Safety in Numbers

When­ever I look back on the banality of my recent­ly defunct career, I can’t resist the urge to abstract my­self from the story. Who is this guy who wast­ed so much time on so much trivia? That can’t be me! It says here in the script that I was an intellectual behemoth who offered the human race a new rôle in the universe. So why was I in a meeting trying to decide whether the results of flushing a lavatory in a stationary train should be classified as ‘Special Waste’ or ‘Controlled Waste’? Spirit of Christmases Fucked, why are you show­ing me this?

Actual­ly, I think I can answer my own question. It’s just a timely reminder that ‘self-identified’ is the postmodern term for ‘deluded’.* Fantasy and fate have a habit of avoiding each other’s company, but am I bitter? Just a tad.

I could carry on in this vein, entertaining you with the wistful angst of an aging Caucasian male, but I also have a serious point to make. First, however, I must admit that not all of my career was as soul-sapping as the Great Train Toiletry Debate. Towards the end of my working life, for instance, I became involved in the honourable trade of safety-systems engineering, specialis­ing in the functional safety analysis of computer-based systems.

To master the subject, l had to tackle a weighty tome called ‘IEC 61508—Functional Safety of Electrical/Electronic/Programmable Electronic Safety-related Systems.’ This is a standard that details, with almost talmud­ic opacity, the development lifecycle to be followed by safety engineers in the design and construction of computer-controlled, safety-critical systems. In particular, it tells you how to identify necessary safety functions, together with the standards of reliability required to achieve specified levels of safety. The reliability targets are quantified as Safety Integrity Levels [SILs], ranging from SIL 1 to SIL 4 (with SIL 1 being the least failure-proof). For each level, IEC 61508 explains the techniques that are both prescribed and proscribed for achieving the safety target.

It was all good stuff. But there was one thing that troubled me.

You see, impressive though IEC 61508 is, I was always struck by the complete lack of evidence that adherence to its instructions would result in the various levels of safety promised. SILs are specified in terms of failure rates, with SIL 4 (as a case in point) representing ‘failures upon demand’ that may be as few as 1 in 105. For such high-integrity systems one could be waiting millennia for confirmation that the required reliability had been achieved. Even when historical checks were practicable, nobody seemed to be conducting them to see if systems developed under IEC 61508 were doing what it said on the tin. It all looked very suspect to me, so when I had the privilege of working with a safety consultant of considerable standing in the field, I posed this question of evidential support to him. This was his response:

“Yes, John, I too was troubled by that. So I asked one of IEC 61508’s authors to outline the process they’d used to decide how to correlate the approved methods and techniques to the SILs. The story he told me was that he met up with two of his colleagues at a pavement café in Bruges, where they determined themselves to thrash it out. Basically, they just shouted things out and wrote them down, and as the strong Belgian lager flowed, the job just got easier and easier.”**

And that’s how the world’s safety engineering community established the scripture we used to ensure the functional integrity of everything from automatic braking systems to nuclear power stations. I am not saying that the evidence for all computer-controlled system safety is spurious, but you need to know that a lot of the evidence cited in support of a system’s safety case will often amount to little more than an auditor’s confirmation of IEC 61508 compliance. Consequently, I advise that one should treat any claims for the achievement of specific safety levels with just a small wheelie bin of salt. Furthermore, knowing now the ease by which drunken whimsy can take the reins of power, perhaps you should be on the lookout for other signs of bogus authority. Is the IPCC immune from the same Wizard of Oz syndrome? Did anyone check Moses’ breath when he came down from Mount Sinai?

To answer the former question it’s useful to appreciate that climatology is just a branch of systems safety analysis. It is an attempt to understand and, thereby, predict the future behaviour of a system (the climate system) that has a posited failure mode (anthropogenic global warming) with the potential to cause serious and irreversible harm (CAGW). A safety case has been developed by an authoritative body (the IPCC) and safety case reports (Assessment Reports) are regularly produced to communicate said case to the policy makers. There are even proposed interventions that have been deemed necessary (though not necessarily adequate) to reduce the risks to acceptable levels.

When I look at climatology, I see nothing I haven’t seen many times before in the field of safety engineering. There are decisions made with incomplete evidence. There are uncertainties that cannot be reduced (at least within the timescales required). And, above all, there is an over-reliance on appeal to authority. (All too often in safety management, it is not the truth that matters but the extent to which the experts can agree).

