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DNA-tests: Cousin matches

Okay, unless I get some questions that need to be answered, we have now come to the third and last installment in this series of posts on DNA-testing for genealogy.

The first was a general summary.
The second some details about ethnicity tests.
This one will be about cousin matches.

But before I get into that, I’ll due a little bit about how DNA is inherited. Skip ahead if that bores you.

Before you forge ahead though let me just say this. Although these posts talk down DNA-testing, there’s no reason not to take one if you think it’ll just be a fun thing to have done. And all contributors, even the ones who don’t put a lot of work into it, add information for the ones who do put the work in.

DNA Inheritance

Most of your DNA can be divided into 23 distinct bits called chromosomes. Most of the time you can’t tell which bits belong to what chromosome, as it’s all a ball of loose yarn, but when it’s time for a cell to divide the yarn is balled up into 46 elongated blobs. There’s one blob 1 from mom and one blob 1 from dad. There’s one blob 2 from mom and one blob 2 from dad. And so it goes up to and including blob 22.

But wait. 22 times 2 is only 44. Ah, yes. Blob 23 is special. It’s where we humans keep the mammalian XY-sex-chromosomes. Other mammals have different numbers of chromosomes, and non-mammals have completely different systems to decide biological sex. That is of course completely irrelevant to this post, but if it can be shoe horned into a topic one should always include the fun fact that crocodile eggs incubated warm turn into males and crocodile eggs incubated cool turn into females.

That isn’t exclusive to crocodilians either, but in humans the system is that if your 23rd blobs are both X, you grow up female, and if one of them is Y, you grow up male. (With various exceptions that are beyond the scope of this post.)

When egg cells and sperm cells are formed, they include just one blob of each pair, so they can come together and create a regular old 23 pair cell. And if the blobs never changed each of them would be the same as one of the blobs your parents got from their parents.

If that was the whole story you would get 11 or 12 chromosomes from each grandparent, on average, although you could theoretically get none. Your dad, for instance, could pass on to you only the chromosomes he got from his dad. But even with whole chromosome inheritance that would be unlikely.

On average the chromosomes you would share with your ancestors would be:

  • parents 23
  • grandparents 11 or 12
  • great-grandparents an average of 5.75
  • 2nd great-grandparents ~2.875
  • 3rd great-grandparents ~1.9375
  • 4th great-grandparents ~0.91875

Yeah since you have 64 fourth great-grandparents, there would be some you shared no DNA with, since you only have 46 chromosomes to play with.

Fortunately for DNA testing that’s not quite how it is though. When egg cells and sperm cells are formed each chromosome from that persons dad and each chromosome from that persons mom, the grandparents of the future offspring, get intimate and mix it up a little.

You can see the result if you compare a grandparent and grandchild. Like below where I’ve compared my test to my grandmas. (It only shows 18 chromosomes because that was all that fit on one screen and I couldn’t be bothered to glue image files together.)


All in all my DNA is about 19% bits passed down to me from grandma. Which means grandpa got to contribute almost 31%, which is quite atypical. For any statistics nerds out there, it’s barely inside the 99th percentile.

This shows two things. By shaking things up like this you are almost guaranteed to share DNA with your 4th great-grandparents. But you’re going to share wildly different amounts with each of them. And your cousins who share those many times great-grandparents will share different bits, and maybe none of the bits you share. For instance, whatever ancestry my grandma had on chromosome 4 or 17, I’ve received none of it.

Cousin matches

The above to some extent explains why the match lists for these tests show the results as, for instance, fourth to sixth cousins. There’s just no way to know, without comparing multiple tests and an actual family tree.

And at the 4th cousins distance there is a 30 percent chance two random cousins don’t share any DNA at all, even though it’s 95% sure they both inherited some DNA from each of the shared 5th great-grandparents.

Only for the closest relationships can the amount of DNA shared be used to disprove a relationship. If you don’t share between 30-50% with a sibling, there’s a 99% chance someone will have to search for their “real” dad.

But if on the other hand you share 1% with someone, which is the average for a third cousin, you could also be fourth cousins, or fifth or sixth … and you can only find out which it is if you both have family trees going back that far and if none of your ancestors have a different parentage than what is recorded. And figuring out which one of you has an “error” in your tree, and where, is really, really hard.

Sadly 1% is a big match. Some people have only a handful (or none) at that level, and most of the hundreds of matches you have are likely much smaller. So to get anything out of them you have to trawl through them all, looking for the ones that have family trees that hopefully match up with yours.

When you do though, your reward is threefold:

1. You can “paint” another bit of your DNA like in the image above, but for ancestors further back. Some people are absolutely obsessed with this and give all the distant cousins they known DNA tests for Christmas and birthdays.

2. You have another piece of evidence that your paper trail is correct. Or, if you’re really hard core, another piece of evidence to link an ancestor without a good paper trail to your tree.

