Weekend reading recommendations – part two

This week’s recommendations are a varied lot.  All worth reading in full.  Esp note the climate science articles.  Only science driving the media’s narrative gets seen by the public. Here you see the rest of the story.


  1. End the University as We Know It“, Mark C. Taylor, op-ed in the New York Times, 26 April 2009
  2. Meteorological trends (1991-2004) at Arctic Station, Central West Greenland (69º15’N) in a 130 years perspective“, Birger U. Hansen, Bo Elberling, Ole Humlum & Niels Nielsen, Danish Journal of Geography, volume 106(1), 2006 – The arctic’s weather is changing in ways similar to that of the past 130 years.
  3. Solar Cycle 24 – don’t panic yet!“, Leif Svalgaard and Hugh Hudson, 13 April 2009 — About the late start to Solar Cycle 24, concern warranted but not panic.
  4. Farewell, the American Century“, Andrew J. Bacevich, TomDispatch, 28 April 2009 — “Rewriting the Past by Adding In What’s Been Left Out”
  5. Afterword and for more information

Announcing the end of the world! 

Nope, it’s just Lester Brown predicting doom, again.   “Could Food Shortages Bring Down Civilization?“, Lester R. Brown, Scientific American, May 2009 — “The biggest threat to global stability is the potential for food crises in poor countries to cause government collapse.”  No excerpt given.  For links to authoritative articles about this see the FM reference page Food – articles about this global crisis.

Instead I suggest reading some good news:  “Global warming alarmists out in cold“, Andrew Bolt, Herald Sun (Australia), 19 April 2009 — It’s a popular science article, so follow the links to more detail.  Hat tip to Anthony Watts website, Watts Up with That!

Climate myth-busting:  “The Source of Europe’s Mild Climate“, Richard Seager, New Scientist, July-Aug 2006  — “The notion that the Gulf Stream is responsible for keeping Europe anomalously warm turns out to be a myth”


(1)  End the University as We Know It“, Mark C. Taylor, op-ed in the New York Times, 26 April 2009 — I do not agree with all of this, but makes many interesting points.  Opening:

Graduate education is the Detroit of higher learning. Most graduate programs in American universities produce a product for which there is no market (candidates for teaching positions that do not exist) and develop skills for which there is diminishing demand (research in subfields within subfields and publication in journals read by no one other than a few like-minded colleagues), all at a rapidly rising cost (sometimes well over $100,000 in student loans).

… The dirty secret of higher education is that without underpaid graduate students to help in laboratories and with teaching, universities couldn’t conduct research or even instruct their growing undergraduate populations. That’s one of the main reasons we still encourage people to enroll in doctoral programs. It is simply cheaper to provide graduate students with modest stipends and adjuncts with as little as $5,000 a course — with no benefits — than it is to hire full-time professors.


In other words, young people enroll in graduate programs, work hard for subsistence pay and assume huge debt burdens, all because of the illusory promise of faculty appointments. But their economical presence, coupled with the intransigence of tenure, ensures that there will always be too many candidates for too few openings.

(2)  Meteorological trends (1991-2004) at Arctic Station, Central West Greenland (69º15’N) in a 130 years perspective“, Birger U. Hansen, Bo Elberling, Ole Humlum & Niels Nielsen, Danish Journal of Geography, volume 106(1), 2006 — Abstract (emphasis added):

Meteorological data from Arctic Station (69°15’N, 53°31’W) located on Disko Island (West Greenland) has been analysed for the period 1991 – 2004 and used to describe the general climate at Disko and to evaluate meteorological trends. Parameters include daily observations of snow cover, sea ice cover and bihourly logged air and ground temperatures, wind regime, pressure, precipitation and solar radiation. Markedly changes can be noted for the study period, including increasing mean annual air temperatures on the order of 0.4°C per year and 50% decrease in sea ice cover. … Due to a high correlation between mean monthly air temperatures at the two stations (1991-2004) trends in air temperatures observed at Disko are evaluated in a 130 years perspective. It is concluded that climate changes the last decade are dramatic but that similar changes in air temperatures have occurred previous within the last 130 years.

(3)  “Solar Cycle 24 – don’t panic yet!“, Leif Svalgaard and Hugh Hudson, 13 April 2009 —  Posted at the Wiki run by the Reuven Ramaty High Energy Solar Spectroscopic Imager (RHESSI) project (see Wikipedia).  Excerpt:

We’re in an extended period of minimal solar activity (see Nugget 91for a previous look at this issue). Without flares, RHESSI is missing its most important observational work, and there has not been even a C-class flare yet this year. Will sunspots and flares ever return? How unusual is this behavior? In this Nugget we conclude that it is too soon to panic, but that certainly we’re seeing an interesting diminished level of activity -a level most of us have not seen before. …

Historical fact

Although this transition may look unusual to us, for the Sun it may just be business as usual. The current transition looks very much like the one between cycles 13 and 14, 107 years ago. Not only were the sunspot numbers (or ‘region counts’) very similar, but the heliospheric magnetic field back then behaved very similarly to what we observe today, as seen in Figure 4. For information about the relationship of the heliospheric field to the solar field, and how it is measured, please see Reference [1].


