You are currently browsing the monthly archive for July 2010.

      … when people clapped it sounds just like water … Great song too I love Toto as well as a good thunderstorm something so refreshing and clean! I can almost smell the rain! Wonderful effect, it is so amazing!
  • Update: July 30, 2010Quoting AdAequitas on YouTube re Slovenian choir Perpetuum Jazzile:

    Posted on July 05, 2009:

  • Oil spills: domestically triggered in Florida, and foisted on Michigan by our neighbourly act grace à our very own Enbridge
  • University tuition fees rising
  • Faculty positions in the humanities, even more so than in the sciences, plummetting
  • One’s boyfriend throwing a turf control tantrum
  • A beautiful tropical plant reminiscent of Pandora’s flora, gifted to one just a week ago, waning away in one’s failing care…

Thought I (and perhaps some of the ES visitors???) could use a mood boost, so reposting a vid of controversial joy-conductor André Rieu. Make no mistake, he is Dutch, not French, and his announced concert in Toronto this coming Dec just might happen – nonsequiturs, for me at least, can be ticklishly hilarious, so hope they’d work for you too.

 brush-ups, links: July 22-23, 2010; 1 more link: Aug 6, 2010

Happy 99th Anniversary, McLuhan World!
Today’s the 99th Anniversary since the birth of Canadian professor of English Herbert Marshall Mcluhan (MM henceforth), famously hailed as “the father of media studies (theory)”, “media guru/prophet”, “philosopher of media and technology”…

For those invested in continuing, upgrading, revising his theoretical heritage, or only just starting, Prepare to step up for the 100th anniversary on July 21, 2011!!!

Centenary events are in preparation in several cities in Europe (Barcelona, Berlin, Bologna & Turin, Copenhagen) as well as on this side of the Atlantic, notably Toronto, where he taught, Edmonton, where he was born, Winnipeg where he went to university, initially as a student of engineering, until he switched to English, and subsequently completed a PhD at Oxford, Great Britain.

The quotable-overquoted, and the under-read McLuhan
One of my favourite quotes with which MM is credited declares:

    I may have been wrong, but I was never in doubt.

The mind-catching spin to it that I–among numerous others–so much enjoy (get a real kick out of, to be precise) bares “what he said/meant” to contravening interpretations. Apart from characterizing the aphorisms attributed to him, this also extends to his scholarly views in general.

As illustrated by the adage above, the multiple ambiguity, so fluently created, is charged with

  • the appearance of the (genius’s) anticipated arrogance–that used to run, and still does–in the face of his academic environment,

and if you were to continue, e.g., with “…[in doubt] about speaking my mind, right or wrong, acceptable or rejectable”, you would also detect

  • an attitude of intellectual courage and a scholar’s honesty,

the clash of the two producing the trademark

  • daring humour, which his wife consistently pointed out in interviews, and so do his friends to this day.

In all evidence, the intellectual-naughty tease invested (cf. Mark Twain, even closer at times perhaps, Oscar Wilde) makes him so quotable and overquoted, while the import, both semantic and sociohistorical, remains for the majority, at least, under-read/-understood/-appreciated. I somehow tend to take this socio-semiotic dichotomy (curiously feeding off of the Sausseurean tradition’s sign-meaning dichotomy of the linguistic sign, note 1) as the ironic and best proof of the “truth” behind a couple of the most readily picked up quotes–call them “viral”, moreover unabatingly so, across time and cultural borders.

Medium = message in the Electronic Era global village

To start with MM’s prime quote, “The medium is the message” (cf. the book by the same name, with a catch, note 2) the tendency is either to get the phraseology, which in turn runs away with the meaning, or to just dig in one’s heels at first exposure, piping up, “This makes no sense!”, without making the effort to unravel the metaphor. Unravelling reveals the generalization that technology tends to project a meaning of its own, unanticipated and unintended by its designers, which may oust the meanig of the message that said technology is supposed to be transmitting, possibly to the point of overwhelming it completely. [note 3]

Global village“, of which–incidentally–MM is not the earliest recorded epistemic agent, aptly matches the buzz-creating capabilities of today’s discourses, co-located with electronic technologies. Spaces get created, where everybody knows and discusses everybody else, including the neighbours’ back teeth, so to speak. MM emphasizes that the global village is not a “good” thing, e.g., a friendly, safe place of idyllic brotherhood – contrary to what the phrase has come to mean for, e.g., the supporters of globalization as a beneficial development. It’s a space at a time when, to use another signature adage, “the earth has shrunk, the world has imploded” (ICT-minimized distances [note 4] + info overload), and the resulting compression has the effect of re-tribalizing humanity, i.e., divesting us of what civilization is presumed to stand for – yet another typical MM concept.

“The medium is the message” and “global village” are (linguistic) media in and of themselves. Each applies to itself, and both apply to the other. This explains the effect, stated above, of the interpretation of the quotes tending to be as superficial (according to the former), as their circulation is pervasive (according to the latter). Their meaning may be so elusive as to practically be suspended to the widest audience, yet their rhetoric, call it “sound”, makes them memorable, thereby speeding up transmission.

Off-target attributions
Oh, speaking of attributions, some might want to hear a snippet of setting the record straight from a gathering of McLuhan purveyors in Toronto last night. Even if regularly credited to McLuhan, the observation that “we create our tools and thereafter they create us”, should more likely be traced back to a quote by Winston Churchill in connection with the bombing of the British Parliament during WW2, which apparently had “buildings” in lieu of “tools”. Not that there aren’t other contenders.