3. You have another bit of evidence you can apply to figuring out all the other matches you have.

And as I said up top, even if you don’t do all the hard work, you’re adding data for all the people who do. Just don’t be the person who uses a pseudonym, doesn’t have a family tree and doesn’t reply to replies even from second cousins. 😉


DNA-tests: Ethnicity estimates

A lot of people take the genealogical DNA-tests just for the ethnicity estimate. How do I know that? Well there’s the indirect evidence of them not uploading family trees and not replying to messages. There’s the indirect evidence of people writing in discussion groups that they got their cousins to take a test for them by talking up the ethnicity estimates. And most importantly there’s the people who do reply to messages, but who answer “I don’t really known any names beyond my grandparents. I only did the test for the ethnicity estimates.”

And there is nothing, well, very little, wrong with that. But if you do it for the ethnicity estimates you should know how wide the brush is with which the companies paint your genome. And it’s a lot wider than they advertise on the front page.

I’ll use myself as an example. Now all the companies agree that I’m European AF. 23andMe, MyHeritage, Ancestry, FamilyTreeDNA (FTDNA) all agree that I’m 100 % European. They further think I’m 90-98% North- and Western-European. But after that they start disagreeing, and before stating how they disagree, let’s briefly examine what they are actually testing.

Genealogical DNA-testing

All of these tests, and most publicly available DNA-testing in the affordable range today, look at so called SNPs, pronounced Snips, which are spots in the DNA code where some humans have one letter, and some other humans have another letter. These are just a tiny part of the overall genetic code, after all we share 98 % of our DNA with Chimpanzees, and 85 % with zebra fish, but there are so many letters in our genetic code that the 0.3% that vary from human to human still make up 10 million SNPs.

The genetic testing companies look at between 600 thousand and 900 thousand of these, and not all the same ones. And then they compare them between individuals and between populations. To make up ethnicity estimates they have picked between a few tens and a few hundred individuals in various regions and determined in which way they are similar to each other, and different from people in the other regions.

They’ve tried to pick people with deep roots in the particular region. It doesn’t help much to pick someone in a isolated mountain valley in Norway whose grandparents were all mining experts from various Central-European countries. But Europeans have been mixing for centuries and the companies can’t be too picky.

Finding the true homebodies also creates the opposite problem, at least in countries like Norway where every valley was its own little world for centuries and people were more likely to marry a fourth (or hopefully fifth or sixth) cousin than someone from the next valley. The problem is that you end up labeling as “Norwegian” a combination that is actually only common in a tiny bit of Norway.

But you can’t test absolutely everyone, and the major market for these estimates are Americans who read them for entertainment and to create another thing to fight about with family at Thanksgiving. “No wonder you’re so cheap, you’re 3% more scottish than I am!” This means that all of the companies oversell their estimates just a tinsy, winsy bit.

Back to me

So what does this mean in practice? Well it means that three out of the four companies think I’m 6-8 % British, with Ancestry tacking on another 7 % Irish, Scotish or Welsh, while the fourth, MyHeritage, puts 0 % in both those slots.

FTDNA thinks I have 0 % Finnish in my genes, 23andMe and Ancestry will stretch to “less than 1 % but not zero”, while MyHeritage think I have 7.5 %.

Who to believe? Well I know I have some Finnish ancestors on paper, and I have a bunch of Finnish matches on MyHeritage and FTDNA with apparently pure Finnish pedigree. So …

And that’s the problem with these ethnicity estimates. For the purely broad strokes they are fine, but people will compare them to known family histories and jump to conclusions, compare results on different tests and pick and choose, and look for plausible explanations even if those explanations aren’t particularly reliable.

Instead of concluding “These aren’t particularly reliable or useful” they will go “Well I’ve seen people say Danish ancestry can show up as British, and I have known Danish ancestry so …” And by ‘they’ I mean me. I was at that stage last week.

And remember, when you get to your 3rd or 4th-great grandparents 150-200 years ago, you’ve inherited 3 % (3rd gg) or 1.5 % (4th gg) on average, so if what you’re trying to prove is that a single one of them had some exiting and exotic heritage, you will either get no proof or rubbish proof. (Especially if by exotic you include already diluted heritage like “She was quarter Apache”.)

I mean, even I get a non-zero hit on Native American in my Ancestry results! And there’s no way that’s because of an actual Native American. Although … it could be that Native Americans and Samii have some small commonality, and any Samii would be through my grandmother who Ancestry labels as a full 1 % Native American … aaaand there I go over-interpreting the results again.

Don’t trust them, except when tens of percents tell you which continent (and general west, south, eastern Europe) your ancestors came from. But if that alone is worth $60-$100 to you, go ahead and order a test. Or wait for the next installment in this blog series where I explain about the exciting world of cousin matches.

The case for never throwing anything away.

I have too much stuff and it’s not well organised, so while searching through papers this morning I considered making a start at organizing and downsizing at least some of the clutter. Like for instance piles of travel scraps.

