What is an IQ Test and how does it Work?

IQ CurveI’m going to kick-off Intelligence Week with a look at the most common type of standardized test, the Intelligent Quotient Test, used in determining intelligence.

One of the most misunderstand issues is the rating of 100 as average. This average is determined from all the people of an age category that take the test and not an actual score. The average person does not get 100 points on the exam. All the exams taken are averaged and this average is assigned the value of 100. The actual score of the exams has been going up by about three IQ points per decade. This is was first noticed in an important and controversial book called The Bell Curve. I’m going to be talking much more about that book later in the week.

Age is an important factor in the IQ test and peak performance occurs at 26 after which it’s all down hill. Don’t I know it. From my point of view, this in itself indicates a problem with the testing. I’ll get to that later in the week.

The next factor is something called the Standard Deviation which is set at 15 points. The math is interesting and worth a perusal but the main issue is that 95% percent of people who take the test fall within two SDs or 70 to 130 on the test. Hence, people who score better than 146 – 149 are in the top .1% and considered genius although the test itself does not use such terminology.

What is indisputable is that IQ tests, as given, are excellent predictors of accomplishment in life. People with higher IQ rankings go further in school, get better jobs, make more money, and general succeed more than people with lower IQ scores.

All IQ tests, and there are many, use something called a g-factor. It gets fairly complicated here but the base idea is that there are some general ways in which smart people excel over less smart ones and by testing these g-factors we can establish a baseline of intelligence. For example, smart people generally do better in all subjects than those less smart. If intelligence was subject based then we would expect to see people smart in one subject and dumb in others. While it is true that people excel in one area more than others it is normal for the smart person to get better grades in all subjects than the less smart person.

Another extraordinarily interesting factor is that people who do well on IQ tests tend to be the parents of people who do well on IQ tests and the same correlation, in reverse, occurs for people who do poorly on tests. This is one of the main points of The Bell Curve. We want smarter people because they will succeed more and the world will be better.

The issue is largely a question of whether or not the test is accurate. I think we can all agree that someone my size, 5′ 7″ 160 lbs of twisted steel, is not going to be playing offensive tackle for the St. Louis Rams. So, physical differences in people is an accepted fact. Mental differences, not so much. We imagine that all people have an equal ability to think but if this is wrong, if there are inherent, genetic inequalities in intelligence should we not try to take advantage of them? And, if these factors are inheritable from generation to generation can we as a society forge better people? Frightened yet?

And you thought this was going to be boring, didn’t you?

Until tomorrow,

Tom Liberman
Sword and Sorcery fantasy with a Libertarian Twist

Stupid in the News

young and stupidI find myself rolling my eyes yet again as people call each other stupid. It was pretty much the national sport of Democrats when Yale and Harvard business school graduate George W. Bush was president. Now, in a peevish reminder of how we behaved as children, is seems necessary for Republicans to refer to Columbia University and Magna Cum Laude Harvard Law School graduate Barack Obama in the same fashion.

I suppose I must have a different opinion of “stupid” than apparently everyone else in the United States. By the way, I dropped out of the University of Idaho. It seems reasonable to guess that perhaps I’m the stupid one and everyone else is right. But I know better, you idiots! 🙂

Today I’m going to examine the phenomenon of calling people stupid but all next week I’m going to try to define intelligence. It’s a tricky topic but worth an investigation. However, let’s move on to today’s topic: Why we call people stupid when they are objectively intelligent.

When we criticize someone’s intelligence we are basically suggesting that everything they say is likely to be false. It’s much easier to say someone is stupid than it is to examine their words and ideas. Politicians talk … a lot. And when you talk a lot there is inevitably some stupidity that is going to slip out. A lot of times the “stupidity” is merely jumbling word order or getting two facts confused with each other. Sometimes we speak before we’ve completely thought through an argument and say things that later prove inaccurate. It’s normal. We all do it.

However, sometimes we just say stupid things in the heat of the moment. It doesn’t mean we’re stupid, or the political candidate for the other side is stupid. It means we said something stupid. The more we talk, and again politicians talk a lot, the more likely it is that stupid things are going to slip out. Perhaps we need to establish some sort of ratio of stupidity to non-stupidity. I don’t know, I’ll talk about it more later in the week.

