The Zen of Population (N=0)

Mann rose to prominence by supposedly being able to detect “faint” signals using “advanced” statistical methods. Lewandowsky has taken this to a new level: using lew-statistics, lew-scientists can deduce properties of population with no members. Josh summarizes the zen of lew-statistics as follows:



  1. John Francis
    Posted Nov 9, 2013 at 8:03 PM | Permalink

    Yes! We have no bells!

    • pesadia
      Posted Nov 10, 2013 at 9:40 AM | Permalink

      Is that, “no bells prizes2 between us

  2. March
    Posted Nov 9, 2013 at 8:05 PM | Permalink

    The “diddly squat pose”.
    Loved it, such an apt descriptor of their combined contribution.

  3. charles the moderator
    Posted Nov 9, 2013 at 8:25 PM | Permalink

    The sound of no hands clapping.

    • igsy
      Posted Nov 10, 2013 at 2:30 AM | Permalink

      Nice one. Bet Josh wishes he’d thought of that!

  4. Geoff Sherrington
    Posted Nov 9, 2013 at 8:46 PM | Permalink

    What if nobody (a sub-population of zero) heard the sound of no hands clapping?

    • ianl8888
      Posted Nov 9, 2013 at 8:54 PM | Permalink

      Portends complete, utter climactic disaster of course 🙂

    • Jeff Id
      Posted Nov 9, 2013 at 9:13 PM | Permalink

      I think it means a tree fell.

      • Geoff Sherrington
        Posted Nov 10, 2013 at 4:32 AM | Permalink

        Top response thanks Jeff Id. I’m still chuckling.

  5. Jeff Id
    Posted Nov 9, 2013 at 9:10 PM | Permalink

    Diddly squat – Josh taking it to the next level!


  6. David L. Hagen
    Posted Nov 9, 2013 at 10:04 PM | Permalink

    In Science held hostage in climate debate, Garth Paltridge observes

    But the real worry with climate research is that it is on the very edge of what is called postmodern science. This is a counterpart of the relativist world of postmodern art and design. It is a much more dangerous beast, whose results are valid only in the context of society’s beliefs and where the very existence of scientific truth can be denied. Postmodern science envisages a sort of political nirvana in which scientific theory and results can be consciously and legitimately manipulated to suit either the dictates of political correctness or the policies of the government of the day.

    Have we now arrived at “postmodern science”?

  7. Anthony Watts
    Posted Nov 10, 2013 at 1:34 AM | Permalink

    If n=0, does it make a sound?

  8. Posted Nov 10, 2013 at 2:14 AM | Permalink

    zero + zero = 1 + 1 ? — surely this must be so since they are both sums of the same thing. No matter if the equality means diddly squat.

  9. Kevin Lohseq
    Posted Nov 10, 2013 at 3:38 AM | Permalink

    Another delicious offering from Josh. He must be near the top of the Dramagreen ,”Most Wanted” list by now.

    • Geoff
      Posted Nov 10, 2013 at 7:40 PM | Permalink

      HaHa I hadn’t heard the term “Dramagreen” before – I love it!

  10. GrantB
    Posted Nov 10, 2013 at 3:48 AM | Permalink

    There is nothing incongruent about Lew’s analysis. It is perfectly congruent in the manner of the congruence relation –

    n=0 (mod n)

    (Sorry, can’t do the extra – above the =)

  11. thisisnotgoodtogo
    Posted Nov 10, 2013 at 5:56 AM | Permalink

    What is the sound of zero hands clapping?

  12. son of mulder
    Posted Nov 10, 2013 at 6:35 AM | Permalink

    How big are the error bars on zero hands clapping?

  13. pax
    Posted Nov 10, 2013 at 6:57 AM | Permalink

    Love the cartoon, but wasn’t it actually Wood who did the zero sum trick?

    Steve: Lew does a variation: that’s why I was interested in the Wood data.

  14. KNR
    Posted Nov 10, 2013 at 7:26 AM | Permalink

    One small point , they long ago reached the level of needed ‘no data’ , which came just after they reached the point of changing the data they had to get the result they ‘needed’

  15. Speed
    Posted Nov 10, 2013 at 8:00 AM | Permalink

    Under the heading “Non-realistic fiction” Wikipedia says,

    However, even fantastic literature is bidimensional: it is situated between the poles of realism and the marvelous or mythic. Geographical details, character descriptions etc. create a rhetoric of realism, which “invites the reader to ignore the text’s artifice, to suspend one’s disbelief, exercise poetic faith and thereby indulge in the narrative’s imaginative world”. The bidimensionality appears within the story as astonishment or frightening.

