. But let me promise you something: this topic troubles me which is why I started to write an article about it last Christmas. The article expanded and became a book. In a couple of months, it will be published. One chapter out of seven will organize my opinions about the climate change.• Environmentalism and green ideology is something very different from climate science. Various findings and screams of scientists are abused by this ideology.•

Q: How do you explain that conservative media are skeptical while the left-wing media view the global warming as a done deal?•

A: It is not quite exactly divided to the left-wingers and right-wingers. Nevertheless it's obvious that environmentalism is a new incarnation of modern leftism.•

Q: If you look at all these things, even if you were right ...•

A: ...I am right...•

Q: Isn't there enough empirical evidence and facts we can see with our eyes that imply that Man is demolishing the planet and himself?•

A: It's such a nonsense that I have probably not heard a bigger nonsense yet.•

Q: Don't you believe that we're ruining our planet?•

A: I will pretend that I haven't heard you. Perhaps only Mr Al Gore may be saying something along these lines: a sane person can't. I don't see any ruining of the planet, I have never seen it, and I don't think that a reasonable and serious person could say such a thing. Look: you represent the economic media so I expect a certain economical erudition from you. My book will answer these questions. For example, we know that there exists a huge correlation between the care we give to the environment on one side and the wealth and technological prowess on the other side. It's clear that the poorer the society is, the more brutally it behaves with respect to Nature, and vice versa.• It's also true that there exist social systems that are damaging Nature - by eliminating private ownership and similar things - much more than the freer societies. These tendencies become important in the long run. They unambiguously imply that today, on February 8th, 2007, Nature is protected uncomparably more than on February 8th ten years ago or fifty years ago or one hundred years ago.• That's why I ask: how can you pronounce the sentence you said? Perhaps if you're unconscious? Or did you mean it as a provocation only? And maybe I am just too naive and I allowed you to provoke me to give you all these answers, am I not? It is more likely that you actually believe what you say. Well, it makes a lot of sense, Prof Klaus. Other parts of the interview were dedicated to the Organization of European States (and Jo Leinen), the Czech civil cold war that has already ended, the radar for the U.S. missile defense, and his relations with the current Czech government. Show postings on this blog that contain the word Klaus.

[English translation from Harvard Professor Lubos Motl]

Sunday, February 11, 2007

More on global warming and cloud formation

Here's another article which, after raising some of the same complaints that I have about this global warming debate, cites Dr. Svensmark's experiment with the cloud formation in a box. There's no new data here, but I'm glad to see someone else raising questions about the unscientific nature of what should be a scientific debate.

Now, granted, I have not seen the actual data from the Svensmark's experiment. The whole thing could be bunk. Maybe he's making it up. BUT - at the very least, someone has proposed an experiment as a method of determining the cause of global warming, and someone else (the writer of the above article) has taken notice that experimentation is fundamental to scientific proof.

I'm also raising my estimate to the odds that no one has conducted an actual experiment proving the CO2=greenhouse gas=global warming tie to about 99.9999%. Either the internet is completely absent of that experiment, or it just doesn't exist. I'm guessing the latter. (I have no scientific evidence to back up this claim either, but that seems par for the course...)

Which leads me to my next irritation about this thing. People who have not bought into the human/CO2/warming combination are referred to as "global warming skeptics" or, in more propagadized (is that a word?) terms "global warming deniers" which is a really stupid attempt to equate skepticism of human caused warming with denial of the Holocaust. Whatever.

Anyway, ignoring that obvious stupidity, calling someone a "skeptic" in science implies that someone doubts the results of a particular experiment or overwhelming proof. If I said I had developed a drug that destroyed all cancer, then, in the absence of data, you'd dismiss me as a lunatic. If I backed my claims up with data, you'd probably be skeptical of my claims until you could repeat the experiment that produced the data yourself.

