“Holding keys to a paradise” 11/11/11

I used to think that scientific research study could only ever be a good thing, but now I’m not so sure. I think I was merely exhibititing “specialisation” type social behaviour in response to this civilisations increasing complexity.

It doesn’t take a genius to figure out we’ve got continually deteriorating social & environmental problems. Don’t think there’s anything wrong with the way we do things today? There’s a book entitled The Fourth Civilisation, which is precisely the type of text more scientists should read before deciding upon their next topic of research. It’s what everyone should read, instead of those silly English novels they get you to read at highschool. Read all that first and with that in mind, then embark on your career.

“The great danger for the world in the post-cold-war period may come from the combination of economic problems and the struggle for cultural survival.” – Alexander Tomov, 1996.

When I was at university, science was all about solving problems. Come to think of it, research is essentially the slow process of gathering or “discovering” new factoids that one day may just come in handy for future researchers. But what we don’t want is answers to problems we’ll face during the next century or the next decade or even now. What we [b]needed [/b]were answers [i]yesterday [/i]for the problems we were facing DECADES ago! All too often, scientists belatedly come up with half-arsed ‘solutions’. Answers to consequences that science itself is or was originally implicated in.

For example, exactly how can this purported “Grand Unified Theory” possibly benefit anyone. To me it reaks of human ignorance & . What the HELL kind of answers can these experiments [i]possibly [/i]reveal that will help us here on Earth [i]before [/i]we wipe out not just our own civilisation but half the freakin’ species that live here?? I for one think it would be good if the whole science community got a bop on the head so to speak and took onboard some good old fashioned COMMON FUCKING SENSE.

I’m feeling pretty optimistic today, even so, I still think the world is generally fucked… for every single scientific invention there’s been some kind of unintended negative consequence. Possibly the only exception is the humble solar panel, and we don’t use them nearly enough as we should.

During my post-graduate degree, I learned that scientists are veritable EXPERTS in justifying research funds. It’s late & I don’t know what I’m saying but I would like to see the same amount of money given to sociologists & see what they come up with. They’d probably come up with better answers for this planet than all those particle physcists put together.

I read the other day that the MIT & other various groups were trying to create “Wireless Power Transfer via Strongly Coupled Magnetic Resonances”… now keeping in mind what I said earlier about ‘unintended negative consequences’, hands up who actually thinks that pursuing this is a good idea? Why do it? Do we hate cables that much or are we just becoming too lazy to plug them in to their respective sockets???

Who wants to live like the fat buggers on that inter-galactic spaceship in the movie WALL.E? Not me, that’s for damn sure. I happen to like it here on Earth. I like animals and plants. I’m happy to co-habitate with them. I’m no tripped-out hippy, but I think we could actually benefit by some much-needed changes.

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.

Anthropogenic global warming – truth or fraud?

“It is very disturbing when the amorality of scientists unites the immorality of politicians.”  Jurandyr Arone Maues

“amorality of scientists”? You’ve got to be joking! Now you’ve done it.

Do you think scientists want global warming to be true? No, I can assure you that we don’t want it to be true. I personally would rather carry on regardless with my affinity for fossil-fuel powered sports motorbikes, BUT I can’t simply ‘forget’ my science education. Can I?

First of all, we’ve already told you. Many times over. But apparently non-scientists are not as ‘logical’ as scientists. Other things seem to get in the way of your reasoning. Things like lifestyle and belief systems. Social inertia. Conspiracy theories. Conservatives. Religion.

We could come up with the most irrefutable evidence you could imagine and still there would be loads of people that would think “it’s all a giant conspiracy”. Because they’re hooked on vehicles, consumer goods and international air travel. Right?

Most people are almost born with this ideology that “work is good” and “work can’t be bad”. It’s indoctrinated into us all through our schooling and beyond. We’re all taught to “do something of benefit”. People who are brought up with religion automatically think “man can do no harm”. Wrong! We invented the thermonuclear bomb. I think everyone agrees that they’re very destructive man-made things.

And the thing is, nuclear bombs are essentially atomic-scale devices. We invented all sorts of poisons that can kill off entire ecosystems. Guess what? Poisons are molecular scale devices also.

Almost every single change or consequence in this universe is brought about by the small scale influencing the big scale. For example, my expertise is in materials (that’s how I know about IR spectroscopy); every single material you can touch is influenced by the arrangement of its atoms. Every single one. It’s the difference between charcoal and diamond. They’re both carbon-based materials. The only difference is the atomic stacking. That’s it. That’s why superman can squeeze a lump of coal and turn it into diamond.

I think deniers need to just stop already and take a much-needed reality check. And fast. Just leave your preconceived ideas at the door. Is it so hard to believe that what we do affects our environment? Is it?! If we keep on making changes at the *local* scale, and we keep on doing this *all over the planet*, that means we are *already* doing things on a global scale. Just because you can’t SEE all of those exhaust pipes in front of you, doesn’t mean they’re not contributing.

Likewise, just because you can’t comprehend how a tiny thing like a molecule can influence a whole planet, doesn’t mean it’s not happening either. We already know that changes in one scale can and do influence another. There are storms all over the planet Venus for example. Do you know why? Well according to planetary scientists, it’s because of its atmosphere.

Do me a favour, read this. That’s the link between CO2 and absorption of radiation. That’s the mechanism right there. There is no doubt about the IR spectra of CO2 and other greenhouse gases.

But it’s not a question of one lone molecule, is it? Do you know how much volume of gas one tonne of CO2 represents? Do you? 1 tonne of CO2 gas occupies 557 thousand litres.

Now try to imagine the NUMBER of molecules. It’s right up there. Forget tonnes. Forget litres. Let’s talk about the actual number of molecules for a change. The USA emits emits approximately 71,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000 of these molecules every single year. Do you see how many zeroes that is? That is no exaggeration. That is a real number estimate that I have personally calculated. We are talking “duodecillions” of molecules here, all over the world.

Now granted there are a lot of molecules in a teacup (a lot less than this, I can assure you). But I hope that at least *some* people who read this can now begin to see how this goes from being a molecular-scale problem to a planetary-scale problem.

And not only that. We know there are tipping points. We know about chaos theory. We know about “sensitive dependence on initial conditions”. What the hell am I on about now? Well for example if Hitler had have got into art school, instead of being rejected, then there WW2 probably wouldn’t have happened. Would it?

And the thing is, we can see the carbon dioxide concentration is increasing all over the world. So that is measurable. And the electromagnetic spectrum of greenhouse gases are also measurable (and let me tell you, their repeatability is undeniable).

Next deniers will tell you that plants love CO2. And so does phytoplankton. Not according to this study.

Well sorry to alarm you, but forests and oceans can’t seem to keep up. Because if they could, the CO2 concentration would stabilise. But it doesn’t. It keeps rising. And the more forests we cut down, the higher it goes. Indeed, it should already be obvious. Because if they loved the extra CO2, they would already be making use of it.

Do you know what those little serrations are on this graph? I read somewhere that each one of those jumps represents and entire growing season for deciduous plants (because there are more in one hemisphere than in the other). And judging by that graph, you can even see that the leaves fall from the trees faster than they grow. That’s what that is.

Those little zig-zag jumps you can see are the effectiveness of the planet’s lungs. Each year they take a breath. And each year, it looks like they are suffocating ever so slightly more. You might say the concentration of CO2 might not matter to them. It probably doesn’t. But the fact is, global warming would still occur even without any trees, as it does on the planet Venus, the “greenhouse capital” of the solar system.

And this problem we are facing is no different to another anthropogenic global problem: ozone hole problem. Remember? Nobody denied that! And I’ll tell you why nobody denied that. Because it was EASIER to give up CFCs and swap over to a different aerosol propellant, wasn’t it? Simple. Done.

Try to realise that if the Earth’s atmosphere doesn’t actually go on forever. It’s less than 10km thick. People commute more than that on a daily basis. Ethiopians walk more than that on a daily basis just to get enough water. It’s actually very thin when you think of it like that (as all astronauts and cosmonauts will tell you).

And that was what Carl Sagan was trying to say with his book “Pale blue dot”. Carl Sagan was truly brilliant at making ordinary people appreciate big and small numbers. Well I’m going to go one further than Carl. And I’m going to bring it right down to human-scale proportions. If the Earth’s atmosphere was condensed into a solid, it would be only 12.2 metres thick. That’s it. That’s all we’re playing with.

Now try to recall every single time you filled up your fuel tank. Can you remember? That’s 50kg or more at a time. If you had to carry that 50kg every time you filled up your car, you’d probably be more aware of the amount of carbon you’re burning. But it just flows up into the petrol bowser, down through the hose and out the nozzle without you even lifting a finger.

