Saturday, June 30, 2012

[jules' pics] Saturday!

Saturday!, originally uploaded by julesberry2001.

How can this be Saturday again? This was never in the plan... Meetings on Saturday seem to be getting sadly common. Too much bureaucracy! Having said that the atmosphere is quite jolly, and we get to take a weekday off in lieu, which is advantageous for bumming around in Kamakura, a town that is only busy at weekends.

Posted By Blogger to jules' pics at 6/30/2012 03:44:00 PM

Friday, June 29, 2012

What's wrong with being number two?

Hopefully, not too much - since Japan's K (δΊ¬) computer, named for the Japanese character for 1016 (flops), had a rather brief stay at the top and has now been deposed to second. The Earth Simulator was number 1 for a remarkable 2 full years a decade ago.

The DPJ swept into power a few years ago with promises of scything through wasteful Govt spending, and an MP (now cabinet minister, but I don't think she was at the time) called Renho alarmed many scientists when she said (with direct reference to the massive cost of the K computer): "What's wrong with being the world's number two?"

Of course, after much huffing and puffing, the spending cuts - where they happened at all - were pretty minimal. In response to the ignominy of being overtaken, there are of course plans afoot for the next, even bigger, computer.

Meanwhile one of the Bayesians last week was talking about running massively parallel computations on graphics processors, available for about 50¢ per CPU, ie $250 for a board with 500 on. These aren't really much use for highly parallel high resolution numerical models, but there are a lot of things they can do.

Thursday, June 28, 2012

[jules' pics] Spot the difference competition

Tokyo skyline
A bit of Tokyo

Field n Cows
A bit of Lancashire (with probably Yorkshire in the background)

Posted By Blogger to jules' pics at 6/28/2012 12:38:00 PM

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Bureaucrats place the blame on scientists for tsunami and meltdown : Nature News Blog

From Nature News this week:
Japan’s ministry of science and education was supposed to be celebrating the 50th anniversary of its first annual White Paper on Science and Technology with the 2011 edition. Instead of a long spread of great achievements by Japanese scientists over the past five decades, however, the document, which was approved by the government yesterday, became the latest mea culpa for the poor handling of last March’s earthquake, tsunami and nuclear accident. The document puts the spotlight on the responsibility of the countries’ scientists and engineers. [...] scientists lacked “fundamental knowledge about the mechanism of ocean trench earthquakes” and didn’t predict the possibility of a mega-earthquake. They underestimated the height of the tsunami and produced a hazard map with a large gap between estimated and actual inundation. Risk-communication efforts failed to prepare citizens for the unexpected.
I think it's amazing chutzpah for the ministry to pretend it's the fault of the scientists for failing to predict the earthquake and tsunami, rather than the inadequate management and governance (particularly in the case of TEPCO and Fukushima, but the tsunami issue goes wider than that).

To give credit where it's due, NN does raise this point lower down:
And the greater scientific community can hardly be called upon to bear the responsibility for the most egregious errors with regards to the nuclear disaster, such as Tokyo Electric Power Company’s failure to ensure that its generators could withstand a tsunami and the government’s withholding of available information about the path of radiation fallout.

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

[jules' pics] Passion

They say you should photograph things you are passionate about. But David B Benson is confusing passion and beauty. My sports car passion is based in incredulous fascination, not desire. I have a superiority complex. I know that for 1/10th of the price you can have 10 times as much fun.

James on the tandem

I also know that, in the unusual transport stakes, Hyper Viper red beats Ferrari red every time.
hyper viper red
Yes, it is the sports car drivers who turn to look at us.

Posted By Blogger to jules' pics at 6/26/2012 02:46:00 PM

Monday, June 25, 2012


David Benson asked what we were doing in the company of mathematicians at Tachikawa...

There's a huge Bayesian stats meeting in Kyoto this week, which would probably have been quite interesting but which I thought was a little too far away both geographically, and topically, to be worth attending, especially right now as I'm pretty busy.