Cultural longevity
If nothing else, what MM “did say”, and also “meant”, is guaranteed to keep X,Y,Z wondering for a long-long time still, where X,Y,Z equal those of whom one or more of the following are predicated:

  • welcome the chance to grapple with a discursive enigma, or
  • willy nilly plunge into this addictive routine, or
  • have no choice but to stop themselves from dodging a student’s query, or
  • are forced to “discuss the implications of” for homework, tests… brhrrrh.

In other words, the McLuhanesque style, from its best media-genic to its worst hermeneutic, and his theoretical heritage, from its scholarly deepest to its most fluid colloquial, can be as outrageously annoying for some, some of or possibly all of the time, as they are enlighteningly charismatic for others, all or at least some of the time.

The bottom line: the MM “itch”, which is not all that easy to reach and scratch may hold our attention for awhile still. Moreover, there are no guarantees that being able to scratch will not worsen the discursive itch 🙂

Extensions: an epistemological paradox
Communication Studies, in various combinations with “culture”, “media”, “technology/-ies”, have been cropping up in the post-sec edu field, even if they have been resolutely at worst, and ambivalently at best personae non gratae at alleged pillars of academia such as the University of Toronto and Harvard University. “[fee-paying] Students want…” has not been a quick cure on that score, it seems.

That situation obtains, although infelicitous communication–even in a pre-theoretic sense, i.e., as object of research–has proven time and time again to be a major stumbling block in discourses ranging from high politics to one-on-one relatedness. 

2do: Yet another “obvious 2do” item promptly snaps into place on the growing ES list of illogically unsolved, totally solvable agenda items. 

For future discussion: Fix humans to fix their “problems”? Thought I had written somewhere on the alternate~gradual / incremental~parallel Ecosonic Approach. Consider the search “on”.

Getting off the hook of metaphisics with a few MM-related links below.


NOTE 1: per FdeS himself, sound-concept in English translation.

NOTE 2: The Medium is the MassAge, which as a matter of fact was a genuine typo, turned out to be a blessing in disguise, on the one hand conjuring up “message”, with which McLuhan readers are likely to be familiar, and in addition spelling out the influence of media on the content they are meant to transmit.

NOTE 3: In this respect, MM is similar to Martin Heidegger (cf. essay “The Question Concerning Technology”), who saw technology as more than a mere tool, and more like a far-from-benevolent agent threatening our surroundings (nature), and ourselves. Philosopher of technology Andrew Feenberg categorizes the agentive view as “substantivist” (or non-neutral), and the alternative as “instrumental” (or neutral).

NOTE 4: ICT = information and communication technologies.

Websites and videos



This one was posted by kidberlin (in 2007), at whose request the direct link to YouTube was provided by WP.

Continuation HERE (admission: has a bite to it and, hopefully, a hold as well)

Is “average” all that average?
An “…Average Girl” blog triggered this (for me, unchracteristically temperamental) 2-post rant that had been building up to an explosion thanks to people getting into the habit of declaring Inexceptionality [i.e. themselves inexceptional], including in social media like WP.

Is the “average” statement objective–honest, self-ironic–self-censoring, self-defensive–preventive… Or belligerent–rebellious vis a vis the dominant stereotypes of “success”, “beauty”, “hi IQ”,… AND the criteria thereof, which shape the cybernetic (in the etymological “steering”/”controlling” sense) moulds crushing and ripping through bodies, minds and hearts that “unfortunately”, “somehow”, don’t quite “fit”, “belong” wherever~whenever~ however…?

Every.Single.Person who was and will ever be born Is.Special, and building first-last~top-bottom~most-least invidious, dichotomous, (self-)destructive hierarchies generates unfulfillment, scarily-easily scalable to resentment, bitterness and beyond…, which is epistemologically-axiologically and, if you like, morally wrong! On the analogy of “Black Is Beautiful”,

I submit: “Average” Is “Amazing”!  (formulation as ES principle)

A few What-if’s
Aren’t self-esteem and another’s worth a question of discovering – AND, to start with, tenaciously searching for – what your own Uniqueness is, and not hindering, on the contrary, respecting, and ideally, believing in and supporting others in their own quest?!

What if a competitive attitude wasn’t expected of the “successful” nor was it a sure path to societal recognition? Conversely, what if having talent and receiving praise by some didn’t turn one into a lighting rod for the destructive attitude of others?

If what each and every one of us could think~be~do entailed a non-replicable amalgam which was not in the face of but seen as benefitting others in one way or another, an “average” disclaimer would not be necessary as a way of declaring non-aggression, conveying good will, demonstrating likeability.

In my ES book, the AverageIsAmazing principle applies to both biotic and abiotic nature at large – every kitten, lion cub, tiger lily, grain of sand are unique and special, just for the fact of their existence – see posts ES Just Turned 3… and Jim Denevan’s Mayfly Perfection….

Things in Visual Perspective?
Scaling up from hypo-planetary physics, such as members of the global eco-system, and going for the macro-units of the universe, galaxies, here’s a funny thought to ponder:

How can one justify calling a galaxy “average”?

  • The Milky Way, our “home” galaxy
  • Other galaxies, spread throughout (pretty much) All Known Existence; A galactic foretaste–the Colliding Spiral Galaxies of Arp 271–that I promise does not help determine an (aesthetic, at least) “average”, since the images from the links above are no less “amazing”:
Galaxies also collide

Arp 271 Galaxies: Gemini Observatory, GMOS-South, NSF (USA)

Looping back to the level of planets, How “average” vs “amazing” is our own? NASA’s Earth Photo Gallery.

Links for Venus, Mars… ANYONE?

Continuation HERE (admission: has a bite to it and, hopefully, a hold as well)

Cameron’s movie, predicted-failure-turned-(not only commercial)-success, that gave this post its name: “seeing” as deeply relating to, tuning into.

