The hardest word in Science is “sorry”

Having spent over a decade trying to get the idiots in academia to admit what was blindingly obvious to anyone who looked at the data: that they vastly overstated the science and were frankly deluded in their predictions, it has become quite obvious that academics are overwhelmingly an arrogant bunch who find it extremely difficult to admit they were wrong So I just love this quote:

I’VE just discovered the hardest word in science.

Not pneumonoultramicroscopicsilicovolcanoconiosis (inflammation of the lungs caused by inhalation of silica dust).
Nor palmitoyloleoylphosphatidylethanolamine (a lipid bilayer found in nerve tissue). No, the actual hardest word — which scientists use so rarely it might as well not exist — is “Sorry”.

The Sun

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And it looks like it’s all over

Knowing the the alarmists are on the run – and having lost over a decade of income – I’ve been trying to catch up on a few things that have needed doing – such as (rebuilding) the house.

However, I couldn’t help notice that for the last week there’s been a resurgence of activity from Sceptics. And it seems that the alarmists are finally admitting we sceptics were right and that their models were wrong:

Delingpole: Climate Alarmists Finally Admit ‘We Were Wrong About Global Warming’

And here is where the fun starts – because now the bubble has bust – and it has become acceptable within academia to say their models don’t work, we must now wait to see how far the pendulum will swing against the global warming idiocy. It could be that they continue to cling on to their craziness and embarrassingly dragged  kicking and screaming along behind the evidence as we all laugh at them.

Or it could be that we see a “sea change” in academia whereby they take the opportunity of this change to throw out old outdated irrelevant ideas and beliefs and we see a dramatic step change improvement toward science.

Or … we might see the “exploding pressure vessel” effect: that is to say, the pressure of steam for change has grown so high, that the stress on the establishment that tried desperately to deny the truth means that the old order is completely thrown out, we see a small “hole” in the vessel rapidly expanding to what amounts to wholesale revolution … with a lot of factious argument resulting in fundamentally new ideas.

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Is there really little fundamental difference between Smoke & steam?

For years I was led to believe that there was a fundamental difference between these three things:

Kettle FireHowever, I recently read a report on the constituent of “smoke” and discovered that one of the main ingredients of what we call “smoke” is water. And indeed, if you burn hydrocarbons (compounds with hydrogen and carbon) such as wood then you inevitably get CO2 and H2O. So there is a lot more in common between smoke and these things:

Fig xx

Fluffy cloud

This leads me to wonder whether there is a certain amount of academic dishonesty in the oft repeated asserting that “steam” is not the same as smoke. Or that the only “steam” is the bit lacking any obvious “steam” at the top of the kettle.

Because surely if clouds need condensation nuclei – things on which the cloud droplets form, then surely the “smoke” from a kettle also needs condensation nuclei. And is “smoke” really just steam – that happens to form on the much fainter and in many cases almost transparent “soot” given off by the fire?

In short, it appears the three essential ingredients for all these phenomenon are the same:

  1. Water vapour
  2. Condensation nuclei
  3. Low enough temperature

Thus the reality is that smoke & steam are in fact two variants of the same thing.

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Is the internet Killing Scottish Teaching?

Without going too much into the details last term my daughter’s school unilaterally decided to prevent her doing German – due entirely to the school ordaining the children will no longer do as many Nat 5 (equivalent to English O levels).

As parents, we strongly made the point that because her elder brother had successfully self-taught himself via the internet through much of the Physics curriculum (which the school failed to deliver in full), that our daughter could (with a little help from the school) do the same with German.

What surprised me was the strenuous and ardent “NO IT IS NOT POSSIBLE” that we got from the school. The more odd, because it was clearly very possible for children to self-teach themselves as our son had admirably shown. Continue reading

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The future of marriage

With the divorce of marriage from child-producing hetero-sexual sex both from the pill and so called gay “marriage”, the author argues that marriage cannot be effectively denied on the basis of sex or sexual orientation thus permitting a host of adult relationships to claim the rights of marriage. This will inevitably lead to the lost of kudos for marriage leading us toward a “marriageless – and as the author argues a “fatherless” – society in which it is no longer seen as acceptable that men should be penalised for casual sexual relationships when it is women and not men who are in control of her fertility.

