Friday, March 18, 2011

The Fantastical World of The Hypothetical

I spent way too much time debating the nuclear situation with real scientists the past few days. Mainly the climate sciences guys and their followers. The only reason I am involved in the climate science debate is that I really do not trust a lot of their statistical methodology. The nuclear debate was illuminating.

Probability is an important tool for scientists. Nuclear energy would not be possible without probability and statistics. Significant probabilities are the things lurking in the hypothetical world that need to be discovered. Possibility is meaningless in science. Solid statistical probability is the pooh.

Events with probabilities approaching zero were being contemplated as potential reality by scientists that should know better. Not all by any means, but a few. That is the real world of climate science. A few, unfortunately more vocal, members of the climate science community are lost in the fantastical world of the hypothetical. They honestly believe they have discovered the climatological equivalent of perpetual motion. Trees located so that they magically represent the sweet spot of climate teleconnection. Novel statistical methods to manufacture missing data to incredibly certainty. The mystical insight to prove that the Japanese earthquake was caused by climate change. Amazing feats of the metaphysical!

Some of the players were realists. One, Eli Rabbet, surprised me with a display of common sense and realism that is truly worthy of an engineer. Another, James Annan, living in Japan, was the purest model of pragmatism. Those are two useful isms.

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