North Koreans and creativity

Sending warships over there is ridiculous.

Mainly because they don’t seem to be backing down. Are North Koreans evil people? No. So why not just leave them alone to do their thing?

Here’s what I think. I think the main trouble with treating everyone the same is that you produce more people that are all less creative. And that’s a problem, because creativity is the very lifeblood of essentially all art, music and design (etc). All the creative careers. Careers, without which, nobody would sell anything!

And without any art, music and design, photography, etc, the urban world is quite literally an extremely depressing place, too. It is. Seriously. That’s why nobody likes going to jail. It’s not all about ‘freedom’. It’s also about emotional states. No one ‘likes’ to be unhappy or depressed.

Creativity is also the mother of invention. That’s why the soviets copied Zeiss lenses, etc, and not the other way around.

Now, do you want to know why I think Mr Kim Jong-un invited Dennis Rodman (of all people!) to stay with him a few years back? If you were like me, at the time you were thinking: why him? Of all people?! I don’t think it’s because of Dennis Rodman’s style or personality. I think it’s because of Dennis Rodman’s perceived underlying ‘creativity’. He could equally have chosen Yayoi Kusama or any other creative.

Whenever a country plays the same morning tune three or more times a day, what they lack isn’t power, it’s creativity. A different way of doing things. And half of them probably don’t even know it. What they’re missing. That’s why they keep people ignorant.

That’s also why you don’t ever hear much about North Koreans smuggling money. Or gold. Or even drugs. They smuggle movies. Movies. On little usb sticks. Right?

Though trade in banned small arms and ammunition is relatively insignificant, recent reports include: imports totaling $45,500 by Brazil in 2007, of $3.1 million by the United Arab Emirates in 2006, and $364,400 by Ethiopia in 2005, and $121,400 by Mexico in 2005.[26]:14 [source]

Honestly? Forty five thousand five hundred dollars worth of illegal imports from Brazil? Honestly?! One hundred and twenty one thousand four hundred dollars worth of illegal imports from Mexico. Again, are you fucking kidding me? No, you have got to be fucking kidding me!

The copright infringement on the movies they smuggle alone is probably a hundred or a thousand times more than that lot combined! Ha ha ha.

So I wouldn’t even waste the fuel of those warships. I’d carry on exactly as normal. Win the ‘war’ with creativity.

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?


Still not as good as a fly though is it?

Comparing this to your basic, everyday, run-of-the-mill “garden variety” house fly, here are my questions:

Can the actual printed flying thingo generate more copies of itself? No.
Can it fly without an external power source? No.
Is the laser biodegradeable? No.
Can it navigate obstacles? No.
Does it include sensors? No.

So in other words:

* It doesn’t actually assemble itself, because it requires an external laser.
* It’s not self-regenerative, meaning it can’t produce copies of itself
* It’s not truly ‘sustainable’.

In other words, I think insects are still vastly superior in more ways than one.


The coal debate

Ex scientist here. Dr. qualified. (like that even matters today)
No we most certainly should NOT be relying on coal!! How many times do scientists have to tell you this??!! For one thing, coal is not renewable. It’s going to run out you know. Maybe not in the next few decades. But in a couple of centuries it will. Then what?!! But quite apart from that, the really clever scientists are telling you to keep it in the ground! Are you politicians all DEAF, or what? Hello global warming!
I know it’s hard for you to accept something that you don’t understand. But how many people know how and why their mobile phone works? Or their computer? Or their car? Eh?
You have enough sunshine in QLD to power that state for the next… 5 billion years!!!! It’s a no brainer. FFS living in this country is becoming embarrassing.
You politicans might know about money and rules and regulation, but you know sweet FA about how the world works. I.e. Physics and chemistry. Here’s a tip. Kindly look up the surface temperature of the planet Venus. That planet is hotter than it should be considering it’s proximity to the sun. It’s at least 30 degrees hotter than Mercury for Pete’s sake (and Mercury is MUCH closer to the Sun!). What’s the difference? Well, for one thing, Venus has a predominantly CO2 atmosphere. It’s the original greenhouse planet. Heck, it’s probably a hundred °C hotter than it should be because of that CO2. Now I suggest you politicians start taking notice of my fellow scientists… because otherwise you’re going to be even more out of touch than you are now. Les out
its not politically correct to say global “warming”, because we have no idea what its actually doing, so just to be safe . every social justice warrior knows that, you have to say climate “change” now to muddy the waters , or you will be socially ostracized. but at least you do agree that its the sun that drives climate, like on venus, and not human activities. but we should stop selling our coal to china, a brutal communist dictatorship, and others , after all we`re going to need it here to for some few hundred years to power our cities, what will we do when it runs out , our childrens childrens children will need it , unless one of these genius scientists can invent a better solution that wont cripple our nation and cause millions of deaths like solar and wind will
I think you completely missed my point. I was trying to point out that atmosphere also affects climate, not just the proximity to the sun.