Now try to remember every single time you turned on a light switch or plugged something in. All that electricity had to come from somewhere too (like when coal and gas were scooped up by the truckload at all the mining sites dotted around this planet and burned in power stations that you can’t even see).

And now try to remember every single thing you have ever bought. Tonnes of invisible (invisible to you) carbon dioxide went into making all the stuff we buy. Tonnes. Incidentally, that is why the manufacturing industry doesn’t want to talk about climate change either (because they’re too involved in it).

Now. All that CO2. Have you planted that much carbon in the mean time? Has your garden grown and gained tonnes and tonnes of weight? Or has it been urbanised instead– chopped down and flattened? Has your soil got that much richer? No. The answer is “no it hasn’t”. All of that carbon has been taken from underground mines and dispersed into the atmosphere.

Try to think of all of that carbon being sprinkled onto the 12.2 metre frozen sea of air. Try to think of it that way. Try to think of all those duodecillions of molecules “doing their thing”. Try to think of it that way.


Sometimes I don’t consider myself ‘human’ anymore.

I find it extremely depressing…

That the majority of people don’t seem to be talking about real world problems. Many people seem to be overlooking their duty of care towards the environment, and I find that very sad. Very sad. It’s always the same few people who seem to care and the rest don’t seem to give a fuck about where their oxygen comes from…

And I’m sorry if this post makes you feel down. But sometimes I wonder whether I am even getting through to people?

You know, we could probably genetically engineer entire houses one day, in situ… provided enough biodiversity remains for scientists to study long into the future…

Imagine just… planting a seed in the ground and then the house just builds itself. Right? That’s what I see when I think about “the future”. I think about organic materials.

Instead, what I see today, now, is that people are still aspiring to be millionaires, billionaires and trillionaires.

You know, someone posted a picture of luxury super yaucht yesterday on LinkedIn. But if this is what remains of The Great Barrier Reef, what’s the point in even owning a nice boat? If all there is to see is one species of algae when you look overboard?

And I know that rich people really care a lot about emotions. That’s why they spend so much money trying to make themselves feel more comfortable and ‘happier’.

What I would like to know is: how big does the boat have to be before you can overlook the fact that all the coral is dead? What’s the point? Surely people aren’t stupid. Surely they realise it would be better to own a friggin tinny, if it helps to restore the reef to its former glory. But no.

Why do I say “Sometimes I don’t consider myself ‘human’ anymore”? Well, I say that because, although I am concerned for humanity and its long term the survival (and that does depend on other species by the way), right now, I actually think we humans have reached plague proportions. A disease needs to come along and wipe half of us out… that would restore some balance in the ecosystem. I don’t wish death upon anyone. But if I had to choose between saving the life of an endangered animal, or that of a trophy hunter, I would choose to save the animal every single time.

Well those are my thoughts for today… depressing as they are…

Why are scientists fanatical about climate change?

Yes we certainly do become a bit fanatical. Why? Why is that? Let’s take a look:

Because the basic hypothesis here is is that our actions directly affect our environment. It really is that simple. It’s no different than pouring a tonne of cyanide into a lake. What do you think is going to happen? Fish will die is what will happen. Likewise, modern technology can and does have the potential to affect the atmosphere. You can either accept it or you can bury your head in the sand like an ostrich.

I think a lot of people don’t get the connection between the vibration of countless tiny molecules and temperature. That’s why I like to share this information.

When you study science, you soon learn that scientists must be open minded. A closed-minded scientist is all but useless. What good would it do a scientist if their own personal belief systems got in the way of their research? Can you imagine if I “didn’t believe” that fluorine gas reacts violently with potassium? So I go to the chemical laboratory and proceed to mix 4kg of potassium with 100 moles of fluorine gas, “just for fun”, because I “believe” nothing is going to happen. That would be a very dangerous personal belief. Right?

A scientist can take a look at new data and go “oh okay, that’s news to me.” You’ve now changed his outlook and it has only taken a few minutes/hours. But it has taken the rest of the world THREE DECADES to catch up. THREE DECADES! And still you have people who don’t believe there is a correlation.

It truly baffles me. I think the denial has NOTHING to do with carbon dioxide vs temperature and it has EVERYTHING to do with people’s lifestyles and careers.

Why don’t you deny atomic charges? Or electromagnetism theory? Or molecular bonding? No. You cherry pick the parts of science you want to agree with and to hell with the rest of it (most likely because you drive a car and you want to *continue* driving it).

Did you know that it actually takes more time to become a science doctor than a medical doctor? It took me nine years of full time study. Where is the respect? For many people, there isn’t any. And it probably takes close to two whole decades to become a professor… these are *very* knowledgeable people.

So, yes. Yes we do become a bit fanatical. We become fanatical because the fossil fuel industry even knows it to be true, but they don’t do anything! We become fanatical because you have people like googly-eyed “Lord Monckton” claiming they know what they are talking about when in reality they are totally scamming people.

Hey! My education is not fake!!

It is TIME to get rid of thousands of FAKE-SCIENTISTS who serve the (fake-global-warming-)agenda of the cabal-elite. NOW! — Rainer Duffner

Hey! My education is not fake!! Just because /your/ mind does not understand how small-scale atomic events can lead to large, planetary-scale consequences, does not mean they do not happen.

Kindly educate yourself (that is a very *basic* introduction and if you can’t read or understand it, perhaps you should read more about chemistry so that you can?).

Sure, we allow skeptics of global warming within the scientific community, because we have to be open and objective. In every single field of science you will find people making claims and counter-claims. That is how research works! If every single scientist agreed on everything it wouldn’t be like it is now, self-correcting. But now you simply hijack these people for your own benefit. How lame.

Do you want to know what I think? This is not even about the IR absorption of the CO2 molecule. This is about people leading lifestyles that they do not want to change. Maybe because you don’t know how, or you think you will be ‘unhappy’. That is all the denial has ever been about. It’s never been anything more.

I think maybe you do not know how to make money without producing carbon emissions. And that is why investors are typically deniers in this realm.

Same goes for the transport industry. And construction. And manufacturing. If they didn’t produce any carbon dioxide, they wouldn’t be so against global warming, would they? They’d simply say “So what? Carry on”. But no, the whole carbon debate has come about because people (industry) see it as a threat.

Yes science. The same device that gave you technology. If it weren’t for scientists, people would still be living in the feckin’ Dark Ages, okay. There wouldn’t be things like smartphones, video cameras and whatever else.

How loudly do you shout out about fake semiconductor news? EH? Never. Because semiconductor technology benefits almost everyone. And now the FIRST thing that comes along in science that doesn’t benefit you personally, you label it ‘fake’. Not because you give a toss about the chemical and physical properties of carbon dioxide or any other molecule. But because you dislike the implications for your business model.

No. Science for you is a mere convenience. And you think you can just dismiss it and carry on regardless. Well that is not always how nature works.

I think this civilisation it would be wise to listen to what they (we) have to say (for once). We scientists hardly ask for anything! And all we are really saying is that we are not separate from nature and that our actions can and do affect the environment in which we live. Is that so hard for you to grasp?

What is the Great Barrier Reef worth today?

Illustration by leslie dean brown. © 2017. All rights reserved.
AUD$56billion? Ridiculous evalulation. Just ridiculous. Completely wrong!

Did economists consult with biologists or materials scientists for their evaluation I wonder?

I think it’s worth more like 56 trillion to 56 quadrillion dollars, if you take into account all the endemic species, all of the “natural services” they provide, the potential for developing new medicines, the potential to study lifeforms in terms of their unique material properties and the potential to one day eliminate e-waste altogether…

Because I don’t look at a fish and see just a fish. I look at a fish and see a self-replicating biodegradeable waterproof robot with twice the swimming efficiency of a traditional propellor driven-submarine. Name one electronic device or invention that has the combination of all these properties. Name one! If this civilisation truly wants to be more ‘sustainable’, then technology is going to have to start resembling more organic/biological structures… that is my vision of “the future”.

There is a lot of stuff that we still don’t know. I am no biologist, but do researchers know how genes influence species’ morphology (and patterns) in all marine species living in the Great Barrier Reef? The actual mechanisms?

How does the organisms final shape come about? Why does an octopus have eight arms? How does living tissue ‘know’ when to stop producing scales and start producing fins or something else? Why do fish eyes appear where they do instead of half way down the animals’ body?

AFAIK, those are still unanswered questions… when we know that, we might be able to create our own reef ecosystems. And I don’t mean ‘cheating’ by simply pfaffing about mixing pre-existing strands of DNA. I mean, starting by scratch (synthetic DNA). Until then, the Great Barrier Reef and the biodiversity that it contains is literally priceless, aren’isn’t it?

The trouble with estimating the long-term benefits of scientific research is that it is really unknown. Any half-way decent scientist would say “Where are your error bars?”

