* Posts by Ben M

36 publicly visible posts • joined 9 Jan 2010

Eric Schmidt defends Google's teeny UK tax payouts - again

Ben M

Re: There's a bigger problem than Google

Google's 'tax havens' for European revenue are Ireland and the Netherlands.

From El Reg, no less:

"Schmidt is "very proud" of the corporate structure Google set up to divert profits made in European countries, such as the UK, to its firms in the low-tax havens of Ireland and The Netherlands, thus minimising its tax bill."


Bermuda is for their IP - hardly something the UK has a moral right to tax.

Ben M

There's a bigger problem than Google

If it's bad to minimise tax through off-shore havens, why is the EU positively encouraging it?

From the 2011 announcement of the EU's Common Consolidated Corporate Tax Base:

"The European Commission has today proposed a common system for calculating the tax base of businesses operating in the EU. The aim of this proposal is to significantly reduce the administrative burden, compliance costs and legal uncertainties that businesses in the EU currently face in having to comply with up to 27 different national systems for determining their taxable profits. The proposed Common Consolidated Corporate Tax Base (CCCTB), would mean that companies would benefit from a "one-stop-shop" system for filing their tax returns and would be able to consolidate all the profits and losses they incur across the EU. Member States would maintain their full sovereign right to set their own corporate tax rate. The Commission estimates that, every year, the CCCTB will save businesses across the EU €700 million in reduced compliance costs, and €1.3 billion through consolidation. In addition, businesses looking to expand cross-border will benefit from up to €1 billion in savings. The CCCTB will also make the EU a much more attractive market for foreign investors."


They actually want companies to save money by lowering their tax bill. They want profits and losses to accrue in only one EU country.

If people have a problem with that, their attentions should be directed towards Brussels, not the Chocolate Factory.

See also here: http://ec.europa.eu/taxation_customs/taxation/company_tax/common_tax_base/#ccctb

Wind now cheaper than coal in Oz: Bloomberg

Ben M

"Let the market decide"? Really? Tut tut, Mr Chirgwin

I thought free-marketers were also climate change "deniers". Weren't you the one who passed on those very "scientific findings" without a shadow of disblief, doubt or outright incredulity?


The ink has barely dried on your report, but now you're all for using free markets to decide between renewables and fossil fuels. How quickly you forget.

You do realise that your (new?) support of free markets is a predictor that you hold other anti-science attitudes. I wonder which ones though? If I had to guess, I'd say you'd deny the link between HIV and Aids. Yes? If that's wrong, then you'd deny that smoking causes lung cancer. Which is it? You can be honest and tell us.

From the abstract of the Lewandowsky paper you reported on so gloatingly in September 2012:

"... we find that endorsement of a laissez-faire conception of free-market economics predicts rejection of climate science (r @ .80 between latent constructs). Endorsement of the free market also predicted the rejection of other established scientific findings, such as the facts that HIV causes AIDS and that smoking causes lung cancer."

Oh - and by the way - where is that paper? Psychological Science hasn't published it.

Perhaps now you'll admit the paper was rubbish to begin with, should never have been submitted for publication, should never have been sent out for peer review (no evidence that it passed - thank god), and never ever ever should've been reported on El Reg by anyone except the "You just can't make this stuff up" desk.

City heat leak can disrupt high-altitude winds

Ben M

Irrespective of how you interpret what I've said, this study undermines the IPCC's attribution argument.

The IPCC claims the effects of urbanisation account for only 0.006C each decade in the temperature records (at the hemispheric and continental scale). But as it's only a low (unmeasurable?) portion of the total recorded rise each decade, the IPCC allows itself plenty of room to blame emissions of CO2 for the rest. That effect is extrapolated into the future; a hundred years out and we're all doomed.

This new study tries to explain why the models and reality haven't matched of late. The culprit? Urbanisation. The authors suggest the effects of urbanisation can be detected thousands of miles away. At the continental scale, it will increase recorded temperatures by as much as 1.0C (or 1K if we're being pedantic) during autumn and winter months? (They studied 1956 - 2005 so I assume it's a trend of 0.2 per decade.)

So which is it?

Urbanisation has the "negligble" impact of 0.006C, and therefore allows CO2 to take the blame for the rest?

