Monday 31 January 2022

My initial guesses for Wordle

I caved in and took a look at Wordle, which is basically the 1970s 'Mastermind' game but the answer is a word instead of a combination of colours.

If you want to get the answer in the shortest time possible with the least mental effort (rather than using up the least guesses, which requires concentration), you can use a brute force strategy by entering up to five initial guesses to work out which letters are in the actual answer, with a bit of luck, some will have been in the right place, but worst case you have an anagram. The strategy could go wrong if the answer is RIVAL and you guessed VIRAL etc, but there's a new puzzle every day.

For brute forcing it, you need five five-letter words for your initial guesses, that between them use as many letters in the alphabet as possible at least once i.e. the best outcome would be using 25, with a less commonly used letter like X, Y or Z left over.

So I took a Scrabble alphabet and got to work shuffling. Here's the closest I've got so far (not sure yet what the best order is):


These five words use 23 letters of the alphabet at least once (E and S used twice), with J, Q and Z left over. So not perfect, but as close as I've got so far.

With a bit of luck, you won't need them all. If your first guess is WRACK and RACK is right letter/right place and the T in MYTHS is right letter, wrong place, you know the answer is TRACK.

Sunday 30 January 2022

Trees and CO2 capture - fun with numbers

Here are my workings, if you spot any glaring errors, please leave a comment. It's all round figures, I'm not going to bicker about anything more accurate than the first significan figure.

How many trees would we need to clear the backlog?

CO2 in atmosphere = 3,000 billion tonnes (3 x 10^12)
One-third of that is the increase since 1850 = 1,000 billion tonnes, this is apparently the Bad and Planet Warming portion. 1850 level is accepted as beneficial.
World population = 8 billion
Bad CO2 per person = 125 tonnes.
Trees consist of mainly CO2 by mass, plus a bit of H.
My mistake 1 - see comments - about half of the weight of a live tree is water.
An 80 foot tall hardwood tree = 9 tonnes
Let's say an average medium sized tree = 5 tonnes.
(A four foot long section of tree trunk with diameter 2 foot = 1 tonne, so if the main trunk is 16 feet high (two storeys of a house) plus 25% for boughs and branches, that's 5 tonnes)
So we'd need to grow another 25 trees per person to catch up. Sure, those trees will take decades to grow, but you have to start somewhere.

Ongoing emissions

At present, total CO2 in atmosphere is going up by 1% a year.
My mistake 2 - see comments - probably closer to 0.5%
1% x 3,000 billion tonnes = 30 billion tonnes.
30 billion ÷ 8 billion people = 4 tonnes per person.
Let's say each tree soaks up 0.1 tonnes of CO2 per year while it's growing (from above - 5 tonnes divided by 50 years)
That's 40 trees per person i.e. each person plants that many to offset the element of their lifetime emissions which aren't being soaked up naturally. This sort of overlaps with the 25 from above for older people, but hey.
The maths gets super tricky after that. People are born and they die. Older trees would have to be cut down once they reach maturity and are soaking up little additional CO2, then stored somewhere dry - to be replaced by new trees that are soaking up carbon as they grow. So I won't bother looking that far ahead.

Land area needed

25 to clear the backlog, plus 40 for ongoing = 65 per person. Number of trees in the world = about 400 per person
So broadly speaking, an increase in tree cover of one-sixth Forests (and presumably other wooded areas) = 31% of global land area
So that would have to go up to 36%, which seems do-able.

Applied to the UK

Decent sized trees per acre = 200. (In the dense wood at the top of my road, there are fairly big trees whose trunks were about 5 or 6 yards apart, so each tree has its own circle = 24 sq yards. 4,840 sq yards ÷ 24 sq yards = 200)
So the UK would need to 65 trees per person/200 trees per acre x 70 million people = 23 million acres, or 40% of the UK land area.
There's not that much suitable land (Scottish grouse moors, marginal farmland and such like) in the UK, but maybe we could get half-way there?
Countries like the UK that don't have enough land area per person and especially city-states like Monaco or Hong Kong will have to buy up some land in Canada or Siberia, where the land costs pennies, and let their trees grow there.

