PUBLISHED 'LETTERS TO EDITORS':

by John Chubb

[Guardian, 6 October 2015]

Andrew Adonis and the UK's real infrastructure needs (letters)

Cutting carbon emissions is but one aspect of the changes needed for the infrastructure and mode of operation of the UK (Osborne reveals deal with former Blair ally, 5 October). On the energy side, we need to increase development and installation of a variety of renewable energy sources. These need to be supported with energy storage schemes. Tidal barrages provide an obvious way to combine both opportunities. We also need to develop and use technology to improve energy efficiency. This involves both more efficient operation of energy use and the reduction in use which is not socially useful. We make many things that add little benefit to life - for instance our over-packaging of many small retail items with moulded plastic. All of this needs to be viewed in ways to make our living more sustainable in the long run in terms of the use of world resources.

John Chubb

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[Guardian, 4 August 2015]

Population growth and climate change: fewer people does not mean more CO2 (letters)

It seems obvious that the increasing population in the world presents serious problems in three ways, as you point out in your editorial. The number of people is increasing, people are living longer and they expect an increasing standard of living. It is too strong to say, as you do, that the linkage of climate change to world population is ‘flawed’ - inadequate certainly, but it is not an irrelevant parameter. In addition to the consequences of the population on climate change the competition for the limited resources of the world (land, minerals, energy, fresh water, fairness, etc) will surely create serious risks of conflict. Conflicts rarely solve anything, but damage resources and degrade societies. Allowing the world population to continue to increase is storing up problems. I hope such aspects will feature in the Paris meeting on climate change in December. We in the developed world hence have a responsibility to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, and make the technology available worldwide. We also need to modify our lifestyles to reduce impact on world resources - and find that one can still enjoy life.

John Chubb

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[Eureka magazine, June 2015]

Comment on Feature article: "No buds on the STEM"

Thinking back to my own experience I feel, without detailed knowledge, that opportunities and the social environment are not at present favouring development of practical scientific and engineering skills. I wrote a piece for Physics World last January outlining features of my professional life (on my website via: http://www.infostatic.co.uk/cache/A%20'static'%20business.pdf). I think the following factors were significant for me: - as a child building things with Meccano (not to the book) and drawing and painting - at school and at home, building things mechanical (clocks) and electronic (radios from basic parts). At school I had the opportunity to set up and use my own workshop and learn to use a treadle lathe - the practical sessions in my physics degree course, with emphasis not on getting the 'right’ answer but understanding the limitations of the approach - building much of my own equipment for my PhD work (mechanical, optical, HV) - doing a graduate apprenticeship at a major engineering company (English Electric). This provided exposure to a wide range of practical experience In outline, the above background enabled me to then devise and develop prototype high power vacuum interrupters (English Electric), cryopumping investigation test rigs and a monitor for airborne fibres (UKAEA Culham Lab) and to devise, develop, manufacture, service and calibrate a range of electrostatic measuring instruments (John Chubb Instrumentation). As you say there is not an environment today of involvement of family and/or contacts in manufacturing and so many technical things these days are a) readily available at modest cost, and b) do not justify own repair effort. Cars do not invite tinkering! What’s to do - as technical innovation is surely a relevant route for the UK to develop exports and a sustainable living? While teaching at schools and Universities can provide the intellectual information, the initial motivation surely needs to come, as you say, during childhood and growing up. The introduction of the Pi computer and the BBC.bit are helpful. But perhaps more could be done via TV presentations to inspire what you can do practically that is worthwhile and exciting. (Perhaps building your own radio controlled electrically powered plane, perhaps powered by flapping wings, maybe with on-board collision avoidance, etc). I am sure you are right, that there is a problem. But action is needed.

Best wishes, John Chubb

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[Guardian, 30 October 2014]

Little to celebrate as UK troops withdraw from Afghanistan (letters)

Now our forces are returning from Afghanistan, is it not time for a full assessment of what roles are likely to be appropriate for our armed forces in the future? While you draw attention to the need for assessing the future role and requirements of the army, surely there is need for a more far-reaching consideration. In particular, what purpose, if any, will be served by the very expensive replacement of Trident and the commissioning of the new aircraft carriers. Here is surely an opportunity for the Labour party to show initiative and relevant concern for Britain’s future.

