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Fact or Fiction—Chinese Medicine's San Jiao theory?

"Theory" is certainly not the right word from the perspective of mainstream medical culture. Most times it just refers to a body location. It's mostly terminology.

The Upper Jiao is essentially the Thoracic Cavity, and the Orophalanx (mouth basically). Everything above the diaphragm relating to Digestion and Circulation, and almost all of of the organs of Perspiration. It belongs alongside Thoracic Cavity in a Scientific Occidental Medical Practitioner, as an Organ Group.

The Middle Jiao is the core of digestion—Stomach, Liver particularly the closest cells to the Hepatic Portal, "Spleen" (digests red blood cells more efficently than the liver), and the Duodenum. Sparing the colourful descriptions, this is areas where food is mostly converted .

Finally, the lower burner is mostly dealing with slow extraction of less and less useful food matter, and includes the Ilium, Colon, and—along similar lines to the filtering of waste matter—the Kidneys. But also the Adrenal Complex.

Then, there's the part which is not a Theory, either—it's a more of a conjecture, scientifically speaking. It describes digestion, and some basic interactions between organs. Some of them are direct (such as the transferring of digestate from the middle to the lower jiao), and some more conceptual.

Acupuncture has been investigated in what could be called the history section of science—for instance at Cambridge in the early 20th, Joseph Needham or Gwei–Djen Lu as he became to be known left a tome of books called Science and Civilization in China which is fascinating in its own right, but a special one called Celestial Lancets for what was called "Occidental Medicine" or even "Eastern Medical Science" at the time by Western scholars. The most detailed reference translation between Eastern and Western medical concepts I am aware of is L'Acuponcture Chinoise, though I have only rarely delved into it. There's a nice vampire story in there, I would call it something of an Easter Egg for the observant (it's in a section of Chinese Medicine dealing with unusual forms of death).

But the books I read were much simpler, and written by later authors trying to leave less cryptic, though more approachable for beginner–level tertiery students. Books such as Zang Fu by Jeremy Ross and the Foundations of Chinese Medicine by Giovanni Maciocia. I have read a few of these books, though I decided that there were more pressing problems I needed to apply my life to than the relatively intellectual pursuit of Scientific development of Chinese Medical concepts. I've left my life of scientific pontification and petty miracle working that never was to join the "one—degree war".

I still find research in the field interesting, though.

I wrote up a Wikipedia page to go along with this image, and while despite my complaints about deletionism, much of the text I wrote seems to have been left intact since I wrote it to accompany the image in 2007 or whenever it was. I'll leave it for now on my own blog, I realise it is not currently citable material and missing some due diligence with citations. But the above books are a pretty useful set of general citations for this. Perhaps someone will one day verify it better.

San Jiao Theory

'''San Jiao''' is a term found in [[traditional Chinese medicine]] (TCM), as part of modelling the workings of the human body attempted by early Chinese medical writers. References to it can be found in the oldest Chinese medical texts available, including the ?Yellow Emperor's ?Huangdi Neijing.

San Jiao has been translated as "''triple heater''," ''triple warmer'' (or ''three warmers'')," and "''triple burner''," the latter of which is probably favored because of the involvement of the San Jiao in ?metabolism. The current WHO standard term is "Triple Energizer" (TE), but many authors still prefer to use San Jiao.

The San Jiao as a body model

There are three "burning spaces":

A drawing of the body, a composition of freely available body parts and a few line drawings showing which each organ group each organ belongs to, as well as the other parts of the San Jiao theory (svg source) This is a picture I drew of all of this as I was trying to wrap my own head around what it is. All the organ parts come from other free SVG files on WikiMedia. I uploaded it to WikiMedia, but unfortunately it didn't get the right MetaData to stick around; a copyright notice apparently not being enough. It probably counts as original research, anyway.

  • The Shang Jiao (upper burner) - corresponding to the thoracic cavity. This space includes Fei (lungs) and Xin (Heart), and is associated with respiration.
  • The Zhong Jiao (middle burner) - corresponding to the upper part of the dorsal cavity. This space includes Wei (Stomach), Pi (usually called "Spleen", but better called the "nutrient uptake system", eg in ?WMS terms the Hepatic Portal System, various secretory pancreatic cells, perhaps the duodenum, portions of the lymphatic system carrying ?chyle, as well as catabolic and transaminoic functions of liver cells) and is associated with digestion.
  • The Xia Jiao (lower burner) - corresponding to the lower part of the dorsal cavity. This space includes Xiao Chang (small intestine), Da Chang (large intestine), Shen (Kidneys), Pang Guang (Bladder) and is associated with elimination.

    Other ?Zang Fu theory organs were not included in the San Jiao model.

    The Hand ?Meridian (Chinese medicine) of San Jiao Shao Yang is so called because of its generalized effects across the San Jiao. San Jiao is not an ?organ (anatomy). In fact, many Zang Fu organ translations do not directly correspond with their defined western organ.

    The Shao Yang channel is the second shallowest channel in the six divisions of ?Meridian (Chinese medicine), and its hand division - San Jiao - starts at the fingernail of the ring finger, travels up the outside center of the hand and arm, encompasses the elbow, continues to the back of the Acromio-clavicular joint (part of the shoulder), meeting with the other Yang channels at the junction of the seventh cervical and first thoracic vertebrae (GV-14 "da zhui"), before travelling up the neck to behind the ear, encompassing the external ear and terminating at outer tip of the eyebrow. Aside from Wai Guan (TE-5), its points' most common clinical uses are for local problems.

