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The Map and the Territory: the problem with models

By | Other | 56 Comments

This essay is based on a peer-reviewed article by a statistician and a mathematician (who call themselves ‘physicists’ at the end) in an economics journal. Its title is ‘Escape from model-land’. It’s been about for a couple of months, but there’ll be many readers for whom the article is new and important, so what follows is my summary, which is informed by my own experience. . The authors start their abstract with what seems to me a great and often unrecognised truth.  Both mathematical modelling and simulation methods in general have contributed greatly to understanding, insight and forecasting in many fields including…

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Is Australia a net source, in terms of carbon dioxide, or a net sink?

By | Other | 83 Comments

This question troubles some people, and on this website, and on many others, you’ll find contradictory answers: it’s a net SINK! No, it’s a net SOURCE! My past position was that by and large Australia was a net sink, though since we export a lot of coal, we’ve passed on some of our GGE to other countries. In short, I don’t think it’s a question of enormous significance. But others are sure that it is, so I thought I should do some more work on the subject and provide interested readers with a little background. Let’s start with the notion…

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Utopian dreams and engineering reality

By | Other | 36 Comments

The other day someone asked me where I got the ideas for my essays. Some come from an abiding interest in Australian society, politics and economics, public policy and good government. Others come from something I’ve read and pondered on for a while. A third set is what comes to pass in what we call ‘the news’. What actually happens, or happened today, is often important enough to prompt an essay even though I had intended to write on something else. The bushfires forecast for the ‘unprecedented and catastrophic’ Tuesday last week were an example. This essay comes from the…

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Climate change and the bushfires

By | Other | 149 Comments

The alarmists are sure: climate change makes bushfires even worse, because the planet is hotter, hence the bush is drier. Well, that’s what The Guardian says, and we know that its position on climate change is wonderfully balanced, even if the Deputy Prime Minister says that such a proposed cause is rubbish. The IPCC sort of agrees with him. Adam Bandt, Greens MP, thinks the fires are due to the Government’s lack of a proper climate-change policy. He too is a noted dispassionate observer of climate. Barnaby Joyce MP says the cause is the conservationists’ opposition to fire-hazard reduction-burning. The alarmists…

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The Vision of Mr Albanese

By | Other | 18 Comments

At the end of the last month Anthony Albanese MP, the Leader of the Opposition, delivered what he called ‘the first in a series of Vision Statements’. I’ve had to produce a few of these in the past myself, so I groaned a little, and then read on. The media scratched around trying to find how to summarise it, as I had to, and they decided that it was about climate change. It isn’t, really. Mr Albanese seems to take some kind of Catastrophic Anthropogenic Climate Change for granted, so there are only a couple of references to it. I…

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Trump and Placido Domingo

By | Other | 12 Comments

This week I was going to write on something else, but that subject has become a companion to this piece, which I have cobbled together from the website of a well-known Israeli/American, Caroline Glick. She is mostly worried about a ‘what if’ question: if the Democrats win in 2020, what will happen to Israel? Born in Texas, with a degree from Columbia, she moved to Israel and served for five years as a military officer there, did other civil service work, and became a writer and think-tank person. I mention this to indicate her assumptions and likely bias. Nonetheless, the…

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Deplatforming

By | Other | 96 Comments

‘Deplatforming’ is a form of political activism whose purpose is to deny the opportunity to speak or write, to those with views the activists find unacceptable. It is a form of censorship, and can be official, unofficial or a mixture. At the extreme, as in the former Soviet Union or Nazi Germany, the state apparatus deplatforms any criticism of the ruling regime. Dr Goebbels was the head of the Nazi Ministry of Propaganda and Public Enlightenment. He didn’t like the term ‘propaganda’ because of the baggage that came with it, but Hitler did like it, so the name stayed. Press,…

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Another dose of rebellion

By | Other | 41 Comments

Not long after the first of the Australian Extinction Rebellion sit-down protests, Labor MP Joel Fitzgibbon spoke on radio to the effect that these traffic-disrupting acts of civil disobedience were not doing the climate-change protesters any good, at least in winning people over. The visuals on television later that day were of the disrupters at work (ie. first still, chained or glued to things, and later being carted off by the police) followed by angry commuters venting their annoyance to camera. No one that I saw was at all sympathetic to the cause. And it is hard to imagine why…

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How ‘special’ is Australia?

By | Other | 9 Comments

Some little time ago one of our leaders made an assertion that Australia was ‘special’, but did not give much of an explanation of what he meant or why it was so, or why anyone should care. In what way is our country ‘special’? Compared to which other country or countries? Of course, we are special in where we are situated on the globe, but that’s not what was being implied, I think. So I had a look at the data to see how special we were and are. Wealth? Australia is the world’s 14thrichest country, just after Spain, Russia…

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Greta and the Hornsby Council

By | Other | 197 Comments

I had not taken much notice of the 16-year-old climate activist from Sweden, Greta Thunberg, thinking that she was simply part of the children’s crusade about climate change. Then I learned that she had given a great speech to the General Assembly of the United Nations, and that the world was buzzing with it. So I thought I had better see what the buzz was about. There are various versions of it, most of them shortened. Just go to You Tube. I don’t think it matters a great deal which versions you watch: you’ll get the same message. For those…

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