What I learned in 2016.

And today’s big update which is all over the news anyway.

What a stupid, stupid man. I know it’s not “politically correct” to say that. But quite frankly, I don’t care. Because it just so happens to be true.

Honestly, do you remember when you were in school (you did finish school didn’t you?) and your teachers told you about “the curve”. The bell curve.

That taco-bell shaped curve that plots intelligence as a function of the population. In the middle, you have the average person’s intelligence, see. That fat part of the curve, where most people lie. The people like you (I hope you’re at least that smart) and me. Because I’m really just average. I’m not naturally smart. I have to try just as hard as anybody else to score highly on any test. And I know there are loads of people way smarter than me.

Then, usually on the right hand side of that graph, you have a much lesser proportion of geniuses, whiz-kids and ultra-hard core nerds. Who score something like 95 to 99.98% on their tertiary entrance rank. Often the asian kids and, well, all the other “important people”.

Then on the other side you have the, ahh, people with “somewhat lesser intelligence level”. Okay, as the author of this website, I try not to beat around the bush. So let’s just say it like it is. Call a spade a spade. On the left hand side of that graph, are, the people with below 100 IQ. For want of a better term, are “the dumb people”. There. that’wasn’t so hard, was it? No.

What did I learn in 2016? Well I’m convinced that these are the very same people who voted Trump in. The dumb ones who simply don’t get how the world works. And by that I don’t mean “how money runs the world”. I literally mean “how the world works”. How atoms and molecules and other particles interact with eacother; how crystal structures form.

So I know I’m repeating myself here. But it’s an important message and it bears lots of repition.

Climate change is *not* some big hoax put out by the chinese government (or whatever). It’s a real concern by scientists (you know, the clever people), that our current way of life is just not sustainable.

I am actually suffer chronic depression because of this. Every month I see a psychologist.

I can tell you one thing though. I am personally not going to sit idly by for the next four years in silence. I’ve already made up my mind. I just can’t do it. I know too much.

As one of the few designers out there to actually have a background in science, I am going to make a stand. If the coal or oil industry wants yours truly to design them a new logo, it’s going to cost them… wait for it… 800 million dollars. That’s my buyout price. That’s the price I’m willing to settle for. For that price you get the logo and a style guide. That’s it.

For that price, yes I can design any oil company the loveliest of logotypes. But more importantly, I can reinvest 799 million dollars out of that amount of money into simply buying up . Because that’s what I think the ultra rich should be doing. Instead of wasting it on diamond-encrusted mobile phones and whatnot.

Why? Well, because, unlike most designers, I know why the true “cost to society” of oil isn’t reflected in it’s current market value — in it’s real price.

In a world full of people only some want to fly

I thought I’d share this video I put together during the middle part of my graphic design diploma in 2015

I edited this video for one of the more difficult subjects called “Art Direction”, one of the final ones before graduation. The idea was that I had to design a new logo for Aeroflot as part of a rebranding project.

There were a whole bunch of other documents I had to produce along with the logo: client contract, production schedule, budget estimate, branding guideline manual, advertising campaign, storyboard advert and finally a presentation which you can see on my illustration website. It was a treally stressful time for me personally (and for a lot of other people too, I’m sure).

The week before I started this subject, I was diagnosed with General Anxiety Disorder (GAD). So naturally I was really worried about the final presentation that I had to give in front of the whole class. But it was more than that, graphic designers are some of the most hyper-observant people you will ever come across. My science presentations a decade before never went well (that’s an understatement) and I avoided talking in front of large groups of people ever since…

Anyway, I got so carried away editing this video –I became so inspired– that I essentially ‘forgot’ to worry about the final presentation! The plan was to make an introduction video that was edited so nicely, something so fluid that the audience couldn’t look away (and thus look at me instead). Well truth be told I never truly forgot about the presentation. But it did reduce my anxiety a lot.

From time to time I come back to watch this little vid whenever I need to feel inspired. I hope you like it. If you do, please share!

 

A much closer look at confederate statues:

Upon closer inspection, this is what a conferederate statue looks like. It’s the metal, magnified a hundred times:

Why are statues so important to some people? Honestly. It doesn’t actually ‘repreresent’ anything either, does it? It’s what the sculptor chose to ‘represent’. He could have equally constructed a cube standing up on one edge to represent the past.

When I look at this statue (albeit a pictorial replication on the internet), I see bronze metal that has developed a green patina. It’s sort of in the shape of a horse. With a man riding it. And a hat. I don’t see so many monuments with the riders wearing hats. Is the hat what makes it important? :-/

If you were to look at this monument closer in real life, much closer, under a microscope say, you wouldn’t see an effigy of Robert Edward Lee. You wouldn’t see any flesh and blood. You wouldn’t see his soul or anything else. You wouldn’t see anything to do with the history of slavery or Charlottesville. Or Virginia. Or anything to do with confederate-anything.

What would you see? You’d only see the metallic grains of the original alloying elements, copper and tin. Even underneath the patina, polished back to its original lustre, it’d look a lot like this under the microscope. A bit like the featured image above.

Right?

In other words, in material terms, it has bugger all true value. Well maybe it’s worth US$2 to 3 per pound. Here.

That sculpture is also going to disappear anyway in a few million years. What possible difference does it make now?

Why would you want to honor a statue about slavery? Why?!

Well that is my perspective on confederate statues. [Read more…]

A new definition of life?

Erwin Schrödinger theorized in his 1944 book “What is Life?” that contrary to the general tendency dictated by the Second law of thermodynamics, life decreases or maintains its entropy by feeding on negative entropy.

One of the most difficult questions to answer is “what is the purpose of life?”. But how can we possibly answer what the purpose of life is if we don’t even know what life is?

What is life? Go to a year 9 science book and the definitions will vary. They will undoubtedly mention the following processes: Homeostasis, Organization, Metabolism, Growth, Adaptation, Response to stimuli, Reproduction. By these definitions, would ‘life’ from another planet even classify as life?

Whenever we attempt to ask what constitutes life, we arrive at all sorts of vague definitions, for example:

“the quality that distinguishes a vital and functional being from a dead body”

“a principle or force that is considered to underlie the distinctive quality of animate beings”

“an organismic state characterized by capacity for metabolism, growth, reaction to stimuli, and reproduction”

“the condition that distinguishes organisms from inorganic objects and dead organisms, being manifested by growth through metabolism, reproduction, and the power of adaptation to environment through changes originating internally.”

“the sum of the distinguishing phenomena of organisms, esp. metabolism, growth, reproduction, and adaptation to environment.”

There are many definitions of what life is, but for every one of these sub-classifications, there are exceptions:

Adaptation to the environment. At what rate must life adapt for it to be considered alive? If we rapidly create an artificially toxic environment, no life form will be able to adapt in time and hence it will die. The same can be said for the “reaction to stimuli” argument. The entire plant kingdom is at a great disadvantage here – although they can adapt relatively quickly to their environment, plants can only react to stimuli very slowly. Viruses do not appear to react to anything. In fact, I suspect that “adaptation to the environment” and “reaction to external stimuli” are really disguised as the same thing, albeit at different rates of application.

Reproduction can never be a valid prerequisite for life (at least for an individual being or entity). The process of reproduction occurs in every single life form on this planet, it has therefore not surprisingly swayed our perspective when we think about all life forms. Life is more than reproduction.

I suspect that reproduction is a way of minimising damage to our core DNA instructional program, by relaying this information over different generations (more on that later). I can easily imagine an organic being which is alive and does not need to reproduce to survive by continually renewing itself. Imagine the last surviving example of an endangered heterogenous species: in the short term, it is alive despite facing certain extinction (unless cloned). But in the long term, in the future, it (defined as a species) is already dead. Eunuchs are alive; so are spayed or neutered dogs — but neither can reproduce.

Nor can DNA or metabolism be a criterion for life. In biology, the word ‘metabolism’ usually refers to Earth-bound chemistry. Doesn’t this preclude off-world life? DNA is merely a recipe for life on this planet, it is not a blueprint for ALL life.

It seems to me that our definition of life is extremely Earth-centric. This is again perhaps not very surprising since it’s the only life we know about (so far). So I think it’s time to attempt to define life in a new way. But how can we ever begin to grasp the chemistry on other planets or in other galaxies? Well, we might not have to know. We just need to define one single common process of life. What do all life forms have in common?