    According to G. W. Young and G. Wolfe, fictional realities outside the text are evoked, and the reader’s previous conceptions of reality are exposed as incomplete. Hence, “by fiction is one able to gain even fuller constructs of what constitutes reality”. On the other hand, the infinite fictional possibilities signal the impossibility of fully knowing reality. There is no criterion to measure constructs of reality – in the last resort they are “entirely fictional”.


  16. Speed
    Posted Nov 10, 2013 at 9:05 AM | Permalink

    Polywater …

    Rousseau thinks of these episodes as “pathological science”: cases where tiny sample sizes (or effects that are otherwise difficult to measure) and a potentially revolutionary (and career-making) finding lead scientists astray. These aren’t instances of outright fraud, but of unconscious bias. A scientist misinterprets a small amount of data as a paradigm-shifting discovery, and once in that mindset, he or she sees all subsequent information through the same lens.

    It’s hard to imagine a better example of this than polywater. “The data was right, but our interpretation was wrong,” my great-uncle told me.

    • pesadia
      Posted Nov 10, 2013 at 9:45 AM | Permalink

      Read this story about an hour ago and posted it on BH unthreaded.
      Absolutely fascinating.

  17. Posted Nov 10, 2013 at 11:22 AM | Permalink

    All done by populations with small members?

  18. Posted Nov 10, 2013 at 12:25 PM | Permalink

    Michael Wood – the initial Frontiers reviewer of ‘Recursive Fury’ – Lewandowsky, Cook Marriott et al, that pulled out of reviewing the paper, has a paper citing Recursive Fury at Frontiers!!!

    I have added this comment underneath the abstract:

    There is a problem here, one of the papers that is cited is not currently available from Frontiers.

    Additionally the same paper (Lew 2013b) was unavailable over 3 months prior to the publication of this paper.. (and is still unavailable) if the hyperlink in this paper is clicked for LEW 2013b, it returns to the abstract of this paper (truly recursive?!)

    The paper in question – Recursive Fury, Lewandowsky (2013b) et al.. has this statement on the Frontiers website:

    “This article, first published by Frontiers on 18 March 2013, has been the subject of complaints. Given the nature of some of these complaints, Frontiers has provisionally removed the link to the article while these issues are investigated, which is being done as swiftly as possible and which Frontiers management considers the most responsible course of action. The article has not been retracted or withdrawn. Further information will be provided as soon as possible. Thank you for your patience. ” – Frontiers

    As this paper was subject to multiple ethics complaints and factual errors (I made one of them) and has been unavailable for over 7 months, ‘pending investigation’ it seems perhaps unwise to cite it, until this issue has been resolved.

    It also seems very odd, to cite a paper, when the authors presumably knew
    (ie it is another Frontiers paper, and the lead author of the LEW 2013b, was a reviewer of THIS paper, and the lead author of THIS paper, pulled out of being reviewer for ‘Recursive Fury’ Lew et al 2013b)).

    I have heard nothing from Frontiers about my complaint for months, yet authors are now citing this still unavailable paper. This seems very inappropriate.

    I hope Frontiers will be contacting me soon to explain.

    there are currently 2 Retraction Watch articles about Lew 2013b:

    perhaps the authors of this paper should read the comments, and the comments under the abstract of Recursive Fury.

    (especially as the lead author of this paper (Michael Wood), PULLED OUT from being a reviewer of Recursive Fury, Lewandowsky et al)

  19. Dave L.
    Posted Nov 10, 2013 at 1:51 PM | Permalink

    Something is nothing, when nothing becomes something.

  20. RHL
    Posted Nov 10, 2013 at 3:39 PM | Permalink

    Mann and Lew tinker the bell curve.

  21. etudiant
    Posted Nov 10, 2013 at 7:46 PM | Permalink

    While I agree that there are really ridiculous papers getting blessed in the AGW space, I think it is unwise to descend to their level of puerility.

    More generally, the old saying, ‘Don’t mud wrestle a pig, the pig enjoys it and you get dirty’ still seems sensible to me.

    Nature has been doing a better job of debunking some of the AGW illusions than all of the skeptics put together. I’d stick to highlighting the facts and let reality take care of the rest.

    • PhilH
      Posted Nov 11, 2013 at 2:49 PM | Permalink

      Oh come on etidiant: have a little fun now and then.