And here’s the thing. I don’t think you have taken into account the loss of potential revenue from future scientific research. Is that not significant?

For instance: What would the US military pay for adaptive camouflage? What would they pay for uniforms that blended into their surroundings like a cuttlefish or octopus? Because that would give them a HUGE advantage in close combat, wouldn’t it? If the ‘enemy’ could barely even see something approaching.

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.


A gene gun doesn’t sound very precise. Or accurate.

What is a gene gun?

Gene guns are used to produce genetically modified food. A year ago, I did not know this; I had never even heard of a gene gun. Have a skim read of this. I am mainly sharing that link to show people how a gene gun works.

So they basically shoot one type of DNA molecules (like from a bacteria) into the target organism… the plant/crop… and unless I’m terribly mistaken… the incorporation of some new DNA strands is nothing more than “trial and error”. Or so it seems.

But there’s only one thing scarier than *not* knowing where your source DNA molecules are going. And that’s knowing *exactly* where they’re going.

Now, like a lot of people, especially designers, I’m very opinionated. That’s okay. What do I personally think about this?

I think there’s only one organism we really need to genetically modify. And that’s ourselves. How about new GM people that aren’t as greedy and destructive? Wouldn’t that be nice? Engineer ourselves… to just be content with what we have.

What I know about science is that the fields are becoming so narrow, general wisdom is lost. I don’t think any one person can know the full repercussion/consequences. And there ALWAYS ARE consequences. If we were really intelligent, scientists would ask themselves “what are they, the consequences?” before they started. Do they? Not all of them, no.

So unless someone convinces me otherwise, I personally think it should be banned. I believe that every species has a place in this world. Yes even the tiniest bacteria and parasites. Because for one thing, diseases control plagues. That’s the basic reason they exist. A world without disease would be unbalanced. And a world without plagues would also be unbalanced. That’s how nature works. And that’s what geneticists seem to forget.

I am not saying that geneticists don’t know what they’re doing. Or that they aren’t very intelligent people. Quite the contrary. But what I am saying is that they don’t know everything. And the more they know about genetic engineering, the less they know about everything else (yes, I’m being very serious).

Scientists are a bit like designers. A designer is never “just a designer”. Design is a whole way of life for these people. I know, because these days, I am more of a designer than a scientist.

Same with accountants. Have you ever met an accountant with a personal credit card debt?

See, most scientists I know are highly obsessive people. They forget that things cannot always be controlled by humans.

I’d like to remind these geneticists that species live in ecosystems. And there are reasons for the way that it is. We don’t even know all of those reasons. Sure we know a lot. Probably we know too much. But the truly clever people tend to realise when they don’t know something.

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

And that’s the trouble with some people. They think they have thought of everything. But they never do. They never do.

I just ask them to do one small thing. I emplore all geneticists to read a little less about genetics and a little more about two other, completely separate things:

  1. The revenge effect
  2. Chaos theory

Then come back to me, and tell me that this kind of genetic engineering is a good idea.

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…]

The true value of soil

Food practically grows all by itself on planet Earth.
Illustration by Leslie Dean Brown. © 2015. All rights reserved.

Let me ask you something: do we actually ‘make’ our own food? Do we? The answer is “no we do not make our own food”. We just throw pre-existing seeds in the ground and make sure most of them get enough water to sprout. We don’t make it from first principles; it grows all by itself from the soil! We simply harvest that food (once it has already grown).

Let me ask you the next question: do we humans ‘make’ soil? Not can we make it, do we make it? Again, no. Bacteria, worms and insects do that for us. Sure we might put organic matter such as apple cores, banana skins and orange peels onto the old compost pile and think we’re making

loads more soil. We might even throw things like paper and cardboard onto our compost as well and think we’re creating heaps and heaps and heaps of soil.

But are we? What are we really doing? Once gain, where did that apple core come from? Where did that banana skin come from? Where did that paper come from? Where did those trees come from? The chances are you’ll find that most of it wasn’t hydroponically produced (using liquid fertilisers and zero soil). Was it? No. It was mosty farmed, from pre-existing soil. And I’m guessing that that soil, ladies and gentlemen, took thousands and thousands and thousands of years to form.

And so you might say: “well okay, I know people that actually eat 100% hydroponically-grown foods, I’ve seen it”. And again I ask: but the people who made the hydroponic setup, did they also get all of their food from hydroponically grown plants? What about the people who made all that fertiliser? What about the people who built the whole darn fertiliser setup? What about the people who transported all of the above? And what about the people who built the vehicles so that all of that lot could be transported? Did they all eat hydroponically grown food too?

Is everyone in that hydroponics industry only eating 100% hydroponically-grown foods? Short answer? No. So my point is that at the moment, even if we can hydroponically grow a bunch of food, it’s being heavily, massively subsidised by nature.

Do you know how many apple cores, banana skins and orange peels it takes to make just one kilogram of soil? The answer is: I don’t know, because I lost count. What I can tell you is that I have been throwing ALL of my organic scraps, and those of a second person, into one giant green 400L bin for the past two years. Everything from my hair to my paper offcuts. And it has never filled up. But how much soil did all that organic matter take to produce in the first place, for two people? I’m willing to bet that it was WAY more than just 400 litres.

So is it any wonder that farmers commit suicide, when they tell us that the quality of soil is falling?

We certainly tend to the plants. We avoid flooding unless we’re growing rice. But what I think humans really do is collect, store and distribute food. If we had to do all of that for 7 billion people, for 7 million people, for even 7 thousand people, with no air, no water and no soil to begin with, I think you’d see scientists really starting to scratch their heads. Can’t be done! It just can’t be done.

In other words, we’re not somehow magically separated from nature. Scientists are never really able forget this. If seven, eight, nine or ten billion people want to live on this planet for more than a few centuries into the future, then we’re going to have to re-evaluate our values and our priorities. I think it’s time we refocus our efforts on Earth (even Carl Sagan’s last book, pale blue dot was as much about Earth as deep space and look how ‘into’ deep space adventures he was).

What scientists fear most.

I don’t even think  this debate is merely about “global warming” anymore…

I think it’s more about whether you believe humans can alter the environment at a global as well as a local scale. I mean, all of us can accept that even cockroaches and rats can change their local little jaunts easily enough…

(either inadvertently and/or purposefully; it doesn’t really matter for the sake of this argument whether the changes are intended or not) 

There is no question that we alter things at a local scale. We can directly manipulate the atomic, molecular and microscopic scales. We manipulate things at the ‘macro’ scale, too (the scale of what we can see without the aid of a microscope). We make things, change things, on the scale of millimetres, centimetres, metres, even kilometres. We make runways for instance. How long are they? Right?

Here’s a timely reminder — Earth’s atmosphere is only about 10km ‘thick’. I’m sure most people don’t stop to appreciate this on their morning or afternoon commute: most people travel more in one single day –be it driving a car or walking in the Ethiopian desert– than the Earth’s atmosphere is ‘deep’. They most likely travel at least this distance every single day of their lives, perhaps more.

One only needs to look around a city, any city, to know that the human civilisation built it. We most definitely changed it. Why? Because it doesn’t look like it did before humans settled there, that’s why. Isn’t it obvious? Before that, it was a forest or a jungle, a river’s edge or a peat bog.

And so we continue to dam rivers and build bridges. We build skyscrapers and oil tankers and cruise liners. We construct entire airports offshore.

We tear down forests and we mine the Earth. At every and any opportunity. Why? To make it more ‘comfortable’ for ourselves. We spew out all kinds of gases and chemicals into our waterways and our atmosphere. And somehow, miraculously, none of this can even remotely alter something so basic as “the average temperature”. Somehow “that’s impossible”1.

At what point along the size scale do people go from accepting that “yes absolutely humans can and do cause local changes in the form of urbanisation” to becoming ones of “oh no, humans are too puny to have caused this, this is god’s realm, carry on” in someone’s mind? At what scale? Where exactly do they let go of reality?

Here’s the thing that most people don’t seem to understand or comprehend: if you do enough “local-scale things” all around the planet, then it has to change at a global scale as well. It has to! Indeed, there really is no black and white distinction between ‘local and global scales’. The cosmos presents a continuous scale, all the way from the very tiniest subatomic particle (and probably smaller) right the way through to galaxies and beyond. And I don’t care what you think you want to believe, each scale does affect the other.

Man is not exempt from the effects of any of these scales (at either the very large-scale end, the very small end or anywhere inbetween). All scales can potentially be ‘dangerous’ to us. We have radiation, we have poison, we have knives, we have trucks crashing into things, we have nuclear bombs. And we also have something else. Something else we can’t quite control as well. The environment: the oxygen in our atmosphere, fresh water, food (and to a lesser extent, gravity). Each represents a different scale. And the presence or absence of each one can equally kill, albeit at different timescales.