Fortunately, a satellite meeting was arranged last Friday/Saturday, hosted by the Institute of Statistical Mathematics in Tachikawa (which I once visited at its previous site in Hiroo in central Tokyo, before they moved). Some people there are also working on climate change related projects, possibly the same projects we are working on though there seems to be some overlap/duplication between the various ministries and institutes as to who is doing what! Several of the eminent attendees of the Kyoto meeting were somehow persuaded to come a few days early and visit the fleshpots of Tachikawa - I hope they thought it was worthwhile - but for us it was a great opportunity to hear what is going on in the latest research into computational methods for the Bayesian paradigm (mostly Markov Chain and Sequential Monte Carlo methods). And it was also a good excuse to visit the new Tachikawa site of ISM, and realise that it's one more place where we really wouldn't much want to work when our time here in Yokohama is up :-)

The meeting was, as expected, a little obscure and distant from our work - which confirmed my decision to not go to Kyoto - but was well worth spending a couple of days on. One or two bits were particularly interesting - especially the methods for estimating very small probabilities (down to 10-120 or even 10-200), which may be relevant to our future plans, now we are in a post-Fukushima world and being urged to plan for the unimaginable...

Saturday, June 23, 2012

[jules' pics] Bladerunner-ville

Sadly favoured by organisers of climate conferences, Tsukuba is designed to be mind numbingly dull, but Tachikawa - whence commeth the mathematicians - is in a whole different league. It is so horrible it is kind of fascinating. More than just the usual Tokyo disarray caused by a lack of housing regulation, this is clearly deliberate. I wonder what went through the minds of the town planners. The feet of the Tachikawan's rarely touch the ground, which makes me think of flying cars and Bladerunner.

monorail - and those pedestrians are still several floors above terra firma...

grotesque underground mural - but at least people can escape into their phones...

endless overpasses
Could have spent hours taking photos there but, as usual, James led the way home, and there was only time for a few snaps.

Posted By Blogger to jules' pics at 6/23/2012 09:00:00 PM

Double vision

Just for fun, I had a go at stereoscopic photography on our recent trip to Meigetsu-in. I hadn't realised just how easy it was. So long as the subject matter isn't moving, there is no need for any fancy stereo camera gear, you just have to take two photos, moving the camera a small distance between shots. It doesn't even seem to require any great precision in composition. To view, you need to deconverge (not cross) your eyes so that each looks at a different image. It may take a little practice to separate the convergence from the focus distance, but once you have locked to the image on you should be able to look around it quite easily.

The first seems to work a little better, perhaps because there are more layers at different depths. But the lower one is the famous worn steps, free of tourists for the few few minutes after opening while the keen photographers all quietly line up to take their pictures!

Friday, June 22, 2012

[jules' pics] BAYESCOMP2012

The day started off a bit wet...

trundling through the beautiful landscapes of urban Japan...
Where have all the wimmin gone?
We were reminded that when particle filtering, good particles are duplicated, but I still don't know why we needed so many power points at the banquet.
For the final speech, an old man told us about how he became a Bayesian on the floor of a men's toilet. Really. 

Away from the mathematicians we seem to be one the set of Bladerunner.

Mathematicians are pretty funny. Day 2 of the meeting is tomorrow, but there will be no lunch, because mathos don't worry about things like that, so there are no commercial establishments in the vicinity of their institute. Oh please bring back the social scientists!


Posted By Blogger to jules' pics at 6/22/2012 10:15:00 PM

[jules' pics] The one we've all been waiting for...

...or is it just me?
Ferrari red

Ferrari red
I think this Ferrari is one that originally caught my attention at Starbucks. But back then I was a less audacious photographer, and wouldn't dare photograph someone else's car when they might be sitting close by watching me do it.

Posted By Blogger to jules' pics at 6/22/2012 10:00:00 AM

Thursday, June 21, 2012

[jules' pics] Buddha loves blue

...and so does James, who took this! Today we took the day off (as we have to work on Saturday) and visited Meigetsuin, where un-blue hydrangea are few and far between.

Posted By Blogger to jules' pics at 6/21/2012 01:02:00 PM

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

More pictures

We've put up new sets of pictures on our homepages from several trips dating back a couple of years - a short trip in the snow before rainy season, a longer summer walk, and some pics of our recent trip to the UK. We are trying a new approach of an "icloud journal" which is the sort of thing we've avoided in the past as they are much heavier on bandwidth than the simple pages I usually put up, but nowadays just about everyone has broadband...

