Steven Hawking is Wrong

Steven Hawking is quoted as saying we now only have 100 years to leave Earth and find another habitable planet because those in charge of Earth are going to make it unlivable

I think he is absolutely wrong. The amount of fuel and other resources to get to ANY other known exoplanet for even 1,000 humans is a very large fraction of our present total annual energy and materials output of the entire planet — and would impoverish all the remaining 99.9999% of the population of the planet, even the 1% who currently have way too much.

For a very tiny fraction of those financial and material resources, we could devote some time, thought, planning and resources to make it so that wilderness areas are preserved, we stop filling the atmosphere with CO2 and methane, and we stop causing extinctions and fouling our own nest. In other words, we need to stop screwing up the air, the oceans, the lakes, the rivers, and the land itself. We certainly have all the money to give every living human soul a decent life, and we can preserve wild places so that there still will be wild animals running free on every single continent.

To my knowledge as a fairly avid amateur astronomer, we have yet to find even a single exoplanet that humans could actually exist on. While a number of of exoplanets are calculated to be in the ‘warm-enough’ zones, we don’t yet have any way of telling whether life has arisen on any of them. While at some point, spectroscopes will be able to discern what elements make up their atmosphere, it would be a stretch to say we could tell whether there is in fact life of any sort. If some do have living cells, we would not know what sort of overall chemistry they would have. There is no magic law that we know of that says that every ‘habitable-zone’ planet has lots of liquid water, an atmosphere that we would find breathable, and living cells based on RNA, DNA, and chlorophyll.

If we were so lucky as to find such a ‘pink unicorn’ planet around Proxima Centauri, the closest known star –‘only’ about 4 light years away — It would still take about 40 years to get there, at best (if we can get the speed up to  10% of c, the speed of light). Once they arive, the colonists would have to build, pretty much from scratch, all of the resources of NASA, European Space Agency, and those of Russia, China and India — combined. Which might take 50 – 100 years if they work really fast, so it could easily take one or two centuries for the first voyagers to return from Proxima Centauri – the very closest possible known exoplanet system.

No thanks.

No thank you to the idea of leaving this beautiful blue Planet Earth en masse. It’s the only place in the entire universe that we KNOW you can find a place that is reminiscent of Heaven. Yes, life is Hell for many of its residents, but with the proper amount of good will, we could fix that. Sure, let’s keep exploring with robotic drones and orbiting and Earth-based telescopes. It’s fine to send some expeditions to Mars and other places in our Solar System that have human crews, after we’ve made it a bit safer and affordable. But don’t believe for a minute that there is any other place in our Solar System where people can safely and affordably settle and raise families!

Let’s clean up our own nest instead of fouling it up some more for some crack-pot idea of massively escaping the ONE. AND. ONLY. KNOWN. HABITABLE. PLANET. IN. THE. ENTIRE. UNIVERSE.

Yes, it’s true that the owners of the large corporations and those who run governments and even small farmers, fishermen and the rest of us all over the planet are in fact screwing up Planet Earth almost as fast as we can. Our continued use of fossil fuels and generation of smog and water pollution goes on apace. However, we know how to fix all of that. It’s not hard, and many places have instituted protections (regulations) that will slow it down and eventually turn it all around.

Let’s fix Earth, not dream of leaving it.

Sorry, Dr Hawking, you are wrong.

Texas Decision Slams Value Added Measurements

And it does so for many of the reasons that I have been advocating. I am going to quote the entirety of Diane Ravitch’s column on this:


Audrey Amrein-Beardsley of Arizona State University is one of the nation’s most prominent scholars of teacher evaluation. She is especially critical of VAM (value-added measurement); she has studied TVAAS, EVAAS, and other similar metrics and found them deeply flawed. She has testified frequently in court cases as an expert witness.

In this post, she analyzes the court decision that blocks the use of VAM to evaluate teachers in Houston. The misuse of VAM was especially egregious in Houston, which terminated 221 teachers in one year, based on their VAM scores.

