The future of science

The way I see it, current research science is a system of reliable information harnessing, data processing, followed by speculative interpretation based on well-founded principles & intense scrutiny by fellow peers. It is a method of education for an entire community of very eager-to-learn people.

We begin our careers by studying many fields. We do this so that we can all speak a common language. For instance, I didn’t even start any materials subjects at all until I was in my second year of university. We all had to study maths, chemistry, physics and so on.

Scientists research anything and everything imaginable, from the arcane to the utterly esoteric. That’s why most of it remains inaccessible to the general public.

The smaller each individual niche becomes, the more difficult it is to generate new results, new conclusions -new information. You could say that we already know so much, that learning any more at the cutting edge of science requires serious effort. Usually it requires further advancements in the development of scientific instrument technology; enhanced signal to noise ratios or finer spatial resolution, for example.

In today’s age, it takes a big effort to gather even the simplest, entirely new facts about materials. Used in this manner, traditional scientific research will never provide all the answers to the most important questions that we relentlessly seek to ask.

Scientists are a relentless lot, because in each and every ultra-specific field of science there is always some aspect that has not been effectively or sufficiently studied. You’ll never hear any scientist proclaim: “we can stop now, we’ve discovered enough”. There’s always room for further study.

“We are drowning in information, while starving for wisdom.” —Edward O. Wilson

But in today’s “information age”, is the current aim of science somewhat misguided? Much of science tries to benefit us in the short term, by improving our standard of living in some way. I think there are many talented young minds that are being wasted today; they dwell on themes which are effectively useless to the ecology of this planet. The long-term future of our environment, and thus our civilisation on which it depends is not looking too bright.

The trouble with most classical scientists is that they would have you believe that everything can be isolated and studied independently. That single assumption is just plain wrong, merely because everything interacts with everything else to a certain degree.

And yet the reality is that things don’t behave in an isolated manner, in fact things often behave synergistically (the sum is more than its parts). So I tend to believe in those wise old American Indians. They say that everything in this universe is connected.

I know that the physical Scientists (Physicists, Chemists and Materials Scientists) will also have you believe that everything happens at the atomic or molecular scale & therefore that’s also where all the answers can be found. I suspect that biologists profess similar principles. Except that real life doesn’t always work that way.

[I like to think of it like this- the microscopic world is influenced from the outside macroscopic world; the resulting perturbations may indeed infiltrate and manipulate the atomic world, but they soon manifest themselves later as corresponding macro-sized problems. Time and time again, scientists have realised that the world is more complicated than they thought. You would have thought they would have learned by their mistakes. Other times, they go off on a wild goose chase looking for micro-scale solutions to macro-scale problems (or vice versa).]

Take this example: did the researchers who invented high-power blue-coloured laser diodes for data density research know that they’d be used in Fish Aggragating Devices?

Did thermodynamicists of the 18th century who originally researched the Carnot cycle realise that it would result in global warming a couple of centuries later down the track?

Somewhere along the way, we have gone from a general, overall view to a very narrow view. We’ll never fully understand the universe if we keep branching into narrower and narrower disciplines as a method of moving forward.

I think what Edward O. Wilson says is very true. What he is essentially saying is that there is too much information and not enough wisdom. In my opinion, we would be better off using and applying what we already know to be true. What’s the point of continuing with research if it takes society decades to change? What’s the point of biologists working so hard trying to unravel nature’s secrets if governments and corporations don’t even heed the most basic warnings about deforestation. Wouldn’t studying the pschology of change be more effective? Wouldn’t guaranteeing our survival be the best thing to focus on right now?

I think it is time for a different era in Science. A direction which which doesn’t try and invent “cures” for the countless problems that industrialisation or technology has already created, but instead, one that sources the reasons behind their after-effects. Yes I’m talking about industries, inventions or incidents which always seem to generate previously “unknown” problems.