YouTube credit: posted by on Oct 29, 2009

Picking up from the “…Amazing” post, I quote:

    … In my ES book, the AverageIsAmazingprinciple applies to both biotic and abiotic nature at large – every kitten, lion cub, tiger lily, grain of sand are unique and special, just for the fact of their existence – see posts
    ES Just Turned 3…
    and Jim Denevan’s Mayfly Perfection…

Competition, envy, low self-esteem, superiority ARE A HUGE WASTE of the beauty and richness of Diversity that our world has been gifted, where “world” equals “as far and deep as we can see~know~imagine, and we, humans, within it”.

Is harmonious Relatedness something new to our species? It has been discovered, writ in texts considered holy, has animated everyday life discourses through movies and comics books…:


    ‘love your neighbour as yourself’ (variations in Leviticus, Old Testament, aka Jewish Bible; Luke and elsewhere, New Testament)
    ‘seek and you shall find, ask and you shall receive’, ‘there’s more pleasure in giving than in receiving’ (variations in Matthew, John, Luke and elsewhere, New Testament)

Native American Indian cosmologies:

    give back what you take from Mother Nature; all is one, all is connected (pretty much synthesized in the belief system of the Na’vi


    see your partner as a handsome King/beautiful Queen, revere, adore them, tune into each other’s desires and rhythms…; attain to holistic and shared spiritual enlightenment (aka connection to the Divine) through profound sensorial awakening.


    “I see you” (greeting of the Na’vi
    from the planet Pandora, of course)

Graphic arts:

    Superman making things right in comics books & cartoons…

. . . and it goes on and on, recurring through Time and Space – the same precious insight rephrased in repository after repository of humanity’s religious-spiritual, artistic-cultural epistemologies, from the most elevated to the most colloquial and mundane, for the oldest as well as for the youngest, reflected in pervasive streams of the social imaginary.

However, “Philosophical” Qs remain…

When did you last hear of:


What we have is:

  • FORCING K12 STUDENTS TO DO VIVISECTION for the purpose of learning how biology “works”?
  • UNIVERSITIES METING OUT AWARDS FOR VERBAL DUELLING – what, you hadn’t thought of debates being verbal wounding & killing, for the reward/pleasure of dominating?
  • ZOOS EXHIBITING IMPRISONED ANIMALS RIPPED FROM THEIR HABITAT to teach the public what “wildlife” is like?
  • MINING COMPANIES SLICING OFF THE TOPS OF MOUNTAINS that have been gracing postcards/attracting tourists?
  • HUMAN RESOURCES DEPARTMENTS/EMPLOYERS HIRING/FIRING THE “WRONG” PEOPLE, and how come their criteria are different than yours…?
  • COUPLES SPLITTING – but didn’t you say they’d been madly in love?. . .

I’d better stop! We all know how long the list can get.
I am not saying ANYTHING NEW above, just letting loose–yet again–a few elephants-in-the-room. Strangely enough, these are all too conspicuous (I can hear the gasp “Not this agaaaaiiiin!”), have induced numerous head-to-head standoffs, yet the cumulative result to date is on the keep-the-elephants-where-they-are side.

    We, humans, have generated the situations that match the questions, so
    What would it take to get the right answers,
    reverse engineer and re-create–
    the eco-consonant way?
    Our home planet IS
    in our own hands
    come what may.

If only nursery-style rhymes could drive the point in – potty-train polluting industries, coax politicians into changing their underwear, ULTIMATELY,

    teach ALL of us
    from grassroots to transnational magnates
Handheld Earth

Superimposed Design by ES | orig CC img credit: WeatherNetwork

P.S. If we [ES and I] may, the “stormy” allcaps above shall not be de-capped into lower case timidity.

We do not want to have other planets fingerpointing at us, Earth, or even galaxies looking down on our home Milky Way, now do we! [check out the amazing images links in the “Average…” post, ]

Evidence of Cross-species Eco-consonance between the Little and the Big

This slideshow requires JavaScript.


Acknowledgements: tx 2 chain email culture 4 ecosonic charm mediation!

Some Mereology & Discourse Semantics (perhaps redundantly, cf. Note)
As a segue into a topic which is far from pleasant or expediently and completely solvable, the CRU emails (specifically, the Final Report, June 7, 2009, by Sir Muir Russell et al.), consider historian and philosopher of science Thomas Kuhn’s qualification of science  as “self-correcting” – academics on the “jury” were correcting other academics. 

Some might object to the Kuhnian notion at face value, and insist that science does not correct itself, but some scientists correct other scientists, or rather, the science those others (and they themselves) make. Based on the hermeneutic potential of discourse semantics, I submit that Kuhn is correct at the level of text as well as against the backdrop of the interpreter’s situatedness, thus the broader discourse shaped by social imaginaries.

His qualification applies to the extent that metaphoric transfer and metonymic scaling operate in the discourses that embeds (the word) “science” or science (note 1, discourse 1 and 2). Science being the process and product of scientists doing science can extrapolate to some in the set of scientists making the corrections, to some part of science under review, as well as to the science part in question, which may be contributed by themselves or by some colleagues, all of whom are part of the scientific community and discourse, whether co-situated in time and/or space or not.

In other words, agency is brought in the discourse metaphorically if scientists are treated as being external to the semantic structure of “science”, and the discourse is considered to trigger meaning transfer/association, or metonymically if they are considered part of science/the scientific process. The product or process of science are constitutive of the lexical semantic structure of “science”, thus independently of context (are listed in dictionaries). Given either of the discourse semantic processes above that “agentize science”, the reflexivity of science correction obtains by indirect equating: science = community of scientists and scientists correct science). Science corrects science, that is, it “self-corrects”.

