27 October, 2006

Glass house shatters due to mass casting of stones, more at 11

I’ve been meaning to mention the report released last week by the Environmental Change Institute, which argues that the government’s policies for the expansion of air travel rather get in the way of their attempts to seriously curtail CO2 emissions (click here for pdf). However, the lack of any substantive response from the government (at least, I didn’t see one) meant that beyond agreeing that all the sound and fury about nuclear generation (or not) is beside the point if we don’t hit the other areas of our energy use – a point that I’ve made myself before – I didn’t have much to add.

However, I think another story, which has been gathering momentum in the media over the last few days, gives us all something to consider. It involves my place of work. From here:

The National Oceanography Centre in Southampton is home to a £20 million research program on the dangers of rapid climate change. It also houses the southern office of the Tyndall Centre for Climate Change Research. But while its staff are investigating the impact of carbon emissions on our climate, their bosses enjoyed a trip to America with their wives last weekend on a private jet.

Ed Hill (Director of the Centre), Andrew Roberts (Head of the University of Southampton School of Ocean and Earth Sciences) and Bill Wakeham (Vice-Chancellor of the University) flew from Southampton to North Carolina with various other hangers-on. Their private jet was provided by an American businessman that they were courting (and presumably they did not want to offend this would-be philanthropist by insisting on taking scheduled flights) [this is incorrect –see below]. As a result, their journey put several times more carbon per passenger into the upper atmosphere than using a regular airline.

Several staff that I have spoken to from the Centre who are working on the dangers of climate change feel betrayed by this affair. The "do as I say, not do as I do" example of the their bosses undermines their credibility when highlighting the need to reduce carbon emissions. It also hands ammunition to those denying climate change and suggests that the principles of those involved are for sale to anyone who offers to write a cheque.

Indymedia also has an update to this story – surprisingly, I can’t find much else online, although there is a discussion at Stoat.

In public relations terms, this is a complete own-goal, and it’s very easy to take the self-righteous line being adopted by most of the reports I’ve seen or heard about (the second Indymedia link being a good sampling of the general tone). I’m hoping some of them at least got the facts straight - the purpose of the trip was to set up a long-term research teaching collaboration with the University of North Carolina, and the use of the jet was offered by an existing benefactor. So it was a serious visit with a serious purpose. That doesn’t automatically make it all ok. But imagine: you have to go to an important one-day meeting in America. To get to the place it’s being held at, you have the option of paying to go on scheduled flights, with at least one tedious change (and US Immigration, Customs, and Security doing their darnedest to make you miss your connection), or basically going straight there for free on a private jet. Which would you choose?

More prosaically: you have to go to Edinburgh for a couple of days next month. You look up train fares from Southampton, and find a return costs £114.00. You can fly from Southampton airport, in far less time, for £65 (I’ve just looked up these prices). Which would you choose?

In the context of this post, most people would probably plump for the more environmentally friendly options, but I’m honest enough to admit that if I didn’t think anyone was looking, I’d be sorely tempted by the option that got me there cheaper and faster. I would definitely feel bad about it at some level, but that might not stop me doing it. And herein lies the problem we face. The Environmental Change Institute’s report highlights but one facet of what is a pervasive feature of modern life: the environmentally ‘bad’ options are the easy and/or convenient and/or accepted ones. Absurd as it seems, you can get around the UK fastest and most cheaply by flying; imported vegetables in Tescos are cheaper than the ones grown locally; you can have a cheaper (and sunnier, probably) holiday by flying to Spain, or further, than you can in the UK; and, in most places, it is easier and cheaper to drive to work than get the bus. Those who try hardest to reduce their environmental impact – by not owning a car, not going abroad for their holidays - are also viewed as slight eccentrics. It is only when these circumstances, and attitudes, begin to change that we have a hope of getting a grip on our greenhouse gas problem.

Returning to the NOC story, then, the question here is not about private jets, but whether a face-to-face meeting was required in the first place. And if the current furore was not being fuelled as much by reverse snobbery and envy as real environmental concern, that is the question that people would be asking.

