Motorbikes and War Machines

Yesterday was a big day for me. I finally managed to bolt an atmosphere on top of my computer heat flow model of the Earth, gently tighten the nuts, and watch a pretty good steady state simulation of terrestrial heat flow emerge, with 52 milliWatts/m² bubbling out of the Earth’s surface. That’s a slightly low figure: I was aiming at about 67 mW/m², which is the terrestrial average. I’ll have to warm up the Earth a notch or two to get it right.

It all reminded me of my biker days, when I take the head off my my 250cc Starfire four-stroke motorbike engine, and then put it back on. It was much easier taking it off than putting it on. You had to tighten the nuts slowly and gently, one after the other, onto the new head gasket. I never ever got it quite right. And I always ended up with bruised and bloody knuckles, from when the spanner slipped.

It also reminded me of Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance, and its loving descriptions of engine disassembly and reassembly, and Phaedrus arguing with his philosophy professor.

The analogy with building an engine is exact. That’s what I’m doing. I’m building an engine. And I’ve got the engine to the point where it’s all been bolted back together, and the nuts tightened, and it’s sitting on the kitchen table, slowly leaking oil onto the varnished wood. And the table I’m working at actually was a kitchen table, many years ago.

The assembled engine is a steady state engine. It’s not a working engine with the pistons moving up and down, and the valves opening and closing, vibrating and shaking and making a big racket. Engines are constructed, disassembled and reassembled in the steady rather than working state. The big test comes later, when you finger the carburettor, open the choke, and jump on the kickstarter to crank the engine over. It usually takes a few tries to get the engine running.

When I get my heat flow model engine working, I’m hoping to see a steady cycle of events unfold. Firstly the Earth will cool down, and then when it’s cold enough, ice will start to build up on its surface, and rapidly get thicker. And then the surface of the Earth beneath the ice will heat up, and start melting the ice. A peak rock temperature of about 500K seems to do this pretty effectively. The ice usually melts pretty rapidly at that sort of temperature. And when it’s all gone, and the hot surface rocks meet the atmosphere, they start cooling down again.  And they carry on gradually cooling until they’re cold enough for the ice to start to build up again.

And that’s the full cycle, of cooling followed by warming, over and over again. My motorbike engine ran at maybe a couple of hundred rpm. But this engine runs at about one single revolution per 100,000 years. It’s an engine which runs so very, very slowly that nobody knows it’s working at all. They think it’s already in a steady state.

And just like a motorbike engine, this engine needs to be given a big kick to start it running. And I’ll have to relax a few constraints in order to get it running (e.g. open the choke, twist the throttle). I’ll need a hot Earth, and a cool Sun, most likely.

And just like my motorbike had dials on its handlebars showing engine revs, engine temperature, and forward speed in mph, I’ve been building a console that shows me what I want to know about my new engine. Below is what that console currently shows:

On the left is a section through the surface of the Earth, with a temperature profile that runs from 0K to 6000K. The blue is the atmosphere. The dark brown is granite. The red is molten granite.

On the lower right is a graph that spools slowly from right to left, a bit like a storage oscilloscope, showing the surface rock temperature T1 (green), the surface temperature Ts, the surface heat flow rate, hFl (red), and ice depth (blue). A single cycle has just taken place, with ice depth jumping to probably 2 km, and the surface rock temperature mounting, and with it the surface heat flow rate, until after about 200,000 years the ice all finally melts, and the heat flow rate spikes, and surface rock temperatures drop back.

Top numerics show year number and temperatures of selected layers.

When it’s working, I’m hoping to have a video showing the full cycle happening over and over again.

Anyway, that was yesterday. And so I haven’t been paying much attention to the start of WW3. In fact, I don’t think WW3 has started. I think that we just got treated to a firework display last Friday. A show of force. I hope nobody got hurt.

And I guess that if you’ve got a big war machine, you can’t have it sitting idly on the kitchen table, slowly leaking oil. You need to start it running from time to time, and get it on the road, and do a couple of laps around the block, show people what you can do.

Donald Trump knows that. And his generals know that. And so does Vladimir Putin. And so do Putin’s generals. They’re just complaining about the racket the big engine made when it started up, and did a couple of laps around Damascus.

Trump doesn’t want a war. Neither do his generals. Neither does Putin. Or Xi. Or Kim. Or any of them. But they all need to fire up their war machines from time to time, and take them round the block. Yes, they make a big racket. And the neighbours complain. And birds get startled. So what.

The other thing I didn’t pay much attention to was that antismoking physician who wandered in here yesterday, like some lost goat.

I feel sorry for them when they do that, and find themselves facing dozens of snarling wild animals, like Christians in the Colosseum. They’re used to outnumbering smokers. They’re used to lecturing them. It must be a bit of a rude shock to find themselves outnumbered for once. And find themselves being lectured.

