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Saturday, August 15, 2009


I must admit to a lack of expertise on health care & doubt if there is an answer that achieves perfection. After all perfection in health care would be everybody surviving forever & while I have blogged on aging research I don't see that happening soon.

However this listing of worldwide life expectancy seems to me to a good starting point for anybody looking at what works (I have removed the postage stamp countries where statistics are distorted):

3. Japan 82.02 years
4. Singapore 81.80 years
6. Hong Kong 81.68 years
7. Sweden 80.63 years
8. Australia 80.62 years
Switzerland 80.62 years
10. France 80.59 years
12. Canada 80.34 years
14. Italy 79.94 years
17. Spain 79.78 years
18. Norway 79.67 years
19. Israel 79.59 years
20. Greece 79.38 years
21. Austria 79.21 years
24. Netherlands 79.11 years
25. Luxembourg 79.03 years
26. New Zealand 78.96 years
27. Germany 78.95 years
28. Belgium 78.92 years
29. United Kingdom 78.70 years
30. Finland 78.66 years
32. Jordan 78.55 years
33. Puerto Rico 78.54 years
34. Bosnia and Herzegovina 78.17 years
37. United States 78.00 years
38. Cyprus 77.98 years
39. Denmark 77.96 years
40. Ireland 77.90 years
41. Portugal 77.87 years
42. Albania 77.60 years
43. Taiwan 77.56 years
46. Korea, South 77.23 years
47. Costa Rica 77.21 years
48. Cuba 77.08 years
49. Chile 76.96 years
50. Libya 76.88 years
52. Ecuador 76.62 years
53. Slovenia 76.53 years
54. Czech Republic 76.42 years
55. Argentina 76.32 years
57. Georgia 76.30 years
60. Uruguay 75.93 years
61. Saudi Arabia 75.88 years
62. United Arab Emirates 75.69 years
63. Mexico 75.63 years
64. Paraguay 75.34 years
Tunisia 75.34 years
67. Panama 75.19 years
Poland 75.19 years
69. Dominica 75.10 years
70. Serbia 75.06 years
71. Slovakia 74.95 years
72. Croatia 74.90 years
74. Sri Lanka 74.80 years

While there is a correlation with GNP it isn't all that close. However the US at 37 compared to 7th in GNP is clearly missing something. The UK at 29th & 26th respectively has nothing to boast about. Japan at 3rd/21st & Singapore at 4th/27th look like the ones we should be learning from. Dan Hannan at the centre of a media storm here as "unpatriotic" for not saying our health service is wonderful speaks of learning from Singapore. Hong Kong at 6th/12th & France at 10th/28th both score well.

It is also worth noting that 74th place Sri lanka is still achieving 91% of the life expectancy of Japan with only 14% of its per capita GNP & this is reflected across the board. It suggests that no matter how good or bad health care is it doesn't have that much effect.


Friday, August 14, 2009


This from The Register -
The world's source for global temperature record admits it's lost or destroyed all the original data that would allow a third party to construct a global temperature record. The destruction (or loss) of the data comes at a convenient time for the Climatic Research Unit (CRU) in East Anglia - permitting it to snub FoIA requests to see the data.

The CRU has refused to release the raw weather station data and its processing methods for inspection - except to hand-picked academics - for several years....

Professor Phil Jones "I will still not pass on the data. We have 25 or so years invested in the work. Why should I make the data available to you, when your aim is to try and find something wrong with it."

In 2007, in response to Freedom of Information Act requests, CRU initially said it didn't have to fulfil the requests because "Information accessible to applicant via other means Some information is publicly available on external websites".

Now it's citing confidentiality agreements with Denmark, Spain, Bahrain and our own Mystic Met Office. Others may exist, CRU says in a statement, but it might have lost them because it moved offices. Or they were made verbally, and nobody at CRU wrote them down.

As for the raw station data,"We, therefore, do not hold the original raw data"

Canadian statistician and blogger Steve McIntyre, who has been asking for the data set for years, says he isn't impressed by the excuses. McIntyre obtained raw data when it was accidentally left on an FTP server last month. Since then, CRU has battened down the hatches, and purged its FTP directories lest any more raw data escapes and falls into the wrong hands.
Anybody not familiar with the processes of science may not realise exactly how fraudulent this is. In politics we are used to being told that there is information that would prove we are all going to die in 45 minutes but security consideration prevent us knowing what it is but science, real science, is different.

Professor Jones' remark shows he has no connection to science. The reason any real scientist wants to share their data is precisely because somebody might find something wrong with it. That is what science is - the testing of theories against evidence.