Alternative calculations welcome!


1. The two mistakes seem to largely cancel out. Trees only soak up half as much CO2 per tree as I thought, but we only need to soak up half as much CO2 = overall 90 not 65.

2. The Welsh government reckons that they need about 30 trees per person to be 'carbon neutral'. I assume (rightly or wrongly) that this is just to deal with ongoing CO2 increases and not clear the backlog, so ballpark, our figures are in agreement.

Saturday 29 January 2022

Why are only satirists asking the obvious question?

From Newsthump:

Met Police Chief Cressida Dick... told reporters, “The Met Police do not like to admit defeat in solving crimes, but in this case, we’ve had too little to go on, so we have had no choice to look for outside help.

“There are so few clues that we just don’t know where to start. Whether it’s with the repeated public admissions of guilt from politicians and civil servants, the questioning of those who resigned over the breaches or to start by talking to the eye witnesses who just happen to be policemen who work for us. How is anyone supposed to solve a crime like this?"

From The Daily Mash:

The investigation into a number of thoroughly documented illegal gatherings that attendees are on record as attending is not expected to be challenging, especially once direct testimony is taken from the police officers who saw it all.

Nathan Muir of Hebden Bridge said: “Call me Columbo, but I’d begin there. Check the records, find out who was on duty, haul them to the interrogation room and get a full list of all parties they saw, heard or inadvertently attended. It doesn’t have to be Line of Duty. They’ll probably just tell you.

“They’ll definitely have noticed wheeled suitcases full of wine, because they’re sharp-eyed police, and there’ll definitely be full records of who was where when because it’s the seat of government."

Tuesday 25 January 2022

Not a religion

On the subject of people inventing religions as a way to gain and maintain power, dividing things into Good and Evil is an indicator of what we are dealind with.

Cow attacks hit the headlines

From the BBC:

Ram Raj was drinking tea at his home in the northern Indian state of Uttar Pradesh on a chilly November evening last year when a stray cow attacked him.

Over the next few minutes, his young grandchildren screamed and watched in horror as the animal mauled him. The 55-year-old farmer died of severe injuries on the way to hospital. "It was a painful death and my mother-in-law has stopped having proper meals ever since," his daughter-in-law, Anita Kumari, said.

Such attacks have become common in India's most populous state, where a ban on cow slaughter has led to a huge rise in the cattle population. So much so that they have become an issue in the state's upcoming elections, which are set to begin on 10 February.

That's what you call unforeseen consequences on an epic scale. But hey, people use and abuse voters' religious beliefs to gain power, and damn the consequences.

Saturday 22 January 2022

Universal Basic Income News

The Welsh government is going to trial a UBI scheme. It seems a sensible scheme with reasonable payments:

Age range: Child 0–17 - Payment rate per week: £120.48
Age range: Adult aged 18–64 - Payment rate per week: £213.59
Age range: Adult aged 65 and over - Payment rate per week: £195.90

Nor has anyone popped up to provide me with a KCN, what is the world coming to? Perhaps all the Tories are distracted by Partygate.

Thursday 20 January 2022

That's the beauty of LVT - reply to Doonhamer

Doonhamer left this comment on the subject of the Scottish government's auction of offhore wind turbine licences:

Yes, but what is the guaranteed price for all those expensive kWh?
And what do they get paid for NOT producing kWh when the wind is too strong?
And who pays for all the interconnecting copper?*
And who pays for the clean up when the rusting stumps and sea bottom concrete are no longer useful?*
And who pays for the fossil fuel back up when the wind speed is too low or too high?

No, I jest. I already know who will pay.

Let's assume the kWh price is 'too high' (which it almost certainly will be, to "kick start the Green Economy" and suchlike bullshit) and all the other costs are borne by consumers and taxpayers (who are largely the same people).