The point I’m trying to make here is to not believe that someone is stupid just because you disagree with them. Listen to what they have to say each time they speak and judge that idea on its merits, not on some preconceived notion of the intelligence of the speaker. This is particular true in politics. It is important because the members of both parties have good ideas but the “all or nothing” philosophy that seems to pervade the United States is unhelpful in actually solving issues. We, with our votes, send men and women to Washington D.C. with the sole goal of destroying the other party and without much thought to making the country better.

So, the next time your friend calls President Bush or President Obama stupid I want you to look them in the eye and say, “I actually think [Bush/Obama] is an intelligent man. I disagree with him [sometimes/frequently/usually] but that doesn’t make him stupid.”

It’s up to us voters to change this country and calling each other names didn’t work in 3rd grade and it’s not going to work now.

[polldaddy poll=6119010]

Tom Liberman
Sword and Sorcery fantasy with a Libertarian Twist

Windows 8 (Metro) Developed on Mac – CTF

Windows on MacMaking the rounds lately all over Facebook, Twitter, and everywhere else is the “fact” that the new Windows Operating System from Microsoft, Metro, was developed on a Macintosh computer. If you do a search on the internet this “fact” is everywhere.

Here’s the real scoop but I’ll sum it up for you and then you tell me if the people passing around the Mac article are guilty of Critical Thinking Failure.

A fellow named Bill Flora worked at Microsoft and was one of the key developers in Windows 8. About a year ago he moved on from this position and started his own company. With Windows Metro being released soon he was the subject of an interview by CNET. In the interview a current picture of him with a Mac computer on his desk ran with the story. Thus, to Apple fans everywhere, Windows 8 was developed on a Mac. Naturally Flora laughs when he hears this bit of nonsense.

Anyway, you tell me, was it a Critical Thinking Fail to pass along this story?

[polldaddy poll=6118593]

Tom Liberman
Sword and Sorcery fantasy with a Libertarian Twist

Critical Thinking

Critical THinkingI spend a lot of time in my various blogs talking about using my Critical Thinking skills to analyze a situation but I realized that I haven’t really defined the concept. So, today I am to rectify that issue.

Critical thinking is a process of thinking that questions assumption. Basically, instead of assuming something is true it is often best to examine the assumption with an eye towards facts. It’s pretty easy to hear something that you believe in general principle and immediately take it as fact without examination.

Often when I get into discussions with friends and families they make a statement that turns out to be untrue. I don’t think they are lying. I think, largely, they heard something they wanted to be true and therefore didn’t examine it critically but simply repeated it.  This is particularly dangerous because other people told this “fact” then repeat it down the line. This can be an incredibly powerful form of propaganda.

As a quick example, when President Bush began to mention Iraq and the September 11 attacks together people immediately began to believe that Iraq and Saddam Hussein were behind the terrorist activity. How many of you repeated this lie?

More recently I’ve had several friends say that six witnesses corroborate George Zimmerman’s story in the Trayvon Martin slaying. This is also false. Have you repeated it?

My point isn’t that you’ve made mistakes because I’ve certainly made many myself. My point is that it is important to examine propositions from a Critical Thinking point of view.

Critical thinking comes from something called the Socratic Method. This is the examination of an idea through questions. It basically involves doing the following when presented with an idea:

  • Recognize problems, to find workable means for meeting those problems
  • Understand the importance of prioritization and order of precedence in problem solving
  • Gather and marshal pertinent (relevant) information
  • Recognize unstated assumptions and values
  • Comprehend and use language with accuracy, clarity, and discernment
  • Interpret data, to appraise evidence and evaluate arguments
  • Recognize the existence (or non-existence) of logical relationships between propositions
  • Draw warranted conclusions and generalizations
  • Put to test the conclusions and generalizations at which one arrives
  • Reconstruct one’s patterns of beliefs on the basis of wider experience
  • Render accurate judgments about specific things and qualities in everyday life

This is a tough list to parse but it basically is the idea that you should always demand evidence. Just because something sounds true is not good enough. This is where it is diametrically opposed to Faith Based Thinking which demands no evidence. In Faith Based Thinking we do not question, we simply assume truth without evidence.

