A favorite ploy of many denialists is selective quotation and misrepresentation

Monckton’s “selective quotation and misrepresentation”
[Via Deltoid]

Mike Steketee bucks the groupthink at The Australian with an article on why it is necessary to adapt to the coming global warming. Christopher Monckton responds with a Gish gallop of 24 points where he alleges Steketee got it wrong. Steketee’s response is devasting: again and again and again he shows that Monckton misrepresented what Steketee wrote. Even Andrew “confirmation bias” Bolt, after at first being convinced that Monckton had shown Steketee to be wrong, was compelled to concede that Monckton had verballed Steketee. Though I’m sure Bolt will believe with all his heart and all his soul the next silly claim that Monckton makes.

Let me pick up on one of Monckton’s claims. I picked this one because I thought that Monckton had scored a point and I was writing something to that effect when I want back and checked what Steketee had written and discovered that Monckton had misrepresented him again. Monckton claims that Steketee stated:


Monckton then proceeds to calculate the equilibrium warming if CO2 was kept at current levels of 390 ppm. His calculations are a bit off, but it is generally agreed that there is about 0.5 of a degree of warming in the pipeline even if CO2 levels don’t increase any more.


Read the back and forth and you will see which person is more intellectual honest with the facts and with their opponents. And, the best denilists will completely ignore these takedowns in a few months and repeat pretty much what has been debunked here.

Even when shown that their facts are wrong, that their rhetoric is false and that they have little substantial to stand on, denialists continue to inhabit their Cargo Cult World, afraid to leave it for the real world outside.

How too much choice is a problem

Too much hardware choice
[Via Marco.org]

From my Verizon iPhone post:

Even the gadget blogs have a hard time feigning enthusiasm for this week’s hot Android phone because they still haven’t taken the shrinkwrap off of last week’s.

Not enough Nick’s response:

Wait, the stream of high-quality, constantly improving hardware with options to fit different desires is a problem for Android?

Yes, it is, for a few major reasons.

Most people don’t read gadget blogs or even know what Android is. They generally hear about individual phones, without distinguishing much based on operating system. (They don’t know what those are, either.)

The highest-profile Android launch that seemed to meaningfully reach the masses was the Motorola Droid, primarily because it was boosted by a massive Verizon television and in-store ad campaign.

But since then, very few non-geeks know about individual Android handsets. They change so frequently, and are so numerous, that there’s never much of an opportunity for a meaningful buzz to generate around any of them. Nobody’s lining up to buy them. CNN’s not covering their launches. Consumer Reports isn’t vigorously testing their antennas. The Daily Show isn’t making jokes about them. So the mass market doesn’t really respond to individual devices. Even if Uncle Joe brings his fancy Android Something to Thanksgiving and your mother is impressed by it and wants to buy one, by the time her contract expires in two months and she goes to the Verizon store, it’s gone.


When I go into a new restaurant for the first time, I usually see two types of menus. One where there are a choice of 3-5 entrees under a couple headings on two pages or ones where there are pages and pages of items under a multitude of headings. I hate the latter.

Too many choices when all I want is something to eat. And it is likely that only a few of those are really good. Maybe only a few are worthwhile but it is so hard to find them.

But the one with fewer choices makes it much easier to choose.

More possibilities does not make it easier.

Yes, our kids have rewired brains

Miles O’Brien: Is technology rewiring teens’ brains?
[Via Boing Boing]

My friend Miles O’Brien produced a really cool piece for PBS News Hour about “what could be happening to teenagers’ brains as they develop in a rapid-fire, multitasking world of technology and gadgets.”

You may know the PBS correspondent best from his many years as space and science reporter with CNN—he also slummed it on a few BBTV episodes (1, 2, 3).


I blame typewriters. Up until the late 1800s, people who wrote used one hand and initiated pathways through one hemisphere. The language skills and muscular movements needed to write only really had to come from one side of our brain.

But, with the introduction of keyboards and touch typing, people wrote and composed using two hands, requiring very precise control and communication between both hemispheres. If the language was not being transmitted to both hemispheres properly, then the correct muscular movements to hit the right keys, with each hand in the right order, could not occur.

It takes a very different type of cognitive effort to compose with a keyboard than with a pen. But, until recently, not everyone had to learn how to use a typewriter keyboard and when they did, they were usually already adults with brains already wired.

My son has never taken typing lessons but has lived with a keyboard his whole life. His ability to type is simply incredible. I watch him compose a Facebook comment and it looks like he is just randomly pounding keys. The coordination between two hands and two hemispheres has to require a very different set of neural connections than living a life with a pen.

