Erice 2009 – A Quick Synopsis

This year’s Erice International Seminar was the 42nd. All recipients received an interesting book of memoirs of the seminars (edited W. Barletta and H. Wegener) from which I’ve scanned two interesting pictures (the pictures in the book were mostly recovered by Bill Barletta, an MIT physicist).

The first shows Paul Dirac on the right talking to Edward Teller on the left at the first Erice Seminar. A stylized logo of the Dirac equation adorns the front of the speaker’s platform. Every Erice conference attendee receives two articles by Antonino Zichichi, a very prominent physicist himself and the organizer of the seminars, explaining why he thinks that Dirac (ranked 8th all-time in a Physics Today poll) made more important contributions to modern physics than Einstein’s (ranked 1st). (The argument is that Dirac’s postulation of antimatter has been the ongoing project of modern physics, whereas Einstein’s discoveries, notwithstanding their fame, haven’t led to important new work – BTW I do not hold any view on this “issue”.)


Figure 1. Paul Dirac talking to Edward Teller.

The second picture below is from the Cold War period during Reagan’s administration while the Star Wars project was in full swing and animosity between the U.S. and the U.S.S.R. had intensified. Notwithstanding this animosity and mutual suspicion, the most eminent nuclear scientists of the day met one another at the Erice Seminar. Here is Edward Teller, then Reagan’s science adviser, on the left, talking to Evgeny Velikhov, then chief science adviser in the U.S.S.R. It’s interesting that, at the height of the Reagan Cold War, Russian and American scientists could meet; in contrast, James Hansen and his disciples have a more jihadist approach, Hansen setting the example by refusing to appear on panels with John Christy despite the latter’s extensive publication record.


Figure 2. Teller and Velikhov, chief science advisers.

Erice is a very picturesque medieval town on a hill (about 1000 feet high) overlooking the Tyrrhenian Sea. Original facades and structures have been mostly preserved. Streets are cobblestoned; lanes are narrow. Cars are left on the outskirts of the town and you walk everywhere. It’s supported by tourist trade and there are numerous excellent restaurants.

Days at the Erice seminar are about 16 hours long. A typical day for me was pretty much like this:

Get up at 8 or so, Italian breakfast at 8.30: coffee, good salami-and-cheese on a good panini; fresh local fruit grapes, pears, peaches. Breakfast was at the Eugene Wigner Bldg – buildings are named after famous physicists who were active at Erice seminars in the early going. This was a refitted medieval/16th century cloister. Breakfast was in a common area and there was always someone to talk to.

9:30 Morning sessions at the Paul Dirac lecture hall. This is a modern lecture hall in another refitted medieval/16th century building. Morning sessions go till 1.30 or 2. Sessions cover a wide variety of topics. The seminars originated in concerns over nuclear war, but have since diversified to cover a gamut of “planetary emergencies” – a phrase which covers a wide range of issues, ranging from energy supply, nuclear proliferation, cyber-security, vector-borne disease and, yes, climate, tied together by the general concept that there was a connection to human well-being. Above the lecture hall is a coffee break area with a spectacular view over the Tyrrhenian Sea. There would be one coffee break per session – again, always someone to talk to.

2 or so – Lunch. We could choose from a list of about 7 restaurants, who provided 3-course meals: a pasta course, a fish course and fruit. Beer/wine was comped. It took all my will power not to have wine or beer at lunch (both for weight and afternoon snoozing reasons) and for the most part, I resisted. I also resolved to eat only about 50% of the available portions – I’ve worked very hard to lose weight and I could see myself giving most of it back in a week. Again, I pretty much stuck to my resolution.

4 to 7/7.30 – Afternoon sessions were pretty much like morning sessions.

7.30 – Walk back to our room, shower and change for dinner. Meet up with my wife who’d been on spouse activities for the day. (Spouses are very well-treated and this is one of the strengths of the conference. My wife liked many of the other wives. They visited archaeological sites, the beach, shops etc. and were busy. ) Try to nap for 15 minutes.

8.30- 12.30 – Dinner. There was a 5 or 6-course banquets every night. Pre-dinner wine and hors-d’oeuvres. Then a pasta course, a fish course, a dessert course, a cheese course, plus good Italian bread – bread being a weakness of mine. Plentiful wine. Again, I stuck to 50% portions and still feared the scales when I got home. I also drank lots of water at dinner as sort of a wine extender, to avoid paying too severe a price. Tables were round tables seating 12 or so and the dinners offered a chance to socialize. As anywhere else, people tend to fall into seating patterns. This year, there were some climate people that I was anxious to talk to, so I didn’t mix quite as much as I did last year. Also, the wives had their own groupings, which didn’t necessarily have anything to do with their husbands’ patterns and this helps the mixing process. On most nights, there was after-dinner entertainment from Sicilian folk singing-dancing groups. My wife tried to get a picture of Richard Lindzen folk dancing – confident that Gavin Schmidt and realclimate would pay top dollar for this piece of papparazzi enterprise, but the picture didn’t turn out.

12.30- 2+ – the Marsala Room. I regret to say that we didn’t go to the Marsala room. I’ve closed down a few bars in my day and, in the next morning’s light, seldom reflected that this was a good decision.

There were about 10 presentations directly related to the sort of climate science issues covered here. There were many presentations on energy supply and such, which touched on science issues, but which stretch a bit outside the scope of issues covered here, though I find them interesting as a citizen and it’s stimulating to be exposed to issues that do not arise in more specialized forums.

In my preview of the Erice Seminar, I posted up the schedule of the Water Cycle session. Albert Arking hurt his back and was unable to attend. The presentations of Lindzen, Kininmonth, Paltridge and Choi (Lindzen’s post-doc) were all interesting – and I’ll discuss them separately.