So, "skeptic" implies that there's something to be skeptical about. There isn't, because in this case there is no experimental data or overwhelming proof. There is only circumstantial evidence. So, to me it doesn't seem like there should be a group called "skeptics" so much as there should be a group called "believers". Belief in the absence of proof is something that you find in religion and philosophy, not science.

Instead of spending billions to address the CO2 problem, how about spending millions to get some experiments setup and completed which confirm (or deny) this linkage? Is that too much to ask, given the kinds of dollars that will be spent here?

Monday, February 05, 2007

almost forgot...

Amy sent me this link to an article by a climatologist in Canada who, more or less, is making the same complaints that I did earlier, although without the eloquent tongue of Jeff Ready to assist him! ;)

The only thing hotter than global warming is my MacBook Pro

Thanks to Jay (see assortment of comments below) my global warming research continues, although to be honest I may need to take a bit of a break from it. I've spent no less than 20 hours over the last week searching for and reading through research, which as I've said before, is often hard to find among all the "media summaries" that are out there without citing actual research.

Just now, I got a whole new list of links to check out from Jay (also below) which I haven't even touched on. However, I did want to make a few more comments on things before too many more days pass and it slips my mind.

First, one of the links below takes you to a wikipedia page of human caused global warming skeptics. I hadn't seen that one before, and I haven't yet even started to try and read through what all was there. But, I did notice that one of the scientists listed was Henrik Svensmark, who is the guy that has been researching how changes in cosmic radiation affects (thanks Jay) cloud formation, and is doing so by [GASP!] formulating, conducting, and observing experiments.

The information I was reading about his work came from his university website here, where you'll find his various journal articles and come peer-commentary on them. There have also been a number of other media reports touting an upcoming journal article, but since I've not seen that actual journal article, I can't give them a whole lot of credit yet.

Finally, there is an explanation (I think) as to why water vapor is left out of the warming calculations explained here (also a Jay link). Basically, the theory is that water vapor levels are reacting warming and not causing the warming, and by extension, water vapor levels are reacting to CO2 levels and aren't changing on their own. There is some math at that link that suggests why CO2 is the primary affector (is that a word?), and not some other greenhouse gas. I have another thought on that in just a sec...

Of course, Dr. Svensmark's work suggests that water vapor *is* reacting, just like the theory goes, but that it's reacting to something besides CO2 levels. And I'm not saying he's right, but at least, again, he's got some experimental data.

I continue to be nothing short of amazed and the seemingly completely lack of actual in-lab experimental data to support the whole linkage between CO2 and warming. Now, I'm no climatologist, but I've spent enough hours in a lab environment to have some idea as to how things work, and I really find it hard to believe that someone, somewhere, hasn't put a bunch of water vapor, CO2, and methane in a box, passed solar radiation through it, and measured the resulting heat levels over time. Then, added CO2, and done the same. I'm sure more would need to be done than that, but seriously, does that sound like a terribly complex experiment that can never be done?

Instead, the data continues to come from associated evidence measured from the atmosphere itself, which by it's very nature, is anything but a controlled environment (hence this whole debate).

While you can't prove a negative, I've come to the conclusion that such experiments have not been conduced (or at least, not published), and therefore data from that sort of experiment just doesn't exist. I don't know how or why thousands of scientists would all jump on board something that is nothing more than a hypothesis when experimentation seems well within out technological capacity, but it's happened. Weird.

Finally, doing hours or research right before bed every night has caused me to have some strange dreams. A few nights ago I had a dream that all branches of science had decided that circumstantial evidence was enough and that actual experiments were no longer necessary to declare something a fact. In this dream I wasn't feeling well so I went to the doctor. He said "well, you don't look good, and you don't feel good, but there's nothing obviously wrong with you, so it must be cancer."

"Cancer!?!" I said. "Don't you need to run some kind of test for that first?"

"Nope, we're just going to start you on chemotherapy now, because if we don't and it turns out to be cancer, you'll have wished that we did."

