Sunday, November 29, 2009

A Course on Climate Change

I've started watching one lecture of this per day, and I am hooked.

From what I've seen yet, this course seems to explain most of the issues with climate science quite well. As a heat transfer specialist, I find the course all the more useful and enlightening.

I might even buy his book soon. [I'm talking about Professor David Archer from U Chicago here. Maybe he ought to have a nice little chat with Steve Levitt].

Swiss Bigots?

Can anybody please tell me how the recently approved Swiss ban on building minarets is not against the freedom of expression?

If you're banning minarets on mosques, then you must ban steeples on churches and idol-like thingies on Hindu temples. You may consider banning the public display of meatballs by Pastafarians and white handkerchief equipped mannequins, and space movies in theaters.

Et tu, prosperous liberal socialist neutral alpine countries?

Are India, the US and the UK the only true liberal democracies left?

Friday, November 27, 2009

Of Heat Engines and Climate Change

There's this interesting study from the university of Utah which asserts that we're in deep trouble. The study seems pessimistic about action on global warming - claiming that economic growth is correlated with energy use, which is correlated with carbon dioxide emissions. And therefore, nothing short of a full-scale-economic depression will save the world from a climatic armageddon (if I may use some rhetorical flourishes).

The author's main contention is that all the gains made out of efficiency will be reinvested and will result in further economic growth. This will result in the a sort of grotesque law of conservation of CO2 emissions. It's just like people with high mileage vehicles tend to go on longer drives than the SUV owners.

The authors model the world as a system which takes in fuel, belches out low grade waste heat (along with CO2) and extracts work (i.e. economic growth). Fascinating analogy.

A standard argument going around liberal circles is that 1-2% of the world GDP invested in clean energy and carbon sequestration type technologies will be sufficient to get CO2 levels under control.

Clearly, the two views are at slight odds with each other. I need to read more.

Friday, November 20, 2009

Are Indians Genetically Stupid?

This article got me thinking, nay, fuming. And this one, even more so.

Why is India's average IQ 81, and that of China 100? Is that why India is growing slower than China? It seems politically incorrect, racist but why is it impossible?

Or is it because, well, India is poorer, so Indian children are more mal-nourished, so their brains don't develop? Is there a poverty bias in IQ tests? After all, Latinos consistently test lower in IQ than Caucasians in the US - and they're poorer. Are they poorer because they have lower IQs, or is it the other way around? Is there also a language gap when it comes to the IQ tests? Were the IQ tests in India taken in English, a non native tongue to most Indians, and taken in Chinese in China - considering that English is less widespread in China, so it is conventional to do nothing in English?

And what of India? Are the richer people smarter than the poorer people? Historically, India has had this shame-on-humanity-caste-system. Did it have anything to do with IQ?

And now with this reputation for smarts than Indian Americans are building in the US ... what does that mean for India? With all the "outliers" drifting towards greener pastures in the US of A, are we leaving India a dumber place than before?

My two cents, finally: The study is not peer reviewed. It is a book. Books are not peer reviewed. It is pure junk, and more rigorous studies need to be performed to be convincing. Averaging some 10 tests in Shanghai and arbitrarily subtracting 6 will not make good IQ measurement.

While it might be possible that reality is not politically correct, I just don't think we have the information to call it yet.

India's new Nobel Hope?

If Jairam. Ramesh, in his capacity as the minister for environment and forests, does something concrete to tackle India's all-pervasive filth, he would be a candidate for the Nobel.

Here is Mr. Ramesh, contending that India deserves a Nobel for its filth.

If anybody makes serious inroads into India's filth, I will myself force the Nobel commitee to give them the prize. Because I don't think the lives of those who live within the filth (and there's around a 100M, or 12 Israels, least of those in India) are peaceful now.

And how tough do you think removing filth is? There's a lot of poor people out there who are suffering. Pay some poor people some money to take care of the filth, ensure that they're doing their job to get their pay .. and things should take care of themselves.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Mental Workouts

I have decided to stem my mental atophy by doing the of occasional mental push ups. Today, I tried to prove that \Sigma^N_{i=1}(x_i - \tilde x)^2 = \Sigma^N_{i=1}(x_i ^2- \tilde x^2)

I feel proud of myself. I intend to work out these algebraic problems occasionally (perhaps throw in some indefinite integrals for fun), so that I keep my brain nimble.