What then would this society look like? Fortunately we can see what it might look like from the Mosou ethnic group in China where they have walking marriages. However this arrangement of mother-centred society would only suit socially immobile groups such as those on “benefit estates”. Thus there is no real conclusion as to who would fund most child care – particularly amongst the affluent socially mobile care in the marriageless society.


Marriage is a socially endorsed relationship between a man and a women – which society endorses because it protects us and the children from such relationships from the idiocy and selfishness of parents. In other words, marriage is a way to prevent unwanted children – or at least proscribe in very clear terms who society expects to look after them.

And it is unequivocally equal – because whatever the nature of the child, marriage gives the same protection to all children.

However, for the last century or so, we in the West have been bombarded with what can only be described as “Romantic bullshit” from Holywood and authors like Geoffrey Archer who have created a modern myth that marriage is about romance – but more importantly it is ONLY about romance. And by divorcing marriage from its actual purpose – which is the protection of children and ascribing it only to a Holywood fictional idea of “romance”, the idea grew up that because you could get same sex romance – there was no reason to deny them marriage.

The immediate impact on marriage

I’ve nothing against giving homosexuals equality, however, just as men cannot be given equality in child birth to women, it’s a simple fact that only heterosexual relationships can create the problem of unwanted children. But by attempting – and I say attempting, because what marriage actually means is not defined by law – by attempting to change the nature of marriage, politicians have in reality changed marriage from being the social endorsement and support for relationships that can bear children, to being one where it matters not at all about children at all.

But … in reality, this has been an ongoing trend since the introduction of the birth control pill. That sex occurred outside marriage in the past was a matter of fact from the number of women who married whilst pregnant (or miraculously had a much shorter term than nine months!). But the social taboo was huge and it has been suggested that whilst sex before marriage did take place, it was largely confined to those who were intending to get married.

And sex and marriage were locked together because (unless infertile) sex inevitably meant child bearing.

And yes there were other relationships. Before modern medicine, life was pretty short and often one spouse would die meaning the “nuclear” family was not as typical. But also before modern domestic appliances, there was plenty of work around the house and many households had unrelated live in servants. The result was that most households had a variety of people living together – some married, some family and some not – and there was much more variety in society and there was not just one “template” for a household.

The death of the Nuclear family

Thus the nuclear family as the only template for a household is a very recent introduction – coming after the advent of modern medicine that meant most marriages lasted a long time, after the advent of domestic appliances – that removed servants from most houses, and after the advent of Holywood and cheap romantic fiction – which created the “romantic template” of “marriage” which started the rot to divorcing marriage from children.

However, whilst Holywood and romantic fiction started the rot, the pill broke the mould of traditional marriage by removing the inevitability of children as a result of sex. And perhaps the final straw, was a host of “well intentioned” legislation forcing absent fathers to pay for their children and others providing welfare to women who did not want the inconvenience of living with a man.

The Legal problems with Gay “marriage”

In essence, marriage was society condoning a man and woman having sex. Not because sex was in itself important (as can be shown in certain societies – see later), but because sex led to children, and in effect, society was saying: “it’s now OK for you to have sex – ONLY BECAUSE you have agreed that you yourselves will look after any children that result”. So, the legal (i.e. morally neutral) rational for controlling sex through marriage was to protect a third party (namely children).

However, once the pill divorced the immediacy of the connection between sex and marriage, the legal rational (marriage protects children) was reduced leaving the main rational for marriage being the moral one of “society condoning or otherwise sex between couples”.

And whilst in the early 20th century it was still accepted that society could and did have an obsession with sex – that is when we lived in an era when the Church could force law to proscribe morals – in an era of “Universal rights” which are divorced from that on any religion, it is not longer permissible for the church to enforce its morals onto the law.

Thus with the divorce between sex and children, leading to a divorce between marriage and children and the decline of the power of sexual morals to dictate law, it became possible to make the argument that marriage was only a legal relationship between adults – and therefore it was not possible to discriminate on the grounds of sexual orientation.


If you define marriage so as to divorce it from “sex-produced” children, then as sex which is divorced from children is purely a moral issue – because sex between adults has no impact on any third party, then who we have sex with or not, is a purely a moral issue and has no relevance to this new definition of “marriage”.

