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July 14, 2005

Lambert!

Australian computer scientist Tim Lambert is one of the more underrated bloggers I know of.  He does a lot of fairly technical work, chasing down statistical mistakes made by sloppy or devious right-wing hack scientists.  One of the neatest cases was when he caught some global warming deniers plugging in angle measurements in degrees when their software demanded radians, thereby rendering enormous amounts of their data invalid.  It's about a year old, but it's still a neat story to look at if you didn't see it when it came out. 

The more amusing story is about how he helped to catch gun control opponent John Lott using  "Mary Rosh" and other pseudonyms to promote his fraudulent work over the internet. 

--Neil the Ethical Werewolf

July 14, 2005 in Science | Permalink

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Mixing radians and degrees, that'd be funny if it weren't so fraudulent. I like Lambert's little visual aid that enhances understanding of why it might screw things up. It might just sound like a careless mistake, but pretty much any computational software, not to mention almost any hand-held calculator, will expect angle measures to be input in radians, unless you tell it to convert to degrees. That's why John Quiggin pointed out in a post (which Lambert linked to) that "any mathematically literate person" would expect that when doing any sort of calculations along these lines.

Posted by: Haggai | Jul 14, 2005 9:36:33 AM

Wow - that was kind of hilarious and depressing at the same time. It goes hand in hand with the wingnuts' drive to both support trashy science for their own means, and to simultaneously trash science itself. It is frustrating how the recent wave of media reports about junk research seldom describe where the the real junk is being produced, they just sort of present it as a blanket statement about the overall scientific community.

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