Monday 31 August 2020

Empty Nest Syndrome

It's not some weird self-pity or a first-world problem, it's a very real thing.

You don't want to talk about it because there is absolutely nothing interesting to say about it, but it feels a bit like this:

Friday 28 August 2020

The newest Mazda MX5 is basically the old Datsun 240Z

Just scaled down a bit.

The rear 'windows' on the MX5 ND (which aren't actually windows at all, they are purely decorative black panels) are the same shape as those on the 240Z.

The ND's front grille is also surprisingly large - the same as 240Z's front grille (noticeable if you remove the front bumper).

A coincidence? I think not.

The big difference is that the 240Z had a huge boot, the ND boot is a bit of a joke.


The fightback has begun. Landlords have spotted that empty offices will soon mean a glut of office space which will mean a fall in rents, so who better to turn to than their mates in government to force people back into those same offices, whether they want to or not? Sod this working from home lark, that's not going to fund their third house in the Bahamas, time to put all those contributions to the Conservative Party to good use and call in some favours.

Thursday 27 August 2020

Brilliant idea. Now try collecting the fines, you maniacs.

From The Guardian:

Homeless people in three coastal towns in Dorset could be fined for sleeping in doorways or leaving bedding and belongings in the street under proposals Conservative councillors are trying to push through...

But at a meeting of the council’s overview and scrutiny board this week, Tory councillors claimed the measures did not go far enough. They argued that begging, loitering in a public place, causing an obstruction in shop doorways or car parks and leaving unattended personal belongings such as bedding or bags should also be included.

The Tory councillor Karen Rampton said strict rules were necessary. “We know that people leaving unattended belongings causes anxiety. Shopkeepers do not want people obstructing their doorways especially in these times of Covid.”

People who violate PSPOs are liable for £100 fines that, if left unpaid, can result in summary convictions and £1,000 penalties. Rampton said the idea of the PSPO was to counter antisocial behaviour rather than targeting a particular group.

"Five reasons coronavirus may be getting less deadly"

A good summary in The Week.

To summarise their summary, the possible reasons, all of them disputed by experts and statisticians, are as follows:

1. More cases are among younger people, who are far less vulnerable. Or to put it more crudely, the most vulnerable died in the first wave.

2. The death rate = deaths ÷ diagnosed cases. The number of diagnosed cases depends on how many people are tested, so for a given number of deaths, the apparent death rate falls if there is more testing.*

3. Hospitals have got much better at treating the disease. Medicine is about trial and error, and learning from your mistakes.

4. The virus is getting less deadly. This has been observed with most viruses - a virus' best strategy is not to kill its hosts. Normally this takes years or decades, so it would be surprising if it happened in less than a year.

5. Smaller doses. An infectious person with a face mask spreads smaller doses, which are easier to fight off.

To sum up, nobody knows. Some experts even dispute that the death rate is going down at all.

* Best of luck trying to make any sense of the statistics, you can try comparing anything with anything for European countries and the coefficient of correlation is close to zero. The coefficient for number of cases-v-number of tests is about 0.2. The coefficient for death rate-v-tests per million population is also about 0.2.

Also, why is the number of deaths per million in Switzerland three times as high as in neighbouring Austria? Why is the number of deaths per million population in Belgium a hundred times as high as in Slovakia?

Why are the death rates lowest in the east (Slovakia, Latvia, Greece) and highest in the west (Belgium, Spain, UK)? Why is there also a slight gradient from north (fewer deaths) to south (more deaths)? The UK and Sweden are outliers in the north; Greece is an outlier in the south.

Wednesday 26 August 2020

OK, sod it, EFTA/EEA it is then.

From the BBC:

A post-Brexit trade deal between the UK and the EU "seems unlikely" at this stage, the bloc's negotiator has said.

Speaking after the latest round of talks, Michel Barnier said he was "disappointed" and "concerned". His UK counterpart David Frost spoke of "little progress", amid differences on fisheries policy and state aid rules.

The EU never had any real interest in a trade deal with the UK, and certainly not one that was of benefit to the UK. The UK must suffer, and be seen to be suffer for daring to vote 'Leave', just to dissuade any other Member States from even thinking about it.

Sure, this will cost their economy as well, but the rest-of-EU economy is six times as big as the UK's. If the lost trade costs the EU 1% of their GDP, they can tolerate that, knowing it will cost the UK 6% of theirs.

The UK government is equally worthy of contempt of course.

They are grandstanding idiots who appear to have believed that they could negotiate some sort of mutually beneficial deal, or even that the EU was a reliable negotiating partner in the first place. Whatever the UK agrees with the EU's 'head office', each Member State and the EU Parliament still has a veto, so it's pointless.

The penny hasn't dropped yet, even after four years of time wasting and uncertainty.

If he'd been taking his duties as PM seriously, Cameron would have started organising our re-entry into EFTA and remaining in the EEA/Single Market long before the Referendum, just as back up in case Project Fear didn't work (it backfired spectacularly). And instead of flouncing off the day after the Referendum, he'd just have made a couple of 'phone calls and set the transition in motion.

EFTA/EEA - half-in, half-out. Most of the advantages of full EU membership (and there are many) with most of the advantages of not being a Member State (of which there are equally many). What's not to like?

Monday 24 August 2020

Killer Arguments Against LVT, Not (482)

One from the left this time. Richard Murphy is a big fan of wealth taxes.

In an earlier exchange, I pointed out that Land Value Tax was the best kind of wealth tax (land excl, buildings thereon being about half of marketable wealth in the UK, easy to assess, easy to enforce etc). The effective LVT rate could be much higher than the effective rate of Wealth Tax (even if Wealth Tax, had any merits, which it doesn't). A four percent tax on half of all wealth would raise more revenue than a half-a-percent tax on all wealth.

Countries that have dabbled with Wealth Tax have never managed to get the rate much higher than half-a-percent, any higher than that and you get 'tax planning', lots of special pleading and exemptions and you see falling revenues.

Which is why for example Germany phased it out their Wealth tax in 1997. Total revenues were €5 billion, i.e. naff all. I once had to prepare one of these returns, all the adjustments and exemptions were bonkers, mathematically it was like an extra 1% income tax or something, so why not just do that? Murphy appears to have realised this by now, but back to the topic.

