May 2009

Whither Scientific Datasets?

Recently at work we've been making some minor changes to the handling of "auxiliary files" - movies, additional information, or data sets provided by the authors that go beyond the normal article text, figures and tables (all XML or PDF format) that we usually publish. The issue of archiving datasets in particular has been on my mind. One motivation is my own past experiences wondering what to do with large collections of (in my case computer-simulated) data generated in the process of doing research. I probably still have some of it, what I thought most significant, stored somewhere on the laptop I'm writing from now. Though I'm not sure what I would do with it after 20 or more years of neglect. Would it even be worth anything to myself or anybody else, to make it available? Recently advocates of scientific openness, for example Michael Nielsen's Physics World article, have made a strong case for sharing with the world.

Measuring Wrongness

One of the great puzzles I feel up against these days in several different contexts is finding a clear way to express how wrong certain expressed views are. This is not (at least usually not) an issue of moral wrongness, but in most cases just simple inconsistency of logic, disagreement with basic scientific understanding of issues, or perhaps abuse of the English language in ways that make no sense whatsoever. Last fall I spent an inordinate amount of time documenting the errors in an article by a climate-change "skeptic", but even then the simple count of the problems doesn't feel like it gives a true picture of the enormity of the misrepresentation of the facts provided by the article in question.

Quotes on Unity

In keeping with the un-theme of this blog, I now present something completely different...

Belonging to a church with a lay clergy, it's my turn to speak once in a while to our ward, a congregation of about 130 on an average week. I seem to get called on every couple of years (more than I would like, but less than some!) Last Sunday (before Memorial Day) was my turn again, under the general topic of "unity". Following are some notes and quotes I gathered for the talk, for anybody interested. No, I did not use all this stuff in the talk... there's only so much you can say in 20 minutes!

New Congressional Budget Office Report on Climate Change

temperature projections 1850 to 2100
Thanks to Michael Tobis I discovered a new report this week from the Congressional Budget Office that has the most dramatic illustration I've seen of projections of temperature for the remainder of this century (right - figure 1 in the report). The PDF of the 33-page report is available for download from CBO.