If we always claim ignorance after some type of revenge effect occurs, no matter how smart we claim to be, we are not. In all likelihood, it means that there were considerations which could have been followed but were chosen to be ignored. How do we predict them? Perhaps a new type of study could be employed, similar to a feasibility study – lets call it a “consequentiality study”. This would attempt to document the emergence of future possible unintended consequences, especially negative ones. In this manner, the after effects could be anticipated and hence the proposal could be modified.

If a high growth economy is needed to fight the battle against pollution, which itself appears to be the result of high growth, what hope is there of ever breaking out of this extraordinary cycle? – Author of “Small is Beautiful”, E.F. Schumacher.

Instead of relentlessly pursuing the current line of investigation, let’s take a step back and link previously unrelated findings together. Let’s join the dots to create the bigger picture, so to speak, especially concerning the direction we’re all headed. Let’s be smart and study the consequences of our actions for a change, and try to prevent them from ever occurring. Let’s harness the vast expanse of our existing knowledge, and look at ways to develop and encourage a sustainable future. Maybe we should also ask our society what it wants us to pursue?

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.

Design disappointment.

Today I’m going to share with you a little secret that’s been bugging me lately

It’s about one of my inner-most feelings about the design industry. For several months now, I’ve been getting disappointed. I have a bit of a dilemma. A moral dilemma 1.

Here it is: there seem to be very few what I call “ethical designers”. And that worries me.

I know because rarely do the creatives ever ‘like’ my environmental posts on LinkedIn. Rarely. Almost never.

Now keep in mind that probably about half of my connections work in the design industry. They’re senior graphic designers. They’re art directors. Executive creative directors. Chief creative officers. Important people. Important people with important accounts.

Designers are supposed to lead the way when it comes to new trends. I mean, fashion designers have the power to change what a billion people wear, within the space of a year (or less). Right?

And yet on this subject, the environment, most designers are suspiciously silent. And I think I know why. I strongly suspect it’s because there’s this so called ‘professional’ [read: confidential] client relationship.

In other words, the never seem to speak up, because they are too afraid that they are going to lose money. Not just with customers, but with their real clients, the businesses that hire them to design. You can’t be seen to criticise the business that gives you work. Like they say, “don’t bite the hand that feeds you”.

Here’s the thing. If people say or do the wrong thing —like the wrong post say— then they lose the account. I know because one of my design teachers told me. If anyone is caught drinking Pepsi in the design room when the Coke representative walks in, your agency loses the Coke account. That’s the way it works.

You see, I really think designers are forgetting just how difficult it is to accomplish good design. I think they’re underestimating themselves. They’re selling themselves short. And I think they should act a bit more like they way they were in highschool. Back then they were the trendsetters. The people who dared to be different. The people who stood against the status quo. Those rebellious kids. The cool ones, you know.

I would like to see the designer charge three, five or ten times more than they normally would for their design. Use that extra money. Give half of it to an enviornmental charity. But I would prefer to see you refuse the brief altogether. Don’t do it. Not for any amount of money!

People who changed the world in the past were never really popular during their time. People like Galileo questioned the status quo. And now today we have satellite communication and GPS navigation systems.

It could be that my “save the planet” content is preferentially served to all my conservation connections. But somehow I doubt it. Many creatives would have seen my posts as well. Many. They lurk, they don’t like. I’ve noticed.

And I was actually going to write this on my LinkedIn feed, but decided to write about it here instead. Because over there, it’ll only become very ‘awkward’.

I’ve also noticed that whenever I post a ‘controversial’ update or comment, I get about three times the number of people looking at my profile. They’re probably checking out who is making all the waves. But they never say anything. Not even privately.

It’s like they’re thinking something like this behind my back: “well if he doesn’t know, we’re not going to tell him; more work for us”.

I know how social groups work. If you say something controversial enough, something to upset people enough, something that goes against the norm, something that people can’t deal with, you risk getting expelled. Banned from the group. And I don’t want that to happen. I’d still like to get a few illustration commisions.

