Johnny’s Growth

Suppose, just for argument’s sake, that when your son Johnny turned 2 years old you decided to monitor his growth. His birthday is Jan. 1, so on the first of every month you measure his height — you even mount a tape measure permanently on the wall so you can measure him in the same location each time. You dutifully record the number for each measurement. Your wife thinks this is “cute” so she decides to take a picture every time you do, and puts them in a photo album labelled “Our Growing Child.” Since she’s a professional photographer, she uses her amazing Nikon super-high-res digital camera. All her friends think it’s super-cute.

Come October of your child’s 3rd year, you plot a graph of his height as a function of time:

Oh my God!” you exclaim to your wife. “Our child is shrinking! Call the doctor! Take him to the emergency room! Quick!!!

Your wife looks at the graph and says, “That can’t be right. He didn’t shrink by 5 cm in the last month — we’d have noticed. Besides, look here in my photo album. You can see that the final number isn’t right. You must have written it down wrong — it’s simply an error.

But you’re still worried. So you consult your next-door neighbor, who happens to work with the Global Warming Policy Foundation, and show the data to him. He declares, “Your wife must have some pro-growth political agenda. The data clearly show that your child is shrinking. You’d better take him to the doctor immediately.

Your wife staunchly refuses to give in to your irrationality. But the next day your neighbor knocks on your door and says, “I can prove that your child is either shrinking, or at least has stopped growing. Look at this graph of his height since age 3 years, 2 months. Over the last 8 months your child has shrunk at a rate of 1.3 cm/yr.

Your wife interrupts, saying “Please don’t be so ridiculous. Obviously the last data point is in error, this photograph proves it.” The neighbor retorts, “Even if I leave out the last data point, the recent growth rate is not statistically significant! And the estimated rate is only 1.5 cm/yr, far less than the expected rate of about 7 cm/yr according to the IPCC.” (Intergovernmental Panel on Child Care)

You call the doctor, frantically, and make an appointment for first thing in the morning next day. Your wife insists on talking to him, saying she thinks you’re mistaken and that she will investigate in detail.

She looks over her photo album. That’s when she notices that sometimes when you measured little Johnny’s height, he had his shoes on. Other times he was barefoot. Fortunately, since she photographed all the measurements she knows when he was barefoot and when he was shod. She carefully measures the thickness of the soles of his shoes at 2 cm. This, she says, is an exogenous factor which has nothing to do with his actual growth, it just causes random fluctuations in the measurements.

She also enlarges her latest photo (she has all the digital images) and is able to read the correct height from the image — those Nikon cameras are awesome!

She corrects the final data point. Then she subtracts 2 cm from each measurement for which little Johnny had his shoes on. This gives her an adjusted data set, which she states is a much better, much more correct, representation of Johnny’s growth. She also logs on the internet and retrieves standard growth data from the World Health Organization. Finally, she compares the adjusted data to the WHO standard:

Your next-door neighbor refuses to believe it. He says your wife faked the data, that she’s trying to “hide the decline.

Meanwhile, your wife calls the doctor and cancels the appointment. Smart woman.

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90 responses to “Johnny’s Growth

  1. This is cool. From outer space and nothing more, for being so attentive after the did she miss he was wearing shoes to start with?

  2. briliant

  3. Obv. fake. Has there been any statistically significant growth in the last four months? Also, does your measure of statistical significance take into account that the nature of the noise is red; Johnny grows or shrinks randomly but from his previous height? In addition, Johnny may experience cyclic growth and shrinkage.

    I just think you’re being alarmist. There’s no reason to buy larger clothes for Johnny and I feel you’d need 10 years more data to say anything about the issue.

  4. Thanks Mom! Mommy knows data best.

  5. Mother’s egregious and totally arbitrary reprocessing of the original data has obviously introduced grave errors.

  6. One pair of shoes is 46 months?? Conspiracy is clearly in evidence!

  7. But McKitrick showed that there’s no such thing as height – it’s an extensive property that has no real measurement (except in terms of degrees and radians).

    Seriously though, nice analogy.

  8. Yes, but how thick were his socks?
    Sock factor!

    • Exactly, and the sock albedo may be completely distorting the camera’s image. How can we trust anything his mother tells us?

