Tuesday, 26 January 2021

Because 2 + 2 = 5

I'm done with making fun of Skeptical Science, it's shooting fish in a barrel, so I dipped my toe into  Science of Doom again. That blog has scientific pretensions, which makes it  harder to spot the contradictions. But they put hard numbers on things, which makes it easier to nail down the sleight of hand once you've spotted it (which took me a couple of days this time):

Globally and annually averaged, clouds cool the planet by around 18W/m² – that’s large compared with the radiative effect of doubling CO2, a value of 3.7W/m². The net effect is made up of two larger opposite effects:
* cooling from reflecting sunlight (albedo effect) of about 46W/m²
* warming from the radiative effect of about 28W/m² – clouds absorb terrestrial radiation and reemit from near the top of the cloud where it is colder, this is like the “greenhouse” effect.

They are obsessed with 'radiation', It is merely one form of energy, which like most forms of energy, can turn into other forms of energy in an instant. Start with chemical energy in your muscles. You convert it to electrical energy when you throw a ball into the air. Then watch the kinetic energy of the ball turn seamlessly into potential energy and back again. Let the ball fall to the ground and you get a bit of sound and thermal energy. There is not a fixed amount of 'radiation' in the atmosphere that has to be accounted for; there is a fixed amount of total energy, a lot of which is not thermal energy or radiation.

What we care about is not 'radiation' in itself, we care about thermal energy i.e. temperature i.e. 'global warming'. In plain English, a net reduction of 18 W/m2 incoming radiation means that surface temperatures are about 3 degrees cooler then they would be if there were no clouds. Everyday experience and objective comparisons confirm that it's cooler where/when it's cloudy/moist than where/when it's clear/dry. Three degrees seems to be on the low side (because 46 W/m2 is on the low side, the fag packet says about 60 W/m2), but let's accept it for now.

[Just as noticeable/measurable is that day-night swings are much lower where/when it's cloudy/moist than where/when it's clear and dry. That's because clouds physically reflect (i.e. like a mirror) sunlight up by day and reflect radiation from the earth back down (particularly noticeable by night); also because of the latent heat released by condensation. Clouds don't absorb and re-emit radiation, it just bounces off.]

[Also worthy of note is the 'official' figure of an extra 3.7 W/m2 radiation if CO2 doubles - somebody made up this number decades ago and it is now Alarmist Gospel. This - even if were true, which it isn't - equates to about 0.7 degree of warming at the surface (and cooling higher up). Sorry, still not scared.]

By magic, they can disaggregate the 18 W/m2 (3 degrees) of cooling into minus 46 W/m2 (8 degrees) of cooling (clouds reflecting sunlight back into space and casting shadows) and plus 28 W/m2 (5 degrees) of warming due to the 'top of atmosphere' effect. While the net 18 W/m2 is probably about right, I don't see how it is possible to disaggregate without making dozens of assumptions and guesses, seeing as both things happen simultaneously and have the same cause. But hey.

I explained the 'top of atmosphere' effect at point 2 here. What it boils down to is that the effective emitting altitude (in this case the upper surface of clouds) is (or would be) pushed up by about 1.5 km. That is a heck of a lot, surely airline pilots would have noticed if clouds are higher than they used to be?

The 'top of atmosphere' is an intellectually and mathematically pleasing theory, but complete nonsense of course. If clouds were higher, then of course they are emitting less radiation. Not just because they are cooler (being higher up), but because the radiation energy which they would otherwise emit has been converted to potential energy (the clouds are higher). Potential energy is not thermal energy and there is no warming as a result.

Common sense tells us that water vapour and clouds must dampen temperature swings, they are largely self-cancelling. The Alarmists insist that more CO2 = higher temperature = more water vapour and clouds; water vapour in turn is a 'greenhouse gas' so this pushes up temperatures even more in a vicious circle. This is clearly nonsense, if water vapour caused more water vapour, the oceans would have boiled dry very quickly (or more likely, never formed in the first place).

The Alarmists get round this (read the article) by saying, aha, the 46 W/m2 (8 degrees) of cooling (clouds reflecting sunlight back out to space) is fixed and unaffected by how much water vapour and clouds there are (not plausible), but the 28 W/m2 (5 degrees) of warming will increase with increasing water vapour and cloud altitudes. So above a certain level of moisture; the warming effect exceeds the cooling effect. Which is of course not borne out in real life or plausible.
The article also get a good kicking in the comments, well worth a visit and a read.

Originally captioned something like - "so that's it for the master race then?"

 I am having a major elctric spring clean today, and I found this:-

This amuses me on so many levels.  And before anyone goes on about me being 'anti- German', I'm not.  I've been there and I like the German people.

