Freedom-Lovers and Freedom-Haters

A few days ago Junican drew attention to a debate about political correctness, that featured Jordan Peterson, Stephen Fry, and a couple of other people I’d never heard of. And the resolution under debate was:

Be it resolved, what you call political correctness, I call progress…

I ended up watching about half of it.

I felt that all concerned had just been talking past each other. And scoring cheap points (usually at the expense of Donald Trump).

But afterwards I got thinking about the resolution, and thinking that actually, for these people, “Be it resolved, what you call political correctness, we call progress” pretty much sums up exactly the way they see things.

Take smoking bans. I think smoking bans are an example of political correctness. They’re one of the best examples around. But they think that smoking bans are progress.

And that’s why they’re all so smugly self-congratulatory when they get a new smoking ban in place, or extend an existing one. It’s all Progress for them, and Progress with a capital P.

It’s an idea of progress that will only end when smoking tobacco is illegal, and death – execution – is the punishment for smoking a single cigarette, and every tobacco plant in the world has been uprooted and burned. That’s the end goal. Or, as they like to call it, the “endgame”. It’s the complete and total suppression of tobacco. It’s the removal of it from the world.

But to me, that looks like complete and absolute tyranny. And I think that doing the same with alcohol or sugar or salt or chocolate or meat or fat and all the other things that they also want to suppress (and tobacco is just the start, after all) is equally tyrannical.

But tyranny is what they want. For them, the most complete and utter tyranny is what they regard as progress. Their perfect, ideal world is one of complete and absolute and unending tyranny: it’s Orwell’s “If you want a vision of the future, imagine a boot stamping on a human face – forever.”

That is their vision of the future. And progress is whatever moves the world a step or two towards that future, the future they so long for, from which all freedom has been completely banished.

But my idea of progress is the exact opposite of their idea of theirs. For me, progress entails increasing freedom rather than decreasing it. In Idle Theory, I call this freedom idleness, and my (unattainable) ideal world is one in which people live perfectly idle lives, doing whatever they want to do.

My vision of progress is one in which people start out having to work long hours, with little idle time, and end up working very short hours with lots of idle time:

And their vision of progress is the exact opposite. They want a world from which freedom has been expunged. They want a world in which everybody is regimented, and all marching in lockstep with each other, not only doing what they’re told to do, but also thinking what they’re told to think. They want a world in which everyone is kept busy all the time. They want a world that is one vast labour camp. And when they’ve managed to attain that, the labour camp will become an extermination camp. Because in Idle Theory 0% idleness is the threshold of death, and a perfect labour camp in which everyone is kept completely busy all the time is a death camp.

And unlike my unattainable world of perfect idleness, their world of complete busyness is a very easily attainable world. It’s a state that is attained any time any living thing – plant, animal, or human – dies. And that’s happening all the time everywhere.

So progress, in the sense I mean it, is something very difficult to do. It’s difficult to invent new ways of doing things so that people don’t have to work so hard. It was very difficult to get beyond using stone tools and starting to use copper and bronze and iron tools. It took thousands and thousands of years.

But progress in their sense is something that’s very easy to do. All you need do is smash all the tools, and smash all the engines, and we’ll be back in the Stone Age overnight. Literally overnight. And this is exactly what they want. For they hate cars and trains and planes. And they hate coal and oil and gas. And they hate nuclear energy. And they hate freedom. And above all they hate people. They’re always saying that there are too many of us. The death of humanity is what the Greens and the environmentalists want. They think we’re a plague. And many of them are quite open about it. They think a “sustainable” world would be one in which there was a population of about 10,000 – 100,000 (although I think that if they managed to kill off 7 billion people, they’d be unable to resist killing off the last 10,000 as well).

And progress, in their sense, has been achieved many times. Hitler was pretty good at it. So was Stalin. So was Mao. And so was Pol Pot. They all killed lots and lots of people. Killing people is very easy. Ask any mafia hitman. It’s keeping them alive that’s difficult. Ask any doctor. Show me a doctor who ever managed to keep anyone alive for very long. All their patients wind up dead in the end. Every single one.

