Name and Blog Purpose

First I have stumbled across a good name for my blog: Things I Don’t Know Yet.  In light of this name I will be using this blog as a place to write notes on things which I am learning.  They will sometimes deal with broad issues such as time management, book reviews, social skills, health politics etc. but will more frequently deal with technical issues for example x-ray diffraction, probability, uncertainty analysis, and mechanics. Primarily the blog will deal with technical issues since this corresponds with my day job, making this blog serve multiple purposes.

Frequency of publication

Second, I will publish an article at least every Monday.  Occasionally I will publish more frequently, but once a week is plenty considering this blog is not my number my first or second priority.

Next Topic

The next topic I plan to write on is probability.  I have just begun Probability Theory: The Logic of Science by E.T. Jaynes.  So far it is well written and I anticipate learning and relearning lots about probability.  More on that is forth coming, but it is the final week of classes and I have a conference paper and journal paper to get off before the end of semester.


The Case for Global Warming Denial

There is some confusion as to sanity of global warming sceptics.  I present a possible logic.  I will begin by explaining what global warming is and why many people believe it is true. Then I will posit three reasons why people would be sceptical: two technical and one psychological which combined give a logical reason to be sceptical of global warming.

At the heart of the global warming argument is an energy balance relation.  This is the famous second law of thermodynamics which states the energy gain (loss) of a system is equal to the net flow of energy into (out of) a system.  Among all scientists and engineers there are none who doubt it.  It is a fundamental assumption and nearly 200 years of experimental testing have never shown it to be wrong.  At the basic level global warming then says the energy which comes into the earth is greater than the energy that leaves the earth.  Therefore the temperature of the earth increases because temperature is directly correlated with energy.

The primary energy source is solar radiation mostly in the visible light range.  Some of this light is absorbed by the earth and much of it is reflected away.  The primary mechanism for heat leaving the Earth is through infrared radiation.  And carbon dioxide (and other greenhouse gases) naturally absorbs infrared radiation very well  The absorbed radiation is then reemitted but in a random direction, so a little more than half is reflected back to earth.  It follows that if the carbon dioxide percentage or volume of the atmosphere increases we will increase the amount of energy in the earth.

There are of course secondary effects, and research has included them into their models as shown by this Bloomberg animation and the results are well correlated with data.

There are three reasons to be sceptical of this model.  The people involved are biased.  The observational data is less trustworthy than put forth.  There is lots of unresolved uncertainty in the models.

The people who conduct research in climate change have a huge interest in wanting to continue funding study of climate change.  It is how they feed their families.  Funding agencies have an incentive to fund to only the most important research because that is how they increase the amount of money they control and it increases their prestige and status.  When you couple these things together, you end up with the ability to hijack science.  Such claims have been made.   My father, a PhD chemical engineer, knows one scientist who didn’t privately believe in climate change but would publicly  believed in order to strengthen his proposals.  Finally the nature of selling suggests that many people will exaggerate the importance of their research in order to get funding.  This is going on to some extent, but it would be unclear as to how much. The significance, could be negligible but it could also create a systematic bias.

The second reason to doubt climate change is you don’t trust the data.  Not necessarily that it has been manipulated, but rather that we cannot obtain an adequate estimate for the average global temperature.  I am not questioning the methods used by scientists but there is a wide range of uncertainty in the data leaves the data suspect.  Our land based stations (especially in the US) do a reasonable job of covering the entire land but oceans covers three quarters of our surface.  And this is where there are issues. There is neither good coverage of the oceans nor precise locations of measurements.  In the experimental data, this error analysis is lacking (specifically because it makes the results less obvious).  As we move into the digital age the data is definitely better, but there are still open questions on how the old data compares to the actual value.  While, we have tools to estimate the uncertainty in the data, it is never presented with this uncertainty (because it makes the case for climate change weaker).

The final reason to doubt is lack of trust of the models.  While the models match data very well, there are still open questions in it’s usefulness in predicting the future.  In my day job, I do mathematical modelling.   Mathematical models are easy to match data if you throw in enough parameters. Just because you can get the model to match data, doesn’t mean that it matches reality.  What is really difficult is to get models which you can successfully calibrate to match future data.  The best test that these models match data is whether or not they can predict future climate changes (over 10-20 years).  As of now the validation of the models for prediction has yet to occur (due to the length of time needed).  The large number of parameters and complexity of the model leads one to question its ability in spite of getting the fundamental physics right.  That is I believe, with time, I could tweak the model and parameters in a way that matched data and showed minimal human effect without fundamentally altering the agreed upon physics.  Academia (and science) has long had a weakness in dealing with complex systems which cannot be broken down into simple systems that can be individually tested and global warming fits very neatly into this category.

