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Saturday, November 30, 2013

Satirising Green's Complaint The BBC Doesn't Give Them Coverage - The BBC That Gives Them 40 Timnes UKIP's Caoverage

   Last time there was a Question Time in Scotland Nigel Farrage was on, but no representative from UKIP in Scotland.  The Greens sent a letter to the BBC, which clearly worked. It also got a significant amount of press coverage.

   On Thursday there was a Question Time from Scotland from which UKIP 4th or 5th party depending on polls, some of which put us ahead of the Tories. The 6th party, the Greens, getting 1/3rd of our vote according to polls, was there.

   This is taken, closely, from the Green letter:

“Thursday’s Question Time line up is particularly bizarre, and following a telephone discussion with the editor it is clear to me that this programme has been contrived to censor, rather than produce serious debate. The lack of balance is staggering and I know from comments we’ve received it’s not just UKIP supporters who are alarmed. “This situation is particularly unacceptable with another by election coming up, which should require particular attention to political balance. The BBC has shown serious misjudgement in allowing Thursday’s programme to go ahead and UKIP should look forward to meeting senior managers to discuss how they intend to rectify a situation that will have harmed the broadcaster’s reputation for fairness.” The complaint from me to the BBC’s Executive Editor Hayley valentine and Phil Abrams of the Editorial Policy Unit is as follows…

Dear Ms Valentine,
                                  We wish to object in the strongest possible terms to the choice of panellists for BBC Question Time on Thursday (28th November). This follows our consistent raising of concern over a number of years about the UKIP's lack of representation on the programme; in 14 years of continuous Parliamentary representation in the EU, UKIP Scotland have been invited to participate on not 1 single occasion. Thursday’s programme came from Falkirk, debating independence – this is specifically billed on the BBC website. with voters 2:1 against separation the panel chosen, and even more the audience, was extremely skewed on the independence question. UKIP Scotland is campaigning against separation and is the only party committed to Scotland not being in the EU (membership questions and their costs for us a, possibly the, major issue) yet we have been totally censored from all BBC broadcasting on the subject despite polling and recent electoral results showing us 3 times more popular than the ever present Greens,

   I can see no basis for the censoring of UKIP from the panel. A recent Conservative poll shows UKIP can expect 11% of the list votes compared to their 10% and the Green's far lower total, despite blanket media coverage by the BBC of both the other parties and almost total censorship of UKIP here. This failure even to attempt balance in party political terms, or in terms of the referendum debate is surely a breach of the BBC’s duty to impartiality. It is particularly disgraceful following the recent faux-racist Fascist attack on UKIP in Edinburgh, publicly supported by the SNP Duce and the BBC's subsequent disgusting interview aping the Fascist slogans. I am deeply disturbed that the BBC’s flagship political debate programme gives greater attention to censoring debate than to fair balance. I seek an urgent meeting to discuss how you intend to redress this situation, not only in the short term but in the run-up to the referendum in 2014 and to the EU election in which UKIP is widely forecast to prove the most popular party. As the BBC, properly, give more coverage to larger parties (though it should be proportionate not merely an excuse to censor dissent) the BBC should, the the election year, be interviewing UKIP spokespersons at least as often as those of parties expected to place 2nd or 3rd.

   I note that the Greens have, successfully complained in similar terms. The BBC gives 40 times more coverage per vote to them than UKIP all of it supportive whereas coverage of UKIP involves airbrushing on a Hitler moustache. Clearly this is incompatible with any suggestion that the BBC is less than 97.5% a censoring totalitarian propagandist and I would like to know what action the BBC intends to take to comply with the law.

Yours sincerely,
Neil Craig

- See original at:

Will be interesting to see if the BBC even answer it. Or if any of the papers which reportedthe original report this.

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Friday, November 29, 2013

Orion Revisited

    These are some excerpts from a review of George Dyson's book Project Orion about the Orion nuclear space ship project that could have done "Mars by 1965, Saturn by 1970".

The magnificent Orion ship of the 1960s would have cruised the solar system with a crew of hundreds of scientists living and working in large and luxurious rooms. On the first tour there would be a two-year stop at Mars before reaching Saturn in 1970. It was all so close.

Orion was space travel as imagined in the expansive 1950s. A big ship, with a crew of hundreds, exploring the entire solar system. Weight and size were not particularly pressing issues, miniaturization was not needed. In all the crew compartment designs there was always room for a dedicated barber’s chair – it was the designers way of indicating luxury. No one was going to be bolted into a chair and have to urinate in their spacesuit. Orion had all the comforts. Instead the issues were heavy engineering and nuclear science.