[jules' pics] camouflage

There is a patch of land down the road from our house which has been mostly wild but inaccessible ever since we arrived. The council bought up the land years ago as it is the site of an old important temple, and they seem to have been spending a bit of year end money on it here and there. This year it opened up. It is no longer so wild but it is presently possible to go hunting in the grounds. Well, bug hunting anyway. I hope it does not get grassed over, as that would spoil the fun.
Japanese grasshoppers look headless until you get eye to eye with them. They are also not that good at hiding, which must help the mantises grow fat.

purple flower
Many of these purple cloverish things are sprouting. I suppose, to fit in with the bug hunting theme I had better pretend there was a butterly on top of it just before I pressed the shutter.

But on the leaves of the cloverish plants were these odd looking things. I'm guesing that their ruse is to look less delicious than grasshoppers, as they were not even attempting to blend in to their surroundings.

Posted By Blogger to jules' pics at 6/20/2012 01:47:00 PM

For Eli

Eli had been asking for a pic of an Avanti. We spotted one the other day:

I got jules to perch on the bonnet for the pic.

No slobbering please, Eli.

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

[jules' pics] Plague of Pompoms

From "For most bigleaf hydrangea cultivars, blue flowers will be produced in acidic soil (pH 5.5 and lower), whereas neutral to alkaline soils (pH 6.5 and higher) will usually produce pink flowers. Between pH 5.5 and pH 6.5, the flowers will be purple or a mixture of blue and pink flowers will be found on the same plant."
Hydrangea pink and blue
I don't believe it - in our neighbourhood and at Hase Dera, there are many different colours next to each other. I suppose that the different varieties have different responses to the acidness. A typhoon is going over presently. Perhaps it will squash all the pompoms!

Posted By Blogger to jules' pics at 6/19/2012 09:04:00 PM

Monday, June 18, 2012


Dinner the other night consisted of

Homemade pickled salmon, with a dollop of homemade soya milk yoghurt, on homemade sourdough bread rolls, washed down with homebrewed ginger beer.

Jules says the kitchen looks increasingly like an amateur chemistry lab.

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

[jules' pics] Hobby Parking Again

Well I must say I am disappointed that no one has counted the petals on the daisies.

Oh well, perhaps James' geeky readers still like cars. Yes, the Starbucks on Sunday Hobby Parking continues. I really thought I'd seen them all already, but here are two new ones from last Sunday.

A Car

A Honda Car

My favourite silver Boxster was parked in between these two.
We are now up to 12 Starbucks cars - you can see them all in this Facebook album. The green MG in that album was parked a couple of minutes walk down the same road, so strictly speaking doesn't count as refuelling at Bux..

Posted By Blogger to jules' pics at 6/12/2012 09:35:00 PM

Monday, June 11, 2012

Unfortunately, jules was right

Apologies for the title which has become a bit of an in-joke in recent months, but the Torygraph happened to have an article about the current popularity of pawnbrokers:
I'm not sure that many of the residents of Ayr are pawning Aston Martins though.

Sunday, June 10, 2012

The costs of uncertainty

Some time ago, Stephan Lewandowsky wrote an article on planet3.0 "The Inescapable Implication of Uncertainty" (also available on his own blog as part of a series), which made the fairly straightforward point that the expected cost of climate change is greater as a result of uncertainty about its magnitude (eg, the canonical example of climate sensitivity), and thus those who argue that uncertainty is a justification for inaction are precisely backwards in their thinking.

It's a pretty simple point, which has been talked about by Michael Tobis for a long time. And it's not at all controversial, scientifically speaking. So I didn't think it needing commenting on.

But recently Ben Pile wrote a really bizarre attempt at criticism, so it might be worth revisiting the topic.

The crux of Stephan's argument is quite simple. The cost of climate change is generally considered to be a nonlinear (concave convex - see comments) function of the magnitude of warming. This is a standard result of all attempts at economic modelling that I am aware of, and in my opinion is very intuitive and natural. For example, I used the quadratic function C(T) = 0.284T2 (where T is temperature change, and the cost is expressed as % GDP loss) in our Climatic Change paper (available here). This function was directly based on the DICE model of Nordhaus. AIUI all credible economic modelling generates qualitatively similar results. (Incidentally, it doesn't affect the argument in any way at all if the loss function actually has an optimum at some nonzero temperature change, as some others have found.)

The point about a concave convex function - indeed it's (almost) the very definition of concave convex - is that for any small t, (C(T+t)+C(T-t))/2 > C(T). Or in words, the average of the costs of T+t and T-t is greater than the cost of T. The consequence of this is that symmetric uncertainty about the value of T leads to an increase in expected cost, compared to a deterministic outcome.