    San Jiao relationships

    In TCM theory, the San Jiao is a yang organ paired with the ?Pericardium (Zang) (Xin Bao) which is the yin organ associated with it. Yang (Fu) organs are typically hollow, whereas yin (Zang) organs are more solid. The triple burner, however, is said to be primarily energetic and does not have a physical component, unlike all the other organs in TCM. In ?dissection a body, one would not be able to find a structure that could be called the San Jiao.

    The San Jiao's Hand-Foot partner is Dan (Gall Bladder).

    San Jiao function

    The San Jiao is also said to be a metabolism mechanism similar to an old-fashioned ?water wheel that is turned by incoming water and creates ?energy for accomplishing a task, such as grinding grain in the case of the water wheel, or for metabolising and ?digestion ?food in the case of the San Jiao. The San Jiao is closely associated with the ?Spleen (Zang) functions of transformation and transportation, particularly the metabolism of incoming food. The San Jiao is also closely associated with the ?Kidney (Zang)'s function in TCM. The San Jiao, however, is not limited to one metabolism function as the spleen or kidneys are, but is a general metaboliser which can be applied to a variety of metabolism needs.

    This dual usage of San Jiao to refer to a specific metabolic function and to refer to the areas of the body is a source of confusion, and care should be taken to make it explicit which is being referred to.

    San Jiao and Wu Xing

    San Jiao is related to the fire element of the ?Five elements (Chinese philosophy).

Posted early Thursday morning, January 12th, 2012

Was that a "hit" ?

The big earthquake just been. Did Ken Ring's predictions "hit" it?

According to my previous betting schedule, I wagered these bets:

  • 3 chips on ±1 day surrounding the lunar equinox [ paying 14:1 ]
  • 3 chips on ±1 day surrounding the lunar perigee [ paying 14:1 ]
  • 2 chips on ±1 day surrounding the point of maximum declination [ paying 14:1 ]
  • 2 chips on ±1 day surrounding the full moon [ paying 14:1 ]
  • 2 chips on ±1 day surrounding the new moon [ paying 14:1 ]
  • 1 chip on ±1 day surrounding the point of first quarter [ paying 14:1 ]
  • 1 chip on ±1 day surrounding the point of third quarter [ paying 14:1 ]
  • 2 chips on ±1 day surrounding the lunar apogee [ paying 14:1 ]

Let's just assume for now that the chance of the earthquake is completely random (it isn't; there is a 2% extra chance at lunar perigee, but let's not worry about this for now).

The earthquake was (in GMT/UTC) at 13 June 2011 at 02:20.

The lunar perigee (closest point to earth in its orbit) was at Jun 12, 2011 01:43:00 AM GMT - miss by all of 37 minutes

The point of southern lunar declination was at Jun 15, 2011 8:54am GMT - miss by 1d 6h 34m.

The full moon was at June 15, 20:14 GMT (very shortly, along with the eclipse of course) - miss by 1d 18h 34m.

Darn. Didn't win any pots.

Let's widen the odds to ±2 days:

  • 3 chips on ±2 days surrounding the lunar equinox [ paying 7:1 ]
  • 3 chips on ±2 days surrounding the lunar perigee [ paying 7:1 ]
  • 2 chips on ±2 days surrounding the point of maximum declination [ paying 7:1 ]
  • 2 chips on ±2 days surrounding the full moon [ paying 7:1 ]
  • 2 chips on ±2 day surrounding the new moon [ paying 7:1 ]
  • 1 chip on ±2 days surrounding the point of first quarter [ paying 7:1 ]
  • 1 chip on ±2 days surrounding the point of third quarter [ paying 7:1 ]
  • 2 chips on ±2 days surrounding the lunar apogee [ paying 7:1 ]

The paid odds reduce, because the windows are wider.

The 3 chips on the perigee paid off, returning 21 chips. All other bets failed, returning nothing. 16 chips were laid down. Total profit: 5 chips.

What about widening the odds to ±3 days, making the odds 3.5:1?

Then, the 3 bet on the perigee, the 3 on the full moon, and the 2 bet on the declination all pay back. Again 16 chips were laid down. This pays back 28 chips, a more substantial profit, in fact almost doubling the outlay for this month.

I guess when gambling, sometimes you win. To enjoy it the most, you need to forget all the times that you went home empty-handed instead.

Posted Wednesday evening, June 15th, 2011 Tags:

Wild-Type Outer Membrane Vesicle Vaccines

Vaccines. They're putting hobbled viruses and bacteria into our system so that they can cause an infection, and thereby build an immunity, right? Like Smallpox and Cowpox, right?

Well, sometimes. That is called a Live Attenuated vaccine. They're difficult to manage and relatively high risk.

There are many different types of vaccine, all of which involve hobbling the rogue organism to different degrees.

If they get cooked, nuked (that is, sterilized in an irradiation facility such as the one in Upper Hutt), or perhaps killed with strong salt, acid, base, or some such - then it's called an inactivated vaccine. These are a step up.

They still work, even though the vaccine or bacterium does not cause an infection. They do not replicate in the body. Any reaction that occurs, will be an immune response only. All that means is that your immune system is responding to the foreign matter, like it is when you get a pimple or your hayfever plays up.

A diagram showing the formation of an Outer Membrane VesicleA vesicle is a little bubble of cellular membrane. It has all of the external markers or antigens, without the dangerous bacterium inner.

A step up again from an inactivated vaccine is a sub unit vaccine. If you, through chemical manipulation, extract just a part of the organism - then you have the safest known approach to creating vaccines today. They are lower in side effects, easier to manage (as there is no live agent to keep alive), although as a real infection does not occur, several shots are needed to provide immunity. If there was a "real" infection, it would provide the body with a steady stream of greeblies to fight.