John Chubb

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[Physics World, June 2013, p20]

Two views of mathematics

The May issue of Physics World contains a number of comments ('Feedback' pp23-24) on the significance of maths in the pursuit of physics. To my regret I am poor at maths but, in my personal experience, the ideas that form the basis of innovation arise primarily from an appreciation of the physical operation of the world, not from mathematical concepts or calculations. In my experience, from vacuum circuit interrupters, ultrahigh vacuum cryopumping of hydrogen and the development of a variety of electrostatic instruments and test methods, the ideas that have proved fruitful have not originated mathematically - and only a modicum of maths has been useful to help guide and assess the development of ideas. This is not decry mathematics, but to recognise that in some areas, mathematics is not a prerequisite.

John Chubb

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[Guardian, 27 March, 2013]

Fallout from Cyprus bailout

The Cyprus bail out deal seems iniquitous. Government theft. Should not the Cyprus Government at least offer customers with bank deposits over €100k bonds that can only be redeemed progressively when the economy recovers sufficiently. OK, a lot of people loose access to their bank deposits, but at least there would be the incentive to restore the financial situation of the country and a prospect of return of assets.

John Chubb

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[New Scientist. 2 February 2013, p29]

Beginner's luck?

Peter Bauer in his letter notes the need for curiosity to overcome established information and experience (19 January, p31). In my experience it is when entering a new field, where you don't know the accepted ideas, that useful new approaches often arise.

John Chubb

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[Guardian, 15 January, 2013]

Tax break treatment for health firms

You quote Cameron as saying he wanted to "turn the NHS into a fantastic business" (Private NHS providers in line for tax cut, 14 January). The NHS was not conceived as "a business" but as a service for everyone in the UK, free at the point of delivery. That has provided us in the UK with a cost effective and much appreciated health service. A business will, rightly as a business, seek to provide a good profit and return on investments.

Yes, the NHS faces difficult decisions - such as where should be the boundary between free treatment and conditions that should be paid for (e.g. some cosmetic procedures). But improvement to the operation and efficiency of an organisation is likely to be best achieved using knowledge and resources already within that organisation - not by turning part or all of the organisation into private business activities.

If companies want to offer health treatment facilities, fine and there is a need for that. But that is done on a business model, within a business environment - and that includes paying VAT and corporation tax. It is not a "level playing field" to compare an organisation, such as the NHS or a charity, with a business.

John Chubb

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[Physics World, November 2012, p23]

Small science too

Physics World's "Focus on Big Science" was very interesting. But would it not be appropriate to do a focus on "small science", too? I say this because there are a ot of people doing physics individually and in small groups (in industry as well as in universities), but there is the risk that the image given to the public is that physics is all about large groups studyng rather abstruse topics. The quality of thinking required in physics and the appreciation of how the world works needs to be more widely available in UK industry.

John Chubb

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[Physics World, August 2012, p20]

Access for all

While I applaud the idea of open access it seems to me there is a worrying assumption in the "Author pays" proposal. The assumption is that all research is carried out either by large organisations and/or with research grants, where the costs can be either absorbed in the organisation or added to the grant proposal costs. What about small companies, where investigatory and development work is self-financing out of meagre profits? Costs of, say, £1750 for assessment of a paper (which might not be accepted or might need reworking) would be a significant deterrent to paper submission.

I ran a small specialist company in the niche business of electrostatic measuring instruments for over 25 years. I had quite a number of peer reviewed papers published. I feel these made a useful contribution to the development of instrumentation and to methods of measurement. Particularly in the early days, with minimal profits, I could not have countenanced submission of papers with the costs proposed. Peer reviewed publication of papers is both a useful route to promote the work of individuals and small companies and a useful contribution to technical and scientific development. I hope consideration will be given to overcoming this problem.

John Chubb

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[Physics World, July 2012, p20]

Geo pros and cons

Baglin rightly recognises some of the risks associated with using geoengineering 'fixes' to minimise risks of climate change. But the problem has much wider implications than just limiting emissions of carbon dioxide and methane. As I noted in my letter to Physics World ( November, 2009 p20), if the world population continues to grow and we aim to satisfy hopes for a fairer access for people to world resources then with the present level of action it seems unrealistic to expect climate change gas emissions to be controlled within the timescale needed.

To the extent that the present prospect and rate of climate change is due to the activities of man it is up to man not to try to mitigate the problem by adding other emissions, or control activities. Instead, we shold stop doing those things that caused the problem in the first place. It sounds attractive to 'do a bit of geoengineering' to give us time to sort ourselves out, but there are technical as well as political risks associated with geoengineering approaches to limit the impact of climate change.