I have two nice photo albums from my trip to Australia and my third trip to USA that include some receipts and tickets and such in between the photos, and for at least a half dozen trips after that I’ve been saving small piles of such stuff with the intent of replicating the previous successes.

But motivation has been lacking, because it’s a lot of work, I barely ever look at them, they’re of little interest to anyone I know, and zero interest to anyone I don’t know. So I just have small piles of travel scraps that maybe it’s time to throw away.

But then I start looking through them and I pick up a receipt for two muffins and milk at Calgary Zoo. And the way the human brain works this drags up from the depth of my memory that day at the zoo. Me wondering what to have for lunch, finding a place to sit, stray memories of parts of the park and of driving there. All just because I looked at an old receipt that takes up hardly any room. So why not keep it?

Then again how important is it that I got to take this particular trip down memory lane? My day would have been pretty good without it. And I also found a receipt from an Edmonton gas station that triggered no specific memories what so ever.

In the end I think I’ll keep the cafeteria receipt and throw away the one from the gas station. I’ll keep the one from a super market in the south of France that reminds me of having breakfast in a small park / median, and throw away a pile of student association leaflets that trigger no specific memories. And I’ll put what I keep in a box clearly labeled “mementos” so I don’t have to search through it when I’m looking for something important, but will have no problem finding it when I feel like a trip down random memory lanes.

Am I pulling my weight?

As with any headline ending in a question mark, the answer is very likely to be “no”. For instance the Slavery Footprint calculator says my consumption is supported by at least 20 slaves. Now I have a bunch of quibbles with how that estimate is calculated and presented, but there is no doubt the prices of the goods I consume would rise by some degree if there weren’t absolutely insane inequalities in the supply chain. Even ethical choices aren’t completely disconnected from the global economy. If I pick up a bar of fair trade chocolate it’s not going to be the case that everyone is working 37.5 hour work weeks and will receive an old age pension when they’re 67. So the question should perhaps instead be “What’s the magnitude of my over-consumption?”

Of course that is really difficult to evaluate, even on a small scale. Let’s go back to the question in the title and the situation where the phrase has its origin; sailors pulling ropes on sailing ships. A heavier and stronger man than the average might pull with the same force as the others, which would be less than what he was capable of, or he might pull with the same percentage of his capacity and be as exhausted as the others. In which case is he doing his fair share? Does your opinion change if he doesn’t get more food than the others to compensate for his larger baseline metabolism? How about if …

I could go on, but hopefully my point is already made, there is no way to perfectly evaluate if someone is doing and/or receiving their fair share. In a narrow context like the joint effort of a group of sailors, a consensus might arise, and the guy who never breaks a sweat might be ostracised, but our reality is one of being part of a global economy and I am well insulated from the effort and level of reward at the far end of the supply chains that end with me. And you the reader is likely to inhabit the same world of relative luxury.

But say we could easily evaluate who’s doing their fair share and who’s over-consuming. Let’s say we simplify and look at work hours. We’re then ignoring structural differences like how some countries have developed extensive infrastructure and automation, allowing production of more goods for the same work hours, but also how this development probably was supported by exploiting nations where this development hasn’t happened, so let’s put that aside for now. We look at how many hours people work and how many hours work their consumption represents and find …

At one extreme I could find that there’s minimal difference. So my over consumption doesn’t represent all that much of the world’s inequality. Say I work 2000ish hours and I consume goods representing 2100ish hours of work. Well then I don’t have much of an excuse for not changing my consumption, do I? I ought to consume a little less and pay a little more for what I do consume, preferably to those who’re “under-consuming”, allowing them to catch up. Easy peasy.

At the other extreme I could find that there are enormous differences. Maybe I consume 4000 hours worth of goods. Changing my consumption would then be a lot harder, but the immorality of not doing so would be much greater.

Over-simplified, sure, but if you live in the developed world, it is vanishingly unlikely that your personal truth doesn’t lie somewhere in between those two points, leaving the obvious conclusion: You’re not pulling your weight, at least not globally, and you’re consuming more than your fair share.

What the best choices are to remedy this may not be obvious, but perfect is the enemy of good, and it’s immoral not to bear this in mind when you make everyday choices. The available “ethical choices” might not be perfect, they might not even be better than the regular goods, but picking one over just plain “global economy output” shows you care and works to push the marketplace towards taking ethics into consideration and providing us consumers with the resulting information.


Professor Johan From fremstĂ„r som kjĂžtthue

«- LÊrerne fremstÄr som sutrete» skriver Aftenposten i sitat-strekform i overskriften torsdag nÄr diverse blÄruss fÄr kommentere lÊrernes skepsis til regjeringens satsing pÄ heving av lÊrerkompetanse. Utsagnet tillegges BI-professor Johan From, som ogsÄ har fÄtt plass i ingressen med utsagnet «- Det er veldig vanskelig Ä se at dette er problematisk.»