But there is one major difference: Safety engineers know what they are doing, and they know they are not doing science.

Meanwhile, back at IPCC headquarters, lead authors are developing standards for the communication of uncertainty, and are confidently using their cherished terminology to classify the likelihoods that their various proclamations may be true. Would it be churlish of me to enquire who, exactly, was on the team that dreamt up these classifications, and how many lagers were consumed in the process? ■


* And don’t think you can teach me anything about delusion–I bloody well invented the word.

** This story may be slightly hyped in the re-telling but please do not mistake it for a conspiracy theory. It’s just a little-known insight, which I’ve chosen to share with you, dear reader. You would actually need a conspiracist mindset not to believe me.

61 thoughts on “Safety in Numbers

  1. This post reminded me of this chapter of PJ O’Rourkes seminal Parliament of Whores, which can be read (but not cut/paiste quoted) here:

    https://books.google.com/books?id=1Kn1VP4TX-gC&pg=PA87&lpg=PA87&dq=pj+o%27rourke+audi+5000&source=bl&ots=VMI7Yhr0CG&sig=9EEtGlnGomUseZp0ZtsOJKayDMw&hl=en&sa=X&ved=0ahUKEwjyuIzBp5faAhWN0VMKHcuZAZAQ6AEIKTAA#v=onepage&q=pj%20o'rourke%20audi%205000&f=false

    He was surprised to find that the bureaucrats working at the department of transportation were all car enthusiasts like himself. He was very disheartend to learn that working for the NHTSA offered a lot more fun and responibility than being a grunt designing tail light bezels for panel trucks at an actual car company.

    The writing is PJ at his prime — like Brad Keyes for a lower common denominator.

    Like

  2. I accidentally got into safety by being the only one who didn’t step back when there was a call for a volunteer. I ended up with two management roles and was underpaid for either. The engineering and safety both offer solutions for the mess that climate science has got itself into but until recently there was nobody demanding the field better itself. It has sneakily used risk assessment as a way to call for unlimited, blind action but refused to recognise that risk assessment is just a tool to prioritise risk. It cannot remove it altogether and those assessments are only as good as the data you feed into them.

    Climate science has much in common with your train issue (pun intended). The scientists messed up big time and hoped to be well down the track before anyone noticed the smell but here we are, barely moved from the station. The internet even ensures that there’s a long trail of loo paper back to the guilty party.

    Liked by 2 people

  3. John,

    Your post reminded me of my time spent doing product/process development. No one else wanted to touch the art of how and where the system performance spec’s were laid down so I got the job of setting up the formal design V&V procedures. I must of gotten some of it right as we had a big party after the company won the SHINGO prize. Robertok06 had a post recently which stressed that having procedures don’t lead to positive results all the time- i.e. Diesel gate http://euanmearns.com/blowout-week-222/#comment-38761

    The first software I had to test was written in Lotus by a super smart chemical engineer, from system requirements I provided. I am long toothed enough that know how to design a test protocol using an HP statistical calculator and heaven forbid to calculate a series of variances to get to Standard Deviations by hand for a validation effort. You will likely get a kick out of Dr. Mayo’s recent post- https://errorstatistics.com/2018/03/31/3-years-ago-april-2015-memory-lane/

    I highly recommend the discussion around “Are scientists really ready for ‘retraction offsets’ to advance ‘aggregate reproducibility’? (let alone ‘precautionary withdrawals’”-
    https://errorstatistics.com/2015/04/01/are-scientists-really-ready-for-retraction-offsets-and-precautionary-withdrawals/

    Like

  4. John- sorry if this is a duplicated comment-

    Your post reminded me of my time spent doing product/process development. No one else wanted to touch the art of how and where the system performance spec’s were laid down so I got the job of setting up the formal design V&V procedures. I must of gotten some of it right as we had a big party after the company won the SHINGO prize. Robertok06 had a post recently which stressed that having procedures don’t lead to positive results all the time- i.e. Diesel gate http://euanmearns.com/blowout-week-222/#comment-38761

    The first software I had to test was written in Lotus by a super smart chemical engineer, from system requirements I provided. I am long toothed enough that know how to design a test protocol using an HP statistical calculator and heaven forbid to calculate a series of variances to get to group Standard Deviations by hand for a validation effort. You will likely get a kick out of Dr. Mayo’s recent post- https://errorstatistics.com/2018/03/31/3-years-ago-april-2015-memory-lane/

