Open Mind


September 14, 2009 · 33 Comments

Makin’ lifesaving inventions out of household materials
Gettin’ in and out of ultra-sticky situations
The guy’s a friggin’ genius

….. Scene: American Petroleum Institute Control Room …..

Andy: The door’s jammed, MacGruber. We’re trapped!

Vicky: And from the looks of that bomb, those methane clathrates are gonna explode in twenty seconds!

Andy: That’ll really increase global warming, MacGruber!

MacGruber: Calm down … I’ll defuse this bomb … Andy, hand me that paper clip.

Andy: Right here, MacGruber.

MacGruber: Vicky, hand me that scotch tape.

Vicky: You got it, MacGruber.

Andy: Wow. It says here that the American Enterprise Institute will pay ten thousand dollars for articles denying global warming.

MacGruber: Really? Boy, I could sure use that kind of money.

Vicky: Ten seconds, MacGruber!!!

MacGruber: Hold on, hold on. Tell me more about that ten thousand



Categories: Global Warming

33 responses so far ↓

  • Barton Paul Levenson // September 14, 2009 at 10:26 am | Reply


  • Geoff Beacon // September 14, 2009 at 9:33 pm | Reply

    Scene 2: A serious panel discussing the action in the manner of sports commentators.

    Sporticus (the Anchor): Good evening, we have just seen the opening of “Rehearsals for the ending of the world”. Well Barry, what do you think of the action so far?

    Barry: Not sure. Dramatic but lacking in depth. Gruber is obviously an engineer. But the coach should have had an economist as quarterback. This would introduce a more serious and thoughtful theme and given the team more depth. In the next play the coach should call Samuel Fankhauser from the UK CCC off the bench. We need a solid valuation strategy. Fankhauser has just the right experience from his time at the World Bank.

  • Steven M. // September 14, 2009 at 10:22 pm | Reply

    It’s fairly common for some of your readers to admit to having trouble understanding your posts, but this is the first time I am at a complete loss. Is this a popular culture reference? Wavelets I can handle, but I don’t do popular culture.

    [Response: It's a popular culture reference to the series of "MacGruber" skits on Saturday Night Live, which are themselves a parody of the TV show "MacGyver."]

  • Geoff Beacon // September 15, 2009 at 10:01 am | Reply

    Scene 3: A message from our sponsors:

    Book now for the trip of a lifetime:

    We’ll fly you over burning forests
    We’ll walk you through the starving hoards
    We’ll show you drowned and bloated corpses
    At a price you CAN afford

    You’ll glide above the sky in comfort
    You’ll sleep your nights in quiet hotels
    You’ll sit and watch our views in wonder
    Of mankind in a thousand hells

  • Matt // September 15, 2009 at 1:26 pm | Reply

    This totally made my day; the complete awesomeness of MacGruber coupled with global warming is soooo tasty.

  • TomG // September 15, 2009 at 6:03 pm | Reply

    Too bad they don’t go boom without taking the rest of us with them.

  • JoeDuck // September 17, 2009 at 7:25 pm | Reply

    OK but let me get this seriously straight. You honestly think that climate skeptics would sell their science souls for $10,000? Nonsense.

    Perhaps more importantly this logic lends support to another questionable notion – that publicly funded research is compromised by funding priorities. I’m sure you’re offended by that notion even though the grants make 10k look like chump change.

    [Response: Do you really not know the difference between being paid to investigate something, and being paid to write a paper which supports a predecided conclusion?

    Please don't respond that legitimate climate scientists are aiming for a predecided conclusion; that would only transform you from fool to liar.]

  • Kevin Stanley // September 17, 2009 at 8:05 pm | Reply

    My experience with grant-writing and grant-funded research is limited, but I have some…I could be wrong I suppose, but I tend to assume that most of the people who make the argument that scientists are corrupted by their greed for grant money have no first-hand experience with the process.

    The distinction Tamino makes–i.e., between being paid to investigate something, and being paid to write a piece supporting a predetermined position–is certainly one very important reason that accusations like this are a bit absurd. There are others, though.

    For example–if I write a grant and get a project funded, I can charge the grant for the amount of my time I devote to the project…at my regular salary. And if I do that, I DO NOT get paid for that time by my university. That is to say, there is NO WAY for me to make EXTRA MONEY GO INTO MY POCKET under the rules of my university and the types of grants to which I might apply. Maybe the rules are different where prominent climate scientists are doing their work, but I tend to doubt it.

