Friday 31 July 2020

Why a bit more CO2 won't make any measurable* difference to anything

From the motherlode:

The greenhouse effect works like this: Energy arrives from the sun in the form of visible light and ultraviolet radiation. The Earth then emits some of this energy as infrared radiation. Greenhouse gases in the atmosphere 'capture' some of this heat, then re-emit it in all directions - including back to the Earth's surface. Through this process, CO2 and other greenhouse gases keep the Earth’s surface 33°Celsius (59.4°F) warmer than it would be without them.

(This also means that the upper layers will be cooler than they would have been, they only mention that as an aside).

Proper physics is beyond them, but they don't even have a grasp of the weather forecasters' concept of Potential Temperature. That article is recommended reading. They show it diagrammatically as follows:

Remember - if the lapse rate is 6.6 C/km, then air which 1 km up and has an actual temperature of 25C has a potential temperature of 31.6C. If air at ground level has an actual temperature of 31.6C, then the two layers are in a neutral situation.


If the air has the following pressure-altitude profile, where the absolute temperature falls by 6.6C for each km of altitude (the observed lapse rate), it is in a neutral situation. Each layer of air is the 'right' temperature for that altitude, and no layer particular wants to move up or down:


If the air higher up is warmer and the air lower down is cooler (relative to the neutral situation), this is a stable situation. The warmer air is quite happy where it is, the cooler air is quite happy where it is. But this situation does not hold for long, because the lower layers will warm up and the higher layers will cool down (see article), re-establishing the neutral situation:


If the air higher up is cooler and the air lower down is warmer (relative to the neutral situation), this is an unstable situation. The cooler air will sink and the warmer air will rise until it is all mixed and the neutral position is re-established:

Why we can pretty much ignore CO2

We know that CO2 in an enclosed glass container in sunlight will warm up a bit more than normal air. This is because CO2 absorbs slightly more of the infra red, and more importantly, because it has a lower specific heat capacity, i.e. it takes less energy to warm CO2 by 1C.

The Alarmists say that having 'trapped' the warmth near the surface, the air lower down will be warmer and the air higher up will be cooler than it otherwise would be (loft insulation makes your home warmer and the loft space cooler).

OK, that's superficially plausible. But to believe that, you must also believe that air is locked in position, and that the warmer air near the surface (and the cooler air higher up) will just stay where it is.

You have to believe that infra red energy can bounce around in a certain volume of space and influence temperature regardless of how the medium which 'trapped' it behaves. This is supposed to be about Global Warming, i.e. temperature changes, so why don't we look at actual temperatures of actual things and see where they go, what they do?

Well of course the warmer air won't stay just hovering above the surface and the colder air higher up won't stay higher up. We now have an unstable situation. The warmer air will rise and the cooler air will fall, it all gets mixed until we are back in the neutral situation again. This will happen at the same time and at the same rate as any 'surface warming' and the two processes constantly cancel each other out, with no overall effect on surface temperatures.

* Clearly, if there is more CO2 in the air, the lapse rate will increase slightly (lapse rate = gravity ÷ specific heat capacity), warming the air at the surface and cooling the air higher up. But bearing in mind we are talking about an increases in CO2 levels of about 0.01% per century, the increase in the weighted average lapse rate is going to be immeasurably small. And we know that water and water vapour will moderate that even further.

Thursday 30 July 2020

"Couple injured after being attacked by cow in the Yorkshire Dales"

Via @AmbushPredator, from The Yorkshire* Post:

The man and woman, aged in their 50s, were walking near Starbotton in Upper Wharfedale when the incident happened at 3pm on Wednesday. The Yorkshire Air Ambulance landed but was not needed and the couple were taken to hospital by road ambulance with cuts and bruises...

In May, an 82-year-old man from Lancashire was killed by cows when he and his wife, 78, were attacked by the herd while they were walking their dogs near Ribblehead Viaduct in the Dales. The woman was not seriously injured. The cattle had calves with them.

On July 19, a couple were 'trampled' by cows while walking through a field near Huggate in the Yorkshire Wolds. One had to be airlifted to hospital.

* Southerners please note, it is not pronounced York-sheer or York-shire, it is pronounced York-shuh, the emphasis in on the first syllable.

Tuesday 28 July 2020

Coronavirus - daily new cases v daily new deaths


There are lots of ways you can interpret that. I'm quite sure that some countries under-report and others over-report, but let's assume it cancels out and charts are a good guide to actual trends. There's a pessimistic and and optimistic way of interpreting anything, even something as grim as this.

1. Is the number of new cases really rising, as you would expect if R is greater than 1, or is the number of infections fairly stable, and the apparent increase is because they are testing more people?

2. Is this the start of the 'second wave' of deaths, or just the inevitable result of lockdowns being eased?

My slightly rosier view is to observe that the number of deaths in any week, while fairly stable, is falling as a fraction of new cases reported three weeks previously*. This might be because the virus is becoming less virulent, which is what such viruses tend to do (some faster than others); or it might be because hospitals are getting better at treating people; or it might be a bit of both. Whichever way, that's got to be A Good Thing.

* Assuming three weeks to be a typical lag between diagnosis and death. For example:

New cases March 28 - 51,000; deaths April 18 - 7,000; death rate = 13.7%

New cases June 20 - 180,000; deaths July 27 - 5,600; death rate = 3.1%

Weekly deaths - all causes - E&W - up to week 29

Data from the ONS.

I assume/hope that this will be pretty much the picture for the rest of the year i.e. a slight undershoot.

Sunday 26 July 2020

Eunice Foote - 19th century Climatologist

From Wikipedia

Foote conducted a series of experiments that demonstrated the interactions of the sun's rays on different gases. She used an air pump, four mercury thermometers, and two glass cylinders...

Her own two-page write is up here.

1. She pumped air out of one container into the other and left them in the sun for a while. Result:

Decompressed air - 88 F
Compressed air - 110 F.

"This circumstance must affect the power of the sun's rays in different places, and contribute to produce their feeble action on the summits of lofty mountains."

Yes, that is a large part of the actual explanation for sea-level temperatures, which is the gravity-induced lapse rate. Also, common sense tells us, it is pretty hard to heat up a vacuum (there is nothing to heat up), so decompressed air must heat up less.

