One day back in the the 1980s I had a vivid dream in which I saw a long chain of bodies (actually robot mechanical diggers) being drawn up into the sky from the surface of a spinning planet, and I wondered if such a thing could be at all possible.
Back then, I had no way of knowing. But about 10 years later, when I had learned how to build simple computer orbital simulation models, I returned to this strange dream and began to construct a numerical model of a chain of bodies – a tower – that extended radially outwards into space from the equator of the spinning Earth. And I found that if the tower extended about 170,000 km into outer space, it would indeed be drawn upwards from the surface of the Earth.
And this meant that if one could construct a tower that consisted of a long, rigid, train of carriages – almost exactly like a railway train, but without the wheels -, then as the tower/train rose, new carriages could be fed in at the bottom, and released from the top. And one would have then have a mass space launch system which could continually feed new bodies into space, without using any power whatsoever (in the form of rockets, for example) except for the rotational energy of the Earth. I was able to use the tower – which I called an “orbital siphon” – to fire spacecraft anywhere in the Solar System, and beyond it. Should humans ever colonise space, and launch millions of spaceships, a siphon like this would be a very good way to do it.
And then in 1997 or so I published the idea on the internet. It’s still there, minus its illustrations and Java applets, as an adjunct to Idle Theory.
Nothing happened for nearly 10 years. Nobody took any interest in it. But then, in about 2004, somebody – a professor of astronautical engineering – expressed interest in it, and asked a few questions, and then said that he thought it was a very good idea, and asked me if we might publish a joint paper on it in an astronomical journal. I agreed. And in 2005, after he written the calculus describing the idea (a task beyond my abilities), we presented a paper at a space conference in Fukuoka, Japan, and it duly appeared shortly afterwards in a couple of journals.
The idea of this orbital siphon was simply something that I’d become personally interested in. Nobody was paying me to investigate it. And it was an idea that I was able to pursue because I had sufficient mathematical and computing skills, and personal computers on which to build simulation models, and above all sufficient idle time (between computing contracts) in which to construct and test such models. In this respect, it was very like Idle Theory, which was another quite different idea that I’d started exploring in 1975.
I seem to regularly get grabbed by ideas like these. Seven years ago I was exploring a geometrical idea about how cells might grow and effortlessly divide, and published it on this blog. I love ideas that look like they might open up new worlds.
And of course there’s now the latest idea to grab me, which is my Theory of Ice Ages, that first took shape about a year ago, and which I have been pursuing ever since. For at the age of over 70, I have lots of computers, and all the idle time I could possibly want in which to pursue any idea I like.
All my ideas are very simple. And that usually is part of their attraction to me. And my latest very simple idea is that sheets of snow and ice on the surface of the Earth will act to warm the rocks beneath them, and warm them sufficiently to melt the overlying snow and ice, resulting in a succession of glaciations with interglacial periods in between.
Here’s such a succession of glaciations I generated yesterday, by dropping 5 metres of snow every 500 years onto the surface of the Earth, building snow sheets up to depth of 250 m. The surface rock temperatures beneath the snow climb over 30º K over about 80,000 years before the snow melts, and the surface rocks rapidly cool down again – after which the snow starts falling once more, and new snow sheets build up.
It seems to me that this is a very good explanation for why there have been a succession of ice ages over the past few million years: snow falls on the surface of the Earth and becomes deep enough for the rocks beneath to warm up and melt the overlying snow/ice. But it seems to be an idea that is entirely absent from the disciplines of climate science and geology and glaciology. Current explanations for ice ages include astronomical ones (Milankovitch cycles), and chemical ones (carbon dioxide), but there’s not a trace of the sort of geothermal one I’m proposing.
It may of course be that my idea is one that has long since been considered, and dismissed, for some very good reasons that I happen not to know, and this is why I never encounter it. But I’ve begun to wonder whether all these well-funded climate scientists can’t entertain ideas of this kind. For we live in a time when questioning the role of carbon dioxide in the Earth’s climate is like heretically questioning whether the Earth is round, or smoking causes lung cancer. There’s a veritable inquisition out there, led by people like Al Gore, which ensures that only the ruling CO2-driven climate change orthodoxy will ever get any research funding.
But the inquisition can’t reach me, because I’m not a professional climate scientist or geologist or glaciologist. I don’t need funding for my investigations: I’ve already got everything I need.. And I don’t have a job that I can lose either. Nor I do I have any reputation to protect: I’m a complete nobody. And there’s no illustrious Royal Society from which I can be expelled: in fact, I’ve long since been expelled from society (it happened on 1 July 2007 with the UK smoking ban).
It seems to me that, the way the world is these days, it’s impossible for any professional climate scientist to consider any other explanations for anything other than the accepted CO2 orthodoxy. It would be professional suicide for them to do so. Only loners and outsiders can entertain new ideas. And they can do so because they don’t need to persuade anyone else about the merits of their ideas. And that’s why it’s almost always loners and outsiders, in any field, who come up with new ideas. They’re the only ones who can.
We have all these wonderful universities and research institutes and professional societies, in which nobody is allowed to think freely about anything. All must conform to one strict orthodoxy or other, any deviation from which will bring dismissal and exclusion. Why bother to fund them? What good do any of them do? Wouldn’t it be cheaper to simply close them all down?
And increasingly I think they will indeed all be closed down. And Tobacco Control and Public Health England and the BMA and the RCP and the WHO and the IPCC and the UN will all vanish from the face of the Earth. And when they’re gone, all their dogmatic orthodoxies and inquisitions will vanish with them. And there will follow an explosion of creativity, with all sorts of people, from all walks of life, coming up with startling new ideas about more or less everything, now that Politically Correct conformity is no longer being enforced.