In George Dyson’s excellent 2002 book “Project Orion” he quotes Brian Dunne, the team’s lead experimentalist: “It was a crazy era. All our values were tweaked because of the cold war. It was a closed society and all kinds of strange ideas were able to grow.” (The author, George Dyson, is the son of the team’s leader, Freeman Dyson).

The idea of the Orion ship was fundamentally simple: Explode an atomic bomb behind a spaceship and the force of the explosion will push the ship forward. The idea was first proposed by Los Alamos mathematician Stanislaw Ulam at the end of World War II. Small scale tests were carried out using regular explosives to prove the concept.

The Orion project was started by a young colleague of Ulam, Ted Taylor, who was also the designer of both the smallest and largest fission bombs in the US atomic arsenal. It was calculated that it would take about 600 detonations, totalling 100 megatonnes, to boost a generous 20-story spaceship into a 300-mile Earth orbit. Said Taylor: “I used to have a lot of dreams about watching the flight, the vertical flight. The first flight of that thing doing its full mission would be the most spectacular thing that humans had ever seen.” get the ship into orbit would still require detonating 100 megatonnes in Earth’s atmosphere. That was a drawback of course, although supporters pointed out that it was no more than was already been detonated every year in routine above-ground nuclear testing,

......The scientists imagined a new Darwin-like “Beagle voyage” through the solar system with a two-year stop on Mars and visits to the moons of Saturn in 1970. General Thomas Power, head of Strategic Air Command saw a slightly different mission, the ability to deliver massive bombs on any target from orbit: “Whoever controls Orion will control the world.”

The team then began talking with Von Braun about putting a very small Orion atop a Saturn V rocket. The new plan would mean a 125-tonne Orion spaceship would be used only when lifted to orbit by the Saturn V. A crew of eight astronauts could reach the Moon in 1964. Never daunted by issues of scale, the team then calculated that a much larger conventional booster, such as a 4000-tonne “Super Nova”, might still get their beloved original 4000-tonne Orion into orbit as originally planned.

It was all getting too big and too challenging for the newly created NASA. Officials were daunted by its scale and worried how the system could ever be tested. NASA declined to fund the project. Only the Air Force remained in support. Their representative to NASA, Don Prickett, told the review committee: “There are always two philosophies encountered during the research phase of new concepts. One which says that if the concept has potential for a significant step forward it is worth a considerable effort to solve the problems even if this effort involves high risks. There is the other philosophy which approves only of research in which there are no real fundamental problems to be solved but rather improvement of established technology. What we need is more people working on novel ideas to solve some of the problems rather than viewing the problems as unsolvable.”

The outstanding engineering problems included the issue of how to get a bomb behind the pusher plate at exactly the right place, then a moment later another, and another, and another. While it might seem simple to send them straight out the back of the ship, that means creating a hole in the massive pusher plate which in turn leads to obvious safety concerns if the hatch was open when a bomb detonated on the plate. The there was the question of the pusher plate itself and whether the proposed ablative coatings would survive repeated atomic detonations.

Despite all this it was generally recognized that only the Orion program had the needed specifications for crewed missions in the solar system. The project was finally terminated in 1965 because, according Orion’s James Nance, NASA had “…no requirement for manned planetary missions.”

Freeman Dyson wrote the final report wrapping up the Orion Project in 1965. In it he wrote: “The men who began the project in 1958 aimed to create a propulsion system commensurate with the real size of the task of exploring the solar system, at a cost which would be politically acceptable, and they believe they have demonstrated the way to do it.” he went on to note that: “there was no more brave talk of Mars by 1965 and of sampling the rings of Saturn by 1970. What would have happened to us if the government had given full support to us in 1959, as it did to a similar bunch of amateurs in Los Alamos in 1943?”

Finally, Dyson told Ulam (Orion’s founder) that: “My concern is to make sure that the public knows what has happened, so that they will be ready to come back to these ideas when the time is ripe.”


   I have written of this before.

   With modern technology (ie neutron bombs) we can launch with far less radioactivity. The LNT theory that low level radiation has been as thoroughly disproven as is possible (the opposite, hormesis, that low level radiation improves health is clearly at least often true). Moreover launched from South Georgia or the South Sandwich Islands, with wind patterns circling the Antarctic almost no radiation would reach land. Taken all together radiation risk would be at least 3 orders of magnitude, and probably more, less than thought at the time.