Since their story has repeatedly changed it is obviously impossible to believe any of them. If the we accept Professor Jones assurance that he simply refuses to hand over the data then the claim that they have been destroyed is a lie. If we accept the claim that they have been destroyed then the statement that they are being kept because of untraceable confidentiality agreements is a lie. If it is confidentiality agreements then the claim that it is the Professor's decision is a lie. What we can say for certain is that (A) the Met Office are a pack of liars & (B) that the global temperature figures are worthless.

This is important because a couple of years ago Stephen McIntyre got hold of the data making up the US temperature figures & proved that 1998 was not the warmest on record, 1934 was warmer. This was actually accepted by the US authorities as correct. Since then the alarmist case has depended on saying that though the US figures are correct the world figures show warming went on till 1998 (& predicting the current cooling is merely an 11 year blip). To do this they had to ignore that US figures were inherently more reliable because they had not been interrupted by war etc & that they had not been corrected. Now, however, it turns out that the data making up the world figures have been allegedly destroyed & hence the conclusions are worthless.

Obviously since this is the most important global warming news since McIntyre [proved 1934 was warmer 2 years ago it is going to receive hundreds of times more coverage than the normal global warming story, at least in any honest newspaper, which currently means only the online Register.

Thursday, August 13, 2009


In Scotland we get 42.2 Terawatts of electricity from our nuclear capacity of 1 x 1215 reactor at 70% capacity & 2 at 682 gigawatts totaling 2.2Gw. That is 42 billion kilowatt hours or 19 billion a year for each gigawatt of installed capacity.

A new off the shelf Westinghouse AP 1000 generator would, under mass production conditions, cost $1,200 million. At a 10% return that would be $120 million a year or 0.6 cents (0.4) a unit. Because nuclear uses so little fuel & is very large scale it has always been accepted that the majority of cost is going to be in building it. So even if we assume total costs to be double that, nuclear power need not cost more than 1.2p a unit. This is a reasonable improvement from the previously discussed French cost of 1.7p a unit, both since their reactors are now 30 year old designs & because the Westinghouse price is a future one based on the assumption of mass production.

This would be a quarter of overall current electricity costs & about 8% of what we are expected to pay for windmill power.

Note that I do not dispute current estimates from the British nuclear industry of about 3.5p a unit. These are based on the regulatory system in Britain, which, like many other countries, piles on every extra cost the Luddites can think of. I merely point out that this is both unnecessary & enormously destructive. Another example of such destructiveness is that, in their politically motivated destruction of Britain's nuclear industry they forced the sell off of British owned Westinghouse for a small fraction of its true value which, in a competently run country, could have given Britain world leadership in this industry.

Compare this to evidence to Congress by David Criswell. He is speaking in favour of lunar solar power (LSP) satellites, which in a longer term will certainly work, but the figures for cost & effect apply to any system.
When LSP provides 20 terawatts of electric power to Earth it can sell the electricity at one-fifth of today's cost or ~1 ¢/kWh. At current electric prices LSP would generate ~9 trillion dollars per year of net income.

Like hydroelectric dams, every power receiver on Earth can be an engine of clean economic growth. Gross World Product can increase a factor of 10. The average annual per capita income of Developing Nations can increase from today's $2,500 to ~$20,000. Economically driven emigrations, such as from Mexico and Central America to the United States, will gradually decrease.

Increasingly wealthy Developing Nations will generate new and rapidly growing markets for American goods and services. Lunar power can generate hydrogen to fuel cars at low cost and with no release of greenhouse gases. United States payments to other nations for oil, natural gas, petrochemicals, and commodities such as fertilizer will decrease. LSP industries will establish new, high-value American jobs. LSP will generate major investment opportunities for Americans. The average American income could increase from today's ~$35,000/y-person to more than $150,000/y-person.

A cut to a quarter may not be quite as good as a cut to a fifth but it isn't that far off. Dr Criswell's calculation that a cut by 80% would allow the economy to grow to 428% certainly implies that the British economy could more than triple & the world economy grow even more from this one reform alone.

I'm sure Dr Criswell knows his stuff & that space based power, though I would suspect from satellites in closer Earth orbit, does have potential, in due course, to provide unlimited power. This does not in any way detract from the argument for right now using, to best effect, a technology we know does work today & can provide a not dissimilar benefit.

