Number of the Month

March  2007


Number Watch is censored in China, unlike that well known crypto-communist, Tim Worstall.

Mission impossible

The Lawson clan seem to have taken on a mission to beat some common sense into the British political chaterati. Dominic provides a bit of global cooling in, of all places, The Independent.

Footnote: Of course, sinful thoughts occur in slightly less surprising places.

Seems familiar

The woods shall to me answer and my echo ring

The carbon credit as an indulgence seems to have been rediscovered since being mooted in Number Watch back in January 2005. Oddly enough, in the same article there is reference to the rediscovery of Breathtaking Advice from May 2001.

It’s a funny old world.

Ultimate Blair

The headline in The Telegraph tells the whole story:

Doctors' training system 'a shambles'

Anyone who has followed our Best of the blogs will have seen the whole sorry story build up in NHS Blog Doctor. The lead paragraphs sum it up:

Thousands of young doctors have been left without jobs because a new NHS training system has gone "disastrously wrong", it was disclosed yesterday.

As much as £2 billion has been spent on the training of up to 8,000 doctors who find themselves without a new job under a Government initiative.

Such is the fury at the scheme, called Modernising Medical Careers (MMC), that doctors have renamed it "Massive Medical Cull".

It costs £250,000 to train a doctor and the "shambles" is said to be blighting the careers of dedicated young men and women who may now leave the NHS. Many are also saddled with debts of more than £40,000 after funding their training.

The Daily Telegraph has been inundated with letters and emails from despairing doctors and their parents who "feel like crying".

Note the name of the silly scheme. Anyone who felt doubt about our definition of modernisation ought to rethink. After a decade of failure after failure after failure, these nincompoops still think they know better than professionals how to run things. Everyone else knows that they could not run the proverbial whelk stall. They lurch from one quick fix to another, inevitably running into the law of unintended consequences. They lack even the basic intelligence to learn from their experience and, as in Groundhog Day, keep repeating it over and over again.

It is bad enough that thousands of present-day patients are suffering and dying just to save one incompetent woman’s job, but to waste the young talent of a generation is a crime against future generations. The scheme has all the characteristics of New Labour – incompetence, political correctness, arbitrariness and a complete absence of common humanity.

Writing stops here as your bending author is at risk of blowing a gasket and finding himself entrusted to the tender mercies of Blair’s NHS.

Link to this piece


Your bending author planned to have a bit of fun with this story, which appeared as a full page treatment in the print edition of The Daily Mail today. On looking it up on the paper’s web site, there it was – not. Is it that the web-site staff are a bit more sensitive about transgressing the boundaries of religious doctrine, or is it that the author, Zoe Brennan does not carry the weight? Anyway, whatever the reason, we just will have to make do with the headline:

Strawberries in December. Frogspawn in February. Not 2007 but 1868 – and nobody blamed global warming then


Red disc on a stick

We were driving from Krakow to Gdansk, with a stop in Warsaw. It was a year after the invasion of Czechoslovakia, so things were still tense in the Soviet Empire. Luckily we had a Polish academic colleague as our companion and guide. The road was virtually empty and we were making good progress, when a motorcyclist in black leather passed us and waved at us with a red disc on a stick. What did it mean? Our companion yelled “Get off the road, get of the road!” I pulled up amid the tractor ruts on the unofficial soft shoulder. All was quiet; then a minute later a high-speed caravan of black limousines swept past and disappeared into the distance.

“Politicians!” spat our companion. That was all we could get out of him. The proud Poles were ashamed of the state of their nation.

Modern oligarchies have to be more subtle. The elite are more diffuse. They comprise the rich, the corporate, the bureaucratic and the political.  They have to rule by maintaining the illusion of democracy. The modern version of the red disc on a stick is the Galileo satellite and road side cameras. The only constant is that it is still socialists (such as Red Ken Livingstone) who are reserving the roads for themselves and their friends.

“Politicians!” spit those of us who understand what is going on. The rest turn back to their reality television shows.