    Bombs are certainly a quick and practical way to provide the massive power to get to orbit. I suspect that something more sophisticated, like an atomic powered ion engine, would be better for travelling across the solar system - though its thrust is far lower it can produce a steady thrust and a steady acceleration, even when it is very small, can cover a lot of space in a surprisingly short time. And acceleration on such an ion jet would be easily controllable, allowing it to match orbits with asteroids or even dock with other craft - something impossible for a craft powered by bombs.

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Thursday, November 28, 2013

Big Engineering 56 Thorium Reactors

         I am not convinced that reactors using thorium are going to answer all the alleged problems of current nuclear reactors. Still less am I going to say that "environmentalists" who now say nice words about thorium reactors would do so if they were ready to deploy.

         On the other hand thorium is 4 times more common than uranium and reactors produce less plutonium, a matter of importance in a world where proliferation is a fear and appears to be considerably easier to design passive safety systems for.

"Thorium reactors would be cheap. The primary cost in nuclear reactors traditionally is the huge safety requirements. Regarding meltdown in a thorium reactor, Rubbia writes, “Both the EA and MF can be effectively protected against military diversions and exhibit an extreme robustness against any conceivable accident, always with benign consequences. In particular the [beta]-decay heat is comparable in both cases and such that it can be passively dissipated in the environment, thus eliminating the risks of “melt-down”. Thorium reactors can breed uranium-233, which can theoretically be used for nuclear weapons. However, denaturing thorium with its isotope, ionium, eliminates the proliferation threat.
Like any nuclear reactor, thorium reactors will be hot and radioactive, necessitating shielding. The amount of radioactivity scales with the size of the plant. It so happens that thorium itself is an excellent radiation shield, but lead and depleted uranium are also suitable. Smaller plants (100 megawatts), such as the Department of Energy’s small, sealed, transportable, autonomous reactor (SSTAR) will be 15 meters tall, 3 meters wide and weigh 500 tonnes, using only a few cm of shielding."

     Note the admission that most nuclear costs are regulatory rather than engineering.

    I am actively not saying that we should hold back deployment of the reactors we can currently build by one day to push these on but we don't have to.

   Designing thorium reactors should pose no insuperable difficulties, after all

"The liquid-fluoride thorium reactor, developed at Oak Ridge National Laboratory in Tennessee during the late 1960s, ran successfully for five years before being axed by the Nixon administration. The reason for its cancellation: it produced too little plutonium for making nuclear weapons. Today, that would be seen as a distinct advantage. Without the Cold War, the thorium reactor might well have been the power plant of choice for utilities everywhere."

     If it could be done 50 years ago when world computer capacity was less than one good laptop today, it can easily be done now.

     I have previously suggested building a factory to mass produce small reactors. Such could easily be retooled to build thorium ones when available (or perhaps better, a second assembly line built alongside). Reactors described above as 3m wide (width of a shipping container) and 15m long are road transportable (or by airship) and could be sold for immediate turnkey operation. If they do not produce plutonium they could be sold to virtually anybody which would help make the entire world wealthy (and the country churning out such reactors on a production line, distinctly rich).

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Wednesday, November 27, 2013

White Paper: Okay, we've got the wish list, where's the price list?

An article by me on the SNP's promise list is up at ThinkScotland. Please put any comments there:

The SNP have made these formal promises of what we will get if we vote Yes for separation. I have inserted my comments:

These included:

  • Thirty hours of childcare per week in term time for all three and four-year-olds, as well as vulnerable two-year-olds.
150,000 kids or 200,000 hours so at least another £1 billion in extra taxes. That's 3p on income tax or equivalent he is promising. While childcare in Britain costs over 40.9% of an average wage in Estonia it is only 6.6%. This is because Estonia has a libertarian attitude to freedom. Since Estonia is part of the EU our costs cannot, for once, be blamed on the EU and since Scotland has control over almost all regulation they could reduce these costs to the Estonian level if they really wanted.

  • Trident nuclear weapons, currently based on the Clyde, removed within the first parliament.
Fair enough but what about those working there who will, unless something else is provided, have no jobs.

