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Clarifying Science

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from Nature.com, Twenty tips for interpreting scientific claims

excerpts:

Bias is rife. Experimental design or measuring devices may produce atypical results in a given direction. For example, determining voting behaviour by asking people on the street, at home or through the Internet will sample different proportions of the population, and all may give different results. Because studies that report ‘statistically significant’ results are more likely to be written up and published, the scientific literature tends to give an exaggerated picture of the magnitude of problems or the effectiveness of solutions. An experiment might be biased by expectations: participants provided with a treatment might assume that they will experience a difference and so might behave differently or report an effect. Researchers collecting the results can be influenced by knowing who received treatment. The ideal experiment is double-blind: neither the participants nor those collecting the data know who received what. This might be straightforward in drug trials, but it is impossible for many social studies. Confirmation bias arises when scientists find evidence for a favoured theory and then become insufficiently critical of their own results, or cease searching for contrary evidence.

Regression to the mean can mislead. Extreme patterns in data are likely to be, at least in part, anomalies attributable to chance or error. The next count is likely to be less extreme. For example, if speed cameras are placed where there has been a spate of accidents, any reduction in the accident rate cannot be attributed to the camera; a reduction would probably have happened anyway.

Extrapolating beyond the data is risky. Patterns found within a given range do not necessarily apply outside that range. Thus, it is very difficult to predict the response of ecological systems to climate change, when the rate of change is faster than has been experienced in the evolutionary history of existing species, and when the weather extremes may be entirely new.

tips to Sydney McKinney

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The Biggest Thinking Machine

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From The National Review, Davos’s Destructive Elites-“None of us is as dumb as all of usby Kevin D. Williamson

Conservatives are generally inclined to make a moral case for limited government: that transfers are corrupting, that taxes should be collected only to the extent that they are essential, that regulation is a necessary evil and that as such it should be kept to a minimum. That is generally true and persuasive, but the more important argument is the problem of ignorance. Even if Congress were populated exclusively by saintly super-geniuses, there is only so much that 535 human beings can know and understand. The more that decision-making is centralized in political agencies, or even in elites outside of formal government, the more intensively those decisions will be distorted by ignorance. This is true of market-oriented institutions, too, in the sense that big businesses make big mistakes. One of the lessons of the 2007 financial crisis is that the guys who run the banks do not actually know that much about how banks work, even if they know 100 times what the banking regulators know. Free markets offer a critical, if imperfect and partial, corrective to that in the form of financial losses and business failures, which is why things like cars and computers consistently improve while schools and welfare programs don’t. Big markets with lots of competing buyers and sellers are the biggest thinking machines we have, offering the broadest epistemic horizon that our species has figured out how to achieve.

There is a deep philosophical challenge for progressives in that: Progressives say that they want inclusive social decision-making, but the most radically inclusive process we have for social decision-making is the thing that they generally distrust and often hate: capitalism — or, as our left-leaning friends so often put it, “unfettered” capitalism. And who should decide what sort of fetters are applied to whom? The view from Davos is, unsurprisingly: the people at Davos.

The hypocrisy and material self-indulgence on display at Davos may rankle, but the deeper problem is the unspoken assumption that the sort of people who gather in Davos are the sort of people who have the answers to social problems. Historically speaking, there is little evidence to support that proposition. And that is why conventions like that in Davos end up being so frequently counterproductive. When elites get together to talk about the big issues, the discussion consists mostly of very similar people asking themselves what people like them can do. The answer is: A whole lot less than you think.

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Cocooned from Independent Thought

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From National Review Matthew Continetti writes Liberalism is a Hoax.

Excerpts:

What are the apocalyptic predictions of climate alarmists but Sorelian myths intended to shape legislation, regulation, and the culture in the radicals’ favor? To merely profess agnosticism on the subject of global warming is to elicit calls for one’s removal from the Washington Post. Yet the “pause” in warming has lasted for more than 15 years, leaving puzzled climate scientists, whose jobs depend on the imminence of crisis, speculating that the heat is hiding somewhere in the ocean. The “Climategate” e-mails revealed an insular and opaque scientific community sensitive to the political and financial ramifications of contradictory data. The Sharknado-like hurricanes that environmentalists predicted as a consequence of global warming have yet to appear. Indeed, no hurricane has made landfall on Florida in nine years.

I gave up predicting the weather the first time I didn’t do my homework in expectation of a snow day and was proven wrong. Nevertheless I recognize the political appeal of climate change, the rhetorical power of a threat to correlate forces, to direct their activity. Not to mention the aromatic whiff of potential economic rewards. Retrofitting an economy for a post-fossil-fuel world is a business opportunity for well-connected entrepreneurs such as Elon Musk or the coal baron, radical environmentalist, billionaire, and Democratic mega-donor Tom Steyer, who is on record that the government-subsidized green-energy bonanza is above all an opportunity “to make a lot of money.”

So much of contemporary liberalism reeks of a scheme by which already affluent and influential people increase their margins and extend their sway. Liberalism, mind you, in both parties: The Republican elite seems as devoted as their Democratic cousins to the shibboleths of diversity and immigration even as they bemoan the fate of the middle class and seek desperately the votes of white working families.

Just-so stories, extravagant assertions, heated denunciations, empty gestures, moral posturing that increases in intensity the further removed it is from the truth: If the mainstream narration of our ethnic, social, and cultural life is susceptible to error, it is because liberalism is the prevailing disposition of our institutions of higher education, of our media, of our nonprofit and public sectors, and it is therefore cocooned from skepticism and incredulity and independent thought. Sometimes the truth punctures the bubble. And when that happens — and lately it seems to be happening with increasing frequency — liberalism itself goes on trial.

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Noble Cause Corruption

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from Ed Driscoll in PJ Media, Earth in the Grubering

As the Watts Up With That blog notes:

Our critics sometimes dismiss skeptics as “conspiracy theorists” noting how unlikely it would be that thousands of  scientists would collude.   They miss the point.  We now know that Grubering takes place — we see it laid bare in the Obamacare campaign.  It was not strictly a “conspiracy”.  Rather it was an arrogant belief that lying was necessary to persuade a “stupid” public to adopt the policy preferences of the politicians and the academics in their employ.  Its Noble Cause Corruption, not conspiracy, that is at the root of this behavior.

Grubering also helps to define the relatively recent trend on the left not just to lie — that’s always been a component of the left — but to openly admit to lying as an unalloyed good to advance the Noble Cause.

 

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Obsolete Energy Policy

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from Digital Trends, MIT students develop wearable cooling device that could make air conditioning obsolete

The chief benefit of this device is that it offers a more personalized approach to temperature control, one that’s vastly more efficient than current heating and cooling methods. It takes millions of watts to raise or lower the temperature of an entire building, but Wristify can run on a small lithium battery. If everybody had one of these things on their wrist instead of relying on air conditioning or heaters all the time, the potential energy savings could be massive.

Read more: http://www.digitaltrends.com/cool-tech/mit-students-develop-personal-cooling-device-make-air-conditioning-obsolete/#ixzz3HRGk5ofJ
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HKO

such technology renders current concepts of energy policy obsolete