What I find particularly fascinating is that most people engage in critical thinking when it comes to home decisions, work decisions, and shopping decisions. We go to great lengths to make sure the decisions we make about our life are correct by looking at all the facts, examining multiple ideas, researching online, and otherwise avoiding bad decisions.

Conversely, it seems almost a given that in regards to social issues, political issues, and religious issues that Faith Based Thinking dominates. If a politician of the party I identify with says something then I immediately turn off my brain and support it. If someone from a group that I don’t normally agree with says something I immediately disagree without any examination.

I would suggest that we should put as much effort into making political and social decisions as we do to that next major purchase. That is if we want to make an accurate decision. If we want to be wrong a lot then continue to simply take whatever the politicians from your party say at face value.

So, there it is. Critical Thinking. I’ll probably revisit this topic using a real-world example soon.

Tom Liberman
Sword and Sorcery fantasy with a Libertarian Twist

Human Caused Climate Change – Conclusions

Climate ChangeToday I take an actual position. I’ve waited all week and tried to examine the various issues of human driven climate change from a critical thinking perspective. I think the evidence goes both ways to some extent but, by and large, the model that resonates with me is the idea of a bathtub filling with water.

Non-human, “natural causes”, pour huge amounts of CO2 into the environment but in response non-human forces pull it out of the system. These “sources” and “sinks” largely balance one another although catastrophic events in history, super volcanos and meteor strikes, have sent them disastrously out of equilibrium for tens of thousands of years or longer. Naturally it is impossible to always say why there was an imbalance but it seems fairly obvious to me that a preponderance of CO2 in the atmosphere bodes ill for life on the planet.

So, we have a bathtub filling with CO2 from the spigot at a rate of X and emptying from the drain at a rate of Y. Human activity is both increasing X and decreasing Y albeit by a small percent of the total. Still, a 1% change at both ends is going to eventually result in the tub overflowing.

It is always going to be impossible to say for certain that the small human effect on CO2 is solely, partially, or not at all responsible for the corresponding rise in CO2 content in the atmosphere and there will be always be reasonable arguments that other forces are in play. It is also impossible to prove that CO2 amounts in greater quantities is solely or partially responsible for climate change.

That being the case I really don’t understand the argument that we shouldn’t make an attempt to stop our flow of CO2 into the atmosphere. I’m not suggesting that we immediately turn off the coal-fired powerplants or stop using the oil infrastructure that is currently in place. But, it seems wise to hedge the bets a little. If we can cut down on the various things we do that release CO2 into the atmosphere and it’s not catastrophically expensive, why not do it?

One important thing I’ve noticed is that we are, in fact, doing it. People are making purchases with a cleaner environment in mind. Large companies, huge companies, like Wal-Mart change their truck fleets to be green and this has a large impact on the problem. This is capitalism and free thought. In China, where much of the CO2 is produced, they are making huge strides in increased green technology.

Europe leads the world in development in solar and wind energy. The United States wind farms are massive and growing better everyday. I see little windmills all over St. Louis now. This is capitalism in action. There are companies out there trying new things because they realize that whomever comes up with clean and cheap energy solutions will make a ton of money! What is amazing is that these things are happening with relatively minor government interference. We still continue to give subsidies to the oil industry and tax breaks to people who purchase large vehicles for work. Yet, companies and individuals are lining up to purchase green technology. President Obama has initiated a green initiative which is, I suppose, fine as a counter to the oil initiatives but I’d just like to see government get completely out of the tax break business, oil, green, whatever.

The idea here is that government agencies are trying to steer technology towards an end or towards the company that pays for their campaigns. If we just let capitalism do its job then we’ll get a green world. Meanwhile, I see my friends, be they Libertarian, Democrat, Republican, non-voter, buying vegetables they think are healthy and light bulbs that last longer. Make a better product and you will succeed. And, it’s hard for me to imagine anyone who has worked with the filth that is oil, arguing that green energies are not objectively better. Currently more expensive, yes, but worse? In time, as technology continues to improve and buying habits continue to change, this problem will be solved.

Who knows, someone may come up with a way to scrub CO2 from the atmosphere.