2. She filled one container with moist air and one with dried air and left them in the sun for a while. Result:

Dry air - 108 F
Moist air - 120 F

I'm not sure what to make of this, but in itself. The specific heat capacity of moist air is higher than for dry air, so this doesn't follow the pattern observed in 3. below. But this is pretty irrelevant in climate terms. What makes a big difference in real life is the latent heat of evaporation (which cools the surface) and the corresponding latent heat of condensation (which warms the air) and thus reduces the lapse rate and overall Greenhouse Effect (by about one-third). It would have been more realistic to have a container filled half with water and half with dry air.

3. She filled the containers with different gases and left them in the sun for a while. Result:

Hydrogen - 104 F
Common air - 106 F
Oxygen - 108 F
CO2 - 125 F

Well, yes, of course. What are the specific heat capacities of those gases (in the 275 - 300 K range)?

Hydrogen - 14,025 J/kg/K
Common Air - 1,006 J/kg/K (or possibly 1,014 J/kg/K)
Oxygen - 916 J/kg/K
CO2 - 832 J/kg/K

Rather unsurprisingly, her experiment shows that things which require less energy to warm up, warm up the most. As ever, 'back radiation' has nothing to do with it. We'd have to adjust this for the mass of the gas compared to the mass of the glass containers and the specific heat capacity of glass (assuming they warmed to the same temperature), but the overall picture is clear enough.

She goes off on a bit of a tangent: "An atmosphere of [CO2] would give to our earth a high temperature; and if as some suppose, at one period of its history the air had mixed with it a larger proportion than at present, an increased temperature from its own action as well as from increased weight must necessarily have resulted"

She is correct, but has the logic and magnitude wrong.

A lower specific heat capacity means a higher lapse rate. If our atmosphere were 100% CO2, the lapse rate would be approx. 2K/km higher (assuming relative humidity stays the same). The average temperature of the atmosphere can't increase as it is dictated by solar radiation. The average temperature is found half way up (approx. 5 km), so sea level temperatures would increase by approx. 10 K, and the temperature at the top of "lofty mountains" above 5 km altitude would fall.

But we would all have suffocated long before then.

In real life, we know that CO2 concentrations are likely to rise from pre-industrial 280 ppm to over 500 ppm this century, and quite possibly to over 600 ppm in the next.

If anybody can be bothered to work out the new average specific heat capacity of air will be when CO2 is 0.05% or 0.06% instead 0.028%, and then work out the new lapse rate (making some heroic assumptions as to whether and how much relative humidity would increase and moderate this) and the resulting impact on sea-level temperatures, then knock yourself out. Most calculators won't have enough decimal places to give a meaningful answer, and even if it does, the additional sea-level temperature will be within the margin of error of even the most accurate thermometers.


From this experiment, she stated “The receiver containing [CO2] became itself much heated — very sensibly more so than the other — and on being removed [from the Sun], it was many times as long in cooling.”

As a general rule, gases with a lower specific heat capacity are better insulators and cool down more slowly, so that's hardly surprising either.

"Runaway cow causes moo-hem"

From Birmingham Live:

A free-spirited cow brought trains on the busy Birmingham line to a sh-udder-ing [halt] during Friday morning's rush hour when it was spotted wandering along the tracks.

"Moo-hem" is one of the most appalling cow-related word plays I have seen for a long time. There's no shame in sticking to the safe ones like "moo-ve over".

I would have given them a bonus point for "sh-udder-ing halt", but they omitted the word "halt" from the opening paragraph.

Saturday 25 July 2020

Pointless publicity stunt of the week

From the BBC:

An Australian student has filed a lawsuit against her government for failing to make clear climate change-related risks to investors in government bonds. It is thought to be the first such case in the world...

What does the lawsuit say?

"Australia is materially exposed and susceptible" to climate change risks, according to the statement filed with the Federal Court of Australia in Victoria state.

It alleges that the country's economy and the national reputation in international financial markets will be significantly affected by the Australian government's response to climate change.

You can only bring a civil case like this if:

a) you have suffered a loss (which she hasn't shown), and

b) the counter-party completely misrepresented what you were investing in, or at least, deliberately withheld certain important facts and you wouldn't have invested if you had been told those facts.

She knew perfectly well what she was investing in.

And I see no reason why the Australian government has to state the blindingly obvious like "the weather is unpredictable" and "Australia always has been - and always will be - susceptible to heat waves, floods, droughts and wild fires".

But I suppose the lawyers will make a shed load of money from this.

Friday 24 July 2020

Friday afternoon gear change

Forty-two years later, and I've finally noticed this one in "Rhodesia" by Japan (parental advisory - offensive word at 4 mins 24 seconds), up a semi-tone at 4 mins 5 seconds:

Tuesday 21 July 2020

More fun with statues

People just end up over-thinking this. One chap appears to find the Jen Reid statue almost as offensive as the Edward Colson one it (briefly) replaced.

From GQ (via Daily Mail):

So you don’t feel Quinn’s sculpture celebrated the protestor’s moment, nor supported the Black Lives Matter movement?

"Marc Quinn saw Jen Reid, actually a photograph of Jen [Reid] standing on Colston's plinth, on social media, I believe. And that's when he thought that it would make a great sculpture. He told the Guardian, “When I saw the picture of Jen on Instagram, I immediately thought it would be great to immortalise that moment. The image is a silhouette: she looked like a sculpture already.” It was the thinking and actions of some old-school documentary maker, or a trophy hunter. Quinn decided that he could control that image of Jen Reid. For her, that moment was one that felt right, that felt powerful, but it’s as if Quinn, by casting her in resin, and controlling her, is stealing that genuine moment away, claiming it as his own."

A statue means pretty much whatever you want it to mean. I prefer to just look at the skill, artistry and techniques. The Jen Reid statue is (was?) a masterpiece by any definition, and it has somehow managed to piss off a load of people as well. If I were in the sculpting game and looking for a quick win, I would cast a statue of two bestockinged legs sticking in the air and dump it a shallow part of Bristol Harbour (making sure it is not a hazard to boats, of course, always do your risk assessment!).

While I am on the topic, the Edward Colson statue was just as excellent on an artistic or technical level. The fact that nobody's really sure why it was put up 170 years after his death adds to the mystique. (Yes, he was a bastard, but we can't change facts or re-write history; whoever put the statue up was busily re-writing history as well). The Jen Reid statue is somehow very similar in overall look-and-feel:

Sunday 19 July 2020

Killer Arguments Against LVT, Not (480)

Here's the draft of a lead article I have written for the LVTC website (which is being totally revamped).
The transition

We live in the real world and accept that it would take a decade or more to phase in LVT and phase out most other taxes. This is not all-or-nothing and can be done in stages. Every small step in the right direction is a step in the right direction, even if we never “get there”.

