Tuesday 31 March 2020

"Supporting the housing market"

From the BBC:

On Tuesday, Nationwide - one of the UK's biggest lenders - effectively pulled out of new deals... Nationwide will now only offer home loans to those with 25% equity or more.

It rules out first-time borrowers or existing homeowners with little equity in their home... [this] will allow it to "focus on supporting existing mortgage members, while continuing to process ongoing applications", it said.

Nationwide blamed "an extremely high number of enquiries about existing mortgages and ongoing applications... That is why we have taken this decision on a temporary basis although, by continuing to offer home loans up to 75% LTV [loan to value], we can continue supporting the housing market."

Other lenders that have taken similar action include Santander and Skipton Building Society but many have gone further, by reducing the loan-to-value ratio to 60%.

On a practical level, you can see why they have retrenched a bit. By "supporting the housing market", what they actually mean is "keeping house prices as high as possible".

In the short term, if potential sellers expect things to return to normal and prices to rebound, then they will hold off selling and we would expect the number of transactions to plummet, Zoopla says by as much as 60%.

But... what if all lenders increased the deposit requirement to 25% or even 40% (call it 30% on average) on a permanent basis? First time buyers have a fixed amount of cash to put down as a deposit, and sooner or later, the Bank of Mum & Dad will run out of things to remortgage. According to this, average FTB deposits are 15% of selling prices. The deposit is a limited/fixed amount of cash, so we would expect selling prices to halve.

Which would be great news for every tenant in their twenties and thirties!

Monday 30 March 2020

Wishful thinking by the Eurosceptics... but it would be ironic if it happened

From The Daily Mail:

Coronavirus could mark the end of the EU 'European project' if member states cannot agree to share rescue package debt, the bloc's economics commissioner has warned.

Paolo Gentiloni, a former prime minister of Italy, said it was essential for Germany, the bloc's most powerful member, to come to an agreement over debt with states which have been hardest hit.

He told Italian radio station Radio Capital: "The European project is in danger of dying out... It is clear that if the economic differences between European countries, rather than shrinking in the face of a crisis like this, instead increase... it will be very difficult to keep the European project together."

All empires fall apart eventually, or else there wouldn't be so many individual countries, most of which were once provinces in somebody else's empire or part of a different country. What triggers the final collapse is often some random external event, like the Japanese military successes in World War II prompting British colonies from India to Singapore to seek independence. Or a change in the weather leading to a famine, or whatever.

Fast forward to a history lesson in a few decades, history teachers will be struggling to explain that the single event which ultimately led to most southern Member States leaving the bloc was somebody eating a bat in China (yes, that probably never happened, but it'll do as shorthand).

Sunday 29 March 2020

Fun with numbers - flattening the curve

Numberphile did an interesting video on the models they use to predict the spread of viruses:

I reverse engineered their spreadsheet with a few basic assumptions (you become infectious as soon as you are infected and remain infectious for seven days) to mirror their results (scaled up to UK population). The only variable we can seriously influence is how many people an infectious person infects every day ('daily rate').

The resulting curve is hyper-sensitive to any changes in the daily rate, so I can sort of understand why governments around the world have reacted (panicked?) the way they did.

UPDATE: AK Haart tells us that Sweden decided to just isolate the elderly and unwell and leave everybody else to go on as normal. So that's the country to watch.

At a daily rate of 0.15, it would take two years before the number of serious cases still in progress reaches 10,000. (After a week, one infectious person has infected 7 days x 0.15 new cases/day  = 1.05 new cases. So day 7 starts with 2.05 cases but the first one recovers (or dies) and drops out again). If the daily rate is less than 0.15, it just fizzles out again, obviously.

To get the curve to match the growth in the number of cases recorded in the UK so far, the daily rate would have to be about 0.3, which - according to the model - would lead to a peak in serious cases of 2 million after about ten weeks, and ten weeks after that, it would fizzle out again.

Here are three pairs of charts, showing totals (population not yet infected*; mild live cases, serious live cases; and immune for everybody who's had it) and the number of serious cases (assume one-tenth of those infected) for three different daily rates. The X-axis is days from outbreak:

Daily rate 0.16 - serious cases peak at 70,000 after thirteen months

Daily rate 0.18 - serious cases peak at 250,000 after seven months

Daily rate 0.2 - serious cases peak at 500,000 after five months

As mathematically enjoyable as all this is, I'm not sure those models are much use, beyond telling us that the lower the daily rate, the better.

In real life, the number of new cases which are recorded each day seems to flatten off after one or two months and then decline again. Worldinfo compiles all the available statistics country-by-country, including a chart of new cases recorded each day. Whether this flattening is because of all the lock downs, or whether it would have happened anyway, we will never know.

* It seems counter-intuitive that even with a high daily rate of 0.2, half the population (the blue line in the Totals charts) never gets it. That's because once half the population has had it and is immune, those who are infectious can only infect half as many each day as they could have done at the start. So the effective daily rate would fall to about 0.1, at which stage the whole thing fizzles out.

Friday 27 March 2020

Every day feels Saturday; every evening feels like Friday.

I find this whole 'working from home' and 'lock down' experience strange, but not totally unpleasant.

Obviously, I'm not sure that the government will come to its senses before the economy totally collapses, so that's a bit of a worry. But there's bugger all I can do about it*, but on a purely practical, day-to-day level, it's not that bad.

I went to four days a week recently, meaning that I need to get five-and-a-half hours' worth of work onto my time-sheet every day. There's no commute, so I can wake up at my natural time and get those hours in, interrupted with, and followed by sitting in the garden; researching my next post; driving round in circles (on empty roads - bonus!) - all the stuff I normally do on a weekend. It's like a Saturday, interrupted by finishing off a couple of bits and pieces for work.

But the evenings feel like Friday again, you know you can have a lie-in the next day, and there are a few bits and pieces you'll have to do the next day, but nothing too stressful...
* Apart from recommend the obvious...

a) A freeze on all rents, which they have done for hospitality and retail sectors, but why not for everybody? For residential tenants, there's some chat about protection from evictions, but that's pretty half-hearted (or hard-hearted?)*. Same goes for Business Rates and Council Tax. They buggered up the Business Rates free period, because it only applies to small businesses and lasts a whole year. Hey! Large businesses are in the same mess and employ people too!

b) All mortgages to be interest-free with no mortgage repayments for the duration, plus the next month while people get back on their feet. This applies to households, businesses and landlords. And it applies to banks vis-a-vis their depositors. If I lose that 1% interest on my cash ISA for two or three months, so what?

c) And a Universal Basic Income for anybody who claims it. This might be less than people would get under Universal Credit, but they can start paying it out immediately, instead of being swamped with UC claims and fannying about for a month or two processing them all. All DWP and/or HMRC needs to know is your NI number, home address and bank details and they can start paying out £75/week per person (or however much). There'll be no need for housing top-ups because of a) and b) above. HMRC can adjust people's PAYE codes to that claimants lose the personal allowances. So employees who are still being paid (fingers crossed that includes me) have no incentive to claim.

The whole idea of the government paying 80% of salaries or reported self-employment income is like inverse means testing - it is completely insane. And making employers pay salaries to people who are banned from working is equally nuts. Those staff can just be put 'on furlough' (another Americanism, but one I quite like) to be re-hired on same terms and conditions as soon as the bans are lifted. Like maternity or paternity leave, just for a much shorter period.

