Thursday, February 19, 2015

The Delicate Sound of Thunder

What I wrote on Twitter yesterday

This is what I wrote on Twitter yesterday. I never write things on Twitter (well, hardly ever) but I was puzzled as to what was going on. I was sat upstairs at home when a deep and loud throbbing noise became apparent. It got louder and louder for a couple of minutes until the floor and walls began to vibrate. It was cloudy, so I couldn't see what was flying overhead, but a few minutes later, through a gap in the clouds, I could see a large plane moving at quite a high altitude in an easterly direction (not westerly, as I accidentally stated on Twitter).

A few minutes later a couple of RAF jets were buzzing at low altitude around the area, followed by a military helicopter.

So, this may have been a Russian bomber, it turns out. It was almost certainly flying over the mainland when I saw it.

Anyway, no doubt western politicians will use this as a ploy to try and make us all more fearful of Putin. I note that the defence secretary is saying that Russia 'might target' the Baltic states next, and that this was announced just before the news broke of the yesterday's bomber. The propaganda machine is being cranked up for all it is worth. All media outlets are firing on all cylinders with the same stories.

And with the real economy imploding the drums of war beat ever louder. I fear they might get it if they keep on with their games.


  1. I don't get it. Previous news from UK was of drastic military reductions in force and spending. Now the UK has deployed its (apparently flightworthy) air force to escort a 'Russian' bomber out of the periphery of their airspace, gotta keep atop ah dese tings, eh -- and how did the 'bomber' get west enough to be heading east, anyway? Did it sneak over the pole?: are those ever-vigilant radar clowns in Sweden/US, Norway/US, Canada/US sleeping, or what? Whatever happened to Ronnie's missile defence shield!, a whole big bomber can penetrate non-Russian airspace without a squawk? Is there any reliable verification that the aircraft was Russian? -- and if what you saw was a bomber, how could it have been Russian?, it could only have been 'Russian', or the conventional news would have reported an in-fact violation of UK territorial airspace, not of the periphery(?) And how convenient is this -- as you note -- that the 'Russians' flew over just before news of the Russian threat to the Baltic, and NATO by inference -- was aired on UK news? Wasn't it just last week that we were told how abbreviated are our attention spans by the incessant flickering of screens (I forget)? Russian bomber, boom, threat to Baltic on news, boom....and now back to (the real news), Bruce's most favourite eyeliner, while the Western 'democracies' gear up for war? How in any way does a war stop worldwide debt implosion? Are all debts forgiven in the noble war effort? I'm puzzled.

    (PS You scoff at anonymous, but how does anyone comment without owning multiple 'devices' -- I use a public computer -- or being a member of something s/he's not inclined to join? This comment is signed tech-retard, or tech-sullen, just as you please.)

    1. Well, I can only say two things from what I observed with my own eyes. 1) The bomber, if that's what it was, was not being escorted by jets when I saw it. 2) When it flew over my house it was most definitely in UK airspace, not outside it. The jets turned up a few minutes later. Given that I live only 10 miles form an RAF base I'm surprised that took that ing to turn up.

      If I had to hazard a guess, I'd say that they knew the plane was flying nearby but didn't actually think it would veer off into UK airspace. Apparently there were two planes, but I only saw one. Perhaps they are embarrassed that they could do this. Whatever, the news seems to have been strategically timed to coincide with the 'Baltic threat' message.

      BTW I'm not 'scoffing' at anonymous commentators, I just say that I'm more likely to reply to people with a name if there are lots of comments (which there haven't been recently because I've been neglecting the blog).

  2. The best explanation I can think of is that it really was a Russian bomber, and they flew a bomber to the west of the UK, and then back east over UK airspace, to send a message that yes, they have planes with that range which can evade detection and the UK government should keep that in mind.

    I remember from the far off days of the Cold War that the Soviet air force did have bombers that could fly at really long ranges, but the ability to evade NATO air defenses may be new.

    The other explanation would be a test flight of a new "friendly" aircraft.

