Number of the Month

May   2005

This will not come as news to seasoned number watchers, but it is still a shock to see it revealed in a national newspaper. Leading scientific journals 'are censoring debate on global warming' is the headline in the Sunday Telegraph of May 1st. The decline of that once great scientific journal Nature has been one of the recurring themes of Number Watch since its inception, a decline that is paralleled by that of another once great journal, Science. The reason for the decline is that they have both been taken over by editors who are members of the eco-theocracy.

Nothing illustrates the nature of the beast better than this quote:

"The idea that we would conspire to suppress science that undermines the idea of anthropogenic climate change is both false and utterly naive about what makes journals thrive,"

Contrast this statement with the reality, which gave rise to the opening diatribe of this year. This habit of saying one thing and doing another is reminiscent of your bending author’s experience as an apprentice working in a shop controlled by a communist shop-steward. The similarity to communism does not end there, for one of its most powerful techniques was “entryism”. Eco-theologians have penetrated the most powerful and influential bodies in science at the highest level, even the Royal Society. Needless to say, the ranks of environmental correspondents in the media are filled by the exclusive brethren who ensure that alternative ideas are suppressed by ruthless censorship. <material removed>.

Alas poor science!

01/05/05

 In memoriam

Sad news of the death of your bending author’s PhD supervisor, Professor Harry House, a good man and true, brought back memories of a fine example of one of the myths of scientific life. One of the first authors to reference Harry’s own PhD thesis had misunderstood the main point (a rather obscure one about the quantum mechanics of electron emission) and had, in fact, almost reversed the meaning of the argument. Subsequent authors virtually all propagated the same error, revealing that they had not read the original work, though they all included it in their impressive list of references. As it was in the beginning, is now and ever more shall be.

Amen

03/05/05

For every action....

Election day. Two pro-science writers go to the polls and cancel each other out Philip Stott votes for Labour with pride and your bending author votes against Labour with dread. It’s a funny old political world.

05/05/05

That time of the year

Here we go gathering nuts in May
On a cold and frosty morning.
Traditional song

Every now and then some professor or other comes up with a result so ludicrous that it makes a number watcher’s day. It is amazing that even journalists would fall for this example of the Birth Month Fallacy, but even the Telegraph did. Number watchers found it in a wide range of publications all over the world. Just look at the range of the variable and the explanatory theories.

Gee, thanks! We shud of known!

Mad dogs and Englishmen go out in the midday sun
Noel Coward song

Shock horror! Sit down before reading on.

It sometimes gets hot in the summer!

Or as the Telegraph put it Warning: it can get hot during a heatwave.

It is so comforting to know that thousands of highly paid civil servants are devoting their brain power to telling us things we would never have been able to work out for ourselves. Here are some valuable tips from the leaflet published by the aptly named DOH.

Now admit it. You would never have thought that out for yourself.

The Times headline was Heatwave forecast spurs summer deaths warning. The paper of record claims that the Met Office is forecasting unusually high temperatures in July and August (which the Met Office subsequently denied). For good measure mention was made of the previous night’s BBC “documentary drama”, oddly enough bearing the same title as the DOH leaflet, Heatwave, in which thousands die and the countryside catches fire.

Only a nasty old cynic would think that it had anything to do with eco-theologists propagating the global warming myth.

That election

Contrary to all the verbiage in the media, the result of the UK general election in round figures was as follows.

It was a dead heat between the two major parties. In England the Conservatives received more votes than Labour. It was another matter in the ruling country.

The Government was supported by one third of the voters and a quarter of the whole electorate.

The Government was awarded a substantial working majority, thanks to the process of inertial gerrymandering.

It was a good election to lose, as Gordon Brown’s chickens are already starting to come home to roost.

Footnote: Apologies for failing to mention that the Conservatives also had the vast resources of the BBC and the Murdoch empire ranged against them.

