Brian Micklethwait's Blog
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Most recent entries
- Along the river towards Battersea
- Lovely light
- Animals not understanding cameras
- The Wires get mentioned! (But it makes no difference!)
- More Big Olympic Thing photos
- Snohetta does zig zag roofs for competitive cities
- Going from knowing a piece of music to also knowing what it is
- Don’t mention The Wires!!!
- White Van Brians
- A Shiny Thing by Frank Stella Hon RA
- Richard J. Evans on how evidence can become more significant over time
- Another from the archives
- Big 4
- Another quota sign
- Magic clarified
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Category archive: Environment
I recently decided to keep an eye open for newspaper front pages. Yesterday, I snapped, among others, this one:
It was the airplane nearly crashing, or seeming to, that got my attention.
I tried to chase up the story, and eventually found it, not in the Times, behind its paywall, but at the Manchester Evening News, and I found a slightly better version of the picture at the Daily Mirror, in a piece about the generally windy weather we’ve been having lately:
The Manchester Evening News quoted a spokesman for Monarch, the airline whose plane was featured in this picture. He had some interesting things to say about how the camera had, on this particular occasion, told somewhat of a lie:
A spokesman said: “Over the last few days the country has experienced extremely high crosswinds.
“The image depicts a completely normal landing given the weather conditions on the day.
“The image was taken at long range and therefore is deceptive.
“The foreground in this picture is higher than the touchdown zone on the runway - proven in this case by the lower wheel appearing to be in the ground, which was not the case.
“As seen in this image, it is common practice for pilots to perform a crosswind landing in these conditions.”
After I had had a closer look at this photo myself, I was going to say half of this myself. The foreground is higher, and makes the plane look lower. What I had not realised was that the plane was actually in the air.
I notice, however, that the subheading of the Manchester Evening News report quotes the bit about how this was a “completely normal landing”, above the photo that, as explained, makes it look anything but, thus deliberately suggesting Monarchical complacency. But the spokesman didn’t just say it was normal. He explained why it looked abnormal, without actually being abnormal.
But still pretty:
One day, a crane reserve (that link being to where the above cranes were photographed) will be a place where they preserve and worship our mighty mechanical lifting devices, not birds. And cranes, of the good sort, will indeed be worshipped, just as soon as they are all replaced by anti-gravitational plasticene which will be stuck underneath heavy stuff, so it can be taken up to the tops of buildings by robot building workers. In the future, buildings will mostly just be sprayed into the air, but some heavy things in them will still have to be made elsewhere and lifted to their required location.
Loadshedding, said favourite-blogger-of-mine 6k a few days back, is back, and it makes blogging very difficult. Is this, I wondered, some sort of psychological affliction? I dismissed the question as just one of those questions I could perhaps ask someone about, someone like 6k, but couldn’t be bothered to. Life is full of mysteries, and it looked like, for me, loadshedding would be one of them for ever.
But then came another 6k loadshedding post, this time with a ton of significant looking links, and at that point, I remembered Google. Google answers questions immediately, if it can at all.
When there is not enough electricity available to meet the demand from all Eskom customers, it could be necessary to interrupt supply to certain areas. This is called load shedding.
I see. It’s a South African electricity thing.
Looking ahead to demand for energy in the UK over the winter, Energy Secretary Ed Davey pledged over the weekend: “There will be no blackouts. Period.”
Period. The vehemence of that worries me. It suggests that quite a lot of people are asking the question, and that Mr Davey is starting to get angry about that fact. And if a lot of people are asking the question, maybe the answer is not as Mr Davey says it is. See also: “There is no question of …”. This means that there is, and that someone just asked it.
But, a little bit below the reporting of Mr Davey’s verbiage, comes better news:
Mr Davey’s reassurance comes days after a warning by Professor John Loughhead, of the Royal Academy of Engineering, about the “catastrophic” consequences of a two-day power outage to somewhere like the City of London.
A government science adviser said that power cuts are a bad thing, not that any such cuts are at all likely in the UK this winter. So, this quote actually works as a rather more reassuring denial of imminent power cuts than Mr Davey’s protestations.