For example, if research shows that predicted temperature rises could be limited by geoengineering, it is likely that there will be pressure to go ahead. There will then be a corresponding reduction in pressure to limit emissions. Stronger and stronger geoengineering actions will then be needed if emissions continue to grow. At some point, life on Earth then become dependent on the continued effectiveness of the increasingly potent human interventions. This is not an attractive way to tackle a problem involving so many complex interactions.

John Chubb

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[Physics World, May, 2012]

Titanic failuers

Richard Gorfield's article "The perfect storm"( April 2012) provided an interesting comment on the variety of factors relevant to the sinking of the Titanic. One point that struck me, both from the article and from recent TV reporting of the sinking of the Costa Concordia, is the question as to why watertight compartments are only made transversely across the width of ships? It is evident that as ships usually travel forwards and cannot stop within their own length, any impact to an immoveable object is likely to cut a long gash down the side of the ship. This is likely to prejudice several transverse watertight compartments. Surely, if there were a number of longitudinal watertight bulkheads then boyancy could be maintained despite even quite a long gash down the ship's side.

John Chubb

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[Guardian, 25 April, 2012]

Brand awareness

To add to the fracking debate (Letters, 24 April): first, adverse effects (leakage of gas and/or water system pollution) will take time to become observable because of the time taken for materials to migrate through complex earth structures. And second, once fracking has been started, any adverse effects cannot be reversed. Put together, these two factors cast a big question over the wisdom of proceeding. It would be better to develop tide and wave-power systems - the UK is well placed to benefit from our weather environment and also to provide opportunities for development of relevant engineering resources and for exports.

John Chubb

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[Guardian, 16 March, 2012 - via: www.gu.com/letters]

NHS risk register is an essential read

Surely a risk management document should include not just a list of the risks (a risk register) but also evaluation of the probability of their occurrence, their consequences and the actions that would be required and appropriate to limit the chance of occurrence and the consequences. This would provide a balanced assessment and should inspire confidence to all involved that things have been thought through properly. To have this in the public domain provides opportunity for deficiencies to be spotted and then corrected. All this requires "thinking the unthinkable".

John Chubb

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[Guardian, 12 January 2012]

Mixed signals on the go-ahead for high-speed rail

There are two significant questions I have not seen addressed in the discussions and reports about the proposed high speed rail investment (Report, 10 January). The first question is what fraction of the work will actually be carried out by UK companies - or will the trains, for example, be sourced from abroad? If it makes economic sense to have a high speed rail service along the main spine of the UK then surely the opportunity must be taken to use the opportunity to involve and enhance UK industrial capabilities. Second, why is a link into the Eurostar route to Europe only being considered in the 2026 - 2032 phase of work? Surely that should be provided right at the start.

John Chubb

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[Observer, 9 October 2011]

David Cameron's folly in giving power to the people

I fear that his enthusiasm for moving 'state power' to the 'people' David Cameron has not thought through the implications and likely consequences ('Please explain your true values, Mr Cameron, Leader Comment last week). Surely assessments and decisions will come to be made by special interest groups.

The people likely to become involved will probably have have political, financial or religious reasons to be interested. They will not be representative of local communities and will not be answerable to anyone. Yes, there will be a few altruistic people involved, but this is not the way to get decisions made that are fair and in the interests of the whole local community. Local councils should surely retain a dominant decision-making role.

John Chubb

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[Observer, 18 September 2011]

We need to think small in the quest for grow th

I fully support Will Hutton's call for a strategy for growth ('Forget the top rate of tax. We need a proper strategy for growth', Comment last week). However I think this line of thinking needs to be expanded. Rather than imagining that the strategic aim is to get back to where we were, we need to address the question as to where we should try to be in the world that is likely to develop.

With the limitations on world resources we can already appreciate we need to think in terms of sustainability. We need to think in terms of what will make us happier and more contented with our society rather than have new shiny consumer goods. This is likely to require intellectual as well as technical innovation and this is more likely to arise with small, fleet of foot, start up companies rather than from the research labs and manufacturing operations of large corporations. This focusses attention on how to encourage such start up companies and such innovation - and, I suggest, a 50% tax on earnings over £150,000 is hardly relevant to this.

John Chubb

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[New Scientist, 20 August 2011]

Smokescreen

There are technical as well as political risks associated with geoengineering approaches to limit the impact of climate change (6 August, p3).