UPDATE A commenter here has mentioned the Russian VVER generators.
The VVER-1200 is an evolution of the VVER-1000 being offered for domestic and export use. Specifications include a $1,200 per kW electric capital cost, 54 month planned construction time, and expected 50 year lifetime at 90% capacity factor. The VVER 1200 will produce 1,200 MWe of power
That is the same cost per unit as it is said the AP1000 will go down to after long run production has been achieved. That in turn suggests that if long run production of this generator can be achieved so will further cost reductions & we may, in time, see electricity costs dropping to, or even below the 1p per kwh mark.

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Wednesday, August 12, 2009


This is the prize Scotland's government put up using the X-Prize format
£10 million will be awarded to the team that can demonstrate in Scottish waters a commercially viable wave or tidal energy technology that achieves a minimum electrical output of 100GWh over a continuous 2 year period using only the power of the sea and is judged to be the best overall technology after consideration of cost, environmental sustainability and safety.
That certainly looks like a definition of an X-Prize, even though there is a not unreasonable matter of judging.

Now I believe & have said before, that a subsea turbine is not the most important thing we should be encouraging. That would be an orbital shuttle or the improved battery that John McCain proposed or several of the things Newt Gingrich suggested. On the other hand it is a substantial step towards funding things this way, rather than through government grants which amount to a blank cheque with no failure conditions.

Alex Salmond at least gets the theory though he is also politician enough to lay it on with a trowel:

Mr Salmond announced the details at a reception in Edinburgh Castle for
scientists, environmentalists and potential entrants.’The Scottish Government’s
10 million Saltire Prize is one of the biggest international prizes in history,’ said Mr Salmond. ’It is Scotland’s energy challenge to the world, a challenge to the
brightest and best minds worldwide to unleash their talents and push the frontiers
of innovation in green marine energy.’

However I am a little cautious over this bit "Entries for the Saltire Prize open next summer, and the closing date will be in June 2013, with the winner chosen two years later."

Firstly I am by no means sure that a truly "commercial" sea turbine is possible - this should not be a problem because if it isn't then we should not expect the prize to be won. However the date for a winner to be chosen suggests that somebody may be chosen come what may rather than handing it over to the first person to crank out 100Gwh for 2 years. That would rather negate the point.

Tavish Scott of the LibDems did go out of his way to make it clear that he didn't understand the difference between a prize & complained that it wasn't a real prize because it hadn't yet been handed over to everybody who turns up at the starting line. By comparison the SNP certainly rate at least 7 out of 10 & will be higher if they don't fumble the actual award. Though I have said some of this before I am pleased to see the actual wording of the prize & it is more reassuring. After all no government elsewhere, as far as I know, has endorsed any sort of X-Prize.

The Saltire site does have an embarrassing list of the endorsements they find politically useful - all from various sorts of eco-nut - but I suppose that is politics, better to have such people inside the tent pissing out than vice versa.

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Tuesday, August 11, 2009


Via CCNet I read an interesting post from TonyN on Harmless Sky. Paraphrasing, it suggests The Royal society is not quite as convinced of catastrophic warming as it is paid to be:

There is no doubt that The Royal Society has a position on climate change, but to what extent is this venerable and distinguished organisation able to express a truly independent and objective opinion on a matter of current public policy?

Here is what the Society say at the head of the main page on their web site dealing with climate:

"International scientific consensus agrees that increasing levels of man-made greenhouse gases are leading to global climate change. Possible consequences of climate change include rising temperatures, changing sea levels, and impacts on global weather. These changes could have serious impacts on the world's organisms and on the lives of millions of people, especially those living in areas vulnerable to extreme natural conditions such as flooding and drought"

At a glance, this appears to be a reiteration of the current orthodoxy, but a more careful reading reveals it is remarkably cautious. There is no reference to conclusive, or even compelling, scientific evidence but only to 'international scientific consensus', it speaks of 'possible consequences' rather inevitable consequences, and suggests that these 'could' be serious rather than predicting certain disaster. There is plenty of wriggle-room here should opinion change.

...very different from what the last president of the Society, Lord May of Oxford, was wont to tell the media. His claims that the science of anthropogenic climate change is as clear as that relating to gravity or evolution made one wonder ...

In the United States, both the American Physical Society and the American Chemical Society have come under pressure from members to review their alarmist and dogmatic public utterances on climate change (See post at WattsUpWithThat ...


Although a charitable body, The Royal Society serves as the Academy of Sciences of the United Kingdom (in which role it receives funding from HM Government).