24 October, 2006

Back on the hamster wheel again

Last week, everything suddenly went mad as the new semester swung into gear. Current things on my plate:

  • I’m currently occupying two double lecture slots on Monday and Tuesday mornings. This means preparation is eating my weekends, and I don’t feel good for much mid-week. My view of my performance thus far: ‘not great, but better than last year’. I’d probably be quite negative if I didn’t have last years’ for a reference point, but my pacing is much better this time round, and I feel that most of the time I’m being more coherent (though that remains to be proven…). I am, however, rueing the fact that my original plan to do some serious reading and rewriting over the summer fell by the wayside.

  • Last week also saw the first arrival of mapping projects on my desk, as the efforts of the 3rd years I went out to Spain in July with were handed to me for preliminary marking. There’s not as many as last summer (thank goodness), and it was only field slips and notebooks at this stage. So, was any of the advice I’d given them was taken on board? Not as wholeheartedly as I would have liked – for example, while everyone had drawn boundaries on this year, a slight lack of thinking was indicated by the fact that they weren’t always sensible boundaries. Oh well, it’s a start; I’m meant to be supervising the write-up too, although if last year is anything to go by my services will only be called upon the day before the hand-in date, when it’s too late to help them.

  • Somehow, despite not actually volunteering my services, I’ve found myself co-supervising a number of undergraduates whose research projects involve heavy use of the magnetometer, and consequently hand-holding by me. Since things I never agreed to do materialise on my desk with depressing frequency, I’m not overly bothered – I’ll save that for when I have to explain data analysis for the 27th time without any indication that the previous 26 attempts even registered.

Hmm, remind me again – I’m being employed as a technician, right?

19 October, 2006

A little experiment in democracy

Via Pharyngula, I've learnt that an Early Day Motion regarding the activities of Truth In Science has been tabled in Parliament:

That this House shares the concerns of the British Centre for Science Education that the literature being sent to every school in the United Kingdom by the creationist religious group Truth in Science is full of scientific mistakes and fails to disclose the group's creationist beliefs and objectives; and urges all schools to treat this literature with extreme caution.

It seems that the British Centre For Science Education was involved in the tabling of this motion; as they caution when talking about this on their website, no matter how many MPs sign up, it is unlikely to trigger a full Parliamentary debate; but a large number of signatories may allow an EDM 'to impinge on Cabinet conciousness'. So, following the example and suggestions of some of the Pharyngula commentators, I went to writetothem.com and sent the following to my local (Labour) MP:

Dear John Denham,

I was wondering if you are aware of the activities of a creationist group going by the name of 'Truth in Science', which recently mass-mailed "resource packs" to UK secondary schools. Whilst ostensibly encouraging biology teachers to address the 'controversies' in evolutionary theory, these packs offer nothing but a mish-mash of bad and extensively debunked arguments intended to confuse students about the current status of biological science, and suggest a false scientific equivalence between the theory of evolution and more literalist interpretations of the Bible (currently hiding behind the phrase 'Intelligent Design'). The extensive scientific inaccuracies contained in Truth in Science's literature, and the strong creationist links of its principal members, are well documented by the British Centre For Science Education (http://www.bcseweb.org.uk/index.php).

Your colleague Graham Stringer has submitted an early day motion (EDM 2708)which repudiates the approach of this group and advises schools to treat this material with caution. Quite aside from the fact that this group is encouraging the teaching of bad science, muddying the boundaries between science and peoples' different religious views is inherently dangerous, particularly in the current climate (and in the view of the present vogue for faith schools). I hope that you will consider supporting this motion.

Yours sincerely,

I'm somewhat cynical about whether this e-mail just won't be junked by a secretary somewhere, but it's worth a go. I'll keep you posted on whether I get a response, and (more imporatantly) whether I get him to sign up.

16 October, 2006

What caused the Hawaiian earthquake?

Far be it for me to refuse a request. In the comments to my last post:

I can't find an email address for you or a more appropriate place to post a question. I'm looking for someone, anyone, who has any ideas about the cause of Sunday's Hawaiian earthquake. I've posted the question on my blog at ElementList [where there is a very cool photo of a rockfall triggered by the quake]. The quake was very deep (~38 km) and was strike-slip. This seems like an odd place for that kind of quake. Any ideas?

This is an interesting one – I should warn that most of what follows will be speculation (informed speculation, perhaps…). First, lets have a look at the USGS moment tensor solution:

Note that the depth is now being reported as 28 km, which is deeper than a lot of the normal seismicity, but not unusually so. However, the size and the location of this earthquake are both unusual. For comparison, here’s a map of seismicity on the Big Island for the year 2000 (from the Hawaii Volcano Observatory).