In other words, if we define marriage to be divorced from children, then what type of sex or whether sex is or is not part of  the relationship is NOT A LEGAL ISSUE BUT A MORAL ISSUE.

Polygamy and other multiple marriages

The rationale to change the definition of marriage was that the law could not discriminate on the basis of sexual orientation. However, monogamy is just as much part of someone’s sexual orientation as is homosexuality. If someone’s desired sexual coupling is with multiple partners (and I hardly need argue how prolific that reality is in modern society) – then how can the law discriminate against those who wish to live with multiple sexual partners? The simple answer, is once you take morality out of law – and take away the linchpin that defined marriage as being about children – and make it just about adults, there is no legal way to bar marriage to people of ANY SEXUAL ORIENTATION and that includes those who prefer multiple partners.

Thus it is simply a matter of time before those whose sexual orientation is for “group-sex” successfully win a case to permit men having multiple wives, wives having multiple husbands and even multiple men and multiple women all being inter-“married”.

But with Gay “marriage” you cannot discriminate against sexless marriage

To explain this, let us suppose that someone is born with no sexual organs. For simplicity lets call them a “Eunuch”. If marriage was defined by the act of who we had sex with – then it follows quite simply that a Eunuch cannot marry because they have no means to indulge in sex (or indeed, they may have no interest in it at all).

Thus like “homosexual” “no sexual desire” becomes a “gender” that the law cannot discriminate against. I think any reasonably person would see that this is a logical extension of the idea of redefining marriage to include Gay “marriage”.

Now – having shown that the law cannot proscribe that sex is part of marriage – we must now accept that in order to allow no discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation – and thus include no sexual orientation at all, the law cannot proscribe sex is or is not part of marriage.

In other words: the law CANNOT say “sex is part of marriage”.

Let’s take a simple example. Let us suppose there are two people who have no romantic attachment to each other but just want to get married as a statement of some form. Let’s as an example take the Archbishop of Canterbury and the pope – who “marry” as a symbolic union between the two churches. They do not live together, they certainly do not have sex with each other, they are “married” in name only.

But legally, because the law cannot discriminate on sexual orientation or none – it cannot dictate sexual conduct in marriage (only morals can), so it cannot prevent any two consenting adults getting married (only morality can), because the law cannot proscribe that sex is or is not part of marriage.

The implications that the law cannot proscribe sexual conduct in marriage

The law cannot say you must have sex, the law cannot say you mustn’t have sex outside marriage, when marriage is defined as to remove the key ingredient of children, there is no legal way for the law to dictate sexual conduct at all – except through the general rules that apply to all society.

Society can condone who we have sex with, likewise morality can condone or otherwise, but the law must be based on reason and not value laden morality. So, the law cannot say the Archbishop of Canterbury cannot marry the Pope because they lack Romantic attachment, or because they’re not going to have sexual relations.

However the converse of that is that just as the law cannot stop people getting married because they do not intend having sex with each other, it cannot prevent people getting married assuming they will have sex with each other.

Let’s start with the simple example: two sisters that have shared their home since childhood and like the Archbishop of Canterbury and the Pope have no intention of getting married. On what basis can the law dictate to them that sex is a part of marriage – and that because they don’t intend having sex they cannot marry? NOT AT ALL!

Sex is only important to society because of it’s link to children. But Gay “marriage” says that marriage has nothing to do with children and because the law cannot proscribe or dictate sex within marriage (except for the wider laws on the issue) – you cannot bar marriage to adults simply because they will not be producing children – which means you cannot bar marriage to simply because they will not be having sex with each other.

Which means, you cannot bar two sisters from getting married, nor can you bar a brother and sister. Yes, the law bars sex between brother and sister – but as the law cannot proscribe or deny or otherwise comment on sex in marriage – as I have argued above it cannot be a grounds to deny marriage.

If that sounds odd ask yourself the following:

  1. Can the law stop a brother and sister living together?
  2. Now that gay “marriage” has divorced the connection between sex-produced children and marriage, how can the law deny marriage to people just because they cannot have sex with each other – either due to (no) sexual orientation – or legal prohibition?

