Thursday, May 03, 2007

What is an Al Gore Rhythm? More Dance than Computation


Does the term Al Gore Rhythm sound familiar, but defy definition?
In 825 AD, Persian mathematician Al-Khwārizmī, devised a method of calculation with Hindu numerals. It was later crudely translated as "Algoritmi on the numbers of the Indians", where "Algoritmi" was the translator's rendition of the author's name. Careless readers, however, mistook Algoritmi to mean "calculation method" (more linked here). Today, algorithm refers to the well-defined set of instructions for accomplishing an otherwise difficult computation.
What is an Al Gore Rhythm, then?
Take climate change as an example (please see chart above). The dashed yellow-black-white line at the extreme left of the chart represents the entire period of scientific climate measurements (mostly just temperature readings) by mankind. If the dashed line were drawn to scale it would be invisibly thin, because the measurements have only been taken since about 1895, and then were not widespread until the last 25 years, or so.
The entire chart which is based upon the best scientific extrapolations (a type of estimatation) indicates periodic swings in climate starting before the introduction of mankind in meaningful numbers are significantly polluting industrial activities, and continuing through the present.
The chart shown only goes back about 700,000 years. Similar climate cycles are also evident in the geological record of the Earth for millions of years. The multi-variate factors involved in planetary climate are not well-understood by man. In fact, no one will even claim to recite most of them. Yet, some things are well-known and cannot be refuted by a single, credible scientist anywhere on Earth.
Even in New Zealand, scientists know this:
“The energy that reaches earth from sunlight in one hour is more than that used by all human activities in one year”. - Prof. Ashton Partridge, Massey University
Speaking of credible scientists, Al Gore is not one. An Al Gore Rhythm is a series of frenzied steps that seek to replace deliberative science with panic.
In the future, an Al Gore Rhythm will likely refer to any over-simplification of a complex process for craven or partisan political purposes.

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