    I highly recommend the discussion around “Are scientists really ready for ‘retraction offsets’ to advance ‘aggregate reproducibility’? (let alone ‘precautionary withdrawals’)”-
    https://errorstatistics.com/2015/04/01/are-scientists-really-ready-for-retraction-offsets-and-precautionary-withdrawals/

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Basically, they just shouted things out and wrote them down, and as the strong Belgian lager flowed, the job just got easier and easier.”**

    Sounds a bit like “safe units of alcohol”
    https://health.spectator.co.uk/the-great-alcohol-cover-up-how-public-health-bodies-hid-the-truth-about-drinking/

    “There is a telling comment in the minutes of one of the meetings held to reassess the drinking guidelines. It says that it is ‘important to bear in mind that, while guidelines might have limited influence on behaviour, they could be influential as a basis for government policies’. Influencing government policy is the real aim of the game. They don’t trust us to handle accurate information. As a result, we can no longer trust them to give us it.”

    And, https://health.spectator.co.uk/no-wonder-britains-alcohol-guidelines-are-so-extreme-just-look-at-who-drafted-them/

    “Here were the two central messages that would be transmitted, almost word for word, to the British public two and half years later — that the benefits of moderate consumption had been much exaggerated and there is no safe level of drinking. This new narrative appears to have arisen from nothing more than a private meeting with two researchers.”

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Another highly entertaining and very insightful piece John. The angst of having missed one’s ‘true’ vocation obviously sharpens the wit, facilitating the piercing of the thin, but often seemingly impenetrable veil which separates the wholly mundane from the Holy Grail – in this case IEC 61508 from the scientifically verified IPCC AGW Risk Assessment Writ.

    Liked by 2 people

  7. Jaime,

    Thank you for taking the time to express your appreciation. We bloggers have fragile egos that need feeding regularly.

    More to the point, it is a little disappointing that there does not appear to be much interest in taking up my point regarding the role of subjectivity in supposedly scientific deliberations. I want people to understand that, by comparing climate science to safety engineering, I am employing neither a metaphor nor a simile. Rather, I am making a statement I intend to be taken literally. Climatologists self-identify as scientists and are encouraged to do so mainly because they do lots of sciencey things, but, ultimately, it is only the engineering paradigm that can legitimise their position. So perhaps we shouldn’t be worrying that climatologists are failing to respect the scientific method; maybe we should be more concerned that the engineer’s heuristic approach is being passed off as science.

    John

    Liked by 4 people

  8. John Ridgway 02Apr18:12:04

    I want people to understand that, by comparing climate science to safety engineering, I am employing neither a metaphor nor a simile. Rather, I am making a statement I intend to be taken literally. Climatologists self-identify as scientists and are encouraged to do so mainly because they do lots of sciencey things, but, ultimately, it is only the engineering paradigm that can legitimise their positihears to the scientific meathodon. So perhaps we shouldn’t be worrying that climatologists are failing to respect the scientific method; maybe we should be more concerned that…

    the engineer’s heuristic approach is being passed off as science .

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  9. Such SCAM is truly pissing off each and every engineer that because of personal integrity adheres to the scientific method (measurement of every damned thing)! No speculation of what may be; is allowed. When it fails it fails! Such does not wait for social\political ‘SCIENCE’ approval! Congresscriters insist on using cheap Chinese steel for the bridge; that must fail!
    All the best!-will-

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  10. John,

    A. Carlin had a post last year entitled “The Strange Absence of Science in the Paris “Treaty” Discussion”- http://www.carlineconomics.com/archives/3571/
    that touched on your concern that we seemed to have moved from how science was traditionally practiced to more of a political process.

    Dr. Sagan, The Demon-Haunted World: Science as a Candle in the Dark, was referenced-

    “We’ve arranged a global civilization in which most crucial elements profoundly depend on science and technology. We have also arranged things so that almost no one understands science and technology. This is a prescription for disaster. We might get away with it for a while, but sooner or later this combustible mixture of ignorance and power is going to blow up in our faces.”

    “One of the saddest lessons of history is this: If we’ve been bamboozled long enough, we tend to reject any evidence of the bamboozle. We’re no longer interested in finding out the truth. The bamboozle has captured us. It’s simply too painful to acknowledge, even to ourselves, that we’ve been taken. Once you give a charlatan power over you, you almost never get it back.”