On a lighter note, young Rishi Sunak came up with something cunning (same link as above):

As part of the latest announcement, the chancellor also suggested tax breaks for the self-employed, such as lower national insurance may end in the future. These were in place because, for example, the self-employed do not get sick pay or holiday pay, and to encourage entrepreneurship. This signals a massive change in UK tax policy, potentially equalising the tax treatment of the self-employed with employees.

I just hope that they reduce Employer's and Employee's NI to match the increase in self-employed NI, to keep the whole thing revenue-neutral. 'Hope' in this context means of course they won't do it.

Thursday 26 March 2020

Folllowing on from Our Host's Post...

How about this.  If you are going to design a simple minimalist sports car, using readily available mechanical parts, you always seem to end up here - and this is just a short selection

Lotus 7 1963

Dutton B Type

Locost - see the Haynes book
 Westfield 7 pre - litigation

Tuesday 24 March 2020

A coincidence? I think not.

They haven't shut the petrol stations yet, so for the time being, the only fun thing left to do is driving round. Roads are empty, petrol's cheap.

So let's talk about cars again, in particular, what my Holy Trinity of Jap Crap was copied from.

There was an approx. one decade gap between two of the originals (Spitfire and X1/9) ceasing production and the Japanese copies (MX-5 MkII and Del Sol) being launched. Car models have tended to become larger and less angular over the years, with rounder/integrated bumpers etc. If the Spitfire and X1/9 had remained in production, with a design refresh every ten years, they would have ended up looking like the MX-5 and the Del Sol when they were launched.

The MR2 Roadster was contemporaneous with the Boxster; Toyota just chopped a foot off the front and off the back of the Boxster (the silly droopy bits), sacrificing the boot and frunk, and left the middle bit the same.

[For clarity: the MX-5 MkI was a copy of the Lotus Elan, but I don't own a MkI so that's not under discussion]

Triumph Spitfire

Mazda MX-5 MkII (aka 'Miata NB')

Fiat/Bertone X1/9

Honda Del Sol

Porsche Boxster

Toyota MR2 Roadster

Monday 23 March 2020

Jap crap - car review

There's not much else going on right now, so I'll review these:

They are all brilliant. Whichever one I'm driving is my favourite. I'm no expert and biased in favour of all of them. I'm well aware that none of them is perfect, but as Steve Stretton once said, you can only truly love a car if it's a bit crap.

I suppose the MX-5 is best for around town (automatic and has largest boot); the MR2 is best for bombing down the motorway (good in a straight line and reliably fast) and the Del Sol is for in-between. The MX-5 is just a little bundle of joy; the MR2 is amiably mental; the Del Sol feels surprisingly grand when you're inside it. Horses for courses.

If I could assemble the best things from all three, it would consist of...

1. Engine. The MR2. Superb low end torque and pulls in any gear at any revs (just about). Best fuel economy, which doesn't seem to vary much whether you are driving sensibly or twatting it. The other two have surprisingly awful fuel economy (despite, or perhaps because, they are 1.6 litre and the MR2 is 1.8?). The Del Sol has no pulling power below 2,500 revs and the MX-5 *does*not*like*going*uphill*, not even if you drop it into third and floor it.

2. Engine/exhaust sound. The Del Sol. I can't tell which contributes more, but they make a lovely booming sound when accelerating and are practically silent when you are rolling along. It even sounds nice when decelerating, unlike the MR2 - when you lift off, it sounds like teenagers when you ask them to do the washing up.

3a. Manual gear box and clutch. The Del Sol. Clutch pedal is light but 'linear' and nice wide gear ratios, nearly five-to-one between first and fifth. The MR2 has much heavier clutch and stupid close gear ratios (barely three-and-a-half-to-one between fifth and first). If you're out of a residential area, you can twat it up to nearly 40 mph in first gear and then shift up straight to fifth, rendering the other gears pretty superfluous.

3b. Automatic gear box. My MX-5 is automatic, and it must be said engine and gear box are in nigh perfect harmony. The 1.6 litre MX-5 had 109 bhp when new and probably a lot less than that twenty years later, but the gear changes are spot on when accelerating, far better than I could do manually. The kick down is a joy. It's like pulling back an elastic band and letting go - you have to step on it about one second before you want to actually accelerate, which takes a bit of getting used to. If you change your mind and lift off again, you've made a lot of noise but haven't changed speed at all. (The MR2 had a semi-auto version, which apparently was crap, I don't know about Del Sol automatic one way or another).

4. Steering. The MX-5. It seems to know what to exactly what to do without any conscious decision on your part. With the MR2 you have to adjust when going round a corner; you have to tell it exactly what to do; I was once 2 mph too fast round a roundabout and it did a 270 degree spin, which was most unpleasant and I've never really trusted it since. For comparison, I took the same roundabout 2 mph too fast in the MX-5 as well, and it skipped a foot sideways but continued in exactly the same forward direction. The Del Sol is front-wheel drive, so very good at lower speeds but a bit twitchy on the motorway.

5. Brakes. Any of them. Tiny cars with normal sized brakes, they'll stop on a dime from any speed.

6. Suspension. Del Sol as it corners the flattest, so you dare go a couple of mph faster round roundabouts. The MR2 rolls a bit and the MX-5 rolls *a*lot*. OTOH, the Del Sol is rubbish over speed bumps; the other two don't care, you don't even need to slow down for most of them, they just sail over the top.
Practicalities and comfort

7. Boot. The MX-5. Small but still the largest. The MR2 *does*not*have*a*boot*, and the Del Sol boot is deep but short because the front half is taken up with roof mechanism. Also it goes up and down electrically/mechanically, which wastes a bit of time, and vertically, meaning you have to bend over awkwardly and wrestle stuff in and out diagonally.

8. In-cabin storage. Funnily enough, the MX-5. There's a decent cubby in the centre console under your elbow; two cup holders (I upgraded to the facelift arm-rest), door pockets which will take more than a parking ticket; decent glove box and the original stereo was double-DIN so that's an extra space for your mobile and sun-glasses. The Del Sol is deficient on all these counts (no door pockets at all, WTF?) and the MR2 is somewhere in between.

9a. Soft top. The MX5 is the better soft top. You can flip it open or close it in a few seconds from inside the car (for example at red lights). You can only get the MR2 roof to open properly and snap into place from outside the car, but it's dead easy to close again from inside.

9b. Targa top. The Del Sol has a gloriously over-engineered electric/mechanical targa top. It is a joy use, but you have to have the parking brake on and opening or closing it takes nearly a minute, including flipping levers and pressing and letting go of the switch at specified times.

9c. Rear window that opens and closes. The Del Sol. It has a rear window that opens and closes! I put it up and down just for the fun of seeing it go up and down. When it's down, it's an open top with a chunky rollover bar.

10. Seats. The MX-5. They are the size of child seats, heck knows how they packed in that much comfort. Though it would be nice if they reclined as far as the Del Sol seats, which go nearly horizontal. MR2 cloth seats are terrible; MR2 leather seats are pretty comfy, but they are leather, so squeaky all the time and sweaty when it's hot.

11. Passenger leg room. The Del Sol is roomiest; the MR2 is OK; on the MX-5 they did something stupid on the passenger side. The passenger's foot end is nearer to the passenger seat than the pedals are to the driver's seat. Why?