Take children out of marriage, and it simply becomes a set of laws to do with one partner acting for another, inheritance etc. it’s just a relationship which the law cannot link to children/sex So..

Gay “marriage” is de facto “sexless marriage”.

The future of Marriage

Unless we see a massive change away from “universal human rights” and the reintroduction of moral-based laws (which inevitably means saying whose morals are right and whose are wrong) … what I have described above is simply what will happen … given time for enough people to go to court.

Thus the possible scenarios are:

End of Gay “marriage” – and relinking to children.

One possible way that society may change, is to refocus marriage on children and to agree with the millennium old definition that marriage is the way to protect children from the stupidity of parents (and I might add politicians). However, this would be difficult in the face of a society where the pill has largely broken the link between sex and children – and therefore between marriage and children.

Recreation of marriage in some other form – linked to children

Another possibility, is that marriage is irreparably changed to be just a “selfish”, largely meaningless statement by adults – which is increasingly downgraded as anyone and everyone gets to be married, but that some kind of new institution is created – either by society in general – or less likely endorsed by politicians, which recognises the importance of hetero sexual relations and their unique importance in the family which is so important to society.

The de-legalisation of Marriage

One possible scenario, as “marriage” becomes increasingly complex for legislators, where it becomes more and more impossible to link any laws or benefits to the institution and that it becomes increasingly nightmarish for the politicians that created the mess, is that having created havoc – they will inevitably try to dump the problem. That likely means that “marriage” stops being something that is “licensed” by the state.

That is to say, most of the legal status of getting married would disappear, and instead, “marriage” would be farmed out to those groups who have a specific interest: the churches, other religion or other “moral” groups like humanists.

Then, for supposedly very specific reasons to do with looking after children – it is likely politicians will re-introduce de facto marriage by creating some form of contract between hetero-sexual couples outlining provisions for the protection of their children.

The move to the Marriageless society

Another possibility, is that as marriage becomes more and more meaningless, as more and more children are born outside the traditional nuclear family, that we move increasingly toward a society where only a small minority get married.

In this society, marriage has nothing to do with children, but also it has little to do with romance. Or to turn it around – it is a society where just because two people are romantically involved – it is no way implies they should get married. But it also implies there is no link between sex and marriage, sex & children, and THEREFORE  between (male) sex and caring for children.

Because in a society where it is expected to have many casual sexual relationships, where women are in control of their own fertility – how can a man be penalised if THE WOMAN fails to control her fertility?

That was the whole reason we had marriage – men were contractually obliged to look after their children. But when men have no control over whether women get pregnant – except by abstinence – but now non-abstinence is the social norm – where people having sex have no intention at all of producing children … when men are not in control of what women do with their bodies – how can men be held accountable for their children?

Assigning responsibility for children to men – is part of the monogamous marriage society. But if society moves away from monogamous, if  there is no link between marriage, sex, and looking after children, then that society will not tolerate men suffering the consequences of (some) women failing to control their fertility. And if some feminists complain – a Gay “marriage” society – where marriage is no longer an altruistic act to protect children, is by definition a selfish society. A society where adult men – who are (largely) powerless to prevent women abusing their sexual urges, will no longer see it as their responsibility to look after children.

Child-care in the Marriageless Society

Thus a marriageless society is one where adult men will no longer accept responsibility for children. And it is not too hard to see that this kind of society already exists on many “benefit estates”.

Thus who should look after the children in a marriageless society? Unfortunately for women, whereas men can argue that they had no control over the women’s fertility (or were duped), women can’t argue the same. So, as has been the case throughout time immemorial women will burden the majority of the cost and effort of child rearing in the marriageless society.

But then we get back to the age old question – if women are doing the lion’s share of child-caring – how will they afford to look after them?

 – State-funded child-rearing

One option is the “benefit estate” model, which is that increasingly society becomes split between single men (with no responsibilities and loads of cash) and single mothers (with all the responsibilities and much less money except that the state provides).

Remember! This is not necessarily the kind of relationships that anyone will intend for themselves. No doubt (at least at first) most people will aim to have their own “nuclear family”. But with little social kudos for marriage, easy divorce, and increasingly generous state benefits to ease the transition to marriageless child rearing – and with absolutely no social or legal pressure on men to contribute to child-care as will happen – an increasing number of people will join the marriageless society until it becomes the de facto norm for all parts of society.

