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All posts for the month January, 2011

Fun (pleasure or jouissance), was part of Zizek’s agenda noted below. I finished his “Living in the End Times” a week or so ago; a good provocative read in many places, but I was just left with an inconclusive anti-climactic “so what ?”, and no further specific review subjects to publish, so I moved straight on to Rebecca Goldstein’s “36 Arguments for the Existence of God“.

The cover headline says “A Hillarious Novel …” ? Hardly. A very good novel, some very good writing as well as a well crafted story. So well constructed as to be almost contrived in the intersecting points of the actors’ life stories. Plenty of humour and wit in the narrative lived through these intelligent fictional actors, some of it really very funny, but as a novel it’s deadly serious, and very successful in its aims. Particularly clever, the book within the book, written by “New Atheist” Cass Selzer having an appendix summarizing 36 arguments and responses on the existence of god, as advertized, but potentially a distraction – only an appendix, no, really. Despite the 36 chapters all entitled “The Argument From ...” there is in fact little parallel between the chapters and the actual arguments. The appendix represents an excellent potted resource – they’re all there, succinctly and soundly summarized, so far as I can tell – for those participating in god vs reason debates, but the former is another excellent love conquers all parable. Recommended.

Aside [Amor Vincit Omnia][Amor Vincit Omnia again] Spooky – finished 36 Arguments at Changi too.

By way of further aside, after taking an interest in the Goldstein’s 36 Arguments, and having ordered a copy, I was pointed at some links to YouTube “interviews” of Goldstein with partner Steven Pinker (I’ll spare you the links). I’ve been a fan of Pinker too, too starstruck to actually speak when I found myself sat beside him (and her, I now surmise) in a Cambridge hotel bar. But the doey-eyed mutual love – jouissance - between the two kinda got in the way – get a room guys ….

I’m glad I ignored that initial prejudice. Having thoroughly enjoyed 36 Arguments from 2010, I’ve gone straight into “Betraying Spinoza” Goldstein’s 2006 book. (Less than 1/4 through.) [Post Note : review after finishing here.]

Jewishness is front and centre in 36 Arguments, and there are plenty of philosophy references, by the nature of the characters’ working lives. (William James is particularly prominent, Thoreau / Walden central, but all the US Pragmatists, Wittgentsein, Locke, and many more.) And Betraying Spinoza is published in the Jewish Encounters series … devoted to the promotion of Jewish literature, culture and ideas.

(Spoiler warning – don’t read on until you’ve read 36 Arguments.)

Now with a little hindsight, it’s easy to see child prodigy Azarya Scheiner genius character in 36 Arguments as  Spinoza. Although Azarya’s tale is ultimately a reversal of Spinoza’s excommunication in the more enlightened times we inhabit, both in fact choose love. In Azarya’s case love for his people and culture, despite the depth of his logical and mathematical prowess – his thorny blessings.

Goldstein’s “Betraying Spinoza” is significantly autobiographical (and dedicated to Steven) as well as a wonderful biographical resource (so far) on the life and times of Spinoza (that damn 30 years war again !) and written very readably. So what is so funny ’bout peace, love and understanding ?

“Though [Spinoza] was a man who had given himself over entirely to the search after truth […] still he would not speak the truth so long as his doing so might hurt those whom he loved. […] I felt that I loved him.” – Goldstein.

And …

“Spinoza is the noblest and most lovable of the great philosophers. Intellectually, some others have surpassed him, but ethically he is supreme.” – Bertrand Russell, 1945.

Love being the highest form of truth.

And, finally,

“Metaphysics [narrowly defined] is the attempt to use pure reason, as opposed to [empirical] experience to arrive at a description of reality [by deduction].”

“Metaphysics [more widely defined] is ontological commitment concerning what sorts of things exist in the world. Paradoxically, even analytic philosophers [and scientists] have this kind of commitment to [faith in, love of] rejecting the very possibility of metaphysics in the narrow non-empirical deductive sense.” – My paraphrase of Goldstein.

[Post Note : Intriguing, eclectic collection of Kerouac references, following up on the “What’s so funny ’bout peace, love and … ” meme. Weird. ]

The provocative title of a discussion event by Intelligence Squared held last Thursday at the Science Museum, Dana Centre, which I managed to attend after all.

