Some Questions for Rutan

One of the signatories to the letter about global warming recently published in the Wall Street Journal is aerospace engineer Burt Rutan. A recent post on WUWT features his exchange with Brian Angliss at Scholars and Rogues. According to the post Rutan, in an email to Anthony Watts, stated “I usually ignore these diatribes.” If you read the post he refers to, it’s abundantly clear that it’s not a “diatribe.”

Rutan also states

You can easily tell if someone is a true environmentalist, i.e. an advocate for a healthy planet – he is one who is happy to hear the news that the arctic ice content has stabilized.

My main question is about a graph which Rutan presents, but before we get to that, Mr. Rutan, I have to ask because we’re all so eager to know: on what basis do you claim that arctic ice content has stabilized? I’ll happily point you to my basis for claiming that it has not, that in fact arctic ice content has destabilized. Do tell us, Mr. Rutan — we’re all ears.

But what really piqued my curiosity was Rutan’s “research” on global warming. It strikes me as a “gish gallop” of the worst global warming arguments. Perhaps Mr. Rutan and I can discuss them some day, but at the moment what I’m most curious about is this graph on page pg. 35 of his pdf report:

It’s Rutan’s basis for for arguing that the statement “May, 2010 was the hottest May on record” is unimportant.

It seems that what he has done is take the temperature change from December to May, then expressed that as a percentage. He seems to regard the fact that the December-May increase hasn’t itself increased, and/or was unexceptional in 2010, as some sort of refutation of the validity or importance of 2010 having the hottest May on record.

Me personally, I don’t regard the fact that 2010 had the hottest May on record as especially meaningful. I do regard the fact that this record was the continuation of a trend as meaningful — May has been getting hotter. As has January. And February, and March, and … you get the idea.

What puzzles me, what I find completely mystifying, is why Rutan would regard the December-May temperature change as a meaningful indicator.

After all, if we plot December temperature (in blue) and May temperature (in red), we can clearly see that both have increased over the last century and more:

Since all months of the year have gotten hotter, we would expect little change in the annual December-May difference. So please, please, tell us Mr. Rutan, why do you regard the December-May difference as meaningful? I’ll be honest with ya, this claim strikes me as irrelevant nonsense.

One more thing, Mr. Rutan — you express the December-May change as a percentage. Percentage of what?

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102 responses to “Some Questions for Rutan

  1. Emphasizing a measure that is completely independent of overall warming– that’s some high-test crazy on Rutan’s part. If he used this kind of approach in his actual work, the results would be very scary.

  2. Land temperatures vary more with season than do sea temperatures. Because the Northern Hemisphere is dominated by land, while the Southern Hemisphere is dominated by ocean, that means that seasonal change of Global Mean Temperature correlates with that of the Northern Hemisphere rather than the Southern Hemisphere. It seems to me that it follows that a reduction in the difference in temperatures between winter and summer in the Northern Hemisphere, which is a predicted consequence of the enhanced Greenhouse Effect, would result in a reduction over time in the December to May temperature variation in Global Temperatures.

    In short, as best as I understand it, Rutan has just used a successful prediction of AGW as a refutation of AGW.

    • What Tom said.

      With his rather mendaciously cherry-picked parameter and its trend line, Rutan has neverthless (and certainly unintentionally) shown that winters are warming more than summers.

      He is demonstrating what others have already shown – a physics-predicted effect of increased ‘greenhouse’ gas heat retention. As Tamino so cogently points out Rutan e certainly is not showing that it is not warming!

      Rutan’s own-goal is a bit like one of the commenters who said on the same thread that atmospheric carbon dioxide concentration was not increasing at an accelerating rate:

      Smokey says:
      January 29, 2012 at 10:43 am


      Connolley lies. You apparently have him confused with me. And you are no different than [sic] Connolley. Your comments are simply baseless opinion. Here is a chart of atmospheric CO2 as measured at Mauna Loa. Connolley is either ignorant or lying when he claims that the rise in atmospheric CO2 is accelerating.

      and who, in so saying, linked to a graph that describes an acceleration of CO2 concentration over time!

      And there are hundreds of comments on the thread lauding their ‘skeptical’ cleverness…

    • Following my previous post I thought a little harder about Tamino’s final comment about percentages and I realised that Rutan seems to have shown nothing coherent at all – and had I first read down to Erinome’s and GaryB’s comments I would have seen that they’d already reached the same conclusion.

      I doubt that a retraction on WWWT is imminent, but I do wonder if Rutan’s execrable level of climatological analysis (or rather, of climatological ‘analysis’) will move folk to study his past aerospace work and determine whether it originated with him, or with others around him.

      If an apparently previously competent engineer can come up with this fœtid pseudo-analysis, he was either not originally a competent engineer, or there is currently a spectacular partitioning of logical and illogical thought processes occurring in his mind, to the extent that it would warrant serious experimental time in a fRMI scanner.

      Either that, or the fellow knows he is spouting rubbish, and knows that it takes nothing of any substance to pull the wool over the eyes of the uneducated lay Denialati.

      • Or this is a case of what Prof. Dutch calls “Those who can, don’t”.

