Loners and Outsiders

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.

About Frank Davis

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23 Responses to Loners and Outsiders

  1. Dirk Belgium says:

    At an estimated age of 5 billion years, the Sun will enjoy another 5 billion years of relatively stable energy output. By then, if we haven’t figured out a way to leave Earth, we will perish.

    And then there are comets and meteors. In 1996 comet Hyakutake was discovered only 4 months before its closest approach to the Sun because its orbit was tipped strongly out of the plane of our solar system, precisely where nobody was looking. While en route it came within 10 million miles of Earth – a narrow miss.

  2. Ah, such optimism. I’m in the United States, Frank, and will be moving permanently to Mexico in March. It isn’t just the smoking ban, but also living amongst people so stupid that they believe anything the government tells them.

    I don’t share your optimism because here the ability to think has long been lost, except to a few loners and outsiders. It could take generations before creative thinking emerges, if it ever does.

    There are many reasons for the smoking bans, such as having a scapegoat to blame for all the cancers caused by pollution, but I’m convinced that the anti-smokers are people who hate anyone who can think–they don’t like being shown up for the idiots they are, and they noticed that most smokers are too intelligent to be easily controlled. I’m also convinced that they intend to kill us, as no accommodations have been made here for elderly smokers, and California plans to be smoker-free by 2030. I haven’t been able to smoke a cigarette indoors in almost two years, and am looking forward to my first indoor cigarette, which will be, if all goes well, at the airport smoking lounge after I cross the border.

    I know what happens when governments decide they want to rid themselves of certain groups of citizens, and I can only hope that I get out in time. Smokers in California have no legal rights. And the hysteria is such that many people believe that if they pass a smoker on the sidewalk, they’ll get cancer and die. This in cities with air pollution so thick you can see it and smell it, except for the radiation, of course, which nobody minds because it is tasteless, odorless, invisible to the eye, and the government says it is necessary for national security. One of the most radioactive cities in the world, Coronado, California, banned smoking city-wide but welcomed a high-level nuclear waste dump–on a sandbar by the ocean.

    We’re a dying breed, Frank, and unfortunately for me, I didn’t die soon enough. I’m hoping to spend whatever time I have left, among people who have never been “educated” and can think for themselves because they’ve had to in order to survive. And because they’ve been smoking for thousands of years and aren’t going to stop now.

    • Frank Davis says:

      Not this one I suppose? Guess not, since he died almost exactly a year ago.

      Mark E Smith died on 24 January 2018 after a long illness with lung and kidney cancer,[59] aged 60 years.[19] His health had been particularly bad during 2017, which led to wheelchair-bound performances. A heavy smoker, Smith had long suffered from throat and respiratory problems. His work ethic and output, however, never declined and throughout his illness he continued to release a new album close to once a year.[51]

      And yes, I’m ever an optimist. The world is always changing, and throwing up new opportunities. I don’t think the killjoys will win this time. They never have before.

  3. Robbo says:

    I visit your site constantly, and marvel at your theories, so live forever and keep at it!

  4. Roobeedoo2 says:

    ‘Today’s coordinated campaign to deny climate change, or to put a positive spin on its effects, Is not unlike that of the tobacco companies which once sought to discredit their product’s link to cancer.’


  5. Rose says:


    I am being thwarted by the EU, it won’t let me read the article you posted on the previous page.


    451: Unavailable due to legal reasons

    We recognize you are attempting to access this website from a country belonging to the European Economic Area (EEA) including the EU which enforces the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) and therefore access cannot be granted at this time.

    Can you give me the headline?

    • Frank Davis says:

      Here’s your entire comment from March 2013 :

      Mummies from different eras, places had clogged arteries

      “CT scans of 137 mummies spanning four geographies and 4,000 years of history show that hardening of the arteries was commonplace, especially in older individuals, suggesting this key sign of heart disease may be a part of aging rather than the byproduct of eating too many Big Macs.

      The findings, presented on Sunday at the American College of Cardiology meeting in San Francisco and published in the Lancet medical journal, challenge the commonly held belief that atherosclerosis, or hardening of the arteries — the disease that causes heart attacks and strokes — is a modern plague brought on by smoking, obesity and sedentary lifestyles

      “It looks to be the case that this is an ancient condition of human population before the modern world and may in fact have been part of our species’ aging,” said Caleb Finch, a professor of gerontology at the University of Southern California and a senior author of the study.