We have explained the main stages and running order for the transition under the heading “How much will I pay?”

Replacing existing taxes on land and buildings, occupation and wealth generally (Business Rates, Council Tax, Stamp Duty Land Tax, Inheritance Tax, TV licence fee etc) with an annual LVT could be done fairly quickly (one or two years to get the basic valuations and administration in place and give people time to plan). These taxes are a mixture of the very regressive and very progressive so for most households at either end of the scale, the total tax payable over a lifetime would not change much, all that would change is the timing of payments. At the lower end, LVT would be much the same as the Council Tax (less Council Tax discounts) and the TV licence fee that they are currently paying; at the upper end there would be smaller annual LVT payments instead of large irregular payments of SDLT or Inheritance Tax at more or less random intervals. So this should not be too controversial.

Replacing the two most damaging taxes which raise significant revenues (VAT and National Insurance) would mean the LVT on a median value home increasing by about £5,000 per year. Households with two earners on average full-time salaries currently pay (or bear) over £15,000 in NIC and VAT per year and pay £1,000 Council Tax/TV licence fee, so they would see their net salaries and disposable income increase significantly.

But this need not be an all-or-nothing, Big Bang shift. We know that there are some (with only one main earner; on lower incomes; and/or in more valuable housing) who would be hit financially by an immediate shift.

We don’t know how quickly businesses will expand or how quickly employment rates and salaries will increase as a result of the shift (the Swedish experience with VAT cuts in 2009 suggest it can happen surprisingly quickly, within months rather than years).

Those who are hit (or think they will be hit) financially need time to trade down; to take in a lodger; and/or find better paying jobs. So VAT and National Insurance would be reduced by a few per cent each year for five to ten years until they are completely phased out, and in tandem, the median LVT bill would increase by £500 to £1,000 each year (or by £40 to £80 each month) for a transition period of five to ten years. Most of the households who think they will end up with significantly less disposable income at the end of this transition should be able to cope with this timetable.

Saturday 18 July 2020

Another petition worth signing

Over at

They've even got a calculator on their website showing how much Proportional Property Tax you would pay each year and compares that with how much Council Tax and SDLT (which it would replace) you currently pay.

They annualise the SDLT by assuming people buy and sell every twenty years. So they divide the SDLT you'd have to pay if you sold your home and bought another one of similar value by twenty. They also knock 10% off the likely market value before applying the annual percentage of 0.48% (to reduce the number of appeals) and say that the owner would pay the tax, not the occupant.

All sensible stuff and great minds think alike. (I wish they'd thrown in the TV licence fee and Inheritance Tax as well, but hey).
The LVT purists insist that an ideal tax is set at a percentage of the site premium (the location element of gross rental values) and not as a percentage of selling prices.

On an intellectual level, this is correct, but at the low level proposed by FairerShare, it doesn't make any difference. The maths is very interesting here and it tends to sort itself out:

i. The selling price-to-gross rent multiple for housing in cheap areas is much lower than the selling price-to-gross rent multiple of housing in expensive areas.

ii. The fraction of the gross rent that relates to location is much lower in cheap areas than in expensive areas.

iii. Therefore, a tax based on selling prices is much the same as a tax based on the location value element of the gross rent.
Their Killer Arguments, Not section is also very good. Comprehensive but concise.

Friday 17 July 2020

Killer Arguments Against LVT, Not (479)

Just to round off the working week and because I haven't dipped my toe in the paddling pool of Home-Owner-Ist DoubleThink for a while.

From Yahoo! Finance:

Is the UK property market ready for a land value tax?

Yes of course it is, always has been.

Unless you are a moron:

Richard: So if a high-rise block of luxury flats with say 2000 flats in it is built on land valued at £200,000, then each flat owner would only have to pay £100 per year.. How does this help increase council revenue to provide the services that those residents would need - waste collection, health care, etc.

Seems like a good idea but when you think about it, doesn't it also mean that landowners in cities are going to build on previously green spaces? Will there be no gardens or parks in cities? Maybe I've missed something...

I don't think there is such a thing as a block of 2,000 flats outside the former Communist bloc, but hey. The KLN is ably batted back:

Henry Law: How could anyone build a high rise block of 2,000 luxury flats on a plot of land worth only £200,000. Say, £500k per flat, half of that is construction costs, the other half is land value. I make that half a billion for the plot.

Half a billion might be an understatement. A developer paid £959 million for the 12.8 acre Chelsea Barracks site in 2007. Henry is given some welcome covering fire:

Adrian: @Henry Law: Conversely, if the land is only worth £200k, it may be in an area that does not command £500k for a flat.

Value of land is tied to what it can produce. If that is a whole bunch of £500k flats then, as you rightly point out, the value of the land would be a lot higher than if it were reserved for agricultural use, for example.

Mark: You've missed a lot. Planning rules will still prevent building on gardens, parks etc. Any new building would still need to be in keeping with surrounding area so you can't suddenly build a 20 condo block of flats in the middle of a suburban street.

LTV could replace council tax and business rates (as a starting point) and would be at a lower rate because ALL property would be taxed (at different rates depending on type of area).

LVT cannot be offshored or avoided, no accountant can wriggle you out of paying it. When everybody pays their fair share (foreign investors/royal estates/land banking etc.) the cost for the average person will be less.

Thursday 16 July 2020

I hope that Bristol council puts that statue back up again

On a technological and artistic level, the statue of Jen Reid is an absolute masterpiece.

Read how they did it, it is basically a 3D photograph.

Look at it close up, they've managed to capture every curl on her head and every stitch in her jacket.

If I were in the area, I'd definitely make a detour to see it.

(Knowing me, I'd completely trivialise the whole thing by getting Mrs W to take a photo of me standing in front of it with my black-gloved fist in the air, but hey. Art is about provoking a response and that would be my response).

"San Francisco building lifted 10 feet in preparation of rising sea levels"

From Dezeen:

A historic waterfront building in San Francisco that weighs 2,075 tons, the equivalent of 20 space shuttles, will be hoisted up over three metres above ground to protect it from flooding caused by climate change.

Building 12, which was completed in 1941 for America's shipbuilding effort during the second world war, is being lifted up in advance of a renovation by architecture firm Perkins and Will...