        The observation has been made multiple times, that engineers seem to be especially susceptible to things like junk science.

      • Mart: “The observation has been made multiple times, that engineers seem to be especially susceptible to things like junk science.”

        And just as often, it has been refuted. Denialists include people from all walks of life from Nobel laureates in physics to the unemployed. Intelligence is not a safeguard, nor is education. Frankly, the only safeguard I know is adherence to the scientific method–including respect for expertise outside one’s own–regardless of the subject matter.

  3. Stephen Baines

    I saw the mistake here as soon as I saw his graph. It’s a clanger.

    And if that Angliss peice as a diatribe, I have to be careful saying “Bless you” when people sneeze from now on.

  4. Tamino,
    If it’s any consolation, Rutan doesn’t understand spaceflight any better than he understands climate. It is only by the luckiest of coincidences that he has survived this long.

    He is where he is today because he relies on luck rather than analysis to circumvent risk–and apparently he does the same with climate science. For some folks not understanding is a profession.

    • Gavin's Pussycat

      Ray, Tamino,

      thanks for warning me. I was sort of dreaming of, one day, winning the lotto and making that flight — now it won’t be on any of Rutan’s design, that’s for sure.

  5. It’s instructive that someone like Burt Rutan, so brilliant and admired in his field, can so completely fall for the woo of climate change denialism.

  6. Would I deny the existence of AGW if I had the same nice shiny car and aeroplane Mr Rutan owns, judging from the first page of his PDF presentation called An Engineer‟s Critique of Global Warming „Science‟? You bet!

    Good thing I sold them and did something useful with the money. My penis is good as it is.

  7. I think Mr Rutan regards it as meaningful because with it he can draw a downwards line on a graph that goes from 1881 to 2010. I mean it must have taken quite a bit of experimental cherry-picking to have come up with such a graph.

    I also think we know what Mr Rutan’s motivation is. According to Wikipedia he has said, “My bias is based on fear of Government expansion…” (and some other stuff which suggests he thinks he knows better than scientists because of his background looking at data).

    Above all, let’s face it, mitigation of climate change threatens his first love; aeroplanes.

    • Exactly what I thought – seems like just an opportunity to draw a negative slope. The funny thing is, it’s likely that the reason the slope is negative is because of the warming. If the absolute difference between Dec and May stays constant, and he takes a percentage difference as the world warms, then of course the slope will be negative!

  8. I don’t see a shred of competence in his PDF report. Burt Rutan has never met a denier argument he didn’t want to get into bed with, no matter how ugly or absurd.

    Evidentially his aerospace engineering background didn’t provide him with critical thinking skills. You wouldn’t want to read that PDF before getting on a plane.

  9. Sadly, Rutan’s “research” shows that he is probably beyond rational discussion: he appears to have lost all sceptical faculties and has been taken in by the most obvious propaganda.

    I say “sadly” because, like Angliss, Rutan has been a hero of mine. What is it with engineers, even the very best, that enables them to believe such obvious nonsense so easily?

  10. I looked at the critique. I was quite surprised that he has a doctorate in anything. I would flunk any senior or grad student for such horrible work.
    If this is the quality of Rutan’s work, I shall stay far,far,away from any structure or scheme designed by him.

    A little further research reveals that his doctoral degrees are honorary. His last real degree seems to be a bachelors.


  11. When the first man runs a marathon under 2 hrs, will Rutan say: “That’s not an exceptional achievement because women’s times are also getting faster”? Was Pezzi’s altitude record in 1938 unexceptional because it was only 5% higher than the previous record (which was itself 8% higher than the previous record)?
    We have this ‘shifting baseline’ problem in fisheries, too, but usually it’s a subconscious phenomenon. Ignoring records that result from inexorable trends because they are not outliers compared to recent data represents a conscious choice in favor of blindness.
    The truth just can not win, here — usually the deniers can’t see the warming because there is too much short term variation around the trend; the deniers new trick is to not see the warming because it’s too steady and pervasive to produce exceptional outliers.

  12. That “% temperature” graph is bizarre on so many levels. Of course, the craziest thing about it is that he’s expressing temperature in terms of % to begin with. But if you look at the fine print, it says the data source is from NOAA data with the follow tag: “anomalies/monthly.land_ocean.90S.90N”.

    So this isn’t even northern hemisphere data, and he uses it as a measure of “summer heat recovery”.

    As a professional engineer myself, I’m embarrassed by this guy and part of me wishes that there was a way to call him out for discrediting the profession.

    • Horatio Algeranon

      He’s not discrediting the engineering profession.

      Only himself — which he is entitled to do, of course.

      Elton John said it best:

      “I think it’s gonna be a long long time
      Till touch down brings me round again to find
      I’m not the man they think I am at home
      Oh no no no I’m a rocket man
      Rocket man burning out his fuse up here alone”

  13. Where on Earth does the average temperature change by 20% from summer to winter?! Wouldn’t that be about 140F? Surely Mr. Rutan knows that a percent change in temperature must be calculated in Kelvins not degrees Celsius.

