Go to


Bottom of Page

Go to

The Motley Expeditions

Views from the Other Side

Strolls in the Bush

Travels round my Family

My Life as an Engineer

Barraba Red Hatters

Go on the Web to

Eco-Camping Australia

The Highway Wanderers Chapter of the CMCA

The Australian Skeptics

My Daughter's Blog

May 2009

Myth versus Fact

It has recently been suggested that I am wrong to want to convince people of those technical things that I believe are important. The basis for this suggestion is that I have stated that I accept the right of all people to hold their particular beliefs so long as they don't try any force their beliefs on others. I was of course talking about religious beliefs which are, in my view, myths (OED: myth - a traditional story esp. one concerning the early history of a people or explaining some natural or social phenomenon, and typically involving supernatural beings or events.) which do not have real supporting evidence.

My skeptical approach requires the we seek the evidence for our beliefs. Those issues that I am keen to convince people are true are all concerned with natural science and are based on the evidence. Of course there is no point in claiming absolute truth as the evidence varies from authority to authority but the scientific method (OED: scientific method - a method of procedure that has characterized natural science since the 17th century, consisting in systematic observation, measurement, and experiment, and the formulation, testing, and modification of hypotheses.) aims at eliminating erroneous hypotheses and has a wonderful track record of getting close to the truth.

Religion in my view, relies solely on "authority" and does not allow of testing or modification of tenets.

Because of these differences, I reject the suggestion that I should not try and convince people to accept those things that I believe if I accept that they can believe what they like as long as they don't proselytize. Proselytization is about religious conversion whereas what I seek to do is correct peoples erroneous beliefs in matters of natural science.

Posted: 29/5/09 2:32 PM

I have just found that more things are broken than I thought.

A Slashdot item reports that Prof Steven Chu, Obama's Energy Secretary, proposes that we should paint all roofs and roads white to reflect 80% instead of 20% of the insolation thus "it would be possible to cut carbon emissions by as much as taking all the world’s cars off the roads for 11 years".

I tried to make sense of this without success. How does increasing the reflection of insolation reduce carbon emissions? Some of the comments on Slashdot assume that the reduction in carbon emissions is the result of decreased heating of the buildings under the white roofs thus reducing the airconditioning energy consumption. How does this work for roads?

I was amazed that none of the posted comments on Slashdot addressed the question of whether the Professor was right or not, did the numbers in the citation make sense.

My questions are.

1. Assuming that increased reflection of insolation does affect global warming, what percentage of the total insolation on the planet can be affected by the area of roofs and roads? Most of the planet surface comprises surfaces other than roofs and roads, I would guess only much less that 0.01% is roofs and roads and of these only some small percentage of them would be changed resulting in a change of the planet's albedo of the order of perhaps 1 part per million.

2. How can someone as educated as the Professor equate increased reflection of insolation in terms of carbon emission without reference to the climate change models and then quote the effect on carbon emissions as "taking all the world’s cars off the roads for 11 years"?

Much of what I read on this topic makes the mistake of using the wrong units to quantify effects. One of the comments on Slashdot claimed the effect of painting a roof white would be to reduce the house's energy consumption by 12,000 kWhrs. Just switching of one 60W light can save this much energy if you wait long enough (500,000 hrs i.e. about 57 years), The confusion of energy and power, i.e. power is the rate of energy consumption, seems to be rife among journalists, commentators and Slashdot posters, and now the US Energy Secretary.

I should apply my skepticism better. Perhaps the people who reported what the Professor said quoted him out of context.

Posted: 29/5/09 9:43 AM revised 29/5/09 2:29 PM

Currawinya has a new resident

An old lady died in Henry St recently and left a miniature fox terrier needing a home. Our granddaughter Kelly had said she wanted such a dog so we offered to take care of it. It was decided that it would be a problem to add anther animal to the dog and cats at Sarah's house so Jean offered to take him.

Peter joined our household yesterday. He came with his own basket, rug, coat, food bowls and food so we didn't have to do anything except welcome him into our home.

We have booked an appointment at the Vet Surgery to check him out. I found a tag on his collar which came from the local Vet so they will know his history which is good.

I checked the garden to see if we could make it dog friendly but there are too many potential escape routes so that isn't feasible. I plan to put up a running line so he can spend time outdoors without needing someone to hold his lead. The lady who brought him said that he had been an indoor dog so he is pretty well house trained but he enjoys walks in the garden and the street so he might appreciate some outdoor time.

Jean had expressed a desire for a pet so she's pretty happy about all this.

Posted: 29/5/09 7:11 AM

What has happened to Quality Assurance?

I worry about the decline in Quality Assurance in the manufacture of products but my recent reading of Comp.Risks reveals that the "disease" is even more prevalent and potentially damaging in the cyber world.

Google Health

When Dave deBronkart tried to transfer his medical records from Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center to Google Health, a new free service that lets patients keep all their health records in one place and easily share them with new doctors, he was stunned at what he found.

