Posts Tagged ‘history’


June 26, 2021

In his famous essay on ‘The Two Cultures” CP Snow pointed to the yawning divide in British Culture between Science and the Humanities. It’s still there, just as crippling as it was 60 years ago.

I was reminded of this when I started reading “The Boundless Sea – a human history of the oceans” by David Abulafia a professor of history at Cambridge University (Penguin 2019), a book which has attracted extravagant praise as well as The Wolfson History Prize for 2020. It’s a subject that has fascinated me since, as a boy, I read Thor Heyerdahl’s account of the Kon Tiki expedition — his raft trip across the Pacific in 1947 to explore his hypothesis that Polynesia might have been settled from South America.

That hypothesis gradually sank into disrepute following accumulating anthropological and genetic evidence suggesting that Polynesia was in fact settled not from the East but from the North by navigators of Asian descent. But then in 2020 came better DNA evidence showing that at least some South Americans had arrived in the Marquesas with their plants around 1150 AD. What has Abulafia to say about this evidence? On p 29 he writes that it:”… indicates that Polynesians from the Marquesas interbred with people from Columbia around 1150, most plausibly suggesting that Polynesians reached and returned from South America bringing Columbians and their seeds and tubers along with them.”

Heyerdahl’s balsa raft Kon Tiki sailing West from South America to Polynesia down the West Wind Drift powered by the Coriolis Force . Notice she’s got the wind behind her, as well as a current of 50 miles a day driven by the wind. Courtesy the Heyerdahl Museum in Norway.

What? Doesn’t Abulafia understand the winds and currents which would make such a hypothetical voyage thousands of times more difficult than Heyerdahl’s journey? Surely he understands the Coriolis Force which drives the Great West Wind Drift and indeed nearly all the voyages of exploration and trade around the globe in the days of sail?

So I skip to the Index, all of 63 pages long containing no less than 9,500 entries . No mention of Coriolis Force, and only one brief one to Trade winds, but not in the Pacific Ocean. But what about the maps, of which there are dozens and dozens? The Oceanic waters are entirely blank, no sign of the all-important currents and winds which drove and circumscribed all navigators in the days of sail.

One can only conclude that Abulafia either doesn’t know, or doesn’t understand the bearing of Science on the Oceans, a bit steep when he is writing a “Human history of the Oceans”. It’s like a geography text-book which omits all mention of mountains and rivers. The result is a timid history without any sweep or penetration, just another record of ‘One damn thing after another’ like his earlier book on the Mediterranean “The Great Sea” which I did manage to finish — just.

One could be more forgiving if Abulafia hadn’t been so condescending towards Heyerdahl , referring to him as a “self publicist” unworthy of his fame in Norway. Thor Heyerdahl wasn’t a timid academic, he was brave man who risked his life to explore his own imaginative idea — which as it happens, — turns out to be substantially right.

Abulafia’s egregious failure illustrates the folly of attempting history without comprehending or even taking notice of Science. And the extravagant praise for his book from other historians, and the award of the Wolfson Prize, can only suggest that such incestuos myopia is widespread in British academe. How can we rely on them when they must be writing for each other, and not for us?

But there’s a more general point here. It’s much easier to spot what is wrong with an argument than to spot what is missing from it. For instance the Scottish National Party is aiming to take Scotland out of the UK, without recognising that Scotland, with its 6000 miles of remote coastline, is indefensible on its own, but secure as part of a united island. How foolish. We islanders all need to sit up and take notice of that!


April 29, 2021



The invention of the phonetic script about three and a half thousand years ago enabled humans to suddenly think about a million times better, and they took off. Likewise the invention of a script for thinking quantitatively, that is to say Mathematics , could lead to thinking of a different kind that is just as powerful. In fact it has already: Maxwell’s Equations (ME).

Some arguments are of a purely quantitative nature. For instance in our post “Civilization and Moonpower” we demonstrated that large cities not dependent on slavery only became feasible once tidal energy was harnessed, as was possible in North Western Europe, where it is far more abundant than elsewhere. Here I talk about the most momentous piece of Mathematics ever done, Maxwell’s Equations.

