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Tuesday, 29 December 2015

Floods of incompetence

When one has attained the loftiest pre-eminence in so many fields of study it becomes natural to expect others to attend carefully and gratefully when one offers an opinion on some important matter of judgement. It was a surprise to me, therefore, when in 2011 I received a letter from the office of the Environment Minister thanking me for, but respectfully declining, my offer to form and chair an expert panel to review the  flood defence plans of his department, an offer I had made after watching televised footage of the devastating inundations in the December of that year. Of course, I knew what was behind the rejection: professional jealously and resentment on the part of the minister's chief advisor- the head of the UK Meteorological Office.

Earlier I had made public my views on a proposal by the Met' Office to invest £27 million in a new super-computer which its proponents claimed to be an essential tool to model climate change and which I knew to be a monstrous white elephant. For years the Met’ Office had been justifying an obsession with computers by arguing that the notorious inaccuracy of their long-term climate forecasts was due to inadequate investment in technology, and only if they were given an ability to collect data about the weather everywhere, and sufficiently vast computing power to  model that data, would it be possible to foretell climate change.


Did Einstein divine relativity by using supercomputers to track all the world’s light rays? Of course not- he was led to his insights through the contemplative consideration of fundamental natural principles. The Met’ obsesses with observing the weather in ever increasing detail, when it is clear to anyone who steps back from the detail that a small number of established thermodynamic principles are governing the evolution of our climate. To put the point simply, a Lagrangian tensor depiction of the enthalpy of the planet, considered as a closed hermetic system with bi-variant dispersive thermal conductivity, when subjected to a de Vriess coordinate inversion with spinor distensions, reveals a clear and systematic increase in mean surface temperature consistent with more-extreme precipitation. The mathematics conveys the idea more clearly than do  my words:

Ergo even wetter winter weather in Yorkshire. A child could follow it, yet I might as well have been talking nonsense as far as the Environment Minister was concerned. I said then that it would all end in tears, floods of them.

Wednesday, 23 December 2015

BBC no longer ahead of its time

Just as we were fearing there might be no end to the management lunacy at the BBC, there has been a first sign of sensible thinking at the top of the crumbling corporation. On the radio this morning we hear the news that the broadcaster has 'cancelled its contract for screening Formula One races three years early'.

And I should think so too. What a bananas piece of scheduling was that, screening Grand Prix three years before they happen? Imagine, it is 2pm or thereabouts on Sunday 17th July 2016, and you are sat with your chums in front of the massive Korean TV which shows, from various angles, the silent empty tarmac of the Silverstone circuit, while a team of pundits explains how the race might be developing, lap by lap, in three years time. And here, one says, as the camera shows the famous left hander, the leading cars should be entering Maggots for the forty third time. Depending on the weather we might expect them all to have called into the pits at least once for a change of tyres, and etc etc. What sort of entertainment is that?

I suppose those who lobbied for the ludicrous contract had the obvious advantages in mind. I can just picture the scheduling committee meeting at which the decision to sign it was taken. A roomful of self-obsessed media types, nursing their lattes and ipads, checking off items on a PC ticklist- no the content would not offend LGBT viewers, yes it had been approved by the religious impact board, and so on, while the sponsor points out the attractively low cost of the broadcasting rights for races that have yet to happen, and that the outside broadcast van wouldn't get stuck in a ten-mile traffic jam of returning spectators on the A46 as it would if they were to screen the race itself.

I suppose we should be grateful that the idea did not spread from BBC Sport to the other farcical fiefdoms, especially BBC News with its mania for speculation. One imagines an 'Election Night Special' three years ahead of the election itself, at which a panel of pundits pontificates about the possible contenders, swing seats, the likely timing of the first completed count, and so on. No (head waggles in sad retrospection) the BBC is not the broadcasting force we had made it in my day.