Thursday, 13 May 2021

They would say that, wouldn't they?

Item 1, from Business Insider:

WeWork's CEO said your desire to go to an office depends on how "engaged" you are at work.

Sandeep Mathrani, who stepped in as CEO of the coworking startup last year, said that people most comfortable working from home are the "least engaged" with their company, while the "overly engaged" want to go to the office.


Is he seriously trying to guilt trip people into paying rent?

Item 2, from the BBC:

Queen's Speech 2021: Key points at-a-glance

A Dissolution and Calling of Parliament Bill will get rid of the fixed five-year period between general elections and return the power to call early elections to the prime minister.


Wow. This law came in under the Tory-Lib Dem coalition in 2011. David Cameron stuck to it, and called a General Election after his five years were up (which he won convincingly). Then his successors called snap elections in 2017 and in 2019 and made a mockery of the whole thing. It must be one of the least observed laws in living memory.

Plans to force voters in Great Britain to to prove their identity when they vote at general elections will be introduced in an Electoral Integrity Bill

A Judicial Review Bill will set out the government's plans to change how its decisions can be challenged in the courts


I do not like either of these at all, but that's Tories for you (and I'm not saying that Labour haven't been just as authoritarian).

Wednesday, 12 May 2021

Place your bets now.

From the BBC:

The UK has benefited from both fast [vaccine] rollout and good uptake. Currently, a third of the adult population is fully vaccinated, with another third having had one dose. Among those at most risk - the over-50s and younger adults with health conditions, where 99% of Covid deaths have occurred - uptake for the first dose has been 95%.

Which is all good stuff. I'm not sure why they think it's better to give people in their 40s and younger a first jab rather than giving the over-50s their second jab, but hey. Sometimes the government does the right thing.

On the topic of death stats, I assumed that excess deaths in 2020 would be offset by lower than average deaths in the next couple of years i.e. the people who died from it would have died from something else in the next couple of years anyway.

It looks like this effect is starting to kick in - the black line for 2021 is dipping below the dotted line for 2015-19 average - but who knows? Most predictions about all this have been very wrong (including, I hasten to add, most of my own), so that's the question - how much lower will 2021 deaths be compared to the 2015-19 average? Just a bit? A lot?

Here's a chart to summarise data from the ONS: What's odd is that the January 2021 peak is a noticeably lower than the April 2020 peak. Worldometers shows it the other way round:

Tuesday, 11 May 2021

You can see why people assume London is full of pretentious wankers.

From the Evening Standard:

[Re-elected London Mayor Sadiq Khan] vowed to “work day and night” to deliver “safer streets” saying: “On crime – we’ll continue to be both tough on crime and tough on the causes of crime. This includes putting even more police officers on the streets at the same time as investing record amounts in new opportunities for young Londoners.”

This is especially bitter - he's the one who took the police officers off the streets in the first place.

"The key thing is to make sure our city recovers. It’s the biggest challenge our city has faced since the Second World War, and that’s what Let’s Do London is about - getting our city back on its feet after the awful 15 months we have had, and try to bring our city together and our country together.

"We have got to avoid this culture war which is tearing our country apart. We have got to make sure we have the Brexit scars healing and we ought to try to bring people together. My mission in the second term is to bring our city together.

"Next Monday restaurants will reopen, many theatres will reopen. On June 21, fingers crossed, our city will return to a semblance of normality. It’s going to be an amazing summer."

... he insisted he had a "decent mandate" overall, having secured more than 1.2m votes. "I didn’t realise I secured the biggest vote ever received by a candidate, other than myself, of course, in 2016," he said. "But also I discovered I have got the biggest majority, other than myself in 2016. Quite a decent mandate, if I say so myself."

City Hall promised “the biggest domestic tourism campaign the capital has ever seen” to help London’s economy get back on its feet as Covid restrictions are eased. There will be a series of one-off events, outdoor film screenings and late-night openings under the London Lates initiative to ease social distancing.


None of that really means anything to a normal voter, does it?

As contrast, from Politics Home:

[Re-elected Manchester Mayor Andy Burnham] used his victory speech to accuse the Prime Minister of failing to deliver on his promises to areas like Greater Manchester... He pointed to a perceived "widespread cluelessness" in government as to what "levelling up", and offered to spell it out for Johnson.

