Friday, August 20, 2010
Earlier this week I posted about the Met Office's shiny new computer that takes as much power to run as a small town, and which predicted the non-existent volcanic ash clouds that grounded Europe's planes and caused untold delay and misery earlier this year.
The problem is that computers are only as good as the information that's fed into them. The first law of computers is GIGO:
Garbage In = Garbage Out.
I learned this when working for the bank over 40 years ago.
Nothing has changed. That law is eternal.
These days little direct observational science is carried out. Data is merely fed into computers and sophisticated programming is used to predict outcomes.
In Formula One computers are used to predict the efficiency of bodywork components before they are manufactured. They are able to do this successfully because they have data going back over many years. This data was obtained by observing actual components in wind tunnels over a long period of time (relatively speaking). Human hands, eyes and brains were there from the beginning to observe and record and work out the scientific principles involved.
That is good science.
Likewise, ship builders use computer programmes to design ship hulls. They obtained the data to build the computer programme from direct observation and measurement of the behaviour of actual model hulls in a water filled tank. This is also good science.
So far so good. In both the cases the principle of GIGO was taken into account. The data was obtained by direct observation, measured by trusted and trained individuals,and a computer programme was written that simulated the effects of those observations. At all times accuracy was uppermost. The data had to be 100% trustworthy.
Now we come to environmental science, notably weather forecasting and climate predicting.
In the case of the non-existent ash clouds, NO DIRECT OBSERVATIONS WERE MADE.
The aircraft that could have flown into and around the clouds to measure the extent of the problem was grounded, under repair.
The only data they had was guesswork.
Remember the first law of computers?
That's right- Garbage In = Garbage Out.
When will these people learn that computers are only as good as the data that's fed into them?
Now I come to my second and more important gripe- Global Warming or Climate Change.
Firstly- I do not dispute that Climate Change is occurring. It's always occuring. It always has and it always will.
Historians and archaeologists show us that Britain was much warmer a couple of thousand years ago. Sea levels were much higher then. Go back a few thousand years and Britain was joined to Europe. The North Sea was a large land mass that archaeologists have dubbed Doggerland. Fisherman often dredge up stone age artifacts from the sea bed. Climate changes and sea levels change.
The worrying new development is a whole new brand of "science" has emerged that claims to be able to predict the future based on the past and using only computer models. This is an alarming trend that cannot be allowed to happen unquestioned.
We all know what happens when computers are allowed to predict the future without accurate data. They get it wrong. 100% of the time.
Over at Wattsupwiththat, Anthony reports on the latest climate model that NCAR has rolled out. You can read about it here:
The Press Release says this:
"The CESM is one of about a dozen climate models worldwide that can be used to simulate the many components of Earth’s climate system, including the oceans, atmosphere, sea ice, and land cover. The CESM and its predecessors are unique among these models in that they were developed by a broad community of scientists. The model is freely available to researchers worldwide."
First and foremost it must be stressed that this is a computer model. And the results are but a simulation of what may happen. Using the first principles of computing, namely GIGO, we have to be convinced that the data being used is 100% accurate, uncorrupted, unmanipulated and trustworthy.
Following the "Climategate" scandal of 2009, when scientists at the University of East Anglia admitted to "adjusting" the data, we cannot be sure that any outcome predicted by the computer can be in any way trusted.
Unfortunatley, to air that legitimate view is to be called a "denier". But consider this, is it not the same to argue that anyone who accepts conclusions derived from dodgy data also a denier?
Remember the first law of computing
GARBAGE IN= GARBAGE OUT.
Yes it's that time of year when the media is full of pictures of our little darlings celebrating passing their GCSE and A levels.
Every year the pass rate goes up and up,and every year we hear the same old story that the exams are not being dumbed down. Yeah right.
I've worked with a few of the "brighter" students and I'm staggered by two things.
One is their lack of knowledge, their lack of basic grammatical and numerical skills. In short, even the bright ones can't read or write or spell.
Secondly, I'm amazed at their arrogance. They believe the hype and publicity. They honestly believe that they are somehow superior to the rest of us. I've also had the misfortune of employing a few university graduates. Their arrogance is multiplied tenfold and their usefulness diminished by the same factor.
All those years of sitting in classrooms and they're unemployable.