Interestingly time is an essential factor when we consider the concept of life. It is present in all the above definitions of life (metabolism, reaction to stimuli & environment, growth and reproduction). We cannot think of definitions of life without thinking about time as well. The concept of time is an essential component. A life-form cannot be defined as alive without measuring one of its characteristics against time. Although so far knowing all this doesn’t help us much.

What other parameters do we know about the cosmos that don’t change? What if we could define life in terms of one of these constants, by direct comparison?

One of the most commonly accepted universal ‘laws’ (at least ) is the second law of thermodynamics, which basically states that the universe tends towards a state of disorder. You need to add energy to a system for it to become more ordered. In general, it’s a rule that cannot be broken. But I’ve never completely understood this, because according to most thermodynamics lecturers, this planet should be an amorphous lump, along with all the others in our Solar system. With this rule, you’d also expect the cosmos to be a 100% random distribution of gas molecules by now… I’m not arguing against the second law… it just made me think.

Physicists and thermodynamicists conveniently talk about open, closed and isolated systems and then scale the size of these imaginary boxes into whatever sizes fit their models in order to analyse various processes (either real or hypothetical). In our situation, they’d include the Sun in the size of their box to take into account its energy transfer. That doesn’t mean much to me.

What does all this have to do with life? Quite simply, as time passes, life in general has the unique capacity to re-arrange resources for itself and all by itself. It’s the one trait that separates inanimate objects (stuff that doesn’t appear to do anything) from animate objects (which do things spontaneously). Let’s just say that life evolves into more and more complex, ordered forms over prolonged time periods.

At first glance, you might not think that we as a civilisation are very organised. You might even call life “crazy” or “chaotic”. Look a bit closer, and you’ll see that the opposite is true. The very word “chaos” essentially means “an apparent state of randomness with the presence of an underlying order”. Think about the intertwined postal networks, telecommunications networks, street networks, social networks, food networks. Think about the logistical nightmare of supplying all the many things we consume on a daily basis; every single thing needs to be prototyped, tested, packed, inventoried, advertised, distributed, sold, consumed and disposed. That’s essentially what everyone is working toward: to offer a sevice to some one or some thing. Compare the sheer complexity of this life with the alternative: a completely barren desert lifeless landscape. Think about all the bits of information that we’ve created and stored in the world; think about the position of every single atom or molecule in both scenarios and then decide which one is more complex. Which one has had more order applied to it?

Consider the following new definition of life: any self-generating system which decreases local entropy levels over the long term. Why do I stipulate “self-generated”? Because artificial machines aren’t really considered alive until they can self-assemble or reproduce; once they become self regenerating, I’m sure they’ll be considered rudimentary forms of life too.

Large businesses [ironically called “organisations”] grow, react and in a sense spawn new companies. Still, these are not considered alive in the traditional sense because they are not self-generating. [Incidently- that could be one reason for the failure of large companies; there is so much re-organising going on, not enough work gets done!]

Viruses usually provide an example of a hazy distinction between life and non-life. In the traditional sense, viruses cannot reproduce on their own; hence some people do not consider them as valid lifeforms.

Using the entropy definition of life, parasitic viruses are only alive in terms of the whole system -when combined with the host organism. In other words, when you include the host as a part of the system, then they are both alive; if not, then the virus is ‘dead’. Like any parasite, you cannot define their existence without looking at the host as well. In my opinion, a virus is still alive in a sense since it replicates the genetic code (just another form of information).

I think we need to look more at entire systems, not just solitary organisms. You cannot draw black-and-white conclusions about life without looking at the surrounding environment. Highly constrained niche ecosystems are alive but very interdependent. If you remove one individual species it often cannot survive on its own. Indeed, remove just one ‘keystone’ species and you risking collapsing the entire ecosystem.

All this is not to say we break the second law of thermodynamics or that we are somehow exempt from its effects. Quite the contrary. There is an external all-pervading neutralising force which constantly acts against us.

Entropy manifests itself in various ways by attempting to randomise us. We experience both cellular and molecular degradation. The action of foreign chemicals & UV rays first come to mind. Cosmic rays, X-Rays, etc directly tamper with our DNA code. The bus that flattens you on the street has done a good job of increasing your entropy state. In fact, it seems that intelligent life itself has the potential to completely self-destruct. We’ve become too good at killing everything and we risk our own survival. I believe that this is entropy playing an unconscious revenge-effect type of role. Nope, it’s not some kind of god. Some people call this effect irony, some call it Karma.

I’ll admit that I am definitely not the first person to think about the connection between life & entropy in this way although I’m proud to say that did come to this conclusion independently … only 64 years too late!

American biochemist Albert Lehninger, argues that “living organisms preserve their internal order by taking from their surroundings free energy, in the form of nutrients or sunlight, and returning to their surroundings an equal amount of energy as heat and entropy.”

Ville Kaila and Arto Annila of the University of Helsinki describe how evolution explores possible paths to level differences in energy densities and so increase entropy most rapidly. Thus, an organism serves as an energy transfer mechanism, and beneficial mutations allow successive organisms to transfer more energy within their environment.

We are told very early on that this law cannot be broken. I think you know the one thing that ‘breaks’ this rule. Life. Life itself does not seem random. However, it certainly seems chaotic. But if you’ve read about chaos theory, it talks about “order in disorder”. What may seem disordered and random may in fact have an underlying order to it. Be it an international airport or the phenomenon we call the weather. It’s controlled by a simple set of rules, but all of these interacting together make it extremely difficult to predict. Some would say impossible. It takes someone like the mentalist to know what’s really going on.

This blog is essentially information (which is order) presented as a series of words (ideas). You could easily convert this paragraph into binary for example. Then it looks very ordered indeed. How am I able to do that?

01011001 01101111 01110101 00100000 01100001 01110010 01100101 00100000 01110010 01100101 01100001 01100100 01101001 01101110 01100111 00100000 01110100 01101000 01101001 01110011 00100000 01100010 01101111 01101111 01101011 00100000 01101110 01101111 01110111 00100000 01100001 01101110 01100100 00100000 01111001 01100101 01110100 00100000 01100010 01101111 01110101 01101110 01100100 00100000 01100010 01111001 00100000 01110100 01101000 01100101 00100000 01110011 01100101 01100011 01101111 01101110 01100100 00100000 01101100 01100001 01110111 01110011 00100000 01101111 01100110 00100000 01110100 01101000 01100101 01110010 01101101 01101111 01100100 01111001 01101110 01100001 01101101 01101001 01110011 0101110 00100000 01010100 01101000 01101001 01110011 00100000 01100010 01101111 01101111 01101011 00100000 01101001 01110011 00100000 01100101 01110011 01110011 01100101 01101110 01110100 01101001 01100001 01101100 01101100 01111001 00100000 01101001 01101110 01100110 01101111 01110010 01101101 01100001 01110100 01101001 01101111 01101110 00100000 0101000 01101111 01110010 01100100 01100101 01110010 0101001 00100000 01110000

A thermodynamicist will talk about open and closed systems. That I need to look at the bigger picture, the net energy gain, not just the gross product. The net energy lost is the food and drink which I consume or ‘burn’ and convert into heat, thought and finger movement. That in order for me to produce a certain amount of order, I have taken it from somewhere else and created a net waste. Rest assured, my brain is working overtime right now. I certainly don’t feel that efficient. I do feel very much alive though, writing this. That’s precisely my point. I have taken energy and consciensously used it to make order. It doesn’t matter about the size of the ‘container’ for this open/closed system. I am the container. Me.

Nonliving things simply cannot do this. Crystals grow by minimising surface energy (dendrites).

At the edge of life you will find chaos.

While it’s difficult to appreciate the nature of order. Male bower birds collect and hord blue items in an attempt to impress their mate. That is ordering directly at work.

Ants create ordered colonies, much in the same way as we create cities. The size does not matter. Whether they are aware of themselves also seems irrelevant, although they can certainly communicate via chemical means.

If and when a computer is able to replicate itself in the form of a robot, as in the terminator, it will become a formidable source of life indeed. One can imagine an insatiable being whose only purpose in life is to make “order out of disorder”. Think along the lines of the Borg in Star Trek or the Simulants in the popular TV series Red Dwarf.

