Straying Off The Reservation

I’m off on a bit of an intellectual adventure at the moment. I’m not usually very adventurous. I think the same way as everyone else, about almost everything. But sometimes I stray off the reservation, and wander off on my own.

I guess one example of me wandering off is that I don’t think about smoking the way most people do. They all think that Smoking Kills. But I don’t. And I guess that on this little blog of mine, I’m now surrounded by people who feel much the same way as I do. They don’t believe the experts either. They’ve many of them smoked tobacco all their lives, and it never did them any harm (and in fact did them a very great deal of good), and they don’t see why they should change their minds about it now. That’s their personal experience. And it also happens to be mine.

I don’t automatically believe experts. There’s a Richard Feynman quote I keep down the bottom of my right margin, just above the Harley memorial at the bottom (and Harley was another fiercely independently-minded man), that says:

“Science is the belief in the ignorance of experts.”

The experts are always wrong. To be an expert is to be equipped with the very latest Flat Earth model of the universe. An expert is armed with the vary latest and fashionable misunderstanding of the world around them. If they’re acknowledged and accredited experts in something, it really just means they think the same way that everybody else does, and they’ve got letters after their name to prove it. And they’re proud of themselves. Quite a few of them have even got knighthoods – and that means that they think about absolutely everything the same way as everybody else does.

My current little intellectual excursion began back at the beginning of January when I read somewhere that terrestrial granite is slightly radioactive, and a kilogram of the stuff produces 0.0000001 Watts of heat (I may have missed out a zero or two). And that set me wondering whether there might be enough heat generated inside slightly radioactive comets to melt them. And I found that they could indeed melt, if they were big enough. I wrote about it in Dirty Snowballs.

But that was just the start of my current intellectual excursion. Because once I’d started thinking about dirty snowball comets, I went on to think about terrestrial glaciers and ice ages. I used to work doing heat flow modelling back in my university days, 40 years ago, and I remembered enough of it to be able to construct my own dynamic heat flow simulation model in order to look at the dirty snowball comets, and so I adapted this model to look at conductive heat flows inside the Earth.

Soon I had a molten ball of granite, 5,000ºK at the centre, and about 273º K (melting point of ice) at its surface. And then I steadily rained down ice on its surface (to simulate snowfall), and watched what happened. And to my astonishment, what happened was that the ice would grow in depth for a bit, and then completely melt away, over and over again. I was seeing a repeat cycle of ice ages, almost as regular as clockwork. I wrote about in A Theory Of Ice Ages a week or two back. It got reblogged on the climate sceptical Tallbloke’s Talkshop.

My theory of ice ages was very simple: when glaciers form on the surface of the Earth, the rock underneath them warms up, because the ice acts as a thermal insulator (just like clothes on a human body). And when the rock heats up enough, it melts the ice above it. And when the ice has all melted, and there’s no longer a layer of insulation above it, the rock cools down again. And so my ice ages were being driven by cyclic heating and cooling of the underlying rock.

But by now I’d now wandered a long, long way from the conventional expert opinion on ice ages. Because the experts all think that ice ages are driven from above. rather than below. They think they’re driven by Milankovitch cycles in the tilt and distance of the Earth from the Sun.  Either that, or by greenhouse gases like carbon dioxide. Or continental drift. The one thing none of the experts thinks is that ice ages are driven by heat flow from inside the Earth. And they think that way because there’s simply not enough of it. There’s just 85 milliWatts of heat flowing out of a single square metre of the surface of the Earth, and that’s next to nothing. And so they ignore it. And they look everywhere else for the cause of ice ages.

Is the rock underneath ice sheets warmer than elsewhere? It seems that the answer is Yes:

High Heat Measured under Antarctica Could Support Substantial Life

Nearly a kilometer below the ice scientists have found a Yellowstone-like geothermal glow that could create life-rich subglacial lakes—and lubricate Antarctic ice loss

By Douglas Fox on July 10, 2015

Temperatures on the West Antarctic Ice Sheet can plummet below –50 degrees Celsius in winter. But under the ice scientists have found intense geothermal heat seeping up from Earth’s interior. The heat production that they measured is nearly four times the global average—“higher than 99 percent of all the measurements made on continents around the world,” says Andrew Fisher, a hydrogeologist at the University of California, Santa Cruz, who worked on the project. This excessive heat could melt up to 35 cubic kilometers of water off the bottom of the West Antarctic Ice sheet each year, according to results reported July 10 in Science Advances.

