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Saturday, May 21, 2011


 Via Jerry Pournelle this is from the last page of a  NASA report on their costs and SpaceX's
For the Falcon 9 analysis, NASA used NAFCOM to predict the development cost for the Falcon 9 launch vehicle using two methodologies:

1) Cost to develop Falcon 9 using traditional NASA approach, and

2) Cost using a more commercial development approach.

Under methodology #1, the cost model predicted that the Falcon 9 would cost $4.0 billion based on a traditional approach. Under methodology #2, NAFCOM predicted $1.7 billion when the inputs were adjusted to a more commercial development approach. Thus, the predicted the cost to develop the Falcon 9 if done by NASA would have been between $1.7 billion and $4.0 billion.

SpaceX has publicly indicated that the development cost for Falcon 9 launch vehicle was approximately $300 million. Additionally, approximately $90 million was spent developing the Falcon 1 launch vehicle which did contribute to some extent to the Falcon 9, for a total of $390 million. NASA has verified these costs.

It is difficult to determine exactly why the actual cost was so dramatically lower.... [no shit Sherlock]

Regardless of the specific factors, this analysis does indicate the potential for reducing space hardware development costs ...
   But since NASA's "radical; lets be more commercial" option merely reduces the cost to $1.7 bn it ain't going to be through them.

    If this doesn't prove to every politician and bureaucrat that X-Prizes, which are the real commercial option, are far better they are simply uninterested in facts. Which indeed is what Britain's Cabinet Office have openly admitted is the case.

  As the Harvard academic paper proved there is a "coefficient of 0.3" between the seedcorn needed to be put up in prizes for commercially useful inventions and the amount the producer spends. Thus for SpaceX's Falcons 1 & 9 a prize of  $117 million (£73 million) compared to NASA's (minimum if experience is justified) of $4 bn. A ratio of 34 to 1.

   This also fits closely with what DARPA said in another X-Prize case. They said that a prize of $3m would have matched conventional spending of at least $100m, assuming it had worked.

   I was previously asked to submit a proposal for British X-Prizes, funded by taking the £260 million we annually put into the European Space Agency (much less efficient than NASA because everything has to be divvied up on lines of national pull rather than competence) and putting it into a X-Prize Foundation. Unfortunately having asked for it it seems to have been filed in the appropriate receptacle. For presumably purely political reasons our politicians and bureaucracy would far prefer to give our money to European bureaucrats than to use it to achieve leadership in space industrialisation.

   I would be confident that putting 1 year's worth of our contribution to ESA would be enough to get SpaceX (or conceivably somebody else) to make the second commercial site for the Falcon Heavy Lift Vehicle (equivalent of a 737 to orbit in 2013/14, from British territory (my previous suggestion being Ascension Island). Since the money is already being spent this would have cost us nothing. Had we started a few years ago we could have had the first commercial site but we didn't. Better late than never.

  Space industrialisation is has economic possibilities not only greater than any other terrestrial industry but greater than all other terrestrial industries put together and nations which decide to ignore the opportunities are condemning themselves to the margins of human progress or indeed excluding themselves entirely.

I would also like to point out the 13:1 ratio of costs between things run by parasitic government organisations matches that for the Millenium Dome in Britain (£46 million to £670 million) and the Scottish Parliament (a commercial firm offered to do it at £40m but the government did it at, officially, £414 million plus landscaping and other uncounted costs). Other public projects may have a lower parasitic cost ratio, if they work.

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Friday, May 20, 2011

LOW LEVEL RADIATION - IS IT DANGEROUS? A debate over the Linera No Threshold and Hormesis theories.

  Recently I mentioned how "one of those eco-fascist blogs that pretend to scientific standards" ,Respectful Insolence, a site hosted by Scienceblogs, had launched a vitriolic attack on Ann Coulter for mentioning the hormesis effect in radiation and asked the host to produce some evidence that she was wrong and the official LNT theory correct. Obviously he didn't and became the target of numerous ad hominem along the lines that i must be a "crank" to disagree with LNT and therefore no debate was required. With 1 exception # 91
  However in due course 1 LNT supporter with "30 years experience" in the field did engage in a serious discussion and I think that worth extracting and preserving since I know of no other public debate on the subject. There was some movement. You will have to judge the result for yourselves.

106 Here's a whole book full of evidence that the LNT hypothesis is flawed, in the opposite direction to that claimed by Neil Craig. If anyone can point me to a refutation of Gofman I would be grateful. I find his arguments very convincing. Neil Craig simply dismisses any evidence he doesn't like as propaganda from the anti-nuclear lobby.

Posted by: Krebiozen
April 30, 2011 5:18 PM

109 Kebriozin you clearly don't know that Gohman, your further than LNT scare teller, is actually the man who invented the LNT theory, without the inconvenience of first looking for evidence.

He also predicted, on the basis of it, half a million deaths and half a million non-fatal cancers as a result of Chernobyl. The total death toll is actually 56 which is strong evidence his theory is wrong.

110 Neil, I do know that it was Gofman who proposed the LNT. I don't see why that means he was wrong. He based it on experimental evidence and on epidemiological evidence. The National Academy of Sciences agreed with him.

Here's an article published by the National Academy of Sciences about the LNT that explains why I think Coulter's and your arguments are nonsense. It concludes:

In summary, given our current state of knowledge, the most reasonable assumption is that the cancer risks from low doses of x- or γ-rays decrease linearly with decreasing dose. In light of the evidence for downwardly curving dose responses, this linear assumption is not necessarily the most conservative approach, as sometimes has been suggested, and it is likely that it will result in an underestimate of some radiation risks and an overestimate of others. Given that it is supported by experimentally grounded, quantifiable, biophysical arguments, a linear extrapolation of cancer risks from intermediate to very low doses currently appears to be the most appropriate methodology.

Please note the reference to, "experimentally grounded, quantifiable, biophysical arguments".
As for your claim that only 56 people died as a result of Chernobyl, even the IAEA estimates that "several thousand" people are likely to die. Other estimates are considerably higher. Given changes in the former USSR, and the background noise of deaths due to other causes, it is difficult to know which estimates are more accurate. --------Posted by: Krebiozen

111 Neither they, you, nor Gohman have produced this alleged experimental evidence, which is not how one does science. Extrapolating from high dosages is ridiculous and would lead you to say that because there is a 100% chance of dying if a falling elephant lands on your head there is a 0.1% chance of death every time you put a hat on. Science doesn't work on such assumptions either.

The 4,000 predicted (not actually happening) is predicted from the LNT theory (as indeed was Gohmans 1 million which obviously didn't happen). Justifying a prediction by saying the predictor predicted it and predicts that he is right is silly for reasons which will be obvious to anybody capable of logical thought. The failure of the 1 million prediction to be realised in real life, or even a tiny measurable fraction thereof, is, on the other hand, proof positive that LNT is wrong. ---------Neil

112 - Neil, have you actually read any of the material I have linked to? The National Academy of Sciences paper has 64 references, most of them to primary research papers. Gofman has copious references to primary research that supports his arguments. Just because you refuse to acknowledge or respond to this evidence doesn't mean it doesn't exist. The Hiroshima and Nagasaki data cited in the NAS paper seems very convincing to me.
Your elephant analogy demonstrates how little you understand this subject. The minimum possible dose of radiation is a single electron track, which can potentially hit and damage DNA, thus causing cancer. This has been demonstrated in laboratory experiments. The more electron tracks, the higher the chances that one of them will damage DNA. As DNA repair mechanisms are not 100% effective even a single electron track can induce cancer.
A better analogy might be someone firing a shotgun at you with a varying number of pellets in the cartridge. A single piece of shot is unlikely to hit and kill you, but it is possible it might. The more shot in the cartridge, the higher the chances of death.
Just because it is difficult or impossible to demonstrate with statistical significance how many people have died or will die as a result of Chernobyl does not mean that no one has died. Even a million excess deaths over 25 years in the whole of Europe would be very difficult to measure against background mortality from other causes. To suggest that it is certain there have not been 4000 excess deaths is ridiculous.
Scientists from the former USSR have published several papers suggesting that the death toll from Chernobyl is much higher than WHO and IAEA estimates. See 'Chernobyl: 20 Years On - Health Effects of the Chernobyl Accident' published by the European Committee on Radiation Risk and A. Yablokov's 'Chernobyl: Consequences of the Catastrophe for People and the Environment' published by the New York Academy of Sciences.