"Here is where I can help you, Prime Minister. Let me define it," Burnham said. "It can't be achieved by scattering funds across a few favoured places.

"It can be achieved when you give millions of people in a city region like this one a modern, affordable public transport system, when it costs the same to catch a bus in Harpurhey as it does is Haringey. £1.55, not £4 or more that people pay here".

He continued: "Levelling up is achieved when you give all people the dignity of decent work and wages that don't have to be topped up by visits to the food bank, and when you have the kind of jobs here which mean our young people don't have to move south to get on in life, which I had to do 30 years ago."


I've no strong opinion on Andy Burnham one way or another, but at least he says real things that actually mean something and are within his remit as Mayor.

Monday, 10 May 2021

"US backs waiver on vaccine patents to boost supply"

From the BBC:

The US has thrown its support behind a move at the World Trade Organization (WTO) to temporarily lift patent protections for coronavirus vaccines.

Advocates of the move say it would increase global vaccine production, but drugs manufacturers argue it will not have the desired effect. Critics say it strips financial rewards from cutting-edge drug developers.


Hang on, didn't President Trump pay you $10 billion to develop the vaccines? At whose risk and expense was that? You are also earning $20 or $30 a pop for the hundreds of millions of doses that the self-same US government is buying from you. And the further hundreds of millions which you hope "rich countries" will buy off you at full price and distribute to the developing world (see below).

The head of the International Federation of Pharmaceutical Manufacturers and Associations, Thomas Cueni, told the BBC's Today programme that technology transfer should not be enforced.

"I'm deeply concerned if you hand this over and allow companies to try to get it done the right way, safe and high quality, you could compromise the quality and safety of vaccines which we see now and it would be disruptive."


Well, he would say that wouldn't he? Does he mean that they are nobly saving lives in the developing world by preventing them from making their own vaccines? He's earned a "that's racist" as well.

"And it is also right now the disappointing unwillingness of rich countries to early share doses with the poor countries."

I'd shut up right now if I were him.

... pharmaceutical companies have called the decision by the US to back the sharing of secret recipes for vaccinations short-sighted, claiming it is understanding the production process that is the real challenge, particularly when it comes to the new breed of mRNA vaccines - such as Pfizer and Moderna - as well as the availability of raw materials. It is, they say, akin to handing out a recipe without sharing the method or the ingredients...

If it's the know-how that matters, why are they objecting to waiving the patent protection?

Friday, 7 May 2021

Hey Prof! Where can I buy this "cheap, strong alcohol"?

From the BBC:

Alcohol killed more people in 2020 in England and Wales than in any of the previous 20 years, official data shows. There were 7,423 deaths from alcohol misuse last year [compared to a total population of about 65 million] - a rise of 20% from 2019, the Office for National Statistics says.

Prof Sir Ian Gilmore, chair of the Alcohol Health Alliance - a coalition of charities and campaign groups - said the increase in deaths linked to alcohol was "devastating". "Each of these numbers represents a life of an individual cut short by alcohol consumption and a family that has been left in mourning."

Prof Gilmore said the government must urgently introduce an alcohol strategy which addresses health inequalities, improves access to treatment "and stops the sale of cheap, strong alcohol that is so harmful to health".

Tuesday, 4 May 2021

AGW theory is based on two blatant 'diagonal comparisons' (Part 2)

In Part 1 I showed how they use a sneaky 'diagonal comparison' (i.e. they don't compare like-with-like) to create the illusion that Earth is warmer than it should be.  Part 1 covers the balance between Earth's system and the Sun/outer space.

Then there's what goes in within the Earth's system itself. The other sneaky thing they do is to say that the atmosphere is far warmer than it is, it's just a straight lie. From NASA's Earth Factsheet:

Terrestrial Atmosphere
Surface pressure: 1014 mb
Surface density: 1.217 kg/m3
Scale height: 8.5 km
Total mass of atmosphere: 5.1 x 1018 kg
Total mass of hydrosphere: 1.4 x 1021 kg
Average temperature: 288 K (15 C)


Say what?