This is a very important article. Amrein-Beardsley and Jesse Rothstein of the University of California testified on behalf of the teachers; Tom Kane (who led the Gates’ Measures of Effective Teaching (MET) Study) and John Friedman (of the notorious Chetty-Friedman-Rockoff study) testified on behalf of the district.

Amrein-Beardsley writes:

Of primary issue will be the following (as taken from Judge Smith’s Summary Judgment released yesterday): “Plaintiffs [will continue to] challenge the use of EVAAS under various aspects of the Fourteenth Amendment, including: (1) procedural due process, due to lack of sufficient information to meaningfully challenge terminations based on low EVAAS scores,” and given “due process is designed to foster government decision-making that is both fair and accurate.”

Related, and of most importance, as also taken directly from Judge Smith’s Summary, he wrote:

HISD’s value-added appraisal system poses a realistic threat to deprive plaintiffs of constitutionally protected property interests in employment.

HISD does not itself calculate the EVAAS score for any of its teachers. Instead, that task is delegated to its third party vendor, SAS. The scores are generated by complex algorithms, employing “sophisticated software and many layers of calculations.” SAS treats these algorithms and software as trade secrets, refusing to divulge them to either HISD or the teachers themselves. HISD has admitted that it does not itself verify or audit the EVAAS scores received from SAS, nor does it engage any contractor to do so. HISD further concedes that any effort by teachers to replicate their own scores, with the limited information available to them, will necessarily fail. This has been confirmed by plaintiffs’ expert, who was unable to replicate the scores despite being given far greater access to the underlying computer codes than is available to an individual teacher [emphasis added, as also related to a prior post about how SAS claimed that plaintiffs violated SAS’s protective order (protecting its trade secrets), that the court overruled, see here].

The EVAAS score might be erroneously calculated for any number of reasons, ranging from data-entry mistakes to glitches in the computer code itself. Algorithms are human creations, and subject to error like any other human endeavor. HISD has acknowledged that mistakes can occur in calculating a teacher’s EVAAS score; moreover, even when a mistake is found in a particular teacher’s score, it will not be promptly corrected. As HISD candidly explained in response to a frequently asked question, “Why can’t my value-added analysis be recalculated?”:

Once completed, any re-analysis can only occur at the system level. What this means is that if we change information for one teacher, we would have to re- run the analysis for the entire district, which has two effects: one, this would be very costly for the district, as the analysis itself would have to be paid for again; and two, this re-analysis has the potential to change all other teachers’ reports.

The remarkable thing about this passage is not simply that cost considerations trump accuracy in teacher evaluations, troubling as that might be. Of greater concern is the house-of-cards fragility of the EVAAS system, where the wrong score of a single teacher could alter the scores of every other teacher in the district. This interconnectivity means that the accuracy of one score hinges upon the accuracy of all. Thus, without access to data supporting all teacher scores, any teacher facing discharge for a low value-added score will necessarily be unable to verify that her own score is error-free.

HISD’s own discovery responses and witnesses concede that an HISD teacher is unable to verify or replicate his EVAAS score based on the limited information provided by HISD.

According to the unrebutted testimony of plaintiffs’ expert, without access to SAS’s proprietary information – the value-added equations, computer source codes, decision rules, and assumptions – EVAAS scores will remain a mysterious “black box,” impervious to challenge.

While conceding that a teacher’s EVAAS score cannot be independently verified, HISD argues that the Constitution does not require the ability to replicate EVAAS scores “down to the last decimal point.” But EVAAS scores are calculated to the second decimal place, so an error as small as one hundredth of a point could spell the difference between a positive or negative EVAAS effectiveness rating, with serious consequences for the affected teacher.

Hence, “When a public agency adopts a policy of making high stakes employment decisions based on secret algorithms incompatible with minimum due process, the proper remedy is to overturn the policy.”

It’s not so much that we have bad teachers (even tho they do exist): It’s an incoherent educational system that is at fault

Very interesting article in Atlantic by E.D. Hirsch on the problems facing American education. Among other things, he finds (as I do) that Value-Added Measurements are utterly unreliable and, indeed, preposterous. But most of all, he finds that the American educational system is extremely poorly run because its principal ideas lack any coherence at all.