Other climate science -related presentations which I’ll allude to only briefly right now were ):
– John Haynes of NASA outlined the various NASA satellites including a preview of satellites scheduled for launching in the next few years. His own interests were directed towards using satellites for public health information.
– Judith Pap of U of Maryland surveyed solar irradiance issues, reviewing the ACRIM/PMOD issues and the problems in establishing an irradiance time series, and previewing planned future solar irradiance satellites.
– Chris Essex of U of Western Ontario discussed fundamental conceptual problems with GCMs relying on parameterization as a sort of pseudo-physics (my label, but one that Essex would probably not disagree with.) Zichichi is very supportive of this line of argument. (As I’ve observed before, I don’t understand why AGW expositions don’t spend far more effort on the impact of doubled CO2 using non-GCM analyses at a level more advanced than grade school – analyses that would shed insight into processes as well as results.) Chris showed some very pretty ‘solargraphs’ that I’ll discuss some day.
– Kyle Swanson of Wisconsin discussed a multivariate method for extracting trend information related to principal components, but a little different. This is scheduled for publication and I’ll keep an eye on this.
– Mike MacCracken, a long-time IPCC participant, talked about greenhouse gas emission scenarios. I chatted with him about my ongoing frustration with the apparent lack of a systematic A-toB presentation of how doubled CO2 leads to 3 deg C; he sent me a recent paper outlining his attempt to provide such an exposition. I haven’t had a chance to review it yet, but will do so.
– Yuan Daoxian, in a session on China, made an interesting presentation on the uptake of atmospheric CO2 by karsts (a geological formation), suggesting that this sort of uptake may account for a portion of the ‘missing’ CO2 uptake. Herman Shugart of U of Virginia, in a different session, reviewed CO2 balances, emphasizing the significant size of the unaccounted-for CO2 sink and urging that this be pinned down; BTW his own analyses of forest CO2 uptake did not suggest that a forest in a “steady-state” mode was a CO2 sink.

I’ll report on many of these papers. Readers absorbed in climate issues need to realize that climate, while an important and topical issue, is only one of the issues covered at this seminar. In that respect, it’s a lot different than going to AGU or EGU, where you are overwhelmed with the sheer number of climate papers.

In addition, I certainly had a far more “quality” socialization than at AGU. Of names that readers know, I had the opportunity to spend a lot of time with Lindzen, Kininmonth and Paltridge, none of whom I’d ever had an opportunity to do more than shake hands with before, though I’ve corresponded with them from time to time and they’re all familiar with CA.

More to come on this.

As I mentioned before, we spent a couple of days in Siracusa on the east coast of Sicily before the conference and a few days in Florence after the conference. We got home yesterday. While I suspect that Toronto would not necessarily collapse as a city if it’s weather were more like Cleveland or Columbus, nonetheless I’m a Canadian and am happy to return to some cooler weather.

84 Comments

  1. Steve McIntyre
    Posted Aug 29, 2009 at 11:35 AM | Permalink

    My thanks to those who kept some continuity here, while I was on holiday, and especially to Roman and Hu for providing interesting posts.

    • marks powers
      Posted Sep 4, 2009 at 12:19 PM | Permalink

      Re: Steve McIntyre (#1),
      new article – Published online 4 September 2009

      http://www.nature.com/news/2009/090904/full/news.2009.886.html

      But a global climate service will face a host of scientific and political hurdles. Negotiating data collection and sharing among member states will be a big challenge, for example. “It has been a huge issue in the past to ensure that data are as fully as accessible as possible,” says Tom Karl, director of the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s National Climatic Data Center in Asheville, North Carolina.

      Some countries are already baulking at the suggestion that they will need to supply the service with data, citing issues such as national security or commercial interests that would prevent disclosure. Martin Visbeck of the Leibniz Institute of Marine Sciences at the University of Kiel in Germany, who chaired the conference’s programme committee, explains that one option would be to allow “data of convenience tailored for specific purposes [to] be commercialized”, while allowing “fundamental information to be freely available”.

      Climate scientists will also have to improve the quality of the climate projections that the service could provide. Today’s global climate models predict how climate variables, such as temperature and rainfall, will change over the coming century at scales of several hundred kilometres. But scientists are hopeful that with further research they could bring that down to just tens of kilometres, covering timescales of a decade or less.

  2. Posted Aug 29, 2009 at 12:13 PM | Permalink

    Good to hear that you’ll be informing us about all the interesting happenings, Steve! Quite a number of things to look forward to. Too bad about Arking. Hope he’s alright.

  3. Posted Aug 29, 2009 at 12:15 PM | Permalink

    Italian breakfast at 8.30: coffee, good salami-and-cheese on a good panini; fresh local fruit grapes, pears, peaches.

    Great, now I’m hungry.

  4. Posted Aug 29, 2009 at 12:36 PM | Permalink

    It’s always some kind of fun to be at a place that used to be visited by lots of monster minds. At least, it’s fun until it becomes mundane. ;-)

  5. Calvin Ball
    Posted Aug 29, 2009 at 12:46 PM | Permalink

    So Lubos, what’s your opinion on Dirac v.s. Einstein, and the other six in between? I know you published Landau’s ranking, but have you ever opined yourself?

    • Posted Aug 30, 2009 at 10:25 AM | Permalink

      Re: Calvin Ball (#5), It is interesting that in later life both Dirac and Einstein were divorced from the physics of the day. Dirac stuck to finding canonical approaches (Lagrangians and Hamiltonians) to quantum mechanics, largely ignoring renormalization and path integral methods, while Einstein struck to seeking a unified field theory. Yet in sticking to their ideas, it can be argued that both made the way possible for later advances in what were to become new fields: topological (Chern-Simons) in the case of Dirac, and EPR, Bell states and decoherence in the case of Einstein.

  6. Calvin Ball
    Posted Aug 29, 2009 at 12:54 PM | Permalink

    Chris Essex of U of Western Ontario discussed fundamental conceptual problems with GCMs relying on parameterization as a sort of pseudo-physics (my label, but one that Essex would probably not disagree with.) Zichichi is very supportive of this line of argument. (As I’ve observed before, I don’t understand why AGW expositions don’t spend far more effort on the impact of doubled CO2 using non-GCM analyses at a level more advanced than grade school – analyses that would shed insight into processes as well as results.)