Political correctness always entails removing freedoms. Smoking bans remove freedom. And political correctness, as it tries to censor speech, censor ideas, enforce conformity, also always acts to remove freedom of speech and thought. And environmentalist political correctness sets out to restrict and remove people’s freedom to drive cars or burn coal or wood. Political correctness always seeks to control people, and the more that people are controlled, the less freedom they have.

I came away from the “debate” with the sense that the collision between the freedom-lovers and the freedom-haters was now so profound that it could only be resolved by all-out war. It could only be resolved by civil war. And civil war is something that many Americans (like Alex Jones) think that is about to start, and maybe has started already in America. And civil war is something towards which Europe is also steadily marching. Either they (freedom-haters) win, or we (freedom-lovers) do.

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From Enthusiasm To Zealotry

I get enthusiastic about ideas.

When, on 15 February 2013, a small asteroid exploded over Chelyabinsk, and on the same day the larger asteroid 2012 DA14 passed within 28,000 km of the Earth, and NASA immediately declared that the two events were unrelated, I got out the orbital simulation model I’d written some 10 years earlier to see if there was any way in which they could be related.

Preliminary calculations rapidly showed that the object was unrelated to the long-predicted close approach of the asteroid 367943 Duende, that flew by Earth 16 hours later at a distance of 27,700 km. The Sodankylä Geophysical Observatory, Russian sources, the European Space Agency, NASA[ and the Royal Astronomical Society all indicated the two objects could not have been related because the two asteroids had widely different trajectories.

Two or three years later, I came to the conclusion that the Chelyabinsk rock was very likely a companion of DA14, following some 20 million km behind it in its orbit, and passing very close to the Earth on 15 February 2009. I’m probably the only person in the world who believes this, aside from my co-conspirator Andrew Cooper. I continue to remain interested in asteroids, and often use my simulation model to reconstruct the orbits of newly discovered asteroids.

I also got interested in how biological cells divide, coming up with a geometrical explanation, whereby cells maintain a constant ratio of their volumes and surface areas as they grow. It was an idea that worked with cubic and spherical and circular cells, but the mathematics of more complex cells defeated me, and I was forced to abandon the idea.

And then I had the idea that cancer cells were like fast-growing weeds multiplying in forest clearings where trees had fallen, and built a computer simulation model of the process.

About 10 years ago I had the idea that Iron Age hill forts used their sloping ramparts to project rolling stones down onto enemies below.

I’m always enthusiastic about something. It’s like falling in love.

And my latest enthusiasm is my new Theory of Ice Ages, which is that the effect of several kilometres of ice being deposited on the surface of the Earth would be to act as an insulator, and warm the earth beneath the ice, to the point where the ice above the heated surface rocks would melt. And, needless to say, I’ve been constructing a computer simulation model of that too.

And Idle Theory is by far the oldest and greatest enthusiasm of mine. I’ve been developing that idea since it first occurred to me one morning in the spring of 1975, 43 years ago, and it now occupies its own website, courtesy of my brother.

Anyone who looks at any of my ideas will immediately notice that they are all mathematical-physical ideas, and they are all accompanied with computer simulation models of one sort or other. They might also note that once I’ve sunk my teeth into any of these ideas, I never let go. I’m remarkably tenacious in this respect. And there are ideas from my teenage years which I have never let go of, and to which I still periodically return.

And I was thinking this morning that, of course, other people have similar ideas. And they become enthusiasts as well. One might say that in 1950 Richard Doll and Bradford Hill were enthusiasts about the idea that smoking causes lung cancer, and much of the medical profession has become equally enthusiastic in subsequent years. And the same has happened with global warming alarmism, with enthusiasts like James Hansen promoting the idea that small amounts of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere can cause (and have caused) catastrophic global warming. This also is an idea that has gripped the world’s imagination, with governments working on legislation to reduce carbon dioxide production.

But it seems that these enthusiasms often metamorphose into zealotry. And indeed this is exactly what has happened with both the idea that smoking causes lung cancer and the idea that carbon dioxide causes global warming. Doubt and dissent become intolerable. All must believe the new doctrine. Heretics must be expelled. And so now we have millions and millions of smokers exiled to the outdoors, almost everywhere in the world. And there are calls for the prosecution of global warming “deniers”.