      “The latest study, however, spans a much broader swath of society, looking at individuals from different regions and societies and with very different diets.What we’ve put together in this is four cultures with very disparate lifestyles and geography. We have a more-convincing argument about the presence of this disease in ancient people,” Thompson said.”


      “Heart disease is the leading cause of death in the United States for both men and women, killing about 600,000 people each year, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

      Finch said drugs that lower cholesterol, reduce blood pressure and thin the blood have been “a tremendous success story in 20th and 21st century medicine,” allowing millions of people to survive heart disease and live longer lives.

      Even so, about one third of heart attacks arise in people who have no risk factors for heart disease except for their advancing age, he said.

      “The question is, what can we possibly do to slow down the underlying basic process of atherosclerosis and aging in our blood vessels,” he said. “That, right now, is a blank wall.”

      I doubt these discoveries will have any effect on the activities of the lifestyle obsessives though, I don’t think they are even capable of considering that their original theories might have been wrong.

    • RdM says:

      Ha, I don’t even get a reason or excuse, just
      “Unsupported Media
      Sorry, the page you requested could not be found.”

      • Rose says:

        Can you see these, RdM?

        Mummies from different times, places shared key heart risk
        March 11, 2013

        “CHICAGO (Reuters) – CT scans of 137 mummies spanning four geographies and 4,000 years of history show that hardening of the arteries was commonplace, especially in older individuals, suggesting this key sign of heart disease may be a part of aging rather than the byproduct of eating too many Big Macs.

        The findings, presented on Sunday at the American College of Cardiology meeting in San Francisco and published in the Lancet medical journal, challenge the commonly held belief that atherosclerosis, or hardening of the arteries – the disease that causes heart attacks and strokes – is a modern plague brought on by smoking, obesity and sedentary lifestyles.

        “It looks to be the case that this is an ancient condition of human population before the modern world and may in fact have been part of our species’ aging,” said Caleb Finch, a professor of gerontology at the University of Southern California and a senior author of the study.”

        Atherosclerosis across 4000 years of human history: the Horus study of four ancient populations.
        Thompson RC1, Allam AH, Lombardi GP, Wann LS, Sutherland ML, Sutherland JD, Soliman MA, Frohlich B, Mininberg DT, Monge JM, Vallodolid CM, Cox SL, Abd el-Maksoud G, Badr I, Miyamoto MI, el-Halim Nur el-Din A, Narula J, Finch CE, Thomas GS.


        Atherosclerosis is thought to be a disease of modern human beings and related to contemporary lifestyles. However, its prevalence before the modern era is unknown. We aimed to evaluate preindustrial populations for atherosclerosis.

        We obtained whole body CT scans of 137 mummies from four different geographical regions or populations spanning more than 4000 years. Individuals from ancient Egypt, ancient Peru, the Ancestral Puebloans of southwest America, and the Unangan of the Aleutian Islands were imaged. Atherosclerosis was regarded as definite if a calcified plaque was seen in the wall of an artery and probable if calcifications were seen along the expected course of an artery.

        Probable or definite atherosclerosis was noted in 47 (34%) of 137 mummies and in all four geographical populations: 29 (38%) of 76 ancient Egyptians, 13 (25%) of 51 ancient Peruvians, two (40%) of five Ancestral Puebloans, and three (60%) of five Unangan hunter gatherers (p=NS). Atherosclerosis was present in the aorta in 28 (20%) mummies, iliac or femoral arteries in 25 (18%), popliteal or tibial arteries in 25 (18%), carotid arteries in 17 (12%), and coronary arteries in six (4%). Of the five vascular beds examined, atherosclerosis was present in one to two beds in 34 (25%) mummies, in three to four beds in 11 (8%), and in all five vascular beds in two (1%). Age at time of death was positively correlated with atherosclerosis (mean age at death was 43 [SD 10] years for mummies with atherosclerosis vs 32 [15] years for those without; p<0·0001) and with the number of arterial beds involved (mean age was 32 [SD 15] years for mummies with no atherosclerosis, 42 [10] years for those with atherosclerosis in one or two beds, and 44 [8] years for those with atherosclerosis in three to five beds; p<0·0001).

        Atherosclerosis was common in four preindustrial populations including preagricultural hunter-gatherers. Although commonly assumed to be a modern disease, the presence of atherosclerosis in premodern human beings raises the possibility of a more basic predisposition to the disease."

        These are fresh off google in England 5 minutes ago.

    • Rose says:

      Thank you, Frank

      Well, I can’t see any reason why we should no longer be allowed to read that, can you?

