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?

“Status, meet quo. Quo, status. Status–status. Quo–quo. Status quo.”

Sometimes I think that by the time you figure out how the world works, you’re too old to change it.

Have you ever noticed that there’s a huge delay in our society? There’s a delay between the time government officials catch up with science and the time that politicians take to enable new laws. By the time they come into effect it’s almost too late!

Science and technology has lapped the field a few times and our ‘guardians’ are languishing behind acting on industrial models invented during nineteen-fucking-twenty.

Even when they do do something right, our governments act with deliberate, bureaucratic and juggernaut-like sluggishness. It’s like they’re having a conversation like this:

“Status, meet quo. Quo, status. Status–status. Quo–quo. Status quo.”

They’ll give you a survey about being surveyed. “Bob, fill out this paperwork. It’s regarding how much paperwork we have to fill out”.

I say this because I remember way back in 1992 being told that “fossil fuels are being “phased out”. Phased out my arse! Why are they still building new coal mines? Why?! That’s a long time ago, that is, 1992. A quarter of a century and it feels like nothing has changed..

I think that in a civilisation as fast-paced as this one is becoming, we’re going to need to get our governments to change their behavior a lot faster than they do now. Otherwise, we’re screwed. Well those are my thoughts for today.

 

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.

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…]

What I think of Nike HyperAdapt 1.0s

Yes they do look very VERY cool.

But ever since reading cradle to cradle, what worries me is that this contributes to even more e-waste.

Are they recycleable or biodegradable? Compostable? No? Why not? Oh. We can create great technology alright, but let’s see Nike come up with the same concept that is actually good for the environment. That’s going to be a challenge, not just for Nike, but all tech-companies.

And since a lot of materials aren’t ever recovered or recycled, it means more mines. You know? Mines! The things that nobody really likes to live next to.

Don’t get me wrong –I love all things design– but I just bought a pair of shoes from Novesta because they are more eco. That’s the direction I’m moving in.

The principle of “the five whys”.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I i irony

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“There is no such thing as global warming.”

Sharing this footage again, willemijn heideman, this time as a direct video link, with almost 10,000 connections. Because more people watch it that way. Nice to see it has 46 million views already. That’s a postive I suppose… Can we get this to 5 billion maybe?

Doesn’t it suck that a fuckin’ Justin Bieber video has 50 times as many views as this? I think that is just fucken sad. What a sad, sorry fucken planet we live on. When a fucking little tosser like that get’s more attention than this does. Well it’s not the planet that’s fucked, it’s half the people living on it. That’s what it is.

But who the fuck downvoted it? That’s what I want to know. Who the fuck downvoted it? Do people really think the problem will ‘disappear’  by simply pressing the downvote button?

Do you want to know what I think? I think people should be forced to watch this video … every single time they start their car.

See, this is one reason why I get so pissed off with Porsche, always advertising their Cayenne on LinkedIn. They should be leading the way with their technology… but no… still selling a 4.8 litre engine. Marvellous. I would like the whole world to read this next sentence: the CEO of Porsche, Oliver Blume, ought to be fuckin’ shot I reckon.

And all the 2,406 people who downvoted this particular video, well you should probably do the world a favour and all just go and neck yourselves right now. Ahhh yes. I get these things off my chest and I feel SO much better now. It’s slmost like visiting a psychologist. Except this is way cheaper!

Time to change people. Time to change. Now.

The trouble is, from what I see, people only tend to believe in parts of science — and only when it suits them.

So when does it suit them? Whenever they want to use an electronic device or some other piece of latest technology they can’t do without.

I don’t hear many people denying … oh I don’t know… modern electron valence bond theory. Or semiconductor doping. We never hear about those subjects in parliamentary debates. Or anything at all to do with thermodynamics/physics/electronics/materials for that matter. Do we?

Why not? Because it’s this kind of knowledge that makes transistors and other electronic devices possible and allows things like computers and mobile phones to be built.

I don’t think people realise how serious this climate change thing is. Because scientists don’t like losing control of things. We don’t like it.

There ain’t no way of stoppin’ Jupiter’s great red spot. There ain’t no fixin’ the atmosphere of Venus either. And Mars is a fuckin’ frozen wasteland which right now is even more inhospitable than somewhere like the summit of mount Everest. Yet I don’t see people building houses way up there. Or on K2.

This planet Earth right here is all we’ve got. And there ain’t no guarantees.

Don’t make it hard for scientists in future.