 – Family centric child-rearing

Imagine the society: women are struggling to raise children, often divorced or in desperate need of child care having to rely on family. In contrast, young men – perhaps with 2-3 children of their own through several relationships – but no prospect of getting married –  and therefore still living with “mum” with well paid jobs. Now it is the men who are bringing most of the income into the family – but ironically, rather than paying to look after their own children, they are now paying to look after their own nieces and nephews.

And why? Because whereas a marriageless society divorces men from responsibility for their own children -the now “mother-centric” society means that their strongest bond is with their own mother (they may not even know who their father is, let alone get any support from them). But that means that the children they feel obliged to care for are not their own children – but those of their sister.

Or to view that more cynically – without a marriage “contract” to force them to support women, the only women who can rest their money from their greedy hands are their mothers and sisters.

The Mosou Family centric Marriageless Society

Whilst such a society and its implications may be difficult to imagine, fortunately the world already has such a society and so we can envisage what such a society may look like without too much difficulty.

The Mosou in China are an ethnic group around Lake Lugu. In this society, they practice what they term as “Walking marriages” in that women and men form relationships, where they have sex, but they each remain in their mother’s home.

However, what is important to know, is that these homes are large mansions with space for many families built by siblings for each other. Also, because it is the mother’s home, because her daughters have the family, it is naturally the women who inherit property from their other mother.

Is this going to become the norm in Britain?

Given the historical development of the Mosou society and the current social trends in the UK amongst low income “benefit estates” – without the state stepping in to become “state guardian” with all the responsibility for funding child-care, it seems almost inevitable that in the absence of actual fathers to many children, that these estates (with poor social mobility) will increasingly turn into Mosuo style matriarchal “mother empires” with a lot of children living at home and bringing in money to their own (i.e. mother’s) family rather than that of some estranged/stranger women.

However … there is a huge problem for the Mosuo style “mother-centric” society – which is if children are geographically mobile and leave the parental home – then “uncles” will no longer see the relevance of supporting their nieces and nephews in the same way.

Thus I can see a social division starting to occur between low-income estates filled with “mother-centric” families like the Mosou and higher income social mobile social groups where family members will naturally disperse preventing the establishment of the men-supporting nieces and nephews, mother-centric household.

However, almost by definition, governmental politicians are all part of the socially mobile group. Thus we can expect government policy to be entirely adapted for their needs and totally alien the realities of socially immobile impoverished groups (as they always are).

As there appears to be no other template, amongst the socially mobile group, the “nuclear family” will continue to be what they espouse, but with increasing contempt from both men and women and government policies continue to support single families and (as tends to be their way) to penalise hetero-sexual couples. Thus marriage break-up and single mother households must be expected to become the norm even amongst the socially mobile. However who funds child care or how the law supports women who will likely continue to share the lion’s share of childrearing is hard to see.

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Evolutionary Theory of Humour

Following the last post (“Social boundary theory of humour – predictions for psychiatry“) in which I explored whether some predictions that the social theory of humour regarding humour suggest with regard to certain mental conditions (and drugs), TinyCO2 & my son have been making some very useful comments.  This has led me to postulate a potential evolutionary pathway for humour.

Continue reading

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Social boundary theory of humour – predictions for psychiatry

The Social boundary theory of humour (outlined here) says that the reason humour is an evolutionary advantage, is because it is part of a mechanism by which we convey messages about social (and technological) boundaries. In essence, statements that are socially acceptable are not funny. Nor are statements that so overreach any social boundary that they become “gross”. But if we hit the social boundary on the mark … then we find these things most funny. And if you ever wondered where you got most of your sex education from … the theory postulates that it was from the dirty jokes you were told about sex. Likewise, many of your social attitudes and moral values, were likely delivered to you as humour – from which you worked out where the boundaries existed.

In other words, whilst you may think that sitting in an audience watching some “comedian” is “having fun”, what the theory suggests, that it is as dry as sitting in a lecture on moral ethics. Because you may as well be sitting in a seminar discussing whether some social taboo, whether it be breaking the rules of mathematics, cheating on someone or anal sex, is acceptable.