As you can see, earthquakes are hardly rare on Hawaii; the emptying and filling of magma chambers, and molten rock moving to the surface, all produce stresses which result in earthquakes. However, they are pretty much all less than magnitude 4, more than 400 times less powerful than today’s 6.6. Also noteworthy is that a lot of the seismicity is concentrated underneath the volcanoes, as you would expect if it is associated with magma movement; in contrast, today’s quake and aftershocks, as shown in the figure below (source) were located off the NW coast of the Big Island.

All of this suggests that this earthquake is not associated with the volcanism. So what is the cause? Two possibilities spring to mind:
  • The Hawaian islands are 5 km-high piles of basalt that represent a very large load on the oceanic crust and lithosphere beneath them, causing it to bend downwards around the bases of the seamounts. The earthquake could be releasing some of the stress building up as the islands continue to grow.
The problem with this is the focal mechanism, which is almost pure strike-slip (horizontal displacement only); you'd expect at least some vertical (extensional) motion if gravitational collapse was involved (much like these, in fact)*. Which leaves option two:
  • Although most deformation on the Earth occurs at plate boundaries, some stresses are still transmitted to the interior of plates, where they cause intra-plate earthquakes at weak points. It could be that the crust around Hawaii is such a weak point. My first thought that this was an effect of the hotspot volcanism (lots of cracks for magma migration, etc.). But then another thought occurred. Here’s a bathymetric map of the Northern Pacific:

    See those long, linear features? They’re oceanic fracture zones, the inactive parts of the transform faults which separate the spreading centres of mid-ocean ridges (these Pacific ones eventually join the East Pacific Rise just off the west coast of the Americas). And one of these fracture zones, the Molokai Fracture Zone (rather bizarrely abbreviated as OFZ in this particular image) just happens to intersect with the Hawaian Islands. It’s quite common for inter-plate earthquakes to occur on old faults, as they’re much weaker than surrounding rock, and the focal plane solution is consistent with an E-W trending structure.

So that’s my guess: this earthquake is accommodating large-scale, intra-plate strains in the Pacific plate (shifting up into really speculative, I’ll note the nice correlation to the ~NW absolute motion of the Pacific plate - see here for example), and may be due to reactivation of an old fracture zone, or a structure associated with it. More knowledgeable heads are free to weigh in and correct me...

[Update: Western Geologist has a good post up pointing out that there's a big difference between the USGS focal mechanism given above and the Havard CMT solution, the latter indicating an oblique extensional fault - more consistent with the quake being a response to plate loading - rather than strike slip and suggesting that the focal planes may not be well constrained. He's also dug out the locations and mechanisms of other large (non-volcanism related) quakes in the last 20 years, and discusses how they relate to this weeks'.]

12 October, 2006

Some updates

More info on the North Korean nuclear test (or ‘tesr’, as it was in my title for a couple of days): Jake points to CNN report that it was supposed to be a 4 kiloton device - that’s what the Chinese were told by North Korean officials before the test, anyway. If a 10-15 kT device generates a magnitude 5, magnitude 4.2 would represent a yield of 1.6-2.4 kT (very rough calculation – it’s a logarithmic scale, and the starting figure isn’t exactly precise), so it’s a little on the low side, indicating something didn’t go right (it’s not completely impossible that some bizarre combination of large cavity size and local geology led to very inefficient conversion into seismic waves, but that would be mighty convenient). Arms Control Wonk has some speculations on what - plutonium is much more tricky than uranium, it seems. Meanwhile, the Lab Lemming takes the time to debunk the hysteria over a possible second test (quite how a subduction zone earthquake off the Japanese coast got mixed up with a shallow explosion on the Korean Penisula is beyond me - when I first heard this rumour I just looked up the USGS map of recent activity - which clearly just shows Monday's event - and that was that).

Further to my rant about Truth in Science, I was glad to discover that there’s more than a few of us who aren’t going to let their false appeal to ‘balance’ fool anyone. The British Centre For Science Education have a whole section devoted to Truth in Science, and they’ve dug up some interesting facts about the clear creationist roots of the major players in this organisation as well as joining in the debunk-fest. Science, Just Science are also on the case, with a whole topic in their discussion forums. It’s nice to know I’m not the only one worrying about this; although we may not be quite as infected with the creationism meme over here, we don’t have that pesky separation of church and state thing either.