Anyway, that’s my final take on it. We have largely recognized the problem and solutions are being attempted. It’s a complex issue, there are a number of solutions available, the practical ones are being used, the impractical investigated, technology explored. Why all the hate?

Tell me what you think in the comments and share away!

Tom Liberman
Sword and Sorcery fantasy with a Libertarian Twist

Arguments against Human Driven Climate Change

Global Warming SkepticismI’ve spent a few days talking about Greenhouse Gases, water movement through the oceans, tornados and other topics along with the idea that increased production of CO2 through human driven sources might be responsible for these changes in our climate. I want to spend today talking why they may not be responsible.

First we have to get a few of the ridiculous arguments against human driven climate change out-of-the-way:

There is one faction that claims temperatures on earth are not rising. In the early days of Global Warming, as it was called back then, there were a number of people who doubted the data about rising temperature. At this point all but the most hardcore deniers admit that the statistic show that temperatures are rising.

Related to this is the argument that antarctica is cooling. This little doozy came from a Michael Crichton novel in which he cited a real report but twisted it to suit the fictional novel. All indications are that antarctica is warming.

Another thing we must accept is that human activity can affect the global climate. The idea that humans cannot affect the climate is utter nonsense. Let me give you a simple example. Every time you take a step you are either increasing or decreasing the spin of the earth on its axis. It is a ridiculously tiny amount but it is real. This sort of statement makes me want to punch people. It’s akin to saying man can’t fly because he doesn’t have wings.

Ok, now let’s get onto some realistic objections. Here is the full Wiki article but I’ll try to sum it up.

There isn’t as much scientific consensus as the media portrays. This is true. There are some scientists who are more lukewarm on the topic than in absolute agreement. They tend to get lumped in the majority who agree human activity is a major driving force of climate change. This gives the percentage number of scientist an unrealistically high value.

The agency that is making up the rules, the IPCC, is biased towards climate change. This is a hard one to prove as the evidence indicates human increases in CO2 production has contributed to climate change. I would suggest there is probably some bias in the process even if not a large amount.

Another argument is that humans are not behind the increases in CO2 parts per million in the atmosphere. Records indicate that CO2 levels have been higher in the past and global temperatures have changed dramatically in the past. This is all absolutely true. There is a possibility that the rise in CO2 in the atmosphere is through natural causes as human contribution is only a small percentage of the whole, about 5% perhaps. It has been suggested that solar activity, not fully understood volcanic activity, and even some source that we do not understand or know about at all is behind the increase.

Ice core samples don’t seem to indicate an exact correlation between high CO2 levels and high temperatures. There is a strong correlation between the two but it is not absolute and there appears to have been times of high temperature when CO2 levels have not been correspondingly high although there is some doubt about this evidence as a whole because not enough core samples have been taken. More sampling, which is currently underway, should establish a more direct causal relationship although there is a chance the current correlation is merely coincidence and further evidence will disprove it.

There is an argument that the temperature taking devices are not sensitive enough and their results are inaccurate. This has largely been disproven but still makes the rounds.

The decrease in sulphate aerosols after they were banned in many nations is an important consideration. These aerosols have a cooling effect and their limitation since the 1970s would seem to necessarily remove that cooling effect and generate an apparent warming trend.

It is argued that the climate is not as sensitive to CO2 increases as suggested. This is perfectly reasonable although it’s possible the climate is more sensitive than models suggest. It’s a tough one to prove or disprove.

Some argue that CO2 is not at all that is responsible for the increased temperature but another source, perhaps radiation or cloud movement, is responsible. The Iris Hypothesis is one such supposition although unproven.

Another reasonable argument is that climate change models are just that models. They are not 100% accurate and there is plenty of room for errors.

One of the biggies is that scientists are financially motivated to produce models that support human driven climate change to finance their researches. There are certainly scientists with agendas and good peer review is always necessary. There are examples of scientists fudging numbers although this seems to be not at all widespread and numbers are largely peer-reviewed and accurate. The Hockey Stick graphs generated the most controversy recently but reviews seem to indicate nothing untoward was done to falsify charts.

The final argument we often see is that the cure for climate change is too expensive and the results of changed human behavior might have no effect in any case. There is a great deal of legitimacy to this argument although if we are going to look it from a purely financial perspective we should also look at the cost of climate change as well.