Med visse forbehold, fordi journalister i dag synes Ă„ se det som livsnĂždvendig Ă„ lage motsetninger og invitere til mest mulig dramatikk i enhver sak, kan jeg ikke annet enn Ă„ si at det er “veldig vanskelig Ă„ se” at noen med noenlunde intelligens kan slite med Ă„ se utfordringene i dette vedtaket.

En kjapp oppsummering fÞr jeg gÄr videre. Regjeringen Þnsker at det skal stilles strengere fagkrav til lÊrere i grunnskolen. Det er flott! Det finnes selvsagt ulemper, men i sum vil det lede til en utvikling de fleste Þnsker seg. Men Regjeringens forslag sier at dette skal gis tilbakevirkende kraft og gjelde ogsÄ de som har mange Ärs undervisningserfaring, men mangler formell kompetanse. Og her er lÊrerne skeptiske.

NÄ kan man selvfÞlgelig unnskylde personer som ikke kjenner skolen godt, men From er leder for en skolelederutdanning og burde vite bedre. Det sitter kanskje langt inne for noen som ser «ledelse» som et viktig element i skolen Ä innrÞmme at det historisk sett har vÊrt noksÄ hÄplÞse tilbud om etter- og videreutdanning for lÊrere. Kursing gÄr ut over arbeidstid og lÞnn og er ofte av lav kvalitet. Som det heter i én variant av den engelske ramsa om «Those who can, do.».

Those who can, do.
Those who can’t, teach.
Those who can’t teach, teach teachers.

(En nesten like populĂŠr variant slutter med like relevante «those who can’t teach, administrate».)

Og litt lenger ned har da ogsÄ From selv klart Ä finne noe om gjÞr dette problematisk, enten fordi han er lynende intelligent, eller fordi det ikke var sÄ vanskelig Ä se likevel.

«Professor Johan From er derimot ikke overbevist om at kravet om videreutdanning er et godt tiltak. Han sier at etter- og videreutdanning av lÊrere har forholdsvis liten effekt pÄ elevenes lÊring.»

SÄ kanskje det er journalistene som skal ha mest kjeft her? FÞrst fÄr de lÊrerne til Ä virke som sutrete, og sÄ fÄr de From til Ä virke som et kjÞtthue. Det kan selvfÞlgelig vÊre noe sant i en eller begge, men da mÄ vi gÄ dypere og det gidder vi jo ikke.

Derimot kan jeg ikke motstÄ fristelsen til Ä le litt av de andre blÄrussene som er sitert.

FÞrst KompetansedirektÞr i NHO, Are Turmo, som pÄ mange mÄter kommer best ut av det. Han er riktignok noe naiv nÄr han refererer til sertifiseringskrav i privat sektor uten Ä problematisere dette og veldig naiv i sin tiltro til videreutdanningskurs for lÊrere, men han har i det minste med at realkompetanse mÄ vektlegges. Bare et lite hint Turmo, det finnes en rekke sertifiseringskrav i det private nÊringsliv som er totalt bortkastet fordi realkompetanse vektlegges i for liten grad og fordi de ansatte ikke gidder Ä protestere til ledere som deg som pÄ ren refleks svarer «[det er] noe man bare mÄ forholde seg til, sÄnn er det bare.»

FÞrstelektor Elin ØrjasÊter ved MarkedshÞyskolen i Oslo kommer langt dÄrligere ut av det:

Jeg har vanskelig for Ä forstÄ hva som er problematisk med dette. I alle andre bransjer ville dette vÊrt helt greit. Hvis din arbeidsgiver sier at du mÄ bli bedre i dataanalyse, og sier at fÄr ta 30 studiepoeng gratis i arbeidstiden, ville du vel ikke du protestert pÄ det?

Igjen mÄ kanskje journalisten ta noen av skylda, for her fremstÄr ØrjasÊter som totalt bortblÄst. Vi kan jo ta det fra starten.

  • Det er ikke arbeidsgiver som uttaler seg her, derimot er det myndighetene som Ăžnsker Ă„ overstyre arbeidsgiver, pĂ„ godt og vondt.
  • Ingen sier «du mĂ„ bli bedre i dataanalyse». Myndighetenes krav ligner mye mer «du mĂ„ ha mer formell kompetanse i IKT». At du kanskje allerede har 15 studiepoeng i diverse datafag og har tilegnet deg spisskompetanse pĂ„ dataanalyse, samt en rekke andre emner direkte relevante for arbeidshverdagen din, sees pĂ„ som irrelevant. Og, litt pĂ„ siden, det bugner heller ikke over av relevante kurs for erfarne lĂŠrere.
  • SvĂŠrt lite kursing og etter-/videreutdanning er gitt lĂŠrere gratis i arbeidstiden sĂ„ langt og det ser ikke ut til at de kommer til Ă„ vĂŠre uten kostnader for lĂŠrerne i framtiden heller.
  • Og ikke minst, om jeg fĂžlte arbeidsgiver var pĂ„ jordet i sin vurdering av mitt utdanningsbehov, sĂ„ er det klart jeg ville protestert.

