The Real World vs The Environmentalist

OK, we all accept that using fossil fuels is bad for the environment, so it’s just as well we’re running out. Technology is being developed that is cleaner and more efficient and runs on chip fat or orange peel. Years of people strapping themselves to oil tankers are finally having an effect, even if we scoff and attack their tactics while they’re at it. I know I have.

Despite their approach, the battle is at least joined, if not won. Governments realise that if they are to protect the way of life they have been elected to protect, they need to move things forward. Hats off to them, I say.

What does annoy me is the response of the environ-mentalists. Governments and Industry are extending the hand of compromise, and the e-mentalists are slapping it away. Every proposal designed to progress society towards an ethos of cleaner, renewable energy is met with a vitriolic “That’s not good enough!”.

Government: How about we have Wind Farms to generate lots of lovely power?
E-Mentalists: They’re not pretty. They ruin the beauty and purity of the countryside for the ramblers.
G: Well, they’re not goi…
E: And they kill all the birds. The turbines suck them in cut them into little bits. Thousands of rare European Plump-breasted Tits will be killed every picosecond. They’d be extinct!
G: OK, well, we could go for wave-power? It’s a bit more expensive and difficult to maintain, but it’s a…..
E: [SLAP] NO. WHY WON’T YOU LISTEN?! We’ve being telling you for one hundred and fifty million years, Wave Turbines kill fish. Trillions of rare Coke-Bottle-nosed Dolphins would be brutally clubbed every femtosecond. They’d be exstinct inside a millisecond!
G: Oooooo.K., so no wind power because of the birds, no wave power because of the fish. [tentatively]What about Nuclear Power?
E: RRRRRARRRRRRRRRRR! NO, NO, NO! THE HUMANITY! Anything Nuclear is inherently bad. You’ll just use them to make bombs, which you’ll then drop from bombers onto orphanages in the Congo! Don’t think we don’t know what you’re up to!
G: That’s ludicrous! And anyway, that’s a different kind of nucl…
E: [SLAP] WE HAVEN’T FINISHED!! We’ve been saying since the creation of the universe that we want an unobtainable perfect world populated by caring, tolerant people who are self sufficient and would rather stab themselves in the testicles than stand on a blade of grass!
G: Errr, well, what do you want us to do?
E: Don’t try and put the blame on us. It’s not our job. You’re the elected Government. It’s your job.

And so on. This is a somewhat lampooned version of the tooing and froing that goes on, but in general the e-mentalists ironically seem to be the people who are preventing the very progress for which they have strapped themselves to squirrels to get.

E-mentalists populate a idealistic world where clean energy and unsullied landscape is their birth-right. Governments live in the real world with scandals, sleaze, waiting lists, league tables and elections. They need to keep most of the people happy most of the time. The two worlds cannot co-exist. Governments are making the effort to meet in the middle. It’s about time the environmentalists realised this and did the same.

The Appliance of Science

Being an engineer and a human (no, they are not mutually exclusive!), I have a healthy suspicion for science. I have blogged before on Science and Religion in the context of Faith vs Proof. However, during recent discussions with RocketBootWife, herself an ex-research-scientist, it transpires that the use of the word “Proof” as a byword for scientific endeavour is stretching it a bit. More than a bit, actually.

Scientific effort appears to be split into three fronts; high-energy physics (where they try and kill us with very small, strange things created when they bang very small things into other very small things at very high speeds), health research (Cancer, Heart disease, you know, useful stuff) and what I’ll call “filler” science.

Filler Science is the kind of research that they might as well have not bothered doing. Its the stuff that populates the SciTech pages of news websites everywhere. Things like “Birds Fly South For Winter, new research shows” or “Men are Hairier than Women, scientists claim”. But this sort of crap must be the bread and butter of thousands of scientists.

Science, from an outsider’s perspective, seems a cutthroat world. Its a wonder more of them don’t sport eye-patches or wooden legs. Their whole world is driven by funding and publications. And you only get to inhabit this world if you have stupid levels of qualifications in the first place. RocketBootBestMan has a DPhil from Oxford and he gets paid way less than me, despite being considerably more clever.