12a. Door and centre arm rests. The Del Sol, they are comfiest, widest and almost the same height. In the MR2 the rests are pretty hard, narrow and different heights, if you rest your left elbow, you can barely touch the steering wheel; the MX-5 is somewhere in between.

12b. "Elbow out of the window". The MX-5. The window sills on the MR2 and Del Sol are far too high for "elbow out of the window", the MX-5 window sill is perfect for that. Handy when stuck in a jam and you want to smoke.

13. Central locking. The Del Sol, which is the only one of the three that still works. But it has daft door handles that you pull forward rather than up, which is a bit awkward, given how low they are.

14. Dryness. The Del Sol. The soft tops on the other two are superb watertight, but when it's cold or damp, they fog up like crazy, especially the MX-5. When it's cold enough, you have to scrape ice off the *inside* of the windscreen.
Having re-read this, it looks like I don't rate the MR2 very highly. It wins in only one category. Nothing of the sort, the general laddishness and bonkersness more than makes up for its objective flaws.
That's the main stuff. I'll do another post on sundries like "dashboard layout" and "sound system".

Saturday 21 March 2020

"Coronavirus deaths: What we don't know"

An excellent article at the BBC, which has saved me the bother of writing something like this myself.

Worth reading in full, the upshot seems to be this:

... given that the old and frail are the most vulnerable, would these people be dying anyway?

Every year more than 500,000 people die in England and Wales: factor in Scotland and Northern Ireland, and the figure tops 600,000.

The coronavirus deaths will not be on top of this. Many would be within this "normal" number of expected deaths. In short, they would have died anyway.

One of the charts in that article says that about 9% of people over 80 who contract coronavirus die as a direct result. But the point is, at that age, you'd expect approx. one person in ten to die in the next twelve months anyway.

If you compare the coronavirus deaths table with the 'chance of dying anyway' table, they are pretty much exactly the same. I would assume that the overlap is very high, so additional deaths will be negligible. Worst case, there is no overlap whatsoever (highly unlikely), in which case your chance of dying in the next 12 months has doubled. That sounds worse than it is - if you are in your 30s with a 1-in-1000 chance of dying, that's now gone up to 1-in-500.

Friday 20 March 2020

Killer Arguments Against Citizen's Income, Not (26)

Just to remind us that it's not just the authoritarian Right but the authoritarian Left who are digging their heels in.

From The Morning Star:

For years the Universal Basic Income (UBI) campaign lurked in the libertarian undergrowth: give everyone a basic wage, unconnected to their labour or their needs and get government off their backs. But over the last 5 years or so the idea has crept into the left-wing of the Labour Party. It was a relief that it didn't feature in the last two manifestos.

It has been depressing, therefore, to see recently on social media so many people who consider themselves socialists calling for UBI. Finally today I was horrified to see good MPs like Sam Tarry and Rebecca Long Bailey joining the throng.

UBI was always a snake-oil policy but suggesting that it is a sensible response to the Covid-19 crisis is frankly crazy. The problem that needs to be solved is maintaining people's incomes if they cannot work because of illness or temporary redundancy. People, as best they can, adjust their outgoings to their incomes.

UBI is a one-size-fits-all payment. The correct response is for the government to underwrite payrolls for the duration of the emergency. If that were done there would be no need for rent or mortgage holidays for workers or tax/National Insurance holidays for employers.

Carol Wilcox, Labour Land Campaign

So somebody who loses a higher paid job deserves higher welfare payments (or a higher government guarantee) than somebody who loses a low paid job? That's what she seems to be saying. Strange.

UBI is not about replacing income from work. Most recipients will continue working (the UBI would be low compared to average wages).

UBI is not supposed to be 'targeted' at those who have lost their jobs, it's not a kind of unemployment benefit. For sure, it would benefit the unemployed, but "universal" means "universal". It goes to children, students, workers, unemployed, stay-at-home parents, the disabled, pensioners, recently released prisoners... and the few people who are content with a really, really modest lifestyle and can't be bothered.

UBI goes to everybody. Same as the universal right to vote, use a public library, state education, NHS, whatever. If you genuinely oppose UBI, you should oppose all these as well.
Also, to say that there'd be no need for a tax/National Insurance holiday if the government underwrote wages is a bit arse-backwards.

When life is funnier than satire

From The Daily Mash:

ANYONE who does not live in a detached house will be barred from shopping in Waitrose during the coronavirus crisis.

As the pandemic continues to disrupt shopping, the supermarket has introduced restrictions to ensure only ‘their kind of people’ stockpile its overpriced items.

Not true. My wife had to queue this morning just like everybody else.

From a Waitrose & John Lewis email yesterday:

We’re also suspending services that involve close contact between customers and Partners. This includes our cafes, A Place To Eat and others that require skin contact, such as beauty counter treatments and bra-fitting. Nespresso and Kuoni will be closing their outlets too as a temporary measure.

Truly the end of the world as we know it.

Thursday 19 March 2020

Ventilator Blues*

From The Daily Mirror:

Under-funding over a decade means NHS is lacking equipment and intensive care doctors - the government now wants factories to switch up production line in bid to battle disease

Woah there!

1. However much money you give the NHS, they will always spend all of it and want more. There is practically no upper limit on treatments they could offer and provide, or that people would demand if available quickly and easily.

I lived in Germany in the 1980s, there were no waiting lists and superb service, more or less free at point of use, so people went to the doctors with the most minor ailments or conditions that any Brit would just learn to live with.

The NHS gets what is gets, and is responsible for rationing and providing treatment in the most cost-effective way.

2. Does the NHS do a great job overall? Yes. Could it be better for the same money? Also yes. They don't do "joined up".

3. The Tories have increased annual NHS spending by a lower rate than New Labour did, but they have still increased it year on year. There seem to be far fewer stories about rampant waste and corruption, like £10 billion on the NHS Spine, so it seems that the NHS has responded to the less generous budget by trimming the fat (hooray), but I'm sure there is still some fat left to be trimmed.

4. Hindsight is a wonderful thing, but who, if anybody, should have seen this coming? Experts in the NHS or some here-today-gone-tomorrow Health Minister battling with daily crap? It's the NHS's budget and they decide what to prioritise, like cancelling non-essential operations.

5. Let's assume the NHS really needs 100,000 ventilators, seems like a fair estimate, and that their experts should have seen this coming years or decades ago. As far as I can make out, ventilators cost about £10,000 each (if anybody knows better, please leave a comment).

6. So they could have started stockpiling them ten years ago, 10,000 every year, annual outlay £100 million. This sounds like a lot of money, but it's about 0.1% of the NHS annual budget, or about £1.50 per UK resident per year.

7. But they didn't, and whose decision was it?

* Song from Exile on Main Street.

Wednesday 18 March 2020

The gospel according to St Greta?

In a comment on a previous post, Lola opined "The whole thing has more in common with the selling of Indulgences and the Mediaeval Catholic church than anything else.", which got me thinking and I realised, Warmenism is a religion.