Chaired by Jack Klaff, featuring Ian Angell, Ray Tallis, Jane O’Grady, and David Papineau as the panel, with Lewis Wolpert and others in the audience of around 100(?).

If there were any theists present they kept their heads down, and would probably have chuckled at the shambolic “non-debate” as far as fitting the available resources to the agenda. Very interesting to see the level of “talking past each other” amongst scientists and philosophers, as well as the arts and humanities represented.

Ray Tallis was closest to any middle ground, but even he appeared to be an unreconstructed dualist, seeing two clearly distinct objective and subjective domains of reality. The subjective humanities simply denied any scientific contribution to such things as love or art – the classic battleground being the “neural correlates of consciousness”. The scientists were frankly embarassingly arrogant in seeing no alternatives to scientism, despite significant definitional debate around narrow and broad conceptions of objectivity, empiricism and methods of science in “the view from nowhere” and truth defined anywhere from “objective fact” to pragmatism. Embarassing that they see only scale and complexity of detail in the ultimate tractability of everything falling under science, ignoring the paradoxes (eg in the zombie thought experiment) and non-linearity in the position of game-changing intentional consciousness in the game of life as we know it.

Ian Angell of course took the combative and extreme line of branding all objectivity and causation of as delusional, practically wearing his Nietzschean transendental nihilism on his sleeve. Strength of feeling was never going to win any arguments on this night or any other.

Other than those, I have to say it was mostly trading well rehearsed rhetorical arguments and smart-ass put-downs, that were simply not being listened to, let alone appreciated or understood, by their “targets” on either side. Wittgenstein’s take on language games got creditable recognition, but if you want a battle of words, don’t surprised if you get a war.

The answers lie somewhere in the “path” – that is the constructive processes of progress – and in raising the consciousness / free-will / intentionality / psychology / ethics / justice debate as THE core subject, above the “scientism vs love & emotion” tit-for-tat. Pragmatic objectivist convention that need not be greedy reductionist; determinism that does not deny free-will. It’s all there for the taking, in the quality of wisdom and values that fall between subject and object.

Two football posts in two days. Great headline, lifted from one the red-tops, just about sums it up. Sex discrimination or plain ignorance, Gray is just a dinosaur ex-player (Rio is right – there’s a first) with a stock of punditry clichés, good riddance. Keys is a professional broadcaster, he should have the book thrown at him.

Their offence is incompetence and plain ignorance of the rules of the game and the jobs the officials do – for any women in sport or officials of either sex, it’s sure water off a duck’s back. Before the story broke, we were already laughing at the predictable on-screen comments that the decision was in the least doubtful, doubly funny that Massey did actually make an offside error a few minutes later, though not in a critical goalscoring opportunity, so no-one seems to have picked up on that. Errors are errors. In my experience women make better match officials, provided the have the basic command / authority, because on the whole they are more intuitively concerned with the point of the rules than their anal interpretation and application to the letter.

Not been following all the details of the Spurs vs Wet Sham vs UK Athletics on the “legacy” use of the new Stratford Olympic stadium, but I have to say.

  • Football should not be played in athletics stadiums – not for fans who want to watch how the game is played; not for players who need to remember whose game it is. The dead space kills the real game.
  • Tearing down the purpose built athletic stadium and replacing it with a football stadium and an upgrade to Crystal Palace, is not at all in the spirit of the Olympics. Why didn’t they sort this out the same way Eastlands did before the Manchester Commonwealth games – and create a proper dual purpose stadium.
  • Why don’t Spurs (and West Ham) ground share the new athletic stadium for (say) two years, whilst they redevelop new modern football stadia on their traditional sites ?

Aha, so here is the problem … Spurs chariman Levy wants to:

“Strip out the emotion.”

Such people should be banned from sports management.

Seems Ian Angell is a Costa Coffee man. A man after my own taste. Actually, I prefer Cafe Nero, but either way, anything but Starbucks.

