Upper Kentmere Valley, photographed January, 2011, Peter Bettess
Head of Kentmere left to right Rainsborrow Crag, Ill Bell, Froswick, Thornthwaite Crag, High Street and Mardale Ill Bell
Pete Bettess - Personal Interests
Pete Bettess Personal

I now live with my wife, Jackie, in Kentmere, near Kendal, Cumbria, in a house called Brow Head, which is a converted barn. It used to belong to the adjoining farm, called Brow Top. Details are given in the previous page.

A glass (or two!) of wine in the Brow Head back garden, Summer 2005.

I used to live in Cleadon, a village situated just north of Sunderland, with my wife, Jackie, in part of an old house, pictured below. The house is called Undercliff and it is divided into three parts, and we lived in the part closest to the camera to the right of the trees. We moved into the house in 1986 and we left in 2005. We were very happy there, but it was time to move on.

The Lawns, Undercliff, Cleadon Lane, Cleadon, in winter


Nuclear Power

In my opinion nuclear power is the best option for the production of electricity in the U.K. There are many objections from the green people. But I see nuclear power as the best option for the generation of eiectricity. It is surprising, to my mind that there is never any discussion by the green lobby of nuclear power in France . Are there problems about costs and decommissioning and nuclear waste disposal in France? If there are, the greens never develop the arguments. We should also carry on with research into nuclear fusion, which has huge technical problems, but holds the prospect of effectively unlimited power.In my view the way to solve our future energy needs is nuclear power. I realise that nuclear power has problems, but many of the concerns are overstated. There are three possibilities that I can see:

  • Conventional and fast breeder fission reactors
  • Thorium reactors
  • Nuclear fission

Conventional and fast breeder fission reactors
(to be completed)

Thorium reactors
(to be completed)

Nuclear Fission

This uses the same reactions that are used in the hydrogen bomb, or thermo-nuclear bomb. Atoms of hydrogen react together to form helium, and this releases energy. As Richard Feynman , the great American physicist says in his book Six Easy Pieces , at the end of his Chapter 4 - Conservation of Energy, (a pdf version is also available here ):

‘Nature has conservation of energy, but does not really care; she spends a lot of it in all directions. We have already obtained energy from uranium; we can also get energy from hydrogen, but at present only in an explosive and dangerous condition. If it can be controlled in thermonuclear reactions, it turns out that the energy that can be obtained from 10 quarts of water per second is equal to all of the electrical power generated in the United States. With 150 gallons of running water a minute, you have enough fuel to supply all the energy which is used in the United States today! Therefore it is up to the physicist to figure out how to liberate us from the need for having energy. It can be done.'

So Feynman is very optimistic about getting energy from nuclear fusion. Also, as he and others have pointed out, there is plenty of energy available.

Lord Marshall was the head of the C.E.G.B. in the U.K. during the miner's strike and helped to keep the lights on. He had a background in nuclear energy. In his maiden speech in the House of Lords he talked about nuclear energy and in particular about nuclear fusion. He was less optimistic than Feynman.

Speech by Lord Marshall of Goring, in the House of Lords, reported in Hansard. An extract from the speech is given below:

'Beyond that stage, we will need some new machine to make progress. And let us hope that that new machine is built by international effort even wider than that of Europe. It would be wonderful, and a real possibility, if that could be a joint effort between the United States, the USSR, Europe and Japan. That new machine, which might be operational in the first decade of the next century, might well produce more thermo-nuclear energy than the electrical energy we have put into the device as a whole.

Beyond that again, if all goes well, we might hope for a still larger and more complex machine in which the thermo-nuclear energy is converted to electricity. Then, for the first time, we might get more electricity out of the device than the electricity we have put into it. It is my best judgment that we will not reach that stage until well into the next century unless we get a chance to leapfrog one of the steps I have described to you. We will then have established by these successive steps that we can get more energy out of the plasma than we put into the plasma; that we can get more energy out of the plasma than we put into the entire device; and, finally, that we can get more electricity out of the whole device than we have put into it. Then, and only then, we can address the most crucial and important question of all. Can we get more money out of the device than we have put into it? In other words, can fusion be economic?

I must admit to you, my Lords, that my present judgment is that the fusion project will meet all these technical targets one by one but, in the last resort, will fail to be economic because of the complexity and difficulties of the technology. Let us hope that I am being too pessimistic. And certainly let us maintain a proper United Kingdom contribution to this great international effort. But let us also be realistic about the timescale for possible exploitation of the technology and realistic about the eventual hard test of the market place.'

Who is right? Is it Feynman the optimist, or Marshall, who is more pessimistic. I hope that it will be Feynman.


