All posts by John Silvester

I, John Silvester have a strong interest in Science. My 'A' levels include Physics Chemistry and Biology, my degrees are in General Science and Biochemistry at the University of Liverpool. The first job I was offered after University was as a Scientific Officer in the Civil Service. I was to monitor pollution in Lough Neagh, Northern Ireland. The IRA blew up the laboratory before I started work there. I became a medical representative for an ethical drug company. A few years later I became a driving instructor and established 'The Berkshire Driving School' at Company's House, City Road, London, January 1974. Later that year I went to Bulmersche Teacher's Training College and gained a Cert.Ed. The following year I qualified and taught in Bracknell, gaining a post of responsibility. I continued my driving school. My business eventually grew so I had to give up Science teaching. Before the recession of about 1990 the driving school had two trucks and two cars in service. I am now a small driving school specialising in trailer towing and minibus training. Current projects include the development of a wireless link between trailer and towing vehicle, a simplified power connector between these vehicles, using GPS and a computer to monitor driving performance and a robot sailing yacht. Past projects have included various robotic projects such as a heavyweight robot for Technogames and Robot Wars. I have explained some of my projects on radio and appeared on television.

Are nitrogen oxides really a significant cause of throat infections?

Emission devices have to be fitted to current internal combustion engines to reduce the concentration of nitrogen compounds in exhaust gases.  These chemicals are blamed for chest infections.

Early this year saw a high level of coughs. You only had to listen to live radio or television programs for this evidence – radio 4, a talk station had a significant background noise of people in the studio trying to stifle coughs.

The weather at the time was moist – most days had drizzly rain falling – the pavements were rarely dry.  Now oxides of nitrogen are very soluble.  Levels of these compounds in the atmosphere were low.

The last months have seen a reversal of these conditions.  Persistent high pressure has brought hot weather – sun and still air.  Ideal conditions for the build up of nitrogen oxides, one would have thought.   We would expect, according to the theory that these compounds would currently be causing chesty coughs.  This is not the case.  The question therefore is, “Are nitrogen emissions generated by motor transport significantly bad for our health?”

Arguments for emissions controls can be found here –   It has the backing of the Canadian Government but glosses over the origin of the gas in the first place.  Their maps show air flowing from the direction of the magnetic pole.  That area attracts solar particles from the sun which ionises the air producing the Aurora Borealis.  Ionisation also produces oxides of nitrogen.

My earlier discussions can be found here – and  For the record, ozone and oxides of nitrogen are both produced by ionisation.  Ozone is not found in car exhaust  gases.  I rest my case.


To reduce nitrogen oxide emissions, motor vehicles are fitted with exhaust gas recirculation.  This deliberately stifles combustion, reducing nitrogen oxide emissions but also increasing carbon dioxide emissions.  This gas is far more significant as a greenhouse gas than the emissions of very soluble nitrogen oxides which are readily washed out of the atmosphere.

My opinion based on this evidence is that current emissions regulations are having a harmful effect on our atmosphere by increasing global warming, but do not significantly improve our health.

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Do we need to garage our cars anymore?

Modern high-tech materials and efficient design result in our cars being resistant to corrosion, particularly when in daily use. Wind rushing through body cavities keep them free of condensation. Single garages designed twenty years ago are just too small for the over stuffed cars we run now. It is no wonder that many home owners are converting their garages to annexes and reception rooms.

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Electric cars – the next best thing!

Combustion engines require expensive complexity to run at all speeds and loads yet still comply with emission regulations. They need stiff mounts to resist transmission torque. This requires expensive balancing to reduce harshness being transmitted to the vehicle body. They have poor low speed torque and need to be driven hard at modest speed to run efficiently. They need to be powerful to give good acceleration which reduces the efficiency at normal road speed. Electric motors have none of these deficiencies. A small efficient combustion generator can keep the batteries charged up and the range of our car can be into four figures. Can someone please make me a small electric hatchback with a tiny diesel generator to keep the batteries charged up?

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Ford’s new baby engine

Ford has developed a tiny three pot petrol engine capable of powering its MPV.  Contrary to the usual practice of having a wide bore to allow large valves in the head, Ford has used a long stroke engine and overcome the limitations of poor breathing by using forced induction.  You would expect this to be a recipe for poor fuel consumption due to pumping losses – yet the laws of Physics seem to have been bent.  This engine is claimed to be both powerful and fuel efficient.