    Hey Mr. Engineer pretty big mistake. And unlike us scientists who are never held accountable, if you screw up people just might, ya know, DIE!

  14. The pdf above is a treasure-trove for doctored graphs/denial myths/misinformation etc etc… Wow!! And such a deflated ego!!

  15. OK I hit the wrong button on may calculator – guess it would be ~100F. My critique still stands though, even Siberia only has temperature swings of about 60F.

    • Are you sure? A swing between 230K and 276K doesn’t sound so unreasonable. Remember that you have fewer degrees per percentage point when the temperatures are lower.

      I doubt there’s anything wrong with Rutan’s graph other than being both obvious and completely misleading. Winter temps rise more than summer temps so the difference between summer and winter goes down.

  16. I just tried to understand Rutan’s graph a little bit more, and to me it seems he actually shows a graph that is not contradictory to AGW: you expect, under the enhanced greenhouse effect, that winters warm faster than summers. In fact, one would expect that this is most extreme in the months where there is least sunlight falling onto the NH. Right?

    If I am indeed right, it’s no surprise that compared to December, Jan-May is comparatively warming slower and slower: it’s because December is warming fastest, faster than the other months, as also expected under an enhanced greenhouse effect!

    Is there anyone crazy enough to check the warming rates of the individual months? Or has this been done already? (Somehow I think it indeed has been…)

  17. Burt Rutan claims,
    “I researched data presentation fraud in climate science from 1999 to 2010.”

    Oh the arrogance, he designs aircraft, so now he has the gall to think he can overturn a field of science that goes back to 1842 by alleging fraud.

    He has it backwards, the open letter in the WSJ and his reply to Angliss are diatribes. Says it all really. He has gone emeritus…even if his allegations are true (which they are not), the laws of physics don’t care what Mr. Rutan believes or thinks, or if indeed someone fudged data (which again is false). The laws of physics will just continue responding to the ever increasing forcing from long-lived GHGs that we are emitting. Unless he is going to put forth an alternate hypothesis that explains all the hallmarks of anthropogenic warming he should shut up.

    Ironically, I find his graphic shown above an excellent example of data fudging, scientific ignorance.

    I thought one was meant to become wiser when one became older? Apparently in may cases though one just loses one’s cognitive skills.

    This is very sad for Mr. Rutan. It also seems his ego far exceeds his scientific capabilities.

    • “I researched data presentation fraud in climate science from 1999 to 2010.”

      11 years of researching it, and he hasn’t got very good at it (data presentation fraud) yet…

  18. I had the misfortune of stumbling into a Rutan presentation on climate at the Experimental Aircraft Association (EAA) Airventure a few years back (a major annual convention for the air industry held in Oshkosh, WI). I was laughing out loud at his nonsense. Nevertheless, I’ve been using Rutan’s PowerPoint as the basis for a classroom exercise on lying with graphs and statistics for several years now. Thanks.

  19. So Richard Branson is embarking on a voyage to the Antarctic because he is concerned about anthro. global warming and Rutan is embarking on an ideological misinformation campaign.

    I find it ironic that Rutan designed and flew an aircraft (Voyager) that could fly nonstop around the globe without using fuel.

    He seems quite confused and I’m sure Branson is having to bite his tongue quite hard and turn a blind eye to Rutan’s confused musings on AGW.

    I look forward to a detailed dissection of Mr. Rutan’s science on the subject of AGW– I’m sure he would in the light of high engineering standards and all that.

  20. Rutan 2009,

    “Rutan said the sun isn’t a thermostat for the planet, but rather that precipitation and cloud formation are. “The problem is that scientists, no matter how good they are, don’t know how to predict and model cloud formation and precipitation,” he said. “As the temperatures were going up from 1970-98, precipitation was going up. As the temperatures started dropping since 1998, precipitation has gone down.”

    Any takers to challenge those claims?

    • The Earth’s biggest thermostat is CO2, as per Dr. Richard Alley:

    • It’s difficult to say much about such comments because there’s no way to tell what kind of precipitation data he’s talking about. I would hope he’s talking about global precipitation, but given the quality of his “research”, I’m not prepared to assume anything.

      You should expect a decent positive correlation between temperature and precipitation because warm air has a greater capacity to hold water vapor than cold air, which leads to more intense precipitation events.

      It’s hard to tell what he’s getting at with this statement though. I can only guess that he’s trying to argue something like the following:

      – precipitation increases and decreases with temperature
      – we are not very good at modelling precipitation
      – therefore we’re not very good at modelling temperature

      Those of you trained in logic may notice that the above is not a sound syllogism, irrespective of the fact that there is a vast body of evidence that we’re much better at predicting temperatures than we are at predicting precipitation, at all time and spatial scales. So it’s a complete red herring.

    • here is a start:
      whence i eventually get

      but i could have made huge errors, so please check against the original data on the ftp site


      • Sidd,
        Thanks. That GPCP graph shows a slight downward trend since 1980, but the planet has warmed ~0.5 C over that time. So those data do not support Rutan’s claim.