Here are a couple of paragraphs:

The “quality” of a teacher doesn’t exist in a vacuum. Within the average American primary school, it is all but impossible for a superb teacher to be as effective as a merely average teacher is in the content-cumulative Japanese elementary school. For one thing, the American teacher has to deal with big discrepancies in student academic preparation while the Japanese teacher does not. In a system with a specific and coherent curriculum, the work of each teacher builds on the work of teachers who came before. The three Cs—cooperation, coherence, and cumulativeness—yield a bigger boost than the most brilliant efforts of teachers working individually against the odds within a system that lacks those qualities. A more coherent system makes teachers better individually and hugely better collectively.

American teachers (along with their students) are, in short, the tragic victims of inadequate theories. They are being blamed for the intellectual inadequacies behind the system in which they find themselves. The real problem is not teacher quality but idea quality. The difficulty lies not with the inherent abilities of teachers but with the theories that have watered down their training and created an intellectually chaotic school environment. The complaint that teachers do not know their subject matter would change almost overnight with a more specific curriculum with less evasion about what the subject matter of that curriculum ought to be. Then teachers could prepare themselves more effectively, and teacher training could ensure that teacher candidates have mastered the content they will be responsible for teaching.”

 

300 Scientists Claim There is no Climate Change …

But what type of scientists are they?

This rather funny article I found in The Guardian shows that almost none of them have any actual experience in the study of climate changes.

Here is an excerpt:

There many are other examples that list no degree, affiliation, or expertise, such as:

BEE, Roger: ();

BEETHAM, Barry: ();

I guess having a first and last name are sufficient to be included in this list of eminent scientists. Sadly, the list also includes William Happer, who is under consideration for the position of President Trump’s science advisor, and also a couple of fellows we know to be quite nutty.

Finally, how about the person who appeared to orchestrate this letter, Richard Lindzen? Well, he may be best known for taking contrarian views on climate change that are not substantiated by the research, and being wrong on all of them. In fact, he has put forward multiple studies that were shown to be incorrect or questionable by his colleagues in the field. 

A summary that I coauthored of his work is available here with links to all of the relevant studies so people can read for themselves. In fact, one of his studies was rebutted by three separate papers within a year of publication. This is astonishing – most papers are never rebutted. In fact, I would venture that most scientists never have a paper rebutted in their entire career.

What is the takeaway message? As I’ve said many times, the science is settled. Human emissions of greenhouse gases are causing the Earth’s climate to change. It’s practically impossible to find a reputable climate scientist who disagrees, or a climate scientist who can support an alternative view. It is also very difficult to find a scientist who thinks that the warming isn’t a problem, or isn’t significantly caused by humans. But, this isn’t a lack of trying on their side.

When the folks denying human influence on climate can only generate the type of signatures attached to this letter, it shows that while they are good at getting press, they are not good at climate science.

Of course, press may be all they ever wanted in the first place.

Published in: on February 28, 2017 at 1:17 am  Comments (1)  
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What have those godless anti-American libtards done for me anyway?

(Copied from elsewhere; author unknown but reprinted with thanks to whoever it was. Also thanks to my friend Kathryn Wadsworth who put this out on FB!)

A DAY IN THE LIFE OF JOE REPUBLICAN AMERICAN

Joe gets up at 6 a.m. and fills his coffeepot with water to prepare his morning coffee. The water is clean and good because some tree-hugging liberal fought for minimum water-quality standards. With his first swallow of coffee, he takes his daily medication. His medications are safe to take because some stupid commie liberal fought to insure their safety and that they work as advertised.

All but $10 of his medications are paid for by his employer’s medical plan because some liberal union workers fought their employers for paid medical insurance – now Joe gets it too. He prepares his morning breakfast, bacon and eggs. Joe’s bacon is safe to eat because some girly-man liberal fought for laws to regulate the meat packing industry.