Maxwell’s Equations describe the interaction between Electricity, Magnetism, Space and Time. They were an attempt to write down the experimental findings of the ‘electricians’ Hans-Christian Oersted (1820) and Michael Faraday (1831) but they led to a totally unexpected insight, and thus to the modern world: “Electromagnetic waves can propagate across empty space at the speed of light”.

Out of that insight (1864) there was to come Radio (1887), Transatlantic wireless (1901), Relativity (1904), Electronics (1912), Broadcasting (1920), Television (1930), Code-breaking (1930’s onward), Radar (1935), Microwaves (1940), The Electronic Computer (1943), Communication Satellites (1960), Space Travel (1969), The Internet (1980), Mobile Phones (2000). … while the Second World War could as aptly be called ‘The Radio War’ because it was started by Radio ( broadcast hate propaganda), controlled by radio (e.g. Churchill and Roosevelt talking to their peoples), won by radar in its many guises both in defence and attack, and lost by code-breaking ( e.g. : the battles of Midway and Kursk). A huge operation like the D-Day landing would have been unthinkable without the command and control made possible by radio.

Einstein is rightly famous for his E=mc2 equation (1905) but in a sense he and others (for he was only one of several) were only adding footnotes to Maxwel’s Equations which in themselves prove that Space and TIme cannot be at all as we had thought them to be.

So what are Maxwell’s Equations? There are 4 of them actually and you can write them out in different ways using rather different vocabularies. Textbooks on Electromagnetism can make them look both galumphing and arbitrary, when, as I believe, they are inevitable; the world couldn’t have been constructed in any other way. I find that both beautiful and totally unexpected. They, and the many stories behind them, are certainly worth having a look at even if you have no ambitions to use them yourself. You can regard them like The Rosetta Stone, as a wonder to behold, though they are far far more remarkable and momentous than that iconic stone. If you don’t believe me look at:

Yes they do look unfamiliar, even frightening, but that’s probably because you’ve been put off Mathematics by bad teaching.The world is full of Baducation and bad ideas . And one of the most debilitating , which goes back to the Ancient Greeks, is the notion that “Mathematics is Deductive in Nature”, and therefore quite different from our normal everyday Common Sense Thinking , which is Inductive. But that is a complete misconception. It’s as if the Maths teaching profession have mistaken the grocery- bill for the groceries. Don’t take my word for it: Morris Kline, that most eminent Historian of Mathematics wrote: ” “Mathematics is a human activity and is subject to all the foibles and frailties of humans. Any formal, logical account is pseudo-mathematics, a fiction, even a legend, despite the element of reason.” [‘Mathematics, The Loss of Certainty, ‘ OUP, 1986]

So many of us have been put off maths because we’ve been taught it back to front by the maths- teaching profession: deduction first, intuition afterwards. No wonder so many of us rebel. If you look at the following url you can see the Theorem that “The angles in any triangle add up to two right angles‘ being taught in the two alternative ways so that you can judge which is best for yourself:

The consequence of all this innumeracy are fairly tragic. Most of us are innumerate and, in my opinion, innumerate people can never become wise, not any more, not in the modern world( see all the current confusion over Covid vaccination statistics). The great news is that innumeracy is by no means irreversible. Maths is a subject peculiarly suited to self-instruction over the Internet. I suggest that everyone who earns a certificate of numeracy receives an immediate grant of £15,000 while many prestige professions and jobs be reserved entirely for the numerate. Thus a large fraction of a population could become numerate at a trivial cost by comparison with many infrastructure projects. And surely widespread wisdom is more desirable than say more runways. It’s probably no accident that the most numerate people on Earth (the Japanese) are also the wealthiest (UN figures).

The consequences of all this innumeracy are fairly tragic. Most of us are innumerate, and in my opinion innumerate people can never become wise, not any more, not in the modern world ( see all the current confusion over Covid. vaccination Statistics). The good news is that innumeracy is by no means irreversible. Maths is a subject especially suited to self instruction over the internet. I suggest that everyone who can earn a certificate of numeracy receive an immediate cash award of £15,000, while many prestige jobs and professions should be reserved for the numerate. Thus much of a population could become numerate at a trivial cost: Widespread wisdom is surely more desirable than say more runways. It is probably no accident that the most numerate people on Earth (the Japanese) are also the wealthiest (UN figures).http://Baducation

If you would like to see a wide-ranging discussion of numeracy and innumeracy in the British context, taken from my book ‘History of the Brits’ (Amazon 2020) you might like to click on:

If you want to see a wide-ranging discussion of Numeracy in the British context you might like to click on:

Anyway , for those who can appreciate them, Maxwell’s Equations are every bit as beautiful as great music, prose or poetry . They enable us to hear , in Tennyson’s words “…the horns of elfland faintly blowing….”