What the heck.

(No, I'm not making this up. This is the dream I had. Be warned that extensive global warming research can lead to annoying, unappealing dreams... or do the dreams cause the global warming research? I'm not sure.)

Friday, February 02, 2007

Global Warming Research

Ok, so global warming has been all over the news with the recent conference and global warming report that came out today. I've been conducting an extensive amount of (very frustrating) research on my own. Let me start by stating that while I'm skeptical of a pending ecological disaster caused by humans (and anyone conducting research should approach claims of significant change with skepticism), I'm not going in on some kind of witch-hunt or trying to find research that supports a pre-defined view.

In fact, at this point it's quite the opposite: I'm working under the assumption that, with so many people jumping on the bandwagon, I've got to be missing something. And that's where I started...

So, let's start with a set of facts which I have researched and are supported by actual measured data from multiple sources. It doesn't make it right, but I believe this data is probably accurate. Here we go:

  1. The earth has been getting warmer for the last 200 years or so. I've seen the data, it's simple measurement of temperature, and it's going up. Yes, we can measure temperature more accurately today than we could is 1863, but I don't have any reason to believe that the earlier temperatures would be wildly off. There are also sets of data that measure things indirectly effected by temperature change, and these support a warming climate as well. So is the earth getting hotter in recent years? Yes, it is.

  2. Carbon Dioxide (CO2) levels have increased over the same period (approximately the start of the industrial revolution. Based on various measurements, the concentration of CO2 in the atmosphere 200 years ago was approximately 288 ppm (parts per million). Today it is approximately 388 ppm. That's an increase of about 35% (100/288).

  3. The burning of fossil fuels releases carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. Yes, this is true. As you might expect, since "fossil fuels" means "fuels that came from living things" and living things are made up primarily of carbon, then the formation of carbon dioxide is not hard to understand.

  4. The level of greenhouse gasses in the atmosphere plays a role in the surface temperation. I've actually not been able to find the actual controlled environment experimental data that proves this, but I'm going to go out on a bit of a limb and accept that it plays a role anyway because of the very definition of what constitutes a greenhouse gas. "Greenhouse gasses" are made up of the following: Water vapor, carbon dioxide, methane, nitrous oxide, and a group of gasses present in trace amounts. Other gasses like Nitrogen and Oxygen are not greenhouse gasses (I won't go into the explaination here, but it's easy enough to find if you are interested).

Alrighty then. From what I can tell, I'm supposed to jump to the conclusion that:
  • Humans burn fossil fuels which release CO2 into the atmosphere.
  • CO2 levels are rising
  • CO2 is a greenhouse gas
  • Higher concentrations of greenhouse gas will raise temperature
  • The earth's temperature is rising
  • Therefore, human burning of fossil fuels is causing the earth's temperature to rise.
So all that is true and fine, until you get to the last step. I think they've removed the "logic" portion of the SAT test since I took it (maybe this is why), but if this were on the test, you would answer that "the conclusion could not be reached based on the statements above."

If you aren't sure, let me walk you through the same logical steps using an obviously ludicrous basis:
  • Humans use ovens to cook
  • There are an increasing number ovens in use as human populations increase
  • Ovens produce heat
  • Heat increases temperature
  • The earth's temerature is rising
  • Therefore, human use of ovens is causing global temperatures to rise.
Obviously faulty logic. The problem is, that's all I can find. I can find a whole bunch of people that walk me through all the bulletpoints, give me graphs and charts, and data, and anectodes, but then nothing to actual bridge the gap between all that, and proof that the human behavior is actually linked to the warming planet. If you've got the connection, please tell me, because none of the sources I've find have done it yet.

But okay - I pressed on in the hope that maybe by just 'accepting' this premise, I'd end up with the evidence I needed as I dug deeper. The problem is, there really wasn't much to dig into. Like I said, you can find plenty of data on global temperatures, and plenty of data on CO2 levels, etc, etc, but nothing the solidly connects the two.

