Some NASA data Ted Cruz does not want us to see

nasa heat map via NASA

NASA: Earth Tops Hottest 12 Months On Record Again, Thanks To Warm February
[Via ThinkProgress]

NASAGISS_Feb_2015

There had never been as hot a 12-month period in NASA’s database as February 2014–January 2015. But that turned out to be a very short-lived record.

NASA reported this weekend that last month was the second-hottest February on record, which now makes March 2014–February 2015 the hottest 12 months on record. This is using a 12-month moving average, so we can “see the march of temperature change over time,” rather than just once every calendar year.

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Thr top illustration shows the temperature above or below the average, from around the globe, based on NASA satellite data.

It is in the 90s today in LA. We will see more of this as long as politicians refuse to even acknowledge the existence of climate change and the causes for it.

And this is why Ted Cruz wants NASA to stop working on climate change. It keeps coming up with data that shows just how bad things are. He seems to feel if there is no data, then things won’t be so bad.

He obviously has read 1984. Ignorance is Strength. War is Peace, Freedom is Slavery.

California may not have any water after next year, due to the continuing drought. Water for farms, water for food and water for people. Gone.

But then NASA is behind that data also. 

The inability of well educated politicians (Cruz is a Harvard Law graduate) to acknowledge science, while fully embracing fantasy, will be the doom of America.

Cruz is a smart man doing harmful things. Ignorance gives him tremendous political power. 

But it hurts us all. Not knowing, not understanding, refusing to examine. Those are the traits that lead to collapse, not growth,

Humanity may never recover. We could fix this, with less economic impact than doing nothing. 

But ideologues may well doom millions to starvation and death, while still destroying jobs and the economy.

It is a race, between the willful idiocy of leaders like Ted Cruz that will bring humanity down, and the willful idealism of leaders like Elon Musk that will raise humanity up.

Most days I feel the latter will win but today, I am worried about the increasing irrationality of the willfully ignorant.

The Art of Political Lying – still relevant today

Jonathan Swift

Putting this up so I can find it later. Human behavior has not changed (my bold):

Few lies carry the inventor’s mark, and the most prostitute enemy to truth may spread a thousand, without being known for the author; besides, as the vilest Writer has his Readers, so the greatest Liar has his Believers; and it often happens, that if a Lie be believ’d only for an Hour, it has done its Work, and there is no farther occasion for it. Falsehood flies, and the Truth comes limping after it; so that when Men come to be undeceiv’d, it is too late; the Jest is over, and the Tale has had its Effect

1710, The Examiner

How being WEIRD is a good thing

Waves-Clogher Beach 

We Aren’t the World 
[Via - Pacific Standard]

IN THE SUMMER of 1995, a young graduate student in anthropology at UCLA named Joe Henrich traveled to Peru to carry out some fieldwork among the Machiguenga, an indigenous people who live north of Machu Picchu in the Amazon basin. The Machiguenga had traditionally been horticulturalists who lived in single-family, thatch-roofed houses in small hamlets composed of clusters of extended families. For sustenance, they relied on local game and produce from small-scale farming. They shared with their kin but rarely traded with outside groups.

While the setting was fairly typical for an anthropologist, Henrich’s research was not. Rather than practice traditional ethnography, he decided to run a behavioral experiment that had been developed by economists. Henrich used a “game”—along the lines of the famous prisoner’s dilemma—to see whether isolated cultures shared with the West the same basic instinct for fairness. In doing so, Henrich expected to confirm one of the foundational assumptions underlying such experiments, and indeed underpinning the entire fields of economics and psychology: that humans all share the same cognitive machinery—the same evolved rational and psychological hardwiring.

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Nice article about how the West has actual cognitive differences from tthe East and just about everyone else. We have created and inhabit a different cultural environment and, like Darwin’s Finches, have evolved different social structures to deal with it. These social structures change the way we think.

This is a good thing, as long as we realize that our adaptations to this environment do not necessarily extend to all of humanity. It also fits in well with a recent paper that has gotten some press.

