What’s the worst that could happen?

Interesting video about climate change.

Yes, it’s nearly ten minutes long, but it’s worth watching … hey! what’s the worse that could happen?

Basically, he looks at the options if current theories about global climate change are correct or incorrect, and maps them against the options of whether we either do something about it or do nothing.

The “do something” column wins every time, because if it’s true and we do something about it then it’s a happy ending. If it’s not true but we still do something about it then the worst is that we’re globally out of pocket for a few years.

If we do nothing and climate change doesn’t happen then we’re happy. But if we do nothing and climate change does happen then … well, game over.

But what can I do, practically right now? (Other than unplug my house from the national grid.)

Extreme instability

Lightning storm over a town

Here’s a website that I go back to every now and then: Extreme Instability.

It’s not an indication of the state of my inner emotional life, it’s a website of really cool photographs of natural phenomena, such as lightning storms, aurora, fog, night skies, tornadoes, etc. Some are available as wallpapers too.

What an incredibly beautiful and powerful planet we live on. Let’s look after it a bit better in 2008.

Climate change and the British Empire

Map of the British Empire
The British Empire in 1897, marked in pink, the traditional colour for Imperial British dominions on maps. (Map courtesy of Wikipedia)

I have a theory about climate change — have you noticed that people don’t call it “global warming” anymore? My theory is simply that climate change was invented by British scientists. Let me explain.

Now, when I say “invented” I don’t mean made up, as in ‘fictitious’ or ‘not-real’. After all Sir Alexander Graham Bell invented the telephone and I’ve paid enough money on phone bills over the years to know (sometimes painfully) just how real that invention was.

You see, I think it goes back to the fact that once upon a time we had an Empire. The British Empire: it was the big pink bits that covered most maps of the world.

Back in the 15th century when the hobby began and European countries started collecting colonies Britain was a dominant force.

As late as the early 1920s, the British Empire was the largest empire in the history of mankind. It made Alexander the Great’s effort around the Mediterranean look a bit half-hearted. Britain was the dominant global power, ruling over 458 million people: almost a quarter of the world’s population and a quarter of its land mass. That’s a lot of people, a lot of land and a heck of a lot of influence.

And then over the last sixty to seventy years we lost most of it, frittered it away. Largely, in the words of Eddie Izzard, by using phrases like “Oh … do you think so?”

What’s left of the British Empire, or the Commonwealth of Nations as it is now called, is now restricted mostly to countries that beat us regularly at cricket or rugby. And Canada.

A bit of a let down, really, for a once mighty nation. Britain needed something new, something to make them a world leader once more. And I think they found it.

What is it that Britons do better than anyone else in the world? I’ll tell you: no matter where in the British Isles you visit you can guarantee that people of all ages and abilities — old, young, rich, poor, friend or stranger: everyone — talks about the weather.

We’ve been talking about the weather since before the rise of the British Empire.

Raleigh: I hear that we’ve acquired a new island for our empire.

Gilbert: Oh really?

Raleigh: Yes. Off the coast of Africa, I believe.

Gilbert: Tremendous! I bet it’s warmer there than here.

Raleigh: I’ll say. The weather here’s been bitterly disappointing. And they call this summer, huh!

Just this morning, while I was at church in Newport-on-Tay, I heard at least two conversations within one hour about the weather.

We’re great at it, and thanks to British scientists we’ve now taken that greatness to the rest of the world. Now everyone is speaking about the weather, from the Arctic to Zambia, Zimbabwe to America … okay, maybe not America but everyone else is.

There ought to be a new map created showing which countries now have the weather as their number one topic of conversation. Maybe they could colour those areas of the map pink.

Doesn’t it once again make you feel proud to be British.

Fire and ice in South Queensferry

Alan Vance and Ricky Carvel

On Friday evening I popped down to sunny South Queensferry (next to the Forth Road Bridge, just outside Edinburgh) and met up with old friends Alan Vance and Ricky Carvel; friends from my first time at St Andrews (1989-1993).


Alan is a physicist who works for the Met Office in Exeter (at the other end of the island). His job involves something to do with staring at clouds and going up in aeroplanes to examine the effects of climate change (and as a result also probably contributing to it too).