Incidentally, the European Committee on Radiation Risk has just released a report using two different methods that estimates between 489,500 and 2.45 million excess cancers caused by Chernobyl over 50 years.

I don't pretend to know for sure which of the many estimates is correct, but until we do know, it is sensible to apply the precautionary principle. I think you are suffering from premature certainty. -------Krebiozin

113 At the very least you are acknowledging that you are not relying on scientific evidence but on the "precautionary principle".
In which case Ann Coulter has at least as much right to rely on the science.
And Orac & supporters owes her a public apology for accusing her of opposing "physics". An apology which would obviously have been given days ago by Orac & supporters had any of them not been corrupt eco-fascists merely pretending to have a respect for the rules of science. QED.
If you don't like my elephant example here is another. The LNT theory says that risk is wholly proportional to exposure. Therefore the risk is proportional to both the amount of "shots" (ie radiation) and the number of targets (cells). Thus multicellular animals like elephants are, if the theory is not crap, a billion times more susceptible than small ones and elephants drop like flies, from cancer whereas flies don't.

Obviously this is not how the real world works hence the theory is crap QED. As I have pointed out there is a vast amount of other evidence and it is clear that, had science been involved rather than politics, LNT would have been dumped generations ago.--- Neil

115 @Scottynuke

I'm aware that the NYAS only published Yablokov's book and doesn't stand behind his findings. I wasn't meaning to suggest the NYAS endorse his work (it is available free through a link on the website BTW). I still wonder a bit when Gofman's estimates seem to supported by the findings of Soviet scientists. I'm a bit uneasy about dismissing all their work too easily. I wonder if the dangers of low dose radiation might be greater than the LNT suggests.

In essence the radiation dose response curve disappears at the low end into a mush of noise and confounding factors sufficient to hide a very large number of deaths. We don't know if the curve is linear or if it curves up or down for any or all types of exposure to any or all types of isotopes. Any population big enough to calculate a statistically significant increase in deaths suffers from a lack of a suitable control group.
The increases in mortality from various causes documented in the former USSR may or may not be due to Chernobyl. Several of the studies I looked at found a greater increase in mortality where dose was greater. I don't know what other evidence we might hope to find.
Neil - what you seem to be referring to about cancer in different sized animals is known as Peto's paradox.
It's an interesting point, but I don't think it's a good argument against the LNT. We have no idea how many cancerous cells arise in elephants but fail to develop into observable tumors, as compared to those in smaller animals. Less external radiation would get through an elephant's thick skin to damage vulnerable dividing cells than in a mouse, for example. External and internal radiation have different effects. It's not as simple as you suggest.
I'm intrigued by the "vast amount of evidence" you mention that the LNT is wrong. All the evidence I have seen for radiation hormesis in humans has been effectively debunked, in the same way that Orac has demonstrated that Coulter's claims are nonsense, above. Can you point out where he is incorrect in his analysis? Or where this article is wrong
It seems to me it is the pro-nuclear lobby that has the money and power to manipulate public opinion and policy in this area, not the "eco-fascists", whoever they are.----Krebiozen

116 Krebiozen if you haven't seen the "vast amount of evidence" you haven't looked at the link I put in my first post. ...
Your defence to the elephant example is to say that there is a mechanism whereby the body can fight radiation in the same way that there is a mechanism whereby the body can fight low doses of poison or infection. This is the medical explanation for the hormetic effect in everything else, or as traditionally stated "the dose makes the poison". Thus your "defence" of LNT is to acknowledge it is likely to be entirely wrong.
In any case your claim that "Orac has demonstrated that Coulter's claims are nonsense" is clearly totally untrue. The very worst that anybody could honestly say is that Coulter's position can be described, if you ignore the proof, as having no more proof than the LNT theory, which has no positive proof (ignoring the vast amount to the contrary). The more honest alarmists here have acknowleged that there is no actual proof for LNT but defended it on the "Precautionary Principle", which is not the same as scientific evidence. Orac, of course, never reaches or even aspires to the heights of "more honest".
If the balance of lobbying power were, as you state, then with the Fukishima earthquake/tsunami having caused 25,000 deaths and the reactor damage zero the balance of media coverage would be 25,000 hours of TV time on the real tragedy and zero, or less, on the reactors. --- Neil

117 Neil, I have looked at most of the links and studies you refer to on your (horribly laid out) blog many times. This has been a subject I have studied over the past 30 years since I first worked with radioactive materials. I first came across your blog a couple of years ago, but I have learned nothing new from it. ---Kreboizen

(some stuff omitted here - there was a dispute about what was on my blog and some loss of tempers-Kreboizen repeats the relevant stuff later)

128 Kreboizen I have no intention of giving up ....I have actively been looking for somebody willing to debate the LNT/hormesis cases without dropping the subject and changing to ad homs and, unless you object, expect to put up a summary of any sensible discussion on my own blog. On those grounds I would like to acknowledge that you have not been involved in ad homs - that was going on long before you got here.
On the particular points you raise I think you are wrong to say that Professor Cohen's work and that of Professor Chen (Taiwan) are "known to be wrong". They have both been disputed. It would be astonishing if they hadn't since they go against the official paradigm. But that is not the same as being disproven. Professor Cohen has, in turn, vigorously criticised the criticism. I do not know if Chen has done the same but have seen no evidence that he has acknowledged being wrong.
I don't know if you are right about Coulter exaggerating mammogram evidence but it is a minor point and certainly does not justify Orac's "versus science" allegation. If we required that popularisations of science were always 100% accurate I doubt that any of them would pass muster.
On the paper you cite - I have read it (well the abstract) and it does not disprove, indeed barely touches on hormesis. It says there is evidence to support LNT down to 50-100 mSv (a remarkably unspecific amount for science), for non-instant exposures, but nothing below this, allegedly because of the difficulty of finding a large enough statistical population to be affected by lower levels). This conflicts with evidence from areas, such as south India where there is a background radiation of up to 200 mSv with no visible damage. It is also not entirely compatible with the radium paint experience where, as Professor Wade Allison has pointed out, there appears to be a cut off point at 10 gray (100,000 mSv) for a whole life exposure, causing no damage. Nonetheless it is irrelevant for any case of a hormetic effect under 50 mSv - 3 times the official danger level and one most hormesis supporters are willing to accept as a first approximation.

In fact the paper is clearly wrong about it being impossible to find larger populations exposed to lower levels. The entire world is exposed to levels of natural radiation, varying in easily measurable ways by region and the much higher exposure of people in Colorado than Mississippi is undisputable. This is the basis of Professor Cohen's work and that of the Swedish oncologist mentioned. Why the paper should make such an untrue assertion we can only speculate on.