        The ERA-interim data anomaly precipitation data show a steady decline from about 1998 until 2005, then a notable increase thereafter. They also show a slow decline between 1979 and 2005, with a marked increase thereafter.

        So these data also do not support Rutan’s claim.

        I think Trenberth has written some papers on this subject, I’ll have a look.

      • thanks for the ERA chart. I note that the monthly precip numbers there are quite a bit larger than from the gsfc site i used. I probably made an error…


    • Rutan = 1/Clausius-Clapeyron)

  21. The diagram on page 36 was ripped from the “Climate Conservative Consumer”, just like a few others.
    I don’t expect Rutan to be able to explain it, much less than his faked graph of “actual reality” in the top left plot on page 34. Compare to what the plot should look like.
    Rutan’s plot has data (HadCrut) up to 2008, fakes the drop in the 2008 anomaly to be 0.1 instead of the actual 0.33 and happily extrapolates into the future. How dishonest / incompetent can you get?

  22. Gavin's Pussycat

    Brian Angliss was on a mission impossible with this guy. He is obviously deeply dishonest to himself as well as others. The tone of his screed shows him shouting down his own conscience, and of course he knows it.
    Clearly professional skills in one field don’t make one a decent human being. So sad.

  23. I don’t believe Rutan actually flew around the world. Secret data take during the time of his “flight” shows that the distance between the nose of the airplane and the tail did not change (within measurement error), thus conclusively proving that his forward air speed was zero. It is categorically impossible for him to have traveled any distance at all during that period. It was all faked, to get more funding.

    Oh, and does anyone want to buy a bridge in Brooklyn? I have one for sale… I really need some cash, so price is highly negotiable – a real bargain if you buy this week!

  24. Besides all the above, what’s stunning about Rutan’s calculation is that it is unit-dependent! The pct change numbers are different in Celsius and Fahrenheit, and for cold Decembers (closer to 0 C) the percentage change diverges in Celsius (but not, of course, Fahrenheit)! His calculation is completely meaningless.

  25. I conjecture that Rutan’s belief system aligns with a number of others in the aerospace field, especially those keen about manned spaceflight.
    Do recall that Robert Jastrow, one of the Goerge Marshall Institute trio, was very well-known in the aerospace community and spent a decade in Southern California.

    Some people are so passionate about spaceflight that anything else that might compete with it gets fought hard. For instance, investment in renewable energy might be seen as a threat to space funding.

    Personally, I think we need good enough space technology to fend off the next big asteroid that comes., which will happen sometime between a few years off and tens or hundreds of millions.. [That takes detection far enough away and launch vehicles good enough to get something out there to divert a threat with modest delta-V, since it's too late if it gets close.]

    I would suggest that there will be no space travel a few hundred years from now if AGW does not get handled somehow this century … because only a rich world can afford space flight.

  26. Whatever does a percent change in temperature mean???
    Let’s see: the avg. global temp is about 288K. An change of 20% of 288K is about 57K, or 57ºC or 104ºF.
    I’m probably too stupid to understand these scientological arguments… (no offense to any religious views)

  27. I’ve been enjoying myself in the comments over at WUWT. You too can join in. They aren’t very polite, over there, but you can just ignore that bit.

    For me, Rutan’s elementary errors on CO2 trump everything else.

    [Response: I'm very eager to know his basis for the claim that arctic ice content has stabilized.]

  28. Earlier, I had read comments along the lines of “Rutan signed that? But I’ve always respected him; he knows what he’s doing.”
    The graph is very pretty, but it very clearly shows that Rutan does _not_ understand what he is doing, at least when it comes to climate, and probably a lot of other science as well.

  29. In addition, it’s very easy to see that Rutan’s example that I mentioned above completely fails to say anything at all about a warming or cooling world.

    Suppose the average global temperature of each month in year Y is one degree higher than the previous year. That’s a *strongly* warming world of 1 degree/yr.

    The quantity Rutan is plotting for each year, call it R(Y), is {May(Y)-Jan(Y)}/Dec(Y-1).

    A small bit of algebra shows that R(Y) = f(Y)*R(Y-1), where f is a factor that is *always* less than one:


    So R(Y) is always less than R(Y-1) in this scenario. Thus the slope of the graph of R(Y) vs Y will always be negative — i.e. it will trend linearly downward as Y increases.

    Thus it fails completely to diagnose a linearly warming world. A similar argument shows that it also fails to diagnose a linearly cooling world.

    That is, his analysis is completely meaningless. Even worse, it seems to intentionally obscure the point.

    • Actually a couple of small corrections;

      It’s (May(Y)-Dec(Y-1))/Dec(Y-1), as in a 5-month difference, not a 4-month difference.

      Also, the curve can go up, for values where the temperature axis is shifted, such that .T = 0 falls closer to the range of Dec(Y) values (it’s even fun to divide by zero (for T = 0 = Dec(Y)), If you want specifics, the spreadsheet can be made available, after some slight cleanup on my part).

      But in general the curve will indeed always go down, you can even get R^2 values as high as 0.84, and those appear to be, or look a lot like, the original anomaly time series, but mirror image inverted on a minus % Y-axis.