Global Warming

I am something of a sceptic on man made global warming. I think that there is a certain amount of global warming going on. I think that its extent is exaggerated. The effects of carbon dioxide have to be limited, by the nature of the effect. The more pessimistic predictions are based on strong positive feedbacks, which are largely speculative. The carbon diovide effect on its own, is logarithmic, and it saturates. That is to say it reaches a level at which more carbon dioxide has no more effect. This never comes over in the news reports. The arctic sea ice area goes up and down, but is generally reducing. On the other hand, the antarctic sea ice is generally increasing. On balance there seems to be a slight overall loss in sea ice, but the evidence is not overwhelming.



I am not happy about the large influx of foreigners into the UK in recent years. We are undergoing an unprecedented ethnic change. The long term prospect is quite worrying. I agree with Migration Watch. Opinion Poll after Opinion Poll in the U.K. suggests that 70% of the population want immigration to be reduced. Yet none of the main political parties seem able or willing to do anything about it. I was delighted with tl UKIP triumph at Clacton. It was a shame that they could not summon up another 700 votes at the other by-election.

Leisure Activities other than above in menu

At present I am attempting to read the book - Roger Penrose, The Road to Reality . It is really tough going. I am attempting to solve some of the problems in the book. These are my efforts to date . There are some other sites with information about solutions.

I love doing crosswords and have wasted years on them. Currently, with my wife, I like to attempt the Listener crosswords in the Saturday edition of the Times. We usually download the puzzle from the web on Friday afternoon, at 4 pm and it takes us most of the week to solve it, or even longer. One of our goals is to solve all the Listener crosswords in a year correctly. The closest we have come is to have submitted 52 entries, but for 6 of them to be incorrect. But we keep trying.

The European Union
The net annual British contribution to the EU is currently (2015) just over £11 billion. (The gross contribution is about £20 billion per annum.) For comparison this is about 8% of the UK NHS budget of £135 billion, or a quarter of the UK defence budget of about £40 billion.

The EU accounts have never been approved by the auditors.

The EU is not a democratic organisation. It is run by Commissioners, appointed by the member governments. Extract from EU commission web site :

The Commission is composed of the College of Commissioners of 28 members, including the President and Vice-Presidents. The Commissioners, one from each EU country, are the Commission's political leadership during a 5-year term. Each Commissioner is assigned responsibility for specific policy areas by the President.

Commonplace Book

I enjoy drinking good wine and I am a member of the Wine Society. One favourite, which I rarely see now is Wolf Blass Black Label . I also like Chilean wines, especially Carmenere, chilled muscadet with fish or oysters, or Wither Hill or Koonunga Hill Chardonnay, or of course, champagne, preferably Pol Roger White Top. I cannot afford the really expensive champagnes. I have recently been very taken with Chilean Carmenere red wine. My favourite drink is dry martini , on crushed ice with a slice of lime and a splash of gin. And I like to follow it with another.

'If there was one thing that Pitt the Younger liked better than a glass of port, it was a bottle.'

I love chocolate, especially dark chocolate, the Loire valley, with its wonderful Chateaux , including Chambord, Amboise, Uzze, Azay-le Rideau, Blois, and my favourite, Chenonceau , and Brittany, Nantes , where I have links with the Ecole Centrale de Nantes , the Northumbrian Coast, profiteroles, smoked salmon, pasta, ice cream, especially Ben and Jerry's . The Gower Peninsula, the Brecon Beacons, the North York Moors. I like solitude and time to reflect. Heller's Catch 22.

I used to love my research. It was wonderful to analyse some system using the computer and predict its behaviour accurately. I still found this wonderful and magical, after over thirty years of work in this field. My favourite motto is that of David Hilbert, `Wir mussen wissen, Wir werden wissen', `We must know, we shall know.!' I also like Einstein's quotations `Everything should be made as simple as possible, but no simpler.' And `Imagination is more important than Mathematics.'

I like cartoons, one of my favourite cartoonists is Pont, who drew for Punch, in the 1930s. He died in 1940. I like especially his wartime cartoons, my favourite being the effect of German propaganda on an English pub.

Meanwhile in Britain, the entire population faced by the threat of invasion, has been flung into a state of complete panic . . . etc. etc. August 14, 1940

Mathematical puzzles, Go, Martin Gardner's column in the Scientific American
I used to love teaching students who wanted to learn.

I like Christmas very much, though I am not a religious person.

John Buchan's The Thirty Nine Steps, (except the anti-Semitism), and the Hitchcock movie of the book, Hitchcock's The Lady Vanishes , and North by North West , Mid Wales, Newtown and Gregynog , a large country house just north of Newtown.
Hitchcock's The Lady Vanishes , and North by North West
Mid Wales, Newtown and Gregynog , a large country house just north of Newtown.
The Lake District is one of my greatest likes, which is why we have retired here
Wainwright's Pictorial Guides to the Lakeland Fells now published by Frances Lincoln

Peter Padfield Padfield is a naval historian, who started writing about naval warfare and gunnery. He argued that the success of the British at sea was due to their superior gunnery. Then the scope of his writing widened and he wrote a series of books in which he looked at naval actions since the Armada and looking at the effects of naval warfare. He argues that the maritime nations like The United Providences which was the Netherlands and then Britain and later the U.S.A. succeeded that they were maritime, rather than Continental powers. He argued that continental powers have authoritarian administrations, and are not democratic. Maritime countries are based on trade, which leads to open financial arrangements and even to democratic procedures. Inshort the entire structure of society is influenced by whether a society is maritime or continental. I found the argument mostconvincing. It helped to shape my views on Europe and the EU and the Euro. Since reading the books everything has confirmed me in my agreement with Padfield's ideas. But do not listen to my ideas. Try reading the books.