    Liked by 1 person

  11. John,

    “So perhaps we shouldn’t be worrying that climatologists are failing to respect the scientific method; maybe we should be more concerned that the engineer’s heuristic approach is being passed off as science.”

    I profess to know very little about international standards, but it strikes me that they are based less upon hard science, more upon a universally agreed adoption of specific best practice during the design and construction of literally any work of engineering or technology you care to mention, from suspension bridges to semiconductor wafers. The rationale behind such universally agreed standards probably encompasses the entire spectrum from reasonable, logical, empirical to the blithely incomprehensible and opaque set of procedures agreed, as you say, during one night in a bar in Belgium over several strong beers.

    The obvious link between climatology and international engineering standards is the achievement of consensus – the latter regarding best practice, the former regarding acceptance of the ‘the Science’ and an agreement to apply the Precautionary Principle in regard to advocating policy based on ‘the Science’, given its [statistically, not systemically] derived uncertainties. Consensus achieved in both fields seems to be largely heuristic in nature.

    Liked by 1 person

  12. Consensus From self appointed accadema (scholarship)</b is never ever heuristic! —–heu·ris·tic hyo͞oˈristik/ adjective heuristic
    1. enabling a person to discover or learn something for themselves.
    "a “hands-on” or interactive heuristic approach to learning"
    Computing: proceeding to a solution by trial and error or by rules that are only loosely defined.
    Academic BOOKLEARNING never ever works!

    Like

  13. Will,

    Heuristic (definition) – 1. Of or relating to a usually speculative formulation serving as a guide in the investigation or solution of a problem.

    Wiki – any approach to problem solving, learning, or discovery that employs a practical method not guaranteed to be optimal or perfect, but sufficient for the immediate goals.

    Like

  14. Kakatoa,

    Thank you for contributing to the discussion.

    The politicisation of science is indeed a problem, and I think three factors encourage it:

    1) Ignorance amongst the general public leaves them vulnerable to manipulation
    2) Uncertainties within the science allow the blurring of the line between science and advocacy
    3) Fear validates the drawing of premature conclusions

    In this posting I am encouraging people to view climatology as an example of safety analysis / engineering. This is not to discredit it but rather to place it within its proper perspective. When I look at the state of climate science with my science hat on, I see much to criticise. However, when I view it with my engineering hat on, things start to make a lot more sense. There is a down-to-earth practicality (and, indeed humility) in engineering that climatologist would do well to recognise and embrace, rather than sticking to their pious, overconfident and, ultimately, unconvincing, quasi-scientific boasting.

    John

    Liked by 1 person

  15. Jaime,

    You say: “I profess to know very little about international standards…” and then proceed to demonstrate a perfect understanding.

    John

    Liked by 2 people

  16. Young kid ‘engineer’ asks weird question about some-such! I admit ‘I do not know; lets go find out’!.” Leads to none in corporate research having any clue either! This leads to US Air force spending obscene US$ to find ‘what are limitations of observation” through the Earth’s atmosphere at each and every EMR waveband? The US military can now look over yonder where such is possible!
    Just guess How much AlGore, Jimmy Hanson NASAGISS personally profited from such effort?

    Like

  17. Jaime Jessop says: 02 Apr 18 at 5:43 pm
    “Will, Heuristic (definition) – 1. Of or relating to a usually speculative formulation serving as a guide in the investigation or solution of a problem. Wiki – any approach to problem solving, learning, or discovery that employs a practical method not guaranteed to be optimal or perfect, but sufficient for the immediate goals.” of any.
    You are but promoting nasty vile political\social goals! Where ever is some enrichment (learning)
    of any individual Earthling at all?

    Like

  18. There is a down-to-earth practicality (and, indeed humility) in engineering that climatologist would do well to recognise and embrace, rather than sticking to their pious, overconfident and, ultimately, unconvincing, quasi-scientific boasting.

    Why do you refuse to acknowledge this obvious vicious political SCAM to reduce all Earth critters to edible slaves/food. My lovable kitten ‘Shadow’ would not even sniff at some steenking Peloci!

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  19. Hi John

    when you state up thread –

    “When I look at the state of climate science with my science hat on ..etc”

    “However, when I view it with my engineering hat on, things start to make a lot more sense”

    can you elaborate, because as an engineer it makes no sense to me.

    thanks

    Like

  20. sorry, should add a ps –

    if you mean engineers should design/build a product (not the planet) for the worst case then I may see your point.

