Thursday, January 21, 2010

Climate chief admits error over report of Himalayan glaciers

The head of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) has been forced to apologise for including in its 2007 report the claim that there was a "very high" chance of glaciers disappearing from the Himalayas by 2035.
Rajendra Pachauri, the chairman of the IPCC, conceded yesterday that "the clear and well-established standards of evidence required by the IPCC procedures were not applied properly" when the claim was included in the 900-page assessment of the impacts of climate change.
The paragraph at issue reads: "Glaciers in the Himalaya are receding faster than in any other part of the world and, if the present rate continues, the likelihood of them disappearing by the year 2035 and perhaps sooner is very high."
Single source
The report's only cited source was a 2005 report by the environment group WWF, which in turn cited a 1999 article in New Scientist.
The New Scientist article quoted senior Indian glaciologist Syed Hasnain, the then vice-chancellor of Jawaharlal Nehru University in New Delhi, who was writing a report on the Himalayas for the International Commission for Snow and Ice. It said, on the basis of an interview with Hasnain, that his report "indicates that all the glaciers in the central and eastern Himalayas could disappear by 2035". The claim did not, however, appear in the commission's report, which was only made available late last year.
This week a group of geographers, headed by Graham Cogley of Trent University at Peterborough in Ontario, Canada, have written to the journal Science pointing out that the claim "requires a 25-fold greater loss rate from 1999 to 2035 than that estimated for 1960 to 1999. It conflicts with knowledge of glacier-climate relationships, and is wrong."
The geographers add that the claim has "captured the global imagination and has been repeated in good faith often, including recently by the IPCC's chairman". The IPCC's errors "could have been avoided had the norms of scientific publication, including peer review and concentration upon peer-reviewed work, been respected", they say.
Several of those involved in the IPCC review process did try to question the 2035 date before it was published by the IPCC. Among them was Georg Kaser, a glaciologist from the University of Innsbruck, Austria, and a lead author of another section of the IPCC report. "I scanned the almost final draft at the end of 2006 and came across the 2035 reference." Kaser queried the reference but believes it was too late in the day for it to be reassessed.
Publicly available IPCC archives of the review process show that during the formal review, the Japanese government also questioned the 2035 claim. It commented: "This seems to be a very important statement. What is the confidence level/certainty?" Soon afterwards, a reference to the WWF report was added to the final draft. But the statement otherwise went unchanged.
Grey literature
One of the IPCC authors, Stephen Schneider of Stanford University, California, this week defended the use of so-called "grey" literature in IPCC reports. He told New Scientist that it was not possible to include only peer-reviewed research because, particularly in the chapters discussing the regional impacts of climate change, "most of the literature is not up to that gold standard".
The Himalaya claim appeared in the regional chapter on Asia. "There are only a few authors in each region, so it narrows the base of science," Schneider says.
This week Hasnain has claimed, for the first time, that he was misquoted by New Scientist in 1999.
New Scientist stands by its story and was not the only news outlet to publish Hasnain's claim.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Christian Bible Goes Digital

Christian Bible Goes Digital

Time is never kind to paper manuscripts, particular those written more than 1600 years ago. Some 800 pages remain of the Codex Sinaiticus, a version of the Christian Bible written in the fourth century, and the original text is thought to be nearly twice as long. Historians believe the book may be world's oldest Christian Bible.

to today's online publication of the Codex Sinaiticus, scholars can examine the entire book from the comfort of their desks. Curious? You can explore the document yourself. Stephen Bates of The Guardian explains the significance of the online edition:
". . . so sophisticated is modern technology that scholars will not only be able to read the document on their screens using a standard light setting, but also separately by a raking illumination that highlights the texture and features of the very parchment on which the 800 surviving pages of text were written."
It's fair to say the online edition of Codex Sinaiticus won't have mainstream appeal. But the project does illustrate the power of the Internet to advance educational pursuits.

Sunday, July 5, 2009

why you'll want to play Batman's gritty upcoming adventure

Batman Fans Will Go Bat-Crazy ..
Kevin Conroy possesses the kind of voice that could probably part the Red Sea. It's only fitting that his acting prowess from Batman: The Animated Series, Batman Beyond and five seasons of the Justice League series would bring the Caped Crusader to life in Arkham Asylum, and it's good to have him back. That deep, baritone pitch has been something that Christian Bale likely weeped at his inability to mimic, although it probably doesn't help that Conroy's normal civilian speech sounds like the voice of God with a touch of Clint Eastwood (also God).

On the other end of the spectrum, Mark Hamill, who is arguably more famous for voice acting than his lightsaber skills, is providing the voice of the Joker. It doesn't get much better than that. Unlike goofy incarnations of Batman's less threatening foes, Mark Hamill makes the Joker sound straight up psychotic. How psychotic? Expose some small children to Batman: The Animated Series, and it's 90 percent certain that they'll develop a sudden, volatile fear of clowns.
Play with Insanely Cool Bat Tools like Explosive Jelly and Razor-Sharp Batarangs
Even if they don't always get the combat right (cough, Batman: Dark Tomorrow), most Batman games don't skimp on those wonderful toys. Arkham Asylum's no slouch either, as you've got everything from grappling hooks, mid-flight-controlled Batarangs and explosive Bat-Jelly that can pretty much turn anything into rubble. Heck, even the Joker's packing some heat, and by heat we mean face-searing, skin-melting acid. Oh, and he has a gun. Just in case the acid wasn't painful enough.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Google is hoping to dissuade the Department of Justice from bringing an antitrust case.

Increasing scrutiny of corporate behavior, Google is hoping to dissuade the Department of Justice from bringing an antitrust case.
For several months, Google has been explaining to regulators and journalists that, contrary to the predatory image painted by competitors, the company is fragile. It has made its case in Washington, D.C., New York, and Brussels, hoping to dissuade the U.S. Department of Justice and European regulators from bringing an antitrust case against the company.

After the lax regulatory atmosphere of the Bush administration, the Obama administration appears to be increasing its scrutiny of corporate behavior. The new head of the Justice Department's antitrust division said in a recent speech that the department would be taking a more aggressive approach with companies that use their dominant position to stifle competition. In a speech last year, before her appointment to the Justice Department, she said that Google had acquired a monopoly in online advertising.
Google also faces Justice Department scrutiny over its proposed settlement with book publishers and authors, Federal Trade Commission scrutiny over board members who also serve on Apple's board, and a Justice Department inquiry into the possibility that Silicon Valley companies such as Google and Apple colluded to avoid poaching employees from one another. Last year, Google abandoned a planned advertising deal with Yahoo to avoid an antitrust showdown with the Justice Department.

During the Google presentation, Adam Kovacevich, the company's senior manager of global communications and public affairs, acknowledged that the company's success has brought increased scrutiny. But he insisted that Yahoo (NSDQ: YHOO) was in a similar position a decade ago, citing a 1998 Fortune article that declared, "Yahoo has won the search engine wars."

"We also know our position is fragile," he said.
In keeping with Google's emphasis on data and metrics, Google legal counsel Dana Wagner, who coincidentally used to work in the antitrust division of the Justice Department, offered an anecdote in support of this claim.