And perhaps it has always been like this. I was wondering this morning whether the Council of Nicaea called by the emperor Constantine in 325 AD was the 1997 Kyoto climate conference of its day. One of the questions that needed to be resolved at Nicaea was:

The Arian question regarding the relationship between God the Father and the Son (not only in his incarnate form as Jesus, but also in his nature before the creation of the world)

It’s rather hard to imagine such a conference now being called, perhaps by the President of the United States, with the President of the European Commission in attendance, to resolve such a theological question. But clearly back in 325 AD it was a matter of sufficient urgency to require the presence of the Roman emperor and dignitaries from  all over the known world. I dare say that, in a century or two, people will wonder why everyone was so worried about carbon dioxide in the final decades of the 20th century. What were they all so het up about?

Back then there were true believers in one doctrine or other current at the time, and it’s exactly the same today. There are people on one side, and there are people on the other. And those on one side are always pressing those on the other side to set aside their foolish doubts, and accept whole-heartedly the new doctrine, whatever it happens to be. And so the nuclear physicist Niels Bohr would sit at the bedside of an unwell Erwin Schrödinger, and continue to press him to adopt his latest ideas about the structure of the atom.

The problem, perhaps, is that any new hypothesis – whether it be about the nature of God, or atoms, or cancer, or climate change – will always contain uncertainties: things that the hypothesis can’t quite explain. And zealotry is what happens when any attempt to dispel uncertainty is made, by for example condemning and burning heretics. In another century or so, we’ll probably see people being fired, exiled, imprisoned, and maybe even executed for refusing to believe in the existence of quarks, or muons, or neutrinos, or any of the other angelic particles that are now believed (by some people) to be found inside atoms.

Anyway, I have become a true believer in my theory of ice ages. And at the current rate of progress, I look set to become a zealot by the end of the year. I will regard any disagreement or dissent intolerable. And that will be all because my theory doesn’t quite explain absolutely everything, and I will have felt obliged to frog-march it to a conclusion, in much the same way as cigarettes and carbon dioxide are currently being tortured to confess today .

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Prison World

I feel a strong kinship with prisoners in prison. They’re people who’ve been expelled from society. And so am I.

The only real difference is that they live in closed prisons, and I live in an open prison.

An open prison (open jail) is any jail in which the prisoners are trusted to serve their sentences with minimal supervision and perimeter security and are not locked up in prison cells. Prisoners may be permitted to take up employment while serving their sentence.

In the UK, open prisons are often part of a rehabilitation plan for prisoners moved from closed prisons.[1]They may be designated “training prisons” and are only for prisoners considered a low risk to the public.

In fact it’s more like (hat tip to smokingscot) Love Island:

IN last year’s Love Island more sparks flew on the smoking terrace than in the bedroom – drawing a raft of complaints from viewers.

So this year ITV has taken decisive action by banning fags in both the villa and garden.

 …when contestants want a cig they’ll have to ask a producer who will take them to a designated smoking shelter away from the villa. And as if having to sit in a bus stop-style hut wasn’t bad enough, they will have to do it alone.

The bus stop-style hut is a little prison. A solitary prison. It’s also an “open” prison: it has no walls. The outcast from society is kept there apart. He or she is only permitted to return when they have become reformed characters, given up their evil ways, and stubbed out their cigarettes.

For the past few months I’ve been writing to my MP about the smoking bans being introduced in UK prisons. A month or so ago I sent the following email:

Dear X,

Thank you for your letter of 8 January, which included a letter from the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Justice, written on 8 December 2017.

However, on 19 December 2017, the Guardian reported that:

A prisoner suffering from poor health has lost his attempt to enforce the smoking ban in English and Welsh jails after the supreme court ruled that crown premises are effectively exempt from the enforcement of health regulations.

The unanimous judgment from the UK’s highest court will prevent the inmate, Paul Black, from calling the NHS’s smoke-free compliance line to report breaches of the ban.