OK, so they are going to pop it on stilts and have a suspended walkway to the nearest piece of high ground for access?

Once raised Perkins and Will will extend the building from 118,890 square feet (11,045 square metres) to 230,000 square feet (21,367 square metres), adding a new basement, second level and mezzanine.

In other words, the site owner couldn't get planning permission to demolish a historic building, but the council allowed him to lift it up and build another two storeys beneath it, thus preserving the 'iconic' roof-line (I think it looks ghastly, but it does have historic significance).

Wednesday 15 July 2020

One of these explanations is correct; one is complete nonsense.

It is agreed that in the absence of gravity and 'Greenhouse Gases', Earth's atmosphere would be the same temperature (about 255K, or -18C) all the way up. (The air would have to be held in with a very thin Perspex sphere to stop it floating off into space):

What we actually observe is this temperature profile. Air is warmer lower down and cooler higher up (the average is pretty close to 255K):

[So the much vaunted 33C Greenhouse Effect is only at the surface, it's zero half-way up and negative at the top]

There are two competing explanations as to why this is (why the troposphere isn't 'isothermal' to use a fancy phrase).

From the late 1800s to the 1970s, it was explained using physics. You can explain it in layman's terms in a few sentences. Or you can go on for several hundred pages with endless equations and invoke Ideal Gas Laws, quantum physics at sub-molecular level, concepts like entropy, enthalpy and The Second Law of Thermodynamics. See links in widget 'Gravity and the Greenhouse Effect' in the side bar.

That's all unnecessary for real life purposes. What it boils down is that total energy (thermal energy + potential energy) is the same all the way up. PE must be highest at the top and zero at sea level. While PE adds to total energy, it doesn't increase total thermal energy, it just displaces it from high up to low down. Whether the atmosphere contains 'Greenhouse Gases' or not is entirely irrelevant because they make no difference (except to the extent that their molecular mass and specific heat capacities are different to those of N2 and O2). Of course, you don't measure potential energy in degrees K, but this is just to illustrate the principle:

This has been airbrushed out of mainstream teaching since the 1980s. They don't even mention it as a flawed and superseded theory (like the geocentric model of the solar system or the aether).

The common explanation nowadays is that 'Greenhouse Gases' trap thermal energy lower down and increase the amount of energy radiated from higher up, hence the lapse rate:

These two explanations are mutually exclusive. There is no mix and match. It's either one or t'other. Either you accept that the atmosphere is shaped by gravity and that temperature, pressure and density decline as you go up to balance out total energy (interesting but not very exciting); or you believe that a gas which makes up 0.04% of the atmosphere does all this.

There are even people at the more moderate end of the Warmenist spectrum (Clive Best or Roy Spencer) who insist that there has to be both gravity AND 'Greenhouse Gases' for there to be a lapse rate. Go figure.

Had the Warmenists refined the old explanation and split it into "mainly due to gravity" and "a bit more due to due to CO2 and methane" (as some of them do, to be fair), this would be 'at least plausible' and would not have aroused the suspicions of the layman:

But they are claiming the whole 33C for themselves and even worse, they usually gloss over the fact this is only true at sea level. They went all-or-nothing and have lost. This is why I have shifted from Skeptic to flat-out Denier.

Tuesday 14 July 2020

Give them more money to buy land...

From the DT - of course -; paywall

The Tories' favourite subsidy. A subsidy to landlords.

Buy-to-let landlords have swooped into the property market to take advantage of the stamp duty tax giveaway.

In a temporary move intended to stimulate the property market in the wake of coronavirus, Chancellor Rishi Sunak last week announced that buyers in England and Northern Ireland would pay no stamp duty on the first £500,000 of their purchases until March 31. Landlords and others purchasing a second home still pay 3pc of the entire value of the property in additional tax, but the tax break means that their bills could fall by as much as half. The savings have persuaded many to return to the market.

Estate agents said the biggest rush of demand had been for homes worth less than £500,000. An investor buying a home worth half a million pounds will now pay £15,000 rather than £30,000 in stamp duty. Buyers in the most expensive parts of the country – primarily London and the South East – will benefit most. Rentround, a letting agent comparison website, said the number of landlords contacting its agents across the country had risen by 22pc. In north and east London, inquiries have risen by 31pc, higher than anywhere else in the country.

David Galman of developer Galliard Homes said inquiries for new build homes from buy-to-let investors since the stamp duty holiday was announced jumped by 40pc compared to the previous week. Over the weekend, Galliard agreed seven sales in its Westgate House development in Ealing, west London, four of which were to investors. “In every single transaction, we included a clause that if the development’s completion goes beyond March 31, we will pay the difference in stamp duty,” said Mr Galman. The tax break for investors comes in stark contrast to the government’s recent buy-to-let policies, such as introducing the stamp duty surcharge on second homes in 2016 and cutting down landlord tax relief.

“It is a game-changer,” said Mr Galman. The holiday is primarily driving small-time investors who are looking to buy just one or two properties – a group that had all but disappeared in the last few years, said Mr Galman. “It’s the doctors, the dentists, the professionals who perhaps have inherited some money to put into a deposit.”

Spencer Fortag, of Dockside Property Services, a Kent estate agent with a sister company in London, said since the stamp duty holiday was announced: “It’s just gone bonkers.” The number of inquiries from first-time investors has jumped by 20pc and now accounts for one in three investor inquiries, up from one in four before the holiday was announced, said Mr Fortag.

The discount some buyers will receive on one property is the equivalent to a deposit on an additional home. “I was chatting to an investor on Saturday who had amassed enough money to buy another property, now the holiday means they can buy two properties in Kent with the same pot of money,” said Mr Fortag. “And the fact that you’re saving between £10,000 and £15,000, that can shift your returns by one or two percentage points."

The holiday is particularly significant for overseas investors. Inquiries from India, China and the UAE, which account for half of Dockside Property Services’ inquiries, are up by a third compared to this time last year, Mr Fortag said. Foreign buyers have a triple concentration of time pressure. As well as the stamp duty holiday deadline, they also face the introduction of an additional two percentage points of stamp duty across the entire value of their purchases in April 2021. Plus, right now, many have a currency advantage, said Mr Fortag.