If research shows that predicted temperature rises could be limited by geoengineering, it is likely that there will be pressure to go ahead with a corresponding reduction in pressure to limit emissions. This may be succesful in short term, but stronger and stronger geoengineering actions will be needed if emissions continue to grow.

Life on earth become dependent on the continued effectiveness of the increasingly potent human interventions.

The only acceptable use for geoengineering approaches would be to buy time while we try to cut our emissions, not as an alternative to emission control.

John Chubb

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[Guardian 22 July 2011]

NHS pivatisation is slipping under the radar

Sir

All Andrew Lansley's ideas for the provision of NHS services by commercial organisations could equally well be provided by the NHS itself. Such provision would be more coherent as activities would be linked to other treatments patients may need. Lansley's proposals show no evident deviation from the prospect of creeping privatisation of the NHS.

John Chubb

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[Guardian 25 April 2011 - via www.gu.com/letters]

The NHS: Pause for thought

Sir

Government plans for the NHS, in as much as one can understand them, seem plain daft ('NHS plans: In the waiting room', p40)! It appears they are conflating two main objectives: a need to limit expenditure and a desire to change the whole way the NHS operates to a more 'commercial' activity. Surely, if there is a prime need to limit expenditure the best way to achieve this is to use the system you have got, with all its existing understanding and experience of how things work and where savings might be made. To change the whole mode of operation inevitably means that no one with responsibility knows anything about how things work - the 'system' is broken. Not only that, but large amounts of money can be expected to be needed to accommodate the changes proposed - money that should be used for treating patients. How daft can you get?

John Chubb

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[Guardian 22 March 2011]

Libya's neighbours and lines in the sand

Sir

I foresee a couple of further points to add to the concerns expressed in your leader on Saturday ('Libya: The perils of intervention', p48). First, there needs to be greater clarity as to how far the UN actions should go. The intention is to inhibit civilian, non-participant, casualties. Where can the line be drawn in urban fighting? Second, what happens if the 'rebels' come to roll back Gaddafi forces, start to enter Tripoli and start exacting retribution? Logically, then, surely the UN resolution would require actions to reduce the risk of a reverse bloodbath? If not, then it would indeed look that 'the west' was purely supporting regime change rather than acting to restore peace.

John Chubb

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[Education Guardian, 1 March 2011]

Public accountability

Sir

I find it incomprehensible that public money is planned to be used to provide premises and support for the establishment of so called free schools ("Ten new schools in one borough?", Education Guardian, 22 February).

Surely if a group of people wish to set up a school and run it their way (with orientation towards particular faiths, specialist capabilities or whatever) they should find all the funding to start it and run it. Where is the logic for public money being used by people not accountable to the public. Gove should scrap his so called flagship policy and support and enhance the schools we have.

John Chubb

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[Guardian 24 February 2011]

We need an election on the cuts

Sir

It is not just that "price is transparent and quality opaque" (Editorial, 23 February). Agreement on a price is a prospective action, whereas quality is a retrospective assessment which cannot then be corrected. If the reorganisation of the NHS, and other public services, is allowed to proceed there will be no going back. Why can the Government not concentrate on getting the UK back into good business activities (manufacturing and exports) rather than spending time, effort and money rearranging the chairs while we risk the Titanic banking system hitting another iceberg?

John Chubb

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[Observer 23 January 2011]

We shouldn't fund free schools

Sir

I find it incomprehensible that public money is used to provide premises and support for the establishment of so called 'free schools' ("Parents divided by City bankers' backing for 'free school'", p11). Surely if a group of people wish to set up a school and run it their way they should find all the funding to start it and run it. Where is the logic for public money being used by people not accountable to the public. Gove should scrap his so called 'flagship' policy and support and enhance the schools we have.

John Chubb

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[Guardian 9 Nov, 2010]

Education letters

Sir

The proposals about university fees are regressive. It is true that graduates, on average, earn more. The logic the government applies is that the graduate should repay the investment in the same way as a mortgage or a pension. Not so. A mortgage is solely for the benefit of the investor. A university education provides benefit for the country.

A simpler and fairer approach would be to fund universities by an increased tax on high earners. This is simple to implement, fair, and produces an early return on investment by the government. What is wrong with that?

John Chubb

Cheltenham

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[Guardian 21 October, 2010]

In Defence of a new military strategy

Sir

I find it difficult to understand how we need two new aircraft carriers and a replacement for Trident if we can do without the present Ark Royal 'strike capability' for 10 years, the Queen Elizabeth is to then be in service for just 3 years and there will be a gap of 5 years before a Trident replacement becomes available ('Cameron to delay Trident replacement', p1). Either we need these capabilities or we do not. I think we do not - and we do not yet have a rational presentation as to what these very expensive pieces of hardware are to do to enhance national security.