Lady Hale, the president of the supreme court, said she was driven with “considerable reluctance” to conclude that when parliament passed the 2006 Health Act, prohibiting smoking in offices, bars and enclosed areas, it did not mean to extend it to government or crown sites.

The standard practice is that a statutory provision does not bind the crown unless legislation adopts words explicitly stating so or by what is known as “necessary implication”.

“Had parliament intended part 1 of chapter 1 of the 2006 act to bind the crown, nothing would have been easier than to insert such a provision,” Hale explained.

“The report of the health committee [at the time] does indicate that parliament was alive to the question of whether the smoking ban would bind the crown and aware of the case for further exemptions if the act were to do so.

“It might well be thought desirable, especially by and for civil servants and others working in or visiting government departments, if the smoking ban did bind the crown,” she added. “But the legislation is quite workable without doing so.”

In the absence of any further information, may I take it that, subsequent to this ruling by the Supreme Court, UK prison smoking bans are now no longer in effect, and prisoners are able to smoke in all the places they used to be able to prior to the introduction of these unfortunate and unnecessary bans.

Best wishes,


Yesterday I received a reply from him with an accompanying response  from the Ministry of Justice (click on it to enlarge):

I thought it was interesting that, although I didn’t sign my name as Frank Davis, the Ministry of Justice referred to me as such. I think they want me to know that they know exactly who I am, and also exactly where I live.

Anyway it seems that, although Parliament exempted the crown from the provisions of the 2006 Public Health Act, Her Majesty’s Prisons will have smoking prohibited in them anyway, by Statutory Instrument.

Following the 2016 EU membership referendum and the subsequent publication of the European Union (Withdrawal) Bill, there has been concern that its powers enabling ministers to issue statutory instruments under the bill may enable the government to bypass Parliament. Although this has been criticised by some as being undemocratic, draft regulations must be “laid before” Parliament, which may always demand a full debate on contentious issues.

It seems that these Statutory Instruments are just ways in which new legislation can be enacted, if Parliament chooses not to debate it, even if the new legislation entirely contradicts previous legislation.

And if smoking ban applies to the Crown, does that mean that the Queen can’t smoke in her own palace either? Is she also a prisoner in her own palace? Is it another “open” prison? And if she is not a prisoner, then might she not become one at the stroke of a pen beneath a new Statutory Instrument that makes her one?

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Never Tear Us Apart

Back in about 2010, I rather abruptly ceased to believe that the EU was a viable political society. And I stopped believing it because I don’t think any society can survive the expulsion – in this case “exile to the outdoors” – of large numbers of its members. And so when the EU parliament voted for a European smoking ban, and for show trials of prominent dissenters, I thought it had signed its own death warrant.

The same applies to any society, even a chess club. And it also applies to nation states.

So why didn’t I abruptly cease to believe in the political viability of the UK, or England, when in 2006 its own parliament voted to ban smoking in enclosed public spaces, and put the law into effect on 1 July 2007?

The reason, I think, is that the EU is a rather abstract entity, and England is not. England is a real country, with real people, who speak a real language (English) and have a shared culture and history. And furthermore, equally importantly, England has its own subtle landscape of gently rolling hills. And it’s an island with a coast all the way round it. There are a lot more things that bind the English together than there are things that bind the EU together.

But all the same, I thought the 2007 smoking ban was the most divisive piece of legislation enacted by the British parliament in a century or more. The smoking ban had as shattering an effect on English political society as it did on the EU. But England is a far more naturally cohesive society than the EU, for the reasons I’ve just given. It takes a lot more than a smoking ban to shatter England. But I won’t be surprised if it takes a lot less than an EU smoking ban to shatter the EU.

I think that all the various smoking bans enacted throughout Europe (and the rest of the world) will one day be seen to have been one of the most colossal political blunders in human history. It will be seen as global collective madness. Because these bans are all extremely divisive. And division is what any politician anywhere in the world is trying to avoid. All the great political figures in history are people who have united peoples, not divided them.

But if the EU smoking ban is divisive of the very fragile EU, and it has been divisive of England and the UK, smoking bans must be as equally divisive of all the other various nation states of Europe.