The acronym, WEIRD – Western, educated, industrialized, rich, and democratic – was coined to describe the social groups that have adapted the dominant cultural environment on the planet. Dominant by its outsized effects not only on natural resources but on other cultures as well.

A major hallmark of this:

In their paper the trio pointed out cross-cultural studies that suggest that the “weird” Western mind is the most self-aggrandizing and egotistical on the planet: we are more likely to promote ourselves as individuals versus advancing as a group. WEIRD minds are also more analytic, possessing the tendency to telescope in on an object of interest rather than understanding that object in the context of what is around it.

This fits in quite well with my model on hierarchical authorities and distributed democracies. Humans have two ways to think about the world – Daniel Kahneman calls them System 1 and System 2. System 1 is fast, giving us rapid responses to the world around us. System 2 is slow, taking a more analytical approach to gain greater understanding.

System 1 is instinctual, rules-based and heuristic. It lives in a world  of metaphor and narrative. It is what allows us to respond properly the first time we see a wolf.

System 2 is slower, analytical and energy intensive. It is fact-based, not narrative-based. It is what allows us to see a wolf and produce a thousand breeds of dogs.

System 2 often is used to produce the narratives needed for System 1 to act to fast. A large part of the necessary adaptations to a new cultural environment is for System 2 to synthesize complexity into the simple narratives that System 1 uses.

This why different cultures are so plastic that they seem to think differently. They have differaent metaphors for System 1 based on the results of previous System 2 processes to assess the environment.

Cultures that failed to do this, to understand the cultural environment they inhabited, by transferring System 2 understanding into System 1 rapid responses, collapsed.

Just as the dodo failed to adapt to humans on the island. 

System 2 is useful when something new enters the environment, requiring deeper examination to understand how to deal with it. System 1 is for things we already know how to deal with, because they are a constant in our cultural environment. 

When someone says “You aren’t listening to me” it is often because  people are reacting with System 1 thoughts about something new that requires System 2 approaches. The listener  really is not ‘thinking’ but reacting. Fast, not slow.

Now on top of these ways of thinking,  we have two modes for organizing our social groups – hierarchical authorities and distributed democracies. The former puts the place of the individual into a specific social structure, atomizing while creating specific roles.

The latter subsumes the individual into a network designed for rapid information flow. Both approaches can use either System. For example, authority coupled with System 1 produces people who instinctually know how is above them and below them in the hierarchy, responding without thinking to commands.

But hierarchy coupled with System 2 produces analysis of a problem, breaking it down into pieces that those in a hierarchy can address more easily.

System 2 coupled with democracy can produce the Scientific Revolution. System 1 approaches here can rapidly disseminate the information from that revolution, by synthesis, not analysis.

So,we can see that WEIRD cognitive approaches have produced extremely large and complex hierarchies and democracies, which both use important System 1 and System 2 processes.

That is what has produced Western civilization. I would suggest that a key adaptation of this culture – something that has allowed it to dominate  has been to make System 2 approaches  external. Tacit System 2 creates shamans and alchemists. Explicit System 2 produces scientists.

WEIRD cultures are more analytical and use System 2 to a much larger extent than any other culture. That is because our rapidly changing cultural environment keeps throwing up novel problems we have to analyze deeply to solve.

We do not have time to relax with our System 1 responses to the world we live in. 

This could explain why there is such a difference in cognition today in America between conservatives in general and liberals. The data suggest that, as a group, conservatives are mostly using System 1 approaches (ie gut reactions and simple narratives) and are less WEIRD than average. Liberals  on the other had, are the mostly WEIRD, using analytical, System 2 thinking much more.

Thus why they have such a hard time coming up with the sort of short pithy metaphors to deal with the world, a world that is rapidly shifting from one stage to another, with the metaphors needed for System 1 thinking ins tremendous flux.

I think this is due to the Information Age, Moore’s law and the exponential economy.