Or it has an enormous impact of 0.2C, leaving CO2 largely off the hook - but at least the models are explained?

Ben M

Nonsense, NomNomNom. UHI has been treated in the great, time-honoured tradition of activists: "Nothing to look at here. Keep moving."

Exhibit A: from Real Climate:

"There are quite a few reasons to believe that the surface temperature record ... is essentially uncontaminated by the effects of urban growth and the Urban Heat Island (UHI) effect. ...This and other information lead the IPCC to conclude that the UHI effect makes at most a contribution of 0.05°C to the warming observed over the past century."


Exhibit B: The IPCC's fourth assessment report, chapter 3

page 237

"Urban heat island effects are real but local, and have not biased the large-scale trends. A number of recent studies indicate that effects of urbanisation and land use change on the land-based temperature record are negligible (0.006ºC per decade) as far as hemispheric- and continental-scale averages are concerned because the very real but local effects are avoided or accounted for in the data sets used. In any case, they are not present in the SST component of the record"

page 244

"Thus, the global land warming trend discussed is very unlikely to be influenced significantly by increasing urbanisation. ... Accordingly, this assessment adds the same level of urban warming uncertainty as in the TAR: 0.006°C per decade since 1900 for land, and 0.002°C per decade since 1900 for blended land with ocean, as ocean UHI is zero"

page 249

"In view of Section and the dominance of the globe by ocean, the influence of urbanisation on these estimates is estimated to be very small."


You cannot suddenly find the signature of a city's heat thousands of miles away yet pretend it doesn't exist in and around that city.

Ben M

UHI is a double-edged sword

If they want to factor in UHI, then fine. If cities can affect temperatures in the upper atmosphere thousands of miles away, then clearly they can affect temperatures recorded in and around cities.

So this study has to cut both ways. If UHI should be taken into account when making modelling future temperatures, it has to be taken into account when analysing the historical record.

Yet AGW supporters have fought tooth and nail against recognising there is an urban heat island effect in the historical record. If UHI is real, it might explain a significant portion of the warming seen over the last 150 years. It undermines attribution: the whole "we can only think of CO2" malarkey.

So if CO2 emissions have had a smaller effect on the historical record, they'll have to have a reduced forcing factor for the models. Future temperatures suddenly plunge. CO2 cannot be bringer of thermageddon.

UHI might be a useful sleight-of-hand for explaining the discrepancies between models and reality, but it fundamentally undermines AGW.

Last month ties for WARMEST September on RECORD

Ben M

My my my. Scary trendline

That slope is awfully steep. Look like we're going to become barren like Mars in no time at all.

But hang on, that slope gets steeper and steeper every time these updates are issued. Which is odd when there's been no change in global temperature since the last report was produced... and the report before that... and the report before that. Yet the trendlines get worse and worse.

It couldn't be an Orwellian revision of history, could it? Surely not.

That would involve the keepers of these records to revise the older temperatures downwards, while leaving current temperatures untouched. I suppose that would increase the slope. But how easy would it be to adjust those older records? They're of course going to need some kind of adjustment anyway, so who's to say where reasonable-type adjustments stop and activis-type adjustments start? I wouldn't want to to cast doubt on those who work in this field. They surely wouldn't have thought to tap this as an ingenious way of producing ever-scarier trendlines with all the media coverage that goes with it, regardless of whether the climate misbehaves and temperatures stay the same for over a decade.

I mean, it's not like CRU already do this.


GISS certainly wouldn't do it.


Did genetically modified food cause giant tumours in rats?

Ben M

Is this the same Richard Chirgwin...

...hack who wrote "Climate denier bloggers sniff out new conspiracy" here at El Reg?

Surely not. It couldn't be.

A paper is accepted for publication "proving" that all 'climate deniers' think the moon landing was faked, MI5 killed Lady Diana, and that our soon-to-be one-world-government overlords are in the final throes of arrogating to themselves all power in the known universe ... and one Mr Richard Chirgwin shows not the slightest curiosity or skepticism. Not an ounce of investigative instinct. Instead, this Mr Richard Chirgwin dutifully takes up his position around the wagon. 'Climate deniers' are shot down in an instant before their evil words can even come out of their mouths. Their questions are dismissed out of hand - and for good reason. The mere fact they're asking questions is evidence of their conspiratorial mindset.

