Demolition at Didcot

As someone who has spent his fair share of time traveling backwards and forwards on the First Great Western railway line between Cardiff (or Swindon) and London, it seems appropriate to note that the environs of Didcot Parkway station (which lies on the main line) will look rather different next time I do that journey. In the early hours of this morning, three of the six enormous cooling towers came tumbling down:

I gather the other three are also scheduled for demolition, although I doubt I’ll be able to attend that event in person either!

19 Responses to “Demolition at Didcot”

  1. D R Lunsford Says:

    Part of UK’s hyperbolic reaction to nuclear energy?🙂

    -drl

    • telescoper Says:

      Not sure what you mean. “Didcot Power Station” actually refers to a combined coal and oil power plant (Didcot A Power Station) and a natural-gas power plant (Didcot B Power Station), neither of which are nuclear powered.

    • Anton Garrett Says:

      The media report I read is that the closing of this coal-burning power station is part of UK compliance with EU anti-carbon policy. Given that we are not building nuclear, that the police are allowing the Greens (allegedly backed by Putin) to trespass and stop fracking explorations, and that wind power is not producible on demand, the lights are going to go out in the forseeable future. Meanwhile our largest power station, Drax, is being converted to burn woodchips (still carbon!) imported from forest felling in the USA, and we import coal from Australia although we have our own because ours contains more impurities. All this importing is done using carbon-fuel-burning ships.

      I have deliberately not discussed the truth or falsehood of CO2 and global warming in the preceding paragraph, but our present energy policy is crazy. Because no politician is willing to tell the truth I suspect it will take power cuts before sanity is restored. but given the lead time in energy policy a lot of damage will be done.

      • telescoper Says:

        Is it just the coal/oil one that’s closing or the other one too?

      • “the Greens (allegedly backed by Putin)”

        Extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence. Note: I don’t think it is impossible, but such a potentially defamatory claim does need some supporting evidence.

      • Anton Garrett Says:

        Peter, I’ve no idea about the gas-fired power station at Didcot. (With gas you get power from burning the hydrogen as well as the carbon in the hydrocarbons, and this more than makes up for the energy needed to sever the C-H bonds, so less carbon is emitted per kWh generated.) Here are the reasons for demolition of the coal power station:

        http://thefrogsalittlehot.blogspot.co.uk/2013/02/the-elephant-reveals-itself.html

        Phillip: I don’t find it extraordinary. Putin wants Western Europe to remain dependent on Gazprom for its power, for both strategic and financial reasons. Fracking would end that dependence. The claim that Putin has infiltrated European Green movements to challenge fracking was made last month by the Secretary-General of NATO:

        http://www.ezralevant.com/levant-how-far-does-putins-influence-reach/

      • Yes, I remember this claim. However, it was about various NGOs, whereas I took it you were referring to the UK Green Party.

        Yes, some NGOs do accept funds from questionable sources, due to the dubious idea that the enemy of my enemy is my friend.

        Which reminds me: There is a wonderful documentary film about a group called Fuck for Forest. IIRC the film has the same name. The idea is to make porn and sell it via the internet (a somewhat quaint concept today when the internet is full of free porn) and donate the money to environmental causes. The film shows them travelling to South America where they want to give the money to some Indians* to support some local project. At first the Indians are in favour of it, but then word gets out about the source of the money, at which point one of the Indians says that they can’t accept money from something involving nudity (much less hard-core porn), even though his people have been wearing clothes for only a few generations. 🙂 Nothing demonstrates the bad influence of the “Western” world than an Amazon Indian telling a Norwegian “hey, you can’t just run around naked!”. 😐 (And why do non-nudists always imagine nudists “walking around”, “cavorting”, or even “strutting”?)

        * Indians call Indians “Indians” —Chris Eyre (Indian (the North American kind) film director

      • Anton Garrett Says:

        By “the Greens” I meant the Green movement generally. There is much more to it than the political party of that name.

      • Anton Garrett Says:

        To be clearer still: I would expect Putin to be funding the Green movement as much as he can. I have no idea which parts of it are taking his money, knowingly or unknowingly, and I am not making claims about specific organisations. I have no reason to doubt Rasmussen.

      • Good stuff Anton. Yes, I think it will take power cuts before sanity is restored. Because you can’t do physics in the dark, or much else either. People will then say what were they thinking? And it will dawn on them that the perpetrators are now living in the South of France or the Caribbean or in some palace somewhere.

      • Anton Garrett Says:

        “Indians call Indians “Indians” —Chris Eyre (Indian (the North American kind) film director”

        They do today. And as they originally spoke many languages they could not have developed a collective noun of their own in the face of European colonisers. Context used to make clear whether Indians from India or American Indians were meant, and often still does, but in view of globalisation and the presence of a sizeable community from India in North America, confusion is now possible.

