Tuesday, 7 November 2006
Brian wished to open a thread on which to argue directly his claims for the Many World Interpretation. This is that thread. The following is Brian's opening salvo.
The Many Worlds Interpretation is the claim that Quantum Mechanics is a true description of reality and that this description applies at all scales, from the microscopic to the macroscopic. It is the claim that not only atoms are subject to quantum phenomena but also observers such as you and me. Taken seriously, the Many Worlds Interpretation implies that physical reality is a vastly bigger thing than we perceive and that reality is partitioned into entities that to a very good approximation are classical universes identical to ours. In the Many Worlds Interpretation, other universes exist and affect each other and we can observe the results of this experimentally - for example when we carry out interference experiments.
The entire ensemble of universes in the Many Worlds Interpretation is contained in an entity called the 'multiverse.' Each universe in this multiverse obeys exactly the same laws of physics and there is an infinity of universes. Universes differ in how events turn out. When two previously identical universes become different because events turn out differently we say the universes have differentiated. The multiplicity of each identical universe in the multiverse is infinite. We can speak of the measure of each universe. Basically it is the relative proportion of one set of identical universes with respect to another set of identical universes. Measure is an important concept in the Many Worlds Interpretation - it means that things do not turn out equally. It means that our choices in the multiverse are important because they govern the future measure of ourselves. And it means that we need not be concerned about the possibility of giant Sperm Whales appearing in orbit around the Earth.
The original version of the Many Worlds Interpretation was put forward by Hugh Everett III in 1957. In its original conception, universes did not differentiate, they split. This creates a number of problems with measure and also in reconciling the MWI with existing physical law. For these reasons the idea of splitting was dropped and replaced with the idea of differentiation by freedomist physicist David Deutsch. It was Deutsch's interest in the Many World Interpretation that led him to discover the almost thaumaturgical possibility of a universal quantum computer, laying the foundation for the modern field of quantum information theory. Universal quantum computers are probably just years away from realisation.
Peter has asked "why the Many Worlds Interpretation is a meaningful physical explanation and not just a useful concept or method". My outline above hints at some reasons. In the equations of Quantum Mechanics we have a tool that describes and predicts our observations in precise detail. We are entitled, therefore, to regard these equations as telling us something about the nature of reality for where does that predictive power come from if the equations do not reflect truths about reality? When the mathematics of quantum mechanics tell us that a quantum computer can perform prodigious feats of calculation in real time by differentiating into, say, 10^1000 versions of itself, then what are we to conclude? That those 10^1000 versions are just mathematical conveniences? How are we to explain the calculation when the entire observable universe contains just 10^80 atoms?
But we don't need complicated mathematics to tell us multiple universes exist. We can infer it from a purely non-mathematical, physical argument, as David Deutsch does in Chapters 2 and 9 of his book The Fabric of Reality when he considers various single-photon interference experiments (see also this video).
Another reason to regard the Many Worlds Interpretation as an explanation is that we have begun to elucidate in detail the structure of the multiverse and how it is determined by information flow (the multiverse is rather more than just an ensemble of universes!). If the multiverse were not real, it seems inconceivable that we could do this. Furthermore, the Many World Interpretation can be used to derive the Born probability rule of Quantum Mechanics. If correct, then even this in itself indicates that the Many World Interpretation has deep explanatory power for previously the Born rule had to be assumed.
A popular criticism of the Many Worlds Interpretation is that we cannot see or communicate with other universes. We can only infer the existence of other universes from things seen in this universe. The reason for this is that interference occurs when universes that had become different become identical again. The more different the two universes have become the more unusual it is for them to come together again - although this is happening all the time. Controlling interference between two universes requires that we control all the particles that have different states in the two universes and for practical purpose this means that we can control interference only in universes that are very nearly identical. For you to communicate with your doppelgänger would require controlling an astronomical number of particles, including all those in your brain. This is not even a remote possibility. That we infer the existence of other universes indirectly should be no more controversial than that we infer the existence of, say, neutrinos indirectly. We can't be absolutely sure that neutrinos really exist, but the concept provides the best explanation for things we do observe.
Another popular criticism of the Many Worlds Interpretation is that it cannot be distinguished from the philosophically lame Copenhagen Interpretation, which is another popular scientific explanation for the observations of quantum experiments. But the criticism may not stand. David Deutsch proposed the first test to distinguish the Many World Interpretation from the Copenhagen Interpretation in 1977 (see Quantum Concepts of Space and Time, Oxford: The Clarendon Press, pp. 204-214) and there have been a number of other proposals put forward since then. Unfortunately these are not yet technically feasible (and some may be conceptually wrong), but we should not be surprised that the Many World Interpretation makes different predictions to its rivals for it has different assumptions.
I'll quickly summarise some other reasons why you should regard the Many Worlds Interpretation as an explanation. In the Many World Interpretation, a particle is a particle; it is not both localized at a point and spread out over the whole universe. Explanations that invoke the latter idea have only ever caused confusion! The Many Worlds Interpretation does not require "spooky action at a distance" or that, in Einstein's words, "God plays dice." Quantum mechanics turns out to be, after all, local and deterministic, as all good explanations are. In the Many World Interpretation, reality exists independently of consciousness and although we are differentiating into countless versions all the time we can reconcile this with identity and free will. Finally - as implied by the other points - the Many Worlds Interpretation requires no collapse of the wave function (the wave function doesn't even seem to collapse in the Many World Interpretation) so this postulate can be dropped from quantum mechanics and Ockham's Razor slices in favour of the Many Worlds Interpretation.