Nothing to look at here, folks. Keep moving. Three cheers for that Chirgwin fellow.

Never mind that those 'deniers' were asking how the data was gathered, and whether that data (even if taken at face value) supports the conclusions drawn by the authors.

And then we have this report from one Richard Chirgwin. A two-year controlled study using actual rats (as opposed to using unknown trolls pretending to be rats...errr, I mean, pretending to be 'deniers') shows a positive link between GM food / drink and tumor growth.

And how did Mr Chirgwin present this article? By shooting the doubters? By shutting down debate? No, the reader is all but forced to assume the study is utter rubbish. It begins with a headline that manages to both question and mock the entire study. The results are said to be terrifying "if true". Readers are astonished to learn that the study did not find a positive link between GM and tumors in every single test group (which must surely be grounds having the study retracted, no?).

And then we are invited by Mr Chirgwin to peer closer - to see the mysterious events which move like shadows around the study. There's the behaviour of the authors who, against all known rules of publication, demanded an NDA be signed before issuing anyone a pre-print copy. And there's the timing of this paper. It is highly suspect, to say the least: Californians are due to vote on GM food. (No evidence need be given, because of course everyone knows that Californians are vulnerable to whatever happens to be the the latest science-by-press-release on the day of voting.)

And look!, Chirgwin writes. See how the French Government has reacted to the paper? They picked this paper and ran for the hills. They took it - hook, line and sinker. There must be something going on here. There simply must. It all points to a ... ummm... what's that word... conspiracy?

Care to take Lewandawsky's Climate-Change-Denial-Is-Proportional-To-A-Person's-Susceptibility-To-Conspiracy-Theories questionnaire , Mr Chirgwin?

Climate denier bloggers sniff out new conspiracy

Ben M

Re: This could've been an interesting take on the story...

Lewandawsky's attention-grabbing headline was an express link between "climate change deniers" and "moon landing deniers". Or as he put it so well for roll-out in the media:

NASA faked the moon landing, Therefore (Climate) Science is a Hoax: An Anatomy of the Motivated Rejection of Science

He may have received 1100 responses in total, but according to his data, only 10 responses came back with "somewhat agree" or "strongly agree" that the moon landing was a hoax.

Firstly, that's a rubbish sample size.

Secondly, when tracking those 10 responders' answers, it reveals only 4 "denied" Lewandawsky's version of the consensus. The other 6 agreed with (or strongly agreed with) his version of the climate consensus.

But of course, you can disregard all of this because it must be written by a conspiracy theorist.

Ben M

This could've been an interesting take on the story...

But it wasn't. It was so full of promise to begin with, yet it ended up playing "got your nose" with El Reg readers as if they're a 4-year-old.

It was almost orgasmic to read your wickedly insightful link between those who were crying foul over being labelled conspiracy theorists by claiming this study was a conspiracy. A delicious irony if ever there were one.

But this El Reg hack must think we're idiots. Labelling someone a conspiracy theorist isn't a legitimate way to shout them down. It's the equivalent to putting your hands over your ears and singing "My Favourite Things".

Your article could've done more than defend Lewandowsky's refusal to hand over names of blogs asked because that would breach protocol. It could've asked how any meaningful conclusions could be drawn from a sample size of 10 who said the moon landings were faked.

Dig a little deeper and there's perhaps an even more delectable twist of irony. Of those 10 who thought the moon landing was staged in a Hollywood studio, only four answered the rest of the survey in a way indicating they were "denialists".

The other six were "alarmists".

Surely the lesson to be drawn is that more alarmists believe the moon landing was faked than do denialists. No?

Techies cook up Minority Report-style video calling

Ben M

All very well and good...

But isn't this trying to hold back the tide?

The point of the telephone was to talk to someone who's not standing next to you. The point of the mobile phone was to do that even when you're on the move. That was nice for a while, but the novelty's worn off. We're using voice data less and less each year. It turns out we don't really want to talk to each other - at least not in real-time. It's infinitely better to chat via text messages, voicemail, status updates, IM, tweets and what-not.