There is simply no getting around it… “do enough shit” to the surface of this planet, any planet, and you’ll most likely fuck it up completely rather than make it only slightly ‘better’2

Whether carbon dioxide gas, or any other compound, it really wouldn’t matter what is causing it either, would it? Would it matter to people if it were a different compound such as methane, krypton or something else they’ve never even heard of? Would that help them understand what is going on with vibrational modes of this molecule at infrared frequencies?

Actually, surprisingly, I think the answer to that question is: “it depends”. I think the answer lies in how much this presence or absence of whatever it is we have to give up contributes to our current lifestyle. And I think we all know that we are far less likely to give up our ‘comforts’ than if it’s something we never (or rarely) use anyway.

If we don’t have much to give up, like with CFCs for example (because we simply used a spraycan with a different propellant inside of it), then by all means “let’s do this right now, starting today”. The Result? Ozone hole partially closed already.

A scientist might say that our reluctance to change is “inversely proportional” to the amount that it affects our present and future lifestyle. Lots to give up? Climate change = fake news. Not real. Not happening. Nothing to give up? No reason why it couldn’t be true.

On the other hand, if you’re talking about giving up the power of your very own automobile, reducing your electricity consumption, buying and using less stuff, travelling less, or just even generally using less and less technology instead of more and more — then on second thought, “perhaps not quite so fast”. Right?

Do you know what scientists fear most? Do you know what scares scientists absolutely shitless? Well they might not know it, but I think all scientists inherently fear that one day we’ll lose control of nature. Because right now, science can control nature (well sort of).

Now we don’t want you to panic. But quite frankly, it’s fast getting to that point. Because species are becoming extinct all over the place… and it’s an understatment to say that biologists, entomologists, and soil scientists are not happy about that.

I think to many people, technology may make it seem like “we can do whatever the fuck we want, however we want, whenever we want and wherever we want” and still we’ll all be okay. That no matter what happens, scientists will be smart enough to “figure a way out it”. I mean heck, “who ‘invented’ the ipad?”. People. People are smart. Right?

Wrong. Because even today, in the ‘modern age’ (whatever that is) we don’t have to create our own gravity, sunlight, air pressure, oxygen and water. Do we?

And somehow –some truly clueless, ignorant people– think that “everything’s going to be alright, Jack”. Maybe because it always has been. Maybe because they don’t have a very good imagination about the future. Maybe because they are ignorant. Or maybe they believe in some kind of higher power and that “man can do no harm”, that man’s job is to “work and be more productive”.

These “deniers” generally retort: “the sky is falling, the sky is falling” whenever anyone becomes even remotely ‘alarmist’. As if all alarms are false ones. Even if the alarmists do have a higher IQ.

But I really would really like to see those very same [science] deniers in another, very different, scenario. Say they we have organised a tour of a nuclear power station for them. Just say. Would they stick around, for example, if/when a nuclear scientist is yelling at them: “THE CORE IS GOING INTO MELTDOWN, GET THE FUCK OUTTA HERE!!!!!”. Would they be hanging around the containment building, tardily and proudly proclaiming “the sky is falling, the sky is falling!”? Would they be so quick to make a cup of coffee in that instant? Or would they, far more likely, heed the scientists’ advice and flee their sorry arses right on out of there as fast as their legs could carry them? Yes I think the latter.

Or maybe I reall am missing something. Maybe we really are puny. Maybe. Maybe we are so fucking puny, nature will continue to evolve and adapt all around us.

But then I recall biololgists tellings us that the less biodiversity there is, the slower nature recovers from all kinds of change.

Lord Muck, revisited.

 What kind of BULLSHIT is Lord Muck even talking about here? Honestly.

Yes I am calling him Lord Muck. I think it’s “rather” an appropriate name too! Let me tell you, Lord Muck over here would be laughed out of a room full of true intellectuals. Because this is definitely not the manner in which scientists discuss real science in order to convince other scientists who are already in the know of anything new.

Maybe some of my readers should wander right on in to any old university campus. And sit in a lecture, just to look and listen for a while. To know what real science sounds like.

Science universities are not isolated fortresses after all. They hardly ever get any visitors! So I don’t think many lecturers around the world would disapprove of you being there. You just… won’t be able to sit in on any exams and/or graduate and get your degree unless you pay your union fees is all.

Contrary to seeming like an authority on cimate change, the global science community just collectively laughed at his expense. He might as well have incinerated his degree, for all the good this presentation did.

Having a posh voice only makes you an authority on… umm… poshness. It doesn’t automatically give you extra clout whenever you are ‘talking’ about climate change. And I say ‘talking’, in inverted commas like that, because, well, he doesn’t actually ‘talk’ much at all about the data at all. He’d rather put up slides that say: “Greens are too yellow to admit they’re really red”. Wow. That sentence certainly has a lot to do with climate change. [Read more…]

Is the weather becoming our enemy?

Every time I turn on the news or read a newspaper, it seems as if everything is against us, the Earth itself included.

Have you noticed that certain weather incidents are now portrayed as a bad thing? Don’t misunderstand me. When I say they are bad, if there are casualties, it goes without saying that a tragedy has taken place.

What I don’t agree with is the notion that that the environment has somehow reached enemy status. Like it has a mind of its own and it’s out to get us to teach us a hard earned lesson. No! It’s our friend for Pete’s sake. It’s the oxygen we breathe. We grew up here. It’s almost like teenage children rebelling against their parents! Here’s a thought: if you’ve driven a car today, don’t attack the weather afterwards like some kind of evil foe. We’re the ones changing the weather.

I guess unlike a lot of other things, the weather can be dangerous and we’re naturally afraid of that. Just witness the air travel chaos caused by the recently erupting Icelandic volcano (Tenerife is a primary European holiday destination, so we were indirectly affected by all the flight cancellations). But then people begin to react with fear & anxiety which stems from a threat which usually can’t be controlled easily.

I’m just waiting for the day when some bright spark proposes [seriously] putting a stop to these ‘human inconveniences’ by plugging that Icelandic volcano or some other grandiose idea to reduce the volcanic ash cloud. Because my biggest fear is actually the moment when humans do try to stop or prevent weather phenomena in order to create a more ‘stable’ environment. Oh wait, seems it’s already happening:

Climate intervention is a field so new that the senior scientists who attended the five-day meeting don’t agree on its name. Some are calling it geoengineering; others call it climate remediation. Either way, it involves complex –and, some say, ethically questionable– processes to reduce the impact of global warming. Like dispersing sulfur particles into the atmosphere. I don’t think we should do that… we might just get sulfuric acid rain clouds.

You may or may not be aware that us humans have a great history of fucking things up big time. And the bigger the scheme, the greater the fuck-up.

Sorry to say this, but whatever we touch, we end up destroying in one way or another.

Sometimes we’re so stupid, we don’t even know what we’ve destroyed until it’s too late. Sometimes we’re that ignorant and we’ll never even know what we buggered up.

Mark my words people, because the first thing scientists do before attempting to create an artificial ‘solution’ is to measure or characterise something. Some of the most powerful computers on Earth are dedicated to weather prediction.

I hope we never reach the stage where we try to interfere with Earth’s natural systems. It’s probably too late, since it looks like we have already kick-started another global warming phase.

I wouldn’t be surprised, for example, if some clever schmuck is right now devising an artificial gas halo to protect the Earth and cool it back to it’s natural level. Or they could extend the Earth’s orbit a bit and cool it down that way. If it isn’t clear already, I think that these sort of grandiose schemes are doomed to failure right from the start. Not because they won’t work, but because of the unintended consequences.

Journalists are not entirely to blame. You even hear people being interviewed on the street. Too much rain is bad, too much hot weather is bad, too much snow is bad. There is drought and at the same time there is flooding. But who decides how much is too much? In my opinion, the rapid change in weather patterns we see now probably are caused by humans.

I’m not convinced that we can fix our mistakes quite so simply. Anyone who thinks otherwise should probably read the book “why things bight back”… In conclusion, I think it’s our entire mindset we really do need to change not just our lifestyle.

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.

How long have scientists known about climate change?

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…]

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…]

How to access climate change science journal articles

I’m starting to get a bit pissed with people on this whole climate change issue.

Really I am. People are still disagreeing and it isn’t because of the underlying science being wrong or anything to do with that. It’s because their lifestyle is in jeopardy. Or their job. Or their world view.

I can tell you that scientists could not give a toss either way. The thing that matters most for any true scientist is data, getting as accurate data as possible, analysing the data, discussing the data, and perhaps drawing some conclusions based on the data.

A good scientist keeps an open mind. They accept the results. Most research scientists I know are voracious readers. They seek the truth.