    1. My first thought was that it must have been a US plane heading towards Ukraine.

      Now, I think it must have been a Russian plane daring to make a short cut across the SW portion of the UK above cloud cover. I don't know whether it was deliberately provocative or not - I'll leave that sort of judgement to others.

      Nevertheless, it has highlighted how useless the UK's air defences are.

  3. Hello. This is tech-sullen again. Sorry, I didn't mean you to think I was doubting your observations or deductions. I just am sincerely puzzled and anxious. You said the floor and walls vibrated, but that the observed aircraft was at a very high altitude. I'm not doubting the vibrations or your reporting, it's just, what sort of an aircraft can cause buildings to vibrate, at that altitude? Several months ago there was a report at one of the alternative news web sites (Alternet?) that a Russian aircraft had buzzed a US nuclear warship on one of the latter's thuggery jaunts, and every bit of electronics on the warship was disabled, causing great consternation among all Americans present, and hawks. (Yes!) Of course, no report of same in the oligarchs' press. Is that incident and the one you report related? If it was really a Russian bomber you saw, the two incidences suggest the Russians must have developed some fundamentally new technology. If it was 'Russian', we can assume the west is scrambling to develop similar offensive, and certainly defensive measures, for their warship debacle, so that in your incident Penzance is possibly guinea-pigging *and* being used for anti-Russian propaganda, a twofer-one deal. I can't remember where I read it, but just in the recent past weeks I'm sure, someone commented that he turns more to Putin and Pravda for straight reportage now than to the Western oligarchs' press -- and I have to concur in that assessment of the respective merits of those organs. I was jubilant to read that the Russians are able to electronically disable nuclear weapons and all the associated computer technology. Where are the unbiased reports of this, why aren't we hearing more about it; and what sort of high-altitude aircraft can cause the vibrations you experienced, a result of what technology? (signed, tech-sullen)

    1. Yes, well I'm puzzled too. I am 100% sure that the plane I saw, the one that caused my house to vibrate deeply, was over UK land and heading east. As I said, I saw it through a gap in the clouds and there did not appear to any escorts with it. Another observer, about 60 miles to the east of here, seems to have seen the same plane travelling up the Cornwall peninsula slightly after I saw it:

      It would seem rather odd that it was only myself and this woman who saw it - there are not many planes flying over this region. Perhaps it was because I was in my attic room that the sound of the plane seemed so loud. I was surprised at the altitude because from the noise it seemed like it was much lower. The vibration I experienced very much sounded like it was caused by powerful engines rather than anything else.

      My updated guess is that this plane cut across the SW portion of Cornwall on a circular route around the British isles, merely to test the UK's response. The fact that they got away with it would probably be regarded as an acute embarrassment for military commanders, hence the splurge of anti-Russian news immediately following the supposed 'non-incident'.

      Incidentally, having looked at the map, I would estimate that the moment I saw the plane it was more or less directly over RAF Culdrose, which is quite an important node in the defience system. Given the number of military jets taking off from there every day I'm surprised that the 'Russian bomber' got away with it.

      Did I mention that one of the world's most vital internet hubs also lies here?

  4. Hi Jason. We hadn't heard of this down under. If it was a Russian plane - and I have no reason to doubt your version - then that isn't a good sign for the UK. It could only be interpreted one way: Look what we can do...

    How are things going there generally? Unemployment here is slowly rising month by month and consumer spending is falling as people are paying down their debt. They're not printing money here yet, but companies are following a predictable pattern of cost cutting and off shoring of employment - which is an inevitably self defeating strategy.

    Up here in the mountains, it is hot, but things are growing and projects are getting completed.

    Stay safe and cheers


    1. Hi Chris. I'm more worried by our own politicians and media than Russian bombers. They seem to be taking orders from the US and none of them has any sense of history or even an understanding of the factors behind the situation. Putin is blamed for everything - Dmitry Orlov has invented the verb 'To Bloop - i.e. to blame it on Putin'. There's a lot of blooping going on right now.