Magic

I first mentioned Angell when I heard him on Thinking Allowed discussing his book “Science’s First Mistake” with Laurie Taylor. I mentioned in the footnote there, the suggestion, gained from other essay’s on his web site, that sometimes his language suggests he’s less agnostic and more theistic that he claims, which led a number of people with whom I shared the Thinking Allowed link to react against him. This is not an isolated problem. Take the recent Anthropic Principle thread that spun out of PZ Myers blog. It’s impossible to point out flaws in any scientific response to non-science without being branded as “anti-science” – somehow representing “the other side” or “playing into their hands”. And of course this flaw is the whole “neurosis” of science to use Maxwell’s term.

Anyway, I responded to Laurie Taylor and exchanged a few emails with Ian Angell since then. I discovered, as Laurie did in this interview in the current edition of the New Humanist, that Ian is a man on a mission, who’s positively enthusiastic about using language intended to inflame scientists (or theists, who cares). The interview concludes :

Angell’s book is a fascinating read, a clever, insightful, philosophically persuasive account of the limitations of science. But this wasn’t the first time in the interview when I felt he’d been so outraged by scientific arrogance that he was prepared to employ some dubious logic in order to pursue his case. I wondered if it was his fury about the manner in which science had robbed the world of enchantment that led him into another strange assertion, the declaration that the world was safe from science because it was, in his word, “magical”.

“It is magical. It is wonderful. Don’t you wake up in the morning and think this is incredible? You know, since I stopped being scientific, nothing is drab or predictable. It’s totally astounding that every day is different and you never know what will happen. Science is drab. It’s not a humanist way of looking at the world. To me humanists have to believe in magic. Because life is magic. It is magic that we can actually operate at all. The fact that we can categorise is magic. All thought is sympathetic magic. And it is wonderful. Every day is a bonus. If tomorrow’s going to be the same as today, then why bother?”

This new-found enthusiasm for life was almost alarmingly evident as he led me across Kingsway to his beloved Costa coffee house. He greeted the baristas behind the glassed cakes as though they were old friends. When I insisted on paying he cheekily demanded an extra stamp on his own loyalty card and noticed as he did that the card was now complete. “Free coffee tomorrow!”, he cheerily boomed as we carried our lattes to a table.

Fun and Games

In one of his robust, no punches pulled email exchanges, he concluded:

I’m just having fun!
God is a comedian, but His followers have no sense of humour. And neither do Scientists.

He’s right of course, the outrage is scientific arrogance. And this reference to fun, and his “dubious tactics” put me in mind of Zizek’s use of the Lacanian “jouissance“. I’m reading (almost finished) his “Living in End Times”. It also put me in mind of another subject – I often get backlash against “game theory” suggestions, as if the whole idea is somehow discredited. One of my two criticisms of Maxwell’s excellent “Is Science Neurotic” was that there was no acknowledgement of game-theory in his Aim-Oriented Rationality processes of scientific progress. (My other criticism was overlooking what US Pragmatist philosophers have to say on the subject.)

Now the Lacanian “jouissance” is more than just fun and enjoyment, it has all the Freudian, sexual, phallic, orgasmic symbology you’d expect from a French PoMo. You know, pleasure (nudge, nudge, wink, wink). As a Lacanian, Zizek uses the term this way, but he also uses it as the point of “play” in general, in politics, in architecture, making progress in life in general – the pleasure principle. Pleasure is what we want, but too much pleasure hurts. In the interview above, Angell makes a remark about people who revel in their own misery and quips the question of whether this puts them at 2 or 8 on a 1 to 10 scale of pleasure. The point of the pleasure principle is that we need to play interactive games with ourselves and each other, and games involve psychological tactics, even dubious logic, to establish our optimum levels of pleasure. It’s what we do. It really is. And to deny it is … denial … Maxwell’s scientific neurosis.

Simplistication

Another reason I identify with Ian is that we share a historical route to our current positions (see my manifesto). I’m an engineer primarily, which naturally has scientific / technological underpinnings. Long before I became focussed on management per se, I had my doubts about the role of ambiguity in engineering management, but ever since the master’s study and wider management and consulting experience since, I am ever more convinced that mechanistic management tools are only ever a simplification over the underlying human reality. Of course the more interactive, social, story-telling approach to business management is no longer a novel idea. The point is this management problem really extends to all forms of governance in economics, politics, even science itself.