The argument against climate change then goes like this.  Scientists who believed that human interaction was a significant cause naturally (without intent to abuse science) developed constitutive laws and selected parameters which were likely to match their initial assumption.  The scientists who did this were more likely to find continued fund while the ones who didn’t primarily were likely to lose funding.  Thus the results are skewed towards showing a greater dependence on humans than what is naturally the case.  These results have not been corrected because the time needed for predictive testing has not passed.  Additionally they continuously add more complexity to the model to account for additionally effects which gives them the permanent ability to never have to admit the model is wrong .

Personally, it seems that climate change has a stronger case than the deniers, but I think climate change denial can be an intellectual pro-science position.   Finally I believe that the government and it’s people have a responsibility to be good stewards of the land and much of the funding done under global warming prevention should be done because it is being good stewards of the land.  As Jesus once said, wisdom is justified by all her children. Time will let us know who is right.


The Case for Global Warming Denial

Influence the Weapons of Persuasion

The thesis of Robert Cialdini’s Influence the Psychology of Persuasion is that all animals (including humans) use mental short cuts to make decisions.  The short cuts work very well 90% of the time.  They are exist to encourage action while it can still be taken. They can be used ethically to help people make a decision and they can be abused to gain compliance. Fortunately Cialdini ends each section with defense mechanisms for when people try to take advantage of you.  Here we give a short overview of the principles of persuasion.  For more details and better explanations, I recommend purchasing Cialdini’s book.

Chapter 1:  Associations: People routinely form associations and short cuts in their minds.  A common example is expensive = quality.

Contrast.  When you perceive two things, the differences of the second compared to the first are magnified. For instance if you see something inexpensive (say a slice of pizza) and then something expensive (say a suit). The suit will seem very expensive because you naturally compare it to the price of the pizza even though suits and pizza are very unrelated.  Another example can be if you put your hand in cold water then stick it in room temperature water, the water will feel hot.  Try it at home by sticking one hand in cold water and the other and hot water then sticking both of them in room-temperature water.

Chapter 2: Reciprocity

One of the things which separates humans from other animals is that human society has been built up around reciprocity. Reciprocity is the idea that we should pay, in kind, what another person has given us. Reciprocity is perhaps the most powerful method in gaining compliance from others.  A powerful example of people using this to their advantage is Nielsen surveys.  Nielsen sends cash with their surveys (2 dollars with the first one) in order elicit a greater response from the participants.  As the recipient of the survey, you cannot refuse or return the two dollars and therefore feel obligated (even though they phrase as not pay) to give Nielsen reciprocate.

This tactic is also used in negotiating, when a concession is made by one party, the other party feels the need to meet the concession with one of their own.  This can similarly be used in sales. By asking for something more than what you originally wanted to sell, the buyer will likely refuse, but because they refused the initial offer the are more likely to buy something smaller because they rejected you initially and want to make a concession of their own.

Chapter 3: Commitment and Consistency

Dealing with people who neg on promises and are completely inconsistent is seldom worth the time and effort.  Therefore, normal sociable people have an psychological desire to be consistent and to keep their commitments. The tactic of internal consistency is so powerful that you can persuade someone to change their opinion on something simply by having them write it.  This was a tactic the Chinese used to convince American POWs during the Korean war to become more pro China.

Commitment works similarly.  If someone commits to doing they are very likely to follow through.  The example given by Cialdini involves someone stealing someone else’s things at the beach. In the experiment they had someone either ask their neighbor to keep an eye on their things or not and had someone else come by to “steal them”.  In the cases where the strangers was asked to keep an eye out, they intervened 75% of the time where as when they didn’t they in only intervened 25% of the time.