I look forward, Kreboizen, to your assessment of the various links to evidence I have provided. I realise it may take some time since the evidence for hormesis is so extensive.-----Neil

130 Neil, here's what I found when I looked at the first 23 links on your blog. I hope it's clear which are my comments and which is the material linked to. I'm sorry I repeat myself in places. I have found some interesting bits of information that I think have been misinterpreted to mean hormesis, which I will write about separately.

An article dated 1988 "scavenged from the net" that proposes a conspiracy theory among health physicists and seems to be based on the work of Marshall Brucer who was employed by the United States Atomic Energy Commission. Has 4 links, 3 of which go nowhere, and one links to the article written by Javad Mortazavi mentioned below. There are no useful references and some very dubious claims.

An article written by an Iranian scientist, S. M. Javad Mortazavi arguing that "the existence of radiation hormesis and adaptive response are not deniable".
Experiments with mice found that if they were exposed to 2 Gy 60Co gamma-rays 46% of them developed thymic lymphoma, but if they were repeatedly given doses of radiation, lower rates of cancer were observed (17%). What were the cancer rates in mice that were not irradiated at all
Another study found that low dose pre-irradiation of mice before a mid-lethal dose improved survival (from 486 to 578 days), but mice not irradiated at all lived much longer (727 days).

The rest of the article talks of atom bomb survivors, background radiation studies and nuclear power workers. I have mentioned all these areas before, noting that there is no agreement about what they prove or don't prove. Javad Mortazavi does not appear to have published anything in peer-reviewed journals - nothing on Pubmed I can find anyway.

A 2004 article about the Taiwan apartment contamination with cobalt 60.

The article states that, "the age distribution of the exposed population has not yet been determined, and it was assumed that the age distribution of the exposed population is the same as that of the general Taiwan population" which was an erroneous assumption. In a more recent study, "cancer risks were compared with those populations with the same temporal and geographic characteristics in Taiwan by standardized incidence ratios (SIR), adjusted for age and gender." and concluded, "all solid cancers combined were shown to exhibit significant exposure-dependent increased risks" in those exposed before the age of 30.


Vinny Pinto's website. Pinto is a mystic and healer with some very peculiar beliefs. Interesting, but not what I would call a reliable source. His site links to a site selling "healing" radioactive stones.

An article by a Dr Donald W. Miller who trots out the same old "evidence" as other sites. Miller has some unusual ideas, judging by his website:


A blog post about radon and lung cancer. An interesting blog generally, worth a read. More recent larger studies show that radon undoubtedly is a major cause of lung cancer.

7. Dead link. Is supposed to link to an article by Prof. John Cameron, who was a proponent of radiation hormesis, that discusses how British radiologists live longer than other doctors, but doesn't. The longevity of British radiologists disappears when they are compared to other medical specialists. "We conclude that the low mortality of British radiologists who were registered in the period 1955–1997, in comparison with that for all medical practitioners, is attributable to the factors that cause a relatively low mortality in doctors in all medical specialties. There is no reason to attribute it to a specific benefit from exposure to low doses of ionizing radiation."

An American study concluded:

"Radiologists had an excess in all-cause mortality rates compared to the other specialists for all cohorts who entered the Radiological Society of North America before 1940; the excess remained even when the cancer deaths were removed from the rates. These data are consistent with the concept of accelerated aging due to radiation. The cancer mortality rates for radiologists were higher than those of other specialists for an additional decade through 1949. The 1950-1959 cohort had not aged sufficiently to demonstrate the expected peak cancer mortality in the 60-64 year age group".  .............

An interesting article by Bernard Cohen, but somewhat undermined by more recent and better data on radon and lung cancer.
The same as the first link above. The claim that cows were euthanized to cover up the positive effects of radiation because they refused to die from radiation poisoning is hilarious (sorry Neil). There is no primary source for the existence of these cows, the dose they got, if or when they were euthanized. I have spent a long time searching but failed. Neil still manages to squeeze a conspiracy theory out of this. Even if a few cows did survive, we don't know how many other cows succumbed to radiation poisoning or cancer.

The same S. M. Javad Mortazavi website linked to above. He seems to be affiliated with the nuclear industry through the Iranian Nuclear Regulatory Authority and the IAEA.

A document that requires a paid membership to to access it, and that I cannot find elsewhere.


Cohen's 1987 paper on radon and lung cancer, refuted by more recent, better designed and much larger studies. For example:

A study on HeLa cells that found a small dose of radiation (.4-4 mGy/day) given before a larger dose (3-Gy) reduced neoplastic changes in the cells induced by the larger dose. Claiming this adaptive response as evidence of hormesis seems ridiculous to me.

A letter from the American College of Nuclear Medicine (which promotes the use of nuclear medicine) and the Society of Nuclear Medicine to the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission objecting to proposals to lower the annual limit of radiation exposure for workers from 50 mSv to 20 mSv. The ICRP (which is an independent non-governmental organization) explains the reasons for the proposed changes here:

An advert for a seminar titled 'Low Dose Radiation Effects: A Biological Reality Check'. I found a transcript of what I think is the whole talk here:

Cell culture studies seem to show hormesis, but studies on mice found that mice exposed to 1.0 Gy dose lived 486 days, but of they were exposed to 0.1 Gy 24 hours before the 1.0 Gy dose, they lived for 578 days. However, mice not exposed to radiation at all lived for 727 days. If I was a mouse, I would stick with getting no radiation at all.

A newspaper article about a particle physicist who thinks that low dose radiation does no harm, but also talks to three other scientists, Professor Gillies McKenna of Oxford University, Cancer Research UK's expert on radiation oncology, Richard Wakeford, an epidemiologist specializing in the health effects of radiation at the University of Manchester who disagree with him, and think the LNT is the best approach.
18. http://www-formal.stan/

A short piece on the LNT by Professor John McCarthy of Stanford that claims there no direct evidence for the LNT and a lot of evidence against it. It is at least 10 years old (page last modified in 2000), and is out of date - most of the links on the page are dead. The evidence against the LNT mentioned is:
Hiroshima and Nagasaki survivors - others interpret the data differently, pointing out that those who survived the initial radiation may be more resistant to disease, and not be a representative population. Gofman has pointed out several changes in the data sets made retrospectively which is problematic with a prospective study.
Natural background radiation and high radon in some areas does not lead to increased cancer, it claims. More recent studies suggest this is incorrect (sorry to keep repeating myself).

A link to a book 'Radiation Hormesis and the Linear-No-Threshold Assumption' by Charles L. Sanders which costs over $200. "The author shows how proponents of the LNT assumption consistently reject, manipulate, and deliberately ignore an overwhelming abundance of published data and falsely claim that no reliable data are available at doses of less than 100 mSv" Most of the abundant data I have seen doesn't seem to support this, and I have no inclination to cough up $200 for this book.


A 13 year old article by Myron Pollygrove who worked for the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission. Based on a 1996 presentation at a BELLE conference. BELLE is a government and industry based group formed to promote the safety of low level radiation

A Wikipedia article about Ramsar which has a very high background radiation in some areas. Only about 1000 people live in the high background radiation areas which is not enough to estimate whether cancer risk is increased. Mean annual dose in Ramsar is 6 mSv which would only lead to an expected 0.06% increase in cancer, or less than 1 additional cancer in 1000 people. In fact small increases in cancer have been observed in Ramsar.

A humorous redefinition of some words.

A letter written to New Scientist magazine by Neil Craig. It is about the Taiwan cobalt 60 incident, again. I have explained above why this is wrong. Neil concludes, "there can no longer be any intellectual doubt whatsoever. Radioactivity in low doses is good for us". I'm sure he has changed his mind based on the better information now available i.e. "all solid cancers combined were shown to exhibit significant exposure-dependent increased risks". ----Kreboizen

132 An extensive piece of work Kreboizen. Lets go through it.

1 - intended to be an overview and that is what it is.

