Number of the Month

May 2013

A zephyr of change

A healthy breeze of scepticism refreshed Britain’s fusty corridors of power following UKIP’s dramatic progress in the local elections. The entrenched and self-satisfied political class were shaken by open expressions of contempt delivered by a significant and growing proportion of the electorate.  A whole raft of policies that they have lazily adopted from minority zealot groups are now up for discussion.

It is all exemplified by the long distance clash between two famous representatives of their factions, Ken Clarke and Nigel Farage. As it happens I have chatted with both of them over a glass or two of deadly alcohol and have formed an impression of each of them. They both possess that natural affable charm that is essential for a political career, but they could not be more different. One is as laid back as you could be without actually falling over, while the other is invested with an infectious Tiggerish hyperactivity. Both are relatively impervious to the pressures of the Nanny State; openly relishing, for example, the enjoyment of alcohol and tobacco.

You might expect it from Stuntman Dave and his cronies, but it is a bit of a surprise that it was Clarke who fell into the trap of expressing mindless abuse, thereby undoubtedly adding to the momentum behind his opponent. To apply the description “clowns” to ones adversaries is one thing, but to do so without adducing any accompanying reasoning is quite another. It is just lazy and counter-productive.

The portfolio of policies advanced by UKIP is bit raw, but this must be expected as they lack the resources enjoyed by the establishment leaders: such resources as armies of publicly funded political advisers (typically unworldly, young Oxford PPE graduates who garner ready-made policies from various zealous activists). It is a David and Goliath battle, but one that has long been needed. The parlous state of the western world has been caused entirely by its complacent established political classes. A hard kick in the gluteus maximus is the least they deserve.



To every action there is an equal and opposite reaction
Newton (paraphrased)

There has been a flurry of activity among the political classes and their media acolytes about the UKIP phenomenon. They have now reached a consensus (as you do) which is this: all UKIP supporters are old and ill-educated. As with all the best lies, this is based on an element of truth, for such are the people who have not been exposed to official brain washing at their most crucial time of life. As ever, there are many contributions by establishment media columnists, often contradictory.

We normally refrain from linking to articles from behind the paywall, but this one in The Times is so extraordinary that comment is irresistible. It is Governments manage change. UKIP fears it by Rachel Sylvester. Her thesis is that mindless change is handed down from Mount Olympus, rather than being promoted by raving zealots using fraudulent statistics. It is therefore peremptory and irreversible. Since the advent in the west of the likes of Tony Blair “change” has been the “abracadabra” of politics, the mystical incantation that the stage magician uses while misdirecting the dupes from the reality of what he is up to. It is the converse of the basic principle of conservatism – “If it ain’t broke don’t fix it.” It often parades under vague synonyms, such as “modernisation”.

A corollary of this dogma is that political mistakes can never be rectified. With almost the entire political class of one mind in the most important matters, that is not a difficult position to maintain. Thus in the UK the most disastrous changes inflicted by New Labour have been preserved by the succeeding allegedly Conservative administration. In the USA a similar effect is achieved by by-passing Congress through autonomous institutions such as the EPA, while in the EU democratic control is avoided entirely.

It remains a mad world, my masters.

From the cloaca of scientific journalism

In general, we have given up drawing attention to the morass of nonsense that fills the fillers in the pages of the establishment media, mainly referring to alleged health problems, but sometimes a story appears that is so banal that it shakes the very foundations of credulity, such a one is this from the Daily Telegraph.

It took two universities to interview a mere 49 people about whether they broke a rule, plucked out of the air by zealots, which has no scientific or medical provenance. No evidence is adduced as to whether they actually caused themselves any harm (or, for that matter, good).

Cannot these “researchers” find a more constructive way to dispose of the odd afternoon? What is the definition of an “expert”, which is a word used by journalists and lawyers, but not by real scientists? Good to see that there is a reservoir of common sense among the commenters, but who has the time to read through a thousand comments? On this evidence, you could knock off a couple of publishable papers over the same period.


Answer came there none

To be or not to be, that is the question.

When we first raised the question twelve years ago, we little expected that it would remain so long unanswered, nor that the scams based on avoiding the question would still be alive and kicking after all this time. Funding has poured into this “technology” over all these years, yet still no useful amount of energy has been delivered. It might not be rocket science, but is certainly takes longer to produce a result.

When the periodic re-emergence of this fantasy occurred last year we tried the tactic of briefly surveying the design problems and placing it as a more provocative FAQ with a permanent link on our contents page –  Why does the cable weight damn the concept of airborne generators?

Now a member of our forum has drawn attention to an announcement that Google is so enamoured with the idea that it has bought the company. No doubt, in the process of due diligence, they performed a search of the dominant design problems. They are the people with answers.

So now we ask those nice and not evil people from Google kindly to provide an answer to a question that is growing hoary with age – How much does the cable weigh? Furthermore, if it is not too much trouble, could they also tell us the diameter of the cable drum when it is fully wound and how the high power connection between the rotary and stationary components is achieved?


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 Number of the month – one

This one is the question that is never answered and always avoided. It is also the question that nobody asks. As that nobody, your bending author feels an obligation to go on asking it. The question is directed to the many promoters of money-churning airborne generator schemes that appear in the media with monotonous regularity:

How much does the cable weigh?

There is no requirement for great accuracy, just an order of magnitude will do. It should have been a natural part of the preliminary feasibility study, just a few calculations of the back-of-an-envelope variety that are a normal part of any engineering project; so there should be no need for any burdensome extra work.

As we have conjectured above and in the links provided, it seems plausible that the answer to this question is such as to damn all of these projects. It is also strange how incurious the sceptical blogosphere has been about this matter. There are plenty of high-power cable designers about who could offer sound advice; so why not ask them?


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