Chapter 4: Social Proof

In situations where we are uncertain we frequently look to others to guide our actions.  This works very well much of the time.  Or rather it works very well in terms of informing us what is polite, acceptable behaviour.  It also works well in times of trouble for instance if you don’t realize their is an unknown gunman on your college campus but you see a lot of your peers running in the same direction you might escape from the gunman simply by running in the same direction.  However this psychology (in my opinion more than any of the others)  can lead you astray.  The Nazi’s used this concept to help walk Jews into their mass graves without force.  Additionally many successful people advise the following: to be exceptional, do the opposite of what the masses are doing.  This psychology, however, is ingrained in all of us.

Chapter 5: Liking

People are more likely to say yes to people they like.  Therefore being likeable is very powerful.  Cialdini goes over numerous ways to be likeable: be attractive, compliment others, similarity, cooperation, and association.  People are more likely to like attractive people (male or female).  People like people who are similar to themselves.  People like those who compliment them.  People like people who are working together for a common goal.  Finally people like things that they associate with good.

Association is the only one which requires further explanation.  We are not too different from Pavlov’s dog.  We naturally make associations in order to better predict the future (it is how our mind creates models of the world). Therefore if we juxtapose anything with something we consider good or we like, that two objects without logic will take on the properties of each other in the mind.  For instance people always tend to think of pastors as being more righteous because they are associated with church and with the bible, things which are frequently considered righteous.  However I suspect pastors in general aren’t any more righteous than their congregation on average even though they will be perceived as such by association.

Chapter 6: Authority

People have a tendency to submit to authority.  We are ingrained at a young age to listen to our parents, listen to our teachers.  Therefore when someone who seems to have authority to us tells us to do something, we tend to listen.  Additionally the world is very complicated as such we tend to differ to people on areas where they have a position of authority due to expertise. Very few people will argue against doctors on what is best for the body.  In truth you will infrequently go wrong when listening to a personal trainer on exercise, a nutritionist on diet or a physicist on matters of science.  Listening to experts is frequently good, but it is important to remember that they are still human.

Chapter 7: Scarcity

Things which are rare are typically more valuable than things which are common.  While this isn’t always the case it tends to work very well.  When you see advertisers using the phrases such as “limited time only” or “only X spaces left” they are playing with this psychological short cut.  Artificially creating scarcity can help sales and drive up the selling price.

I believe Cialdini’s influence, The Psychology of Persuasion is a very interesting read and I highly recommend it.  Additionally it is very well written which makes it very easy to read.

Influence the Weapons of Persuasion

The Importance of Style and Voice

I don’t follow Good Looking Loser. It isn’t that I don’t think he has quality information.  In fact he has top 5 quality information.  When I do read his sites, I am always glad I do.  I almost always come away with actionable information to improve myself.  So I get a lot out of his site.  But I don’t read it regularly.  He is just too edgy for me.  I don’t think he should change, I just not into his style.  So, I want his information without his style but you never get to separate the two. It’s just that he likes to write about performance anxiety for your first time sleeping with a new girl, while I would prefer to write about biblical wisdom for the irreligious. Chris is very edgy and promotes being a dirtbag. On the otherhand I’m not edgy and I don’t aspire to be.

On the otherhand I like Mike from danger and play.  Mike is also very edgy, but for some reason I want to be associated with Mike but not Chris.  Mike isn’t any more or less righteous than Chris. Mike doesn’t have better information than Chris;  they both have first class information covering relatively similar niches.  I have not interacted with either of them, so their isn’t any reason to like one more than the other. Neither of them is more attractive than the other.  I just do prefer Mike to Chris.  The reason comes down to style and voice.  For whatever reason I appreciate Mike’s writing voice and style more than Chris’s.

Here’s the point, just because you don’t have anything truly original to say.  You should still write about it.  Why? Because somebody might like your voice and your style better than what is out there.  Your voice and style might be what allows someone to receive the message you are giving and make a positive influence in the world.  This is also why it is important to write it in your voice and not trying to imitate someone else’s.

Now for those of you who follow GoodlookingLoser, you will note that it is the same message as this beautiful post of his. But the difference is it’s in my voice.  In fact when I wrote it I hadn’t read the post, but remembered it about half way through the first draft.

So now the question is, how do you find your own voice.  And I don’t have a good answer.  But I have two suggestions, write down your thoughts exactly as you think them.  You might need to be by yourself, you might need to go for a walk, you might need to unplug. But you need to write down things that you say them.