John Chubb

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[Guardian 21 July, 2010]

Big issues for Cameron's big society

You report the comment by Greg Clark "If you allow communities to do what they really want.....you can turn a situation that is poisonous into something that is vibrant a nd a source of pride" ('Sir Humphrey's new role: being helpful', Saturday, p13). This sounds great. BUT, how do communities discuss and agree what they really want? In many situations there will need to be involvement of the local authority - who should be acting without prejudiced interest for the community. They are needed to organise and supervise discussion and to point out practical advantages and likely constraints. Certainly it will be good to get greater interest in what goes on and is proposed for one's local area, but this needs to evolve progressively. It cannot not be expected to happen from an immediate top down (Government) decision.

Best wishes, John Chubb

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[New York Times, March 21 2010]

The Benefits of Plagiarism

On the Arts page last week in the International Weekly (The Observer, 14 March) was an article "Writers who like to borrow". This reminded me of the dictum related in song by Tom Lehrer. The advice of the great Russian mathematician N. I. Lobachevsky was: "Let no one else's work evade your eyes/remember why the good Lord made your eyes/don't shade you eyes - but plagiarize, plagiarize, plagiarize....."

John Chubb

Cheltenham, England

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[Guardian, Tuesday February 23 2010]

What is the policy we might vote for? Readers interview David Laws, the Lib Dems' education spokesman

Do you think the effort put into the creation of academies has been a good thing? Would the money have been better spent improving the schools that existed and keeping business and religious influence away from state-funded education? John Chubb, Cheltenham

[comment by David Law]

Let's be clear: academies have almost always replaced state schools that were failing disastrously. Many are now doing a brilliant job. And as a liberal I do not believe that government has a monopoly of wisdom over how to run schools. But the ingredients for an excellent school are not created by a nameplate, and there are brilliant schools that are not academies. The challenge is to improve leadership and teaching in all schools ?Äì and we believe funding and freedoms should be given fairly to all schools, not just to a favoured minority.

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[Observer, 24 January 2010]

The article on plagiarism ('In the words of someone else....there's nothing new in literature', p25) reminded me of the dictum related in song by Tom Lehrer. The advice of the great Russian mathematician N. I. Lobachevsky was: "Let no one else's work evade your eyes/remember why the good Lord made your eyes/don't shade you eyes - but plagiarize, plagiarize, plagiarize....."

John Chubb

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[Guardian, 4 January 2010]

Sir

I found your leader article rather depressing ('High speed rail: Time to make tracks', p30). It is a poor reflection on our decision making processes if construction on the proposed high speed rail network is not expected to start until 2017 and that trains will not run until 2025. It sound like the slow progress of the Channel Tunnel rail link all over again! Surely things can be speeded up. True that laying track cannot begin until approvals have been achieved - but in parallel the trains could be built and operated on existing lines, to gain practical experience, and if temporary links were made between the new system and existing lines then the new lines could be brought into operation progressively, and at full speed, as sections are completed.

Best wishes, John Chubb

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[Observer, 20 December 2009]

'Don't blame Gordon Brown'

Sir

Will Hutton is right to castigate Gordon brown and the Government for not foreseeing the prospect of the 'credit crunch' ('Darling's plan was more radical than he got credit for. But it is not enough' p32). Unfortunately, neither the Tory opposition nor senior people in many other countries saw what was coming. Aiming all the blame at Gordon Brown is not fully fair - and is only justified with the advantage of hindsight! The real question is where and how do we go on from here. The proper questions now are what plans are appropriate for the future and how confident can we be that such plans will be adequately 'bomb-proof' against possible future shocks. Possible future shocks for the UK may arise from other sources than just the financial markets and could include the availability of supplies of food, energy and raw materials and the pressures of increasing population and requirements to combat climate change.

. Best wishes, John Chubb

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[Observer' 13 December 2009]

'New uses for City slikers'

Sir

The City 'crowds out' manufacturing not only in terms of capital ('President Sarkozy is absolutely right. The City has to be cut down to size' p34) but also, and as significantly, in terms of the intellectual talent that would be better involved in manufacturing and product development. A few so called 'high flyers' may depart these shores, but it should be feasible to attract a large number towards manufacturing. There are surely plenty of opportunities arising in the need for developing 'green' technology and products - but to achieve such a transition requires imagination and some appropriate encouragements.