So why do academics think we want to *see* the other person when we're talking to them, when actually we don't even want to talk to them in the first place?

If they want us to talk to each other and have 'real' interactions more, they should start by banning caller-id - particularly for mobile phones. But until then I'm quite happy with the status quo, thankyouverymuch. It suits me just fine to know who's calling, and that they'll leave me a voice message, and that I can get back to my dinner in front of the telly in a bit of peace and quiet

30-year-old global temperature predictions close to spot-on

Ben M

Climate models from the 80s?

And yet this paper from 1980 said we wouldn't get to a 4C increase unless we added 4x the amount of CO2.

Who to believe? Who to believe?


Net economy bigger than Ben Hur

Ben M


The last paragraph makes a whole lot of assumptions:

"But if the report is even ballpark-accurate, then the household benefits it accrues in a single year are greater than the price tag put on the National Broadband Network. Over the lifetime of the project, it really should justify the spend – even ignoring the business benefits."

Firstly, the NBN isn't the first 'internet' in Australia. It is simply a faster network that will (hopefully) reach more places. So it is absurd to assume that the NBN will bring in $50bn of benefits a year. They already exist under the old networks.

So what value will the NBN bring in? Well, that requires a lot of assumptions. How many people will use it? How much faster will it be? How many more transactions will occur solely because of the NBN? Conversely, how many transactions would have occurred without the NBN. We know the answer is at least $50bn (and growing), because that’s what’s already occurring. My guess is that the NBN won’t make that much of a difference to the ‘internet economy’. At least not until people start finding uses for 100G speeds for transactions.

Secondly, it assumes that people will only use the NBN for the internet economy for the “lifetime of the project”. It’s a long project. With people spending more and more money via apps on mobile devices, it’s not exactly clear that the NBN will be the sole provider for the ‘internet economy’ for its entire lifetime. Indeed, by your logic, surely the trend of spending increased amounts of money on mobile devices argues for greater investment in mobile infrastructure, no?

Isolated human genes can be patented, US court rules

Ben M

Court v Parliament

This is something Parliament should legislate on. Courts can only look at existing law (common law and statute) when deciding on something novel.

Whereas Parliament can take into account multiple factors when making new laws. Parliament (whether it's full of idiots or not) is best placed to balance the need to encourage and protect R&D against what is sensible and good for the population as a whole.

Parliaments everywhere need to act before the court rulings become the default position.

Multinationals out themselves as big Aaas fans

Ben M

Yes - accelerating exponentially

Ah, Mr Miller. You've committed the classic schoolboy error of looking at output of things which are not derived from information technology. Yes, 40 years ago we could do wonderful things. 100 years ago we could do just as many marvelous things. Tut tut, we haven't really changed that much, right?

Go back to anytime in recorded history, and you'll probably find things that haven't changed that much. Consider the height of buildings. Although we have billions times more processing power at our fingertips, our buildings aren't billions of times taller. Nor are our trains or planes billions of times faster. Nor are our lives billions of times longer.

But we're not talking about output. We're talking about information technology and its exponential growth. Anything which is inherently an information technology does grow exponentially, whether we like it or not. DNA, communication, computing power, photovoltaic cells. Once we start to treat something as an information technology, it will improve in price-performance exponentially.

Moore's law rightly described the exponential grown of the price-performance of integrated circuits. However it was the fifth exponential growth in computing power. We are currently on the cusp of the 6th phase of exponential growth, all of which has followed seamlessly as expected. (For information, the first was electromechanical calculators, cicra 1890; the second was Turing's relay-based Robinson machine; the third was vacuum tubes; the fourth was transistors; the fifth was integrated circuits; the sixth will be 3 dimensional circuits).

In terms of your examples - storage (of information technology) has in fact seen exponential growth. Consider how much it costs you to save 1 MB of data in an external hard drive now, versus 20 years ago.

In terms of transport - well, that is not an information technology. Its purely mechanical - at the moment. Although you could look at certain aspects of transport which are I.T. For example, consider how much it costs to transport 1MB of information electronically - now, versus 20 years ago.

