Archive for August, 2021


August 24, 2021

The novel by Sebastian Faulks (1993)

I picked up this novel of the First World War in the airport on my way to Australia in 1997. I got so wrapped up in it that I finished it at dawn in a grass hut on the beach on the tiny island of Ko Phi Phi in The Andaman Sea. I immediately wrote in my diary: “Jack and Stephen, and my grandfather Arthur, died tragic and unnecessary deaths in Flanders Fields so long ago. It’s up to us , their vastly more fortunate descendants and beneficiaries, to live the good, and perhaps even great, lives that were so cruelly snatched away from them. As from tomorrow I’ll…..”

Birdsong’ has got it all: lust, curiosity, despair, love, courage, terror, kindness, puzzlement, characters one really comes to care about, and an ending worthy of the whole. I don’t think you’ll ever forget it. I certainly can’t.


August 23, 2021

Human Time and Clock Time are far from the same.

CLOCK TIME AND HUMAN TIME Mike Disney (originally 2001)

Old people know that each year slips by faster than the last. What may seem an age to a young boy, to his grandfather may feel no more than a month. Human time and Calendrical time not only seem different, they are different. Only an accident of history has given them both the same label, the same name. An extra year of life at age 80 is by no means as precious as a year lost when you are 20. Old age prolonged by medical science is no great gift; young life cut off in its prime is a tragedy. Why then do we count time only by the ticks of a mechanical clock, or the artificial marks on a calendar? Let us compute time as it really seems to be to us as sentient beings, not as it is to some blind watch that will go on ticking on our wrist even after we are dead.

Human time is surely logarithmic, that is to say that a year when you are twenty seems like a twentieth of a lifetime but only a sixtieth when you are sixty. That being so it is possible to compute one’s human age, as it feels, as against Calendrical or Clock time as follows:

Clock age above in years versus [Human age ] in years below.

Table A

On the upper row is somebody’s age in Calendrical, i.e. Clock Time, on the bottom, in square brackets, their Human Age as they really feel it. Look at the dramatic differences, particularly in childhood and old age. A boy who really feels like a young adult [25] is still a young child of only 10 by the Clock. A maturing woman of [37] is still counted by the clock as an immature teenager of only 15, although by then in the natural age before ‘civilization’ she would have been rearing children of her own. Then look at old age. In living Calendrically from 70 to 90 the old person has gained only [6] years of real life. It can be very comforting to a family who have just lost a beloved member at the all too young age of calendrical 40 say to realise that in human terms they were [58] years old and thus had enjoyed most of their real life.

And we can invert the Table:

Table B

Human Age (above) versus Clock age below

which shows only too vividly how childhood crawls in Calendrical Time but accelerates out of control in Human Old age.

The use of the word “Time” to describe two entirely different concepts is purely a convention with all sorts of unintended consequences, many of them very unfortunate in my opinion. In the modern world childhood is grossly undervalued; children are rushed off into care so that their parents can go out to work all hours to earn pensions for their comparatively worthless old age. That’s pretty obvious when you think about it. Our whole values system is being twisted. Likewise humans are nowadays expected to spend their first 24 years or so at ‘schools’ of various kinds which means that by the time they get out into the real world they are almost [50] years of age. What a waste, what a tragedy!

The invention of tic-toc time was a very useful modern development [largely driven by the railway system in the Victorian age] which enabled us to organize all manner of great things from assignations to concerts to airline tables. What would we do without it? But who said it ever should have had anything to do with Human Time? That simply happened by accident. I believe we should all ponder very deeply about this. Very deeply indeed. A new word to describe tic-toc time is needed to distinguish it from the real thing. Time is a profoundly mysterious concept, as scientists recognize. Assumed to be Absolute in Newton’s physics, we now know it is nothing of the kind.

If you want to follow the simple calculation which enables one to convert between the two types of age and time go to the url:


August 21, 2021


This post is so titled because it stands for “THINKING FOR OURSELVES-ADDITIONS” where “Thinking for Ourselves” refers to my book with that title originally published in 2020 and updated in 2021 (For details see elsewhere under ‘My Books’ Category or under Tags on ‘Thinking’.) But from now on I want the book to become live, so that it can be continually updated here on line. Here you will find Exercises with Answers, corrections, images, calculations, supporting data, more detailed and improved arguments, readers comments with my responses to what is intended to become what I call ‘A LIVING BOOK’.See at the bottom of this Post how to make such Comments.