2 - That he is Iranian may be less important, in scientific terms, than the extensive evidence given. The link you introduce shows that even at 2 Gy (200,000 mSv) living organisms can be acclimatised to radiation. It is irrelevant to whether there is a hormesis effect at under 50 mSv

3 - Your article disputing the Taiwan results looks rather like a data dredge. The quote you ge extended says "all solid cancers combined were shown to exhibit significant exposure-dependent increased risks in individuals with the initial exposure before the age of 30, but not beyond this age". Not only is this confirming no LNT effect above 30 but if you divide a population into a large number of small groups (e.g. those under 30 in an initial population of 10,000) you are statistically certain to get more than one showing an above average effect. As I have said I would like to see Professor Chen's response to this or the results being verified by somebody without a preconceived view.

4 - Indeed. Such stuff is anecdotal and I would never rely on it alone. On the other hand the fact that, for several thousand years, people have been "taking the waters", usually fairly radioactive waters from springs deep underground, is as strong as anecdotal gets.
5 - Orac won't like his ideas. I do. He is certainly well qualified to have medical opinions.
6 - I agree that the evidence given is "interesting". Your link "disproving" hormesis doesn't actually produce any research of its own it merely refers to other published claims. A major problem with meta studies is that the studies aggregated are selected both by the new author and by the original ones - scientific studies which produce "anomalous" results are more likely to be done again than published.
7 - I will correct that link thanks. Your counter links disputing this effect is normal scientific discussion. I note that the British dispute is based on saying that all British doctors are more than averagely healthy while the American one says that most American ones are below average.
8 - If I can't find it I will delete.
9 - As I said Cohen has vigorously disputed his disputants. I think the evidence is clear.
10 - I don't know what you mean about there being no primary source. My post you give links to both that the cattle were irradiated by the trinity A-Bomb test in 1946 and that they were put to sleep in 1964. That means that statistically some of them must have reached or exceeded the maximum age of cattle, 22 years. Killing this evidence was clearly a scientific crime.
11 - As above.
12 - No comment needed
13 - The alleged refutation is the same link discussed in #6.
14 - 3 Gy is as previously discussed, far higher than hormesis is claimed at. What this does do, however, is disprove that there is a consistent Linear No Threshold effect even at such high levels.
15 - No comment needed.
16 - As you acknowledge "Cell culture studies seem to show hormesis". If I were a mouse I would not want a Gy scale exposure either.
17 - Of course the newspaper will cover itself by asking for a soundbite of the official view. How is this unexpected or more important than what the article is about.
18 - If 10 years ago is to long to listen to Professor McCarthy (I don't think it is) then LNT, as a 60 year old theory adopted without evidence at the time is surely further away. Your link does not mention "hormesis" and is simply about the difficulties of research. "Nevertheless, the risk of exposure to radon

indoors in the domestic environment has long been questioned. About 20 ecological studies

have been performed since the 1980s, but due to methodological limitations these studies

proved unable to answer the question." (by which they mean they keep coming up with the wrong answer) is typical of the "there is no evidence so trust us" line of thought.
19 - So no further comment required.
20 - So " " " "
21 - Your first link says "In some houses in Ramsar, Iran, the inhabitants are exposed to an annual dose of background radiation of as much as 130 mSv per year — over 70 times that in Colorado. Nevertheless, the inhabitants of Ramsar are just as healthy as — or even healthier than — control populations exposed to far lower levels of radiation." The 2nd has already been dealt with in 18. The 3rd link isn't working.
22 - No further comment.
23 - Your link has already been dealt with in #4
What seems undeniably clear is that there is no actual evidence for the LNT theory and indeed that its supporters rely on it being allegedly impossible to prove it at the low end, because of the large size of population needed. You will be aware that a key requirement of any scientific theory is that it be "falsifiable" i.e. proven wrong. Personally I think most unfalsifiable theories (LNT, catastrophic warming, withcraft, creationism, flat earth are indeed falsifiable it just thaty their supporters are to stubborn to look). However, if the LNT supporters are correct then LNT cannot be counted as science
I would welcome any suggestion of what would provide falsifiability for LNT.
Hormesis supporters do not claim unfalsifiability and point to the natural background radiation, which can be determined and show Colorado not to have a higher cancer rate than Mississippi. The experimental statistical evidence for it in plants & cultures seems undisputed.----Neil

133 I want to answer an earlier comment from Neil. To be honest, I have read so much about radiation exposure over the past few days it's starting to drive me crazy. I'll post a summary of what I think I have learned about this in the next day or two, as it may be of use to someone.
I think you are wrong to say that Professor Cohen's work and that of Professor Chen (Taiwan) are "known to be wrong". They have both been disputed. It would be astonishing if they hadn't since they go against the official paradigm. But that is not the same as being disproven. Professor Cohen has, in turn, vigorously criticised the criticism. I do not know if Chen has done the same but have seen no evidence that he has acknowledged being wrong.

Well I think Professor Cohen has fallen foul of the ecological fallacy, averaging cancer rates and radon exposure in US counties and expecting to find a meaningful result. This is not how epidemiology should be done and the negative correlation he found between radon exposure and cigarette smoking both demonstrates this and explains his findings.

As for Chen, I don't see how you can continue to defend a study of cancer rates that failed to take age demographics into account, when a study that used matched controls is available.
I don't know if you are right about Coulter exaggerating mammogram evidence but it is a minor point and certainly does not justify Orac's "versus science" allegation. If we required that popularisations of science were always 100% accurate I doubt that any of them would pass muster.

It wasn't mammogram evidence, it was high dose chest x-rays of patients with TB that did not cause as much cancer as you would expect from such high doses. The original paper concluded, "the risk of breast cancer associated with radiation decreases sharply with increasing age at exposure and that even a small benefit to women of screening mammography would outweigh any possible risk of radiation-induced breast cancer." In other words if you dose older women with x-rays, the increased risk of cancer is outweighed by the benefits of early detection of breast cancer. The article by Kolata that Coulter gives as a source of the information says, "the tuberculosis patients, some analyses said, had fewer cases of breast cancer than would be expected." Coulter misinterprets this, writing, "tuberculosis patients subjected to multiple chest X-rays had much lower rates of breast cancer than the general population". This is not a minor point. Coulter has not bothered to track down the original source and has written something that is opposite to the truth. At a minimum this is sloppy and irresponsible journalism.

On the paper you cite - I have read it (well the abstract) and it does not disprove, indeed barely touches on hormesis. It says there is evidence to support LNT down to 50-100 mSv (a remarkably unspecific amount for science), for non-instant exposures, but nothing below this, allegedly because of the difficulty of finding a large enough statistical population to be affected by lower levels).

The article is not about hormesis, I never said it was. It is about why the LNT is accepted as the safest assumption to make about low level exposure.

This conflicts with evidence from areas, such as south India where there is a background radiation of up to 200 mSv with no visible damage.

How do you know how much damage there is there? What control population do you use to establish this? Where is the matched control study of this exposed population? The one case control study I could find found that lung cancer was 2.3 times more common where the external dose was greater than 10 mGy per year, though this was not statistically significant. The study, which I can't find on-line, is this: Binu VS, Gangadharan P, Jayalekshmi P, Nair RRK, Nair MK, Rajan B and Akiba S 2005 The risk of lung cancer in HBR area in India—a case–control study High Levels of Natural Radiation and Radon Areas: Radiation Dose and Health Effects ed T Sugahara and Y Sasaki. It is cited in this study.