[Read more…]

The #DAPL war

Well seeing this just makes me want to design, invent and sell lightweight ecological shields for these people… does money really make rich people that happy?

I think in today’s world, the only valid use of fossil fuels should be for military vehicles and equipment. Because solar-powered fighter jets, rockets and tanks wouldn’t work so well. 

Oh wait, the military does actually use solar power sometimes … like when it goes “off grid”. 

Anyway, if we used 99% less oil to begin with, stopped the West wouldn’t even need a military force even half the size as it is today.

“The EV Bubble”

“The EV Bubble: Why Tesla, NextEV, Lucid, and Faraday Future are doomed to fail”.

The article below is written in response to this ridiculous one.

I think you’re forgetting several factors:

1) Some people like to support the underdog.

2) If anything, the fossil fuel car industry ‘bubble’ will burst well before the EV market does. Why? Because everybody already knows that it’s a bad investment in our future. How long have scientists been lecturing economists about that? We’re right in the midst of an “eco age”.

3) The trouble with VW, porsche and lambhorghini getting in on the EV bandwagon is… they are too late to the party. Way too late. 2020 for the porsche mission e? Hopeless.

It’s obvious that they were never passionate about 100% EV. Otherwise, they would have already done something about it. They’ve had two decades already. Thanks to people like Jeremy Clarkson, customers have always been more concerned with ‘performance’. But you don’t combine an electric engine with a V10 and pretend to be ‘eco’. What’s the point? It’s a half-arsed approach. Even if it is faster, that ain’t even remotely ‘eco’.

Now that there is more “impending environmental disaster” news than ever before… redesigning the exhaust pipe so that it has a hexagonal cross section “oooh, ahhh” – well, it’s just not good enough. Is it? It’s pathetic is what it is. [Read more…]

What is the amount of carbon dioxide gas generated by all the cars in the world today?

I previously wrote an article which contained a simple calculation to estimate the amount of CO2 emitted by 1 litre of petrol. And it was a fairly popular blog post. From there it was easy to estimate the amount of CO2 produced by driving on one full tank of petrol.

When one litre of petrol is burned, 2.28kg of CO2 are produced, equivalent to 1268 litres of of CO2 gas!! Every single 50 litre tank full of petrol will produce over 63,400 litres of CO2 gas (63.4 m3), or a volume of pure CO2 gas equivalent to an imaginary cube with sides 4 metres long.

Now I’m going to calculate how much CO2 is produced by the fleet of 500-600 million cars worldwide using just one full tank of petrol and compare that figure with the total volume of the Earth’s atmosphere.

600,000,000 x 63,400 = 38,000,000,000,000 litres.

38 trillion litres on just one tank of petrol.

What’s the average annual petrol consumption? Average distance driven per year? Easier to get the stats from elsewhere at this point, more reliable:

Cars – together with power stations- are the main producers of CO2. Today 500 million cars world-wide emit four billion tonnes of CO2 into the atmosphere – around 20 per cent of the total quantity produced by mankind. And the number of cars on the road is growing rapidly – currently twice as fast as the world’s population. Forecasts assume that this number will reach 2 billion world-wide by the year 2030. This will mean that petrol consumption will grow to an estimated 1.3 billion tonnes by 2030. CO2 emissions from traffic would then increase to more than 7.5 billion tonnes. Source: greenpeace

I’m an ex-scientist. And scientists deal with numbers. It is our job to try and explain very large numbers to people.

I think we’re all very used to hearing the words ‘thousands’, ‘millions’, ‘billions’ and even ‘trillions’.