We are living in a rapidly changing cultural environment, one where social norms and System 1 rules are changing. We need to develop new rules, new adaptations to this cultural environment. This requires analysis – System 2 – which is currently found more concentrated in the liberal side than the conservative.

It is a fluke of timing that these different approaches mostly align with political parties. In the 1850s, the thinking was the same – one group responding to changes by deeper analysis while the other retreated to old principles – but the parties were reversed  with the Republicans being the radical party adapting to the new cultural environment.

It doe snot matter which group is doing the analytical thinking. What is important is that we use this analysis to come up with better narratives and metaphors for sustain adaptive System 1 thinking.

The data suggest that less than 20% of even WEIRD cultures spend a lot of time in analysis and deep thinking. So a lot of liberals are also acting with System 1 responses, mostly to old rules for the old environment.

If we fail to adapt to the new cultural environment we are creating, then we will fail as a society. 

This model does not show what the adaptations we need to make will be. But it does suggest where those adaptations, those new stories will come from.

It does explain why the professions most aligned with slow, deliberative, analytical thinking – such as scientists – tend to align with liberals.

And why those most charged with creating new narratives – Hollywood – are also seen as liberal.

I expect this will change as we continue to adapt better to the new cultural environment. The current fluke – where analytical thinking falls more under one political group – may only be seen when our culture is undergoing rapid change. Once we gain better adaptations, creating the necessary narratives to support fast responses, we will all fall under mostly System 1.

Because we will understand the new rules of the culture. In fact, a large part of why System 2 evolved in humanity may simply be to gain understanding that can more easily be implemented by System 1. To create better narratives to explain the world.

And one interesting aspect that unfolds from this data deals with whether urban areas are generally more liberal because they attract liberal people or do they make people more liberal.

I’m falling on the cities make people more liberal. The paper showed that people can easily be trained to use either approach. It is a response to the environment they find themselves and what is required more often – rapid response to something you already know or slower responses to novel events.

I would suggest that having to adapt to the much more complex environment of a large city would require everyone to use more System 2 thinking than living in a rural one.

And right now, more System 2 correlates with being liberal.

I am not surprised that the most liberal cities, such as San Francisco, Washington DC and Seattle, are also home to some of the greatest technology/information/poetical changes driving our new cultural environment. 

The adaptations our culture is acquiring will be driven from those places where greater System 2 thinking is happening. Because they are creating the stories needed to sustain System 1 reactions to the new environment.


A conservative argument I agree with

US Flags at the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Wall in Washington DC 

Graham’s Desperate Use of the “Credibility” Argument
[Via The American Conservative]

Lindsey Graham made a revealing comment at the Munich security conference over the weekend:

I don’t know how this will end if you give [Ukraine] defensive capability, but I know this: I will feel better [bold mine-DL] because when my nation was needed to stand up to the garbage and to stand by freedom I stood by freedom. (quote starts at 33:42)

There wasn’t much else to Graham’s “analysis” beyond this. The comments were revealing in a few ways. First, Graham admits that he doesn’t know what sending arms to Ukraine will do, but this doesn’t discourage him from insisting on this course of action. Ultimately, what matters to him here is that it makes him feel better that he took what he thinks is the right side. There is no serious thought given to the consequences of what could go wrong, and it doesn’t concern Graham if things do go wrong, because he will feel better. Nothing could better express the hawks’ self-indulgent, arrogant, and irresponsible approach to foreign policy.

Graham makes a desperate appeal to the “credibility” argument a moment later:

They may die, they may lose, but I’ll tell you what…if somebody doesn’t push back better we’re all gonna lose. Because who would join us in the future? What does an agreement mean anymore when the United States and other world powers sign it? Would you really give up your nuclear weapons? What does this tell the Iranians about our resolve to stop their nuclear program?