All the additions are shown below, mostly under a Chapter number and page number in the paperback book, version 2021.



at the following url:


         I finished the book 3 years ago with the surprising but triumphal discovery of Categorical Inference – which connects the whole scheme for Common Sense Thinking so naturally and necessarily with Animal Thinking and Evolution. And IF it’s right it could change the world.

         At that point I sometimes get struck with what  I believe they call ‘Imposter Syndrome’– how could little me have unearthed a powerful scheme entirely missed by giants such as Francis Bacon, Isaac Newton and Albert Einstein? It doesn’t seem likely does it?

         But then I look at some of its manifest achievements such as:

  • Explaining Humankind’s dramatic leap in mental capability around 1000 BC.
  • Its unique mechanism for balancing conflicting evidence, as illustrated with its success with Hidden Galaxies.
  • A first transparent and convincing explanation for Ockham’s Razor.
  • Its powerful mechanism (PAW) for dealing with Systematic Errors, which have kept us back so many times  for so long.
  • It’s perfect dovetailing into Animal Thinking and Darwinian Evolution.
  • The multiple new insights which spring from it – see this blog and my other book “History of the Brits’ [HOB ch.5]. For instance  it comes up with the keys to human Progress, what I call ‘The Seven Pillars of Wisdom’ .

So then I am reassured. But, but……Why little me again? All I can say to myself, and to potential readers is :

 “It was bloody minded doggedness more than anything else. I started out with the modest ambition to find out what I believed was already known  –  the Scientific Method, only to find to my surprise that it was not, but that it probably had something to do with Common Sense, but that hadn’t been defined either. So I asked myself a different question: ‘How could animals think?’ and thereafter progress became relatively rapid  because now I could entirely  ignore Philosophy, Mathematics and Religion.

So I didn’t have to be a genius, which I definitely am not. And one doesn’t have to be a genius to make a great discovery. Look at Darwin – he spent the first  30 years  of his idle life slaughtering wild creatures for fun. Basically he was an illiterate lout – but he stumbled upon the greatest scientific discovery of all because he happened to be in the right place at the right time – the Galapagos Islands  in 1838. But he was only there because his exasperated father had sent him out there as a punishment, saying “You wouldn’t even make a decent rat-catcher.” Indeed there’s little evidence of ‘genius’ in science more generally [ See Chapter 3 of TFO to see how great discoveries have been made in history] – so even if I’m not a genius , TFO  could still be right.”


As of 21/8/21 there are only 2 because I have just made two dozen corrections to the original paperback edition.They are

P 302: replace ‘Sherman’ with ‘Pershing’.

P 456, line 7: replace 13 with 23.

But the most important of those for purchasers of the older editions are at:


CHAPTER 1 (‘Can we learn to think better?’) p 15

CHAPTER 2 (‘Different kinds of Thinking’) p25

CHAPTER 3 (‘How do Scientists Think?) p46

CHAPTER 4 (‘Natural Thinking and Bayes’ Rule’) p95

There are several Posts on the fascinating subject of ‘Galaxies’ , including ‘Hidden Galaxies’, in the ‘Astronomy’ Category here, with many images.

CHAPTER 5 (‘The Detective’s Equation’) p132

CHAPTER 6 (‘Numbers and Thinking’) p154

CHAPTER 7 (‘Woolly Thinking and Ockham’s Razor’) p170

There are several posts here on ‘Big Bang Cosmology’ — which I use as a case study in dodgy thinking, under the ‘Astronomy’ Category’.