Best wishes, John Chubb

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[Physics World, November 2009]

'Climate criticisms'

The articles on climate modelling, energy sustainability, etc in the October issue of 'Physics World' were good and informative. However, they omitted mention of two factors important for a sustainable future for the world: population and the facilities and lifestyle to which we aspire. While such questions may not come within the ambit of traditional physics they are very relevant to an overall view of where we are going and where significant actions are needed. I fear we really have actually not got very long. To really get things moving we need to promote the benefits that will arise from limiting carbon emissions, limiting population density and limiting our use of natural resources. Then, and probably only then, will we all start to see action - from the grass roots up, rather than from politicians down.

Best wishes, John Chubb

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[Observer, 12 October 2008]

Sir

You promote the acceptance of GM crops to save lives ('Let science, not fear, be the judge of GM crops', Sunday 5 Oct). This may be true in the short term - although I remain anxious about unforeseen influences. In the long term, and this may not be that many years, the world needs to have fewer mouths to feed. Fewer mouths will make it easier to achieve each of the objectives for a more sustainable world - food, energy, fresh water, minerals, etc. It will also provide a better prospect for a happier future. Achieving this requires political will and effective worldwide persuasion.

Sincerely, John Chubb

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[Physics World' 2 Oct 2009 - Comments of tackling climate change]

My fear is that the world situation is even worse than is considered in most discussions on climate change. It seems to me we have several major interacting problem areas: climate change, population, resources. It seems definite that the present rather rapid change in the world's climate is due to human activities. An increasing world population with increasing aspirations for higher quality food and technical facilities inevitably requires more fuel, more agricultural activity, more minerals and more fresh water. These all impact on already stretched world resources and each requires efforts to try to minimize adverse impacts on each area of the human population. The factor that receives scant attention in the media is population growth. If this is not tackled then all other efforts will only delay an inevitable glob al catastrophe. The difficulties of solving problems increases as the population increases. Inability to solve problems in ways that seem fair to all will surely lead to famines, to increased tension and to aggression, and possibly war, between people.

I am sure an extra african or asian child has much less impact on world resources than a child born in the west and that the numbers of children born per family will decrease as africa develops and becomes more affluent. BUT how long have we, as a world, got? How much of the world's resources will be needed before africa, asia, etc go through a peak in population growth and associated requirements for living? It will take time because it involves a change of attitudes. And meanwhile will the demands on world resources by 'the west' continue to rise? I guess that we need to take a lead (as with nuclear disarmament!). Morally we are not in any position to advise others if we have not shown a start ourselves. Somehow there needs to be a shift in social attitudes so that people no longer feel it is a good thing to have a new car when the present one is still running well, to have lots of foreign holidays, etc, etc. Does GDP actually need to increase? There needs to be an appreciation that happiness and the respect and interest of others does not equate with material possessions. Sufficient is enough. I guess this is an area where 'the media' could offer a lead - say a discussion on BBC2 or in the papers about 'what is happiness' or 'what do we want out of life'? Now is perhaps a good time to start moves in this direction. The wide public anger over city bonus culture is causing people to start asking questions about values.

Identifying the actions needed to reduce carbon emission and to control population growth is the easy bit! The major challenge is to work out how these actions can be achieved and coerced in ways that are felt to be fair, appropriate and in the interests of all and which will give results within suitable timescales. I fear we really have actually not got very long. We need to think in terms of the benefits that will arise from limiting carbon emissions, limiting population density, limiting our use of resources and the opportunities for clever UK manufacturing. Then, and probably only then, will we all start to see action - from the grass roots up, rather than from politicians down.

John Chubb

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[Guardian, 4 December 2007]

Sir

All is not lost for the architects at St Pancras (Letters, Friday)! In addition to provision of 'a gin court' there could be relief signs "Way t' Loo'.

John Chubb

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[Physics World, October 2007]

God and Physics

Discussions about the relationship between science and religion need to start with clarifying what they mean by "God". The lack of a clear definition makes much of such discussions of little value or instruction to the uncommitted enquirer. For example, is God just a personalised construct that represents to good aspirations of all of us? Was Jesus just a person with insights to the way people need to be and to interact to create a forward moving society ?Äì or something more? Are the Gods of the various religions mutually exclusive - or do they all have their value for their own societies?