In other words, he acknowledges that arming Ukraine may well be useless, but what matters is to demonstrate that the U.S. will make futile gestures of support in order to preserve “credibility” and demonstrate resolve. That’s an appallingly bad argument even for the likes of Graham. One might almost think that these quotes from Graham came from someone trying to parody the worldview of hard-liners, but this really is what Graham said. He has given us a excellent example of why the obsession with “credibility” and resolve is so poisonous and harmful to our policy debates. Worrying about “credibility” in this way is irrational and extremely simplistic, and it amounts to little more than conjuring up very unlikely scenarios to try to scare people into supporting reckless action.

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Not Graham’s but Larison’s. Graham is fighting the last, Cold War still. Or maybe even WW1, where pacts between Nations lead to their destruction.

We go to war because of how it looks if we don’t? Countries will think us powerless, with a lack of resolve to do anything?

We frigging killed Osama, entering a foreign country we had pacts with to do it. 

Want to get all bellicose? How about this:

We are the most powerful country with the largest military in the world. We have resolve when WE say we have it, not when others say it. We have credibility when we say it is so, not when others say it. Don’t like us? Great, find some other partner that will do as much for you.

But we do not have to say that because everyone else already knows it. The only people who act like the US is some nerdy, pipsqueak who nobody will invite to the prom are some Americans.

I may disagree with why we often go to war but in my lifetime, it has always been because we decided we wanted to, not because it might make us look bad.

There may be lots of reasons to escalate a conflict. But “because not doing it will make us look bad” is certainly not one of them.

Computer science as a foreign language?

Binary pillow 

Washington lawmakers want computer science to count as foreign language
[Via Ars Technica]

Two Washington state legislators have recently introduced a bill that would allow computer science class (e.g., programming) to effectively count as a foreign language requirement for the purposes of in-state college admissions. On Wednesday, it was presented before the Washington State House of Representatives Committee on Higher Education.

House Bill 1445 would amend current state law, which only recognizes “any natural language” that is “formally studied… including a Native American language, American Sign Language, Latin, or ancient Greek.”

This isn’t the first time that such a bill has been attempted: in fact, Kentucky legislators have introduced a similar provision this year, too.

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Gotta love my state.

The selfishness of anti-vaxxers may well be dealt with by technology

chip

The appalling, incoherent selfishness of Chris Christie’s vaccine ‘choice’
[Via The Week]

On CBS’s Face the Nation last Sunday, Tom Frieden, the director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, said he is “very concerned” about the possibility of a massive, sustained outbreak of measles in the United States. A growing number of parents are deciding not to vaccinate their children, resulting in 100 cases of measles in 14 states in the latest outbreak. Frieden argued that it is extremely important to prevent measles from re-establishing itself as an endemic disease, after it was eradicated at great expense and effort around the year 2000.

New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie (R) chose the very next day to downplay the threat, a reply of sorts to President Obama, who strenuously recommended vaccination in an interview. At a press conference in England, part of a trip that is widely considered to be a rehearsal for a presidential run, Christie said that while he has vaccinated his own children, he did not expressly recommend vaccination for others. Instead, people “should have some measure of choice.” (The libertarian Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) went further, saying of vaccines, “Most of them ought to be voluntary.”)

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Like all denialists, I do not expect anti-vaxxers to stop their selfish approaches. Humans have exquisite abilities to rationalize even the most egregious behavior.

In a few years, this may be moot. People shedding virus will simply not be allowed into public venues or private businesses. For both public health and liability reasons.Technology will permit rapid detection of the shed virus.

So refuse to get your vaccine. Fine. But if anyone becomes infectious, they will not be allowed to move about in the public. We put up with having our bags searched at football games. I expect we will also put up with these public health issues.

Measles may be the most contagious infectious disease. One person with measles can infect up to 18 others if there is nothing to stop it. And people can continue to shed virus for two months after getting the disease. Getting over the disease may not mean you can no longer spread it.

Being shunned in public for 2 months may change people’s behavior.

It appears that one infected person at Disneyland is responsible for hundreds of subsequent cases. Someone can be infectious with measles without showing symptoms.

Because of the selfishness of anti-vaxxers, several infectious diseases are well on the way to becoming endemic again in the US. Places like Disneyland may well respond to this by checking everyone entering the park for disease, using rapid detection approaches coming on the market.