  • Housing benefit reforms, described by critics as the "bedroom tax", to be abolished, and a halt to the rollout of Universal Credit.
That is another promise of more spending. My guess another billion.
  • It would be in Scotland's interest to keep the pound, while the Bank of England would continue as "lender of last resort".
But George Osborne has said he doesn't think it would be in England's. It would be possible for Scotland simply to keep using the English £ and let our banks print and attempt to maintain parity without government intervention but this would mean Scotland would not have "gilt edged" government borrowing. The real problem is that as "lender of last resort" the BoE is guaranteeing Scottish government debt and it is obvious why that is unattractive. Since we would be taking our share of the national debt the Scottish government will have debt to be guaranteed. Certainly there is no way a BofE would ever guarantee a higher borrowing rate in Scotland than in England and if our economy was shaky the fiscally proper thing for them to do would be to demand we borrow less - something which all Keynesians will recognise a problem with. The fact that oil prices swing wildly make it absolutely certain that Scottish government revenue will do so as well, meaning that the ability to borrow to smooth the curves is vital.
  • BBC Scotland replaced at the start of 2017 with a new Scottish broadcasting service, continuing a formal relationship with the rest of the BBC.
What sort of "independent" country allows a foreign country to control its broadcasting? While it is true that the BBC has a legal duty of "balance" (A) it makes no attempt to keep to it and (B) there is bound to be circumstances where balance means something different to a Scottish audience. For example if UKIP became a part, or the whole, of the rest of UK government a balanced BBC would be forced to cover their policies and, for example, give significant airtime to reporting that the catastrophic warming fraud is a fraud. Seeing Salmond's  enthusiastic support for the fascist thugs who attacked Nigel Farage and him promising we will be 100% on intermittent "renewables" by 2020 is it conceivable that his Scottish government could put up with an English definition of balance in state owned media?
  • Basic rate tax allowances and tax credits to rise at least in line with inflation.
Yet we know that over a fairly long term revenue from oil will decline and the proportion of pensioners rise. That means that, other things being equal, taxes must rise.
  • A safe, "triple-locked" pension system.
This is a post dated cheque on what, if the IFS report is right, is a declining bank*. At the very least it would mean billions more in taxes.

  • Minimum wage to "rise alongside the cost of living".
Take that as you want. The SNP's partners in the Yes campaign have promised there will be no increase in living standards for 10 year, hopefully longer (their hope not mine). Anyway this is another post dated cheque.

This looks like about £2 billion in extra taxes immediately (6p on income tax or some unspecified alternative) with more to come, which along with a far higher electricity prices here because we are 100% renewable (not to mention blackouts for the same reason) seems an improbable launching pad for the growth which is the only way the IFS predictions of us being smothered in higher pensioner costs and lower oil revenue would be prevented.

I do not dispute that Scotland could grow faster than the UK, if it adopted sane free market economic and energy policies and quit the only zone of the world in recession, the EU (or indeed that the UK
could grow faster than the UK is doing currently by the same method). But their is no sign of any such sanity in any part of the Holyrood consensus.

*Ghandi's description of the British WW2 offer of post war independence to India.


Another of couple of points since:

1 - Nicola Sturgeon told Holyrood that the "only" threat to our membership of the organisation responsible for 75% of our laws, the EU was the promised 2017 referendum. That means there is no possibility of the SNP allowing us a referendum on EU membership, whatever the terms. It must be unique in the world for a nominally "independent nationalist" movement to oppose the right of the people to decide they want independence.

2 - Last night Alex Salmond assured Newsnight that there was no possibility that an independent remaining EU would ever decline to pay over the odds (currently about 3 times over normal prices) for Scottish windmill power. He also said that Scotland normally supplies 8 Gigawatts of power to England which is simply a lie. Bearing in mind that wind only produces 1/4 of its rated capacity that is would be all the power stations in Scotland working full out and us using none of it. Actually even if that were possible the cross border interconnectors would blow.

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Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Requirements To Work For The BBC

 A couple of useful statements about the BBC:

THE BBC is “dumbing down” science programmes because it is staffed with humanities graduates who are ignorant about the subject, a leading academic and presenter has claimed.

Prof Lisa Jardine, who presents BBC Radio Four’s ‘Seven Ages of Science’ series, said producers assume that their audience is as clueless about science as they are.

As a result, presenters are told to avoid using technical terms for fear of alienating people, while arts presenters can reference obscure cultural figures without,any further explanation, she said.

Prof Jardine is a professor of Renaissance Studies at University College London and is also chairman of the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority and president of the British Science Association.

Speaking before the British Science Festival which takes place in Newcastle next week, she claimed the idea that presenters must “mash up the difficult stuff, and particularly science, because people are not able to understand, is a complete fallacy”.

The myth arose because “everybody in the BBC is trained in the humanities”, she said, and although BBC Radio 4 is now introducing more scientific content, its science department is still dwarfed by the arts unit.

“Anyone who has done broadcasting on science for the BBC will know that whereas you are never asked to explain who (actor) John Carlisle is, if I say ‘mitochondria’ (energy-producing components of cells), they say, ‘Can’t you say it in ordinary language because people won’t understand’.