It is also not entirely compatible with the radium paint experience where, as Professor Wade Allison has pointed out, there appears to be a cut off point at 10 gray (100,000 mSv) for a whole life exposure, causing no damage. Nonetheless it is irrelevant for any case of a hormetic effect under 50 mSv - 3 times the official danger level and one most hormesis supporters are willing to accept as a first approximation.

Even assuming this is correct, and the data collected several decades ago is reliable, exposure to radium may not be typical of other exposures to radiation. The number of exposed workers examined (less than 3000) may be too small to find a statistically significant effect consistent with the LNT against a background of normal cancer rates. The cut-off below which there is no measurable effect is between 4 and 11 microcuries radium according to this paper. I'm not sure how that translates into mSv. By the way, I can't find any information about "the 30 year followup of 1155 low dose radium dial painters who had fewer cancers than the general population and lived longer".

If you look at the Hiroshima and Nagasaki survivors, >50% of them had a dose of less than 50 mSv. Even those with a dose of 34 mSv showed a statistically significant increase in cancer risk.
In fact the paper is clearly wrong about it being impossible to find larger populations exposed to lower levels. The entire world is exposed to levels of natural radiation, varying in easily measurable ways by region and the much higher exposure of people in Colorado than Mississippi is undisputable. This is the basis of Professor Cohen's work and that of the Swedish oncologist mentioned. Why the paper should make such an untrue assertion we can only speculate on.

The problem with that approach is that there are confounding factors. There may be many reasons why cancer rates in Colorado and Mississippi are different. You have to take age, smoking and socioeconomic status into account for a start. You need a control group matched for all those factors. That's where it gets messy, and small changes in corrections for age, or other factors can have major effects on the results.

I still maintain that the evidence for hormesis or a threshold dose of radiation in humans is far from overwhelming.   ------ Kreboizen

134 The difficulty of assessing statistics, "ecological fallacy" or otherwise cuts both ways and is inherently as likely to lead to an underestimate of hormesis. For example your 2nd link says:

"Population density is strongly positively associated with lung cancer. It follows that aggregate residential radon and lung cancer rates should be negatively associated for reasons having nothing to do with the possibility of radon being carcinogenic to the lung."
It is not inherently likely that population density would cause lung cancer. A more likely reason would be that areas where high populations develop tend to be flat fertile soil rather than mountains but mountains contain more radioactive rock. This does not seem to have been noticed.
As your paper accepts there is no real evidence for LNT below 50 mSv it is simply an assumption.

On the evidence for south India that is why I said there is "no VISIBLE damage". Since 200 mSv is 10 or more times above "official" danger levels if that is justified one would expect some noticeable effect.
Exposure to radium being seriously different from all other sorts of radiation is an assumption without evidence. Moreover if it were the case there would be a 50:50 chance that it underestimated the hormetic effect rather than overestimated it. A lot of countering of hormesis seems to rely on the possibility of there being unknown confounding factors which (A) becomes increasingly statistically less credible the more times it is invoked and (B) is not evidence for the counter theory, but for more research.
I would welcome more research on the subject & I think we would agree on that. Scientific questions can be opened by debate but are closed by enough good research. More good research would find if there are enough confounding factors or not. It would either raise the level of evidence for hormesis to "overwhelming" or reduce it.
I believe that the acceptance of LNT, on grounds of bureaucratic convenience, the general failure to do the research and particular instances such as killing the exposed cattle when they embarrassed the LNT theory indicates that the science has been driven by political conclusions rather than the other way round.----  Neil
135 As promised, here's a summary of what I think I have learned about low dose radiation, hormesis and the linear no threshold theory. I'm no expert, but the links supporting my conclusions are above. Any new links I have included below.
Evidence for and against hormesis and the LNT
Theoretical evidence
There are arguments for both that seem equally persuasive to me. It seems self-evident that DNA repair mechanisms cannot be 100% effective as otherwise radiation even in high doses would not cause cancer, but it does (Gofman). However, if protective mechanisms induced by radiation repair more damage from other sources than is caused by the radiation, then hormesis may occur (Pollycove and Feinendegen).
Experimental evidence
Plants, trees algae etc

Some evidence show that low level radiation stimulates the growth of plants, fungi, algae, protozoans, insects, and nonmammalian vertebrates. It is not clear if that is true at all levels of exposure, all types of exposure and with all isotopes. Anyway, this does not mean that the same is true for humans.

Cell cultures - human and animal

Some studies show a protective effect of a small dose of radiation before a larger one is given, the radioadaptive response. Some studies show that cells have fewer cancerous changes with low doses of radiation than those with no radiation. Other studies find that even small doses of radiation cause damage in line with the LNT. Low-dose hypersensitivity has also been demonstrated.
As Dr. Luckey states:

"Except for cytology and cells in culture, artificial systems which lack participation from whole body faculties (particularly the immune system), there is no reasonable or scientific proof of LNT at low doses of ionizing radiation."
In other words Luckey is saying that there is reasonable scientific proof of the LNT at low doses of ionizing radiation in cytology and cells in culture. As he says, whether this translates to humans is not known.
So the evidence in cell culture is equivocal. The important thing is whether it translates into real effects in humans.
Animal studies

Some animal studies show short term health benefits from low dose radiation, especially in infected animals, but later a higher risk of cancer. Radioadaptive responses occur in mice, but mice not dosed with radiation at all live longer. Very low dose studies require too many animals to get statistically significant results. Data are equivocal.
Luckey several examples of radiation hormesis in animals, but these are all animals with diptheria, vesicular stomatitis virus or other infections.
To quote Luckey: "This graph exposes the misinterpretation to conclude that control mice have longer average life-spans than the exposed mice when the median value was used instead of mean or average. The disbelief spread when major laboratories were misled by repeating the Lorenz protocols with specific pathogen-free (SPF) animals. Since SPF animals have no pathogens to cause infection, controls lived as long as irradiated mice and no hormesis was found."
In these sorts of experiments the median (middle value of values arranged in order) is often used as it is not distorted by an abnormal distribution, In a normal distribution (bell-shaped curve) the median and the mean are the same. If the mean and the median are very different, there is not a normal distribution. Median survival is a very fair way of expressing results, as half the animals lived for fewer days, and half lived for more days.
Notice that Luckey states that in normal uninfected mice, "controls lived as long as irradiated mice and no hormesis was found". This is what the LNT would predict, as you would have to irradiate many thousands of mice to see the small increase in mortality predicted after such a small dose (1.1mGy/d or 40 rad per year about 100 times average background).
However, another experiment does show a significant increase in lifespan in mice exposed to 7 or 14 cGy/year (7-14 rad) which is around 20 times background radiation. This is the only experiment I can find that shows an increase in animal lifespan with low dose radiation.
Which of these studies is right? Can they both be right? Maybe 20 times background is beneficial, but 100 times background is not. Anyway, humans are not mice, and we cannot extrapolate directly from mice to humans.
Another study using mice that are hypersensitive to whole body x-rays found a very low dose (1 micro Gy or 0.0001 Rad or 0.1 mRad) that caused damage, a higher dose that was hormetic, and a higher dose than that which caused damage. This may explain some of the conflicting evidence. By the way, some humans are also hypersensitive to radiation.
High background radiation studies

These are plagued by confounding factors, limited populations and difficulties matching exposed and control populations. The data are equivocal apart from radon, which recent studies strongly suggest is a major cause of lung cancer in line with LNT predictions. Combined figures from the whole of Europe, the USA and China give a large population which generates considerable statistical power.
Occupational exposure to low dose radiation