      I’ve done this in an Excel spreadsheet and can vary the T = 0 to any value versus the normal T = 0 C (which is what Bart did, and yes, his name is misspelt on purpose).

      Wha follows is an earlier draft, that I held off from posting, given that it’s my attempt at a Poe, and the general audiance might find it a bit confusing.

      Poe to Poe.

      So I reversed engineered the figure that Tamino mentions above.

      Yup, degrees centigrade is Bart’s zero, once you add back in the NCDC’s annual monthly time series;

      So now, since Bart’s R^2 is only 0.04, in other words insignificant, is there a different zero value that yields a much higher R^2?

      Why yes, indeedy.

      So let’s call this the Poe scale, where one degree Poe = one degree C, and zero degrees Poe = 14.5 degrees C (remember the global mean temperature is 13.9 C and things do blow up if you pick a new zero anywhere near the December min/mean/max).

      So now, with this new and much improved scale, this Poe obtains an R^2 of 0.71 (linear) or 0.84 (quadratic) vs Bart’s measly 0.04 (linear) or 0.07 (quadratic).

      Well, dang nab it, this curve looks quite a lot like the original anomaly curve, just inverted with negative % values.

      But dam, it sure looks good, good enough to fool Bart The Rocketeer anyways.

      • Gavin's Pussycat

        Yep, this seems a correct description how it was done. But, heavens, a percentage of Celcius!

  30. If the temp increase was linear, it would be impossible to get any increase in trend line by using percentage, in fact it would always have a negative slope. This graph was designed to show a negative slope.

  31. FWIW (and Erinome wins the thread) the noise in the May record is a lot higher frequency than in the December record. What gives?

  32. Michael Hauber

    Just at a guess he may be graphing what he calls the ‘temperature recovery’ from winter to summer in the northern hemisphere or part of the northern hemisphere, eg USA. His graph then confirms the prediction that winters will warm faster than summers.

  33. Tamino,
    I know you’ve looked at Wavelets used on the AMO stuff in the past so I was wondering have you looked at Chylek et al. 2011

    Ice‐core data evidence for a prominent near 20 year time‐scale
    of the Atlantic Multidecadal Oscillation

  34. Imagine that the December temperature was, say, 50°F, and the Jan-May average was 60°F. Now, of course, expressing these as a percentage change is physically meaningless, but if I’m understanding Rutan correctly he’d call that 20%. Now, hypothetically, x years later, temperatures have risen by 1°F so that December is 51°F and Jan-May is 61°F. That’s “19.6%”.

    Therefore, were we to imagine a scenario in which the world was warming linearly, we would expect… well, pretty much exactly what Rutan has shown on his graph there.

  35. Put the first comment up at WUWT but it disappeared .

    “You can easily tell if someone is a true environmentalist, i.e. an advocate for a healthy planet – he is one who is happy to hear the news that the arctic ice content has stabilized.”

    not happy Rutan.

  36. Temperature are precipitation are not positively correlated in space and time. So that precludes Rutan making generalized statements like “As the temperatures were going up from 1970-98, precipitation was going up. As the temperatures started dropping since 1998, precipitation has gone down”. It is just not that simple. There has been a trend for drier areas to become drier and wetter areas to become wetter. There is compelling evidence that we are accelerating the hydrological cycle. So the global precipitation could remain more-or-less the same, despite large regional changes. Changes that can have unpleasant consequences.

    Trenberth (2011)
    Trenberth and Shea (2005)
    Trenberth et al. (2007)

    From the 2007 paper:
    “The observed increase in atmospheric moisture in turn increases moisture convergence into storms (given the same low-level atmospheric convergence), and thus increases intensity of precipitation, as observed (Tren-berth 1998; Trenberth et al. 2003), while frequency and duration are apt to decrease, exacerbating drought. This comes about because the total precipitation amount is constrained by the available surface energy and how much goes into evaporation. Hence, enhanced intensity implies reduced frequency or duration if the amount is the same. Drought appears to have increased substantially globally since the 1970s (Dai et al. 2004) in part because of decreased precipitation over land (mainly in the Tropics and subtropics) but also because of warming and increased atmospheric demand for moisture.”

  37. Wait, wait: “five month temperature increase from previous December”? Really?!

    We all know Winter temps have been increasing faster than Summer ones. That graph would actually be evidence supporting AGW.

    For that kind of audience, it seems to be enough to show any graph at all pointing down.

  38. I just did a similar analysis to Rutan’s but (I think) on a dataset which is a little bit more appropriate. I looked at the difference between CO2 concentration at Mauna Loa between February and the previous May (e.g. May 1958 – February 1959). The annual peak usually occurs in May and it is within the boundaries of possibility that this year could see the February concentration higher than the previous annual peak for the first time in the whole record.

    Now this is partly due to the relatively low rate of accumulation in the first half of last year, so I thought I’d take a longer term view and see the changes over the whole record.

    The result (plotted alongside the same test for May-Jan difference, to provide some greater context) suggests the annual cycle is ‘flattening’ (that is, becoming increasingly dominated by the underlying near-linear trend flowing through each year) at quite a rate. Of course, I can already hear the cries of “No global flattening since 2001!”