The Many Worlds Interpretation is not without possible non-trivial problems. But these problems are not obvious objections stemming from incredulity to the whole idea of multiple universes, they are technical problems (and some [pdf] may already have been resolved). The Many World Interpretation has matured [pdf] in the last two decades and many critics have not caught up. We need to think what it would mean if the Many Worlds Interpretation were true, for so far it is our only tenable explanation of the strange quantum reality that we observe.
Feel free to either comment below, or to send me your own substantive five-hundred word response for publication here later in the week.
UPDATE: As Falufulu Fisi suggested, I have re-posted Mark Sadgrove's substantive comment below as number two in this series. You can find it here:
Quantum Physics Debate, 2: The Many Worlds Interpretation rebutted - Mark Sadgrove, at Not PC
LINKS: The fatalism of entropy. The dynamism of spontaneous order - Not PC [thread]
Many Worlds Interpretetation - Wikipedia
Advances in reserch - Hitachi Global
Hugh Everett bio - MIT
David Deutsch - Wikipedia
Quantum computer - Wikipedia
Quantum computers: march of the Qbits - New Scientist
Shor's algorithm - Wikipedia
'The Fabric of Reality,' by David Deutsch - Qubit.Org [book review]
Lecture 2: Interference - David Deutsch video lectures [video lecture]
The structure of the multiverse - David Deutsch
Quantum theory of probability and decisions - David Deutsch
The Quantum Aristotle - Peter Cresswell, SOLO
Copenhagen Interpretation - Wikipedia
An extension of 'Popper's Experiment' can test interpretation of quantum mechanics - R.Plaga
The wave function "does not seem to collapse" - 'Fabric of Reality' message board
The basis problem in Many World Theories - Henry P. Stapp [21-page PDF]
There is no basis ambiguity in Everett quantum mechanics - Mark A. Rubin
100 years of the Quantum - Tegmark & Wheeler [9-page PDF]
RELATED: Philosophy, Science, Ethics
Not Gordon Moller, who knows a thing or two about architecture. Not Geoff Vazey of Ports of Auckland, whose wharf it is that the Clark Government have been trying to usurp. Not taxpayers, surely, who will be feeling the government's hand in their pocket to the tune of $1,000 each to pay for it. And not me.
If taxpayers really have to be dunned to pay for this or something like it, and wherever it ends up going (and I have to say I still favour Carlaw Park myself), why not have a competition to design something of some worth instead of a bedpan.
- A bicycle can't stand alone; it is two tired.
- A will is a dead giveaway.
- Time flies like an arrow; fruit flies like a banana.
- A backward poet writes inverse.
- In a democracy it's your vote that counts; in feudalism, it's your Count that votes.
- A chicken crossing the road: poultry in motion.
- If you don't pay your exorcist you can get repossessed.
- With her marriage she got a new name and a dress.
- Show me a piano falling down a mine shaft and I'll show you A-flat miner.
- When a clock is hungry it goes back four seconds.
- The guy who fell onto an upholstery machine was fully recovered.
- A grenade fell onto a kitchen floor in France resulting in Linoleum Blownapart.
- You are stuck with your debt if you can't budge it.
- Local Area Network in Australia: The LAN down under.
- He would often have to break into song because he couldn't find the key.
- A calendar's days are numbered.
- A lot of money is tainted: 'Taint yours, and 'taint mine.
- A boiled egg is hard to beat.
- He had a photographic memory which was never developed.
- A plateau is a high form of flattery.
- A short fortune-teller who escaped from prison: a small medium at large
- Those who get too big for their britches will be exposed in the end.
- When you've seen one shopping centre you've seen a mall.
- If you jump off a Paris bridge, you are in Seine.
- When she saw her first strands of gray hair, she thought she'd dye !!!
- Bakers trade bread recipes on a knead to know basis.
- Santa's helpers are subordinate clauses.
- Acupuncture: a jab well done.
Everybody knows that the captain lied
Everybody got this broken feeling
Like their father or their dog just died... - Leonard Cohen
What else does everybody know?
Well, we all know sea levels are rising, don't we. We know that sea level rises are going to sink Tuvalu with ten years, don't we. We know that 'climate refugees' from Tuvalu are going to flood New Zealand, don't we. We all know it. The BBC knows it. Oxfam knows it. Australian politicians all know it. Pacific Islands leaders know it (and they want compensation). Nick Smith, Gordon Copeland and David Parker know it (scroll down to Q. 5). Helen Clark knows it. Al Gore knows it. And Al Gore's movie-goers all know it.
Everybody knows the good guys lost
Everybody knows it, so it must be true, mustn't it? Well, guess what. In fact, don't guess, have a look at that graph below, based on data from National Tidal Facility, Adelaide, who confirm that "there has been no significant rise in sea level in Tuvalu over the past 22 years."
As John Daly reported a few years back,
The reported `plight' of the Tuvaluans is not about sea level rise at all - it's about over-population. With such a high population density, the fresh water table on the atolls is subject to rapid depletion, especially in dry years. In addition, the development which would follow from such a high density will bring the inevitable coastal erosion, a problem which the Tuvalu government falsely blames on climate change and sea level rise. Tide gauge data from all around the South Pacific shows the same pattern as the one at Funafuti - no sea level rise. It is, and always was, a bogus claim, with few in the outside world bothering to check the accuracy of the claim.
Dr Vincent Gray & Michael Field update the fairy tale here [pdf]. Compensation? In their dreams.