I discovered that while clouds look lovely and fluffy from the ground, up close they’re not. They’re made from neither cotton wool nor legless sheep, but droplets of water and in some cases ice, which turn certain items of the Met Office equipment into aerial driftwood while flying through them.

If you’ve ever read Niall Griffiths’ novel Grits and wondered who the handsome fella on the cover is, the one looking out to sea, then wonder no more: it’s Alan Vance – Irishman, Christian, physicist, cloud-gazer, guitarist, cyclist and one of the most laid back and lovely people you could ever hope to meet.


Ricky, whose blogs I’m a fan of, works for the University of Edinburgh as a researcher for the BRE Centre for Fire Safety Engineering. He’s written a book: The Handbook of Tunnel Fire Safety; a bargain at £85 on Amazon UK .. but then it is in hardback so you can almost justify the price.

I’ve enjoyed keeping in touch with Ricky over the last few years, particularly since moving to Edinburgh from Inverness in 2003. We keep in touch mostly about Fish and Marillion music, guitars, DAB radio and other mildly geeky things like phones and stuff.

Friday evening

Alan was in Edinburgh all week for a conference. A few calls and texts later we arranged to meet at Ricky’s on Friday evening; he was going to be in looking after the children anyway. I said to Alan that I’d text when I was leaving Anstruther.

Just before I left I got a text from Ricky:

Hello. You still coming here tonight? If so, have you eaten yet? Alan & I are going to get a carryout ethnic later, we’ll wait for you to get here if req’d.

I phoned back and left a message on Ricky’s voicemail saying that yes we’d eaten and were about to head off, so just to go ahead without us.

About an hour later I was sitting in a queue on the north side of the Forth Road Bridge. Roadworks have resumed, as have the traffic jams. So sitting stationary I checked my phone for messages and to look up Ricky’s address. I knew that he lived around the corner from my brother, but I’d only ever been to his house by foot.

There was a text from Alan:

Ricky’s phone is not passing on messages but accepts texts. Mine works but am low on electricity.

For three guys working with the cutting edges of technology so far we’re not doing very well trying to keep in touch over something as simple as meeting up for a couple of hours. Pity help the institutions that we work for!

Alan Vance and a salt cellar

A couple of hours later Jane and pulled out of South Queensferry having had a lovely, laid back evening that had been filled with laughter, photographs of a salt cellar (see right) but mostly watching Alan eat his takeaway Chinese meal, and then eat the half of Rick’s that he had left.

Friends are great!

Greener electronics

Guide to greener electronics

I knew there was a reason that I liked Nokia and Lenovo so much: they’re greener than almost every other big-name electronics firms out there. But they still have a way to go.

I picked up this story back in April on the PC Pro website: Lenovo out in front in green race. It’s sat in my “to blog” folder ever since.

How green is your gadget?

It was referring to an electronics guide from Greenpeace where they assigned points (out of ten) to the major mobile and PC manufacturers based on their global policies and practices on eliminating harmful chemicals and on taking responsibility for their products once they are discarded by consumers.

In August 2006 Lenovo were sitting at the bottom of the league in a very sorry 14th place (of 14). Within seven months however, the Chinese company who bought out the PC-manufacturing arm of IBM, had managed to completely turn around their green credentials and were leading with 8/10.

From December 2006 to March 2007 the advertisers’ favourite Apple were bottom of the league on only 3/10. By June 2007 the situation was a little different: Apple had moved to a little over 5/10, making Sony the worst — having not moved at 4/10. While Lenovo had slid to about 7.5, with Nokia overtaking at 8/10.

Top 14

The standings as of June 2007 sit at:

  1. Nokia (8)
  2. Dell (7.3)
  3. Lenovo (7.3)
  4. Sony Ericsson (7)
  5. Samsung (6.7)
  6. Motorola (6.7)
  7. Toshiba (6)
  8. Fujitsu-Siemens (6)
  9. Acer (5.7)
  10. Apple (5.3)
  11. HP (5.3)
  12. Panasonic (5)
  13. LGE (4.3)
  14. Sony (4)

Something certainly to bear in mind when choosing a new PC, laptop, mobile phone or other shiny gadget.

You can read Greenpeace’s Guide to Green Electronics online.