I know how the world works. I know it runs with money. I’m not stupid or naïve. So it’s not that I don’t know what I’m doing. Oh no; I know exactly what I’m doing. I also know something that most designers don’t know. I know a thing or two about science.

In that respect, I suppose my training is pretty unique because I have a strong background in science but my most recent qualification was a diploma of graphic design. So I speak the dual languages of science and design. I don’t know too many ex-scientists designers. None, in fact.

The thing is, I can’t forget my past. No matter how hard I try. I can’t not be a scientist. I trained for more than ten years to be a scientist. I can’t forget who I was or who I am today. Sometimes I wish I wasn’t. Sometimes I wish I could forget. Then I could probably ignore all these conservationists and and indigenous people and just “get on with being ‘successful’ “.

It’s not that science and design are incompatible. Oh they are perfectly compatible alright. Yes business, design and science are indeed all compatible. But not when it comes to big corporations they’re not. Because the bigger the company, the less accountable the employers, employees and customers all become.

The bigger a company, the more ethical rules they seem to break. Seriously. Environmental rules. Especially when it comes to the following industries: mining, engineering, manufacturing, development, construction and transport/logistics. They just don’t give a fuck. Or so it seems.

I know enough to know that there are many unknowns in science. But for every ‘unkown’, there are ten or a hundred ‘knowns’. Science is pretty good. Science works. Your computer works. Your smart phone works. Your iwatch works.

The trouble with designers staying silent is this. The bigger the account gets, the less people see the effect of their design decisions. Designers are not seeing the impact.

But what is worth more? The account? Or the planet? If we lose the planet, we lose pretty much all future accounts. Right? Riiight?

So my new rule of business is that I only want to work towards a better future, not a worse one. Otherwise, what’s the point?

If we are all working towards a worse future, if all there is is “now”, if that is so important, why bother working at all? Why bother building cities, freeways and skyscrapers? Why bother with children and grandchildren? You tell me. What is the fucking point? What is the fucking point of having children if this world is not sustainable?

And don’t get me wrong, I try to live in the ‘now’ as much as humanly possible. It’s just that I also consider the future as well as the past (which I think is wise).

When a client comes to you asking for a rebrand, they’re obviously thinking about the future, aren’t they? They are looking for a newer, better future. Right?

So what I would like to see is this: I would like to see creative executives have the balls to say to someone like Mr Gautami Adani something like this:

“well the thing is, Mr Adani, we can’t actually make your logo any cooler, accessible or friendly, you’re asking the impossible. Fossil fuels have become out of vogue, out of fashion, we can’t change that. No one can change that. Solar and wind are “in”. Coal is out.”.

I would like to see Chief Creative Officers, Executive Design Directors remind the CEO, the CFO, the board of directors about the future. Remind them that they are hoping for a better ‘future’ design, hence, they must care about the future. That’s why they’re investing money. Because they’re hoping for a better future.

I’d like to see more people remind these fools at the top just why the environment has to come before business. And then maybe the business owners and investors would insist on a newer, more sustainable, ecological design. Who else is going to design for them?

I think it’s absurd that people are too afraid to even say anything. Everyone should be able to harp on about the environment as much as they bloodywell like without fear of losing their job. Otherwise, we are all fückéd ladies and gentlemen. Fückéd!

Here’s what I would like to say to all investors. I would like to walk into a boardroom meeting and draw this fucken equation on the board:

no environment = no business = no profit.

Because I can tell you one thing right now. People can see straight through a logo or a design. I used to think a great logo was everything. but it’s just an identity mark.

If the companies’ ethics and morals aren’t in the right place, then people will eventually go with the ugly logo. I love a good logo, I do. I choose companies based on their logos and their design. True! But once I turn on a company, there’s almost no going back. If I had to choose between designer logos and saving the planet, bring on the ugly logos.

People are fickle. Customers will change banks. No amount of design can be used to sell a horrible company to well-informed people. That might have worked in 1990. Or even the year 2000. But this is the age of information, the age of connection.