And we’re not used to measuring the weight of gases. We’re used to seeing their volume. Aren’t we?

So. If that happens, if CO2 emissions from traffic increase to 7.5 billion tonnes per annum, why, do you know how many litres that is?

I’ll tell you how many litres of CO2 that is. It’s 3.82 quadrillion, that’s how many litres of CO2 that is. Per year.

Now, I’m willing to bet that you don’t even know how big one quadrillion is, let alone 3.82 of them. It’s “fucken huge”, that’s how big it is. Just how much bigger is one quadrillion than one billion?

Let’s imagine there were 3.82 quadrillion people scattered throughout the universe… and that there are 7.5 billion people on each planet1, there would have to be 509 million planets in existence to total 3.82 quadrillion people.

That’s how much CO2 gas cars pump into one of our Earth’s atmospheres every single year.
3.82 quadrillion litres of CO2.

What do I think of NASA’s emdrive?

Firstly, the name reminds me of emdash —and secondly—

Don’t get your hopes up too much. If the world’s largest 8MW nuclear power station completely powered this emdrive thingo, it would generate 0.68kg of thrust. To put that into perspective, I have just done some very rudimentary calculations, and I think my greyhound generates more thrust on a daily basis… due to flatulence.

Seriously. Someone can check my basic calculations if they don’t believe me. On another note, I can’t believe that no one knows what an average nuclear power station weighs, yet plenty of people have asked about fart volumes.

What am I really saying? I think it’s time we focused a bit more on planet Earth than on silly outer space ventures…

Why I am so concerned about the state of the world.

I am worried and very concerned, yes. My background is originally materials science.

From my perspective, the problem is that there is an environmental cost to every single material that you buy — be it gold, cotton, steel, or whatever. People forget that. The economy may benefit from materialism, but the environment certainly doesn’t.

Now, keep in mind that when I did my degree over 15 years ago, the ‘environment’ wasn’t even really discussed in that course. It was all about the properties and structure of materials.

First off, there is a lot of energy required to make materials. So if the country of manufacture uses coal power to generate their electricity, and they are not offsetting those emissions, then whatever physical goods you buy from them is contributing further to climate change.

Why? Because almost all materials either require either energy, heat, or other chemicals (which, in turn, require heat) in order to produce them. That’s a bit of a worry in itself. Because people are generally becoming more materialistic.

So for instance, hunters that shoot animals and think that is a ‘sustainable’ way of life, well I have news for you. If your gun is made of plastic or metal, where does that come from? It all comes from mines. And plastic comes from oil&gas. And your bullets. What are they made from? That too comes from mines. And the gunpowder contains chemicals like sulfur and potassium. And they have to come from somewhere too. And mines don’t last forever…

Currently, the manufacture of every single synthetic material results in carbon emissions somewhere along the line, if only from the energy that is required to create them. I think the correct term is “embodied energy”. [Read more…]

Someone posted this on LinkedIn…


And here is my internet response:

Nice looking car BUT it still has exhaust pipes. Why?

*glares at everybody in the room* [that’s right]

For fuck’s sake, companies were meant to be phasing out the internal combustion engine more than a decade ago. I know that is not what you want to hear, and actually I don’t enjoy speaking out, but honestly, someone has to. Because in today’s world, this is bullshit. You should not be allowed to even build a 503 horsepower car in the year 2016, let alone sell it.

It may *look* cool, but it is most definitely *not* cool. Do you want to know what I honestly think? I think that while it still has exhaust pipes, no combination of advertising, graphic design or industrial design can make it cool.

It’s like mechanical HDDs. We know the technology is all but dead, but people still buy them.

You can make the exterior as stylish as you want, but if there’s still a fucking combustion engine lurking in there somewhere underneath the bonnet (or wherever new place you want to put it), you –as customers– should all turn your fucking noses up at it. You should all turn your noses up in disgust. You should put on a posh voice and say “oh, darlings, exhaust pipes are so 1992 don’t you know?”.

Now, you don’t often see scientists speaking out on such matters. We tend to shut up and stay in our laboratories. Stuck behind all sorts of weird instrumentation and computer-controlled devices. And I’ll admit that most scientists have always traditionally appeared very uncool. We were usually the clever ones who were picked on most at school. As scientists, we might know a lot of shit, but the trouble is, we don’t have the power to actually persuade anyone of anything.

