Monday, October 31, 2011

Climate Science explained - by GooBalls

On Friday we were fortunate and unfortunate enough to be invited to sit in on a committee meeting. The picktur explains what I learned during this 2 hour revelation.

The snapshot is taken from World of Goo, the best game ever until the next one, which I completed last week while not sleeping, due to jet lag. The idea is to build structures made of gooballs and have enough free gooballs roaming through the structure left at the end, that some are sucked up when you reach the spout.  The arrow points the way to the spout.

I've labelled the structure with some of the acronyms from the meeting. I do not know what they all stand for, how they work, or how they are interrelated, but mostly these acronyms represent committees of people that may or may not have access to some limited funds. Mostly they are pretty powerless, except they can "endorse" science that they like, and enable scientific meetings. So the structure is really built upon mutual endorsement.

In the way of our goal lies the fly-wheel of death. I've written climate deniers on the flywheel, but I suppose it could also be any normal thing that gets in the way of climate science and funding - competing interests/ economic collapse etc. Touch your gooball structure against that and the whole thing is smashed to pieces. So we have to build a huge structure of endorsement all the way around the top of the fly-wheel and down the other side, absorbing innocent sleeping gooballs which we use to build an even bigger structure as we go along. The sleeping  GooBalls are the free-thinking climate scientists, who do science and write papers, naively expecting them to be read and built upon. They mistakenly think that they are building a structure - one made of scientific knowledge. They are unaware of the real structure of endorsement hanging below. When the structure hits a sleeping gooball, they wake up and a "!" appears and then they roll up and join the structure.

By the time we get wherever we are going, will there be any free thinking scientists left to actually do the science?


Thursday, October 27, 2011


The conference gay-la (which, surprisingly, is how the funny Amercians pronounce gala) was last night, at the art museum. Snowy Denver seemed just as artistic as the actual exhibits in the museum. The gay-la itself was as gay as you could reasonably hope a party of 2000 dweebs could be(*), but we made the evening even gayer by going back to the bar with many beers after returning from the museum. We seem to have given up on attempting to sleep properly ... perhaps it is better to not to try to adjust to Denver time, since we are going home in a couple of days anyway.
(*The EGU conveners party is definitely gayer, but tends to be ruined by smokers.)


Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Abrupt Climate Change

It's all gone a bit Day After Tomorrow...

Yesterday, about 25C:

Today, about -1C:


Tuesday, October 25, 2011


It is of the utmost importance that we climate scientists continue to fly around the world. Otherwise we would not be able to sit surfing the internet below pictures of local scenery that we can't see because we are stuck in a windowless basement have valuable face-to-face interactions.

[The short one with the big H-index is Gavin, and our James is the one on the right.]


Friday, October 21, 2011


Yurakucho at night
Under the railway tracks in Yurakucho, Tokyo.


Thursday, October 20, 2011

Tsukuba... again

The last time we were in Tsukuba, the most boring town in Japan, was tsunami day. This week we had another downscaling workshop. We have the habit of attending such "international" workshops even if we have nothing to present on the topic, as it is very useful to hear about what our colleagues are doing in English and also to hear the wider context set by the honoured international visitors. Crashingly boring though Tsukuba is, we are gradually exploring.

Avoid the restaurants on-site at the conference centre. A light and tasty ramen lunch is just a few minutes walk away:

The first breakfast after our run the next morning was rotted soya beans, cold fried egg, rice and seaweed. Delicious, but a little small, and we had plenty of room for a second breakfast at a newly opened Tully's before heading back to the conference centre for day 2:
 The Chinese restaurant on the top floor of Seibu isn't super-exotic but on the three times we have visited the food has always been hot, fresh and tasty:
 James eschewed the Okura hotel - expensive, unexciting, attached to the Conference centre, and with the history of not being particularly welcoming on tsunami-night - in favour of the Hotel Matsushima, in the Tsukuba hinterland: cheap, dirty, but fully functional with lots of clean tanks full of exotic fish (pets not food). Woo Hoo - some character in Tsukuba!:


Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Descending Yarigatake - Day 3

Dawn dawned clear at the hut near the top of Yari.

It was interesting the way the sun apparently rose through the clouds behind Jounendake, and yet the mountain was clear. It is only one or two hundred metres lower than the hut on Yari.

Pond and Yari
The sky became startlingly blue so we visited the Tengu Ike again on the way down, adding an extra hour and a half to the trip.
James in the mountains
A pause on the way down.
autumn coloursAlthough the autumn colours were less vivid than usual, the tatty leaves and muted colours were atmospheric.

Tree and mountains

Down from the mountain and only 8km of forest path to go... Feet washing in the icy Azusa river.


Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Climbing Yarigatake - Day 1 and 2

Because of the apocalypse, which caused us to go volunteering, we haven't had our proper share of mountains this year. A holiday weekend lay between Lauren and Ruza's visit and out next trip. Unfortunately everyone else also decided to head for the hills and the huts were full. So we headed out on Monday, returning on Wednesday - time off we have no time for due to having to prepare stuff for our upcoming voyage.

A sunny day at Kamikochi
The usual view from the kappabashibashi at Kamikochi. Only clearer and bluer than usual.

The super asuza river
The lower hut 2 hours from Kamikochi was still full so was walked another hour and a half in pleasant evening light up the very pretty river to the next hut (Yarisawa hut - a first visit for us).

mountain climbing
The next morning, we skipped up Yarigatake, but here is someone struggling to make it look tough.

Pond and Yari peak
If you are a keen photographer you have to visit this special pond (Tengu Ike) which God has arranged to reflect the peak. At least I think man doesn't "maintain" it. The autumn colours are rubbish this year due to the massive typhoon a few weeks ago that has burned the leaves over a large area of the country. Naturally the best shot was by James on his LX3. He is so good at getting things straight. Don't know why I bothered carrying my 2kg of camera...

The ptarmigan are changing colour - from brown to white from the feet up. I think this is the first time I have seen one showing any of its winter uniform. This is probably why I carried my 2kg of camera.

A mountain hut

 From the hut on the top of Yarigatake in the evening, we could see out to Jounendake (that we climbed last year), and also one of the huts a few hundred metres down from the peak.


Monday, October 17, 2011

Early Saturday morning at Kamakura beach

Kamakura beach


Sunday, October 9, 2011


Lauren and Ruza

Last week some less gnarled climate scientists came to visit. On the left is Lauren Gregoire and on the right, Ruza Ivanovic. They are both at the University of Bristol in the UK. The photo was taken on a day tour of Kamakura, which a mandatory event for all foolish enough to visit us for more than a day. They put up with it all cheerfully enough. We also got lots of work done!  


Wednesday, October 5, 2011


The equinox lillies (spider lily/higanbana) were delayed by the typhoon but are now man kai (full bloom). Mostly they are red, but Zuisenji operates a white theme at this time of year. It was James that found this elegant group containing both kinds.


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