  9. He needs more CO2 to grow.

  10. And was that tape measure fixed to the wall near a heating vent? That could have affected the measurements due to thermal expansion when the heating was on, throwing all the data into doubt! Or maybe the wall was on the sunny side of the house! Or the shady one!

    Not to mention the time-and-space dilation effects caused by changes in the velocity of the tape measure as the Earth rotates about it’s axis and orbits about the Sun (not to mention the Sun moving around the galaxy)! Were these important factors taken into account?! Einstein was a smart man, so was Galileo, so you must be wrong if you didn’t include them!! They might completely explain the apparent ‘growth’!!!

    [This is fun! Maybe that's why the fake sceptics do it? Naaaah!]

  11. Isn’t anyone concerned that Johnny is the scientist’s *son*? Talk about cherry-picking your data! To get any useful and UNBIASED information about Johnny’s growth (or lack there-of, as the data shows), you have to use more than one Johnny, and it shouldn’t be one that is directly related to the authors of the paper (ie mom and dad).

  12. But the child was clothed! What was she trying to hide???

  13. Your wife? You are assuming your readers are either men or lesbians. Just sayin’.

    Apart from that, good post.

    …although… you didn’t mention his hair which, when uncut, can add incrementally to the height.

    Let’s call it the Uncut Hair Increment (UHI).

    Maybe you or one of his moms can cut his hair so we can hide the incline.

    • “Let’s call it the Uncut Hair Increment (UHI).”

      Sadly, there’s an MPB exogenous factor which means that the UHI isn’t linear and eventually goes to 0.

    • “Your wife? You are assuming your readers are either men or lesbians.”

      Nah. This is just a story, told in second person. I can tell, because the further assumption would have to be that the ‘you’ of the story is also a half-wit–and Tamino clearly has a much better opinion of his readers than that.

      Well, most of us, anyway. ;-)

  14. The raw data clearly shows that Infant Growing has fallen since 3.5 years, and is now down to the level of 2.7 years. In these times of austerity it is madness to introduce new clothing when we can continue to use vestments worn during their Terrible Twos.

  15. He grows because of food. Food grows because of the Sun. It’s the Sun!!!

    (Intergovernmental Panel on Child Care)


    BTW, what did Aunt Judy say?

  16. Removing shoe’s height is clearly an attempt to smear American* shoes industry with alarmist news : “you will have to pay new clothes to adapt to your son’s growth !” . This should be investigated at once, and wife’s private mails should be scrutinized !

    * ( well, yeah, factories are in China and Birmany, but they’re still American !)

  17. Clearly he has just reached a peak on his natural growth cycle, and will start shrinking back to a normal height next year.

    And anyway, its the sun.

    And shrinking is good for you. People were shorter in medieval times, and they had frost fairs and made wine in England.

  18. Clearly, the hockey stick was broken all along and nobody noticed.

  19. Timothy (likes zebras)

    It’s not his height you should be measuring – what about his weight? How far back do your weight measurements go..?

  20. Time of day is crucial! If you measure yourself (or anyone else I assume) when you get out of bed in the morning, and then again before you go to bed, you can get a difference of ~2cm. Over a period of months this “natural variation” will swamp the trend you are trying to see.

    Have you taken posture into account? Have you calibrated your tape measure regularly?

    There are so many doubts that I think you should see the doctor, maybe a few until you find one who agrees with you.

  21. Well you are fudging the data. You even admit it yourself! And there is no proof, none at all, that children can’t shrink. Nothing is ever proven in science. Show me the evidence that it’s impossible. Wanting to buy him a bigger sweater on the basis of manipulated data like this is just alarmist. You’ll look pretty silly a couple of years from now when it hangs down to his knees. As is typical with your crowd, you try and cover your manipulation of the raw data by rambling on about irrelevancies like shoes.

    And anyway, Al Gore is just a fat greedy liberal. I wouldn’t trust anything he says about Johnny’s height.

    • Exactly, nothing can ever be proven, they just found something moving faster than the speed of light!

  22. Having counted the number of pixels in the shoes in each photo it is clear that Mummy is fraudulently faking her shots. The shoes have been growing, not little Johnny!