10 October, 2006

North Korean nuclear test

See also my update

Lab Lemming asks whether seismology can say anything useful regarding North Korea’s nuclear test. You’d certainly hope so, as monitoring of the Comprehensive Test Ban treaty relies upon it. An earthquake, where rock slides along a fault plane, generates both compressional (P) and shear (S) waves (but generally more of the latter), and patterns of compressional and dilational first motions in the P waves (which are the basis of the beach ball-like focal mechanisms I’ve discussed previously). Explosions basically just push the rock outwards in all directions, producing lots of P waves, not many S waves and a focal mechanism which looks like a big solid circle.

The USGS has confirmed that they detected a seismic event, magnitude 4.2 , which appears to correspond to the test, but they have yet to generate a focal solution (they don’t usually bother for events smaller than about magnitude 5, probably because the signal received at distant stations is too weak to reliably measure first motions). However, the Western Geologist has dug up some seismograph data from here, which I’m just going to lazily reproduce: the first graph is the North Korea event, the second is a recent earthquake for comparison (each line represents one station, which are different distances away, hence the time difference).

P waves are faster than S-waves, so will be the first to reach the station. It seems that for the North Korea event, a lot of the seismic energy received is in the first 10-15 seconds, and the signal dies out quite quickly after that. In contrast, the signal for the Japanese earthquake is received for more than 2 minutes, and the first peak is much less pronounced, suggesting that more energy is arriving in the form of slower S waves, and significant (above background) vibrations are received for a much longer period.

So, it seems likely that this is indeed an explosion, although that says nothing about whether the device actually worked; that would depend on knowing what the intended yield was, and even then it’s tricky, because not all of the energy released will be converted to seismic waves. This uncertainty may be behind the large discrepencies between the various estimates of the size of the explosion reported by New Scientist (see also the discussion at No Se Nada), which has led to speculation that the bomb might have ‘fizzled’. For what it’s worth, one of the textbooks on my desk says that a Hiroshima-size device (10-15 kT TNT equivalent) should generate a magnitude 5 quake, so if it didn’t fizzle, it seems to have been quite a small nuke.

09 October, 2006

UK successfully clones Discovery Institute

See also my update

I had this weekend all planned out: chill out for a bit, play around with next week’s lectures, maybe even finally sort out how to migrate everything over to Blogger Beta without destroying my layout. Unfortunately, the letters page of Saturday’s Times has sent me off on a slightly depressing tangent. Three letters were part of a continuing discussion about a story in the Times Education Supplement a week or two ago, about the recent activities of a group called Truth In Science.

Every secondary school in the UK has been targeted in a new campaign promoting the teaching of creationism in science lessons. Heads of science at 5,000 schools have been sent teaching materials casting doubt on Darwin’s theory of evolution and encouraging children to consider alternative interpretations of life on earth. A booklet and two DVDs, created by Truth In Science, an influential group of academics and clergymen advocating more “balance” in GCSE and A-level science, were mailed to private and state schools this week.

The discussion has led one of the members of the ‘scientific panel’ of Truth in Science to write in:

Truth in Science is seeking to enable school science students to follow the evidence for and against evolution wherever it leads.

We are committed to truthfulness and good science, and invite our critics to identify the alleged “scientific errors” of our website. Where convinced they occur, we will correct them.

Okay then.

I’ll ignore the fact that members of a group calling itself ‘Truth In Science’ have rather obviously failed to grasp the rather fundamental point that science is not engaged in a search for Truth, but models which have predictive and explanatory power. I’ll also pass over the fact that the first thing on their website (I’m not linking to it, but it's truthinscience.org.uk if you’re interested) is exactly the sort of weasel-like interpretation of a statement in the National Curriculum I feared when I first saw it (sometimes I hate it when I’m right). I’ll even be charitable and give them a pass on the fact that, for all their talk of misrepresentation of alternatives to evolutionary theory, there’s nary a mention of what they might be in their non-misrepresented form. Let’s instead examine a few items on the laundry-list rather bizarrely entitled ‘Evidence for Evolution’, which I suppose is trying to imply that it represents the best modern science has got.
  • Antibiotic resistance:

    Most types of antibiotic resistance were already in existence before antibiotics were discovered and used extensively to treat infectious diseases.