And that is why laughter is such an evolutionary advantage. Because when you live in big social groups, you have to have social boundaries … and if we learnt them like we learn foreign languages (which in Scotland is now OPTIONAL) then society would be a chaotic mess.

[Or to turn it around, humour may be an acceptable way to approach these taboo subjects which are difficult to discuss.]

Either way, there is a strong likelihood, that what you find funny will be determined by:

  1. What you think are appropriate social boundaries. So, for example, when the BBC have yet another lame feminist attacking men for being men, it just isn’t funny for us men. Yes there are some idiot men in the audience who pretend to laugh – but who are they kidding? They’re only doing it because they want to sleep with their feminist girlfriend. … A joke that feminists don’t like – which proves humour depends on your social attitudes.
  2. Whether you comprehend the “social boundaries”. This is subtly different from having different social values. Because for example, a group of quantum physicists may find one social boundary in giving particles human traits like “charmed”, which other people would also find funny if they had any ideas about the boundaries of acceptable thought in quantum mechanics.
  3. Whether you can work out the “riddles” on which structure humour is delivered. Even if you understand social boundaries and share the same social attitudes – many jokes are complex “riddles” and you have to work out the “riddle” to then know which social boundary is being “approached”. And we can all see this “working out” with Xmas cracker jokes … as there are always delayed chuckles as someone finally gets the joke (works out the riddle).

What this suggests, is that various psychiatric conditions may exhibit differences in how they perceive humour.

Is there any evidence that humour is affected by psychiatric conditions?

Continue reading

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Enerconics simplified

Enerconics is the use of energy as a gold standard of economics. The reason this works is because there is a very close relationship between (inflation adjusted) GDP and world energy consumption (including sources like wood).

The easiest way to understand the concept is to pick up an English ten pound note, and they ought** to say:

“I promise to pay the bearer on demand the sum of ten  pounds”.

Now imagine if you will a country with one electricity supplier who issues a token with something written on it like:

“I promise to supply the bearer on demand one thousand KWH”

Obviously, if this promise is good you can present it to the electricity company and they will deliver the energy. But also, if someone else needed electricity (and almost everyone does), then they could accept the token for 1000KWH in part payment. And because everyone needs electricity, then the token is almost of equal value to all ordinary consumers.

However … unlike a traditional pound note, dollar or whatever, the “enercon” as you might call it, has one huge advantage over other forms of currency … it doesn’t suffer inflation. Or to me more precise, it’s value is fixed by one or if not the most widely used commodity in society.

The Enerconic Multiplier

The enerconic multiplier is simply the ratio of energy “value” used in society to the amount of actual energy both direct and indirect being used. Practically what it represents is the sum of all economic transactions (including purchase of energy) divided by the number of transactions in which energy is used/purchase.

To explain, imagine an economy (like Scotland if we’d gone for “independence”) where the “Sturgeon” – the fake unit of money issued by the Scottish government had lost all credibility. And as a result, imagine the electricity suppliers had started paying their staff and suppliers partly in “Enercons” – that is a token to purchase back electricity. With the Sturgeon now being carried around in wheelbarrows, and the Enercon holding its value, very soon the staff and suppliers would find their own staff and suppliers were happy to accept Enercons rather than Sturgeons. Seeing what a success the Enercon has been, soon other energy suppliers (gas, coal, petrol, oil, etc) start issuing their own Enercon with a nominal KWH value to their own staff – which they in turn are happy to accept because they’ve seen that the only thing shops will now accept is the Enercon.

And the more people who prefer being paid in the Enercon (which could be redeemed for something real) against the Sturgeon (which almost no one else was accepting for payment) … the more the Enercon would become the de facto way of paying for anything irrespective of whether it was obviously connected to energy.

And very soon, just as cigarettes became a unit of currency in prisons, so the Enercon could replace the Scottish Sturgeon as the currency if we’d have been mad enough to go for (fake) independence.

But now, if we counted up the number of transactions in which the Enercon was used, and totalled their energy value, we’d find that the total KWH of Enercons transacted vastly exceeded the energy consumed by the society. In other words, for every KWH being consumed we get perhaps 4KWH’s worth of activity. But, to turn that around, for each 4KWH’s worth of economic activity, on average 1KWH of real energy will be consumed.