12/05/05

Euromad

Madness of great ones must not unwatched go.
Hamlet

You have to admire Tim Worstall for his moderation of language in commenting on the latest effusions from Mad Margot. Here we have an unelected authoritarian commissar, a one woman economic depression, pinning the label of Nazi to those who cling on to the threatened democratic traditions that they have earned with a thousand years of struggle.

It is difficult to know which is more striking, the chutzpah or the economic delusion.

2,600,000

If one word epitomises the corrupt, venal and incompetent nature of the UK’s New Labour Government it is PENSIONS.

It is now announced that the Great Leader has granted himself a pension package that is worth a cool £2.6 million. Nothing wrong with that, if you haven’t stood by while your Chancellor wickedly raids private pension funds to the tune of £5 billion a year, if you haven’t committed the nation to a horrendous unfunded public sector pension bill that will shackle the economy for decades to come, if you haven’t presided over the continual attrition of the wealth generating sector while aggressively building up the wealth absorbing sector, if you haven’t ignored the plight of thousands who have paid into private sector pensions and lost the lot, if you haven’t brought back after a token absence a minister who was forced to resign for corruption to take charge of the whole issue. Nothing wrong at all.

Was there ever a more grotesque example of PUTLIAR and DAISNAID?

14/05/05

Burn the heretics!

What have we come to when the most venerable scientific institution in the world writes to the media urging the suppression of scientific debate? Such is the success of the practice of entryism by extreme greens that they have seized control of the commanding heights of science itself. Fortunately, there are small pockets of the mainstream media that are still resistant to bullying and we have an article in the Daily Telegraph by Neil Collins headlined Global warming generates hot air.

Just think about the implications of this paragraph:

We are appealing to all parts of the UK media to be vigilant against attempts to present a distorted view of the scientific evidence about climate change and its potential effects on people and their environments around the world. I hope that we can count on your support. 

To say nothing about the crude ad hominem attack in what followed:

There are some individuals on the fringes, sometimes with financial support from the oil industry, who have been attempting to cast doubt on the scientific consensus on climate change.

We have had the President writing demonstrable and innumerate nonsense about global warming and now we have the Vice President acting as his heavy, in an attempt to suppress any questioning of the religious truths propounded by eco-theology.

This is also yet another attempt to enforce the idea of the scientific consensus, even quoting a comprehensively debunked survey of the literature that appeared (where else?) in the neo-theological journal Nature.

Science has come full circle from the time of Galileo and Copernicus.

Junkscience.com sums it all up by using the very quotation that your bending author offered in answer to the Sp!ked survey: If you could teach the world just one thing.

When can we expect the new inquisition to start?

16/05/05

Phoney

Swede: a Swedish turnip
Turnip: a dunderhead
Definitions from Chambers Dictionary

The latest Swedish attempt to create a mobile phone scare out of thin air is the usual statistical con. So, naturally, it was swallowed whole by the media (The Independent, the BBC, The Mail etc.). This time it was based on statistical salami tactics. You start with a fairly respectable Trojan Number, then you slice it up into more and more segments (analogue/digital, urban/rural, amount of exposure, malignancy of tumour etc) until the number in each segment is small enough to ensure that operation of the extreme value fallacy produces one that is superficially significant, then you think up a physical theory to explain the result before you issue your press release, which is seized upon by the hungry and lazy journos. There were, however, two matters of interest in The Times coverage. First there are further signs that Nigel (none to die) Hawkes has either experience a Damascene conversion or he has mellowed with age. This is his final paragraph:

Given that the earlier study found no overall increase in risk from digital phones, the latest findings can only show an increase in risk in rural areas by simultaneously showing a reduction of risk in urban areas. This is inherently improbable, casting some doubt over the reliability of the results.

Second, you won’t find that paragraph in the version published on the The Times web site.

17/05/05

Correspondence received

Seeing as you are NOT a toxicologist, industrial hygeinist,
epidemiologist, or statistician by training, I don't see where you get
off critiquing studies related to environmental contaminants and
health outcomes. 