There’s only one other nation state in Europe of which I have any direct personal experience, and that is Spain. I visited Spain frequently throughout the first decade of the 21st century, mostly Catalonia and Galicia. And Spain is a country that is in some ways very like Britain. It has its own language, and its own culture, and its own history. And it has its own landscape. And it has a coast that runs almost all the way round it. And I think that the Spanish smoking ban of January 2011 has been as divisive of Spain and Spanish civil society as the UK smoking ban has been in the UK.

But Spain is not quite as cohesive a society as the UK, or England. It has been racked by civil war within living memory (something not experienced in England for over 300 years). And Barcelona was one of the centres of the revolt against the Spanish central government. The dispute still festers on. There remain deep divisions in Spanish society.

And as I saw it, the divisive 2011 Spanish smoking ban could only have served to deepen existing divisions within Spain. And so I wasn’t really very surprised when Catalonia voted in 2017 to secede from Spain. I wasn’t surprised because I expect to see the social divisiveness of smoking bans to accentuate existing divisions in society everywhere. In fact I think that the Scottish independence referendum of 2014 was actually another example of the divisiveness of smoking bans: the UK became slightly more divided in 2006 (Scottish smoking ban) and 2007 (UK smoking ban).

Expressing these opinions led to a rift with Spanish reader Lecroix. He would not accept my idea that Catalan smokers (and for 10 years I was one, and might easily still have been one today) would have turned against the Spanish central government after it enacted the 2011 smoking ban. He was appalled at the idea of Europe fracturing into lots of micro-states (Catalonia and Scotland just being two among many). He thought that the secession of states like Catalonia would mean the break-up of Europe’s nation states, and this was what the globalists in the EU wanted, as they set about strengthening the power of the central EU state over the individual nation states of Europe.

And he was right. The EU political class is indeed trying to shatter the nation states of Europe. Smoking bans are one part of the drive. Mass immigration is another. The idea is that if all of Europe can be balkanised into a multiplicity of statelets, the EU central state will be the only power left in Europe, and Brussels will become a new Rome presiding over an empire larger than the Roman empire.

But I think that it’s much more likely that the EU will break up than the nation states of Europe will break up, because the EU is held together by much weaker forces than those that hold nation states together. The ties that bind, say, the French people together are much stronger than the ties that bind the French people to Brussels. If anything’s going to break, it will be the latter, not the former. And in Brexit we have already seen how tenuous the ties between the British people and the EU really were.

My only point is that smoking bans are powerfully socially divisive, and once smoking bans were enacted throughout Europe, they were bound to act to fragment it. Whether the fragmentation took place at the national level (e.g. between Britain and the EU), or at sub-national regional levels (e.g. between England and Scotland, or Catalonia and Spain) is a relatively unimportant detail: they are all just different expressions of fragmentation and division.

My guess is that the fractures, when they come, will appear in the south and east of Europe – because that’s where most of Europe’s angry smokers are to be found, and where the divisiveness of smoking bans is most strongly felt. The smokers of these regions may not have any formal political representation, but they exert a political influence anyway. And because being exiled to the outdoors is more easily endured in the warm south than in the cold north, the break will appear in north-eastern Europe, in Poland or Hungary or the Czech Republic, where the following video was shot:

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Wave The Magic Wand

I was thinking about magic and magic wands and magical thinking this morning when I came across something Leggie had written, which contained an image

And I thought: There’s the magic wand I’m looking for.

Leggie said it was Nisakiman’s elegant idea for a “smokers welcome here” sign. And it is indeed very elegant.

But for me it was a magic wand being waved. It was the magic wand I was thinking about this morning, and which had now materialised in front of my eyes.

And what I was thinking this morning was that cigarettes had become magic wands which could do anything. Absolutely anything.

I’ve been collecting the health warnings on tobacco packs. My current set, carefully cut out with scissors, declare that Smoking Clogs Your Arteries, Smokers’ Children Are More Likely To Start Smoking, Smoking Increases The Risk Of Blindness, Quit Smoking – Stay Alive For Those Close To You, Smoking Can Kill Your Unborn Child, Smoking Increases The Risk Of Impotence, Smoking Causes Strokes And Disability, Your Smoke Harms Your Children, Family And Friends.