The type of vaccine used for Mengingococcal disease (group B, the type causing NZ's epidemic since 1991) is called wild-type outer membrane vesicle or wtOMV in the medical literature.

It is something of a testament to the success of modern medical science that society demands almost perfect results from it. But these are relatively early days for the wtOMV approach. It is extremely specific and targeted to a particular strain of a disease. It may not provide indefinite protection; but through testing it can be shown that it can provide protection for long enough to stop an outbreak.

Scientists are working on this. I read with interest the abstract of a paper on the performance of vaccines including MeNZB:

There is good reason to believe that in the coming few years the “OMV-concept” will be exploited further and that a number of cross-protective “universal” antigens will be included in vaccines against serogroup B meningococcal disease.

This is extremely promising. We're not there yet, and so when vaccines didn't work 100%, it's a good idea not to start hating on the scientists or the institutions supporting them. I mean, certainly make them work for their money and stuff but don't forget that most of these scientists are simply motivated individuals who want to use their talent and skills to make a difference. Look at the far-flung institutes that produced that paper: Norwegian Institute of Public Health, Oslo, Norway; Institute of Environmental Science and Research, Porirua, New Zealand; Victoria University, Wellington, New Zealand; Finlay Institute, Havana, Cuba; Novartis Vaccines & Diagnostics, Siena, Italy; Ministry of Health, Wellington, New Zealand. That in itself speaks volumes about the independence of their work.

Why is the MeNZB Immunity only Temporary?

A chart showing the Humoral Immune Response chartHumoral Immune Response is shown here; other forms of defence include innate immunity (a wide category including everything from enzymes in tears to the skin) and phagocytosis.

The full picture of immunity is quite a complex picture; but nonetheless it is well known; one of the things that was certainly very striking to me as I was studying First Year Anatomy & Physiology was the level of detail that science knows. I was quite surprised to know how much information was known, even in the decade-old book I was using as a text.

But basically, immunity is only permanent if it goes through a particular stage of the immune response. I won't pretend to remember the intricate details, but in essence you don't get the strongest protection without a real infection, and real infections present the greatest danger - perhaps death with some diseases.

What about averse reactions?

You might already be primed to attack that material being injected to you. You might already have acquired immunity, in which case the reaction will be much more immediate - your system knows these foreign particles and the alarm bells go off. This will cause a reaction.

This is especially the case with N. meningitidis. It is considered normal flora in your throat - 5-15% of people are expected to have it. The throat has an organ called the tonsils which allow the body to prepare itself for infection by fighting the bacteria in the food you eat. So, it's quite expected that a good number of people will already be immune and therefore elicit a stronger immune response.

But it's temporary, and links between vaccine responses and autism have been not only debunked but revealed as fraudulent. Don't let yourself be duped!

What about breast feeding?

For the first 6-12 months of your life, you have antibodies (one mechanism of immune response) floating in your blood which were transferred from the mother. This is called innate immunity, but these antibodies are not transferred via breast-milk; the baby's digestive system will destroy them before they can!

It's all a vast Big Pharma conspiracy!

Cartoon: Opponents of the Cercical Cancer Vaccine speak out

For a start, pharmaceutical companies are probably actually undermining their medium-term takings by producing vaccines. Wouldn't it be cheaper for them not to produce them at all, and instead sell us remedies when we fall sick?

I have very little time for complaints like this in New Zealand, where there is Pharmac for bulk purchasing power. I just don't believe that the staff at Pharmac - some of whom I have known and talked to in the past - can be duped by sales execs or that the independent monitoring panels would fail to pick anything up.

That said, I certainly disagree with direct to consumer marketing, and from a macro-economic perspective, the pressure from maintaining high profit margins by our current implementation of capitalism can appear (and often even be) sinister.

The fight against these diseases is the raw fight for existence, which in modern times is already stepping outside of our frames of reference. We need concerted action on this, not half-hearted. It's a war-scale effort - don't defect to the enemy!

Posted Thursday night, April 14th, 2011 Tags:

Vaccines and MeNZB

There's a big anti-vaccination movement around at the moment, and I think it's ill-advised and extremely unhelpful to society.

I recently had a friend die of Meningococcal disease. Not a very close friend, to a person I know she was like a second daughter, well by analogy she was to me like a second cousin I saw at larger family gatherings.

However as she died at a ridiculously young age and was otherwise in good health, I found it somewhat disturbing and so started to research on this phantom menace disease. I knew little about it other than it must be one of those classes of disease which infect the dorsal cavity (the surrounding of which is called the meninges) which contain the spinal cord and brain.

A scanning electron microscope picture of a Neisseria meningitidis bacteriumA scanning-electron microscope (I assume) picture of N. meningitidis

Turns out, that there was a New Zealand epidemic of this disease caused by a bacterium ( Neisseria meningitidis) which, according to the Wikipedia article on it, is found in 5-15% of adults. Quite how it goes from being apparently harmless flora in the throat to infecting the blood and meninges is still a mystery.

So this means that the disease can be controlled in two, perhaps three ways: firstly by controlling the spread of the flora by getting people to be more aware of things like sharing saliva and handwashing, to reduce the chances that you have any of the disease in your throat. Secondly, you can immunise, so that if the bacterium does get into your bloodstream, your immune system has a better chance to repel it in time. Lastly, anything to boost the general health of the immune system might help.