I see politicians and leaders pleading with scientists in the future. Pleading for a way to get the Earth’s climate back on track.

And do you know what will happen? Some scientists will tell them –you– to just fuck off already. Or something like that.

“Why didn’t you listen to us when were telling you to change decades ago?” — Scientists of the future.

“Typical liberal moron”

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

image-jpg

 

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…]

Dance to the tension of a world on edge

Have you ever noticed that we humans are becoming ever more stressed?

[/dropcap]W[/dropcap]e live in a world where the tiniest provocative remark can result in the most horrific retaliatory acts of violence imaginable. Look the wrong way, say or do the wrong thing and you could be the next target. Why is that so?

But many of us still don’t know why. “He must be crazy”, they’ll say. Why are people so stressed? Many people still can’t answer this.

Sometimes it is said that society itself is decaying, but no one knows why. I know that even when I studied science, I could never figure it out. I could never seem to connect the dots.

And then one day while I was travelling in Tonga, I came across this book with an intruiging title called “future shock”. I read it in about two or three days. It completely altered my world view.

[Read more…]

Open letter to William Henry ‘Bill’ Gates.

Dearest Bill Gates:

I have been with you since windows 3.1. Since dos 2.0 even. It’s been a long time, hasn’t it?

And I see you have done really well. Your operating systems are installed on the majority of computers around the world. You’ve been “the world’s richest man” since as long as I can remember. Forbes tells me that you’ve topped the list seventeen times out of the last thirty years. Wow, that really is some accomplishment! I suppose I owe you a belated congratulations:

“Congratulations”.

William, may I call you William instead of Bill? Bill reminds me so much of, well, money. So William, we all know that you have made a lot of money out of all of these software and hardware upgrades. A lot. You have exploited the rise of technology at every step of the way. Well okay. Someone had to do it.

But now I think you’ve gone too far. Yes you’ve gone that little bit too far.

Let’s get down to business. Here’s the thing. If I lose the ability to choose what my system does and when –a system I paid for– then by installing windows 10, ultimately I’m ceding control of my computer (not to mention my wallet) to you. Aren’t I? And I don’t like the sound of that.

So. Bill, can you tell me now how much windows 11 is going to cost when windows 10 forces its users to upgrade? Ditto for windows 12, 13, 14 …  Do you not have enough money already? Does Windows 10 even take any advantage of new hardware? Probably not.

See, I happen to think you’re ‘rich’ enough already. Here’s a word I don’t like to throw around much. But what the heck? I think you’re getting greedy.

What do I want? I’ll tell you what I want. I want you to try to live off a disposable income of $10,000 per year. Like the rest of us.

Or I could be generous. Let’s make it $100,000. Because, you know, I’m sure you don’t have to pay any rent or mortages. Right? So it’s basically just food, electricity and rates that you have to pay for…

If you lived off $100,000 per year, you could essentially give away the other 99.999988% of your net worth.

You and Melinda have been named “most philanthropic Americans“. But let’s take a look at the percentage you actually give:

Over their lifetime, the two have given out $30.2 billion, about 37 percent of their net worth. [source]

Ouch! That’s quite a difference isn’t it? 37% compared to 99.99988% ?

See, I don’t think you are all that charitable. No not as much as they say.

How do I know that? Well at the moment, I live off a measly $12,000 per year. And yet even so, I feel charitable/guilty enough living in a first world country to have give at least $200 to charity this year alone. That means if I had your amount of money and continued with my current lifestyle, I’d be donating at a rate of 99.999988% (note the extra 9 in there). And the year is not done yet.

So Bill, if it isn’t crystal/amorphous clear already, I feel that I have personally lost a lot of respect for you. If this is what being rich is about, you can stick your money. And you can stick windows 10 too!

So do you know what I’m going to do? Instead of purchasing windows 10 some time next year, I’m going to donate that money to an environmental charity instead. Like WWF. Or Greenpeace. Or The Wilderness Society. Or one of those special save the rhinos funds like the black mambas. Or even the Bob Brown foundation. Or even all of the above.

And I’d prefer to see a billion people donate their $100-200 to charities other than the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. Aka Microsoft. You don’t have to be a mathematical genius to figure out that would mean $100-200 billion in charitable givings. Annually. Which again, is way more than you have given in your whole lifetime. So how about you let us decide what to do with our money, and stop forcing us to upgrade to windows 10?