The Paris accord discord.

Can we talk about climate change Mr Trumpet?

Rich, uneducated people almost never believe in climate change. Because I think the way they see it, “climate change” might as well be called “lifestyle change”… and we all know people don’t like lifestyle adjustments. Especially if it means downgrading them.

Oh and by the way, yes I’m fuckin’ FURIOUS alright! About this latest Paris agreement you bombed out on. You fucking-welldropped out of it, you pathethic small-handed fake-tanned little wanker! 1

Now if I had have known 22+ years ago that the president of the United States of America was going to be this #tangerinefuckknuckle, to coin a phrase, I never would have taken up my university on their offer to study science in the first place. I mean why bother?!

Why bother trying to be part of the intelligentsia? Or is that spelled ‘intelligencia’? Never mind. Anything but listen to “the clever people”. If the amount of clout and respect we recieve from fossil-fuel undivested bury-your-head-in-the-sand-and-the-problem-will-go-away complete FUCKWIT types is next to zero. I would have studied a creative field like art or design instead, way back then, if I had have known.

“The rest of the world applauded when we signed the Paris Agreement. They went wild. They were so happy — for the simple reason that it put our country, the United States of America, which we all love, at a very, very big economic disadvantage.” — Donald Trump

No, Mr Trumpet,  no. Wrong! We cheered because the bonds in every single carbon dioxide molecule exhibit antisymmetric stretching and bending resonance modes at frequencies of 2350cm⁻¹ and 670cm⁻¹ respectively. We cheered because your country emits approximately 71,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000 of these molecules every single year.

And I mean, shiiit, we could stand to lose money here people. MONEY! All those people in mining, construction, manufacturing, engineering, logistsics, transport. So we better put the economy first. Jobs first. America first!

But who’s fucking atmosphere is it anyway? America’s? No, we all share the exact same atmospheric coating —thin as it is.

Is there some great big motherfuckin’ hermetically-sealed compartment bigger than the USA that I don’t know about, protecting the likes of North America from extreme weather events that we know will happen? Because the last time I looked, those tropical cyclones whupped your Eastern seaboard arses! That’s right. And you couldn’t run and hide, you had to shut up shop, board everything up and close all business. That sure turned out to be great for Florida’s economy, didn’t it now?

And it turns out rich people should be a lot more worried that they are about this too. For one thing they love living on low-lying coastal regions. But even though they might be able to afford to move, their hard-working employees won’t be able to afford to, will they? Less profit for you then!

If there’s one thing scientists don’t like, it’s uncertainty. And see, that’s half the problem. Isn’t it? One or two degrees might not seem like a lot, but then, it isn’t, is it? What we worry about isn’t one or two degrees of warming over the whole surface of the Earth. That’s the average. The variance in the temperature peaks and troughs could be much higher and lower, for example. What we worry about is some parts getting hotter than average by 8-10 degrees. What we worry about is some parts getting colder than average by 8-10 degrees. If that happened, the average temperature would still be the fucking same! But that doesn’t mean that it’s okay. Right?

What we worry about is chaotic changes in weather patterns. What we worry about are tipping points. What we worry about are graphs that spike up and down like a fuckin’ yo-yo. Because that would be far worse than any global warming. If one year the planet was freezing cold like Mars and the next one it was like fuckin’ Venus. That’s not good for crops for one thing. If there is only one planet Earth, and we can’t afford to downgrade this and wait fir the end of the experiment. We have to intervene now. NOW!

If there’s one thing scientists fear, it’s losing control of nature. So up until now, we’ve always had answers for you. But if you dumbarses don’t start to listen, then what the hell can we do about it later on? When it’s too late? Nothing. You’ll be like “Oh you should have warned us decades ago that it was worse than we thought. If it was that serious, why didn’t you jump up and down and shout out about it way more?”. And we’ll be like: “Well we told you, we told you so and you didn’t listen. You just kept on buying great big diesel trucks instead of looking for a way out.”

We should build a wall alright. We should build a 55-ft high wall, and all of the people who think our actions don’t/can’t/won’t have any global effect or climate consequences should have their name co-moulded into that fuckin’ wall for the sake of posterity. So when the world really does start to fuck up, future civilisations can have those people to thank for inheriting such a fucked up little world.

 

Why am I a minimalist?

I am a former materials scientist. The first question I always get asked is: “what is that?”.

Materials science is the study of mostly synthetic materials such as metals, polymers, ceramic and composites. We study their physical & chemical properties and how they are extracted from the Earth.

I am telling you this because I think that people need to start listening to scientists. More people need to listen to more scientists.

That’s a two way thing. I think that more scientists should start their own blogs (and other mediums communication like that).

Right. So I am a former materials scientist. And do you know what I now think about materials? What I now know?

I think that everything that you buy kills some part of the world somewhere else. The metals in the electronics that you are buying come from mines and natural spaces have to be destroyed to get them. I think we have to realise that and remember it every time we go to buy something. We need to think about that whenever Apple tries to sell us some new product. Do we really need it? What is the environmental cost?

My view now is that the things that we buy have to come from somewhere. Ask yourselves where. Most plastics [polymers] in use today come directly from oil. Uh oh.

All metals that aren’t being recycled are mined. Mines are always built in the natural environment (just look what happens when they are not –like with coal seam gas– people complain their heads off and usually get their own way).

But the problem isn’t just big banks and mining companies. Because I think 99% of adults have simply forgotten where they get their stuff from. [Read more…]

My politcally incorrect branding plan.

Here’s the thing, I know I shouldn’t mention politics where business & branding is concerned.

I *know* I should be more politically correct. But quite frankly, I don’t care. Or I do care somewhat, but I don’t let that stop me… I see icecaps are melting and still no one says anything through official channels. I don’t see any designers criticising Porsche for making their gas-guzzling 5.0L V8-engined Cayenne for example.

Yes I see all the other designers and creatives and their ‘approach’. And I think 99.9% simply prefer to remain silent.

But I don’t see too many designers with a science background. And my science background CANNOT allow me to sit idly by and “say nothing, do nothing”.

The truth is, our lifestyles impact this world, greatly so.I’m even having a hard time convincing my psychologist of this fact. I think she seems to think that we are all “equally to blame”.

I’m sure other people absolutely cringe when they see me always sharing things about the environment on LinkedIn. But quite frankly, if I lose people’s business as a result of being politically incorrect, maybe “it wasn’t mean to be”. I don’t want to help people ruin this planet. I want to help make it a better place.

So my branding plan is this: what I lose in being politically incorrect, hopefully I gain elsewhere by genuinely being committed to the environment. And if only half the number of art directors woule like to commission an illustration from me, well that just means I’ve got to be twice as good to make up for it. So the quality of my drawings goes up. Right? What’s wrong with that?

I would really like to see other designers and creatives be more vocal. Forget being politically correct. Be brutally honest for once. Have the confidence to know that your work is good enough to lose a few clients to be able to sleep at night.

If you know a product is crap, perhaps more people should say so? I won’t work for fossil fuel companies. Well I would, only for about $800M. I hope people see that ethos is part of my brand.

The only constant is change.

Today I’d like to talk about change. We live in a changing world. And yet most people seem to be very afraid of change…

When people talk about ‘change’, it’s usually on ordinary time scales: milliseconds, seconds, minutes, days, weeks, months and years.

Unless you’re a scientist, you rarely talk about change on timescales involving decades, centuries or millennia. Do you?

I’ve noticed most people don’t like change. People get all anxious whenever anyone speaks of change. We get anxious about changes outside of our control. We get anxious too about changes that are self-imposed.

Here’s the thing: most people are afraid of change when it is too great for them to cope. So they block it out, go into denial and distract themselves by doing something else like watching TV. [Read more…]

The principle of “the five whys”.

It’s called “the five whys”. And it’s one of the most powerful tools we have at our disposal.

I think more people should use this technique so that we can improve society. What is it? What does it entail?

It was ‘invented’ at the Toyota corporation as a method of determining the root cause of something unwanted. You keep asking the question why, a bit like a bratty little kid who first figures out the true power of the word ‘why’.

The central idea is to keep on asking ourselves the ‘why’ questions — we keep asking ourselves why something is so, even if we might not like the answers.