Imagine you are asked to measure the average temperature of the water in a deep lake. If you just take the surface temperature, you might get ~288K. But that's not the average temperature of the all the water in the lake. By and large it gets colder as you go down, so the true average is much lower.

The reverse applies in the troposphere (the lowest ~11km of the atmosphere). This is the bit we are interested. It's where the weather happens and the layer which warms and cools the surface.

It gets cooler as you go up, so if you only measure the temperature in the warmest layer, at or slightly above sea-level (where most measuring stations are), you will get an artificially high average temperature (i.e. ~288K).

~288K is fair estimate of the average surface temperature, but that's something completely different to the average temperature of the air in the troposphere. That's a lot colder. If you take a fair sample of readings at all altitudes, you would get ~255K, which is not uncoincidentally the temperature we expect from looking at the Earth vs Sun/outer space balance. See also Climatologists are Flat Earthers.

The vertical temperature gradient is no mystery. Basic maths, a rudimentary understanding of the Gas Laws and common sense (principles and worked example) tell us that it must be warmer than the ~255K average at sea level and colder than the ~255K average at the top of the tropopause. They worked this out in the 19th century and it was part of normal physics textbooks until a few decades ago. There's a given amount of thermal energy, and gravity and the Gas Laws constantly recycle it downwards.

The precise temperature gradient (aka 'lapse rate') is primarily the trade off between thermal energy (temperature) and potential energy (altitude). We all know that warm air cools as it rises. Energy cannot be created or destroyed, so what happens to the 'lost' thermal energy? Easy - air loses thermal energy as it rises... and gains potential energy. The reverse happens with Chinook and Föhn winds (Föhn is German word, pronounced 'fern' and is also the name for a hand-held hair dryer), when falling air warms up. So the lapse rate = gravity ÷ the specific heat capacity of 'air'.

(The lapse rate is reduced by the latent heat of evaporation, which has the opposite effect. The surface is cooled when water evaporates, the latent heat manifests itself again higher up when water vapour condenses. The latent heat in one gram of water vapour is enough to warm a cubic metre of air by about 2 degrees, it's a lot.)
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The AGW theorists make great play of the fact that Earth's surface (being ~288K, not ~255K) radiates ~390 W/m2 but only ~240 W/m2 gets to space. They claim that the missing ~150 W/m2 is trapped by 'greenhouse gases'. This is part of Diagonal Comparison #1. Two-thirds of the surface doesn't radiate directly to space because it's covered by clouds; some of the surface radiation is reflected back down (in a quite literal sense, like clouds reflecting visible light) and the clouds themselves emit the required ~165 W/m2 to space. The average emitted to space ≈ 240 W/m2, which is what Earth receives from the Sun.

The AGW steamroller never stops of course. For sure clouds reflect some infrared radiation back down (which is why a cloudy night is warmer than a clear night), but clouds don't 'trap' radiation or warm the surface overall; on the whole, it's cooler if it's cloudy (there's no 'positive feedback'). And clouds certainly do not warm the atmosphere overall, the extra warmth under a cloud is equal and opposite to the missing warmth above it.

Radiation isn't pollution like plastic in the oceans, it can transform into other forms of energy instantaneously. Trying to account for it is like trying to catch sunshine in your hands. You cannot add, subtract, multiply 'radiations', the maths is insane but entirely unnecessary to explain and understand the basic equilibrium position with temperatures etc. You need to bring in radiation to reconcile the warming effect of Ozone Depletion, but that's another story...

Monday, 3 May 2021

AGW theory is based on two blatant 'diagonal comparisons' (Part 1)

The theory goes as follows:
1. Earth is 33 degrees warmer than it should be based in incoming solar radiation alone;
2. This is due to 'greenhouse gases' and 'trapped radiation';
3. Hence more greenhouse gases = higher temperatures.

Item 1. is based on the most outrageous Diagonal Comparison of all time. If this is not a valid comparison, then we need not concern ourselves with whether 2 and 3 are valid*.

The Hansen approach is to calculate the Effective Temperature** of clouds, land and ocean surface and then compare that with the actual temperature of land and ocean surface... completely ignoring the actual lower temperatures of clouds.