At a secondary hermeneutic level, metonymic scaling obtains: not all belonging to the set of scientists are engaged in correction, nor does all of science get rectified in one go. Thus, we are dealing with narrowing of semantic scope, or downscaling, where the whole stands for part of the whole.

Multi-level containment
Compare the above to an expression with analogously mereological discourse semantics, “He shouldn’t scratch himself, measles can leave bad scars!”, which can also illustrate parthood hierarchies much more straightforwardly than the case above.

We are not being literal and spelling out the body part inclusivity, saying “(such and such finger (tip) of such and such finger(s) of) his right and/or left hand must not scratch such and such other part(s) of his body or (a) part(s) thereof, or each other, or itself/themselves”. The scratching would actually be executed–including possible parthood participation–by one or both hands, applied to a particular spot anywhere on the body, including the hands, or all over the body (sequentially, one would imagine).

But… let us proceed with head-scratching (which is a case of self-scratching) over CRU issues settled, unsettled, (possibly never) to be settled, where “settled” implies self- (of oneself) and other– (of others), auto– (by oneself) and hetero– (by others) correction.

Check out Academics Judging Academics Part II (still “almost done”)

Upgraded: July 15-16, 2010

NOTE: In most general terms: mereology = (theory of) parthood relations; discourse = 1. continuum of text/speech, usually (much) larger than a language or speech sign; 2. communication flows across media and (social) spaces, invested with literal and symbolic meanings; semantics = (theory of) meaning system and structure; metaphor = figure of speech, whereby an expression is used to stand for the concept expressed by another expression (also used in visual arts theory); metonymy = figure of speech, whereby an expression signifying the whole is used to stand for part of the whole (for which there is at least one other verbal expression), or vice versa, a part is used to stand for the whole (for which there is at least one other verbal expression); hermeneutics = (theory of) meaning and interpretation; rhetoric(s) = (theory of/approaches to/skill in) the fine use of language

Mini-edits, add-ons re Grad Ss’ epistemic agency (2&3): July 10-11, 2010

The promised follow-up on the post re Dr Walter Robinson’s talk at UT on July 8, 2010. 

1. Research questions applied to web discourses of North Carolina State University’s MEAS Department revolve around:
== Interdisciplinarity and collaboration
== Epistemic exchanges between MEAS and
==== future generations of climatologists/MEA scientists
==== general public (including non-MEA-ists) and policy makers
== Climate modelling
== Varia

Private Ecosonic joke, if you don’t mind:
MEA, apart from Marine-Earth-Atmospheric (Sci) also acronymizes Media Ecology Association. I’d say, what an apt parallel in view of the increasing importance of more robust eco-consonant communication&interaction between Earth Systems Science and society at large!

2. Multi-Interdisciplinarity and Collaboration. Import of Technoscience?
As is traditional for the agglomeration of the natural sciences that constitute the epistemology of “climate sci”, the notions of “multi-/interdisciplinarity” and “collaboration”, including the literal terms, pop up on just about every page linked to the Department of Marine, Earth and Atmospheric Sciences’ online hub of Research Centres and Groups:

Once again, though, whatever technologies are being developed seem to be the prerogative of marine-earth-atmospheric scientists themselves, not so much of (trained) technoscientists, such as software engineers in the case of climate models – which was also the case with GFDL at Prinston (see post “Notes on Dr Balaji’s Talk…”). For example, Lise Watson, a tech-savvy grad S, received a #1 conference award for conducting a study which “relied on numerical models as well as field experiments in a quarry and the Gulf, employing the robot “Plankton Mimics” she helped develop in the Wolcott lab”.

Not much evidence of technoscientists at the North Carolina State University Center for Marine Sciences and Technology (CMAST, italics mine) either, which would seem to indicate that unless technological needs are sufficiently small-scale to be internally satisfied, the technologies employed are researched/produced elsewhere. “Outsourcing” can be taking place either because this kind of specialization has an established/longer tradition (not seen as “outsourcing”, but as an industry in its own right), and/or because technology development is not as codependent with the science it is serving as is the case – some would argue – with climate models. In view of the longer history of, e.g., marine explorations, I’d hypothesize predominantly the former.

2.1 Hybridity: Among MEASs vs (Any) MEAS(s) and Technoscience
Should I look for arguments in favour of disciplinary hybridity (as I previously did for climate modelling and software engineering, on a principled basis), the almost exclusive use of multi-disciplinarity in the online discourses reviewed (over inter-disciplinarity), would call for a more detailed analysis of epistemic dependencies. Bearing in mind that “Earth Systems Science(s)” is the already (close to fully) established umbrella term for MEASs, the genealogical relation seems to have been granted taxonomic recognition.

As far as the natural sciences involved, in view of how closely related the objects of MEA study are, and the human agency (indivitual and collective) operative in the university context, the epistemological sovereignty of multi-disciplinarity, with the occasional interfacing brush would seem in fact to be the optimal research mode. The need for inter-disciplinarity (epistemological remixing) beyond the profiles of current faculty, projects, and research units being minimal, and the anticipation of a trans-disciplinary (and hybridity proper) stage being yet uncalled for – on its interpretation of requiring individuals’ a jack-of-all-MEA-trades committment.

As for the natural science – support technoscience hybridity, one need not exclude (and may have to embrace) the possibility that should, e.g., the independently developed heuristics of software engineering be
1) imported (given the requisite Time-Funding-MOTIVATION amalgam), and
2) looked at as having research worth commensurate with the core MEASs themselves,
the combined epistemological productivity may happen to exhibit exponential growth.

