Friday, 31 July 2015

Repelling Invaders

One of the most important functions of government, perhaps the most important of all, is to protect the country from attack, and that function is usually performed by the armed services, yet there has been no military action to prevent unruly crowds of youths from forcing entry into Britain through the Channel Tunnel.

My guess is that it would suffice for troops to open fire once. If they killed a few dozen; the survivors would then think of somewhere else to go.

Should ministers be unwilling to do that, an alternative deterrent would be an electrified fence maintained at a thousand volts or so, and sited inside the present fence so no one would come upon it unawares. Anyone electrocuted would clearly be the architect of his own doom, so there would be no risk of anyone feeling guilty, as some sensitive souls might after a shooting.


Wednesday, 29 July 2015

Sand Casting Lead

Last month our U3A Science Group watched the sand casting of lead, a process in which molten lead is poured into a tray of carefully smoothed down sand. It was quite exciting to watch.

One of our members made a video recording, which is now on my web site:


Sunday, 26 July 2015

Settled In.

I'm surprised how quickly I've settled into Market Harborough. I haven't been outside the town at a any time during the last week , in fact not since I went to a U3A meeting in Leicester on 14th, and I haven't missed the rest of the world at all.

Before the move I expected I'd be back in Leicester at least once a week, but my visits there have all been for U3A meetings, so see the dentist or, before I sold it, to deal with the old house. I've never visited Leicester for its own sake. I'm quite sure I was right to  move.

Wednesday, 15 July 2015

An Anomaly in Ballot Rules

The Government has proposed that a trade union may only call a strike if at least half the workers involved in the dispute vote in a ballot.

Consider two possibilities:

(1) Out of 1000 union members, 501 vote in a ballot and 251 of those voting vote for a strike.

(2) Out of 100 union members only 400 vote in the ballot, and 399 of those voting vote in favour of a strike.

In case (1) 251 people out of 100o vote for a strike, and there would be a strike, but in case (2) the votes of 399 people would not be sufficient to prevail.

The BBC's Astronomy

For several days now the BBC website has displayed a diagram of the Solar System in the distance of Jupiter from the sun is shown as 100 million kilometres. The figure is actually much larger, about 778 million km. The value given, 100 million km, is actually quite near to the orbit of Venus ( 108 million km), and considerably less than the earth's orbit (150 million km)

I rarely blog twice in the same day, but this is an emergency; we can't afford to let Jupiter move inside the earth's orbit. Having it so near to Venus might risk a collision !!

Governments that Can't Pay their Debts

The smooth running of government requires that governments can borrow. There are times when they need to run a deficit to stimulate the economy, they need to finance capital projects, and even if a government's finances are in balance over the year, the collection of taxes may not precisely match expenditure. Governments also often act as guarantors for banks. So governments need to borrow cheaply. They can only do so if they are trusted, so it is extremely serious if a government defaults.

Yet if debts are unsustainable, a default may be unavoidable. Companies that default are usually liquidated, their shareholders dispossessed, and assets sold for the benefit of creditors.

It would be hard to treat a country in the same way, though in the past some countries, such as Egypt in the late nineteenth century, have had their finances managed by nominees of creditor nations. On the other hand we need to impose some penalty to make the repudiation of debts unpalatable to the debtor.

Greek ministers have cited the writing off of much of Germany's debt in 1953. That precedent may be more helpful than many people have realised. By 1953 those who had led Germany to catastrophe had been tried as war criminals, and either executed or imprisoned.

I propose that unsustainable national debt should be forgiven, but only on condition that the politicians who incurred it are treated as criminals.

Sunday, 12 July 2015

An excess of paper.

I've just sorted through an accumulation of 'special offers' from various shops, offering me discount from any goods not on a long list of exceptions, or discounts or bonus 'points if I spend a prodigious sum. I wish I could resist the temptation to keep such material.

Fortunately such offers are almost always time limited, so I was able to eliminate most of the accumulation.

I suspect that any savings one may make from such offers do not justify the time spend fiddling with the pieces of paper. I wonder if it's worthwhile to the shops that make the offers. Do they even know?

Friday, 10 July 2015

A Word for Everything

While travelling by bus to Leicester this morning I couldn't help overhearing the conversation of a couple apparently planning their morning's shopping.

She said to him "I want to get off at the thing. You need to get your thingie first and then go on to the thing.

Three 'things' in one sentence is quite a score but it was bettered by a neighbour of my great aunt. As they chatted over the garden fence, the neighbour said "Look, there's Mrs Thing's thing on the thing by the thing". To give readers a chance to guess I shall delay interpreting that for a day or two.

The older one gets, the more one is tempted by thing talk, as familiar names hide away just as one wants to use them, but I try to avoid monotony by devising alternatives to 'thing'. 'Whatnot' and 'thingamajig' are already quite common, though the second is rather thingy. I rather like 'grundleplonk' and 'twirtlegrob'. Readers are welcome to make more suggestions.

At one time I had great difficulty remembering 'skimmia' but I was always quite certain that its name did not begin with 'z', so I thought of it as 'the plant with a name that doesn't begin with z'

Sunday, 5 July 2015

Muddled Thinking about Muddy Water

I've just seen a news report on the state of the River Jordan, water from which is to be flown in for the baptism of Princess Charlotte.


The absurdities of the procedure are so obvious and numerous that I leave listing them as an exercise for the reader. It is a pity that attempts to modernize the ways of the monarchy should be spoilt by something so silly.