Well not this scientist. This scientist has also recently studied design. That’s what makes me ‘dangerous’. And among other things, design is most often used to pursuade people to buy new products and services. There’s a conundrum here though because this scientist has studied science before design. What difference does that make, you ask? It makes all the difference. It means to me, science will always drumpf design. Not the other way around.

I believe that scientists (and ex scientists for that matter, because I fall squarely into that category) all have a DUTY OF CARE to planet Earth, to call out whatever they see as unsustainable. Otherwise, you non-scientists would all be whinging in two hundred years time: “Why didn’t you tell us anything a hundred years ago? Why didn’t you warn us then?”.

Well we are warning you, now. We are all waving our fucking arms in the air effectively saying “Danger Will Robinson, danger! Climate emergency!”.

Here’s the thing: we can’t appear too emotional, because we’re scientists. It’s our job to be as unemotional and as Spock-like as humanly possible. Right? Otherwise our data, our results and conclusions may be biased by our mere ‘feelings’. And we just can’t have that. We have to be as objective as possible. So we usually keep ‘feelings’ out of it.

But I think this is actually half the reason people are still not listening to us — because there’s not enough emotion in our collective voices.

Jesus fucking Christ. What more do scientists need to do before the world starts getting it? DO YOU WANT US TO SHOUT? Do you want us to dance up and down? What!?

Now, I know that 7999 people will most probably not like my reply. But there will be a few wise ones that do like it. And gradually, I hope that small percentage goes up with time. That is the purpose of me speaking out. That is the purpose of this blog.

On creativity. And Space Ace Jase.

Illustration by Leslie Dean Brown. © 2015. All rights reserved.
What is the strangest thing you have ever heard?

When I was growing up, by far the funniest, most preposterous thing I had ever heard anyone say was this:

“I can kick a soccer ball to China”.

As kids, I can remember us all standing in the middle of the street. And we simply erupted with laughter.

Air, friction, gravity and power aside… it was the silliest thing I had ever heard anyone say. So forever afterwards, he was known in our circle as “Space Ace Jase”.

He had said something that none of us had ever heard before. What he said… he had said the impossible.

Looking back, you have to hand it to this kid – he was certainly creative.

And I can remember wondering, how did he think up such things? Kick a soccer ball to China… that’s ridiculous! Ha ha ha ha ha ha.

But then later in life, we realise we have lost a lot of that creativity we were inherently born with. It has been slowly eroded from us.

We are taught what to say. How to say it. When to say it. Why to say it. Where to say it. Which people to say it to. So we eventually lose that sense of silliness.

I think it’s because people seem to assume you dont need to be ‘clever’ to be creative.  It all starts around high school. All the nerdy, intelligent people do maths and science to get a higher tertiary entrance tank score. And science, engineering and maths don’t at first appear to be very creative, do they? They always rank higher than music, literature and art.

I used to get paid quite a bit but I found it all rather boring after several years. So you need to ask yourself: what does compensation matter if you /really/ don’t like doing it?

And then sooner or later we want to get some of that creativity back again…

So how do we become more creative?

I think creativity is simply doing something in some new way with something that has never been done before. Creativity is after all… simply creating something new!

Creativity simply means taking two things that have never been put together and just… whacking them together.

First off, have you noticed that parents often tell their children: “don’t be silly!”? They say something completely new and then they are promptly told it is silly. “Don’t be silly” you hear parents say straight afterwards.

Well I think in order to be creative, you have to be prepared to take risks like that. You have to be prepared to say something wrong. Just like kids. They are always making mistakes, but they are naturally very creative.

For me, being creative, maintaining my creativity —or better yet boosting it— usually means doing something differently. And doing something completely different each and every day.

Going somewhere I have never been. Seeing something I have never seen. Listening to sounds that I have never heard before. Or reading something I have never read before. Even feeling things I have never felt before. I’ll skip the sense of smell just to throw you off my sense-track-pattern.

So my best advice to you, if you want to be more creative, to do that, is to start doing things differently. If you have a choice, choose the option you don’t normally choose. Don’t go to the same old cafe. Don’t walk the same route.