For example, if we apply the principles of the five whys to depression, we may discover the true cause of depression (at least in some people). Scientists have got to the point that they can determine whether someone is depressed based on their brain chemistry. Right, but do they then ask the further question: what causes those brain chemicals to be different? One line of research will lead to a ‘cure’. But the other will lead to ‘prevention’. Which is better? I already know the answer.

It’s no good knowing about brain chemicals if we don’t know what factor change the chemicals in the first place. Otherwise we will never prevent depression, we will only have a ‘cure’. So I think asking the five whys in terms of depression is a simple but effective approach. I think that is part of the success of the very simple approach to holistice medicine.

And this is why I think psychology is a very powerful and underrated tool. Because psychologists, unlike psychiatrists, get to the root causes. Psychologists are already three steps ahead of the scientists studying brain chemistry. Because first of all, psychologists have already figured this out. Secondly, they are already asking the five whys. In fact, they are asking a hundred or even a thousand whys. And they already know that depression has triggers. It’s their job to look for the triggers.

The triggers in my case are a mixture of genetic and environmental. They are genetic because I’m told that I have the ‘melancholy’ or inhereted type of depression as opposed to aquiring depression. That’s all I know.

I can tell you right now what causes my depression, what triggers it. I’m going to do this in point form:

  • Firstly, seeing concrete everywhere. I believe that it’s a horrible ugly material. It’s overused, it’s grey and —unlike nature— it’s very prone to being sprayed with graffiti.
  • Suburbs. Yes. suburbs. I generally find suburbs ugly and therefore depressing. Particularly places that have been either not well designed or overdesigned. That includes all forms of urbanisation, land clearing and ‘development’.
  • I generally find any place without trees quite literally depressing. So in my opinion, if you’re a town planner or an architect, and you’re reading this, the best thing you can do is a) design around existing trees b) plant more trees (and not just in a hole in the asphalt, because as one person put it: “a tree is a community”)
  • Cars with exhaust pipes. Because I have known for some 25 years now about global warming. It’s time to stop producing fucking internal combustion engines already and build more electric-powered cars.
  • Grass. I find the patch of mono-specific grass to be unnatural and therefore depressing. I think back gardens need to look more like meadows. That would attract bees and other insects like dragonflies.
  • Lately, mowers. Why do we even mow grass? Really, what for? If we don’t like long grass, why did we put it there to start with? Depressing.

Today, that’s all I’d like to talk about. But in future I will return to the subject of the five whys, but next time it will be applied to GMOs.

I i irony

Why do we try to minimise human physical work by any means possible?

I‘ve noticed that Western society totally idolises an athletic body shape but resents the physical exertion required to attain it.

As far as I’m concerned, every time you switch on any form of electrical equipment, you’re basically signing an invisible contract that reads:

“I accept that as a consequence of using this device, I risk becoming physically and/or mentally unhealthy.”

We choose to avoid using our muscles at each and every opportunity and then suddenly wonder why we’re obese. We drive to work, drive home and then drive to the gymnasium (if at all).

So many have become too lazy to cook or make anything for ourselves – we invent power tools & kitchen utensils to do it all for us. Take this scenario for instance:

Rather than whip a cake using a wooden spoon the old-fashioned way, we’d now sooner collectively sit in front of a computers all day long, earn enough money for a mechanical cake mixer which can do it for us (basically employing a whole host of product design engineers, entrepreneurs, the sales & marketing department, and everyone else who works in the wholesale and retail chain).

But in so doing, have we really saved any time? And is it really any easier? It certainly doesn’t sound any more efficient. That’s because it’s not!

Even so, we’re now sending a global message that we’d rather do things this way and “bugger the consequences”. We don’t even question why we don’t do it the old way anymore.

We basically do it because everyone else does. Is it the fault of employers who continually expect a higher standard of work? Or does the blame lie with the consumers themselves, who insatiably demand “the latest and greatest”.

We become irritated just thinking about the repercussions. What repercussions? We blindly swallow some kind of pill to mask the long-term consequences of doing things which are unnatural… be it for cholesterol, obesity, stress, or some other kind of “disease”.

Perhaps it is our own mode of thinking which is the true disease?

Despite all this, some of us would still rather be ‘fat’ & ‘schizophrenic’ than utilise our muscles. Is laziness a human condition, or what? These days, I don’t think of laziness as laziness, but rather, the ultimate form of sustainability. Perhaps laziness is good or us humans in the long term? Perhaps it is a long-term srvival strategy?

There is currently no international standardisation for comparing the mental health of different countries. Granted, this is a difficult thing to measure. But I’m willing to bet that there is a direct correlation between the incidence of mental health problems in a society and the amount of energy it consumes per capita.

As we rely on artificial machines to a greater extent, we also now tend to isolate ourselves from our natural environment. It’s as if the very purpose of technology is to extract our dependence on -our very existence in- nature itself. We are fast becoming co-dependent with modern technology. Take away our machines and I expect that chaos would quickly ensue. At the same time, modern man is writhe with mental crises; as a species, it seems as if modern [westernised] man is failing to adapt to an environment which we ourselves have created.

If ever I had a conspiracy theory, this would be it: that we are training the next generation to live without the presence of the natural world. We encourage this behaviour, either consciously or subconsciously, because we expect that the natural world as we know it won’t last very much longer. I find this thought horrendously depressing.

People today entertain themselves indoors with computer programs and plasma screens. It’s not real entertainment, it’s virtual entertainment. We even eat packaged, artificial food (okay although a part of it might actually be real, it certainly looks 100% synthesised).

We’ve augmented our communications with technology so much, that we are fast losing the ability to communicate naturally. We’re becoming completely dysfunctional. I don’t even need to go into it. Pretty soon, we won’t even be able to survive without anything artificial. Imagine, a species so ‘advanced’, that it can’t survive without its own creations. I find that incredibly ironic. Well, I suppose that’s why I call this blog Vida Enigmatica (Strange Life).

Ain’t life ironic – we can’t survive without technology now?

What I think of ‘Lord’ Christopher Monckton.

I‘ve become tired of being ‘nice’. So two years ago, okay, I got hypnotised. And this is basically the result of that. Now I call it like I see it. I don’t really care if I offend people. If they want to be stupid and remain ignorant, then that’s there perogative. Fine by me.

But don’t expect me to shut up and listen to you without calling you out on it. What am I talking about? This is what I am talking about. It is pretty hard to watch.
What kind of BULLSHIT is this? Seriously. The first thing I do is look up people’s credibility. And what do I see with this “Lord Muck” fellow? I see a degree in classics (languages). And another one in journalism. Not that there’s anything wrong with that. But I don’t see any science education anywhere in his CV.

[Read more…]

Les calls out the GWPF for what it is.

Some people are saying this document is:

“Shortest possible explanation of the climate change situation. Not political, but scientific”

I’ve decided to host this document. So that other people can’t change what it contains. It could have been written by anyone, for anyone. But it wasn’t written by just anyone, for anyone. Have a read of it if you want. But don’t pay too much attention to what it says.

Firstly, look at who it was written for. It was written for the ‘GWPF‘. Which is an acronym for the “Global Warming Policy Foundation“. That might sound innocent. But it is just a name. And who registered that website? Someone called Benny Peiser registered it.

And how do I know that it was written for the GWPF? When the GWPF isn’t even mentioned anywhere in the entire article?

And neither are any other authors for that matter? How do I know?

Well, just look at the pdf document properties. And you will see this as the original title: “Microsoft Word – climate models for GWPF.docx

And yet the filename, upon pdf export, was later changed to simply “climate-models.pdf“. Wow. Are people really that dumb? That they’d forget to delete the “for GWPF” part?

And here are some quotes from wikipedia about Benny Peiser:

“As an outspoken climate change sceptic, Peiser became director of the newly established UK lobbying group Global Warming Policy Foundation in 2009. He serves as co-editor of the journal, Energy & Environment and is a regular contributor to Canada’s National Post.”

“The GWPF, headquartered in a room rented from the Institute of Materials, Minerals and Mining,[27] was created in part in response to the 2009 Climatic Research Unit email controversy, a series of emails from the University of East Anglia (UEA).”

And here is the info on the board of GWPF trustees:
http://www.thegwpf.org/who-we-are/board-of-trustees/

Go on, have a look at that link. And have a look at the front page while you’re at it.