The application to climate change is straightforward, as illustrated with the following simple example. If we know that the sensitivity is 3C (say), then the cost function based on the DICE model gives a ultimate loss of 2.6% GDP for a highly simplistic scenario in which CO2 doubles and is then held constant. If instead of a known sensitivity of 3C, we thought the sensitivity might equiprobably be 2C or 4C, then even though the mean value (our expectation of the temperature change) is unchanged at 3C, the expected cost is (1.1+4.5)/2 = 2.8% GDP. For a 50-50 chance of either 1C or 5C, the expected cost rises to (0.3+7.1)/2 = 3.7%, and for 0C or 6C it's 10.2/2 = 5.1%. The discerning reader may have noticed the first hints of a pattern here...

Another way of saying it, is that the expected cost of (uncertain) climate change is greater than the cost of the expected climate change. (This is using the concept of expectation in the mathematical sense - note that in the uncertain case, there is no possibility of the cost actually being 2.8%, it will either be 1.1 or 4.5, and we don't know which.) The result is not specific to the particular example, of course, but applies widely. Increasing uncertainty (for any sensible definition of "increasing uncertainty") will generally lead to an increase in the expected cost.

So what's Ben Pile so worked up about? He accuses Stephan of producing "the most remarkable attempt to formulate — or reformulate — the precautionary principle I have ever seen", describes it as "an incredibly tortured attempted to alternate between word play and maths abuse". There's more:
"Lewandowsky, over the course of three posts – one, two, three — reinvents the precautionary principle without ever calling it the precautionary principle. This is interesting in itself… An academic in the field of climate policy has forgotten that the precautionary principle already exists, is already applied to the science, and is already manifested in policy. "
And there's plenty more vacuous hyperbole where that came from.

Unfortunately, Pile is dead wrong. Lewandowsky's argument has nothing to do with the precautionary principle, so it's hardly surprising that he doesn't mention it. Instead, it's just a simple application of standard economic analysis under uncertainty, which is implicit in all academic work in this area. It was certainly implicit in our Climatic Change paper - I didn't think it worth specifically highlighting in that work precisely because it is so elementary and well known. But Pile has got such a bee in his bonnet about the PP that he doesn't even realise that Lewandowsky isn't even using it. It's a bit odd, because from what I recall of previous posts of Pile's, they are usually fairly sensible (I'm not an avid follower though). But of course it is hardly the first time that a social scientist has blundered into a debate and a made fool of himself though not having the requisite (albeit rather minimal) mathematical skills to understand the issues...

[jules' pics] Sums on Sunday

Alright then you shameless overanalysing spods, get out your Fibonacci calculators and start counting...

Posted By Blogger to jules' pics at 6/10/2012 03:35:00 PM

Saturday, June 09, 2012


Now I've got to the stage of actually being able to ride (more or less), I thought it would be a good idea to write a few notes from the perspective of a recent learner rather than long-term enthusiast.

Most importantly, contrary to all the cheerful web pages assuring us that it's really easy to learn...

Oh no it isn't! It's really hard!

I spent several weeks doing nothing more than getting on (beside a support), then letting go of the support and trying to fit in a pedal stroke (or two) while falling off. Repeat ad nauseam. After a couple of months I got to the stage of riding in a roughly straight line for several pedal revolutions.
A couple of factors possibly made it a little harder for me.
  • I bought a 24" size wheel, but recently jules got a 20" size which seems significantly easier. Although the wheel radius is only 2" different which doesn't seem a lot, that puts the lower pedal much closer to the ground
  • I didn't have a wall or rail to lean on while riding alongside, but just launched off (repeatedly) from a support. It takes a long time to build up "riding hours" this way!
This page has results from a survey of time taken across a wide range of ages. But it's worth bearing in mind, there's a massive "survivorship bias" (not literally, I hope) in all this. The surveyed were posters on a usenet group for unicycling enthusiasts. People who tried for ages and either never managed to learn at all, or who didn't really get good enough to enjoy it, much less likely to have contributed, compared to those who find they have an unusual knack for it, who may become evangelists and go on to write web pages about how easy it is.