In summary it is probably too soon to panic. In the modern era (Figure 1) there is no precedent for such a protracted activity minimum, but there are historical records from a century ago of a similar pattern. We do expect activity to pick up fairly suddenly soon. In the meanwhile this is a good opportunity to use the excellent new data available from many satellites and ground-based observatories without interference from new flux emergence. We can hope to learn a great deal about how low-level activity works in the network and in the polar caps.

(4)  Farewell, the American Century“, Andrew J. Bacevich, TomDispatch, 28 April 2009 — “Rewriting the Past by Adding In What’s Been Left Out.”  Introduction by Tom Engelhardt:

What we call things, the names we use, matters. How, for instance, we imagine our past affects how we see the present and future, as Andrew Bacevich makes clear below. It’s little wonder that Bacevich’s book, The Limits of Power, officially published in paperback today, became a bestseller. He has a way of hacking through the verbiage of our world, always heading for reality; he also has a way, as the Chinese used to put it, of “rectifying names” — that is, bringing reality and naming practices back into sync. Here, for instance, is how, at the end of Limits, he frames Washington’s consensus urge to respond to two failed wars and a failing global mission by expanding the U.S. military:

“America doesn’t need a bigger army. It needs a smaller — that is, more modest — foreign policy, one that assigns soldiers missions that are consistent with their capabilities. Modesty implies giving up on the illusions of grandeur to which the end of the Cold War and then 9/11 gave rise.”

Now, let him go to work in the same fashion on our truncated “American Century”…

(5)  Afterword

If you are new to this site, please glance at the archives below.  You may find answers to your questions in these.

Please share your comments by posting below.  Per the FM site’s Comment Policy, please make them brief (250 words max), civil, and relevant to this post.  Or email me at fabmaximus at hotmail dot com (note the spam-protected spelling).

For more information from the FM site

To read other articles about these things, see the FM reference page on the right side menu bar.  Of esp relevance to this topic:

4 thoughts on “Weekend reading recommendations – part two”

  1. I agree with your question posted on WUWT. How can one compare any number to another that has been smoothed and trended? It makes no sense. In some of the testier scientific debates of old, there was still the appearance of great respect to the other side (Einstein/Bohr). I think science works best with polite debate- with everyone searching for the truth instead of grant money. If institutions fund science, then science becomes instutionalised. If the government funds science, then science becomes politisised. Maybe we should work on a way to fund these guys- a way that prevents group think and confirmation biases? Any ideas?

  2. Thank you for the Seger article. I’ve been arguing against the Gulf Stream being the sole source of a warmer Europe for the last couple of years.

    Anybody who knows basic science (if not previously indoctrinated) can work out that if the Gulf Stream can’t keep Nova Scotia reasonably warm, it can’t possibly warm an entire continent after skirting the Arctic for 2,000 miles. But I didn’t have a good alternate explanation so people tended to ignore me.

    This article offers a much more reasonable explanation of the phenomenon.

  3. electrophoresis

    Mark Taylor neglects to mention the most important reason why graduate education has become worthless in America. Namely, America is shipping our skilled white-collar jobs overseas to third-world PhDs and engineers as fast as we can.

    If you get a PhD in computer science or a masters in materials science today from a top flight American college, you’re stupid, because that job you’re looking for either has been, or soon will be, outsourced to some Chinese PhD in computer science or some Indian with an MS in materials science. Moreover that Chinese or Indian worker probably got his degree from the same elite American university you got yours from.

    Until this changes, any American with sense realizes it’s stupid to work in a profession that isn’t licensed and protected like a medieval guild — doctor, lawyer, plumber, electrician. And with the collapse of housing and the consequent massive downturn in the construction industry, plumbers and electricians and carpenters aren’t in much demand, so what does that leave? Doctor and lawyer.

    But there’s only a limited number of available slots in law school and medical school. This explains why America has 20,000 astrologers and 2,000 astronomers. Any smart young person looking at the job market and America’s self-destructive economic policies will become a chiropractor or a psychic palm reader today. Most of the income of a doctor or a lawyer, no likelihood of your job getting outsourced, much less time and effort to get certified. The fact that chiropractors and psychic palm readers are useless quacks who accomplish nothing and add nothing to society doesn’t matter (after all, how much does the typical lawyer add to society?) because when the incentives in an economy point people in a certain direction, they go where the money is.

    Such are the byzantine ways in which civilizations decline and collapse.

  4. According to the Washington Post, India also has problems:

    Dubey’s deflating discovery mirrors the experience of most of the 3.2 million Indians who receive undergraduate degrees each year. The Confederation of Indian Industry says that 25 percent of technical graduates and 15 percent of other graduates can be readily employed in the jobs that the recent boom has generated in the telecommunications, banking, retail, health care and information technology sectors.

    “The stark reality is that our education system churns out people, but industry does not find them useful,” said T.K.A. Nair, principal secretary to the prime minister, addressing a recent conference here in the capital on linking education to employability. “The necessary development of skills is missing in our education.”

    About 69 percent of unemployed Indians are educated but lack skills, according to the Confederation of Indian Industry….

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