He did a diagonal comparison to explain why he preferred Wealth Tax to Land Value Tax. His example was Mr B, who owns a house worth £100,000 and nothing else and Mr C, who owns a house worth £500,000 and has £500,000 in his pension fund. Statistics back up this general picture, no arguments there. His logic was that Mr C would pay ten times as much Wealth Tax as Mr B, but only five times as much Land Value Tax. Therefore, Wealth Tax would be more progressive. Mathematically correct but meaningless and irrelevant in the bigger picture.

The five glaring errors here are, five KLN's for the price of one, each of which can be knocked down:

1. He missed of Mr A, Ms A and Mrs A, who have no assets whatsoever, and are nearly half the population, all the younger people and tenants. And he missed off Lord D, 0.1% of the population who owns dozens of homes and thousands of acres of farmland (and has no need to invest in anything else) and is banking negative LVT, i.e. farm subsidies and Housing Benefit.

If you now consider the whole population from the A's up to Lord D, LVT is clearly more progressive than Wealth Tax. The A's pay nothing either way and Lord D pays a lot more LVT than he would pay under Wealth Tax. Mr B and Mr C just fall into place somewhere along that continuum.

2. If LVT were done properly and based on site premiums, not selling prices, the chances are that Mr B would pay very little and Mr C would probably pay ten times as much as Mr B (thus knocking his basic objection out of the park).

3. Should you count pension funds as 'wealth' or is it deferred employment income? It's a bit of both, really, but before we worry about taxing the value of pension funds, wouldn't it be easier to simply reduce the generosity of the tax breaks (of which I am now a beneficiary, that's for a separate post, the maths of this is insane). Taxes are bad; subsidies are bad; worst of both worlds is taxing and subsidising the same thing (I could give you countless examples). Net the two off and either tax that thing at a lower rate (and scrap the subsidies) or subsidise that thing at a lower rate (and make them tax free).

4. The end game is not just taxing land (or wealth) for the sake of it; the end game is reducing taxes on output and employment, which are very regressive. LVT can raise *a lot more* revenue than a Wealth Tax, so would enable us to reduce these regressive taxes significantly. So the A's are all hugely better off; Mr B is a lot better off; Mr C would probably end up better off as well (but so what?); and Lord D would just be paying a shedload of LVT (he would not benefit from VAT or NIC reductions as he doesn't pay any).

5. As mentioned, Murphy has twigged that increasing income tax rates on investment income is mathematically similar to a Wealth Tax (at least, a Wealth Tax on income-generating assets). I'm a big fan of flat taxes, of course (and Murphy isn't, of course). If you taxed employment income and investment income at the same rate, employees would pay less tax and investor would pay more, that's all fine as far as it goes.

But his modified wealth tax would allow the value of owner-occupied housing (which is most of UK land by value) to completely slip through the net (no cash income to tax), and the effective rate on land and buildings which are rented out would be much lower than the effective rate on the assets held by productive businesses:

Mr E owns a house worth £1 million which he rents out for £40,000 a year. A 10% tax on his investment income = £4,000 = 0.4% of the value of the home.
Mr F has built up a proper business with assets of £1 million which pays him dividends of £100,000 a year. A 10% on his investment income = £10,000 = 1% of the value of the assets in the business. It stands to reason that the return on productive assets is higher than the return on land and buildings, as there is more risk and effort involved. In fact, a large part of Mr F's return might be his own efforts - what if his business has minimal assets but pays him a £100,000 dividend each year?

And of course, the extra income tax collected from investment income (once you factor in 'tax planning' and evasion) would be very little, so it would fails the same basic test as Wealth Tax.

Sunday 23 August 2020

The 15-75-90 right angle triangle

My daughter knows the relative side lengths of 45-45-90 and 30-60-90 triangles (they are right angle triangles because there's a 90) off by heart (she needs them for maths competitions) and laughs at me when I forget them.

I stumbled across the 15-75-90 triangle by accident a couple of weeks ago and it had fairly easy-to-remember side lengths. But I couldn't remember what they were, how I did it or find my scribbled workings, so I Binged it (this is like 'Googling' something, but using Bing) and found an explanation at Robert Loves Pi.

That all seems a bit long-winded to me, so here is the shorter version:

1. Draw an equilateral triangle.

2. Draw an isosceles triangle with interior angles 30-75-75.

3. Divide the equilateral triangle vertically to give you a 30-60-90 triangle. The (relative) side lengths of the base B and hypotenuse A are 1 and 2, so the vertical C is √3. Colour this pale blue.

4. Put the pale blue 30-60-90 triangle on top of the isosceles triangle. Then do the numbers. The angle at the bottom left is still 75°. The angle at the bottom right is 75° - 60° = 15°. The base of the smaller triangle (side D) is 2-√3 (side A minus side C) and the other known side (side B) is 1. Add the squares of those two and take the square root of the answer, which simplifies down to 2√(2- √3)*.

Click to enlarge:

* Jason Tyler in the comments at Robert Loves Pi says "If you don’t like nested radicals, you can express 2√(2-√3) as √6 – √2"
How did he do this?
Start again with the sum of the squares of 1 and 2-√3
= 8 - 4√3.
= 6 - 4√3 + 2
= 6 - 2√12 + 2
Remember that √12 = √6 x √2...
= (√6 - √2)(√6 - √2)
so the square root of '8 - 4√3' = √6 - √2.

This is a neat trick, but only seems to work in some circumstances, where you can put the first expression into the form 'A +/- 2√AB + B'.

Green hydrogen - seems completely pointless.

From Forbes:

In the long-term, 'blue' hydrogen is seen as an intermediate step towards the cleanest form of H2, 'green' hydrogen — so called because its production emits little or even zero carbon.

'Green' hydrogen can be produced by separating hydrogen from water via electrolysis, though other technologies are emerging. When the electricity used to perform the process comes from renewable sources, green hydrogen becomes truly zero carbon.

It will surely be far more efficient to use the electricity (whether from renewables or not) to power things directly than to use the electricity to split water into hydrogen and oxygen first and then power things by burning hydrogen again. And a lot less dangerous.

And there are plenty of other ways of storing electricity (particularly important if you intend to rely on 'renewables') which are a lot cheaper and safer. Like pumping water uphill or pressurising air.

So who is behind this nonsense?