The so-called “Bank of Mum and Dad” is also making moves. James Holmear, of housebuilder Redrow, said the waiting list for the its Frenchay Gardens project in Bristol jumped by 30pc after a surge in inquiries on Thursday and Friday. Much of this interest has been from investors, including parents buying for their children who are studying at the university. “The extra cash in their pockets due to the stamp duty holiday has tipped them over the edge to make the decision to invest,” said Mr Holmear.

But the new interest has a price cap. After the £500,000 mark the savings become smaller in proportion to a property’s price tag. Martin Bikhit, of Kay & Co, an estate agent that is part of Warren Buffett’s Berkshire Hathaway empire, said: “We have seen buy-to-let investors return to the market but only on properties valued sub £1m and in most cases £500,000.”

Meanwhile, in the cheaper parts of the country, such as the North East, the holiday has a minimal impact. Here, it will save investors £280 on the average purchase, compared to £7,240 in London, estate agents Hamptons International found.

Max Armstrong of North East Property Investments, a portfolio management service, said investor interest had not increased since the announcement, adding that the market had been buoyant since mid-June. “Lots of people have been piling in from outside of the region,” said Mr Armstrong. “We have not bought anything for five weeks as prices have been too high.”

They own land! Give them money!

Or "They want to sell land! Encourage the people who want to buy it to pay more!"


First-time buyers in Scotland have been handed a boost with the launch of a new scheme that offers interest-free loans of £25,000.

The Scottish Government’s First Home Fund, which was originally announced in the Spring, has today opened to applicants. Here, Which? explains how the First Home Fund works, including which lenders are involved, how to apply and details of how the scheme compares with Help to Buy.

We're in the middle of a bloody economic/unemployment crisis, and instead of looking after those who have lost their jobs or businesses, they are targetting "help" exactly where it's not needed.

Weekly deaths - all causes - E&W - up to week 27

Data from the ONS:

Looks like we're pretty much back to normal.
In related news, from the BBC:

Back in March we knew so little about this virus. We assumed that it was a respiratory illness, only to find out that it affects almost every organ in the body. We assumed that we would rely on invasive ventilation and ICU only to find out that early CPAP (non-invasive ventilation with oxygen) on the medical wards was more effective.

This doesn't surprise me. Several doctors started pointing out months ago that invasive ventilation made things worse. See also the pioneering work done by this chap in March and April of this year. He might have made a lucky - or desperate - guess, but so what? He did it for real.

And, by half-arsing the whole thing and dragging their heels, with the benefit of hindsight, the NHS have saved a fortune on really expensive ICU ventilators and can use the much cheaper - and better - sleep apnoea masks instead.

Monday 13 July 2020

Transport for London - thoroughly decent chaps!

I paid for an annual travel card at the end of last December (as I do every year).

Our office shut down at the end of March. I didn't cancel my travel card and ask for a refund straight away, because I thought lock down would only last a couple of weeks and it wasn't worth the hassle of cancelling and paying for another one.

By the end of May, I accepted that this lock down was going to drag on for a while longer and asked for a refund. TfL refunded me seven months' worth a couple of days later. So far so good.

To my pleasant surprise, they sent me an email a couple of days ago, which said that as I hadn't used my travel card for the whole of April and May, they'd refund me another two months' worth.

The money's not in my account yet, but fingers crossed.
UPDATE 15/7:

1. The second refund appeared in my bank account today.

2. C. left this comment, but then deleted it, not sure why, because he makes good points:

Remember that an annual travelcard is priced at 10 months and 13 days, so a refund of "7 months" is only approximately 67% back rather than the 58% back that would be expected on a pro-rata basis. In other words there is no such thing as a 7 month refund - the entire thing is refunded and you are re-charged for a 3.5 month travelcard, which is a third of the price of a 10.5 month (=annual) ticket.

Yes, that is what they used to do, and fair enough. But I can confirm that my annual travel card cost £2,400 on 31/12/2019 and they sent me refunds totalling £1,812, which looks like 9/12 of £2,400 to me.

Two Zone 1-5 peak single fares on the tube is £9.40 and an annual ticket is £2468. So if your commute is a single tube journey each way and you make no other journeys, you need to travel 263 days a year, which is probably cheaper to pay as you go. If your commute is multi-modal or if you travel for leisure, then a travelcard is probably worth it.

Yes, I probably commuted in fewer than 263 days a year so on that basis, the travel card was more expensive. But all the other journeys within town, in the evening and at weekends were effectively free. Plus I didn't need to bother tapping out, I could just walk past the queue at the stupid machine, which was also of value to me (especially if there was a long queue and I was in a hurry or it was raining).

Sunday 12 July 2020

Trigger's bench got some arm rests

Saturday 11 July 2020

Gravity and the Greenhouse Effect

I have added a new widget in the side bar (just below 'Martin Scriblerus Blogs') with links to some key articles that explain the kinetic-potential energy trade-off and balance in the troposphere. This in turn explains and ties in with many other observations.

Some explain it in simple layman's terms, some are very technical, but they all boil down to the same basic thing.


Friday 10 July 2020

Tax incidence

from Yahoo Finance:

[The SDLT holiday] will reduce many buyers’ tax bills. The chancellor said the changes meant almost nine in 10 buyers will pay no stamp duty land tax (SDLT) at all on transactions.

Treasury analysis suggests buyers would save £4,500 on the average property purchase, though analysis by estate agent Barrow and Forester indicated lower savings of £2,465 in England. But the reforms are mainly intended to drive additional sales in the property market, as a significant part of Britain’s economy...

UK housebuilders’ share prices have been rising all week after the plans were first reported over the weekend, with shares in Persimmon (PSN.L) up almost 10% since last Friday.... Several experts warned the temporary nature of the measures mean the tax cuts may have unintended consequences, however.

Observers pointed out transactions and prices may spike as buyers rush to complete before the holiday expires next March, followed by a sudden drop. In the short term, buyers may save money on stamp duty, but if tax cuts start pushing up demand they may face higher asking prices.

SDLT is, taken in isolation, a dreadful tax, but it is a bit like a lump-sum LVT paid in advance, so not the worst tax. (The same goes for Inheritance Tax - it is like a lump-sum LVT paid in arrears. Same goes for Council Tax - it is like a very low level LVT-cum-Poll Tax payable annually. Between them SDLT and IHT raise 50% as much as Council Tax, so why they don't just merge those two into an enhanced Council Tax is an enduring mystery to me.)

But the fact that the share prices of major Tory party donors land bankers home builders have risen so sharply is a bit of a clue that the 'observers' are correct - the SDLT cut will benefit sellers rather than buyers, even though it is the buyer who legally has to pay it.