    If you haven’t been paying attention to Lucia’s blog lately, she has an interesting twist on this question, where she shows how thermodynamics places certain constraints on parameters, and so what appears to be a physical model, with certain parameters becomes unphysical.

    The moral to the story seems to support Essex’s claim, that even when we get a good fit with a parameterized model, we may just be fooling ourselves.

    Steve: The approaches are quite different.

    • Juan
      Posted Aug 29, 2009 at 2:57 PM | Permalink

      Re: Calvin Ball (#6), I’m curious…how was Essex received on his “Crypto Sensitivity” ideas.

      • Steve McIntyre
        Posted Aug 29, 2009 at 3:05 PM | Permalink

        Re: Juan (#11),

        how was Essex received on his “Crypto Sensitivity” ideas.

        I must have missed this presentation. Why do you say that he made such a presentation?

        • Juan
          Posted Aug 29, 2009 at 11:57 PM | Permalink

          Re: Steve McIntyre (#12), Oh sorry…I had some private correspondence with him on this and after I heard it I laughed and wondered what the rest of the “community” thought about it.

          Willie Soon claims Essex is too smart to be human. We both think he’s an alien.

  7. dearieme
    Posted Aug 29, 2009 at 1:08 PM | Permalink

    I reckon Newton should be top, unless “modern physics” excludes him. A mathematical physicist pal of mine thinks the world of Dirac, but I suspect he’d demur at the idea of a league table except for the top spot, which would be occupied by Newton. Where would you put Clerk Maxwell? Silly games, perhaps, but less silly than the Climate Scientologists’ games.

  8. tty
    Posted Aug 29, 2009 at 1:12 PM | Permalink

    The present buildings of Erice may be medieval, but the town is vastly older. It was called Eryx in antiquity and originally a town of the elymians, a pre-roman and pre-greek, and quite possibly pre-indoeuropean people of western Sicily.

  9. fFreddy
    Posted Aug 29, 2009 at 1:40 PM | Permalink

    If you were to rank physicists by the greatest age at which they were still coming up with good new stuff, I think Dirac would score pretty highly.
    Besides, he was a good west country boy, ooh-aaar …

  10. John Archer
    Posted Aug 29, 2009 at 2:05 PM | Permalink

    Steve McIntyre,
    That was a lovely report. Thank you.
    .

    Dearieme,
    I’m with you. Newton is in a class of his own. Top man for well over 300 years and going as strong as ever. As Hardy would say, Bradman class. And no one ever even came close to Bradman. But I think Hardy got it slightly wrong. I’d say Bradman was in the Newton class. :)

  11. Steve McIntyre
    Posted Aug 29, 2009 at 3:06 PM | Permalink

    A trivia question that I asked some of the participants: who is (by far) the most famous Sicilian scientist? A clue – he’s one of the few scientists to die as the result of a war.

    • Mark T
      Posted Aug 29, 2009 at 5:06 PM | Permalink

      Re: Steve McIntyre (#13), I was going to say Guglielmo Marconi, but he was neither a Sicilian nor the victim of a war. He was Italian and died as the result of several heart attacks.

      I agree with kuhnkat: Hansen is afraid of Christy.

      Mark

    • Pat Frank
      Posted Aug 29, 2009 at 9:49 PM | Permalink

      Re: Steve McIntyre (#13), “who is (by far) the most famous Sicilian scientist?” Archimedes. He was killed by a centurion, who burst into his room after the successful Roman siege of Syracuse. Archimedes was drawing his calculations in smoothed sand on the floor. He told the centurion, “Touch not the circles!” and was stabbed to death.

      The Archimedes palimpsest project continues at the Stanford Synchrotron Radiation lab. Archimedes apparently had a much more profound understanding of infinity than previously thought, and was close to developing calculus.

      • bernie
        Posted Aug 30, 2009 at 6:02 AM | Permalink

        Re: Pat Frank (#26), Pat:
        I thought the book Archimedes Codex was excellent. Do you know who bought the codex and funded some of this very sophisticated enterprise?

        • Pat Frank
          Posted Aug 31, 2009 at 9:56 AM | Permalink

          Re: bernie (#39), Bernie, all that’s known publicly is that the funder of the palimpsest project is very rich and prefers to remain anonymous. I was privileged to be present when some of the first palimpsest script was being x-ray imaged. Museum curators and historians were crowded around the monitor watching the Greek appear. Talk about the extremes of competence. X-ray physicists and classical scholars, both focused on the same project.

        • Calvin Ball
          Posted Aug 31, 2009 at 11:42 AM | Permalink

          Re: Pat Frank (#58),

          Talk about interdisciplinarianism. If only climate projects could work like that.

        • Pat Frank
          Posted Sep 2, 2009 at 4:26 PM | Permalink

          Re: Calvin Ball (#59), Indeed.

      • Steve McIntyre
        Posted Aug 30, 2009 at 7:25 AM | Permalink

        Re: Pat Frank (#26),

        The story of the Archimedes Palimpsest is very interesting. Link highly recommended to readers.

  12. Soronel Haetir
    Posted Aug 29, 2009 at 3:10 PM | Permalink

    As for Hanson and debates, it helps that the US and USSR were each interested in self-survival and while distrustful did not regard each other as fundimentally insane.

  13. bernie
    Posted Aug 29, 2009 at 3:40 PM | Permalink

    Archimedes, I believe died on Sicily.

  14. kuhnkat
    Posted Aug 29, 2009 at 3:56 PM | Permalink

    Steve Mc.,

    ” in contrast, James Hansen and his disciples have a more jihadist approach, Hansen setting the example by refusing to appear on panels with John Christy despite the latter’s extensive publication record.”

    or BECAUSE of his extensive publication record. ;>)

  15. DJA
    Posted Aug 29, 2009 at 5:30 PM | Permalink

    Bernie,
    Archimedes was also born in Sicily and died when the Romans sacked Syraccuse

  16. Posted Aug 29, 2009 at 5:40 PM | Permalink

    Hansen won’t ever appear at a fair debate with a knowledgeable opponent for the same reason as Al Gore: because he’d get creamed. That’s why Gavin “sigh” Schmidt won’t go to a debate any more – there’s only so many times you can be humiliated.