November 18, 2020

Evolution is a painfully slow process. Modifications from generation to generation are generally imperceptible. How come then that humankind can launch telescopes into Space while our cousin the Chimpanzee, with whom we share 98% of our genes, is still struggling to crack nuts in the jungle? No wonder thoughtful people have invoked Divine Intervention, or the arrival of wisdom from elsewhere by interstellar spacecraft (Arthur C Clarke in the story/film “2001”) . If we are not to believe in miracles then we are faced with a fearsome puzzle: ‘How have we become so clever so quickly?

Had aliens come to the Earth a mere 10,000 years ago they would have had no good grounds for believing that humans would soon erect Santa Sofia, build Venice on piles in the Lagoon, devise the Hay-on-Wye Festival, organise the D-day landings, get to the Moon or launch the Hubble Space Telescope. In a blink of an eye in evolutionary terms, a marginal species has so come to dominate the Earth that we now worry that we will damage it irreparably. The zoologist Peter Medawar wrote: “For all their intelligence and dexterity. — qualities we have always attached great importance to — the higher primates (monkeys, apes and men ) have not been very successful. Human beings have a history of more than 500,000 years. Only during the last 5000 years or thereabouts have they begun to be, in a biological sense, a success.”

Then again the more we learn about other animals the harder it is to believe that we are much smarter than some of them. Jane Goodall found that we are by no means the only tool users; Cetaceans hunt collectively; birds navigate the globe precisely in ways we do not understand while crows can solve puzzles that defeat many humans. So it doesn’t look as if we are that much smarter than some other creatures….. and yet. Then again our advance has happened so recently, and spread so quickly. That sounds more like something cultural to me than organic Evolution. What trick have we learned in the last few thousand years or so that could boost our thinking capacity by a factor of something like a million? Finding it is not merely a colossal challenge, it may be the very clue we need to establish how we actually think. Explaining that factor of a million will be the acid test for any proposal which claims to understand Common Sense Thinking (CST).

After studying how scientists appear to think I found that we almost certainly use a method based on The Detective’s Equation. Now look hard at that Equation. Doesn’t it give you an idea?

The DETECTIVE’S EQUATION and its potential implications for the Miraculous Ascent of mankind, Can you work out the secret? It’s staring us in the face. Mind you it took me months to see it. But you have got an extra clue in the format of this script.

Yes it was WRITING! With it we were suddenly able to handle 10 or more clues instead of the 2 or 3 we could when we were illiterate. And in an EXPONENTIAL process like the Detective’s Equation that can make a difference of order millions. If you don’t believe me study the following Table of Odds derived from that Equation:

Our Cat346464:1 Decisive in favour
Me 3464Decisive
Me & pen104MillionsVery Decisive
Me & pen101.560Decisive with confused Evidence
Team & pens15230,000Very Decisive with confusing evidence
Team & pens 151.525,000Ditto but more confusing
Research Community251.2100Decisive even with Very confused evidence
Decisiveness values for different numbers of clues with different average Weights per clue. If the Av’s were less than 1 the Odds would be equally decisive but against; for instance if N were 10 but the average weight were 1/4, the Odds would be millions to one against the hypothesis H.

Recall that [‘Principle of Animal Wisdom’ or PAW] individual Weights can only take the values 4, 2, I, 1/2 or 1/4 so their averages in a particular investigation could take any value between 4.0 and 0.25. Where the evidence is confused or conflicting that average will tend towards zero as the various clues cancel one another out. Even so, with enough clues (N), we could still come to a decisive view regarding H, whatever H might be.

So I am suggesting that the Miraculous Ascent of Humankind can be ascribed entirely to our development of writing.