And that's the bright ones.
The Daily Mail recently ran an article with some 11+ Arithmetic from the 1950s:
Read the following:
1. 3,755 is multiplied by 25 and the result is divided by 125. Write down the answer.
2. A motorist leaves home at 10.15am and drives at 32 miles per hour. He stops for lunch from noon to 1.45pm and then continues his journey at 30 miles per hour. How many miles has he travelled by 5pm?
3. An aeroplane uses 100 gallons of petrol for a flight of 150 miles. How far could it fly using 40 gallons?
4. Write in figures: twelve thousand and twelve.
5. A race started at 23 minutes past three and finished at 23 minutes to four. How long did it take?
a) 1,000 - 10
b) 25 x 12
c) 615 divided by 3
d) 0.5 + 0.75
e) The fractions 4/5 - 7/10
7. Of 800 people living in a village, half are men and half women. A quarter of the men leave the village to join the army. How many more women then men now remain?
8. Multiply 7,296 by 479.
9. Which of these numbers is divisible by 4 without any remainder: 214, 230, 226, 224, 218?
10. Add all the odd numbers between 12 and 20.
Read more: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-1030673/Could-pass-11-plus-Exam-papers-used-1950s-puts-family-test.html#ixzz0x8qLStZF
Understandably, only the very best could pass that exam at the age of eleven. But then the Grammar Schools were only interested in the very best. The Grammar Schools provided school leavers who went on to run industry, the Civil Service, and even to run the country.
I left school just as the changes were introduced that have destroyed this country's educational standards. First of all, they abolished the 11+ exam, saying that it created inequality.
Bollocks! It identified the bright and separated them from the also rans. That's not inequality. That's affirming the undeniable fact that we are not all created the same. Some people are more intelligent than others. Fact.
Then they abolished streaming in schools.
When I went to Grammar School, it soon became apparent that even among us brighter ones, some were brighter than others. They were moved into the top ability stream and took their O Levels a full year earlier than the others. That meant that they could take their A levels one year earlier and get into university one year earlier. If you were a bright pupil the last thing the school wanted was to slow you down.
Now look at it. All the kids are mixed up together. The Educational experts say that this gives everyone an equal chance when the opposite is true. The bright kids are held back by the duffers, and the duffers get frustrated because they can't keep up. So you get two sets of bored and disaffected students, both the bright and the thick. My son hated school. He couldn't wait to leave. He was frustrated by the inability and unwillingness of the school staff and management to control the unruly elements. He was bored. He'd turn up late and sit at the back. He wouldn't do his homework. And he wouldn't revise for his GCSE exams.
He still achieved ten passes.
So how come?
Here's a link to a 2009 modular maths exam paper.
And another one
Have a look at them. Then have another look at the 1950s 11+ exam questions. Remember that calculators weren't invented back then, so all calculations had to be shown on the paper.
It seems to me that the 2009 questions aren't that different from the 1950s 11+ questions.
Now tell me that educational standards haven't declined.
Visit this website to view more old exam papers.
H/T to Old Holborn
Tuesday, August 17, 2010
The British Met Office has Europe’s biggest computer.
It is housed in a 1 acre climate controlled hall.
It is a new (IBM) and requires 1.2 megabytes to run it.
It takes 8 weeks to boot up.
Can perform 1,000 billion calculations a second.
Has 15 million megabytes of memory.
Cost 30 million pounds,
and it predicted the volcanic ash clouds that shut down the European skies.
The airline industry are preparing to sue the pants off the Met Office following the non-existent ash clouds that grounded all aircraft across Europe earlier this year.
Bournemouth tourism chiefs were very unhappy last year when the Met Office supercomputer predicted storms on a Bank Holiday
From The Independent, May 29th 2009:
"Although the Met Office correctly predicted that last Saturday and Sunday would be perfect beach weather for the South Coast, they wrongly envisaged thundery showers for the bank holiday Monday.
Instead, Bournemouth's long sandy beach was bathed in sunshine and the mercury hit 2C (???), making it the hottest day of the year so far. Tourism chiefs believe Bournemouth missed out on 25,000 extra visitors who would have all spent an average of £41 for the day. "
All that concrete and glass. All that electricity needed to keep in cool in summer and warm in winter. All those staff relocation costs when they moved from Reading to Exeter.