    Archimedes was born in Syracuse and some of his most ingenious devices were conceived to repel attacks by the Romans on the city-state. In towns on that coast, mothers still tell their children to behave or “Archimedes will get them”.

  17. Posted Aug 29, 2009 at 7:14 PM | Permalink

    James Hansen and his disciples have a more jihadist approach, Hansen setting the example by refusing to appear on panels with John Christy despite the latter’s extensive publication record.

    They both appeared as expert witnesses in Federal Court (testifying on behalf of opposite sides, of course) about California’s AB1493 State CAFE standards. Christy’s main point was that it wouldn’t effect climate measurably, and Hansen could not contradict that. The auto-manufacturers lost the case (and in case you are wondering, Christy took unpaid vacation a received no reimbursement) but that’s because the case was about whether California could do what I was trying to do (a state’s rights issue) not whether there was a good justification.

    But I suspect Hansen felt burned nonetheless, and so will never do something like that again.

  18. slownewsday
    Posted Aug 29, 2009 at 8:19 PM | Permalink

    in contrast, James Hansen and his disciples have a more jihadist approach, Hansen setting the example by refusing to appear on panels with John Christy despite the latter’s extensive publication record.

    Into the bitching already, and it’s only the second paragraph.

    Steve: I’m just making the observation. Do you dispute the correctness of the observation? The absence of specialists with opposite views to Lindzen et al attracted some comment in Erice, but it wasn’t through lack of invitations. Mike MacCracken was there though as I noted above.

    • slownewsday
      Posted Aug 29, 2009 at 10:40 PM | Permalink

      Re: slownewsday (#21),

      I think the word “Jihad” makes it more than just an observation.

      • Dave Dardinger
        Posted Aug 29, 2009 at 11:14 PM | Permalink

        Re: slownewsday (#28),

        Into the bitching already, and it’s only the second paragraph.

        BTW, speaking of nitpicking, the remark was in Steve’s third paragraph, not the second as you libelously asserted.

    • JohnM
      Posted Aug 30, 2009 at 1:55 AM | Permalink

      Re: slownewsday (#21)

      Into the bitching already, and it’s only the second paragraph.

      No need to “bitch” when one insists on censoring all inconvenient opposing views. But hey, the RC Team et al. do it anyway–but only when they don’t have to sit next to other experts in the field whom they don’t like. ;)

      And “jihad” is a technical term used for those who engage in science with a religious conviction. Calling for crimes-against-humanity trials for those one disagrees with certainly qualifies Hansen.

  19. rephelan
    Posted Aug 29, 2009 at 8:49 PM | Permalink

    Welcome back and glad you seem to have enjoyed yourself. I’ll be looking forward to your other posts about the conference.

  20. bernie
    Posted Aug 29, 2009 at 8:59 PM | Permalink

    DJA:
    I knew he was Greek and that there was a major Greek colony on Sicily, but I didn’t recall that he was actually Sicilian by birth. Apparently his death was against orders and upset Cicero who was directing the attack on Syracuse.

    Sicily is on my list of places to see before I leave this mortal coil.

  21. jae
    Posted Aug 29, 2009 at 9:07 PM | Permalink

    Steve: good to have you back! Looking forward to many gems from the presentations and discussions.

  22. Posted Aug 29, 2009 at 9:28 PM | Permalink

    Thanks for this excellent introduction to the conference history and activities. Posts like this are really helpful to “first timers” as well as those interested in attending future events.

  23. Steve McIntyre
    Posted Aug 29, 2009 at 9:54 PM | Permalink

    Archimedes was born in Syracuse on the east coast of Sicily, which was settled by Greeks some centuries before his birth. SO I think it’s fair to say that he is “Sicilian” though not ethnically a Sikel.

    Syracuse’s importance in the realpolitik from 480-212 is a bit surprising (based on info from the local museum) which reports that they had battles against Athens, Carthage and Rome, with wins over both Athens and Carthage before succumbing finally to Rome.

  24. Posted Aug 29, 2009 at 10:58 PM | Permalink

    Steve Mc:

    As I mentioned before, we spent a couple of days in Siracusa on the east coast of Sicily before the conference and a few days in Florence after the conference. We got home yesterday. While I suspect that Toronto would not necessarily collapse as a city if it’s weather were more like Cleveland or Columbus, nonetheless I’m a Canadian and am happy to return to some cooler weather.

    Baffling. Steve returned after spurning half of the best cuisine in the world and the loveliest weather to return to Toronto which has neither.

    I must enrol myself immediately to

  25. Posted Aug 29, 2009 at 11:20 PM | Permalink

    Dear Calvin,

    I think that Einstein was still more original than others, including Dirac, but he was a worse mathematician or a guy to systematically solve more “routine” tasks that were inevitably coming later. On the other hand, Einstein was also more lucky – well, at least twice.

    The Dirac equation, antimatter etc. are omnipresent today, but I would still say that relativity – especially special relativity – is even more omnipresent for science. At any rate, Landau’s ranking always looked pretty much OK to me. There are no “huge disagreements” with Landau I could find.

    Dirac has discovered many more crucial things that are summarized above, see

    http://motls.blogspot.com/2009/08/paul-dirac-birthday.html

    including the unification of the early pictures of quantum mechanics. So I surely understand that someone may put him above Einstein although I probably wouldn’t quite do it.

    Best wishes
    Lubos

  26. DeWitt Payne
    Posted Aug 29, 2009 at 11:58 PM | Permalink

    In terms of affect on the world as opposed to current physics research topics, James Clerk Maxwell towers above all modern physicists. Maxwell is by far the greatest mathematical physicist since Newton. Probably the only reason he didn’t formulate special relativity, which is implied by his famous equations governing electromagnetism, is that he died at the age of 48.