One day they’re all going to find themselves outnumbered. One day they’re all going to find themselves being lectured. One day they’re all going to find themselves exiled to the outdoors, just like they exiled us.

Who’s the philosophy professor I’m arguing with? I guess that’ll be alarmist climate scientists like Michael Mann and the motley crew in UEA. But I’ll also be arguing with climate sceptics as well. I think I’ve got a powerful brand new argument. One they don’t seem to have come across before.

About Frank Davis

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24 Responses to Motorbikes and War Machines

  1. supergran123 says:

    Sorry Frank, off topic but have you read this
    Admiration for Frank Davis :)

    • Dmitri says:

      And why not, if admiration is due. In fact, I strongly suspect that most of my ideas are Frank’s, I only rephrase them.

    • Frank Davis says:

      Yes, I have read it. And it’s very flattering.

      But I deny being a philosopher. I think that to call oneself a philosopher, you need to have written a book about philosophy. And I’ve never written a book about anything. So I’ll never call myself a philosopher. or an intellectual, or even a writer. I think it would pretentious of me to do so. But I do think a lot, and I also scribble a lot.

      I don’t mind if other people call me those things. It’s just that I never will.

      • Roobeedoo2 says:

        Idle Theory? Idle Theory is a philosophy, Frank, and this blog is the daily scribblings of the man behind it.

        Okay, it’s not paper book, but it’s a book of it’s time – online.

        • Frank Davis says:

          Idle Theory, in my view, is just an extension of physics (much like my current theory of ice ages).They’re just the application of existing physics.

          Is physics philosophy? I suppose some people would say that it is: natural philosophy. But we usually call it Science.

          I think philosophers primarily use words. They write lots and lots of words. They hardly ever do any physics or mathematics. I think that someone like Roger Scruton is a philosopher in that sense. I think he tries hard to put things into words.

          And my blog is primarily about smoking bans. And I have no mathematical or physical ideas about smoking bans, although I try. I try to put things about smoking bans into words. Idle Theory just gets a walk-on bit part from time to time. And I usually tell people when I’m going to wheel it in (so they can head for the door).

        • Roobeedoo2 says:

          ‘Meaning “system a person forms for conduct of life” is attested from 1771.’

      • Norman Brand says:

        I’m not sure that Socrates wrote a book …..

  2. RdM says:

    It all reminded me of my biker days, when I take the head off my my 250cc Starfire four-stroke motorbike engine, and then put it back on. It was much easier taking it off than putting it on. You had to tighten the nuts slowly and gently, one after the other, onto the new head gasket.,

    Which reminds me of the time I learned to change the head gasket on my Jawa (CZ?) 250 odd cc perhaps motorcycle in the ’70’s – a learning that you would learn how to do what you needed to do when you had to, just in time, if you applied yourself. And I did.

    So may that carry on.

  3. Mark Jarratt, Canberra, Australia says:

    I just read the lengthy, amusing in parts and informative posts responding to the somewhat naive ‘tobacco control playbook’ venture of ‘lost goat’ Dr Eliott yesterday.
    That’ll learn him! I suspect though in common with millions of others, Dr Elliott uncritically accepts tobacco prohibitionist propaganda as alternative sources and dissent are silenced.

    I wonder if ad hominem responses are helpful though. Even if Anti Tobacco Zealots have angered, bullied and robbed smokers globally, would it be more productive to extend balance and reason, so absent from their intolerance? Might even get some public health cultists to recant, and convert to Idle Theory.

    • RdM says:

      Yes, I regretted the ad hominen responses.
      Far better to extend the possibility of balanced and reasonable debate.

      • smokingscot says:

        Well gentlemen, your wish has been granted. The good doctor has decided to do another dump.

        Now how do I know that. Well he visited us in 2011, using the doctor handle, so he’s using a very old link. And he sort of makes it obvious they’re one and the same by using the same avatar.

        Now off you pop chaps and have yourselves a nice reasoned and balanced debate.

        Myself, I can’t be shagged to even rip it another one. The guy’s a standard issue Troll and crucifyingly boring to boot.

        • Mark Jarratt, Canberra, Australia says:

          Yes fair enough Smokingscot – reason and balance are qualities the puritanical single issue tobacco fearing lobbyists are unlikely to ever display, or appreciate. Their world view necessarily involves placing their own beliefs and subjective lifestyle preferences above others – deplorables. Admit though I’m unsure how to overturn the obscene hyper regulation and punitive taxation of tobacco by other than superior reasoning, facts and evidence. Revolution is justified but apathy rules…

  4. garyk30 says:

    ‘ from 0ºK to 6000ºK’

    Forgive me for picking at nits; but, there is no such critter as a ‘degree Kelvin’.

    No need to give your opponents a reason to dismiss your proofs.