We have a need to believe in stuff, hence the enduring popularity of religion. Now that so many people no longer believe in God/s there is a niche waiting to be filled by a belief system. Any candidate must have (Christianity in brackets):

1. Good guys (angels) and bad guys (devils)

2. A process whereby you, too can contribute, however small and powerless you may be (prayer)

3. A canon of righteous texts (the bible)

4. A cadre of the wise to whose authority you can appeal and whose pronouncements you can rely on (priests)

5. Special terms of obbrobrium for non-believers (heathen, heretics)

6. A sense that we few know the truth and are bound to convert those who think otherwise (preaching the Gospel)

7. A sense that the truth is of vital importance to mankind (the promise of eternal life).

8. The threat of uncomfortable things to come if you don't believe and act rightly (Hell and damnation)

I think that is 8/8 for Warmenism. Good thing they haven't yet got to No 9, the duty to kill all those who insist on trying to persuade people that the belief is wrong.

It may yet come to that....

Killer Arguments Against Citizen's Income, Not (25)

The tired old arguments are being trotted out again:

From City AM:

DEBATE: Is now [i.e. during coronavirus pan{dem)ic] the time for the UK to trial a temporary Universal Basic Income?

YES, says Julian Jessop, an economics fellow at the Institute of Economic Affairs...

Good stuff from the IEA.

NO, says Matt Kilcoyne, head of communications at the Adam Smith Institute...

We need liquidity for households and struggling firms — a kind of state-backed insurer of last resort — but money must be targeted where it can do most good. Don’t splash cash, target limited resources at those who need it the most.

The question isn't so much about how much people who are suddenly out of work get (that is a different debate); it is about how quickly they can get it.

If you don't want to increase total spending or transfers (and I don't), then you offer a UBI to everybody, pitched at a sensible amount similar to current Income Support levels... but the quid pro quo is you forego the income tax personal allowance/National Insurance Threshold if you do.

So the extra tax/NIC you'd pay is equal and opposite to the UBI you'd get. Those in steady jobs won't bother; those who have lost their jobs, or worry that they might, or are on benefits anyway, can opt to get the UBI. They'll have to fill in a form or two, but payments can start more or less immediately, like Child Benefit starts the week a child is born, and after that there is no more form filling ever again.
Emailed in by ShineyMart, from CityUnslicker:

To give an example, the NHS costs around £2200 per person, with UBI we would have to give say £500 a month for it to be realistic - so £6,000 a year. That plus the NHS is £8,2000 [sic] per person per annum. At over £750 billion, that is more than the UK Government's entire spending and 250% more than we currently spend on all social benefits and the NHS added together.


[His calculator must be broken - £8,200 x pop. 66.4 million = £550 billion, a bit more than one-quarter of GDP]

The NHS costs what it costs; it's cheaper than a US style system, and we can clearly afford it. And that has nothing to do with UBI. No extra cost.

Where does he get the figure £500 from? It's easy to prove that something is unaffordable if you set an arbitrarily high amount.

A UBI is, or should start off as, a replacement for existing 'stuff'. There is little or no extra cost.

Pensioners already get a UBI of an average of £160/week, it's called "state pension". No further UBI needed. No extra cost.

If you add together Child Tax Credits and Child Benefit, that's enough to pay a UBI of £75/week to the first child in each household and £50/week to second and subsequent children (average £60/week). No extra cost.

Putting Housing Benefit and child benefits to one side, existing welfare claimants already receive on average £75/week each. No extra cost.

For people in steady jobs, who are lucky enough not to lose them, see above. No extra cost.
Even if you are no good at maths, surely you grasp that UBI is mainly just income smoothing, and not particularly redistributive? The people paying the tax now were children once (and got child benefit); are adults now (and are getting part of their tax back as UBI); and will be pensioners one day (and will get pension/UBI). Average earners get their money back, they are paying back their child benefit and pre-paying their pension.

Can average earners 'afford' so spread their income like this? Of course they can.

For sure, that's over-layered with some redistribution from high earners to low earners, but that is a relatively small chunk of the total collected and paid out.

And can high earners 'afford' to hand over some of their income to be shared between the far larger number of low earners? Of course they can.

Tuesday 17 March 2020

Oh I do like to be beside the seaside.

From Cleantechnica:

Americans are obsessed with living by the ocean, just as are people in most other countries around the world. Followers of Darwin believe humans are descended from sea creatures. Our blood is almost exactly the same pH and salinity as ocean water.

Even those who don't live by the ocean take vacations at the beach. We seem to have an atavistic imperative to return to the sea baked into our DNA.

Yes, in Western and European cultures, populations are denser near the coast; there is a premium on homes with a sea view; we like going to the beach.

I read somewhere that early humans preferred the sea side because they found it easier to catch fish than hunt animals. That seems very plausible.

Then we developed shipping, so that is where the ports were, so that is where people were. Why do I live in London? Ultimately, it's because the Romans decided it would be a good place for a port and it snowballed from there, even though the port is now barely relevant (if it even still exists).

The above explanation - marred as it is by the strange phrase "followers of Darwin"(are modern scientists to be described as "followers of Newton"?) - is superficially appealing.

But if this were true, then it would be true for "most" mammals, and I'm not aware that "most" other mammal species prefer the coast to inland. For sure, seals and polar bears do, and dolphins and whales spent so much time on the coast that they evolved back into aquatic animals.

But on the whole, most mammals seem to prefer dry land. Vegetarian mammals simply aren't interested in fish. So therefore, the explanation seems like complete bollocks. As is the rest of the article.

Monday 16 March 2020

Is there a pattern here? (Clue: no, not really)

The Centre for Disease Control lists the main influenza pandemics since 1918.

They happened in:


to which we can now add:

I always look for patterns in numbers, even if they aren't really there, and that looks like intervals of forty years, ten years, forty years, ten years.

On that basis, said the armchair epidemiologist, the current one will be quite nasty and then we're off the hook for another forty years. That'll see me out nicely. Or perhaps the next big one will finish me off when I'm really old?

A headline worthy of The Daily Mash

From The Times:

Isis issues coronavirus travel advice: terrorists should avoid Europe

The Isis terrorist group is steering clear of Europe because of the coronavirus. Having previously urged its supporters to attack European cities, the group is now advising members to "stay away from the land of the epidemic" in case they become infected.

The group has issued a new set of "sharia directives" that instruct followers to "cover their mouths when yawning and sneezing" and to wash their hands regularly. Isis militants have plenty of experience in covering their faces, though previously they did so to hide their identities when beheading hostages on camera.

In the latest issue of its al-Naba newsletter, the group refers not to guidance from the World Health Organisation or other medical experts, but to recorded quotes by the Prophet Muhammad.

Saturday 14 March 2020

The Barometric Formula

UPDATE: I realised later on that I didn't fully explain how you can use the formula to calculate likely temperatures at different altitudes, which I thought was fairly obvious. Clearly, it isn't, so I have done a full explanation is here.
There is a good explanation of how this can be derived on Math24.net. It boils down to:

Pressure at height h = Pressure at sea level x e^-(mgh/RT)

This looks slightly different to the one I posted from Wiki two days ago. In that version "m" is the mass per molecule, which is the mass of a mole of gas divided by the Avogadro Constant (6 x 10^23), and "k" is the Boltzmann Constant (1.38 x 10^-23). So you are dividing a tiny number by a tiny number.

In this version, "m" is the mass of a mole of 'air' (0.029 kg), and it uses "R" instead of "k". "R" is the Gas Constant, which is just Avogadro Constant x Boltzmann Constant = 8.314. So this saves you a lot of decimal places.

"g" is the same in both version, 9.8m/s^2, which falls only imperceptibly as you go up through the troposphere, so can be assumed to be constant.