You’re expected to work like a dog for peanuts (exucse the mixed metaphor) and crank out good results month after month. Reality dictates that you will go down blind alleys every so often, resulting in useless results. So what do scientists with crap results do with a poor publication level and a funding review looming? They make it up.

So they make the results look good and get them published. Their paper goes to the expert in the field who, in this case, laughs at it. The author then sends it to the next guy in the chain until it gets to some idiot who will ratify it. At this point, the chances of getting it published in Nature or The Lancet are slim, so they go with the BBC Good Food Magazine or some such.

This research is then used as the basis for some other scientists research. You would hope that these other scientists realise that any research published in the BBC Good Food Magazine is next to useless, unless it’s “How To Make Chocolate Pudding To Die For”, but I wouldn’t bet my research grant on it. Again, you would hope that it doesn’t require a PhD or millions in research cash to develop the perfect Chocolate Pudding recipe. It may be that scientific research is polarising; those who can get good results publish it and progress with their career, and those who can’t publish Chocolate Pudding recipies and vanish into obscurity.

Publications are everything. You could be an ape-man from the wilds of Borneo, but as long as you’ve got good publications, you’re set.

The whole system seems to be geared towards failure or mediocore, safe research. Or, it is geared towards weeding out the weak links; survival of the fittest. Only those who are good or sneaky enough to avoid any bad results can hope to make any money and generate useful research. It does however mean that probably only 5% of all scientific funding generates a good return.

Is it any wonder that the number of people doing hard science is dwindling? Scientific endeavour should be cooperative, not competitive. Sadly, as long as the majority of research is funded by large multinationals, Science will struggle to make significant advances. 1 step forward, 19 steps back.

PS Apologies to Zanussi for using their old tag “The Appliance of Science”, but since they’re now Zanussi/Electrolux, I doubt they’ll care.

Proof: I faked my cell research, admits cloning pioneer.

See?! If he’s doing it, imagine what lesser mortals are doing.

Antarctica: The Great White Hope

Antarctica should be counting its lucky stars. Being inhospitable, the only people who ever bother going there are scientists and sily people who want to get to the middle so they can build a house where every wall points North. Antarctica is protected by international treaty; it cannot be claimed by any country and mining its wealth is prohibited. All this means it has escaped the ravages of humanity. No, wait, that’s wrong. I forgot. Antarctica counts its lucky stars throught the hole in the ozone layer which we made. They must look especially twinkly.

It used to inhospitable for different reasons. The place is supposedly packed to the rafters with oil and minerals. So, at some point, it must have occupied more northerly climes, or else more northerly climes came to visit. Either way, it must have been warm enough for the pre-requisites of oil and coal to grow. The occassional tree stump is visible in places were the twinkly stars melt the snow.

There are differing theories about which is the reason. Obviously, continental drift means continents swim round the planet, not looking where they’re going, collide, hence mountains. The other, more scary theory is that the planet underwent a rather nasty event called “pole-shift” where distribution of land masses and the attendant centrifugal forces caused the crust of the Earth to rotate over the molten core, thereby reordering the planet in one. This means that there would be an awful lot of sprained wrists and ankles and an unfortunate distribution of warm clothing, but it is possible.

Whichever mechanism is responsbile, Antarctica has had a more jungly past. Who knows what sorts of animals lived there? Today, it is home to many different species of Penguins and zero Polar Bears. Those cards and jokes about Polar bears eating penguins are false. The only way it will happen is if the scientist introduce something that causes penguin numbers to explode and they have to introduce Polar Bears to keep the numbers down. More likely, it’ll be for entertainment purposes. I can’t imagine there’s much to do in the weeks of perpetual darkness. It’s either watch polar bears chase penguins or have sex, and the researchers who go to Antarctica can only be there because they not attractive enough to work somewhere warm. Polar Bears it is!

And so to my target audience; the unattractive, unpopular, unsociable scientists of the world! It is my stated intention to get someone from Antarctica to read this blog. The two methods open to me are praise and criticism. Sadly, derision comes more naturally to my fingers.