Davey’s position is explained at greater length in this earlier report. He says that the Tory backbench attack on wind farms could lead to higher energy bills, and I’m sure it could. After all, if you waste a ton of money on wind farms, you may then get a small amount of energy. If you then scrap the wind farms you then get even less energy, but you still get the bill for the damn wind farms already built.
If wind farms cost more to keep running than they yield in energy, then scrapping them makes sense, and ought to reduce energy bills. But, the scrapping of wind farms might be used as an excuse to raise energy bills again, and could in a sense then be described as a cause of energy bills going up, in the sense that it made it easier for people who want energy bills to go up to contrive that. “Scrapping wind farms could raise energy bills” could be read not as analysis, but more as a threat.
Earlier this evening, I attended this gathering. I took a ton of photos, of which I choose this one to show you:
I choose that photo not because it is any great shakes as a photo, but because it focuses (insofar as it does focus) on what was in many ways the most impressive thing about this event, namely the number and quality of those who attended. In this respect, the evening reminded me of those big Liberty League gatherings that happen earlier in the year. Simon Gibbs and his helpers put in a huge effort to make this occasion work well, and to get a decent turnout of intelligent, paying customers.
Don’t get me wrong, the speakers were numerous and articulate, and all admirably concise, which was necessary given how many of them there were. A lot of ground was covered. A lot of food for thought was served up. If there was a big winner issue, so to speak, that best explains how much harder it has recently got to make ends meet, it was probably the cost of housing. There was general agreement that planning regulations need to be relaxed, although also general pessimism about the politics of accomplishing that. Also making a strong showing were energy costs, and the heavy and rising taxes on petrol and drink and tobacco.
But you can have all the speakers up front that you like. If enough aren’t there to listen, then your event falls very flat. This one was the opposite of that.
Yes, I love it when that happens:
Congratulations to Jackie D for capturing it.
Continuing on the getting old theme, when I was young, there were these expressions used by old people that I didn’t get. I knew what farting was, of course I did. But why “old fart”? I now know only too well.
And how could you be ”under the weather”? Again, I understand this now. It is extraordinary how much an old person’s mood depends on the state of the weather, and in particular the state of the sky. Is the sky clear and blue, and do you strut about in the world as if you owned the entire thing? Or are there these great piles of grey clouds bearing down on you, for you to stagger about under, in a state of gloom? Are their benign electronic particles wizzing about energising you? Or do other electrical influences blast into your brain and make it ache?
Just lately, London has had a lot of weather for me to be under, because it has been so hot and humid, and electrically active. But now, here I sit, in my kitchen/office, in my blogger’s uniform (pyjamas), next to my big old computer (which is also a big old fan heater), with the window as open as I could get it (it is a huge bother either opening this or shutting it so it will now remain open), and I am feeling fine, and in particular … rather cold.
As of right now, late afternoon, there is rain and wind outside my window, and not long ago there was thunder. That’s in London SW1. And yet over in St John’s Wood, there is a test match going on, and there is no mention of any weather getting in the way of things.
Oh, as if to prove me wrong, Nasser Hussain has just talked about how the rain is staying “east of Regent’s Park”, in other words travelling northwards from me. North east and Lords would be getting a little bit of moisture some time around now.
It’s very tense, with England 62/1 and chasing just over three hundred, with an hour and a bit this evening and then all of tomorrow, weather permitting. Ballance and Cook have put on fifty, with Cook batting like his life depends on it. Which it does. He won’t die if he gets out soon, but how well he does today and tomorrow could have a big impact on how he lives from now on.
NOT MUCH LATER: 80/4. Cook just got out, for 22. Ballance and Bell already gone. England are not playing at all well at the moment.
Yesterday, someone emailed or tweeted Test Match Special, saying that the Notts captain, Chris Read, could be drafted in, to replace Cook as captain and Prior (who is now dropping catches) as wicketkeeper. It may eventually come to that. Continuity of selection is all very well, but what if they continuously selected team keeps on continuously losing?
See this earlier piece.