Sunday, 24 January 2021

This looks like good news to me - the article contradicts the headline. And itself.

From the BBC:

Lockdown looks to be having an impact on infection levels with the number of new cases starting to fall. But there are only tentative signs this has filtered through to a slowing of new admissions to hospital.

They illustrate this with a chart which seems to show that the lockdowns (starting late March and early December 2020) had no impact on hospitalisations whatsoever (although we will never know). Cases had fallen to a low level by July and even though the lockdown was then significantly loosened, they stayed that low until October.

They started falling a week before the December lockdown and started going up again after it started and continued going up until today (nearly two months). So at first glance, the chart looks like a seasonal illness like 'flu. Lots of cases when it's cold and very few when it's nice weather (which it was for most of last year).

Over the past week more than two million people have received their first dose [of the vaccine]. That puts the government on track for achieving its aim of offering a vaccine to everyone over 70, the extremely clinically vulnerable and frontline health and care workers.

The UK government and the NHS are doing really well with the vaccinations. I am impressed and 'proud to be British' for once. If they can keep this up, the 15 million most vulnerable will have had their second jab by the end of March. Daily vaccination data is here.

Even if the supply is good, there will still be lots of vulnerable people. Nearly 90% of Covid deaths have been in the groups due to get the jab by mid-February.

There's a lot that can still go wrong between now and the end of March, but this is a contradiction and the whole thing is starting to look rather positive. Out of (say) 1,000 daily deaths, 100 were people under 70 who won't even have had their first jab by then, so that's still 100 deaths a day in those groups. 900 deaths were the most vulnerable, if they are now 95% protected, that gets deaths in those groups to about 45 a day.

So total daily deaths will be down by six-sevenths (give or take a large margin of error) by April, at which stage the various effects will kick in:
- more natural immunity (huge numbers of people have had it. Those were presumably the more vulnerable - whether for health reasons or lifestyle reasons makes no difference - who are now immune for the time being);
- more people being vaccinated every day;
- nicer weather;
Their combined effects will mean that daily deaths are down to the dozens and declining. By next autumn/winter, it will all be over. Hopefully.

A couple of experts hit the nail on the head at the end of the article:

UK chief medical adviser Prof Chris Whitty has spoken about "de-risking" Covid. His point is that we will reach a situation at which the level of death and illness caused by Covid is at a level society can "tolerate" - just as we tolerate 7,000 to 20,000 people dying from flu every year.

It appears that 'flu deaths were unusually low last year. Those who would have died of 'flu died of Covid-19 instead. Callous but true.

Sociologist Prof Robert Dingwall, who advises the government on the science of human behaviour, believes that point will be reached sooner rather than later. "I think we will see a pretty rapid lifting of restrictions in the spring and summer. There are some sections of the science community that want to pursue an elimination strategy - but once you start seeing fatality levels down at the level of flu I think the public will accept that."

Yup. People can get used to anything except constant change.

Friday, 22 January 2021

Things with a certain poetry

 ITV4 Daytime sponsor - Trusted Trader

Playing - 'Minder'.

Thursday, 21 January 2021

Home-schooling and the digital divide

From the BBC:

Parents say they feel "deserted" having to home school during lockdown with a lack of access to computers... Bristol mother Edwina Ogu said home schooling four children with no computer during the first lockdown had been a "nightmare". The Department for Education (Dfe) has pledged to provide one million devices for schools and colleges.

Agreed. If your kids are over (say) seven years old, have a bedroom and a laptop or PC each, home-schooling is manageable. But plenty of people are not in this happy position. Halfway decent laptops or PCs cost £500 and up; internet is patchy in some areas; not all kids have their own bedroom etc.

There's actually a cheap and simple solution to this.  You can get a new TV with Freeview and internet capability for under £150. There are plenty of channels broadcasting complete crap during the day who can be taken off air until 3 in the afternoon.

For kids up to age 14, all you need is one channel for each school year broadcasting a standard curriculum from 9 until 3 with an hour for lunch. All the kids in the UK can watch whichever channel is broadcasting for their year. The TV teacher sets the homework - kids take, email or post their homework back to their actual school once a week and it gets dished out to be marked by their actual teachers.

I accept that different schools use different textbooks, but run with it. School teachers just have to keep tabs on what was covered in their subjects that day and be ready to field questions from their pupils, online, by phone or in person.

It gets a bit more complicated for age 15 to 16 when kids are doing GSCEs. But I'm sure that 99% of GSCEs are in less than twenty different subjects. If I understand the rules correctly, there will be relatively few subject clashes and it might only need another dozen channels (i.e. half a dozen per year x two years of GSCEs).

