“The tree breathes what we exhale. When the tree exhales, we need what the tree exhales. So. We have a common destiny with the tree.” — Oren R. Lyons 

Wiser words have never been spoken. I think we need to really start listening to these people. Science will never be able to invent a more beautiful, efficient or sustainable oxygen factory… as the humble tree. That’s why I agree that we should all plant more trees (and also avoid cutting down any to begin with). It was also a reccommendation of the book “small is beautiful”.

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…]

If we were living on Mars…

I’d like to remind people of two things:

1. Would Mars colonists be doing things the same way that we are here and now? For example, would they be mowing grass if and when they manage to get it to grow under their domed little base stations?

I think not. Not very sustainable, is it? Using up petrol and mower parts all for what? To keep the grass shorter and produce less oxygen? (at least that’s the excuse I give now for only mowing 9/10 of our backyard rather than the whole darn lot) Why do we cut grass anyway? Those are the sorts of questions humanity ought to be asking itself.

2. Just imagine if all of 7.4 billion of us humans were *already* living on Mars (indoors) and we just happened to “find” Earth in the ‘state’ that it is in now, except with no people…

Do you think we would stay on the planet Mars? Where do you think we would move to? That’s right, we’d move right over to the planet Earth, where you can breathe freely… where the essential things like oxygen and rain are still free… where dirt is *almost* free (right now it costs $10,000,000 to launch a tonne of dirt into outer space). The planet with the deep oceans and millions of species already there. The planet that doesn’t need terraforming because its already terraformed.

So now knowing these two things.

Why the hell would we want to even consider moving away from here? Why would we want to cut down more forests here, if next-generation colonists wouldn’t do it on another planet in future? Otherwise, we’re just going to make the same mistakes on planet #2.

Here’s a simple thought experiment. Why aren’t we simply pretending to be living on a new colony already? That way we don’t even have to waste resources getting there.

Of course, getting other people to change is very, very difficult. All I can do is change myself. So what if I pretend that I am living on the planet Mars. What would I do if I was living over there? I would plant trees, not cut them down. I’d grow more forests that I cut down.

What else would I do? Why, I’d use my own urine as liquid fertiliser instead of going to the store and buying something that was obtained from a phosphate mine, wouldn’t I?

I think a lot of people on Earth have lost hope and they think that it’s almost like a “lost cause”. And I say: “fuck that”. I’d like to remind everyone that it’s FAR easier to get ourselves back on the right track here than to start from scratch over on Mars…

I hope this has given a few of you some much-needed inspiration!

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…]