One of the most striking things about your page, is that you criticize
anything that does not support the various industries that produce
toxins.  You hand pick the studies to criticize; I would call that
junk-critiquing.  It seems that your hypothesis that environmental
contaminants have no adverse health effects is flawed since you are
not willing to update it in the face of any new evidence.  You
critique each study with this dogmatic approach. 

In fact, most of your material on p-values and odds ratio seems to be
the run-of-the-mill stuff that is on all "junk science" type pages. 
In fact, I would be surprised if you hadn't just cut and pasted it
from another page. 

Most of the people you cite as pseudo-scientists are dedicated to the
scientific principle and take a very close and hard look at their
data.  They do not produce their work with the intent to confuse or
scare the public.  The vast majority are truly concerned for the
safety and well-being of all human beings.  This is what drives their
work.  You should consider this before you label your next study as
junk.

Sincerely,

Joe Braun

04/06/07

Another Family feud

In the bleak landscape afforded by the new establishment that rules our lives, among the rare shafts of illumination is the pleasure that we can take in the disputes that arise among our self-appointed masters. One to relish was the spat between the New Labour Government and New Labour BBC over the slight embellishment of the “intelligence” on WMD, which ended with blood on the floor, mostly of BBC sputniks.

The latest family squabble is between two pillars of that establishment, Lancet and the Royal Society. Both have been penetrated and colonised by the eco-theologians who have stood science and its method on its head. Search Number Watch for Lancet and you will find a nice selection of politically correct inventions, even down to an attempt to influence the US election with a particularly outrageous example of epidemiological extrapolation. For the Royal Society you only have to look at the example of the secret Vice Presidential Letter, one of the most egregious examples of the modern inversion of the scientific method ever, the leaking of which (desperately sadly) caused barely a ripple.

Thus it is particularly exquisite to read the Daily Telegraph piece headlined The Lancet takes a scalpel to the ‘lazy shrill’ Royal Society. Each side in the argument cites examples of disgraceful behaviour by the other, each is correct, even understated.

Of course, history tells us that all was not sweetness and light in the Royal Society. Its most famous President, one of the greatest geniuses ever, Sir Isaac Newton, spitefully expunged all records of the remarkable work of his predecessor and rival, Robert Hooke, one of the giants on whose shoulders he stood. He devoted much of his later life to alchemy and the Old Testament prophets and, like Albert Einstein, wasted his genius because of his beliefs.

The difference now is that they are just as nasty, but they are no longer geniuses. They are just ordinary chancers, proselytes to the religion of eco-theology, members of a self perpetuating elite, who are willing to sacrifice the hard won methodology of science for their beliefs and, if necessary, resort to any subterfuge to promote them.

20/05/05

Grounded

Every now and then there is a newspaper story that tells you everything you need to know about some aspect of life. This story does so for the relationship between The EU and the UK. Just consider these two paragraphs (emphasis added).

The last Flying Fortress in Britain will not be making a tribute flypast because it has been grounded by a new European regulation that puts the B17 into the weight category of an airliner, boosting its insurance premium by an unaffordable 500 per cent.

… … …

It is also supposed to affect the only other B17 flying in Europe - Pink Lady, operating in France - although a spokesman for the company said the French government had not enforced the rule and Pink Lady was flying as normal.

Which brings us to the little known rule zero of the EU:

Rule Zero: All rules apply equally to all members of the union, except France and Germany.

21/05/05

The greatest conspiracy in human history

If anything is more shocking than that secret letter from the Royal Society to the media it is the lack of reaction to it. If the equivalent had happened in any other field of human activity, such as the Chief Rabbi advocating anti-Semitism, there would have been uproar.

There are by tradition two theories of history, the conspiracy and the cock-up. Conspiracy theories are a dime a dozen. Any notable statesman or film star meeting an untimely death will spawn dozens of books, all with different but incompatible conspiracy theories. We all, when visiting Dallas, for example, peer through the Depository window, stand on the grassy knoll and conjecture on the myriad explanations of what actually happened, but the truth is lost in the cloud of unknowing and invention.  Battles from Bosworth to Arnhem were decided by cock-ups rather than any human planning, which goes for most of the events that caused a fork in human history. Of course, there have always been the likes of the lean and hungry, daggers drawn, senators, but the great majority of significant events were the product of randomness or negligence. For want of a nail the battle was lost.