  23. The fact alone that the man and his wife disagree on the subject shows there is no consensus and the debate is far from “settled”. Al Gore is a liar for claiming otherwise.

  24. Five of the data points have a correlation of 0.37 with some five sunspot numbers in 1866! This proves that the growth is caused by cosmic rays and nothing else!

  25. totally, totally brilliant

  26. It’s clearly a cyclical phenomenon, driven by the recovery from the Little Man Age.

  27. Because I can’t help but poke a hole in this……

    “…and if we don’t do something now, in 30 years he’ll have runaway growth and none of our building will have ceilings tall enough to contain him! Demolish and rebuild all buildings now! After all, a trend today will never change and will contine ad infinitum….”

  28. It’s pretty obvious it’s all down to the PDO (PoDiatrical Oscillation). Now it’s back into it’s negative phase, we can easily forecast some years of shrinkage.

  29. The JohnnyGate e-mails clearly show that mom is a growthist with an agenda to secure a larger shopping budget for new clothes for the boy.

  30. Does the scientist live in a climate that requires heating in winter? Was the heater on or off when Johnny’s height was measured? The temperature in the room could’ve changed the thickness of his shoes! Or maybe his body heat would overcome the ambient temperature influence. But the air temperature could’ve changed the height of the wall on which the tape measure was mounted, or the length of the tape measure. Was Johnny standing on carpet or hardwood? And to expand on Mr. Brooke’s theme, every *good* parent knows that kids are tallest on Monday mornings and shortest on Friday nights, especially if they are in marching band and play baritone or sousa. Clearly there are too many variables for you to know anything for certain and you should just stop trying to scare the rest of us into thinking that our children are going to be humongous giants who take over the world and make us change our lightbulbs and drive little P—y cars!

    Seriously though, Tamino…four posts in two days! You’re going to spoil us. What riches! Thanks to everyone for a laugh-out-loud start to my day.

  31. Johnny is not really growing. Its the urban house index. When the heat is turned on johnny expands. When the AC is on he shrinks.

  32. Sigh. Tamino is up to the typical so-called scientist tricks of selecting the graph axis and angle in order to manipulate the casual reader.

    The true picture is revealed by starting the x and y axis from zero, not the cherry-picked values used above, and tilting the graph by about 20 degrees. Johnny’s reducing height is then plainly visible.

  33. This is all bogus,

    1) Clearly, Johnny will become a midget. That was predicted in the 1970’s by Newsweek!
    2) In any case, there is no physical reason to expect Johnny to keep growing. In fact, age does not cause height increases. The data clearly show that Johnny grew prior to his following birthday, so height causes age. Why can’t you height-ists admit that? Additionally, people who study child development have completely ignored things like diet, or DNA, which clearly impact growth.
    3) Shaq is still taller than Johnny. We can ignore this whole issue completely, since taller people exist.
    4) Johnny’s Mom refuses to release all of the photos and medical information on Johnny, in fear that the men who request them are a bit creepy, and a bit too stalker-ish for her taste. Therefore, we cannot believe that Johnny grew.
    5) If there were a connection between age and height, as in a runaway feedback loop, then we’d see old giants walking around.
    6) After inspection of the measuring marker on the wall, we find that it is an unsuitable location to measure height. There is an AC and a TV nearby, and the dishwasher is even running 15 feet away!

  34. Fourier analysis of the growth curve shows a significant peak with a period of 6 years. Clearly Johnny’s growth is just a natural oscillation that the International Panel on Child Care completely ignores. GCMs (growing child models) are clearly shown to lack skill compared to the curve I’ve fitted. The child growth hypothesis is rejected. I forecast Johnny’ll be three inches high when he starts school.

  35. To be frank, I don’t trust height scientists. They never account for haircut cycles. There is a much better correlation, going back to before the child was born. As the child has grown since birth, hair has increased; hair causes height!

    Also, how tall will this child be in 2100? If you know so much, why are the figures so vague?

  36. Look it’s always about the Nanny State, right?

    Clearly the Nanny has been feeding Johnny some growth inhibitors in order to keep her lucrative career of wiping noses, filling sippy cups and ignoring tantrums. I assume the mother is getting some sort of kick back.