Men til slutt, nÄr irritasjonen over Froms idioti har lagt seg litt, er det ikke frustrasjonen over tÄpelige utsagn fra disse tre synserne jeg kommer til Ä sitte igjen med, men irritasjonen over at dette er mÄten en av Norges stÞrste avviser bidrar til debatten pÄ. Det bidrar sÄ klart til klikk, det bidrar til Ä provosere til debatt og aktivitet, men sitter noen igjen med noe positivt? Blir den virkelige diskusjon og debatten beriket, eller blir den skjÞvet i bakgrunnen og ignorert til fordel for denne overfladiske formen?

This is my house.

This is the best blog entry ever. Even if The Bloggess, amazing though she be, is not your cup of strange taxidermy, you should read this entry. It is, without hyperbole the most important message you will read in your lifetime of “most important message you will read today/this week/this month/this year”s. It’s long, it’s rambling, but there’s not a word wasted. Okay, some of them are only there for the laughs and giggles, but important should be sprinkled with laughs and giggles more often.

Now go read it, I’m serious. Read it!

The Bloggess

The greatest gift in the world is to grant a kindness to another. The amazing thing though is that the aforementioned gift is one you give yourself. It may be a small thing. Leaving a flower for the tired woman at the coffee shop. Telling a stranger that they have such kind eyes. Listening happily to a story told by an elderly friend or relative who has told you the same story a million times. Nodding in solidarity even when you don’t completely understand. Letting a friend or a stranger yell hurtful things at you because you hope it will help them let go of a small part of that anger
that it will open up room in them for the greater things that they deserve.

This is the way the world goes. Small, mean acts affect the next person who in turn amplify that anger or sadness and take it out on others who suffer

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Weird dreams are made of this

Dreams are weird. There are lots of hypotheses on their purpose or lack of such, but they’re hard to test, and some are so seductive they stay in public consciousness despite being stupid. (Prophetic dreams anyone?) But it’s not just the act of dreaming that’s weird, the contents of dreams are weird as well, and they show first hand some of the mind’s power of rationalization.

Dreams come in various levels of weirdness, but if you try writing some of it down immediately after dreaming, you’ll find a lot more discontinuities than if you recall them the next day. Evidence of the mind’s powerful ability to edit your memories to make sense of them, a power that’s also in play during the dreaming, helped by the “what the fuck!”-part of your brain being dampened. Or maybe everyone else dreams clear and sensible narratives and I’m just generalizing based on the weird stuff I dream. Like the following dream I had last night.

So I have cold (that’s not a part of the dream, I’m just following up the theoretical lead in to the dream recital with a personal lead in) and feeling crappy and sorry for myself I fall asleep on the couch in the evening and I wake up around 10 pm with a dry mouth, a sore neck from the messed up position I’ve slept in, and the memory of the tail end of a dream where I’m trying to scrape some unpleasantly sticky food gunk off my gums. And so I head off to bed and fortunately I fall asleep easily, despite my long nap.

But I wake up at 3:33 from a weird dream.

I’m in some sort of game or Ninja academy or fantasy novel, and the dream has been going on for a while, but that’s how far back I remembered when I woke up. I’m looking at objects on a dark wood bookshelf. And as I realize an invading search party is spreading through the building I pick one of the hardwood stair finials lying on the shelf for a weapon. As one of the people enter the room I hide behind the door and smack him in the head with the finial as he enters.

It’s super inefficient, so I have to run. By running and jumping down stairs I escape past half a dozen people not trying all that hard to catch me. My escape is nearly thwarted though, when my co-conspirator locks the door behind her/him. I think with the motivation «If they catch him/her, that’ll be more time for me to get away», but the pursuit is so slow I escape anyway. Oh, and I’m sure at this point in the dream there’s two of us, and we’re Bart and Lisa Simpson. Although I’m not confident if I’m Lisa or Bart or an external observer.

Whoever is first reaches a fence and pulls the same «lock the gate behind me» stunt, and I curse as the other person with me twists the locking knob right off forcing us to climb the fence instead. Yeah, there’s three of us now, and I think the two others are my brothers, that’s definitely who they are in a later scene.

Climbing the fence is easy just up the embankment next to the gate where the fence is just waist high. And right past the fence we engage in some creative running in loops on an incline to gain speed and distance on our two pursuers, who’re women, but if I had an idea of who they were at the time, that memory is gone now.

We exit stage left (or stage right actually, if it were an actual stage) and approach the brook that ran past my childhood home, now following a path/road that my uncle has made with a harrow straight through his property and onto our neighbour’s. Right by the brook though my youngest brother, and the two women, fall into a sink hole that suddenly opens up in the path.

I tell my other brother to grab a branch or something and pull us out, because despite not having fallen into the hole I’m now in it. Our befuddled female pursuers are left in the hole and then edited out of the narrative completely as my brothers and I, following the harrow path, are now running away from home and I wonder if my instigating brother has really thought this through, and what mom and dad will think.