I’m currently trying to extend my heat flow model of the Earth to include an atmosphere. I’ve never managed to construct a heat flow model of an atmosphere. They’re just too complicated, with all sorts of crazy things going on in them. So what I’m going to do is to use one of the experts’ simple models, that I found in the American Chemical Society. It’s just a single layer model of an atmosphere, but they’ve got another one with a description of a three-layer model. I’m going to start by adapting their single layer model into my simulation model. If I’m really daring, I’ll then try a three layer variant of it. And then I’ll have a model that includes solar warming, and maybe even Milankovitch cycles and greenhouse gases.

And then I’ll write an update on what I found.  Nobody in the climate science  community will read it, of course. Of course they won’t read it! Why should they? They’re all experts, and I’m not an expert. In fact, I know next to nothing about climate science. I just know how to build dynamic heat flow simulation models, because it happened to be what I used to do, 40 years ago.

And I suspect that most people in the climate science community don’t know how to build heat flow simulation models. It’s not part of their skill set. For, in all the reading I’ve done over the past couple of months, I’ve more or less continually encountered a static, steady-state understanding of the Earth. It’s an understanding of how it is, rather than how it behaves. There are dynamic heat flow simulation models out there on the web – e.g. Simscale, which is a bit like GitHub (which Joe L knows all about, and has been teaching me) -, but they don’t seem to be using them.

Anyway, I love these little intellectual adventures of mine. I don’t care if nobody believes me. I don’t want to be an expert. I just like exploring ideas, and looking at the world in new ways. Which reminds me of something Carlos Castaneda wrote that I read many years ago, and have never forgotten:

“We are men, and our lot is to learn and to be hurled into inconceivable new worlds.”


About Frank Davis

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14 Responses to Straying Off The Reservation

  1. garyk30 says:

    ‘The experts are always wrong.’

    Don’t know about that;but, honest experts are always willing to admit that they could be wrong.

    That is why I have zero respect for tobacco control or climate change xperts.

  2. Joe L. says:

    Speaking of “experts” always being wrong: A new study claims to have found a link between longevity and … God forbid … enjoying yourself.

    Looks like you’re doing things right, Frank. In fact, it appears you could stand to *gasp* gain a little weight.

    If only regulations and taboo didn’t forbid us from a similar study regarding smoking. We have repeatedly seen that most of the oldest living people smoked tobacco. I’m fairly certain the results would be similar to this study.

    Want to live to be 90? Have a beer and put on a few extra pounds, study says


    Researchers with the 90+ Study, which seeks in part to find “what makes people live to age 90 and beyond,” have come to a couple of conclusions that fly in the face of those healthy lifestyle habits so many are trying to follow.

    University of California-Irvine researchers, through their work with about 1,700 nonagenarians, have found that “people who drank moderate amounts of alcohol or coffee lived longer than those who abstained.”

    One of the study’s principal researchers, Claudia Kawas, spoke recently at the annual conference for the American Association for the Advancement of Science.

    “I have no explanation for it, but I do firmly believe that modest drinking improves longevity,” Kawas said at the conference, according to the Independent.

    I find that last quote from Kawas very refreshing, and spoken like a true scientist, clearly not pretending to be an “expert” on the subject.

    Anyone want to take bets on long it takes for the Healthists to concoct a study with conflicting results and saturates the mainstream media with it in order to discredit this one?

    • Rose says:

      If only regulations and taboo didn’t forbid us from a similar study regarding smoking

      That was last week.

      Zest for life could help ward off dementia
      February 18 2018

      “A study of ‘super-agers’ who are mentally fit into their nineties shows the standard approach to the illness may be flawed

      They smoke, they drink and brain scans suggest that they should be getting dementia but a group of “super-agers” — aged 80 to 100 and found to be mentally sharper than most fiftysomethings — are confounding medical beliefs.