CHAPTER 8 (‘Common Sense’) p198

CHAPTER 9 (‘Error Analysis’) p236

CHAPTER 10 (‘Systematic Errors, The Elephants in the Room’) p268

CHAPTER 11 (‘Statistics – or Terror Analysis’) p294

Statisticians turned themselves from humble clerks into a dogmatic priesthood based on several misunderstandings, on their part. They need to be put firmly back on their stools. Having spent 30 years trying to teach Statistics at university, I gradually came to realise that the profession has got itself hopelessly lost in the No-man’s land between Induction and Deduction. Look what confusing advice they have given to the government over the Covid pandemic, They’re not scientists, they’re mostly priests, who hide behind higher mathematics when they are challenged. See Post “Statistics: exposed at last” under ‘Thinking’ Category.

CHAPTER 12 (‘Persuasion’) p342 t

CHAPTER 13 (‘Poor Thinking’) p357

CHAPTER 14 (‘The Extraordinary History of Thinking’) p407

CHAPTER 15 (‘The Peculiarities of Science’) p451

In Sect (15:12) ‘What about Mathematics’ I only gave some modest examples because I didn’t want to frighten off non-mathematical readers but on this site its maybe worth drawing attention to some more spectacular examples. For instance on pp 471-472 I then failed to recognise the full and dramatic implications of mathematics when applied to immigration: basically because immigrants arrive every year, while children arrive only a couple of times or so in a female’s life, immigration is no less than 160 times more significant than natural birthrate when it comes to population increase! Thus immigration into the UK at present is equivalent to 3 British mothers out of 4 having an extra child! If you don’t believe me, and I found it very difficult to believe it myself, you should consult the url:

Then the modern world, including radio, broadcasting, television, Relativity, satellites, mobile phones, the internet…. were all implicit in a set of equations derived by two Brits in the 19th century, James Clerk Maxwell and Oliver Heaviside. You don’t have to understand the equations in detail but one can certainly admire a human artefact millions of times more momentous than either The Rosetta Stone or Tutenkamun’s Tomb. See:

CHAPTER 16 (‘Consequences and the Ascent of Mankind’) p476

On p486 there is a very brief discussion of Time. If you want to see a deeper discussion of a profound topic see the Post “WHAT IS TIME?” under the Category ‘Thinking’. Those who want to look deeper into TIME can look at the Post ‘MAXWELL’S EQUATIONS’ (under ‘Thinking’ Category )which explains why Relativity has changed our view that Time is absolute; it’s not, according to physicists. Even so Time is still a great mystery; there seem to be several different kinds of time. all mistakenly labelled with the same four lettered word.



APPENDICES pp 547 to 604

INDEX p612


August 7, 2021

Of the 5000 plus novels I must have read in my 80 years as a reader only one thriller gets the ultimate 5 -star accolade “Riddle of the Sands” by Erskine Childers, published first in 1903. I just love that story of a couple of Edwardian yachtsmen who sail in their tiny ‘Dulcibella’ to the Friesian islands off the North German coast only to discover evidence that the Kaiser is planning to invade England. It’s a great read, not least because Childers had sailed up though the islands himself in a tiny boat, and on into the Baltic. The log of that intrepid cruise provided all the tang and colour to make readers feel they are aboard too, reefing sails, getting lost in the maze of lonely channels, running aground, and kedging off again on a rising tide. I’ve read it half a dozen times at least, and I’ll read it again. It’s better than a sailing holiday. Really. It never palls.

Back about 2000 I was poking about in a bookstall at the Southampton Boat Show when I saw a biography of the author [ “Erskine Childers” by Jim Ring; John Murray, 1996] and bought it because I vaguely knew that Childers had led an extraordinarily adventurous life which ended with his execution in 1922, by the Irish Government. How many men have written best-selling novels, been decorated for gallantry by the Royal Navy, run guns for the IRA , advised several Prime Ministers including Lloyd George, and Eamonn de Valera, and been shot as a traitor? So I bought the book, which at once became, and remains, my favourite biography of all the many thousands I must have read. Jim Ring, not a professional writer, became obsessed with Childers and his colourful life, and has painted a portrait worthy of the man. As a soldier, sailor, writer, patriot, airman, lover, politician, yachtsman, and man of principle Childers led the fullest life imaginable. John Buchan, who knew a bit about such things, said of Childers: “No revolution ever produced a nobler or purer spirit”. If you read The Riddle of the Sands first, then Jim Ring’s biography of its author, I bet you won’t forget either.