All you need do is wave the little magic wand, and your arteries will clog, and you’ll suffer a stroke, and become disabled, blind, and impotent. And so will your children and friends and family, if you’ve got any.

And there are plenty more things that the little magic wand can do. It can do more or less anything. I’ve yet to hear of anything it can’t do.

Magical thinking is the belief that all you need do is wave some magic wand, and something remarkable will happen. That from some very small cause (waving a wand) some very large effect (the death of millions) will follow.

Homeopathy is based on the same idea: that the more dilute some medicament becomes, the more powerful its effect.

And I think that the same kind of magical thinking is present in global warming alarmism. And here the magic wand is trace amounts of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. Just the slightest sprinkling of this magic dust, and the atmosphere will heat up and roast everybody alive.

And that’s really why I’m as interested and engaged in the global warming scare as I am in the smoking scare: because they’re both the same sort of scare. They both have the same structure and logic underlying them.

We live in an age of magical thinking. And I’m fighting against magical thinking.

Currently, as I construct a new explanation for the global warming we’re enjoying in our current Holocene interglacial period, I’m proposing that carbon dioxide has next to nothing to do with it, and it’s instead being caused by the release of heat locked up deep inside the Earth.

For I think that the magical thinkers in the climate science community were looking round for something that could cause ice sheets to melt, and carbon dioxide was the only thing they could find that might have done it. And if it wasn’t at all obvious that this trace gas could perform this herculean task, they constructed elaborate arguments to show how its effects could be amplified, in a sort of chain reaction.

And this seems to be how magical thinking starts. Some cause for something is proposed (smoking for lung cancer, carbon dioxide for global warming), and in the absence of a better explanation, the initial modest proposal rapidly hardens into an unquestionable dogma. It becomes a fact of life. Anyone who doubts it is ridiculed, and even fired from their job.

The only real answer in such circumstances is to find the true cause. If carbon dioxide is to be acquitted of causing global warming, the real culprit must be tracked down. And if cigarettes are to be acquitted of the crime of causing lung cancer, the real culprit must be found.

I have no idea what causes lung cancer (although I have entertained some ideas). I just don’t believe that it’s caused by the little magic wand of the cigarette. But now that the blame has been pinned on cigarettes, there will be no end to the persecution of tobacco, tobacco companies, and smokers while the true culprit remains elusive.

But I have (I believe) a very good idea of what the true culprit behind global warming is. It’s the elephant in the room: it’s the vast bulk of the Earth beneath our feet. That’s what’s been causing the warming.

And if I’ve been able to spot this possibility, it’s because for many years I used to be a university researcher who built heat flow models of buildings, and I got to have a bit of a feel for heat flow. And not many people build such models. The laws of physics governing heat flow are well known to millions of scientists and engineers, but most of them aren’t actually working with those laws. They’re looking at stars and atoms and electrons and neutrinos. Their eyes are fixed elsewhere. They’re trying to solve different problems. And many of them are very good at solving those problems. All I’ve done is to use my experience in building conductive heat flow models many years ago to build a conductive heat flow model of the Earth, or rather a radial 6,371 km long column into the Earth. And what I’m seeing is very similar to what I used to see so many years ago.

Of course I may be wrong, but if I am wrong then all the heat flow equations I’ve been using must be wrong too.

Magical thinking grows from exaggerating the likelihood or the effect of something, magnifying the improbable into the certain, the ineffectual into the omnipotent. It’s perhaps a natural propensity, once some causal agency has been identified, to disregard any alternative explanation, and to grow ever more convinced of that explanation.

But it would seem that it is also powered by an intense need to find an explanation. For when, a century ago, cases of lung cancer started multiplying, it became a matter of urgency to discover the cause of this new epidemic.

And there is equally well an urgent need for us humans to discover the cause of the very real global warming that has occurred in the past 15,000 – 20,000 years, without which we would still be living in an ice age. We really need to know why that happened, and what might stop it happening. The lives of all of us depend on it. And not just us, but every future generation of men and women and plants and animals living on this little planet of ours. It’s imperative that we find out. It’s a far greater imperative than finding out what causes lung cancer. It’s a far more serious problem.