I’ve gone on a fair bit here and I’ll save my final observations for tomorrow. Hopefully those of you who believe in human driven climate change have a better idea of the arguments arrayed against the concept.

Tom Liberman
Sword and Sorcery fantasy with a Libertarian Twist

Teaser – Arguments Against Human Driven Climate Change

Tomorrow I’m going to take on some of the arguments that refute human driven climate change. I’ve talked about most of the theories involved in the change in global temperature over the last few days and it’s time to talk about the arguments against it. It’s a hot button topic to say the least but hopefully it will give those who believe that humans are the driving force behind the recent warming an opportunity to hear the rational opposition side.

I’ll probably give some time to the irrational side as well but not too much of that as I got annoyed with stupidity.

See you then,

Tom Liberman
Sword and Sorcery fantasy with a Libertarian Twist

The Hammer of Fire – Rough Draft Complete

The Hammer of FireI just finished up the rough draft on the Hammer of Fire, my third sword and sorcery novel. You can check out its page on my site here.

It should take me about a month or less to clean up the draft and do the rewrites and then it is off to my expert proof-reader, mom. I’ll need a cover as well and I’m hoping that Raro (some racy photos through that link, beware. Nothing pornographic) will agree to the task!

Tom Liberman
Sword and Sorcery fantasy with a Libertarian Twist

Climate Change Science – Tornadoes

TornadoThe events in Dallas as graphically displayed all over the news with dramatic videos made me think about the predictions of tornado activity in the climate change models. I really don’t know much about it but here’s to the internet and research!

First things first though. Why is it that the plural of tornado and volcanos can be correctly spelled with an “e” or without an “e”? If anyone knows the answer please help me out. I like it better without so no one yell at me for grammar errors … that means you mom.

Ok, back to the question at hand. What effect, if any, does a change in average temperatures on the planet have on tornado activity? It certainly seems like the tornados have been big and damaging in recent years but the spread of population has something to do with that. In that past tornados might hit in areas that were unpopulated but are now homes to large and small cities.

Tornados are rated by the Enhanced Fujita scale with EF5 being considered the highest. There is also the Fujita scale and the TORRO scale but it doesn’t really matter as we are simply trying to determine if tornados have gotten more severe and frequent as the temperature on earth has risen over the last century. Yes, by the way, the temperature has risen, I’ll get to that soon.

The United States is a good place to test for increased activity as we have four times as many tornados as all of Europe and far more than any other single country. This apparently has to do with being in the middle of a large continent that has both a very hot region (Mexico) and a very cold region (Canada). In the United States records for the last decade indicate about 1,200 tornadoes a year. Adequate records do not exist before 1976 making comparisons to different eras all but impossible. Still, the mechanisms of weather that trigger tornadoes are fairly well understood.

When cool and warm air meet the conditions are right for tornados which generally occur in the Spring and Fall when seasonal temperatures are in fluctuation. The mostly deadly tornado happened in 1925 but the largest outbreak in frequency, again in the extremely short record keeping history, occurred in three days of April 2011 when 353 tornados eclipsed the previous record of 148 in a similar period of time. A significant statistical outlier although the short time frame of record keeping makes for much guesswork. With such little time frame to work with the best guess seems to be that tornadoes might come in ten-year cycles and the 1980’s seem to have been a low cycle.

Tornados also tend to occur between 3:00 and 5:00 p.m. apparently connected to the fact that this time frame is also when peak atmospheric heating is in place. The recent Dallas area tornadoes occurred in the late morning.

Any guess as to the effect of global climate change on frequency and severity is, at this time, merely speculation. Warmer sea temperatures increase atmospheric moisture content which can increase severe weather, including tornadoes, particular in the cooler seasons. The change in sea temperature, which I covered yesterday, can also effect jet stream patterns which might in turn have some influence on tornado frequency and severity.

But, all the evidence at this point doesn’t seem to indicate a direct relation between increased tornado activity and the increased temperature the earth is currently experiencing. Nor does evidence rule out such influence.

So, if anyone tells you the increase in tornados is without a doubt caused by climate change or that climate change is absolutely not responsible for bigger and more frequent events … you tell them they need to go back and get more evidence!

