Saturday, 12 October 2013

The Scottish problem

In the process of preparing a presentation about plus-energy housing, I noticed just how many Scots were involved in the whole business of thermodynamics. It's probably no exaggeration to say that James Watt invented global warming when he came up with the idea of burning coal to pump water out of mines so that you could get more coal out. The irony is that making a house more energy-efficient needs the same level of understanding of science that started the problems in the first place. Oh brave new world that has such people in it. 

James Clerk Maxwell was another Scot, discovering the demon better known as the second law of thermodynamics. This is the gambler's ruin theory of heat. And I didn't even get onto James Dewar, who invented the Thermos flask but unfortunately did not file a patent for it. 

It has been alleged that double glazing was invented in Scotland in Victorian times, although it was not commercialised until the 1930s in the US. The inventor of that was probably called James too. In fact another person involved with the whole business was James Joule, but he was a brewer from Manchester. Then there was Lord Kelvin who was not called James and may not have been born in Scotland, but did his work there. 

And he's not usually considered a scientist, but Billy Connolly's line about there being no such thing as bad weather, just the wrong clothes, belies a deep understanding of heat that would serve the building industry well: there's no such thing as a harsh climate, just inappropriate housing.

So given that global warming was all originally the fault of Scots, and since people in the United States are gradually starting to believe in it, it's only a matter of time before the lawyers get hold of the idea and they decide to sue. It therefore seems like a good idea for the English to support devolution. 

And I don't say that because I'm not British deep down. It's true that I usually tell people I'm English but that's more a matter of convenience since people where I live have usually heard of England, and use a similar name in their language, and it takes several minutes to explain that the country is not really England but the United Kingdom. It takes longer still to convince them that the first international football match was between England and Scotland, and that it was indeed an international match. At least they do appreciate the explanation of the Union Jack, until they start asking where the flag for Wales is. 

The point is, when those lawyers in Manhattan start suing Scotland, if it's a separate country from England, then at least some people in Britain will be unaffected. Of course this may come back to bite those south of the border since many of the insurance companies are in London.