To back up that suggestion note:

(a) It fits almost perfectly into the chronology. The earliest phonetic script appears on the sarcophagus of the King of Biblos, a port in Phoenicia just North of present day Beirut and dated about 1200 BC. According to Herodotus, about 800 BC Cadmus took this script to the Greeks who modified it considerably, to include vowels (previously ‘understood’) and reversed it to write left to right. About 600 AD, via Etruria, it reached the Latinas, fore-runners of the Romans; and so we were off. Previous non-phonetic scripts were probably not flexible enough for sophisticated thinking, as well as being confined to a tiny priestly cast because so many glyphs were needed, thousands instead of tens.

Phonetic scripts, Phoenician in the centre, Greek first Left, Latin second; Persian first Right, Arabic second. The great similarities suggest that phonetic script was invented only once, probably around 1500 BC somewhere near Biblos in what is now the Lebanon. Courtesy Wikpedia, in which there are many fine articles on the history of scripts and languages,

(b) To demonstrate to yourself just how vital writing is to thinking, try to do a puzzle such as a Sudoku, a Crossword or a Codeword, without writing anything down. It can’t be done. As Einstein put it: “My pen and I are smarter than I am.”

(c) Daniel Boorstin the American scholar wrote: “I write to discover what I think.” Me too.

(d) Large or complex projects are absolutely dependant on documentation. It may be a pain in the arse but it is indispensable. For instance I was a member of the Hubble Space Telescope project for 35 years. So many teams were involved, so many individuals passed in and out of each team, so many subsystems relied upon one another, so many modifications were and had to be made that, without precise and regularly updated records, the whole thing would have been impossible. For instance Wide Field Camera One was vital, and depended on its CCD detectors. But when the first batch got ruined they couldn’t be replaced because the highly skilled technician at Texas Instruments who had ‘thinned’ them had gone off to have a baby and no one could either repeat her feat or find her. Had there been relevant documentation……. Likewise the effectiveness of your treatment by the NHS will be entirely dependent on the medical records that are meant to follow you around. It’s not bureaucracy, it is the indispensable accumulation of relevant information.

(e) If writing is all that makes us so smart we can no longer suppose that we are smarter than many other illiterate animals, be they chimpanzees or pelicans [see below]. Perhaps we should leave more room for them on this planet?

(f) There are so many fascinating and sometimes profound connections between Writing and Thinking, that one could write a whole book about them: in fact I have [see Thinking for Ourselves under Category My Books]. But let me mention just one last one here. The human need for Certainty gave rise to both Deduction (Logic ) on the one hand and Dogma (religion) on the other. But with Common Sense Thinking, allied with Writing, we no longer need either because, at least in principle we could reach sufficiently high Odds for or against any hypothesis to act on it with safety.

Being short this has to be a fairly superficial post. But you can follow up the rationality for the Detective’s Equation and Weights at:

or in my aforementioned book Thinking for Ourselves (see ‘my books’ Category here). I also have a couple of essays about really smart animals who have taught me much including ‘Our Jack‘ about the young Jackdaw who shared my life for a short while at:

and ‘Browning and the Cockatoos‘ about a troop of Cockatoos which outsmarted the smartest guy in Canberra, which is at:


November 1, 2020

Around 2000, after I had been working in Australia for 6 months, several friends came to Sydney airport to see me off back to Britain. They all commiserated with me , having to return to such a dreadful place where it rained all the time and the sun never came out (to say nothing of the awful food). ‘Wait a moment’ I thought to myself ‘I love living there’.

That would have been the end of it, but then the flight was delayed for 9 bloody hours. So I sat in the lounge and pondered the question : “Which is the best location on Earth to live — geographically speaking?”

I tried to be objective and to list the most desirable features one by one. Six weeks later I had a very clear and surprising answer — Britain. What delayed me most was the matter of climate — which led to a fascinating detour into the subject of ‘Human Thermodynamics’ which I had to more or less invent for myself.

I was shocked by the answer. I had suspected that the final choice would alight on somewhere close to the Mediterranean, in Southern France perhaps, or Tuscany. Not so; it was clearly and unequivocally Britain, not even Ireland, and I have never had cause to change my mind since.

Of course we are talking entirely about geography here, not history, politics or culture — which are all far too subjective.

