Bitter Clingers

I got interested last month by the supermoon on the 14th of November, when the Moon came nearer to the Earth than it had for nearly 70 years, and a large earthquake in New Zealand coincided with it. Did the close approach of the Moon cause the earthquake? Were the increased tidal forces at the surface of the Earth enough to make something break inside it, and trigger the earthquake?

So for the last 3 weeks I’ve been slowly constructing a tidal simulation model on the surface of the Earth in my orbital simulation model, finding the gravitational force of the Sun and the Earth (and all the planets) at any point on its surface, as well as the rotational velocity of the Earth around its axis, and the rotational velocity of the Earth-Moon system, and adding them all up. It’s new territory for me. I don’t know anything about tides or earthquakes. But I’m always willing to try to find out for myself, rather than wait for someone else to tell me.

singapore8dec2016

Singapore tides

And over the last few days, after ironing out teething troubles in the new model, I’ve started to see tidal movements on the surface of my model of the Earth. And I was delighted to find that on the equator near Singapore I was seeing two tides a day – because that’s what actually happens (as shown at right in the Singapore tides for the week after 8 Dec 2016 provided by the UK Hydrographic Office). So it looks like I’m maybe doing something right.

These tidal forces are so small that I don’t actually notice them myself. But they nevertheless act to raise and lower huge masses of water in the oceans, and huge masses of rock in the continents as well, as if the whole Earth was breathing twice a day.

But there are other larger forces that have much greater effects on people. I was arguing a couple of months back that the physical character of Wales – hill country – shaped and defined the Welsh people separately from the English in the gently rolling lowlands to the east of Wales (in fact, it has just occurred to me that “Wales” may simply be a variant pronunciation of “hills”). It’s much harder to move around in Wales than in England. Wherever you want to go, you almost certainly have to climb over or walk around a high hill. And that must inhibit the Welsh from moving around very much, and tend to keep them in tight, self-sufficient communities. The same would apply in the Scottish highlands. It may be that the land itself shapes the peoples who inhabit it.

For example France is set in a basin bounded on one side by the Alps and the Rhine, and on another side by the Pyrenees and the Mediterranean, and on a third side by the Atlantic ocean. Is it very surprising that the people in this basin have the same language and culture? The same applies to Spain, bounded on almost every side by sea, and with a mountain range blocking the remainder. These seas and rivers and mountains provide obstacles to motion. These obstacles may be for the most part as unnoticeable as tides, but they’re still there all the same, exerting the same slight physical influence.

And may not things like smoking bans be seen as tidal forces acting on large masses of people? Isn’t being “exiled to the outdoors” rather like being borne away from a port on an ebbing tide? Is the force of law really very much different from the force of gravity? It is, after all, backed up by the threat of physical force. Aren’t all the numerous restrictions on smokers akin to physical forces that push them this way and that? And isn’t my resistance to them any different from that of a stone to the water in a flowing stream? Smokers are being pushed around just like stones in a stream.

I’ve been re-reading The Sleepwalkers by Christopher Clark. It’s about how Europe went to war in 1914. One chapter opens with the words:

Two military disasters defined the trajectory of the Habsburg Empire in that last half-century of its existence. At Solferino in 1859, French and Piedmontese forces prevailed over an army of 100,000 Austrain troops, opening the way for the creation of a new Italian nation state. At Königgrätz in 1866, the Prussians destroyed an army of 240,000, ejecting the empire from the emergent German nation state. The cumulative impact of these shocks transformed the inner life of the Austrian lands.

What’s striking about this passage is the use firstly of “trajectory” and then “impact” and “shock”. For this author, Austria was itself a sort of stone, being pushed one way and then another, and also eroded, by armies which might be seen as tidal movements of masses of men. Was he mistaken about this? Isn’t Austria a mere abstraction, a word written on a map, not a physical object?

My new global tidal model predicts the tidal forces at any place on the surface of a uniform Earth covered by a single Ocean. It ignores the continents and the coastlines around them. Yet these coastlines have considerable effects on local tides. In the bay of St Malo in France, they can generate a tidal range of 12 metres between low and high tides, whereas in the open ocean the tidal range is less than 1 metre.

Political globalists, who think globally in terms of the “free movement of peoples” across borders, have a global political model a bit like my global tidal model. Their broad, sweeping view ignores petty local differences, like coastlines. It dismisses the objections of “nativists” and “bitter clingers“. We’re all supposed to be citizens of the world now, rather than citizens of England, Scotland, Wales, France or Spain. And we can all flow everywhere over the surface of the Earth, unimpeded by any obstruction, like tourists or (same thing) world leaders jetting over oceans and rivers and mountain ranges.

But I think that this globalist point of view is deeply mistaken. It’s a view of the world from 10 km above its surface, in which the mountains and hills and rivers and oceans have all been reduced to insignificance, when in fact for the 99.999% of people bitterly clinging to the surface of the Earth, these local obstructions almost entirely shape their lives.

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About Frank Davis

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8 Responses to Bitter Clingers

  1. Dirk says:

    You wrote: “For example France is set in a basin bounded on one side by the Alps and the Rhine, and on another side by the Pyrenees and the Mediterranean, and on a third side by the Atlantic ocean. Is it very surprising that the people in this basin have the same language and culture?”