Government funding comes in the form of Parliamentary Grants-in-aid which, over the last four years (most recent accounts 31st March 2008), has amounted to: £31.7m, £32.9m, £36.6m and £44.9m respectively. So from 2005 to 2008 the government's contributions have increased by about 42%.

The next heading in the accounts is 'Other grants and contributions', which suggests more support from the public sector. For the same period this amounts to: £9.5m, £8.8m, £7.3m and £7.8m. It looks as though, you can add about another £8m (on average) in public funding to the amount received from Parliamentary Grants-in-aid.

Turning to the expenditure side of the accounts, we find that items that are attributable to research funding amount to £29.0m, £30.2m £32.3m and £38.4, an increase of 32% over four years. So the Society's activities as a conduit for government funds directed towards research have also increased at the same time as the Parliamentary Grants-in-aid, but to a lesser extent.

But it is some other items of expenditure that really caught my eye.

2005 Informing scientific policy £0.4m
2006 Independent advice nationally and internationally £1.1m
2007 Influence policymaking with the best scientific advice £1.5m
2008 Influence policymaking with the best scientific advice £2.3m

This area of expenditure has increased by nearly six times.

Although the wording in these entries varies, it is pretty clear that they all cover the same activities, and the latter two entries are quite unambiguous. Moreover they look very much like allocations for lobbying activities directed towards the government, which in turn funds the Society. Why should this be?

Overall, it is apparent that government support for an institution which is, at the same time, a charity, a national academy of science and a channel for public expenditure related to scientific research has grown very considerably during the period when global warming has become a political hot potato...

One last point. During an interview on Radio4's Today programme, the following exchange took place between Evan Davis (the presenter) and Sir Jonathon Porritt, chairman of the Sustainable Development Commission, who is a lifelong environmental activist.

Evan Davis: Does it worry you that somehow the pressure ... . isn't being brought to bear on government [to take action on climate change] and the government isn't making the case loudly enough for actual change to occur.

Sir Jonathon Porritt: Yes it's a funny one this, you sometimes hear minsters saying that they wished the environmental organisations were whipping up more public pressure so they would then be able to respond to that pressure.

Radio4 Today 29th June 2009 about 2mins 25sec in.

This provides a fascinating behind-the-scenes glimpse of how the business of government is conducted under the present administration. I'm sure that Sir Jonathan saw nothing strange in his admission that the government are happy to use environmental activists to drive policies that they know the public are, at best, lukewarm about. And if our national academy of science lobbies the government alongside the activist groups, then that is even more potent pressure that ministers can react to.


Something Tony is kind enough not to mention is that Mr Robert May (1936-1959), Dr Robert May (1959-1969), Prof. Robert May (1969-1996). Prof. Sir Robert May (1996-2001), Prof. The Rt. Hon. The Lord May of Oxford (2001-) was prior to becoming President of the Royal Society in 2000, the Chief scientific Advisor to the Government, a political appointment whose subsequent holder Sir David King has told "infantile" lies in support of global warming from which he has certainly profited.

On another post on the same site Tony quotes a BBC interview with the chair of a Parliamentary Committee on what makes good science:

"Mr Willis said the government had "a good record" in funding scientific research.

"But it's how you use that science," he added.

"For example, we've got a huge climate change agenda, we've got a huge energy agenda. Where are we using the scientific and engineering advice?

"Unless at the policy stage ministers are urged to ask that basic question, 'Where is the evidence to support our policy and if there isn't, how do we get it?'

"That makes good government."

It seems you get it by paying for it. The Royal Scoiety is the premier scientific society in the world. Its motto 'Nullius in verba', roughly translated as 'Take nobody's word for it', dates back to 1663>. Its members have a duty not merely to their own self respect but to their eminent predecessors, who counted Charles II as their patron but did not let him dictate their opinions, not to let Ed Miliband do so.

Monday, August 10, 2009


David Miliband & Alan Johnson have jointly (alternate paragraphs maybe) written an article in the Sunday Telegraph about our government not being responsible for torture.
When detainees are held by our police or Armed Forces we can be sure how they are treated. By definition, we cannot have that same level of assurance when they are held by foreign governments, whose obligations may differ from our own.
Which may or may not work for MI6 officers flying out to sit outside the door as police in other countries torture people to answer British questions but it is certainly an admission that when police, directly under their authority do such things & thousands of times worse against entirely innocent people, Messrs Miliband, Johnson & the rest of the Cabinet are personally criminal.
"Murder, torture and extortion: these are the extraordinary charges made against the UN's own Kosovo Protection Corps in a confidential United Nations report written for Secretary-General Kofi Annan.

