Are human minds statistical machines?

Human minds are the mother of all interesting things since anything that we might consider interesting is so because our minds make us believe so. Seems then reasonable that all kind of philosophical issues and scientific problems cannot be properly addressed unless we correctly understand how our minds work, but what we know about how they work?

            I’m a sinner, I’m a saint…

Cognitive Science offers many theories on how any mind might work, but when it comes to our minds there seem to be evidences put forward by psychologists that, whatever the way they work,  human minds do not abide to the laws of probabilities.

Several attempts have been made to explain these results, and one of the latest comes from the hand of Quantum Mechanics… No kidding.

So when I saw this valiant attempt from theoretical physicists to explain how the human mind works by using their all mighty and powerful Quantum Hammer, I thought it was a good moment to explain an alternative solution that I myself worked out long, long ago, after being exposed to this problem by philosopher Paul Thagard in his excellent book MIND.

Also, Sister Hot is my assistant and I need her to prove my point which is that our minds might abide to probability laws more than we think after all. If you want to know how she is going to assist me you need to keep reading; probability can be sexy 😉 Continue reading

Climategate (3/3): Fear mongering

The last post in this Climategate series is dedicated to the climate of fear mongering we all see every now and then in the media claiming extreme weather patterns linked to global warming in an end-of-the-world tone. I will offer some insights and calculations to show that “extremist” might be wrong.

So let us begin with the Australia Climate Change? New Colors Added To Forecast Maps news that spread like… well.. wildfire not just in Australia but through all over the world.


It seems that poor climatologists in Australia had no choice but to reuse the purple color already in use for the negative range (-25, -18) ºC for the positive range (50, 54) ºC. What could possibly have done these people but to mix cold and hot weather colors!? well, here’s an idea:

Not Scary Colors for Australian Temperatures

There it goes a present for climatologists in Australia; 121 not scary-oh-my-gaw-how-hot-it-is different colors for the range (-60,60) ºC, and just in case you need more I have a few spare millions. You’re welcome.

Okay, okay, to be fair Continue reading

Climategate (2/3): be careful what you model for because you might get it

In the previous post I showed how James Hansen at GISS NASA clearly over estimated global warming in the late 80’s due to the modeling choices he made. To make a point on how influential the choice of a model is, in this post I will make modeling choices that will allow us to claim that global warming can be explained as a fluke in a random process.

I like to explain the relationship between data and models saying that data is the shadow reality casts, and models are what we believe is casting the shadow. So once we have a model  we can use it to cast shadows (make predictions) like the one James Hansen did and could be read in 1986 newspapers:

Hansen predicted global temperatures should be nearly 2 degrees higher in 20 year. “Which is about the warmest the earth has been in the las 100,000 years.”

Interestingly James Hansen downgraded his prediction in a 1988 paper from the nearly two degrees higher to a one degree higher. Though to be fair I would not be surprised if media misquoted him; I might not trust scientists but I absolutely distrust media.

Anyhow, let’s now compare NASA’s prediction in this 1988 paper (in red) to what actually happened years later (in blue):

Yearly Average Global Temperature Change
1988 NASA predictions on top of yearly average global temperature changes with major volcano activity and parts per million levels of CO2

Data for this plot comes from the B.E.S.T and N.O.A.A.

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Climategate (1/3): be careful what you model for because you might get it

Deception is all around us, in every little parcel of our life; from our personal Bart Simpson’s “It wasn’t me” to our local TV news host selling us the latest “You’re not going to believe this” but we eventually do. One might just wish there would exist communities out there with higher standards like, for example, Christians priests but, nope, they cover up pedophile networks in order to preserve The Church’s “good” name. But how about the atheist priests a.k.a scientists? How about their standards?

Well, unfortunately the community of scientists might have more to do with priesthood than one might expect or desire, and a nice example of this would be the Climategate (or the Climatic Research Unit email controversy, as some people had the kindness to rename the Climategate article in the Wikipedia following Fox News’ motto “fair and balanced” )

So in this post I am going to replicate earlier studies on global warming to uncover how over pessimistic were the maths models of the past, but I will also talk about human weakness, and scientists are human… for now.

Mike's Trick
Click to watch Dr. Richard A. Muller (Professor of Physics at the University of California at Berkeley) talk about “Mike’s Trick” and the Climategate.

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