A science presenter, writer, speaker & former TV host; author of The Skeptic's Handbook (over 200,000 copies distributed & available in 15 languages).


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Happy New Year for 2018

New Years Eve 2017

Wishing everyone here the best of health and happiness for the coming year.

Thanks for your help in making this possible!

Cheers to every independent soul who stands on their own two feet.

And cheers to those who can’t tonight, but would like to.

Giant double whirlpools in the ocean and the DIY ones you can make in your pool

How much don’t we know?

Giant pairs of whirlpools travel across the ocean for months in a bizarre pair.

These large paired whirlpools, hundreds of kilometers across, travel eastward at something like 10-20cm per second. This is one pair crossing from Tasmania to NewZealand. This was there in our satellite data but “invisible” til recently. As David Evans says “I wonder what else we are observing but not seeing?”

The pair of whirlpools called Modon E travelling eastward from Tasmania to NZ.

The ocean becomes connected at two distant points as the Modon-E whirlpool pair travels from Tasmania to NZ in 2010-2011

In the mini-pool version, these rolling whirlpools are connected in a U shape under water.

Wow. PhysicsGirl shows how to make these by pushing a plate through the water, and adding food coloring. Switch on your science nerd, show the kids! (send me your photos :- ))

The two vortexes spin in opposite directions but are connected as a pair underwater. This was created by PhysicsGirl using a plate in a pool and two different food colorings.

Twin giant ocean whirlpools travel for months winding their way across oceans

Peter Dockrill reports on an interview [...]

Hello from Renewable World where companies go broke, sack people and customers have no money to spend

Businesses are closing, customers are cutting back spending, company bosses are all suddenly spot trading experts in the energy market, or planning to become their own electricity supplier. Meanwhile scouts from the US have arrived to poach companies who want cheaper energy (and tax cuts).

Happy New Year Australia. These are all headlines and stories in The Australian from yesterday and today.

Cut power bills or lose more jobs: ACCC chief’s warning on energy costs

Glenda Korporaal writes:

Australia’s competition regulator, Rod Sims, who has been tasked with finding ways to cut power bills, has warned that high energy costs will force more plant ­closures and job losses as prices continue to increase.

“Energy affordability is Australia’s largest economic challenge,” the chief executive of the Australian Competition & Consumer Commission told The Weekend Australian.

“We have already seen jobs lost, investment reduced, plant closures (because of high energy prices). Unfortunately, we are going to see quite a bit more.”

Some businesses will be OK – like those that are not involved with fertilizer, paper, glass, steel, bricks, telecommunications or refrigeration:

He said the biggest pressure would be on manufacturing companies that [...]

Last record-breaking winter with snow hits Canada, US, before “nobody knows what snow is”

UPDATE: Record breaking snow falling in upstate New York. Pennsylvania.

 The airport in Erie, Pennsylvania, has had a whopping 65.1 inches of snow from this lake effect event — the highest snowfall total from any event on record in Erie. (Heavy lake effect snow is produced by cold Arctic air moving over relatively mild water temperatures in the Great Lakes.) — World News, ABC (US) News

40,000 people in Cleveland lost power overnight.

New York City may have coldest New Year’s Eve since 1960s… — ABC News

Great Lakes, via NOAA

In freak conditions, Canadians (and many people in the US too) are getting a chance to enjoy record cold for the last time before climate change makes winters unbearably mild.

Extreme cold in Toronto smashes 57-year-old temperature record

Temperatures observed at Toronto’s Pearson International Airport bottomed out at -22 C [-7.7F]  this morning. The previous record for this date was set in 1960, when it hit -18.9 C. [-2F]

Tristan Hopper does some first class bragging about the cold: Mars and the North Pole are warmer than Winnipeg: A guide to how damned cold it is

Vancouver is as [...]

All it takes is a few kids with frostbite to foil a great government plan (and coal saves the day)

To cut smog and PM 2.5 pollution the Chinese government banned coal fired heating in 28 cities in Northern China and ordered them to convert to gas. But things aren’t going too well:

Public anger boiled over after China Youth Daily published video images of children at a primary school in Hebei province’s Quyang county who were forced to sit outside in the winter sun because their classrooms were too cold.

The Ministry of Education demanded “immediate” action to provide heating after students at another primary school showed signs of frostbite, the official English-language China Daily said.

It seemed like such a good idea at the time:

A joint government and municipal action plan for the 28 cities was released as far back as last March, calling for Beijing, Tianjin, Langfang and Baoding to ban small coal- fired furnaces by the end of October, among a host of other measures for the region.

“Areas in these cities will be declared completely ‘coal free,’” the official Xinhua news agency reported on March 31.

Communism fails for the 300th time:

Despite efforts to shift the blame, responsibility for the poor policy coordination seemed to fall squarely [...]

Midweek Unthreaded

Holiday chatter..

Double your Hype: Climate meets Cryptocurrency to kill the world and save it

Cypto currencies are killing the world and saving it at the same time

It’s the battle of the cryptos. Bitcoin is set to destroy the global climate due to exponential electricity consumption. Mining for bitcoins consumes the same electricity as 159 countries (probably more now), and by 2020, the world. I suspect we’ll be saved by reality — transactions now take hours and cost $20, $40, $50 (depends on the day) — making bitcoin not useful for buying a beer. But Michael Kile has found a competing cypto which will save the world — bound to relieve climate believers of their normal cash while offering them gold-hopey-hyper-cubits which may evaporate at a moments notice. Don’t mock it, in people with the right brain, these may briefly increase oxytocin and reduce cortisol.

So say hello to the saviour ClimateCoin. It wants to be an “exponential environmental organisation…” (because linear ones are achieving so much, and the square of zero could do so much more right?) They are not even pretending to produce anything real. Their mission is to “create a symbol for the common man to be able to participate in the struggle against climate change…” No uncommon people need apply. [...]

Renewable Australia update: Fear of blackouts means diesel generator sales up 400%

Welcome to a clean green Australia where we gave up coal to move to diesel.

Back to the future. Diesel’s prototype engine circa 1892.

Channel Ten news tonight discusses the sudden surge in demand for diesel generators

Homes and businesses are so afraid of blackouts in Australia that some retailers are selling four times as many generators as normal. reports a 425% increase year on year. The strongest growth has been in South Australia, Victoria and western Sydney.

According to Channel Ten, Energy companies across Australia have sent letters to their customers to warn customers to be prepared in case there is a blackout. But one company says it’s just a precaution they are required to do every year. (Does anyone ever remember getting a letter like that?)

Once, the renewables industry just wanted “certainty” for business (as in certainty of taxpayer funded subsidies). Now “certainty” means a diesel generator.

h/t Dave B


Weekend Unthreaded

EPA exodus of staff and scientists

This is what winning looks like.

The NY Times reports on Droves of Scientists Leaving EPA

WASHINGTON — More than 700 people have left the Environmental Protection Agency since President Trump took office, a wave of departures that puts the administration nearly a quarter of the way toward its goal of shrinking the agency to levels last seen during the Reagan administration.

This is 700 of 15,000 employees. The cuts started under Obama (“blame” Republicans) and is just the start:

The cuts deepen a downward trend at the agency that began under the Obama administration in response to Republican-led budget constraints that left the agency with about 15,000 employees at the end of his term.

…the administration is well on its way to achieving its goal of cutting 3,200 positions from the E.P.A., about 20 percent of the agency’s work force.

After skeptical scientists have been sacked, exiled and subject to RICO threats, NOW they worry about “silencing” scientists?

Many also said they saw the departures as part of a more worrisome trend of muting government scientists, cutting research budgets and making it more difficult for academic scientists to serve [...]