Saturday, May 30, 2009
Britain has no such issues with favouritism. We also have a (fairly) recently apppointed ambassador, but as usual, he is perfectly well qualified...
...to be President of the Cambridge and Oxford society :-)
I expect this point must be already implicit in much previous work (eg Chris Forest and Reto Knutti have used both surface and ocean observations together) but I don't suppose it has been so clearly illustrated in this way. Note that the authors are not actually presenting an accurate estimate, but rather presenting the argument that such an estimate is in principle possible. Two reasons for this are that (1) the ocean heat observations are currently rather poor, and (2) that we don't know the total forcing accurately enough due to aerosol uncertainties. So they are restricted to presenting the hypothetical possibility of such a result, and suggesting that research to tighten up these other uncertainties would be valuable. But even so, it serves to contradict stuff like that strange Roe and Baker paper which claimed (with Frame and Allen eulogising it) that we can't possibly hope to generate an accurate estimate for fundamental physical reasons. That simply isn't true.
There's another Urban and Keller paper I am less excited by, Probabilistic hindcasts and projections of the coupled climate, carbon cycle, and Atlantic meridional overturning circulation systems: A Bayesian fusion of century-scale observations with a simple model which I think was described as "in press" at the EGU. Unfortunately it's another of these start-with-a-uniform-prior-and-don't-use-much-information papers, which therefore ends up in a moderately "alarming" result. As with the previous paper, they present it as a sort of proof of concept, so I don't think they will mind me saying that I don't find their numerical results particularly credible. Among their 18(!) parameters, one of their most critically important parameters (hydrological sensitivity) seems to be just a guess that is completely unidentifiable from the observations used. They also estimate climate sensitivity, and have generated the typical long tail with high values that is inevitable when one starts (as they did) with a uniform prior and uses little data to constrain it. Their posterior estimate for sensitivity (shown somewhere in Figure 2) appears to have a mean of about 5C and a high probability of exceeding 7C, which IMO is ridiculous (and nowhere do they explain why they disagree so violently with the entire IPCC). To his credit, Nathan Urban did say he would not use uniform priors so readily in the future, but it's too late to change this one.
Friday, May 29, 2009
Thursday, May 28, 2009
Cameras and lenses:
Most of the pictures on my blog are taken with a second hand Nikon D40 DSLR paired with a very new (in fact just released when I bought it) "Nikkor AF-S DX 35mm f/1.8 G" lens. In 35mm film format that's equivalent to a focal length of close to 50mm. The lens in the photo is the "Nikkor AF 135mm f/2 D DC", as I previously mentioned , lent to me by Lan. On the D40 it is equivalent to around 200mm and has only manual focus. Hence my crossed brows in the photo. It is certainly an interesting experiment, and a beautiful lens, but I think it is rather long for shooting Japan, a place where long views are rare, the lanes are full of twists and turns and everything, including people, are so close together.
Yesterday's photo was taken with another of Lan's lenses, "Nikkor AF 24mm f/2.8D". On the D40 that's just a bit wide-angle, around 35mm.
[This pic is taken by James with his Panasonic LX3.]
Wednesday, May 27, 2009
Our house in Kamakura.
Oh, OK.... it isn't... But it is one of the free to visit temples, and includes the best Zen dry garden I have found in Kamakura.
Posted By jules to jules' pics at 5/27/2009 12:32:00 AM
Tuesday, May 26, 2009
Monday, May 25, 2009
Oops! And what's worse, it was not just a cheap computer keyboard, but the keyboard of my fairly new Macbook Air. But apart from the shift key locking on, it seemed to recover ok, so hopefully it won't be too painful to fix.
then... dare I say it... last weekend, I developed flu-like symptoms, so instead of finally seeing you all, I was laid up with a temperature and aches in places where I'd forgotten I had places! (I was not alone either - a number of other conference delegates also experienced the same thing - we deduced that the source was dodgy hotel air conditioning).Um...if I developed "flu-like symptoms" a few days after a conference in Tokyo, and found that several other delegates had the same experience, I would deduce that it was....flu! Of course it *could* be the ordinary seasonal flu...but given that the new type is so easy to catch and generally mild, it would hardly be a surprise to find that that's what it was.
I also saw this on scienceblogs:
Thirty thousand people in Britain are likely to have been already infected by swine flu, one of the country's leading authorities has told The Independent on Sunday.
Of course, this implies that it is not very serious, and the WHO is desperately trying to pretend that there is no pandemic, even though its own rules make it quite clear that this status has actually been reached. If everyone agrees to look the other way and not do any testing they might be able to pretend it has simply died out.
[oops, this was posted by James]
Sunday, May 24, 2009
James' imaginary universe.
[spying from the other side of the room with an awfully long lens lent to me by our very generous buddy, Lan Smith].