If you have three constants ("m", "g" and "R"), you can just multiply/divide them to give a single constant, which is 34.2. You can save more digits and decimal places if you express "m" in grams rather than kilograms and "h" in kilometres rather than metres.
The Barometric Formula tells you the equilibrium/typical relationship* between height above sea level; pressure at that height; and temperature at that height (in K). There's no need to worry about what causes what, they all affect and are affected by each other. It's like balancing two playing cards edge to edge to form an inverted "V". Card A causes Card B to stay up and vice versa. "Equilibrium", for these purposes means that if you know two of the three variables (height, pressure, temperature), you can work out the third.

Height above sea level is easy; pressure declines at more or less the same rate all the way up to the top of the troposphere (average 11 km), so at sea level it's 1 atm and for each km you go up, it falls by about 0.9 atm; that just leaves temperature, which is either a known figure or you work it out using the formula.

Or if you know all three variables, you just plug them in and it should balance.

NASA tells us "Without naturally occurring greenhouse gases, Earth's average temperature would be near 0°F (or -18°C) instead of the much warmer 59°F (15°C)".

The claim is misleading - it just says "Earth's average temperature" and not "Earth's average surface temperature".

Does the Barometric Formula predict this anyway?

Let's start in the middle and work outwards.

The temperature half way up the atmosphere is - as a matter of fact - the 255K expected from solar radiation alone. If you plug in the known figures for half-way up the atmosphere (5.5 km height; 0.5 atm pressure; 255K), the formula balances. You can rework it for expected surface temperature at the surface and at the top of Mt Everest, and you get +/- 288K and +/- 230K respectively (255K plus or minus the adiabatic lapse rate x lower or higher altitudes). These are pretty close to the actual values, bearing in mind that the formula is based on the Ideal Gas Laws and maths - the formula stacks up in real life.

To sum up, the average temperature of the atmosphere is exactly what you would expect from solar radiation alone. The surface is 33K (or 33C) warmer than the average and the top of the troposphere is 33K cooler because of the barometric effect.

This is entirely independent of how much CO2 there is (apart from the fact that the extra 0.01% of CO2 in the atmosphere increases the mass of air by 0.005%, so "m" is not 29g, it is 29.00145g), and this reminds us that it is only Earth's surface that is 33K warmer, not the whole atmosphere.

I tweeted Den Nikolov (@NikolovScience) and pointed out that the formula makes the same predictions as the much maligned Nikolov-Zeller Hypothesis. (If you Google it, you'll get a dozen articles claiming to refute it for every article that agrees with it). Therefore, I continued, if his theory is wrong, the formula must be wrong and vice versa (the fact that one is correct does not necessarily mean the other is also correct).

He agreed with both of those points, but told me that the Barometric Formula is standard physics text book stuff, they won't be able to pretend it isn't widely accepted (like air brushing the Roman and Mediæval Warm Periods out of the history books).

So no longer shall I use obscure terms like Gravity-Thermal-Effect or Atmospheric-Thermal-Effect or Nikolov-Zeller Hypothesis, I'm sticking with "Barometric Formula"!
Next time I can be bothered to discuss this with somebody who claims that Greenhouse Gases cause 33C of warming, I shall refer them to this post.

The Greenhouse theory is one possible explanation for higher-than-expected surface temperatures generally but it offers no explanation for the lower-than-expected surface temperatures at high altitudes, which is the Barometric Formula's trump card.

And as back up, I shall point out that the Barometric Formula applies to, and its effects can be observed on, all planets with an atmosphere, including Gas Giants, and that the vertical gradients apply at day (when surface is being warmed) and at night (when it isn't), over the sea (stable temperature) and over land (warms/cools).
Of course, neither the Barometric Formula NOR the Greenhouse theory explain other climate changes over the past two thousand years - Roman Warm Period, Dark Ages Cold Period, Mediæval Warm Period, Little Ice Age, early 20th C warming, or mid/late 20th C cooling, recent warming. The Barometric Formula does not purport to do so, and the Greenhouse theory has to be modified endlessly to get the facts to fit the explanation.

To be fair, you can accept the validity of the Barometric Formula, and still believe that the Greenhouse theory explains the correlation between the higher CO2 and the slightly higher temperatures we have seen in the past few decades, maybe it does, maybe it doesn't. That's about it. I'm agnostic on that.
Hopefully this will be last time I ever have to post about this! I'm sure I've lost most of my audience by now, but I do like to get to the bottom of things :-)
* Yes, I am perfectly aware that there is loads more stuff that influence conditions at any one place or point in time; at the Equator it will always be warmer than at the Poles; the seasons; sun spots and solar activity; cold or warm winds; high or low pressure; the jet stream; clouds; Hadley Cells; the coriolis effect; updrafts, downdrafts; weather inversions; the fact that most landmass is in the Northern Hemisphere; Pacific and Atlantic oscillations; volcanic eruptions; large forest fires; oceans warming and cooling more slowly than dry land does; the list is endless.

But they skew the results in all directions and on the whole, their net effect is close to zero. These things also affect local results if you subscribe to the Greenhouse Gas explanation, so aren't really relevant when comparing the merits of Barometric and Greenhouse Gas explanations.

Thursday 12 March 2020

Fun with numbers: Gravity, altitude, pressure and temperature.

I hope we've all learned something new this week, it has been a slog!

If you don't understand why this relationship holds on the basis of commonsense/observation; or you can't imagine how a big cloud of "air molecules" all repelling each other but attracted by Earth's gravity behave, then you can revert to the "modified gas/pressure laws as they apply in a strong gravitational field over long vertical distances" (I don't know if there is a snappier term).

This is a maths thing, so you don't really need to "understand" it. Clever physicists have worked it all out for us.
Key concept - there is a difference between "density" and "pressure". If you pump a gas into a smaller fixed volume (such as a diver's oxygen tank), the density (number of molecules per unit volume) goes up (obviously).

Initially, it will warm up - pressure and temperature will be higher. The tank will then cool down to the temperature of the surroundings, and the pressure will fall again slightly. But the density of oxygen in the oxygen tank (number of molecules per unit volume) won't change.
The Barometric formula give the relationship between height (i.e. above sea level); pressure; and temperature T (in Kelvin), it describes the equilibrium state where all opposing forces cancel out:

Ph is the pressure at height h,
P0 is the pressure at reference point 0 (typically referring to sea level),
m is the mass per air molecule,
g is gravity,
h is height from reference point 0,
k is the Boltzmann constant,
T is the temperature in kelvins.

It's an equation. So you plug in as many known figures or constants as you can and see how many "unknowns" there are.

Pressure is easily estimated; it's highest at sea level (about 1,000 mbar) and half that (about 500 mbar) when you are about halfway up through the atmosphere, which (we are told) is on average 5.5 km.

There are three constants - "m", "g" and "k". Whatever they are, and whatever the units, you can multiply them together to get one constant. If you define height in kilometres and do the numbers, "mg/k" boils down to approx. 31.

[UPDATE, you are supposed to define "m" in kg and "h" in metres, but it saves decimal places if you use grams and km (the 1,000s cancel out). Either way it comes out to 34.2 (not 31), but that doesn't seem to make much difference overall]

That only leaves one "unknown", the temperature - so if you know height, you can work out temperature.