Link to this piece


A sharp pang of bereavement

It was all precipitated by a casual scan through the Letters column of the Daily Telegraph. It was just one of those periodic outbursts about apostrophes. A two line letter that brought back all the pain:

SIR - Those of us educated at the - alas long gone - Stationers' Company's School tend to have fewer problem with apostrophes than lesser mortals.
Ken Stevens, Sonning Common, Oxfordshire

Yes, it was the old school, the true alma mater. Now there is nothing there but an empty space standing as a memorial to the sanctimonious destructiveness of the socialist commissars, the hate-filled Maoists who can build nothing, so they do the other thing. They tried to adapt it to their ends by merging it with a lesser school, but they could not destroy its spirit, so they razed it to the ground.

 The thought of the demolition ball crashing through that Gothic entrance hall is  the cruellest of mental tortures. The pickaxe splintering the elegant panelling of the great hall is the stuff of nightmares.

We did not know it, but we were the luckiest generation ever. Regardless of parental circumstances, an education as good as any in the world was available to anyone who was capable of benefiting from it (and many who were not).

When you are young you just accept things. They were as they always were and would be the same forever more. We had no reverence for our surroundings; that would come later.




Memories come flooding back, things you thought you had forgotten.

bulletThe first day, as weeds (new boys) being lined up under the gothic arches outside and then marched into the Great Hall, where there were already in place serried ranks of blazered youth arranged in order of height. At the back, the sixth formers, to us rather daunting young men, lounged with studied languor against the panelling.
bulletThe last day, lounging against the panelling with studied languor, hoping desperately that the tears did not show, as it suddenly dawned that after all those years the last verse of the school song was directed to you.

bulletThe humiliation of the gym (only to find out forty years later that the inability to touch toes and do a handstand was due to a minor congenital deformity of the joints).
bulletThen discovering, too late, a latent skill at ball games.
bulletBeing caned for getting more detentions in a term than any boy in the school. Being caned by “Josh” Nunn, the gentlest of gentlemen and the most inspiring of teachers, whose memory is revered by thousands.
bulletSinging the Requiem in the choir, from the organ gallery, during the dedication of the beautiful stained glass window in memory of old boys fallen in the war.
bulletBeing taken aside by the form master on the first day and receiving instruction on the difficulties to be faced by the youngest (and smallest) boy in the class. Recently “research” has revealed that children born in the late summer do not fare well at games. Then we did not need research, we had accumulated wisdom.
bulletReceiving instruction as a new prefect on discipline and being told that growing boys need a disciplinary system to rebel against, but that it has to be applied with moderation and reason. In those days we had accumulated wisdom.

Now, looking around, we see that boys like us now get a junk education. We are ruled by the privately educated – the two main party leaders in the UK are public schoolboys (i.e. privately educated by wealthy parents). Our ludicrous Prime Minister thinks he can build good schools overnight – it takes a century, but it only takes a few days to destroy one. All that accumulated wisdom was cancelled in one fell swoop.

But they cannot kill the spirit till we are all dead. Still we are Stationers as far as we roam.

Normal service will be resumed after a suitable period of mourning.

Link to this piece



Tales like the above concern a personal sorrow for a few thousand. We can understand the bereavement of others, but we cannot share it. They are an even greater tragedy for thousand more who will never know what they have lost, academically inclined boys who should have been great scientists, poets or leaders of men. Followers of Al Fin, which should include all number watchers, will be familiar with the rise of the idiocracy and they way it was achieved by the cold-blooded dismantling of western education. Others, such as Alan Caruba have demonstrated in detail how the process has been implemented. Now is pay-off time, when the careful nurturing of a passive, ignorant populace can be exploited to achieve the ends of the New Establishment. A few eccentrics on the internet might attempt to rock the boat, but they can be safely ignored. There is always, however, the danger of cognitive dissonance being engendered by treachery in the media. It only needs a few dissidents to start telling the truth on television and the whole edifice could be in danger of collapse. Meanwhile, your bending but unmalleable author is off to watch Channel 4.


You must watch this!

The Great Global Warming Swindle.


Instant Reaction

The keyboard must have been rattling before the credits had finished rolling for The Global Warming Swindle. A three sentence letter in the Telegraph tells us so much about the state of science in Britain:

Science and warming:

Sir - Carbon dioxide is the global arch-villain so should be properly portrayed. But a Channel 4 programme on Thursday night was punctuated by misrepresentation.

Our own profession is proud of the special scrutiny that the peer review process engenders; it would be useful to know if the judgments of those in programmes such as this have been similarly examined by colleagues before they were projected to the public.