A scanning electron microscope picture of a Neisseria meningitidis bacteriumA picture from Nature showing N. meningitidis is gram negative

There are many groups of the disease, A, B, C, W135, X ... most of these have simple, cheap polysaccharide vaccines and a new conjugate vaccine for type A has recently been developed. These are relatively low-cost and are used in African countries.

However the New Zealand outbreak was primarily group B. So, this requires a more technical counter where you basically have to strip the bacteria of their outer membrane vesicles, mix those outer bits with some adjuvant and a buffer solution, then dilute the whole lot in saline. When injected, it will usually stimulate the immune system into fighting an easy fight against the tiny pieces of the bacteria - an in doing so, tool them up to be able to fight the real thing should it ever have to.

A labeled diagram of the meningococcal cell wallStructure of the meningococcal cell wall. Capsular polysaccharides and outer membrane proteins are the target of ongoing vaccine research. (from

It's not 100%. Perhaps for practical reasons they had to select a single dominant strain. It can go wrong in a number of places. The immune system might not respond to the vaccine and so immunity might not be conferred. This is a common misunderstanding, people have this assumption that once you get the shot you are immunised for life and if you catch the disease then the immunisation must be a fraud.

Fighting epidemics is fighting statistics. It's frustrating because it's very hard to see if it worked, and if you are trying multiple approaches, which one was more effective. To get the most benefit, when there is an epidemic, you target the vulnerable group - in this case, people who are likely going to be swapping saliva with the most number of different partners intentionally or inadvertently - in this case, under 30's.

A diagram of the meningococcal NZ disease outbreak vs vaccinated percentageThis graph comes from an anti-vaxxer, but note the sharp drop in incidence as the vaccination is more widely taken up.

That doesn't mean that such statements imply that people who die of this dreadful disease were swapping saliva more than any other person. It doesn't mean that when I call for wider immunisation that I am casting aspersions on the parents of my friend. She was immunised. Everyone says shining things about her.

What I'm calling for is co-operation with the medical field and people to stop passing around these poorly founded arguments against vaccinations, for it helps no-one to simply give up on one of our key approaches to combating epidemics.

In particular, if you are the sort of parent who chooses not to immunize, because of fears about a minor rash or because it's not 100%, you are detracting from the value of the immunization programme. You are detracting far more than the share of the population represented, you include a percentage of the people they come into contact with. That's the network effect in reverse. It gets shittier the more people who opt out.

I'm angry at the 17% of parents who said NO to the programme. I'm angry at the one third of NZ health professionals who think there is a link between Autism and MMR vaccine but are too lazy to research for the benefit of spreading better information. I'm angry at Sue BradfordKedgeley for supporting the anti-vaccination cause.

I guess my main point is that the argument against vaccinations that says that we shouldn't immunise, because you know children need a few good diseases to harden themselves up, pretty much falls flat when those diseases cause sudden death. Worrying about vaccine side-effects or big pharma conspiracies is a First-World Problem, and acting on them has a cost in blood.

Posted Monday night, April 11th, 2011 Tags:

Ravings to Hypothesis: a stab at a "Ring function"

As others have pointed out, Ken Ring makes a lot of predictions. As Ring does not attempt to turn his viewpoints into rigourous studies, the best that work like this normally deserves is referencing the closest rebuttal of similar ideas along with some reasoning as to why it is sufficiently similar. Not every crackpot idea deserves a full scientific investigation! But the supermoon hypothesis is now gaining momentum, at least in the media.

Ring does make some quantitative predictions, let's look at perhaps this section from a book of Ring's, Moon & Weather Lore:

Earthquakes mostly occur when the perigeal or apogeal moon is at either declination(stitial colure) or crossing the equator (lunar equinox), and within one or two days of either of these. A detailed glance at any earthquake gathering station will reveal that around these dates the numbers of quakes rise steeply and then dropoff afterwards as the moon moes out of those declination zones. Close perigee and full Moon or new moon adds to the potential for increased earthquake activity along the moon's path between the latitudes.

And later, from Predicting the Weather by the Moon:

There is evidence that moonquakes increase when the Moon is closest in its orbit to the Earth. Correspondingly, we might expect an increase in Earthquakes at that time, (the perigee) too. Earthquakes are triggered by the moon in its monthly movement north and south of the quator and its orbit around the Earth. The word ‘triggered’ is used here because the Moon may pass over a danger point many times until the stress on a fault becomes too great, after which the fault may give in one sudden movement.


One of the main danger times is when the Moon is crossing the equator during the monthly declination cycle. This is the time while the Moon is moving quickly between the hemispheres. When the Moon is at the maximum 28° declination, it will cross the equator twice each month at about seven degrees in a day which gives considerable pull on the planet. At minimum 18°, it crosses at about four degrees in a day and the effect is less positive.

The other danger point is while the Moon is at either of the maximum declination positions north and south of the equator. The Moon is at these positions for about three days and does place considerable strain on the techtonic plates while there. It must be remembered that the Moon is always on the move and a quake can happen at any time.


In G.A. Elby's book “Earthquakes” (Heinemann 1980), 209 earthquakes dating back to 1505 were recorded with their dates. We can check each quake against Moon phases. 96%. of these quakes recorded which were above 6 on the Richter Scale, occurred exactly on or within a day of one extreme feature of the Moon cycle, that is, New Moon, Full Moon, Apogee or Perigee. 75% involved two factos; when the say, the Perigee plus Full or New moon were on the same day.

So what's the summary of this?

Ring actually predicts Earthquake risk as a function over time and space. Each of the major events in the cycle of the moon's orbit represent increased risk factors; a confluence of extremes, further risk again.

This might not exactly correlate with past studies into lunar earthquake relationships; a study which fails to find a pattern only disproves its own method - it does not exclude other studies which might use a different method.