Who Runs the BBC?
The BBC Trust  consists of 12 Trustees and is headed by Lord Patten.

Lord Chris Patten is a conservative peer and former governor of Hong Kong; he also happens to have 13 others jobs besides chief of the BBC.  These include an £80,000 year role as an advisor for oil company BP, and £40,000 a year from EDF Energy.  Some might well be surprised that the Chairman of the BBC Trust is receiving more pay from just these two advisory roles than the £110,000 a year he receives for his chairmanship of the BBC Trust....

The recently appointed Director of News and Current Affairs at the BBC, James Harding, is a former employee of the Murdoch Press. While Editor of The Times newspaper, he was responsible for exposing the identity of police blogger NightJack by hacking the bloggers email accounts – which his legal team then covered up during a court case against the action. 

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Monday, November 25, 2013

Some Links

China is fairly enthusiastic about Bitcoin. Previously I wrote that Bitcoin was a very good investment so long as the world's governments didn't gang up against it. With China supportive that now seems unlikely.
China is not planning to be a low wage economy in the future - they are pouring $80 bn into automation and robots.
This links to James Delingpole's articles at the Spectator
Confirmation of Labour's dishonesty and contempt for its own supporters

"Labour sent out ‘search parties’ for immigrants to get them to come to the UK, Lord Mandelson has admitted.

In a stunning confirmation that the Blair and Brown governments deliberately engineered mass immigration, the former Cabinet Minister and spin doctor said New Labour sought out foreign workers.

He also conceded that the influx of arrivals meant the party’s traditional supporters are now unable to find work.

By contrast, Labour leader Ed Miliband has said his party got it wrong on immigration but has refused to admit it was too high under Labour."
Planning rules governing the extraction of shale gas and onshore oil in Scotland will be made tougher, the Scottish government has said.
"Over here in the Czech Republic they've got some EU money to throw at innovation. Mixed industry and academic sorta stuff and we've a couple of projects that fit into their desired categories well enough. So I had a pint with someone who knows how to apply for these funds: heck, if there's free money out there why not? The first deadline for applying is 22 of this month. The actual cash would be available, assuming we passed all the hurdles and tests, in May 2015.

Yes, 2015: and no, this is not how innovation or start ups work. 18 months is in fact the entire lifecycle of an innovative start up these days: Instagram was bought for a billion dollars in about half that time from starting to purchase."

I commented in support of the one way government can successfully promote innovation
"The only way for the state to promote innovation is through X-Prizes - the money then goes to the inventors not the politically connected not those who spend time formfilling.
Technically it would not prevent agreement to offer the prize being reached only too late, because the invention had been made but if so (A) somebody would notice & (B) the prize would not then be awarded and the money wold be available for a new prize."
Mid Staffordshire Hospital - 1400 dead, nobody to blame.
We are the SNP, we don't need to stick to no steekin' law:

The Scottish government is to appeal a Court of Session ruling to quash consent for a major wind farm in the centre of Shetland.

Lady Clark of Calton last month said she was not satisfied ministers complied with their obligations under European nature legislation.

A spokeswoman for the Scottish government said ministers did not agree that the application was incompetent.
John Brignall article on why government much prefers large useless projects to small useless, or indeed useful ones:
"In this respect, it is always well to member the traditional cynical list of the stages of a project:
1. Enthusiasm
2. Depression
3. Panic
4. Search for the guilty
5. Punishment of the innocent
6. Rewards for the non-participants"

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Sunday, November 24, 2013

Look Ma, UK Nearly Top Of The World In Science

  This, from the Worldmapper site, is, I think, the one that shows Britain largest. It isn't a bad one to be doing well on.

"This map shows the growth in scientific research of territories between 1990 and 2001. If there was no increase in scientific publications that territory has no area on the map.

In 1990, 80 scientific papers were published per million people living in the world, this increased to 106 per million by 2001. This increase was experienced primarily in territories with strong existing scientific research. However, the United States, with the highest total publications in 2001,
experienced a smaller increase since 1990 than that in Japan, China, Germany and the Republic of Korea. Singapore had the greatest per person increase in scientific publications."

    In almost every other case where the UK does well the US does better. I have previously written of how, on citations of scientific papers, the UK comes 3rd after the US & China but does better, per capita than either or indeed all but a small number of small countries like Switzerland.

     Mind you the map is for 1990-2001 and I doubt if our position at least as regards China, Singapore etc, has held place.

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