3. Educating Future Earth Systems Scientists for Requisite Epistemic Agency & Disciplinary Diversity?
Around 35 graduate and undergraduate students are listed as recipients of (prestigious) awards – research funding (from NSF, NASA, Fulbright), thesis and best conference paper awards, travel grants, including to China, New Zealand, conference trips, memberships, internships at prestigious institutions like NASA’s Goddard Institute, NCAR, Dept. of Defense.

In the absence of official announcements of RA and TA assignments through individual faculty grants, the extent of professor-(especially graduate) student epistemic exchanges by way of projects and ensuing conference presentations and publications cannot be given their due recognition. A single mention of a student-professor paper on the Awards page is far from a realistic reflection of co-authored research, that one would expect must be going on at a Dept. such as MEAS.

No links to student pages/blogs, or graduate student journals/newsletters, discussion groups, which deprives this overview of the student perspective. Or how they – doctoral students in particular – are being prepared to take up competitive faculty positions.

It was gratifying to come across an opportunity for undergraduate students to gain “early experience in climate modeling and international research collaboration” in the US and Eastern Africa, formalized as distance credit courses. Is this an option for graduate credit as well, or can one only count on receiving a scholarship (cf. Student Awards page) to get international experience?

Graduate student epistemic agency is explicitly mentioned at the CMAST. More specifically, through the “EES Village” (Energy, Environment and Sustainability Living and Learning Village), which represents implementation of alternative energies on campus, and through the Teaching Aquarium (ibid.), set up to “help… educate the public on the key role of estuarine nursery areas”.

Since award-winning students are announced on the list with their supervisors, a logical question – which certainly extends beyond the context of NCSU – queries what opportunities there may be for collaboration among students, which would seem to be premised, at least in part, on collaboration among professors. Further along these lines, Is the focus of a student’s research supposed to copy a subset of the epistemics of one’s thesis supervisor, and also to steer clear of collaborations – and knowledge – that is not directly streamlinable as thesis material? Or can one have co-supervision for MEA research, that is, does one start to develop holistically as a (grad) student, or do they wait until they get a job?

The answer – like in SO MANY other places across the humanities-soc. sciences-sciences spectrum – most likely refers to case-per-case variability, though a principled & structured approach may very well contribute to a Dept’s heightened profile.

4.1 Commendable Outreach Work for K12 Hands-on Sci Education
Both the CMAST and the North Carolina Climate Office (part of the University) have outreach experience, incorporating in their work the science education of middle/high school students.

CMAST offers the Summer Fellows Program, aimed at Carteret County high school students, through which students also accumulate credit for university scholarships.

Each year, students from Centennial Campus Middle School participate in a State Climate Office internship program, designed to introduce them to “the scientific process, as well as to the different aspects of North Carolina’s climate through data analysis and research.” More…

4.2 Inreach and Outreach
The Renaissance Computing Institute (RENCI) Weather Web program makes weather observation information accessible to
== RENCI disaster response researchers, state climatologists, emergency responders
== agricultural managers and citizens
== teachers and K12 students

5. Policy Making
IPCC is a frequent reference point, and the standard to measure up to.

A very good development worth noting is that an increasing number of mission statements of research units, general/”philosophical” research goals, state funded programs seem to be reflecting how crucial it is to communicate adequately the science beyond its disciplinary locality. The opening sentences of CMAST’s About Us page read:

The principal mission of the Center for Marine Sciences and Technology (CMAST) is to discover innovative solutions to questions and problems in marine systems and provide effective communication of these discoveries… By …  enhancing interaction with other educational institutions and agencies concerned with marine sciences and coastal natural resources, CMAST provides a focal point for citizen contact with NC State University’s marine science and extension faculty. (emphasis mine)

It is thus clear that the development of communication skills has risen considerably on the priority scale of university MEAS education, and I would like to think, of faculty’s own profile upgrades. The science – public epistemic gap is not the unspeakable Elephant.In.The.Room, and the concerted communicative effort that is being invested in handling it (anthropogenic climate change AND the rest of the infringement package), may well be poised to put a bridle on it.

6.1 Climate Models I. The Drive toward Economy and Green
Coming from the Climate Modelling Lab, what caught my attention was the development of a numerical algorithm for atmospheric dynamical cores with low memory requirements, thus lower energy consumption, for a “greener” climate simulation – beautiful eco-consonant parallel on more levels than one! If my eval of what the website presents is correct (see bolded phrases), said algorithm is characterized by:
== processing economy thanks to “minimal communication requirements in parallel”; high-order accurate convergence “without needing explicit filtering for stability”
== aptitude for long-term predictions in view of “stability at large time steps” (CFL > 1)
== good scalability/re-calibration capabilities through “flexibility to handle global and local dynamical scales”.

6.2 Climate Models II. The Best Are not Good Enough
From the empirical side of the North Carolina State Climate Office, according to the State Climatologist [name TBD]

…while there is substantial climate awareness, there is little climate education. And the best scientific models we have are not useful for NC, which leads to increased uncertainty for our clients and partners. Moreover, we often see climate model simulations improperly used without calibration or even an evaluation of their accuracy. Research to calibrate the global climate models to NC and downscale their forecasts is very much needed to provide more confident guidance on the possible impacts to NC. In addition, resources for climate education and climate applications are required to meet the needs of statewide and local agencies and businesses. More…

7. Faculty/Student Demographics and Gender Equity
6 of 37 faculty are women. 1/6
9 of 35 awarded students are women. 1/4
31 (+ up to 6 Chinese names) of 90 graduate students are female. 1/3

Is the female/male ratio moving toward a more equitable 1? One would have to look at undergrad student enrollment numbers as well, to determine whether there is an actual change overtime. Equity criteria in addition to Gender cannot be reliably assessed, if at all, based on the publicly accessible www evidence reviewed.