That being said, it's not a good idea to ignore studies which produce negative results; they shave away at the idea, approaching it from many different angles, until the balance of probabilities is that the idea is considered disproven.

Testing Ring's theory scientifically.

Perhaps the simplest approach to testing a prediction theory would be a gambling game, similar to roullette.

The goal of this is to show, scientifically, that a certain limited sets of dates have an increased risk of earthquake. If a significant relationship is found, these dates could potentially be used as quasi-arbitrary dates for civil defence planning.

Ladies and Gentlemen, bets please.

As the model makes predictions, the ‘house’ pays odds on those predictions based on the odds of that prediction occurring according to best accepted theories.

You are allowed to place this pot on future times, and possibly, specific regions (which would lengthen the odds dramatically).

Where the earthquake events occur, they pay back to the bet placed on them, times the released energy in units of, say, log E, where E is the energy released by the earthquake in MegaJoules, such that getting a hit on a very large earthquake pays back handsomely.

Odds would shorten after an earthquake for aftershocks in the region, according to current established theory. For some types of analysis, it may be more useful to simply remove aftershocks from the input data to avoid having to make prediction functions include aftershock predictions.

The nice thing about this is it allows people to "play" real-time, as well as being able to test the past success of the forecasting abilities (a technique known as hindcasting). Thus people who are not able or willing to share their methods can participate and be judged fairly.

Gambler's ruin

A function which simply places bets on all outcomes is not useful and will result in a high score. There are several ways around this:

  1. the betting agent has a finite pool of chips which they can only bet until they have run out; the house scores in terms of paid back chips, and functions are compared by the amount of chips they have in their pool. The nice thing about this is that it is somewhat self-regulating. However it is more difficult to reason with.

  2. placed bets are scaled so that they represent a predicted energy release function, with the total energy release matching the energy release of the period. The "overlap" is the score of the function.

  3. A statistical significance test. Feed the prediction function or predictions with random input data (with known aftershock behaviour built into it) and see how many times it gets such a high score. If the score run against the real data is never matched by the prediction function with random input data, over say 100 runs, then this may be enough to show statistical significance at the 1% level.

A concrete "Ring Function";

The function will bet on a series of extremes and mid-points:

  • 3 chips on ±1 day surrounding the lunar equinox
  • 3 chips on ±1 day surrounding the lunar perigee
  • 2 chips on ±1 day surrounding the point of maximum declination
  • 2 chips on ±1 day surrounding the full moon
  • 2 chips on ±1 day surrounding the new moon
  • 1 chip on ±1 day surrounding the point of first quarter
  • 1 chip on ±1 day surrounding the point of third quarter
  • 2 chips on ±1 day surrounding the lunar apogee
  • 3 extra chips on the lunar perigee bets covering the 2 closest lunar approaches every 18.6 years
  • 3 extra chips on the lunar apogee bets covering the 2 furthest lunar distances every 18.6 years
  • 3 extra chips on the bets covering the maximum declination on years where the declination is at its maximum 28° (as in 2004/5)
  • 3 extra chips on the best covering the lunar equinox, on the bets that surround the maximum declination times (ie, the points where the change in declination peaks).

The above should be able to test the claim from Predicting the Weather by the moon - though obviously, there is still a lot of mathematical work involved in getting the rules of the game ironed out, and expressing the functions mathematically.

To give the man a chance, the values of the odds, and the width of the bets, are to be fine-tuned using a genetic algorithm; ie, tweak values one by one to get better results.

Anyone want to write the site/thesis?

The Christchurch Daily Energy Release page has a chart which is something towards the above goals.

However a full system to incorporate existing theories, a betting/odds engine (the minimal approach above), as well as collecting/calculating all the relevant information and writing the functions in terms of those sources is just not a small job. Ken Ring, of course, could fund this, if he was genuine about testing his theory and not just after selling predictions. Then again, it's perhaps not in his best interests financially to do this - as he writes in his book above, he's already confirmed to his own satisfaction that there is a pattern. So he'll keep his "competitive edge" rather than try to solve the massive problem of proving a hunch scientifically.

I produce this text in the hope that those who do try to take up the task of proving or disproving Ring's predictions have something to work with, without being forced to purchase or read his books, which are full of crazy theories. And I'm more than happy to send my copies of the books to someone seriously taking this challenge on.

But myself, I have theories to develop in my own field.

Posted Friday night, March 11th, 2011 Tags:

A little note on a geologist's global warming claim

Ok, so I was taking an astronomy tour with this really nice old guy in Kaotunu, near Whitianga in the Coromandel. He's got a sweet telescope set up for observing the night sky and for a cheap $40 each, me and my girlfriend got a nice tour of various sky features, including nebulae, carbon stars, star-forming clusters and more. It was a really lovely evening and we all had a lovely discussion over tea and cake. I highly recommend it.

Anyway later in the evening, after we'd had a few conversations we got to the subject of Ken Ring (what was I thinking?). "I disagree with everything the man says," he starts, "apart from Global Warming".

Uh-oh. He proceeds to show me a paper he had published in the New Zealand Geological Society newsletter. He took me through a few points, many of which are covered by the rebuttal by NIWA working scientists in the next issue of the newsletter. Of course he didn't mention his paper was rebutted.