LINKS: Lyrics: 'Everybody Knows' - Leonard Cohen
Tuvalu cons the Kiwis - John Daly (Oct, 2001)
Don't boo-hoo for Tuvalu - Patrick Michael, Cato
The truth about Tuvalu - Dr Vincent Gray, Climate Science Coalition [5-page PDF]
RELATED: Politics, Global Warming, Science, Nonsense
"I always say the issue is a god-send for politicians. It's fantastic to say we are saving the planet but they will never be held to account in 30 to 50 years time. I call it a very convenient diversion for them." He said the evidence was not overwhelming. "This is one of the biggest myths or lies. It is not certain at all. We want evidence, very simply. "I give lots of lectures and I always say climate change and sea-level change only happen in computer models. Time and again, if one checks the real world against what I call the virtual world, they don't stack up at all." Insulting the [Climate Science] Coalition's views was the easy way out and avoided the debate, he said.It's worth recalling however that not everyone proposes an authoritarian solution for any climate problems that do exist. However, and very conveniently, former Margaret Thatcher advisor Christopher Monckton summarises for the Sunday Telegraph the climate chaos over the claims for climate change -- and this is perhaps the clearest, most succinct summary of the rational skeptics' view that I've read. He begins:
Read on here for the first of what promises to be two excellent pieces by Monckton on this increasingly topical debate.
Last week, Gordon Brown and his chief economist both said global warming was the worst "market failure" ever. That loaded soundbite suggests that the "climate-change" scare is less about saving the planet than, in Jacques Chirac's chilling phrase, "creating world government". This week and next, I'll reveal how politicians, scientists and bureaucrats contrived a threat of Biblical floods, droughts, plagues, and extinctions worthier of St John the Divine than of science.Sir Nicholas Stern's report on the economics of climate change, which was published last week, says that the debate is over. It isn't. There are more greenhouse gases in the air than there were, so the world should warm a bit, but that's as far as the "consensus" goes.
LINKS: Climate frenzy a diversion, say scientists - The Press
NZ Climate Science Coalition
What would a libertarian do about global warming? - Not PC (October, 2006)
Climate chaos? Don't believe it - Sunday Telegraph
RELATED: Politics, Global Warming, Science, Politics-UK
Graham Hodges (right) is the chief executive responsible for this superb result, and he modestly says he is "very pleased... We had expected the economy would slow a little bit faster than what it has this year." However, conditions would likely deteriorate next year. "That means that credit growth, an underlying driver for the performance for our business, is also likely to slow." Stuff reports:
Net loans and advances rose 13 per cent to $78b, led by a 15-per cent rise in lending by ANZ Retail and a 10-per cent increase at National Bank Retail... ANZ's fastest-growing New Zealand business was corporate and commercial banking, which doubled its profit for the year to $172m. ANZ retail banking profit rose 7 per cent to $205m, while National Bank retail profit was up 21 per cent at $266m.But it's not all good. Half a billion dollars are given to the grey ones in tax.
LINKS: ANZ on top form says CEO - NZ Herald
ANZ records $1bn profit in NZ - Stuff
ANZ National - TVNZ
RELATED: New Zealand, Economics
Here we see movement imparted to a human figure by a simple yet ingenious artifice that requires the viewer to add something to the figure themselves. Rodin himself explains:
'Take my St. John, for example,' Rodin explained to Paul Gsell, `While he is represented with both feet on the ground, a snapshot of a model executing the same movement would probably show the back foot already raised and moving in the direction of the other one.'As the viewer's eyes travels up one leg and down the other, each time finding something anatomically unexpected, the rhythm imparted by our own eye movement gives motion to the figure. We sense this bare torso is walking.
LINK: Walking as art - University of Vienna
RELATED: Art, Sculpture
Monday, 6 November 2006
"No," say religionists, who rely on the edict of their imaginary friend to give them rules for living -- rules which must followed as absolutes, without question, most of which start with "Don't ..."
"No," say many subjectivists, skeptics and moral relativists. It is foolish, they say, to seek moral law within the universe, or to favour one set of rules over another. If God is dead then anything goes, and all lifestyles equally valid. Go with the flow; do what feels good; act as if everyone were to act as you do ... various forms of whim worship are suggested as alternatives to morality, but few are anything more than either whim worship or the imposition of more or less arbitrary rules.
I think it should be clear enough that there are serious problems with the approaches taken by both the religionists, and by their subjectivist opponents. Can you then have morality without God?
Yes, you can. Aristotle stands as a healthy contrast to both religionists and subjectivists in being the first, most consistent (and most overlooked) advocate of a rational, earthly morality -- his was a "teleological" approach to ethics. We act to achieve certain ends, he said, and those ends must be the furtherance of our lives. All actions are (or should be) done "for the sake of" achieving some goal, with all goals linked together with the end of sustain and enhancing our lives. "The good life," said Aristotle, is something for which to strive.
Ayn Rand, in summing up Aristotle's approach in order to develop her own, explained the contrast between this view and that of religious morality as follows: "The purpose of morality is to teach you, not to suffer and die, but to enjoy yourself and live." That was and is the promise of what Rand called the Objectivist Ethics, at the heart of which is her observation that morality is not optional. "Ethics," she said, "is an objective, metaphysical necessity of man's survival..."