John Chubb

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[Education Guardian, November 2007]

Lets be practical

In your article about the funding of research in Universities ('The science of funding' 30 October) you note the reliance on citation analysis for ranking the capabilities of departments. The problem is that such analyses takes no account of the practical value of published work. A paper which is taken up and finds valuable application in industry may never receive any related citations - because application of the work is, in many cases, not likely to be published. Citation analysis is hence rather a narcisic activity. It will tend to reward the purely academic activities over those that have application value. Is that what we want - I think not.

John Chubb

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[Physics World, March 2007]

Debating the future of physics publishing

On reading the article about the rise in the use of citation analysis by Lokman I Meho, (January 2007 pp32-36), it occurred to me that such analyses take no account of the practical value of published work. A paper that finds valuable application in industry, for example, may never receive any related citations because the application work is never published. Citation analysis is hence rather a narcissistic activity and will tend to reward the purely academic activities over those that have application value. Is that what we want?.

John Chubb, Cheltenham

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[Education Guardian, 23 January 2007]

Thinking smarter

Sir

While I appreciate the points made by Peter Knight ("Closing departments is not always wrong" Education Guardian 15 Jan) he ducks the very question he raises at the beginning of his article: - what is the significance of 'strategic subjects'? It seems clear to me that as a country we will only be able to maintain our living standards, and perhaps enhance them, by being clever. This is not just a matter of the numbers of students going to Universities or even perhaps the courses they take. It is about recognising what people in other countries will need and benefit from in the way of manufactured items and of services. We may not be able to compete on costs for bulk commodity manufacture - at least not until the wages and expectations in present developing countries approach those in the UK. What we can do is to be clever. There are opportunities - and an obvious example is the development of equipment and ways to tackle global warming. To be able to develop and manufacture new products we need people with high levels of education - notably in maths, physics, chemistry and engineering. This is a matter of strategic importance to the country. If Universities are not able to provide the additional support needed for these expensive departments then this is surely a case for strategic planning and action by the Government. This applies both to support for specific departments and to encourage students to study these subjects. Leaving decisions to short term economics will not make long term sense.

Yours faithfully, John Chubb

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[Observer, 31 December 2006]

Faith schools should not be free

I think the decision by the Government to provide funding for 'faith schools' is very wrong ('First Hindu school is backed by £10M from taxpayer', News, last week). To me faith schools, like private schools and commercially funded school academies, are socially divisive. I would not ban such schools - but they should not receive state funding. State funding is to provide a well balanced secular education freely and equally available to all children. Religious instruction lessons within such schools should provide a background to various faiths - not any individual one. If parents feel the need to give their children faith based education then they should pay for it.

John Chubb, Cheltenham

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[Observer, 17 September 2006]

Blair has been brave, but he must still go

Sir

I am appalled by the shallow thinking shown in the article by Richard Perle ('Why do the British always ditch their best?'). The change to a Labour government after the second world war was not a question of ingratitude to Churchill. What the British people recognised was that it was time to have society run on a new and fairer set of values. No one, however successful in a particular field of activity, should expect, or be expected, to continue indefinitely. The world changes and moves on. New views and new approaches are needed. Margaret Th atcher did some good things and some awful ones. Blair has done good things and been a very capable communicator - but he has made mistakes, notably in supporting Bush in the invasion of Iraq. Yes, Saddam Hussein was an awful person - but there are plenty of others around who have not been brought to book! I wonder why! Yes, Blair has shown courage and conviction. These are not enough. He has railroaded through many actions which are not in agreement with or to the benefit of people in this country or to the world. He needs to recognise it is time for a new leader to take over.

Yours faithfully, John Chubb

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[The Observer, Sunday 3 September 2006]

Time to exploit how clever we really are

I applaud Will Hutton ('To win the war on terror, look at 1940', Comment, last week) and his recognition of the role of UK industry in providing the planes and ships with which we were able to repulse the Nazi war machine. In manufacturing terms, we would be poorly placed to effect a comparable achievement today.

This country will only be able to maintain its living standards and, perhaps, enhance them by being clever. This is not just a matter of the number of students going to university. It is about recognising what people in other countries will need and benefit from in the way of products and services.

We cannot expect to compete on costs for manufactured or bulk commodities, but we can be clever. There has been talk that the UK can maintain and enhance its income by selling financial and design services. This is false. Services cannot be separated from manufacture. It is time the government, significant industry and City financiers started some strategic planning for the long term. If this is not done, then it is difficult to feel any basis of confidence for the future.