That means that the future profits will be correspondingly higher - but with a properly run auction (the English/Welsh method; not the Scottish method) that doesn't matter too much. Competing businesses will be willing to submit higher bids for the licences, so the government has more money available to pay all the costs and doesn't need to make consumers/taxpayers pay all over again via taxation.

The same general principle applies to all forms of Land Value Taxation. If the actions of government and society in general benefit particular areas or businesses, the beneficiaries pay the value back into the pot (which hopefully covers the direct costs with some left over to be spent on 'everybody') and those who don't benefit aren't forced to contribute via income tax etc.

* In an ideal world, the National Grid would still be state-owned, so it would have to bear these costs anyway, which it would more than recover by charging generators for transporting electricity. The generators should all be private, competing businesses. Fancy owning a power station? Raise some money, build one and hook it up to the Grid. The most efficient forms generators will win out, the inefficient ones go to the wall and society as a whole benefits.

Wednesday 19 January 2022

An auction with a price cap is not an auction

This story is quite baffling, from Yahoo News/Reuters:

LONDON (Reuters) - BP, Shell and utility Iberdrola were among the winners of seabed rights to develop Scottish offshore wind projects, in an auction which raised nearly £700 million ($958 million) for public spending... Crown Estate Scotland, which manages the Scottish seabed, said on Monday that proceeds from the first such leasing deal in around a decade will go to the devolved Scottish government.

This is land value tax in action - the sea bed and the wind were created by nobody and thus belong to everybody and nobody, so the government is perfectly entitled to claim dibs and auction it off on behalf of 'everybody'. Good stuff so far, but...

Last year, seabed options around the coast of England, Wales and Northern Ireland were awarded at much higher prices at a leasing round held by the Crown Estate. However, Crown Estate Scotland capped the lease payments at £100,000 pounds per km2. As a result the payment for leases per GW were 94% lower than the average in the English auction, said analysts at Bernstein.

The English/Welsh auction last year raised £9 bn, but that article doesn't say how many GW or km2 were involved so I will accept the "94% lower" figure.

So it wasn't really an auction at all, it was a freebie for those who were awarded the rights. I hope that Scottish citizens kick up a stink about this and that heads roll, starting with Wee Krankie.

Tuesday 18 January 2022

The Guardian's alternate reality

From The Guardian:

The climate crisis is damaging the health of foetuses, babies and infants across the world, six new studies have found.

Scientists discovered increased heat was linked to fast weight gain in babies, which increases the risk of obesity in later life. Higher temperatures were also linked to premature birth, which can have lifelong health effects, and to increased hospital admissions of young children.

Right. The 'cimate crisis' leads simultaneously to more premature babies, which tend to be underweight, and also faster weight gain/obesity?

The burning of fossil fuels drives the climate crisis but also causes air pollution and a new study in Denmark assessed the impact of dirty air on 10,000 couples trying to conceive naturally. It found that increases in particle pollution of a few units during a menstrual cycle led to a decrease in conception of about 8%.

A recent study in China also found that air pollution significantly increased the risk of infertility, but the average pollution level was more than five times higher than in the Danish study. “Air pollution [in Denmark] was low and almost entirely at levels deemed safe by the European Union,” said Wesselink. “Current standards may be insufficient to protect against adverse reproductive health effects.”

Of course pollution is unhealthy, nobody is disputing that. But it doesn't seem to have that much effect - the birth rate in Denmark is only ever so marginally higher than in China.

Wellenius said an important aspect of the studies was that they showed that vulnerable people often suffered the worst effects, for example people of colour and those on low incomes who did not have air conditioning or lived in areas with higher air pollution. “This is absolutely a health equity and justice issue,” he said.

Right. The number of babies being born seems to be inversely proportional to how urbanised or economically developed a country is (it's a fascinating topic in its own right); the world's overall birthrate has plummetted quite precipitously over the last century. The only continent where they are still getting on with it and popping out lots of babies is also the poorest, and probably the hottest and most polluted one - Africa. But according to the Guardian, the opposite is happening.