He made a series of points, and armed with much knowledge on the matter I was able to knock most of them back immediately - with the exception of a comment about UV sun output covered here. He tried to tell me that CO₂ increases followed warming, not preceded it; I both pointed out how that was a known consequence of the consensus understanding of past warming and also a false dilemma. He showed me the graph showing temperature correlating with Sunspots. While not precisely the same, you can apply the rebuttal from Crock of the Week (skip to 7:08) to it; because the graph stops at 1980 or so. He talked about Antarctica gaining Ice Mass, and I was able to say, "that's no longer the case, GRACE data shows Antarctica is losing overall Ice Mass"

But best of all, in our parting moments, he said, "you have to be able to keep an open mind, and change your opinion".

My response?

"I already have."

Posted in the wee hours of Wednesday night, March 3rd, 2011 Tags:

On Ken Ring's Earthquake Prediction

I'm somewhat of the same opinion as Brian Edwards over Campbell's interview with Ring. Later onto the interview he does end up looking like an ass and sets himself up for a sucker punch from Ring. No doubt this will draw more followers to Ring's site.

Despite Campbell's "stuttering" and shouting at his interviewee, he did make some good points; that Ring's predictions covered an awful lot of February (update: half the year so far). Ask me and it read a bit like a horoscope.

Ken Ring's writings are to be taken with about a metric ton of salt per sentence. The man will come up with complete nonsense, such as his theory that CO₂ can't possibly cause global warming because (amongst other, totally absurd reasons) the CO₂ molecules are heavier than the rest of air and so "fall out" into the ocean. And that this also disproves the ozone hole. Direct observation, on the other hand, shows otherwise, as described in a science history book, in 1950.

The silly thing is that there is a well documented scientific connection between the tidal cycle and earthquakes. I found lunar and solar triggering of earthquakes from 1990, a Chinese paper from 1994.

Then there's Knopoff (1970) which seems to make the point that the correlation is actually specious. From the small amount of Schuster (1897) online it seems to be making a similar case. This is probably what the GNS scientist was referring to in the interview.

I thought about setting up a website to test this empirically, but decided that it would be a waste of my time chasing the crazy theories of a demonstrably mad man.

The point is, that Rings writings tend to not reference, answer or consider the scientific literature. And that does his credibility an immense disservice. I decided after reading an American Institute of Physics science history book on global warming that basically everything he wrote about had already been covered by scientists before. I felt betrayed that I was being introduced to these arguments, as if they were new things and stupid scientists had just jumped to the wrong conclusion.

So by all means reach your own decisions, but I do recommend reading what the science actually has to say. You'll learn far more from it.

Posted mid-morning Monday, February 28th, 2011 Tags:

You fail at Science

Comment to Act's Dump the ETS release.

There is no evidence that CO2 drives climate or that industrialisation is warming the world.

Incorrect, the case for this has been built up since 1859, and the science has been tested against all of the best available evidence since then. Go look at the history. A statement like this betrays a complete ignorance of the facts.

When I started out as an environmentalist the fear was global cooling.

Well, that was a bit of a temporary fad with a few people that gained popular support in the 1970s. The scientists behind this notion - Kukla etc, never said that they expected the next ice age to happen very soon. They just said that it might happen tomorrow, or in >1,000 years.

Ice-core samples show that CO2 levels lag temperature by 800 years

Correct. CO2 and temperatures exist in a feedback system, so increased temperatures increase CO2 and increased CO2 increases temperatures. Either variable can be forced and it affects the feedback system. This is part of the reason why the Ice Cores strongly support the CO2 climate forcing hypothesis.

And the increase in temperature in the past 150 years has been at the Earth's surface - not the troposphere, as the theory of CO2-induced temperature change predicts.

There's a good essay on the AIP site about simple models of climate. It explains why it is that global warming means increased temperatures on the surface, and decreased temperatures in the troposphere. In a single sentence, the heat radiated from the surface is trapped at lower levels of the atmosphere because there is more CO2 there.

The only thing going for the man-made global warming theory is the computer models - but they're just a direct result of the assumptions fed into them. Their predictions are the result of what's fed in, and the evidence doesn't back the models' predictions.

This is a common argument against the Climate Change models, however it is an absurd rejection of the scientific process. F=mv² or E=mc² are also both models of reality, but you don't question those. A "hypothesis", "Model" and "Formula" are basically the same thing, we just use the term "Model" when it turns into a dynamic system. There is a huge amount of work that has gone into refining the first model calculated by Svante Arrhenius in 1896 - a pen and pencil effort of several months - to take more real world factors into account.

You cannot simply claim that there being a model represents a problem; you must explain what part of the model is at fault.

The science is weak.

Clearly, you have not read enough of it.

Posted late Tuesday morning, October 28th, 2008 Tags:

Hi, I'm Sam, and I'm a Global Warming Skeptic

*cue applause*

Many that have talked with me about Climate Change, will be familiar with my position as a skeptic. Initially, like everyone else, accepting "happily" that climate change was real, at some point I got indoctrinated into the field of skeptics. I listened to a lot of arguments to see the holes in the theory.

And I'm still skeptical.

However, my skepticism has been narrowed down over the time I've investigated the topic. Almost all of these supposed "open questions", I've found, do have clear answers. The science is actually a lot more in depth than many sources I read give it credit for - especially places like the Climate Science Coalition's website.

It's clear that there's an information war being fought about this topic. It's like a Usenet flame war, except it's global, and it's still 1992 so people don't know about trolls yet, and we don't have a good measure yet of Godwin's Law for the Blogosphere as a whole.

So, I find myself still skeptical, but leaning towards the consensus position that indeed Human CO₂ emissions are a serious problem. However if I can't find satisfactory answers to my remaining areas of skepticism I'll have to return to deviating from that!