Posted By jules to jules' pics at 5/24/2009 02:52:00 AM
Friday, May 22, 2009
Thursday, May 21, 2009
At least 50% of the enjoyment of Japanese food is in the presentation. The fact that it might taste better grilled with a little butter and garlic is entirely beside the point, James. This is why you should decide which restaurant to go to based on the wax models or photographs found at the entrance, while ignoring any delicious smells coming from nearby restaurants with less expensive models or photographs.
Posted By jules to jules' pics at 5/20/2009 10:54:00 PM
Wednesday, May 20, 2009
1. Organise an inter-school sports competition. Volleyball is believed to be highly suitable. Probably other indoor sports would work here - research is still ongoing.
2. Get spectating pupils to blow up balloons by mouth - make sure they are generous with the saliva here. Get things nice and wet around the mouth of the balloon.
3. Release said balloons to fly around the hall liberally spattering spectators from the other schools.
Hey presto, a week later there should be cases popping up all over the prefecture.
For added benefit, it helps if the authorities focus all of their attention on the scary foreign disease threat, carefully screening all incomers before letting them off the plane and pressuring universities to cancel international conferences etc. As we all know, foreign is scary and dangerous! "None of the students had ever been abroad. So we never thought that this was the new virus."
Looking for a silver lining, at least the overseas travel bans (nothing nationally-sanctioned, but widely imposed by employers and schools) should be binned, as will be the airport quarantining.
O noes it's arrived in Tokyo! OMG!!11!!!!eleventy!! We're all going to die, or at least feel a little under the weather for a few days. Meanwhile, people are desperately lobbying the WHO to pretend that it isn't a pandemic (by their own definition, which it clearly satisfies).
Are you beach-side or mountain-side?
[It's what people ask when you say you are from Kamakura.]
Posted By jules to jules' pics at 5/19/2009 11:35:00 PM
Tuesday, May 19, 2009
Given the extent to which otherwise photogenic scenes are ruined by cables, I'm surprised the Japanese camera companies don't lobby the government to get all this stuff put underground.
(photo taken in an otherwise twee bit of Kamakura)
Posted By jules to jules' pics at 5/18/2009 08:45:00 PM
Sunday, May 17, 2009
Actually, I'm glad to report that climate science appears to buck the trend, as quite a few people here have spent time abroad at some time, albeit many of these are short-term visits with a guarantee of a safe return passage. We started out the same way, actually, with a leave of absence agreed, as we were only offered one 1-year contract between us initially in Japan, and had permanent jobs in the UK. But recently there has been at least one long-term departure from here for colder wetter climes.
Friday, May 15, 2009
An enormous temple, with enormous trees, this is just a small front gate. After 100-200m of climbing, the temple buildings finally cease and a path up the mountain starts. Over the other side of the mountain were hazy views of Fuji-san capped in snow, and down the other side, a refreshing onsen. This all happened on Tuesday this week, the holiday we earned through attending the PAGES workshop last month.
Posted By jules to jules' pics at 5/15/2009 04:52:00 AM
Thursday, May 14, 2009
Yesterday we dined with Naruhito, the Crown Prince of Japan. At least he was but a profiterole's throw from were we were seated, and we nicked some of his special (it had extra sherry!) trifle. I wonder if any of you can make the connection to pelicans (perhaps William C. has the best chance)?
(photo taken at Vienna Zoo, which is in the grounds of the Schönbrunn)
Posted By jules to jules' pics at 5/13/2009 09:28:00 PM
Wednesday, May 13, 2009
"Keep this going and step forward, through the back door of the room. Where does it lead? To your cave. Step forward into your cave.That's right. You're going deeper into your cave. And you're going to find your power animal..." And the cool things about the nothingness of Zen gardens is that each time you visit a different animal may appear. (Zuisenji, Kamakura)
[For the hard of understanding (WC): pretend it is an empty zoo enclosure and imagine what sort of animal might be housed there.]
Posted By jules to jules' pics at 5/12/2009 11:30:00 PM
Monday, May 11, 2009
Not so cute or hairy, but fortunately armed only with a canon.
(They have, sadly, taken to polluting the area around the station at Yokohama, with their very loud racist nationalism. To their credit the shoppers look rather ashamed as they walk past. Not that they do anything about it of course; they've been brain-washed since infancy to put up with unreasonable noise pollution.)
Posted By jules to jules' pics at 5/10/2009 06:02:00 PM
Sunday, May 10, 2009
Most excitingly, you can now find out everything you wanted to know about palsa mires but were afraid to ask by listening to the joint press conference from the uncertainty sessions. Best not all pile in together or you might crash the EGU servers.
While I'm writing, EGU attendees will also have recently received an invitation to participate in a questionnaire. While it doesn't directly address the Exxon issue, there are questions about sponsorship and also opportunity for free-form commentary on anything that you want to say. Don't hold back...
