Posts Tagged ‘progress’

CIVILISATION AND MOONPOWER

November 2, 2020

Civilisation meant living in cities, the bigger the better. But cities need vast amounts of fuel and fuel to keep them going. But how were they to be brought in from necessarily long distances away? Athens and Rome used slaves; and failed. London and Amsterdam used Moonpower; and thrived .

The idea of Moonpower stole upon me in the oddest way. I was sailing my Drascombe Lugger up a lonely reach of Milford Haven, dusk was falling and I needed to find a snug anchorage for the night. Discovering a narrow waterway amidst some reeds I sculled up it, under some oaks until they opened out into a basin which took my breath away. It was if we’d broken into Tutenkhamuhn’s tomb by accident. Chained to its crumbling quays lay the rotting wooden ribs of an ancient fleet forgotten altogether by Time. They must once have been, I surmised, the transport system which had powered a thriving economy on the Haven, even before the days of steam. Most had vanished, but in this almost inaccessible spot their ghosts remained, settling generation by generation into the mud.

I went ashore, lit a fire and communed with that vanished age and its rotting bones ; after half a bottle of wine they seemed to stir in the moonlight as if eager to tell me their tales. They recalled boyhood days with my grandmother at Leigh-on-Sea in Essex, watching Thames Barges with their tan spritsails working the tide, carrying cargoes up from the North Sea to the Port of London in the late 1940s.

I took Bob Salt(from my Written in the Stars quartet) up there on a subsequent trip, and he was just as enchanted as I. Between us we worked out the Moon-power story, and he set it in its full historical context . Later on, at his request, we scattered his ashes among their rotting ribs. Here I attach an excerpt from Bob’s book The History of the Brits, from a Practical Man’s Point of View.

https://mjdisney.org/wp-content/uploads/2020/11/moonpower.pdf

No image remains of those old Pembrokeshire vessels, but Thames Barges were making a commercial living on the East Coast as late as 1975, and here is one:

The Thames barge Alamy racing in 2019. Such a vessel could carry up to 200 tons, 25 miles a day, using tidal streams alone. With a crew of only 2 men and a boy they plied their trade anywhere between Cornwall and the Baltic Sea . For their time they were more advanced than the 747 or the Space Shuttle. The huge leeboards allowed a shallow draft but with little leeway. The cunning spritsail rig was highly flexible yet could be handled by a tiny crew. Similar vessels were found in the Low Countries to exploit local Moonpower. Copyright Powell/Alamy Live News.

while my son Mathias took this next picture of one near Tower Bridge in 2020. London’s growth was built on maritime technology like this.

A Thames barge near the centre of London in 2020. Note how the long bowsprit (right) can be tilted upwards to take less space in busy moorings. Using only the combination of mizzen, topsail and staysail she could be manouvered into a favourable stream in a mere zephyr of air, while the boom of her main spritsail could also be used as a derrick to load and unload cargoes . But her most important system can be seen hanging from her bow. When wind and tide were against her it would be lowered ,allowing her highly skilled crew to sleep.

Bob and I believe it was Moon-power, almost completely neglected by historical scholars, which first made sustainable civilisation possible in North Western Europe, where the tides are uniquely strong.

HOW COMMON SENSE WORKS

October 23, 2020

Common Sense is our chief survival mechanism. It has seen us through a billion years of Evolution. Without it any organism would quickly go under. Watch any wild animal, even birds in your garden. They are constantly having to weigh the Odds of Opportunity versus Risk — and when they get it wrong they die.

Making decisions wisely will dictate the course of our lives: how we make a living, who to marry, where to live, how to raise our kids…… But how do we decide? Almost entirely by using Common Sense. But how does it work? They certainly don’t teach us at school or university. You might say: “But they don’t need to, we inherit Common Sense with our genes”. True enough, but today we live in such a changed world from our hairy ancestors that to apply Common Sense Thinking (CST) to it we need to understand exactly how it works. That means we have to learn concepts such as Bayes’ Gambling Rule, Categorical Inference and the Principle of Animal Wisdom (PAW)….., as anyone over the age of 14 could.

There is no room here to explain how CST works but if we look at some few of its manifold implications that might encourage readers to dig deeper:

(1) Philosophers don’t understand serious thinking — they never have. For instance the Ancient Greeks thought it was based on Deduction which, as one can demonstrate, it cannot be.

(2) If CST is an inherited survival mechanism, and we share 98 percent of our genes with chimpanzees, how come we can launch telescopes into Space while they are still struggling to crack nuts in the jungle?

(3) It turns out that, because of an invention made about three thousand years ago near Byblos in Asia Minor, humans have multiplied their capacity to use Common Sense a million-fold .

(4) If that is so, does that mean that some other animals might be, genetically speaking, just as smart as us? Very probably yes. For instance Sulphur Crested Cockatoos have solved the Population Control Problem, which seems to be alas, entirely beyond us.

(5) All serious thinking turns out to be provisional. One’s conclusions can always be overturned by new evidence. Thus Certainty is unattainable in the real world! This has profound moral, philosophical and historical consequences. All civilisation and progress must rest on provisionality, and thus tolerance.

(6) It is possible to demonstrate, using CST, that even small amounts of dishonesty can fatally handicap any agent involved in a competitive situation, be it an individual in society, a firm in business, or a nation at war. ‘Nice guys come in last’ is complete nonsense. In the long run ‘Honest chaps will come in first’.

(7) The secret of Science’s success is not just Logic, Mathematics, Experiment or superior evidence; it is CST.

(8) Not all subjects are amenable to the scientific approach enabled by CST. For instance Economics and Psychology can never become sciences and are mostly hocus-pocus capable, like witch-doctory, of inflicting considerable harm. For instance the case for Free Trade, beloved of Economists, is , as one can show using CST, arrant nonsense. Indeed half-baked economics is the cause of much misery, including mass employment.

Those who would like to get to the bottom of Common Sense Thinking could read my paperback ‘Thinking For Ourselves’ [Amazon, 2020, 605pp, £14:50. There are exercises with answers on this site as well as stuff about the book in the ‘my books’ category] .Meanwhile there is more about the History of Thinking which you can download from:

https://mjdisney.org/wp-content/uploads/2020/10/histthink20.pdf

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