This is all by way of introduction to let you know that the Ayn Rand Institute has just made available a free online video lecture by Onkar Ghate on the subject of Religion and Morality. [Free registration is required.] From the lecture summary:
From the teaching of "Intelligent Design" in the classroom to federal prohibition on the funding of stem cell research to the Terri Schiavo case, religion is playing an increasing role in America's public life. The advocates of religion claim that only religion can restore values to America—by combating moral skepticism and relativism with an absolute view of right and wrong, applicable to everyone. If God is dead, it is often thought today, then everything would be permitted. But does morality rest on religion? Can it rest on religion? Are moral absolutes possible with religion? Without religion? What approach to morality can actually bring values to American culture? These are the questions this talk addresses.LINKS: Religion and Morality - Ayn Rand Institute [Free registration is required. Once registered go to the Registered User Page and scroll down to 'Religion and Morality]
New streaming videos from the Ayn Rand Institute - Principle in Practice
RELATED: Ethics, Religion, Objectivism, Philosophy
You can see the results here at You Tube in a clip from British TV series 'Root of All Evil': scientist Richard Dawkins v recently disgraced evangelical preacher Ted Haggard. Says Nicholas Provenzo (to whom goes the hat tip):
It shows the conflict between a philosophically disintegrated advocate of science ("we live in a world of subtle shades and not sharp black and white") and a philosophically misintegrated advocate of mysticism ("we believe the Bible is the word of God") and in my mind, makes it clear which argument is the worse cultural force.Concludes Provenzo, "In analyzing the material presented in the clip, I came to the conclusion that Dawkins is weak, but Haggard is vicious... lest we forget—it is Haggard and not Dawkins who has [the US] President's ear."
LINK: Root of all evil, 1 - You Tube
The Scientist and the Preacher: Disintegration v. Misintegration - Rule of Reason
RELATED: Religion, Science, Politics
Democide researcher Professor RJ Rummell says there are "2,000,000 or more dead for which Saddam Hussein is responsible (about 1,000,000 in his invasion of Iran and takeover of Kuwait, and about 1,000,000 in democide)."
Farewell Saddam. The world will be a better place without you in it.
RELATED: Politics-World, Obituary
The campaign for a ban on the sale of fireworks may have scared people into good behaviour, with no major fires directly linked to Guy Fawkes celebrations on Saturday night.A dismissive Helen Clark however countered that there were far more incidents that had been reported to her, and that she personally is in favour of seeing fireworks only at professional shows. "I personally don't get any joy out of people chucking bunches of sparklers round the footpath," said the joyless lemon-sucker.
The fire service reported a reasonably quiet night on the fireworks front, with thousands turning out to public displays and others following safety messages. However some fire crews had to deal with scrub fires started by fireworks.
There seems little doubt what outcome can be expected from the Clark Government to the question of banning fireworks sales. Clark was derisive about the idea of people enjoying playing with fireworks, doesn't like playing with fireworks herself, and it seems clear she won't be allowing the peasants to enjoy them either.
Watch out for another victory for the wowsers.
For my own part, we burnt the Minister for Killing Guy Fawkes David Benson-Pope in effigy on a Saturday night bonfire. I can report no major incidents myself -- that is, I can remember no major incidents -- but the home-made black powder fireworks did set off some very profound explosions.
UPDATE: Oswald Bastable notes correctly that new laws aren't needed. The Arms Act already exists to be used against cretins who deliberately and blatantly cause danger with their fireworks. Why penalise the rest of us?
LINKS: Public heed firework safety warnings - TVNZ
Sunday, 5 November 2006
As he was going up by the way, there came forth little children out of the city, and mocked him, and said unto him, Go up, thou bald head; go up, thou bald head. And he turned back, and looked on them, and cursed them in the name of the LORD. And there came forth two she-bears out of the wood, and tear forty and two children of them.--2 Kg.2:23-24So there's the lesson: Don't make fun of slap-heads lest the Lord send a she-bear to rend you limb from limb. [Picture at right shows The Children of Bethel Mourned By Their Mothers, by Laurent de la Hire.]
See, there really is a point in staying home and reading your Bible. It's really the best way to discover it's full of sadistic nonsense.
LINK: Skeptics' Annotated Bible
RELATED: Religion, Nonsense
Friday, 3 November 2006
Last weekend a group of fellow beer lovers and I embarked on the second annual Breweries by Bicycle craft-brewery tour (Christchurch this year, after a most successful trip to Nelson last year). Friday consisted of the more 'formal' part of the weekend - cycling from brewery to brewery, admiring large stainless steel tanks, chatting with brewers, and of course sampling their beers.
The Christchurch breweries on the whole were rather 'working class' and, while not disappointing, didn’t quite reach the quality heights of those in Nelson. One of them, however, stood out in all respects and would now have to go down as a Mecca for NZ beer lovers.
The Twisted Hop brewpub was, without a doubt, the highlight of the tour. I’m a bona-fide real ale fanatic (moonlighting only occasionally as a pantomime donkey jockey), so this was always going to be a highlight for me. The brewpub really hits the mark on all levels. For one, although it serves traditional English beers it is pleasantly free of Toby jugs and other pseudo-traditional adornments. The architecture is modern, stylish, and very practical (except for the odd funnel-shaped bar). Second, the food is fresh and well prepared. There are a couple of standard pub offerings but on the whole it is a big step above average. Third, and most interestingly for me, the staff are genuinely friendly, really appear to enjoy working there, and can actually answer questions with more than the standard “Um, well everyone seems to like Beer X.” Lastly, the beer and wine range is fantastic - great quality, and mostly local, without stretching itself too wide.
My pick of the house ales was the Golding Bitter (the lowest alcohol brew at 3.7%), which is huge in fragrant hop resins and summer fruit notes. The beer carries it’s bitterness very well, with a nice sweet and fruity malt structure (and it’s distinct lack of fizzy bite from the low carbonation), so those who usually struggle with bitter beers should not be scared off. The bar staff recommend it mixed 50/50 with the stronger Challenger but I enjoyed many pints of it on it’s own.