A proper scientific comparison compares like with like. So if you calculate the Effective Temperature of clouds, land and ocean surface, you have to compare it with the actual temperature of clouds, land and ocean surface... and you end up with a 'Greenhouse Effect' of +/- zero, zilch, nothing. Here are the numbers. (Cloud top altitude in pale blue as that is my best estimate and the variable most worthy of research or debate).

It all matches up nicely. Actual temperature ≈ expected temperature and outgoing infrared radiation ≈ incoming solar radiation. There is no 'missing radiation' or 'trapped radiation':
References:
Tutorial on the Greenhouse Effect, this explains how it is calculated.
How high in the sky are clouds?
Scientists detect world's coldest cloud hovering over Pacific Ocean
What is Earth’s surface emissivity?

* The real explanation for the apparent 33 degree difference is far simpler. The most plausible reason for the recent slight increase in temperatures is Ozone Depletion, but these have been crowded out. Whether you understand or agree with these is irrelevant to the question of whether there is any evidence for 'greenhouse gases' causing 33 degrees of warming in the first place.

** Effective Temperature is the hypothetical temperature that a planet would have to be to emit as much radiation as it receives from its star, assuming 100% emissivity. But it is a good first approximation for the actual temperature for a fast-spinning planning planet with a thick atmosphere, like Earth.
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The other Diagonal Comparison is that the official average surface temperature is NOT representative of average troposphere temperature, which is what we are interested in. Surface temperature measurements are 33 degrees warmer than the average temperature of the troposphere because measurements are weighted towards very low altitudes. This would not be so if Earth were covered with very high mountains. I'll cover that in Part 2, and then I'm done with this nonsense.

Sunday, 2 May 2021

Seems fair enough to me.

From the BBC:

Australian citizens returning home from India could face up to five years in jail and fines after the government made the journey temporarily illegal.

The health ministry said the ruling had been made "based on the proportion of people in quarantine who have acquired a Covid-19 infection in India". Earlier this week, Australia banned all flights from India.

...in an emergency situation, the government can make something a criminal offence overnight. At the height of the pandemic last year, the government beefed up its Biosecurity Act to give the health minister near unconditional powers bypassing parliament.

That's why citizens now trying to flee a danger zone can face jail for trying to come home. A legal challenge to this two-week ban will take time and be costly - public outrage and pressure may be the only effective remedy.


As at a year ago, when there was no real expectation of developing vaccines, any government had to choose some balance between the following strategies:

1. Continue as normal, accept that the number of deaths in the next year might double (your chance of dying if you catch covid-19 is approximately equal to the chance of you dying in the next 12 months anyway, and we can assume that within a year, most people would have caught it), ameliorate this as much as possible by temporarily increasing NHS capacity, and hope to achieve 'herd immunity' within a year or so.

2. Shut down the borders and/or have strict quarantine rules for arrivals, and wait for it to all blow over.

3. Impose a lockdown of whatever severity is needed to minimise transmissions and wait for it to all blow over.

If you shut down the borders, then hopefully the internal lockdowns wouldn't need so strict, but Australia ended up having to do both, which has so far superficially worked. Absent a vaccine, this would never have worked long term, it is merely a delaying tactic.

(The UK's response was pretty dumb. Having chickened out of strategy 1 - politically it is OK to do something dumb of every other government is being just as dumb - we left the borders largely open and had to impose correspondingly stricter lockdowns. In terms of deaths-per-million, strain on NHS and economic damage, this was a worse strategy than Australia.)

The Australian government has now decided to close its borders even more tightly, which is fair enough, this is for the benefit of their own citizens and their 'reward' for observing domestic lockdown measures and not going abroad. Flying abroad is tantamount to ignoring the domestic lockdown measures and as a quid pro quo, you can't come back in (to protect those who observed them).

So the bleating about "citizens now trying to flee a danger zone" falls on deaf ears with me, I'm afraid. They went to India voluntarily, so clearly didn't perceive it to be a "danger zone" and if there were no ban on coming back, I'm sure that just as many would be going there today.

Is this racist because it is largely Australian citizens of Indian heritage who are affected? I don't think so. Hopefully, the Australian government would have done the same if a 'white' country had the same high incidence of new variants and infections. (There again, knowing the Australian government, they might not have been quite so draconian with returnees from such a 'white' country).