    Getting big grants may get you prestige. It may contribute to job security–I’m sure it looks great during tenure review. It might lead to enhanced career opportunities later. But it DOES NOT allow one to line one’s pockets. You have to account for every penny of the grant money you spend, and skimming a little bit to reward yourself does not fly.

    So if you see that some researcher just got a project funded for a million dollars over 3 years or something, don’t think that person just got a windfall. The net increase in that researcher’s salary for those three years is, AFAIK, precisely $0.

    Contrast that to getting $10,000 deposited into your personal bank account for writing an op-ed.

  • David B. Benson // September 17, 2009 at 9:39 pm | Reply

    In my experience, scietists who decide they need wealth take up a different endevor instead. Most are dedicated to contributing to the store of scientific knowledge. A very few are awarded prestigous prizes, sometimes with a substantial honorarium attached.

  • Phil. // September 17, 2009 at 11:31 pm | Reply

    Kevin Stanley // September 17, 2009 at 8:05 pm | Reply

    As most academics are on a 10 month contract the university rules usually allow them to be paid a summer salary out of research grants depending on the funding body’s rules. Other than that there’s not too much to be made out of grants (particularly from the government). You also get random audits about every five years which can tax ones memory, e.g. why did you chose that vendor 5 years ago? I had to give evidence in the case of an owner of a small company who had been cooking the books re. SBIRs, he ended up paying over $M1 in fines, house arrest and probation!
    Even the Nobel Prize doesn’t assure fortune, if you’re one of three it’s ~$400,000 (subject to income tax).

  • Eli Rabett // September 22, 2009 at 2:17 am | Reply

    Joe, no, the average denialist price is $20,000 in 1993 dollars

  • Hank Roberts // October 10, 2009 at 9:49 pm | Reply

    Point seems to be that a response to a comment in PNAS did not include a response to a comment at a blog post at DotEarth, therefore, um, I can’t make sense out of it.

    His reference is to
    “Confidence and Conflict in Multivariate Calibration”

    He then devolves into hypothetical snark, as in, if I were to talk about this I’d stay that.

    Head explodes.

  • Hank Roberts // October 10, 2009 at 10:02 pm | Reply

    all of which refers back to

  • dhogaza // October 10, 2009 at 11:03 pm | Reply

    Here’s the relevant bit of McI’s quote for those not wanting their head to explode:

    While Mann et al replied to our PNAS comment, their reply did not consider or rebut the observation quoted in my note to Andy Revkin ( sent to him in response to his request for “input” into an article)

    That’s great.

  • Hank Roberts // October 11, 2009 at 11:10 am | Reply

    The short form seems to be ‘everyone in dendrochronology is doing their statistics wrong, and Mann did the statistics the way all of the rest of them do, so Mann should admit he was wrong and have done it my way instead’

    Shorter form: come over to the dark side, we have cookies with frosting.

  • Ray Ladbury // October 11, 2009 at 11:53 am | Reply

    Dhogaza, Oh my God! Is McI really so out of touch with reality that he thinks an informal note to a blog represents a scientific communication. Has anyone ever tried to explain to this dumbass how science actually works?

  • dhogaza // October 11, 2009 at 1:56 pm | Reply

    Is McI really so out of touch with reality…

    I think he’s gone ’round the bend, I really do. I began to think that when he went crazy because a NASA sysadmin blocked his wget of a site when he was looking for data. He was convinced the guy blocked him because of who he was, and couldn’t believe the sysadmin had never heard of him and was just routinely blocking a spidering attempt ignoring the site’s robots.txt file.

    Just crazy. I think he’s getting worse …

  • dhogaza // October 11, 2009 at 1:59 pm | Reply

    The short form seems to be ‘everyone in dendrochronology is doing their statistics wrong, and Mann did the statistics the way all of the rest of them do, so Mann should admit he was wrong and have done it my way instead’

    Oh, even worse … foresters (or anyone who’s cut into a tree) knows that younger trees and older trees have growth rings that differ in size, all things being equal.

    So in the past, at least, he’s argued that you shouldn’t use RCS (which tries to compensate for this) but rather the raw ring widths.

    Likewise, selection for trees that are likely limited in growth by temperature is a big no-no. You have to take a random sample of all available ring data in a general area, even if they were selected for other reasons than temp reconstructions.

  • Riccardo // October 11, 2009 at 3:23 pm | Reply

    He _must_ be out of touch with reality or he would have done more useful scientifical work

  • dhogaza // October 12, 2009 at 1:18 am | Reply

    If there’s any doubt about his being out of touch with reality, his latest missive ought to dispel it

  • David B. Benson // October 12, 2009 at 1:35 am | Reply

    Reality challenged?