When things change, they don’t necessarily get better, they get more complicated.

We can use simplifying tools, but we mustn’t confuse this with believing we have simplified the underlying fun and games. The world does not reduce to science and simple choices.

[Post Note : Actually reading the book now. Noted this “real sociology” blog article too, linked to the original Thinking Allowed piece, which confirms the opinion that Angell may be reinforcing well established views on the scientific delusions of objectivity and causality, but comes across as

… quite angry … irritating …

End.]

I’m a big fan of Howard Webb (defended him over the world cup final Dutch fiasco, for example) and in fact in the offending game here, he got both the controversial decisions right – Gerrard sending off and the Berbatov penalty – in our opinion. Anyway, after Kenny branding the latter decision a “joke” and Ryan Babel tweeting his photo-shopped image of Webb in Man U colours;

Priceless irony that a commenter on the BBC news page on the story, going by the handle of “Victory Through Harmony” should comment:

How sad have things got that now the players aren’t even allowed to have a pop at refs?

Harmony / Pop does not compute, mate. In the heat of competitive battle, refs handle plenty of “pop” with minimum sanction – but pre-meditated high-profile post-match public channels – they don’t have to take it.

Since I’ve just started reading Bennett, Dennett, Hacker and Searle’s “Neuroscience & Philosophy” I thought I’d post a link to the coincidence in the earlier post today, as a current reminder to myself to post some review notes.

My most considered reading of Bennett & Hacker was back in 2009. There I speculated on Dennett’s potential response, since Dennett was a clear target of that book. Wittgenstein’s importance means he’s in the background of many of these discussions, and just this morning I picked-up the Rob Minto reference to Wittgenstein in the post below. Rob’s tutor was Hacker, which led me to follow my own links back to my earlier reading of Hacker and Bennett and add this in a post-note there.

[I recently found that Dennett did respond and now obtained Bennett, Dennett, Hacker & Searle – “Neuroscience and Philosophy” A cover blurb quote from Akeel Bilgrami of Columbia Uni suggests:

“If you can get sworn and unrestrained philosophical enemies such as Dennett and Searle to join forces against you, you must be … the controversialists of our time.”

Fascinating. That was pretty much my take on Bennett and Hacker – controversial by design, with (hopefully) deliberate misreading of the scientific position on a philosophy of mind.]

Loop closed for now, until I have some notes on the Dennett response. Certainly looks, on the basis of a quick scan, like Dennett’s rebuttal is along the lines I imagined, and my own reading of Bennett and Hacker. Hopefully we can move on from attack and rebuttal to some common sense progress.

Just checked Dennett is still OK since his major surgery in 2006.

[Told] by friends and relatives that they had prayed for him, he resisted the urge to ask them, “Did you also sacrifice a goat?”

Interesting to contrast yesterday’s UK parliamentary knock-about between Milliband and Campbell with Obama’s call for healing in the rhetorical wars between US partizan politicians and commentators.

Blaming opponents for “all that ails the world” was unhelpful, he said.

Cameron and Milliband were downright personal in trading insults of each other and their colleagues – despite the thin veil of humour. Ridicule is not funny. OK in moderation, but not the basis of free and democratic progress. Politicians should focus on governance, not auditioning as court-jesters for Have I Got News For You.

[Post Note :

I was thinking how to contrast Palin’s response to Obama’s and found this on Sam’s Elizaphanian blog.

What Palin has in common with Wittgenstein ?

Excellent. Rob Minto’s tutor was Hacker no less. Really taken with Bennett and Hacker’s “Philosophical Foundations of Neuroscience” on a second reading last year, and now reading Bennett, Hacker, Dennett and Searle’s “Neoroscience and Philosophy”. Hacker meets my personal hero Dennett. Small world.]

And now the full and final commission report to the president on the BP Deepwater Horizon disaster, including the Chapter 4 on the blow-out failure itself, reviewed previously.