And here’s where I have to correct a mistake made earlier. In a previous article I suggested that if the price of electricity were twice as high that more energy was being consumed than produced. That was wrong. In fact, if the price of electricity is greater than the Enerconic Multiplier x the standard price, then no net energy is being produced.

**I said “Ought to say” … because living in Scotland we get notes issued by Scottish banks and I can’t easily check whether it changed.

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Pizzagate true or false? Verdict: likely both a real scandal AND fake news.

I’ve been hearing about “Pizzagate” for a while. Reading another tweet without hearing any media commentary I decided to try to have a look to find out how convincing, if at all, the “evidence” was.

The first thing I notice is that it’s pretty difficult to find any websites that are putting the case for Pizzagate being real. This is the typical censorship that we get from Google and their ilk. Continue reading

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Do Braided Rivers exist?

According to all the hydrology textbooks there exist three types of river that can be defined according to the topology of their channels: straight meandering and braided:

Channel+Types +braided,+meandering,+straight

That sounds very clear and simple enough, But it all started going pear shaped when I tried to understand why braided rivers form: because if they are a unique form of river, then there ought to be something causing them.

However, as the following shows, there is no clear cut change from a meandering to a braided river. Instead natural rivers exist in a variety of forms, the same river often appearing meandering with islands, but also the individual channels within a “braided” river meander:



I started getting suspicious when I tried to pin down the supposed reasons causing braided rivers. And then it all stated getting very nebulous: Braided channels are most common in areas of moderately steep gradient (so steep), but they also occur in low gradients like Deltas (so not steep) and in areas of variable discharge (variable) but also in deltas where there is constant discharge (constant).

So as a last resort I went to Wikipedia: “Braided rivers, as distinct from meandering rivers, occur when a threshold level of sediment load or slope is reached whilst a steep gradient is also maintained” – that sounds as if someone knows what they are talking about. Except that doesn’t explain deltas. Nor does it explain any real river where the flow is constantly changing and with it the sediment load (in flood, most rivers have a massive sediment load compared to “normal” conditions).

And then it all goes totally nuts when you start looking at actual river like the Spey:


Section of the lower Spey in 2012 (left) and 2004 (right)

Here we see the same section of river, in 2012(left) and 2004 (right). From this we can see the same river is heavily braided in 2012, but in 2004 the same part of the river is now what would be described as “meandering” … that is unless we don’t look at the water and instead look where the vegetation is not growing. Now when we look at the lighter areas which clearly have flowed in floods, the river is braided.

But now let’s go back to the Wikipedia page and look at their iconic image for a “braided” river:

330px-White_River_5965Hang on a minute! If we follow the water – the river may have the odd island, but I think there is clearly only one main channel for almost the entire length shown. Far from being braided, the channel shown here is clearly not. Instead, what is really “braided” … if the word has any meaning … is the flood channel. Or to be really cynical, perhaps someone was told this was a braided river – and they put the photo in without looking at the actual river that was flowing?

But it is also very clear that what makes this channel shown above distinct is that the river fulfils the following condition:

Floods occur often enough and with enough destructive power so as to remove all vegetation from the river and its “flood valley”.

In other words, if the river flooded very irregularly, then for most of the time the land around the river would be covered in vegetation. If however, flooding occurs regularly enough so that vegetation does not have time to grow in between floods, then the land will be bare. Likewise, if the flooding is slow-moving water which does not disrupt the surface, then even if it does flood, the vegetation can survive.

However what I am finding looking at aerial photos is that if we ignore the vegetation and consider all levels of water, it is very difficult to decide whether a river is or is not braider. Take for example the following Google earth images of Cairo Ohio:

FloodIt is clear that the large elongated “island” (to a large extend defined by the channel) on the left is “normally” dry land. But in some floods in becomes an island – but in severe flooding it appears that the entire surface is under water and this “island” in the severest floods is merely part of the river.

So, how do we define this river? Is it meandering or braided?

But what about this river (below)? Here because the river bank has been built up (presumably to stop flooding), the meandering line of the river is clear to see. But it exists within what is a fairly straight river valley. As such, this would “normally” be considered a meandering river, but in flood, the flooded river is clearly a fairly straight river.