Friday 14 January 2022

"Midget Gems change name after academic's campaign"

From the BBC:

Marks & Spencer has changed the name of its Midget Gems sweets to avoid misleading geology students after a campaign by a Liverpool academic.

Dr Erin Pritchard, a lecturer in geology at Liverpool Hope University, argued the word "gem" was highly misleading as the sweets are clearly not a precious or semi-precious stone, especially when cut and polished or engraved.

M&S has now rebranded the popular treats as Midget Jellies. A spokeswoman said the store was "committed to being a scientifically accurate retailer".

Monday 10 January 2022

Daily Mail on the topic of "They own land, give them money!"

Janet Street-Porter in The Daily Mail, is on good form:

The largest landowner in Scotland is a Danish billionaire who is busy returning his holdings in the remote Highlands to wilderness areas where you can rent beautifully restored crofters cottages and lodges for luxury breaks.

Other huge rewilding fans are the Goldsmith millionaires, Ben and Zac, pals of Carrie Johnson, who is the PR for millionaire Damian Aspinall's Foundation in Kent.

Aspinall owns Howletts Zoo (he prefers the term 'nature park') where the public can pay £20 to gawp at gorillas and cheetahs who are being reared to eventually return to Africa. Ben Goldsmith is a rewilding-mad financier who owns 300 acres in the West Country, and wants to return his estate to a 'species-rich scrubby wood', planning to introduce polecats and glow worms...

Ben holds a non-executive role as an advisor at Defra, giving him a good chance to bend the ear of government with his rewilding crusade. To be fair he hasn't taken a salary – then again he doesn't need to. Older brother Zac, a charming man but a failed Tory MP, now sits in the House of Lords as Baron Goldsmith of Richmond Park, personally appointed by Boris, holding the environment brief.

Zac and Ben are old pals of the Prime Minister- they all attended Eton. Last autumn the Prime Minister borrowed the Goldsmith's family house in Spain for a short holiday.

But inevitably, she lapses into Home-Owner-Ism:

... shouldn't the government do more to protect farmland and forestry by refusing to allow unrestricted housing development on rural sites? Instead, every small town in England is becoming surrounded by building sites churning out identikit estates of noddyland housing on land which once produced food.

"Every small town"? "surrounded"? Really? As to "Noddlyland", most people live in fairly non-descript housing (my house is fugly, if truth be told), I don't see why that's a problem. And they get far more benefit from their home than they would have done growing a bit of fruit and veg on the plot. I'm still waiting for the first Nimby activist to buy and demolish housing and sell the land back to a farmer.

But hey, she's got the general idea.

Sunday 9 January 2022

"Don't look up"

I had no intention of watching this film until I noticed that the Alarmists assume that this film is a parable about politicians and the media ignoring the 'Climate Crisis'.

Having misunderstood* the whole premise, The Guardian gave it two stars, describing it as a "shrill, desperately unfunny climate change satire"**.

Duly heartened, I watched it yesterday and I must say, it is gruesome and splendid. It's basically Dr Strangelove, except with a giant meteor instead of a nuclear war.

* It's quite possible that they are right and the film is supposed to be a parable for the 'Climate Crisis'. If so, the film is an epic fail on its own terms, but succeeds nonetheless because you can watch it ironically.

** For more top-drawer Guardian hand-wringing, read this article.

Friday 7 January 2022

Wolf news

From the BBC:

Throughout the late 19th and early 20th centuries, a number of species disappeared from the Swiss Alps: the brown bear, the lynx and the wolf. The high mountain environment, so often regarded as pure and untouched, had been ravaged by one particular predator - humans.

Now all three species are back. The bears and the wolves returned naturally*, the lynx has been successfully reintroduced. But the dream of people and animals living harmoniously side by side has turned, for some alpine farming communities, into a bit of a nightmare.

No shit, Sherlock. Our ancestors had good reasons for wiping out wolves, it wasn't just a whim...