Why do creative careers pay less anyway?

Being creative uses your intelligence in a different way. We should all be paid the same. The same as ‘clever’ people. Because I’ve noticed that clever people can actually be very uncreative. That’s why nerds are drawn to all sorts of comics. Becuase they can’t come up with that shit themselves. Am I right? Of course I’m right.

I am slowly becoming more creative and it has taken about 1-2 years to build that skill. I could argue that there is much more actual work involved in creating one of my illustrations than pressing a button and getting the results from a scientific experiment. What I mean is that there are many more minute decisions that have to be made. I should be getting paid more for illustration. But I get paid much, much less.

Unfortunately the world doesn’t seem to work that way. “Like anyone can be creative.”

I would say that if there is a theoretical basis for undervaluing creatives, it is because to be creative, sometimes you have to be prepared to make mistakes (you can’t please everyone). And people that make mistakes are sometimes not seen as being ‘creative’, they are seen as being ‘wrong’. And being wrong or silly doesn’t pay.

So creatives always get paid less. Or do they? If you think about it, professional actors and musicians are some of the most highly paid people on the planet. I’m talking way, way more than 200k salaries.

Well that’s it from me today,

Take care,


Open letter response to Malcolm Roberts

Here is what this Australian sentator said on his maiden induction speech:

“It is basic. The sun warms the Earth’s surface. The surface, by contact, warms the moving, circulating atmosphere. That means the atmosphere cools the surface. How then can the atmosphere warm it? It cannot. That is why their computer models are wrong.” [source]

Excuse me? Are you fucking kidding me? You’ve got to be fucking kidding me. You’re basically using your own anecdotal observations because “you think it’s all a global conspiracy”.

See, this is a big worry. When politicians have such power and are that blatantly stupid, basically we are all doomed. That’s why scientists are getting pissed off.

Maybe scientists need to dumb it down so that you can understand?

Now, I could link to research papers, but if you don’t even understand basic science, what’s the point? So I’ll link to other places on the web to make it simpler for you to understand.

Yes, space is freezing cold. Yes stars warm up planets. But that’s where your logic ends. And forget the actual data proving that the global mean temperature is rising. Forget it.

Just take one look at the planets Mercury and Venus. Venus has an atmosphere of 96% carbon dioxide.

Mercury doesn’t have an atmosphere. In fact it has the least amount of atmosphere of all the planets in the solar system.

Mercury is closer to the sun, right, (are you still with me Malcolm?), and yet, strangely enough, it’s surface temperature is LOWER than that of Venus.


Numbers? Okay. Sure.

The surface temperature of Mercury ranges from -173°C at the poles (at night) to 427°C (daytime, equator).

In fact, at a searing 750 K (477 °C), the surface of Venus is the hottest in the solar system. Venus is closer to the Sun by 108 million km, (about 30% closer than the Earth), but it is mainly due to the planet’s thick atmosphere. Unlike Earth’s, which is composed primarily of nitrogen, oxygen and ozone, Venus’ atmosphere is an incredibly dense cloud of carbon dioxide and sulfur dioxide gas.

The combination of these gases in high concentrations causes a catastrophic greenhouse effect that traps incident sunlight and prevents it from radiating into space. This results in an estimated surface temperature boost of 475 K (201.85 °C), leaving the surface a molten, charred mess that nothing (that we know of) can live on. Atmospheric pressure also plays a role, being 91 times that of what it is here on Earth; and clouds of toxic vapor constantly rain sulfuric acid on the surface.

In addition, the surface temperature on Venus does not vary like it does here on Earth. On our planet, temperatures vary wildly due to the time of year and even more so based on the location on our planet. The hottest temperature ever recorded on Earth was 70.7°C in the Lut Desert of Iran in 2005. On the other end of the spectrum, the coldest temperature ever recorded on Earth was in Vostok, Antarctica at -89.2 C.

But on Venus, the surface temperature is 460 degrees Celsius, day or night, at the poles or at the equator. Beyond its thick atmosphere, Venus’ axial tilt (aka. obliquity) plays a role in this temperature consistency. Earth’s axis is tilted 23.4 ° in relation to the Sun, whereas Venus’ is only tilted by 3 °.