Saturday, May 09, 2009
Some of the "new green" (shinryoku) is actually red, although it then turns green, and then later on still it all turns red again. And yes, the unthinkable has happened; the rain stopped and the sky went blue. (Kamakura)
Posted By jules to jules' pics at 5/09/2009 01:04:00 AM
"Cyclists killed in Britain up by 11% in three years" screamed one headline. And looking at the press release, this is the only number given: the relevant sentence is "The number of cyclists killed or seriously injured fell from 2000 to 2004, but rose again by 11 per cent from 2004 to 2007, despite the amount of cycling staying broadly constant."
Note first that 11% refers to the number killed or seriously injured, of which the latter is overwhelmingly dominant (about 95% of the total). There are only about 100-150 cycling deaths a year, so there are bound to be large interannual fluctuations for that anyway. But more importantly, the full report - even the executive summary which is cunningly concealed by the sneaky trick of prominently displaying it on the main web page for the report, and which therefore no journalist will have bothered to read - also says that deaths for cyclists have dropped by a whopping 27% since 1994-1998, which is the baseline for official targets etc. However that doesn't make for an attention-grabbing headline, so didn't make it into the press release. While the recent blip up since 2004 (which was deliberately cherry-picked as the lowest point in the record) might be worth thinking about, it is hard to see it as conclusive of a real trend. Cycling levels are not measured very accurately and a few well-time tube strikes in London could easily get a lot of people on their bikes.
One can imagine the equivalent headline "global temperatures drop x.xx since 1998". Well we don't have to imagine it, since it's the sort of nonsense the septics regularly come out with. But I expect Govt departments to do rather better than that. Harrumph.
Friday, May 08, 2009
Taken way back then (last Saturday), before we passed the catastrophic tipping point of no return which caused the Kantou plain to become forever engulfed by torrential rain. (Myouhonji, Kamakura)
Posted By jules to jules' pics at 5/07/2009 06:19:00 PM
Thursday, May 07, 2009
It has been raining solidly for the last 3 days. Everyone's guttering is overflowing. Today we got as far as the station but turned tail when we found that the trains were delayed by more than 3 hours. On the bright side, our Jasmine is flowering, as is the Wisteria (Yaaay!).
Posted By jules to jules' pics at 5/06/2009 11:37:00 PM
Covering about the same area as the Schönbrunn, this must be the finest Viennese architectural landmark produced by the Republic of Austria. I like it particularly because it makes me feel all natsukashi (nostalgic) about happy times living on the Wirral peninsula in the UK, the entry to which is proudly guarded by likes of Shell and ICI. To my disappointment, however, the Viennese version does not appear to host an eternal flame.
Posted By jules to jules' pics at 5/06/2009 06:32:00 PM
Wednesday, May 06, 2009
But that's just the foreigners, of course. Here in Japan there hasn't been a single case but universities have cancelled classes, there are hundreds of special "swine flu centres" being set up, hospitals are refusing admission to people who admit to knowing a foreigner (no, I'm not exaggerating) and the cabinet are preparing to hold emergency meetings to deal with the threat of the barbarian horde of viruses. We had an emergency meeting at work last week that everyone had to attend (but there was no information beyond the standard boilerplate stuff, so hardly anyone went, and it was in Japanese anyway). They haven't actually banned all travel yet, but it can't be far away.
Apparently a sneeze followed by a few words of Spanish is good for a free seat on the trains these days. Salud, amigos!
Living in Japan I also miss the horsies. The only place you find them is the dinner table. For similar reasons I also refuse to eat octopus.
Posted By jules to jules' pics at 5/05/2009 03:54:00 PM
Tuesday, May 05, 2009
Catching up on some podcasts, I see that "More or less" is back for another series. Those who didn't like Wired magazine's article on the "formula of doom" ["I think this is b*ll*cks" - Stoat] might prefer Tim Harford and Paul Wilmott (who both run interesting blogs) discussing the same issue in the latest program. Or maybe not, suit yourselves. I'm just the messenger. You should read their blogs anyway.
On a related topic I was relieved to see Paul mentioning the likelihood of inflation recently, this seems to barely raise a ripple these days and I was wondering if I'd got confused about the entirely predictable effects of printing money willy-nilly. But maybe the reason so few people are talking about it is that the sort of journalists who might be in a position to write about it are generally the same who are multiply mortgaged to the hilt and therefore stand to gain most from seeing their debts miraculously evaporate in a blizzard of monopoly money. Not so good for the stupid savers who have not massively overstretched themselves, but we don't count for much these days...