Other house brews are Challenger, a strong and aromatic bitter; Centennial, a well-hopped and malty American Ale; and Twisted Ankle, a very strong rich brown ale. There’s always a range of excellent guest beers on tap too, for those who don’t like it “warm and flat” (the beers are actually served slightly cooler than would be standard in the UK). While we were in the guests were Emerson’s Pilsner, Wigram Dunkel and Three Boys IPA.
New Zealand cities could do with more bars that hit the mark like this place. In the meantime The Twisted Hop alone is worth a price of a trip to Christchurch. I’ll certainly be back.
LINKS: Twisted Hop
SOBA – www.soba.org.nz (The Twisted Hop offers a 10% discount on their own beers to all SOBA cardholders).
RELATED: Beer & Elsewhere
I know that’s codswallop [says George], and every time I see a rainbow I have it confirmed for me. It tells me that God is keeping the promise he made to Noah after the world-drowning flood thousands of years ago recorded in Genesis...To that, all you can say is, for fuck's sake. With Garth George on your side, you need to constantly keep checking your feet for bullet holes. [Hat tip Stuey]
RELATED: Religion, Global Warming, Nonsense
In announcing the new 'Abstinence' Pizza, Hell Pizzas Director Warren Powell told the Kiwi Herald that the company was anxious to cater for a variety of tastes and the Abstinence pizza was the first of a series of innovations targeted at 'the more virtuous and abstemious' consumer.The other 'Heavenly Virtues' to be offered soon, reports the Herald are "'Patience' - "for customers who are prepared to wait a very long time for their order" and 'Humility'- "for consumers who won't complain whatever is served up to them..."
The new pizza designed with the help of Catholic Bishop Dennis Brown would consist of an ultra-thin base of unleavened communion bread, no anchovies, no capers and no cheese.
LINK: Hell launches new 'Abstinence' Pizza - Kiwi Herald
Pic courtesy of Ana Samway's at the other Herald, who's own comment is also worth reading.
RELATED: Humour, Religion
Answers to the nearest hundred million will be fine (have a guess before you have a look). Exclamations of outrage will be accepted. Observations on the buyer being conned will also be countenanced.
Yes, it is the buyer's money to waste if he wishes. But that doesn't mean we can't judge his painting, and his judgement, for ourselves.
LINK: Pollock painting sold for record $xxxm - Stuff [Hat tip Willie S.]
RELATED: Art, Nonsense
There's money and power and headlines aplenty in scaremongering (and much less and many fewer in good news), but how often is the scaremongering accurate? And does it matter? Disaster sells. It sells politically, and it makes a fair return through the cash register as well. But do the facts matter when we're scaring ourselves to death, or is it okay to lie in order to "wake people up" to calamity?
For the benefit of those readers either not paying attention or under thirty-five (insert obvious jokes here), let's have a look at three hugely influential granddaddies of modern environmental scaremongering: these three invented the 'sky-is-falling' 'something-must-be-done' technique peddled so effectively as a political tool in recent times. Doom and gloom, we're all going to die, the four horsemen of the apocalypse -- these three books launched that whole alarming trend in public relations and political activism; between them they raised pessimism to an art form, and "there-ought-to-be-a-law-against-it" whinging to a central part of contemporary political debate.
Rachel Carson's Silent Spring (1962) began the popularisation of environmental disaster for political ends. She claimed that DDT, used for malaria control, is killing birds, harmful to humans, and should be banned forthwith. People bought the book in droves. DDT was banned in 1972. The result of the ban was that millions died because of a resurgence in the disease that was formerly being controlled by judicious application of the chemical Carson called a killer. It wasn't. Her book was.
Paul Ehrlich wrote the 1968 best-seller The Population Bomb. Like Thomas Malthus two centuries before him, Ehrlich used shoddy arithmetic to predict a worldwide explosion of population that would see "future generations" stepping on each other's feet all day every day just to survive, and used scary rhetoric about this nonsense to fire up the activists. Fired up they were, and scary indeed were his predictions:
- Not just millions but "hundreds of millions" would die from "a coming overpopulation crisis in the 1970s," he said, and by 1980 life expectancy in the United States would be just forty-two years.
- "If I were a gambler, I would take even money that England will not exist in the year 2000."
- "The battle to feed all of humanity is over. In the 1970s and 1980s hundreds of millions of people will starve to death in spite of any crash programs embarked upon now. At this late date nothing can prevent a substantial increase in the world death rate..."
None of Ehrlich's predictions have failed to come to pass -- unless of course you do count the overcrowding of topless beaches of St. Tropz in mid-summer -- but these were not predictions, he now says, they were "scenarios." Despite his abysmal failure as a prognosticator however, the sad old hippy is still tripping over wind chimes and bothering the adults. On the release of Bjorn Lomborg's book Skeptical Environmentalist: Measuring the Real State of the World Ehrlich ranted, "If Lomborg had done some arithmetic, he could have . . . spared us a book as thick as a brick and almost as intelligent." And if Ehrlich had spared us his comment, he might have spared us forming for ourselves the fairly obvious conclusion about himself...
But perhaps Ehrlich was still just pissed off because Lomborg's hero Julian Simon had famously embarrassed him in their 1980 bet on the price of a chosen basket of resources. Ehrlich bet $10,000 and his reputation as an alarmist that the price would go through the roof as resources ran out; Simon bet the opposite. Simon won.
Which leads us on nicely to another failed pack of alarmists and their own contribution to sensationalist history, The Limits to Growth (1972). Like Ehrlich, the Club of Rome had also read Thomas Malthus and had re-used his static arithmetics in the cause of alarmism. You name it, they said, and we're running out of it. "There will . . . be a desperate [arable] land shortage before the year 2000"; we would run short of gold by 1979, they said, of silver and mercury by 1983, of tin by 1985, of zinc by 1988, of petroleum by 1990, and of natural gas by 1992. Um ...