The chip in the picture above is already being used for detecting tuberculosis. Other approaches are in the pipeline.

It will be more than a public health issue. They will have to for liability reasons. They will be opening themselves to lawsuits from the public and from their own employees if they do not. Anyone shedding virus will be denied entrance.

How will anti-vaxxers respond to that? Probably in a selfish manner.

People concentrate on deaths, which can range from 30% to 0.1% depending on the quality of medical services. But measles can leave a person alive but greatly disabled, with damage to the eyes or ears.

We are in the middle of the largest outbreak of measles in some time, a disease that was eradicated from America just a decade ago. Why is it back?

Because of herd immunity. Or its lack.

Vaccines do more than just protect the people who receive them. It protects those not able to receive the vaccination, or for whom the vaccine is not fully protective. At high enough levels, it stops the spread of the disease cold because it can find no one to infect.

In a perfect world, this would require rates close to 04%. But this is not a perfect world, because selfish people who refuse to vaccinate do not occur randomly in the population. They tend to cluster, greatly lowering the local threshold.

This clustering means that if one child in the anti-vaxxer community gets sick, it is highly likely that many others in the social network will also.

This results in things like this:

After the measles outbreak at Disneyland, CNN talked to a family whose 10-month old baby had contracted the disease. They’re terrified he’ll pass it on to their 3-year-old daughter, who has leukemia and can’t get the vaccine — but might be killed by the disease. 

The 10 month old is too young to be vaccinated. So the 3 year old is now at risk. Because of the selfishness of anti-vaxxers.

And it is not just measles, pertussis is also doing the same thing. We are in the middle of the largest pertussis outbreak in decades, which has sickened almost 50,000 people (10,000 in California just in 2014) and killed 20. 

Infectious diseases spread rapidly once they take root. Nebraska had over 200 cases of pertussis just in January. There was an large scale breakout of mumps in the NHL. Mumps in adults can have some severe complications.

Even if there is not a death, huge amounts of medical expenses and time lost at work accrue. Money and time which did not have to be lost.

Herd immunity has pretty much failed in the anti-vaxxer communities. Many infectious diseases were on the wane not simply because people were individually protected but because herd immunity protected those most at risk.

Now the selfishness and self-centered attitudes of some people have allowed these diseases to regain a foothold. Today, it is measles, mumps and whooping cough. Tomorrrow it might well be Ebola or dengue fever.

All of us have to put up with restrictions in order to maintain a sustainable social order. As we see, the attitudes of anti-vaxxers put many people at risk while costing the rest of us a lot of money.

I expect that in a few years, it will be relatively easy to rapidly determine if someone is shedding virus. I would expect that Disney and others will not allow anyone shedding virus into the park. 

The same with schools. Shedding virus? Get sent home. Can’t go to the mall. Can’t go to the grocery store. Or the movie theater. Or the football game.

Private businesses will be able to prevent the movement of people infected with the disease.

That should stop a lot of the spread. The effects of selfishness could be greatly reduced.



The micromangement of science by Congress critters who deny science could end America’s leadership in research

witch trial

Fruitful fossil database targeted by US House Science Committee
[Via Ars Technica]

When groups of people come together and pool their resources, great things can be accomplished (flinging humans onto the Moon comes to mind). In the US, the National Science Foundation is a factory of great things. It guides billions of tax dollars into university research projects each year (in 2015, $7.344 billion to be exact). And since science costs money, one unhappy necessity of the academic lifestyle is securing funding to keep the lights on and the lab running. (Give a kid a grant-writing kit to go with their chemistry set for Christmas. See if they play with it.) NSF grants are the lifeblood of many fields of science.

