Science Fiction Writer

dmk

News yesterday showed that China is the leading investor in environmental technology. The US Pew Environment Group published a table showing that the Chinese invested $54.4bn (£34.1bn) in 2010, up from $39.1bn in 2009 an increase of almost 40%.

Other news discussed the UK’s Royal Society study showing that, at the current rate, China’s scientific output (measured in published scientific articles) will surpass the US within a scant two years! Previous estimates placed this milestone as possibly occurring after 2020.

At the same time as we see this news we also see western cultures increasingly cutting back on basic science research, access to higher education and in many cases completely ignoring any concept of environmental responsibility.

China seems to understand two very fundamental issues that others miss.

Firstly, that education (and especially in areas of science) is paramount in determining a culture’s future role in the world. Without investment in education, a country is destined only to slowly go backwards until it collectively devolves back into the mud and slime from whence it came. This wouldn’t happen overnight of course, and would be undoubtedly accompanied by lots of blustering about how it isn’t really so.

But it’s inevitable. A country or society that declines scientifically is destined to become increasingly dependent on others for any kind of progress. When that dependency becomes total, the end is there.

The second issue that China seems to understand is that ‘environmental issues’ are really just about efficiency. It really is that simple. All the vested interests and their collected bang-drumming buffoons trying to confuse everyone into thinking that environmental is the equivalent of poison. “We have the right to continue to waste precious limited resources in just the same irresponsible manner we have always done” is their cry.

Vested interests are always very good at spreading FUD. That’s the card they always play when threatened. “If we do that the economy will be ruined. Thousands will lose their jobs. Industry will be crippled.” etc. Completely ignoring (and deliberately hiding) the fact that, as with all changes, what really happens is simply a displacement of jobs from older technologies to newer ones.

Acting in an environmentally responsible way and researching technologies to support that position is about looking for efficiencies – being frugal with resources rather than lavishly squandering them like a drunken gambler in Las Vegas. China seems to understand that, where the likes of the US want only to maintain the precious status quo.

As for all the fear for the economy, jobs and industry? Well, take a good look around! Propping up that status quo hasn’t done us much good has it?

That isn’t to say that China is in some way flawless – they have their share of problems and issues certainly. I would like to think that our western civilisations will continue to lead us in to the future. If we collectively have the will and are willing to make the sacrifices necessary, we certainly could. If we can’t do that and cultures like China can – then they deserve to take the lead and humanity will survive.

Looking around I fear that our western cultures have become too soft, too unwilling to take risks and too greedy to take and implement the kind of hard decisions necessary to ensure our cultural survival. Apathy is a way of life heralded by cries of “it’s all good” – when it quite obviously isn’t to anyone who has the eyes to see and the independence of thought to sidestep the brainwashing.

 

 

In the last 48 hours I have had email replies to two of the protest campaigns I have signed up for over the last few months.

The first was from Tony Clement, Minister of Industry, on my participation in the campaign against ‘usage based billing’, otherwise known as the ridiculously rich and powerful telecoms companies trying to screw even more obscene profits out of us.

In part Mr. Clement says “It is essential that I hear the views of Canadians on the issues that matter”. A rather startling idea considering how he (and the entire government) completely failed to take into account the views of people on the take over  of both Inco and Falconbridge by foreign companies; essentially selling Canada’s mineral wealth overseas.

The second was from Claude Gravelle, MP for Nickel Belt, or rather his secretary, who asks me to provide my telephone number so that she can get Mr. Gravelle to phone me to “discuss my concerns” on the pointless slaughter of Seals.

Gosh! I never realised just what an important person I am! I mean, I must be if all of these politicians are figuratively knocking at my door, mustn’t I?

Sadly the truth is much more simple… it’s election year and politicians are desperate to sell you any bunch of lies they think they can get away with to get you to vote for them again.

Looking at it less cynically though, it does show that if enough people stand up and make our feelings known, eventually those in power have to start taking note. The key reason why we have seen so many governments fail their people so dramatically in the last few years is because of one simple thing – indifference on the part of the people.