Last month, the EU set out a renewable hydrogen strategy, sketching a roadmap for how the world’s largest trading bloc intends to develop hydrogen production and usage through 2050. Also last month, the German government announced it would invest €9 billion ($10.7 billion) in its own national hydrogen strategy.

Now, the U.K.’s Hydrogen Taskforce, a coalition of companies and industry bodies, has called on the government to recognize hydrogen as a key component for a “green recovery” from Britain’s historic recession.

The usual corporatists, in other words.

Saturday 22 August 2020

The rotation speed of stars around galaxy

The only evidence they have for the existence of Dark Matter (Neil DeGrasse Tyson hedges his bets on this and refers to it as 'Dark Gravity') seems to be this, which I'm sure you've all seen dozens of times:

Thanks to Dinero, who reminded me a while ago about Shell Theorem, which makes doing the calculations a lot easier. I assume that the same logic applies to disk galaxies as it does to spheres, (maybe I should check with the Flat Earth Society).

So I set up the spreadsheet with approx. figures for our own galaxy (radius, thickness, number of stars), dividing it up into a centre with radius 10,000 light years and nine concentric rings each 10,000 light years across (total radius 100,000 light years).

There is one variable you have to guess - by how much the density of stars goes down in each ring as you move out from the centre. The output is relative speed of the stars in each ring.

Here are the results:

This is just a test run to illustrate that because of Shell Theorem, gravity increases and speeds increase as you go out, and is not intended to model anything real.

If you guess that star density goes down by 15% for each ring, you get a reasonably accurate picture of the speeds which are observed (the top curve in the first chart). The density of stars at the edge is about one-fifth of the density in the centre. Because density is per unit volume, the stars at the edge would only be about twice as far apart as in the centre, which is not at all what the galaxy in the first chart looks like:

If you guess that star density goes down by 50% for each ring, you get a reasonably accurate picture of relative densities and the speed changes are what Vera Rubin et al expected to see (the bottom curve in the first chart). The density of stars at the edge is about 0.2% of the density in the centre. This is a massive drop, and means that stars at the edge are about ten times as far apart as in the centre (looks about right):

In the 15% version, you end up with about seven times as many stars in the galaxy as in the 50% version.

So, say the Dark Matterati, we can only see one-seventh of the mass we need, the rest must be Dark Matter, i.e. six units of Dark Matter for each unit of visible matter (a star). Fair enough, most people seem to accept that.

My niggle with all this is, why is there more and more Dark Matter as you go out? To get it to balance, each star in the centre has no units of Dark Matter, as you go further and further out, each star has more and more units of Dark Matter, until at the outside edge, each star has about one hundred units of Dark Matter. Seems a bit convenient to me, like inventing an invisible planet to explain the precession of Mercury.

Which is why I reckon either they've simply miscounted the stars*; or it's gravitational lensing of gravity; or it's MOND; or it's whatever it is that Stacy McGaugh (Dark Matter sceptic) is trying to explain on the basis of observations of low surface brightness galaxies, the Fischer-Tully relation and so on (I don't claim to understand it, but he's very entertaining and seems very plausible).

* The problem here is, they think there are at least 100 billion stars in our galaxy, but no more than 400 billion, so the accepted most likely number is 250 billion with a huge margin of error. If you divide the volume of the galaxy by 250 billion, stars should be about 5 light years apart on average. The Sun is about one-third of the way out and is a bit less than 5 light years from the next nearest star, which seems to support the 15% version. The argument in favour of the 50% version is "just look at a galaxy!"

Friday 21 August 2020

The intro to "Bad Liar" by Selena Gomez is the same as the intro to "Psycho Killer" by Talking Heads.

Exhibit A:

Exhibit B:

The facts haven't changed; the logic hasn't changed.

From the BBC:

Ministers are considering a short extension to the five-month ban on landlords evicting tenants in England. From Monday, courts are due to resume cases put on hold owing to the coronavirus crisis, under stricter rules.

Now the government is understood to be considering an extension to the ban. Renters have argued the financial and practical effects of the crisis mean they should not be thrown out.

Lots of people are still out of work through no fault of their own, so there is no reason not to extend the evictions ban.

I accept that a Home-Owner-Ist government needs a certain low level of homelessness pour encourager les autres, but even the Tories realise that if they allow mass evictions that's going to cost them a lot of votes.

UPDATE, they've just extended the evictions ban by four weeks. Why such a short extension?
A large landlord can self-insure. If you own a thousand homes and one or two hundred tenants can't pay any rent but you can't evict them, well so what, your unearned income has gone down by ten or twenty percent, you're still laughing.

This should be extended to all landlords; they all pay (say) 20% of the rents they receive into the 'Housing Benefit Fund'. If a tenant loses his job and can't pay, the Housing Benefit Fund pays the landlord (say) 70% of the gross rent from that home which he had previously been declaring and paying the Housing Benefit Levy on (or a lower % if it's a bad year and more than 20% of tenants aren't paying rent).

No need for the taxpayer generally to step in. Taxpayer aren't expected to pay landlords' home and contents insurance, why should they pay their "loss of rent" insurance (aka Housing Benefit)?

Wednesday 19 August 2020

Don't blame the algorithm, blame the people who designed it.

One idle thought I'd had was, if we are going to allow teachers to hand out GSCE and A-level grades, a good way to prevent grade inflation (or deflation) would be to bear in mind that a school's overall results don't change much from year to year and each school is allowed (or is obliged) to award the same number of each grade in each subject as pupils achieved in 2019.

So if last year, 50% of pupils achieved an A grade in GSCE maths at a particular school, this year, the teachers are allowed to give 50% of pupils who would have taken maths GSCE an A grade.

Still a bit unfair, but to be honest, exam results always are a bit unfair; exam marking is fairly subjective. Some people argue that the whole exam system is unfair (I've no complaints myself, I usually did very well in exams). And sure, pupils at private schools will get given better grades, but they would have got those anyway, so that's not really an objection to the algorithm.

It turns out that that is what was supposed to happen:

From the BBC:

Teachers were asked to supply for each pupil for every subject:
- An estimated grade
- A ranking compared with every other pupil at the school within that same estimated grade

These were put through an algorithm - or mathematical procedure. The biggest element in that was the school's performances in each subject over the previous three years. The idea was that the grades this year - even without exams - would be consistent with how schools had done in the past.

So far so good, but the idiots didn't design the algorithm properly, and pupils at independent schools were awarded 4.5% more grades at A and above than the pupils in the previous year.