We know, or are told, that the expected average temperature of earth's surface would be 255K in the absence of an absence of an atmosphere.

So it's reasonable to assume that the overall average temperature of the atmosphere is 255K, and that (average) halfway up, 5.5 km, it's 255K. Which turns out to be broadly true.

Plug all that into the formula and it all checks out:

1,000 x e^-((31 x 5.5)/255) = +/- 500

In Excel, you do =1000*EXP(-(31*5.5)/255), which comes out at 512 mbar, close enough to expected 500 mbar.

You can't plug height = zero into the formula, because e^0 = 1, so the answer would come out right whatever temperature you assume i.e. you can't use it to calculate temperature at sea level, but you can substitute, say 1 km altitude. T will come out at about 282K

This is 27K warmer for a 4.5km fall in height = 6K per kilometre, which is pretty close to typical "moist adiabatic lapse rate".

Extrapolate that down to sea level, and you get 288K, which, we are told, is the average temperature of the surface of the earth.

Extrapolate that up to the top of Mount Everest, and you know why it's so cold up there, i.e. colder than it would be if we had no atmosphere at all.

That's where the normal "greenhouse gas" explanation falls flat on its face - it's one possible explanation for why it's 33C warmer at sea level, but it doesn't explain why it's so cold up there. That's the thing that has been bugging me for a decade and nobody has ever even tried to tweak it.

So there we have it!

The extra 33C surface temperature is not down to back radiation from "greenhouse gases", it is just how the "modified gas/pressure laws as they apply in a strong gravitational field over long vertical distances" work.

Wednesday 11 March 2020

Vertical pressure variation - In the context of Earth's atmosphere


Main article: Barometric formula

If one is to analyze the vertical pressure variation of the atmosphere of Earth, the length scale is very significant (troposphere alone being several kilometres tall; thermosphere being several hundred kilometres) and the involved fluid (air) is compressible. Gravity can still be reasonably approximated as constant, because length scales on the order of kilometres are still small in comparison to Earth's radius, which is on average about 6371 km,[7] and gravity is a function of distance from Earth's core.[8]

Density, on the other hand, varies more significantly with height. It follows from the ideal gas law that

{\displaystyle \rho ={\frac {mP}{kT}},}


m is average mass per air molecule,
P is pressure at a given point,
k is the Boltzmann constant,
T is the temperature in kelvins.

Put more simply, air density depends on air pressure. Given that air pressure also depends on air density, it would be easy to get the impression that this was circular definition, but it is simply interdependency of different variables. This then yields a more accurate formula, of the form

{\displaystyle P_{h}=P_{0}e^{-{\frac {mgh}{kT}}},}


Ph is the pressure at height h,
P0 is the pressure at reference point 0 (typically referring to sea level),
m is the mass per air molecule,
g is gravity,
h is height from reference point 0,
k is the Boltzmann constant,
T is the temperature in kelvins.

Therefore, instead of pressure being a linear function of height as one might expect from the more simple formula given in the "basic formula" section, it is more accurately represented as an exponential function of height.

Note that in this simplification, the temperature is treated as constant, even though temperature also varies with height. However, the temperature variation within the lower layers of the atmosphere (tropospherestratosphere) is only in the dozens of degrees, as opposed to their thermodynamic temperature, which is in the hundreds, so the temperature variation is reasonably small and is thus ignored. 

For smaller height differences, including those from top to bottom of even the tallest of buildings, (like the CN tower) or for mountains of comparable size, the temperature variation will easily be within the single-digits. (See also lapse rate.)

"What Is The Temperature in a Vacuum Chamber?"

The rule of thumb that a thermometer measures the 'number of times molecules bump into it (per unit of time)' is borne out in practice (or the number of times and how intense those bumps are, but in this instance the intensity is constant and the number clearly falls).

So unsurprisingly, when he turns on the vacuum pump, the thermometer shows a lower temperature, and when he opens the valve to let air back in, the thermometer shows room temperature again (plus a bit for friction).

Sucking out some molecules doesn't actually reduce the average kinetic energy of the remaining ones, it reduces their number, so as a generalisation, we would expect there to be less 'heat' inside the chamber, however defined.

Sunday 8 March 2020

OK, one last attempt at summarising the Gravity Thermal Effect...

... this topic has been bugging me all weekend.

The source of my ire is statements like this:

"Certain gases in the atmosphere are transparent to the incoming short-wave solar radiation but trap (absorb) the outgoing long-wave terrestrial radiation. This increases the kinetic energy of the gas molecules causing the temperature of the atmosphere, and subsequently the Earth’s surface, to rise.

Most absorption of infrared radiation takes place in the lower atmosphere, the troposphere. This warming phenomenon (33C) is known as the natural greenhouse effect..."

Nobody disputes that the average surface temperature at the surface is 33C higher than it 'should' be. But it is quite simply untrue, and few people are daft enough to claim, that the whole atmosphere is 33C warmer than it 'should' be.

I find it cathartic if I write things down on this blog. So here we go again (hopefully for the last time)...

As always, first write down what you know and what most people agree on (or can easily Google for themselves, which I why I haven't bothered putting in many links).

1. Earth's gravity pulls everything, including air, down. It must do, or else it all would just float off (as do some very light atoms).

2. For a given temperature, the more molecules (most of the atmosphere is molecules, let's ignore the few atoms) there are per unit volume, the higher the pressure. Atmospheric pressure at sea level is whatever it is, defined as 760.00 mmHg; 1013.25 mbar; or 101.325 kPa. Those are just units.

3. Every gas molecule is:
a) pulled *down* by gravity, and
b) pushed *up* by the 'net pressure difference' - the air just below any molecule is at slightly higher pressure than the air just above it, the net difference pushes upwards.

In an equilibrium situation (calm, still night), the down and up forces cancel out. The force of Earth's gravity falls slightly as you move away from Earth, but for these purposes, it's constant at all altitudes. The 'net pressure difference' must therefore be equal and opposite to gravity at all altitudes, and so the pressure falls at a constant rate as you go up.

From Wiki: "In most circumstances, atmospheric pressure is closely approximated by the hydrostatic pressure caused by the weight of air above the measurement point. As elevation increases, there is less overlying atmospheric mass, so that atmospheric pressure decreases with increasing elevation."

4. Let's not worry about the subtle differences between conduction, convection and radiation. Gas molecules are so close together as makes no difference. In practice, the biggest movements are  winds, which usually go horizontally, not up and down. But for the sake of this explanation, let's assume a calm, still night.

5. The main source of heat for the Earth's surface and atmosphere is the Sun. It heats by day and things cool down at night. In the absence of an atmosphere, the average temperature on Earth would be the same as on our Moon i.e. 255K. The atmosphere increases that by 33C/K to 288K.

6. Air pressure falls steadily as you go up (from 3.) and so temperature falls steadily too. This is hardly surprising. Temperature is just a measure of "how often atoms or molecules bump into each other". (this is a simplification but is acceptable for practical purposes). Pressure = denser = more molecules per unit volume = more collisions = warmer; lower pressures = thinner = fewer molecules = fewer collisions = cooler.