Just this month a sheep farmer close to the Swiss capital Bern woke to find seven of his 35 sheep dead, their throats ripped out by a wolf that had apparently jumped over the electric fence designed to protect the flock.

And inevitably...

Farmers are increasingly impatient. Last year they called a referendum demanding the law be changed to make it easier to hunt and kill problematic wolves. Swiss voters, most of whom live in cities, said no.

The French on the other hand seem to be taking a more robust approach. From The Daily Mail:

A zoo in southern France has been closed down temporarily by local authorities after a pack of wolves escaped from their enclosure and roamed around the site during visiting hours.

A total of nine wolves escaped from their enclosure last weekend at Trois Vallées Zoo in Montredon-Labessonnie, roughly 60 miles east of Toulouse. Four wolves were shot dead due to 'dangerous behaviour', before the five remaining animals were anaesthetised and returned to their enclosures by local officials who were called to the scene.

* The article says that wolves came up from Italy. Wiki says it has been strictly protected in Italy since the 1970s, so this is on them. The bears seem to have come from the east, via Austria.

Thursday 6 January 2022

"Maureen Lipman attacks casting of Helen Mirren as former Israeli PM Golda Meir"

From The Guardian:

Maureen Lipman has criticised the casting of Helen Mirren as Golda Meir in a forthcoming film about the former Israeli prime minister, saying that the character’s ugliness is “integral”.

She added: “I’m sure [Mirren] will be marvellous, but it would be like Gal Gadot or Natalie Portman being cast as Angela Merkel. You just couldn’t even go there.”

They own land! Give them money!

From the BBC:

Farmers and landowners in England could be paid to turn large areas of land into nature reserves, or to restore floodplains, under new government agriculture subsidies.

When the UK was part of the EU, farmers were given grants based on how much land they farmed. Following Brexit, the government has pledged to pay based on how farmers care for the environment.

But environmental groups say the new plans lack detail and may not deliver. In what the government describes as "radical plans", landowners and farmers will be allowed to bid for funding to turn vast areas of land - between 500 and 5,000 hectares - over to wildlife restoration, carbon sequestration, or flood prevention projects.

The underlying insanity is that the government is in charge and decides what people can or cannot do. There is no need to pay people to obey the law, that's how it works. If they want to have more woodlands, discourage farming within XX yards of a waterway, particularly steep slopes or flood plains or wherever the environmental benefits outweigh the value of food which can be grown, they can just pass a law saying "Thou shalt not...".

I don't think that policing this is particularly difficult. They can fly helicopters over it and take pictures. If anything looks suspect, go and have a look on the ground.

The most insane idea is having a cut-off of 500 hectares (1,200 acres), which is considerably larger than the average UK farm, i.e. only the top fraction of a per cent of UK landowners can qualify. As far as rewilding goes, every acre counts. Wildlife in the UK is hefted and each animal's 'territory' is usually quite small. They're not like elephants or buffaloes which travel hundreds of miles depending on the season.

The Daily Mash says it best:

"Environment secretary George Eustice said: “The agricultural role of the British government is to funnel money to landowners, and I promise you that will not change.”

Wednesday 5 January 2022

Killer Arguments Against LVT, Not (491)

Kester Pembroke emailed in the following, by a clueless wanker called Neil:

Or alternatively we can recover planning gain from developers and impose peppercorn leases on all land given planning permission. Then those leases are held by the local council and they create sufficient for all builders in the area to build as they see fit. We keep going until houses start to depreciate. If insufficient builders come forward we build council housing. It's bizarre to believe that planning gain should continue and the entire country taxed instead.

The bit about 'peppercorn leases' is just waffle. Once the developers - who are always seen as The Bad Guys, as evidenced by endless cinema films - have sold the homes they build, who pays it? And the notion that granting lots of planning permission would lead to house prices is falling is nonsense - when prices start falling, developers stop developing.