  • Sekerob // October 12, 2009 at 9:29 am | Reply

    Banging his own drum [on the way to the moat to see if he floats, with the self attached brick tied to his neck] ;>)

    Up to Sept 2009, none of the users of Briffa’s Yamal data set had discovered its inadequate replication. The first person to determine this was me and only after Briffa finally archived the data as used. And critics are angry at me for not figuring it out earlier. Climate science.

    Yes, I see signs of megalomania coming through. :O)

  • Deech56 // October 12, 2009 at 11:59 am | Reply

    Hmmmm…. I guess all this praise in WUWT is well deserved:

    Sorry, Anthony, I am going to have to give my vote for best science blog this year to Steve. What a year he has put in! Do you think some of the scientists on Sen. Inofe’s list could give it a peer review? Does it matter where it is published, if the people reviewing it are top-notch?

    I obviously know nothing of science, just a thought.

    Legit? Sarcasm?

  • dhogaza // October 12, 2009 at 3:05 pm | Reply

    Legit? Sarcasm?

    I always wonder what the “Poe index” is over there …

  • Timothy Chase // October 12, 2009 at 3:37 pm | Reply

    Sekerob quotes McIntyre who wrote:

    Up to Sept 2009, none of the users of Briffa’s Yamal data set had discovered its inadequate replication. The first person to determine this was me and only after Briffa finally archived the data as used. And critics are angry at me for not figuring it out earlier. Climate science.

    Sekerob then writes:

    Yes, I see signs of megalomania coming through. :O)

    I know that bipolar left untreated can do a real number on you, first the megalomania, then the persecution complex, puts holes in your brain like swiss cheese. Then the mania and depression get blended together into an unholy mixed mania where you have all the energy of someone who is manic but the motives of someone who is depressed.

    Normally depressed people are protected from their motives by sheer lack of energy without which they find it difficult to carry out their self-destructive impulses. But that isn’t a problem for someone with mixed mania. And there is the paranoia that grows out of the depression.

    In the extreme, mixed mania gives rise to a psychosis not that different from extreme schizophrenic psychosis — except that it is far more dangerous for you and those around you. Schizophrenics tend to be paranoid — but they also find it difficult to be around people — and aren’t that much of a danger unless they are self-medicating with the wrong kind of drugs.

    And of course all of the above very good reasons for taking your medicine. Besides, when you aren’t experiencing the the heights of mania (something a neighbor of mine compares to being on coke as she has experienced both), or the falling-off-the-cliff anxieties in the transition to the extreme depths of depression, there is generally a milder form of depression that is so often in the background. Your medicine can help you with that.
    Then again, mental illness isn’t necessarily organic. People make choices. Then there is such a thing as force of habit. The choices they make become engrained, even the choices that are involved in the way in which they habitually view the world.

    Such as when the criminal mind tries to blame everyone else for the way it acts — and first begins to do so in order to make it easier living with itself. “Really I’m not that bad,” he says, then turns over and is finally able to get to sleep.
    Of course my wife likes to say that genetics loads the gun but the environment pulls the trigger. And genetics includes the fact that bipolars tend to have autoimmune diseases and if I remember correctly, schizophrenia appears to be strongly correlated with a long tandem repeat in the protein-coding region of a gene.
    But what is also interesting is the correlation between occupation and certain “psychological handicaps.” (I personally think that is a much better term than mental illness, particularly for someone who is still able to function in society.)

    For example, aspergers syndrome (where you have only one gene for autism and thus a much more mild form of the disease) tends to be fairly common among engineers. It is also common among programmers — and Redmond has more than its share of autistic children.
    Then again, a lot of programmers (at least in my experience) seem to be self-admitted bipolars. I have run into several of them. Long commutes on the bus. After a while you have to talk about something.

    Likewise, doctors and surgeons have more than their share of bipolars. All that energy, the above normal intelligence, a kind of a “savior complex.” When Moira and I first moved to Seattle a surgeon let us stay over at her apartment. She was bipolar. She rarely visited while we were there.

    When I was on the table getting my stents only a few days ago, I mentioned that I had the condition and the surgeon said that he had it as well. Next time you have to go lie on the operating table, if you look up into your surgeon’s face you just might see a highly intelligent, intense pair of eyes looking right into you — belonging to an individual who really enjoys what he or she can do with that knife.
    Then again, something which at least superficially might be confused with the manic is the narcissistic personality. Always needing to be the center of attention. Always needing to be thought perfect.