So here’s a story. Before I started my doctorate, I hadn’t even read any science papers. I had a materials science degree and I had not really been exposed to this whole new level of academic research. And when I started my PhD, in 1999, science papers were simply not talked about in the general public. So it was all quite new to me.

I also think that during any undergraduate degree, there are plenty enough university textbook to have to read. So I think most undergraduate scientists try to avoid the library as much as possible.

A large university can have 10,000 very nerdy students enrolled in it. But you never see even 1000 people in a library. Right? So the only reason to go to a library when you’re an undergrad, is when you have to do an assignment. Everyone else either works their, is doing a masters, a Ph.D, or they’re a lecturer or professor. I kid you not.

So when I started my doctorate, 4 years after I started my first degree, I literally started to get overwhelmed at the amount of scientific literature out there.

Much of this science research is ‘hidden’. I don’t mean on purpose. I mean, it’s not easily accessible, because much of it is not accessible through the web. Mainly because science was around well before the internet.

Anyway, the point is that you can’t always google everything. There’s a lot of stuff out there that hasn’t even been indexed by google!

So. How to get access to these journals then? Well, if the journal doesn’t have a webpage, they’re mainly accessible through university library databases. And there are many databases, like these.

Most science research is freely available. Meaning, you should never have to pay for articles. Subscriptions to journals only really cost money because they need to be edited and printed. Also, libraries pay for many of these annual subscriptions (well, the most popular ones at least).

So for the measly sum of about $10 per year, the cost of an annual library membership, you too can have access to practically any journal article you wish to read. So the cost of these subscriptions is subsidised by the university. How does a library get money then? Membership fees, university fees, tuition fees, and a mediocre amount of government funding. I suppose.

So the point is that you can fairly easily get access to pdfs of science papers through a library, and you might not have to pay anything.

There is a lot of collaboration between scientists. So you can always simply email one of the authors and they will gladly send it to you for free. Scientists will gladly share pdf articles with anyone and no that is not at all illegal, it’s encouraged.

Note that if you have never been into a library, don’t be afraid. Most librarians are glad to help. If you find a grumpy one, they’re probably just having a bad day, so find someone else and ask them instead. There’s honestly nothing worse than a grumpy librarian.

More and more journals are becoming “open access”, meaning anyone can freely access them.

So here’s a link to the open-access journal “American Journal of Climate Change”, for example:


Literally *hundreds* of papers freely available if you click on the ‘pdf’ or ‘html’ links, and this is just ONE journal of MANY that are all dedicated to the Earth’s climate.

Or you can simply join any science university library, walk in there and peruse the shelves and be overwhelmed the old-fashioned way…

By all means people can disagree with the findings, but if you’re going to do that and have any chance of winning an argument against a scientist, you should first at least educate yourself, otherwise you’re simply what I call ‘ignorant’.

Hermit provides scientists with valuable climate data.

The true value of biodiversity.

Without insects, it has been said that most of humanity would die within a few months. Without trees and phytoplankton and thousands of other species with chlorophyll, we would all die.

Knowing that, I just can’t understand why billionaires such as Bill Gates are so intent on alleviating poverty in the 3rd world above all else. They make that their priority. In my opinion, it makes more sense to me ot protect nature first, and then when we have that sorted, let’s see if this planet can comfortably support more than 7 billion people.

So I think that environment should definitely be funded first. And then people. I have always thought that. Why do I think that? It’s not because I am cruel. It’s not because I don’t like people. It’s because people do not live in isolated bubbles. People depend on nature.

I think most people don’t appreciate this, but there’s another angle to valuing biodiversity (besides being fundamental for our own survival).

And it’s this. We still don’t really know how embryos form and develop. Sure we can characterise each of the stages of blastulation. We can draw little pictures of each step along the way. But it’s a lot harder to know how and why embryonic folding occurs. So what are there are underlying reasons that each stage of development occurs when and where it does?

I mean, it’s not really a ‘miracle’. Scientists don’t accept ‘miracles’ as answers. There are chemical and physical reasons why cells spontaneously split into two halves. A cell doesn’t just split into two because it feels like it. And there are chemical and physical reasons why this occurs. And from what little I have read on the subject in the book “How the leopard changed it’s spots”, it’s not due to the DNA molecules alone. In actual fact, the first splitting of a cell is caused by a concentration gradient that is set up inside the cell’s plasma. And according to this book, it’s due to flluctuations in calcium concentrations within that first cell.

Okay. Now we are getting somewhere. You might then ask, “Well what causes those fluctations then?“. Most likely, I would say, gravity. Because gravity is a force that acts in one direction relatively to a cell. So there are underlying reasons as to how embryos proceed to develop and they are not always to do with DNA alone.

And those are the real answers that science seeks. It’s not good enough to ask “which genes cause which traits?”. A real scientist wants to know how genes work. How do the chemical variations in a strand of encoded DNA produce the morphological changes? Now, I’m only talking very basically about this subject. It’s an extremely superficial discussion. And so if you’re a developmental biologist or a genetic engineer and you’re reading this, you’re probably laughing at me.

Where am I going with this? Well, until we know *exactly* what causes a rhinos eye to form where it does, or what causes a tiger’s stripes, or the forces that shape an elephant’s tusk, well, I think we owe it to nature to protect all of these things. Because they are a vault of information that can unlock life’s secrets. If we knew the answer to that, then we’d have at least earned the title of cleverest species.

Imagine if we could ‘program’ certain trees genetically to display a road signs such as a speed limits with differently coloured bark. Imagine if you could reprogram the tree to automatically change its bark pattern and display a different speed zone at differnt times of the day? That is all possible.

sustainable morphogenesis.

And I don’t simply mean “what genes are found in a rhino or a monkey”. I mean, what is it about those genes that controls protein folding? If we could create our own strand of DNA, could we predict what the resulting organism looks like?

From what little I have read on the subject, it’s not just DNA. The patterns and shapes seen in nature are caused by physical and chemical forces. Because one day it might be possible to make whatever shape we want at the mere press of a button. Imagine if we could simply grow an organic skyscraper. Right now I don’t think we are ready for that.

Just today, I learned that biology may even be taking advantage of quantum effects.

Even then, all these species are beneficial to us in terms of mental health. We also owe it to this world not to simply destroy everything in our path.

Scientists vs Trump

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:

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:
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. ;-)

“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…]

“Typical liberal moron”

So just today, someone once again called us ‘liberals’ morons. Again.



First of all, I’d like to point out to Americans that in Australia, the liberal party is actually the conservative party. The labor party is the one that swings to the left. So get your facts straight.

I hope you are one of those republicans and you are reading this. I really do. I’ve tried to spam this blog post with conservative keywords in the hope that more of you will find it and actually use a greater proportion of the right hand side of your brain.

Anyway, I think you’ll find that the majority (not all, but most) creative people ARE liberal.

So that means artists, musicians, writers, actors, 3D animators, graphic designers, industrial designers, fashion designers, interior designers, architects, art directors, creative directors, marketing and advertising gurus, chefs, comedians, photographers, hairdressers, dancers … you know… all the people who make life interesting. Not to mention many scientists, psychologists and health care workers as well.

What that means is, who do you actually go to when you do any of the following: read a book; watch movies (other than old westerns); listen to music (anthing but country music that is); buy nice clothes (including designer suits); buy furniture; go out to a restaurant; give birth to a child; watch a comedy; take a taxi; get a haircut; need a lawyer; need a psychologist; go out for a drink at a bar or pub; set foot in a nicely designed home; watch any kind of entertainment.

What music do you listen to when you feel like cheering up? Who do you go to when you want to sell more widgets? Who do you go to when you want advice on branding or corporate identity? How about you stop calling people “liberal morons” eh? Do you not know how to compose an entire sentence without insulting someone? Because it’s becoming tiresome. Really. If anyone has made the Divided States of America, it is you.

I hate to say this, but without liberal people, your society would look a lot like the USSR. You know: communist! Not that there’s anything wrong with that either. It’s just… a bit too depressing by all accounts. [Read more…]

What a monkey space mission!

They’re planning on sending monkeys into space in 2017…

Please, don’t send monkeys into space to try and ‘fix’ everything. If you do, you’re only abusing and exploiting monkeys for humanity’s benefit.

Where is the ‘reward’ for the monkeys? What’s in it for them? Have you asked them whether they know how many banana trees grow on the planet Mars or in Space? Because I’m sure if you could communicate that to them, they would jump on your face and start scratching at your eyeballs in order not to go.

See, this might have been okay in the 60s. But now we know better.

Fellow humans, the ‘answers’ (and by that I mean a technical solution to all the problems we face down here on Earth) won’t be found in exploring Mars. You’re not going to like this, but the answer to our survival is in making less, doing less. Not more. Less. Minimalism. That is the only way we can move forward.