Dr Richard Pike, Chief Executive, Royal Society of Chemistry, London W1

The intervention raises more questions than it poses:

bulletWhat is a scientist (presuming he is one and not a PhD in Media Studies) doing using emotive words like “global arch-villain” about an element in the periodic table and the reason for more chemistry that all the rest put together? And what does “properly” mean?
bulletWhy is a scientist making such a pronouncement as an act of faith, regardless of the evidence? We can imagine a nineteenth century Bishop saying “Sex is the global arch-villain” but not a physicist of that era saying “entropy is the global arch-villain” or a mathematician saying “Pi is the global arch-villain”, but carbon?
bulletWhy pick on carbon as original sin in the new religion? Is it because, like sex in the old one, it is the origin of human life?
bulletWhy does a learned society need to be chiefly executed? Time was when they had a president and a secretary and were run by and for the members. Have the members nothing to say for themselves?
bulletWhat’s to be proud of in peer review? Many of us oldies have reviewed thousand of papers. It is a duty we perform for love of our subject. Some of us have experience of its proneness to corruption, which we guard against, but in the old days the only source of corruption was found in isolated groups, now it is a global movement. “Pride” is another emotive word that has no place in science. Peer review is just another of those phrases that has changed its meaning in recent times.
bulletWhy raise peer review now (and instantly) in the context of a television programme, when media organisations like the BBC have for years been airing scares so extreme that they have even embarrassed many of those who make their living in the climate industry?
bulletThe judgements of the participants have not only been subjected to world-wide examination and criticism, far more than any paper submitted to a journal, but the participants themselves have been subjected to ad hominem attacks, vilification and withdrawal of funding.
bulletIf the programme was punctuated by misrepresentation, might we be allowed to know what it was?
bulletAre there any scientific bodies left that have not been penetrated and taken over by the new eco-theologians? Are there none left among their membership who still revere the scientific method and traditional polite dispute?

Perhaps more to the point is the subsequent letter:

Sir - Now the EU is striving for carbon reductions, should we expect it, through this Government, to restrict our freedom of speech further by introducing legislation banning "Climate Change Denial"?

Dr Victor Rollins, Kirkby Mallory, Leicestershire

Link to the above piece

Credit where it’s due

One of the notable points in that film was that it gave due credit to Margaret Thatcher in creating the Global Warming scam. When Number Watch commented on this a few years ago, one of those colonial PC wiseacres popped up and claimed that it was all a myth. That is one of the crosses you have to bear in old age – being told that things never happened, when you were actually there. Your bending author was at the time Chairman of a thriving Conservative branch, a member of the Constituency Association and sitting in the front row when the woman herself spoke on the new theory. The Greenies cannot bear the thought that their religion was launched by such a great hate figure so, as is their wont, they simply change history. 

Of course, she was only using it as a tactic in the war against the miners and the oil sheiks, and had rightly foreseen the necessity of investing in nuclear power. She, however, was in turn being manipulated by Sir Crispin Tickell, who was the Typhoid Mary of the contagion, taking it to the UN and then round the world. Tickell deserves to stand with Jesus, Mohammed and  L Ron Hubbard as one of the founders of the great world religions.


Place to be

Last week Political Correctness Watch produced over 3,000 referred visits to Number Watch. It beat Google as a source of referrals, which does not often happen. In a relatively short time John Ray seems to have hit on a winning formula with his stable of blogs. He scours the internet and established media for suitable stories and by careful selection provides extremely useful collections of information and direction to sources. He certainly hit the nail on the head with the subtitle of his Eye on Britain. There are not many blogs worth reading, but he has more than his fair share of them.

Turning Point?

Now this is not the end. It is not even the beginning of the end. But it is, perhaps, the end of the beginning.
Sir Winston Churchill

There has been a great deal of excitement on the internet about the breakthrough represented by that Channel 4 film. Could it be the turning point predicted by Langmuir’s sixth law of bad science? After all, we have been through the other five laws during the global warming saga. Hard to tell! A crack in the wall of fear that inhibits younger scientists from speaking out would be a triumphant development, but they still have to live in a world in which the Greenies control research funding.