Having said that, my total learning time probably isn't too far out of line with those results, and is certainly less than the slowest of them. I've only had the unicycle for 5 months, and practice has mostly consisted of half-hour sessions most weekends. So that might amount to around 20-30 hours. On top of that, we took them on our UK trip and practiced quite a lot, and I'm now steering reasonably well and even freemounting, though not with sufficient reliability to actually pass the Level 1 test where only a single failure is allowed. I am about Level 3 on this list though :-) I can now mount and ride round the block, which is a narrow road with tight corners and a moderate hill. The hypothetical ride to work is still a little way off...

On the plus side, I didn't actually break anything while learning, though my wrists and knee still hurt from a fall a couple of months ago.

So, while it might be technically true to say that just about anyone can learn with enough perseverance, be prepared for it to take a while and involve a lot of falling off!

I should mention that jules was slightly more adept than me at first, before I banned her for demoralising me (it's my desperate mid-life crisis hobby, not hers). However, for the last few weeks since she got the 20" model and started again I've managed to keep a little bit ahead.

[jules' pics] pondlife

Starting underwater and working upwards...




[all at Hase Dera, Kamakura]

Posted By Blogger to jules' pics at 6/09/2012 08:22:00 AM

Friday, June 08, 2012

[jules' pics] Ajisai - hydrangea

Yes, it's that time of year again, when the whole world is overtaken by the amorphous blob flower. Last Saturday I went to find enlightenment in the ponds of Hase Dera, forgetting that its the number 2 ajisai temple in Kamakura. Of course we had to do the ajisai walk...

ajisai - hydrangea

ajisai - hydrangea

ajisai - hydrangea

Hase Dera has various varieties of ajisai, and I was delighted to find that some architecturality was present in my photos.

The third pic is taken with sister-in-law Helen's 80-200mm. It is a tradition that when we meet up with Helen we swap camera gear. So she's got my rather new Canon S100, and I've got 2 rather old but super-cool Nikon lenses! I was going to run out and buy a new S100 as soon as I was recovered from jetlag but James told me to wait a little while. Within a week this was rumoured then announced and will be in the shops in another week. So now I've got a quandry. I've been willing Sony to make a camera like this as the thing that is miserably bad in the S100 is the multi-shot modes. I was surprised at how poor Canon's multishot modes are after the Sony TX10. I'd assumed that the problem had been generally solve by the industry, but now I wonder if perhaps only Sony have it nailed. It is pretty clever what they do. It seems to me that the first shot taken bascially defines the picture and then subsequent shots are used to add signal and reduce noise, but not in places where movement occurs. What Canon do wrong is not use the first shot to define the picture, so you are pretty much guaranteed a blurry mess.

Posted By Blogger to jules' pics at 6/08/2012 11:18:00 AM

Thursday, June 07, 2012

[jules' pics] Logo

The boss asked for a logo for one of the two new Japanese climate mega-projects. This is our entry.

Now you can fully appreciate why I chose the scientist rather than graphic artist career path.

Posted By Blogger to jules' pics at 6/07/2012 01:51:00 PM

Wednesday, June 06, 2012

Woody Guthrie Award

The observant (look right!), and/or well-read, will have already noticed...I was honoured that John Nielsen-Gammon has passed on the Woody Guthrie Award for a Thinking Blogger to me. It's had an illustrious history, passing through the hands of a number of the more thoughtful and interesting climate-related bloggers over the last couple of years. John has the lineage here.

I'm open to suggestions as to who to pass it on to.

Monday, June 04, 2012

Colour me sceptical

I know this is "old news" in the sense of the article appearing in the Guardian (though without any meaningful follow-up in terms of the publication of the promised review), but I've got a bit behind in my blogging recently.

A couple of weeks ago, this breathless scoop in the Grauniad claimed that Gleick has been cleared.

But, to be brief and blunt, I am dubious that anything approaching a meaningful clearance has been, or will be, demonstrated. If the document he claims to have been sent actually existed, he could have produced it right at the start. It's hardly credible that he would have destroyed it after scanning.

That investigation is now complete, and the conclusions will be made public.
Two weeks later...tumbleweed.

[jules' pics] Watching the lotus grow.

Lotus at Hachimangu
Keeping both eyes open while looking through the viewfinder of a camera can be fun. This is what I saw while playing with my new 80-200mm, given to me by my sister in law during our latest UK trip. As I had another camera round my neck with the right focal length for my left eye's view, I took both shots and then combined them in Gimp (it's free you know). Having submitted 2 papers last week, this weekend we weren't up for much more than watching the lotuses grow.

Posted By Blogger to jules' pics at 6/04/2012 01:27:00 PM