His generation’s early introduction to the keyboard, which forces them to have enhanced communication between both hemispheres, may well have caused their brains to be different. We know that if an animal does not get visual stimulation during key parts of its early life, it will be ‘blind’ even though all the right parts are there. The old use it or lose it.

What if we all lost it because we never had the chance to use it but this new generation was able to use parts of their brains during critical times that opened up new pathways for cognition?

Now add in visual cues on top of this dual hemisphere wiring and look out. Now they can make decisions faster but just as accurately than we can. Because they have been raised dealing with games involving probabilities, they are able to understand stochastic events better than older generations.

They also appear to be able to multitask better than the rest of us.

My mother always thought I was some mutant leap forward – yes she read a lot of science fiction when she was younger . I’m beginning to wonder if we are not seeing something here, where new tools are creating a generation that actually thinks differently and perhaps better.

Antimatter created on Earth every day

Weather so severe it generates antimatter
[Via Ars Technica]

It turns out thunderstorms pack a much bigger punch than most people think. In the mid-1990s, we found that lightning and the associated electric field above a thunderstorm can be strong enough to produce a gamma ray blast detectable from space. These terrestrial gamma-ray flashes (TGFs) are believed to occur all over the world at a rate of about 500 per day. Researchers using NASA’s Fermi Gamma-ray Space Telescope have discovered a similar, but previously undetected phenomena: the production of an antimatter beam from the top of these storms.

Fermi is built to observe and measure gamma rays from anywhere in the Universe, but it has also been used to look at terrestrial events as well. Over its first three years, Fermi has identified 130 TGFs. These TGFs have included gamma rays with an energy of 511 keV—the energy signature of an electron-positron annihilation event.


All these TGFs are postulated to be caused by electron/positron beams by the authors of the paper. Just think that every day regular weather events could be accomplishing things that we have only been able to recreate in the lab within the last 50 years or so.

Electrons getting accelerated to almost light speed. Wow. It is a measure of just how powerful thunderstorms can be. I wonder if there are storms on Saturn or Jupiter that are even more powerful?

Since T-mobile anti-iPhone ad are great, their pro-iPhone ads could be delicious

Apple’s revolutionary iPhone coming next to T-Mobile USA?

[Via MacDailyNews]

Now that AT&T’s exclusive hold on the iPhone in the U.S. is over…


T-Mobile went right after the iPhone in their ads, although they really hit at ATT and its network. Smart since they want the iPhone on their network. So they really made the iPhone a great phone with a bad carrier.

It was a nice campaign that burned no bridges with Apple. So if the get an iPhone, I expect some cute ads.

Is Google evil?

google by toprankonlinemarketing

Slashdot Comment on Google Dropping H.264 in Chrome
[Via Daring Fireball]

“Znu”, on Slashdot:

This serves two strategic purposes for Google. First, it advances a codec that’s de facto controlled by Google at the expense of a codec that is a legitimate open standard controlled by a multi-vendor governance process managed by reputable international standards bodies. (“Open source” != “open standard”.) And second, it will slow the transition to HTML5 and away from Flash by creating more confusion about which codec to use for HTML5 video, which benefits Google by hurting Apple (since Apple doesn’t want to support Flash), but also sucks for users.

Don’t be evil.


Pushing a system where they have more control than another system is good business. Being able to use their own products to push that system, even better. And, if they stop YouTube from using the other system, then they can use other areas of the corporation to help support this while shutting out competitors.

Driving business away from their competitors and towards themselves is pure capitalism. But cloaking it under a desire for open source software?

Is this really a case of ‘Do no evil’ or is that just a marketing phrase used to fool us?

It was a big frigging laser

201101121027.jpg by dcJohn

Point a laser at a police helicopter, go to prison
[Via Ars Technica]

A United States District Court in Massachusetts has sentenced a 52-year-old resident of the Boston area to three years imprisonment for pointing a laser at a police helicopter. He was found guilty of one count of “willfully interfering with an aircraft operator with reckless disregard for human life” and another of making false statements.

That brief description doesn’t do justice to the incident in question, so we obtained a copy of the court investigator’s affidavit to get more details on the case.


The title made it seem a little unfair. But reading the article, it was obvious that this was not some little keychain laser he pointed at the pilots but a laser usually used in laser light shows. It is dangerous to look directly into.

And he confessed to it just like in the TV shows. He even showed them all the other lasers he had. Luckily he appears to have been an idiot but it makes one think about what might have happened with someone smart, evil or both.

