Saturday, October 12, 2013

I Call B.S.!

My Grandfather used to tell me, "If you can't express something numerically, you don't know what you're talking about." I realize that there are exceptions to that rule, in art, music, and other things. But not science. Having said that, read this article posted at the Washington State Department of Ecology website. This is supposed to be an academic article about modeling household water use. I think our taxpayer dollars paid for this.
An Agent Based Model of Household Water Use
Abstract: Households consume a significant fraction of total potable water production. Strategies to improve the efficiency of water use tend to emphasize technological interventions to reduce or shift water demand. Behavioral water use reduction strategies can also play an important role, but a flexible framework for exploring the “what-ifs” has not been available. This paper introduces such a framework, presenting an agent-based model of household water-consuming behavior. The model simulates hourly water-using activities of household members within a rich technological and behavioral context, calibrated with appropriate data. Illustrative experiments compare the resulting water usage of U.S. and Dutch households and their associated water-using technologies, different household types (singles, families with children, and retired couples), different water metering regimes, and educational campaigns. All else equal, Dutch and metered households use less water. Retired households use more water because they are more often at home. Water-saving educational campaigns are effective for the part of the population that is receptive. Important interactions among these factors, both technological and behavioral, highlight the value of this framework for integrated analysis of the human-technology-water system.
Keywords: agent based modeling; behavioral factors; residential water use; buildings
Now, I majored in mathematics in college, so I was naturally intrigued by this piece of crap about halfway through the article:
Other factors affecting the agent decision-making process are water saving campaigns, water metering and household values and resulting norms of acceptable water use behavior. The intention of individual agents to save water in the model is a function of these factors, which can be expressed as follows:
IntentionToSaveWater = a + b + f
where, a = care for environment/10 if water saving campaigns = true otherwise a = 0, b = 0.4 if water meter = true otherwise b = 0 and f = 0.1 is a constant to avoid the value zero as equation outcome. 
Care for the environment divided by ten? Ten exactly? Zero point four? Where do those numbers come from, anyway? The zero point one is an admitted fudge factor just to make the result turn out the way they want. They actually say it! Why does IntentionToSaveWater need to be non-zero anyway? Can't someone intentionally waste water? Believe me, after reading this, I'm tempted. Yeah, it'll cost me, but it might be worth it. I guess I'm not one of the receptive.

Is this hypotheses testable? Peer reviewed? Do we have independently reproducible results? Or is this just more poli-sci, sociology mumbo-jumbo? Those classes were graduation requirements in college, but we hard science and math students used to sit in our dorms, read the textbooks and laugh our keisters off. I sure hope this isn't how they're modeling global warming climate change chaos, but it would not surprise me. This isn't science or mathematics. It's pure B.S.!  Totally made up, and put in the form of an equation to look "scientific". Maybe that'll bluster someone suffering from math anxiety, but as a lifelong student of science, it merely makes me want to puke.

Let me tell you what stuff like this does to my "care for the environment" quotient: It makes me bloody reactionary, is what. It makes me deliberately do things that I would not otherwise do, like burn my paper and cardboard waste in my fireplace (even in summer) just to preserve my sense of self-determination. Not that it really hurts the environment anyway, but I know it would piss off the environmentalists if they found out about it (oops!). You know, water is not destroyed by use. It evaporates and comes right back down as rain. I'm probably drinking some of the same water that was drunk (and peed) by the likes of Jesus H. Christ, or Sir Isaac Newton. (Or Josef Stalin and Sigmund Freud, but I try not to think about that.)

This is what makes me extremely dubious of bureaucracies like EPA and WSDOE. I'm almost certain my tax dollars paid for this tripe. I don't want it, and we don't need it. But it just keeps getting worse. Bureaucracies never look for ways to reduce their budgets, or shrink their scope. Quite the opposite. I for one am getting very tired of it. It's time to curb the bureaucracies!


  1. Hopefully just a reference and we Washingtonians didn't pay for this (it appears to have been published in Switzerland). But I laughed all the way through... both the document, and your commentary! Sad that DOE says OK, here's the "peer-reviewed science". Great entertainment value, but pathetic "science".

  2. Ah! di hydrogen monoxide - very dangerous commodity - it used to be free too. Taxes and fees and regulations have visited their iniquities upon this very giver of life. Sometimes I wonder whether any bureaucrats ever learned how the carbon cycle and the water cycles work, or has basic science also become redundant?

  3. FYI, this "gem" was found on the Washington Dept of Ecology website:

    "...and that's the truth, son"

  4. True science and the true practitioners of it have not lost their grip. The current production crop of bogus scientific Borg practitioners from on high education institutions have a super duper lip-lock upon the big bong of 'we know everything about how to save humankind from themselves'. I can only hope that they choke on their next toke from the wrong bong of reality.

  5. I don't know about the algebra, but there is language that communicates, and language that obfuscates, and that is the most non-communicative, obfuscatory use of words that I can recall ever seeing. Surely this is a prank perpetrated by a linguistic trickster.


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