Thursday 9 July 2020

"Coronavirus: Visitors may not see the thrill of VAT cut"

From the BBC:

... experts predict many businesses will not cut prices, instead using the money to save their ailing businesses.

The chancellor said the VAT rate on food, non-alcoholic drink, accommodation and attractions in the UK would be cut to 5% between 15 July and 12 January.

In theory, the rate change could mean a couple buying a pub meal costing £45 without alcohol would save £5.62, while a £54.50 one-night stay at a hotel in a family room would see a saving of £6.81, according to accountants Deloitte.

In practice, venues may decide to keep prices the same, but keep the extra money they would have sent to the tax authority. Providers will not refund those who have booked and paid for accommodation later in the summer, because the rate is for when the sale was made.

Many of these businesses find themselves on the brink, given they were closed for months during lockdown, and the Treasury believes that the choice should remain with these operators, rather than the government, on whether to pass on savings.

Well, firstly, hooray for VAT reductions, the worst tax of all.

We would expect - going by what happened when several European countries reduced VAT for restaurants and small service businesses ten years ago - that prices will not fall by very much, so businesses (and their employees, hopefully) will benefit most.

This is hardly surprising, as VAT on most things is almost entirely borne by businesses. Most spending, and in particular spending on eating out and theme parks is highly discretionary, so consumers are sensitive to prices and businesses have to swallow the VAT when it increases. The reverse applies when VAT is reduced, businesses don't need to drop prices much either.

So the "experts" are shouting about how wicked businesses are, pocketing that tax cut meant to benefit consumers. It would be far simpler to ditch the propaganda that VAT is a "tax on consumption" and admit that VAT is (largely) borne by businesses and their employees.

Wednesday 8 July 2020

Potential temperature

I have tried to stay off posting about 'climate science' because I lost my audience months ago, but I have kept digging in my own time. I stumbled across another meteorological concept recently (3 below) and I have added another paragraph to my summary on why the Earth is 33K warmer at sea level (288K) than its effective temperature (255K, the temperature we would expect it to be from incoming solar radiation and 'albedo' alone).

The Holy Trinity of basic atmospheric physics are (is?) three formulae or concepts. These are all text book physics and they are mutually supporting and internally consistent (as well as matching up well with observations).

The starting point is to realise that
a) potential energy (due to altitude and gravity) is equivalent to and inter-changeable with thermal energy and increases the total amount of energy in the atmosphere, and
b) the average temperature of the atmosphere = the effective temperature. There is nothing special about sea level! It just a good reference point (most of us live there or near there), which happens to be about 5 km below the mid-point of the atmosphere.

1. The lapse rate (this is the easiest to calculate, it's just acceleration due to gravity ÷ specific heat capacity or air). To get it to match the real world observed moist lapse rate and to take latent heat of evaporation/condensation into account, you have to bump up specific heat capacity from just over 1,000 J/K/kg to about 1,425 J/K/kg.

2. The Barometric Formula (aka 'Barry'), which predicts local atmospheric pressure at a given altitude, based on pressure and temperature at sea level (and various constants, heinously complicated to calculate). This overstates pressure at high altitudes, but such is physics.

3. Potential temperature, a term which meteorologist use to describe the sum total of the actual temperature plus the 'latent heat of convection' (i.e. the potential energy) of air at a given altitude (fairly easy to calculate). You can use the same inputs as for the lapse rate and Barry, and then use the pressure at altitude from Barry to predict the potential temperature of air at the given altitude.

To tie them in, you can predict local actual temperature using 1, sea level temperature - (altitude x lapse rate) or combine 2. and 3 and deduct the potential energy at that altitude from the potential temperature. Both answers match up and are a good prediction of actual temperature.

There, that's all you need to know, that's where the extra 33K or 33C at sea level come from (and also why it is about 33K colder than the effective temperature at the top of the troposphere). Has nothing to do with 'Greenhouse Gases' or 'radiative forcing' or all these other made-up, non-scientific terms.
The real science deniers, i.e. the Alarmists, are capable of believing two impossible things before breakfast. These things are not only impossible, they are mutually exclusive:

A. In the absence of 'Greenhouse Gases', the temperature in the atmosphere would be a constant 255K all the way up. To believe this you must also believe that pressure and density are constant all the way up. In which case, where is the 'top' of atmosphere? Does it go up forever, like the aether that they believed existed until 1887?

B. In the absence of 'Greenhouse Gases', the temperature at sea level would be 255K, but there would still be a lapse rate (from 1). Good old Skeptical Science actually bite this bullet (and break a tooth on it, as per usual). This is slightly more plausible, but you also have to believe that the average temperature of the atmosphere should be lower than its effective temperature, despite it being incapable of losing energy to space by radiation (in the absence of 'Greenhouse Gases') and despite the potential energy, which can only be positive and add to the total energy in the atmosphere (like gravity, which is only ever positive).

Belated "Happy Blogday" to me

My first post was on 7/7/2007, which is thirteen years and one day ago by my reckoning.

Posts - 13,103 (including quite a few drafts).

Pageviews all time history - 8,812,623.

Tuesday 7 July 2020

I'd love to know which side is lying.

From the BBC:

The police statement said that at about 13:25 BST on Saturday officers from the Territorial Support Group "witnessed a vehicle with blacked-out windows that was driving suspiciously, including driving on the wrong side of the road. They indicated for it to stop but it failed to do so and made off at speed. The officers caught up with the vehicle when it stopped on Lanhill Road. The driver initially refused to get out of the car."

After searching Williams and Dos Santos, and the vehicle, nothing was found and no arrests were made. The incident was first raised on social media by their coach, 1992 Olympic 100m champion Linford Christie, who accused the police of abusing their power and institutionalised racism.

Williams, the fifth-fastest British woman in history over 200m, and Dos Santos said that a written report given to them by police did not mention driving on the wrong side of the road, and that where they stopped is a single car-width road.

Inconsistency 1

Williams and Dos Santos say they were stopped because they are POC. I have no doubt that this happens more often than it should, but you can't work backwards and say that every time a POC is stopped, it's because of institutional racism. White people get stopped as well.

The police say that the car's windows are blacked out. If true, the police wouldn't be able to tell what the people in the car look like, which rules out institutional racism as a reason for stopping them. But we know that the police sometimes twist things to cover their own arses.