    ‘Most’ is pure weasel, hedging bets against the obvious rebuttals that antibiotic resistance does evolve. Of course, that’s only “microevolution” because “they’re still bacteria”. Clearly these guys haven’t seen that when it comes to diversity, bacteria beat us hands down – it’s just all at the biochemical level.

  • Comparative Genetics and Biochemistry

    There is, of course, much dissimilarity between living organisms, some of these at a very fundamental level. For example, the standard system of genetic code used by humans is not universal. Eighteen different genetic codes have been found in various species. Many scientists see this as evidence that all life does not come from a single common ancestor.

    Name some, please (biochemists, preferably). It’s true that some variations in the standard genetic code have been discovered, only a few of the 64 codons are different in any of these variants. Look, for example, at the mitochondrial genetic code; and here’s a full list of known variations and their taxonomic ranges. Note that most are found in bacteria and other single celled-organisms, which are merely microevolving so don’t count anyway. Yes, that was sarcasm.

  • The Fossil Record

    The key problem is this: Darwin’s theory relies on minute changes in organisms which slowly accumulate, gradually changing the organism until it eventually becomes a new species. If this is correct, then the fossil record should contain many fossils with forms intermediate between different species. This is not what the fossil record shows.

    One word: Tiktaalik (see also here. Or how about when whales went back the other way? Or the increasing cranial capacity of hominids?.

    About half of the major animal groups appear, fully formed, in the Cambrian strata of rocks, with out any fossilised ancestors.

    Wrong, unless you think tens of millions of years is ‘sudden’. And, at the time, all the major animal groups were ‘variations on a theme of worm’, anyway. There were no mammals, reptiles, birds, even insects, as we know them.

Well that wasn’t hard, and I could go on, but when I saw them harping on about Peppered Moths and Haeckel’s embryos, it became clear that this is just Jonathan Wells’ Icons of Evolution, redux, and that has been pretty finely shredded by people far more qualified than me - as has it’s new, unimproved incarnation.

Besides, I don’t want to rot my brain too much. I’m meant to be teaching actual science tomorrow.

06 October, 2006

Worship the awesome geo-nerd!

So says Kevin Vranes over at No Se Nada (OK, so I paraphrase a little...). Anyway, welcome to those who have got here from there - the highlights of my last year's ramblings are handily summarised here.

If you haven't, go and read his account of an interesting new paper by Latif et al., which tries to estimate the amount of multidecadal variability in the meridional overturning circulation (MOC). This is poorly known, which makes interpreting the results of Bryden et al.'s Nature paper rather difficult (Kevin's just reposted his take on this, which is similar to mine).

Their estimate is indirect: they've taken the fact that in climate models changes in the MOC are expressed as specific changes in sea surface temperature (SST) patterns, looked for this signal in actual SST records, and used that to estimate that the strength of the MOC might vary by 1.5–3 Sv (106 m3/s) over multi-decadal timescales. For reference, the reduction estimated by Bryden et al. was about 8 +/- 6 Sv.

What I'm still waiting for is the results from the moorings Harry Bryden deployed in 2004, which have been recording real-time data on the short-term (annual, monthly, daily?) variability of the MOC. As I commented over at No Se Nada, I've heard rumours that they've found some and it's significant; I'll revisit the issue when this paper is published (thanks to Steve Bloom for knowing his way around the NOC webpages better than me).

05 October, 2006

Mountain musings 2: What’s God got to do with it?

“Don’t these mountains make you think of God?”

I was asked this question by one of my walking companions as we lunched in front of a particularly awe-inspiring Alpine vista, on my recent excursion in the Vanoise National Park.

I paused, considering the most appropriate way to respond, before deciding that honesty was the best policy.

“Not really, no.”

My inquisitive companion is a good friend of mine from University, and an evangelical Christian. He was also, by way of a somewhat heated discussion on the virtues of radiometric dating on an earlier walking holiday, one of the people who first made me aware of the widespread sympathy for literalist biblical creationism amongst even moderate-seeming evangelicals. Fortunately, this conversation petered out good-naturedly (I don’t always pick fights for the sake of it), but it bothered me, I think because in some ways it encapsulates the tension between science and (some) religion.

