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Archive for the ‘science’ Category

The art and science of weather forecasting and why we can’t predict Mina

Posted by commiedyan on November 26, 2007

Our weather forecasters have drawn a lot of undeserved flak for the way Mina has skirted the areas she was supposed to damage. We must be so cynical we can’t even recognize good news.

From the Philippine Daily Inquirer is this report: Mina’s veering off sparks text jokes in Albay. We hope you don’t mind if we’re occasionally serious.

But first a joke from Onionista. Typhoon Mina changed course, from B.S. Meteorology to A.B. Political Science and she’s now in Malacañang meeting with Gloria, Cerge Remonde,Ronnie Puno, and Ignacio Bunye, trying to spin the whirlwind and grab credit for the minimal destruction thus far.

Now for the serious weather jokes:

  1. “I am not sure how clouds get formed. But the clouds know how to do it, and that is the important thing.”
  2. “In making rain water, it takes everything from H to O.”
  3. Water vapour gets together in a cloud. When it is big enough to be called a drop, it does.

Here’s the source of these corny jokes,

Now this is the source of the serious stuff. There are two mainstream methods in weather forecasting.

  1. The persistence method:This is the simplest way of producing a forecast. The persistence method assumes that the conditions at the time of the forecast will not change. For example, if it is sunny and 87 degrees today, the persistence method predicts that it will be sunny and 87 degrees tomorrow. If two inches of rain fell today, the persistence method would predict two inches of rain for tomorrow.
  2. Numerical Weather Prediction: Numerical Weather Prediction (NWP) uses the power of computers to make a forecast. Complex computer programs, also known as forecast models, run on supercomputers and provide predictions on many atmospheric variables such as temperature, pressure, wind, and rainfall. A forecaster examines how the features predicted by the computer will interact to produce the day’s weather. The NWP method is flawed in that the equations used by the models to simulate the atmosphere are not precise. This leads to some error in the predictions. In addition, the are many gaps in the initial data since we do not receive many weather observations from areas in the mountains or over the ocean. If the initial state is not completely known, the computer’s prediction of how that initial state will evolve will not be entirely accurate. Despite these flaws, the NWP method is probably the best of the five discussed here at forecasting the day-to-day weather changes. Very few people, however, have access to the computer data. In addition, the beginning forecaster does not have the knowledge to interpret the computer forecast, so the simpler forecasting methods, such as the trends or analogue method, are recommended for the beginner.

Weather forecasting shares some characteristics with economic and political forecasting. The forecasters never get sued.

You might be wondering why we’re in a good mood. We just got over a persistent tropical depression. Smile naman.

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Posted in analysis, science, Uncategorized | Tagged: , , | 2 Comments »

Philippine ‘typhoon corridor’ bill breezes thru House on third reading

Posted by commiedyan on November 23, 2007

Manila–Fearing the consequences of typhoon Mina (international codename Mitag; click here for real-time tracking), the House approved without a vote on third reading a measure creating the Philippine ‘typhoon corridor’ at four this morning. House Bill 999.9 sponsored by Rep. Perpetuo Quixote of windswept Batanes had been certified as urgent by Malacañang, allegedly to calm the political weather.

Deliberations of the public works committee had earlier been described as stormy, and before news of Mina, discussions had just been going round and round in circles and spirals.

The measure, mandating the use of state-of-the-art weather control technology, not only eliminates all damage from tropical disturbances but also quadruples the country’s wind energy potential to 16 gigawatts, proponents said. In addition, it would also help shed the country’s image as a state of calamity.

Gloria Macapagal Arroyo, alleged Philippine president, lauded the development but warned of difficult negotiations in the bicameral conference committee because of radically conflicting provisions. Hearings on the senate bill have also frequently been cancelled because of bad weather.

The corridor, to be constructed at an estimated cost of anywhere from P55 billion to P1 trillion, will be financed in the main by official development assistance from China. It will thenceforth be the sole authorized passageway for all typhoons through the country, and will be administered by the National Disaster Coordinating Council (NDCC). The infrastructure project will be the first of its kind in the world, NDCC spokesperson Anthony Golez said.

The House version envisions the corridor to be carved across valleys and mountains 20 kilometers south of the northern tip of Luzon. The counterpart bill in the upper chamber, sponsored by senators Aquilino Pimentel and Miguel Zubiri, wants the corridor to cut the whole country longitudinally, from Davao, zigzagging through the major cities in Mindanao and on to the Visayas and Luzon. The House version provides that displaced residents would be relocated to Taiwan while that of the Senate designates Malaysia and Singapore. Both versions provide for the establishment of wind farms along the breadth of the corridor under build-operate-own (BOO) arrangements. Read the rest of this entry »

Posted in analysis, congress, Nature, science | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments »

Forum: Sex, politics, and the Filipino

Posted by commiedyan on November 11, 2007

In this roundtable discussion, frequently asked questions (FAQs-in this case no one would fault you for pronouncing it fuck you) about Filipino sexuality, PTO commissioned Dolly Carvajal to discuss with Margie Holmes and Dr. Aidan No persistent myths about sexuality in the Philippines. The discussion was held in our backyard during lunch break over the weekend.