Stuntman Dave does not seem to be deflected by this outbreak of veracity. He has actually invited The Rev. Big Al to address the shadow cabinet and put forward grotesque green taxes on air travel. How much further will he go to drive Conservatives out of their own party?

Here is something he ought to think about, but won’t – if the entire population of Britain suddenly succumbed to bird 'flu and stopped emitting carbon dioxide, the effect on the atmosphere would be undetectable.

We live in interesting times.


The strange case of Professor Wunsch

It was to be expected that the response of the faithful to The Great Global Warming Swindle would be immediate and savage and that it would appear in organs such as the Guardian and The Independent, but the involvement of Professor Wunsch is decidedly odd. Fortunately, Global Warming Hype has provided a transcription of his remarks. It is rather difficult to imagine a context that they could be taken out of. It might have the makings of a good competition. They are not the sort of answers you would give to a question about, say, the wellbeing of your mother and how her corns are. In fact, the “before” and “after” statements are totally contradictory. It is difficult to think of any other interpretation of this phenomenon than “nobbling”. Was the good professor suddenly confronted with the possibility of exile to the outer gulag of unfunded science and pariah status? Did he get a metaphorical visit from the men in the sharp suits and dark glasses – “Nice lab you got ‘ere. Wouldn’t like to see nuffink ‘appen to it!”?

The conduct of scientific debate seems to have undergone a drastic change.

Footnote: Wunsch a year ago, sitting on the fence in context.


On the suicide of the street

Your bending author was in the process of putting together a few remarks on the fact that human atmospheric emissions appear to have become so destructive that they seem to be warming up the entire solar system, coupled with a side swipe at the ineffable stupidity of a certain woman journalist, when it all appeared on EU Referendum. As the establishment whips itself up into ever greater upheavals of hysteria over imaginary threats, with leading politicians vying with each other to demonstrate their greater religious zeal, cooler observers standing on the touchline find themselves repeatedly stating the obvious to each other. The nations of the western world, under the influence of a ragbag of homeless Marxists, new-age hippies and fund-hungry pseudo-scientists, compete with each other to develop more and more bizarre methods of ritual economic suicide; the EU, not having any mechanism for democratic moderation, being way out in front. The one hopeful sign is that the solidity of the consensus and its carefully maintained universal censorship seems to be showing a few fatigue cracks. We have Stott in the Sunday Mirror, Booker in The Mail, Littlejohn, also in The Mail, Daley in The Telegraph and Forsyth on, of all places, the BBC, all in addition to that breakthrough on Channel 4. Even more promising – the word on the street seems no longer blindly to accept the headlong rush into more taxation, more control and more ritual flagellation, as demanded by the micro-managing eco-freaks. At last some ordinary people are beginning to smell the proverbial rat. Sceptical noises are now being heard in pubs and clubs. If only more scientists would have the courage to say in public what they do in private, we would be on the road back to rationality.

Then there was that demonstration of the touching naivety of the faithful. It would be unkind to laugh at serious self-inflicted wounds, but it is somehow a fitting parable for what a whole society is doing to itself.


Wanted – one new word

Oddly enough, your bending author had typed the above headline when, overcome by a powerful thirst of the sort that tends to happen just after noon, he decided to toddle round the corner for a curative draught of Ringwood Bitter Ale. There was the Daily Mail among the papers that the landlord kindly supplies for the edification of his flock. The headline stood out in four inch high letters:

Don’t you dare be ill out of hours!

Don’t bother looking for it in the web version, as they always tend to go for something blander (Don’t want to frighten the beastly foreigners, Old Boy!).

They say that Tony Blair is losing sleep over what will be his legacy. As he looks round the devastation of what ten years ago was a proud nation, that headline makes a pretty good summary. Someone should frame it for him, along with the traditional conservative injunction – if it ain’t broke don’t fix it.

Anyway, the neologism that we want in this island of fear is one that means “fear of being taken ill out of hours”. Not being a classicist, yba could come up with nothing better than exhoraphobia, but the pedants don’t like mixed roots. This was brought home after a passing reference to not liking to add to the abuse of that lovely English word gay and preferring homosexual (as a word, that is, not as a subset of humanity) but, despite one’s never having ridden a dicycle either, that proved to be unacceptable to a minority of ex-readers of Number Watch. The feminists had already left after the Battle of all Mothers.