Today’s LinkedIn fun:

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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/

Synthetic orange.

Suppose we could obtain two different types of oranges:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What can we all learn by this?

I love it, indigenous people using technology against us.

Businesses, don’t start new pipeline projects and expect it to go to schedule anymore!

Investors, don’t invest in oil pipelines, because there will be delays! And you won’t earn as much as you think you will. Most people don’t want fossil fuels today, they want renewable energy alternatives. That’s what you should be investing in. That’s what I’d be investing in.

Governments, stop supporting the fossil oil industry! How many tax dollars are you spending on those military police to be there for all this time? Why isn’t that cost factored into your energy/cost calculations?

Citizens, don’t drive your car as much, buy less plastic!

Meanwhile… mainstream media falls strangely SILENT.
What are they going to do on December 5th? Bring in tanks and armoured personnel carriers?
Two words come to mind: Tiananmen Square. 1989. People don’t forget that shit. The more brutal the tactics get, the more the media will follow.
The media today cannot be controlled like network TV, because news is now a social media phenomenon.
If I was there I would be standing my ground.

What is the goal of humanity?

What exactly are working towards?

Is the ultimate goal happiness? Or just to survive? Or something else?

This seems to be a popular question on the quora and TED forums. I’m sure most people don’t even stop to think about it.

It seems strange that your average doughnut factory has more of a business plan than the whole of humanity.

I think it’s because there seems to be some unspoken notion that at the rate we are going we won’t really even last more than about 300-500 years, let alone 50,000 or more years. So why bother thinking about it?

Talking about our long-term future is almost a taboo subject with some people. Why is that? Is it because we have no fucking idea at all what we are doing? Is that it? Are we embarrassed? Is it because we already know that we are ‘doomed’? No? Then, what?

If we are going to survive, I think it is worth thinking about. Otherwise you have to ask yourself “why are we working so hard now?” What’s the point of it? If we’re all so doomed already, why do we bother still going to work forty or more hours a week? Eh?

So we must be working towards something. We just don’t collectively know what it is (yet). And note that I’m not talking about an ‘afterlife’. I’m talking about what will become of humanity, the world, in one million years’ time.

Assuming something terrible doesn’t happen, wouldn’t it make sense to have a “humanity plan” that we can all refer to? A humanity plan might even give us a reason to avoid WW3, WW4 and WW5. A reason to exist.

We don’t really know what we are doing let alone why we are doing it. People are feeling lost, hopeless and depressed. I think that’s why there were so many volunteers on that Mars one space mission.

The hugely controversial Dutch-based Mars One mission has admitted that only 4,227 people actually completed its application form properly, rather than 200,000 … 202,586 applicants registered their interest online in 2013.

I think the first thing we need to do is not let go of our hope. Because that’s what most people [adults] tend to do in fairly hopeless situations, isn’t it? They lose hope and then they give up. I think we need to try to remain optimistic about the future. Hope is what normally keeps us going. Hope is what motivates people. So let’s start by hoping for a better future, not a worse one. I personally think that there is hope. Not a lot of hope, but maybe –perhaps– just enough.

Hope starts with an idea. A dream, if you will. Visionaries inspire us all. Because now is the time to choose. Are we even working towards the same goal?

I ask google and the people who are asking these questions are individuals. Not governments, but individuals. Shouldn’t there be some kind of a long-term “mission statement” for each country?

Even the ancient Egyptians had more of a plan… build pyramids…

I think we need a one year plan. A ten year plan. A hundred year plan. A thousand year plan. A ten thousand year plan. A hundred thousand year plan. A million year plan. It surprises me that our entire civilisation is wandering almost completely aimlessly through time.

For example, do we want to be so addicted to technology? Won’t we become a bit borg-like if we continue unabated down that path? Is it even sustainable? Can we even know? Do we need to know? Can we still have a plan that encompasses future discoveries and inventions?

To answer this question, I think we need to ask ourselves a very important question: What de we want to become? What makes us happy? If we didn’t have to work, what do we want to do in our spare time? As soon as we know that we will know how we are going to get there.

What do you, the reader, think the goal(s) of humanity should be?

Someone posted this on LinkedIn…

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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.

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…]

Development is not progress

I believe we cannot save the world by simply buying things all the time.
Illustration by Leslie Dean Brown. © 2015. All rights reserved.
Illustration by Leslie Dean Brown. © 2015. All rights reserved.