If you want to see why Britain is so preferred, and unique, take a look at:

whilst Human Thermodynamics, and the choice of an optimum climate, has a post of its own elsewhere on this site


October 31, 2020

We were all suckered in by the myth that America joined Britain in WWII to ‘Save Western Democracy’. Instead it appears that America was suckered into Pearl Harbour by the KGB — which wanted to release Russia’s Manchurian army to save Moscow from the Nazis — which it did.

What America really wanted to do was make vast amounts of money out of that world war, as it had out of the first, by picking both Britain’s and Russia’s pockets. Which it did. How else did America emerge so humungously rich from that war, and Britain so raggedly poor? Britain was still paying off its war debts to the US (for the First WW!) as late as 2015 whilst America’s total Marshall Aid Plan to Britain, so much trumpeted, amounted to barely one per cent of Britain’s losses. And at Bretton Woods in 1944 America forced Britain to give up Imperial Preferences, the basis of its economic success in the 1930s. It’s no accident that the almighty dollar has ruled the financial world ever since.

Then America shamelessly picked Britain’s brains to become, what it certainly was not before — an industrial superpower. Amongst many other gems, it got its hands on: the Cavity Magnetron, the Atomic Bomb, Anti-biotics, the jet engine, solid-state amplifiers (which led to the transistor), Electronic computing, Operational Research, sophisticated Code-breaking, the Proximity fuse, Asymmetric gears…… All Britain asked in return. was the Nordern bombsight — which Roosevelt personally refused to them for what he said were “political reasons”.

In 1946 the US passed The McMahon Act, depriving Britain of access to the atomic bomb — which Britain had largely taught the Americans how to build. It was a foul act of treachery, though we couldn’t say so at the time, which left Western Europe at the mercy of Stalin’s vast tank army poised on the plains of Germany, and of America’s goodwill. So poor Britain had to hastily cobble together a deterrent of its own.

When I was researching The Battle of the Atlantic for my forthcoming book about that titanic encounter (“Strangle“) I became more and more puzzled by the US Navy’s enigmatic role in it. One could even ask whose side they were on. Roosevelt’s stooge, and head of the USN, the incompetent Admiral Ernest J King, made no bones about hating the British, and without reason or warning pulled his forces out of the North Atlantic just as the crux of the battle was approaching. There is still much to ponder on here.

So Britain won the war, but America won the peace.

Of course America was perfectly entitled to an anti-British foreign policy, and to extract vast sums out of Britain if it could and which it did. After all there were large numbers of Irish, German and Italian Americans who had no good reason to want a British victory. Before Cburchill got rid of him, Joe Kennedy, the US ambassador to London, and JFK’s father, did all he could to get Britain to yield to Hitler. But it seems to me that the Brits need to wake up, forget all that hogwash which emanates from Hollywood, and stop talking nonsense about a “Special Relationship”. That was a piece of pure Churchillian rodomontade.

I have to admit that all this rather shocked me when I looked into it, because personally I owe America a lot and have some very good friends over there. And I would be the first to admit that it is controversial. But almost all my sources here are American. You can find references to them in a chapter entitled ‘The Baleful Shadow of America’ from my book History of the Brits, which is here:

Yes there’s much to chew over here. Let’s chew.


October 29, 2020

The world is full of bad arguments, the resentments they cause, and the messes they leave behind. I have recently discovered a far better way to argue, which I want to share.

Serious Thinking amounts to having an argument with oneself — looking at the evidence, weighting the various clues, then coming to a measured conclusion — if the combined Odds look good enough. There’s no need to become angry with oneself in the process. So why do we sometimes get angry with someone else who disagrees with us about Brexit say or Immigration?

I am a scientist who has spent the past 20 years trying to find out exactly how successful scientists think. And now I know. It turns out that they use “Categorical Inference (CI)” which I will describe shortly. The point is that if Categorical Inference is the way to think successfully it should also be the way to argue successfully , where ‘successful’ doesn’t mean ‘winning’ but arriving at the correct conclusion.

I suspect that we sometimes get angry with our opponents in a conventional argument because we imagine that they are trying to cheat us by using illegitimate tactics. That may sometimes be the the case but most often it is because we cannot see how they have arrived at their conclusions, just as they cannot see how we could possibly have arrived at ours. In other words the conventional process of argumentation is insufficiently transparent.