These studies are plagued by confounding factors, limited populations and difficulties matching exposed and control populations. The data are equivocal.
Atomic bomb survivors

Except for higher dose studies, these are plagued by confounding factors, limited populations and difficulties matching exposed and control populations. The data are equivocal, though statistically significant increased risk of cancer has been found at levels as low as 34 mSv.
There are eminent scientists who are convinced that radiation is good for us. There are equally eminent scientists who believe that radiation in low doses is harmless. There are equally eminent scientists who believe we have the safety regulations about right (the majority, apparently). There are equally eminent scientists who believe that low dose radiation is far more dangerous than we currently think. This disagreement suggests that the data are equivocal, and that there is a considerable degree of uncertainty.
I tend to agree with the National Academy of Science study which suggests that in the face of such uncertainty we should be cautious. Though we know that low levels of radiation must have a very small (if any) positive or negative effect on individuals, when large populations are exposed large numbers of people may be affected. The costs of maintaining current safety regulations must be balanced against the possibility of thousands of excess cancers if they are relaxed.
There are scientists who think that hardly anyone has died as a result of Chernobyl, and those who believe that hundreds of thousands have died.
A word on epidemiological studies

There are populations that have been exposed to relatively large doses of radiation. For example the survivors of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Following these survivors should give us a good idea of the long term effects of radiation, you might think. For large doses it does, and this is part of the data used to construct the LNT curve. However, there are potential problems with the data. Firstly, these are survivors. It is not unreasonable to suggest that more of those vulnerable to radiation would have died shortly after the bombs were dropped. The survivor population may or may not be comparable to the control population. Which brings me to the next problem - what control population do you use? The Japanese population not within range of the atom bombs is usually used, but is this a fair control group? Was the population of Japan exposed to radioactive fallout? Are we comparing one exposed population to another? I don't know the answer to that question. Sternglass claims that leukemia rates in Japan increased by a factor of 5 after 1945, but I can't find the primary data, and Sternglass is not considered a reliable source by many.
Parts of Ramsar in Iran have very high background radiation (55-200 times average background), and 10,000 people live in the high radiation area so it should be simple to determine if there is an increased cancer (or other disease) rate in this area. In practice it doesn't seem so straightforward. If you go to and type "Ramsar" into the search box, you will get several studies, some of which find lower cancer rates, some that find no effect and one that finds an increased rate. Who do you believe?------ Krebiozen
136 OK I am glad you accept the experimental evidence of hormesis in plants, cultures and animals. Once it is accepted an effect exists the rest is measurement of degree and where, if anywhere, the effect stops both in radiation level and complexity of the organism (I realise how much of a simplification that is). If it is found in one in one part of the living world the default assumption is that we would expect it elsewhere, unless there is evidence to the contrary.
My reading of Luckey is not yours. I suggest that what that phrase means is that he had not searched for hormesis in cells which "lack participation from whole body faculties" ie lack an immune system, because it an immune system is essential for the hormesis theory rather than that he had investigated and found it missing. If he, or anybody else, had investigated I submit it would have been published properly not as an arguable implication in a throw away line.
I think it reasonable to believe 20 times (app 40 mSv) background is hormetic but 100 times (app 200 mSv) not. That latter figure is about 50% above the Ramsar background. Both are above official danger levels from which we are assured government regulation is "protecting" us.
You are exaggerating in describing the possibility of "thousands" of extra cancers if regulations are relaxed. Nobody is suggesting a relaxation that would allow nuclear plants to normally emit even 1/10th as much as coal plants currently do (50 times more than nuclear ones , let alone TMI or Fukushima, both of which have killed nobody. So, even were LNT true, a relaxation would be unlikely to kill as many as a handful (in fact if it replaced coal plants it would, assuming the LNT theory, be directly beneficial). Of course if it provides heat for people through the winter it would save millions worldwide.

I cannot agree with your assertion that radon has unequivocally been proven harmful. There have been many studies on this precisely because they kept coming up with the "wrong" answers. It is unsurprising that somebody has managed to come up with the "right" answer but Cohen's, which found a hormetic effect half of the damaging effect of smoking seems to have been professionally conducted. This is another on radon "described by their own authors as “surprising” and “stunning”: Clear evidence of radiation hormesis"
On your surprise that some studies show hormesis and some are consistent with LNT may I suggest this answer from Richard Feynman's speech on cargo cult science.
"Millikan measured the charge on an electron by an experiment with falling oil drops, and got an answer which we now know not to be quite right. It's a little bit off, because he had the incorrect value for the

viscosity of air. It's interesting to look at the history of measurements of the charge of the electron, after Millikan. If you plot them as a function of time, you find that one is a little bigger than Millikan's, and the next one's a little bit bigger than that, and the next one's a little bit bigger than that, until finally they settle down to a number which is higher.
Why didn't they discover that the new number was higher right away? It's a thing that scientists are ashamed of--this history--because it's apparent that people did things like this: When they got a number that was too high above Millikan's, they thought something must be wrong--and they would look for and find a reason why

something might be wrong. When they got a number closer to Millikan's value they didn't look so hard. And so they eliminated the numbers that were too far off, and did other things like that."
The entire speech should be read by anybody interested in scientific integrity.
In this case LNT is, like Millikan's case but very very much stronger because it is so heavily politically backed, the official theory which any experiment must conform to. It is to their considerable credit that such a significant number of scientists have found - and published - the evidence for the non-official theory.  --- Neil

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Thursday, May 19, 2011


  From an old article in ConservativeHome on the Tory leadership contest and how David Cameron came from the back of the field to beat David Davis
In first place I'm awarding Nick Robinson, BBC's Political Editor, and Tom Bradby, his successor at ITN. Bradby, in particular, led the reporting of DD's conference speech. It bombed and it bombed badly he told the public (an interpretation that still infuriates the Davis-ites). These two talking heads - and the production/editorial teams behind them - had big influences on this contest and will continue to be very big players in politics for the next few years (at least until the blogosphere really hits its potential heights).
The event I remember is watching BBC's Newsnight broadcast a focus group which was said to be seeing what popular reaction would be to each candidate. Cameron, up till then a virtual unknown "who he" candidate who had never served in government got a tremendous "wow" review and the Conservatives were effectively told that only he could appeal to anything close to a majority. Since this came out just before the party conference its influence cannot be underestimated. This is from an Observer (ie the pro-BBC Guardian on Sunday) article on the subject:
Through no fault of his own, show-business made Cameron leader of the opposition. David Davis had the strongest base among activists and MPs. The opinion polls declared Kenneth Clarke the frontrunner among the wider public. Neither man was a clear election winner, however. Cameron came from nowhere because Newsnight commissioned a focus group run by American pollster Frank Luntz that appeared to prove that the young politician could become extraordinarily popular and the Conservatives believed him. The desperation of the Tories in 2005 produced an election without precedent. The findings of a focus group drove a hitherto obscure politician to the leadership of a major political party. Not a focus group hired by party managers anxious to uphold the best interests of their cause, but by a broadcaster as interested in entertainment as reputable market research.
By the standards of the old-fashioned journalists who looked down their noses at Frost, Luntz was an astonishing pollster for Newsnight to commission. He had spent much of the previous decade helping the Republicans find smarmy ways to spin tax cuts for the rich and dismiss global warming as scaremongering....
Add to that the reprimand Luntz received from the American Association for Public Opinion Research for his unsubstantiated claim that 60 per cent of Americans supported the Republicans' Contract with America and you seem to be left with a mediocre propagandist the BBC would never allow near its programmes in normal circumstances.