"The KPC stands accused in the document, drawn up on 29 February, of 'criminal activities - killings, ill-treatment/torture, illegal policing, abuse of authority, intimidation, breaches of political neutrality and hate-speech'.

"The 5,000-strong corps, funded by UN members including Britain, has a £30 million aid budget for Kosovo. It was set up to provide 'disaster response services'; instead, says the UN, it has been murdering and torturing people. "

Since then the kidnap of 1,300 civilians & their dissection by the KLA/NATO police has become public (if not very public thanks to the enthusiasm of our media to censor in the cause of genocide).

So by their own admission these war criminals all personally knew that their police were engaged in genocide (Dragodan Massacre) & worse (dissecting living humans to provide parts for our hospitals) as must the American & other NATO political & military leaders.
'The Law of Land Warfare']

"A military commander is responsible not only for criminal acts committed in pursuance of his orders, but is 'also responsible if he has actual knowledge, or should have knowledge....that troops or other persons subject to his control are about to commit or have committed a war crime and he fails to take the necessary and reasonable steps to insure compliance with the law of war to punish violations thereof.'"
- - From 'Nuremberg and Vietnam: An American Tragedy,' by Telford Taylor, US Chief Counsel at Nuremberg, page 58, © The New York Times Company, 1970. Taylor is citing US Army FM 27-10, 'The Law of Land Warfare,' (1956) page 178.)

As police the KLA, now called NLA in deference to being out of area, also continued their war crimes against Macedonia
"Up to 20 per cent of the KPC are now absent from active duty - and, like Mr Ostremi [the KPC chief of staff, accused of launching the attack on Macedonia!] most are believed to be fighting with the NLA...."

Cleasrly all the artificial fuss got up about torturing Binyam Mohamed's is nothing but a deliberate smokescreen to hide the fact that every senior politician in goverenment has already committed crimes thousands of times worse.

Hacim Thaci, KLA terrorist leader, Bernard Kouchner, Gen. Michael Jackson, Agim Ceku, notorious war criminal and leader of our "police", and Wesley Clark

"What's the point of having this great terrorist army if we're just going to arrest them?"
Madeline Albright

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Sunday, August 09, 2009


I said previously that i wouldn't take this series beyond the solar system because that required a technological breakthrough. Then reading Mike Combs' Space Settlement FAQ's , well worth reading for many reasons, I ran across this:
Where would a space habitat be located?

...In the long term: Anywhere you like, as long as you're not frequently eclipsed by a planet. You can locate farther from the sun as long as you make your mirrors bigger, and curve them to concentrate the sunlight to make up the difference. How far out can you go? Let's assume no one would want to build a habitat where the mirrors weighed more than the rest of the habitat (a totally arbitrary cut-off point). Earth-like conditions could still be sustained approximately 4 light-days from the sun. That's 10 times the distance of Pluto!

What are the implications for interstellar travel?

Interstellar travel is likely to be done in habitats very similar to what has been described here, and by people who have already been living in space for generations. The major difference is that instead of relying on the sun, they would have to take their power supply with them (probably in the form of antimatter).

Most significantly, space habitats make any solar system a candidate for settlement, not just the ones with Earth-like planets (or indeed any planets at all).

I wrote previously on the possibility of making a Ringworld of space colonies which depends on being able to achieve scalable geometric growth in the size of the industry building them, but such scalability should not be a problem. If they can be maintained that far out a mere Ringworld of settlements is barely a start. 10 times further than Pluto is well out into the Inner Oort Cloud containing cometary material, including water & frozen oxygen & nitrogen as well as metals.

Anybody building there can clearly, if we have fusion to provide power which is an almost certain bet by then, hitch up a comet & using it to provide mass for an ion engine, set out for the next star on the left. At light days out they are 1/400th of the way in distance but in energy terms most of the way. It would take many decades to do it but any settlement that has gone 10 times further than Pluto is unlikely to be worried about separation.

I am not saying this is how it will be done. I don't think it is because there should also be the option of building much faster ships in the Earth Moon system & setting out on a 100 year journey, when it is possible that, within the next 50 years somebody is going to be able to do it at twice the speed doesn't seem likely. Nonetheless it could be done this way with science currently available or near term (fusion) & enough patience. The time limitation however wouldn't be important for sending out unmanned settlements to star systems where people were travelling by some faster system. It would be unlikely that any faster system would be able to compete at moving million ton settlements & mass settlement would go much faster if the first settlements were prepackaged.

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