We need to respect animals in order to survive as a species. We ourselves are animals!

So ban the whole darn mission I say. And my message to scientists is: ask yourselves why you are doing research. Are you doing research just to do research or to better humanity? If you’re trying to make us better humans, this is not the way. How does it make us better? How does it make our future better?


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.

Take a look at this latest graph.

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


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…]

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.

“Who are you going to believe, me or your own eyes?”

Ok. I am sick to death of hearing people rubbish climate change at this very late stage. Especially by the people who contribute most (manufacturing/engineering).

“Who are you going to believe, me or your own eyes?” …. down here on the Florida coast, the water-line remains the same it was fifty (50) years ago. Same goes for southern California, the high tide line remains the same as when I lived there in the early 1950s … hello Al Gore? you remain 100% wrong. The first thing that needs to be done is to ban any and all lawyers from any and all discussions about CC. — David Hubbell

David, I see you are a clever bloke. Engineers are always spouting off about how the world couldn’t work without engineering. Well ok. Fair enough. But it wouldn’t work without science either.

I put my trust in engineers every time I cross a bridge or catch an elevator. And you accept that your computer ‘works’, don’t you? So people put their trust in electronics every single day of the week. And who studies that stuff? Physicists. Materials scientists. That’s who.

But do you people ever question the theory behind semiconductors? No, because that enables computers. Do you question anything else to do with science for that matter? It’s these very same science and technological advances and principles that have enabled consumerism to spawn in the first place. These are the same people who invented MRI machines for Pete’s sake! And yet deniers say nothing about electron theory, magnetic domains or PN junctions.

What am I saying? I am saying that I think it’s time we showed the same level of respect for climate scientists. It looks to me the ONLY reason there are deniers today is that it means you have to “give up” something. And that something is called ‘lifestyle’.

Personally, I think that’s why you are on the denying side of the fence. Because if you accept what is happening, suddenly you’d have to take a long hard look at your own career choices. Because they contribute, don’t they? And you don’t want to do that, so you have these pre-conceived ideas about the world

Kindly educate yourself on the CO2 composition of the planet Venus and it’s surface temperature. And to all my connections, this is the real problem. The social intertia. That’s what I’m tackling here. It’s time to call out the bullshit “personal observations” for what they are. Personal observations.

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.

I was worried back in ’92.

Yes I first learned about “global warming” in 1991 or 1992.

I think I must have had a smart teacher for the subject called general studies, because she knew about this new topic and warned all of us. She probably heard all about it at the United Nations Conference on Environment and Development (UNCED) aka the Rio de Janeiro Earth Summit. I could tell she was concerned. I can still remember seeing the worry in her eyes way back then.

Also, like a lot of nerdy sciency kids, I already knew about the atmosphere of other planets (like Venus for example). And so I’ve known for a long time that there isn’t really anything (apart from biodiversity feedback loops) stopping this planet from becoming more like either Mars or Venus.

So I began making lifestyle choices back then, when I was 14 or 15 years old. I chose not to drive. I continued to ride my bicycle. I rode it everywhere. In fact I didn’t learn to drive a car until I was 28 years old. Not until I had to. Not until I needed to deliver a lot of bicycles for my business. But eventually, it all caught up with me again. It slowly dawned upon me that I was falling into the trap of becoming just like everyone else again.

We are supposed to be working for a better future. That is why we all work so hard. But if the future is going to be worse, what’s the point?

So now, after almost a decade of driving around, I’m slowly but surely weening myself off of it again.

Later, when I gratuated, I refused to work for oil companies. I was offered a very highly paid job investigating the steel microstructure of crude oil tankers. I just couldn’t do it. So I went straight back to university and did another 5 years there.

Climate scientists are saying now that we are in a “climate emergency”. Look, the coal industry in Australia is saying there is enough coal reserves to last another 365 years. Well okay. But if other planets are anything to go by, this world’s entire fucking oceans could potentially boil right off and disappear into deep space! Melting icecaps will be the least of our worries. Now, while that scenario is never mentioned by climate scientists, that’s what planetary scientists mean when they talk about “a climate system that is out of control”. Are people starting to get it now?

Now I still don’t think people even today fully realise the implications of climate change, 25 years later.

This is called “cherry picking science”.

A survey of more than 2,000 Australians by the Climate Institute has found 77 per cent believe climate change is occurring and 90 per cent believe the Federal Government has a responsibility to drive action on it. [source]

I say this to the other 23%. You know, the people that are about 2 decades behind the rest of the world.

Do you believe in phonon transport? What about PN junctions?
I never see people ‘disagreeing’ with other scientific discoveries (especially the many electronic discoveries that have made all of modern technology possible). And yet you put your trust in them every single day of your lives. Yet there is no ‘debate’ at all.

I think we all know here that most of the deniers these days are cherry picking the parts of science they want to agree or disagree with, based upon how much the outcome determines whether or not significant future changes would be needed in their own lifestyle choices. I.e big change required = non believer.

If I was a working scientist today, I’d probably want to go on strike.
We’re gettin’ madder!! And anger + scientists are not a good combination…

A word about forest efficiency

Scientists are hard at working devising new ‘technologies’ that can strip carbon dioxide out of the air. There is even a prize for the most efficient inventions that can capture this carbon and put it to good use; twitter is abuzz with the hashtag #reimagineCO<sub>2</sub>. But you know, I already know that the most efficient, sustainable oxygen factory (that also happens to double as a carbon sink) is none other than a natural forest:

Imagine this robotic-like device that can adsorb CO2 molecules at the ppb level directly out of the Earth’s atmosphere through a process of reverse-osmosis and then transmorgify those carbon atoms into stiff and lightweight fractal-laminar-nano-composite material that is 100% biodegradeable, 100% compostable and 100% renewable! Once the carbon dioxide molecules are split into their atomic components, one of the only gaseous waste byproducts is diatomic oxygen²!! It gets better. It’s solar powered, of course!!! And believe it or not, but it uses *self-assembling technology*!!!! Really — this thing, it just unfolds itself to the final shape in front of your very eyes!!!!! Literally all you do is wait and let it do its thing!!!!!! And did I mention that it is self-repairing? Meaning it will heal its own damaged components!!!!!!! It’s that simple!!!!!!!! And it works!!!!!!!!!! It actually works!!!!!!!!!! This incredible machine, okay, will keep on going even if sections of it are completely hacked off!!!!!!!!!!! And it is like a 3D printer, so it will literally print practically unlimited copies of itself!!!!!!!!!!!! I am going to be the world’s first trillionaire!!!!!!!!!!!!! I have almost lost count of how many exclamation points I am using here!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! ²And if you’re paying atttention, even the fineprint is good—the only other byproducts are aromatic hydrocarbons that are shown to enhance mood levels in the general human population.

I might be wrong about this but I’m willing to bet that the more biodiverse a forest is, the more carbon it can absorb. Simply because a dense tropical rainforest has more biomass than a ‘monoculture’ crop (soil is another matter).

So. We already have the ‘technology’ in the form of trees. All we have to do is reverse the landclearing. That’s why when someone tells you the best advice they can give is to “plant a tree”, they are almost certainly correct.

What’s new with GMO?

Today I’m going to do things a bit differently.

I‘d like to encourage my followers to read several articles I just found out about. So here are several interesting pieces of news regarding CRISPR, a new gene-editing technique and a couple of links to the first ever completely synthetic, artificial cell:

  1. http://www.scientificamerican.com/article/monsanto-nets-first-crispr-license-to-modify-crops-with-key-restrictions/
  2. https://www.statnews.com/2016/06/10/crispr-diagnostics-gene-cutting/
  3. https://www.statnews.com/2016/06/23/florida-keys-mosquitoes-genetically-modified/
  4. https://www.statnews.com/2016/08/05/mosquitoes-genetically-modified-florida-zika/
  5. https://www.statnews.com/2016/08/18/genetic-code-synthetic-life/
  6. https://www.statnews.com/2016/07/18/crispr-off-target-effects/
  7. https://www.statnews.com/2016/06/16/crispr-first-human-trial-cancer/
  8. https://www.statnews.com/2016/07/21/crispr-experiment-humans/
  9. https://www.statnews.com/2015/11/17/gene-editing-embryo-crispr/
  10. https://www.statnews.com/2016/06/02/synthetic-human-genome/
  11. https://www.statnews.com/2016/09/09/superbugs-antibiotic-resistance-mcr1/
  12. https://www.statnews.com/2016/07/07/superbug-new-gene-discovery/
  13. https://www.statnews.com/2016/06/02/project-human-genome-synthesis/
  14. https://www.statnews.com/2016/06/04/synthetic-genome-church-endy/
  15. https://www.statnews.com/2016/05/13/harvard-meeting-synthetic-genome/
  16. http://www.jcvi.org/cms/press/press-releases/full-text/article/first-self-replicating-synthetic-bacterial-cell-constructed-by-j-craig-venter-institute-researcher/home/
  17. http://www.wsj.com/articles/SB10001424052748703559004575256470152341984
  18. https://www.newscientist.com/article/2082278-artificial-cell-designed-in-lab-reveals-genes-essential-to-life/

Please read all of the above articles and educate yourselves. This isn’t in the mainstream news, but it should be.

