Tag: Signal and Noise

“Some Days Are Diamonds…”

picture of diamond ring
Diamonds Are Good

So says John Denver in his famous song, “Some Days Are Diamonds (Some Days Are Stones)”. His sentiment may have been about lots of things. You can make this song mean anything you want. The message is quite clear. Some days are better than others. Lots better.

Last night while driving in the wilds of North Carolina on the way to my brother’s house, I was listening to an Audible book by Nassim Nicholas Taleb, “Fooled By Randomness”. This may sound like an uppity title, but be assured it is understandable by almost anyone.

Mr Taleb talks about signal and noise. The task is to not be fooled by the random occurrence of information.  It is kind of like the diamonds and stones of John Denver. You see, you want to get the “signal”, or real value out of all the news, information, and chatter going on in the world everyday. Everything else is just noise, or stones if you will.

Just like the song, you are looking for the diamonds, or value in your everyday dealings and information flow. There is no reason to look for the stones. Usually somebody is throwing the stones at you.

Under the current conditions in the nation today, most of the stones are from the Federal Government. One of those stones is the new health care regime. Another is the catastrophe taking place at our southern border. Another stone is our government’s spying programs. It just never stops.

Somehow in our stoney lives, we have to learn to live and prosper in spite of our government. It is getting harder and harder to find the diamonds.

I suppose we have to learn to be thankful for the few diamonds coming our way. Shield yourself from the stones, and don’t pay attention to the noise, or mixed metaphors like this one.

For your entertainment, John Denver.

Nate Silver – Lost In The Noise

The book is, “The Signal And The Noise: Why Some Predictions Fail – And Some Don’t”, by Nate Silver. This book is about the art and science of forecasting, and how some predictions are fairly accurate, and some are not. Being a self-proclaimed statistician and economist, Nate Silver has been a successful predictor in baseball, political elections, and on-line poker. Just winning in poker is impressive to me, but Silver managed to put his expertise into computer programs, and that’s where he makes his money, now.

The first part of the book is filled with stories of his salad days in the poker business, and how when the field got over run with players, he found it tougher to earn money. He has been successful in predicting political elections, using his own methodology.

Although being good at mathematical statistics, he comes up short when addressing scientific issues. It is not that Silver is incapable of the science, but he is an economist, and has misinterpreted noise as signal, a common problem that Silver is supposed to be writing about.

Climate Consensus – Silver realizes that the so-called consensus of climate scientists is defined from a very simple statement. I accept the so-called consensus view, and so do most climate skeptics. My cat would accept the consensus view which says,”The greenhouse effect is real. Carbon dioxide is a greenhouse gas. Increasing carbon dioxide causes additional warming in the atmosphere, and mankind is the source of some of this carbon dioxide.”  OK. That’s it. Silver recognized this.

Extreme Weather – There is no evidence that accumulating carbon dioxide, or global warming will cause weather to become more extreme. More correctly, the available evidence shoes that global warming DOES NOT cause extreme weather. Period. That is an easy research project, The data is readily available on NOAA web sites. Silver did not do his homework.

Climate Models – Silver argued that climate model predictions are within a reasonable error, and if several are averaged, a more accurate forecast is achieved. Averaging forecasts is a theme that runs throughout other chapters. He argues that averaging several climate forecasts results in more accuracy. I think Silver seriously misreads the science on this one.

Climate models need to be reasonable models that can stand on their own. There are parameters in the model input that need to be realistic, but instead are just assumptions. They have shown over time that assumptions about clouds, aerosols, and sensitivity to carbon dioxide are significantly incorrect.

It is widely agreed among climate scientists (not modelers) that the models are running hot, meaning that their forecasts of global temperatures are out of bounds on the warm side. Silver interviewed Gavin Schmidt, a well know NASA modeler and political activist, but did not investigate the actual record and physics of the models. Schmidt makes his living running models for NASA, and is known to suffer from a political bias in his science. Silver scores a fail on science.

ClimateGate – Nate Silver really struck out on this one. He thinks that Climategate was all about a monthly published global temperature record called HADCRUT. This stands for the Hadley Center in Britain, and the Climate Research Unit at the University of East Anglia. Sadly, it is obvious that Silver never researched Climategate, and has totally missed the mark. Climagegate had nothing to do with the global temperature product.

Climategate was all about prominent scientists from the University of East Anglia fudging data; publishing fraudulent academic studies; endeavoring to silence skeptics by controlling the peer review process with well known scientific journals; and illegally conspiring to refuse Freedom Of Information Act petitions for data paid for by the public. These rogue British scientists did so in league with some American scientists, guilty of the same scientific crimes. The most infamous American was Dr Michael Mann of Pennsylvania State University.

Silver defended Mann by saying that Mann had been cleared by a group of his peers. You should remember that academics are rather like cops and doctors. They do not squeal on their  buddies. Penn State actually gave Mann a  whitewash, not an investigation. Not once was a complainant questioned, and the Climategate emails were not introduced into evidence. All this information is available, and Silver believed Mann instead of doing the work necessary to find the truth. Mann is a bad apple.