    • Posted Aug 31, 2009 at 12:41 PM | Permalink

      Re: DeWitt Payne (#33),

      Regarding Maxwell Feynman Lectures says something like that “Maxwell equations would be still relevant 1000 years later, while American civil war would be relegated to just an obscure accident”. Incidentally, I was counting google hits on famous scientists (to compare them to politicians:-) and on “Maxwell” some musician that I never heard of takes the top spot. Shame on you Google!

  27. Gerry\m
    Posted Aug 30, 2009 at 1:07 AM | Permalink

    Einstein’s heroes were Maxwell, Newton and Faraday. It’s too difficult to say who was the greatest they are all bloody good.

    Jihad is a holy war, if Jim Hansen isn’t waging a holy war what is he doing?

  28. Posted Aug 30, 2009 at 4:03 AM | Permalink

    …and am happy to return to some cooler weather.

    Let’s talk about again when you will have -20°C! :-)

    Anyway, you were out of luck. The second half of August has had lack of wind and a lot of moisture, really quite unconfortable. It’s a possibility of the Mediterranean climate, but it could be and often is much better.
    Florence is usually one of the hottest city, far from the sea and in a valley. You missed the African heat wave, when temperature in Sicily can rise up to 40°C and more. In July Siracusa climbed to 45°!!!

  29. Steve McIntyre
    Posted Aug 30, 2009 at 4:42 AM | Permalink

    Toronto’s climate is definitely not one of its attractions, but it has very pleasant fall weather. I’ve really enjoyed the trips to Italy, but, given my druthers, I’d much prefer visiting in a month other than August – a month when Toronto is relatively pleasant and Italy is very hot.

  30. TAG
    Posted Aug 30, 2009 at 5:39 AM | Permalink

    BTW his own analyses of forest CO2 uptake did not suggest that a forest in a “steady-state” mode was a CO2 sink.

    The idea of forests as carbon sinks is one that this often in the press. However the observation above seems like common sense to me. How could a mature forest that is in its “steady state” be considered a carbon sink? It would be taking up and giving off carbon at a steady rate of 0.

    So the CO2 offset industry is exploiting a finite resource and is unsustainable. If someone compensates for their holiday air trip by planting trees, they have consumed two finite resources – the oil and the trees

  31. Francois Ouellette
    Posted Aug 30, 2009 at 6:55 AM | Permalink

    snip
    Newton … dismissed any contribution from anybody else, whether it be Leibniz, Hooke, etc. When Denis Papin asked the Royal Society, and its president Newton, 15 pounds for developing a steam engine, Newton turned him down, and let Papin, one of the most brilliant technologists of his time, die in misery. Newton preferred to invest his money in the slave trade (and lose it…). So much for a scientific hero!

    • John Archer
      Posted Aug 30, 2009 at 2:45 PM | Permalink

      Re: Francois Ouellette (#40),
      Francois,

      Newton … dismissed any contribution from anybody else, whether it be Leibniz, Hooke, etc. When Denis Papin asked the Royal Society, and its president Newton, 15 pounds for developing a steam engine, Newton turned him down, and let Papin, one of the most brilliant technologists of his time, die in misery. Newton preferred to invest his money in the slave trade (and lose it…). So much for a scientific hero!

      … and for all I know, he might have been the sort of chap who would rifle through the contents of his nose at the dinner table.

      Unattractive though some of his personal dealings undoubtedly were, they are wholly beside the point.

      Besides, Newton had the good fortune to be born an Englishman, and that excuses all. :)

      Steve: Enough on this issue.

  32. Mitchel44
    Posted Aug 30, 2009 at 7:58 AM | Permalink

    While I suspect that Toronto would not necessarily collapse as a city if it’s weather were more like Cleveland or Columbus, nonetheless I’m a Canadian and am happy to return to some cooler weather.

    I’m not sure that the natural variation between Toronto and Cleveland would be all that noticeable on a personal level, Columbus would be a different story as it loses a lot of the moderating influence of the Great Lakes.

  33. jorge c.
    Posted Aug 30, 2009 at 8:31 AM | Permalink

    mr.bernie (23): sorry, but the roman comander was marcus claudius marcellus, not cicero. plutarch wrote that cicero saw the tomb of archimedes years later when he was the roman proconsul of sicilia. and i think that archimedes thought that he was greek not sicilian…

    Steve: Obviously Archimedes did not regard himself as an ethnic Sikel but in “modern” usage, someone who was born in Sicily and lived and died in Sicily can reasonably be called “Sicilian” – I obviously recognize that the term is a bit of an anachronism, that’s what made the question sort of interesting. The Greeks had been in Sicily for many centuries by the time of Archimedes; as long as the British have been in North America. I suspect that Archimedes regarded himself as a Siracusan in the same way that Thucydides regarded himself as an Athenian.

  34. Harry Eagar
    Posted Aug 30, 2009 at 8:56 AM | Permalink

    Predicted high today in Toronto 68, in Columbus 69

  35. Posted Aug 30, 2009 at 10:18 AM | Permalink

    It seems that when a group of Greeks went to Sicily, or everywhere around the Mediterranean coast, only the head took with him his wife. The others had to get their “woman needs” after negotiation with local tribes (Sicel for example) or, simpler, by kidnapping.
    I think Archimedes thought of him as a Greek or a Siracusan Greek, but his genes were more likely of local origin!

  36. Calvin Ball
    Posted Aug 30, 2009 at 10:48 AM | Permalink

    Einstein also dabbled a lot more in thermo, and statistical mechanics, and so on. He, together with Leo Szilard, patented the first absorption refrigerator, the forerunner of the gas frige that’s so common in trailers and motor homes. I think he had ADD.

  37. Posted Aug 30, 2009 at 1:22 PM | Permalink

    in contrast, James Hansen and his disciples have a more jihadist approach, Hansen setting the example by refusing to appear on panels with John Christy despite the latter’s extensive publication record.