And for power generation, well, we're still in a mechanical phase for most of our power generation. Even something like solar (concentrated solar) is just a mechanical process (heating water to create steam to turn a turbine). However, photovoltaic cells are an information technology, as we're dealing with electrons and light. Solar P.V. is following a predictable exponential growth in price-performance. But because we're still in the very early stages, it's hardly noticeable. But it's growing just the same (see http://bigthink.com/ideas/31635). The growth rate is a doubling every 2 years (as opposed to every 18 months for processing power).

Australia cuts solar subsidies, and not before time

Ben M


Perhaps the subsidy had nothing to do with it.

Photovoltaic panels are inherently an information technology (as opposed to wind turbines and/or concentrated solar which are both purely mechanical).

Therefore PV should (and somehow does) follow the same trend as all other information technology trends. Its price-performance improves exponentially.

Perhaps subsidies are irrelevant, and the industry was always going to grow on its own. But it's certainly time to wind back the subsidies from now on.


Antarctic ice breakup makes ocean absorb more CO2

Ben M

RE: The dumbest thing I've read in a long line of very dumb things

Calmed down yet? I'm guessing by the exclamation marks and the CAPS that you were a little worked up.

Excluding the methane bit at the end (for we can all throw in our own favoured feedback, as if that were a good enough distraction from the aforementioned rant)...

In your comment, you set up a straw man, then proceeded to tear it down. Hardly very bright. You assumed that Lewis' point (or sub-text, as you called it) is that there is no global warming. Then you use the NSF study to prove that there is global warming. Ergo Lewis is an idiot.

That may work in your world, but doesn't stand up to sensible, reasoned, non-exclamation-marked, non-CAPS-ed review.

I think you'll find the point of the article is this: should global warming be caused by man's emissions of CO2 (a huge assumption which Lewis does not challenge here), then the end result might not be as catastrophic as the IPCC pretends. A new feedback has been found. It is negative. Therefore the net feedback of earth's bisophere needs to be revised towards the negative.

Your point about methane is not new. It has already been accepted, and taken into account when assessing the net feedback of the climate system.

Next time: no CAPS, fewer exclamation marks, more thinking.

Big new wind turbines too close together, says top boffin

Ben M

A Rather Frank Admission?

It's nice to see they're finally admitting the dream doesn't quite match the reality. Wind farms underperform. They're being oversold.

It's better to acknowledge the reality and seek ways to improve performance... rather than try to fudge the data and hope no one notices the gaping holes.

(Tree rings, anyone?)

Raygun dreadnought project reports 'remarkable breakthrough'

Ben M

Totally different weapons

These lasers are presumably line-of-sight only (unless they've been able to make light bend). Thus they'd only be useful for defence and 'close' (up to the horizon) combat.

The projectiles cover much greater distances. 200 miles at Mach 5. Over-the-horizon stuff. More useful in attacks.

Google drops nuke on 'objective' search engine utopia

Ben M

Opinion v Assumption

Google would've been safer if they'd called them "assumptions". That is, they "assume" certain things about websites and their relative importance.

Of course, it's ridiculous to assume that the search results are going to be totally / strictly / technically objective. Some oompa loompa still has to create the algorithm... until our AI overlords arrive, that is.

But by calling them "opinions", I think Google is going to have trouble in the EU.


Ben M


I was expecting him to be referred to as a "trick cyclist"

Glacier boffins rubbish IPCC apocalypse claims

Ben M

Business as usual

The point of this article - and the point of the study itself - is not to do with the existence (or otherwise) of global warming. It is all about the effects of warming. It's about the alleged catastrophe that we're told will follow our continued emission of CO2.

The catastrophe storyline included the melting of glaciers and the result that billions would be without water. A horrific storyline... if true.

But the study shows that it's not true. That storyline is a work of fiction. It belongs up there with The Day After Tomorrow...Core... and An Inconvenient Truth. All works of fiction.

So 'global warming' will not deprive billions of people of water. Well, at least not by glaciers melting.

So where's the catastrophe again?

And if there's going to be no catastrophe, there's very little reason to act. Better to continue with 'business as usual' and deal with the minor effects... if they ever materialise.

Hefty physicist: Global warming is 'pseudoscientific fraud'

Ben M


Actually, the letter has plenty of facts supporting the main theme: the reasons he is leaving the APS. He describes plenty of things wrong with the Society. Lots of facts.