That is a bit of a smoking gun, if you ask me.

Tuesday 18 August 2020

"The Alternative to Dark Matter May be General Relativity Itself"

See article at Astrobites.

As I was saying all along:

1. Gravity bends light, which is why we get gravitational lensing of light.

2. Gravity waves (in a vacuum) travel at speed of light (in a vacuum). This was measured twenty years ago, but it was a sensible assumption all along.

3. LIGO tells us that gravity waves and light waves from the same event arrive at the same time (give or take a fraction of a millisecond), therefore they must have taken the same path to get here.

4. If the light waves were bent before they got here, then so were the gravity waves.

5. Therefore, there must also be gravitational lensing of gravity, as shown in the second diagram down. Gravity gets focused along the plane of a spiral galaxy. There's less than you'd expect above and below the plane, and more than you would expect around the plane.

For calculation purposes, you can take the common sense approach and say that matter in a Galaxy distorts/creates gravity and shapes the gravitational field. Or the more esoteric view that a galaxy is a giant gravitational field with a certain shape and distribution, with stars trapped in it to balance it all out.

Saturday 15 August 2020

What's the point of making a computer with only two USB ports?

I had to upgrade my tech at the start of lockdown for Zoom meetings and so on. The online reviews said it only had three USB ports, it turns out it only has two.

So I bought two 4-into-1 USB ports for £12 each and now have 8, which is plenty, I don't need to unplug one thing to plug in something else. But it looks a right mess.

The question is, it can't cost more than £10 to make a computer which had eight or ten USBs to start with, so why don't they? If they'd offered two otherwise identical PCs, one with two and one with ten USBs, then I would have happily paid an extra £30 or £40 for the one with ten USBs, just because it's tidier and more convenient. Everybody's happy.

The round black thing with the green light is the one-off and volume control for the excellent Logitech speakers which I had to buy (for about £50) because the inbuilt ones are crap, fair enough, it's a very small box (that's it in the picture) with no room for proper speakers. I can see the commercial logic of that.

Thursday 13 August 2020

We own land, give us money!

Emailed in by Lola, from The Telegraph:

Landlords, shops and restaurants have joined forces to ask the Government to step in and pay commercial rents to help them survive the coronavirus pandemic.

Trade bodies have been in talks with ministers about proposals that would see the Government fund up to 50pc of rent and services charges owed by businesses in the retail, hospitality and leisure sectors. These “Property Bounce Back” grants would be targeted at businesses worst affected by lockdown.

It is estimated that about £3bn of rent owed to commercial property landlords for the six months to September will not have been paid, laying bare the acute pressures faced by landlords and tenants.

His comment was "Aaarrghh!" Not much I can add to that.
Spotted by Mombers at HPC, a question at Property118:

Reluctant landlord (wot?): I note that the LHA rates have been increased from 1st April 2020 – March 2021. A couple of questions…

2. Are any landlords now upping their rents in light of this LHA increase going forward?

PT: If like me, you have tenants on LHA rates, which previously was on average 20-30% below private rental rates, then I see no harm in increasing the rents where the increase will be picked up by the benefit system... It also brings the rents inline with what the property should rent for.

WP: Just thought of another question - if a rent increase will not effect the tenant at all in regard to any top ups (they currently do not pay anyway) - can I notify HB/DWP myself direct? If it is not for the benefit of my tenants, asking them to contact the department about the rent increase will fall on deaf ears....

TBH adds "If you ever needed reassurance that we are on the right side, this thread is ideal." Again, there's not much I can add to that.

Tuesday 11 August 2020

Daily energy budget for 1 m2 dry land

This has taken me several months to understand and work out, but here it is. The total of the three main forms of energy in the atmosphere above every 1 m2 of dry land, the thermal energy stored rocks/soil that warm up and cool down every day is in the order of 3.5 billion (to the nearest half a billion).

That dwarfs the incoming solar radiation of 21 million Joules, or the net 10.5 million Joules which are absorbed every day and re-emitted again every night. The daily "flow" is 0.3% of the total "stock".

Click to enlarge:

This whole exercise was prompted by the IPCC 'global energy budget' which is a) flawed at worst and b) misleading at best.

a) The most obvious flaw is averaging incoming radiation over a 24-hour period rather than splitting it up and doing two charts, one for the 12 hours of the day (all the radiation) and one for 12 hours of the night (none of it). Average surface temperatures are largely dictated by peak day time incoming radiation - Earth rotates quite fast so it doesn't have time to cool down much at night.

b) So they then mislead by sticking in a balancing figure for extra "back radiation" plucked - almost literally - out of thin air to boost day time temperatures back up to what they actually are (or would be, had they not stripped out half of day time solar radiation by the crude averaging).

Monday 10 August 2020

Can you spot which country had a lock down and which one didn't?


To make a fair comparison, population of UK is about seven times as much as population of Sweden, so Sweden peak 100 daily deaths is genuinely lower than the UK peak of 1,000.

Total deaths per million population is Sweden - 570 (sixth worst of all large countries) and UK - 686 (second worst, only Belgium is worse with 851).

It also appears that Sweden messed up old age care homes as badly as the UK did.

Sunday 9 August 2020

Why I love Skeptical Science

Here's their supposed debunk:

Climate Myth: CO2 lags temperature

"An article in Science magazine illustrated that a rise in carbon dioxide did not precede a rise in temperatures, but actually lagged behind temperature rises by 200 to 1000 years. A rise in carbon dioxide levels could not have caused a rise in temperature if it followed the temperature." (Joe Barton, US House of Representatives (Texas) 1985-2019"

What the science says:

CO2 didn't initiate warming from past ice ages but it did amplify the warming. In fact, about 90% of the global warming followed the CO2 increase.

The article is the usual contortions, they discuss cause and effect in a circular sort of fashion, convincing nobody but their Disciples.

But to really shoot themselves in the foot, they include this chart. Click to enlarge:

That shows a clear correlation between temperature and CO2 levels, doesn't it?

Historically, yes. But actually... NO!

Look at the right and left hand scales. In case it's not obvious, I have cut and pasted the chart into Excel, extended the scales, and extended the blue CO2 line to indicate current CO2 levels.

(The current high CO2 levels are almost certainly due to us burning fossil fuels over the last two centuries, so we can rule out current levels as being caused by higher temperatures, whether or not that was true in the past.)

