Wednesday, October 24, 2018

Prince Harry's Invictus games

I thought it might be of interest to note where the prince got the name for those games -- which are of course for military personnel who have been disabled in some way during their service. He got his title from a famous Victorian poem, as below:

Invictus ("undefeated")

by William Ernest Henley 1875

Out of the night that covers me,
Black as the pit from pole to pole,
I thank whatever gods may be
For my unconquerable soul.

In the fell clutch of circumstance
I have not winced nor cried aloud.
Under the bludgeonings of chance
My head is bloody, but unbowed.

Beyond this place of wrath and tears
Looms but the Horror of the shade,
And yet the menace of the years
Finds, and shall find me, unafraid.

It matters not how strait the gate,
How charged with punishments the scroll,
I am the master of my fate,
I am the captain of my soul.

Wikipedia: When Henley was 16 years old, one of his legs required amputation due to complications arising from tuberculosis. In the early 1870s, after seeking treatment for problems with his other leg at Margate, he was told that it would require a similar procedure.

In August 1873 he chose instead to travel to Edinburgh to enlist the services of the distinguished English surgeon Joseph Lister, who was able to save Henley's remaining leg after multiple surgical interventions on the foot.

While recovering in the infirmary, he was moved to write the verses that became "Invictus". A memorable evocation of Victorian stoicism—the "stiff upper lip" of self-discipline and fortitude in adversity, which popular culture rendered into a British character trait—"Invictus" remains a cultural touchstone.

Note phrases that have passed into the language:

"My head is bloody, but unbowed"

"I am the master of my fate, I am the captain of my soul"

Prince Harry is a keen former member of the British armed services and gained a strong identification with service personnel during his deployment in Afghanistan.  So he feels for those who have been disabled.  And sport is a big part of the military life so it was  an inspiration to provide a games organization for them.  Many of the participants have said how helpful to them psychologically the games were.

Uncertainty about side-stepping warrants and detention must be resolved under encryption bill

I mostly disagree with the Law Council but I think they are right on this issue.  There must be better ways of catching crooks than destroying everybody's privacy rights -- JR

The Australian Government’s encryption access bill raises serious questions about the ability of law enforcement and intelligence agencies to access encrypted private information without a warrant, as well as the power to detain individuals in certain circumstances.

Law Council of Australia President-elect, Arthur Moses SC, told a Parliamentary Committee today that while there was significant value in allowing law enforcement and national security agencies faster access to encrypted information, the proposed Telecommunications and Other Legislation Amendment (Assistance and Access) Bill 2018 needed considerable amendment.

“The Bill will authorise the exercise of intrusive covert powers with the potential to significantly limit an individual’s right to privacy, freedom of expression, and liberty,” Mr Moses said.

“It would allow law enforcement agencies and ASIO to make ‘technical assistance requests’ or ‘voluntary assistance requests’ on designated communications providers.

“Under these requests a provider may be asked to undertake certain acts or things, including telecommunications interception, for which authorities would otherwise require a warrant.

“It is our strong concern that these requests could side-step the need for a warrant.

“Where law enforcement or intelligence agencies would otherwise require judicial or Administrative Appeals Tribunal, or Ministerial authorisation or approval, they should not be able to make a voluntary assistance request or a technical assistance request.

“It is hard to imagine an internet provider refusing a written ‘request’ from law enforcement.”

Among other concerns raised by Mr Moses were proposed new powers that would allow law enforcement or ASIO to effectively detain individuals if they were required to provide compulsory assistance.

“If a person is required to attend a place to provide information or assistance this may arguably amount to detention of that person, particularly as they may be arrested on suspicion of an offence if they attempt to leave,” Mr Moses said.

“Appropriate safeguards need to be in place for detention. Detained people should be allowed to contact a lawyer or family member, for example.

“There should also be prescribed maximum periods for giving assistance, requiring an explanation of legal rights and responsibilities, and the availability of interpreters where required.”

Mr Moses also alerted the committee to other concerns, including that for computer access warrants, agencies may obtain telecommunications interception on the basis of lower thresholds than those that currently apply. They may also have an ability to use force against persons or things to engage in telecommunications interception.

Media release.

Vic students tested on literacy, numeracy

Every high school student in Victoria will be tested against new literacy and numeracy standards, in the biggest shake up of VCE in decades.

The new standards will be reported as part of VCE or VCAL results from 2021, the Labor state government announced on Monday in a bid to ensure school leavers meet minimum literacy and numeracy standards.

"This is a change that has been called for by employers for some time, and with this additional support we will give every student the opportunity to be job ready," Education Minister James Merlino said.

The Liberal-Nationals opposition doesn't support the new testing system.

"It's a bit late. If kids have got a problem with numeracy and literacy they need to be identified very early," Opposition Leader Matthew Guy said, instead pointing to the need for phonics checks earlier in school years.


Faith in science is undermined by peer-review failings

Science has been in the news ­lately. As part of the release of the latest UN Inter­govern­mental Panel on Climate Change report, the boast was made that the contents were based on the work of 91 of the top scientists and more than 6000 scientific references.

This carries on the tradition outlined by the chairman of the IPCC from 2002 to 2015, Rajendra Pachauri: “We carry out an assessment of climate change based on peer-reviewed literature, so everything that we look at and take into account in our assessments has to carry the credibility of peer-­reviewed publications, we don’t settle for anything less than that.”

The trouble for the IPCC — and for many other outlets that carry scientific findings — is that a crisis in science has been brewing for some time. Known as the replication or reproducibility crisis, the fundamental problem is that the results of many peer-reviewed ­papers and reports have not been confirmed when the experiments have been repeated or the data ­reanalysed. Eminent medical scientist John Ioannidis belled the cat as early as 2005 in a much cited technical paper, Why Most Published Research Findings are False.