Dolly: Let me dispense with the easy questions first. Is masturbation immoral? Will you grow hair at the back of your hands? Will you go to hell?

Dr. No: No. Those beliefs were first popularized by Rep. Teddyboy Locsin in the nineties. He has long since clarified that he was only joking and that he was taunted by his granddad. Hell, no. Have you seen his hands?
Dolly: But the Vatican…

Dr. No: No. Just interview the laundrywomen in the Vatican…

Margie: It depends on your perception of hell.

Dr. No: No, Margie, think about this. If young boys and girls thought they’d go to hell by overdoing it, they’d overdo it even more, don’t you think?

Margie: I guess you’re right. Read the rest of this entry »

Posted in analysis, politics, religion, science, special reports | Tagged: , , , | 1 Comment »

Suplico, Tamano, Roque reported missing

Posted by commiedyan on November 11, 2007

The wives of Rolex Suplico and Harry Roque have reported their spouses missing for more than three days. The girlfriends of Adel Tamano, on the other hand, have contacted TPO to inquire about the story we published more than a week ago. TPO is cooperating with the police. From accounts, we’ve learned that the three were supposed to have met with Prof. Joey Magpantay at the McDonalds branch in Philcoa last Friday. Mrs. Magpantay said Joey came home after waiting for an hour at the appointed place.

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Crab mentality slows down Ayala biotech firm to a crawl

Posted by commiedyan on November 11, 2007

The losing faction in a long-standing rivalry has temporarily shut down the Ayala-owned and UP-based Bioengineering Applied Science and Technology (UPBeast) over the weekend.

TPO gathered from insider sources that Dr. Ally Ma. Sagun has defected to local anti-GMO activists led by Roberto Verzola, long the bane of the firm located at the Ayala science park in the Diliman campus.

Sagun’s main rival explained that her nemesis just could not accept the fact that the Ayalas had chosen to commercialize her discovery first. This involves the genetic modification of local crabs so that they would mature into crab relleno or stuffed crabs, an expensive delicacy because of the labor-intensity of preparation. Read the rest of this entry »

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GMA and the cartoon laws of physics

Posted by commiedyan on November 8, 2007

Paul Krugman, one of our loyal readers, brought this important law to our attention. “It might explain why your president behaves the way she does,” he told TPO.

Cartoon Law I

Any body suspended in space will remain in space until made aware of its situation. Daffy Duck steps off a cliff, expecting further pastureland. He loiters in midair, soliloquizing flippantly, until he chances to look down. At this point, the familiar principle of 32 feet per second per second takes over.

For more, click on the link in our blogroll.

Thanks, PK.

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UP physics prof offers Filipino time machine to Rolex in impeachment bid

Posted by commiedyan on November 6, 2007

With hardly any chance the House majority leadership would allow a fortified impeachment bid against GMA, the only ray of hope now appears to be UP professor Joey Magpantay’s prototype Filipino Time Machine (FTM), with which, he assures us, we will never be late again. If talks succeed between Rolex Suplico and Magpantay, Rolex, Adel Tamano, and Harry Roque, with impeachment documents in hand, will be transported back to the Batasan to moments just before Ruel Pulido and Rep. Edgardo San Luis filed the original complaint before the chamber’s secretary general.

But a few delicate technical and financial issues need to be addressed. The strange contraption requires 1 gigawatt of electric power, almost 8% of the total in the entire Luzon grid. There would have to be proper coordination with the Wholesale Elecricity Spot Market (WESM), the National Transmission Company (NTC), National Power Corporation (NPC) and Meralco. Otherwise, the surge in demand as Joey flicks the switch at his backyard in the UP campus would cause voltage instability and even massive brownouts throughout Luzon.

Next hurdle is, who would foot the bill? Joey says it will take about one hour for the intrepid trio be atomized, sucked into the space-time vortex, and reconstituted, amended, and verified, at the targetted place. TPO calculations suggest that with 1 gigawatt for 60 minutes, at the wholesale time of use (TOU) rates of NPC of about P5 per kilowatthour, the electricity bill would amount to at least P5 million. The Black and White movement, we were told, is now passing the hat.

The most difficult problem, however, remains. The space-time pinpoint mechanism is not precise. Any little voltage and frequency perturbations might transport Suplico, Tamano, and Roque to Iloilo, Batac, or Taipei, and if things really get fouled up, back to the time of ex-presidents Diosdado Macapagal or Ferdinand Marcos.

Magpantay waxes optimistic that in due time and with scale economies, he might be able to offer the service to anyone willing to pay P1 million to be transported to better times. “How about if all the rest of our countrymen who can no longer endure the indignities of Arroyo want to time-travel as one?” we asked. “That is possible,” Joey said, but “the copper and coal required to pull that off could trigger a world economic crisis.”

Just before deadline we interviewed Rolex:

TPO: Que hora es segun tu reloj?

Rolex: Lo siento. No tengo reloj.

Posted in congress, politics, science, special reports | Tagged: , , , , | 4 Comments »