Handily, this extrapolation also rules out CO2 as a cause of higher temperatures, or else current temperatures would (or will) be about 18 degrees hotter than they are now. In which case humanity would (or will be) pretty much buggered and we might as well throw in the towel. Click to enlarge:

Sometimes I wonder whether Skeptical Science isn't actually a sophisticated Big Oil-funded counter-propaganda exercise?

Taken at face value, Skeptical Science is an endless series of appallingly cack-handed own goals and unforced errors, all in apparent sincerity.

Proper Alarmists would have left off the left hand scale on the first chart and then included a "close up" chart of CO2 vs temperature for the last century as well, which would also show a very close correlation and quite possibly have fooled a lot of people.

You'd have to look closely to spot that in the first chart 80 ppm = 9 degrees (and 0 degrees is set at 260 ppm); and in the second chart 80 ppm = 0.8 degrees (and 0 degrees is set at 340 ppm), i.e. if second chart is correct, temperatures would be about 0.2 degrees warmer than they are now (which I am sure we can cope with).

I thought that the "science was settled"? So can they not tell us whether temperatures will be 18 degrees higher or 0.2 degrees higher? That's out by a factor of a hundred.

Saturday 8 August 2020

Ned and Karl on The Moon

Figures and chart taken from the snappily titled On the average temperature of airless spherical bodies and the magnitude of Earth’s atmospheric thermal effect by Ned Nikolov and Karl Zeller, who are "climate contrarians", to put it mildly.
I have been having an email spat with an Alarmist and a Lukewarmer over what is the best way to estimate a planet's surface temperature (i.e. calculate the Effective Temperature).

1. The IPCC approach is to take incoming solar radiation per m2 (adjusted for albedo) on the day side and average over the whole planet at once, then do the usual calc's.

2. The scientific approach is to take the incoming solar radiation (adjusted for albedo) on the day side, then do the usual calc's to find day-side temperature; then work out how quickly it cools on the night side to find out average night-side temperature; and then average the two.

Each approach has some arguments in favour and against, but surely the tie-breaker is "which result matches actual observations more closely?" and then we use that approach in future.
The Moon has no atmosphere (or clouds or oceans) to confuse things, so let's use it as an example. The article includes the following diagram (click to enlarge):

Agreed facts - peak incoming solar radiation overhead at equator at noon = 1,370, albedo 0.05*= 1,300 W/m2 which affect the temperature of the surface.

* The official figure is 0.12, but at the Equator, sunlight is less likely to bounce off than if it hits the surface at a flat angle near the Poles.
1. The IPCC approach is, 1 m2 at the equator gets an average of half the peak value during the day = 650 W/m2 and during the night it gets none at all, so on average over a whole lunar day it gets 325 W/m2. Divide by 5.67, times by 10^8, take the fourth root = effective temperature 275 K.

That's clearly wildly out. The actual average is 213K.
2. The scientific approach is:

a) Peak day-time temp = (1,300 ÷ 5.67 x 10^8)^0.25 = 389K. That's an excellent match.

b) Average day-time temp (based on average radiation during the day i.e. half of 1,300 W/m2*)
= (650 ÷ 5.67 x 10^)^0.25 = 327K. That's quite close to the temperature at afternoon-evening (Lunar Hour 3) and in the mid-morning (Lunar Hour 21).

(* It would be better to calculate the temp for every hour and average those, but that's a right old faff and adds little by way of accuracy, and that is not the point of this post).

c) Average night-time temp has nothing to do with incoming solar radiation (there is none!), you have to work out the "stock" of thermal energy at sunset and work out how quickly it radiates away, the "flow".

The temp at sunset = 120K (by looking at the chart), which falls to 93K just before sunrise. 22% of it's "stock" has "flowed away" during the night. Average temp 107K. We know the answers, we just have to make sense of them and put them in context:

Let's assume it's the top 6" which warms up and cools down (like on Earth).
For each m2, that's about 340 kg mass (not 'weight'!) of rock.
Let's assume specific heat capacity of lunar rock is the same as Earth rocks at very low temperatures = 1,000 J/kg/K.
(these variables are to illustrate the point, I had to guesstimate)
The temp at sunset = 120K
So the "stock" of heat at sunset per m2 = 340kg x 1,000 J/kg/K x 120K = 41 million Joules.

During the night, it is emitting 107K^4 ÷ 10^8 x 5.67 = 7.4 W/m2 (same calculation as above, just in reverse).
Over two Earth weeks, it loses 7.4/m2 x 3,600 secs/hour x 336 hours = 9 million Joules.
That's the "flow".

Check: 9 million divided by 41 million = 22%, job done.

d) We then average the day-time average from b) and the night-time average from c) and get 217K, which is pretty close to the mathematical average 213K.

So... which is the better method - the IPCC approach or the scientific approach?

Answers on a postcard (or in the comments).

Thursday 6 August 2020

Pupil B recants, or maybe not.

Pupil B's homework was ripped to shreds by a warmist and a lukewarmist.

Highlight: "[Having calculated the effective temperature of the cloud-free hard surface on the basis of incoming solar radiation] would he now say the following for night time hard surface? Hard surface is easy, 0 W /m2 = 0 K?

Pupil B is not a total idiot and would never say anything of the sort, but can't resist rising to the bait one last time.
Total incoming solar radiation in 12 hours on the day side for each m2 (to keep the numbers manageable) = 685 W/m2 x 3,600 seconds per hour x 12 hours = 30 million Joules (1 Watt = 1 Joule per second).

Less 40% reflected by clouds, hard surface and ocean (weighted average albedo) = 18 million Joules.

Using James Hansen's leaky bucket analogy (a lousy physics analogy, but mathematically sound), that means that about 18 million Joules must be radiated away again in 12 hours on the night side.
OK, that's the daily +/- flow. What's the average "stock" of energy per m2?

1. There are 10,000 kilos of air for each m2 of surface, warmest at the hard surface, coldest at the tropopause, average about 255K. The specific heat capacity of air is 1,005 J/kg/K = 2.6 billion Joules of stored energy per m2 of surface.

[The Warmists call this "trapped" energy when referring to radiation. In the words of the song, "You can keep her lovin'... like you keep the sunshine in your hands..." Clue: you can't, you can't "store" or "trap" radiation. You could hold some warm air in your hands, but it wouldn't be a good song lyric.]