 

The reason is that money can only be used to ‘offset’ things up to a certain point. And I think we are fast getting to that point, if it isn’t already behind us. Beyond that point, money doesn’t do any good. Sure money can buy a forest. Money cannot buy us a new atmosphere or a stable, unpeturbed weather system. Money cannot buy a clean ‘new’ planet. That is not how the world works.

Sometimes I like to entertain the idea of hypothetical situations, because I find them to be very insteresting. For example. if the major powers launched all of their nuclear weapons (more or less simultaneously), then how much would it cost to ‘fix’ the planet afterwards? What if it couldn’t be ‘fixed’? What then? That’s one reason we try to avoid a nuclear holocaust. Because we know about the consequences.

Things can’t keep on going on like they’ve always done. Again, the world doesn’t work that way. I know that’s not the way it is at the moment.

You may think I am some hippie nutter. But I’m not. I am a bit of a dreamer though. I don’t really care too much about money. I care that what I think, what I say, and what I do are all aligned — in the right direction.

So where am I going with this? A few years ago I read that whenever an organisation grows, it reaches a critical size of about 150 people. That is the maximum number of people we can efficiently deal with. Beyond that and things get too disconnected and bureaucratic. Efficiency goes down.

So these days I prefer to work with smaller businesses. That’s what my gut instinct tells me to do. Businesses that are small enough to change and adapt. Businesses that are able to put the environment first. They’re the ones who I want to trade with.

 

 

 

What do we have today?

*sigh*
35b90f2b-8bfe-4bf1-aa71-cdaf5818db4c-original

1 Do you people really think a meme is going to make a sod of difference to anything? Look. I hate to break it to you, but you won’t convince anyone of anything with a meme. Or will you? Perhaps the target demographic isn’t all that smart?

Like the one that compares Obama’s wife, who is getting off a plane dressed like however, with Trump’s wife, who is of course all dressed up very smartly indeed. Is that seriously how you want to pick a presidential candidate? Based on the ‘prettier’ first lady… in the moment? Two weeks with the paparazzi will sort her out… 

Anyone can make a meme up like that in 2 minutes. But you don’t tend to see them, because, well, smart people think it’s a waste of time. Try to be more creative. LOL.

2 If there’s one thing that your election has reminded me of… it’s the bell curve. And by that, I mean that there is this whole other side that makes up 50% of it. Seriously. You can all figure that one out for (if you can!). I’m sorry if I come across as arrogant here, but seriously. I am tired of seeing this crap time and time again.

If you’ve noticed, the cluey people share real news. Not bullshit like this. And yes I call it bullshit, straight up, because, if your election was rigged, right –are you still with me?– then Hillary would have won. Wouldn’t she?

Here’s a tip: when you create yet another conspiracy theory, at least check that if it were true, that it would confirm what you are in fact trying to prove. Not the exact opposite. Who won? Trump. So then it couldn’t have been rigged! Or have I missed something?

It’s the same as climate change deniers who all think that it’s some sort of massive weird-arse conspiracy theory by their own government, in order to drive down the economy. Or something. When in fact, most governments support the fossil fuel industry. Liberals/leftists are always fighting with government over that.

Perhaps I’ve had too much to drink. But then, perhaps not. Perhaps I’m just speaking the truth that others are too afraid to say on here? TTFN!

Today’s LinkedIn fun:

92e27cda-86a0-49d4-89bd-fc74b54d81fc-large

Catherine Puglisi

Global Warming comes to Chi Town! Sunday nite we dipped so low that they say it was colder here then it was o Mars. Yup, Global Warming is here!

Catherine Puglisi

Planet Earth is at least 4.5 billion years old (4,500,000,000 years before today). We have gone through an Ice age, flooding of our Planet and this was all before Mankind even entered the picture. The weather will change, with and or without Al Gore becoming a wealthy man by saying so.