Saturday, 1 May 2021

How to estimate pressure and temperature using density as a starting point

As a fun maths challenge, I decided to apply the principles outlined in Acceleration ≈ gravity and see whether I could get sensible results by applying basic maths, basic physics and common sense.

Let's assume that you are only given the following measurements (taken from the US standard atmosphere):
1. Pressure at sea level = 101.325 Pa
2. Temperature at sea level = 288 K
3. Density at sea level = 1,200 kg/m3 (a bit on the low side?)

T x D ∝ T. We would do it the long way round by using Barry to find pressure at each altitude; then inserting the temperautre based on the lapse rate to find density at each altitude.

But what if you are also told that D at the top of the troposphere (10 km altitude for simplicity) = 400g/m3? It's actually much easier. You can interpolate everything else, including the likely lapse rate.

1. Set up your Excel sheet, type in the given numbers (pale yellow)
2. You can assume that density changes in straight line, but it is more realistic to assume it changes geometrically, so it goes up by a factor of 1.011 (3^0.1) for each km lower (doesn't make much difference)
3. Then work out the 'mass of the air/m3' for each 1 km 'slice' of altitude. That's just density x 1,000. I hid this column to simplify it a bit.
4. We know that the total mass of air at sea level must be enough to create a pressure of 101,325 Pa at sea level, so it must be 101,325/9.801 ≈ 10,338 kg total, so you put in 2,649 kg (pale blue) as a balancing figure (to get it to add up to 10,338 kg).
5. Pressure = force ÷ area, so it is simply 'mass of air above that altitude' x gravity (9.801 m/s2) per m2, so e.g. at 9 km, it's 2,649 kg + (446 g/m3 x 1,000 m) = 3,095 kg x 9.801 = 26 kPa
6. Temperature ∝ pressure/density i.e. temperature = pressure/density x constant 'k'
7. Work out 'k' = (288 x 1.2)/101 = 3.411 in this example (it's not a universal constant, you work it out individually each time)
8. Temperature at each altitude = pressure/density at that altitude x 3.411.

The results match the Standard Atmosphere very well. The T, and P results for top of troposphere are pretty bang-on. It does show that the lapse rate is lower than the accepted mid-figure 6.5 K/km at low altitudes and higher at higher altitudes. This is not unrealistic, as there is more absolute humidity at lower altitudes, but that's probably a happy accident and it averages out to ~6.5 K/km overall:
All this neither proves nor disproves the Physics Denier's contention that sea level temperature would be ~33 degrees cooler without 'greenhouse gases' (disproving that is far simpler and requires little or no maths, just facts and logic), but I love a maths challenge.
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These workings also give a good understanding of the real world, against which you can test various Physics Denier theories - like the 'Top Of Atmosphere' theory, which says the temperature at the Effective Emitting Altitude (about 5 to 6 km up) is fixed at 255K, but sea level temperatures are 33 degrees warmer than that solely because of 'greenhouse gases'. This is an alternative explanation for the observed lapse rate of ~6.5 K/km, but it has to be that much anyway because of gravity, in other words... the 'Top of Atmosphere' theory assumes that gravity doesn't exist.

Or... do they mean that without greenhouse gases, the Effective Emitting Altitude would be sea-level (so sea level temperature would be 255K) and the gravity-induced lapse rate would stay much the same? On Mars, there is about thirty times as much CO2 as there is on Earth, but the Greenhouse Effect is negligible on Mars (5 degrees at most) and the Effective Emitting Altitude is no higher than it is on Earth. So that fails on the facts. Hmm.

Thursday, 29 April 2021

How much moisture does wood lose when it dries out?

We once had a client who ran a facility for drying wood (to make wood chips for incinerators). I asked him how much lighter wood was after you'd let it dry out for a year, i.e. how much moisture it lost and he didn't appear to know.

So when I chopped down some leylandii branches a year ago, I weighed one chunk, marked the weight and date on it with felt-tip and tucked it at the bottom of the pile so I wouldn't burn it by mistake.

The results are in - original weight 2,107 grams; weight today 1,080 grams. In other words, it was nearly half moisture (it's still surprisingly heavy). I live and learn. I'll weigh it again in a year if it's still there.