    Like

  21. dougieh says: 02 Apr 18 at 10:43 pm
    “if you mean engineers should design/build a product (not the planet) for the worst case then I may see your point.”
    Engineers need measure to estimate best\worst case then demonstrate all calculation to evaluate likelihood of profit vs disaster!. Such decision is never for engineers, only Managers, capisce! kelly Johnson Lockheed, was in the front seat of the first SR-71 only to convince the experienced AF pilot behind him dat dis ting may possibly fly; ‘be careful’!

    Liked by 1 person

  22. Dougieh,

    With my science hat on, I expect statements of high confidence to be statements that are potentially falsifiable and yet are well-corroborated with repeated experimental evidence. The name of the game is to discern laws of nature and then use these laws to frame further investigation. Consensus is sought but it is never used as if it were itself evidence. Climatology doesn’t seem to work that way.

    With my engineer’s hat on, I expect to see a more heuristic approach taken. Predictions are made based upon plausible causalities but they are not necessarily founded upon a full understanding of the underlying laws of nature. The practicalities of the context in which engineers work often demands that uncertainties have to be accepted and decisions taken notwithstanding. Certifications and compliance with procedure will often be taken as evidence that the sought for effect will transpire. In this sense, consensus is a surrogate for evidence. This seems to be a lot closer to how climatology works.

    You can dress it up by saying that climatology is post-normal science, but this is merely saying that they are engaging in evidence-based decision-making. Science is not evidence-based decision-making but I think engineering can be characterised as such. I am not saying, however, that engineers set low standards for themselves. They will often rely upon mathematical models but they still insist upon an honest appraisal of the concomitant uncertainties. Perhaps this is why, with your engineer’s hat on, you still struggle to justify the average climatologist’s confidence. I’m not saying that climatologists are good engineers!

    I hope this brief attempt to explain myself helps to clear up where I am coming from. My beef is that climatologists work like engineers but claim to be scientists. Western society is more than happy to benefit from the good work of engineers but it respects scientists more highly.

    John

    Liked by 1 person

  23. “They will often rely upon mathematical models but they still insist upon an honest appraisal of the concomitant uncertainties.”

    And then apply a fairly arbitrary “Factor of Safety”, of course!

    Liked by 1 person

  24. Thanks for the reply John,
    ok, see where you are coming from & agree with your statement (that in most countries) –

    “Western society is more than happy to benefit from the good work of engineers but it respects scientists more highly”

    @CAT – in my work (aircraft wing design usually), the stress team, had to sign on the safety line.
    but as designers/draughtsmen we always worked with them to get the best design to weight compromise.

    Like

  25. Hi John- thank for the feedback.

    I asked the author of this post- http://thefutureprimaeval.net/why-is-politics-upstream-of-science/
    his thoughts on formally moving the goal post from 2 to 1.5 degrees in the Paris Accord.

    The whole effort reminded me of a request I got once from a VP of marketing- Can we tighten the formal label claims on system performance by 20%- as it would make life easier to sell our product (a solution to a real life medical decision making) in certain markets. Being a team player I said sure we could do it (1)- IF….

    Your post sounds like you have been asked to support some new claims in the past as well.

    1) The pesky consequences to a lot of processes would have to be dealt with…. we could manage to a point. Especially if could use Bayesian methods:) and lots creative labeling…..

    Liked by 1 person

  26. dougieh says: 03,Apr,18:22:19

    “Western society is more than happy to benefit from the good work of engineers but it respects scientists more highly”

    TRUE but can you explain that? Skilled craftsman, always worry of ‘what if’, and if the wing ‘breaks’ always cry, and demand hugs from ‘mommy’!! What do the elite academic educators do ‘when wing breaks'(the inevitable ‘aw shit’)? Perhaps impose more regulation on only those already bustin der ass. 🙂
    All the best!-will-

    Liked by 1 person

  27. If you make comparisons make like with like. Comparing “skilled craftsmen” engineers with “elite academic educators” (with “academic” and “educator” used as terms of abuse) is hardly appropriate. How about say, comparing a engineer that barely scraped a third class degree with an academic carefully researching the flame resistance properties of building materials?
    What’s with your antipathy to academics and educators Will?

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  28. Kakatoa,

    “Your post sounds like you have been asked to support some new claims in the past as well.”