What they got wrong of course was not just their arithmetic, but their whole understanding of the role of price signals and entrepreneurialism -- indeed of the capitalist economy as a dynamic rather than a static engine of production. The capitalist engine of creation is a supple beast when left free and unshackled, allowing human minds to read price signals and opportunities, and to adapt their own resources to suit. The results are astonishing. As Ronald Bailey observed in 2001,
Since the 1970s, the weight of the average car has fallen by 25 percent. Food cans are 50 per cent lighter than they were 50 years ago. A flexible plastic pouch that replaces a steel can reduces the packaging weight by 93 percent. Plastic soda bottles are 30 percent lighter than they were in the 1970s -- which were already much lighter than the glass ones that preceded them. Similarly, plastic grocery bags are 50 percent thinner than they were 20 years ago and lighter than the paper bags they replaced. The invention of the steel frame building did away with structures that needed heavy thick walls to support their own weight.He also notes,
Functionality is increasing throughout the economy as well—as computers get smaller and faster, air conditioners, refrigerators, furnaces, and all manner of appliances become more efficient and longer-lasting.
. . . [C]orn yields per acre in the United States have more than tripled since 1950. Improving crop productivity is based entirely on technological improvements such as fertilizer, pesticides, and better seeds.
A copper wire can transmit 24 voice channels or about 1.5 megabytes of information per second. Far thinner and lighter optical fiber can transmit more than 32,000 voice channels and more than 2.5 gigabytes of information per second. The first American communications satellite, Telstar 1, was launched in 1962 and could handle 600 telephone calls simultaneously. Modern Intelsat satellites can handle 120,000 calls and 3 TV channels at the same time.So much then for the three granddaddies of today's scaremongering. Everything about them was wrong, tragically wrong in the case of Carson, but the spectre of their various apocalypses still haunt debate today.
Bidding to joining this prestigious club this week is a new candidate on the scene, a fourth horsemen predicting global apocalypse if Something Isn't Done Now. The already famous Stern Report on Climate Catastrophe is a "bombshell study" was greeted even before its release by a whole Stern Gang of waiting politicians -- it reports We Face Depression If We Don't Act Now! Worse, much worse, Than Even the Great Depression of the 30s! Calamity, catastrophe and 20% of our wealth stripped from our pockets if We Don't Do Something Now! Right Now!!
Guess what? Says Bjorn Lomborg of that headline-grabbing figure:
This figure, 20%, was the number that rocketed around the world, although it is simply a much-massaged reworking of the standard 3% GDP cost in 2100--a figure accepted among most economists to be a reasonable estimate.In a series of ingenious steps, the modest 3% figure for a century hence if nothing is done now has been "tricked" and finessed and inflated with more imaginary "scenarios" -- Stern, says Lomborg, is "inventing, in effect, a "worst-case scenario" even worse than any others on the table" -- in order to grab headlines and to scream disaster. (And that's just one problem with Stern's report, as Lomborg and others have been pointing out since its release.)
Inventing catastrophe for political effect. What could be more ingenious.
"It's okay to lie," say activists, if you're doing it in the name of a good cause. Is it? Say those same activists: "Bush lied; people died." If it's wrong for Bush to lie, as they claim he has, then why doesn't that work both ways? A founder of Greenpeace Patrick Moore split recently over exactly this issue. "Beginning in the mid-1980s," he says, "Greenpeace, and much of the environmental movement, made a sharp turn to the political left and began adopting extreme agendas that abandoned science and logic in favor of emotion and sensationalism..."
Environmentalism has turned into anti-globalization and anti-industry. Activists have abandoned science in favour of sensationalism. Their zero-tolerance, fear-mongering campaigns would ultimately prevent a cure for Vitamin A deficiency blindness, increase pesticide use, increase heart disease, deplete wild salmon stocks, raise the cost and reduce the safety of health care, raise construction costs, deprive developing nations of clean electricity, stop renewable wind energy, block a solution to global warming, and contribute to deforestation. How sick is that?Answer: Very bloody sick. Scaremongering sells -- but you don't have to buy it. And neither should you sell it on anyone else's behalf.
UPDATE: George Reisman's in an end-of-days mood, but one of a rather different character to the apocalyptic four. He argues that the Stern Review on Global Warming could be environmentalism’s swan song.
He raises a crucial point about the "action" called for in the report, a similar problem to Erlich's and the Club of Rome's own nightmare "scenarios": Stern simply fails to understand that a capitalist economy is a dynamic, not a static entity. Stern declares that disaster and hellfire and that depressive 20% drop in wealth production will be the inevitable conseqences of "not acting," but as Reisman points out,
Sir Nicholas’s use of the words “don’t act” is very misleading. What he is urging when he speaks of “action” is a mass of laws and decrees—i.e., government action. This government action will forcibly prevent hundreds of millions, indeed, billions of individual human beings from engaging in their, personal and business private action—that is, from acting in ways that they judge to serve their own self-interests. Thus, what he is actually urging is not action, but government action intended to stop private action.LINKS: Hooray for DDT's life-saving comeback - Africa Fighting Malaria (AFM)
Julian Simon's bet with Paul Ehrlich - Overpopulation.Com
Dematerializing the economy: We're doing more with less. That's good for Planet Earth - Ronald Bailey, Reason Magazine (2001)
Stern review: The dodgy numbers behind the latest warming scare - Bjorn Lomborg, Wall Street Journal
How sick is that? Environmental movement has lost its way - Patrick Moore, Greenspirit
RELATED: Environment, Global Warming, Conservation, Economics, Politics, Politics-UK
The intersecting hyperparabaloids of Felix Candela's restaurant at Xochimilco, Mexico City. You can see from the diagram above how the structure is formed from the 'saddle' shape of the 'hypars.'