Finally, to the American people, we reiterate that extracting the energy resources to fuel our cars, heat and light our homes, and power our businesses can be a dangerous enterprise. Our national reliance on fossil fuels is likely to continue for some time—and all of us reap benefits from the risks taken by the men and women working in energy exploration. We owe it to them to ensure that their working environment is as safe as possible. We dedicate this effort to the 11 of our fellow citizens who lost their lives in the Deepwater Horizon explosion.

I have to say, my general feeling, is the quality of the investigation and reporting seems excellent. I sincerely hope the findings and recommendations – technical and rhetorical – are fully understood and actioned accordingly, avoiding knee-jerk “never again” simplistications.

As the Board that investigated the loss of the Columbia space shuttle noted, “complex systems almost always fail in complex ways.” Though it is tempting to single out one crucial misstep or point the finger at one bad actor as the cause of the Deepwater Horizonexplosion, any such explanation provides a dangerously incomplete picture of what happened—encouraging the very kind of complacency that led to the accident in the first place.  Consistent with the President’s request, this report takes an expansive view.

And as a little context, beyond this drilling operation, and beyond BP:

Since 2001, the Gulf of Mexico workforce—35,000 people, working on 90 big drilling rigs and 3,500 production platforms—had suffered 1,550 injuries, 60 deaths, and 948 fires and explosions.

[Post Note : Just assembling a collection of all my blog links on this subject:
11th Jan 2011 this post http://www.psybertron.org/?p=3699
10th Jan 2011 http://www.psybertron.org/?p=3694
6th Jan 2011 http://www.psybertron.org/?p=3689
2nd Nov 2010 http://www.psybertron.org/?p=3598
30th Sep 2010 http://www.psybertron.org/?p=3548
8th Sep 2010 http://www.psybertron.org/?p=3534
10th Jun 2010 http://www.psybertron.org/?p=3426
28th Apr 2010 http://www.psybertron.org/?p=3312

Remember, despite blaming no single failure above:

… the failures at Macondo can be traced back to
underlying failures of management and communication.

Must collate a coherent summary report of my main proposals – the communication of information supporting management decisions at all levels, particularly the criticality of information in context driving the escalation of levels of management to be informed and involved in those decisions.]

I’ve now had time to read the whole US Commission report on the BP Deepwater Horizon disaster in the Gulf of Mexico – the discussion sections that I’d not read earlier, in order not to be influenced, when I published my initial conclusions. It is ever clearer.

“Most, if not all, of the failures at Macondo can be traced back to underlying failures of management and communication. Better management of decision-making processes within BP and other companies, better communication within and between BP and its contractors, and effective training of key engineering and rig personnel would have prevented the Macondo incident.”

My emphasis this time on their positive use of “would” – ie without doubt. My own agenda here is to pick up those communication and decision-making aspects of business management systems, but as an engineer in the downstream business and as a human, you have to feel for the guys who made the mistakes and struggled with their consequences, in many cases to their deaths.

It’s a long time since BP has been a “British” company, and any finger-pointing between BP and Haliburton an Transocean is unhelpful. Creditable to notice lines in the official (US) report like

“As BP’s own report agrees …”

compared to

“Halliburton has to date provided nothing … “

or

“Haliburton should have …”

My point is that the responsibility is shared industrially (as the report concludes), and I see BP taking its share.

I make that point because I did make an observation earlier about the hairy-arsed “wild-catting” culture present at the sharp end in this industry, with a US frontier freedoms mentality wherever in the world the operation is. Any sophisticated business managing such operations – however good BP is – would be unlikely to change that “by design” and in fact should think hard before attempting to do so.

Remember this was one of the largest, newest and most sophisticated rigs in the world. There is a recommendation about the control and monitoring systems in use, particularly during the fateful period when the “kick” had already started and the fatal blow-out was on its way :

Why did the crew miss or misinterpret these signals? One possible reason is that they had done a number of things that confounded their ability to interpret [the] signals ….

In the future, the instrumentation and displays used for well monitoring must be improved. There is no apparent reason why more sophisticated, automated alarms and algorithms cannot be built into the display system to alert the driller and mudlogger when anomalies arise. These individuals sit for 12 hours at a time in front of these displays. In light of the potential consequences, it is no longer acceptable to rely on a system that requires the right person to be looking at the right data at the right time, and then to understand its significance in spite of simultaneous activities and other monitoring responsibilities.”