  6. waltc says:

    Just got around to reading the last three days worth of posts and threads. On one of them you said it was difficult to know the origin of a metastasized cancer. No longer. Two years ago a relative died of cancer at age 86. She had given up smoking (and become rather anti) at least 45 years before. The cancer was first discovered wrapped around a bone in her hip, then found to be almost everywhere but analysis of the tumor showed it was a lung cancer, though a strain that was immune from the new “targeted therapies.” None of that is to say that her long-stopped smoking was the “cause” merely to say they can identify the different kinds of cancer no matter where they’re found. Then too, I’ve read that the first two places a cancer, no matter its source, likes to metastasize TO are the lungs and the brain, so that a cancer that may first be found in the lung (aha! he smoked!) may actually be a colon or other cancer.

    • Frank Davis says:

      Without reading the research, and seeing the evidence, I’m not inclined to believe that “they can identify the different kinds of cancer no matter where they’re found”. When it comes to smoking and cancer, I tend to believe nothing I’m told.

      • waltc says:

        How then did a biopsy of a tumor on a hip show it was a metastasized lung cancer? How can there be targeted antagonists if they don’t know what kind of cancer to target? At the time, I talked to doctors who explained a lot of this to me. I had no reason to disbelieve them.

        • Frank Davis says:

          How then did a biopsy of a tumor on a hip show it was a metastasized lung cancer?

          Don’t ask me. I don’t know. I just don’t believe everything I’m told, particularly when I see no evidence supporting it.

        • Joe L. says:

          I talked to doctors who explained a lot of this to me. I had no reason to disbelieve them.

          But it seems you also didn’t have a reason to believe them either, aside from the fact that they, being doctors, were assumed to be “experts” on the matter.

          And the doctors, in turn, were believing in the “experts” at the lab which ran the tests who were, in turn, believing in the claims made by the “experts” who manufactured the diagnostic equipment to meet the standards proposed by the “experts” who developed the test based on the research of other “experts” who originally made the claim that it was possible to determine the origin of a cancer in the first place. That’s a very fragile house of cards.

      • Frank Davis says:

        We’re living in a time of growing disbelief in experts of every kind.

        Twenty years ago I believed pretty much everything experts told me. But now I don’t. I believe less and less. And I suspect it’s the same for a great many other people too.

  7. slugbop007 says:

    I just discovered a German astrophysicist last week, Sabine Hossenfelder. She wrote a book on the problems facing the development of new theories in astronomy: Lost in Math: How Beauty Leads Physics Astray. It is similar to your complaint about people and institutions monopolizing ideas. I still think you should try Space Engine and Universe Sandbox, if you already haven’t. They offer the possibility to change parameters and calculations at the click of a mouse.


  8. slugbop007 says:

    The Confederation of Quebec Unions now has two buildings just across the street from my HLM. They added a new building, supposedly incoroporating the latest Green technology, just two years ago. It was built over the former outdoor parking lot where snow plows used to come in after midnight to clear away the snow. The shovel would get stuck in a rut and the foundations of the building that live in would shake. Nice. Now everybody parks their vehicles in the underground parking lot. They come streaming in every morning, as early as 7 o’clock. To the right of the entrance door is a large metal grill. It operates 24/7. Not only is it noisy, around 88 decibels,  I believe that it is redistributing all the carbon monoxide within the underground parking lot walls all over our street. There is an elementary school just one half block away, along with two busy gas stations. When the construction began two years ago they plastered the walls everywhere with Green Certified stickers. There is also a plaque just beside the garage entrance telling people that they must smoke at least 9 meters from it. What a joke! I have taken samples of the soot on the outside grill and have also taken measurements of the noise levels. I no longer spend much time on my balcony, it’s too noisy outside. I wonder how such blatant faults were overlooked during the construction (perhaps they were glossed over, or worse) and I wonder if my official complaint will get much traction. I doubt it.


    • RdM says:

      So, you’re writing about this ~ discovered easily enough, let’s be friends!
      Awful, I agree!

      A minor joke, they’re saving you from their exhaust fumes by warning you away?

      The street view is much more up to date than the satellite view, which still shows the old car park, evidently summer without snow.

      Privacy considerations inhibit, forbid me from revealing more, I made that up.
      Actually it seems I can’t upload more, a glitch, that wider view, never mind!

      Nice satellite views though.

      But your brown brick apartment building looks quite nice, it has balconies.

      Are you allowed to smoke into the clear air, from them, there, then ?

      Cheers, from Auckland, New Zealand.

      ~ RdM

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