When the population as a whole stops standing up for what it wants, then we become prey to any voice that shouts loudly – and a lot of groups are well skilled in making a lot of noise out of proportion to the actual support they have.

I’ll pass my number on to Mr. Gravelle though! 🙂

It’s supposed to be good for the soul – but I haven’t got one of those so where does that leave me? 😉

I suffer from depression and have done for a long time, since in my early twenties in fact. It’s something that comes and goes, like most people I have good days and bad days, only my good days are sometimes amazingly good and I feel free in ways a lot of people probably don’t and my bad days? Well, they’re probably a  lot worse than other peoples. I find it very hard to find the ‘middle ground’ and even harder to stay there.

That doesn’t make me necessarily a depressing person to be around (I don’t think!) and my friends don’t seem to think so. Most of this is internal and very hard to explain to other people who don’t suffer from these kinds of feelings. Most people don’t really want to know and dismiss you as a loonie/attention-seeker/faker or else they think you have some kind of contagious disease and they should stay away (Hey everyone, bad news, it’s been scientifically proven to be highly contagious so you’re all screwed!).

Okay, I was joking about the contagious bit – so you can all relax again 😉

The reaction by most people when confronted with someone like me is that they tell you to ‘pull yourself together” or “get a grip” and other similarly trite sayings. The problem is that when you get down the way I do, you just can’t do that. I have problems just dragging my arse out of bed and basics like eating and drinking – I can’t just pull myself together. If only it were just that simple.

With me it really started just after my Dad died, though I think some of the seeds were there earlier so maybe that was just the final catalyst. I went through a period of several years where doing anything was almost impossible to do. I hit the very lowest of the low.

Coming out of it was strange too. I just woke up one day and realised I was quite literally going nowhere with my life. That really scared me and I started to change things. It was slow progress and very hard to do – like trying to climb out of a bottomless pit filled with endless tentacles trying to pull you back down.

I’ve never gotten quite so bad again, but it’s still with me. Tucked away in dark corners of my mind just waiting to spring out again and, sadly, sometimes it does.

I sometimes think that depression is like Malaria, once ‘infected’ it never really goes away and can flare up again at any time – sometimes without you even knowing what sparked it.

I find it a constant battle that I have to fight. And I do mean fight – so I do, sometimes everyday. The alternative doesn’t bear thinking about.

There you go. My ‘confession’ is complete. Still haven’t found a soul though 😉

I’ve been a long time reader of New Scientist and generally enjoy it’s coverage (despite the occasional somewhat dubiously sensationalist headlines) but recently I’ve seen a strange and altogether mystifying trend.

Several of the issues recently have had either articles or editorials that seem to take a rather anti-science (or anti-scientist) view. This seems especially prevelent with regards to the recent supposed ‘scandals’ in climate science and the alleged ‘cover up’ of anti-climate change data.

In a recent editorial NS alluded to the popular idea that “greens and environmental scientists are authoritarian tree-huggers who value nature above people”. The gist of the editorial, and one that has been repeated in several other NS pieces is that scientists as a whole, and in particular environmental scientists don’t ‘sell themselves’ well enough to the mass media and are often seem elitist and impenetrable to the average person.

For one thing, the vast majority of environmentalists seem to have the exact opposite view. The reason they are so worried about environmental change is precisely because they value people and their continued existence in to the future so much. If they didn’t care so much they wouldn’t really give a damn what happened to the world.

Secondly, it’s not really part of a scientist’s “job decription” to popularise science and they’re not usually very good at it. Some are and thank goodness for those blessed with those skils. But the people who’s real job is to explain science to the general public are science popularisation publications and shows. Just like New Scientist .

It seems rather hypocritical of a media outlet designed to popularise science to be criticising scientists for not doing their job for them.

Most of the news and press we see is aligned heavily with vested interests. As a result of this, what we see on our TVs and other forms of media is heavily slanted to align with one skewed view of the world or another.

The Real News Network is dedicated to bringing back independent and unbiased news coverage. Help yourself and help them by visiting them regulalry – as they say in their tagline “The future depends on knowing”.

According to IT Business, Ontario’s Electric car infrastructure will use a “cell phone” business plan.