The Met Office are one of the most enthusiastic supporters of Global Warming (AGW)
They can't predict the weather more than five days in advance, and yet they forecast with confidence what the weather will be like in fifty years' time.
Can they be trusted?
This year they published a report that purports to show that "global warming evidence is unmistakable"
Read about it here
"The State of the Climate report shows “unequivocally that the world is warming and has been for more than three decades”.
And despite the cold winter in Europe and north east America, this year is set to be the hottest on record.
The annual report was compiled by the Met Office and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA).
Both the NOAA and Nasa have stated that the first six months of this year were the hottest on record, while the Met Office believes it is the second hottest start to the year after 1998.
Dr Peter Stott, Head of Climate Monitoring and Attribution at the Met Office, said “variability” in different regions, such as the cold winter in Britain, does not mean the rest of the world is not warming. "
Sound pretty bad doesn't it? But check out what other climateologists have to say. I suggest you read this
The problem is the reliance on the Supercomputer. The data is "smoothed" before it is input. That is to say the figures are rounded up or down. Which is a big mistake. We are dealing with tiny increments of temperature and the figures are "smoothed", that is, the tiny variations of temperature are either added or taken away. Not very scientific is it?
Yes I know, weather isn't climate. But many people don't. They actually trust the Met Office. You know, they plan their work around the forecast. They plan their holidays, their days out, what they are going to wear that day.
Yesterday we read about a man in a tiny Yorkshire village who is so fed up with the poor quality of the BBC/Met Office forecasting that he has installed a weather station on his roof. So far he can only predict the next day's weather, but that's good enough for the local farmers who turn to him rather than the BBC for their forecast.
The government are considering putting the Met Office up for sale.
Honestly, who'd buy it?
There is a way to cut our carbon footprint at a stroke.
Shut the place down.
Monday, August 16, 2010
Nick Clegg is keeping Callmedave's seat warm while he has a holiday and today he described the West's level of donation to the Pakistan flood disaster as "lamentable".
So far the bulk of money raised has come from UK citizens and that is understandable as many thousands if not millions have settled in the UK since the Indian partition in the late 40s. The act of helping one's relatives is entirely laudable.
So why should any Western government be giving aid to Pakistan at all? For a start they are wealthy enough to have nuclear weapons. If they can afford those then surely they could build flood defences and a decent infrastructure?
Secondly the government of Pakistan is corrupt on a scale that is breathtaking. Last year it slipped from number 47 to number 42 in the list of the world's most corrupt nation. So there is no certainty that any money aid given will actually reach its target. And don't get me started about their president, Asif Ali Zardari, who has amassed a huge fortune at a time when the average wage of the population is tiny.Indeed, he and his huge entourage were swanning around Europe at the Pakistani taxpeyer's expense while the worst of the floods were drowning the country.
The Pakistan opposition leader Nawaz Sharif says that Pakistan does not need international relief and that the country could easily raise the money to repair the damage. read it here
Of course that is unlikely to happen, because there are so many fingers in the pie that nothing can be done unless the West stumps up.
And why the West? Pakistan is a fundamentalist Islamic country. Where is the aid from the rich Arab/Islamic countries. Surely Islam would look after its own?
Don't hold your breath.
And can Pakistan be called a country anyway? Like it's neighbour to the North and West, Afghanistan, Pakistan is a loose coalition of tribal areas. Indeed, each area of Pakistan speaks a different dialect and seems to swear allegiance only to itself. Can political boundaries exist in this part of the world? There is currently unrest in Kashmir where the Islamic population is in revolt against the Indian government.
There appears to be little loyalty to any concept of nationhood among the tribes of this part of Asia.
In a country where kidnap is seen as a legitimate occupation, can giving money be a wise thing?
Next there is the indeniable fact that Pakistan exports terrorism. We've all seen the effects of allowing Pakistani Imams into the country to teach in the UK's mosques. All the recent terrorist atrocities in the UK, India and the US had links to Pakistan.
There are Islamic extremists in Pakistan who hate the west and want to kill us all and destroy us. And Clegg wonders why no-one wants to help them?