Mini-edits and additions re Grad Ss’ epistemic agency: July 10-11, 2010

the announced follow-up overview of NCSU’s MEAS Dept.

July 21 update: Dr Robinson’s pres courtesy copy

At the invitation of UT’s Department of Physics, Atmospheric Physics Research Group, Dr Walter Robinson, Professor at the Department of Marine, Earth and Atmospheric Sciences, North Carolina State University, presented a talk entitled “It’s All Connected: Model Biases, Gravity Waves, and the Dynamics of General Circulation”.

Dr Paul Kushner, formerly of GFDL, Prinston University, currently professor of Physics, UT, acted as host of the talk.

CONGRATULATIONS to him and his student, Lei Wang, for the successful thesis defence, which preceded the lecture!!!

After the talk, Lei Wang, theoretical physics no-longer-GS (!), and Yonggang Liu, paleo-physics GS, kindly provided useful pointers where to look for what I’m interested in – climate modelling heuristics, climate science for policy making, science~general public epistemic exchanges. We shared the observation that due to the tug-and-pull of specialization and genericity, it is not at all easy for a student (obviously, for a well established prof, too!!!) to go in sufficient depth for their research to “count”, while also obtaining at least a bird’s eye view of “hot topics” on the broader terrain of science. E.g., not all theoretical physicists would have more than an inkling of climate modelling, which is also a legit topic in theo phys. Neither would paleo physicists necessarily be ardent climate model developers, “training” a model to put out data that match the available record, however partial.

In anticipation of a courtesy copy of the PPt for the talk, I’m pasting the abstract below. [July 8 add-on: A few precious slides toward the end of the presentation, which deal with issues Dr Robinson officially labelled “general”, and during the pres referred to as “philosophical”, would be really good to link to! Right up ES’s alley, as already explored in a short series of posts commencing with <a href=”“Notes on Dr Balaji’s Talk…” .]


As global models evolve from climate models into Earth-system models, it is generally assumed that the basic dynamics of Earth’s fluids are simulated well. There remain, however, persistent biases in how models represent the dynamics of Earth’s atmosphere, even on the largest and putatively well-resolved scales. Thus, the development of better Earth-system models requires continued attention to how they represent the basic dynamics of the atmosphere and the ocean, at the same time that novel new processes are introduced. The best possible treatment of a biogeochemical process will likely fail if driven by erroneous dynamics.
No process in an Earth-system model is less glamorous than the extratropical zonal winds and their maintenance, yet significant model biases in zonal winds remain. These can be traced to uncertainties in gravity-wave drag, a which is poorly observed and understood but which plays a crucial role in the momentum budget of the atmosphere. Model zonal winds are sensitive to small errors in gravity-wave drag, for reasons that have only recently been understood and that will be elucidated in this seminar.
Failing to offer an immediate solution to this problem, a less hubristic approach to Earth-system modeling than that currently in vogue will be advocated.

I brought to the lecture my usual research questions:

  • Jim Hansen’s point about the impossibility for climate models to capture climate sensitivity, since there may (in his book, will) always be feedbacks we do not know about (The Storms of My Grandchildren, 2009; for the precise quote(s), see ES post Notes on Dr Balaji’s Talk, section Re the Computational Complexity of Models).
  • Uncertainty of climate forecasting (NB! which is NOT weather forecasting) as a routine factor in “doing climate science”
  • The importance of the ability of scientists to convey to the general public and policy makers that “uncertainty” IS NOT “unreliability” of science! To quote Dr Robinson, “We should be honest about uncertainty… It is a uniquely challenging problem that society is expecting us to do [me: in view of the implications for policy decisions invloving astronomical investments]”. I’d add, key players on the national and international politics scene to this day justify, e.g., not including climate change on the agendas of the June 2010 G8 and G20 meetings with scientists themselves not being “sure” Cf. post-G20 CBC interviews with former cabinet ministers of Canada!
  • The importance of educating non-climatologists [including scientists!] how to determine if they are being served “good” science, or politics-driven talking points (cf. James Hoggan’s exemplary investigative journalism account on the subject)
  • The ES audience can also expect some more text on the interdisicplinarity & collaboration profile of NCSU’s Department of Marine, Earth and Atmospheric Sciences, including their Climate Modelling Lab. Same as what I did for Prinston’s GFDL. (See post a-whole-prof-all-to-yourself-enviro-edu-prinstonu)

    INSTALLMENTS AS OF JUNE 2010             ES DEFINITIONS of para-/meta-/ping 

    Updated: July 30, 2010

    • 2010/07/30–an educational tool???
      A Star article by Lesley Ciarula Taylor re online interactive practice to give you a more visceral experience of the magnitude of the BP spill. Quoting the map caption:

        Web mapping guru Andy Lintner has created a map showing the Gulf oil spill centred on Toronto, on its real location – or anywhere else in the world you choose. Click on the map to start. To change the location, click on the map, then type a city name into the box in the top left corner.
    • 2010/07/29 McLean’s “frontline” coverage of BP spill old news?
      Canada’s Enbridge oil spill in a Michigan river, having doubled its length since yesterday, July 28th (CBC news), is heading toward the Great Lakes. Can’t say that a neighbourly “public apology” would be anywhere near enough, if moreover the company had been warned just last year by US regulators about corrosion of the pipeline, yet failed to act on their promise to provide replacement parts.A déjà vu collage of somber faces, ugly spots… Michigan senator’s matching radio statement.