  37. There are tall people and there are short people. It has happened in the past and there was a group of humanoids called hobbits. The human body is to complex for humans to to understand. Its just a random walk, how many walks did johnny take between measurements. If he found his moms wine stash hidden in the tide box in the laundry room the walk could be so random he could vary 6-10 inches easily.

  38. It’s nice to see that we can respond to psychotic psychopathology with humor.

  39. Look, no-one has *ever* claimed that there hasn’t been growth, you lot simply ignore the real points of issue which are… well I’m not quite sure, but no-one has *ever* claimed there wasn’t growth… stop misrepresenting us, you don’t understand the true meaning of scepticism… and anyway, taxes and er…. look, squirrel.

  40. Humanity is much older than Johnny. If you go back the whole 6000 years you discover that people have been shorter and taller throughout history. What’s the big deal?

    The data is way too spotty to say anything at all about trends, and they’re not even trends but cycles – but it’s clear that people were taller in the middle ages, and that Johnny’s Mum and her ‘scientist’ friends try to hide this fact. I’ve read some of the emails that came out lately, and they just reinforce the fact that Johnny’s Mum is not objective about her son, and therefore her work on his height is completely biased.

  41. Same Ordinary Fool

    1)…Shoe height is not a constant, because the soles will wear. Wear rates can be considered as a function of time, rather than of distance traveled. But they will have to be seasonally adjusted, since they will depend on the amount of time spent out of doors.

    2)…”Stunted growth is a reduced growth rate in human development. It is a primary manifestation of malnutrition in early childhood…”
    “Growth stunting is identified by comparing measurements of children’s heights to the NCHS growth reference populations: children who fall below the the fifth percentile…” (Wikipedia)

    3)…All of the comments in this threead seem to have an AGW orientation. Has tamino found an additional rationale for rejecting denier viewpoints: they aren’t witty enough.

  42. You do all realize that Johnny has more than the average number of legs, don’t you? I want to know how the potential lack of lean factors were taken into account here.

    And I want you to release all the data you have on Johnny otherwise I will jump up and down and make a terrible fuss. And the e-mails. I want any e-mails between Johnny’s parents on this issue.

  43. What you seem to have missed is that lens on Mum’s supposedly super hi-res Nikon camera.

    Have you any idea of the distortion those things can generate? Hell, overcoming it is a major function of applications such as Lightroom and DxO. I mean, what was it, a (yikes!) zoom? A long or short focus fixed lens? Ye Gods, it wasn’t a fisheye, was it? And was it just the one throughout, or did she swap them around between takes?

    And parallax error! Precisely where was she standing when she took these alleged shots? Tripod mounted or handheld? Did she stoop? Have you taken into account lighting issues and atmospheric heat shimmer?

    NikonGate reveals that this is a plot to keep Mum (a self-described ‘professional’! ha!) and her ‘team’ rolling in funds so they can purchase yet more massively expensive – and yet manifestly inadequate – camera gear.

  44. J¨u¨ududÁÁ on Mars has been growing and shrinking in EXACTLY the same way. So what are you going to say about that, huh??? J¨u¨ududÁÁ deserves an answer. We owe it to our kids.

  45. Steve Milesworthy

    “Suppose, just for argument’s sake, that when your son Johnny turned 2 years old you decided to monitor his growth.”

    You admit you set this up to measure “growth”. You were clearly biased from the start and fudged the data to confirm your prejudice.

  46. Fraternal greetings from the Mother of Parliaments!
    You know who else used to obsessively measure children’s heights?
    That’s right! THE HITLER YOUTH!

    wibble, wibble, wibble…..

  47. I cannot follow this debate without all the facts

    was Johnny therefore 44cms at time of conception which you seem to imply ?

  48. Tamino, I know you’ve been busy, what with all the worry about Johnny, but can you give us your perspective on this at Ms Nova’s place?

    [Response: You forgot to include the link.]

  49. Yes, but children have always grown. There’s no proof that eating causes it.

  50. Sometimes Johnny wears shorts…and on those days he is shorter!

    Some pictures are in low res, while others are in hi res…to hide the decline!