  22. AJ
    Posted Nov 10, 2013 at 9:54 PM | Permalink

    Steve… Have you lost all patience?

    Not that I blame you.


  23. john robertson
    Posted Nov 11, 2013 at 12:42 AM | Permalink

    Josh is the master.
    Thats T shirt stuff for sure.
    Check out Jo Nova’s latest post, it seems the New Australian government has told the UN IPCC where to go.
    I wonder if our government will grow a spine in solidarity with our Australian allies?

  24. Mark W
    Posted Nov 11, 2013 at 7:19 AM | Permalink

    This made my night. I think this is Josh’s finest hour!

  25. TAC
    Posted Nov 11, 2013 at 9:26 AM | Permalink

    I love it! Josh has it just right (again)!

    One has to appreciate the artistic brilliance surrounding the Team’s assault on logic and statistics. I know — I know what you’re thinking: We cannot ignore the fact they’re outrageously wrong, bad, and needing correction. Still, their gift is the raw material of comic genius; Monty Python would spin this stuff into hilarious skits.

  26. Jeff Norman
    Posted Nov 11, 2013 at 10:58 AM | Permalink

    That could be lieu-statistics, used in lieu of data, or loo-statistics used after you flushed all the data away.

    • Jeff Norman
      Posted Nov 12, 2013 at 4:29 PM | Permalink

      The profits are always looking through the N-trails for evidence of humanity’s malfeasance.

  27. Grumpy
    Posted Nov 11, 2013 at 12:05 PM | Permalink

    Didn’t lepers ring bells to warn of their approach so that no-one would catch the infection?

  28. ianl8888
    Posted Nov 11, 2013 at 3:57 PM | Permalink

    One wonders whether this can be true 🙂

    Steve: the incident took place. It’s ironic that Lewandowsky should take such umbrage at being tricked.

  29. Posted Nov 11, 2013 at 10:59 PM | Permalink

    Reblogged this on Deadal Earth and commented:
    Steve McIntyre + Josh = 0

    Brilliant precusors and post.

    Now notice WUWT are reporting CFC Ozone hole causes warming and cooling, two different studies two years apart.

  30. Eric H
    Posted Nov 11, 2013 at 11:47 PM | Permalink

    This seems a little beneath you.

  31. Brandon Shollenberger
    Posted Nov 12, 2013 at 1:36 AM | Permalink

    I just found out Michael Mann has released a paperback version of his book. It has an extra chapter now, a new foreword (by Bill Nye, killer of my childhood), and possibly some other changes.

    I’m curious about the new version, but I’m not sure I’m willing to spend money on another copy. The last one was bad enough.

    • ThinkingScientist
      Posted Nov 12, 2013 at 5:33 PM | Permalink

      I bought An Inconvenient Truth secondhand in a charity shop. That way Al Gore received no money from me and I made a contribution to a good cause.

      • Brandon Shollenberger
        Posted Nov 13, 2013 at 12:27 AM | Permalink

        I don’t think the paperback version of Michael Mann’s book is going to be showing up in used sales for a while. If I see it used though, I’ll probably buy it.

  32. CaligulaJones
    Posted Nov 12, 2013 at 10:13 AM | Permalink

    Can’t remember who said it first, but “truth is stranger than fiction. Fiction has to make sense…”

  33. Slartibartfast
    Posted Nov 12, 2013 at 11:50 AM | Permalink

    It’s the new homeopathy.

  34. Posted Nov 18, 2013 at 11:56 AM | Permalink

    With a sample size of zero, you can’t claim his results are based on anecdotal evidence.

  35. lawrence hickey
    Posted Dec 4, 2013 at 9:54 AM | Permalink

    Steve – Please read this article about the science behind global warming. It is technical enough to get your attention, and goes in directions I have not seen before diagrammed with such clarity.
    You don’t like links like this in the blog and I would have liked to write to you directly, but I could not find a way to do it. The article is good especially because while technical in nature, does not assume the reader has much more than a good background in math and physics … to tackle it. This site is for people steeped in the issue, and they start out assuming the reader has followed the discussion carefully prior to picking up the article. This one does not.

  36. thisisnotgoodtogo
    Posted Dec 10, 2013 at 2:07 AM | Permalink

    We’ve been too hard on Sir Paul Nurse for fostering Lew.

    After all, Lew embodies The Royal Society’s ideals

    For his hallmark case, Lew does indeed take the word of no man.

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