Number of the Month

April 2014

The answer is still blowing in the wind

Just thirteen years ago we announced the first proposal of an airborne electric generator and drew a moral from the story. There have been many such stories since then but the moral still seems to apply. In all those years (and millions of dollars) what we have not had is an account of useful amounts of power being delivered.

The NY Times, gives us a nice example of its style of reportage (delightfully vague) with an account of a New airborne wind turbine. Further detail (not a lot) of the technology can be found on the company’s website.

 This one relies on the Archimedean upthrust derived from the air displaced by a balloon filled with helium to support the weight of the blades, the generator and the cable tether, the latter also the dealing with the extra wind force on such a large object. The project has so far raised a million dollars from angel investors and the ever-willing taxpayers. Remember that this is Green economics, in which the development costs do not have to be recovered.

We shall just have to wait and see, but we have already been waiting for 13 years. We might even get some numbers this time, or even delivery of some usable power (but not a lot). At least there is a modicum of modesty in the stated aims. The use of “homes” as a unit of power does not encourage optimism. What is a home in SI units? Is the home a woodman’s hut or a Gore palace?

PS Don’t mention THE CABLE. I did, but I think I got away with it. To be fair the NYT did actually mention cables (in the plural). Anyone for a game of cats cradle?


Surprise, surprise!

 Headline from the Daily Mail: 

'Rats the size of cats are invading our cities'

 Just in time to mark the celebration of the seventh anniversary of our piece of 20 April 2007, which was entitled STENCH! What would we do without our dear old EU?


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Here we go again!

It’s that time of year again, the emergence of the salt zealots and their enthusiastic embracing by the establishment media. As we observed in The March, this is the weirdest of all the modern zealotries, but oh so typical. These homeostasis-deniers now claim that “Salt is the main driver of high blood pressure, which in turn is the biggest single cause of heart disease and strokes”. They employ all the most extreme methods of junk epidemiology and do not recognise one of the most enduring principles of real science that correlation is not causation. They have given up on the unconvincing experiments and now rely on extracting alleged evidence by grotesquely selective statistics from national surveys. In the world of the true zealot only one cause is allowed and all others are deemed not to exist. If you believe that a 15% reduction in salt intake produces a 40% reduction in heart disease deaths, then you will believe anything.

In this particular claiming of credit, the most glaring omission is the concurrent existence of a vigorous political campaign of medication to reduce blood pressure. This has been highly successful in reducing the levels of hypertension in the general population. Such medications include ACE inhibitors, beta-blockers, and diuretics. They all, however, have potential side effects, some of which can be serious. While longevity is unquestionably on the increase, some recorded causes of death may well be simply moving victims from one category to another; from, say, heart failure to kidney failure.

These periodic emissions serve no useful purpose at all, unless you count the temporary elevation of one obscure professor to the popular hall of fame. They can, however, be a dangerous diversion from the duty of care.


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 Number watchers' corner

Correspondence and subsequent hit statistics have drawn attention to a citation of Number Watch in the comments on a piece in WUWT. Briefly, this matter has nothing to do with our Law of League Tables, which concerns a logical human response to an illogical reward stimulus. Here it is more probably a manifestation of the uncertainty principle and the related window problem.

One of the many dangers with computer models is the ease with which we can apply simple arithmetic manipulations that are analytically very complicated. Time was when I had the energy and obstinacy to delve into some egregious cases: an example was tracking down the method by which the notoriously mendacious Chris Huhne manufactured alleged support for global warming by manipulating the statistics of closures of the Thames Barrier.

As in the case of smoothing, for example, we must take great care not to give too much credence to processed data from the beginning or the end of an amputated sequence. The deceptively simple arithmetic applied in the case in question would be very difficult to describe in mathematical analytical form, but there are one or two features that would call for the exercise of care and thorough testing by trying different values for the parameters. There are transient effects at the beginning and end of suddenly started sequence that can persist, depending on the autocorrelation of the input noise. The regular periodic nature of the creation of the subsequences might accidently interact with the possibly oscillatory character of such transients. What, we might ask for example, would be the effect of moving the beginning and ends of the subsequences, say a delay of half their length? Would the derived peaks now move to the middle? We are not told enough about the modified white noise input to guess this, apart from the fact that it is “red”. Time to move on before it turns into a PhD project!

At times like this, and for no rational reason, I tend to think of the remark of that great philosopher, E L Wisty, on the fate of the dinosaurs – “If I were God I would not have done it that way.”


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Number of the Month – 7,000

Nonsense statistics made up by “scientists” appear every day in one or more of our daily news media outlets. They are so frequent that it is soul-destroying monotony to try to maintain a running critique and we don’t bother. So what is so interesting about another load of garbage about diesel pollution and particularly particles? Nothing really, except that I have taken an interest in this phenomenon since it was nothing more than a gleam in the bureaucratic eye.

It is now over a quarter of a century since I warned first colleagues against the activities of research-fund-controlling bureaucrats who were “out to get” particles. See our Number of the Month for March 2011.

Now they have got to the “number of deaths” stage. In Sorry, wrong number, it was dealt with under the heading The body-count politic. In the pages on this site each claim of thousands of deaths that we have bothered to cover (about seven in total) we have made the same response – Name One! They never do. They are just examples of the self-escalating numbers thrown about by shamelessly ambitious pseudo-scientists, notice that early on in this article there is a reference back to smoking, which honours the pioneers of the CDC and the EPA, who used openly fraudulent statistics to generate the first of these numbers. Note that stating all this is not to claim that the phenomena are harmless, merely that they have not proved otherwise.

This report harks back to a slightly earlier one in the same vein. Here are some quotations from that (emphasis added):

 Long term exposure to polluted air is linked to around 25,000 deaths in Britain each year and takes six months off the average Briton’s life expectancy, new figures from Public Health England show.

In the boroughs of Kensington and Chelsea and Westminster 8.3 per cent of deaths over the age of 25 are attributable to air pollution – around 156 deaths a year.

The figures are based on scientific models of the average concentration of air pollution in a given area, compared to the number of deaths in a single year.

Are there no other differences between life in the Hebrides and Chelsea? The beliefs of the promoters are based on unstated slogans of their own creation “our cause is the only cause”, “correlation is causation” etc. As we have said more than once – if you employ someone as Professor of Fairies at the Bottom of the Garden they are not going to turn round and say “There aren’t any.” It is just another case of WIDIMITWEED.

So our number of the month is to mark the deaths of 7,000 unknown people.


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