The 'hypar' structure means the seemingly complex curves can all be constructed using straight lines, as the diagram above also helps to demonstrate.
Candela's ingenuity here means the visible 'free edges' of the concrete shell are as thin as just forty millimetres.
Thursday, 2 November 2006
Botha will be remembered as the last dinosaur, the last South African President to still believe that the black African majority deserved little more than to be relocated and told to shut up.Scott comes to bury Botha, not to praise him. And why wouldn't you?And you wonder why I cheer the death of anyone? People died because of Botha, in their thousands. He ruined the lives of thousands of people, and did nothing to bridge the divide across South Africa. He could have taken steps to abolish apartheid, instead of [installing] separate racial parliaments, he could have integrated [those labelled as] Coloured and Indian citizens with the white minority politically as a first step - he didn't - he was racist, irrational and a fascist bully. There is no reason to give his memory any respect.
LINK: Cheering the death of a dictator - Liberty Scott
RELATED: Obituary, Politics-World, Racism
- for the first time in 103 years, a crown-owned company fined for "contempt of parliament";
- a Select Committee chairmen tearing up letters from Committee members who raise serious concerns;
- a conviction for sedition for protesting the passing of the Foreshore and Seabed Act;
- the 'crime' of "bringing Parliament into disrepute" still on the books;
- TVNZ’s Board being hauled before Parliament’s Privileges Committee during the Ian Fraser affair;
- Commerce Commission prosecution of Air New Zealand for highlighting the high cost of government levies to travellers in their ticket prices;
- Attacking those who criticise the Clark Government of corruption -- "Allegations of corruption are intolerable in a Western liberal democracy," declared a hyperbolic Helen Clark. And as one blogger reminded her, "No, Miss Clark. Corruption is intolerable. When allegations of corruption are intolerable, it's no longer a Western liberal democracy");
- an attack by Helen Clark on the Dominion Post and The Press for printing the Mohammed cartoons;
- a threat by Michael Cullen to land the Herald with "a very large tax bill" if criticism of the Clark Government didn't cease;
- an attack by Helen Clark on Fran O'Sullivan for her criticism of what Fran called "ramming through legislation under urgency to retrospectively legalise the unlawful raid on parliamentary funds";
- "Taking away the Exclusive Brethren's employment law loophole because they spent $1.2 million campaigning against the Greens and the Clark Government";
- praising loudly "the measures the British Labour Government has imposed to curb press freedoms";
- moving to "toughen up the Press Council" when it comes to dealing with a local media that is just doing its job;
- restrictions on liquor, pharmaceuticals, and fast food advertising;
- the Electricity Commissioner removed from office because, says the former Commissioner, “I stood up to the government as an independent regulator should”;
- bullying of the Auditor General over the last few months for criticising the Government;
- long and prolonged attacks on a religious sect for daring to criticise the Government;
- a "clamp down on the tax privileges of charitable trusts that cross an undeclared line into political advocacy";
- moving to prevent third-party criticism of Government during an election;
- moving to ban anonymous donations to political parties;
- moving to institute state-funding of political parties (these last three, taken together, being a form of speech-rationing).
And it is in this highly-charged atmosphere -- one in which free speech is rapidly becoming a privilege instead of a right -- that the decision of Wellington Airport to refuse to display this billboard below has been taken [Hat tip Darnton V Clark]. "Too politically sensitive," the airport management apparently said when presented with the ad.
In the current "atmosphere where criticising the government is becoming pretty hazardous,"you really have to commend the bravery of the other two airports which have chosen to run with the billboard. Look out for attacks very soon on the management and running of Auckland and Christchurch airports.
UPDATE: Bernard Darnton's Section 14 blog has this to say:
Ain't that the truth. When the application of so many laws and regulations involves the exercising of "discretionary powers" by authorities, then appeasement of authority becomes a habit.
The Dominion Post suggests that the reason for the refusal may be that the Airport is concerned about the Government’s pending decision on the Qantas/Air New Zealand codeshare agreement, which could cut flights to the capital and hence cut airport profits.
A chilling effect is the self-censorship that occurs when someone fears the actions of another. A newspaper declining to print a cartoon not because it isn’t news but because it fears reprisals from medieval thugs would be one example.
In this case the Government has the power to make decisions that could negatively affect the running of the Airport. The Clark Government has a history of being vindictive and so the Airport might rightly fear them and censor themselves in the hopes of getting the “right” decision from Pete Hodgson. An air of fear can sometimes be more effective than explicit censorship laws, and it’s certainly more stealthy.
LINK: Political billboards - Morning Report, Radio NZ
RELATED: Politics-NZ, Politics-Labour, Free_Speech
Wednesday, 1 November 2006
NZPA: Ban on ticket scalping for major eventsAs a few searches landing here have reminded me, my comments on ticket scalping which I posted last year in relation to ticket scalping at the U2 concert are relevant once again.
Ticket scalping for major events will be banned under legislation proposed by the Government.
Sports Minister Trevor Mallard said the proposed ban would only be for ticket scalping of major events like the Rugby World Cup in 2011, the Cricket World Cup in 2015 and the Rowing World Championships in 2010.
The Government would consider other definitions of major events that were not linked to sports when public submissions were called, he said.
What a lot of nonsense is talked about scalping, most of it due to a combination of economic illiteracy and an overdeveloped banning muscle.
Read on here to see how I said that in much longer form last December.