By the way, before everyone starts blaming the GPs, let it be known that our local practice offered to continue the Saturday surgery, but they were turned down by the local primary care trust.

Take it from one who has recently been seriously ill at the weekend and threatened with admission to the hell-hole that is an NHS emergency ward, that nameless fear is now ever present.

So, what is the word?

Link to the above piece.


A question of temperature

A correspondent has drawn attention to a recent paper on Does global average temperature exist? This seems to repeat an argument raised earlier in a book, that the concept of global average temperature is inherently nonsensical, which in turn led to the production of one of our FAQs. The structure of the paper is disappointing. There is a lot of mathematics, which seems to more decorative than clarifying. There are various red herrings and straw men (has anyone ever seriously suggested applying the harmonic mean to global temperature?)

The kernel of the argument seems to be that intensive variables are not summable and therefore cannot be averaged. It is quite possible to argue exactly the opposite. Consider a single bucket of water. The average temperature is meaningful, in fact it is the only temperature that is meaningful, but the average quantity of water is meaningless; the quantity is already just a single number.

One of the activities that dominated the latter years of your bending author’s research career was the thermal modelling of micro-engineered devices. These involved (among other mechanisms) convection, conduction and radiation. They were only a couple of mm square, but in essence posed a similar, if less complicated, problem to that of the earth. The statistic of average temperature (and the way it evolved in time) was a minor but useful one in comparing designs, and certainly by no means meaningless. So, why should the concept become nonsense when it is applied to a planet rather than a silicon chip?

Ask these questions. Was the earth cooler during the Ice Age? If so, what does cooler mean? If it means anything other than a lower average temperature, what is that thing?

Quite another question is – if the concept is meaningful, is it possible to derive a reasonable estimate of its magnitude? This is much more contentious point. When you have professed the subject of Industrial Instrumentation for a couple of decades, the gap between a viable physical concept and a meaningful measurement is your natural hunting ground, but you do not always (or even often) achieve a kill. If you could cover the whole earth with a network of sensors say a metre apart you would be able to produce a very respectable instantaneous estimate of average surface temperature; but you cannot, and the fact remains that existing sensors are sparse, badly distributed and ever-changing in number and location. While the concept of a global average surface temperature is theoretically acceptable, the chances of being able to estimate it with any plausible degree of precision would seem to be, to say the very least, problematic. When you have looked at many local temperature records you find that some places appear to be warming while others are cooling. What you get when you put them all together is a bit of a dog’s breakfast. The crucial point is not “Is the concept meaningful?” but “Is the measurement meaningful?”.

The tendency of sceptics to wander off into the by-ways of philosophy and technique only goes to serve the purposes of their adversaries.

Link to the above piece.


The age of endarkenment

It was a cold day in April and the clock struck thirteen. 

As Melanie says, we now have it from the horse’s mouth. The age of “normal” science is now officially over. No sooner has post-modernism been dismissed in gales of laughter than we are presented with post-normalism. Move over Galileo, society is now taking the Mick. All those years of struggle, even martyrdom, to achieve the Enlightenment now appear to have been in vain. Human society is returning to control and censorship and is turning its back on reason and freedom of thought. The snoopers are in our dustbins and our police are more concerned with thought-control than crime-control. Infidels who challenge the new faith with old-fashioned tools such as logic and experiment must be sought out and eliminated. Like other deviants, they will find their proper place on a Government data base, formulated, sprawling on a pin.

Oh cruel fate that we should live to see this day!


Says it all, really

The Daily Mail has its faults, and they are many, such as the “celebrity” obsession and seizing upon any scare, however baseless; but every now and then it comes up with a headline that seems to encapsulate the state of the British Soviet. Here were a couple:

Britain is now a one party state 

The day of the snooper

Though the latter did not seem to have made it onto the web site.


The establishment

The sad, sad death of Sally Clark is a reminder of the brutal nature of our establishment and the part played by the abuse of numbers. It would be comforting to think that it could not happen again, but don’t bet on it.

Page 18 of the Sunday Telegraph is the main campaigning page. Christopher Booker’s latest exposure of cruel incompetence at DEFRA is unbelievably horrible to read. The name change from MAFF was instituted as part of the cover up of the foot and mouth holocaust, but these continued obscenities demonstrate that nothing has changed.