But that is only part of the problem. A second bone of contention is the Weighting of the different pieces of evidence (Clues). At present one side can pick a certain clue and then weight it so heavily as to claim victory, whatever the other side might have to say. That cannot be either productive, or right. Finally there has to be a sensible way of putting all the clues, with their chosen Weights, together so as to arrive at their Combined Odds one way or the other. All these things Categorical Inference does, and has been doing for millions of years, for CI is nothing more or less than Common Sense (CS) — the main survival mechanism of all us creatures on Earth. It is just that we humans have latterly allowed Culture, Religion and Baducation to overwhelm it.

Let me give one dramatic, and ultimately tragic example: ‘Ludendorff’s Lie’. General von Ludendorff was the brilliant but unstable commander of the Kaiser’s armies in the First World War. In August 1918 those armies were comprehensively defeated in front of Amiens by the combined French and British Commonwealth forces, and recoiled in irreversible retreat towards Berlin. Ludendorff panicked , rang up his prime minister and demanded that the government conclude an armistice at once, before Germany was occupied. But after the Armistice he claimed that his brave armies hadn’t been defeated at all, but had been ‘stabbed in the back’ by the civil government. A lot of angry Germans, including Corporal Hitler, believed him, and so the war had to be fought all over again in 1939, with tragic consequences for everyone, including Germany.

Now the point here is that a single clue — which happened to be false — carried enough Weight to plunge an entire continent into war. But there is a lot of misleading evidence out there in the world, not all of it deliberately false. In any productive argument there has to be a mechanism for curbing its influence, and in Categorical Inference there is; I call it ‘The Principle of Animal Wisdom‘ (PAW for short). Without PAW our species would never have survived.

If I am right in suggesting that Categorical Inference is an extremely ancient mechanism which evolved many millions of years ago among our animal forbears, then it must be pretty straightforward and indeed it is. In fact it was so bloody simple that I missed it altogether until I’d finished my Thinking book and had to go back and add it in retrospectively (Appendix 9). So let us look at a short outline of CI which can be found at:

If we don’t know how to argue dispassionately, either we will hold a passionate argument — seldom fruitful — or we will avoid the argument altogether, which could be even worse. Thus finding out how to argue dispassionately was an intensely liberating experience for me. Now I am prepared to discuss tendentious matters which I would have shied away from before. Let’s look at an example.

One of my family, who was being taught history at his school in Hackney, passionately claimed that “The Brits should be utterly ashamed of their empire”. I wasn’t so sure so I decided to put the evidence together using Categorical Inference and here is what turned out: an Inference Table which you can examine here:

In this context it doesn’t matter whether you agree or disagree with the conclusion. But you can see there is at least a transparent procedure for carrying out an argument about such a tendentious matter. You can examine all my chosen clues, the Weights I have attached to them, and the Odds for or against, building up in the final column. The vital PAW enters in preventing me from attaching a Weight of more than 4 in favour any clue , or of less than 1/4 against.

These rules for dispassionate arguing are no more and no less than the rules for wise thinking (Common Sense) laid out in black and white. Subconsciously perhaps, great scientists have followed them because they know that in the natural world evidence frequently conflicts, whilst even the strongest appearing clues may later prove to be unsound. For instance the evidence used to dismiss Evolution, namely that the Earth was far too young, turned out, once radioactivity was discovered, to be spectacularly wrong.

If we can’t all learn to argue dispassionately, then when is mankind ever going to move on?

There is a more detailed discussion of CI at:

but if you really want to delve into thinking and arguing, along with their entangled history, then you might like to look at my book Thinking For Ourselves which is intended to be accessible to everyone . It is described elsewhere on this site under the ‘My Books’ Category,.

ABOUT MY BOOK : ‘HISTORY OF THE BRITS from a scientist’s point of view’.