    Well, this sort of thing does happen. I recall a government contract my company was working on. It was for the supply of a safety-related system, and a consultancy had been employed by the government agency to determine the required Safety Integrity Level. Everyone intuitively expected the answer to be SIL 1, but a detailed argument was still sought. So the government’s consultancy provided a detailed safety analysis comprising about 90 pages of Fault Tree Analysis and supporting calculations. Probabilities in the FTA were quoted to 2 decimal places, even though they were often based upon ‘expert opinion’. I was amused to read the following at the very end of their report:

    “Based upon the forgoing analysis we determine a required maximum dangerous failure rate equivalent to SIL 2. However, in view of the uncertainties involved, we multiply by 10, resulting in a requirement for SIL 1.”

    Laughable though this was, it was a term of our contract that we must agree the analysis before proceeding. It fell to me to agree it, but I was allowed to first ask questions for ‘clarification’. I was still asking them 12 months later, long after my employer had decided to proceed regardless, and shortly before the contract was mercifully cancelled!

    John

    Liked by 1 person

  29. Alan Kendall says: 05 Apr 18 at 7:00 am

    “How about say, comparing a engineer that barely scraped a third class degree with an academic carefully researching the flame resistance properties of building materials?”
    The academic re-searcher only copies the mistakes of others. Developed engineering skill identifies and corrects those very errors!

    “What’s with your antipathy to academics and educators Will?”
    All modern institutions of higher learning need be dumped and flushed for the extreme damage done to innocent students! Scholar-ship has no value! On the job mentor-ship developing craftsman-ship has value.

    Liked by 1 person

  30. I despair of you Will. At a stroke you throw away as worthless the tradition of learning prevalent in europe for nearly a thousand years, islamic scholarship that was one of its brightest jewels, something that brought europe out of the dark ages, and today something sought for by tens of millions, if not billions. Are all these people wrong? Is history really bunkum? Where did you get such a false view of academia?

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  31. Will, consider the fact that we wouldn’t be able to converse as we do without the products of academia – notably those of Maxwell, himself entirely a product of British universities.

    Amazingly, however, Maxwell’s greatest work on electromagnetics was written when he had been made redundant during the formation of the University of Aberdeen . To its undying shame that university chose another over the person subsequently identified as the third greatest physicist (after Newton and Einstein). Special bonus point if you can name the person chosen by the new university of Aberdeen instead of Maxwell.

    Liked by 1 person

  32. John. I am fully prepared to believe your story about the establishment of IEC 61508 standards if those responsible were attempting to sample the different beers of Belgium. I recall trying to do this at a sponsored event at a European geological meeting at a vast hall filled with different purveyors of the amber nectar, each with its own unique glass (some with wooden supports). Attendees were frisked on their departure, and relieved of “trophies”. I doubt if much safety discussion would have occurred that evening. Blackberry flavoured beers were particularly potent, as I recall.

    Like

  33. Alan Kendall says: 06 Apr 18 at 8:54 am

    “Amazingly, however, Maxwell’s greatest work on electromagnetics was written when he had been made redundant during the formation of the University of Aberdeen .”
    I disagree; Jimie applied for that job in 1968 long after his work on conjugate optics! You claim ‘made redundant’ by whom except arrogant academia? Pox on all post modern academia!Example: Ken Rice!

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  34. Maxwell died in 1879 Will.
    Have been informed that he did much of his electromagnetic work while at Marischal college (one of the precursors of Aberdeen).
    You don’t get it do you Will, Maxwell was a prime example of what you call lyour”arrogant academia”.

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  35. Alan Kendall says: 06 Apr 18 at 1:54 pm
    “Maxwell died in 1879 Will. Have been informed that he did much of his electromagnetic work while at Marischal college (one of the precursors of Aberdeen).”
    4 years wasted trying to read to the truly ignorant. Jimie only went to Aberdeen to be close to his father! Even there; students chose his classes; as he was never ‘arrogant’, only helpful! Some unknown Thomson, not Bill Thomson (lord Kelvin), was chosen by arrogant academics

    “You don’t get it do you Will, Maxwell was a prime example of what you call lyour”arrogant academia”.
    Jimie was never about academia, instead craftsmanship! All of his careful sketches for understanding, also expressed the unknown, (yet to be discovered). Compare to Ken Rice!

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  36. Alan Kendall,
    Who was J.C. Maxwell’s student? He who cleverly reduced Maxwell’s 22 Quaternion equations into 4 ‘correct’ symbolic vector equations; however, leaving 75% of all learning\understanding dying in the ditch! All still taught by ‘academics’ in the western world!