      I recently read a book about the causes of the first world war. They could basically be summarised as 'it seemed like a good idea at the time'. Those decisions were made by senile statesmen just as these days they are made by clueless statesmen. If we get a third world war it will take a century after the rubble stops bouncing for anyone to figure out what it was about.

      Otherwise, things in the UK carry on as ever. There is almost constant rolling news about how low the unemployment is, how healthy the GDP figures are etc etc. There's also endless debate about immigration, government corruption and big banks doing bad things. Oh, and a flame war is breaking out between the big newspapers over who is the more corrupt.

      It's enough to make you want to turn off all media channels and let the lunatics fight it out between themselves while you go and do something more useful. Like gardening.

    2. Hi Jason. It's a funny old world when gardening is considered to be a subversive activity, but there you go. ;-)! I've got some thoughts about corruption too, as I reckon it is a significant indicator of decline.
      PS: I hope you win the contest over at the ADR too. Yours was a good entry. I really liked the bit about how the central character was deliberately late too to the interview. Very amusing. Cheers. Chris

  5. Hi Jason. On the more useful subject of gardening, how are the hazels doing? I've tried quite a lot of cultivated varieties and so far only Cosford Cob and Webb's Prize Cob reliably produce nuts which fully fill the shells. Sorry to be so off topic. Best wishes. Frank

    1. Hi Frank - I do have quite a few hazel trees but I've no idea what variety they are. A friend gave me a cob tree last year, but it's only about two feet high. I can probably find out what variety it is if I ask her. The nuts on my established trees are generally small and disappointing ... I think they were planted more for their wood than their nuts.

  6. A former acquaintance of mine, an electrical engineer told me of a device that he and a friend had built while in college to disable electronic megaphones of anti war protesters at a distance. The device consisted of a directional antenna and a strong amplifier that used radio waves to induce disruptive currents in the megaphones' circuitry and prevented them from functioning. An upscale version of this concept is a small nuclear bomb detonated at an altitude of one mile above the target. The bomb generates a strong electro-magnetic pulse (emp), a radio wave in other words which is capable of damaging and thereby disabling integrated circuitry. Apparently vacuum tube electronics were immune to emps and were still in use on B52 bombers back in the 1970's for that reason. Also, military electronics were supposed to have 'nuclear hardening', meaning essentially that they were enclosed in a metal box that the electro magnetic pulse could not penetrate.
    I don't know what the current state of the art is in electronic protection and counter measures. There is a difference between interrupting or jamming electromagnetic communication and damaging electronic equipment. Back when I was in the American Army stationed in Germany, planes from both sides of the iron curtain would routinely cross the curtain to trigger enemy defensive radars to get a signature of the radar for purposes of jamming it at a future time.
    Is it possible that with the demise of the Soviet Union, the western military has gotten complacent about electronic counter measures? I doubt it. Is it possible that the Russians have developed new jamming technologies? Maybe. Is it possible that the Russians have penetrated western military communications networks? Maybe. Easier to have a resident virus planted in western electronic hardware that can be enabled by Russian equipment flying overhead.
    In any case, military defense systems that don't work are commonplace going all the way back to masonry walls.

    1. Hi Wolfgang. Nobody reported any electrical interference at the time. It's interesting what you say about radar jamming. I really don't know what is going on other than that we are being told half-truths. It really just does like sabre rattling.

      One thing that has come out of this, however, is the revelation that the UK is practically defenceless against Russia.

      But, again, such alarms might need a pinch of salt as there's a lot of politics going on, not least from the defence sector which wants more money.