While the possibility of 700 year old trees, of which there may be several in Kamakura, is certainly something, there is a distinct lack of magnificent stone buildings. This one is the Hapsburg's summer cabin. (Schönbrunn, Vienna)
Posted By jules to jules' pics at 5/04/2009 03:57:00 PM
Monday, May 04, 2009
Sunday, May 03, 2009
I can't remember what I went to in the 4th oral session - nothing worth writing notes about, it seems. The posters for the uncertainty session followed in the evening. My "uniform prior" poster attracted by far the most attention out of the things I was involved in. It seems that there are still plenty of people who are not aware of the issue even though I've presented it several times, which presses home the value of actually getting it published somewhere. At least one person who works in the field promised that they would not unthinkingly use uniform priors again... We had to run off to the Musikverein a bit early to see the excellent Hilary Hahn.
Friday was a very light day. Lots of people leave during the day, if not before., and there is always much less on. I looked at the millennium session which is a new area of interest for us now that the IPCC are asking for model simulations of this period. We have plans for some work, but nothing concrete, so it was useful to get up to date on what some others have done. I managed to scrounge my 4h free lunch of the week by attending a meeting that it transpired I wasn't actually invited to. Oops. But no-one really cared. After lunch there was literally nothing to go to. This was rather convenient, as I still had to write my talk for a workshop on the Saturday. This was a select assembly (sponsored by PAGES) of people interested in paleo data assimilation, that is data assimilation in the context of paleoclimate simulations and proxy data. But first, there was the famous Convenors' Party on Friday night (not that I was a convenor, but I went as jules' guest). The first rule of the party being, don't talk about the party, I can say no more.
The PAGES workshop was a really good day. It was tough after a long week but well worth it. Since I spend much of my scientific life in a niche within a niche, it is great to find that there are others (albeit few!) with similar interests and understanding, and I left feeling that maybe I'm not quite so mad after all. The new MARGO data set seems to have sparked several projects relating to climate (at least ocean) state estimation at the last glacial maximum. We (jules was also there) came out with some concrete ideas for stuff to do, which is pretty much our benchmark for a successful meeting.
As a final wind-down, we dragged ourselves to this Chinese restaurant, which was a very pleasant end to the week. The food is at least decent, and plentiful, and being able to sit out in their quiet garden on a warm evening beside a pond full of koi was a very peaceful and relaxing change from the bustle of Vienna city centre.
All in all, it was a good week, and we'll probably be back next year. Wouldn't mind a change of location - it was strongly rumoured that the meeting was going to shift to Paris, in fact this "decision" can be found on various cached pages including the EGU itself! However, it seems that the vote went for Vienna again, and it's certainly not a bad choice.
Saturday, May 02, 2009
James said that one wasn't green enough to do it justice. Perhaps this is more like it. ( Zuisenji, Kamakura)
Posted By jules to jules' pics at 5/02/2009 03:41:00 AM
On returning from holidays in sunny climes to their photon deprived country, English people make themselves feel better by remarking of the greenness of England. They refer, I think, to all that grass, but Japan's trees surely win on sheer greenness, with a variety of shades of the most livid green. And black sword wielding
angel-demon people tengu [ed].
Posted By jules to jules' pics at 5/02/2009 03:30:00 AM
Friday, May 01, 2009
After lunch I caught a useful talk on limitations of particle filters, which I'm currently playing with. Then I enjoyed an amusing take-down of the Roe and Baker paper, "Why is Climate sensitivity not doomed to be unpredictable?" This very much had the flavour of a rejected comment (of course I'm well acquainted with those). It pointed out in excruciating detail that R&B's main result that the "uncertainty" in climate sensitivity would not decrease much even if the uncertainty in 1/sensitivity is reduced, was based on a very unorthodox and specific definition of "uncertainty" and was not actually true for any reasonably standard usage of the term. In detail, they were defining "uncertainty" as the probability of sensitivity lying in the interval 4.5-8, (apparently under the belief that values above 8 were nonsense anyway, even though their inverse gaussian assigned substantial probability to that region). Of course, the blogosphere got there first, although that linked post doesn't explicitly talk about the 4.5-8 weirdness but it does point out the odd truncation of the distribution (which contradicts the premise of the research, and is maybe a bigger problem than the odd analysis). Of course R&B is published in a peer reviewed journal, and the various critical analyses are not, which makes the former correct, I suppose...
Talking of Stoat, at some point I noticed he had a poster up. OK, it wasn't really his poster, but he was listed as a co-author. I wonder if his current employers know he is still moonlighting as a climate scientist? Obviously he's finding it harder to give up than he thought...
Called "vegetative taxidermy" by A.A.Gill, Advanced Extreme Gardening extends beyond the needles to the twigs themselves. The challenge is to train up a new under-gardener before you reach a ladder tipping point. Then, in just a few decades you can make a really ... twisty ... tree. (Ryoanji. Kyoto)
Posted By jules to jules' pics at 4/30/2009 07:31:00 PM