They think that the warming was caused by carbon dioxide. But I think they’ve been engaging in magical thinking. I think they’ve vastly exaggerated the amount of warming carbon dioxide might cause. I think they’re conducting a witch hunt against not just carbon dioxide, but the element Carbon.

If some other cause of the warming can be found, the witch hunt will come to an end. And the certainty and the zealotry of the global warming alarmists will dissolve. And if they realise they were barking up the wrong tree in one matter, it might encourage them to see that they could be barking up the wrong tree in other matters as well. Like with smoking and cancer.

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Snowball Earth

Life goes on.

Given my current interest in ice ages, I naturally took a lot of interest in Youtube’s Snowball Earth, when some 700 million years ago there was ice covering the entire planet. According to Wikipedia:

Global temperature fell so low that the equator was as cold as modern-day Antarctica. This low temperature was maintained by the high albedo of the ice sheets, which reflected most incoming solar energy into space. A lack of heat-retaining clouds, caused by water vapor freezing out of the atmosphere, amplified this effect.

The whole Earth got covered in ice, and stayed encased in ice for some 50 million years. The most interesting thing to me was that, according to the Youtube video, the ice age ended with the eruption of “10,000 volcanoes”.

And this is what I would have expected. For once the entire Earth was covered in kilometres of ice, the surface rocks beneath the ice would have gradually warmed up. The centre of the Earth is currently believed to have a temperature of 7000ºC, and so the Earth’s  mean temperature is maybe 2000ºC, and if no heat could escape through the ice, the Earth would have very gradually acquired that uniform temperature throughout.

And 2000ºC is well above the melting point of granite (about 1200ºC). So the surface rocks beneath the ice would have slowly climbed towards melting point. More or less the entire surface of the Earth beneath the ice would have turned into molten or near-molten rock. So of course there would have been 10,000 volcanoes. And they would have melted the ice pretty rapudly.

The same programme said that in the end-Permian ice age also ended with large scale volcanic eruptions. Volcanic eruptions at the end of ice ages should be expected.

But I think that when the surface of the Earth heats up by several hundred degrees, the surface will expand: most materials expand when heated. And this thermal expansion would have meant that rocks all over the surface of the earth would have been in compression as they pushed against each other, and the compression would have have been stronger the higher the surface rock temperature was. And when rocks become highly compressed at the surface of the Earth, they are likely to buckle or fracture, and the only direction they can buckle is upwards. They’ll form hills and mountains.

I wondered how compressed the rocks would become. The coefficient of linear thermal expansion of sandstone, α, is about 12 x 10-6, such that the length L of a rock is given by

L = Lo.( 1 + α.ΔT )

where Lo is the initial length, and ΔT the increase in temperature. And so if Lwas 1,000 km, and ΔT was 500ºC, the sandstone rocks along the 1,000 km length would have increased in length by 6 km. And if the crust was 1 km thick, a total of 6 cubic km of rock would have to buckle or get squeezed upwards to form a mountain. And given a 30º angle of repose of a pile of broken rock, the resulting mountain would be 1.86 km high.

And these mountains would form along ridges, one range along one expanding axis, another at a right angle to that axis. And in between these upthrust ridges would be unbuckled plains.

And this suggests a variant of plate tectonics, one in which the forces acting to build mountains are the product of thermal expansion of surface rocks rather than the up-welling convection in the Earth’s mantle beneath the plate.

And these mountain ranges would lie roughly along N-S and E-W axes, because the Earth’s poles are cooler than its equatorial regiions, and so there would be a distinct  N-S and E-W symmetry about the system of mountain ranges (the Andes being one  N-S  range of mountains and the Himalayas an E-W range of mountains).

And these expanding and contracting plates would push and pull each other around. During ice ages, the plates would warm up and expand and push against each other, and during interglacial periods when the surface rocks cooled down, they would contract and pull against each other. And this would produce flat plains like the US midwest or the Russian steppes. And if they pulled strongly enough apart, the rigid crust would fracture, and molten rock would well upwards to fill the gap (e.g. the mid-ocean Atlantic ridge).