I should probably state here that I don’t even pretend to know about genetics. I’m not a geneticist, I studied Materials Science.

All I do know is that nature has laws and you cannot break those laws. Bacterial diseases are lifeorms too and they are just as robust and ‘innovative’ as even the cleverest of humans.

I think that scientists often tend to overestimate their own intelligence level, and at the same time, underestimate the resourcefulness of nature itself. I don’t think we can ever fully predict the “revenge effect”. But it is there. The risk is always there.

I’m sure the field of genetics is really, really advanced by now. I’m not saying that it’s not. But the big worry for me is just that— as science becomes more and more and more specialised, people get ‘cleverer’ but they don’t always become ‘wiser’. So to put that another way, the greatest geneticist minds may claim to know all about genes, and they might even be right, but then they cannot also be the greatest experts in ecosystems. The fields of science are that big today that no one can know everything. It’s impossible! That’s the big worry.

“I don’t think it represents the creation of an artificial life form,” said biomedical engineer James Collins at Boston University. “I view this as an organism with a synthetic genome, not as a synthetic organism. It is tough to draw where the line is.” [source]

[Read more…]

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…]

The problem with science

I think the problem is not with science, but with the entire 1st world civilisation.

Science is great and I don’t fundamentally disagree with any of it – but it doesn’t have any guiding moral or ethical principles. One problem with science right now is that scientists invent things without thinking through all of the possible consequences. And then some kind of “revenge effect” inevitably bites them in the arse later on down the track.

Another big problem is that businesses can take hold of any scientific discoveries and innovations they feel like and just exploit them for all they are worth.

So we know that this society will all too willingly absorb any new scientific knowledge into profitable new enterprises. Well ok – not so big a deal you might say – and it’s not. That’s the benefit of science. Right? Yes.

But then when those same scientists turn around and say: “No, now you are all going to have to change the way you do things, because we’ve figured out that this is not a sustainable industry” or “it turns out there’s this horrible side-effect”, no one listens. Not the people working for the industries, nor the people buying products from whatever those industries happen to sell.

So basically everyone is using the results of science whenever it suits them, and they are not heeding many of the warnings that science is giving…

People willingly accept, take and use the scientific discoveries. But the very same people never as willing to relinquish those very same inventions. Are they? [Read more…]

The problem with using biofuels in aviation.

Recently on LinkedIn:

First, it’s a premise of sustainable, alternative fuels that their production actually draws down atmospheric carbon–the carbon comes out of the atmosphere to make the fuel. The carbon is released again when the fuel is burned. By (albeit partial and imperfect so far) application of that principle, vastly lower net emissions (on the basis of life cycle analysis) are now possible.

I understand all abot life-cycle assessment. Yes, true, biofuel crops do take CO2 out of the air. 

But not if brazilian rainforest has to be cut down to make way for new plantation crops — because the native forest already does a way better job of taking CO2 out of the air than a crop with less biodiversity ever will. 

So my question is: where are we going to grow all of the new crops that will be needed for this additional biofuel?

It’s no good saying that new sustainable crops will reduce the CO2 from the air if you harvest the whole thing every year and burn it again. That only releases the same carbon that was absorbed by the crop in the first place… so no net CO2 increase. (well that is probably an over-simplification, because some carbon dioxide no doubt goes in to the soil) [Read more…]

What this angry scientist has to say about climate change:

Here I go again… why am I angry? Do scientists even get angry? Yes. Yes they do. Well I am angry. Very fucken angry!

I‘m angry at politicians in the mainstream parties. Because they aren’t doing enough to mitigate an environmental catastrophe. Most politicians today only care about one thing: money. The economy. Whoop-de-doo.

Scientists, if you remember from highschool, are the clever people. They are the nerdy ones with poor social skills. You’d think most countries would be run by the smartest of individuals. Are they? No. See, I think that’s where we’re going wrong. Our countries are run by politicians.

Likewise, I am angry at climate change deniers. Because they are now claiming that “climate change is a government conspiracy” (right, well if that is true it has to be the dumbest conspiracy theory I have ever heard, because the governments are the ones who support burning coal for fuck’s sake!).

Actually, I lie. Half of it is worry, not anger. For example, what’s actually worrying is that some people think an average temperature increase of a couple of degrees in only a few decades is at all “natural”. What’s worrying is that some people still don’t seem to grasp the concept of “rate of change”. I have seen on LinkedIn that the biggest climate change deniers are frequently either working for oil companies, have a vested interest in contruction, or are simply “uneducated fools”.

I find some people’s responses to climate change infuriating. Scientists are (mostly) a VERY clever bunch of people. If climate scientists are ringing alarm bells and making videos like this one, it’s enough to make me pay attention and completely change my lifestyle.

Right. I’ll say that again, but in a different way, because it bears repeating. Because I know that people skim read things. When the leading climate scientist, James Hansen, says (back in 2012 mind you) that we have a climate emergency, well, it’s enough to make me sell my vehicle. It’s enough to make me think up a new career choice, about how I can make the world a better place for future generations to come…

In science, we have to have a kind of ‘faith’ too. Scientists have faith in other scientists. We mutually respect each others’ fields of expertise. If I were to say, as a materials scientist, that magnesium has a hexagonal close packed atomic structure, I would hope the other scientists would give me the benefit of the doubt about that. And that is how the whole science community works. Things are checked and rechecked. Publications are reviewed. These people are working on these problems their whole lives. [Read more…]

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.

My response to another climate change denier…

Mike Johnson, it’s people like you that really annoy me. Sorry to say that, but you do. I look at your profile and I see that you flip burgers. Where is your science credibility? That’s okay, maybe you read in your spare time…

So to people like you, I say go and look up the CO2 content of the planet venus. Then go and look up the surface temperature of the planet venus. Seriously, what you are saying about the flea analogy is complete rubbish. And I am calling you out on it right here and now in front of the whole world. Here’s where your flea analogy would be better. Assume you have 7 billion fleas on one dog. Now half of them think that they aren’t affecting the dog, because they’re so small. They’re just fleas, right? And the other half know that there is only so much blood in the dog. If you look at my profile, you will see that I am not working for anyone. I am not working for the government. I have no vested interests in anything except the truth and the protection of biodiversity. I put my faith in fellow scientists like Dr. James Hansen:

The mass of Earth’s atmosphere is distributed approximately as follows:

50% is below 5.6 km (18,000 ft).
90% is below 16 km (52,000 ft).
99.99997% is below 100 km (62 mi; 330,000 ft.

I like to think it is about 10km thick. Why 10km? Because Everest has an altitude of 8848km and not a single person lives above the summit of Mt. Everest, do they Mr. Johnson? Why not? Too cold and barely enough oxygen. Right. So taking these numbers back to the dog analogy, if the Earth was a dog, and the dog’s body was a ball that was 1 metre (just over 3 feet) in diameter, then the atmosphere on that dog would be 0.78mm thick. For you Americans, 1/32 of an inch. Now. Are you going to sit there with your Bachelor of Hamburgerology and tell me that 7 billion fleas (even proportionately microscopic ones) all drilling for blood would somehow not affect that atmosphere? I could say the same thing about an orange. If the Earth was an orange with a diameter of 10cm, then the atmosphere would now only be 0.078mm thick. Or 1/320″ for the Americans. I suppose you are going to tell me that 7 billion fruit flies feeding on that one orange wouldn’t change the composition of the orange’s skin, not even a tiny amount?

It doesn’t matter how big the Sun is in comparison with the Earth Mike. What matters is that we are urbanising the entire surface of the Earth. We mine things out of the ground and then proceed to burn it in cars all over the face of the Earth. We’re burning the entire remains of all past life on Earth that has accumulated over a billion years or so and we’re pumping it all into the atmosphere in only a hundred years or so. *starts to point the finger and wave it prophetically like all great scientists do when they’ve offended/insulted and have something important to say* So don’t you come here with your government conspiracy crap, Mike. Government conspiracies about global warming don’t make any sense! No sense at all! Why not? Because the USA actually *invades* other countries so that it can get more oil!! If anything half of these STUPID politicians aren’t even convinced of it themselves! There is only ONE thing stopping this planet from becoming more like Venus, and that is this planet’s biodiversity. It’s an adaptive, interactive system. Now if that ever starts to go haywire my friends, like it or not, we are doomed. The best, most advanced ‘technology’ that maintains a healthy atmosphere is … nature itself.