Just now, there is some particularly choice stuff at Colossal:
An Abandoned Bangkok Shopping Mall Hides a Fishy Secret
This is fish being farmed in an abandoned basement.
Click and enjoy.
Taken by? No prizes for guessing who. Country? “Poland/Georgia”. Date? “Jan/Feb” of this year. That’s what it said in the email.
I don’t like my mobile phone, because I don’t use it enough to justify the expense. Only the map app is of any real use to me. I rarely use either the phone itself (i.e. for phoning) or the camera.
Or rather, I did hate it, until I read this, at David Thompson’s blog, about how much power it takes to charge up a mobile phone, and therefore how much it enlarges the carbon footprint and hence the self-hatred of an agonised mobile-phone-using Guardian writer:
How terrible should I feel, and what can I do?
A helpful commenter, apparently, responded thus:
Telephone chargers use pathetic small quantities of energy.
Is that true? I had been assuming that my mobile uses a formidable large quantity of energy whenever I recharge it, and hence a formidable large quantity of money. Which is why I have been hating it. All that juice, just for a map and about three calls a month. But if my phone only uses a pathetic small quantity of energy, and hence only a pathetic small quantity of money, then I am happy about it again. I may even get to like it. It’s a Google Nexus 4, by the way.
So, how much does it cost (to hell with my carbon footprint – let the trees around whatever power station I use gulp that in for their breakfast) for me to power my phone from empty of power, to full? Answers gratefully received in the comments. Educated guesses welcome.
Incidentally, a pet hate of mine is when I ask someone, who knows something quite accurately (that I want to know) and far more accurately than I do but who nevertheless refuses to guess, because he can’t be as accurate as he would like to be. (It’s almost always a he – only human males are regularly this socially obtuse and lacking in empathy.) How much does this cost? Don’t know. Guess! No, can’t, don’t know. Rough figure? Less than a quarter of a pee? Oh no, definitely more than that. More than ten quid? Oh no, less than that, obviously. (Obviously to him, in other words.) Right, so you do have a rough idea. So, what is this rough idea? Five pee? Five quid? What? What?!?! You get the idea.
I am not calling you an idiot, unless you do have an educated rough idea of what it costs to power up a mobile phone like mine, but refuse to part with it on the grounds of your answer being too vague to satisfy you, in which case I definitely am calling you an idiot. If you know but can’t be bothered with telling me, or if you know but you now don’t like my tone, well, I can’t say I’m happy about that, but I perfectly understand.
Well, it won’t have taken you long. But even so, impressive, I think.
The photograph is one of these.
I seem to recall that, in Total Recall (I wish), people’s homes were decorated not with static pictures, but with images that constantly changed. We are definitely heading that way.
My computer screen now was amazingly cheap, and is by some distance the best one I’ve ever had, a trend that doesn’t look like stopping at all. Michael J, I know, has two screens attached to his computer, rather than just the one like me. That too is, I should imagine, a growing trend. I might do that myself one day soon, if I ever get round to that remodel of my desk that I keep promising myself. (At present it’s a total shambles, having been designed for one of those horrible pregnant out the back TV sets, and what is worse, one that I hated and immediately swapped for a better pregnant out the back TV, now long gone, of course.)
So, how long before the typical householder connects his computer to about a dozen different screens, scattered around his home. I’ll never do this, because I have books. Remember those. Actually that isn’t very funny, because of course books still abound. This is because, as Alex Singleton was saying to me only yesterday, the business of reading books off of electronic screens has yet to be perfected. A few years back, screens to read books with were excellent, because they were built for that and nothing else. But the arrival of the smartphone, tablet, phablet, thingy has actually caused book reading on the move to get worse, because there’s a trade-off now being made between reading perfectly, and thingy screen perfection. What you want is a button on all those thingies, to switch to a perfect reading screen when you need that.
An interesting moment will happen when screens are pretty much flawless at doing reproductions of great paintings.
Or to put all this another way, when people look back on our time, they’ll not be impressed with our screens, any more than I am impressed by the screens we had thirty years ago.