The only respite from the heat on Venus is to be found around 50 km into the atmosphere. It is at that point that temperatures and atmospheric pressure are equal to that of Earth’s. [source]



Some perspective

Imagine if 7 billlion people had always lived on a dust-bowl Mars-like planet with no life outside of the base stations. Imagine if that’s the way it had always been. Imagine if that was humanities’ entire existence, on the red planet…

With that in mind, I’d like to do a little thought experiment. I want you to imagine what would happen if we were to start exploring the solar system, from our home Mars.

The closest other world, Earth, looks very promising. We’ve spent a hundred trillion dollars on this latest space mission, okay. It’s been 30 years in the planning stage alone…

So we go to this new place called ‘Earth’.

And we don’t find another dust-bowl freeze-your-arse-off planet with no oceans, a toxic atmosphere* and a severe lack of oxygen. We don’t find it to be uninhabited. We don’t find the gravity extremely off-putting. We don’t find a desolate, barren wasteland devoid of all life like the home planet. No.

Instead, what we encounter is another world no unlike this one, the one we already know as ‘Earth’, exactly the way it is now, but without all the humans. Without any civilisation.

Imagine if we found 60 amur leopards, 400 Sumatran tigers, 880 mountain gorillas, 1826 giant pandas, 4080 snow leopards, 4848 black rhinos and 10000 blue whales!

Impenetrable jungles! Countless species of insects! Fish! Crustaceans! Molluscs! Birds! Frogs!

“Frogs? What an unusual name. What are they? Oh they’re slimy but harmless critters –amphibians– that thrive both on the land and in the water and use jumping as a form of locomotion.”

[Read more…]

In the future we will engineer termites to build skyskrapers.

Yes. In the future, I can confidently predict that we will engineer termites to build skyskrapers.

Because in the future, we will start to realise the power of “bottom up” systems of engineering. Currently, we do everything from a “top down” perspective. What does that mean? We start with a mine, dig that up, we then crush and grind the ore down, melt it, form it into large slabs of metal which then get progressively smaller as they are processed. Yes, we even obtain the metallic powders that are used in 3D printing this exact same way. This is a most inefficient process.

Nature does it the other way around. It uses local materials obtained from trace chemical elements and is then able to organise, redirect and assemble those individual atoms and molecules to build its own structures, in situ. It does this without any “larger scale” instructions or guidance. And it is able to replicate itself on top of that. So the more I think about it, the more evolution amazes me.

I read this fascinating book in 2014 called “Emergence”. And one of the traits of nature is that it has “emergent” properties. What does that mean? It means that complex systems or behaviours can arise from relatively few simple rules. In other words, it is “self assembling”. Organisms can do their own thing seemingly without any intererence from the outside world. Wouldn’t we like to be able to do that? Here is where we are currently at:

The other marvel of nature is that everything is an “ambient temperature process”. Think about that for a moment. Practically every synthetic material we produce today requires some form of heat to manufacture. Metals must be smelted. Ceramics must be fired. And plastics must be obtained by “thermal cracking” of crude oil. Sure there are a few exceptions, such as sol-gel technology.

Imagine for a moment a “homogenous” material with different chemical, thermal, electrical and physical properties along its length. In other words, a single material that was flexible at one end and rigid at the other, without being formed from two separate raw materials. If we could get that to happen, spontaneously, then I think we would be quite a clever species. Because an invention like that would literally change the world.

Imagine tyres that increased their coefficient of friction and gripped more in the wet. Or indeed, slicks that morph into treaded tyres in the presence of water. You see, from what I have read, I think all of that is ‘theoretically possible’, but the more biodiversity we lose, the less chance there is that it will happen. That is why protecting biodiversity is so important, so we can understand how genes work to create any morphology and material properties we desire.

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…]

Who am I going to vote for in Australia?

A friendly reminder to both labor and liberal parties: without the environment, there IS no economy.

The world is changing and I think politics needs to change along with it. I think both labour and liberal are great at doing one thing: stalling.Maintaining the status quo. That’s it.

“The big risk in this election is that we would end up with an unstable, chaotic, Labor-Greens minority Government as we’ve seen before.”