What do you think?

Tom Liberman
Sword and Sorcery fantasy with a Libertarian Twist

Teaser – Tornadoes and Climate Change

I was wondering what to write about tomorrow and I’m now watching events unfold in the Dallas/Fortworth region of Texas. I am aware that climate change is related in some way to tornadoes but I don’t know much about the link to be honest about it. So, tomorrow I’ll examine how the two are tied together and we’ll learn together!

It should be interesting,

See you then,

Tom Liberman
Sword and Sorcery fantasy with a Libertarian Twist

Thermohaline circulation

Thermohaline CirculationThermohaline Circulation is a fancy term but it is an important factor in the climate of the earth. The basic ideas is that the oceans of world circulate water in relatively stable patterns and this movement of water dramatically affects the weather.

These patterns can be disrupted by a number of factors and such events seem to be related to large weather change in previous time periods. Cold water from the polar regions moves into warmer areas causing cooling while hotter water from equatorial regions moves to the poles in a warming pattern.

This movement is created by wind on the surface and differences in salinity and temperature below the surface at depth. Tides also play a role in certain places of the world. There is a lot of technical type information about salinity, temperature, tides, and wind but I don’t want to get into that. I simply want to suggest that this global movement of water is a fact and it has a profound effect on our climate.

It sends warm water to the poles which has a tremendous effect on melting sea ice and it is a component in the oceanic sink which removes a large percentages of CO2 from the atmosphere. The amount this affects removal of CO2 is not fully understood at this stage. I spoke about Greenhouse Gases and the importance of the amount of CO2 in the atmosphere yesterday. The effect of water temperature on weather patterns is clear to anyone who has lived near a large body of water. Again, I don’t want to get all technical on that topic.

It is thought that Ice Ages are counter intuitively related to warmer temperatures because the influx of fresh water from glacial melt stops the flow of warm water to the poles which causes fast drops in temperature.

The main idea though is that if there is an influx of fresh water from melting ice that this thermohaline circulation will be disrupted and have a dramatic effect on our climate.

Again, I’m not trying to argue for or against human influenced climate change … yet. I’m just talking about the dynamics involved and hopefully the next time you discuss this highly volatile topic you’ll be slightly better informed.

Tell me what you think!

Tom Liberman
Sword and Sorcery fantasy with a Libertarian Twist

Teaser – Thermohaline Circulation

In what is surely going to be one of the most talked about blog entries of my career; tomorrow I take on Themohaline Circulation and its effect on the global climate. I know, it’s a crazy topic filled with exciting and controversial subjects. You might ask, am I mad? You might, rightly, suspect that no sane person could take on such a perilous topic but I aim to take the plunge!

See you tomorrow!

Tom Liberman
Sword and Sorcery fantasy with a Libertarian Twist

P.S. It’s the circulation of water through the oceans.

P.P.S Take the plunge, get it? Hee hee hee.

Greenhouse Gases

Greenhouse GasThe topic of the day is trying to define what greenhouse gases (GHG) are and what they mean to the climate of the world. Whenever people start talking about climate change I often find they don’t have a lot of knowledge about the science behind their arguments, either pro or con. One of the main concepts behind the climate change science is the increase of greenhouse gases into the atmosphere.

Now, let’s start with what a GHG is considered. Technically they are gases that can absorb and emit infrared radiation. These gases have an important role in regulating the temperature on earth in that they reflect heat in all directions. Some of this reflection is back towards the earth thus creating what is called a greenhouse effect. The more of these gases in the atmosphere the more reflection takes place.

Primary among these gases is water vapor, carbon dioxide, methane, nitrous oxide, and ozone. These actually make up a small fraction of the gases in the atmosphere but the others, Nitrogen and Oxygen predominantly, do not reflect infrared radiation and thus do not play a role in the greenhouse effect.

At question in the climate change issue is the amount of these gases in the atmosphere. The idea is that a higher amount creates more reflection which in turn keeps more heat in the planet.

The amount is controlled by something called “sources” and “sinks”. Sources produce greenhouse gases and sinks remove them.