I’m sure I am incorrect about the nature of those who choose to persue their avenues of scientific discovery in Antarctica. Maybe its like the French Foreign Legion. Scientists who have falsified research, not been published in a decent journal, failed their PhD or spent their whole research budget brewing their own hooch can escape and start their careers anew, as Scientists of Fortune! That sounds much better than “My field is snowology” or “I’m hoping to develop synthetic ozone”.

I just checked, and Antarctica does have it’s own domain. For a horrible minute there, I thought all this open hostility was going to waste!

In the defence of Antarctic research and researchers, there is a very cool base at the Pole called Amundsen-Scott which is a half-submerged geodesic dome. The perfect location for the underground lair of the Scientists of Fortune! Having it’s own website, pictures and GPS coords somewhat reduces it’s capability as a secret lair. Maybe its a smokescreen. Maybe the actual lair of the Scientists of Fortune is disguised as a flock1 of huddling penguins.

So come on, upside-down research types. Pull off those mittens, wipe the frost of your keyboard and riposte. The hopes of a stupid blogger rest on you.

PS If there are really any attractive scientists in the Antarctic, send photos. We will judge.

1 Does “flock” apply to flightless birds?

Welcome, Surfers of The World!

When I first started blogging, I really wasn’t sure why. Why, thought I, would people want to know what I think about anything? However, some people do. Well, some people stumble across my blog and can’t leave before their presence is recorded. It’s nice to be able to commit one’s reasoned arguments and thoughts to the Ether, in the hope that like-minded people may be reassured that they are not alone.

To find out if any like-minded people do exist, I added a tracker to my blog, which diligently records info about the people who stumble through on their way to somewhere good. Most interestingly is the details of where in the World people stumble from.

People who have read my blog hail from such far away places as the United States, India, Germany, Netherlands, Australia, Canada, Singapore, Norway, Hungary, Austria, Saudi Arabia, Denmark, Republic of Korea, Israel, Malaysia, Spain, Mexico, Argentina, Italy, Islamic Republic of Iran and the Philippines.

Which means I have covered 5 out of 7 continents. Just Africa and Antarctica to go! So my mission henceforth is to get people from Africa and Antarctica to read this blog.

I have referenced Africa briefly in a couple of posts, but only in relation to drought and poverty, probably not the sort of things the Africans with access to the net search for. Antarctica I haven’t mentioned, although there are plenty of things to discuss. More soon!

So I’ll keep you posted, my reader(s) of many nations, religions and creeds.

Is Technology really getting smaller?

Human endeavour and progress is defined by superlatives. Faster, Higher, Stronger1, Better, Cheaper, Faster2, Smaller. If and when we meet aliens, we’re only going to be impressed if their MP3 players are smaller than ours. Their capacity for intergalactic travel is so last century.

But is it really getting smaller? Taken as a whole, no. I agree that the bits of the system that the end-user gets to play with are getting smaller, shinier, faster, cheaper, etc. But these gadgets are the 10% you do see. As with icebergs, it’s the 90% you don’t that you need to think about.

The easiest way to make gadgets smaller is to devolve elements of their operation away from the gadget itself. Yes, your iPod may be teeny-tiny, but take a look at its power supply. What an iSore! My first impression when I saw that was of the boat disguised as an iceberg used by Roger Moore in A View to A Kill, which was the height of 1980s tech. The Internet is so very shiny, but it all lives on big, matt black servers occupying entire floors of office buildings around the world.

I’m always predicting the day when mobile phones get so small that when you open the box, it looks empty. All there will be is a syringe marked “Nokia 9999x” which you’ll inject in your ear and bingo!, you’ll be sending pornographic pictures of the girls showering at the gym to your mate Steve on Mars. But when you have to recharge it, you’ll have to stick a plug up your arse and connect it to the generator van parked in the drive. Plus, all the while, it will be happily microwaving your skull…..NO! Stop that alarmist-media-bollocks immediately!