More and more iPhones for us all

Verizon to push Apple’s iPhone with major ‘marketing muscle’ – report
[Via AppleInsider]

Following this week’s announcement that the iPhone is finally coming to Verizon, a new report claims that the largest wireless provider in the U.S. plans to advertise Apple’s handset heavily over competing Android phones.


I hope that we are not inundated with so many iPhone ads as to make us sick of them. I wonder if Apple has any say in the tone of the ads?

Taking a shot at Apple without having a clue

microsoft by Robert Couse-Baker

Microsoft Windows President Steven Sinofsky takes shot at Apple
[Via Edible Apple]

With CES now dead and gone like Justin Timberlake, NetworkWorld recounts a quip from Microsoft President Steven Sinofsky in which the Microsoft Prez criticized Apple.

Sinofsky recalled sitting on a plane next to a passenger who used a succession of Apple devices during and after the flight. First the passenger texted and talked on his iPhone before takeoff, then watched a movie on his iPad, listened to music on his iPod, and finally opened up his MacBook upon landing to catch up on everything he missed while in the air.

“That’s not particularly converged,” Sinofsky said during an invitation-only press conference Wednesday afternoon, hours before Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer was scheduled to give his Consumer Electronics Show keynote. “In fact, it was clear some of the same scenarios were happening across devices.”

Classic Microsoft. Instead of taking a step back and thinking – hmm, why are folks so keen on buying a multitude of Apple products – Sinofsky changes the conversation to, “Ya see! Apple products lack convergence!”


NIce. Someone has bought 4 Apple products and MS thinks there is something wrong, instead of wondering how Apple has convinced one person to have 4 different Apple products.

How about this, because I too have the same 4 Apple products and, while each has overlapping functions with others, each also provides a tool the other s do not.

iPod – I carry ALL my music and quite a few videos in one device, allowing me to create playlists that constantly surprise me. iPhone – make calls, duh. iPad, easily watch movies without worrying about battery and large screen plus small size permits me to watch in cramped quarters. Macbook – allows me to create high powered content easily on the move with battery life that allows me to work unconnected.

These devices now can use apps that use the same operating system across all of them, something no other company can do. If MS can not understand this, then it is easy to understand why their stock price has languished.

Our pests tell us about our history, by advanced data mining

lice by otisarchives4

Lice DNA Reveals When Humans First Clothed Their Nakedness
[Via Discover Magazine | RSS]

Putting on clothing to protect our woefully hair-deficient bodies is one of the key moments in the history of becoming human. Just when our species took this step, however, is open to a fair amount of guesswork—scientists can’t exactly dig up fossilized parkas and trousers. But what scientists can do is determine roughly when two species diverged, and that has made all the difference: Using the lice that have traveled with people for thousands of years, a team has tracked the time that humans first became dedicated followers of fashion—perhaps as long as 170,000 years ago.


Very nice work (and you can look at the whole paper) based on a cool idea – when did head lice and body lice diverge. Since body lice require clothing for survival, this might give us some information regarding when we started to use clothing.

The dates have a large range, between 83,000 and 170,000 years ago, probably due to the fact that only four genes were looked at. This fits very well into the need for Ice Age protection and also with the Out of Africa time line.

But the really cool thing is that this work was done by using what was already in public databases. That means that actually anyone could have done a similar analysis. Of course, you would have to know the ‘right’ way to do this and be comfortable throwing around phrases like “Bayesian coalescent modeling approach” but even the programs they used for analysis were ones available for use.

They very smartly used databases to mine for information based on a hypothesis they had. No new experiments were needed.

So, in one sense, this work could have been done by anyone from home. It requires insight and deep understanding and maybe access to the right programs but it is not something that would require a huge research grant and lots of expensive equipment.

Of course, I would expect that if you had been doing this work based on a PC at home, you’s still be watching it run the Markov simulations. You might be able to do this at home but having access to fast computers is a large plus.

And now, we need to have the genomes of each species completely sequenced in order to narrow down the time range. We have done that for the body louse. It has the smallest genome of any insect – only 108 million bases pairs of DNA (for comparison, the human genome has about 3 billion base pairs). Let’s get the head louse – and perhaps the pubic ouse for good measure.

Makes me wonder about Facebook

Iceland Officials Ask US To Explain Why It’s Trying To Get Lawmaker’s Twitter Info
[Via Techdirt]

On Friday, we noted that US officials had sent a court order (not a subpoena, apparently) to Twitter, asking for info from a few accounts that had some association with Wikileaks, including that of Icelandic lawmaker Birgitta Jonsdottir. Apparently, Icelandic officials are not too happy about this. They’ve asked the US ambassador to Iceland to explain the reasoning for this:

“(It is) very serious that a foreign state, the United States, demands such personal information of an Icelandic person, an elected official,” Interior Minister Ogmundur Jonasson told Icelandic broadcaster RUV.