He concluded that “there is ­increasing concern that most current published research findings are false … For many current scientific fields, claimed research findings may often be simply accurate measures of the prevailing bias.” He further noted research findings were less likely to be true when “more teams are involved in a scientific field in chase of statistical significance”.

There is a variety of reasons for the failure of studies to be repli­cated. At one end of the spectrum is fraud and misconduct, while at the other end is manipulation and cherry-picking of data. Researchers have strong incentives to ­establish significant results while discarding inconvenient data and failed hypotheses. Authors often deliberately make it difficult for other researchers to re-do experiments or check findings.

Additionally, many referees, who are the gatekeepers in the peer review process, do a lousy job by simply reading papers and ­approving them if they agree with their findings. Peer review generally doesn’t involve re-running ­experiments, for instance.

One editor of an academic journal was so troubled by the issue of non-reproducibility that he decided to send out already published papers to new reviewers for their assessments. Apart from the fact a reasonable proportion of reviewers didn’t even recognise that the papers had ­already been published, several of the papers were actually rejected by the new reviewers. So much for the infallibility of peer review.

A serious effort was made in 2015 to replicate the findings of 100 experiments reported in three major psychology journals. Ninety-seven per cent of the original studies had reported significant results but only 36 per cent of the repli­cated studies could confirm these effects. This is a damning outcome.

More recently, a research project tried to reproduce 21 ­social ­science experiments published ­between 2010 and 2015 in the prestigious journals Science and ­Nature. Thirteen replication studies were successful, while eight others could find no effects at all.

The editors of Nature recently conducted a survey of nearly 1600 researchers. It was noted that 70 per cent of researchers had ­failed to ­reproduce other scientists’ experiments. Ninety per cent of respondents felt reproducibility in science was a significant or slight crisis. Only 3 per cent thought it wasn’t a crisis at all.

Whether economics should be regarded as a science is debatable, but a recent edition of the prominent Economic Journal ­included a reassessment of the ­results from several of its published papers. The conclusion drawn was that most of the underlying analyses were statistically underpowered, meaning no reliance could be placed on the conclusions. For the other studies that had enough power, there was a distinct tendency for the size of ­effects to be overstated.

A replication audit of 67 economics papers published in 13 prestigious journals was conducted by the US Federal Reserve and the Department of Treasury. Less than half the studies could be replicated, even with the help of the ­authors. “We assert that eco­nomics research is usually not ­replicable,” concluded the authors.

If all this sounds alarming to the layperson, it should. After all, the results of many of these peer-reviewed studies have had practical effects, warning people to alter their diets or lifestyles as well as influencing public policy initiatives.

At this stage, the disciplines most under a cloud are social ­psychology, neuroscience, chemistry, medicine (including cancer ­biology) and economics. No doubt the list will continue to grow as more replication studies are ­under­taken, although this is often difficult as such studies are generally not government funded.

One of the main elements of this crisis as identified by Ioannidis is the tendency of ­researchers to dredge data to get the most sig­nificant results. (Nobel prize-winning economist Ronald Coase famously quipped: “If you torture the data long enough, it will confess to anything.”) To this we can add the downplaying of any deficiencies in the underlying data.

In this context, it is interesting to note the findings of John McLean, an Australian who has been awarded a PhD for his audit of the HadCRUT4 data set on global temperatures used by the IPCC. There are a large number of anomalies in the data set. For ­instance, two stations tracking temperatures recorded monthly average figures above 80C. Another two stations in the Carib­bean recorded averages of 0C. A station in Romania recorded minus 45C and there is data sourced from ships that are located 80km inland.

More worrying is the use by the IPCC of a small number of global temperature recordings from the 1860s and 1870s — coverage was about one-eighth of the world at that time — as the measure of pre-industrial temperature levels. The accuracy of this assumption is highly questionable.

When the British Met Office was asked to respond to these criticisms, the answer was along the lines that there was an awareness of these weaknesses but they were few in number and the Met ­Office continuously was working to improve the data set, and this would be available to the IPCC when it next produced a report. On the face of it, this looks like a very unsatisfactory response, particularly given what we know about the crisis in science more generally.

What does the replication crisis mean for the credibility of science? Should we trust science to reliably inform public policy decision-making? Or should we conclude the scientific world is basically a club of self-serving, like-minded individuals who do not welcome dissenting views and are sloppy to boot? Should we just forget about scientific research and go with our instincts?

In my view, the preferred middle course is along the following lines. All research findings should be treated cautiously. Journals and research outlets should sign up to an open and transparent code of conduct, and published authors should be made to release all the details of underlying experiments, the data sets and computer codes. Studies that find no effects should be considered for publication.

Research funding bodies should allocate a portion of their funding to replication studies. An urgent priority in Australia is for the replication of several contentious studies about the Great Barrier Reef in which the overseas authors have never been prepared to hand over the data or the codes.

There is no doubt science has an important role to play in our ­society and economy. But as University of California computational biologist Michael Eisen warns us: “We need to get away from the notion, proven wrong on a daily basis, that peer review of any kind at any journal means that the work of science is correct.” The leadership of the IPCC should take note.


Posted by John J. Ray (M.A.; Ph.D.).    For a daily critique of Leftist activities,  see DISSECTING LEFTISM.  To keep up with attacks on free speech see Tongue Tied. Also, don't forget your daily roundup  of pro-environment but anti-Greenie  news and commentary at GREENIE WATCH .  Email me  here

1 comment:

Paul said...

Harry needs to be swept in as King, if his reading material is anything to go by.