  51. Look, the problem is that Johnny is being measured from the floor up, which as several people have pointed out introduces a host of errors.

    What we need to do is measure down from the top of the nearest doorway with radar or a laser or something. Of course, it will take some time to build up a dataset of top-of-architrave (TOA) readings, so you can’t say anything definitive about this shrinkage trend for a few years. But you can produce much more accurate readings than you can with your primitive tape measures, and once you’ve built up a decent dataset of heights, we can model any “changes” in height. I know a guy named Roy who could fix you up with a system.

    Should have answer by the time Johnny is six. Maybe seven. Depends on the breaks.

  52. Horatio Algeranon

    So, the lesson is that we should first remove the zapatos from el niño and la niña before trying to take la temperatura del aire?

  53. Heh, you just want to tax Johnny’s food, don’t you?

    And the wife is in on it. Typical, always the women trying to fleece the men.

    Communist feminist greenies. They’re going to roon us all.

  54. You don’t have enough charts.
    You should use all of these different charts.


    Now you have way too many different charts.
    And they don’t all use exactly the same scaling.
    Or even the same colors.
    Since people only look at the pictures,
    You’re clearly trying to fool them with too much information.

  55. Well what do you expect if you live next door to a GWPF worker? The neighbour has to be a serious lunatic to work for them & living so close, it’s got to have some affect on you. If the wife were truly ‘smart’, she would be pushing for a move of house.
    And the GWPF does harbour lunacy at its vey core. If not why does it spend so much time talking about the science that it professes not to hold an opinion on, yet spend zero time taking about global warming policy? And they do, you know. The link to GWPF in the story above is to David Whitehouse discussing Global Temperature Evolution 1979–2010 by Foster & Rahmstorf (Okay ‘discussing’ is the wrong word. “Ranting at..” is probably a better description.) and that is a scientific paper. You can’t have a ‘policy’ on past global temperatures – unless perhaps you own a time machine.

  56. Rattus Norvegicus

    The link John is talking about is here. Right off the bat I would say “a 1300 year cycle in a 2400 year record? Your’re kidding me right?”.

    • Chinese tree rings good. All other tree rings, bad.

      Actually, over at WUWT, in all of the comments on the repost of JoNova’s piece, only one says anything sensible.

      And it’s by Stephen Mosher, of all people.

      • Mosher often tries to pry the Watterkinder loose from popular, zany notions. If you ever asked when the skeptics were going to correct each other, argue out their many contradictions amongst themselves and come up with a coherent position, Mosher is the guy who has been trying to do that. For integrity, he alone of the skeptical milieu has my respect.

      • Mosher has a very selective notion of “integrity” …

      • Horatio Algeranon

        Mosher has to deliver for “his people” every so many thousand years

        “Go Down Mosher”
        — by Horatio Algeranon (with some help from Anonymous)

        When Mosher was in Denier’s land,
        Let My emails go!
        FOI’d so hard they could not stand,
        Let My scientists go!

        Go down, Mosher,
        Way down in Denier’s land;
        Tell old McIntyre
        To let My people go!

        No more shall they in BS toil,
        Let My people go!
        Let them vanquish Exxon’s oil,
        Let My people go!

        Let us all from Monckton flee,
        Let My people go!
        Let us all from Chris be free,
        Let My people go!

        It takes no courage to lie and boast,
        Let My people go!
        And cater to your CA host,
        Let My people go!

        Might try asking before you demand
        Let My people go!
        And you’ll begin to understand,
        Let My people go!

    • From the paper:
      “The mean temperature of the late EJE (2.67*C) was the highest in the 2485 years, even exceeding that of the second half of the 20th century (2.57*C). In other words, the late 20th century was not the warmest period in history.”

      So, the Tibetan Plateau is a stand-in for the entire globe? Riiight. What nonsense. What’s more, their value for 1990-2000 is 2.86*C, which is .2*C higher than any other value in their record. What’s the value for, say, 1980-2000? I’m sure it’s higher than the 1960-2000 they use above.