  7. Hi Jason, If what you saw was a Russian bomber it was presumably a Bear, allegedly one of the noisiest aircraft ever made which would account for the vibrations you experienced. According to the press the planes were intercepted by Typhoons whose only bases in UK are at Coningsby Lincolnshire and Leuchars in Scotland. Coningsby is only 20 miles down the road from me and about 400 miles from you, assuming they flew at subsonic speed it would have taken them around half an hour to get down there. The interesting point to me is that our government says they stayed out of the 12 mile limit but you saw the plane over land. None of the press are reporting they were over land and there must have been lots more witnesses; suggesting the government have leant on the press to stop them publishing the news that our defences are lamentable. Presumably they came over the pole down the middle of the Atlantic and then up into the channel and after pinching Cameron's nose they turned around and went back the same way and our radar missed them or they would have intercepted them NW of Scotland. I think it would be naive not to assume NATO planes are doing exactly the same to Russia. Its says more about the UK than it does about the Russians. Given that these planes can carry nuclear cruise missiles it says to me that we should not be messing with the Russians in their own backyard.

    1. Well it's interesting that there was one report of someone else saying they were over land (see the Guardian link above in the thread) ... but comments were not permitted on it.

      I just did a quick check on the article mentioning the incident in the local press. Nobody had anything interesting to say in the comments, but when it was put on Facebook several people also said they saw one or two planes flying overhead. Wish I'd had my camera on me ...

  8. Hi Jason,
    Let’s hope the tension with Russia eases off. My comment was a bit off topic to your recent blog, but more relevant to one you did last year on coppicing, permaculture and general self reliance, and also the Fox Wood blog I’ve just discovered. I did comment on your previous blog but the comment was probably too late after the blog posting.
    Meanwhile in the interest of passing on useful knowledge, this is what I’ve found out about growing nut trees at about 100ft in Herefordshire. Your local climate should be warmer but maybe wetter.
    I’ve bought some trees from local nurseries and others from Martin Crawford at the Agroforestry Research Trust.
    I’m trialling most of the hazel varieties he has listed, and so far only Cosford and Webb’s prize Cob have given consistently good crops. (I’ve been too late ordering more of Webb’s this year as they’ve sold out.) Some like Butler and Ennis have large shells but disappointingly the nuts inside do not fill the shell. It’s too early to tell for most of the others.
    Any named variety of walnut of the ones I’ve tried does well for me, but as the nuts take longer to mature than hazels, there’s more time for the squirrels to take them.
    We are on the margin for sweet chestnuts. Belle Epine and Bouche de Betizac are the best of the few I’ve grown, and squirrels don’t eat them until they’ve fallen. I’ve planted some seedling sweet chestnuts with some making edible but small nuts.
    Here are some links you might like. The first is to Kevin Alviti who’s a stay at home Dad, carpenter and smallholder. I met him at our recent seed swap event, and he featured the seed swap on his blog. The second link is to a rocket stove charcoal maker, who seems to have managed a fairly clean way of making charcoal. The third link is to our seed swap which was a couple of weeks ago.
    I’ve heritage varieties of climbing beans you might like for growing as shell and dried beans to keep you going through the winter, chickpeas that do well for me, and also plenty of parsnip seed. If you email me at with your address I can send you some.
    Best wishes

  9. Hi Jason, thanks for letting the world know about this important fact.
    As a Pink Floyd fan, I love the allusion in your title to one of their double albums.
    May I also thank you for talking about "The second law" by Muse in one of your first posts? It was reason for me to listen to it, pass it on to the youngest daughter who is now a BIG Muse fan.
    To return the favour, may I suggest Luc Arbogast to you? Du côté des anges for example? Maybe you already know him? He is from La Rochelle, which is close to Penzance. Very different music from Muse or Pink Floyd though.

    1. Hi Jeannette - thanks for the tip. Well done for spotting the Pink Floyd reference - I have done that at least once before. I have never heard of Luc Arbogast but I will certainly check him out.

      I would hardly say that La Rochelle is close to Penzance - but this is quite synchronous because I once spent three months living there and working in a train factory right after I finished university. I have many fond memories of the place and would to return one day - especially to the Isle do Re, where I once dreamed of living.

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  12. Congrats on winning JMG's squirrel case challenge :-)

  13. Hi Jason. Congratulations on the win. Told you it was a good read! Well done. Cheers. Chris


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