Hard to argue with that ? But, very important to distinguish decision-making from decision-support. You (we all) are relying on a tremendous amount of experience and judgement, not to mention risk-taking balls, at the upstream sharp-end of the business, drilling into the unknown. There will be blood ? Hopefully not, but it is part of the risk. There are some clear management and control-system safety-critical steps in all these processes, which need to be treated as such, with fail-safe steps needed, but we need to be careful not to (try to) automate all risk out of the system. People are highly ingenious at bypassing systems that prevent them doing their job. Applying controls in the wrong places can counter-intuitively increase the risks. We need systems that support people doing their jobs, not take them out of the loop entirely. There is good reason why the human eye is brought to bear on these processes. Proper risk assessment is one thing, but knowing when to do it and what to do with the result needs focus.

There are a number of other things also borne out by the report.

If you’ve never actually experienced a disaster first hand, it is difficult to appreciate that one is actually taking place, denial is naturally human – the hope for anything but that. By definition, the safer industry in general, the fewer participants have the necessary experience. The captain of the Titanic comes to mind. Drills and simulations of the worst case risks become so important to take seriously. This point is so important it makes it into the summary paragraph above.

Integrity & pressure testing is something of which I have considerable experience. Such testing inevitably occurs late in the process, as early as possible naturally, but nevertheless towards the end of the job. Inevitably the consequences of failing such a test can therefore have great business delay, cost and rework consequences, and all the attendant contractual responsibility wrangling that might entail. So, paradoxically, it is at the integrity / pressure test point when you most want failure to occur. Such tests may be potentially destructive by design and if it’s going to fail, this is precisely when we need it to happen, when the health and safety risk is lowest and the business value risk almost at its peak. You need to be looking for failure here. It takes balls to fail a pressure / integrity test, and the people & processes here need real authority and independence from the business productivity roles. I already mentioned the need to acknowledge safety criticality in levels of surveillance and regulation imposed from outside the working team. Again the report (and BP’s own actions since their own investigation) well recognize this issue. There really should have been (almost literally) alarm bells ringing before this test process even started. It could hardly have been more critical.

From the most significant failure point to an incidental one, though both are examples of communication of information for decision-making in the summary paragraph; The confusion about whether or not the specified spacers had actually been delivered and available as the correct type (design-class), affecting the decision as to the spacing arrangement actually deployed. Several ironies in that inconclusive chain of decisions, that provided the unfortunate quote used as the headline in the report.

“Who cares. It’s done … we’ll probably be fine …”

Supply chain confusion about the type of materials actually delivered and available. How hard can it be for supplied items to be marked and systems informed with their true class (type) ? One for the information modelling and class libraries aspects of the ISO15926 day job.

The Symantec story is about the large drop in spam traffic over Christmas, but in fact the chart shows enormous fall in recent months generally, under 20% now of what it was back in August 2010.

Suggestion is that this is not because spamming has become bad business for spammers sadly, but simply a change of focus in upcoming spam campaigns. We live in hope.

Not clear what kinds of spam this is tracking, email only, or blog comments too ? I mention that because subjectively I’ve much less spam in the blog comments queue during the last year – 60 per 30 days rather than 200/300 ? FaceBook and LinkedIn suffer a different kind of spam – friendly spam from any group or page you “like” sending every update to ever member – just lazy use of very crude common-denominator apps.

Still digesting this

They were operating on well-known and understood tight margins on pressure balance ever since the incident during partial drilling by the earlier rig, and right through completion of the drilling to the final “primary” cement job. That balance was always between too little (mud, pressure, cement, etc) failing to control the hazardous hydrocarbons, vs too much (mud, pressure, cement, etc) destroying (the value of) the well. It may seem scary to lay people, but this is always what engineering is about – difficult judgements by responsible, moral people – we’ll “probably” be OK. It looks like “cost-cutting” to do less, but we all cost-cut (look for the best price, the most cost/value effective) every day.

