UKIP MP Claims: “Experts are wrong about the moon causing ocean tides”

tide_overview-svgWithin the UK there is a political party known as UKIP (or UK Independence Party). It has developed a bit of a reputation over the years as a bastion of some rather odd ideas and so this is all about the latest example of such weirdness. A previous and rather famous example was David Silvester, a Ukip councillor for Henley-on-Thames, who became rather famous when  he blamed storms and floods on the legalisation of gay marriage (No really, he did).

So this latest example, which is clearly coming from the intellectual arm of UKIP, concerns their one and only MP, Douglas Cardwell. One honest mistake is understandable, we will all at one time or another goof, and so what makes this quite entertaining is that he has stuck to his opinion and got himself into an online twitter tiff about what causes tides with a university head and tried to school him.

Side note: It has not been his first gaff.  Another recent gem emerged when he declared at his party’s conference last weekend that he backed their new leader Diane James “110 per cent”. 100% I get, but I really would be curious to understand how, apart from perhaps cloning himself, he can actually support her 110%.

Sun, Moon and Tides

For most of us this will not be a deep mystery. Tides are primarily caused by the gravitational pull of the moon orbiting the earth, but of course you knew this. The Sun also has an effect, but is not the primary one. Yes, the Sun is indeed a lot bigger than the moon, but it is also a lot further away. The moon plays the main role due to its proximity to the earth, and that enables it to have a higher gravitational gradient.

The solar gravitational force on the Earth is on average 179 times stronger than the lunar, but because the Sun is on average 389 times farther from the Earth, so its field gradient is weaker. This is because gravitational forces follow an inverse-square law – force is inversely proportional to the square of the distance.

Let’s use a bit of maths to illustrate it.

So basically where g is the gravitational acceleration at the Earth’s surface …

  • the lunar tidal acceleration (along the Moon–Earth axis, at the Earth’s surface) is about 1.1 × 10−7 g
  • the solar tidal acceleration (along the Sun–Earth axis, at the Earth’s surface) is about 0.52 × 10−7 g

BREXIT Experts

What happened perhaps has echoes a comment made by of one of Mr Cardwell’s fellow Brexiteers (he is very very passionate about the UK leaving the EU … the hint is in the party name). During the BREXIT campaign Michael Gove famously declared that “people in this country have had enough of experts” when challenged about his refusal to name any economists who backed leaving the EU.

OK, so here is what happened.

This recent spat all started when Professor Paul Nightingale, the deputy director of the SPRU, tweeted about the pull of the moon causing tides. He was using this as a metaphor and was really making a political point about UK trade and BREXIT  …

Instead of actually addressing the point being made about UK trade, Mr Cardwell decided to leap in and correct him on the topic …

… and so the rather bizarre dialog proceeds …

… others then join in …


Well, since we are on the topic, then I’ll toss in a few thoughts on it.


Yes, the UK did vote to leave the EU, and no, the UK has not actually left the EU. It is becoming increasingly clear that the leave campaign does not actually have a clue on how to actually execute it, and neither does Mrs May the current Prime Minister. On the surface it might sound easy, but not too far under the surface lurks a degree of both legal and practical complexity that simply boggles the mind (I’ll skip such details for now).

We voted leave to get control back and gain complete sovereignty” was, and perhaps still is, the mantra of the leavers. So what have we now got?

  • A Prime Minister that the public did not vote for
  • The declaration that the planning for BREXIT will be all kept secret, not even parliament will get a chance to review it, and there will be no parliamentary vote to approve the invocation of article 50 that starts the process
  • Remember it was “Leave” by a very thin majority of those that voted, and that itself is actually a minority of the electorate. It was also legally simply an opinion poll; there was nothing legally enacted as part of the referendum act to defined what could/should happen (which some other referendums do have built in)
  • Finally, there was no actual plan, apart from basically wishful but wholly unrealistic dreaming.

How exactly is any of that “getting back control”?


Meanwhile we now have the discovery that the only UKIP member in parliament has a slightly elusive grasp of reality, but then this is perhaps not a huge surprise for those of us familiar with UK politics and UKIP. Simply mentioning the term

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