The second suggestion is to use the They Say, I Say template. I read this book my freshman year of college, and it is the only thing I can ever remember about writing.  The book is very short and frankly I don’t remember whether it very good.  But I remember the template.  Write someone else’s opinions and then state why you agree with them or disagree with them.  For instance, at some point, I will talk about posture.  When I do, I will start by putting some of the common thought’s about posture (for instance Mike’s posture exercises)  and then I will tell why I immediately trusted what he said based on my experience with tai chi and neck, shoulder and back pain. Since I don’t have a great example of using this technique, I will link to Voxday who does this frequently.

The Importance of Style and Voice

How to Fail at Everything and Still Win Big by Scott Adams

I learned about Scott Adams from his writings on Trump and became interested in buying his book.  His posts on Trump have been the most fascinating real time look into political/persuasive strategy I have seen.  As such I wanted to learn more about what Scott had to say in general.  This is my overview of his book How to Fail at Almost Everything and Still Win Big.

Systems vs. Goals

The the difference between a system and a goal is that a goal is an object to be obtained and a system is the means by which you will achieve that goal.  For instance if my goal is to write a thesis or dissertation the systems approach would be to make sure to write everyday and make sure I am doing research everyday.  The intertwining of the book is focusing on systems is superior to goals

1.) Systems are psychologically easier on the body than goals.

Be definition goals are never complete.  And when they are completed they leave a what’s next feeling.  So, goals are inherently negative.  Systems on the other hand are inherently optimistic. As long as you are following the system, you have achieved.  That is, systems allow you to build positive feedback loops while goals make that difficult.

2.) Systems are more likely to succeed than goals

Because systems are inherently optimistic they give you psychological boost.  Secondly they allow you to consider failure (something that is bound to happen) a step in the right direction

3.) Systems allow you to play the odds.

Systems allow you to change what you are working on based on what you believe will be most successful without giving up.

4.) Systems are conducive towards long term thinking

With goals, you have to break them into piecewise parts (so you can be accomplishing something).  However with a systems approach allows you to pursue things not directly related to your goal that are likely to become useful later.  For instance I am starting a company in a very small marketplace.  I suspect the monetary return will not be worth my time. But I am learning a ton of useful skills: CAD, sales, manufacturing, design that I wouldn’t have learned in the normal course of my PhD program.  Likewise, this blog is unlikely to have a financial return

Some examples of systems

Below are some examples of successful people using a systems approach

Jerry Seinfeld wrote one joke everyday.

Another example of a is good looking loser’s golden rule: Do The Most Productive Thing At Every Given Moment

Scott Adams used the system approach (every new skill you learn doubles your chances at success) to start his own business.

Mike Cernovich from Danger and Play advocates using a system approach of developing multiple streams of income even if they are tiny in order to achieve financial freedom.

Stephen King recommends writing 1000 words a day.

Cal Newport, a computer science professor at Georgetown, recommends deliberate practice everyday.

Adams also suggests exercising everyday as a system for getting into shape and losing weight.  Focusing on exercising gives a positive feedback, but stepping on the scale gives negative feedback.

Energy Management

There are many ways a string can be loose, but only one which it can be taut. Naturally, not all systems are equivalent. So how do you pick a system which gets the best results in all of your desires.

The way I approach the problem of multiple priorities is by focusing on just one main metric: my energy.  I make choices that maximize my personal energy because that makes it easier to manage all of the other priorities.

Without a metric, it is impossible to optimize a problem, especially a problem with multiple outputs.  While it would certainly be possible to devise a cost function and manage your different wants and priorities with regards to the cost function, the energy measurement provides a simple effective metric which to judge your actions and systems.

Jujitsu You Mind

Scott recommends using psychological jujitsu on your mind.  An example of which is using your laziness as a way to accomplish your goals.  His best example is diet.  Scott always keeps healthy snakes available so that his laziness will cause him to naturally eat the healthy snacks and food.  This is practical application of Scott’s energy method, make everything you want as easy to accomplish as possible and make actions that are undesirable difficult to do.  Scott also applies such tricks to his work and exercise routine he builds habits (which are easy to maintain) through methods that are easy to start at times when his body and life schedule easily allow him to continue.


Scott Adams book How to Fail at Almost Everything and Still Win Big is a good read, which should take less than a day to read.  It will leave you feeling energized and ready to take on the word.  It is well worth the time to read.

How to Fail at Everything and Still Win Big by Scott Adams