September 30, 2020

What we aim for, and what we can achieve, are largely determined by who we think we are, by our self-confidence. And that is as true for nations as it is for individuals. Where we British go in future will be decided by what we think about our past. So this is a history of the Brits with its eye on the future. It is different partly because it is written by a scientist who believes that technology, mathematics and science have been so crucial to history that historians without a scientific background are virtually condemned to miss the point. Think of the following: vaccination, Darwinism, universal sewage and clean water, Calculus, broadcasting, the industrial revolution, representative democracy, the telescope, organised sport, tourism, railways, megacities, the middle class, the jet engine, anti-sepsis, computing, expert committees, the abolition of slavery, electronics, nursing, the electric motor, steel, cement, steam-ships, astronavigation, chemistry, Energy, atomic theory, artificial dyes, television, refrigeration, ATMs, the atomic nucleus, , antibiotics, IVF, …… one could go on and on. They were all British developments or insights which have revolutionised mankind’s life. No other society has left such a legacy – or anything approaching it. Surely it is vital to try and understand how it came about – if only to prevent the magic spring from drying up, and that is what this book is largely about. If Ancient Greece was interesting the evolution of Britain is vastly more.

The technlogy that made civisation possible
Civilisation requires above all the transport capacity to feed and fuel great cities. The Greeks and Romans relied on slaves whose backs and spirits they broke before they were replaced by constant conquest. Not only were they brutal but they were long term unsustainable. But an ingenious alternative was to be found eventually in North Western Europe, Britain in particular: Moon power. You are looking at a Thames Sailing Barge which, with crew of only 2 men and a boy, could easily carry more than a thousand fit slaves, or more than 250 horses and carts. Thus great cities like London, Amsterdam, Antwerp, Glagow, Bruges, Rouen, Bristol and Edinburgh became possible for the first time in history; without slavery. See Chapter 2 ; Civilisation and Moon-power. The sails are mainly used to get in and out of favourable tidal streams. Powell/Alamy Live News

My main qualification to attempt a history is a lifetime spent as a Space scientist and astronomer trying to sift through and make sense of conflicting evidence. A sceptical, outsider’s point of view is essential for that, as well as a willingness to change one’s mind – which is never easy. And It helps that I have lived and worked in a dozen countries, experiences which help me to see Britain in a more impersonal light. My portrait of Britain will show her from a new angle, and so by a rather different light.

According to Einstein there is only one fruitful way to think – and that is to use Common Sense Thinking (CST). CST is essential to winnow sound conclusions out of conflicting evidence. But how does Common Sense work? They don’t teach us at school or university because scholars don’t understand it. So I go into CST in some depth before tackling vital issues which historians have almost entirely neglected. For instance: much of human activity is dominated by simple underlying mathematical principles, but conventional historians don’t ‘do’ mathematics. Thus, for example, they don’t understand why nations, including the British, have been forced into continually warring with one another. If we could understand, we might be able to stop it. Civilisation grows out of great cities, but sustainable cities require vast amounts of cheap power just to feed and fuel themselves. Why did London and Glasgow succeed where Rome and Athens failed? It was Moon-power.Why do people go to hot countries to relax, but risk their lives to come and live in cool ones? It is all to do with Thermodynamics – which dominates all of human existence. It turns out that Britain’s climate is ideal. The Armada and the Luftwaffe were both repulsed by expert committees, Britain’s greatest legacy to civilization? But why do committees work?

Healthy societies must progress; but what is Progress? Our study of CST enables us to pin down its 7 key principles, its Seven Pillars of Wisdom, which turn out to be: Curiosity, Honesty, Adaptability, Numeracy, Tolerance, Literacy and Democracy which then illuminate the whole subject and explain Britain’s uniqueness. But can it remain Progressive? Yes; but only if we thoroughly understand what those Seven Pillars of Wisdom are, and just why they work. So this is about some fundamental and fascinating issues that other historians, because of their background, or rather their lack of scientific background, have left out. Britain’s future could be either very dark; or very bright, depending on our understanding of what Progress entails. George Orwell said: “The most effective way to destroy people is to deny and obliterate their own history”. The author believes that modern Brits have allowed their history to be stolen away. It’s time to put the record straight.