.... frequently getting called in by the networks to offer colour commentary on politics even when he has no poll to cite'. Producers feted Luntz because he gave television what it wanted: strong opinions expressed with absolute certainty in a populist style....
But British pollsters tell me that Luntz's work for Newsnight shouldn't have been allowed to influence a parish council election, never mind the future of a great party. If you can't follow their case against him, their overall explanation is easy to grasp: a well-run focus group could never fill 15 minutes of airtime. It would be too boring. To begin with, standard focus groups have six to eight members, but a handful of people isn't an impressive sight on television, so Newsnight had Luntz meet 28 voters.

Focus groups are also meant to be focused. Market researchers want volunteers from a similar background so the guinea pigs will lose their inhibitions about speaking freely in front of strangers. But Newsnight mixed up people who had always voted Tory with people who had once voted Tory and people who had never voted Tory. The danger of a large and diverse group is that the loudest voices will dominate and a herd mentality will take over. Watch the footage that made Cameron leader and you will see that's what happens as the dynamics of crowd psychology convert everyone in the room to his charms.

The standard way to stop easily impressed interviewees going along with the crowd is to have secret ballots. Luntz and Newsnight didn't use them because a show of hands looks better on TV. After they hear Cameron saying he wants to appeal to people's hopes rather than their fears, the reaction of the voters on dinky hand-held dials that measure their instant responses was overwhelmingly positive. But they would have been as pleased if you, I or our next-door neighbours had said the same, which is why serious researchers are wary of instant reactions. I could go on, but the big point is that Newsnight produced infotainment, not research.

I'm not suggesting a conspiracy....
  Maybe a Guardianista isn't but it certainly fits the facts. How often do the BBC hire somebody who has made his career promoting the Republicans, tax cuts and opposing global warming? It may have happened some other time but I don't know of any. Frank Luntz must have had some quality the BBC desperately wanted.
In 1997, he was reprimanded by the American Association for Public Opinion Research for refusing to release poll data to support his claimed results "because of client confidentiality"....
In 2000 he was censured by the National Council on Public Polls "for allegedly mischaracterizing on MSNBC the results of focus groups he conducted during the [2000] Republican Convention." In September 2004, MSNBC dropped Luntz from its planned coverage of that year's presidential debate, following a letter from Media Matters that outlined Luntz's GOP ties and questionable polling methodology.
  It has regularly been said that Cameron has "captured" the Conservative party but isn't a Conservative. He is certainly committed to the BBC political agenda of catastrophic global warmism, windmillery, eco-fascism, support of the EU, "centrism", not allowing referenda or even real debate, the pseudoliberalism that the Beeboids falsely call "liberalism" and not seriously reducing the size of the state (of which the BBC is a loyal part) even in the face of economic collapse.

    Were the BBC aware of all this when they hired somebody with a history of polling fraud to run a clearly fraudulent poll to promote Cameron? Because if they were then there was a conspiracy.

    As a leader Cameron has certainly not shown the ability to attract voters promised. I have elsewhere expressed the opinion that he could have walked to a massive victory in the election
Before the election I said that Cameron's 3 major mistakes were - climbing on the catastrophic warming bandwagon just as the wheels were coming off; ignoring the economy for years to concentrated on "detoxifying the brand"; refusing UKIP's offer to stand down if they promised a referendum (again).

I have seen no reason to change my opinion that if he had got even 1 of those 3 right the Tories would have had a majority.
   All of these are, of course, things that fit the BBC agenda perfectly. He also has the advantage that his career history is entirely in broadcasting, PR and Westminster rather than anything where he might have picked up any non-Beeboid influences. He has also been able to change the party logo from a Union Jack to a tree and to halve the size of Conservative party membership since he came to the leadership.

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Wednesday, May 18, 2011


  This is from an idea I suggested on Douglas Carswell's blog. The major reform Labour and Gordon Brown in particular achieved was that when they got in they made the Monetary Policy Committee "independent" with the job of setting interest rates and thus keeping inflation within 1 degree of the official inflation target. The official target was set at 2%.

   In fact this is all smoke and mirrors. Inflation is now at 4.5% and though the MPC's weapon to keep inflation low is setting interest rates they keep official interest rates at 0.5% which everybody knows is never going to bring inflation down. So have all the MPC been replaced? Of course not. Whatever the official rules they are government appointees and are going to do whatever government really wants (as opposed to officially wants) which in this case is to keep credit cheap (though the market is increasingly not fooled) and pretend government policies are getting us out of recession, or will real soon now. Despite the nominal reform the MPC is less independent than a left sock.

  This is a common problem with all government appointed "independent" experts. People get appointed not because they have a record of being right but because they have a record of saying whatever the government of the day want to hear.

   So here is my proposal:
All appointees to senior bodies or positions described as independent and involving future policy must have a record of accuracy. Anybody wishing to be considered for such appointments must first be listed over a 5 year period where annually they answer 2 or more predictive questions. Appointments may only be drawn from those in the most accurate 1% or from the top 3 individuals for every post available. In the event of the person twice making a prediction or decision that proves to be wrong their position shall be terminated.
 This would apply to things like the monetary policy committee, chief science advisor, immigration advisers, policing advisers, Met Office chair etc. So if the met office predicted a "barbecue summer" followed by the recent "mild winter" it would have a new chair and if the MPC consistently failed to get inflation close to 2% all those who voted for the chosen policy of keeping interest rates at a historic low would be replaced by people with a history of getting it right.

  This is not a particularly high standard of accuracy to require. It would not require 2 bridges to fall down before the engineer who designed them was out of a job - one would do and he would probably get sued or charged with manslaughter as well.

The difference between economics & political "science" and the hard sciences is that in the latter answers are a matter of fact which you have to get right whereas in the political "sciences" (including global warming) the answers that get you promoted are the ones the politicians want. If appointment to the MPC were by proven competence the economy would be much better run.
                                         would you buy a used economy from these people

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Tuesday, May 17, 2011

The Street That Cut Everything" BBC

  Last night the BBC, in their normal display of "due balance" did an experiment. For 6 weeks a street in Preston had been given back their council tax and pay for the council services they get themselves, which produced 1 1/2 hours of programming.

  Nick has made it quite clear what the balanced purpose was  I'm going to make my request. Spare a thought for our politicians tonight. No, really.

   To be fair they did not prevent schooling (which legally they couldn't anyway) or policing (though no policeman ever turned up the very existence of a police force is a major social good). Theoretically pretty much the plot of Passport to Pimlico but instead of wit and humour we got Nick Robinson fronting it.

   So they got £60 per house per fortnight and, at a meeting decided to pool it, and before they had finished the BBC had switched their street lights off. We were told street lighting costs £500 million across the UK  which amounts to £8 annually for each of us so if this was a real experiment they could have chosen to just pay that.

   Then the council turned up to dump their rubbish in the street. In die course they were able to find a merchant who was willing to pay them for their rubbish so long as they transported it there. Obviously if it had been a long term experiment, private enterprise bin men would have been able to do the job for a fairly token sum.

   Then there was looking after the 75 year old pensioner - which they did.

   And the single multiple mother who wanted taxi fairs paid to take her kid to school. Which they did.

   And the BBC sent round a team to fly tip along the street - which, since it was specifically said had never happened before, looked like stacking the deck.

   That included 2 fridges which the BBC eventually "fined" them £300 for phoning up somebody willing to dispose of them without going through all the council paperwork. Despite them being deprived of council services the council seemed able to pay for all the bureaucratic bull designed to prevent people doing anything without filling in forms in triplicate. This is another major difference from Passport to Pimlico where getting rid government/council busybodies was the biggest gain.