There are numerous sources and sinks of these gases interacting in what is called the Carbon Cycle. The two major sinks are forests and the oceans. Both, through various chemical processes, absorb the vast majority of these gases. The decay of plants is the largest contributor or source of CO2 although there are other sources as well including cows, insects, volcanic activity, and human activity.

The amount of CO2 in the atmosphere has risen by a fairly startling amount since 1958 from 320 parts per million to 391 ppm. At the time of the industrial revolution around 1750 to 1850 it was at 280 ppm. That calculates out to about a 40% increase in 200+ years since the industrial revolution or an increase of about 22% in the last 50 years.

The idea, again, is that more greenhouse gases reflect more radiation and the earth gets hotter.

The argument that this increase is caused my human activity is centered around the idea that the Carbon Cycle is a relatively closed system except for catastrophic events like super volcanos and meteor strikes. Barring these major events even a small increase in source activity without a corresponding increase in sink activity will eventually cause the system to become out of balance. Imagine filling your bathtub with water and the spigot puts in exactly as much as the drain lets out. Now, add 1% more to the spigot output and decrease the drain size by 1%. The eventual result is easy to predict, it’s just a matter of time.

That humans have increased the source output of greenhouse gases through their various activities is not in dispute nor is the idea that we have decreased the sink amount. But, both changes are quite small. The question then becomes does the earth have the ability through natural sinks to rebalance the system without changing human behavior? Or, perhaps the increase in CO2 is not related to the relatively small impact of humans at all but is caused by some other, as yet not fully understood, dynamic of the planet?

Anyway, that’s GHG for you. I hope this at least clarified some of the things you hear when talking about the volatile topic of climate change and gives you information to use in your arguments, pro or con.

See you tomorrow and if you want to clarify or correct anything please do so in the comments below!

Tom Liberman
Sword and Sorcery fantasy with a Libertarian Twist

Teaser – Greenhouse Gases

Greenhouse GasThe vitriol between the different sides on the issue of the climate change science seems to me to be extremely … high. Often I find both sides to be somewhat lacking in understanding of the explanations offered both pro and con. I thought I’d take a few days to look at some of the science involved and try to break it down a little. I’ll try to present evidence without judgement although probably, like my Nuclear Power series, I’ll end up coming to some conclusions by the end.

Tomorrow I’m going to try to explain the phenomenon of greenhouse gases, what they are, how they are produced, how they are used, what they mean to the climate of the world. See you then.

If you’re anything like me you can hardly wait!

Tom Liberman
Sword and Sorcery fantasy with a Libertarian Twist

Free Will – Does it Matter?

Free WillLast night I was having a philosophical discussion on my Chess Site waiting for my Dungeons and Dragons game to get started … yes, it’s true and not an April Fool’s Joke. I am a nerd.

Anyway the topic turned, as it often does, to Free Will or the lack thereof. The debate usually gets fairly heated and there are strong opinions on all sides.

The arguments go that we humans have the ability to choose our way or that the future is immutable. I sort of spoke about this issue in my post Everything Happens for a Reason during my dumb platitude week. Philosophically it seems to be an extraordinarily important question but the more I think about it the more it just doesn’t matter.

No matter what decision is made the final outcome is always the final outcome. The choices that are discarded never happen.

What I’m saying is that we can debate whether or not I chose black tea over green this morning or whether it was immutably decided that I would take the black but what difference does it make? I’m drinking my East Frisian Broken Blend ordered from my favorite Tea Merchant and there is no changing that fact. I’m not drinking South India Singampatti Organic and there is no way that I can go back and change my decision. So, what matters that I made the decision or the choice was destined from the beginning of time?

The key is that I have the illusion of free will. I think that my decisions have consequences and attempt to make as many good choices as possible so as to enhance my station in life. As long as I have this reality or illusion of reality then I’ll continue to make my best effort. The only danger is in people who think they have no control over their lives and simply let the world run them over. But, as long as you try to think through your decisions with Critical Thinking analysis then it just doesn’t matter as to whether free will exists or not.

So, that ancient philosophical question is finally solved! You’re welcome.

Perhaps a real philosopher or two will tell me how terribly, terribly wrong I am in the comments. I eagerly await.

Tom Liberman
Sword and Sorcery philosophy with a Libertarian Twist