Monday, May 08, 2017

Probably Not The Place For This


Eli has been watching the reports on today's Senate hearing which features the Ted Cruz - Sally Yates death match.  The general feeling is that Yates did to Cruz what Macron did to Le Pen.  However, rather than getting too deeply into the legal parts of their interchange, the Rabett would like to point out that Yates READ most of her initial answer to Cruz (starting at 1:49 in the video below).

She was clearly prepared for the question.




You might ask what little birdy whispered in her ear, well, let's go to the video from three months ago




Somebunny was paying attention.

Friday, May 05, 2017

The New York Times approach to climate change


Behold the CrapWaffler, the writer that the New York Times thinks is a contribution to the climate change debate. It's what happens when you hire a climate denialist with the implied condition of employment that they can't completely lie about climate change, but merely smear uncertainty and misdirection about undertaking reasonable action (and Stephens still managed to get important things wrong).

The New York Times thinks it has added to the breadth of discussion on climate by getting as close to wrong as possible while not saying much of anything.



Stephens is shocked, shocked, that people would accuse him of "closet climate denialism". The term denier fit Stephens perfectly in 2015 when he wrote that temperatures would be about the same in 100 years, unless he was lying at the time about what he believed. It would be helpful if he now said his beliefs had changed, but all we get instead is crapwaffles.

I often read Razib Khan, an old-school Burkean conservative who also writes a lot about science. Several years back the NY Times hired him and then quickly dismissed him - he had unwisely associated with some simply vile racists, and guilt by association was enough to deem him unacceptable. I disagree, but to think Stephens, whose range is from wrong to crapwaffle, is better just tells you something about the Times. I recently subscribed to the Washington Post instead.

So skip Stephens, and read Razib to see what a thoughtful conservative would say.

P.S. And fellow bloggers, a reminder to add "no follow" whenever you link to Stephens. I'm pretty good about that when linking to denialists


Wednesday, May 03, 2017

Renewable Energy and Creative Construction


One of the weirdest flips in an exceedingly weird year has been the usual suspects going into complete meltdown about there now being extended periods where there is so much renewable energy from wind and solar and hydro that they are not just giving it away, they are paying you to take some of it.

Electricity has become like zucchini at the end of the summer, when gardeners leave a few hundred pounds on your doorstep, ring the bell and run.  Remember when the fusion and fission folk were talking about too cheap to meter, it's now a "problem" for renewables.

In any case, when there is money blowing in the wind somebunny will make money while the sun shines, and indeed this is a classic capitalist system opportunity, that somehow all the Randians and Trumplets let alone your average garden variety Bret Stephens don't appear happy with.  If there is a price differential arbitraging the electricity price is a great way to get rich and the technologies already exist.

There has always been a price differential between wee hours of the morning and the peak demand daylight hours, a differential that many industries have taken advantage of.  The guys with the green plastic eyeshades are no bunny's fools
Kentucky Electric Steel spends a lot of time and money trying to control our electric bill, over $2 million spread over the past eight years. This has reduced energy intensity from 743 kWh per billet ton in 2002 to 480 kWh per billet ton today. That represents an annual savings of over $600k with just our night-time operations; the savings would be even more if we ran during on peak hours, except that the higher power cost would eat them up! 
Aluminum smelters in Germany are already lapping up some of the freibier by using the molten metal as an energy storage medium from whose cooling they can draw power
By varying the rate at which the metal is produced, the plant will be able to adjust the power consumption of the 290-megawatt smelter up and down by about 25 percent. Trimet can soak power from the grid when energy is cheap. It can then resell the power when demand is at its peak. The company can temporarily reduce its power consumption by slowing the electrolysis, cutting the energy drain.
Using stored thermal energy is really old technology.  Ice houses that lasted through the desert summer have existed like forever in Iran and storage of heat from the summer to use in the winter is also a Canadian reality (tip o the ears to Andy Skuce )
The first of its kind in North America, DLSC is heated by a district system designed to store abundant solar energy underground during the summer months and distribute the energy to each home for space heating needs during winter months.
For decades large building have built tons of ice at night when electricity is inexpensive and used the ice to cool the building during the day.  Going by the name of ice storage air conditioning, the technique is now moving into residential units.  Eli first became aware of it in the context of labs using large ice systems for to supply coolants for lasers.  Storage heaters are also coming back driven by the low cost of renewable thermal.

So the next time your electric provider tries to leave some zucchini on your doorstep, smile and use it to charge your batteries, heat or cool your house or some other creative construction.