      Researchers who followed the group for years found that their brains seem resilient to age, keeping their powers of memory, cognition and language, despite lifestyles that often included the bad habits that doctors warn against. The super-agers retained these powers despite their brains having many symptoms associated with dementia – including neurofibrillary tangles, deposits of deformed proteins that are supposedly highly toxic for brain cells.”
      The rest is behind a paywall.

      Most ‘super agers’ drink, smoke, gain weight and never retire – but their zest for life leaves them resistant to dementia
      18 February 2018

      “Most ‘super agers’ smoke, drink, gain weight, drink coffee, never retire and even have dementia tangles in their brains – but they have better brain function than people in their 50s.

      Scientists are baffled by the paradox which has emerged from the famed 90+ study, analyzing people aged 80 to 100 who seem resilient to cognitive decline.
      To their surprise, they found the people in this unique group do not have an over-expression of the APOE 22 gene, which was thought to be protective against dementia.
      But they did all share a more positive outlook on life than their peers, they cared more about close relationships, they were very active – and diet seemed to have little to do with it.

      New scans also reveal these super agers have a higher proportion in their brain of a rare neuron called von Economo, a ‘social’ neurons which tends to be dysfunctional in people with autism, schizophrenia and bipolar disorder.”

      “Dr Claudia Kawas, professor of neurology at the University of California, Irvine, said the findings are challenging everything she has ever known after decades in the field.
      ‘I almost think we should stop doing research and just start using our bodies and brains more,’ she quipped.

      ‘These people are inspiring – they drink wine, drink coffee, gain weight, but they exercise and use their brains. Maybe that can tell us something.’

      • nisakiman says:

        ‘These people are inspiring – they drink wine, drink coffee, gain weight, but they exercise and use their brains. Maybe that can tell us something.’

        I note Dr Kawas couldn’t bring herself to mention that smoking was among their ‘bad’ habits. I guess it might have choked her to utter those words.

        • Joe L. says:

          It’s also very curious that smoking wasn’t mentioned at all in the article I linked above. However, it is the very first “bad” habit mentioned in the very first sentence of the Daily Mail article that Rose linked. It certainly seems like smoking was carefully omitted from certain articles about this new study.

          If I find some extra free time soon, I’d like to try to find all articles published regarding this new study and see if there’s a pattern as to which sources censor mentions of smoking entirely.

    • Radical Rodent says:

      Well, I am a non-smoker. I have never smoked, and do not understand how anyone could possibly enjoy smoking; I also dislike the smell of cigarette smoke, and the way it clings to the clothes.

      (I know… I know… now, stop rolling your eyes…)

      That said, I enjoy a lot of things that other people do not like, perhaps have never tried, and do not understand why I should want to do them – and the same could be said for almost anyone else. If whatever you enjoy has the potential of harming no-one but yourself, and does not infringe upon the enjoyment of others, why should you not be allowed to do it? There are, however, those whose enjoyment stems from infringing upon others’ enjoyment; they take great delight in hectoring and bullying, and wheedle themselves into such positions that NO-ONE can avoid their prying eyes or prodding fingers – it is those people who should be excoriated and exiled from society, not those of us who just wish a little quiet contentment.

  3. petesquiz says:

    I reckon you could be onto something with this idea. I’d never thought of the warming effect on glaciers from below, but I do believe that the El Nino phenomenon could well be influenced by geothermal energy from the ocean floor warming the water which then builds up and comes to the surface in a cyclical manner (every five years, or so) as per your simple model of the dirty snowball.
    The traditional explanation involves warming from the atmosphere and the prevailing winds (a simple precis from me!), but I’m not sure if atmosphere and sun can really heat up such a massive volume of water to such a degree. I’d be very surprised if geothermal heating of the ocean floor wasn’t a significant factor.

    Regarding experts, here’s a quote from an acquaintance of mine who is a professional trick shot golfer, “Every expert was once a beginner.” If only more of them appreciated that simple truth!

    • Frank Davis says:

      I’d never thought of the warming effect on glaciers from below

      Neither had I until about a month ago.

      I’m not sure how a cycle of warming could work to create E Nino events though..

  4. RdM says:

    Slightly OT:

    A great new word in the comments:
    word: ob·tun·di·ty [ob túndətee]
    dulled or blunted consciousness

    80, 90, 100 yrs old…

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