Christians may argue that Jesus commands his followers to love those who hate you, bless those who curse you.(matt 5:44).
I have two comments to make. The Christian faith is a private and personal faith. Jesus was speaking to the individual, not the nation. If as an individual I am wronged, then I am commanded to love those who wish me ill. That is a personal matter between the individual and God. It is not and can never be a basis for diplomatic policy.
Secondly and far more importantly- the ability to forgive is considered a strength in the Christian world.
However, it is seen as a weakness in the Islamic world. Showing weakness is unthinkable to an Afghan or Pakistani tribesman. Forgiving your agressor causes him to lose face, and to lose face is unthinkable. Instead of showing him love/care/concern for his well being, you have deeply insulted him and he will vow revenge.
I will not be giving any aid to the Pakistani people, and I strongly advise you not to either. Their opposition leader has said that he doesn't want it, that the country can sort its own problems out. Their worldview is such that to accept aid would be demeaning and they would lose face. And then honour would have to be satisfied.
They really would bite the hand that feeds it.
Saturday, August 14, 2010
I'm not sure where it all started. I know that Michael Moore highlighted it in his first film "Roger and me" back in 1989.The film is a documentary about what happened to Flint, Michigan after General Motors closed its factories and opened new ones in Mexico, where the workers were paid much less.
I identified with this unsavoury fact when a firm that I worked for got into trouble through bad leadership and poor buying decisions and was taken over by a larger concern. I was very much an innocent party in all this, yet my salary percentage increase was about one twentieth of what the new CEO paid himself.
It's a form of theft. Pay your workers less, or reduce the size of the workforce. You've now made an "efficiency saving". Under the terms of your contact you're entitled to a bonus for any efficiencies made, so you take the money formerly set aside to pay my wages and put it into your own pocket.
In Blanchard & Peake's book "The Power of Ethical Management" the authors set out their philosophy in one simple sentence.
"There is no right way to do a wrong thing"
A very powerful statement that's easy to say and, like many of Jesus' sayings, hard if not impossible to live up to.
I was reading my friend Bendy Girl's blog today
where she writes about the problems in filling in all the forms so that she can continue to receive Disability Living Allowance. I'm with her on this. I hate form filling. Fortune may favour the brave, but only those who can fill in forms get benefits.
This is what I wrote on her comments form:
"The problem in dealing with gummint is this- they spend money (on new offices, jollies, etc)without regard to the fact that it's the taxpayers cash they're spending. But when it comes to giving money to legitimate claimants then you'd think it was their own.
The prime purpose of the DHS and other benefits agencies seems to be to prevent money being given out. The more they hold back, they more efficient they are judged to be and the more there is in the bonus pot.
I've had to fill in the dreaded forms for my current benefit. I'm off sick and my SSP has run out. No doubt I'll be hauled before a "doctor" who doesn't know me or my medical history and whose main concern is to prevent me from getting any benefit, because the more they "save", the more there is in the bonus pot for them.
I go to pieces when confronted by forms. I'm reduced to a gibbering wreck when confronted to pages of questions along the lines of "when did you last stop beating your wife?".
I rang the helpline and got her to fill the form in for me. She asked me the questions and I answered them (at length) and she wrote down the answer most likely to find favour. A couple of days later a draft of my questionnaire arrived in the post. I read it through, signed it and posted it off.
Bingo. Benefits paid and at the higher rate.
Now all I need is to persuade my GP to accompany me when I have to go for my medical assessment."
There is a knack, a trick to getting benefits. How else can you explain why some people do well out of them while others are denied?
I'm in favour of cutting wasteful government spending, but it seems that Cameron is looking at the wrong place.I worked for Tesco and Superdrug, two of the most successful and profitable companies in the last forty years. They didn't grow to the size they are now by overcharging the customer and spending on fancy head offices and jollies for the directors. They kept the overheads to a minimum and only spent on the back office when it was justified.
I read that Cameron has asked Sir Philip Green to have a look at Whitehall. I fear he will have a fight on his hands.
He has to challenge a culture that goes back centuries.
A culture that defines one's status according to how many staff he/she has under him. No-one will willingly lose status by shedding staff.
A culture that defines one's status by the size of the budget he/she controls. No one will willingly lose status by having the budget cut.