The bit about "the entire country being taxed instead" is mathematical bollocks. You own one home? Pay tax on one home. You are a land banker with a hundred thousand sites with planning? You pay on a hundred thousand homes. That's like saying ordinary motorists shouldn't pay Fuel Duty because they don't use as much as large transport companies.

Agreed on Council Housing - but the rent you pay on a council house is a combination of real costs (maintenance, insurance etc) and location rent. If you pay location rent to the government, that IS Land Value Tax.

Particularly one based upon subjective value and that has never worked - as every version of rates and council tax shows.

Business Rates were introduced over four centuries ago and are still going strong. Sure, the valuations are done in a sloppy manner and are a bit hit and miss, but it's still the closest we have to LVT.

... yet council Tax is still on 1991 values, which shows that reality doesn't coincide with the fantasy. The previous two rating systems suffered from the same issue.

The council tax on any home bears so little relation to its 1991 value as to be meaningless. In practice, an annual council tax bill can be anywhere between 0.1% and 100% of a home's current site premium/location rent (Mayfair vs Blaenau Gwent, or wherever the cheapest houses are). Council Tax is made up numbers. So what? The only reason we have this stupid system is because of Home-Owner-Ist resistance to a sensible valuation system, which was the same under Domestic Rates.

So this is akin to a spoiled child smashing a new toy with a hammer and then complaining that is doesn't work. Northern Ireland shows that it is not too difficult to update valuations. They assessed market values in 2005 and the Domestic Rates is about 0.7% of each home's 2005 value.

When taxing, it's not about it being 'about right'.

When taxing, the most important thing is taxing in the fairest possible way that is least damaging to the economy. Without a government or government spending, most homes would be nigh worthless. So you pay for what you get. The government would be just a mutually-owned, for-profit service provider and every citizen gets an equal share of the dividends (mainly in kind, with an element in cash).

There has to be a system that is rigorous and seen to be fair. And that is why property taxes always fail. The value of them is subjective.

Of course Domestic Rates or LVT or 'progressive property tax' or Council Tax or whatever you want to call it can be applied in a "rigourous and fair" manner, he's just doing the spoiled child again. The rental value of 99% of homes is not subjective in the slightest. It's a simple question - how much could you rent it out for? Then knock off a bit for the bricks and mortar element, round it down for luck, stick similar homes in Bands and average it all out. There's your answer.

Sure, 1% of homes are so quirky or odd that it's difficult to establish the exact market value, but the market value itself is not 'subjective'. I don't know exactly how much rain fell in my back garden yesterday, so I'd have to interpolate and guess. But "how much rain fell in your back garden" is not 'subjective', it's 'objective' and the fact we will never know the precise answer does not make it 'subjective'. 'Subjective' is questions like "Were Led Zeppelin better than Little Mix?", on which everybody has their own equally valid and irrelevant opinion.

As long as you are paying the same amount as similar homes in your area, and people in bigger homes/nicer areas are paying more and people in smaller homes/grottier areas are paying less, what's the problem?

Whereas wage taxes are always absolutely objective and unarguable. Ultimately unless things change hands rental values and property prices are a matter of opinion. That can never be a stable basis for taxation.

Property taxes are a VERY stable basis for taxation, the money is just collected (preferably by direct deduction from wages or welfare/pension payments) without the need for tens of millions of annual tax returns, quarterly VAT returns, monthly or weekly payroll calculations etc. That's a massive headache and cost with a huge amount of fraud and error.

Just because you think that some economic variable - like wages or turnover - are 'objective' does not automatically make them good subjects for taxation. You are paying for the privilege of working or running a business, providing goods and services etc (which are Good Things - if you tax them, you get less Good Things) for absolutely nothing directly in return (apart from a few contributory benefits, which are an insane idea anyway. They are the opposite of means-tested benefits, which are just as insane.)

Why not get rid of that and ask people to pay some percentage of the value of what the government provides them? Not forcible payments towards the cost (that way lies Poll Tax) but voluntary payments for the value, just like in any free market transaction? Think you're being overcharged? Move somewhere cheaper. Nobody's forced to shop at Waitrose. It's voluntary because they can shop at Aldi or Lidl instead.