    A couple of Toronto Star Online articles:


  • 4delight – archive since May 19th, 2010
    Ping “backup”, you might say, for Girl2Girl’sperky “Average” credo.
  • misadventuresofaveragegirl – archive since June 28, 2010
    WPfind. Just look at the comments on the ABOUT page – what does an “average” that is 100% so attractive for the respondents prove, just like a number of other WP com blogs on the ES Posts/Blogs of Note lists styled as “average”?My personal, resilient belief on the subject: post Average Is Amazing
  • thoughtsappear – turning 5 months next Fri!
    WPfind. A young woman’s frankness re Relatedness to Self & more. Feedback, JIC:
    == re “40 is the new 30”! 10-20 yrs from now… who knows what the “rule” will be 🙂
    == Great point re Relativity: earthquake @ 3.5 Marylanders’Mag = or > 5.3 Californians’Mag [my “translation”;July 17: so for us in Toronto, it would be in between to feel the way the author did, magnitute of ~4.6 – we got one thereabouts, 5.0MAG, on June 23]
    == AND, super-talented template design – Theme: Solipsus by Tiffany Nguyen!
  • 2010/07/16
    WPfind. A widely quoted Martin Luther King quote, credit to Quiet Rebellion, post timeless-words-of-wisdom

      Human progress is neither automatic nor inevitable. We are faced with the fact that tomorrow is today. We are confronted with the fierce urgency of now. In this unfolding conundrum of life and history there is such a thing as being too late…. We may cry out desperately for time to pause in her passage but time is deaf to every plea and rushes on. Over the bleached bones and jumbled residues of numerous civilizations are written the pathetic words: Too Late.

    It struck me that “the future is today” concept runs through the writings of Marshall McLuhan, UT Professor of English, hailed internationally as the “father of media theory”. His 99th anniversary next week, July 21st, thus upcoming Centenary in 2011. Interfacing with Martin Luther King on the subject of “progress”, he steers into a differently socially-culturally situated discourse about the “effects” of media and technologies redefining the meaning of “human”.
    Not trying hard enough to find when the quote is dated, the first link I chose to click brought up a journal issue, On Climate Law in an Era of Climate Change, Journal of Transnational Law & Policy 18, No 2, Forida State University (Spring 2010) 

  • 2010/07/12
    WPfind. BP oil spill takes over the Guinness World Cup from oil tanker Exxon Valdez (March 24, 1989, Alaska) for “worst coastal damage in an enviro disaster” – credit to rosesandwaterfalls – a blog with a tasteful look to match a young woman’s search “for her place, her heart, and ultimately, her destiny”.Per multiple upward corrections of US Gov’t stats May 27 – June 15, 2010, reported by Reuters (12,000min – 60,000max barrels per day), BP’s Deepwater Horizon rig may have been disgorging up to almost one quarter EXX every day, thus from an initial estimate of 1/7 – 1/4 EXX up to 2.8 – 7 EXX per month at the worst estimate, mid-June. (penalty estimates at the time, Reuters, Jeremy Pelofsky)Comparison with Spain’s spill of 1.88 EXX (66,000 tons to barrels conversion): “The BP Spill: Learning from Spain’s 2002 Disaster”,, by Lisa Abend, June 28, 2010 
  • 2009/12/01
    Meta-ping. A moment in the CRU epic that I didn’t have documented, recorded in a WA Post article by Juliet Eilperin, “Climate scientist at center of e-mail controversy to step down”. CRU Director Dr Phil Jones is quoted to have announced that same day:

      After a good deal of consideration I have decided that the best way to achieve this is by stepping aside from the Director’s role during the course of the independent review and am grateful to the University for agreeing to this. The Review process will have my full support.

    Correction to the staff writer’s article – the emails that were “seized” were not “several” but by orders of magnitude more, and not “by Jones” alone – Collection of CRU emails: href=” The allegations against CRU “behaviour”, however, are within the Director’s responsibility domain. 

    Ping credited for reference: libertyplanet. A repository of collected texts, archived since Aug 2008. Precious for a comparative study of authors’ (un-/intended) situatedness

  • 2010/03/10 – archive since April 2006
    Ping. An appropriate one for my CRU post today: why-academic-freedom The whole climate change debacle seems to have provided more than enough evidence in favour of having a protective (not all-forgiving!) buffer between industry and academia. My own UT is going toward tighter integration between the two, predicated on an exchange of sponsorship for (let’s called it) pre-booked employees.A precious research find in another respect as well: the blog is co-authored by 4 professors in the area of management and economics, affiliated to univesities in 3 different countries.A potent synchronistic moment – they are interested in the history, philosophy, and sociology of science.

  • 2010/07/09
    WPfind. A young woman’s transcendence of “multiple failure” is her remarkable success! The Gulf people’s hallmark resilience?Take A Walk On The Bright Side

  • NOTE to self: last 3 entriens from 3 pings to July 8 lecture post – How did the search engine/network make the connection?
    July 9 add-on: I mean, with those 3 ONLY! There must be so many others that contain “university”, “physics”, “professor”

  • universitywatchdog 2009/12/12
    Ping. At the time that the University of East Anglia’s “CRU emails” case was being credited with having effectively undermined Global Warming “alarmism”, universitywatchdog takes care of taking yet another realistic shot at the priesthood of Epistemic Authorty. Tragic (for the immediate actors) – farcical to boring (for the Brotherhood, oversaturated with the genre) – horrendous (for the uninitiated), the dismissal of X, followed by a series of exorbitant court procedures is laid bare in front of WP’sIf if readership:

      All of this might well have remained hidden from public view had Dr O’Nuallain not commenced writing a blog, or online soapbox, called the University Blog on Academic Tenure in Ireland. On the blog, Dr O’Nuallain called Prof von Prondzynski ‘a liar’ and ‘a person without honour’ and described three university colleagues as, respectively, a criminal, traitor and an idiot. More…

    Research Q: How does one separate the quality of the research product from the fallibility of human agents? Or should/could one? 