7. The molecules at the surface can't dissipate heat by rising (as some people argue), they are only warm because of where they are. The pressure/heat some think should cause them to rise is equal and opposite to the pressure from the air above pushing them down and gravity pulling them down. You might as well ask, why don't the colder molecules fall down. They are being held up by air pressure from below. Of course there is no physical barrier, and lots of molecules do swap places vertically, but , so what? The equilibrium is unchanged. As I said, in this explanation, it is a calm, still night.
Going by the comments, some people really struggle with para's 6. and 7. I refer them to para 14. for an example to help understanding.
8. If you are clever enough, you can calculate the rate at which temperature and pressure fall with height. Those, and the relationship between them are derived from other constants and equations.

9. In practice, assuming average humidity, temperature falls/increases by 6.5K for every km you go up/down in the lowest 11 km of the atmosphere (aka the moist adiabatic lapse rate). And pressure falls/increases by about 12% for each km you go up/down (up to a max at sea level, ignoring the few places below it). These rates get smaller and smaller as you go up towards and past 11 km, but that need not concern us down here on the surface and where the actual weather happens.

10. Note - the height of 11 km and the lapse rates I'm using are averages. Over the Poles, the atmosphere is thinner and the lapse rates are higher; over the Equator, the atmosphere is thicker and the lapse rates are lower.

11. Let's bring that 255K expected temperature (from 5. above) back in to the proceedings. There's a certain amount of air in the atmosphere. If you start at sea level, 288K and deduct 6.5K for every km you go up, and you go up until half of the air is beneath you and the air pressure is half what it is at sea level i.e. up 5.5 km, the temperature is 288K minus (5.5km x 6.5K/km) which is pretty close to 255K. In other words,  the overall average temperature of the atmosphere is +/- 255K

12. Unsurprisingly, above that height, pressure and hence temperature keep falling, all the way down close to zero pressure and to 217K (-57C), where they start to flatten off (and need not concern us). The bottom half (zero - 5.5km) is warmer than you are supposed to expect (255K) ... and the top half (5.5km and upwards) is colder than what you are supposed to expect (255K). All that heat that should be up there is simply in the lower half.

13. So far this has all been non-contentious, consensus stuff I hope. Here's the contentious bit - mainstream global warming theory gives various alternative explanations why it's warmer than expected at the surface. But it does not explain
a) where all the Gravity Thermal Effect went, or why it is nonsense;
b) why it's colder than expected higher up.
If the surface were 33C warmer than expected and the top of Mount Everest were at least a tiny bit warmer than expected, or at least, no cooler than expected, fair enough. But it's not. It's a damn' sight colder than expected.

14. To help visualisation para's 6. and 7. - imagine a Slinky spring with regularly spaced coils. You fix one end to the table and pull up the other end. The coils will now be closer together at the bottom and further apart at the top.

Now imagine that there is a bead attached to each coil directly above the one beneath. They started off evenly spaced, but once the spring has been stretched, the lower ones are closer together and the higher ones are further apart. These beads are our molecules. You simulate the movement of molecules in the gas by jiggling the top of the spring randomly - short jerks, long jerks; fast jerks, slow jerks; short time intervals; long time intervals; up/down and sideways etc.

If you count the number of times that each bead bumps into another bead (or the bottom bead hits the table), the lower down a bead is, the more collisions it will experience. Number of collisions is how we measure temperature, so the lowest beads are the warmest and each the upper beads are the coolest.

15. That's the same as the distribution of molecules in the atmosphere. The apparent temperature difference is merely a result of them being squashed together at the surface and pulled apart at the top, see 6. above. Which is why it's so cold at the top of Mount Everest, even on a sunny, still day.

16. So we can rephrase the original statement thusly:

"The presence of the atmosphere and the effect that gravity has on its density cause the Earth’s surface temperature to be +/- 33C warmer than it would be in the absence of an atmosphere. It is conjectured by some that gases such as CO2 or CH4 might increase this effect, but the amount of warming they cause is difficult to establish."

Celebrity Chuggers

From the Guardian

Caitlyn Jenner and Harry Redknapp have both accepted thousands of pounds in return for backing a fake charity set up by Channel 4 in a sting operation.

In a Dispatches documentary, Celebs For Sale: The Great Charity Scandal, to be broadcast on Monday evening, the two well-known faces are revealed to be part of a widespread practice of paying celebrities for public support.

So what? The hippy-looking chuggers on the street get paid. The people who call you to ask about raising your donation get paid. Do you think the websites for large charities are done by volunteers out of the good of their heart rather than professionals on full pay (I've interviewed for charities and all but Oxfam offered market rate). Do you think WH Smith don't profit handsomely from charity Christmas cards? Why shouldn't Caitlyn and Harry do likewise?

A lot of stars use their charity appearances to promote their new single, new tour, new book coming out. Their agents put them forward to raise their profile rather than out of the goodness of their heart. What's the difference between that and just getting a wad of cash?

Saturday 7 March 2020

The Gravito-Thermal Greenhouse Effect...

UPDATE May 2021. I've boiled this all down to a simple explanation based on common sense, basic maths and a rudimentary knowledge of the Gas Laws.

Please read my post Acceleration ≈ Gravity
... explained, again, over here.

The author of the paper has been much maligned, by alarmists and even by other sceptics.

But it seems perfectly plausible to me. It ties in with other things that we know, or at least are widely accepted as correct:

1. The high pressure and temperature at the centre of gas giants, even if they consist mainly of H and He. If big enough, this triggers nuclear fusion and they are called 'stars'. Then there is the usual downward temperature and pressure gradient as you move out through the atmosphere.

2. The fact it's colder the higher up you go in the mountains (aka 'adiabatic lapse rate'), and hotter at the bottom of the Dead Sea Depression, partly because it's below sea level.

3. The lapse rate is very similar on Venus and Earth, even though one atmosphere is mainly CO2 and the other mainly N2.

4. Vortex tubes can separate air into very hot and very cold streams by using centrifugal force i.e. simulated gravity.
Maybe it is nonsense, but it would be *very easy* to test if you had a couple of $ million to spare. They could divert a tiny part of the budget they waste on The Hunt For Dark Matter, for example.

Method 1

a. Take a very large object like an old cooling tower, gasometer or a lighthouse.
b. Insulate it top, bottom and all the way round so that warmth can't get in or out.
c. Place pressure and temperature sensors inside at top and bottom.
d. Seal the object and wait a few days, the longer the better.
e. See what happens to the temperatures at top and bottom.

IF the explanation is correct, then the air at the bottom will be warmer than the air at the top by about 0.1C for every ten metres height - even though the air is not being warmed from below.

IF the theory is nonsense, then something else will happen. Maybe the simplistic 'heat rises' rule wins out and the air at top will warm up and air at bottom will cool down.

Method 2

a. Take a giant centrifuge.
b. Fill a large tube, the longer the better, with air at the average temperature and pressure of our troposphere ('cold' and 'low' respectively). Seal tube.
c. Attach one end of tube to centrifuge and spin it round as fast as you can.
d. Measure pressure and temperature at in the middle (spinning slowly = low gravity = top of atmosphere) and at the end (spinning quickly = high gravity = surface of Earth).
e. Stop the centrifuge again, and check to see whether temperature and pressure return to what you started with (to eliminate any element that might arise from friction between air and surface of tube).
f. As a bonus, you can try adding or removing H2O, CO2 or CH4 to see whether it makes a difference.

IF the explanation is correct, then while it is spinning, the air in the middle will be at a lower temperature and pressure than what you started with, and the air at the end will be higher temperature and pressure.

IF the theory is nonsense, then something else will happen, like the temperature and pressure remaining the same throughout.