    Linguistically, France was a patchwork. People in the countryside spoke various dialects. France would only become a linguistically unified country by the end of the 19th century, and in particular through the educational policies of Jules Ferry during the French Third Republic. From an illiteracy rate of 33% among peasants in 1870, by 1914 almost all French could read and understand the national language, although 50% still understood or spoke a regional language of France (in today’s France, only an estimated 10% still understand a regional language).

    • Frank Davis says:

      Perhaps the same is true of Britain.

      The Survey of English Dialects was undertaken between 1950 and 1961 under the direction of Professor Harold Orton of the English department of the University of Leeds. It aimed to collect the full range of speech in England and Wales before local differences were to disappear Standardisation of the English language was expected with the post-war increase in social mobility and the spread of the mass media.

      What is a dialect?

      Dialects can be defined as “sub-forms of languages which are, in general, mutually comprehensible”.[1] English speakers from different countries and regions use a variety of different accents (systems of pronunciation), as well as various localized words and grammatical constructions; many different dialects can be identified based on these factors. Dialects can be classified at broader or narrower levels: within a broad national or regional dialect, various more localized sub-dialects can be identified, and so on. The combination of differences in pronunciation and use of local words may make some English dialects almost unintelligible to speakers from other regions.

      I assume that most French dialects, like most English dialects, were in general mutually comprehensible. Although I don’t think that was true of the Langue d’Oc. I imagine that within France there are a number of natural barriers – rivers, hills – rather less insuperable than the ones I mentioned, but which would once have acted almost as effectively as mountains and oceans to restrict movement.

  2. Lecroix says:

    I would also like to add a comment. You wrote that “The same applies to Spain, bounded on almost every side by sea, and with a mountain range blocking the remainder”.

    Very true. But Spain itself is quite large, fourth largest in Europe after Russia, Ukraine and France. That means there are regions within Spain that are even more isolated than the nation as a whole and populated by even “bitterer clingers”. One such region is Asturias, Northwestern Spain, bounded on every side by sharp,tall mountain ranges and with a very rough coast blocking the remainder. The peaks, the snow and the roaring cold waves that pound the jagged coast, have created a unique culture, that has resisted invaders, from Romans to Muslims to the more recent.

    This unique culture has been particularly hit by the smoking ban in Spain. It’s one thing to live under the ban in sunny, warm, Mediterranean Alicante. And it’s another to live under the ban in Atlantic, cold, rainy and cloudy Asturias. Smokers in Alicante (or Málaga, or Majorca or even Barcelona) have been less ” pushed around just like stones in a stream”. I recently visited Majorca in March. It was like there was no smoking ban. People there (tourists included) always enjoyed their beer or whatever outside. Nothing has changed, really. Or at least, the change is bearable.

    So yes, as you say “It may be the land itself shapes the peoples who inhabit it”. But if I may add, also the land itself shapes our response to smoking bans.

    I think, as you do, that them “bitter clingers” are simply more common were “these local obstructions almost entirely shape their lives.” And one such obstruction today, imposed from sunny Madrid, is the blanket smoking ban.

    • Frank Davis says:

      I don’t know Asturias at all, but I spent many summer months in neighbouring eastern Galicia, on the banks of the Sil (marked in red). It’s actually quite mountainous around there, and the Sil winds through a deep gorge. By the look of the terrain map below, Asturias is even more mountainous (a continuation of the Pyrenees?).

      Galicia and Asturias

      I don’t doubt that the smoking ban affects warm sunny southern Spain much less than cooler, wetter northern Spain – much like southern Britain versus northern Britain. The same ban has far greater effects in some places than in others.

      P.S. It seems that all the northernmost regions of Spain have separatist movements of one kind or other. They are all of them quite mountainous as well, much like Wales and Scotland.

  3. prog says:

    My first thought on seeing the title was that the post was to be about Remainers and Clintonites. But, in the light of recent events, the term is indeed more appropriate for the so-called Progressive Left, which is now realising that their road to ‘Utopia’ is being destroyed by landslides or, at the very least, is full of potholes.

  4. Lecroix says:

    Yes, it’s somewhat a continuation of the Pyrenees and way different from that part of Galicia, but in Asturias the high mountain areas represent about 95% of the territory, with the remaining 5% being rought coastlines. I will never, ever understand why under such circumstances a smoker can accept smoking outside in the cold and the rain. Now, true enough, some small bars in some small villages in the mountains, just flout the ban, I’ve been told. The two coastal cities, mostly comply. There are some exceptions to that too.

    Asturias (center), winter 2015. Photo: Earth Observing System Data and Information System http://fotos00.lne.es/2015/02/11/646×260/europe301.2015041.terra.1km-1.jpg

  5. George Speller says:

    Reminds me of the beaurocrats who placed Keighley and Ilkley in the same electoral ward, ignoring the social barrier of Ilkley Moor between them. Looks great on a political map, not so good on topographical one.

  6. Joe L. says:

    While I remain optimistically skeptical of President-elect Trump, I was pleased to hear that he has appointed Oklahoma attorney general Scott Pruitt — an outspoken climate change denier — to head the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)! I only hope his pick for Surgeon General has a similar stance regarding smoking (and lifestyle-based preventive medicine in general). Fingers crossed…

    Trump Picks Scott Pruitt, Climate Change Denialist, to Lead E.P.A.

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