I would rather a Bonobo ran Goldman Sachs

New Scientist has this remarkable article. And here I quote:

There's even one observation of a bonobo who worried about getting too much. During tests, a female received large amounts of milk and raisins, but could hardly miss the eyes of her friends on her, who were watching her from a short distance. After a while, she refused all rewards. Looking at the experimenter, she kept gesturing to the others until they were given a share of the goodies. Only then did she finish her stash.This bonobo was doing the smart thing. Apes think ahead, and if she had eaten her fill right in front of the rest, there might have been repercussions when she rejoined them later in the day, not unlike the nasty notes scribbled on the portrait of Richard Fuld, the final chairman and CEO of Lehman Brothers.

Since Lehman is only a figment of people's imaginations right now, we must use Lloyd Bla-I'mdoinggod'swork-nkfein as a proxy. (As an aside, clearly he believes in a malevolent god rather than a benevolent one).

So, if anyone's keeping count the current score is Bonobos 1, Goldman 0. (Unless we're talking money here, then the score would be Bonobos 0, Goldman 1e+10.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Oceans Better at Absorbing Carbon?

New research in Geophysical Research Letters, by Knorr et al. seems to indicate that oceans are still absorbing a constant proportion of CO2. Their efficacy as a carbon sinks not seem to be deteriorating as the concentration of CO2 in the atmosphere is increasing.

Here's my two cents (as a layperson who has informed himself though the perusal of websites such as RC and the like)

This basically means that CO2 concentrations may not increase as drastically as some of the models have suggested, due to the worsening of the sink performance. But that certainly does not place us out of the woods. Concentrations are currently as 387ppm, which are quite high already - and they do look like hitting 450.

This essentially tells us that nature might be more forgiving than some of the gravest predictions. This is good news, a sign of hope. Also, I expect this still lies within the error bar of the IPCC projections. Of course cuts in CO2 are still necessary!

However, if I were you, I would wait for updates on RC (or some other resource made by actual climatologists) before I reach a conclusion. I'm no climatologist.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

India's Brutal Occupation of Kashmir?

Professor Noam Chomsky, in his latest article available on his website lashes out at every known power structure.

Even India. He calls the Indian occupation of Kashmir "brutal".
I am sure, given the chance, he would offer a much different take on India's naxalite problem.

Professor Chomsky is usually correct. I pretty much agree to a good degree with him on a lot of topics.

Perhaps this tells us that even democratic power structures are, to an extent, repressive and evil. Consider Kashmir. Yes, the Kashmiris are suffering - at the hands of India, Pakistan and the Mujahideen.

Yes, things are brutal. But what are the options? What are the options that will be acceptable to the states of India and Pakistan? What are the options acceptable to the people of India and Pakistan? Is a reasonable resolution possible in a democracy?

Perhaps professor Chomsky's criticisms of the Indian state are actually criticisms of democracy in general. That would make sense. Because any democracy in India's shoes would occupy a territory like Kashmir. What if Pakistan were also a secular democracy? Do you think they would still not lay claim to Kashmir?

A Depression Averted

I stumbled upon this website while browsing Professor Paul Krugman's blog. The plots in this website convince me that

(1) What happened last year very similar to 1929
(2) Governments knew how to handle this downturn quite well, thanks to Keynes
(3) It looks like things are getting better again

Though plots pertaining to India and China are not shown here (primarily because they did not matter back in 1929), I anticipate that would be interesting reading too.

These plots do indeed make the case for economic stimulus very strong. I would like to see conservatives reply to this.

Monday, November 02, 2009

Benefits of Wildlife Conservation

It is nice to see the lives of those who have taken up violence terminated.

Kudos to the bears. Let's hope their numbers increase, and that they kill more terrorists.

Sunday, November 01, 2009

Malthus Vindicated?

Yes, there is a lot of talk going on about climate change. There's hypotheticals being discussed. There's the Stephens at superfreakonomics trying to convince the main offenders, the public in the western world that the current global warming scientific consensus is similar to the joke that was global cooling in the 70s and 80s. There's that superfatted fanatic moron Rush Limbaugh and that nitwit fossil James Inhofe shouting that it is a lie.

And then there's ground realities. This is one of the most startling studies I have seen in a very long time. Not model projections, but data.

Tibet's glaciers are retreating. And they're going back like nobody's business. And the tree line is receding by 350m a year. (I really can't believe this 350m statistic, but apparently that's the way it is).

What does this mean to the Indian public? One simple word: THE END OF THE GANGA during summer. And possibly the more sporadic monsoons. This is a humanitarian disaster.

Droughts in north India. Desertification. Floods in south China. Droughts in north china. This is so dangerous because 30% of humanity is under the gun here. And it would be horrible if a semi-literate blowhard in the western world stops action. (I'm talking about the Limbaugh here).

Update: More perishing glaciers. This time in Tanzania.