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Blowing cold, then hot

Big Ben and The Houses of Parliament in the snow
More or Less
Friday, 11 September 2009
BBC Radio 4, 1330 BST

Scientists are using new models to predict how the climate will change in the short-term.

Research from Germany suggests the climate could cool for the next decade or so before the longer-term warming trend resumes.

But Met Office research contradicts their findings.

We find out why it is more difficult to predict the climate in 2020 than in 2050.

Flight graph

The view through a window of an aeroplane
The aviation industry has a large carbon footprint, but will demand for air travel slow over time?

This week's suggestion from the Committee on Climate Change that it will be hard for the aviation industry to cut back on CO2 emissions reminded us of a recent email from a listener.

Do long-term predictions about demand for air travel, he pondered, take account of market maturity?

In other words: will we reach a point at which we just do not need, or have time, for more air travel?

We put that point to the Committee on Climate Change.

Beautiful people

Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie at Cannes
Is Hollywood's arguably most attractive couple more likely to have daughters than sons?

Are beautiful people more likely to have daughters?

That is what one scientist claimed after he examined the relationship between the attractiveness of parents and the gender of their children.

But Andrew Gelman from Columbia University in New York thinks the finding relies on sloppy statistical thinking.

Revenge of the nerds

Dustin Hoffman as Benjamin Braddock in The Graduate
If The Graduate were set in 2009, perhaps Ben would be lectured on the importance of statistics.

For Benjamin Braddock in The Graduate the future could be summed up in one word: "plastics".

Now, says Google's Chief Economist Hal Varian, it is "statistics".

The growing availability and role of data, he says, give people who can analyse and understand it the edge.

We ask whether the geeks are really taking over.

We can work it out

The Beatles in 1963
To the frustration of musicians, the famous chord in A Hard Days Night has proved elusive.

The opening chord of The Beatles' hit "A Hard Days Night" has troubled musicians for decades because no-one has been able to recreate the sound on a guitar.

Ruth Alexander takes us on a mathematical mystery tour.

Her guide Jason Brown - Canadian professor, maths detective and Beatlemaniac - thinks he has the answer.

Professor Brown is also the author of the book, Our Days are Numbered.


Blowing cold then hot

Perhaps you should have asked the Met Office about their global climate predictions for the last 9 years. 100% have been above the 50% confidence interval and 75% above the 75% probability limit. How likely is that? < 1 in 512? I love this arbitrary division of "short term noise" with "long term trend". Next time you have the chance, could you ask the Met Office whether they are aware of something called: "long term noise". There are many systems which exhibit noise which is greater with longer periods. This is called 1/f (or 1/(f^n)) noise, and it has the characteristic of having long term trends which are due to noise!!! As an example have a look at this website: and go down to the graph under "pink noise". Then look at the first half of the curve ... does it not look very very similar to the global warming curve? And could it be that there is a reason? If climate change is a type of 1/f noise, then then we would expect to large long term fluctuations ... ice ages?
Mike Haseler

I understood from the programme that current climate models include oceanic and atmospheric effects, human, geological, biotic. But do they include levels of incoming solar radiation? Given that simple solar models predict that the earth will soon begin to cool, it is vital that models include this variable, or they will always be open to criticism.
Dr Anthony Wright

I'm not a climate change denier but there are three non human inputs that no one mentions namely:

1. The rotation of the planet is slowing. The rate is very small but sooner or later this will have an effect on climate.

2. Plate tectonics. Around every 250 million years Earth's landmasses collide and form a super continent. To that end the American continent and Europe are getting further apart. Sooner or later the effect that the Atlantic conveyer (Gulf stream) has will change.

3. The moon is getting further away from us. This affects the tides that may well contribute to weather patterns.
Rick Pond

Alcohol brand recognition

As Vivienne's secretary in the late 1980s when she was head of BMA pensions, I can assure you that her knowledge of maths was, and is, as great as her knowledge of medicine!!
Jane Ford

Revenge of the nerds

The programme referred to Bill Gates dropping out of Harvard. This came up when Mr Gates was interviewed by David Dimbleby a few years ago. He said he hadn't dropped out he had taken leave of absence and could return to Harvard anytime. He did smile as he said it but doubtless the Harvard authorities would confirm his assertion.
Graham Golding

We can work it out

The notion that a piano was involved in the creation of this chord runs contrary to all known accounts of the instrumentation and recording techniques of George Martin and the band at this particular point in their career. Has Jason Brown, the More Or Less team, or indeed anybody at all, ever bothered to actually ask Paul, Ringo, or perhaps more pertinently, Sir George Martin about the truth of the matter?
Francis Vine

It's an A11th (or G11 if you move a fret). You have to do a bar with your first finger, of course. I use to play it in the 1960s myself (yes I'm almost the proverbial 64 years of age). Any jazz guitarist would know. Fourier Transform is of course absolutely necessary for quantum mechanics, X-ray crystallography, infrared spectroscopy and just about every other analytical technique using waves - but guitar chords? Mmm - ask a jazz guitarist, it's easier.
Nina Hall

BBC Radio 4's More or Less is broadcast on Friday, 11 September at 1330 BST and repeated on Sunday, 13 September at 2000 BST.

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Planes 'threaten climate targets'
09 Sep 09 |  Science & Environment
Earth experiment could buy precious time
01 Sep 09 |  Science & Environment
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10 Sep 09 |  Scotland
Five years of Google trading
19 Aug 09 |  Business
Help! I'm a Beatles hater
10 Sep 09 |  Magazine
Is money what the Beatles wanted?
09 Sep 09 |  Today


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