In the morning shower, Joe reaches for his shampoo. His bottle is properly labeled with each ingredient and its amount in the total contents because some crybaby liberal fought for his right to know what he was putting on his body and how much it contained. Joe dresses, walks outside and takes a deep breath. The air he breathes is clean because some environmentalist wacko liberal fought for laws to stop industries from polluting our air. He walks to the subway station for his government-subsidized ride to work. It saves him considerable money in parking and transportation fees because some fancy-pants liberal fought for affordable public transportation, which gives everyone the opportunity to be a contributor.

Joe begins his work day. He has a good job with excellent pay, medical benefits, retirement, paid holidays and vacation because some lazy liberal union members fought and died for these working standards. Joes employer pays these standards because Joe’s employer doesn’t want his employees to call the union.

If Joe is hurt on the job or becomes unemployed, he’ll get a worker compensation or unemployment check because some stupid liberal didn’t think he should lose his home because of his temporary misfortune.

It’s noontime and Joe needs to make a bank deposit so he can pay some bills. Joe’s deposit is federally insured by the FSLIC because some godless liberal wanted to protect Joe’s money from unscrupulous bankers who ruined the banking system before the Great Depression.

Joe has to pay his Fannie Mae-underwritten mortgage and his below-market federal student loan because some elitist liberal decided that Joe and the government would be better off if he was educated and earned more money over his lifetime.

Joe is home from work. He plans to visit his father this evening at his farm home in the country. He gets in his car for the drive. His car is among the safest in the world because some America-hating liberal fought for car safety standards. He arrives at his boyhood home. His was the third generation to live in the house financed by Farmers’ Home Administration because bankers didn’t want to make rural loans. The house didn’t have electricity until some big-government liberal stuck his nose where it didn’t belong and demanded rural electrification.

He is happy to see his father, who is now retired. His father lives on Social Security and a union pension because some wine-drinking, cheese-eating liberal made sure he could take care of himself so Joe wouldn’t have to.

Joe gets back in his car for the ride home, and turns on a radio talk show. The radio host keeps saying that liberals are bad and conservatives are good. He doesn’t mention that the beloved Republicans have fought against every protection and benefit Joe enjoys throughout his day.

Joe agrees: “We don’t need those big-government liberals ruining our lives! After all, I’m a self-made man who believes everyone should take care of themselves, just like I have.”

Compare ‘Education Reform’ to Ineffective but Profitable Quick-Weight-Loss Schemes

John Viall compares the past 15 years of education ‘reform’ to the past 30 or 40 years of completely counterproductive weight-loss schemes — in both cases, the results are exactly contrary to what they were promised to be. In one case, we can see that America’s obesity rates are some of the worst in the world. In the other, we have certainly not ‘raced to the top’ on TIMMS, PISA, or any other international test, despite all of promises by both the Bush and Obama administrations.

He concludes (I added some color):

“For a sixth time the PISA test was administered in 2015.

Now, 15-year-olds from seventy countries and educational systems took the test. How did U. S. students fare?
The envelope please.
In reading U. S. students scored 497. In other words, after fifteen years of school reform and tens of billions wasted, reading scores were still down seven points.
Fifteen years of listening to blowhard politicians—and U. S. students averaged 470 in math, a depressing 23-point skid.
Surely, all that meddling must have done some good? No. Science scores averaged 496, still down three points.
Fifteen years of diet plans that couldn’t possibly fail and, metaphorically, we were all just a little more fat.
PISA scores had been the foundation on which all school reform was built; and after all these years, America’s 15-year-olds were scoring 33 points worse.

If US Students Are Doing Worse After 15 Years of Test & Punish (NCLB, RTTT, ESSA, etc), Then By All Means Do It Harder and More Vigorously!

You probably saw the results that American students actually did a little worse than in previous years on the international math/reading/science test known as PISA, and are falling behind their international peers. If you didn’t, here are a few links: here, here, and here.

If you’ve been paying attention, you’ve probably noticed that since 2001, the American public education system has been laboring under various ridiculous laws like ‘No Child Left Behind’ which mandated that by 2014, every single student in every single subgroup in every single school would magically become ‘proficient’ on American tests that are similar to PISA, or else their teachers and administrators would be fired, the schools would be shut down, and their education would be turned over to private charter operators.