[At this point, I’ve only read as far as the end of the cement design and analysis – ch4, p102 – and I’ve not seen any mentions (yet) of the problems and risks associated with the BOP systems, or the top-sides relief systems, serious but secondary – but I’ll hazard a guess (based on earlier reading of BP’s own report) that the real failure is the decision to ignore the failed negative pressure test (!), and the failure of any warning / criticality signs in BP’s higher supervisory management systems that this whole operation was on tight margins, which could have enforced double checks on the safety-critical decision points, like this one, and other additional quality surveillance. As I said earlier the irony is that BP were one of the first to introduce “criticality” ratings to the industry, 25 years ago.]

So, continuing, reading on … a quote from the commission report (their italic emphasis, not mine) and even with hindsight their use of the tense “would” – is telling.

“At the Macondo well, the negative-pressure test was the only test performed that would have checked the integrity of the bottom-hole cement job.”

And later …

“It was therefore critical to test and confirm the ability of the well (including the primary cement job) to withstand the under-balance.”

The visiting execs and the new trainee in the team both add to the dynamics of dealing with the apparent problem at a critical moment in what was already known to be a critically-balanced situation – interesting. And then the fateful error :

” … the 1,400 psi reading on the drill pipe could only have been caused by a leak into the well. Nevertheless, at 8 pm, BP Well Site Leaders, in consultation with the crew, made a key error and mistakenly concluded the second negative test procedure had confirmed the well’s integrity.”

After that, yes the BOP’s should have been a last line of defence, but weren’t … it’s history … Having been in the pressure testing position myself on several projects, I feel for Anderson …. was he amongst the dead, I wonder ? [He was.]

The recommendations need reading in detail, but this looks like systemic management / surveillance / regulation system needs, so that what look like normal processes in abnormal situations don’t (accidentally) skip critical checks. To their credit, BP still seems to be taking the full hit of responsibility, but I doubt BP is special in this respect.  These are industry needs.

This open source s/w approach really works surprisingly well.

I have a collapsing archives plug-in the side-bar that failed as the date went from 2010 to 2011, despite having ten years of successfully linked archives. At first – yesterday – I thought maybe there was a “decade” level of hierarchy, but whatever the design intent the years and months got screwed up in the display. I was about to troll for a fix this morning, and in fact as a logged into WordPress the Robert Felty “Collapsing Archives” plug-in had an update waiting to go … it auto-updated … and it seems to behave correctly. Result.

Oh, and of course that means I noticed this is my 10th year of  blogging ! Wow.

I have three or four draft responses to Pharyngula (PZ Myers) blog posts, but they always turn into long essays and I rarely get round to publishing. One problem is he has many signed-up readers who respond to every post, and individual comments get lost in the baying mob (just like Ben Goldacre’s Bad Science blog I find). And since my comments (as an atheist) are mainly about the baying-mob mentality, it’s hard to know how to get the point into the stream. So here a very short post with one point, track-backed to PZ’z blog.

In this Facebook extract example, the innocent / ignorant status poster and commenters are indeed misguided on attributing the +/-10ft design to God, but the one scientific response totally misses the point and proceeds (very smugly I might add) to split hairs with one quantifiable “design” detail, and get soundly booed off stage by the believers with no argument either way. But PZ and his admirers simply jump on the same band-wagon – Oh look, theists only argue using the LaLaLaLaLa fingers-in-ears methods. Dumb and dumber I say. Theist or scientist, you can both be dumb. There is a very important point of interest in this facebook post that is completely swamped by those who believe themselves intellectually superior yet prefer wars to progress.

OK, so the “10ft” quote was way off the mark, but the “Goldilocks” enigma of how much of the universe seems to be fine-tuned “just right” for our-world-as-we-know-it to exist is a very interesting question. Easily attributed to god by the ignorant, but conveniently glossed-over by science in baying-mob mode.

My point ? It’s a myth that pointing out flaws in your adversaries’ arguments is a source of progress – falsification is good in the science-lab of repeatable-cases, refereed-peer-reviews & law-courts, but not in the real world. In fact it simply deepens the divide, reinforces adversaries as adversaries and excludes middles. Middles that have nothing to do with with compromise or accomodationism or apologism – I’m as atheist as any of the four horsemen – but concerned with the exclusion of sound rational knowledge.

Pull your finger out PZ – you are supposed to a responsible scientist / atheist.