    Like

  37. I just saw an interesting summary/comment on the history of the NSF (1). It was started up back in 1863! Around the time our barn was built. I happen to agree with… “Since 1863, I can only assume that politicians have become more clueless on topics of science. But this video by Neil deGrasse Tyson tells it much better than I ever could.”

    In the past I have found certain/many Phd’s to be arrogant sob’s. Percentage wise I think as a group they were right up their with the arrogance of MBA’s from certain institutions that shall remain nameless. When it came down to figuring out why something in the physical world worked the way it did (or how we could get around the constraints build into the why) I always went to see those sob’s anyway because they were usually right.

    Sometimes I could get an sob development engineer (a few who had phd’s, but mostly not) to tell me why the sob phd was full of shit in regards to what he, or a few times she, was going to do to make something work in the real world which had to make it past the really big sob with the MBA who had the $.

    (1)https://climatecrocks.com/2017/10/21/new-front-in-war-on-science/#comment-96091

    Like

  38. Alan Kendall says: 06 Apr 18 at 5:51 pm
    “Don’t think Oliver Heaviside was ever a student of Maxwell”
    Try John Poynting, most clever with mathematical symbols, but no match fer Jimie’s UNDERSTANDING!

    Like

  39. Strange Will that you would attribute to a Cambridge academic the brilliance of a self-taught telegrapher. Of the three men (Maxwell, Heaviside and Poynting) the first was the most brilliant, and Heaviside the most impressive for his shear drive. I recommend Heaviside to you – truly an engineer, mathematician, and scientist, fully deserving of part of the ionosphere being named after him.

    Like

  40. A Serf Thought for Today.

    ‘Regarding siege mentality, trouble is, when humans coalesce in academies,
    bureaus, guilds, tennis clubs, unions, over time walls get built, benefits acrue
    to inn-mates, censor-ius-ness builds to non-consensi, transparency likely flies
    out the double-glazed windows. ‘Tis human nay-chur.’

    Liked by 1 person

  41. But Serf Beth would thou pullest down those academic walls luddyte like?
    Recall that those same walls protected mediaeval learning and there is always a price to pay (money, time and dedication) to enter within them.
    There was a time when a final judgement meant something, not so much today.
    There was a time when the final award or honour meant something, not so much today.
    There is no free lunch, but it has become much cheaper.

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  42. Alan, appreciated my student life at Melbourne University’s History Department.
    The Professors had experience both within ‘n without the ivy covered walls. What
    I would be rid of are those safe places and 14c limits on free speech. What evah
    happened to’ take no one’s word fer it!’

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  43. Beth.
    What is 14c limits on free speech? Google helpless.
    However, came up with the fact that there is no Australian right of free speech, you have the freedom of political communication. Interesting.

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  44. Will,
    There is a balance missing in modern education.
    However your proposal is even more unbalanced.
    Certainly we need a return to well qualified skills training, and that would come at the expense of the modern university system.
    However reform and the destruction you seek are poles apart.

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  45. hunter says: 07 Apr 18 at 1:16 pm
    “Certainly we need a return to well qualified skills training, and that would come at the expense of the modern university system. However reform and the destruction you seek are poles apart.”

    It remains the perpetual self imposed arrogance of members of the modern university system. Such cannot be repaired by such institutions; as they deliberately foster such ‘know it all arrogance’. They dote on profit from governments, publishers, and the poor students. These students receive only rote textbook brainwashing with no attempt at any education. Those can do, DO; only those that cannot do TEACH, (brainwash)! This is the same arrogance that created this whole CAGW fraud.

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  46. “These students receive only rote textbook brainwashing with no attempt at any education.”

    Rather a sweeping generalisation. It’s possible that things have changed for the worse since I was at University, but such a statement doesn’t remotely reflect my education, both at University and at school. My teachers (especially in the later years at school) and my tutors at University did me the inestimable benefit of teaching me to question things, and most importantly to think for myself.

    That’s the exact opposite of “This is the same arrogance that created this whole CAGW fraud.”.

    As a lawyer, I expect my opinions to be dismissed pretty quickly, but the normal route of qualifying as a solicitor (which I followed) is to learn the law at University, then spend two years practical learning (as an articled clerk – these days called a trainee solicitor) as to how to put it into practice. I found both parts of that process to be equally valuable, and would go so far as to say that one without the other would be much less valuable. They complemented each other perfectly.