    Was Hansen present at the conference, but shunned panels with Christy, or did he avoid the conference altogether? If the latter, perhaps he just had conflicting demands on his time.

    Steve: Neither Hansen nor Christy were there. Hansen refused to turn up on a panel before a House Committee a couple of years when Christy was invited. A number of scientists who assert a positive water cycle feedback (the majority of climate scientists) were invited to Erice to present the mainstream view, but all refused for one reason or another, Dessler, for example, only after learning that Lindzen et al were appearing.

    • Posted Aug 30, 2009 at 5:52 PM | Permalink

      Re: Hu McCulloch (#48), Hu, I don’t think Steve was referring to events at this conference per se.

      For one thing, I don’t think either Christy or Hansen were present.

  38. Mark T
    Posted Aug 30, 2009 at 1:37 PM | Permalink

    Yes. Staging protests at nuclear facilities and the like, I’m sure.

    Mark

  39. Posted Aug 30, 2009 at 3:48 PM | Permalink

    Top contributions to modern Physics: Einstein, Maxwell, Newton, Faraday… and I’d add the young Lord Kelvin. Unfortunately when he was old he became foolishly dismissive of new ideas when his own record should have taught him better.
    And right now I think the cutting edge for the future (especially future energy sources) may lie with the Zero Point Field aspect of Quantum Mechanics. But hey, that’s not recognized by the current status quo.

  40. henry
    Posted Aug 30, 2009 at 7:48 PM | Permalink

    …in contrast, James Hansen and his disciples have a more jihadist approach…

    slownewsday: Into the bitching already, and it’s only the second paragraph.

    So tell me, slownewsday, was it just the word “jihadist” that you object to?

    How about if Steve had used the word obstructionist, or adversarial?

    Even if he had left out the word, the idea in the quote is still the same – in other times, and with other sciences, there has always been a healthy discussion of the subject.

    Steve - No need to argue about this. slownews understands the point.

    • kim
      Posted Aug 30, 2009 at 8:46 PM | Permalink

      Re: henry (#53),

      er, third paragraph. OK, OK, I get the point.
      ==========================

  41. Tim Channon
    Posted Aug 30, 2009 at 8:07 PM | Permalink

    You might find this interesting re: Maxwell, Einstein etc.

    http://www.halexandria.org/dward760.htm

    Yes I liked your report Steve. Been to Sicily twice, fascinating place.

    Try 2am on a velvet hot summer night high on Etna looking over the straits, shooting stars and a few rumbles from the giant.

  42. Francois Ouellette
    Posted Aug 31, 2009 at 9:00 AM | Permalink

    #50 But that is not beside the point. Refusing to acknowledge someone else’s contribution is a recurrent topic of this blog. Newton was expert at that. Who knows, in a couple of centuries, James Hansen or Gavin Schmidt may have become the scientific heroes of their time, and Steve McIntyre will only deserve a footnote in history, if any, and nobody will remember his contributions, if any. My point was that one should stop trying to make heroes of human beings. One should look at the history of science not as the usual heroic march to truth, if one wants to understand, for example, what is happening today in climate science. Sorry for trying to elevate the debate just a bit.

    Steve, I know you’ll snip me again. For some reason you dislike anything I post here, while letting all your chearleaders post almost anything, with the occasional opponent whom you want to ridicule. Calling somone nasty deserves a snip, but calling someone a jihadist is O.K. Go figure…

  43. oakwood
    Posted Aug 31, 2009 at 1:39 PM | Permalink

    The fist I heard of Paul Dirac was when a few years ago walking along the road I lived on at the time (Cotham Rd, Bristol, England), I saw a plaque on a house saying “Paul Dirac, physicist lived here”. Despite having gained an A in Physics at school, and doing one year of Physics at university, if I had ever heard his name, it never sunk in! Einstein, Newton I did know, and certainly recall studying their scientific discoveries.

  44. Jim Turner
    Posted Aug 31, 2009 at 1:55 PM | Permalink

    Sorry to be OT – please feel free to move this to a more appropriate thread.

    I thought that you would be interested to know that Michael Mann had a letter published in the (London) Sunday Telegraph this week, see link (It’s about 3/4 down the page).

    Basically it is a criticism of Christopher Booker, but he makes a couple of points worth commenting on. Firstly he still defends the ‘hockey stick’, by stating that it was endorsed by the NAS and further supported by subsequent findings. Secondly, he states that (skeptic?) focus on the ‘hockey stick’ is a distraction – and that AGW is supported by “numerous lines of evidence”. This latter point seems at least in part to be in opposition to Steve M’s position that I have seen stated here – that the ‘hockey stick’ was/is a key piece of evidence central to the IPCC conclusions.
    Again, sorry to be OT, but I have not seen this noted elsewhere on skeptic blogs.

  45. Erik Ramberg
    Posted Aug 31, 2009 at 1:58 PM | Permalink

    I’m a scientist (but by no means an expert in the history of science), and use both Dirac’s work and Einstein’s work quite often. Dirac’s greatest accomplishment (and it was a doozy!) was melding two branches of physics that Einstein had already either invented (special relativity) or pioneered (quantum mechanics). Neither Dirac, nor any one else to this day, has been able to incorporate general relativity into the QM framework. It remains one of the great unsolved problems in physics, if not the greatest. Einstein’s work must take top honors over Dirac.

    (Oh, and by the way, since I don’t post here very often: anthropogenic global warming is real, regardless of whether Hansen is a jihadist or not. There are too many independent lines of evidence supporting it. Finding flaws in any one of them is not good enough to dismiss the whole framework. Keep up the good work, though.)

    Steve; As I’ve said on many occasions, the only policies advocated here are improved disclosure and better due diligence. I, for one, have never suggested that policies be deferred and have frequently said that, if I had a senior policy job, I would be guided by advice of major scientific institutions. Having said that, the quality of work in studies that I’ve looked at in detail has been disquieting. But perhaps these studies are not representative and the quality of studies that I haven’t looked at is better. On a number of occasions, I’ve asked people to provide me with a reference providing an engineering quality derivation of 3 deg C or so and have thus far been unsuccessful. Perhaps you can direct me to such a study?

