Possible Insight

Archive for the ‘Science’ Category

But I Was Probably Right About Climate Models

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I try not to practice false modesty (those of you who know me well probably just did a spit take at that understatement).  So while I try to stand up and admit when I’m wrong, I also like to stand up and point out where I’m right.

It shouldn’t be a surprise to any of you that I came to the conclusion that climate models are pretty much total bullshit. My problem with them is that they are incomplete, overfitted, and unproven.  It turns out that one of the foremost experts on forecasting in general also thinks that these models have no predictive value. In fact, items (6) and (7) of their statement shows that you can predict the future temperature really well simply by saying it will be the same as the current temperature.

You can read their more formal indictment of climate forecasting methods here.

Oh snap!

Written by Kevin

January 29, 2009 at 2:29 pm

Posted in Climate, Models, Science

Tagged with , ,

Particle Physics Follow Up

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In the comments to this post, Rafe and Daniel asked me to tell them the punch line of Lightness of Being.  I’ll do my best.  Spoilers ahead.

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Written by Kevin

January 15, 2009 at 9:43 pm

Posted in Science

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Good Particle Physics Book

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I apologize for the posting lull.  I’ve had a bad cold and been struggling to add Monte Carlo simulation to my discrete stochastic model of the startup lifecycle (if anyone is planning on using Oracle’s Crystal Ball, I can tell you the good and bad). But I’m almost finished with my next substantial post.

In the meantime, I finished a really good physics book: Lightness of Being by Nobel prize winner Frank Wilczek. It requires a basic knowledge of quantum mechanics (I suggest Al-Khalili’s Quantum) and particle physics (any recent popular book that spends more than one chapter on the Standard Model).

Given that, it does an awesome job of explaining three things that have always bothered me. First, how the strong force can possibly get more powerful the farther away you get. Second, why we can’t break protons and neutrons into their component quarks.  Third, where the heck a proton’s mass really comes from. It turns out all three things are related and the explanation is quite elegant.  I don’t know why the dozen other physics books I’ve read in the last five years ommitted an explanation (or at least an explanation that stuck with me).

Written by Kevin

January 12, 2009 at 6:16 pm

Posted in Science

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Don't Cop Out on Knightian Uncertainty

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I apologize for the posting lull. I actually spotted an issue than I wanted to address a few weeks ago, but I’ve been pondering how to approach it.  It’s pretty complicated and subtle.  I even ran a couple of drafts by Rafe to refine my thinking.  So please bear with me.

As I’ve mentioned before, I am a fan of Dave Zetland. When I saw him propagate what I think is a fundamentally false dichotomy in this post, I knew I had to take on the concept of Knightian uncertainty. It crops up rather often in discussions of forecasting complex systems and I think a lot of people use it as a cop out.

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Written by Kevin

September 19, 2008 at 7:00 pm