Getting a grant isn’t easy. In 2012, for example, NSF reviewed more than 48,000 grant proposals—each representing work that researchers were chomping at the bit to do. Less than 12,000 won approval. A number of researchers volunteer their time each year to go review grant proposals in their field, recommending the proposals they feel to be the best use of the money budgeted for their discipline. As is generally the case with peer review of papers for scientific journals, the reviewers remain anonymous. (“Oh, hi Jane! Say, I see you shot down the proposal I’ve been working toward for a decade…”)

Recently, the US House Committee on Science, Space, and Technology, led by Texas Representative Lamar Smith, has tussled with NSF over research that Rep. Smith felt was a waste of funding. That included a broad effort to alter the criteria NSF used in judging grants to ensure they are “in the national interest,” but it also involved attempts to probe the approval of individual grants. Rep. Smith requested access to all documents pertaining to certain grants, including the peer reviews NSF closely guards as confidential. NSF was not pleased with these requests. Neither was the Association of American Universities.

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Forty years ago it was liberal Congressional people trying to influence what grants NSF should pursue, seeking to overturn the decisions of those who understand best using the opinions of those who know least.

Now it appears to be time for some conservatives to do the same thing. The main difference is that liberals did not deny science. But a lot of Republican politicians do.

They do not see why monitoring volcanoes might be important. Or how studying fruit flies would be worthwhile. Or how  the ways that gun violence might be affecting America could affect us all.

And they do not want to recognize any scientist who might have even a small insight into climate change. Even when it is other Republicans who sponsored the bill.

Of course, climate change science is especially targeted. Many of them believe that global warming is a conspiracy and thousands of researchers are involved.

But the current Congressional efforts are going far beyond the simple cataloging of research efforts a generation ago. In particular, they want all the information – all the data, emails personal correspondence and confidential documents, etc. – involved in all these research efforts.

And public humiliation is becoming a standard approach. So not only must a researcher spend time and money of fulfilling the fishing expeditions from Congressional staffers but also look forward to flying to Washington to answer questions in front of a grandstanding Senator or Representative.

Not because these politicians know anything but because they hope to find something that will look embarrassing when taken out of context.

Such as was done with the Climategate emails. Even when no wrongdoing was ever found. And Potemkin villages are raised by misusing their oversight powers to further political ideology, not science or oversight.

Now with all sorts of confidentiality barriers breached by Congress people in a fishing expiedition, many researchers are wondering if they should even get involved in NSF grants. 

How will their careers be damaged or lives destroyed by political partisans on an ideological witch hunt?

From someone who was a focus of such an anti-science witchhunt driven by ideology:

As a nation, we have always led the world when it comes to technological innovation and scientific progress. Our quality of life has benefited greatly from our commitment to unfettered scientific exploration. Now, with a Congress that is firmly controlled by those who possess an antipathy toward science, all of that is threatened. It is a matter for great concern among all of us.

Oversight is one thing. But that is not what this is. They simply have no understanding of the intense vetting done to award any grant. 

It is hard enough getting funded based on the science. Now researchers will have to navigate political ideology that often contradicts the science. 

Research into the cancer-causing aspects of cigarette smoking was damaged by the same approaches, resulting in thousands of people dying.

America lost its leadership in high energy physics the first time Congress went through this sort of micromanagement. This looks to be even more damaging.

The guy in charge of the environment is a world class science denier, even as the globe hits the warmest it has been in recorded history. Over 90% of the Republicans on his Senate committee deny science.

Yet, 83% of American do acknowledge what science is telling us.

Sixty-eight percent of Republican leadership deny science, with 62% of those on the House Committee on Science, Space and Technology denying science. Science deniers are in charge of NASA and NOAA.

For no good reason but furthering a political ideology, helping some organizations’s bottom line, stroking the egos of a few billionaires and getting elected.

Science looks to be very damaged over the next few years. I hope it can recover.

Cipolla’s Laws of Human Stupidity describe how the downward cycle of a culture occurs when the bandits  (those who harm others to help themselves) lead the stupid (those who hurt others as they hurt themselves).

Looks like that cycle is well underway. Something I said before:

Let’s see, where have we seen scientists and their work become trophies due to the political will of charlatans? Scientists were executed or sent to prison because they stood up for the truth when it went against the political thought of the time.

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