Only one million UK jobs rely on Physics

Incredibly only 1 million of UK (The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland) jobs depend on physics according to the institute of physics (IOP) IOP – One million UK jobs depend on physics. This seems an incredibly low number, they must have very stringent criteria about what counts as physics. This headline produced from a report that was conducted with auditors Deloitte (Deloitte Touche Tohmatsu Limited).

The IOP try to differentiate jobs which rely on “the physics base” or need employees with an advanced understanding of physics, and says employees in these physics-based businesses add to the UK economy is almost double that of the average UK employee. With a Gross Value Added (GVA) of £70,000 compared to the average of £36,000.

This should mean that these physicists make up 4% of UK employees, and their added value is (70,000-36,000)*1 million = 34,000 million or 34 trillion pounds or 0.034 trillion pounds. This compares to GDP of $2.480 trillion $2480 trillion (2011 – wikipedia) 2.4 trillion (2012 – google world development indicators).

Download IOP report, the importance of physics to UK economy
IOP news

Article updated on 27 Oct 2012


Nuclear vs Wind – only 2000 wind turbines needed to replace Sizewell B

In David MacKay’s plan C, the balance of wind and nuclear can be varied interchangeable depending on political expediency (consensus).

In David’s plan C 37 nuclear power stations like Sizewell B are needed for UK, Sizewell B produces 1188 MW (This is 3% of UK’s current ELECTRICITY needs – 37 will produce 111% of current UK ELECTRICITY). 2000 2MW wind turbines would be needed to replace Sizewell B according to MacKay using 2000 km^2.

I would like to say that the nuclear power station only needs 2000 wind turbines to replace it. If we look at complexity of the nuclear power station and the risk of damage it is capable of, the amount of engineering and materials that go into building it, you will see that 2000 is really not a big number.

A quick look at at costs seems to show this is reasonable to assume the two sources can be swapped.

Cost of Sizewell B was 2.7 G£ in 1991 (2.7 billion pounds or 2700 million pounds). Inflation would make this around 4.5 G£ today. Some disadvantage to nuclear are the fact that build costs seem to be significant before production starts, some plants are delayed, and no production occurs before the whole thing is finished and delivered as safe. There is also problem of decommissioning but lets assume that will be cost discounted into future enough, or paid for by builder of future plant, who will use same site in perpetuity because site can never be used for anything else.

If we compare to wind power the costs are fairly similar to nuclear at the moment. These may be reduced by mass production since there are probably more similarity between wind turbines than between nuclear power stations. Costs according to the guardian in 2005 where (1110 build+ 1250 connect = 1350 total) 1350 M£ per GW in 2005. (costs in their article are misleading because there is not enough room to build half on land half offshore, and offshore seems to incur high costs to connect power to the grid). I also doubt this includes storage costs, but I think in the end I expect we can get used to not working when it isn’t windy enough.

The guardian columnist used these numbers to show that wind is cheaper. Although they can only really show that the costs are of same magnitude. I think it would be interested also to compare amounts of concrete and steel used to make 2000 wind turbines compared to one nuclear power station. Also same calculation can be done for total energy input to build the two.

Thanet wind farm from Gaurdian
A wind farm, if it breaks we don’t get any electricity

One thing in favour of nuclear build for UK is small footprint, but this claim is put into doubt if we are going to have any disasters. If we assume a 50 km radius around the plant is rendered unusable by a small leak this takes out 7854 square km of land. About 4000 is the plant is on the coast. The current disaster as Fukushima is leaking radiation into the sea and polluting fish stocks and seaweed for Japan Korea and China. Radiation spread into the atmosphere will have harder to quantify effect over larger amount of land and sea.

Disaster stricken Fukushima nuclear plant with smoke rising
A Nuclear power station, if it breaks it really breaks.

2000 2 MW wind turbines to replace one Sizewell B nuclear reactor takes about 2000 square km offshore. However the use of wind power doesn’t remove the use from other uses, actually it may help UK to have stronger claim on her Territorial waters. If stations are build close enough it is probably hard to use larger trawlers so smaller trawlers from closer ports can probably have some advantage if any fish can survive. Off shore cables can also probably be used to bring power from tidal generators and wave power generators. Tidal generators may help to balance energy supply since tides flow even when the wind doesn’t blow. Since they depend on position of the sun and moon they are predictable, although they are not generous enough to always at the same time each day.

Nuclear’s green cheerleaders forget Chernobyl at our peril (Guardian)

Hawking warns about alien contact

Stephen Hawking says although life almost certainly exists elsewhere, we should not attempt to actively initiate contact with extra–terrestrial life forms. As Jared Diamond has pointed out before, historical evidence of encounters between humans, and biological evidence of contacts of different groups of animals, shows it always goes badly for the native population, often resulting in extinction of species, or subjugation and slavery amongst humans.

Unfortunately for us, at least one group is scientists have taken it up on themselves to try to make earth orders of magnitude more visible in the galaxy. Their rational is that all advanced lifeforms (capable of inter-stellar travel) would be altruistic.

A nice discussion of this topic can be read here:

And an editorial in Nature discussed this in 2006:

Feynman Interview

Browsing the web I found a link at to some footage of Richard Feynman that has been made available by the BBC on their website. The footage is from the horizon programme, ‘The pleasure of finding things out’ link:Feynman interview by BBC Horizon.

Feynman Thumbnail

Feynman talks about his childhood, involvement in the trinity project to develop the atomic bomb and the effect this had on him, the nature of science and understanding. It’s nice to see him speaking on film after reading so much of his writing – I hadn’t seen these interviews before myself.

Interviews with other scientists and engineers are available here and possibly here too. Unfortunately you will require flash player 8 or above to view the pages.