Do you notice something? They all have titles like ‘lord’, ‘sir’ and ‘baroness’. In other words, entitled people who do not wish to change their lifestyle. Which is fine. But you cannot tell me that an article that was written specifically for them is unbiased.

Here is what the climate change debate is really all about:

a) Whether you think humans are impacting our environment (most certainly we do) and
b) Whether we as individuals are prepared to accept and take some responsibility for our actions and change our lifestyles accordingly. (unfortunately, many people are not at all prepared to give anything up for anybody)

Now I don’t have anything against ‘lords’, ‘sirs’ and ‘baronesses’. Except somehow I doubt they are willing to change their current lifestyles. Because I am willing to bet that they are rather ‘cushy’. And hence, they sit squarely on the denialist side of the fence.

Any “climate” org that talks so much about “the billion dollar cost of the climate change act”, like here:
www.thegwpf.org/content/uploads/2016/12/CCACost-Dec16.pdf
Is not a real org. They are a business funding the org.

Scientists never mention money in their publications about climate change. Or anything else for that matter. Money does change whether the planet is heating or not. It is completely irrelevant to the facts.

So, no. No I don’t want to read that article. Because the conclusions are already foredrawn. ;-)

Synthetic orange.

Suppose we could obtain two different types of oranges:

  1. Firstly, we can synthesise and assimilate the following chemical compounds:

    limonene, myrcene, valencene, linalool, octanal, decanal, ethyl butyrate, α-ionone, citronellal, and α-sinensal, E-2-octenal, 1-octen-3-ol, Z-4-decenal, E, E-2,4-nonadienal, guaiacol, γ-octalactone, and m-cresol, O-glycosylated flavones, flavonols, phenolic acids, ethyl acetate, 6-C-β-glucosyldiosmin, 6,8-di-C-glucopyranosylapigenin, 6,8-di-C-β-glucosyldiosmin, 2-oxo-L-threo-hexono-1,4- lactone-2,3-enediol, beta carotene, 2-hydroxypropane-1,2,3-tricarboxylic acid and heteropolysaccharide.

    This is my version of an artificial orange, a “chemical cocktail” by the way.

  2. Secondly, we can grow a tree, harvest the fruit, peel the skin and simply eat the orange.

Do you think that these are essentially the same thing? I think that’s a very good question to ask. Do both sources of food essentially provide the same nutrients?

Because I think that although we can synthesise many many complex molecules such as these, we can’t actually ‘manufacture’ a wholly artificial fruit that is identical in every way to a naturally grown one. Can we?

And even though it takes an enormous effort to characterise these natural chemical compounds and synthesise them, and nature does it for free with soil, sunlight, air and water, we still try. Without a plant seed, or a tissue culture sample, or a DNA strand, there is no way we’ll be able to do it either.

What’s my point? Well, without any prior knowledge on the subject of the human digestion process, I’ll make an assumption that the structure of food is needed to aid in both the chemical breakdown of the food and the timely extraction of its nutrients. I’ll bet that introducing the same mixture of concentrated liquid chemicals simultaneously into your gut won’t do your stomach lining any good. Time has shown us that there is always a price to play for taking shortcuts, especially with concentrated synthetic chemicals. Indeed, cancer is now one of the greatest of all threats to our biology – in fact it is now common for people to suffer bowel cancer due to the lack of fibre in their diet.

You might say that my two versions of an ‘orange’ are both essentially the same thing. Certainly while the same constituents may be present in the artificial chemical cocktail, the microstructure of theis “artificial fruit” is completely absent.

But aside from that, who actually wants to eat synthetic food? Do we not have time anymore to simply peel an orange? Or is there something else going on? Something deep, dark and insidious? It is my belief that without even realising it, we’re creating an artificial world for ourselves, with almost no control or direction. As technology invades more and more of our lives it erodes the natural; every part, everything from our food to our transport and even our entertainment are now designed by other people. We seek to study everything and replicate it, including life itself. Why?

What am I saying here? Well, I am just saying that all things considered, I think the natural food sources will always be the healthier than the synthetic alternatives.

Take a look at this latest graph.

Go on, have the balls to actually look at it:

nsidc_global_area_byyear_b-800x533

See where we are? We’re right at that point where we don’t want to be. That’s where we are. The appropriately red-coloured line that is beneath all the others (well beneath).

Look, I don’t claim to know much about climate science. I know about materials science. But if there’s one thing scientists know how to do, it’s to respect others’ areas of expertise. Especially the expertise of other scientists.

It’s a bit like the song:

“What you don’t know you can feel it somehow” — U2

We know that there are others who are cleverer than us. And we respect that knowledge.

So I admit that I don’t know how the Earth’s climate fully works. But this latest graph worries me. This graph worries me a lot.

Because its pretty darn obvious to anyone what is going on in this graph.

I don’t think the Earth is completely screwed just yet. But if we don’t change NOW, then it will be.

I think the Earth’s climate is remarkly resilient considering all we’ve thrown at it over the last century.

But all I know is, if man thinks he can change local environments —on a global scale mind you— without global consequences, well then he is sorely mistaken.

That is not the way this world works. That is not how any world works.

Because this is the graph of all graphs. This graph should be printed on the insides of all petrol tank lids.

Every time you wish to use your car, you should be thinking of this graph!

Every time you want to fly somewhere, you should be thinking of this graph!

Every time you eat meat, you should be thinking of this graph!

This is the “climate emergency” graph that James Hansen is referring to.

And what do I see? In reality? In reality, I look around today, and I see bugger all people talking about this problem. And yet it is a big problem. A very big problem.

People should be talking about this over their lunch break and their coffee break. And for some reason they’re not. They’re just not.

[Read more…]

Another climate change denier.

Ex-Scientist here. Look, you ‘deniers’ can’t go saying that just because one small stretch of history had faster warming than a more recent period, that that debunks the whole climate change argument. Because what is important is the TREND. The temperature can be dropping at nightfall, during winter, and even other events. But if the average daily temp is going up, and the average nightly temp is also going up, and the average summer and winter temps are also going up, then that is a WARMING TREND.

How many times do scientists keep having to repeat themselves, defending their own work? It’s ridiculous! I don’t see anyone debating with scientists about how or why the latest Apple iphone 7 works on an atomic level. No, you just accept that it does. You can’t take one part of science like the physics of semiconductors, exploit it, and then deny the other warnings from climate scientists and biologists. Because then you are cherry picking the fields of science that you want to be true… and science doesn’t work that way.

I think you’ve got to ask the motives of why some people still want to deny the overwhelming scientific evidence and consensus. And from some of the comments I have seen being made by climate change deniers on LinkedIn, it’s usually because they are working for oil companies, being paid bribes by oil companies, or own businesses that stand to lose money from climate change (such as construction companies, engineering companies, transport companies).

Why don’t we as scientists just come right out and say it?
Malcolm Roberts, you’re clearly an idiot.

Good morning from North Korea!

So this blog is not just about the environment. Sometimes there are surprises!

You know, I’ve been to pretty far out places before. In the year 2000, I went to Moscow by myself when I was 23. I could barely speak a word of Russian. And yet it was one of the most amazing experiences of my life.

And so its no surprise to me that I am kind of becoming fascinated with North Korea at the moment. Ever since watching this video. And I couldn’t help but notice the eerie North Korean melody that plays about half way through it … it just seems so surreal.

I tried a few months back to find another copy of this music because the voiceover plays over the top of it and we can only hear part of the song.

Today I listened to it again. I guess the the recent North Korean underground nuclear test yesterday reminded us all about North Korea, didn’t it?

I searched for things like “North Korean funeral music”. Because apparently that’s what it is. Eventually I found it when I typed “North Korean train station melody”. I managed to also find this video and an even louder, clearer copy here.

Why am I talking about this? [Read more…]

Who are the greenest printers in Australia?

I just finished a diploma of graphic design a few months ago. And during a subject called “prepress”, I found out that printing is not the most ecological part of graphic design. In fact traditional printing is not very good for the environment at all. It isn’t all just about the paper they use, but they also use loads and loads of metal printing plates and lots and lots of water.

So I have been shopping around for the most ecological printer for some time now (like 6 months, on and off). And I think I’ve finally found a quality one that is reasonably priced. [Read more…]

Is a ‘circular’ electronics industry possible?