What he doesn't list are those facts he presumably would've mentioned at the Topical Group, had it been properly called.

In all, it's a very well written letter, with plenty of facts supporting the main proposition.

Android rebellion: How to tame your stupid smartphone

Ben M


This article should've started with the disclaimer: "this is my experience only"

Can't say I've had any of the listed problems on the Dell Streak.

Much of recent global warming actually caused by Sun

Ben M

back to the drawing board...

When you drill down on catastrophic AGW arguments, there are several crucial but highly suspect assumptions. One is called "attribution". Why did the 20th century warm up as much as it did?

And even the high priests of AGW will say that CO2 is the culprit BECAUSE THEY DON'T KNOW WHAT ELSE IT COULD HAVE BEEN... Well, chaps. Back to the drawing board. Call me when you have perfect knowledge of the way everything works in our universe. Then you can blame CO2 by elimination.

London Transport plans Oyster bypass

Ben M

El Reg should charge TfL

El Reg should charge TfL for the great comments put up on this article. TfL is probably paying a fortune in consultancy fees, and I bet they don't identify nearly half the problems that the commentards have identified here.

Schmidt: Google is the 'inverse' of Apple

Ben M

Open v Open

I think Schmidt uses the term 'open' in the sense of 'not locked down'... 'open house' style.

I don't think he's ever used it (and nor should he) in the sense of 'transparent' or 'everything is visible to the public'. Google's inner workings are trade secrets with enormous monetary value. Those are never going to be public information, and nor should they be.

But it doesn't detract from the other type of 'openness'.

French website surrenders on Bastille Day

Ben M

Servers are 100% French?

They're probably on strike then.

Dell Streak Android tablet phone

Ben M

Loving my new phone

I've had the Streak now for a couple of weeks, and I love it. No, I more than love it. I adore it.

In fact, I've just converted an iFan - he wanted to upgrade to the iPhone 4, but after seeing the Streak in action, has decided to go with Dell.

It's the screen that does it. It's absolutely gorgeous, in all it's 5-inch glory. I could NEVER EVER go back to 3.5-inches. Never.

Apple, Google, Microsoft – are you a Brand Taliban or Brand Evangelist?

Ben M


Methinks he's taken one example and extrapolated that across the whole of society.

Sure it applies in some situations, and to some entities. For example, the giants of the world:

BP, Exxon,

Microsoft, Google, Apple

Bill Gates, Rupert Murdoch, Eric Schmidt

USA, China, Russia

But the same feelings aren't aroused in other situations, or by other entities. Take cars, for example. Car lovers may be mild-tempered Brand Evangelists, but most aren't Brant Talibans. And I can't remember the last time someone ranted against IBM... LG... Whirlpool.. or Fiji.

Maybe it has something to do with the tall poppy syndrome.

And in any event, we all know what happens when you extrapolate from a tiny sample.


Lightning bolt smites 60ft Jesus statue

Ben M

$700,000? Seriously?

Sounds like another ill-fated statue... one golden calf circa 1500BC, perhaps?

Well God sure showed them... again.

Apple in shock talks with Reg reader

Ben M

Sense of humour

Someone from Apple giggled? Really? Who knew anyone in Cupertino had a sense of humour.

Tories go nuclear, promise to prop up carbon price

Ben M

Looking after their own?

Setting a price on carbon

= providing certainty for the market

= looking after their own (banks, investors, big business, old money)

Never mind that it's a market made of thin air. (Pun intended, of course.)

Why are they doing this? Because the Eurocrats in Brussels told them to do it... Makes you wonder where the Tories' Euro-scepticism went?

Google gets all Minority Report with Street View

Ben M

Cade Metz does Tom Cruise

Methinks the reference to Minority Report was freudian. Let's not forget the whole concept of that B-grade movie: pre-crime. Could Cade be guilty of passing judgement on Google before it's done anything? Perhaps El Reg is secretly squirrelled away, penning the sequel behind closed doors. I can see it now. Minority Report 2 - Vulture Central saves the World. El Reg hacks break into the Chocolate Factory only seconds before the axis of evil (Sergey, Larry and Eric) commits its next crimes against humanity... like putting barcodes on photos it took. Not for the squeamish or faint-hearted.