Technology isn’t getting smaller. Instead of a box, you get two smaller boxes, one of which you take with you. In twenty years, your hi-fi will just be a big box of dust. The price of progress and gadget teenification is an ugly power supply. Woo.

1 The Olympic Motto; “Citius, Altius, Fortius”. Just so you know.
2 NASAs approach to spacecraft.

Relaxation of Late Licensing: Lawlessness Looms?

The Newspapers, eh? God love ’em. Well, someone has to. They’ve been counting down the days to “Beermageddon”, the Day where the UK’s Late Licensing Laws are relaxed and social order evaporates in an alcoholic haze1. So, citizens of the world, am I writing this on my garbage-fuelled laptop in my apocalypse-fuelled V8, wearing leather and eating dogfood?

Dissappointingly, no. That was sounding quite idyllic. I am still sat in front of my computer, as normal. Wearing the same old shit, eating a Coronation-Chicken-filled pita pocket, courtesy of RocketBootWife. The alarmist drivel that the Media fabricates to sell newspapers has failed to materialise.

Last night, people were allows to get drunk into the early hours of the morning!. And on a school night, too. The fact that it was a Wednesday night in November on an island where it mostly rains and is frequently cold probably also helped ensure Beermageddon didn’t ensue. In fact, that’s probably the first sensible move the government has made in a while. I bet it was nothing to do with them at all.

The real test will come when it hits a Bank Holiday Weekend in Spring / Summer. Then the councils up and down the country are going to need “Beer Ploughs” to clear away the drunken stiffs sleeping in the street. Will they? Again, probably not.

We know what happens when controls are removed and people are allowed to go mad. Remember when you were a kid? It’s been a productive night out Trick-or-Treating and you’ve got several hundred pounds of sweeties in your wheelbarrow, enough to last until next year. So do you eke it out over the months? No. You eat your body weight in penny chews and cheap supermarket multipack chocolate in the first thirty seconds, then spend the next 3 hours yerking it all down the toilet. Or your Dad discovers you smoking and makes you smoke the whole pack? Again, three hours hugging the lav. And this is when it’s free!

Translate this to alcohol, which is far from free. Drinking time may be expanded, but beer has not become propotionally cheaper. No matter how long you have to get drunk, eventually lack of money will come in to play. Two or Three extra hours drinking time early in the monrning probably translates to £50 extra quid, once you factor in the drunken buying-champagne-for-everyone! sort of idiocy that goes on.

One hopes that the clever people who kicked this off mid-week in November will ensure that morons who spend all their cash on booze and end up penniless and alcoholic do not get to spend the rest of their lives on Booze Support, with a weekly stipend and support groups, but I fear they will. I can hear the whining “The amount I get from Booze Support isn’t enough to keep up with the rising cost of drinking!” already. The social sickness of shirking responsibility strikes again!

So, Beermageddon is not here, and probably won’t be. One can only hope that the binge drinkers are not rewarded for their action, but this is the First World. Those who should know better are always having to be bailed out by those of us who do.

1 I’m being unwittingly alliterative today…

The Results of our How To Review Lists Campaign

Ooh, you’re going to hate me. I’ve sold out. I am using cynical techniques to attract traffic in the vain hope that people will be attracted by the sweet keywords and get stuck in the stickiness of my rhetoric. For samples of my “literal conserves”, please browse the links over there.

If you abhor this approach and wish to decry it, please leave a post.
If this cheating has suckered you in good and proper, leave a post.
If you applaud my dirty tricks, leave a post
If you want to interview me, leave a post.
If you’re a lunatic, post some leaves.

Step 1:

The linked article gives tips on how to attract traffic to your blog, so as a starter for ten, I’ve tried to use as many of these things in the title for this post.

Step 2:

Use the contents of something like Google Zeitgeist and paste them on this page as more “Hit-Jam”&tm;1

Todays zeitworten are:
black Friday, emma watson, xbox 360, harry potter, walk the line, johnny cash, superman returns, june carter, thanksgiving recipes, christina aguilera, keith urban, brooke burns, daniel radcliffe, rosario dawson, joaquin phoenix.
Who knows what any of these things mean? They’re just words.