LINK: Scalping U2 - Not PC (Dec, 2005)
RELATED: Politics-NZ, Economics, Sport
New Zealand produces about 35,000,000 tonnes of carbon dioxide per year. Earlier in the year the sum of $15/tonne of CO2 produced was mooted by Climate Change Minister David Parker.
Run these figures through Junk Science's Real Carbon Footprint Calculator and we get ... flashing lights, the whir of high-powered machinery and this result:
Congratulations! You have just saved the planet warming by
at a cost of just
$595,403,130,086.39 per °C!
Now, what else do you think could be done with that money? [Go here for the working. Go here to try the calculation for yourself.]
And if you have a better calculation or a better calculator, then do let me know in the comments.
LINKS: The Real Carbon Footprint Calculator - Junk Science
Millenium development goal indicators (New Zealand) - United Nations Statistics Division
RELATED: Politics-NZ, Economics, Budget_&_Taxation, Environment, Global Warming
In every area of domestic and foreign policy, the conservatives controlling the Republican Party have expropriated the central tenets of the left, while claiming to be an alternative. This has created a false alternative to the political left, posing as its opposite but supporting the same basic goals. This has sowed massive confusion in people's minds, and limited the American people to a choice of poisons. This confusion is undermining people's capacity to even conceive of a true alternative to the welfare state and military defeat...Read on for more.
Conservatives conserve. They see a nation's institutions, traditions and moral ideals as the anchor for its society—the glue that holds it all together—and they want to preserve them. For most of history, from the Greeks through Rome, the Middle Ages and into the 18th century, the glue was seen as the laws and customs of our ancestors, whether the simple virtues of pious farm life, the norms of the Senatorial aristocracy, the dogmas of the church, the prerogatives of the ancien regime, the traditional religious standards, or other established credos. Conservatives do not stand for any content; they stand for preserving that which anchors and stabilizes society—a claim to mystical insights into moral ideals that rise above the petty concerns of life on earth...
For a brief moment, however—for a few decades in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries—people understood that what defined American life was individualism, the free market and limited government. Conservatives to some degree supported these ideals against progressives and Marxists. People began to think that defending these ideals was the essence of conservatism, and they forgot the more basic nature of conservatism: to conserve traditions qua traditions, to be taken on faith.
Consequently, when the welfare state supplanted limited government and freedom, and showed its resilience in the face of opposition, conservatives became the defenders of the new status quo. That is where we are today. Conservatives of the Bush tribe are now energetic advocates for the welfare state, connecting it to what they call traditional American virtues, meaning altruistic sacrifice, and defending it as the basis for American life.
LINKS: Why I will not vote for any Republican - Capitalism Magazine
US elections: A house divided? - Not PC (Oct 26)
Cartoon by Cox and Forkum
RELATED: Politics-US, Objectivism, Cartoons
The Decline and Fall of American Conservatism by C. Bradley Thompson
Explains how the two factions of conservatism -- "compassionate conservatism" and the "neo-conservatism" -- both unite on their fundamental opposition to individual rights and capitalism in favour of forced sacrifice of a fascist redistributive welfare state -- in other words they have embraced the philosophy of the Left, while claiming to be defenders of capitalism.
So just what do people think happens when tax is slapped on things like wealth, income, production, energy, investment, enterprise ...
RELATED: Politics, Economics, Budget_&_Taxation
Painting for the successful merchants of seventeenth-century Holland -- and these were men who liked their women ravishingly, astonishingly big, women whose excess flesh in those times of hardship was "a signal of prosperity" -- Peter Paul Rubens was a master of the voluptuous. As Michael Gill describes Rubens's work so wonderfully in his book The Image of the Body:
Success glows through his pictures in halcyon color. No one ever caught the rosyRubens, as you might have guessed, is not a painter for the politically correct. His women might be the opposite of the anorexic stick insects so scorned by the chattering classes of today, but that does not mean you will find these pictures hanging up in Womens' Studies departments. But worry not, ye who are concerned at the crime being perpetrated before you.
bloom of healthy skin, the shimmering quiver of well fed flesh with such
lip-smacking skill. His women are displayed like great compotes of cream and
exotic fruits from the Indies— kumquats and soursops and apricots, the flesh of
melons and oranges from Seville—that the Dutch merchantmen were bringing back to the ports of northern Europe. It was an overdressed age, of velvets and taffeta
and ornate brocades, when rich men habitually wore three topcoats, when even the
walls of rooms were clothed in gold-embossed Spanish leather and the massive oak
tables covered in heavy tapestries.
The acquisitive burghers who owned such things would gain an additional frisson to see openly displayed the wide expanse of tender vulnerable bodies, their clothes torn away like the protective skin ripped off a ripe plum.
The stern abductors [in the painting here] were in fact Castor and Pollux, two of the babies hatched from the eggs of Leda. They did the decent thing— married the girls, who each bore them a son. So the virtuous viewer can enjoy the triumph of rampaging masculine lust without a twinge of conscience.Phew. Thank goodness for that!
Tuesday, 31 October 2006
- Stern Report: Implications.
- Stern Report: Chapter 5
- Stern Report: Chapter 3
- Stern Report: Chapter 4
- Stern Report: Chapter 2
- Stern Report
UPDATE: Tim has given a more concise summary of his trawl through the report over at the Adam Smith Institute blog.
RELATED: Politics-UK, Environment, Global Warming
"Attacks on the Resource Management Act are [National's] stock in trade," she said. "It wouldn't just be the nuclear-free legislation that would be gone by lunchtime."I only wish it were true. Sadly...
RELATED: RMA, Politics-NZ