    I wonder what affect this might have on the biosphere?

  39. Hey, don’t be so hard on all of us engineers! Rutan is carried away with himself and that is overriding whatever engineering gifts he may once have had. Engineering gifts? The greatest one perhaps is good judgement informed by sound physics. Deliberately distorting reality to support a preferred conclusion is the exact opposite. Really quite pathetic.

  40. Rutan embarassingly doubles down on various claims challenged by Angliss (<a href=""Scroll down to #99) including conspiracy theories and scientists are lying to get grants. He (apparently approvingly) cites an SPPI-hosted D’Aleo & Watts production (“Surface Temperature Records: Policy-Driven Deception?”) and predicts that “alarmists” will ad hom rather than critique data, analysis and conclusions.

    A number of commenters proceed to demonstrate that the data, analysis and conclusions in that document are rubbish – relying in part on work done by Watts himself, and other work that a competent basic literature survey would have turned up.

    Epic fail.

    • Correction – Angliss responds further at #99 and Rutan doubles down at #126. (He also says he’s not going to comment further – and one of the reasons given is ironically amusing.)

    • Gavin's Pussycat

      Was that the Watts / d’Aleo study that has some of the worst bloopers silently edited out?

      • Not sure, Gavin’s Pussycat. It runs to a couple of hundred pages and says something like (from memory) “Updated Aug 27, 2010″ somewhere near the front.

  41. I’ll be putting up a second response of my own, too. While I was quite surprised that Rutan would even choose to engage me, the quality of his responses, and his lack of responsiveness, have disappointed me greatly.

    Rutan was a minor hero of mine – to see how far he has fallen from the high of SpaceShipOne saddens me.

    • Rutan is just damned lucky he waited ’til he’d gotten back to Earth to fall. He damn near augered in during the flight. The whole SpaceShipOne episode was a textbook case of why it’s better to be lucky than good. It was a goddamned suborbital trajectory and they still damn near f__ed it up.

      On a related note:

      It looks like they were using “industrial grade” electronics…just like the commercial space vendors.

      • They f___ed it up because they didn’t have a strapdown INS (in them thair olden’ days they were called gyroscopes (mechanical, but for quite some time now are all solid state MEMS and what not).

        At that time a fairly good solid state INS (e. g. 6-DOF or six sensors, three accelerometers and three angular rate sensors) could be had for roughly $10K (HW only, we bought one around that timeframe for some laboratory work). The Kalman Filter is the workhorse of all time domain INS software (now supplemented with GPS).

        These cost like $3M on a nu-cl-air sub and are good for about 150 hours (strategic grade), sans any underwater colocation and/or GPS (in other words, how long can our subs stay underwater (flying blind), without any outside aids whatsoever, and still hit their targets as originally designed).

        It was all due to pilot error on the 1st flight (uncontrolled roll), on the 2nd flight they now knew about the uncontrolled roll (no lift at that altitude, go figure, and if the thrust vector isn’t exactly through the vehicle CG, well then, things happen) and did not overcompensate like they did on that 1st flight.

        But maybe Bart has a better explanation, they were very lucky on that 1st flight, as the roll inertia alone, could have literally sent it to flying into llittle itty bitty pieces (the pilot was located very close to the roll axis CG, so the uncontrolled roll didn’t bother him at all, what with now being in a weightless environment).

        Here’s a video of SST-129;

        Triple redundant systems BTW, it 1st rolls to an inverted position (for CG stability reasons), then drops its solid fuel boosters, then later rolls 180 degrees prior to dropping off (via frangible nuts or what some people call explosive bolts or pyrotechnic fasteners) the external fuel tank. This all works without human inputs (other than the onboard strapdown INS HW/SW systems). What appears to be the Shuttle moving away from the external fuel tank, is actually the external fuel tank moving away from the Shuttle (due to gravity and drag), the Shuttle then continues on its normal flight path/tragectory into orbit.

        I’m not too sure I’d want anyone (human) touching the steering wheel when either the SRB’s shutdown/detach or the EFT exits, stage down.

        Captain Hindsight (not a rocket scientist, but I can SWAG, can’t I)

      • Oops 2, forgot site policy;

        www dot youtube dot com/watch?v=zsJpUCWfyPE

      • Gavin's Pussycat

        > it 1st rolls to an inverted
        > position (for CG stability reasons),

        EFS I believe the reason is that the main engines are aimed slightly out in order to go through the common COG of orbiter and external tank.
        In this way you can have the thrust aim slightly upward from the flight path — which you need to do anyway on an Oberth trajectory — without pitching the whole craft.

        > solid state MEMS and what not
        Laser gyros, Sagnac effect. MEMS are entry level really (cheap because of massive use of the technology in air bags and laptop hard drives (parking the heads when detecting weightlessless :-)
        For demanding standalone apps (nucular subs) still only mechanical gyros/ stabilized platform go, though laser gyros / strapdown are catching up. And cheaper / not(so) classified.