This is a LIVE BOOK with a large and growing counter presence at HOB&&&, another Post on this site under the History Category. You will find much more about this book and its contents there. The paperback version of the book, with 77 kilo-words and 270 pages is available on Amazon (2020) for £10.[ ISBN – 9 – 781086157499]

                              TABLE OF CONTENTS,

Preface      Another History; What on Earth For?  p 1

Chapter 1: Geography: This Sceptred Isle    p 6   

Chapter 2: Civilisation and Moon-power     11

Chapter 3: The Royal Navy     16

Chapter 4: A Mathematical Portrait of History     19

Chapter 5: Progress: Why Nice Chaps come in First     29

Chapter 6: Committees     41

Chapter 7: Parasites.    48

Chapter 8: Can History have a  Scientific Method ?    60

Chapter 9: Why Men have  had to Fight.    71

Chapter 10: Britain in the Second World War.    81

Chapter 11: The British Empire: Achievement or Crime?     90

Chapter 12: Escaping its Priestly Chains.     98

Chapter 13: The Baleful Shadow of America.     105

Chapter 14: Half-baked Economics; the Modern Religion.      128

Chapter 15: Numeracy; the Seventh Pillar of Wisdom      146

Chapter 16: Population and Immigration:  the Numbers.     162

Chapter 17: Innovation.    182

Chapter 18 The History of Thinking.    206

Chapter 19 Mass Immigration – the Big Creep.     219

Chapter 20 Baducation.    P 235

                Retrospect and Prospect.    255

                If I had my way. 258

Chapter 21 The Superpowers Aren’t [ on line only at my post HOB&&& ]

                Au Revoir      261

                Acknowledgments   267

The paperback version [ ISBN – 9 – 781086157499] with 77 kilo-words came out on Amazon in June 2020 priced at £10.00


September 29, 2020

Why not learn to think like Einstein? He attributed his success entirely to common sense. But what is Common Sense Thinking (CST) ? They don’t tell us in class because scholars don’t know how it works; it’s buried too deep inside us. So the author, who is a Space astronomer, has spent a lifetime unearthing it. Common Sense turns out to have nothing whatever to do with IQ, or with passing exams; it has to do with Curiosity, with the deliberate gathering of evidence, with a willingness to change one’s mind, and with the patience to wait until the Odds look decisive. But these common sense thinking skills are the very skills of the detective as well as the scientist; we can all learn them if we want to, whatever our educational attainments.

 To think efficiently for ourselves we require the right information and the right tools. At last the Internet is bringing an increasing flood of the kind of information we need to make crucial decisions for ourselves, and not have to rely any longer on expensive and often unreliable experts. But do we have the right mental tools? We do and we don’t. We do because Nature has embedded deep within us the sophisticated mental mechanisms  needed to survive in the perilous Stone-age out of which we evolved. We don’t, in the sense that we don’t know how those tools work, and so we cannot adapt them for best use in a modern world full of culture and technology. The author has unearthed those ingenious and previously unrecognised tools which Nature evolved  for dealing with conflicting evidence, for discounting bad clues, and for weighing up all the pros and cons.

The aim of this book is to open nature’s tool-bag and demonstrate her mental tools working one by one. The reader will end up equipped with an indispensable boy-scout’s penknife for the thinking mind.

         The book is aimed at two kinds of readers: those who feel they are educated – and those who feel they are not. The educated ones will discover that they have not learned Common Sense Thinking at school or university, and badly need to – while the uneducated ones will find that dropping out of education is no handicap if they now decide that they do want to think seriously and well. Anyone aged 14 or over could master it.

The approach is to work through numerous stories and examples, some serious, some light-hearted, all hopefully interesting and relevant. The book is really a series of detective stories in which we learn to work out rough odds on the various suspects (ideas) being guilty.

There are plenty of exercises for those who want to practice, with worked answers available free on the Internet.

Topics covered include:

  1. Different kinds of Thinking
  2. How scientists think and decide
  3. How to weight clues
  4. How to reckon the Odds
  5. Woolly thinking
  6. The Elephants in the room (Systematic Errors)
  7. Animal Intelligence
  8. Numbers and Errors in Thinking
  9. Why we don’t need Statistics any more.
  10. Common mistakes in Thinking and Deciding
  11. The extraordinary history of Thinking
  12. What is Science, and what is not?
  13. The meteoric ascent of mankind. What on Earth happened?

There are 16 chapters. Two hours devoted to each should equip the reader with the tools needed to go about tackling the hardest mental problems in life.

The complete Table of contents can be seen here:

The paperback book came out on Amazon early in 2020, has 600+ pages, is about 190 kw. in length and is priced at £14.50 with roughly equivalent prices in foreign markets. You can see much more by using the ‘Look Inside’ feature on Amazon. The Exercises, with answers, are on the web and elsewhere in this blog at


Corrections as of June 2020 can be found at: