On ClimateGate

I’ve been talking with some friends about the recent leak of private emails between certain climatologists. It’s a mess, both literally and conceptually. However, who can really be surprised that out of context emails are embarrassing/suspicious and can be sensationalized to negate actual scientific research results? We know that could happen to us too if someone hacked our email accounts.

Climategate underscores the importance of projects like Clear Climate Code. They’re software engineers who are rewriting a key model (GISTEMP, which models Global Historical Climate Network data from the Goddard at NASA) so that the model is clear and understandable and verifiable. I tried to write a multiprocessing extension for a school project, but couldn’t verify the results due to equipment problems.

Science models & data are massaged all the time. A dirty fact, but common across many disciplines. The bottom line is, if the models in question have predicative power, anthropogenic climate change is real. If not, then climate change may still be real, but we must wait for better data and/or better models. Academic models of complex, schocastic systems are always ugly code in my experience. That doesn’t negate their validity.

That being said, scientists writing models aren’t often software engineers, and the data collection and collation is incredibly complex and messy with many possibilities for errors. Code and data should always open-sourced for verification, and keeping such things to yourself is inexcusable and a violation of how science should be done.

However, I highly doubt there’s a climate conspiracy cabal hiding a secret data db. All the data I’ve seen is open and freely available (and really messy!). Seeing those emails as suspicious appears as confirmation bias to me, no matter how much of a persecution complex the individuals in question appear to harbor.

November 26th, 2009 | Blogosphere, Current, Flat, Media, Science, Software, Transparency | No comments

April Fools on You, Wonkette (and Kos, and …)

“Snobs say they have the right kind of hat; prigs say they have the right kind of head.”
—G.K. Chesterton

A blogger on the Daily Kos blog wrote that “it’s unlikely to have been a Photoshop job,” while a blogger for Wonkette wrote that the photo “proves without doubt that Karl Rove is illegally running all the White House e-mail through a private company.”
—Chattanooga Times Free-Press

I smell right-wing conspiracy.

No actually, scratch n sniff that. I smell my friend Josiah Roe & his gang back in Chattanooga pulling an absolutely stunning April Fools joke via a cleverly-executed underground web campaign.

The abbreviated version: Copix punks Wonkette; Christians may have a sense of humor; popping noises heard up and down both coasts.

Josiah, the face behind the April Fools joke, is just a dude. I became friends with him at our undergraduate alma mater. Not even native to Chattanooga. But the ‘Nooga is a place where you can make friends, like Gid and Ron. It has the resources, infrastructure, talent, unpretentiousness, and pragmatism to be the birthplace of this type of tweaking of the establishment. These guys are not the establishment, they’re not part of anybody’s political machine. Josiah drinks bourbon, swears, and goes to church. He’s not a Mason or Shriner, but he does drive a silly scooter. He just got together with some friends who live in his neighborhood and conspired to cause mischief. The web enables local mischief to turn into global (okay, maybe just national) mischief. Amen.

Like Hugh from gapingvoid says, a well-executed blogging campaign is an act of love; it’s not about manipulation, but about what happens when real friends with real lives use the internet for something that they find meaningful. Tweaking politicians, and the people who rabidly froth at them, I fully endorse as meaningful.

April 4th, 2007 | Blogosphere, Chattanooga, Creative, Rhetoric, Uncategorized | 1 comment