Exactly but the myth is promulgated by convenient idiots

Kathleen M. Hart

Climate change has unstable and record highs and lows. That doesn’t negate global warming. Think outside of the box to understand science; it’s not a simplistic black and white, hot and cold theory. It’s a series of ongoing events leading to dramatic shifts in temperatures. Quite frankly, those who point to a few cold days on the calendar every year are simply not understanding what is going on around them. Its myopia.

No sh*t??? The moronic phrase ” think outside the box” in this case is ignorant and condescending.

@Scott Hulsey, P.E. No surprises there. You work in oil. So you see climate change as a potential threat to your income. Insulting people won’t change that observation either. ;-)

I think *you’re* the moron here Scott Hulsey, P.E. Yes, I am calling you a moron. In front of the whole world. It’s about time people like you were put in your place. And that place is “I know nothing central”.
I’m tired of people arguing about stuff they don’t even know about. If climatologists say the Earth is getting warmer. Then IT IS getting warmer. They’re not saying it’s turning into a freakin’ sponge shaped like a donut. It’s really should not be that hard for people to fathom.

I’m starting to realise that some people don’t even realise which side of the bell curve they are on. Smart people know that there are other people smarter than them. Dumb people think they know it all.

How about everyone leave the climate modelling to the ones who actually study it? (that’s not me by the way). Eh?

OR

Do yourselves a favour and actually read about it. Not just blogs. Science journals. Then you might be able to come up with a valid argument to support your claims.

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again. Why do global warming deniers never ever deny the existence of photons, electrons or semiconductors? The same science behind technology? Why do you only start denying when you are asked to give something up? Like fossil fuels. That’s the real reason for all the denial. Because acceptance involves a change of lifestyle. And you’re not prepared to do that, so you merely bury your heads in the fucken sand about the whole thing. Great plan that. Great plan. Marvelous.

http://www.vidaenigmatica.org/2986-2/

Are computers infallible?

We all know that computers can “crash”.

But can anyone provide a really good explanation of why memory corruption occurs? And are computer calculations infallible?

Allow me to share with you a little story. When I was studying thermodynamics at university, a very strange thing happened: a relatively old computer essentially made a mistake!

What happened was this. We were in the laboratory, measuring a quantity for an experiment and then tabulating the results in an excel spreadsheet with the aid of an old computer.

But one of those cells refused to play nicely. It didn’t produce the appropriate result. It was way off. Not just a little off. It was way, way off. It was so far off we couldn’t help but notice it.

The excel spreadsheet has failed. Either the software or the hardware had failed. Something had clearly failed. How can the same mathematical algorithm generate one inconsisent result among many rows of similar cells?

We investigated further. We looked at the individual cells but the equations in each one were all identical. We looked at the references to the other cells and they were all correct.

I remember looking at conditional formatting, number format and a load of other things. Nothing. Everything should have worked. And none of us were excel juniors. We were advanced users! [Read more…]

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Good morning from North Korea!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Zada speaks for Earth. At age 5.

I think this kid is surprisingly clever. She obviously knows what she wants. She’s not just self-aware, she is also aware that other animals are self-aware. She shows empathy for other living, feeling, conscious beings. That to me is true intellect.

You know, I was raised to eat meat. Our family used to eat every single day. I was never really told where it came from. I didn’t even realise that cows were ‘smart’ or had many feelings until I was a teenager and spoke with my friend in highschool. He used to live on a farm and he also informed me that sheep were very smart too. Prior to that I suppose I just thought they were like factory robots or something. It was just something I never really thought about I suppose.

I almost never buy meat nowadays. Especially not red meat. I just was in the supermarket yesterday and I wandered past the meat aisle. I thought about cooking some nice, tasty chicken for myself. And then I remembered this vid. So I chose not to…

Thanks, kid. I’ll try and remember you whenever I’m tempted to buy/eat meat. Because I like animals too. And, no, Zada, no. No they don’t really like being cooked in the oven. They don’t like that very much at all. :(

Here’s something manufacturers and industrial designers need to think more about: backlash on planned obsolescence.