    • Mike B
      Posted Aug 31, 2009 at 3:12 PM | Permalink

      Re: Erik Ramberg (#62),

      Irrespective of your views on AGW, I don’t think you’ve fairly or accurately characterized either Dirac’s or Einstein’s contributions.

    • Posted Aug 31, 2009 at 4:35 PM | Permalink

      Re: Erik Ramberg (#62),

      Erik,

      I’d love to know what “independent lines of evidence” there are for AGW. Perhaps you could write in and tell me?

      John

    • jeff id
      Posted Aug 31, 2009 at 8:15 PM | Permalink

      Re: Erik Ramberg (#62),

      Steve’s probably going to get the scissors out on a bunch of us but when you say AGW is real!! Most everyone will agree here that some warming is likely, however the magnitude and damage are in question. I wonder weather it’s measurable underneath normal climate variance or if it’s even worse than calculated?

      My opinion is that we don’t know if the current warming (and cooling) are outside natural variation and therefore may require NO response whatsoever. Some believe the hockey stick stuff is rubbish in nearly all of its forms. Some believe the warming is beneficial rather than dangerous. Critical thinking people here are skeptical of exaggerated certainty and willing to accept new demonstrations of certainty. How foolish would it be to ignore reality?!

      And in caps. NOTHING on CA has attempted to discredit AGW, ever. Be careful not to misread the posts or their intent and I think you will agree.

      Sorry for the way OT, Steve. Welcome back and clip away, no harm.

      • Calvin Ball
        Posted Aug 31, 2009 at 8:29 PM | Permalink

        Re: jeff id (#71), Agreed. Please clip all the way up to 62. I’m not trying to be a bad boy, but I can’t let something like that go unchallenged, either.

        One thing I’ve learned over the past few years is that scientific and technical types need learn how to think a little more like lawyers, and spot poorly framed phrasing like that. You’d think that tekkie types would, but it’s more of a verbal skill. A lot of very good scientists and engineers are easily fooled by poorly formulated rhetoric.

        Again, to the dumpster with this comment.

    • Steve McIntyre
      Posted Aug 31, 2009 at 9:28 PM | Permalink

      Re: Erik Ramberg (#63),

      For other readers, as most of you know, I see no editorial purpose in exchanging one-paragraph jibes about the “big picture” and have snipped a few such posts. I’ve asked Erik to direct me to what he regards as a definitive derivation of 3 deg C or so. Unfortunately, neither AR4 nor its predecessors do this. (During the scoping of AR4, I suggested to one of the authors involved in the scoping that there was a real need for such a definitive exposition as many interested people were hungry for an exposition that was neither a baby-food cartoon or a bare report of a GCM run, but, unfortunately, IPCC elected not to provide such an exposition.)

    • steven mosher
      Posted Sep 2, 2009 at 1:33 AM | Permalink

      Re: Erik Ramberg (#63),

      Oh, and by the way, since I don’t post here very often: anthropogenic global warming is real, regardless of whether Hansen is a jihadist or not. There are too many independent lines of evidence supporting it. Finding flaws in any one of them is not good enough to dismiss the whole framework. Keep up the good work, though.)

      Agreed. All the more reason to free the data, free the code and free the debate.

    • TAG
      Posted Sep 2, 2009 at 2:24 PM | Permalink

      Re: Erik Ramberg (#63),

      Oh, and by the way, since I don’t post here very often: anthropogenic global warming is real,

      The work presented on this blog is not intended to determine if AGW is real or not. The work examines the papers that detail aspects of AGW idea to see if their findings have any validity or not. This is quite another issue.

      If these papers lack validity then the policies that are derived from them will not be effective and can, indeed, be counterproductive. This is quite serious if these policies are sued to guide the functioning of the world economy. As an example, The UK is in serious danger of serious electricity shortages in the next few years because of the application of AGW policies.

      The important aspect of AGW work is not the progress made in climate science but in the validity of any polices that will be made to meet the AGW threat. One need not be skeptical of AGW to be skeptical of the quality of the published literature in climate science.

      From my own point of view, I asked a question on this blog about the verification and validation of GCMs. He was involved in the NASA GCM effort. He told me that they got the right answers in hindcasts and pointed me to the user manual. I don’t have to be skeptical of AGW to be skeptical of current GCMs if that is typical of the way that they are developed.

      • John M
        Posted Sep 2, 2009 at 2:50 PM | Permalink

        Re: TAG (#78),

        This is quite serious if these policies are sued to guide the functioning of the world economy.

        I know that was a typo, but appropriate nonetheless. In the US, if the EPA thinks it’s going to promulgate regulations, they better be damned sure the studies they rely on meet their own standards and can stand up in court. IMO, that’s going to be tough without primary data and computer code being openly available.

  46. Calvin Ball
    Posted Aug 31, 2009 at 6:37 PM | Permalink

    The strawman that I was referring to is that this site exists to completely deny any and all AGW. But beyond that, it’s an insufficiently framed question. It never was an “either-or” question, it was a question of apportionment, and the whole panoply of related questions of evidence and consequence. Anybody who reduces the question to “believing in AGW” or not is not seriously considering what the actual question set (let alone solution set) is.

  47. pete m
    Posted Aug 31, 2009 at 10:37 PM | Permalink

    Mike MacCracken, a long-time IPCC participant, talked about greenhouse gas emission scenarios. I chatted with him about my ongoing frustration with the apparent lack of a systematic A-toB presentation of how doubled CO2 leads to 3 deg C; he sent me a recent paper outlining his attempt to provide such an exposition. I haven’t had a chance to review it yet, but will do so

    On a number of occasions, I’ve asked people to provide me with a reference providing an engineering quality derivation of 3 deg C or so and have thus far been unsuccessful.

    Have you looked at this paper yet? Any online reference?