Actually, I think the really big risk is that we’ll end up with a chaotic planet. I’m sure most people don’t care, but I’ll be voting for the GREENS. Because the price of labor/liberal winning –forever– is simply too great now.

The planet does not care whether or not liberal or labor is in power. Science does not care about politicians and the way they play their games. Atoms do not care. Reactions and interactions and natural forces simply do not care. And what I mean by that is that the consequences of not changing fast enough will happen —whether labor is in power or liberal.

This world is fast getting beyond the point where the green parties could make a difference… even if they won many elections all over the place.

I hate to be all doom & gloom and everthing, but my analogy is that I suppose it doesn’t really matter who is or was driving the car when the accident happens.

I think we need to hand over the control to more people that actually know what they are doing and can think longer-term. I think prevention is better than cure. That’s why I’m voting for Greens.

My letter to Maurice Blackburn [PART 2]


[continued from part 1]

As a former scientist, knowing what I know, other forms of much more sustainable energy exist and yet the government allows this to continue. The WHOLE scenario is woefully depressing. That is basically the catalyst for my chronic ‘melancholy’ depression. The total lack of global accountability and responsibility to future generations to come…

Two decades ago, there was hope. Now, because of the reluctance for industry to change, I am fast losing that hope. Indeed, the situation is almost becoming ‘hopeless’. I just read that Australia has enough brown coal reserves to last another 465 years. Now WHO DOESN’T find that figure morbidly depressing I wonder? Who fuckingwell doesn’t? Eh?

I don’t want to live in a world that contributes to a worser future. I don’t want to use their dirty electricity. But what choice do I really have? I know that even if I buy ‘green’ electricity, the very same energy company supports fossil fuel companies.

I don’t want to pay taxes while all of this all continues. What’s the point? What’s the point of even working? Aren’t we supposed to be working for a *better* future? Well many people are working on it, on renewable energy technology like solar & wind power, yes, but some of these big corporations should have to pay. They are directly affecting my mental health right now.

The government has a duty of care to protect us. They aren’t doing that properly. Mining companies also have a duty of care to ensure that they won’t jeopardise our health or the future of this planet. They aren’t doing that properly either…

I’m willing to bet there are tens of thousands of people like me… if you want to find them, start with scientists. Start with climate change scientists, ecologists, even farmers, people like that.

Dr. Leslie Dean Brown.
(ex materials science researcher)

P:S I’d appreciate it if you could CC me Part 1…
unfortunately I lost that and I’d like a copy of it to put on my blog.

The most powerful people in the world are not who you think.

I type “most powerful people” into today’s most powerful internet search engine, google. Seven of the top ten references are made to Forbes’ annual rich list, ranking people according to their estimated net worth. But are rich people really as powerful as they claim to be?

YES they say that money talks. Money can buy people’s opinions. Money can corrupt. Money can certainly get people to do things they wouldn’t otherwise do. In that way, money can definitely change people’s behaviour. But why have we come to regard money as synonymous with power?

For sure, the more you own, the more you have to lose. The more you can be manipulated and blackmailed. But there’s much more to it that that… [Read more…]

What is the most valuable thing that exists today?

If you were to take a trip into outer space, you’d quickly find out that the most valuable things to us humans are the very simple resources we need to survive.

I TYPE “what is the most valuable thing in the universe?” into google and nine of the top ten ‘results’ talk about money. I might as well have typed “what is the most expensive thing in the universe?”.

It’s not the same thing though, is it? So let me tell you something about ‘value’. The most valuable things in the world cannot be bought or sold. To begin with, things are only worth what people are prepared to pay for them. Anything that can’t be recreated, replicated or reproduced by man somehow is deemed ‘priceless’ – it is a a term which essentially means we cannot place a true value on something that is irreplaceable.

We live in a very special place and every single day of our lives we take it for granted. The average place in the universe is devoid of oxygen, has no atmospheric pressure, no water, no food, no gravity and is 270.45°C degrees below freezing. If you were starving, dying of thirst, freezing or gasping for oxygen, I’m sure you’d find that all of those over-priced garbage items on any “most expensive things in the world” list would suddenly become completely useless to you and therefore utterly worthless in the whole scheme of things.

That’s why the cleverest scientists believe that the most valuable thing to us humans is [Read more…]