    Liked by 1 person

  47. Will you use George Bernard Shaw’s 1903 quote about those who teach to trash academia. This ignores the fact that in most western universities employment is based almost entirely upon research ability and prospects. Teaching ability usually has no bearing. I have taught alongside people with no teaching abilities whatsoever – who merely quote wholesale from textbooks. Commonly their effect is to put some students off the subject being “taught” for ever. Up until recently there was no incentive to improve one’s teaching. So long as you meet minimal standards in teaching, advancement depends entirely upon research. Things have begun to change slightly when student comments began to be valued.
    So up until very recently, the quotation should be recast “Those that teach, commonly can’t”. On the other hand there are some academics who are wonderful teachers and are loved by their students.

    Liked by 1 person

  48. Alan Kendall says: 08 Apr 18 at 9:10 am
    “Will you use George Bernard Shaw’s 1903 quote about those who teach to trash academia. This ignores the fact that in most western universities employment is based almost entirely upon research ability and prospects….”
    I use it to emphasize your stated fact. Consider:
    1. Conceit is unfounded overestimation of one’s personal standing.
    2. Hubris is well founded confidence that is over relied upon.
    3. Arrogance is unfounded overestimation of one’s personal talents.
    For me ‘arrogance’ is but ‘hubris’ converted into religious belief; (dogma)!
    The so called climatologists knowingly remain ignorant of any concept of the generation and propagation of spontaneous thermal EMR flux! This religious ignorance remains the basis for the entire CO2 CAGW fraud!
    All the best!-will-

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  49. Will, Arrogance is an insulting way of thinking or behaving that comes from believing that you are better, smarter, or more important than other people. It does not necessarily imply that you are NOT necessarily better, smarter or more important. In fact it is all the more objectionable when you are better, smarter or more important and trade upon this.
    The climate scientists I met, knew or worked alongside varied greatly. Keith Briffa and Phil Jones were not arrogant, whereas “no-snow” Viner and particularly Sir John Houghton definitely were IMHO.

    Liked by 1 person

  50. Alan Kendall says: 07 Apr 18 at 9:05

    But Serf Beth would thou pullest down those academic walls luddyte like?…There is no free lunch, but it has become much cheaper.

    CHEAPER depends on one personal values! I prefer those of Beththeserf! 🙂

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  51. Alan Kendall says: 08 Apr 18 at 1:38 pm
    “Will, Arrogance is an insulting way of thinking or behaving that comes from believing that you are better, smarter, or more important than other people.”
    I agree! The belief, self righteousness! Please explain any actual knowledge by those you mention; of any concept\knowledge of the generation and propagation of spontaneous thermal EMR flux! All are blowing smoke out their ass!

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  52. Will I’ll leave you to make judgement on areas that you claim expertise in. I merely object to your generalities and oppose your unwarranted attacks on all academics and all academic institutions, misusing a GBS quotation along the way.

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  53. Alan Kendall says: 08 Apr 18 at 2:30 pm

    “Will I’ll leave you to make judgement on areas that you claim expertise in. I merely object to your generalities and oppose your unwarranted attacks on all academics and all academic institutions, misusing a GBS quotation along the way.”
    Alan I have made no such attack! I only criticize the conflation, union, intersection, of academia and arrogance! Do you deny such intersection?
    BTW I claim no expertise, only consistent failure! I have failed to observe\measure\demonstrate any spontaneous thermal EMR flux in any waveband or in any direction of higher radiance or temperature!
    THIS remains the claim of all that allude to Earth’s surface having higher temperature that the S-B equation predicts! This while ‘temperature’ itself is never a scientifically defined, property of anything physical! Why can this scientific atrocity not be corrected\abandoned\giggled out of existence ? 🙂

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  54. Arrogance in academia is quite rightly condemned, but not all academics are arrogant. In fact many eminent academics do not exhibit this vice. They know and acknowledge just how little they know or understand.
    Arrogance is also far from being confined to academia and may be found abundantly within government and industry. In fact, people with self confidence verging upon arrogance are essential. Decisions made under conditions of uncertainty need to be made in both settings.

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  55. Alan Kendall says: 09 Apr 18 at 8:32 am
    ‘Decisions made under conditions of uncertainty need to be made in both settings.’
    Have you scanned: Green Tyranny: Exposing the Totalitarian Roots of the Climate Industrial Complex. Rupert Darwall. Encounter Book, 2017. 334 pages?

    Like

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