As I was looking at those mountains, I was thinking of how millions of years ago, the limestone I was sitting on was slowly being formed in a shallow, long-vanished sea, before the ongoing collision between Africa and Europe forced it a mile up into the air, scrunching the beds up into crazy folds. I was taking in the myriad signs that the glaciers currently confined to the very highest peaks once carved out all the valleys we were looking upon, evidence of the waxing and waning of Quaternary glaciation. I was considering how, over millions of years, all of those peaks and cliffs would be ground back down to sea-level, just by the action of ice and water.

Purple prose aside, all this has a tendency to overwhelm thoughts like, “What pretty mountains God has made for me!” For a start, I know enough to be aware of the overbearing hubris in the notion that The Alps were put there for my benefit. They were here before our great-times-10 000-grandparents had sorted out bipedalism; they will still be here uncounted generations after we, and possibly our entire species, are dead. Yet despite that vast lifespan, the entire cycle of the birth and death of a mountain range represents only a tiny fraction of the history of our planet. That’s enough to prick anyone’s pretensions of grand cosmic importance, even without considering our decidedly non-privileged status in the Universe at large.

And herein lies the problem for many people. They don’t like to feel small and insignificant, and they certainly don’t like the theological implications of being such a tiny part of a universe so mind-bogglingly old and large and alien: namely, that if there is a God that set the whole thing in motion, it is just as mind-bogglingly vast and alien – and it may not consider us to be particularly important. For many people of faith, and evangelical Christians especially, the idea of a personal relationship with God is central to their lives; how can they feel close to such a distant and incomprehensible being?

(The ironic paradox, of course, is that this is exactly the fall-back excuse for the whole theodicy problem – bad things happen to good people because ‘God moves in mysterious ways’).

I wonder if this tension is the root cause of many of the characteristics of the modern evangelical: the suspicion or even outright denial of science, particularly evolution and geology; the biblical literalism (God is hardly detached and aloof in the Old Testament, is he?); and the readiness to see the presence of God in every innocent mountain (whilst pitying people like me, who don't).

Fortunately, the mountain doesn't care. It just is.

04 October, 2006

My academic life

Jorge Cham nails it as always, but this one has a particular resonance for me right now.

Of course, unlike Mike, I might actually leave someday.

01 October, 2006

One year on

A small problem with my new flat's electrics prevented me from exactly marking the anniversary of the post that started my little blog. After a shaky start, I have been much better in recent months at producing posts semi-regularly - at least, when I haven't been gallivanting off to some internet-deprived corner of Europe.

As befits my blog’s name, I’ve drifted a bit about through the many different disciplines which fall under the aegis of Earth Sciences. My interest in planetary geology has led to discussions of possible subsurface water on Mars, the past geological history of Titan, and, during the Pluto controversy this summer, how Ceres might be a worthy planet after all (sadly the IAU didn’t agree).

Back on Planet Earth, I’ve looked at the uncertainties behind the doom and gloom headlines about the collapse of the thermohaline circulation, and how even if it happened it wouldn’t be the Day After Tomorrow. I’ve also fixated a bit on the poor understanding of the science, and particularly the limits of earthquake and volcano prediction, one of the items in my list of annoying misconceptions in Geology leading to posts on a rather odd proposed earthquake precursor, the blend of luck and expertise whichled to an apparently accurate earthquake alert in China, and seasonal variations in the frequency of volcanic eruptions. And, in the run up to the UK government releasing a new, improved energy review, I took a skeptical look at their new-found enthusiasm for nuclear power, one of the valid objections to which isn’t that we’re running out of uranium.

Another thing I have noticed is that other than a short introduction to my own subdiscipline, paleomagnetism, I haven’t really talked about my own research, which is definitely something I want to rectify in a few months.

Whilst waiting around in Southampton to defend my PhD thesis, I’ve also been employed as lab-skivvy and teaching cover for my supervisor. It’s not always been easy, especially when I’ve been marking some rather poor exams, but it’s given me some important insights into the art of teaching science. And despite the odd moan, my position has had its compensations - a field trip or two, for example.

And, like most scientists nowadays, I’ve fretted over the rise of irrational thinking, particularly in the form of ‘Intelligent Design’, creationism with added nudges and winks. It seems the UK is not immune; but despite the warning signs, it appears that things are not as bad as they are across the Atlantic.

Of course, the fact I've been writing stuff says nothing about whether it's worth reading. That judgement, of course, is out of my hands.