2. Ball park, it's the top 1m of the ocean surface which exchanges heat with the air every day (warms up or cools down) and is roughly the same temperature (cooler by day, warmer at night).

That's 1,000 kg of water at 288 K, specific heat capacity of water 4,200/J/kg/K = 4.2 billion Joules.

The ocean is only two-thirds of the surface = 0.8 billion Joules.

3. Hard surface is tricky, it's only the top 25cm or something which warms or cools every day, its specific heat capacity is much lower than water, and it's only one-third of the surface, let's just call it a token 0.1 billion Joules so that it doesn't feel left out.

That gives us a "stock" of energy of 3.5 billion Joules for every m2 and a daily gain/loss of 18 million.
That means a daily gain/loss of 0.5%.

The other way of guesstimating this would be to look at a vertical slice and compare day and night temperatures all the way up. The diurnal range at the ocean surface is about 5 degrees; in the desert it can be as much as 30 degrees, but the higher up you go, the smaller the diurnal range (which is why you can get temperature inversions overnight, the land cools down more than the air above it), if it's 2 or 3 degrees overall, that means a total cooling of about 1%.

Either way, that is such a small figure that it doesn't matter how far out we are and what assumptions we make, it's somewhere between 0.5% and 1%.

While the daily gain/loss is interesting in itself, it is a side-show, it tells us nothing about how the stock of energy is distributed within and between the atmosphere, the hard surface and the top bit of the ocean (let alone between the top bit and the ocean depths), or what forms that energy takes, how - or why - it converts from one form to another. That is all well-known and based on good old fashioned physics and long, hard number crunching.
But Pupil B knows it is far too late for recanting, has written off the Physics GCSE and signed up for an NVQ in carpentry at the new school instead and so doesn't really care.

Wednesday 5 August 2020

Greenhouse Effect, what Greenhouse Effect?

It's homework time at Science Academy. Teacher has explained to the class about solar radiation, albedo, Stefan-Boltzmann constant, all that stuff.

Teacher sets a homework: how do you reconcile incoming solar radiation (1,370 W/m2 overhead at the Equator) with the observed average temperature of the hard surface and ocean surface of the planet Earth (288 K or 15C)?

Pupil A

Pupil A makes all manner of short cuts and simplifications and knocks out this calculation on the 'bus on the way into school:

"Solar radiation averaged over surface of Earth in a 24-hour period = 342 W/m2; less light reflected (1 minus albedo 0.3 x 342 W/m2) = 240 W/m2, divide that by the S-B constant; take the fourth root of that = 255 K."

Bugger, thinks Pupil A, I'm out by 33 degrees. Not to worry, too late to re-work it, scribble something about Greenhouse Gases to make up the difference. Job done, hand it in a few seconds before the deadline.

Pupil B

Pupil B takes it a bit more seriously, and splits things up into day and night; cloud cover, land and ocean with their different altitudes and albedos; takes the mid-point of all the variables you can find on the inter-web; finds out about latent heat of evaporation; Googles some weather forecasting sites as a reality check; looks up how quickly air, rock and water cool down at night; and then calculates the weighted average:

a. On the sunlit side, average incoming solar radiation is 684 W/m2.

b. Clouds have an albedo of 0.6; they absorb 684 W/m2 x 40%; divide by S-B constant (5.67 x 10^-8); take the fourth root = 263K.

c. Clouds are at a typical altitude of 4 km above sea-level (average of low-lying fog, proper clouds and con-trails). If their actual temperature is 263 K (-10 C), then their potential temperature is about 289 K; i.e. to be in a neutral equilibrium, the air at sea-level beneath them must be about 4km x 6.5 K/km lapse rate warmer = 289 K.

d. Incoming solar radiation which hits the ocean surface = 684 W/m2; albedo 0.1; so deduct 10% reflected = 616 W/m2; about one-quarter of that doesn't go in to warming, it is 'lost' as Latent Heat of Condensation to reappear elsewhere and higher up (150g water evaporates every hour for each m2 of ocean surface, seems reasonable); [calculate as before] = 299 K.

e. Hard surface is easy, 684 W/m2 less 30% reflected [calculate as before] = 302 K.

f. Pupil B then weights this one-half cloud cover, one-third cloud-free ocean and one-sixth cloud-free land to calculate a weighted average day-time maximum for the whole surface of 294 K.

g. That's just the daytime maximum temperature. It's four in the morning by now, so Pupil B decides that the night time low is about ten or fifteen degrees lower than that based on a joyous experience of partying until dawn and a bitter experience of missing the last 'bus home (and pops head out of window just to check); and calls it 282 K for the night-time low.

h. Pupil B then takes the simple average of 294 K and 282 K = 288 K; heaves a sigh of relief; uploads the file to the school portal; turns off the computer and collapses into bed.

The results?

Pupil A gets an A* grade and a photo in the local newspaper.

Pupil B and Pupil B's parents are called into the Head of Physics' office. Pupil B is painfully aware that all the variables used were mid-points and that there was some reverse-engineering to get the required answer (but if you are asked to reconcile something you can work in either direction, can't you?); sticking your head out of the window is no substitute for proper measurements; and that a proper calculation would have run to several hundred pages; but hey, it was only a first term homework. Maybe a retake or something?

It's far worse. Head of Physics asks the parents why the Hell they are pumping their child full of this Climate Science Denier Bullshit; suggests that Pupil B "might prefer attending a local school which offers vocational qualifications" and shoves the signed-off transfer papers over the desk.

Tuesday 4 August 2020

Killer Arguments Against LVT, Not (481)

I might have done this before, but it's worth repeating.

The KLNs go something like this, "The future LVT would be capitalised into a one-off tax hit on current landowners or home-owners, it's unfair to single out one asset classs [etc]" and "House prices would fall, people's savings would be destroyed [and banks would go bankrupt etc etc]"

OK, maybe the first KLN is true, but the flip-side is, having taken this on the chin, current landowners and home-owners wouldn't have a future LVT liability. You can count the NPV of the future LVT or you can see it as a series of future payments. Not both.

For example - if you have a mortgage of £100,000, you'll have to make regular, monthly payments for the next few years or decades. The NPV of those payments is £100,000. You can't add the two ways of measuring the amount of the mortgage together to make a mortgage of £200,000. That's Home-Owner-Ist maths, not real maths.