Friday, April 28, 2017

The Data Lies. The Crisis in Observational Science and the Virtue of Strong Theory


The problem with data fetishists is their choking down a daily flagon of numerical drivel without analyzing the brew.  One of the things that a good scientist knows is how to interrogate the numbers, not waterboard them.  Truth is that useful models improve flaky data and the statistical treatment thereof.

An introduction  for Eli was a talk that Drew Shindell gave, twenty maybe more years ago with a title that ran, "Which should your trust, the data or the models?" about global temperature data in the late 19th century.  The useful conclusion was trust neither, but use them together to produce understanding and improve both.  Yes theory can improve measurements and data.

A nice example is how NIST's acoustic thermometer can be used to define the thermodynamic temperature scale.  Starting with the theoretical result for the speed of sound in an ideal gas as a function of temperature (theory), a carefully built device to measure the same can be used to build a model of the response of platinum resistance thermometers as a function of temperature and then by applying the model PRTs can be used to more accurately calibrate other thermometers.

How about statistics, well most of what passes for statistical analysis these day is unconstrained, so it can wander off into never never land where never is stuff like thermodynamics and conservation laws.  Bart had a nice example of this when discussing the usual nonsense about how observed temperature anomaly data could be explained as a random walk

As you can see, the theory is valid: My weight has indeed remained between the blue lines. And for the next few years, my weight will be between 55 and 105 kg, irrespective of what I eat and how much I sport! After all, that would be deterministic, wouldn’t it? (i.e. my eating and other habits determining my weight)

Wow, if that’s the case, then I’ll stop my carrot juice diet right now and run to the corner store for a box of mars bars!! And I’ll cancel further consultations with my dietician. Energy balance… such nonsense. Never thought I’d be so happy with a root!
The other side of this is the replication crisis hitting the social sciences, most prominently psychology, well, also other stuff.  To disagree with the first link, unlike physical sciences psychology has no well established theoretical consensus against which nutso outcomes can be evaluated. Science is about coherence (a no on that as Alice’s Queen would say) consilience (baskets full of papers having nothing to do with each other but taken together mutually supporting) and consensus (everybunny with a clue agrees on climate change or at least 97%).

So the question really is what should a lagomorphs's prior be for statistical validity.  Clearly, if all you have is the data, the standard of proof for any assertion about the data has to be very high.  Wrong answers at low levels of proof are a reason that out on the edge physicists demand 5 sigma data before accepting that a new particle has been found, that's saying that there is 1 chance in 3.5 million that the discovery was in error if that standard is met. 

On the other hand, in the well established interior of a field, where there is a lot of supporting, consilient work, a whole bunch of basic theory and multiple data sets, 5 chances in 100 can do the job or even 10 in a hundred.  Of course 30 in 100 is pushing it.

Andrew Gelman has a useful set of criteria for priors (same holds for frequentist approaches).  Among his recommendations are for weakly informative priors that
should contain enough information to regularize: the idea is that the prior rules out unreasonable parameter values but is not so strong as to rule out values that might make sense
and those priors should be
Weakly informative rather than fully informative: the idea is that the loss in precision by making the prior a bit too weak (compared to the true population distribution of parameters or the current expert state of knowledge) is less serious than the gain in robustness by including parts of parameter space that might be relevant. It's been hard for us to formalize this idea.

Sunday, April 23, 2017

March for Science - San Francisco

Together with in-laws and friends, including (unlike me) an actual scientist, we went on the march in San Francisco yesterday.






The most hand-written/individualized signs I've seen on any march. Quite a young crowd too, and I'd guess two-thirds female. We'll see if there's a long-term effect - I'm sure it depends on what people continue to do after the march.

UPDATE:  here's something to do about it - get organized, and train to run for office:
Overview: Join us for a day of building political power for the climate movement by training bold, progressive climate activists to elected office at all levels. Potential candidates need to be identified, recruited, trained, and supported in order to achieve elected office—and once there, held accountable by the climate movement.

This training is for you if:
  • You consider running for office yourself in the next 1-3 years
  • You want to help a friend run for office
  • You want to learn how a local electoral strategy could help your campaign

Friday, April 21, 2017

The Squeegee Kid Returns or Steve Koonin on Team B


Eli had a rockem sockem post cued up on the replication crisis (nononono, Eli and Ms. Rabett are much too old for that stuff) but the Squeegee Kid, Steve Koonin reappeared in the Wall Street Journal editorial swamp and duty calls.  When last see, Koonin was huffing off in anger because APS (American Physical Society) leadership had frustrated his designs on their public statement on Climate Change.