To be fair, you can’t fit 7 billion fruit flies on one single orange. But eventually even those tiny billions of microbes make the orange skin go mouldy, don’t they?

What this scientist thinks of NASA’s 2035 mission to Mars…

The 2035 Mars space mission is said to cost an estimated US$1.5 trillion.

What are my thoughts on this? That sounds like an aweful lot of money to me — to keep four to six people alive on another planet— in my view it’s money that could be put to far better things, like keeping 7 or 8 billion alive on this one.

To put things into perspective, it’s the equivalent of spending 94% of Australia’s Gross Domestic Product… for what? A dozen or so people to have the trip of a lifetime… at the most? That’s one hell of an expensive postcard!

If I personally had US$1.5 trillion dollars to play with and I wanted to ENSURE the future surivial of the human race, why, do you know what I’d do? I’d buy up all the wilderness areas up in poorer countries. I’d abandon that silly space mission. That’s what I’d do. And this is coming from someone that liked reading Carl Sagan’s cosmos… [Read more…]

The global warming debate.

So to my amazement, there are still people alive today, people like Linda Wright, a radio presenter no less, who say some very stupid things in public, like this: “I don’t believe in Global warming”.

And because I know about science, I just feel this overiding inner compulsion to put these people in their fucking place. So here’s what I wrote back to Linda:

“I don’t believe in Global warming”.
Well I see that according to your CV, you do not have any science background. None. Rather, you merely blab about on national radio. So I feel like I’ve got to put people in your place.

Kindly go an educate yourself about other planets because you are already appearing like a flat-Earther. Go and check the carbon dioxide composition of Venus and its surface temp and then come back here with your tail between your legs, ok?

Unlike you, I do have a very strong scientific background, and so I feel that I have a “duty of care” to stand up and raise the alarm bells a little bit louder. If scientists don’t do this more often, civilisation is going to ask in 100-200 years time: “So why didn’t you tell about this sooner? You mean knew and you didn’t tell us??? Thanks…”. Quite frankly, I agree with Debra Key; it’s partly people like you who got us here…

Kindly do go and check out my background before assuming that “I just draw”. You will see that I am mostly a Materials Scientist. And let me tell you, every single thing that you buy today has to come from somewhere. Whatever it is, that has an effect elsewhere. It might be a tree chopped down, it might be a slightly bigger hole in the ground, it might be a little less salt in the sea. Every single thing we do affects our environment.

Most of what we do now involves simple combustion. We burn fuel to get to work. We burn coal to get energy. Even to get steel we burn carbon (coke/coal), first to get iron and then from that we make steel. All those gases go into the air. Same goes with the cement industry. We are doing it all over the planet! The atmosphere is only 10km thick (or had you forgotten?). Why do you find it so hard to believe that what we are doing now affects our environment on a global scale? Global behaviour leads to global changes. Same as the rat infestation or worm farm…

[Read more…]

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…]

This is Pluto speaking here.

>sign the petition to reinstate Pluto‘s full planet status<
Illustration by Leslie Dean Brown
Illustration by Leslie Dean Brown


This is Pluto speaking here.

Look, I wasn’t very happy when some scientists took away my “full planetary” status in 2006 without even consulting me directly. And I’m not alone.

I’ve been thinking about it – and this whole ‘dwarf’ designation has never really sat well with me ever since. And my moon Charon is not to thrilled about it either… because that would make her the moon of a dwarf planet, aka a “dwarf moon”.

Especially when you say that I’m a dwarf planet, and then go on to say “which is not really a planet”. Imagine how Jupiter would react if you said: “Jupiter is a gas giant planet… which is not really a planet!” !!

And then you gave me a number. What do you call it? “Minor planet designation”. Wait a second. Let me look that up. Let’s see here, what have I got, I knew I had it somewhere… “134340”. That’s it. “134340”. That doesn’t sound very special to me. One minute I’m named after a God. And the next thing someone has placed this completely arbitrary bogus number IN FRONT OF my name. Not after it mind you. BEFORE! Like this: 134340 Pluto. One-three-four-three-four-zero-pluto. To a planet, this is invective! [Read more…]

“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…]

Recent research on global warming, sea level rise and super storms.

If there’s one video I think you should watch today, it’s this one.  I think climate scientists in particular have a special “duty of care” to humanity. I wholeheartedly suggest that all climate scientists boycott fossil-fuel powered cars in keeping with their discoveries and the changes we all must start to make on an individual basis. I think it may show the general public that they are prepared to make some sacrifices for what they believe in.

As I stated previously, I personally no longer own a car — but I do use (borrow) a car about once a week now. Since I sold my last vehicle, I am able to donate more money to environmental charities with the money I save on fuel, insurance, upkeep and everything else… I have actually donated more money to charity than I have spent on fuel so far in 2016. I think more people need to do that.

I really don’t think it’s wise to put all of our trust into current politicians. I firmly believe that most of the mainstream parties do not have our own long-term best interests at hand. I also think that the two very traits that have put us where we are today, namely, our anxiety and what I like to call our “social intertia”, may well be our undoing as a species.

What we can learn from North Korea.

I’ve noticed lately that a lot of Western video productions are unfairly biased about North Korea.
Photo credit: AP Photo/Wong Maye-E
Photo credit: AP Photo/Wong Maye-E

So Western journalists have a big gripe about not being able to film certain parts of North Korea. But North Koreans, okay, like all nations, want to be portrayed in a good light. Because North Koreans are smart enough to know that some journalists are unscrupulous…

What if I made a video documentary about Sydney and filmed all the homeless people, the junkies, the graffiti, the rubbish, the wastage, the consumerism, the violence, the poor distribution of wealth, the relentless urbanisation, interviewed all the aboriginal people in our jails, filmed the chopping down of forrests in the Laird state forest to make way for a new coal mine? Well okay.

But what if the Tourism Industry Association of New Zealand came to Australia for example and then used that to infer that “New Zealand was better”? Maybe we’d be able to take it like a joke (even if it were all true).

But I am pretty darn sure that if our tourism industry was proven to have suffered economically because of that documentary, then we’d promptly ‘react’ by banning such films. I’m sure the Sydney council or tourism board would stop people filming the dirtier parts of town. And I wouldn’t really have a problem with that. It doesn’t make me ‘evil’. [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


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:

I have started a petition to ban lethal whale research:

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…]

Question the status quo.

WHEN I was a small boy, my father –who only died last December– once told me to question everything. And being an inquisitive young lad, I invariably asked “why?”, right after he told me. He just answered that someone named “Christian Murty” had once famously said it. So a few weeks ago, I looked this bloke up. And it turns out it wasn’t someone called “Christian Murty”, but rather “Jiddu Krishnamurti”:

You have to question everything that man has accepted as valuable, as necessary. –Jiddu Krishnamurti

One of my first ‘clever’ questions that I asked my parents was “how many atoms are in a teapot?”. Luckily for me, my mum was studying a degree in physics so she could provide me with a fairly accurate answer. I’m pretty sure most parents would have said ‘lots’.

I think being curious and asking questions about the world is a fundamental trait of all good scientists. I think that’s probably what started me on the path to science, because it tends to give the most accurate answers. Except that Krishnamurti wasn’t just talking about questioning how the world works, but rather questioning the status quo. Scientists question how the world works. Philosophers and revolutionaries question the status quo.

So pretty soon, I started questioning everyday things I’d notice like:

  • “why do so many people wear blue jeans?”1.
  • “why do people wear ties?”2.
  • “why do people drive cars?”3.
  • “why do people drink alcohol?”4.

…they are afraid that by observing and questioning everything, by experimenting and making mistakes you may find out something for yourself and break away from the authority of your parents, of society, of tradition. –Jiddu Krishnamurti

This may seem like rather an odd thing to write about, but the essence of questioning everything has made me who I am today. It is the fundamental reason for this website. It is an attempt to question why we do things the way we do. Could we be doing things a different way? A new way. A better way? Yes, I’m going to continue asking questions like an incessant five year old, and probably stirring up a lot of shit in the process. I believe that by questioning what we do, how we do it and ultimately why we do it, the answers can make this a better world (and increase our chances of long-term survival).

Nowadays I ask the following sorts of questions:

  • “What is the goal of humanity?”
  • “Do we want to still be around in 500 or 1,000 years’ time?”
  • “Does consumerism really make people happier?”
  • “Why do we still measure the prosperity of a nation by it’s Gross Domestic Product instead of its Gross National Happiness?”
  • “Where do the raw materials of consumer electronics come from?”
  • “If we want to to be more sustainable, shouldn’t we be looking more at indigenous cultures?”
  • “Why should citizens who have not voted for a current political party be forced to pay income tax?”