The second KLN says that house prices would fall by the NPV of the future LVT. So the best way of measuring the NPV of the future LVT is by looking at how much house prices would fall, which also addresses the first KLN.

And how much would that fall be? I actually see little reason to assume that house prices, in nominal terms, would change much.

House prices are dictated by how much purchasers are willing to pay i.e. borrow to buy them (or how much tenants are prepared to pay to rent them, and the landlord then borrows on the back of that). If the LVT on each home were approx. 3% of its current selling price and taxes on output and earnings (not to mention minor crap like Council Tax, SDLT, Inheritance tax and so on) reduced accordingly, then average working households' disposable earnings (after tax) would be £10,000 to £15,000 higher each year, year in, year out.

So working owner-occupiers would be laughing anyway (the average LVT bill would only be half the VAT and NIC reductions), and less likely to want to sell (unless they want to trade up). Even if landlords 'pass on' the LVT, tenants will still be a lot better off (again, the average LVT bill would only be half as much as the average NIC and VAT reductions) and pensioners will either pay it or roll up and defer. So there would not be a flood of homes put up for sale (even if there were, where are all those seller going to live? They'd have to buy or rent somewhere else, so there's be an equally large flood or buyers and tenants. Some of them will trade down, but just as many others will want to trade up.)

Likely buyers (and tenants) are prepared to commit a certain fraction of their net earnings (after tax) towards housing costs (SDLT, Council Tax, mortgage payments; or Council Tax and rent). This fraction is around 40% across the UK (higher in London, lower in lower wage areas). The amount which purchasers (or tenants) are willing to pay would go up (40% of a larger number is greater than 40% of a smaller number), the annual LVT comes off that first and the balance would go on mortgage payments.

You can muck about with spreadsheets to your heart's content (and I have done), but by and large, what people are prepared to pay towards a mortgage wouldn't change much, therefore, house prices wouldn't change much (and if there were the slightest risk that they would fall, then the government could just cap mortgage interest rates at 2% or something).

So on closer inspection, the KLN's melt away (as they usually do). The NPV of the future LVT hit would be plus/minus nothing. Even if prices fell, would a rational person accept a fall in the selling price of their home if it meant a massive increase in net pay and it made trading up a lot cheaper? Surely yes, unless the fall in prices and you had been intending to trade down to a cheaper home and bank the difference.

But the future tax reduction on output and earnings is real and can be enjoyed every year for the rest of your life, or the rest of your working life at least. The NPV of that is massive. After that, you can just roll up and defer if you'd rather spend it. There's no particular need to "Leave the house to the children" because they will have bought their own homes long before you shuffle off.

Monday 3 August 2020

Joined up government - a waitress speaks.

Her Indoors and I ventured out for breakfast yesterday.

The waitress asked us to download their chain's app so that we could make our orders online. She returned a few minutes later with her notepad to take our orders anyway. Which was a good start.

She also asked one of us to do the track-and-trace nonsense. Her Indoors duly did it (and entered her real name and address, duh), but that was pointless too because the waitress didn't actually ask for confirmation that either of us had.

I showed the waitress the other apps which Playstore recommended after I'd downloaded the restaurant's app, which were all stuff like "how to count your calories", "fitness tracker" and so on, which I found quite chucklesome.

She said that nothing made sense any more. Her restaurant was doing the "eat out to help out" offer, starting today (i.e. tomorrow at the time this happened) but at the same time, the government was telling people not to socialise too much and doing the usual anti-obesity propaganda, the latest iteration being telling fat people that they are more likely to die if they catch covid-19.

I agreed of course, and gave her the counter example of long distance flyers being hit with higher Air Passenger Duty but getting money off alcohol and tobacco in the duty free shops before they board.

(I then deleted their app again, seeing as I didn't need it.)

A survivor from a parallel apocalyptic universe speaks...

From the BBC:

A new campaign called "Badvertising" is demanding an immediate end to adverts for large polluting cars...

Andrew Simms, one author, said: "We ended tobacco advertising when we understood the threat from smoking to public health. Now that we know the human health and climate damage done by car pollution, it’s time to stop adverts making the problem worse. There’s adverts, and then there’s badverts, promoting the biggest, worst emitting SUVs is like up-selling pollution, and we need to stop."

I've no sympathy with people who drive unnecessarily large vehicles (whether gas guzzler or SUV, it's all just conspicuous consumption and a pain in the arse for pedestrians and people in sensibly sized cars), but I doubt that an advertising ban is going to make the slightest bit of difference.

The car manufacturers probably won't care too much. The main purpose of advertising is to retain market share and not increase the size of the overall market. So it's an arms race and an advertising ban is a straight cost-saving.

But it gets funnier. The Stigler, on Twitter, asked:

Andrew Simms? The bloke from NEF who was saying we only have 100 months to save the planet from irreversible climate change back in 2008?


Sunday 2 August 2020

More climate-related fun

1. Those experiments with a container filled with CO2

These date back to Eunice Foote and later John Tyndall in the 19th century. There are plenty of videos on YouTube. They fill one container with normal air and one with CO2 and expose them to sunlight or some other bright light. Inevitably, the one filled with CO2 warms considerably more.

Their conclusion: CO2 causes global warming, and it does this by absorbing radiation.

[Most of these experiments are fundamentally flawed;
- even if they prove that a 100% CO2 atmosphere (or air with 1% or 10% CO2) would be warmer than normal air, that is not relevant, what is relevant is whether an increase from 0.04% to 0.06% would make a measurable difference.
- apparently, it only requires a small amount of CO2 to block all the infra red anyway, and we are way past that point. Any more than that makes no difference. But he does a lot of stuff for the BBC, so he draws the opposite conclusion.
but let's gloss over those flaws. There is clearly a difference.]

There are actually four effects here, all pretty much undisputed:

1. CO2 absorbs and re-emits more infra red that N2 or O2*.

2. CO2 has a lower specific heat capacity that N2 or O2, so for a given amount of energy coming in, CO2 will warm up more than normal air.

3. CO2 has lower conductivity than N2 or O2, so once warmed up, won't cool down as fast.

4. On a very large scale, the lapse rate would be higher if we had a significant amount of CO2 in the atmosphere (let's say more than 10% CO2) because a its lower specific heat capacity means a higher lapse rate. But this effect is irrelevant in the laboratory.