The forces acting horizontally in these plates would be purely a function of their temperature and their lateral width Lo. Large plates would generate larger forces along their perimeters than small plates. So if the large Pacific plate has volcanic activity all around its perimeter (the “ring of fire”), it’s largely a consequence of its size.

Periods of orogeny (mountain-building) would be largely restricted to the ends of long and deep ice ages when surface rock temperatures had risen to sufficient temperatures for surface rock buckling to commence, and volcanoes to erupt through the broken rock. They would probably have been quite short and sudden. Entire mountain ranges might have been thrown up in days. And then when the compressive stresses had been relieved, very little mountain-building would take place until the end of the next major glaciation.

And life did go on through the Snowball Earth episode. In fact, the end of it brought the appearance of the first multicellular lifeforms. But that’s another story.

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I got an email late last night, which I reproduce, complete with the email address (now redacted):

Hi Frank,

it’s Aimee, Kevin’s daughter.
Kevin passed away this morning with my sister and myself at his bedside. The sun was shining and the light in the room was beautiful, all was peaceful.

Either my sister Maria or myself will be in contact about the celebration of his life in the form of a few drinks. I would appreciate it if you could pass this on to your gang and let them know you are all very welcome to contact me and I can’t wait to meet you all.

Much love.


It’s less than three weeks since me and Bucko and Twenty met up with Nisakiman at the White Hart at Ashton Keynes, to smoke and drink and talk.

I didn’t say so at the time, but the moment that I set eyes on him that day, I thought he was a dying man. It doesn’t show in the photos, but there was a greyness about his face, and the skin on his head had shrunk into tiny wrinkles. I really wouldn’t have been surprised to have got a phone call the next day to say that he’d gone.

We smoked and drank and talked like old friends that day, although none of us had met person to person, face to face, except as kindred spirits in the Smoky Drinky Bar. And we talked and we laughed. And he laughed too. And he knocked back several pints of beer over the three hours or more we spent together.

He wrote in the comments here the next day:

Yes, kindred spirits indeed. A very disparate group, and one meeting in the flesh for the first time.

And yet that wasn’t the way it was. It was like we were old friends who had sat talking over a pint innumerable times before. There wasn’t any awkwardness. No searching for something to say. No drying up of conversation. Just a very natural, easy situation. Frank mentioned that I was there for more than three hours, but I would happily have spent another couple of hours chewing the fat with such excellent company.

I was so pleased that the guys made such an effort, to come all the way they did just to see me. A humbling experience, and one which I’ll never forget.

It raised my spirits massively. Thank you Peter, Bucko and Frank. I cannot adequately describe how much that visit meant to me.

And thank you also to all the supportive comments that have been left here on Frank’s blog. I read and appreciate them all.

As we parted that day, and he was standing by the car that had come to take him away, I walked back to him and put an arm around him, and him around me.

I guess he never made it back to Greece. He’d been planning to go back to his wife and home in Greece, to settle his affairs, and then maybe move on to Thailand and his wife’s family there.

It had all been very quick, as he wrote in an email to me in early April:

Hi Frank,
Yes, it was all a bit sudden. My youngest daughter came to visit me in Patras, took one look at me and booked me a ticket to UK, where my other daughter picked me up and took me to the doctor next day. Following day I was here in hospital, being pumped full of drugs. Too much calcium in the blood, could be cancer. Had a CT scan yesterday, should get the results today. I’ve been on another planet with all the shit they’ve been giving me, only just today checked my email.
Thanks for your concern. I’ll keep you posted. Maybe try to drop in SDB soon.

When we talked in the White Hart, he said that back in Greece he’d not been feeling very well, and had been finding it difficult to lift heavy equipment in his carpenter’s workshop in Patras. But within days of arriving back in England he was in an impersonal, faceless hospital as a terminal cancer patient, given jarfuls of tablets, handed a death sentence, and asked if he wanted to be resuscitated.

I can’t help but think he’d still be alive today, if he’d just stayed at home in Greece, tinkering in his workshop, not feeling too well, and continuing to ignore his wife’s pleas to see a doctor.

But who knows?

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