The key resources that swayed me

In particular, IMHO above many, these resources are worth watching, reading and knowing of:

  1. Scam of the Great Global Warming Swindle (~43min) - a very accessible video that both shows the flaws in many of the arguments, and the argument style. highly recommended.
  2. Spencer and Weart essays, especially the first recommended essay, the history of Climate Change science (these are long reads, so put aside an hour or two for each, but definitely worth it). I also read several other essays that covered areas which I was also very curious about, such as Solar variation and Climate modeling, but that essay alone would give you plenty of ammo to tear down most arguments.
  3. Skeptical Science has a ranked list of skeptic arguments, with the consensus scientific position listed. An excellent handy reference, but best used after reading one or two of the above essays.

My open questions

The only questions I've really got left, are very specific like:

  • How can we be confident in the trends in surface temperature measurements?
  • How is the climate sensitivity figure (which specifies how much of an effect a doubling of CO₂ would have on global temperature) of 0.75 ± 0.25 °K W¯¹m¯² arrived at?

Skepticism area 1: Surface Temperature record

Sites like point out the poor positioning of some of the sensors. On WattsUpWithThat (now the most highly read blog on wordpress!), Anthony Watts is journalling extensively the problems with a series of articles with titles such as "How not to measure temperature, part 67". In addition, with a mathematician Steve McIntyre they are independently auditing NASA's post-processing of the data using their own computer programs written in the mathematical language "R". They seem to have identified instances where the post-processing leads to dubious results.

Update 2: the answer to this lies in the method by which the "urban heat island" effect is removed from the data. Various corrections are made by comparing the differences between the urban stations and nearby rural stations, and deriving a "bias" for each station. A repeated analysis using only the "Class 1 and 2" stations listed on confirmed the effectiveness of this, but its result should be considered preliminary (I can find only comment references to it; but was produced by OpenTemp, a project hoping to build an open reproduction of the results). It's certainly possible to find cases where the data needs excluding or adjusting, though. Hopefully the feedback from SurfaceStations and Watts will make it back in via these projects or even GISS itself.

Skepticism area 2: Climate Sensitivity

The Climate Sensitivity Figure is currently the topic of big debate. The figure directly affects the prediction of the warming models.

First, one editor of a sub-group within the the American Physical Society, the group called "Forum on Physics and Society" (FPS), called for papers skeptical of the IPCC consensus.

And so, a Viscount Monckton of Brenchley gladly submitted a paper. The presence of this quickly excited the skeptic community, with headlines such as Myth of Consensus Explodes: APS Opens Global Warming Debate.

The APS then quickly clarified that the FPS did not speak for the entire society; currently on their home page is the message:

APS Climate Change Statement

APS Position Remains Unchanged

The American Physical Society reaffirms the following position on climate change, adopted by its governing body, the APS Council, on November 18, 2007:

"Emissions of greenhouse gases from human activities are changing the atmosphere in ways that affect the Earth's climate."

An article at odds with this statement recently appeared in an online newsletter of the APS Forum on Physics and Society, one of 39 units of APS. The header of this newsletter carries the statement that "Opinions expressed are those of the authors alone and do not necessarily reflect the views of the APS or of the Forum." This newsletter is not a journal of the APS and it is not peer reviewed.

They also plastered this notice on the actual paper:

The following article has not undergone any scientific peer review. Its conclusions are in disagreement with the overwhelming opinion of the world scientific community. The Council of the American Physical Society disagrees with this article's conclusions.

(colour choice theirs)

On the other hand, Lord Monckton assures us that indeed he did have to clean up the paper at the request of "an eminent physicist" on behalf of the FPS, and that this constituted peer review. Well, that's probably a bit of a storm in a teacup - as in, it's passed FPS peer review but not the overall peer review of APS. Update 4: this is priceless

I even went as far as commenting on the affair, eliciting a response from the Viscount. I did a very simple search for responses and rebuttals to prior work of Lord Monckton's. I've really hit my limit on this - I'm way out of my depth, so here's a braindump of what I've found;

Telegraph on Sunday article by Christopher Monckton, November, 2006.
This article seems to have attracted responses from:
Gavin Schmidt at RealClimate.
Which was in turn followed up by a rebuttal by the Science and Public Policy Institutue (SPPI), called Chuck it, Schmidt!. This rebuttal includes a long list of apparently supportive papers, which I have not had the chance to review yet: mostly in support of the esistence of the Mediæval Warm Period. I previously looked into this with respect to Willie Soon and found that the data was far from conclusive. So, this might be an example of "cherry picking" selected supportive results, but there are a large number of papers cited.
Stephen Harrison
The journal allowed a right of reply, which was taken up by Monckton
George Monbiot, a science journalist for the Guardian, also weighed in
Several others listed on the RealClimate wiki, including Al Gore.
And of course the current paper
This one seems to make the same point as the earlier paper, except focus on the Climate Sensitivity thing. My own assessment is that it just seems wrong that he could just make an argument in a handful of pages that the sensitivity figure, which I believe is arrived at through extensive climate modeling, is off. A lot of atmospheric physics goes into arriving at that result!
This follow-up comment by David Hagen lists a series of supportive papers:
For much greater detail on climate modeling and the energy conservation assumptions and local thermal equilibrium that Global Warming Models do not make or satisfy see:
* Ferene M. Miskolczi, Greenhouse effect in semi-transparent planetary atmospheres” IDŐJÁRÁS, Quarterly Journal of the Hungarian Meteorological Service, Vol. 111, No. 1, January-March 2007, pp. 1-40
* Ferene M. Miskolczi, Physics of the Planetary Greenhouse Effect, 2008 International Conference on Global Warming, New York March 2-4, 2008, Audio or Powerpoint
* Miklós Zágoni, Some paleoclimatic consequences of Dr. Miskolczi’s new greenhouse theory, (2008), 2008 International Conference on Global Warming, New York March 2-4, 2008 Audio & PowerPoint presentation (PDF format)
* Miklós Zágoni Developments in greenhouse theory 2008

While there are questions on some of Miskolczi’s steps, his work challenges the very foundations of climate modeling, going into greater detail than Monckton.