I think one of the biggest problems that humanity will face in the not–too–distant future is a lack of synthetic biodegradeable semiconductors.

Okay, so I’ve put that thought out there into cyberspace and now I suppose I should explain it. Why do I think this is going to be such a problem?

As we are all too much aware, human civilisation is fast becoming dependent on technology. You might say that the 1st world is already highly dependent on technology. And a big part of current technology includes electronics devices. Electronics drive everything from robots to computers. Without electronics, we go back to the analogue era. I’m sure that I don’t even need to explain that any further, do I? Without electronics, we’re screwed.

So earlier this year, I asked two questions on Quora:

  1. What are the main semiconductor compounds used today?
  2. What elements are used in the manufacturing of circuit boards and electronic components for consumer electronic devices?

It doesn’t make any sense to totally rely on something that we can only make in limited quantities, yet we are doing just that. Because the trouble is this: the way in which we produce electronic devices today is completely unsustainable. We mine the Earth for new minerals and the only element we recover from all of our electronic waste is gold (well, okay, we do sometimes also recycle lead and copper). But what about recycling all of the other elements that are used in electronic components?

Are we recycling tantalum? No. Are we recycling indium? No. Are we recycling gallium? No. Are we recycling arsenic? No. Are we recycling cadmium? No. Are we recycling selenium? No. Are we recycling tellurium? No. Are we recycling germanium? No. Are we recycling samarium? No. Are we recycling neodymium? No. Are we recycling niobium? No. Are we recycling antimony? No.

[Read more…]

Open letter to Robert Borsak.

About your sordid little elephant-hunt crusade

To Robert Borsak,
You have said:

 

“Animals do not have an intrinsic human right,”

“Humans have a right to eat meat if they choose to do so. It is as simple as that”

By that logic, I have the right to shoot humans and kill them, so long as I eat their meat…

Furthermore, I should also be able to claim back my animal rights. In which case, if I killed another human, nobody could argue that the human laws apply to me. [Read more…]

For Unto us a Child – Handels Messiah

Wish to discover ways to use Quickbooks or Quickbooks Expert? Quickbooks does not have to be always a stressful knowledge; here’s some fundamental information to obtain you began. Why Must I Learn How to Employ Quickbooks? QuickBooks is one of many accounting applications that are most-trusted and common. QuickBooks-Website, in a 2008 blog article, quotes that QuickBooks sales account for 78 percent to 94.2 percentage of all smallbusiness accounting software package sales. [Read more…]

What you should know about Marius Willemse

I hope my reply to this man encourages others to ask more questions about their potential clients. He wrote an article on LinkedIn Pulse about Mars and I assumed he was a conservationist.

Hello,

One of my main aims is to provide illustration & graphic design services to make a better future for this planet.

I work with individuals who care about preserving and respecting nature, animals, the environment and conservation issue) rather than the big corporations.

HOWEVER. I see from your CV that you are using game reserves as part of others’ investment portfolios. Right. So if I understand your situation correctly, you are helping canned hunters to succeed in business. Is that correct? It certainly appears that way. So you are on “their” side. The side of the trophy hunters…

[Read more…]

Open letter to climate change skeptics (from a scientist).

Do you notice the terminology “global warming” is somewhat detached from the humanity that caused it? As if it were the planet’s response to our domination, but not directly our own fault.

For me, the notion that this is all some part of a repetitive ‘prehistoric cycle’ which man has nothing to do with is preposterous. It just happens at the same time man enters the industrial age, and is happening 10x quicker than anything before. Hello! coincidence!! The words rate of change have very strong meaning in the scientific community. Grand geological transformations don’t just happen over a matter of years or even decades. They are supposed to take millennia, or longer. So now that the average global sea & air temperature has risen a degree already, I think we’re already in deep shit my friends.

Deforestation today proceeds at 55,630 to 120,000 square kilometres each year. At this rate, all tropical forests may be gone by the year 2090.

You might be one of the smart ones & think that the Earth’s volume is vastly superior to what we could possibly be doing on the surface. But the surface is paramount; everything that happens here depends on it. Yes, the atmosphere has the capacity to change the temperature of the entire planet and it has done so before. Still don’t believe it? The temperature and composition of the atmosphere are dynamic factors; they do not remain constant. Note I deliberately used the term “the atmosphere” because it is most definitely NOT “our” atmosphere! Look at the atmosphere of Venus: it’s completely hostile. Look at the atmosphere of Mars: there is none. No one said to us “The Earth is going to remain habitable/hospitable for as long as you lot are around you know”.

I think the real reason why some people continue to deny global warming is taking place (subconsciously or not) is that they can’t deal with reality. So if they convince themselves that it would’ve happened anyway, they can simply carry on life as normal, and not have to worry about it.

So I think the very least people can do is to accept that they’re responsible for it. Anyone who doesn’t think it is happening is worse than the flat-Earth society. Honestly. Just go bury your head in the sand somewhere, ostrich style. (see that’s what I like about a blog, I can use stronger language than a scientific paper and not have to be so damn subtle in writing and then have someone edit out my carefully chosen words)

What is wrong with society today?

I was writing an e-mail today regarding a new illustration commission I received from the biodiversity alliance. I got a little side-tracked and this article is what came of it, although the illustration below is one I prepared earlier.
Illustration by Leslie Dean Brown. © 2015. All rights reserved.
Illustration by Leslie Dean Brown. © 2016. All rights reserved.

Yes we dance around and laugh and joke… at our peril. That is what we are doing as a civilisation. I do not think we should even have fireworks and such wasteful things unless we are meeting our targets for global emissions reductions (for example).

I’m not saying that it’s not worth talking about on your website, I just think that people have no choice left but to try to be happy and not get too sad about the state of the world… otherwise look at you and me… I suffer from chronic depression. I am sure that many other clever people suffer from clinical depression too. It is only by working at what we know is right in our hearts that we can feel better about what we are doing for the world. So I believe we must “be the change we want to see in the world”, be a part of the solution, not be a part of the problem. And to make it so that what we think, what we believe and what we do are all aligned. Otherwise, we are only fooling ourselves…

So yes unfortunately people are definitely “having fun while we roast ourselves.” But do we really want people to be miserable about our situation instead of ‘happy’? Miserable & depressed people probably cannot adjust and react to challenges as fast as happy people.

I think many older people are just “making the best of it” in the face of so many daunting challenges (and they really are and it is enough to make me not want to have children). I think a lot of young people are massively depressed because half of the older generation is still telling them what to do the old way based on the industrial model of business (sell more stuff, buy stuff because it is good for the economy, and money = happiness) and they are being simultaneously bombarded with mixed messages about the climate but I think many of them are feeling completely helpless. They are getting mixed messages (consumerism vs environment) and we are mostly stuck.

I think one of the reasons that the adolescent suicide rate has gone up is because of this (my sister who is a secondary high school teacher has told me so directly). I don’t think young people do all these ‘bad’ things intentionally; they behave how they were taught to behave, how society brought them up. I never questioned or considered the environment until year 9 general studies class. And then I heard about all these problems the world was facing essentially all at once…

One other problem is that the older generation is half-expecting that the younger generation will somehow come to the rescue and “save the planet”. How is that going to happen when the exact same mentality is being passed on? How is that going to happen when older politicians and wealthy people are essentially in charge? I think it is us older people who need to change first because all children naturally learn from role models. [Read more…]

Defending nature from overdevelopment. Part 3.

Sorry these last two vids didn’t appear correctly; coding error combined with auto posting.

Defending nature from overdevelopment. Part 2.

Sorry these last two vids didn’t appear correctly; coding error combined with auto posting.

Defending nature from overdevelopment. Part 1.

“There are no accidents”

We assume that true “randomness” exists. But is there really such a thing as a purely random event or thing?

I think we only use the word random to describe things that we can’t fully explain. I think that the events which first appear to be random are actually be very structured and organised. It’s easier to say “it’s entirely random” than to explain the myriad of intricacies of any particular system…

Picture several hundred people moving at a train station or crossing a busy intersection. At first glance it looks purely random. But there is really nothing random about it. Each of the people has a distinct set of reasons for being there. Maybe some of them are going to work, or coming home from night shift or meeting a friend for a coffee. They are doing what people do: shopping, socialising, travelling, working, playing, walking, seeing, doing and a multitude of other things that other people do to make themselves feel happy. None of that is random.