    • Rob Honeycutt

      Brian… I’m with you there. I’ve loved Rutan’s work since I was a teenager when I first saw their canard wing Vari EZ and Long EZ aircraft. I’ve never owned of flown one but they’re just a brilliant design. Fast and efficient.

      Ironically, Rutan also goes on about how electric is the future of general aviation.

  42. I think Rutan dumping that Watts and D’Aleo propaganda piece was an attempt to fire off a flare to distract the heat seeking missiles from his previous indefensible nonsense that he spouted. And yes, citing Watts and D’Aleo was another epic fail by Rutan. Ironically, D’Aleo has been caught fudging the data (also see here, here and here, but Rutan is blind to that and sees D’Aleos’ work as “honest”.

    Brian Angliss should focus on the original claims made by Rutan, the readers S&R did a good job of dealing with Rutan’s attempt to shout squirrel.

  43. Rutan has had his moments, but his venture with Richard Branson is just a side show (albeit a potentially very profitable one).
    Elon Musk and SpaceX are most likely to bring us REAL space tourism – to orbit, not to 100km on a glorified roller coaster ride.

    • Never quite worked out the whole Space Tourism thing..

      To me, there is a big element of ‘Private Good, Public Bad’ thinking involved, i.e. that since space exploration is only worthwhile if done for a profit, we must find some sort of profit motive to make it work. Which is a bit cart-before-the-horse – I doubt there will be much real tourism before we have far more infrastructure in place.

      Just my 2p. First create a self sustaining moon base, use materials from that to construct a decent sized space station in earth orbit, then you can have tourists.. but that would all cost a sustained effort of perhaps 5% of total military spending worldwide, so is clearly impossible.

  44. Rutan has another comment appended to, but major yawn: ClimateGate, ClimateGate, ClimateGate!; Hockey Stick is broken and without it no cause for concern; Phil Jones is a criminal [grounds for a libel claim, I suspect]; a strange argument that the temp difference between 2011 and 1962 vs difference between 1961 and 1912 proves models are horribly wrong.

    Classic DKE.

    • I am working on a response to his latest comment. It’ll probably be out late tonight or tomorrow morning.

      I continue to hope that Rutan will finally answer some of my criticisms, but that may, alas, be a vain hope.

      • He doesn’t even appear to be trying to answer your criticisms.

        It’s almost as if he’s gone through classic PR training (I’ve had the pleasure of a one day course) – which teaches you the ideal tactic is to never respond to criticism or questions that you find inconvenient and instead pivot to repeat your preferred talking point.

      • Lotharsson, I don’t think he actually is trying to respond to my criticisms. And as a former CEO, I’m sure he has gone through PR training. The problem is that he’s claimed the mantle of “storied engineer,” and there are responsibilities and expectations that come with that mantle.

        If he’s going to claim to be an engineer, then I expect him to behave like one. And that means accepting criticism and responding to it in a good faith manner.

    • You missed the really good one. In it he said that he didn’t believe that space aliens created the pyramids and linked to this little gem to prove that he is not a crank!

      Unfortunately the moderators at Scholars and Rogues deleted the comment to save him from embarrassing himself more than he already has in that thread.

  45. I haven’t seen Rutan bother to explain the “percentage temperature increase” yet (although I haven’t been monitoring WUWT), let alone how the anomalies were translated into absolute temperatures to create the graph he uncritically cited.

    Inquiring minds want to know – and I’m not entirely convinced his “research” bothered to investigate those questions.

    Crickets on the “Arctic ice content has stabilized” question too, AFAIK.

  46. Gavin's Pussycat

    As another curiosity, Rutan claims that the temperature trend for 1912-1961 is larger that that for 1962-2011, a claim trivially refuted:

    He really doesn’t seem to care, not about the truth, and not about his reputation.

  47. Igor Samoylenko

    This article on teaching and teachers (referenced above by Mart) written by Steven Dutch is very good. In particular, this quote summarises it all very well I think:

    A good general rule here: if you can’t get a paper published in some field, you are not qualified to reject the consensus of workers in that field.

    And I would add that those who think they can are either suffering from a strong DK effect or blinded by ideology (or both).

  48. Actually, even if you are published in a field, scientific consensus should be at the very least treated with respect. To fail to do so is to fail to respect one’s colleagues. One can dissent, but it should be on the basis of solid evidence that favors a particular model that makes testable predictions different from the consensus model.

    The reason why scientists get into trouble when they venture outside their expertise is often because their ideas of how science is done are too narrow to accommodate practices in the new field. Scientists need to try and understand why particular methodologies work in particular fields. The scientific method is a whole lot more powerful and adaptable than most scientists realize.

    • Word, Ray. I’ve butted heads with a fellow who thinks everything is (lab-based) physics, for instance–climate science is therefore illegitimate to him essentially because we don’t have a control planet. (And for him, models are ‘play stations,’ so virtual worlds are “right out.”)

  49. To me this remark by Rutan at the WTFUWT site was extraordinary:

    In my background of 46 years in aerospace flight testing and design I have seen many examples of data presentation fraud. That is what prompted my interest in seeing how the scientists have processed the climate data, presented it and promoted their theories to policy makers and the media.”