So what is the relative importance of the first three effects in these laboratory experiments?

I stumbled across a write-up of a cool classroom experiment. Instead of filling one container with CO2 and one with normal air, they filled one with CO2 and one with argon.

CO2 and argon have a similar molecular/atomic mass, higher than normal air (44 and 40, compared to 29). At room temperature, they have a lower specific heat capacity than normal air (0.846 J/g/K and 0.5203 at constant pressure, compared to 1.010); similar conductivity, lower than normal air (16.8 mW/m K and 17.9, compared to 26.2). The only major difference is that argon is mon-atomic, so completely unaffected by infra red and CO2 can absorb/re-emit some infra red wavelengths.

The results were that the two gases warmed more or less identically under a bright light, thus ruling out effect 1 (infra red absorption) as relevant. But the experimenters didn't want to lose their jobs, so they softened the conclusion by saying that the increase in atmospheric CO2 since the 19th might have caused a 0.3C surface temperature rise (i.e. 1% of the claimed Greenhouse Effect of 33C).

* Effect 1 is probably nonsense, or at least wildly overstated. For sure, CO2 can absorb and re-emit infra red, half of it downwards, by definition. But normal air warms up, and in turn it warms up things above or beneath it. Take a tray of ice cubes out of the freezer and put it on some polystyrene, what do you think will happen? It's all just "warmth" as far as the ice is concerned.

2. Climate sensitivity

From The Conversation:

The study, which was organised by the World Climate Research Programme (WCRP) looks at a measure called “equilibrium climate sensitivity”. This refers to how much global average temperatures will increase by in the long-term following a doubling of carbon dioxide concentrations. It can be estimated using three main lines of evidence:

1. Temperature measurements made with thermometers from 1850 (when enough global coverage began) to the near present. By comparing temperatures, CO₂ levels and the effect of other climate drivers in the past and present, we can estimate the longer-term changes.

2. Evidence from paleoclimate records from the peak of the last ice age 20,000 years ago, when CO₂ was lower than now, and a warm period around 4 million years ago when CO₂ was more comparable to today. We can tell how warm the climate was and how much CO₂ there was in the atmosphere based on the make-up of gases trapped in air bubbles in ancient ice cores.

3. Present-day observations – for instance from satellite data – and evidence from climate models, theory and detailed process models that examine the physics of interactions within the climate system.

That's not three lines of evidence, it's one at most!

Line 1 just assumes that CO2 drives temperatures, and skips the whole causation-correlation question.

Line 2 is cherry picking random dates and extrapolating from them and also has same weakness as Line 1.

Line 3 is partly just providing more accurate measurements for Line 1. The climate models and theories are in turn based on the same foregone conclusion, so this is just extrapolation based on questionably logic.

Extrapolations are always dodgy anyway. If you were 5' tall at age 10 and are 6' tall at age 20, it would be stupid to assume that you will be 7' by the age of 30. Interpolation is much safer, you can reasonably assume that you were about 5'6'" at age 15, give or take a bit for growth spurts etc.

Saturday 1 August 2020

Once more unto the motherlode...

From Skeptical Science, another failed debunking which is so piss-poor that it makes whatever it is they are trying to debunk seem more plausible:

Over the last half million years, our climate has experienced long ice ages regularly punctuated by brief warm periods called inter-glacials. Atmospheric carbon dioxide closely matches the cycle, increasing by around 80 to 100 parts per million as Antarctic temperatures warm up to 10°C.

Undisputed so far.

Why do we have Ice Ages? To cut a long story short, the most likely explanation is that seemingly minor changes in Earth's orbit keep summers a bit cooler, so glaciers don't melt back in summer as much as they advance in winter. Glaciers reflect more sunlight back to space, which cools thing down further, and so on. Brrr, shit, Snowball Earth, half of everything dies.

Ice Ages end for the equal and opposite reason. From the mother lode:

Inter-glacials come along approximately every 100,000 years. This is called the Milankovitch cycle, brought on by changes in the Earth's orbit... The combined effect of these orbital cycles cause long term changes in the amount of sunlight hitting the earth at different seasons, particularly at high latitudes.

For example, around 18,000 years ago, there was an increase in the amount of sunlight hitting the Southern Hemisphere during the southern spring. This lead to retreating Antarctic sea ice and melting glaciers in the Southern Hemisphere.(Shemesh 2002). The ice loss had a positive feedback effect with less ice reflecting sunlight back into space (decreased albedo). This enhanced the warming.

That's all you need to know, really. [Something] has an effect, the opposite of [something] has the opposite effect.
What does this have to do with atmospheric CO2?

CO2 actually lags temperature by around 1,000 years. While this result was predicted two decades ago (Lorius 1990), it still surprises and confuses many. Does warming cause CO2 rise or the other way around?

As the Southern Ocean warms, the solubility of CO2 in water falls (Martin 2005). This causes the oceans to give up more CO2, emitting it into the atmosphere. The exact mechanism of how the deep ocean gives up its CO2 is not fully understood but believed to be related to vertical ocean mixing (Toggweiler 1999).

The process takes around 800 to 1000 years, so CO2 levels are observed to rise around 1,000 years after the initial warming (Monnin 2001, Mudelsee 2001).

So warming increases the amount of CO2 in the atmosphere, and cooling reduces it for the equal and opposite reason. There's a significant time lag either way (also appears to be undisputed).

The answer to their question is therefore obviously that warming causes CO2 levels in atmosphere to rise, and cooling causes it to fall. That explains everything, job done, you'd think.
However, they answer their own question with "In actuality, the answer is both."

What? How?

The outgassing of CO2 from the ocean has several effects. The increased CO2 in the atmosphere amplifies the original warming. The relatively weak forcing from Milankovitch cycles is insufficient to cause the dramatic temperature change taking our climate out of an ice age (this period is called a deglaciation). However, the amplifying effect of CO2 is consistent with the observed warming.

It's strange that orbital changes are sufficient to trigger an ice-age (which is a feedback thin), but not strong enough to trigger the reverse (the feedbacks work in reverse). If you are going to do propaganda, then at least be consistent. They (whoever 'they' are) will have to add "falling atmospheric CO2 levels"' to the list of generally accepted reasons of why Ice Ages are as cold as they are and rewrite a lot of text books.

Which isn't beyond them, of course, but it all takes time to falsify.