Tuesday 4 January 2022

"Jeremy Clarkson suffers 'smashed testicles' after cow attack"

From Bang Showbiz:

"I think this was the lowest point in my farming career to date. Being attacked by a cow while on my knees, in the mud, in a storm, with smashed testicles. And all so I can make beef for a restaurant that I probably won’t be allowed to open. I was very miserable."

Cow attacks usually just involve a careless dog walker, or occasionally an unlucky farm worker. It's nice to see a celebrity joining in the fun every now and then.

The toughest winter ever.

The Observer, 31 October 2015: Record numbers of patients will be stuck on trolleys in corridors or the back of ambulances this winter as hospitals run out of beds because of soaring demand and limited funding, the country’s leading A and E doctor has warned.

The Guardian, 21 December 2016: Record numbers of patients are leaving A&E units without being treated, new figures reveal, sparking fears that the NHS is on the brink of a winter crisis and cannot cope with soaring demand.

The Health Foundation, December 2017 - February 2018: The winter of 2017/18 was challenging for the NHS. There were several factors at play, including severe winter weather, increased flu and increased norovirus outbreaks compared to recent, previous years.

The Guardian, 8 December 2018: NHS trusts are expanding A and Es, paying for patients to be cared for in nursing homes and looking after more people at home to help them cope with the impending winter crisis, which experts have warned will be the toughest ever.

The Independent, 11 December 2019: Hospitals across the country are at “breaking point” as a winter surge threatens to overwhelm the NHS

Daily Express, 30 June 2020: Winter crisis: Jeremy Hunt warns NHS hospitals to be in a 'weaker position' later in 2020

iNews, 28 October 2021: Staff morale is plummeting across the NHS according to doctors who are bracing themselves for what they believe could be the worst winter the health service has ever faced.

For more fun along these lines, I recommend an article in Moneyweek, 21 December 2005. They point out that under new Labour, the NHS budget had been doubled...

Petition: Tony Blair to have his "Knight Companion of the Most Noble Order of the Garter" rescinded

Over at

Only takes a few seconds to sign, fun for all the family.

Monday 3 January 2022

Science news.

1. From the BBC:

"Distant starlight gets stretched by the expansion of the Universe and shifts into the infrared region of the spectrum. We call it redshift," explains Richard Ellis, a University College London astronomer who's impatient to explore the end of the dark ages.

"The limiting factor we have with Hubble, for example... It's also not a particularly large telescope. It's been a pioneering facility, for sure. Amazing pictures. But the diameter of its mirror is only 2.4m, and the power of a telescope scales with the square of the diameter of the mirror. And that's where JWST comes in.

Why doesn't he just say "the power of a telescope scales with its surface area"? That's easy to understand and makes sense. He's trying to sound too clever for his own good.

2. Also from the BBC:

The UK is having the warmest New Year's Day on record, with new high temperatures set for the second day in a row, the Met Office says. St James's Park in central London saw temperatures of 16.3C (61.3F) on Saturday as 2022 was ushered in...

The previous New Year's Day record was set in [drumroll please...] 1916, when it reached 15.6C (60.1F) in Bude, Cornwall.

It would appear that average temperatures are going up slightly in many places, but the constant cherry picking is like the boy crying wolf, I believe it less all the time. 0.7 degrees per century doesn't strike me as too catastrophic. It would be just as easy to cherry-pick the other way and list all the places where New Year's Day was colder in 2022 than it was in some other random year like 1916.

Similarly, there have been a lot of forest and brush fires in recent years. If somewhere has a particularly big or damaging fire, then they are quick to shout about it as if it had never happened before.

But what about all the places which have had large fires in the past which didn't have any fires at all in recent years? Do they mention those? Nope. That's just what forests do - they burn down every few decades and then grow back - or else there wouldn't be any forests left. If we stopped chopping them down, there would be as many trees as there ever were.