Of course, not all American students became magically proficient – that was not possible, just like not everybody can run a 5 or 6 minute mile, no matter how many coaches you fire. However, many, many schools were shut down, many teachers and principals were fired, and private charter operators have taken over the profits from educating more and more students.

Two states stand out from the rest: Michigan and Massachusetts.

Michigan, the home of incoming EdSec Betsy Devos, has turned over the education of its poorest students to lots of charter and voucher schools — and if you look at the results, they are terrible. Detroit appears to be the worst of all cities tested, in fact. (See graph below) Therefore, she (and many other ‘reformers’) want to extend those efforts to all 50 states.

Massachusetts, however, has a serious cap on the number of charter schools. Its citizents recently voted down a proposal funded by people like DeVos to remove that limit and open up dozens of additional charter schools. May I add that Massachusetts has the highest NAEP scores in the nation? * And teachers who are generally union members? Quoting from one of the Post articles, our current secretary of education, who thinks that the solution to everything educational is more charters, more testing, more standards, and more vouchers:

“King pointed to Massachusetts, where students excelled on the PISA test, as an example of how states can get education right.”

In other words, if you do everything that King and Devos recommend, then you might guess that your test scores will go DOWN. If you do the opposite of what they recommend, then it looks like scores go UP.

math_tuda_barchart1-2015

  • Although Boston is not #1 in scores of all large separately-tested cities, Massachusetts as a whole is in fact #1 on the latest NAEP. Don’t believe me? Look it up here.

 

 

More on Rigging Elections

Now, let us suppose that somehow the Hillary campaign actually managed to

(a) make sure that a rigged coin – supplied by them, not taken from somebody’s pocket – was used in each of the six coin toss cases

(b) figure out in advance which caucuses had to get those coins

(c) tell their person which side of the coin to choose in case a toin coss came up,

(d) none of the other folks noticed any of this skullduggery taking place right in front of their eyes — (by the way, you should watch this video of how this worked in practice)

THEN, yes, that weighted coin might help their odds, as you can see in this chart:

rigging-elections

I used the binomial theorem to figure this one out. Let me give a few examples: in the row that’s highlighted in green, the probability of heads and tails is both 50%, and as I indicated int he last post, the probability of getting ‘heads’ five times out of six is about 9.38%. However, if you could somehow figure out how to make a coin that came up ‘heads’ 60% of the time, then your chances of getting 5 heads would improve to 18.66%.

And if you could boost the unfairness of your coin to the point that it would come up heads 80% of the time then your chances of getting 5 ‘heads’ would be 39.37%. Still not a slam-dunk.

I only know of two ways to make a coin biased. One method is to carefully split two coins in half the hard way, and make a two-headed coin (or two-tailed) coin. Such coins are actually sold in magic shops.

The other method is to bend the coin slightly – I am told that the concave side will end up being on top more frequently (like a cup).

So, Hillary’s nasty minions would have had to either distribute a bunch of bent coins or two-headed coins, and nobody else would have had the brains or eyesight to notice, for this to have been rigged.

I don’t think so.

Who is responsible for most carbon emissions?

An article in Nature* profiles a meticulous researcher who has shown that a small handful of companies were responsible for the vast majority of all carbon emissions, and that well over half of those emissions happened since my own children were in elementary school. Scary.

“The result, peer reviewed and published in Climatic Change, showed that just 90 companies contributed 63% of the greenhouse gases emitted globally between 1751 and 2010. Half of those emissions took place after 1988—the year James Hansen of NASA testified to Congress that there was no longer any doubt that global warming had begun.”

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(* Nature is the magazine of the AAAS (formerly known as the American Association for the Advancement of Science). Most of its articles are quite dry and technical descriptions of rigorous scientific experiments in every field that currently exists. It is not a propaganda sheet!)

 

Remedial College Courses and Real Problems

From a recent discussion on the Concerned4DCPS list about a recent NYT article on the numbers of students taking remedial courses at the college level. I have taken the opportunity to revise and extend my remarks. If you want to read these in chronological order, start at the bottom.

===========================

(From me:)

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