    Always polishing that appearance which hides the extremely needy person inside — at the center of which is an abyss which the narcissistic personality tries to escape by clinging to others. And almost entirely oblivious to the humanity in those that it clings to.
    Personally? As someone who wrote an eighty page critique of “The Critique of Pure Reason,” I like to think that from the perspective of the relationship between genetics and behavior, my wife is right: genetics loads the gun and the environment pulls the trigger.

    But in my view, from the perspective of this relationship, individual choice is part of that environment. It begins, shapes and molds the habits and even the habitual ways in which one looks at the world.

    After all, I am a neo-Aristotelian, not a Kantian. This or that? Perhaps a little of both.

  • Timothy Chase // October 12, 2009 at 3:53 pm | Reply


    As suggested above, the various psychological handicaps and diseases tend to share characteristics with others. In terms of the imaging of brain activity, the psychosis of extreme schizophrenia and bipolar light up the brain in much the same way — although there are important differences. And like untreated schizophrenia and bipolar, the narcissistic personality also tends towards paranoia and even a persecution complex.

    But we were talking about Steve.

    I of course am not qualified to make a diagnosis. Even for a psychologist or psychiatrist, it is a difficult task — given the overlapping characteristics. Then there is the distance. I wouldn’t put much stock in a remote diagnosis. So while I might have my suspicions, and while I tend to go on at length, some things are simply best left unsaid.

  • Ray Ladbury // October 12, 2009 at 7:40 pm | Reply

    Looking over Stevie McI’s latest post, kind of sounds familiar, doesn’t it? Wonder if we should send him some ball bearings.

    Capt. Queeg: “Ahh, but the strawberries that’s… that’s where I had them. They laughed at me and made jokes but I proved beyond the shadow of a doubt and with… geometric logic… that a duplicate key to the wardroom icebox DID exist, and I’d have produced that key if they hadn’t of pulled the Caine out of action. I, I, I know now they were only trying to protect some fellow officers.”

  • Timothy Chase // October 13, 2009 at 3:55 pm | Reply

    I have to learn how to keep my comments a little shorter. I like to think that the pieces I write are nice, that by bringing things together you are able to create a kind of panorama — like stitching together 130 photos. Hence I like the big pieces. (Moira is the same way — although she is mostly focused on literature.)

    And I like the details. For example, I have had the pleasure on various occasions of riding the bus with a nighttime security guard who is schizophrenic. She is medicated so that she is quite able to function and hold a normal conversation — although she really prefers that you don’t sit too close. And she is highly intelligent.

    I like trying to see how things stand in relation to one another, and I like seeing something new. But the big pieces conversation killers. Not really my intent.

    Another detail… I have also known — online — a fellow who has a fairly severe case of aspergers syndrome. But you wouldn’t know it by what he writes. Online he is quite charming and shows a fair amount of psychological insight. It is because he works at it. What comes naturally for the rest of us takes a great deal of effort on his part. And it is an achievement of some magnitude.

    Anyway, I think it is pretty obvious that there is something organic in Steve’s case. But I wouldn’t let him off — as if there were no choice on his part.

  • Timothy Chase // October 13, 2009 at 4:24 pm | Reply

    Ray wrote:

    Looking over Stevie McI’s latest post, kind of sounds familiar, doesn’t it? Wonder if we should send him some ball bearings….

    Moira would appreciate the reference to “The Mutiny on the Bounty.” With me, whenever I think of that my mind turns to the movie with a young Mel Gibson as Fletcher Christian and the score by Vangelis, the same fellow who did the music for Blade Runner.

    Anyway, got to get to work. Still have some catchup for school. Things haven’t gotten busy yet, but some of this will get challenging soon enough.

  • JCH // October 14, 2009 at 3:34 pm | Reply

    OT: guys, help a non-scientist type out, when ppm of CO2 in the atmosphere doubles, would it change atmospheric pressure; if so, by how much?

  • Ray Ladbury // October 14, 2009 at 5:59 pm | Reply

    JCH, to a first approximation, yes, but very, very slightly. Each CO2 molecule (molar weight 44) removes an O2 molecule (molar weight 32). My very rough calculation suggests that every ppmv increase of CO2 increases atmospheric pressure by .038 Pa, or by .0000055 PSI.

  • JCH // October 14, 2009 at 8:25 pm | Reply

    Thanks Ray. .0000055 PSI. Will airplanes be hitting mountains?

    I did find that a scientist named Buick is attempting to discover the barometric pressure history of the earth.

  • Hank Roberts // December 23, 2009 at 7:10 pm | Reply

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