In fact, an observation I made which shocked me is based on looking at the charts that were supposed to be used to *support* this theory of human-induced global warming. Let me show you what I found:

Below is a chart that I'm sure you've seen in some form before. It shows the level of CO2 in the atmosphere for the last 1000 years or so.

(note that "today" is on the left side of this chart, zero-thousand years ago)

Ok, so the author of the graph took the liberty of adding the comment "the industrial revolution has caused a dramatic rise in CO2". This is more faulty logic, since what the chart shows is that "CO2 levels have increased dramatically since the start of the industrial revolution" - that is true - but looking at this chart and proclaiming that the industrial revolution *caused* the warming is beyond what you can actually say from this data. It's not automatically ruled out either, but logic says you can't make that claim based on what is shown in this chart.

In any case, the underlying graph, if you ignore the author's added statement, I believe to be accurate, and it does show, as supported by the data sets that I found as well, that CO2 levels have gone from about 288 to 388 ppm, like I said above.

Once you've seen that, the next graph to look at is the temperature graph, which again is something I'm sure you've seen before:

And so, here we have a chart (in which time goes from left to right, opposite of the first chart), that shows temperatures are increasing over this post industrial revolution period. Sure enough. Up they go, and I've seen enough data to believe that this guy didn't just make stuff up for the graph. You can see that the overall swing in temperature is about 1-degree C during the life of the graph here.

So now, without further adieu, I ask you to jump to the conclusion that CO2 levels are the primary cause of this temperature increase!

But wait, there's a problem... If you lay the two charts on top of each other, get the date ranges to match up, and, of course, get them both going the same direction, here's what you get:
Ok, I know that chart is small, but the red/orange line represents temperature, and the blue line represents CO2 levels. So that matches up, just like the theory goes, right?

Wrong. Look closely and you'll see very clearly that the temperature moves before the CO2 levels move. First the temperature rises, and *then* the CO2 rises. First the temperature drops, and *then* the CO2 drops.

This is exactly the opposite of what this whole CO2/greenhouse gas theory says should happen. Remember that the hypothesis is that increasing CO2 levels cause the warming. But I (and now, you) have data in front of you - data that comes straight from the same people that want to you reach their conclusions - and it shows that, in a historical context, its the temperature that causes the CO2 level to change, and not the other way around.

If you're wondering why no one has noted this before, don't ask me. I'm asking the same question. Remember that I'm not regurgitating some anti-environment ultra-right-wing nonsense here. I'm telling you what I found in doing the actual research, and all the graphs I'm showing you have come from the wikipedia, not the National Review.

Ok, so before I move on to what I did next, let me share one more graph with you that I found in this research. If you do this yourself, you'll find that most of the articles that cite this stuff usually show you the charts from just the industrial revolution onward, which is really just poor science to do that, but the charts fit best with the theory there. If you get something bigger, it will probably be the chart I just showed you, which goes back 650 thousand years or so.

I kept looking for data that went back further--after all, the earth is 6.5 billion (with a B) years old.

Well, it's hard to find that data, but I did find this chart of CO2 levels going back millions, instead of thousands, of years.

Here again on this graph, present day is to the left, and 550-ish million years ago is on the right. Using the graph reading skills Kaitlyn has learned in kindergarten, you can see that on the left, we're practically at the lowest point on the whole chart! In fact, you can see the first mark going up the y-axis is "1000 ppm" for the CO2 level. From the data earlier, I noted that present CO2 levels were 388m - far less than even the first mark on that axis. The common ancestor to chimps and humans existed about 6 million years ago, so it's not like people were walking around when the CO2 levels were 2000 ppm. But still, it seems pretty obvious that over the course of this chart, that CO2 levels are seriously on the decline.