I’m not worrying about the fact that we’re all our adult selves or that my mom died several years ago or that what was all summery and green a couple scenes ago is now wintery all of a sudden. Or that the next couple of scenes are utterly bizarre.

We pass one neighbour’s fields and approach the cluster of houses belonging to the next farm over and walk past a greenhouse that definitely doesn’t exist out in the real world. As we pass it I’m thinking «so that’s the ‘textiles out of a greenhouse’ store I’ve been hearing about». And I think maybe we should see if there are some blankets in case we don’t figure out a place to spend the night. Only the guy who is outside moving stuff around seems to be packing up rather than opening the «store», even if one of my brothers thinks it’s the other way round.

I hate asking strangers for information but for a moment it seems my brother is going to, but then he doesn’t and I realize there are opening hours posted on the side of the greenhouse and I move around and further away from the building to see them properly, only I slide down a long hill in the snow. In hindsight this hill slants the opposite way of the terrain I’m certain we were just in, but there’s weirder to come so I won’t dwell on that. It’s a long hill and loose snow on slippery snow, and I cause a bit of an avalanche on the way down, but from the bottom it’s easy to read the numbers.

They don’t make sense at first but eventually I figure out what they say, possibly because the numbers changed, and I realize they close at 16 on Saturdays and it’s now just past. So I signal this to my brother using my hands, not wanting to shout or maybe it’s too far to shout, and start climbing back up the hill, which is now full of people and not even a hill for very long.

There are some conversations going on as I climb, about possible places to sleep suggested by the neighbour kids, who’re of course also grown up, but that’s not as interesting as how the snowy hill we’re climbing turns into the seatback of a hill-sized leather recliner without it registering as odd with anyone. As I, and a couple other climbers, reach the last, vertical, part of the leather seatback, our weight causes it to tilt forwards, which of course is backwards for us and lands us just at the edge of the giant glass table that goes with the chair. And that’s when I woke up. At 3:33. And wrote down as much detail as I remember.

LavmÄls fra Trygdekontoret

Trygdekontoret bestilte skreddersydd sexfilm til episode med tema porno. Til forargelse for mange, men kringkastingsrÄdet regnet det for innafor det akseptable. Personlig er jeg enig med dem, men jeg kan forstÄ de som er uenige. Det er mye som er problematisk med pornografi.

Mange mener alt er problematisk med pornografi og Kari Jaquesson gikk sÄ langt som Ä si at hun vil politianmelde dette for brudd pÄ sexkjÞpsloven. Trygdekontorets respons, ny porno, denne gangen med innlagt parodi av Jaquesson. Jeg har lite til overs for Jaquesson og synes politianmeldelse er i overkant, men med denne responsen, og i sitt forsvar for responsen, viser Trygdekontorets redaksjon at de mangler grunnleggende folkeskikk og respekt for debattklimaet i samfunnet.

Innslaget var ment som satire, sier prosjektlederen for programmet og forsvarer seg med at det var et sÄ tullete innslag at det ikke kan sies Ä ha injurierende kraft. Som om det er det de kritiseres for. Det finnes faktisk flere regler for hva som er akseptable virkemidler i media enn injurielovgivningen. Det norske pornoforbudet og en generelt avvisende holdning til pornografi er kanskje pÄ kant med realitetene i et Norge der et internasjonalt usensurert internett gir alle enkel tilgang til den forbudne frukten, men det er fortsatt sÄnn at Ä parodiere noen ved Ä plassere dem i en pornofilm vil oppleves som en krenkelse av svÊrt mange.

Legg til pĂ„ toppen at dette ikke er en vanlig sketsj, men skreddersydd faktisk porno, og at Trygdekontoret ikke belyser en hvilken som helst medieoppstuss med sitt forsĂžk pĂ„ “satire”, men en der de selv er part, og Thomas Seltzer og redaksjonen kan ikke annet enn Ă„ betegnes som klĂžnete amatĂžrer.

Pseudofysikk (Om sludder i Teknisk Ukeblad del 2)

Det andre innlegget som trigget responsen min nevnt i del 0 (det fĂžrste innlegget er omtalt i del 1), var det ganske triste «Lynets opprinnelse – ikke feil premisser» av sivilingeniĂžr Peder Skotner. La meg starte med Ă„ sitere fĂžrste avsnitt:

«Det har ikke vÊrt mye debatt om min opprinnelige artikkel 27/3, og jeg fÄr takke Espen Murtnes og medstudenter for bidraget selv om det innebÊrer noe motbÞr for teorien.»