Inconsistency 2

Dos Santos emphasises that the road on which they actually stopped is single car width. This appears to be undisputed.

However, that is not the question. The question is, how wide is the road on which they were initially flagged down and on which they didn't stop?

Monday 6 July 2020

Killer Arguments Against Citizen's Income, Not (30)

One argument from the hard left, who want the state to control everything, is that UBI supporters want to scrap state education, NHS and so on and replace it with vouchers for the private sector to soak up. Some neo-liberals clearly want to do this - so they sold off council housing at undervalue and are now overpaying Housing Benefit to the people who snapped it up.

But this is clearly untrue for most mainstream UBI supporters, who tend to be centre-left, centre-Georgist or centre-right.

I had to deal with such an objection on behalf of the Citizen's Basic Income Trust recently.

To clarify our/their position, I drafted the following article, which will hopefully be added to their FAQs soon:
Would UBI replace other public services?

Like most countries, the UK provides 'free' state education and 'free' (or very low cost) healthcare. These are similar to a UBI. They are universal, non-means tested, non-taxable, easy to access and there is no stigma attached.

There are clear social and economic advantages to this:
- If left to the private sector, the quality would probably improve for those who can afford it, but the cost to parents and patients would double or treble (see US healthcare system and UK private schools). Lower income households would clearly lose out.
- Health and education businesses can make super profits (a form of 'rent'), because the value of healthcare or education is vastly greater than the cost of providing them. As a near-monopoly provider, the government can keep costs low and pass on the savings to the general population.
- Health and education are public goods and merit goods. We all benefit from everybody else having a reasonable level of education. Employers benefit from having healthy workers, as do members of patients' families. Even if you have no children, it is worth paying some extra tax to pay for other children's education (who will be paying for your state pension1)

So the answer is, no, of course not!

The UBI we envisage would primarily replace existing  benefits which are paid out in cash. The UBI would cover the costs of things which the private sector can provide more efficiently, at lower cost or at higher quality than the government - such as food, utilities, clothing, mobile telephones...

The UBI should not be earmarked for particular items (such as food vouchers or travel passes for the over-60s). For most households, the UBI would only be a small part of their total disposable income, and each individual household is in a far better position to decide how to spend it than the government. The mix changes every week and as children grow up. Some areas have good public transport, so a travel pass in London is worth much more than a travel pass in a rural village with an infrequent bus service.

The other downside of earmarked benefits is that the private sector will respond by increasing prices to soak them up if prices are not capped, so private providers will extract super-profits or rent.

For example, the UK has gone from a situation where over a quarter of households lived in social housing to mainly private provision. In the 1970s, social tenants paid affordable rents and local councils made a modest profit. This was replaced with Housing Benefit after much of the social housing stock was sold off. So instead of the council incurring the modest annual maintenance costs for a council house occupied by a low income household claiming rent relief, the government pays five times that amount to a largely unregulated private landlord, a huge cost to the taxpayer.


Emailed in by SG.

Sunday 5 July 2020

Tim Martin seems to get it.


Pub owners say tax reductions are needed to keep industry afloat

Wetherspoons chairman and founder Tim Martin said “tax equality” was needed if pubs and restaurants were to “survive and thrive” in the future.

He told the PA news agency: “Supermarkets pay almost no VAT on food sales and pubs pay 20%. Without equality the price gap between pubs and restaurants and supermarkets will continue to grow so that ‘on-trade’ becomes more and more uncompetitive.”

CAMRA still don't get it:

The national chairman of the Campaign for Real Ale (Camra), Nik Antona, said he would like to see the Chancellor reduce beer duty – the tax on producing and selling beer – for the “on-trade”.

Mr Antona said: “He could reduce the duty on the on-trade and make beer cheaper in pubs than it is off-site, in supermarkets, and therefore reinvigorate the industry. It would bring people back to the pub and stop them drinking at home.”

This chap knows what he wants, but doesn't know how to get it:

The pub’s licensee, Steve Boulter... told PA: “Having had three months of all being on canned beer, which is a pound a can, you do think: ‘Will people come back?’ when it’s three or four pounds a pint. I agree with Nik. Pricing makes a big difference so it needs to be the other way round – cheaper in pubs and a bit more expensive in the supermarkets.”

That can easily be achieved.

Broadly speaking, the VAT on a £4 pint in the pub and the beer duty are about 70p each. Pub landlord gets £2.60 net.

On a 80p multi-pack can (440 ml) in the supermarket, the VAT is 13p and the beer duty is 54p. Supermarket gets 13p net.

A pint costs five times as much as a can.

If they scrapped VAT completely and added 50% to beer duty, what happens?

Let's assume that the consumer bears all the tax for simplicity.

Pub landlord can drop price to £3.65, minus £1.05 duty, still gets £2.60 net.

The can now costs 94p, minus 81p duty, supermarket still gets 13p net.

A pint now costs 'only' 3.9 times as much as a can, which is what the pub landlord wants.

Saturday 4 July 2020

Car hits pub

From the BBC:

A car smashed through the front of a pub hours before it was due to open for the first time in nearly four months.

The owners of the Swan Inn near Ashford in Kent were woken by a "terrible bang" at about 02:00 BST as a Land Rover crashed into the grade-II building. Landlord Ray Perkins said he was "distraught," adding: "We just don't know why we had such bad luck".

A 17-year-old boy has been arrested on suspicion of drink-driving and taking a vehicle without consent.

Going by Google Maps, the pub is on the outside of a fairly sharp bend in Swan Lane. So presumably the idiot was driving driving north-east and either missed the bend completely, or maybe he wanted to turn left/north into 'The Street' and fluffed it.

Makes me glad I live in the middle of a long, straight road, I wouldn't want to live anywhere else.

Friday 3 July 2020

Yeah! Go retailers!

From The Guardian:

Landsec, the property group behind the Trinity Leeds shopping centre and Bluewater in Kent, said struggling retailers paid less than a third of the rent due last month.

Retailers paid only £9m of the £31m rent due on stores on 24 June, which equates to 29% of the total. This time last year its retail tenants paid 92% of the bill.

I'm sure that the £9 million they actually received is enough to cover their actual running costs (repairs, maintenance, security etc), so what's the problem? The land and buildings will still be there, unlike tenant businesses who won't be if landlords hound them for every last penny.