Google said his cancer had spread to either his brain or spine ~~ a frightening diagnosis deBronkart had never gotten from his doctors ~~ and listed an array of other conditions that he never had, as far as he knew, like chronic lung disease and aortic aneurysm. A warning announced his blood pressure medication required "immediate attention."

It turns out that Google Health uses information from billing records, which can be inaccurate, undated, and was never intended to be used by doctors. Transferring existing paper records could take years and hundreds of millions of dollars. Insurance data, by contrast, is already computerized and far easier and cheaper to download. But it is also prone to inaccuracies, partly because of the clunky diagnostic coding language used for medical billing, or because doctors sometimes label a test with the disease they hope to rule out, medical technology specialists say.

Ironically, Beth Israel has one of the most advanced electronic medical records systems in the country, with clinical records carefully tended by doctors and accessible to patients on a secure website. But Google Health prefers providers send information in coded form to build the list of patient's medical conditions so the program can guide patients to additional information on the Internet about each disease using links. The neatly packaged billing codes are easier to link to than the mix of medical terms and standard language doctors use in their clinical records.

Credit-Card Activation

Kees Huyser kees.huyser@nikhef.nl Mon, 30 Mar 2009 09:12:49 +0200

Recently, my bank was taken over by another bank. As a consequence of this take-over, I was issued a new credit card. The card needed to be activated by an 'activation code' which was sent in a separate letter a few days after I received the card.

To activate you need to call a toll-free number, enter the number of your credit card, the activation code and your date of birth. I tried to activate twice and both times it failed without telling me the reason for failure. I was advised to call the bank's customer service desk.

This morning I called the service desk and was asked the last eight numbers of the card, my full address (including the post code) and my date of birth. I was then told my date of birth was incorrectly recorded in the system and that this was the reason for activation failure.

The nice lady at the service desk then activated my card without asking for the activation code.

I'm sure you can see the holes in the system here: I can steal a card, phone the service desk and tell them the date of birth is not what is in their system (the full address and postcode is printed on both letters and thus is also in my possession) and have the card activated.

How can the bank check my DoB over the phone? If they had asked me to give them the activation code at least that would mean I would have to steal two envelopes: the one with the CC and the one with the activation code.

Posted: 26/5/09 10:48 PM

Mother's Day

We joined in the Barraba Mother's Day celebration which was a 4km walk raising money for Breast Cancer Research.

There were lots of walkers and we walked right round the town and back to the O'Meara Park where they had organized a breakfast of egg and bacon sangers. When I suggested to Dr Sanji that the dietician wouldn't approve she said "But you can always break the rules on special occasions".

I showed myself up again by moving a vote of thanks to Dr Sanji and her helpers who had organized the event. I have recently been told that people won't listen to me because I'm "that pommy fellow who talks a lot". I don't mind but am surprised to find that there are people in Barraba with that kind of prejudice. Happily there are plenty of people who do listen to what I say.

Posted: 10/5/09 12:16 PM

The Transition Initiative Continues

Our Awareness Raising has launched. We have just finished the first four free film shows. We got small but enthusiastic audiences and the donations we received were really useful.

We plan to repeat the films in June and hope to attract more people to increase the impact of our message on the community. We need to review and revise our publicity in case it was the quality of the posters that caused the small audiences. It could have been that our Thursday evening schedule was not convenient for many people. We do need to get the message about Peak Oil out to a much bigger percentage of the community.

We plan to get in touch with some of the local organisations during May and we might organize a public meeting to explain the future activities and organisation of Towards Transition Barraba. We hope that our Great Unleashing which is the start of the community efforts will take place some time late this year.

Posted: 1/5/09 5:03 PM


Mar 2014

Feb 2014

Jan 2014

Dec 2013

Nov 2013

Oct 2013

Sept 2013

Aug 2013

Jul 2013

Jun 2013

May 2013

Apr 2013

Mar 2013

Feb 2013

Jan 2013

Dec 2012

Nov 2012

Oct 2012

Sep 2012

Aug 2012

Jul 2012

Jun 2012

May 2012

Apr 2012

Mar 2012

Feb 2012

Jan 2012

Dec 2011

Nov 2011

Oct 2011

Sep 2011

Aug 2011

Jul 2011

Jun 2011

May 2011

Apr 2011

Mar 2011

Feb 2011

Jan 2011

Dec 2010

Nov 2010

Oct 2010

Sep 2010

Aug 2010

Jul 2010

Jun 2010

May 2010

Apr 2010

Mar 2010

Feb 2010

Jan 2010

Dec 2009

Nov 2009

Oct 2009

Sep 2009

Aug 2009

Jul 2009

Jun 2009

Apr 2009

Mar 2009

Feb 2009

Jan 2009

Dec 2008

Nov 2008

Oct 2008

Sep 2008

Aug 2008

Jul 2008

Jun 2008

May 2008

Apr 2008

Top of Page - Next Month

Created: 1/05/09 and last revised 30/03/2014
Author: Robin Chalmers - Copyright in all the material on this site is asserted by the author.
Contact the webmaster