    He has seen MANY examples of fraud?? What on earth is going on in the aerospace industry? I’ve have about 30 years of engineering experience in gov’t and industry and have sat in on a fairly large number of presentations that involved the presentation of many types of data related to radar signal processing, systems engineering, Air traffic control and defense and I can’t think of a single instance where I saw data fraud. There were good presentations bad ones weak ones strong ones off the wall ones biased ones but fraudulent? Accusation of fraud is a very serious charge so I have to wonder if Rutan has a clue of that of which he is accusing others. Then after all his accusations of fraud in aerospace and climate science he produces a “research” document posted at his website that is nothing more than fossil fuel advocacy support propaganda. And he’s calling people frauds????

  50. PJKar, I don’t know why you should be shocked that Rutan has seen many examples of fraud. Given his approach to climate science, all I have to assume is that he’s read his own presentations.

  51. For those who have an interest, Rutan is continuing to comment at

    He has admitted that his claim about temperature trends in the two halves of the century were incorrect and he says he’s found a few other errors in his slide deck that he will correct – but he’s continuing to make a bunch of (mostly standard denialist) claims that he cannot seem to find a solid defense for other than bluster and logic such as “I don’t think those scientists are impartial”, and he argues that the entire surface instrumental record to date should be essentially discarded because it is so suspect – amongst other things.

    Then there’s the whole “my slide deck is designed to inform rather than deceive and scare, unlike the IPCC” thing which is looking increasingly DKE.

    And when pushed on why he thought the scientific community is “fraudulent” he changed his claim from citing things like ClimateGate to “because they’re not speaking out about these false claims that are being taught to school children or university students” – but so far has provided exactly zero citations supporting his claims (which mostly look like highly exaggerated caricatures of actual scientific claims so that they can be conveniently knocked down).

    He hasn’t weighed in on Arctic Ice stability or Jan-May temperature records (but then it’s been a bit of a Gish Gallop without those points anyway).

    Oh, and I quote:

    Engineer’s mistakes generally have consequences, so they are usually quick to correct them. Scientists, see little need to correct observed errors, since there is always a possibility that future data might exonerate them on the long path to prove a theory.

    Interesting worldview (and lack of self-awareness) there…

  52. And Rutan has apparently now left the Scholars and Rogues thread citing “politics of personal destruction” and implying “it’s become a religion”, leaving behind a dearth of evidence despite many requests for it.


  53. Rutan returns to Scholars & Rogues.

  54. Rutan seems to indicate he’s leaving Scholars & Rogues again, after appealing to two unnamed authority figures for support (but without providing evidence).

    He also shifted the “fraud” goalposts to claims that 7 particular unsupported scientific claims were being taught to students and climate scientists as a community were “fraudulent” for not speaking up in dissent, but he failed to provide any evidence this was so when asked.

    Amongst many other challenges that he failed to rebut was a request for robust evidence supporting the MWP prior to “The Hockey Stick”, since he argues that is also discredited and was manipulated to argue the MWP didn’t exist and was removed from the IPCC 2007 report. (And he didn’t even acknowledge the error when people linked to the diagram that includes it.)

    And there’s more…

    …but he seems to be claiming victory anyway and leaving ;-) Maybe this time he will really leave?

  55. Speaking of “Arctic ice stabilizing”, there is a potential clue to what Rutan meant from one of his supporters commenting at S&R, who in response to a comment mention “disappearing Arctic ice” responds with

    Nope, higher area than 2007. In any case, Arctic ice cover is cyclic, and satellite measurements cover only a few decades.


    But who knows. Burt has largely avoided elaborating on the reasons for his claims.

    • Well, “Isotopius,” a ‘skeptic’ in good standing, seemingly advocates using *annual* means to evaluate the health of the Arctic sea ice–or so I conclude based on an exchange on RC. And by that metric, 2011 was in fact a tad lower than 2007. . .

      I graphed ‘em here:

      The scale is a bit too small to tell; the respective values are:

      2007–10.68 million km2
      2011–10.66 million km2

  56. Horatio Algeranon

    The great thing about America is that you can say 30 (or even 50) really dumb things one day about a scientifically related subject and then have someone actually pay you millions of dollars the next to strap themselves to the tons of explosive material (aka “rocket ship”) that you designed and “engineered” to (hopefully) go off in a controlled manner.

  57. Horatio Algeranon

    How many Estes model rockets strapped to a lawn-chair would it take to boost your average (fat) CEO to 100,000 feet?

    When you have the answer, Gashopper, feel free to get in line in front of Horatio.

    • Given that a D-11 gives you about 1.5 seconds of boost with a peak around 25 newtons, to a first approximation, and taking into account the market price of about $3 per engine, roughly 1% of the equivalent amount you would have to pay me to be payload.

      Exclusive of life insurance, that is.

  58. Horatio Algeranon

    ” you would have to pay me [and a lot] to be payload”

    Enuff said

  59. The graph appears to have originated at a website called C3Headlines; I ran across one of their other articles a while ago; just got to a stopping point in my write-up:

    Oh, when will the lulz end?!