“There are no accidents” — Master Oogway

[Read more…]

What is the environmental cost of consumerism?

“We’re very very disconnected from what we consume. So because of the widening degrees of separation between the consumer and the consumed we no longer have any real appreciation for the embodied energy, the embodied destruction, the embodied suffering that goes in to every stage of the supply chain in the things we buy.” — Mark Boyle

I‘m sure that most consumers don’t care less what chemical elements are used in the manufacture of all the products that they buy. I’m talking about all the elements and compounds required to make all of these products function like they do. But consumers should care. We should care about what products are made of, what they are made from.

But with things like consumer electronic devices, customers simply don’t think about their ‘ingredients’ much. I think the problem with this world today is that consumers don’t question the true origin of synthetic materials, let alone how they are extracted and processed.

I think people really need to wake up and ask where their materials are coming from, learn about all the many processing steps each material requires (extraction, refinement, manufacturing, production) and also ask what happens to all these materials at the end of the product’s life. In many cases, even with recycling of plastic/paper/metal, the majority of materials on the periodic table aren’t being recycled and are ending up in landfill (and/or the ocean).

I think each product sold should have an ‘ingredients’ label showing exactly what materials are in it. That way, people could [eventually] reference which materials have the highest ecological impact…

The obvious exception is of course food. Wherever food is concerned, then consumers quite rightly want to know what they are consuming. We want to know all the food ingredients. We want to know what we put into our bodies.

[Read more…]

Why I decided to quit facebook.

In recent news, I just quit facebook. I quit because they are encouraging trophy hunting by allowing their pages to remain online. I believe they could do so much better with animal rights and conservation issues.
Illustration by Leslie Dean Brown
Illustration by Leslie Dean Brown

Nothing happened. My head didn’t fall off. I enjoyed real life more now. I am happier and much more productive.

I have even started this petition to get more people to quit facebook as a form of protest and defiance.

Mark Elliot Zuckerberg,

The first time I logged on to the internet, the year was 1995. I had to go into a special room at university to access it. Only about 30 computers were connected to the internet for students to use — in the whole university.

A few years later, more rooms appeared throughout the campus. I remember one day in particular. My college buddy could only find a handful of Porsche images *on the whole internet*. I can even remember him printing it out. It was so rare to him it was like a prize. I remember because we had to take turns — using the same internet connection!

Four years later, in 1999, I got “into trouble” for using the internet at work! Yes. “People can see you” he’d say. I had to show my boss that I was searching for material properties online. He promptly wheeled his office chair over. He had called my bluff. And I pointed to the screen. “See?” At that time, people didn’t use the internet for work. No.

I don’t know when it was exactly. I was still at university. All I can remember was that the internet was still fairly ‘new’. The average person still did not use the internet on an hourly or a daily basis (except for email). Anyway, I got this weird “friend request” from this unknown person calling himself “Mark Zuckerberg”. It wasn’t one of my friends. I’m pretty sure it was actually you.

If memory serves me correctly, Mr. Zuckerberg, you actually came to me. I certainly never went out specifically looking for anything like facebook, because I was a nerdy anti-social science graduate. You probably found my email or something.

I decided to accept your initial “friend request” and sign up to this new facebook thing. And because I was introverted and shy, I never really bothered to say anything to you. It was when there was only a few thousand facebook members *in the whole world*. At the time I can remember thinking:  “what harm can it do?”. Nobody I knew had a facebook account. I repeat: nobody. And so it began…

[Read more…]

Is societal collapse due to our own basic human stupidity?

I think one characteristic of humanity is that as a whole we are inherently stupid, very stupid!  And I think I know the reason why…

Looking back at former civilisations, it is always noteworthy how blatantly ignorant humanity was about the consequences of its own actions. We look back now and think we know better than we did before. Do we?

Even knowing what we know, time and time again we over-estimate our current intelligence level. Not only do we fail to learn by other people’s mistakes, but even when we know what is good for us, we are reluctant to change.

I think many people today are becoming too complacent. I think we think that we can still out-smart anything and everything that comes our way, that our technology will always provide us with an answer. Will it?

[Read more…]

You say you want a revolution. Well, you know, we all want to change the world.

As I sit and write this, Forbes magazine talks about who they think the next trillionaire is going to be. I should probably stop visiting the Forbes website. But you know what they say. Know your enemy…

BUT it’s not just them. There are all kind of predictions going on. The Global Wealth Report from Credit Suisse reckons there will be 11 trillionaires within the next two decades1.

They have the nerve to say it’s not a ‘prediction’, they make one, and then call it their best estimate. Nice.

Two generations ahead, future extrapolation of current wealth growth rates yields almost a billion millionaires, equivalent to 20% of the total adult population. If this scenario unfolds, then billionaires will be commonplace, and there is likely to be a few trillionaires too – eleven according to our best estimate. [source]

So. What do I think about that annual report? Firstly, as far as annual reports go, I think it has a beautiful design. I used to look at the numbers first, now I look at the design.

Getting back on track, the trouble with traditional economics is that “shit happens”. If shit didn’t happen, dinosaurs would still be roaming this Earth. Even they weren’t so bold as to make predictions.

You know the thing about predictions? Predictions are unpredictable.

I think it’s more than a little naïve to think that  [Read more…]

The whaling debate

I think part of the trouble is that migratory species of animals do not ‘belong’ to any one individual country. Countries will always have differences of opinion; therefore all migratory species should be off-limits to hunters.

Whales don’t technically belong to Iceland, Australia, New Zealand or anyone else. And that’s just one of the reasons that they should be spared… because if Icelandic whalers can claim that the whales are ‘theirs’ to do with as they please, then Tongans too can claim that whales are born in Tongan waters and are therefore more ‘Tongan’ than ‘Icelandic’.

I’ve noticed that Icelanders keep referring to chickens, goats, cows and pigs. But none of those animals really migrate, do they? No. They do not cross vast oceans from one side of the planet to the other. Here’s my second point and it doesn’t have anything to do with factory farming, killing chickens, fish, goats, cows or pigs. Let’s forget Iceland for a moment for this analogy to be a bit more objective…

Can you see how if any country (X) started to hunt Japanese cranes in ‘Japanese’ air space that that would annoy Japan? As you know, migratory cranes are endangered. They are also very special to Japanese people in their culture and believed to bring good luck. They have a tradition of folding 1000 cranes. Now just imagine that country X goes there and kills a lot of them. The poor birds take a long time to die and suffer immensely at the time of death. Now imagine that ALL the other countries were totally against country X hunting cranes but they still kept doing it. And now just imagine that country X says to Japan: “no, but it’s okay, we’re hunting them sustainably, we only catch 333 per year.” [Read more…]

Petition to ban the publication of unethical lethal whale research

I have started a petition to ban the publication of unethical lethal whale research.

I have attached a transcript of my letters to SpringerLink regarding this issue in chronological order because it makes for more interesting reading. It’s interesting to see Springer’s official stance change completely when they are called out.
Maybe this will make interesting reading for someone… in about 300 years time when people realise that some animals are more important than humans:

From: Dr. Leslie Dean Brown [mailto:info@lesliedeanbrown.com]
Sent: Monday, January 25, 2016 9:56 AM
To: Onlineservice, SCSC
Subject: TN606818 “I speak for whales” [petition: banning lethal whale research] FS

Hello,

I’ll get straight to the point.
As I’m sure you’re aware, people all around the world are getting more and more annoyed with the Japanese that continue to kill whales and do unnecessary scientific research on them. Many people thought the research was all lies. The really scary part is that it is actually true. Yes, they are in fact researching whales… :-(

I am writing to you because some of these papers have been published in the Journal “Polar Biology” with the latest appearing in 2014:
http://link.springer.com/article/10.1007%2Fs00300-013-1424-3

I have started a petition to ban lethal whale research:
http://www.thepetitionsite.com/en-gb/656/717/561/ban-japanese-%22research%22-that-is-lethal-to-whales/

I hope you take notice of this petition and reject all publications by the Japanese Institute of Cetacean Research, North Atlantic Marine Mammal Commission (NAMMCO), the International Whaling Commission (IWC) or any other organisations that are involved in the slaughter of whales and the whale meat industry.