A culture that encourages overspending by not rewarding prudence. No one will be prudent when his reward will be a smaller budget next year.
So saving will have to be made and turkeys don't vote for Christmas. The bosses will view their empires as sacrosanct and their budgets as untouchable, and conclude that the only place savings can be made is by denying benefits to the needy
Monday, August 09, 2010
When I was a young man my father advised me of two subjects to steer clear of when out socialising- namely politics and religion.
One of my favourite blogs of the last couple of years has been Archbishop Cranmer's.
He wrote on his blogsite
"Archbishop Cranmer takes as his inspiration the words of Sir Humphrey Appleby: ‘It’s interesting,’ he observes, ‘that nowadays politicians want to talk about moral issues, and bishops want to talk politics.’"
He's been silent for a couple of months and I hope he's ok.
Whatever my dad advised, it's certain that politics and religion hold a central position in the world today. We may have no interest in them per se, but they shape world events on a daily basis.
For those who don't know me, for many years I swore to god that I was an atheist. I'd been brought up in a christian environment and I even attended Sunday school as a child. School assemblies were Christian. I attended Scouts and Cubs, both of which were christian based organisations. Christianity is natural to me, so when I was confronted with the decision to believe or not, I had to make a choice.
People have said that Jesus was either mad, sad or bad.
I chose to believe that Jesus was the Son of God and died for my sins.
Does that make me mad, bad or sad? Who knows and who cares?
I have no problems accepting the reality of Jesus in my life. However, almost twenty years of being a believer have convinced me that religion should be a private matter and that religion and politics don't mix. Ever.
Look at the evidence. Bliar, Clinton and George Dubya all claimed to be evangelical Christians. Jesus famously wrote "by their fruits shall you know them" (Matt 7 v16)
and it's true that there is very little fruit to be seen from their labours.
For the uninitiated, the fruits that Jesus refers to are what Paul calls the Fruits of the Spirit, namely-
"But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law. (Galatians 5:22-23)
The leaders who bombed Iraq back into the stone age can hardly be said to have demonstrated any of the above. And yet the US would claim to be a God fearing Christian country.
As I said, politics and religion don't and can't mix.
The early Christian Church was doing OK until it was adopted as the official state religion by Constantine. OK it was marginalised and persecuted and only found favour among the slave class, but it was working.
Once it came up from the catacombs and found favour the rot set in, and has continued unabated. Now what counted was power, not in heaven but here on earth. I won't bore you with any of the details but it's depressing reading.
I was involved in church life for about fifteen years. I observed everything. True, I saw miracles. I saw lives transformed. I experienced incredible spiritual highs. I saw the presence of God as described in I Kings 8:10-11, "And it came to pass, when the priests were come out of the holy place, that the cloud filled the house of the LORD, So that the priests could not stand to minister because of the cloud: for the glory of the LORD had filled the house of the LORD."
I've been brought to my knees in the presence of something so awesome, so powerful, so holy. I believe.
I've seen all that. But I've also seen the other side. The lust for power, the worship of money and privilege; the manipulation of congregations, the power games, the politics- the politics.
Ah yes, the politics. When politicians start doing things for spiritual or religious reasons a line has been crossed.
Just because I went somewhere and had a religious experience it does not automatically follow that if you do the same then the same thing will happen to you.
Just because a leader speaks from a deep personal conviction he should never assume that he speaks for all of us. Why?
Because faith is a personal matter. And politics should never be about one person's interests above everyone else's, should it?
Saturday, August 07, 2010
I'm back blogging following Nicki Gillis' successful tour of the UK. I had a lot of fun and although it was tiring and sometimes painful as I fought off infections, I wouldn't have missed it for the world.
I'm now undergoing my sixth and hopefully final bout of chemo prior to a couple of weeks holiday at the beginning of September.
I have a bone marrow test and CT scan booked for October, and a hopefully final appointment at the hospital in November.
In the meantime I'm fighting nausea and tiredness as the chemo takes its toll on my kidneys. I will start posting again as the fancy takes me. It'll be the usual stuff- politics, ethics, religion, global warming, hypocrisy etc etc.
I've enjoyed playing music again. It's been too long. I must get a band together and start promoting the album I recorded before all this leukaemia kicked off.