But anyway, I kept digging, as I was trying to find out what of the 100 ppm increase in CO2 levels could really be attributed to humans. In looking for that, I found out some general, and very interesting information about greenhouse gasses. First, here is the breakdown of what makes up the collection of things in the atmosphere called greenhouse gasses:
  • 95% - water vapor
  • 3.6% - carbon dioxide
  • 0.4% - methane
  • 1.0% - nitrous oxide
  • and trace gasses
Wow. So 95% of the greenhouse gas mix is water vapor. Seeing that, I had to jump in and do a little math:

(35% increase in CO2 over 200 years) * (3.6% of greenhouse gasses comprised of CO2)

equals a whopping 1.25%. Yes. All this hub-bub about the increasing CO2 levels and that only amounts to a 1.25% increase in greenhouse gas.

Adding fuel to the fire (or perhaps, insult to injury), I found research that suggests that if you add up all of the CO2 emissions ever released from the burning of fossil fuels, that would give you a maximum increase of 57 ppm. So, a little more math:

(57 ppm from humans) / (100 ppm increase in CO2 levels) * (1.25% greenhouse gas increase)

equals... (drum roll please)... 0.7%.

Yes. Humans burning fossil fuels have increased greenhouse gasses by 0.7% over the past 200 years, and THAT is causing the earth's eco-system to spiral out of control on it's way to roasting all of us through massive storms, great floods, and famine.

Are you kidding me? This entire theory is based on trying to link the earth's warming to an increase in CO2 of less than 1%? For pete's sake. It wouldn't surprise me if the instrumentation used to measure CO2 levels has a margin of error of at least that much!

So I don't know. If you want to say that the little change in greenhouse gasses is going to be the end of us all, then be my guest, but I'm going to think you are an idiot. In the absence of some additional proof, which I would be happy to look at, this whole thing seems like a wild goose-chase down the wrong path.

And the real problem I have with it is this: billions or even trillions of dollars could get tied up in programs, research, and retooling to lower CO2 emissions world-wide. And for what purpose? To take the 0.7% increase and make it, oh, 0.6%? 0.5%?

Meanwhile, let me remind eveyone, the earth really is warming! Will it stop? Maybe. Probably even. But when? Who knows. In the mean time, all of this money could be going into much more useful things like, say, trying to engineer grains that will grow in warmer, more arid climates. If the earth does heat up, we're going to still need food. And if it doesn't heat up that much more, then we'll have done research that might allow for crops to be grown in parts of the world where they can't now because it's too hot and dry, and that should make (almost) everyone happy.

And all that additional corn should even soak up a little CO2 while it's at it.

I did find some very interesting research that suggests that increasing temperatures are correlated with increased low-cloud cover. They have the data to support that, and, given that clouds are water vapor and water vapor is 95% of the greenhouse gas mix, then yes, it would seem that water vapor may have an effect on temperature. The research links this cloud cover with cosmic radiation levels from our sun and otherwise, and there are experiments that show that, in a controlled environment, exposing air to UV radiation will cause clouds to form.

Of course, humans don't cause any cosmic radiation, and so there are a bunch of people that have been ripping this guy a new one because his theory doesn't link humans to warming. (Oh the horror. As if we can't desire to get away from fossil fuels and have cleaner air, while at the same time not linking fossil fuels to the destruction of the planet. Anyway...)

Now I need to look into that more, but praise the lord that someone has set forth a hypothesis based on data, formulated, conducted, and has a repeatable EXPERIMENT, and is now publishing his observations and conclusions from that. The same scientific method you learned in junior high. Genius!

But anyway, my attempt to gain a better understanding of what this is all about has only opened up more questions about the theory at it's core. Temperature appears to effect CO2, and not the other way around. CO2 is just a small piece of the puzzle, and human induced CO2 is smaller than that. CO2 levels are among the lowest they ever have been on earth.

If you have more data (and I mean scientific data, not some screwball nonsense) that would suggest otherwise and would close the loop on this theory, I'm all ears.