      Then they say this:

      “It seemed that the duration of the Medieval Warm Period (MWP) was earlier in China than in the Western Hemisphere. However, at almost
      the same time as a warm period during 900–1000 AD observed in the GISP2 δ18O records of an Greenland ice core, W5 occurred on the Tibetan Plateau. This suggested that the MWP existed worldwide or at least synchronously at the high elevations of western China and high latitudes of the Northern Hemisphere.”

      Their abstract’s claim of worldwide synchronicity for these events is not upheld by the body of the paper, unless they feel the globe is just “the high elevations of western China and high latitudes of the Northern Hemisphere.”

      Of course, these are things that “skeptics” will ignore.

  57. Publish your emails, Mom. What are you hiding?

  58. Quite frankly, that Johnny’s mum used a digital camera says everything. If she’d used a good old fashioned film camera, than we could look at the negatives and be sure that the photos weren’t doctored. But with digital, its 5 minutes with Photoshop – and Johnny’s growing in leaps and bounds.

    I’m very suspicious about the timing of her switch from film to digital. The date stamp on the receipt for the digital camera would clear this confusion up once and for all – but I notice she claims that she has “lost it”. This blatant dishonesty is typical of the growthists.

  59. David B. Benson


    • Lars Karlsson

      I’ve heard there are pictures of Johnny in medieval church windows, where he is taller than today. How come Johnny was so tall during the Medieval Growing Period, if his growth is caused by hormones? They didn’t have any hormones during the middle ages.

  60. It should be obvious to the most dim-witted individual that the centering convention used by the mother artificially “selects” photographs of children who show an upward trend in growth. As a matter of fact, by photographic red noise, images of children growing can be produced.

    This shows that all evidence of growing children is now suspect, and no doubt the mother is cooking the books to push some political agenda. Also, Al Gore is fat.

  61. Having read through all the comments here, I find them all of equal merit and therefore Tamino is wrong.

  62. Sure, the recent study by Muller fruit corner yogurts tells us that child growth has been happening, certainly since the middle of last year. None of us have ever denied that: child height is always changing. And most of us acknowledge that food causes child growth. What’s crucial is how much growth can be expected as a result of a doubling of plate size. And to guide us in this we’re supposed to trust studies of bone rings from skeletons of people from the middle ages! It’s a hoax designed to increase grocery prices.

  63. Could someone explain this to me.
    I read that Johny’s height is controlled by growth hormones. Now these supposed hormone thingys are very few – less than a ppm in the human body, which is 99% water How can anything in such low concentration affect height??!? Has someone the data showing correlation between growth hormone concentration and height? Seems to me there’s so much uncertainty, one can’t trust the science – and clearly the scientists are paid by drug companies selling hormone treatments…

    Oh, and, Johny was clearly shrink by aliens – it’s all bee proven by David Ike…

    • In some of the photos you can clearly see more spots on Johnny’s face and these correlate with increased growth. Ergo spots cause growth and it’s all a natural cycle.

      [Response: Perhaps it's the PDO (pimple decadal oscillation).]

  64. I just took a closer look at the data she used, though only the homogenized data is available. It appears she cherry-picked her raw data, which she refuses to release. To compensate, I substituted her homogenized set with a set of measurements of 30 two year-olds living along the Khadyta River. The data clearly shows that even random children give the same trend as her graph, thereby calling into question the use of children as a proxy for length. It also becomes clear that she measured her child upside down, which completely invalidates her findings. One can only speculate as to the motives for her deception, but I will refrain from doing so. It should be clear that I am not accusing her of anything, and anybody who claims I am is a liar. I am just an honest broker trying to understand the failed science of child measurement.

  65. And of course, Johnny’s supposed growth would completely contradict the Second Law of Thermodynamics, and therefore did not occur.

    In fact, it could not occur even if you replaced every window in Johnny’s house with rock salt.

  66. This, of course, is only the mothers point of view, if you’d ask of Johnny, he might answer that the world has become smaller, and it’s oppressive to suggest he isn’t right.

  67. LOL. No, make that ROFL!
    The article – fantastic. The comments, hilarious! And I can’t wait for Inferno’s response to this. And here I was thinking the truth was the best weapon against the deniers. Humour is devastating. And here we get both! – Ken Fabian aka Ken Fabos

  68. Haha, That was an awesome little allegory.