Monthly Archives: February 2018

Messing with the PETM

PETMLiving a hour out of town, I quite often listen to podcasts in my car, and particularly like the BBC Radio 4 programme In Our Time, in which Melvyn Bragg interviews experts on a variety of topics from culture, to history, to philosophy, to science etc. A recent programme was on the Paleocene-Eocene Thermal Maximum, which is when the planet got about 5° hotter than normal about 50 million years ago. There is a useful summary at Seven things that happened when the planet got really, really hot and the podcast itself can still be downloaded.

There are lots of interesting things to say about the PETM, and Melvyn’s guests said quite a lot of them, but the programme was somewhat marred by the climate change claptrap that seems to permeate everything these days.  The real scientific reality is that the cause of the PETM is unknown[1], but this gets translated into Flopsy as “The cause of the PETM must have been carbon dioxide, but the cause of the carbon dioxide is unknown”.[2]

One of the interesting things about the PETM is that it was a good thing. Rapid global warming (much more pronounced than anything on the cards today) produced an explosion of evolution, including the evolution of our own ancestors. And so, without that period of rapid global warming, it is far Continue reading

Leave a comment

Filed under Climate, Uncategorized

What is it with Puritans and Witchhunts?

salemI never been a great fan of religion, let alone missionaries. Among Christians, the Catholics are particularly unwelcome; by large, the Protestant puritans have generally caused less trouble. But bizarrely, puritans do go in for witchhunts. Famously, of course, it was Salem, but it certainly hasn’t stopped there.

Take Oxfam for example, which has recently been in the press. The offence? It turns out that some of their people have been using prostitutes in Haiti, and other disaster struck places.

Now, I am not an expert in prostitutes, by any means, but I imagine that if you have chosen that particular profession, a major natural disaster – the sort of thing that will get Oxfam turning up – is likely to be very bad for business. I’m not saying it’s a good business, or something that we should encourage. I am simply saying that if a particular young woman – or even a somewhat older woman – chooses to earn her income by offering sex for money, then she will be among the many people adversely affected by a national disaster. So, a natural disaster happens. Business dries up for this young woman. That’s bad. After a little while, the aid agencies turn up, with their cardboard boxes full of food and their white SUVs full of earnest do-gooders.

And here’s the thing. If you happen to be a prostitute, and if one of these do-gooders in a white SUV is willing and able to be a good customer, that is not bad news. On the contrary, it is Continue reading

Leave a comment

Filed under Culture, Politics, scandal, Uncategorized

Not happy, Nigel!

Nigel MorrisYankalilla have released their Resident Satisfaction Survey. 75 pages of what is largely self-conglatulatory pap. But turn to page 53 and you get to some meat: only 7% of residents are satisfied with Council handling of animal management issues generally (that includes barking dogs etc). And – wait for it – 0% of residents are satisfied with “Foreshore access/disagreement”. That right, folks – 0%. Nil. Niete. Not a single resident thinks the Council has got this one right. It really is a disgrace that there is no acknowledgement at all in these 75 pages of the extraordinarily strong opposition amoung residents (and for that matter visitors) of the Council’s war on freely-running dogs on the beach.

So, will the unpopular Council CEO Nigel Morris listen to the 2,000 people who have signed petitions – both on-line and traditional local – asking for us to be allowed to resume letting our dogs run freely on our beaches? We will see.

If not, then hopefully the new elected council (due to take office following elections later this year) will vote the new dog restriction laws off the table, and if Continue reading

Leave a comment

Filed under Myponga Beach, Uncategorized, Yankalilla

Flopsie Black

UCL and the Natural History Museum has done some work on the DNA of “Cheddar Man”, a UK resident of around 10,000 years ago who has been remarkably well-preserved in a cave, rotting only slowly. They have concluded that he was probably quite dark-skinned with blue eyes. They might or might not be right about that. They got the talented Dutch identical twin modellers – the Kennis brothers – to a 3-D representation of what he might have looked like according to that view before he started rotting. Here is the result, as it appears on the Kennis and Kennis Reconstructions website:

Kennis blackNow the flopsies, of course, just love this story. Here is the picture as it appears in the Guardian Continue reading

Leave a comment

Filed under Culture, scandal, Uncategorized

Merlin Aurelius Maximus

I do think mice are quite cute, clever and athletic. But they do not belong in a house.

Merlin Day 1Hence The Phenlry’s new addition, Merlin Aurelius Maximus, who arrived today and is already making himself very much at home. Hopefully, he will prove even cuter, cleverer and more athletic than the mice. He is just a kitten, but Continue reading

Leave a comment

Filed under News from at home, Uncategorized

Soaring High

flying kneesWe grow older, but a part of us never grows up. I had a brilliant time yesterday gliding with a friend above the Barossa Valley.

It is many years since I last went up in a glider. That was a very brief flight in Oxfordshire, and I just sat there. This time, we were up for an hour and a half, and could easily have passed the regulation-imposed 10,000 feet limit imposed in Australia (it is 14,00 feet elsewhere, apparently. The air starts to get a bit thin up there).

prepI flew the plane for about half the time, but not of course when we did the loop-the-loop or the stall-and-dive aerobatic stuff – that was my very competent pilot Simon Holding. It is however a source a continuing and burning pride that I was able without Simon’s intervention to gain about 1,000 feet in a single thermal. It might not seem that hard – you just flight around and around in tight circles while the rising air takes you up, but it trickier than you might think. You have to keep the airspeed at around 50 knots, maintaining a constant bank using stick and rudder. Continue reading

Leave a comment

Filed under News from at home, Uncategorized

Corbyn Proved Right!

piers-corbynAlthough his website site does have a somewhat deranged feel to it, Piers Corbyn (brother of the more famous Jeremy) seems to have been correct in his long-range forecasts of the present cold and snowy weather in the UK and elsewhere.

Piers is not only much cleverer than his brother, but is free to say what he really thinks. And to indulge his propensity  to crow a bit about the fact that his forecasts are consistently more accurate than those of the Met Office. It is all a bit counter-intuitive. The Met Office looks all solid and dependable, but in fact is ridden with barking-mad climate change group-think nonsense. Conversely, Piers looks as mad as a March hare, but time after time events, as they have unfolded, have vindicated his forecasts. Which is, after all, the gold standard of real science. This reversal of the norm is rare, but then again, we live in strange times.

Here are a few of Piers’ observations about weather, climate and others things at his website/twitter feed Continue reading

Leave a comment

Filed under Brexit, Climate, Politics, Uncategorized

Grid Kids are Creepy

seb gridOne of the sillier things about F1 motor racing is the grid girls. They have been a feature of the sport for many years, standing around smiling, but doing not a lot.

Their excuse is to hold lollipops to show who is who on the starting grid. Continue reading

Leave a comment

Filed under Culture, Sport, Uncategorized