And with pictures of the quality of the one above, or of all the others in the set I found it in, being so abundantly available on the www, there’ll never be any shortage of stuff to show on all our screens. And that’s not even to mention the ones we take ourselves.
A commenter on one of the climate skeptic blogs, I think at Bishop Hill, provided a link to this fascinating posting, at Coyote Blog.
The Coyote man combines three tendencies that he sees in global temperatures. First, there is a warming process that has been going on since the Little Ice Age. Second, there is a slight kink upwards in this graph, very slight, associated with recent CO2 increase. Third, there is an oscillating wave, for some reason involving a couple of acronyms. And the result is a graph that seems to fit the recent facts better than any other graph I’ve seen. Certainly better than that idiot hockey stick.
If Coyote is right about all this, and he is in fact only semi-serious about it, then the global temperature will soon be seen to be inching downwards, until about 2030, at which point it will then turn back towards relatively rapid heating, again, along the lines of what happened from circa 1970 to circa 2000. So, a few We Will Freeze years, followed by some more We Will Fry decades.
However, we’re talking tiny numbers here. None of this is remotely describable as a catastrophe, even in the long run.
Coyote says he developed this stuff six years ago. But I could find no link back to him actually saying this six years ago. Pity.
Not for the first time, I find myself wishing that I could live another two hundred years rather than for about another twenty or probably less. What will happen to global temperatures for the next century or so? How will the politics of it all play out? I’d love to live long enough to find out. But, I won’t.
This started out as a jokey posting about climate science. It ended up as yet another rumination on the process of getting old. When you are young you are going to live indefinitely. You will die, eventually. But too long into the future for this event to be distinguishable for practical purposes from never. Then, rather suddenly, that all changes.
I recently did another climate science posting at Samizdata.
There are some spectacular pictures now up at English Russia, taken from the air over the Russian Far East, i.e. Vladivostock and surrounding parts.
Here is a good one (scroll down at page 3 of the posting):
What’s good about that is that it shows how roads stop fires. On the right, fire! On the left, the other side of the road, no fire.
Other pictures in the set include several of two rather spectacular bridges in Vladivostock, of which this snap is my favourite (scroll down at page 2):
That is the bridge over the Golden Horn Bay. The other and bigger Vladivostock bridge joins Vladivoskock to Russkiy Island. See this Guardian report. This map, if you reduce its size and go north a bit, shows where both the bridges are.
Here are an extraordinarily large number of photos of the Airbus A380, showing off at a Russian air show.
Here is one of my favourites, in the photoing-planes-from-above-and-yet-also-from-the-ground genre, that the A380 so likes to encourage, when showing off at air shows, the point being that for such a big airplane, this is a bit surprising:
I could be wrong, but somehow I don’t think a slogan like that – “Own the sky” - would be used in the primmer, prissier West, now so much more environmentally hesitant about jet airplanes. Not environmentally hesitant enough to actually stop flying them and flying in them, you understand, but environmentally hesitant enough for everyone to pretend they feel bad about it.
I got a very similar shot of the A380 when it performed the same kind of dance routine at Farnborough, in the summer of 2010:
No mention of anyone owning the sky then, there.
Another difference you can see there - see planely, you might say - is the difference a better camera makes. Happily my 2010 camera is not the one I use now, which is rather better.
In New York, when 432 Park Avenue has been built, the views from it, from 1271 feet up, will look like this.
The City of London is also known as the Square Mile, so I have cropped out the City with the automatic square tool in my photoshop clone.
The people who concocted this rather commonplace piece of visual extrapolation have assumed that there will be no outbursts of history to complicate the picture. This may be wrong, but it makes a nice change from a few years back, when people were faking up pictures of London under thirty feet of sea water. That kind of thing is not just not believed any more. It is not even being thought about any more. It never occurred to any of the people now spreading this story around, about London building lots of new towers, to mention Rising Sea Levels, Climate Chaos, etc. etc., blah blah blah.
This is often how big arguments are won and lost. In silence. The people talking tripe stop talking it. And the people who have been explaining why the tripe is the tripe that it is, and have been in the habit of denouncing it in loud voices, no longer have any tripe to denounce. So they also go quiet.