“This is even more serious when put (in) perspective and concerns freedom of speech and people’s freedom in general,” he added.

Of course, we might not find out what was said until Wikileaks (or some other operation) leaks a new batch of State Department cables a few years down the road…


We only know about this because Twitter pushed back against the court order and publicized it. I wonder if Facebook received such an order and just followed it without letting its users know?

I’ve learned my lesson

I made the mistake of writing a post yesterday on a controversial subject while watching a football game. So I may not have been as clear as I would have hoped. Mea culpa. I hope I am clearer today.

I have friends who have Chronic Fatigue Syndrome and I know about the problems trying to get the medical community to even recognize it as a real disease and not a mental illness. That is why I was quite excited by the original report when it came out. It seemed like a very nice model to help explain the disease, as well as possibly implicate a retrovirus in other diseases.

However, subsequent work has muddied the waters and, in my opinion, weakened this model. The recent paper I talked about yesterday seems to provide strong, definitive evidence that contamination is a real problem. This along with the inability of other labs to replicate the work, appears to substantially weaken the model.

All this indicates is that the situation is quite complex – something we all knew anyway. Also, that much more and careful work will have to be done. It is as easy to get too positive about a model and fall in love with it. Researchers and others do this all the time.

And it is easy to be too negative about a model and hate it. Researchers and others do this all the time also. Perhaps I let my initial excitement turn too far to disappointment. I don’t think so but I am human. Perhaps that bled a little over yesterday. Damn football!

What I was trying to state yesterday was that the recent paper did its job – helping us understand why some of the results show XMRV and other results do not. They have now presented a model suggesting that cross-reacting PCR primers could give PCR artifacts from a contaminating virus.

If XMRV is actually involved, then researchers will to take the current results into consideration.

That is what I meant by science doing its job. The new report pretty definitively examined the problem of contamination and demonstrated that previous work may not have properly controlled the correct variables. Others will respond. This is the back and forth of cutting edge research where we have little understanding of all the things going on. I am sure this is not the end of the road.

We will get to the bottom of this. It may be XMRV. It might be another unknown gamma retrovirus. It might be something else entirely. When science does its job right, we eventually discover what it is. Feynman was right when he said that Nature always wins in the end, no matter what we want to believe.

Got the OS X updates done

And I am clicking the Mac App Store Icon Now.

Wow, opened quite fast. And I saw that Delicious Library 2 was on the store so I clicked it. And am told it is already installed. Cool.

And I am downloading Pixelmator now. My evening is shot.

Nokia demonstrates what is so wrong with other app stores

Nokia’s Ovi App Store
[Via Daring Fireball]

Step 1: Click on an app. Any app, just pick one.

You’re going to love step 2.


What a fragmented world other smart phone people live in.

Eventually the truth catches up with denialists

barnum by FontShop

: BMJ calls Andrew Wakefield a fraud

[Via Bad Astronomy]

This is HUGE: The BMJ, an online medical journal, has accused Andrew Wakefield — the hero of the modern antivaccination movement — of being “a fraud”.

The skeptic and medical community have been hammering Wakefield for years; his study linking vaccines and autism was shaky from the start, and he suffered a series of humiliating defeats last year: the Lancet medical journal withdrew his paper, he was struck off the UK General Medical Council’s register, and was found to have acted unethically.

Of course, the word “fraud” implies intent; when writing about Wakefield I had my suspicions, but always wrote as if he were just wrong, and not deliberately lying to vulnerable parents.

But deliberate fraud is what he’s now accused of. Brian Deer, an investigative journalist, has written a multi-part series on the BMJ site which slams Wakefield. Fiona Godlee, BMJ’s editor-in-chief, also writes about this… and just to be clear, she uses the word “fraud” nine times in her editorial. Not surprisingly, it’s been picked up by several news outlets like CNN, MSNBC, and ABC.

Deer has been on Wakefield’s case a long time, and has been critical in exposing Wakefield’s shenanigans. Wakefield and the antivaxxers have attacked Deer many times, but their accusations are as hollow as the claims of links of autism to vaccinations. And let’s be clear: vaccines don’t cause autism.


The anti-vaccine movement gained a lot of momentum from Wakefield work, now described as fraudulent. How much money was wasted on work trying to debunk his unethical work? He received over $600,000 by lawyers for producing these results.

But I expect him to still make quite a bit of money off of the anti-vaccine movement. I guess Barnum was correct.


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