John Chubb Cheltenham, Gloucestershire

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Ivory towers are paved with gold

[The Guardian, Tuesday 15 August 2006]

I do not agree that the primary role of a university education is the pursuit of knowledge for its own sake. Neither should it be restricted to those wealthy enough not to need to work. A university education develops the ability and provides the context for constructive thought and action. Training for areas of employment may indeed not be an appropriate role for a university. But a university education should provide an appreciation of the broader relevance of the subject to other disciplines and the social context as well as the depth for its constructive use.

I went to university when grants provided a basic financial support to cover fees and living during term-time. This was an appropriate egalitarian method and provided opportunity for anyone who had the intellectual ability and motivation - class did not come in to it.

John Chubb Cheltenham, Glos

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Plans for more nuclear power

[The Guardian, Friday 30 June 2006]

Who will cover the costs for decommissioning if the private firms that are running the nuclear system go bust? Yes, us, the taxpayers - but with a much reduced capability if the Atomic Energy Authority has been run down by that time. And if new nuclear plants are built and/or owned by companies based abroad, the UK loses control of pricing and the right of access to the technology for any future developments in this area. Investment in further nuclear power plants will be hugely expensive. On the other hand, investment in new approaches for wind and wave power generation could, and should, give the UK an opportunity to lead in a significant area of engineering.

John Chubb Cheltenham, Glos

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[Electronics Weekly, May 26, 2006]

Dear Dr RoHS

I noted the article in the current Electronics Weekly regarding monitoring and control device exemption from RoHS.

Our business is instruments for electrostatic measurements and as such we had understood that we came within Category 9 exemption.

To change to full compliance will take time and quite a lot of effort and cost for us as a small company. Is there any indication of a likely timescale at which compliance is likely to be required?

To achieve this by July would be quite unreasonable. Any guidance will be much appreciated.

John Chubb - John Chubb Instrumentation

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Let's stay at home

[New Scientist 15 October 2005]

I feel very much saddened reading about the US plans for further human exploration of the moon and Mars ('NASA sets its sights on the moon'. 1 October). What actual benefit or enhanced understanding has been gained from the 1970s visits to the Moon? What is likely to be gained by further manned visits - that could not be gained much more ingeniously by robotic exploration and analysis? At the height of the Cold War it can be appreciated there were good political reasons to demonstrate the intellectual and technical capabilities of the US. These do not now exist.

I have been excited and impressed by the breathtaking accomplishments of the NASA deep space probes and the capabilities demonstrated by the Mars rovers. This sort of work both enhances our understanding of our environment and provides opportunity for feedback to terrestrial investigative work. However, to spend £300b plus on the proposed programme seems madness to me. It diverts money and intellectual capability away from problems that we know we have and we know need to be solved - such as those associated with global warming.

John Chubb

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Issues that still face nuclear power

[The Guardian, Monday 3 October 2005]

Sir

I hope the discussion of further nuclear power generation will be fair, but I am sceptical. There are two areas of concern: first, although it is stated that the assessment will include the costs for decommissioning, what happens if the private firm running the system goes bust? Who picks up the pieces? Yes, us the taxpayers. Second, if new plants are built and/or owned by companies based abroad, we lose control of pricing and the right of access to the technology for future developments.

Investment in nuclear power will be hugely expensive. A major defect is that it has little chance to develop new export opportunities. On the other hand, investment in new approaches for wind and wave power could, and should, give the UK an opportunity to lead in a significant area of engineering. A simple assessment of costs is not a satisfactory basis for making value judgments.

John Chubb, Cheltenham, Glos

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[The Guardian, Saturday 1 January 2000]

What I wish to see in the next millennium is a greater respect by individuals for the interests of others. How would you feel if you were in the other person's position? Would you feel your actions fair and justified? This approach is as relevant at an individual level as for companies and governments. The approach would reduce the risks of conflict and the power of dictators, and help reduce inequalities in the world. This practical recipe was stated about 2,000 years ago as "do unto others as you would they should do unto you". Wish best wishes for a new millennium that can be fair and happy for everyone.

John Chubb Cheltenham

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[New Scientist, 03 December 1994. Magazine issue 1954]

True worth

I received a folder promoting New Scientist.

The promotional line "You are what you know" struck a discord with me - it is not true. It is truer to say you are what you do. What you do affects other people. This is a basis for judging the value of your actions by others and yourself - and gives you feedback on the utility and truth of your "knowledge". What you know may help what you do, but it is purely personal.

John Chubb Instrumentation, Cheltenham

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