It is therefore not only a dangerous step to nominate something as the greatest conspiracy ever, but it invites accusations of pretentiousness or worse. Just look, however, at the ingredients.

Some of those involved are organisations of size and power never before seen in human affairs – The Murdoch Empire, the BBC, political parties (particularly the Greens, but also those overtly or covertly affiliated to them), demonstrably corrupt international bodies, such as the United Nations and the EU etc. In addition there are huge industries raking off obscene profits, such as the wind turbine manufacturer who is a major donor to the party of Government that diverted substantial tax revenues into his pocket (not unique, as a minister for the other lot , Gummer, launched the whole thing and then set up a couple of companies to exploit it). Above all there is that large proportion of the populace that is seduced by the idealistic preachments of the eco-theologues. They acquiesce to the destruction of the environment (and people) in the name of the environment, simply because they never hear the alternative argument. They are cold-bloodedly manipulated by a new priesthood, to whom science and its methods are at best an irrelevance.

Any doubt that it is a conspiracy if finally removed by the fact that we were not supposed to know about that letter. It was issued just to the media. But for the accident that one member was not so pliable, we would still not know.

It is not that the proponents are simply mistaken – that would be forgivable. They know that they are lying: otherwise there would be no need for all the manufactured and selective evidence, the appeal to a claimed consensus (the like of which has never had a place within the scientific method), the gross attempts to censor any contrary argument, the abandonment of the essential scepticism of science, the vilification of doubters, the direction of huge quantities of taxpayers money into acquiescent “research” groups, the barrage of angled news-stories, the drama documentaries, irrelevant interpolations into editorial commentaries and on and on.

The evidence for the global warming disaster theory does not stand up to the most cursory examination, like the global cooling disaster theory that preceded it. Yet, a majority of simple souls accept that it is true, because it has been drummed into their brains by incessant repetition.

Now the  appeal is based on the “scientific consensus”. From Galileo, through Darwin to Einstein, there is a clear law of scientific consensus;

The law of scientific consensus:

At times of scientific contention the consensus is always wrong.

Alas, poor science.

25/05/05

"Consensus!" they cry

No sooner have we stated the law of scientific consensus then an illustration involving one of the most prominent myths of our time arises in the media. Readers of these pages or the associated books will have been aware that the salt scare is a house built on sand. Now, yet another study has poured cold water on it, but without achieving a solution.

There is no need to cut your salt intake, say scientists is the Sunday Telegraph headline. The fun is in the coda. First there is the inevitable professor:

Prof Graham MacGregor, a cardiovascular specialist at St George's Hospital, London, and the chairman of Consensus Action on Salt and Health, said: "You will always find scientists that will go against the main body of research.

''Chronic ingestion of the amount of salt that we eat slowly puts up our blood pressure and is largely responsible for many strokes and heart attacks and that's why the five to six grams a day target was set."

Then there is the inevitable quango:

A spokesman for the Food Standards Agency added: "It's misleading and irresponsible to challenge the Government's recommendation using a very selective view of science, and will not help people make healthier choices about what they eat.

"Over one third of British adults have high blood pressure and two thirds of them are not receiving any treatment.

"There is scientific consensus that there are real benefits to be achieved by reducing salt intake, such as reducing the risk of heart disease and stroke."

The perfect scare

<material removed>. ‘Safe’ painkiller may carry raised breast cancer risk yells The Sunday Times headline (subtly different in the web version). Spot the missing numbers in these paragraphs:

The study, published this week, says: “We observed a statistically significant increased risk of breast cancer, especially non-localised breast cancer, in long-term daily users of ibuprofen.” 