Switching channels is no more difficult (conceputally) than switching classrooms. So after maths (which appears to be compulsory, not that you'd notice) which everybody watches on the main channel, the history pupils switch to the channel which is showing the history lesson; the geography kids pupils switch to the channel which is showing the geography lesson etc. After that, they all switch back to compulsory English Language (not that you'd notice that either) on the main channel.

Inevitably, there will still be timetable clashes for pupils doing unusual combinations (what's new) but as long as there are a couple of free periods each week and kids have halfway decent internet, they can use the 'catch up' function for that. If they don't have halfway decent internet, they'll just have to choose a workable combination of subjects.

Wednesday, 20 January 2021

"The Kitchen Triangle"

The fridge-hob-sink triangle is - supposedly - a key consideration when deciding a kitchen layout. Here are some examples from Wonderful Kitchens. I assume they are Australian, hence "stright" instead of "straight":

Two things occurred to me recently:

1. Whichever layout you choose, there will be a lot of traipsing back and forth and people getting in each others' way. If you have the space and can afford it, a far better layout is to have two sinks. A small one between fridge and hob for washing vegetables and filling pans (only needs a cold feed) and a large one for washing dishes - preferably double-bowl so that you can wash in soapy water and rinse in clean water.

2. Work tops are usually 60cm deep, which is far too narrow. Inevitably, you have stuff along the back (kettle, toaster, blender, spices, utensils etc). These take up nearly half the depth, leaving you only with a narrow strip along the front for preparing food. If you go to 75cm or 80 cm depth, you double the effective working space.

The length of the work top is limited by how big the room is, but the depth isn't (unless it's an unusually narrow room). If the room is small, it's tempting to go L-shape to increase useable work surface - but actually the first thing you should consider is increasing it by having a deeper work top just along the longest wall. Also, my wife hates corner cupboards and would rather have a straight run, I agree with her on this.

Applying 1 and 2, we end up with this:

I assume that you have a fridge/freezer under the work top (or a larder fridge and a freezer if there's space). There's space for your kettle/toaster above/behind the fridge/freezer; for spices, cooking oil and utensils behind the hob; and for washing up liquid and scourers etc behind the double sink. The microwave goes on an eyeline shelf above the fridge/freezer or small sink, obviously, otherwise you waste too much work surface.

So you end up with a nice production line - take food out of fridge/freezer; wash/prepare; put in pans; cook; put used pans next to washing up sink; wash, rinse and put on draining board. Two people can easily work side by side with a minimum of getting in each others' way.

Monday, 18 January 2021

Killer Arguments Against LVT, Not (487)

As we come up to the big part 500 anniversary episode, here is an article which TBH spotted in The Daily Mail.

It is an absolute classic of the Home-Owner-Ist genre and highly recommended reading. See how many lies, contradictions, self-delusions and diagonal comparisons you can spot.

It would take me days to debunk them all, but this diagonal comparison is worth a mention:

Older people who bought houses years ago, and who are living on a small income, could struggle to pay their tax bill and be forced to sell a cherished family home.

And not every owner-occupier in the South has benefited from huge windfall gains. Young people with huge mortgages on recently purchased tiny flats in the capital would be hammered too, with a chilling effect on their aspirations.

Poor Widows in Mansions (low income, massive unearned gain, no mortgage) and recent purchasers (high income, no unearned gain yet, large mortgage) are at absolute opposite ends of the spectrum! If one deserves sympathy, then the other doesn't. Even if you ignore the extremes, how does that translate to sympathy for the vast majority in the middle (medium income, modest unearned gain, small/cheap mortgage)??

As it happens, these problems melt away on closer inspection:

1. Fairer Share said that clearly there would be a 'defer and pay on death' option for the former.

2. For the latter in a "tiny flat in the capital" which cost them (say) £500,000, this tax would be like a small % increase in mortgage interest rates. Instead of paying 0.2% Council Tax each year (£1,000), they'd be paying 0.48% Proportional Property Tax each year (£2,400), which is only £117 a month more (hardly 'hammered') and no worse than a 0.28% increase in mortgage rates, which purchasers should have budgeted for. The government can ease the strain by just dropping interest rates, although the chances are that interest rates have fallen by 0.28% since they took on a mortgage, so they are no worse off than they originally expected.

If they are in a "tiny flat" then no doubt they 'aspire' to 'move up the property ladder' some time in the next ten years, at which stage they will save at least £15,000 SDLT (we don't need to worry about whether SDLT is borne by buyer or seller - when you trade up you are both). So when they achieve their 'aspiration', they will get all their money back and it will make 'moving up the property ladder' a lot cheaper and easier.