If there’s one thing in this world that I can’t stand, it’s companies like Microsoft and Apple…

Who seem to make things go obsolete well before their time. And no one can tell them not to. They just keep getting away with it. Why? Probably because they make a lot of money getting away with it. That’s why.

But there are no laws to stop them getting away with it. And what this materials scientist thinks right now is “by fucken oath there should be [laws to stop them getting away with it]”. That is coming from an ex materials scientist. Right.


I think you all know what I am talking about. I’m talking about ‘old’ printers that don’t work with newer computers simply because the ‘drivers’ have ‘issues’ with the “operating system”. I’m talking about new software that won’t run on old hardware. I’m also talking about new hardware that won’t run old software. I’m talking about Apple’s proprietry connectors.

Let me tell you a little anecdote. I can even remember my dad saying about 15 or 20 years ago way back when I was a kid that Apple (you know, Macintosh it was once called) forced you to use their special cables and connectors, and thus were able to charge a premium.

At the time, I took what he said with a pinch of salt. I thought “well it’s their computer system, I suppose they would want to do that. Who can blame them?”. But now, fast forward twenty-odd years and my old man is dead [RIP, he died last year] and what he said to me in the 1990’s is looking even wiser now than it did when he said it all those years ago. Because it just so happens to be true. This man, my father, would be 90 years old if he were alive today. He was old but he knew something that I didn’t. That something is called ‘wisdom’ and all early adopters from what I’ve seen tend to suffer from a severe lack of it.

Back in the day, we used things called serial ports and parrallel ports to plug in our printers. So they got the information from one cable and they got their power from another completely separate cable. The thing is, they were slow. Really slow. But when USB came along, all those printers and mice and things became much less useful. The same thing happened to compact discs when Apple decided not to include a CD drives on their latest desktops.

People will always need to buy new peripherals to work with new plugs on their new computer system. That is now happening with USB-C connectors. Do you want to know what I think? I think USB C can go and get fucked, that’s what I think. All of my stuff (two external hard drives, external sound card for microphone, graphics tablet, mouse, wireless solar keyboard, external webcam, flash drives, the entire bloody lot is USB2 now isn’t it?). USB2 and it is plenty good enough. I’m sticking with it.

Yes, I’m talking about Apple ditching the 3.5mm headphone jack on it’s newest smartphone. Now, keep in mind that I don’t even own an Apple iphone. In fact I have never owned an Apple iphone. And here I am, compelled to write a blog article about how narky it makes me feel. Because knowing what I know, I probably won’t ever own an Apple iphone. I’m writing this from an imac retina. I don’t own an ipad. And right now, that is the way it is going to stay. After buying just one Apple product, I’m fast becoming anti-Apple. And the headphone jack decision is my last straw. It is the catalyst to me becoming “anti-Apple”.

So I’m going to just say it here in black and white. I’m going to share with all you strangers the reason it makes me so narky. Because this is my blog, my little ‘space’ and I can say pretty much whatever the hell I want. Right? There’s this thing called “free speech” in the West that not enough people take advantage of… this is vida enigmática… [Read more…]

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…]

Discrimination is second nature.

Every time you select a piece of fruit, based on the condition of its skin, you’re judging the contents.

No one likes to eat a soggy banana or a rotten apple. We’ve come to learn that if a banana is bruised & blackened on the outside, inside is most likely a soggy fruit mush.

Even 3 year old children know the difference is in the taste. They won’t eat it. Although sometimes, despite multiple bruises and other exterior imperfections, the interior is not as bad as we think; we are rewarded by what we find inside – 100% intact fruit! Succulent, delicious. Generally though, after years of practice, we learn to judge fruit correctly…

There are two ways of describing this situation:

  1. Some might say I am discriminating against all fruit with a certain type of skin (be it the colour or the texture); I am pre-judging, I am being critical.
  2. Others might say that I have a distinguished, discerning or refined sense of taste; I am a perceptive, particular and sensitive person.