Step 3:

The following are the list of Hot Blog Keywords from HotOrNot Blog page.
1. music
2. sex
3. life
4. love
5. blog
6. photography
7. fun
8. movies
9. politics
10. humor
11. personal
12. friends
13. funny
14. news
15. pictures
16. writing
17. family
18. photos
19. poetry
20. art
21. sexy
22. relationships
23. entertainment
24. rants
25. gay
26. philosophy
27. diary
28. technology
29. women
30. humour

People searching for these terms, or combinations like “gay relationship rants” or “sexy personal photography” are going to be terribly vexed.

Step 4 is In Development, pending the results of Steps 1 to 3.

1 Hit-Jam&tm; – a method by which ones attracts hits.

Getting the Brush Off – Day 2

Welcome back to Day 2 of “Safety in The Workplace – What Not To Do”. Those of you have followed this real-life tale of danger and excitement since yesterday are no doubt anxious to hear more about “Bob” and “Geoff”, and whether they survived Day 1.

Geoff is wearing what I assume is a faux-Burberry scarf.

Someone has obviously complained since yesterday. Bob is no longer shackled to Geoff. Geoff’s chance to take Bob down has passed. He doesn’t look too thrilled about it either.

There has been a noise all this morning which sounded like a motorbike race populated with very small motorbikes. Turns out they’re trimming the hedges below where Geoff and Bob are working.

I’m reminded of Tarzan swinging over a river, just avoiding the snapping jaws of crocodiles. Maybe Bob and Geoff’s appreciation of more traditional dangers, as mentioned yesterday, has prompted the improvement in safety.

The guys trimming the hedges are wearing hardhats though. Not that they’d do much good: Geoff isn’t a lightweight.

Getting the Brush Off

This is a bit of a departure from the usual high-minded brain farts I come out with, but I’m struggling for material at the moment. Maybe the idiots are staying indoors and out of the news at the moment.

All save two. I’m talking about the two guys outside my office window who are sweeping the roof. Obviously this is a critical maintenance exercise to rid the building of the rampaging concrete-eating plants that infest these climes.

My building has two levels to the roof, one bit above the first floor and smaller bits above the wider ground floor. They have been happily sweeping the higher bit of roof all morning, happily running about with little care for safety lines or the like. Now they’re now rather closer to the ground, they’ve decided that a safety rope is in order.

They are evidently unaware that Ground is potentially more dangerous the further you are away from it. Confusingly, the opposite is true for more traditional dangers, like Tigers, for instance. These guys must have more experience with tigers than with working on rooftops. That’s not too much of a leap, is it?

Let’s call them Bob and Geoff. Geoff is older and killing time until he can claim disability. Bob is younger and is after an excuse not to be sweeping the roof. They are attached to piece of blue string. From here, the string looks like it would happily reach the ground, somewhat reducing its suitability as a safety rope. In addition, they are both attached to the same piece of string, so when Geoff has a coronary, Bob’s joining him on the ground.

I can’t see the other end of the rope, but given the approach taken on this side, its probably attached to two other lunatics on the other side. They have radios to keep in contact. The plan appears to be if someone falls off one side, they can get on the radio and someone will jump off the other side to balance it all out.

They’re both now trying to work in opposite directions and are looking rather confused why they can’t move, despite the fact that they tied themselves together not five minutes ago.

Geoff is using a very small brush, obviously in the hope that bending over and having to work harder will result in a swifter coronary and the attendant incapacity benefit, with the added benefit of taking Bob the Smiling Monkey down with him.

There are no bums in evidence, but Geoff is sporting some very fetching navy blue pants.

Turns out Bob isn’t as stupid as he looks. His line is merely clipped over Geoff’s line so when he does collapse, Bob will not be dragged screaming to his death, as is Geoff’s fervent hope.

Geoff has realise the flaw in his plan and is now trying to brain Bob with his own safety device by flicking the safety line, ostensibly to free it from a snag. A likely story…

Amazing the sub-text one can read into an innocuous situation….