Update 4: and Monckton's paper is full of holes. Looks like Monckton's work is based on unreviewed papers, which he further confounds by misreading them. Hat tip: comment from Joel Shore

I can certainly concur with Schmidt's finding that Monckton appears to have "obviously too much time on his hands", as he seems to really go to extreme efforts to get the forums to issue retractions from his articles, and makes a lot of fuss about things like off-hand remarks made by and certainly the amount of effort gone into his follow-up on SPPI indicate a lot of time put into the argument over the case.

Update 1: added list from David Hagen's post.

Update 3: I see now that Roy Spencer has also come forward in support of Monckton. I wondered if I'd seen his face before - and I have! He appears at 26:38 into "Scam of the Great Global Warming Swindle", above.

Posted late Friday evening, July 18th, 2008 Tags:

Wikipedia Climate Science Consensus dissident list investigation: George Kukla [3 of 3]

Well, the third roll of this die (no doubt my critics will use the fact I'm using a 41-sided die in concert with symmetry theory to prove I'm a flatlander), I get 17. Looks like I lucked out somewhat - that's landed in the "Believe global warming is primarily caused by natural processes" section again.

This time, it's actually a climatologist, what luck!

A black and white picture of George Kukla, an old man wearing glasses(image credit: BigCityLib, though it seems to have been stolen from the Gelf Magazine article without credit, for the vacuous post by BCL)

George Kukla, retired Professor of Climatology at Columbia University and Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory (LDEO), said in an interview: "What I think is this: Man is responsible for a PART of global warming. MOST of it is still natural."
-- From An Unrepentant Prognosticator Krueger, Mari Gelf Magazine, April 2007

Now this guy has been around for a while. In 1977 he was mentioned in a Time article (Time++ for having such an old article available online) denying that recent signs of cooling were signs of an impending Ice Age.

The article goes on to talk about Alfred Wegener, who was involved in the discovery of continental drift. Kukla's institution, the LDEO was involved in the related work of plate techtonics. Wegener "championed" the (I believe reasonably well established) idea that the driver of the major ice ages is changes in the Earth's rotational angle and so on - aka the Milankovitch Cycles. This may be one of mankind's saving graces against global warming (I mean, if it were true of course); the natural tendency at the moment according to some should be one of cooling. Of course this is all way before Kukla's time.

Anyway, moving on, there's this article from 2000 which points out that this Holocene era (that's a term for the recent warm times, since the last Ice Age) is not unusual; "evidence suggests that the pendulum-swing to an ice age-type climate may already be underway, Kukla said".

Well, look at that. An about turn in under 23 years. Well, I guess there was a lot of studies and science done in all that time. Let's not hold the man to account for this difference in opinion over the length of his career.

He suggests that a better indicator of climate is the difference in temperature between the poles and the equator, the larger it being, the closer we are heading to an Ice Age (and the lower sea levels will fall).

Actually, it seems that Gelf magazine inquired as to this difference in opinion, him being one of the few people still around from that era. Initially, the article paints him not as a skeptic or a denier, but more of an anti-worryist. He still is sticking to his guns about global cooling (emphasis mine);

What is happening is very similar to the time 115,000 years ago, when the last glaciation started. It is difficult to comprehend, but it is really so: The last glacial was accompanied by the increase of a really averaged global mean surface temperature, alias global warming. What happened then was that the shifting sun warmed the tropics and cooled the Arctic and Antarctic. Because the tropics are so much larger than the poles, the area-weighted global mean temperature was increasing. But also increasing was the temperature difference between the oceans and the poles, the basic condition of polar ice growth. Believe it or not, the last glacial started with "global warming"!

He brings up the clouds issue (the effect of clouds is largely fudged in even modern climate models, at least according to one article on climate change skepticism I read); (emphasis mine):

The CO2 certainly has an influence. For instance, it appears that already now, with still relatively low concentrations, it may have a significant warming impact on the night [temperature] minima. And because the usual way to determine the daily mean is as the average of the daily minimum and maximum, here we go! But it is difficult to be sure: more clouds can do the same.

Kukla has a paper from 2005, I think in the area of paleontology (I've probably got that wrong - the study of deep sea sediment).

I've tried a few searches, but I just can't find a well reasoned rebuttal to this guy's work. He seems to be making a legit statement, within his field. And in hindsight, his position seems remarkably well explained and difficult to fault. Even the cronies on have nothing to say.


His prediction is rather long-term. The chances of the Yellowstone caldera erupting and causing super-rapid cooling the like we haven't seen in perhaps 700,000 years are also on the same radar as his work.

So anyway, it looks like out of the three random people I chose to investigate, one seems to have a flawed study. One wasn't even a scientist, and the last one is just saying "don't worry, the world might plunge into an Ice Age any day now (or in the next 10,000 years or so)."

I think that's enough to call it inconclusive. I'd love to see other people go through a similar exercise and see what they can find. However, the people really should be chosen at random, and the task should be undertaken by someone who believes themselves to be neither a denier nor an alarmist. If someone does this, I'd be delighted to link to their findings.

Posted late Thursday evening, July 10th, 2008 Tags: