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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Weekend Unthreaded

We have our own unthreaded poem!

Wind-farms and solar thermal plants will prey, On birds of every size who fly their way.

The public, to pay less per kilowatt hour, Must vote to drive the zealot Greens from power.

Australia’s constitution has a flaw, When politicians wish to change the law, By referendum, have the flaw corrected, That very flaw will rule their wish rejected.

Bad-tempered glass can have a snap eruption, Like children’s tantrums cause a quick disruption.

– Ruairi

The odd case of spontaneously shattering bathroom glass

This used to be black glass, now it’s a sinkless, shattered crazed basin and bench.

Who knew tempered glass could suddenly fracture and in some cases explosively?

We have a bathroom basin and countertop of moulded thick black glass. For about five years it was happy, then late one night this week, for no reason, it shattered — the sink fractured into 100 pieces and fell into the towels below. The countertop crazed from end to end even tossing a few cubes of cracked glass up to two meters away. Luckily no one was in the room. The new white dusty look was created by the crazing pattern, which slowly continued for the next few hours.  We could hear the odd crackling noise every now and again as the last of the tempered tension in the glass ebbed away.  Even far corners — away from the sink — broke off. It turns out this is a natural, rare phenomenon.

Exploding shower-screens, shelves, sinks, car windows, and patio tables?

Apparently this is probably due to a manufacturing fault that may lie unseen for up to thirty years before triggering. (More below). On one old discontinued site there are some [...]

One day when Al Gore gets some evidence he won’t need to call everyone names

Al Gore creates more skeptics everyday

Ross Clark, journalist, met Al Gore to interview him about his favourite topic. But Ross broke the rules; he did some research. Clark even talked to a professor about the scenes of Florida being flooded. The prof explained that it’s not so much that the seas were rising fast, but that the land under Miami is sinking — and by an amazing 16-24cm in the last 80 years. (No wonder some residents are seeing water inundate new areas.)

When I put all this to Al Gore and ask him whether his film would be stronger if it acknowledged the complexities of sea level rise — why it is rising in some places and not in others — I am expecting him to bat it away, saying that it doesn’t counter his central point and that there is a limit to what you can put into a film pitched at a mass audience, but his reaction surprises me. As soon as I mention Professor Wdowinski’s name, he counters: ‘Never heard of him — is he a denier?’ Then, as I continue to make the point, he starts to answer before directing it at [...]

Handy guide for foreign nation to remove any Australian politican. Give them “entitlements” of dual Citizenship.

For foreign readers, the Australian Parliament is undergoing the most extraordinary spectacle at the moment. Politicians have resigned after discovering that they were dual citizens of Australia and some other country — such as Britain, Canada, or New Zealand — which is a clear breach of the constitution. But this is going far beyond people who held two passports. The constitutional affliction is spreading, as more and more politicians get caught up in what will now become High Court cases. Some renounced citizenship in writing before the election but their unwanted sovereign-alternate nation didn’t necessarily acknowledge that for months (that was Malcolm Roberts case). Others never knew their mother applied for them to become a dual citizen. Some claim ignorance or inheritance may be no excuse.

Bizarrely, this could theoretically escalate to involve pretty much the entire parliamentary body.

The stakes are pretty high, given that our current government holds power by just one seat. Already the endangered list includes some ministers. People are resigning from the Senate and being replaced. In the House, no one has left yet but their continued stay will depend on the High Court. By-elections may have to be called, and government may change hands [...]

Australia, Denmark, Germany vie to win Highest Global Electricity Cost! (It’s the Nobel Price Prize?)

It’s not even close: If South Australia seceded it would have the highest electricity price of any nation on Earth.

 Australian Households pay highest power prices in the World, AFR.

South Australian households are paying the highest prices in the world at 47.13¢ per kilowatt hour, more than Germany, Denmark and Italy which heavily tax energy, after the huge increases on July 1, Carbon + Energy Markets’ MarkIntell data service says.

When the eastern states’ National Electricity Market was formed in the late 1990s, Australia had the lowest retail prices in the world along with the United States and Canada, CME director Bruce Mountain said.

 The Markintell report graph:

Hmm — odd coincidence of Price with Wind Energy Penetration:

Wind energy is “free” but countries with the most wind power are also the most likely to get to the top of the Prize Pool for exorbitant electricity. Wind energy penetration is highest in  Denmark (1st), Portugul (8th), Ireland (6th), Spain (11th), Germany (3rd). Conversely, renewable energy penetration is low in places at the tail end of the price curve like Luxemburg 6%, Estonia 15%, Hungary 7%, Lithuania 15.5%. In the low mid price range [...]

SA Solar Thermal plant is a copy of US plant that was out of action for one third of its life so far

Crescent Dunes, Solar Thermal Plant, USA.   | Wikimedia  Author, Amble.

A company called SolarReserve is planning to build the new Aurora 150MW solar thermal plant at Port Augusta, which is apparently a copy of their Crescent Dunes plant in the US. But that project has been offline for most of the time since last October. The whole SA government is meant to be running 24/7 off “solar power”, which allegedly only has about 8 hours of energy stored up (as heat in the molten salt block). So an 8 month break will be a bit of problem for the SA government (except of course, we all know that the real baseload backup here at 4 or 5am everyday, and most of the day in winter, is ultimately the very fossilized gas and coal.) Since the project only began working in Sept 2015 it managed to operate for all of one year and one month before it went offline for 8 months due to a leak. The SA State Energy Minister is not concerned saying it was a construction issue and SolarReserve “have learnt from that”.

The 150MW myth: most of the time it will be less, a lot [...]

Antarctica – 91 volcanoes coincidentally found under glaciers warming “due to climate change”

It’s possibly the densest concentration of volcanoes in the world, some as high as 4km and we didn’t even know these existed til recently.  Despite that overwhelming ignorance, we’re 97.00% certain that all the warming in Antarctica is due to your car and airconditioner. Robin McKie, The Guardian writer, talks about the recent discovery of so many volcanoes under the ice. Not surprisingly, we have no data on how active these volcanoes are. However because we *know* climate change is definitely wrecking Antarctica, it follows that your car, air conditioner and pet dog could melt more ice, take the pressure off the tectonic plate and set one off. Then things will really get out of hand.

Anyhow, it’s just a coincidence that all the warming in Antarctica is where the volcanoes are.

Warming in Antarctica   |    New volcano discoveries

Spread the hagtag #allvolcanosmatter.

From The Guardian: Scientists discover 91 volcanoes below Antarctic ice sheet

Scientists have uncovered the largest volcanic region on Earth – two kilometres below the surface of the vast ice sheet that covers west Antarctica.

The project, by Edinburgh University researchers, has revealed almost 100 volcanoes – with the highest as tall as the [...]

SA Premier hailed “leader”: govt buys twenty years electricity at twice the price for solar

UPDATE: More details are coming in: The SA govt is effectively covering all its own electricity use with this one plant, which is about 5% of the whole state’s demand. The plant will have 8 hours of battery storage (theoretically). The word I hear is that this is not an outright purchase of $650m, but an offtake agreement for around 70-78/MWh — which means the government will buy nearly all the production available (125Mw of 150MW) each year, but won’t own the plant.  [Text edited and substantial additions below.]

Not long back, Port Augusta had a thirty-one year old coal plant generating 520MW.  The Premier could have spent $30 million to keep it going through this anti-coal political era. Instead he blew it up and is spending millions to buy electricity at twice the price, under contract for 20 years. The $650 million Aurora Solar Plant will produce 150MW of solar power (on a good day).  Per megawatt, this solar power is twice the price of coal fired power. (The old Hazelwood coal plant supplied electricity at around $30MWh.) Per degree Celsius, it will buy global coolness by some number starting with three decimal places of zero.

Solar [...]

Weekend Unthreaded

UK wind farms paid to not make sausages

OK, a wind farm isn’t making sausages, but it’s also not a farm.

Nothing about this makes sense, unless you follow-the-money.

John Constable and Matt Ridley outline the absolute rort that Scottish wind generators are screwing out of British electricity customers. Scotland already has 750 industrial wind plants (the scammers) in their best moments making a total of 5,700 MW which is more than the peak demand of the whole Scottish grid.  This is, at times, not just more than Scotland can use, but even more than it can safely absorb, so UK slaves were forced to spend £1.8 billion on giant interconnectors partly to send the excess down to England and whatnot, otherwise the profits of the unprofitable might suffer, and the weather might not be as nice in 2100 (or not).

If that’s not bad enough, these protected industrial plants sometimes produce a product when nobody wants it, and they still get paid. When it would be unsafe to dump it on the market. The geniuses who set this up promised the wind-generators that they would still be paid. And not only are they paid, but as Ridley and Constable document, before 2011 they were [...]