   Even supporting the single mother the street were quids in. Even though they also had to pay for her housing benefit, which being overly nice people they did, though a few politically incorrect words were said and had the BBC not been filming it was clear more would have been.

   So the BBC changed the rules.

   Suddenly they had to pay for the care of a father who lived miles away and clearly always had.

  The BBC hired some people to spray paint graffiti everywhere, something which hadn't previously happened. The community cleaned it off themselves and got told off by Nick for not filling in the council forms they weren't paying for.

  Then the BBC decided they all had to get up at 6 in the morning to clean streets in the city centre on a Sunday morning. This was done on the basis that they are part of the community and should have to pay for common facilities where people don't live. The fact that businesses there pay rates, and pay highly at that, would have disproven the argument if it had been allowed to be mentioned on air. At that point the participants should have told the BBC they weren't playing by these ever changing rules, and perhaps burned Nick in effigy without the effigy, but being nice people they didn't.

   Then the BBC hired a bunch of JDs to come round and make a nuisance of themselves. They were not allowed to call the police but told that, had the council still been providing the services their noise abatement officers would have been round within minutes to run these ruffians off. Presumably the noise abatement inspectors in Preston work a 24 hour shift.

   Then a pack of dog walkers to shit all over the place (well their dogs). Again not a common occurrence.

   They also introduced a rule that, like councils, any money unspent at the end is taken back, which tended to mitigate against anything being left, but would not have been the case if they had really been free to choose.

   At the end the locals were frazzled and not in profit, but not out either. The pensioner lady felt well ahead in the game because thrown on the mercy of her neighbours they had proven to be a lot nicer and more caring than the council "carers".

    The BBC had thus "proven" that our council services are basically good value for money.

    The big thing that went unmentioned in their programme is that council tax only pays about 20%  of council  spending - the rest coming from the rate support grant and business rates. So even assuming schools and police take up half of it they were getting by, successfully even with no economies of scale, inevitable initial costs of change and the BBC hired graffiti, on about 2/5ths of the money councils spend.

    On video. OK Nick I'll spare a few thoughts for the politicians, but I don't think you'll like them.

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Monday, May 16, 2011

  This is from an article about the maintenance of the no lower threshold theory (LNT) of radiation damage. I have blogged about LNT for which, even supporters recognise there is no real evidence, and about the opposite theory, known as hormesis, that it is beneficial. For the latter opponents do not say no evidence exists but do try to ignore, or downplay it.

Fear of radiation has proved to be far more detrimental to public health than radiation itself. No actual deaths of U.S. citizens have been attributed to accidental releases of radiation from reactors. But fear of radiation has proved fatal: (1) fear of bearing a “nuclear mutant” led 100,000 European women to choose unnecessary abortions after Chernobyl; (2) thousands of people avoid life-saving medical procedures such as mammograms or radiotherapy because they involve radiation; (3) regulatory roadblocks preventing management of harmless low-level wastes are causing many hospitals to shut down radiomedical treatment centers; (4) thousands of deaths from pathogens infecting seafood, eggs, beef and poultry could be prevented by irradiating food. Moreover billions of dollars have already been spent on trivial radiation risks based on grotesque scenarios about (1) single atoms destined to migrate through miles of desert soil to contaminate a potential water source in some distant future, or (2) measurable radon producing sick buildings which require costly remediation or destruction. Fear endangers human health.

Because the LNT model is deeply entrenched in standard-setting procedures of UNSCEAR, BEIR, ICRP and NCRP (UBIN), their bureaucracies have neither cited, discussed, nor refuted the data and theory contradicting the LNT model. Eventually, politicizing and prostituting scientific principles will erode not only the credibility of scientists, but also public confidence in regulatory institutions. Risk-tradeoff analysis is an ethically necessary replacement for the regulatory vested interests now dominating bureaucratic incentives to “keep the hazard alive” — namely, empire building, legalized plunder, research funding, sales of instruments, and indispensable services to a fearful public. An obsession with hypothetical health effects from but one technology siphons attention away from widespread harms claiming the lives of human beings daily.

     This criticism also applies to most government and ecofascist scare stories promoted by those in power because "The whole aim of practical politics is to keep the populace alarmed (and hence clamorous to be led to safety) by menacing it with an endless series of hobgoblins, all of them imaginary."H.L. Mencken
     The demonising of nuclear power has killed at least 19 million through fuel poverty. The DDT scare has killed 70 million, mainly African children, through malaria.  the Anti-GM scare contributes to world starvation. The global warming scam has cost trillions which, as Bjorn Lomberg has pointed out, could have saved and improved hundreds of millions of lives through things like providing purified water. The war on the probably long dead bin Laden has killed perhaps a million Iraqi's and many many others. The Health and Safety Executive's regulations not only occasionally kill people but even the maximum they may save is about 1,000th of those they kill through reducing national wealth.

     What all of these have in common is that they are anti-technology scare stories which act as "hobgoblins" to increase the power of political parasites and regulatory vested interests. Statistically it is simply impossible those politicians who support these scares and do not support other things which would greatly improve human well being and/or reduce real risks (economic growth/hardening infrastructure against solar flaring/distributing vitamin d/space development/market freedom) which would not increase their power to be promoting ecofascism in ignorance and to really have the interests of the people they "serve" in mind. They simply must, 99.9% or more, be deliberately lying to promote false fear stories.

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Sunday, May 15, 2011


    Yesterday BBC Scotland's radio news reported on the climate conference in which sceptics and alarmists were supposed to get together and discuss the subject without rancour. It is described by Andrew Mountford who was one of the participants on his blog and it seems to have been a bit to large to allow much more than speech making.

    However the BBC reporting was unusual. They had a short interview with an alarmist and then, wonder of wonders, another with Ian Plimer, in which he was actually allowed to answer without interruption (he said that there were many periods in history and prehistory when the temperature had been warmer and many, not at the same time, where the CO2 levels had been higher). Then, wonder upon wonder upon wonder, they interviewed the organiser of the conference who was also clearly impressed by the sceptical side.

   So 2 interviews (admittedly the latter 2)  putting the theory that we are not all doomed by catastrophic warming to 1 that we are. Not exactly negating their admitted 10s of thousands of hours of  alarmist propaganda with under 2 minutes of the truth but, for the BBC, a remarkable change.

   Rats and sinking ships come to mind.

the normal BBC scare

UPDATE A commenter on Bishop Hill gives a link to the BBC recording

Unusually for the BBC they were quite balanced and ran brief interviews with Alan Howard, Ian Plimer and Andrew Watson from CRU. Alan Howard even managed to fit in that the global temperatures had not risen for 10 - 12 years (Sic) which is remarkable on the BBC. The article starts around 1hour 49 minutes in.


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  A few links I have looked at recently:

The optimal size of government - they say 22% which fits remarkably well with a poll I did.

List of countires by GNP, on current trend, to 2015

Quotes from Milton Friedman

 Quotes about Milton Friedman (I have sympathy with Nixon's)

Al Fin looks at Chile's growth - the country which adopted the Chicago school of economics advice hint - it worked

Taranis Britain's unmanned aerial weapon system

Denmark: Freedom of speech dies over not saying provably true things about some Moslems

What actual power Conservative Party members have over their party: ---- all (previously asked by me)

The legality of killing tyrants - wiki article

Japanese tsunami picture

Finland's eurosceptic party goes from 4% (equivalent to UKIP) to 20% on promise not to sign up for bail outs. Update - the other parties have got together to form a government which will bail out. Is this a harbinger for a Labour/Conservative coalition next time?

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