People will buy electric ‘miles’ at top up stations or swap batteries in a system combining subscription and pay-to-play models. This apparently is the best for everyone concerned. As the article says:

“Much like how your cell phone contract helps to subsidize the expensive handset you purchase with your plan, your electric car could also be subsidized with your subscription to using the electric infrastructure.”

Interesting. Now I obviously always completely misunderstood the motivation for this type of pricing model, as I always thought that the only reason for its existence was in order to guarantee a constant stream of revenue for overpriced services to the very wealthy phone companies.

I guess I must have got that wrong…

Now, let’s see. A high level phone costs around $400. A typical phone contract would be about $40 a month, with a three year commitment.

So Obscenely Rich Phone Company (TM) gets a guaranteed ($)12x40x3- $1440 for a $400 phone (which doesn’t even cost them $400 anyway!).

Oh and then they screw you for ‘air time’ too.

Sure, let’s apply this to electric cars too. I’m sure the electric car companies are all in favour of this ‘model’.

How about doing something for the consumers for a change, Mr. McGuinty?

Oops there goes another aerial porcine…

So today I went to the “Sonystyle” website to order an electronic doodad. Filled in the order details, added the billing and shipping addresses, entered in my credit card details, double checked my cart contents, hit the ‘buy’ button…

and its now suspended, hanging in limbo at 38%… Contestent number three, do you:

  1. close it down and hope that they havent actually processed it and try again
  2. try to refresh and hope you don’t get double charged
  3. close it down and just not bother

So I thought I would throw the experience on here as a little five minute blog posting. Open up the site, set up the blog, set account for blogging with. Make a blog post with new account. Notice a couple of mistakes, try to edit…

No edit option… huh?

Log back in as administrator to check settings. Hang on, now I can edit? Log off, log back on to check bloc account cant edit and I’m not actually just insane. Log back out, Log back in as administrator. Oh screw it, I’ll just change the post as the administrator.

Log out completely to check post from user perspective. Hang on – it’s showing the post as being written by the administrator not the blog account. Log back in as administrator, check settings again. Nothing obviously wrong. Okay double screw it. I’ll just delete the account and do everything through the administrator account. Delete blog account and…

the blog post dissappears… even though it was “written by the administrator”

Give it up, come back to it this evening, recreate everything, the whole damn blog set up, re-write post click to change te bulleted list above to use letters instead of numbers…

pop-up blocker triggers, say yes, I really DO want to allow pop-ups on this site you moronic browser pile’o’shite and pooof…

browser refreshes losing the unposted post and I start again.. tears running from my tired red eyes… I wonder how much time is wasted on this kind of thing? How many hours do we collectively sacrifice to re-ordering, cancelling duplicate orders, re-doing the same task multiple times because the ‘system’ went wrong etc. Technology is truly glorious…

http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/south_asia/7292981.stm

Really? What can you say to something like this? It always amazes me when people claim that there’s no harm in having these different beliefs. I suppose not, as long as you don’t classify ‘blinding yourself through stupidity’ as ‘harm’.

Just one thing though:

“Their retinas were damaged due to direct exposure to the sun,” Dr Annamma James said.

I doubt that their retinas were directly exposed to the sun, I imagine that a few lenses, corneas, fluids, and around 150 million kilometers got in the way slightly. It would perhaps be more accurate to say “Their retinas were damaged due to stupidity.”.

“The main conservative opposition party, Fidesz, insists that the government must find the money.”

http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/europe/7287210.stm

How is it that so many people manage to miss the most basic, fundamentals of how governments work, including those actually within those circles? Let’s all take a deep breath, that’s it, now repeat after me.

“Governments don’t have any money.”

Try again.

“Governments don’t have any money.”

The only money that any government ‘has’ is what they’ve taken from the public in taxes, fees, more taxes, more fees, taxes on the taxes etc. In other words, yours and mine, or in this case the population of Hungary. They can’t just ‘find’ money. They can only take it from us, and if you vote to prevent that, guess what? They have no money.

Oh and if you think somehow they could dip into their own (undoubtedly well lined) pockets…

Governments don’t do that either. Perhaps they should.