The research followed more than 114,000 Californian women aged 22-85, all of them free from breast cancer at the start of the trials. All were asked to give details of the pills and medicines they consumed. 

During the six-year study period 2,391 of the women contracted breast cancer. The researchers then examined what drugs they had taken prior to becoming ill. They estimate that in perhaps a few dozen of the cancer cases ibuprofen use may have played a part. 

More than 23,000 of the women in the study used ibuprofen regularly and 8,000 were using it daily, most of them for more than five years. There are no figures for British use of the drug. 

Yes, there are four Trojan numbers, but no results. Nothing you can criticise, just the old catch phrase statistically significant. What a brilliant coup! That’s one in the eye for all those carping sceptics. 

Under the Law of Beneficial Developments, Ibuprofen was bound to be targeted, but what a masterstroke to leave out the numbers on which the claim is based! The ordinary punters see a bunch of big numbers and are impressed, without realising that they have been conned, while the nasty old cynics have nothing to get their grubby hands on.

Quotation of the month

In this month of the descent into religiosity of the Royal Society, number watcher Alwyn Davis came across an apt quotation. He writes:

Referring to Aristotelian experiments, intended to illustrate a preconceived "truth" and convince people of its validity, Thomas Sprat, an English clergyman and writer, said: 

"A most venomous thing in the making of sciences;  for whoever has fixed on his cause before he has experimented can hardly avoid fitting his experiment to his own cause........rather than the cause to the truth of the experiment itself"

The above is from, "The History of The Royal Society", written in..................wait for it..............................1667.

Number of the month – 200

Let it be clear. We at Numeric Towers have nothing against the number 200. It is a nice number. It has an attractive roundness that contrasts with the angular aggression of 201, yet none of the arbitrary insouciance of 199. All that being said, it is only in the Dark State of Insanity that such an innocent number could be invested with a significance that it was not designed to bear. Number watcher Frank Borger draws attention to the fact that, believe it or not, the earnest legislators of California have decreed that school text books may no longer be more than 200 pages in length.

Talk about fiddling while Rome burns! There they sit, in the midst of the ruins of a once fine education system, thinking up daft new ways of micromanaging its final descent into a total shambles. At least their pupils will learn to read the small print, a necessity in that haunt of predatory lawyers.

It is hard to say which is the more astonishing and depressing, the Procrustean policy itself or the fact that the legislators think that it is their job to interfere in every detail of the lives of their victims. The disastrous outcome of decades of such activity is only too self evident.

Where the Dark State leads others follow. Only this month in the UK, The Great Leader, fresh from his electoral triumph, has been wittering on about “respect”. This is his solution to the educational disaster in his own benighted country. He and his ilk have been nibbling away at school discipline until there is nothing left. Many schools are now under the control of young thugs, who hold their teachers and fellow pupils in the grip of terror. When they leave school they terrorise neighbourhoods. The do-gooders responsible for this situation blame everyone but themselves – parents, pubs, police etc. The Labour Minister for education in the 1960s, Anthony Crossland,  boasted that he was going to “close down every fucking grammar school”. The policy was designed to cut off the escape route of intelligent working class children – the Public (i.e. private) Schools of the toffs were left untouched – and the foul language typifies the inherent mire of his party’s social attitude. Incidentally, the state of the present regime is magnificently parodied in a programme on an obscure BBC digital channel. The cost to the economy alone of this act of destruction is incalculable, but the cost to the culture is in evidence all about you. Not to be beaten, the Conservatives later wrecked the best university system in the world.

These professional political dabblers ought to read (fat chance) The Doctrines of the Great Educators by Robert R Rusk, first published in 1918 and reissued a dozen times since. From Plato onwards, these great men really thought about education. A millennium ago, Quintilian described the sort of education that was developed in the Anglo Saxon world up until the communal insanity that enveloped it in the latter half or the twentieth century.

It’s a mad world, my masters.

PS From our man in Puerto Rico – Why did the Californian chicken cross the road?

PPS Then there is this.

29/05/05

Index

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