Did you know that the Japanese Institute of Cetacean Research openly sells whale meat in exchange for financial support from the public? [Read more…]

Blue Moon of Josephine.

We estimate that 3.4 billion individuals – or 71% of adults worldwide – have wealth below USD 10,000, while the group of millionaires, who comprise less than 1% of the global population, account for 45% of total wealth.[source]

SO. It seems the rich are indeed getting much richer. There is a truly massive gap in the distribution of wealth and it just keeps getting wider and wider and wider.

I’ve had most of this post sitting in draft format for quite a while. But just today, I learned that Joseph Lau, the billionaire Hong Kong real-estate tycoon, paid a record-breaking US$48.4 million for a cushion-shaped internally-flawless fancy vivid blue-coloured diamond, called the “Blue Moon”. He named it “Blue Moon of Josephine”. And he bought it for his seven year old daughter. 

For his seven year old daughter! [Read more…]

What you don’t have you don’t need it now.

How often have you bought something expensive only to want to replace it with something else –something even pricier– within a very short period of time? In short, you’re no longer satisfied with what you have. You want more. You want to maximise.

OOriginally people used to buy higher-priced quality items because they last longer than poorly-made, cheaper items. So the idea was that we’d spend more in the short term but less over the long term. Which is great because buying something that lasts longer it makes more economical and ecological sense. We never used to purchasing a replacement item solely because it was an “improved” model. Originally, we paid for quality items because they added some kind of value to our lives.

Now you may think all of the vendor’s products are so good, that you want to buy more than one model, so that you can choose which one to use based on your personal preference that particular day. A bit like the Thunderbirds — they had a fantastic selection of transport vehicles to choose from, didn’t they?

Usually you feel strangely compelled to buy something new because the new product is bigger, better, faster, more accurate, has more features, contains more memory, is smaller and lighter, stronger or more fashionable. Brands have become so strong today that we start to define our own identity by them; we associate with some brands and not others.

But where exactly did we go so wrong? We hardly even question anymore whether we really need the new item — we buy it because we can. We buy it because it’s fun. We also buy it because our government tells us that buying things is “good for the economy”.

Most people don’t even give so much as a second thought about throwing out something that still functions. These days, things become superceded or obsolete at crazy rate.

[Read more…]

Overstimulation, ADHD & physical exercise.

Is Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) simply an extreme degree of hyperactivity, brought about by many complex contributing factors? We’re stimulated (visually) by television and seemingly limitless internet possibilities. Outwardly, we appear to have adapted in various ways to this fast pace of life. But what happens to our brain when we stop all this fast-paced internet work and shutdown our computers and gaming consoles? Our brain continues to run wild at this high pace. Our minds continue to race overtime; not accustomed to stagnating, we dwell & obsess over the tiniest of problems merely for “something to do”. Is this something we have control over?

Could a lack of excercise combined with overchoice & overstimulation actually compound certain mental disorders in the early phase of development? In an ever-increasingly stressful world, we’ve simultaneously reduced the amount of exercise we receive! We drive everywhere, use mobile devices, remote controls, pre-packaged “lazy foods”, etc. Although most of us still continue to defer exercise. This is a recipe for disaster. Could this be a simple link to many of today’s current mental disorders?

Certainly, advanced brain research will help diagnose mental disorders such as ADHD, for example. But while scientists are busy studying brain chemicals and neurotransmitter activity, do they pay much attention to the initial reasons behind why those chemicals are different? I for one think its better to understand the true reasons or causes behind something, not merely their symptoms, consequences or effects. What’s the difference? Well, a few simple observations and tests might show that there is an insufficient level of dopamine in the brain in ADHD patients, for example. Some would argue that that essentially is the disease. At the very least it reveals the reason for the occurrence of some of the disease’s symptoms. However, since the disease is usually characterised by its symptoms, what’s actually stopping us from labelling this an “in vivo symptom”?

Knowing the concentration of dopamine in the brain of a patient with ADHD doesn’t really help us initially, other than to ask the follow-up questions, “how can we now change this value?”. Researching a potential cure in this manner will never prevent this disease, only reduce its symptoms. What we really want to know is “Why has this value changed of its own accord?”. One possible reason is that the child doesn’t perform sufficient exercise, and this in turn affects their brain chemistry. I.e. we should ask the question “why is this value different?” in the first place. In my humble opinion, the latter type of research is far more valuable than the former.

In my opinion, we are biological beings and physical exercise is highly important if not crucial to our overall health. It’s like oxygen -we can certainly get by with less, but we’re better off with the correct amount. If I attempt to breathe in an oxygen-depleted environment and begin to exhibit symptoms of asphyxiation, I’d want to receive a healthy dose of oxygen before I die. I certainly wouldn’t wait around for biology research to cure my condition. I’m sure they could come up with all sorts of cellular “reasons” as to why I’m failing to respire adequately while all the the cells in my body are turning blue. But like I said before, if I can’t breathe properly, the real reason is that I need to inhale more oxygen molecules. At this stage, it’s best to give me what I need -air- not try to substitute it with something else in the form of a pill.

Biologists can argue all they want about it. Take for example an earlier phase of depression I experienced. My depression wasn’t initially caused by an imbalance in my brain chemicals, that was the end result which severely affected my mood. The real cause was a hundred other factors out there in the real world to do with relationships, life, money, worries, disappointment, stagnation, pity, etc, which I didn’t realise until after being diagnosed. It was cured, in part chemically, by prozac, but also by a lot of hope, positive thinking and inspiration.

Doctors haven’t done many definitive studies about exercise and ADHD, says David Goodman, an assistant professor of psychiatry at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine. But Goodman says it makes sense that working out would help people cope with the condition. Studies show that exercise increases levels of two key brain chemicals (dopamine and norepinephrine) that help people focus.

If kids could exercise strenuously three to five times a day, they might not need medications at all, says John Ratey, an associate clinical professor of psychiatry at Harvard Medical School. Ratey is so intrigued by the question that he’s writing a book about how exercise can reduce symptoms of ADHD or at least help patients cope.

Studies show that children today are far more sedentary than they were a generation or two ago, a trend that has contributed to increasing childhood obesity rates. “You could speculate that one reason for the increasing rates of ADHD is that kids are exercising less,” says James Perrin, a professor of pediatrics at Boston’s MassGeneral Hospital for Children.

Researchers have looked at other habits to explain the rise in ADHD rates. But experts note that there isn’t much research to clearly link lifestyles with attention problems.

More than a few parents and teachers suspect that sugary snacks €” with their artificial colors, flavors and preservatives €” contribute to the problem. Others suggest that vitamins might reduce hyperactivity. But most controlled trials show these substances have no effect on ADHD, according to a July review in the Journal of the American Dietetic Association.

Many parents also wonder whether television, computers and video games make it harder for children to concentrate. A study in 2004 found that infants and toddlers who watch a lot of television are more likely to have trouble concentrating in their early school years. Every extra hour of TV raised the odds of having attention problems by 10%, according to the study, which was published in Pediatrics. Source

– See more at: http://www.tenerife-training.net/Tenerife-News-Cycling-Blog/overstimulation-adhd-physical-exercise/#sthash.QrqMXj4c.dpuf

Racism vs culturism

Illustration by Leslie Dean Brown. © 2015. All rights reserved.
Illustration by Leslie Dean Brown. © 2015. All rights reserved.
CULTURES are different, by their very definition. Anyone who has travelled extensively has surely witnessed that. But it just so happens, that many –not all– cultures are divided by geographical barriers, national boundaries known as a countries. And that’s when the generalisations begin…

I T’S generally fair to say that the majority of Japanese people are very reliable & punctual. Likewise, if I were to say that Tongan people are very friendly, stress-free & relaxed, that comment would also be acceptable to most people. Why are these statements accepted? Because they’re positive cultural observations. [Read more…]

X-mas – an outdated traditions that should be kept or significant business enterprise for that marketplace

X-mas – an outdated traditions that should be kept or significant business enterprise for that marketplace 

The christmas season can be an invention belonging to the nineteenth century Victorians and endlessly immortalized by Charles Dickens in ‘A Xmas Carol’. A conventional Christmas is one particular that includes a tree, turkey and stocking hung up from the fireplace; an opportunity to patch up family arguments and spread Peace and Goodwill to all. [Read more…]