  5. Tony says:

    Off topic
    “94% of ex-smokers resumed smoking after release from smoke-free prisons.”

    This highlights the fact that coercing people into not smoking in prisons has no long term effect. So even if you believe stopping smoking is in some way good for health (which I do not) then prison bans are not going to be beneficial. Illustrating that they’re not about health but more about additional punishment. Arguably ‘cruel and unusual punishment’ at that.

    Of course the anti-smokers response is to try to extend the prison walls.

  6. waltc says:

    Yesterday there was some speculation about gays and antismoking. While it’s (said to be) true that a higher % of homosexuals smoke, I’ve also observed that some of the most rabid antismokers have been homosexual, especially when they gain political power. I’ve attributed that to the “pass the kick down the ladder” syndrome, in which an unfairly despised and excluded group yearns to turn the tables and find (or in this case create) another group they can pass the kick to. (in NYC, until 1969 it was illegal for homosexuals to gather (peaceably assemble) in bars, gyms etc. see The Stonewall Riots.)

    • Barry Homan says:

      That was sort of the idea I had in mind with my post about Berkeley. Never mind though, I just wanted to get it off my chest.

    • Rose says:

      Oddly enough, Walt, I found minor references to James 1st’s supposed prediliction for young men when I was researching his other activities like witch hunting and commissioning the King James Bible.

  7. Joe L. says:

    OT: This may or may not be one for the Graveyard, Frank. It was either a smoking-ban-related death … or it was a state-sponsored assassination made to look like a smoking-ban-related death. :/

    Russian investigative reporter dies after fall, and some fear foul play


    A Russian reporter known for his investigations into Russian mercenaries in Syria died after a fall from his apartment in the city of Yekaterinburg, raising fresh concern about threats to independent journalists.
    Maxim Borodin fell from his fifth-floor apartment and died Sunday, according to a statement released by his employer, Novy Den (New Day). Local police said they did not see any foul play, but his death prompted intense speculation among friends and colleagues.
    Valery Gorelykh, spokesman for the Interior Ministry for the Sverdlovsk region, told CNN that Borodin’s apartment was locked from the inside, a fact that he said indicated “no one exited the apartment and most likely there were no strangers in there.”
    Russia’s Investigative Committee, the country’s main investigative body, said there were no indications of a crime, and that multiple causes of death were being probed. Polina Rumyantseva, editor in chief of Novy Den, said that there was no reason to suspect suicide.

    “We were able to visit the apartment of Maxim, together with the police and forensic experts on Friday, the intermediate conclusion is that Maxim fell out of the balcony of his apartment where he probably was smoking,” she said. “As Maxim had big plans for his personal life and career, there is nothing to support a verdict of suicide.”
    Others fear his death may not have been accidental.
    Borodin’s friend, Vyacheslav Bashkov, wrote on Facebook that Borodin contacted him early in the morning on April 11 and said his building was surrounded by armed “siloviki,” or Russian security services, wearing camouflage and face masks.

    • Frank Davis says:

      I saw a report about this yesterday. But I don’t remember anything about smoking in it. In fact what I remember is that the guy said that his flat was surrounded by people, and there was a man with a gun on his balcony.

  8. Rose says:

    Frank, a curiosity and the return of Global Warming.
    A word of caution, it was published in the Express.

    “GLOBAL warming could lead to huge volcanic eruptions across the globe which could wipe out millions of people, researchers have warned.
    “This is because ice sheets and glaciers can help to maintain the structure of volcanoes and mountains.
    Gioachino Roberti, a PhD student at the University of Clermont Auvergne, said: “Imagine the ice like some sort of protective layer – when the ice melts away, the mountain is free to collapse.

    “If your mountain is a volcano you have another problem.

    “Volcanoes are a pressurised system and if you remove pressure by ice melting and landslide, you have a problem.”
    The researchers studied ice sheets and volcanoes in Canada.”

    “Professor David Rothery, a geoscientist at The Open University, said: “This new research nicely demonstrates that if you change the load on a volcanic mountain – for example by removing some ice – the likelihood of a mechanical collapse and possible ensuing eruption will be slightly increased.

    “Eruptions are triggered by a complex array of factors. I suspect that many eruptions caused by glacial melting might happen eventually anyway, given enough time – but this research shows that warming could increase the chances of those eruptions happening sooner rather than later.”

    • Frank Davis says:

      An interesting thought. But I had almost the exact opposite idea a few weeks back. I was wondering whether volcanoes worked because high pressures below ground forced molten rock upwards, a bit like toothpaste in a tube. If so, if you reduced the overburden of rocks (or ice), you reduced the likelihood of eruption.

      But maybe volcanoes are more like champagne bottles than toothpaste tubes, and what happens when the cork gets pulled is that the whole thing comes fizzing out.

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