    Welcome back. Italy in April – May is much nicer, and not their holiday month that August for Euro’s is. Can’t wait to get back there 1 day.

  48. Erik Ramberg
    Posted Aug 31, 2009 at 10:51 PM | Permalink

    Steve –

    In the spirit of your last post, I ask you to direct me to a definitive [snip – this is a red-letter prohibited topic here].

    But, as in most successful theories, there is a simple exposition: Mankind has dramatically changed the atmosphere by adding gases that have long-wavelength absorption. Using the simplest of physical arguments, the most likely outcome is that there will be an increase in global mean temperature. Fitting recent historical data gives a good understanding of the level of expected temperature rise.

    I don’t understand your dismissal of AR4. It represents a lot of good work.

    Erik

    p.s. I like your statistical work on the hockey stick. Nice job. Jury is still out, I think.

    Steve: As noted above, I’ve found one-paragraph exchanges about the “big picture” to be unhelpful and this merely proves the point. I don’t “dismiss” AR4; it is, as you say, a “lot of work”. Unfortunately, however, the interested public is looking and expecting something other than a literature review. As to the statistical argument on the HS, I’ve looked closely at every counter-argument and none touch it. The “jury” really shouldn’t be out. The best the Team has come up with is the Ammann foolishness – which Wegman said had “no statistical integrity” – pretty strong words. Under oath, NAS panel chairman was asked whether he disagreed with anything in Wegman’s report and he said that he didn’t. Their report has been spun in various ways, but if you look closely at it, they don’t disagree with a single sentence in our papers. And you can bet your boots that they were looking for some mis-step. One of the strongest NAS panel members told me privately at AGU – requiring me to protect his identity – that, in his opinion, we had effectively killed that style of reconstruction until better proxies were available – a process that he estimated would take 10 to 20 years. One of the problems in climate science is that people can’t always speak their mind. Isn’t it ludicrous that a scientist of that calibre should be afraid to say for attribution what he really thought on the issue?

    • Dave Dardinger
      Posted Aug 31, 2009 at 11:15 PM | Permalink

      Re: Erik Ramberg (#71),
      snip

      I like your statistical work on the hockey stick. Nice job. Jury is still out, I think.

      Another nice slam of Steve. If you can’t tell that Steve demolished the original hockeystick then you’re not thinking. I’m sure he’d love to have you tell us just what leg Mann still has to stand on. Of course if you’re merely meaning that something looking similar to the original hockeystick might still be stastically valid, fine, but not using the proxies and methods Mann et. al. used.

      Oh, and don’t point us to the more recent multi-proxy articles. They’re all tainted with the same problems

    • John S.
      Posted Sep 3, 2009 at 10:42 AM | Permalink

      Re: Erik Ramberg (#72),

      Mankind has dramatically changed the atmosphere by adding gases that have long-wavelength absorption. Using the simplest of physical arguments, the most likely outcome is that there will be an increase in global mean temperature. Fitting recent historical data gives a good understanding of the level of expected temperature rise.

      Only the simplest conceptions of how the climate system operates and the most short-sighted, uncritical views of historical temperature data lead to the AGW attribution. Evaporation from the oceans is also real and is the principal means by which they shed heat, outstripping LW radiation and conduction combined. To those of us who insist on rigor in science, the jury of peers is not only out, but is still being assembled.

  49. Dave Dardinger
    Posted Aug 31, 2009 at 11:19 PM | Permalink

    Hey, Steve! What you doing up this time of night? I was figuring I’d have a few hours before you’d respond to Eric. And now our responses have crossed.

  50. Erik Ramberg
    Posted Sep 1, 2009 at 6:33 AM | Permalink

    I’m confused as to why my last post was so significantly edited. Strange. There were no strong words and the analogy I made was quite appropriate, I think. Ah well – I’ll keep reading the blog but try to stay away from posting.

    Steve: You’re welcome to post. Any discussion of evolution or use of evolution analogies is prohibited here – that’s all. Editorially, I am totally uninterested in such issues. I do not wish to discuss such issues here and do not wish to open the door even a crack to such discussions. It’s a red-letter rule.

  51. Calvin Ball
    Posted Sep 1, 2009 at 6:38 PM | Permalink

    Just a quick (and OT) administrative note: the link to Pielke Jr’s blog in the left blogroll sidebar is stale; the link to the new blog is contained in the old blog that is currently linked (and still active for the time being).

    [Fixed. Pielke Sr too… thanks! — ed]

  52. gs
    Posted Sep 4, 2009 at 3:07 PM | Permalink

    Here is Edward Teller, then Reagan’s science adviser, on the left, talking to Evgeny Velikhov, then chief science adviser in the U.S.S.R.

    Teller was never Reagan’s Science Advisor, although he presumably had more influence with Reagan than those who officially held the position.

    Not to be a fussbudget, but this is Climate Audit;-)

  53. Boris Badenov
    Posted Sep 5, 2009 at 8:52 PM | Permalink

    The continuing slug-fest over paleoclimate proxies really can’t hold a candle to the Cold War Climate Wars.

    Too bad there’s no picture of one of the climate modelers seconding Velikov at Erice, Candidate academician Vladimir Alexandrov. He was taken out of conference circuit circulation by the Soviets after deviating from the party line on the End Of The World version of nuclear winter, which Central Committee Chief Ideologist Boris Ponomarev endorsed as gospel in 1984.

    In what may qualify as an homage to the Sicilian Vespers, Alexandrov was hustled into a van in front of the Soviet Embassy in Madrid on Palm Sunday night 1985, having blown his lines at a Eurocommunist peace rally in Cordoba the day before.

    No one has seen Alexandrov since, but his more tractable Erice colleague, Academician Yuri Israel ,survived the unpleasantness and , as his Heartland Conference presentation attests, his staunch advocacy of global cooling has continued under other sponsorship.

  54. kim
    Posted Aug 31, 2009 at 4:36 PM | Permalink

    Re: Calvin Ball (#63),

    It’s not the reality, son, it’s the magnitude. Surely you understand that.
    ===========================================

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