It’s good to see James LeFanu back in campaigning vein. His columns have been a bit on the folksy side of late: nothing wrong with that, but the passion and intellect he revealed in his great book are needed to deal with the sorry shambles that is the health industry. This week he takes on the statin racket in which millions of people are being made ill for profit. Naturally, those doughty campaigners over at THINCS are ecstatic to find such support. The cholesterol scam has much in common with the global warming scare, contradiction of the scientific evidence steam-rollered through by political guile and brutal censorship. Fortunately there are always a few brave souls prepared to stand up and be counted. A close friend of your bending author was turned into a shambling wreck of a man by these drugs, but fortunately he saw the light.

Good also to see the current hero of the hour Martin Durkin given space to air his side of the story; and how apt was his headline:

'The global-warmers were bound to attack, but why are they so feeble?'

The whole global warming campaign rests on suppressing the overwhelming scientific evidence and avoiding traditional scientific debate. Like their leading demagogue and arch-hypocrite, Al Gore, the proponents will go to great lengths to avoid any actual confrontation with those who challenge their increasingly shrill assertions (unless it is to be edited by the likes of the BBC). You can understand why when you see what happens when they do. Once the pride of Britain and trusted round the world, the BBC is now the solid face of the Green establishment and the by-word for bias. They still, on the whole, do good comedy, particularly in the early evening slots on Radio 4. The regular Friday night programme, the Now Show, had as its centre piece, passed off as a comic monologue, a savage attack on Martin Durkin.

That is the way the establishment work – ruthless,  insidious, persistent, untiring, never missing an opportunity, corrupting even comedy.


AWOL again

Your bending author will be going into hospital for a few days to receive intravenous antibiotic treatment. The explanation can be found in this quotation from Sorry, wrong number!, which was published in 2000.

Before I turn to the subject of smoking on aeroplanes, let me declare an interest. I have been twice quite seriously ill with lung infections after long distance flights, ending up attending hospital and having a cocktail of antibiotics and steroids. My GP practice told me that this had become a common phenomenon. The destination was immaterial. Only the overnight flight was significant. I consulted friends in the airline industry and learned that since the introduction of non-smoking flights the airlines had cut back on the filtering and refreshing of air, thus saving substantial amounts of money. A senior flight engineer told me that with my susceptibility I should avoid non-smoking flights. Fat chance! Unless I want to go to Japan.

The offer of an expenses-paid trip to be a guest of honour last September was too much of a temptation. As it turned out, it was an experiment that failed to falsify the theory. The accumulated damage of the past (bronchiectasis) means that the condition is now much more intractable; so, after six months of discomfort and overwhelming tiredness, more drastic medication is indicated.

It is an added irony that, not being a cigarette smoker, your bending author never travelled in the smoking section. Put it down to yet another example of the law of unintended consequences. Political correctness will ensure that research will never be done to discover just how many people have been made ill by exposure to real pathogens as a result of a panic about imaginary ones.

Footnote: Thanks for the early doom-laden wishes, but it will not be the NHS. We have managed to cling onto a vestige of health insurance that covers a hospital stay (with just a whopping excess to find). Threatened with the NHS, we would find the continued illness the lesser of two evils.


Number of the month – 17

The plan was for the number to be ten, in honour of the fact that (according to James LeFanu) the number of managers in the British National Health Service has increased tenfold in two decades. Consequences, however, can be considerably more dramatic than causes and the startling number this month is that no fewer than 17 patients died in one hospital from infection by a vigorous strain of Clostridium difficile.

At this point it is necessary for your bending author to declare an interest; as the intravenous antibiotic therapy he enjoyed this month carries a particular risk from the said germ. One of the effects of the strong antibiotics is to wipe out the natural flora in the gut. In such circumstances, C. difficile is apt to colonise the gut and take over, with serious consequences.

At a time when the Government has, for example,  introduced drastic anti-smoking legislation on the basis of thousands of fictional deaths (name one person!) from passive smoking, it is all the more poignant that it completely ignores the thousands of real corpses resulting from the filth in the hospitals that it controls. It is one thing for politicians to live in a fantasy world of their own making, but quite another when innocent people have to die for it.



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