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Sunday, June 29, 2008

Numbers Don't Lie, Liars Don't Count

Nate Hagens posted the Dispersive Discovery derivation of the Logistic curve on TheOilDrum.com last week. Lots of good comments posted but one kind of got my goat because it seemed quite regressive.
"WHT analysis would have been important in the 1920-1930's but its 2008 now and they seems to have done quite well without the dispersive model."
This happens quite often when a new idea comes across the bow. The idea tends to get marginalized by trivializing the context. Consider that the Big Bang Theory seems a popular topic among scientific cosmologists and the Stephen Hawking readers. But some genius comes along and says "Why is the Big Bang important? That happened billions of years ago, and I can't buy gas for less than $4 a gallon today."

So the idea and its underlying worth becomes a matter of perspective. I figure that we still want to understand how we got ourselves into this mess.

Remember the George Monbiot quote: "Tell people something they know already and they will thank you for it. Tell them something new and they will hate you for it."

You would almost think that we have concern trolls that battle ideas via pure rhetoric without ever figuring to lift a pen and trying to contribute some sort of mathematical analysis (I know, how naive of me). Worse still, one of the most disturbing posts I have read recently came from Carl Pope 'Let Them Hate, So Long as They Fear' , about the anti-scientific views of the Bush administration. And now, all these scientific neotards have started to come out of the woodwork with the high gas prices. I recall doing a post several years ago where I monitored the Powerline blog, a notorious right-wing puppet site, for historical references to any kind of post relating to real oil depletion issues. Looking back at the reference table I generated, they did make 3 references to opening up the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. So I now can see how the roots of the right-wing talking points develop. Of course, now the Powerline guys have become experts on the current situation, filling their blog with their "take" on the current oil situation. But we all know the PowerLiars couldn't count their way out of a paper sack.

Fellow Minnesotans, please vote for Al Franken. Likely the only senatorial candidate ever to achieve a perfect score (800) on the mathematics portion of the SAT, he understands this stuff and knows even more about the lying techniques of the 'minionist right. He basically wrote the book on it.


Professor Blogger monkeygrinder said...

Much of the blog-o-sphere and of course the coment commanders is slappy rhetoric. There is no actual response to the substance of an idea, the noise and words are shaped to make a point that aligns with the bias of the author.

That quote about the 1930's seems quite senseless - so of course it fololws that the author is senseless.

Of course, in identifying the pattern, I readily admit to indulging in it.

I figure if I can change my mind three or four times a year on points I'm still doing better than most.

When consideration never stops, progress is being made even when it feels like no progress is being made.

11:41 PM  
Professor Blogger odograph said...

For what it's worth, I skim this as a disbeliever(*) in predictive economic models (cue Nassim Taleb, again, or Benoit Mandelbrot). And oil production is in very large degree an economic activity.

There is much we can observe and discuss about energy based on the past an present, without extrapolating too far.

... but I'm afraid I see this as distinct from science.

(I believe in GW, and back a carbon tax, but I also see a "jump" in GW models. When they move from the action of CO2 gas in the atmosphere, to future production of CO2 they MUST bring in economic projections about future growth. At that point their uncertainty explodes.)

* - to put a number on it, I 20% believe in predictive models.

5:21 AM  
Professor Blogger WHT said...

I don't think of this as an economic model. Some people might, but I don't. To take this to a logical extreme, we shouldn't make any models to predict possible extinctions or global warming because they have economics mixed in with them. Sure, some of this is based on economics, but it is more about resource consumption and using simple trends that can't turn on a dime.

Thanks for the vote of confidence.

12:32 PM  
Professor Blogger odograph said...

This might be interesting to discuss, but I actually start with a cartoon character's double-take .... "production" is not economic?

1:52 PM  
Professor Blogger odograph said...

BTW, I know Hubert's original great insight (and it was) was that we could get an "often useful" prediction by ignoring the great intricacies of geology spanning into economics, and use a much simpler heuristic.

Such a number may indeed be useful, but heuristics are never formally proven, nor derived from base principles of physics and chemistry, are as say gravity models, climate models, and such.

1:55 PM  
Professor Blogger WHT said...

Yes, and I've complained about heuristics long and hard on this blog. Punch in heuristic or heuristics on the Google Search sidebar.

To me, it's disconcerting to use a heuristic when you realize no one has ever been able to explain the first principles foundation of that heuristic. Or that there may be a reason for it in the first place. Therefore, my preceding post.

4:11 PM  

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