  • – alert page
    Para-ping. I cannot help but think of the tornadoes, lifting up this and that in The Wizad of Oz, incl. Dorothy’s house. Alliterative assoc, I guess, K.ansas – through Western K.entuckyU. Oh, and I LOVED being the Wicked Witch of the West, mayhap in anticipation of www (???) – made my own black satin dress, silver belt, tiara, and magic wand (waaaaayyyy back in grade 8).[NO I AM NOT covering the macabre Kentucky fried chicken association!]Research Q: Why would WP be better than other media for emergency announcements (to WKU students)?

  • abluteau – super-distributed audience appeal!
    Para-ping. SDAA=15 latest Comments Apr 30 – July 1, all by different users, on different posts.
    A blog from A.B. from “la belle province” (just look at the pics & you’ll see the title is well earned!), with international geographical span – to match the author’s traveller’s soul, I guess – which also encompasses Law Geography.It was so nice to read the positive BIO pg feedback from Jean! YES from me to hot chocolate + crusty bread + fresh butter – oh, and a recent culinary pleasure – Montreal omelettes!

      I still consider Canada to be our “conscience to the north.” I try to check in with the Globe and Mail – I am not as well versed with the Quebec papers. For that, I take your direction.I am a lover or all things French in the old and new worlds. I was briefly in school in Paris and so I love a bowl of chocolate with a piece of crusty bread and a little unsalted butter for breakfast. Proust was right about the import of such detail. They anchor us. More…

    original ping from 


  • sustainbydesign – archive since Aug 2009
    I totally embrace the import of Liza’s blog – holistic sustainability entails beauty! (aka, harmony in ecosonic terms; conscious choice goes w/o saying) ABOUT

  • some college archives blog!!!
    Para-ping. Smith College Archives Blog (since April 2007) – ABOUT

  • 2010/07/01 – archive since Jan 2009
    WPfind. on Media, PR & the Social Web. Author George F. Snell III presents an argument that quality-matters-in-social-media (as well as in ice-cream). I’m more succinct, Quality matters – period! Rewarding to meet a kindred mind 🙂 And a very serious blog writer.As to George’s point that “impulse control disorder” is the correct term for “addiction” to the Internet, aren’t they synonymous there semantic overlaps, or is that the joke of the “correction”? (I am the one joking here, not so much about the grim subject as our human attempts to “(over)analyze/(over)classify…”, read on.)Oh, note also the parallel acronymization of ICD (impulse control disorder) and ICT (information & communication technologies) – this has to be more than coincidental!?
  •   information
  • _______
    FYI: Re ICD; ICD can turn into Addiction – Dr Marc Kern 

  • The Manifesto for Agile Software Development, 2001
    Its 4 clauses:

      == Individuals and interactions over processes and tools
      == Working software [doing research] over comprehensive documentation
      == Customer collaboration [researchers/admin collaboration] over contract negotiation
      == Responding to change over following a plan
      The complete text plus the 12 Principles behind it

    Link to the Manifesto owing to’ s post the-egoless-knowledge-worker, from among whose 10 commandments I’ll quote 2 closely linked and, it seems, problematically ignored in our allegedly “knowledge” society – across the board: 

      5. Treat people who know less than you with respect, deference, and patience… [me: irrespective of power hierarchy status! – ???]
      7. The only true authority stems from knowledge, not from position…

    I’ll reverse the order, simultaneously asking my painful (because it presupposes a philosophical IS vs SHOULD clash) universal (because it applies at any level of societal structure) question, 

      How can the right epistemology prevail over misguided power to fulfill #7, and how can the No.Time.Scourge be suspended to fulfill #5?

  • Updated: July 30, 2010

    To celebrate ES’s first Comment Contribution, and since I cannot seem to get the Earth’s Anthem topic off my mind 🙂 , linking to one of the best candidates, in view of our world at present.

    Looking forward to the time when we will move BEYOND IMAGINING! Human history does have a persistent track record of “impossible” things that have turned out to be “possible”.


    YouTube publication by charlotteestchouette | July 18, 2008
    Vidéo-montage d’images illustrant parfaitement les paroles de la chanson. Il y a les paroles en anglais et en français.
    Video-assemblage of pictures illustrating the lyrics of the song perfectly. There are lyrics in English and in French.

    H20 “sees” the beauty of the dream too, by the looks of it:

     Emoto Labs' crystallization of "Imagine"

    Dr Masaru Emoto Labs' crystallization

    One cannot help but wonder what the crystal would look like without interference from words reflecting the ugliness that’s still going on…

    Chubby Checker – Let’s Twist Again… (because it’s SUMMER again!!!)

    Quoting a Comment: “50 years old and you can still play it at a house party and people dance”. YES!

    Credits: Ed Zerati; Edsonzerati | April 21, 2009. (wish I could control the width of the WP video plugin, but… – not the presentation Chubby deserves)

    Yupppeeee! Benny Goodman’s “Sing, sing, sing” arrangement I was looking for!!! Lovely kids as an extra bonus – apparently winners in a competition, later touring the world!

    Applause continues to pour in. A week up to a month ago one still reads: “wonderfull”, “awesome!!!”, “Blimey!!!! Superb”, “Estupendo!!”

    credits: eskimopieo0 | June 11, 2006
    Exchanges in Comment from a few months ago reveal that the girl’s name is Taylor, and at the time of the recording she was probably around 11. To be fair, the boy is just as inspiring, right?!


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