Hvorfor trist? Jo, fordi Skotner ikke evner Ä se det store hullet i sin egen hypotese. Han har gjort noen betraktninger om kreftene mellom molekylene i overflatespenning og fordeling av ladning i vanndrÄper og kommet fra til at det her er energi nok til Ä forÄrsake lyn. Problemet er at hypotesen ikke gir noen ladningsforskjell mellom en sky full av vanndrÄper og stedet lynet treffer (eller gÄr fra, alt etter som hvordan man ser det). Hver vanndrÄpe er fortsatt elektrisk nÞytralt ladd om sÄ alle elektronene lÄ pÄ overflaten og protonene lÄ inni. Dette ble pÄpekt, i overkant hÞflig, av tre fysikkstudenter som svarte pÄ fÞrste innlegg, men selv om Skotner takker dem hÞflig for engasjementet overser han glatt denne helt basale kjernen i kritikken deres og kommenterer i stedet alt mulig annet.

Og noe dypere enn det er det ikke noe poeng Ä gÄ i hypotesen. Slik pseudofysikk kan det vÊre utrolig gÞy Ä diskutere pÄ nettet. Man kan lÊre masse nÄr man vil vÊre grundig i Ä plukke en hypotese fra hverandre, og man kan lÊre mye nytt av de elementene i argumentasjonen som har en rot i virkeligheten. I Skotners tilfelle er det for eksempel et sidespor om hvorfor en tynn vannstrÄle avbÞyes nÄr en elektrisk ladd kam bringes nÊr den, noe som ledet meg til en diskusjon et sted pÄ nettet, mellom kompetente fysikere, om svakhetene i skoleboksforklaringen og deres diskusjon om faktisk vitenskap pÄ feltet.

Men avis-/magasinkommentarer er lite egnet til slik diskusjon og utforskning. Skotner legger for eksempel ved denne youtube-lenken som ville gjort det meningsfullt Ä lese om villfarelsene hans om man kunne klikke pÄ den. I stedet gjÞr formateringen til TU alle bokstavene om til store bokstaver slik at det skal en liten omvei til for Ä fÄ fram videoen, i tilegg til det bryderiet det er bare Ä mÄtte skrive den av fra bladet. Det er ogsÄ nesten tre mÄneder fra Skotners fÞrste innlegg til det andre, og om man skal svare igjen sÄ blir det bare for Ä iterere at «hypotesen din gir ingen ladningsforskjell mellom regioner, hvorfor tror du det blir lyn av det?» og undres over at det gÄr an Ä legge vekk sÄ grunnleggende fysikkforstÄelse.

Her kunne TUs redaktĂžr hatt et poeng om at det er viktig Ă„ slippe til nye tanker og ideer, men mer om det i fjerde og siste del (del 3 [sic]).

Klimaskepsis (Om sludder i Teknisk Ukeblad – del 1)

Jeg har svart uvitenskapelig sludder om klima i TU tidligere, men som beskrevet i innlegget gjengitt i del 0 valgte jeg denne gangen Ä i stedet fokusere pÄ det overordnede problemet at sÄnt vÄs blir publisert. Men det er jo ikke urettmessig Ä kalle det en hersketeknikk Ä kalle noens ord for vÄs uten Ä grunngi dommen, sÄ jeg skal ta meg bryet med Ä plukke ting fra hverandre i detalj.

Vi snakker altsÄ om innlegget «CO2 gir liv til vÄrt Þl, vÄr tonic og vÄr musserende vin» av pensjonert sivilingeniÞr fra oljeindustrien John Amdal. Allerede i tittelen aner vi tonen i innlegget, CO2 er jo nyttig, hvorfor demoniseres det? Det er mulig det er valgt av redaksjonen, men det er treffende for hva som kommer videre. Her er hva Amdal bedriver.
1. Angrep pÄ pressen og en strÄmann av dimensjoner: «[Man fÄr] inntrykk av at CO2 er en forferdelig gass som mÄ fjernes fra jordens overflate fordi den Þdelegger den»
2. Ny strÄmann: «Man fÄr inntrykk av at alle disse tonn CO2 fourenser atmosfÊren og fortrenger vÄrt eget livgivende oksygen.»
3. LÞgn/inkompetanse: «I Wikipedia stÄr det at [konsentrasjonen av CO2] er 0,038 prosent og Þkende, men det har de ikke produsert et tall for.» Jeg har ikke klart Ä finne en artikkel som omhandler CO2 og som ikke gir bedre tall enn det, og mange som sÄ gjÞr.
4. Mer strĂ„: «Noen hevder at flyene legger igjen CO2 utenfor atmosfĂŠren …» Fortsettelsen her minner meg veldig om mange elevers misforstĂ„elser rundt drivhuseffekten og gir meg ikke mye tiltro til Amdals faglige kompetanse pĂ„ feltet.
5. Kjernen i innlegget: Amdals personlige teori om at global oppvarming skyldes varmeutslippet fra menneskers energiforbruk. «Om vi fÄr vÄr energi fra fossefall, atomkraftverk eller andre forbrenningsverk, blir det meste omgjort til varme. Og den forsvinner ikke ut fra atmosfÊren som vi lenge trodde. Den blir her og varmer opp vÄr jordoverflate!»