Sunday, 17 January 2021

Excellent work by Fairer Share

From The Sun:

RISHI Sunak is facing calls to scrap council tax and stamp duty. Households would pay a single property levy under the plan backed by nearly 100,000 people.

The change would benefit residents in the Chancellor’s Richmond, North Yorks, constituency by £650 a year, research by WPI Economics found. Charity Fairer Share, which came up with the plan, said one in four adults regularly borrowed to pay council tax...

The article is light on detail even though the suggestion is very simple. Unsually for The Sun, it is not totally negative. Inevitably, most of the comments are. For more details go to Fairer Share. Which is a community interest company and not a charity AFAIAA.

Saturday, 16 January 2021

Poor Widows In Mansions, part the manieth.

From The Daily Mail:

[UK Finance Minister] Rishi Sunak rejected a proposal for an emergency wealth tax to recover the staggering £280billion the Government has spent so far on the coronavirus pandemic. The Chancellor was presented with plans for a one-off levy on those with assets of more than £500,000, or £1 million for a couple, including their family home and pension(1).

But Mr Sunak has told allies that he has ruled out the suggestion because he believes it would be 'un-Conservative' and go against the party's aspirational values(2). However, he is still considering proposals to raise tens of billions from the better-off by sharply hiking capital gains tax.(3)

The Wealth Tax Commission(4) last month proposed a 5 per cent levy on housing, pension, business, equity and savings wealth that it forecast would raise £260billion. The tax would apply to every UK resident with assets of £500,000 or more and would include homes excluding mortgage debt.

About one in six adults – 8.2million people – would be liable, but the tax would largely fall on older generations who have paid off more of their mortgages and built up larger pension pots. Almost 40 per would be aged over 65, while just 6 per cent would be between 35 and 44 years old. The Commission recommended households pay the levy at a rate of 1 per cent a year for five years.

It estimated up to 10 per cent of those affected would be 'asset-rich, cash poor' and not have the ready money to pay for it. For those people, it suggested smaller payments for a longer period. (5)

1) Hooray for taxes on land and buildings, especially if they replace existing stupid taxes on land and buildings, such as Council Tax, SDLT and Inheritance Tax. Taxing pension funds is stupid because they are heavily subsidised. It it far better to simply reduce or phase out the subsidies. Taxing the value of 'business, equity... wealth' is even more stupid. If you want more tax from businesses, just reduce corporate subsidies, and if still necessary, hike the corporation tax rate. Taxing cash savings is even stupider; a proper tax on land and buildings (i.e. LVT) ignores mortgage debt and is levied on the gross rental value of the plot. So as a quid pro quo, cash savings shouldn't be taxed either, or it's heads-we-win, tails-you-lose.

2) 'Un-Conservative' just means 'won't go down well with voters'. The Conservatives are the political party with no principles whatsoever apart from staying in power as long as possible. The same applies to 'aspirational values', which is meaningless. With a full on-LVT and lower taxes on earnings and business output (which are real taxes on 'aspirational values'), people would still 'aspire' to earn more and buy a nicer house (or a nicer car or nicer holidays, or more savings, whatever, that's the whole point of earning more). And those who earn more would end up in the nicer houses and pay the LVT voluntarily.

3) This is pure tokenism. Capital Gains Tax in the UK raises about £7 billion a year, about 1% of all tax receipts (from memory - it's fairly small numbers). CGT was never intended to raise much revenue, it is basically an anti-avoidance measure to deter people from reclassifying heavily taxed earnings or profits as 'capital gains' (which were not taxed at all until 1965). The revenue-maximising CGT rate appears to be about 15% and we are already past that point on the Laffer Curve. So it is nigh impossible to raise significant extra money from CGT.

4) Wealth Tax Commission is an initiative of think-tank the Institute for Fiscal Studies. They are well-respected and influential but nothing official. Their numbers and estimates are almost certainly correct.

5) Also known as 'the roll-up and pay on later sale or death option', just to knock that KLN on the head.

Friday, 15 January 2021

Not comparing like with like

From the BBC:

Every year they stop an estimated two to three million deaths, preventing more than 20 life-threatening diseases, according to the World Health Organization (WHO).

Childhood illnesses that were common less than a generation ago are increasingly rare. And smallpox - which killed hundreds of millions of people - has been completely eradicated.

But these successes have taken decades to achieve - and many of us are now expecting effective coronavirus vaccines to have similar results in a radically shorter time frame.

Of course it took decades, because vaccinations against diptheria, whooping cough and measles were just given to young children on reaching a certain age, and it took a few decades before mass immunity against each of these was achieved.

If the UK government and/or NHS get things sorted out and manages to vaccinate [nearly] the whole population within a year, then surely we'll achieve in a year what used to take decades?