Fun With Numbers - Right angle triangles (again)

The side lengths in a right angle triangle follow a nice pattern - the square of [the length of] the hypotenuse = the sum of the squares of [the lengths of ] the other two sides. The cool kids refer to this as the Gougu Rule.

For example, 3^2 + 4^2 = 5^2.

If you are given the length of the base or height and it's a whole number, you can always find two lengths for the other sides which are whole numbers.

This is pretty easy.

If the known side length is an odd number, a possible answer for the other two sides is "(known side length^2)/2 +/- 0.5".
So for known side 7, 7^2 = 49, 49 ÷ 2 = 24.5, 24.5 - 0.5 = 24 and 24.5 + 0.5 = 25.
Answer: 7-24-25
Check: 49 + 576 = 625 = 25^2

If the known side length is an even number, a possible answer for the other two sides is  "(known side length^2)/4 +/- 1"
So for shortest side 8, 8^2 = 64, 64 ÷ 4 = 16, 16 - 1 = 15 and 16 + 1 + 17.
Answer: 8-15-17.
Check: 64 + 225 = 289 = 17^2.

Fuller explanation here.

Whether you start with 3 or 4, if you apply these two similar rules, you end up with 3-4-5. Unless you start with "4" for the known side, the other two sides will always be longer than the known side.

It's also only the ratios that matter, so if 3-4-5 is an answer, so is 6-8-10, or 9-12-15 and so on.

So far so dull!
The trickier bit is working backwards and assuming the known side is not the shortest side.
Say you are given side length 24.
A possible answer is 24-143-145, which is a bit dull.
If you have time for some trial and error, you could first try 24 with hypotenuse 22, 23, 25 or 26.
22 and 23 don't work, but 25 and 26 do.
Answers: 10-24-26 and 7-24-25 (the smallest and hence 'best' answer).
Check: 100 + 576 = 676 = 26^2
Check: 49 + 576 = 625 = 25^2.

This doesn't work for most numbers, so don't be too disappointed if you draw blanks. But these answers still follow the two basic rules if you start again with the shortest side (10 or 7).
I set up a spreadsheet with side lengths 1 to 100 to find combinations where the hypotenuse is a whole number and filtered out the ones can be worked out using the two basic rules  (or by scaling up another answer) The only ones I could find are as follows:

Shortest side - other side - hypotenuse - perimeter
20 - 21 - 29 - 70
28 - 45 - 53 - 126
33 - 56 - 65 - 154
36 - 77 - 85 - 198
39 - 80 - 89 - 208
48 - 55 - 73 - 176
60 - 91 - 109 - 260
65 - 72 - 97 - 234

Hypotenuses which are prime numbers are interesting, so I put them in bold. None of the other side lengths in the above table is prime, which is a bit disappointing.

I underlined 176 and 234 which are also interesting. The other perimeters go up in step with the shortest side length, but these buck the trend, because 48-55 and 65-72 are close to being equilateral triangles. 20-21-29 is the closest to being an equilateral triangle, so 29/20.5 is *very* close to being the square root of 2.
There's no real point to this, it's just Fun With Numbers to brighten up your Friday.

Thursday 2 July 2020

Doesn't sound too terrible to me.

From The Guardian:

England's privatised water firms paid £57bn in dividends since 1991

In the past 10 years, the companies have paid out £17bn in dividends and directors’ pay has soared...  According to the analysis by David Hall and Karol Yearwood of the public services international research unit of Greenwich University, the nine privatised companies in England have amassed debts of £48bn over the past three decades – almost as much as the sum paid out to shareholders. The debt cost them £1.3bn in interest last year.

As outrageous as the directors' salaries are, they are robbing their shareholders and not the customer. Whether it's dividends or interest doesn't really matter, it's a legal rather than economic distinction in the context of a utility company with a 100% captive customer base, steady income and known costs. And as far as I am aware, most of the interest payments goes to the parent company, they do it to save a bit of tax.

Dividends and interest work out at about £55 per person per year, assuming 2 people per household and an average water bill of £500 a year, the dividends and interest are over 20% of your water bill.

In relative terms, compared to competitive businesses, this is a staggering amount. For example, Tesco has sales of just under £7 per share and paid dividends of 9p per share (from here) i.e. it paid out just over 1% of its sales in dividends.

But in absolute terms, £1 per week per person is not a lot of money. A sensible government would just impose a lower price cap (£450 instead of £500) while imposing the same standards and costs, so that the owners can only collect £5 from each customer in dividends and interest.

The Neo-liberals will argue that the £55 per person "tax" is worth paying, because bills are lower (or quality and reliability better) than they would have been if water was still nationalised. In other words, foreigners (who own a large chunk of English water companies) are better at running our country than we are. This might or might not be true (I suspect it isn't) but it's difficult to make a fair comparison.

The BBC does science, but they are useless at maths

From the BBC:

Astronomers have found a previously unseen type of object circling a distant star. It could be the core of a gas world like Jupiter, offering an unprecedented glimpse inside one of these giant planets...

Its radius is about three-and-a-half times larger than Earth's but the planet is around 39 times more massive.

Woah! Why "but" and not "and"??

The formula for the volume of a sphere = 4/3 x pi x radius cubed.

Therefore a planet with three-and-a-half times the radius of earth has 43 times the volume.

If a planet has 43 times the volume of Earth and 39 times the mass, we can safely assume it has a pretty similar density to Earth.
Screenshot attached just in case they correct the glaring mistake:

Wednesday 1 July 2020

Sounds a bit racist to me

From Microsoft News:

As Leicester became the first city in the UK to be placed in a local lockdown following a spike of coronavirus cases, there are concerns that other northern areas may follow. Both Bradford and Doncaster are “clearly of concern”, according to a key scientist in the coronavirus response.

Imperial College London's Professor Neil Ferguson, who used to advise the government before resigning for breaching lockdown rules, told BBC Radio 4's Today programme: "It's inevitable we will (have further local outbreaks), we are relaxing lockdown rules and that means that contacts in the population are going up and that's a very variable process.”

Asked about Bradford and Doncaster, he said: "Those are areas, where not as high as Leicester, but they have some of the highest numbers of cases per 100,000 of the population, which is the relevant measure, so they're clearly of concern.”

His concerns were echoed by epidemiologist John Wright, who told the BBC that areas with similar demographics to Leicester should be on “constant alert” for new outbreaks. He added that areas with large BAME communities and "multi-occupancy, multi-generational living” – including Bradford – were at risk of coronavirus spikes.