Those looking for a primer about Koonin's understanding of climate science could read the short version from Ben Santer who had the pleasure of dealing with him in the red team/blue team exercise that Koonin put together for the APS panel

Another source of real frustration is that Dr. Koonin had a real opportunity to listen. To consult experts in many different aspects of climate science. To do a deep dive into the science. To seek understanding of complex scientific issues. He did not make use of this opportunity. His op-Ed is not a deep dive - it is a superficial toe-dip into a shallow puddle, rehashing the same tired memes (the "warming hiatus" points toward fundamental model errors, climate scientists suppress uncertainties, there's a lack of transparency in the IPCC process, climate always varies naturally, etc.)
or somewhat less pithy though pointed ones from Andy Lacis and Ray Pierrehumbert.

Suffice it to say there is little new in Koonin's latest jeremiad which is merely a continuation of the House Science Committee farce w/o Mike Mann.  As the Weasel has pointed out we have had over 30 years of real red team evaluations of climate science
Well to start with it isn’t necessarily totally stupid, unless it is being run by a group of ideologues with a fore-ordained conclusion for which they’re desperately searching for evidence. How likely is that? Secondly, this is language from a different area (the military; business) being imported into science. If it was being done by the pols, you could simply put it down to ignorance. That it is being done by scientists in an effort to sell their ideas to pols I think you put down to something rather different. But the military and business are areas with rigid hierarchies and enforced obedience and suppression of dissent. C+C are trying to tell the pols that science is like that; and it isn’t. Science already provides all the internal red teams that it needs.

Could the idea actually be of any use? In the present context, I think that’s doubtful. Suppose they did it anyway, what happens? Probably, C+C and their ilk get thrown some taxpayers money to attack their should-be-colleagues, which would be galling but minor in the great scheme of things. They would fail to do anything of scientific use, and that failure might ultimately be revealing, and therefore good. But in the meantime they get a platform to spout nonsense. Ah well, these are difficult times, you cannot expect to choose amongst different good outcomes.
Among the many red team exercises in the US there have been multiple NAS reports on climate change and particular issues involved with climate change.  A major outcome of one was to put the wood to Spencer and Christie's UAH satellite record which was claiming global cooling because of errors.  Then, of course, the Jason (Koonin is one of them) model from the early 1980s as well.  IPCC reports are also massive red team exercises with open commenting.

But as the Weasel points out what the worthies want is not a red team exercise, but Team B.  Team B was a politically motivated operation run by Richard Pipes and populated by ideologues whose reason for existing was to exaggerate the threat from the Soviet Union.  There was a long campaign to impugn the CIA analysis, resulting in the formation of Team B under Pipes leadership.  Their report was a major impetus to the dangerous arms race of the 1980s including the fictional Star Wars programs pushed by the late, and not lamented George Marshall Institute.  As one critic of Team B, Anne Hessing Cahn, wrote of their report "I would say that all of it was fantasy. ... if you go through most of Team B's specific allegations about weapons systems, and you just examine them one by one, they were all wrong."

Joshua Rovner, in his book, Facixing the Facts, National Security and the Politics of Intelligence"points out where the Pipes Team B exercise went
The fundamental criticism of Team B was that the intelligence [read climate science-ER] community relied almost exclusively on "hard data" about capabilities. . . 
an eerie prequel to where Koonin, Curry and Christie want to go. Following Rovner, Eli can also tell you what Team B's report will be based on
Team B also defeated the purpose of the exercise by relying on open source publication rather than classified intelligence.  Although the panelists were cleared to evaluate the same data that went into the NIE [National Intelligence Assessment -ER] the Team B report contained very few references to intelligence.
Perhaps they will also cite Rabett Run, but more likely all the nonsense in WUWT and Curry's blog.  If anybunny wants to save money, of course, we also have any number of publications from the Heartland Institute that can be had for a penny or two. 

Okay, now that the bunnies have done their assigned reading Eli can flip the blog and let them loose in the comments

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

On the Uses of Twitter


One of the good things about 140 characters is that it concentrates the mind and lets you compose your elevator speech.  One of the bad things is that while concentrating the mind and composing the elevator speech you forget to write it down.