Hard at work at the International Conference on Design in Manufacture, and Mechanical Engineering, (IDMME), Compiegne, France, May, 1998.

I no longer do any external examining, but in June 1998 I examined a doctoral thesis in Stavanger Norway, and was lucky enough to be taken on a short walk to the pulpit rock above the nearby Lysefjord. From the flat top of the rock there is a sheer drop of 600m to the water surface in the fjord. It is very dramatic.

Relaxing on holiday in Madeira in March, 2006


For no particular reason a picture of the red spot on Jupiter
I dont even know how I acquired the image?



Doubles tennis players touching hands after every point like a lot of wimps.

Wimbledon winners clambering up to their relatives before getting their award or even shaking hands with their opponent. That egotist Pat Cash started this childish trend.

The Islamic State, IS, aka ISIL, and ISIS. Utterly evil and detestable. I would like to see more protests from 'moderate' Muslims about this evil organisation. When someone burns a copy of the Quran, we have protests in the street, demonstrations, and even in some benighted countries people are killed. All for burning some paper and ink. And when innocent journalists are beheaded, hardly a peep. But it is difficult to hit them without harming the indigenous population, sadly.

Tattoos and piercings. Barbaric, primitive. Self loathing in concrete form. Absolutely incomprehensible.

Virtually all politicians.

Windmills. Expensive and unreliable. Take a look at the Gridwatch web site to see how useless they are. When there is a high pressure area over the U.K. they produce virtually no energy. It is, of course, no use just looking at the site when the wind is blowing. You need to look at it on calm days, to see how much electricity the wind turbines would give us in calm weather, if there were no other sources of electricity. The answer is, of course, not very much.

The administration of Tower Hamlets, which is clearly totally corrupt and sectarian.

The most common surname of a doctor in the U.K. is now, apparently, Khan. The most common first name for a male child is Mohammad. There are more Muslim babies in Tower Hamlets, Birmingham and other places than there are Christian babies.

Stupid little mascots at sporting events. Once upon a time a football team would have a single mascot. Now each and every player has to come out holding hands with a small child. Recently this insanity has spread to tennis. For heaven's sake.

BBC emphasis on ethnic minorities. We sometimes have a newsreader, of Indian extraction talking to a correspondent, also of Indian extraction about some issue in India, and all the people involved in the item are non-white. You would never guess that 80% of the population of Britain are white. Greg Dyke, the idiot, described the BBC as 'horribly white'. I do not know why that statement was not criticised as racist? Anyway those days are long gone and the opposite is now true.

Pudsey Bear, sport aid, all the other charity appeals in which you are blackmailed and coerced into taking part.

Tennis player examining three, or even four tennis balls, (the maximum that I have seen is six!) to see which one is best, before every service. The time and effort involved in messing about with the balls cannot possibliy have any rational pay off.

The way that tennis players make the ball boys bring the towels to them, continually. Unnecessary work for the ball boys, and a pure ego trip for the players. And do the ball boys or girls, really want to handle towels full of the player's sweat? They are not even asked.

Squirting all the champagne everywhere and not drinking it at sporting events. How absolutely stupid, and after some idiot started the trend all the silly sheep just follow. Utterly wasteful and childish.

George Monbiot on re-wilding. I often walk in the ScottishHighlands. I am almost 70 years old, and I always walk alone.This may come as a surprise to George Monbiot and his fellow eco enthusiasts but I do not want to meet a wolf when walking, or be chased by one, or by a pack of them. If these re-wilded animals attack anybody, which I hope they will not, I hope it is George Monbiot that they take a chunk out of. I find his views bossy and totally unrealistic. In all his written and spoken interventions he goes way over the top. I also do not want to meet a Lynx, or several Lynx on the mountains. They is something utterly distasteful about the way that Monbiot and the other eco evangelists are so sure that their views trump everybody elses.

Things that I am just not interested in

Disabled sports, paralympics, wheelchair tennis etc. etc. No doubt great for the participants and a worthy activity, but I am just not interested in watching.




Under development



To suffer woes which hope thinks infinite





Vaughan-Williams Job a Masque for Dancing


Scenes from the Book of Job




All text and photographs, except for Jupiter, and Pont cartoon, © Peter Bettess, 2016




Page last modified June 2, 2016