      • Anton Garrett Says:

        “Nothing demonstrates the bad influence of the “Western” world than an Amazon Indian telling a Norwegian “hey, you can’t just run around naked!” ”

        Steady on Phillip. Until a very recent phase indeed of Western Civ, Westerners would have taken exactly the same view of fuckfilms as those Indians do. Is it not the case that the Indians wore loincloths before the coming of modern clothing? Let’s also not forget that, although Western Civ has as shameful a track record of maltreatment of others as any civilisation, such maltreatment is (unhappily) the norm rather than the exception when a more powerful culture meets a less powerful one. Moreover Western Civ can, uniquely, offer people medicine and many other boons that it developed within itself. An update of the John Cleese “What did the Romans do for us?” scene would be salutary.

      • “Steady on Phillip.”
        🙂

        ” Until a very recent phase indeed of Western Civ, Westerners would have taken exactly the same view of fuckfilms as those Indians do.”

        Right. That’s my point, how quickly they have forgotten/repressed/ignored their own state just a few generations ago. (Actually, it was just nudity which caused them to reverse their decision. That was enough so that many of them didn’t even realise that porn was involved as well.)

        “Is it not the case that the Indians wore loincloths before the coming of modern clothing?”

        Some did, some didn’t. Same today. They were not, and are not, a homogeneous group. This goes for all indigenous peoples; there is a huge variety of tradition, culture, language etc. (It is said that New Guinea contains more linguistic variation than the entire rest of the world.)

        “Let’s also not forget that, although Western Civ has as shameful a track record of maltreatment of others as any civilisation, such maltreatment is (unhappily) the norm rather than the exception when a more powerful culture meets a less powerful one.”

        Indeed. And, of course, the Nobel Savage (along with the Blank Slate and the Ghost in the Machine) is a myth which has been debunked, quite thoroughly by Steven Pinker, for example.

        “Moreover Western Civ can, uniquely, offer people medicine and many other boons that it developed within itself.”

        Indeed. There shouldn’t be an “all or nothing” approach though. Instead of a “clash of cultures”, it would make more sense for each side to take the best of both worlds.

        “An update of the John Cleese “What did the Romans do for us?” scene would be salutary.”

        This was just a blog comment. I didn’t expect the Spanish Inquisition! 🙂

      • “Context used to make clear whether Indians from India or American Indians were meant, and often still does, but in view of globalisation and the presence of a sizeable community from India in North America, confusion is now possible.”

        In North America, there is less of a problem since redskins are IN-DEE-ins while those from the Asian subcontinent are IN-dee-uns.

      • Anton Garrett Says:

        Phillip, I’d welcome (genuinely) a reference for the statement that some tribes wore loincloths and others didn’t. As for your statment that “Instead of a “clash of cultures”, it would make more sense for each side to take the best of both worlds”, ther is a superb extended essay by one of my heroes, Gilbert Highet (a 20th century classicist), which treats history as a process of teaching and learning between civilisations. It is called The Migration of Ideas.

      • “Phillip, I’d welcome (genuinely) a reference for the statement that some tribes wore loincloths and others didn’t.”

        I’m neither an anthropologist nor an archeologist nor a paleontologist. Certainly most clothing will not be preserved, so archeology can tell us little (and what finds there are might not be typical). Certainly there are various “primitive” societies today where clothing is not the norm and, since they were not inspired by late-19th-century German FKK, the logical assumption is that this was true in the past as well.

        I believe it is fairly well documented that nudity was quite common in Ancient Greece. There is some stuff mentioned here: http://www.primitivism.com/nudity.htm and certainly there are reports from the age of exploration of the first encounters with various peoples which remarked on the lack of clothing, even of loincloths.

  2. Physics problem of the day: why are power-plant cooling towers shaped as they are?

    • telescoper Says:

      I gather their shape is that of a hyperboloid of revolution. Presumably there is some sort of variational principle that results in that shape?

    • Anton Garrett Says:

      To generate a hyperboloid shape, start with two concentric circles in the same plane and connect each point on the outer to the nearest point on the inner using elastic bands. Then grasp one circle and pull the other directly away, ie perpendicular to the plane. Stop once you have defined the ‘height’, and rotate one circle around itself ie about the axis connecting their centres. The curve now described in 3D by the elastic bands is a hyperboloid. (It doesn’t matter if the radii of the top and bottom circles are equal to each other.)

      Anybody else love Lockwood’s Book of Curves?

      As for why cooling towers are of this shape, here is an explanation from Wikipedia (although it doesn’t really answer Phillip’s interesting question):

      Hyperboloid (sometimes incorrectly known as hyperbolic) cooling towers have become the design standard for all natural-draft cooling towers because of their structural strength and minimum usage of material. The hyperboloid shape also aids in accelerating the upward convective air flow, improving cooling efficiency.

      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cooling_tower

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