So Eli, aka @EthonRaptor (Ms. Rabett came up with the moniker) has been exchanging  with various characters on the Tweeter about renewable energy, nuclear energy and carbon taxes (go read the timeline if you really care) and this has indeed conciliated a few thoughts.

http://learn.eartheasy.com/
To start from somewhere, in a discussion about Energy Star and the Trumpkins wiping out the program (they have zeroed out the web site although parts seem to still exist at DOE )  definitely down last night, but Eli, fool that he is did not Webcite it) and appliance energy efficiency regulations, Eli remarked that people buy on purchase price and ignore operating, maintenance and disposal costs.  One of the things that the Energy Star program does (did :) was to put some of the operating cost in front of the buyer along with the purchase price.  Moreover testing regulations insured that the numbers were not totally alt facts, although as with everything formative improvement was always needed  (see VW)

ADDED: Energy Star is zeroed out in the Trump budget.  If Energy Star is going on hiatus, then this is a place for the manufacturers to establish an Underwriters Lab for efficiency.  All electrical devices in the US are certified by Underwriters Labs not to be fire hazards.  The insurance companies established and fund UL because at the turn of the century too many electrical appliances were starting fires or sauteing people, and some sort of testing and certification was needed to limit loses.  An Energy Star operation could charge manufacturers for testing and use of the brand. What it could do immediately is to re-publish the Energy Star website  before Scott Pruitt sends it down the rat hole.  Anybunny have a spare server?   The info is a US Government publication and there is no copyright.  There is money to be made here folks and this would be a great opening for a Kickstarter operation.  It would be a natural for Consumer Reports.

Eli's original though still holds, things are bought on purchase price.  Very few think about lifetime, operating and disposal costs without prodding from regulations and SJWs.

Which brings the Bunny to Part Two.  What is the probability of a nuclear revival in the US.

Zero

The reason is very much the same as what happens when a bunny purchases a carrot storage device aka refrigerator (Eli does leave a bit of room for Ms. Rabett's yogurt,  after  all, she is his muse).

Nuclear power plants have a)very high capital costs and b) very high decommisioning costs although operating costs are very low.  From the standpoint of a utility, a nuclear plant requires a large investment before it begins to generate revenue, and a pretty well undefined commitment for decommisioning.  Since b) has to be carried on the spreadsheet as a liability, and the actual cost is pretty well undefined the CFO of a utility would have to be insane to agree to building a nuclear plant.

To be clear, this is not the case where the plant is built by a government  or a government entity like China, or EDF or TVA because their time horizon extends well beyond the next quarter.

It also explains why natural gas is being substituted for coal.  Not only is natural gas cheaper, the capital costs of natural gas power plants are lower, they are more modular and they can be slotted into existing spaces, built faster, etc.  and oh yes, much less polluting even if you consider greenhouse gases and nothing else.  The nothing else is the ground level pollution of the air and water that makes Chinese and Indian cities so deadly today, and Western cities so deadly yesterday.  It costs capital to clean coal emissions up and safely dispose of the ash and that erodes any desire of utilities to continue investing in coal.

Let us not talk about the energy and $ cost of carbon capture.  Even there natural gas has a big advantage.  Carbon capture technology from the smokestack will require serious cleaning of the emissions.  Capture from the ambient air, is IEHO, the affliction of science.  Of course if the utilities can dump the emissions and the ash wherever, that encourages investment in coal.  Coal is the ultimate tragedy of the commons.  To deal with it requires moving those costs onto the utilities and mines balance sheets. Utilities need to be exposed to the cost of their emissions to move them away from fossil fuels.

Renewables are a different balance.  Operating costs are small but capital costs are high although decreasing.  The modularity of renewables is a great advantage over nuclear which comes in single ginourmous lumps with long construction times.  A single wind turbine, by nature requires only a small investment.  As with gas turbines, the wind/solar components can be mass produced in factories and shipped to the assembly site. Wind farms/solar can be installed in smaller chunks each of which comes on line as finished and can start to immediately generate revenue to support further installations.

So the action on the power generation front is going to be renewables vs. natural gas. 

So what is needed

1.  Regulations to limit the worst emissions, quantify costs and show them explicitly to the public.  Limitations are necessary for those emissions whose cost is so high that their effects are immediate and dangerous, such as lead and NOx. 

2.  A  tax on greenhouse gas emissions which would either displace other taxes or be rebated.  See Eli Rabett's simple plan to save the world the brilliance of which is that it really would not require Trump to sign on, if the rest of the developed world did.

Having solved all problems, Eli hops on.


Moresuch on Gorsuch

Read Mashey. Definitely plagiarism, and Gorsuch didn't read "his" primary sources (e.g. a court case that was sealed years prior to Gorsuch, after the author who Gorsuch copied had read the filings). The claims by his academic defenders, who should've been supervising him better, that you're supposed to cite primary sources and not secondary ones are laughable in these circumstances. Like Wegman, I'm not sure how they're supposed to supervise students given what they say is acceptable.

Academia does give you the ability to cite primary sources you haven't read, btw:  you cite the secondary source you have read as then citing the primary source that you wish you had read. This way you get to make your point while acknowledging that your support for it is flimsy - an honest way to go about the work.

If more of this stuff turns up in Gorsuch's background then he'll be a crippled member of the Supreme Court.