Og her er det mye Ä ta tak i. Amdal gjÞr det ikke klart at han ikke tror vÄr forstÄelse av drivhuseffekten er god nok, men det er vanskelig Ä se at bidraget hans gir mening om han ikke er skeptisk til det aller meste av slik vitenskap, sÄ hva er det som gjÞr at jorda holder pÄ varmen? Og hvordan skiller denne varme-holdings-effekten mellom varme fra menneskers energibruk og varme fra sola? Om vi skal holde oss til tall fra Wikipedia sÄ er nemlig det totale varmeutslippet fra menneskelig bruk av fossile drivstoff i stÞrrelsesorden en titusendel av innstrÄlingen fra sola. Andre energiformer er bare en brÞkdel av dette igjen og spiller da heller ingen rolle, siden energien fra, for eksempel, et fossefall, blir til varme enten vi legger fallet i rÞr og lager elektrisitet, eller lar elva renne uforstyrret til havet.

Og dermed har vi med det samme kommet fram til det kanskje verste med Amdals sludder. Bakgrunnen for hans kommentar er nemlig elektrifiseringen av norsk oljeutvinning og han har regnet seg fram til at elektrifisering med vannkraft gir hĂžyere varmeutslipp totalt, pĂ„ grunn av energitap underveis. Men om varmeutslippene vĂ„re var problemet sĂ„ ville fornybar energi likevel vĂŠre veien Ă„ gĂ„. PĂ„ samme mĂ„te som ideen bak biodrivstoff er at vi bruker materiale som er en del av det nĂ„vĂŠrende CO2-kretslĂžpet i stedet for Ă„ slippe ut CO2 som har vĂŠrt lagret i Ă„rmillioner, sĂ„ er varmeutslippet fra fornybar energi noe som uansett ville bli “sluppet ut”. Det er energi som allerede er i systemet og mens miljĂžvennligheten av biodrivstoff kan diskuteres pĂ„ flere felt, sĂ„ er det utvilsomt at vi i en “varmeutslippsreduksjonsverden” mĂ„tte konvertert til kun fornybar energi.

SÄ hvorfor publisere dette? Hadde det ikke vÊrt bedre om noen kunne pÄpekt svakhetene direkte til Amdal, som en fagfellevurdering, og han kunne tenkt igjennom dem igjen? Om ikke for Amdals del sÄ for de som blir villedet til Ä tro at dette var et innlegg med et modikum av vitenskapelig kvalitet? Det beste som kan sies om innlegget er at det gjorde meg oppmerksom pÄ hvor sjokkerende mye energi vi bruker. Sammenlignet med den totale solinnstrÄlingen ville jeg aldri gjettet at vÄrt forbruk er sÄ nÊrt som fire stÞrrelsordener.

Men nok om Amdal. PĂ„ tampen skal jeg gi plass til litt om klimaskeptikere generelt. Er det mulig at klimavitenskapen er pĂ„ villspor? Svaret er praktisk talt nei. Hvorfor ikke bare nei? Jo, fordi vitenskap alltid er Ă„pen for noe nytt og bedre. Men mens hovedvekten av verdens kompetente pĂ„ feltet aksepterer “praktisk talt sikkert”, og hovedvekten av de kompetente som mener vi overvurderer kunnskapen vĂ„r mener “praktisk talt sikkert” er for sterke ord, sitter tastaturkrigerne og er bombesikre i sin sak om at “praktisk talt nei”, enten er helt ekvivalent med “ja”, eller er tegn pĂ„ at alt bare er politisk styrt vĂ„s. Og et kroneksempel dukker da ogsĂ„ opp (eller blir plukket ut av redaksjonen til Ă„ representerer flommen av vĂ„s de mottok) i respons til Amdal. IngeniĂžr Arne Plassen eksemplifiserer arten i innlegget «Klamrer seg til teorier». Han kaller de som aksepterer IPCCs konklusjoner “alarmister”, sier de er religiĂžst opptatt av etablerte teorier, han feilrepresenterer IPCC ved Ă„ referere til disse nĂ„r han hevder den globale temperaturen har sunket siden 1998*, og nĂ„r han legger til en referanse til en pĂ„stand om at man er pĂ„ vei mot en forstĂ„else av at klimasystemene er mindre fĂžlsomme for CO2, noe som ellers er et prisverdig trekk, sĂ„ er det til en professor i sosialĂžkonomi**, som igjen stĂžtter seg pĂ„ et syltynt grunnlag.

Lenke til del 2, for den som mÄtte Þnske Ä lese alle disse innleggene fortlÞpende.

*Mer plass vil jeg ikke bruke pÄ hvor tÄpelig det er Ä ta et ekstremt toppunkt i en stadig svingende trend og bruke det som referanse.

**Burde jeg lenke til hva denne professoren egentlig har sagt eller skrevet sier du? Vel, Plassen refererte bare til mannen, ikke til noen spesifikk publikasjon.