Even if we all bought 100% eco things 100% of the time instead of the plastic crap that everyone buys today, they are still ultimately things and it will mean that the demand for timber and other eco fibres will go up further, leading to further deforestation elsewhere (more plantations of whatever crop, be it corn for renewable plastic, bamboo or hemp for fibres, etc).

Personally I think the only real ‘solution’ for the entire human civilisation is … to do nothing. And by that I don’t mean “don’t change”. I literally mean: do nothing. For people to simply work less. Work a four day week. Work a four hour week.

We should be more like the Aborigines! We should look up to the Aborigines! The original (and best) custodians of this land.

More sleep and more meditation. That’s the only hope for humanity, for people to be more mindful. And that is the best that I can think of (after several years of thinking I might add).

And I can tell you first hand that it’s very hard to live with less, because we have all been brainwashed with “more more more”.

Of course it’s a huge problem because half the global economy is based on blatant overconsumption. I think one of the best things I ever did was to live in Spain — it taught me to be happier with much less.

I’m not saying we shouldn’t all try to be more eco, but what I am promoting these days is simply minimalism. So I would rather buy a wooden broom than have a vacuum cleaner (for example). Because I see the broom as being much less wasteful over the long term.

Unfortunately, when you begin to look at where all of our starting chemicals come from, the industrial processes used to get them, and where everything else is mined from, you realise how big the problem is.

People don’t want mines in their own backyard. And so the ONLY other place to get them is the natural spaces that are left. That is a very big problem. If only because “accidents happen”.

From my point of view as a former materials scientist, I find that life is so special, we should be fighting for every shred of biodiversity on this planet. We couldn’t even hope to artificially make anything like near as complicated as a fly or a worm from first principles using artificial methods (without cheating using genetic engineering etc).

[Read more…]

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…]

Is a ‘circular’ electronics industry possible?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

[Read more…]

On cyborg technology | Brain Computer Interface (BCI)

Sometimes I wonder: what is the future going to look like in 100 years? 1000? 10,000?

If you look around, people everywhere are completely addicted to technology. When was the last time you saw somebody on the train without something stuck in their ears?

These days, people want quicker answers, more content, more choice. They think faster than they can physically type (or even speak).

If you extrapolate this, I predict that technology that removes the interface between the brain and the computer will be the next big thing (unfortunately). And I humbly predict that the next trillionaire might just be the person who invents that device and brings it to the masses. I would now like to say a big “fuck you” to that person, before they even get started on the project. Why?

I think the Brain Computer Interface (BCI) is going to make the world look like a very different place than it is now. In the past, I used to think that it would never happen, because the human brain is too complex. But after only a few decades I have changed my mind. I think that the idea is not too far from reality.

It won’t be like it is now, with thinner and thinner screens and faster and faster processors. The whole point of a BCI is that there won’t be a physical user interface. [Read more…]

My letter to Maurice Blackburn [PART 2]

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.

Sincerely,
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?

For Unto us a Child – Handels Messiah

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

What is the environmental cost of consumerism?

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

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

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

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

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

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

[Read more…]

Philosophy of green economics: promoting a new oxygen tax.

I think many people operate on the assumption that our technology makes us somehow ‘superior’ to all other species; thus we feel like we are more independent and separate from nature, we have become more detached. And therein lies the problem…

If you do think along those lines, perhaps you should ask yourself: Where does your oxygen supply come from? Where does all of our fresh water come from? And who, or what, actually cleans and maintains the health of rivers, lakes and oceans which have provided us with food for hundreds and thousands of years?

Who actually gets rid of nature’s organic waste? No, it’s not your local sewerage treatment plant. It’s bacteria. It’s algae. It’s molluscs. It’s crustaceans. That’s who.

Illustration by Leslie Dean Brown
Illustration by Leslie Dean Brown

And who renews the nutrients in the soil? And I don’t mean who fertilises the soil, I mean, who breaks down the fertiliser? It’s not the farmer. All farmers do is plant crops, remove ‘weeds’ and ‘pests’ and then harvest those same crops. In that sense, farmers don’t ‘grow’ crops — crops grow themselves! Farmers maintain crops. They guide crops so that they are more productive. The farmer doesn’t pay his legion of plant employees, does he? He doesn’t pay the organims that do all of the really hard back-breaking work right down in soil, does he? [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…]

Is societal collapse due to our own basic human stupidity?

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

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

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

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

[Read more…]

What is the most valuable thing that exists today?

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

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

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

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

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