I, for one, would love to see them do this. I will eat my hat if these experiments disprove the explanation.

Friday 6 March 2020

Calm, dispassionate scientific language...

From Science Alert:

The paper, titled "Oscillations of the baseline of solar magnetic field and solar irradiance on a millennial timescale," led by mathematician Valentina Zharkova of Northumbria University in the UK, was published in June 2019.

It claimed that human activity was not to blame for the roughly one degree rise in global temperatures since the Industrial Revolution, and therefore we can avoid culpability for the shockingly fast upward trend of global temperatures having devastating effects on communities and ecosystems around the world.

Thursday 5 March 2020

Who are the actual science deniers?

The 'consensus' narrative starts off with statements like this by the BBC:

Solar energy radiating back to space from the Earth's surface is absorbed by greenhouse gases and re-emitted in all directions. This heats both the lower atmosphere and the surface of the planet. Without this effect, the Earth would be about 30C colder and hostile to life.

There is - on average - fifty times as much H2O in the atmosphere, and H2O re-emits infra red at many more frequencies than CO2. Nonetheless, the consensus is that CO2 contributes about one-tenth of the total 30C 'greenhouse effect' = 3C. Therefore, most of the rest, is due to H2O = +/- 27C.

We can't magic away all the CO2 to see how much temperatures would fall, but H2O levels vary a lot. So we could take two cities at the same latitude (so they get the same amount of sun), one with high average relative humidity and one with low average relative humidity and compare average day and night time temperatures.

If the consensus narrative is correct, you would expect the humid city to be a bit warmer in the day time and a lot warmer in the night time. That's easily testable - I looked up the relevant figures for Bangkok (damp) and Khartoum (dry).

To my surprise, average day and night time temperatures are more or less the same in both.

Ho hum. So where's the evidence of the missing +/- 27C? Somebody? Anybody?
UPDATE I have found much better data on timeanddate.com (fantastic site, it seems to have everything) for Bangkok and Khartoum.

Let's focus on the hottest month in each.

Bangkok - April,
Low 26C, avg 31C, high 35C, RH 71%.

Khartoum - May,
Low 28C, avg 35C, high 42C, RH 14%.

As we would expect, the 'range', difference between high and low is much smaller in Bangkok (less hot by day but warmer by night); and Khartoum is on average slightly warmer, despite being a lot drier (the opposite of the greenhouse theory, but we'll concede that one).

The most greenhouse effect you could possibly justify based on real life figures it to say that Bangkok's range is 5C smaller than Khartoum's and that somehow this is all down to extra 5C warmth at night (nobody disputes the 'extra warmth at night' bit; but the flip side of that is 'less warm in daytime', again, we'll gloss over that as a concession to the 'consensus').
OK. Based on average temp and RH, the calculator at Lenntech.com:
- Bangkok air holds 21g H2O/kg air
- Khartoum holds 5g/kg

That's a difference of 16g/kg.

The overall average H2O content in the atmosphere is about 15 g/kg. So maybe, just maybe, we are - on the whole - 5C warmer during the night thanks to H2O; and assuming H2O does not reduce temperature in the daytime (even though it does, yet another concession), you could argue for 2.5C of overall 'greenhouse effect'.

That's the very upper limit of the vaguely plausible, and miles off the consensus target of +/- 27C.
And the effect of CO2 is a small fraction of that 2.5C.
And the effects of CO2 are logarithmic.
And there is no positive CO2-H2O feedback, H2O is a self-regulating strong negative feedback effect (heat = water evaporates = clouds = rain = cooling), regardless of where that original heat came from.
And so on.

Wednesday 4 March 2020

That's the second time this week...

.. that City AM publishes an article which mentions LVT in a positive light:

First Homes is a flawed solution to three very different problems

Stamp duty land tax also gums up the market, making people reluctant to sell even when their homes are no longer suitable for them. Like anything in life, when there is a lot of demand for a good that’s in short supply, the cost goes up... Stamp duty should also be scrapped and replaced with a land value tax to increase the rate of house moving.

Sadiq Khan’s rent control pledge is a minefield of unintended consequences:

If any current or future mayor really wants to reduce rents in London, they could do two things: bang the heads of local authority planning departments together to encourage more planning permission, and lobby Westminster to allow local authorities to receive more of the income from development.

A land value tax, for example, would mean any increase in land value when planning permission is issued would be retained locally, incentivising the issue of more permits.

Wonders never cease.

Tuesday 3 March 2020

Homeys and Faux Libs talking crap, as per usual.

From City AM:

To combat the problem of housing affordability, the mayor will advocate creating a private rental commission to implement and oversee rent controls and to establish a register of landlords to "name and shame rogue landlords".

However, free market think tanks and London's house builders have thoroughly rubbished the idea, with many arguing that increasing housing supply is the only way to deal with unaffordable rents.

Rico Wojtulewicz, head of housing at the National Federation of Builders's House Building Association, said a cap on rents could hurt the construction industry.

Clearly nonsense.

Let's say Khan caps London rents at half current levels, so rents in London are now the same as in and around (say) Leeds. Is there new construction happening in and around Leeds?

Yes. There is still a profit to be made at Leeds rent levels, and land with planning in
Leeds still has value. So there will still be profits to made by building in London.

Rent caps would only reduce new construction if the cap was so low as to make construction unprofitable, even if land with planning were free.

"[House builders] with projects in the pipeline could suffer, as rent caps may push down land prices, leaving many who have already purchased land, with unviable projects," he said.

Tough, what they paid for land, or what it was worth before the cap is irrelevant to future decision making, it is a sunk cost. They would only slam on the brakes if they had a reasonable expectation that the caps would be scrapped (and in the UK, that is a reasonable expectation).

And as he says himself, land prices would fall, which would encourage construction.

Dr Kristian Niemietz, head of political economy at the Institute of Economic Affairs, labelled Khan's stance "Trump-style knee-jerk populism".

"Rent controls have never worked anywhere," he said, "If Sadiq Khan had any interest in solving London's housing crisis, he would focus on the supply side."

He's a floppy haired Faux Lib who is too stupid to accept that agglomeration benefits will cancel out added supply. In the absence of a total ban on people moving to London, we'll have X more homes and X more households and they cancel out. London just gets a bit bigger (and more expensive), as it has been doing for centuries.

And rent controls clearly do work - see below.

Chris Norris, director of policy at the National Landlords Association, said implementing rent controls would crimp investment within the housing sector.

"Rent controls cap the price a landlord can charge, but not the costs they will incur meaning that as the cost of providing homes increases so will the losses landlords are expected to make," he said, "Landlords will have no choice but to take their investment elsewhere, making it harder still for households to access the housing they need."

Clearly nonsense.

The only significant cost that landlords have is mortgage interest, and that's only some of them. They did leveraged speculation and lost the gamble. That's life. All other landlords will still be earning money, just less than before - or else there would be no landlords in Leeds.

Whether or not Khan realises this, the effect of rent controls (in the UK at least) is that landlords sell up to first time buyers-cum-former tenants, or people buying new homes to live in, not to rent out. That makes it *easier* for households to access the housing they need, i.e. homes to own.

Rent caps are a crude form of land redistribution, but clearly it worked in the UK for most of the 20th century when such controls were in place. The result was a huge rise in owner-occupation levels and we were all happier for it.