One of these sentences contains positive statements whilst the other definitely has negative connotations. Clearly, something is wrong, and I think you’ll easily spot the pattern in the words below-

Synonyms for the adjective “discriminating”:

analytical, astute, authentic, canny, careful, choosy, clever, correct, cultivated, defined, definite, detailed, discerning, distinct, distinctive, distinguish, eclectic, exacting, exact, explicit, genuine, incisive, ingenious, insightful, intuitive, factual, faithful, fastidious, finicky, fussy, judicious, just, keen, literal, methodical, meticulous, observant, particular, picky, proper, prudent, refined, right, rigorous, scientific, scrupulous, selective, sensitive, skillful, smart, specific, strict, subtle, systematic, tasteful, true, unerring, unmistakable, veracious, wise.

Synonyms for the verb “to discriminate”:

assess, be bigot, brand, categorise, classify, collate, compare, contrast, delineate, designate, differentiate, discern, draw distinction, evaluate, extricate, disfavor, favor, hate, incline, judge, pigeonhole, know, note, be partial, perceive, portray, remark, segregate, separate, set apart, show bias, single out, specify, split hairs, tell apart,treat differently, typecast, victimize.

So we can describe someone as being discriminate or discriminating, but the act of discriminating against something without enough knowledge is forbidden.

Whenever you turn on the radio and choose a station you are being prejudiced towards new music styles and discriminating against them by not listening. I prefer cotton over wool, because I’ve found that wool makes my skin itch. Am I biased towards cotton plants or racist (specist) against sheep? Whenever anyone thinks about making any kind of informed decisions, discrimination is second nature.

[Read more…]

Smart materials

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Wouldn’t it be cool if this became a reality?

This new petition is gathering a lot of momentum right now…

pepsi-perfect8
Why should people sign? Because it’s the little things like plastic bottle tops that are easily blown around in windy weather… and these small items are also the most easily mistaken for food by marine animals.

Most plastic floats and now an area of plastic waste that is twice the size of Texas has already accumulated in the Pacific ocean and it even has its own name… the “Pacific Garbage Patch”.

I’m sure that PepsiCo already knows this. The question is, what are they doing about it? I think it’s time they were held a little more accountable. They should be more responsible and invent a completely new bottle opening system, so that the bottletop will not (or cannot) physically separate from the rest of the container. That way, they can be recycled together as once piece (as it should be) — with a smart redesign, plastic bottle tops won’t ever end up in the ocean again!

How come the plastic bottle tops last a thousand years longer than the actual drinks inside? [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…]

Where do you want to go today? [Windows upgrade psychology]

A few days ago I received yet another persistent reminder to upgrade to Windows 10 for free. So I thought I’d share some insights from a long-time windows user. Here is my open letter to Microsoft.

Dear Microsoft,

It all began with that nagging little popup thingo at the bottom right of my computer screen. I don’t know about the other X00 million people, but I personally found that so annoying I soon disabled it. As soon as I realised it wasn’t going to disappear on it’s own. As soon as I saw the pattern. Why did I do that? I did it because I know that it was far easier than upgrading the whole OS.

There’s a famous quote about lazy people at Microsoft:

“I choose a lazy person to do a hard job. Because a lazy person will find an easy way to do it.”– Bill Gates

Now you have taken to my inbox. Several times in fact. Humans are good at recognising patterns, aren’t they? I’m sorely tempted to label your email ‘spam’, because I don’t recall signing up to any email newsletters about Windows upgrades. What’s next? Are you going to be pestering people to upgrade with facebook and twitter? I really don’t think you should do that. Trust me.

Yes we are busy people. Some of us do need reminders. But what about people with good memories? Do you think we have forgotten about your kind offer? Or are you lumping us all in with the forgetful ones? Thanks. [Read more…]

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

[Read more…]