So, when you examine rivers at various levels of flood, the categorisation of the river changes. But if this categorisation “belonged” to the river, then surely it ought to be fixed and immutable? This has led me to the conclusion that there is no such thing as a braided river. Instead it seems “braided”, “meandering” and “straight” are descriptions of types of flow and all rivers to more or less extent exhibit all these features at various flows. So there is no such thing as a “braided river” only a “braided flow” – or level of flood. So I would like to suggest the following framework:

At peak flood all rivers are “straight”**

At peak flood rivers behave like a “straight” river (**as normally defined by hydrologists and in diagram above) in that they follow their river valley down to the sea. And what is more, they cannot be braided in peak flood, because the “braided islands” only exist because flood builds them up. And for this to happen, there must exist floods whose level are higher than the “braided islands”. So any “islands” in flood will be geological features that divide the flow and not braids.

At minimal flow all rivers are “meandering”

By definition, if the flow is a minimum, then the trickle will take the lowest channel and therefore because it takes the lowest channel, there can only be one.

In between minimum and peak flow, all rivers exhibit some braided behaviour

As a river changes from minimum to maximum flow, it goes through a series of states gradually filling up more and more channels until it overtops the islands in between to again become a single channel. As such a braided river does not exist as such. Instead a braided river is merely a state of flow greater than that needed for a single channel and less than peak flow.


The key to this discussion is that most river flows are highly variable. Below is a graph showing the flow of a typical UK river:

FlowGraphThis shows that around half the time, the river is below a couple of cumecs (cubic meter per second). But a few days each year it is above 10cumecs and at times over 100 cumecs. But conversely a few days each year it is well below “normal flow” – but that’s the issue! There really is no such thing as “normal flow”. Instead what we can say is that most of the time this river is around 1-10 cumecs – and order of magnitude change of flow is “normal”.

But there’s a similar issue with floods.

The above graph is pretty typical in that it shows a logarithmic relationship between peak flow level and frequency. And because it is the flow during floods that carves the landscape and river valleys, even a flow that occurs as seldom as once in 100 years can be the dominating factor carving a valley that formed in the last ice-age. (100 100yr-frequcency floods can have more impact than 10,000 years of 1yr-frequency floods or 100,000 “peak flows in any month”).


The key thing is that there really is no such thing as a “normal flow” – particularly when we are considering flows that carve river channels. Because whilst everyday or every-month flows occur relatively frequently, it is the massive and infrequent flows that have the most effect. As such there is no such thing as a “normal” flow in terms of the “normal” effect on a river channel because it is the infrequent flows that normally define the river.

So what we “normally” see in a river is usually not the river flow that defines the river. So surely the river should not be defined by the water level at this flow!

The “normal” river it is merely a reduced flow that happens to fill the channel to whatever level it happens fill them at that supposedly “normal” flow. Thus the occurrence or otherwise of “braiding” is just the mere chance that the flow on the day the hydrology observes it happens to fill more than one channel.This is not what is “normal” in terms of the channel, but what happens to be the flow that day.

Channel+Types +braided,+meandering,+straight


Thus going back to the above picture a “straight river” is merely a river whose flow is such that it is constrained by the geology (such as the valley in which it flows) and not river hydrology.  A meandering river is a river whose flow is well below the level of the next higher channel. And a braided river, is one whose flow is above that of the “next lowest” channels, but not above that of the highest “braided islands”.

Now, we can say that a meandering river is no different from a braided river, instead in practice all channels are meandering, and at peak flow, they are merely curving slightly deeper bits of the river. The illusion of a braided river is that it just happens that on some rivers when we think the flow is “normal” that not all the channels present at peak flow will be both: 1) filled with water and 2) not linked together at the surface by the over-topping of the intervening “braided islands”.


The main reason I post is to try to set my thoughts out – and help me think through problems. After I posted I realised that if the river at low flows contained a lot of sediment and tended to deposit material, then the deepest channels would tend to infill thereby equalising the depths and so encouraging water to take several channels at once.

That therefore would suggest rivers that appear braided for much of the time will be infilling deeper channels for much of the time with the result that the general profile is broader and shallower.

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