Australian Lefty on Politics, Governance, Science and Info Management

Archive for the ‘Science and Tech’ Category

Hindsight isn’t always 20/20 in 2020

Posted by Dave Bath on 2020-01-07

Garnaut and Bushfires - some refuse 2020 hindsight in 2020

Some people can look at the 2008 Garnaut Climate Change Review, in 2020, in hindsight, and still not have 20/20 hindsight.

From the report – “Recent projections of fire weather (Lucase et al. 2007) suggest that fire seasons will start earlier, and slightly later, and generally be more intense. This effect increases over time, but should be direct observable by 2020.

More information:


Posted in Australia, Politics, Science and Tech, Society | Tagged: , , | Leave a Comment »

Religiosity as indicator of education system performance

Posted by Dave Bath on 2012-04-29

Increase analytical thinking in individuals and religious belief drops – so at a group level, increasing popularity of the more credulous sects suggests our education system is failing.  But don’t expect that indicator of education system performance to be used by politicians.

Scientific American has an interesting article "Losing Your Religion: Analytic Thinking Can Undermine Belief" (2012-04-26) – which seems pretty obvious, but the experiments looked at how analytical training attacks the cancer of religious thinking at the level of the individual.

This is trickier than tracking it at the level of a society, but I think the results would hold at the group level, with lower sky-fairy fandom the result of a better education system.

Read the rest of this entry »

Posted in Education, Science and Tech, Society, Theology and Religion | 1 Comment »

Shock – horror – Pell speaks some truth

Posted by Dave Bath on 2012-04-14

Cardinal Pell’s statements on Jewish cultural inferiority and Genesis-as-myth create a storm – because on these things, Pell is correct.

Cardinal George Pell, not my favorite person all all (linkefest below), raised quite a few hackles with comments on the recent Q&A show (transcript here)- and unusually I can see some merit in those statement, on the allegorical nature of Genesis, and the cultural/intellectual inferiority of Jewish nations compared to others in similar times and geographies.

Of course, I do question his agenda, and have quibbles – this is Pell after all!

Jewish Inferiority

Pell labelled Jews "intellectually inferior" – an ambiguous statement, and his apology clarifies (or alters) his statement on TV.  His comment about morally inferior is pretty unambigious.

If Pell did mean culturally inferior, the culture intellectually inferior, then he is absolutely correct.

After all, if doing the "What have the Romans ever done for us" sketch from Monty Python, substituting Jews for Romans, what would he have?  One item – it is the culture which inflicted Abrahamism on the world … the millenia of wars, crusades, fundamentalists and hate … including George Pell himself.

The over-praised King David et al were nothing but the East Med version of the Taliban, violent religious oafs in the hills fighting the culturally literate Phoenicians (such as the Philistines) down on the coast, Philistines who were busy inventing our alphabet (the Greeks grabbed Phoenician letters, and rotated them 90 degrees, and the rest is history, written down).

Abrahamism was an "the particular sky fairy who prefers our tribe and helps us commit genocide and war crimes". The oft-criticized "sword verses" of the Koran are as warm and gentle as fuzzy bunnies compared to the celebrated (yes!) stories in Exodus and Joshua.  Wipe out all the Canaanites when Joshua invaded?" And their, kids, their wives, their cattle, their goats … that’s all good, a wonderful victory, to the Abrahamists.

If being happy about a genocide (whether or not it happens) of the Canaanites, but not happy about the actions of Hitler, isn’t morally inferior, total bigotry, what is?

The same attitude keeps resurfacing with Abrahamism, despite the "softening" to a universal rather than tribal god during the Babylonian exile, exposed to Zoroastrianism.  Oooh, those evil Babylonians, making the exiles a little more tolerant to others!

We get the crusades, we get the bigotry of Pell, we get the violence of Islamist terrorists, we get millenia, at least since the time of Constantine, of Abrahamic "you are subhuman" to people of different color, creed, gender or sexual orientation – oh – and of course, all the Abrahamist nutters who are anti-science.

Oh well, the attitude of Jews to "He who must not be named" does have resonance with a far-less vicious supernatural being familar to all Harry Potter fans.

Compared to the Romans, Greeks, Persians, Egyptians, Babylonians, Sumerians, Phoenicians, … and so many other cultures in the region, what has Jewish culture ever down for us?

Genesis Is Myth

Pell comments on the Adam and Eve myth as a religious story rather than literal truth caused another storm, with a different group of extremists.

Anybody with at least half a brain knows that it’s myth, but does Pell have any choice given his other statements over the years justifying dogmatic bigotry?

There are two conflicting creation stories in Genesis, both can’t be correct, both cannot be literally true, and if Pell picks one over the other, he must give his reasons for that – a level of Biblical scholarship that would undermine the entire tome – the bigotry of Leviticus and the rantings of Paul.

But Pell knows his flock, the lambs-to-the-slaughter, and the other mob who cite biblical verses as authorization to be bigots, won’t have that scholarship.  No harm done to his agenda as far as he is concerned.

See Also:

  • Q and A transcript of Pell’s comments (ABC, 2012-04-09)
    • Cultural Inferiority

      GEORGE PELL: Normally you go to a busy person because you know they’ll do it and so for some extraordinary reason God chose the Jews. They weren’t intellectually the equal of either the Egyptians or the…

      TONY JONES: Intellectually?

      GEORGE PELL: Intellectually, morally…

      TONY JONES: How can you know intellectually?GEORGE PELL: Because you see the fruits of their civilisation. Egypt was the great power for thousands of years before Christianity. Persia was a great power, Caldia. The poor – the little Jewish people, they were originally shepherds. They were stuck. They’re still stuck between these great powers.

      TONY JONES: But that’s not a reflection of your intellectual capacity, is it, whether or not you’re a shepherd?

      GEORGE PELL: Well, no it’s not but it is a recognition it is a reflection of your intellectual development, be it like many, many people are very, very clever and not highly intellectual but my point is…

    • On Genesis as Myth

      TONY JONES: So are you talking about a kind of Garden of Eden scenario with an actual Adam and Eve?

      GEORGE PELL: Well, Adam and Eve are terms – what do they mean: life and earth. It’s like every man. That’s a beautiful, sophisticated, mythological account. It’s not science but it’s there to tell us two or three things. First of all that God created the world and the universe. Secondly, that the key to the whole of universe, the really significant thing, are humans and, thirdly, it is a very sophisticated mythology to try to explain the evil and suffering in the world.

      TONY JONES: But it isn’t a literal truth. You shouldn’t see it in any way as being an historical or literal truth?

      GEORGE PELL: It’s certainly not a scientific truth and it’s a religious story told for religious purposes.

  • "Cardinal Apologises for describing Jews as intellectually inferior" (The Age, 2012-04-13)
  • "Adam and Eve? That’s just mythology says Pell" (The Australian, 2012-04-10).
  • Other Posts on Pell
  • "God the Interview – A Club Troppo Exclusive" (Club Troppo, 2012-04-12)

Posted in Politics, Science and Tech, Theology and Religion | Tagged: , , | Leave a Comment »

The higher you are, the more you overestimate yourself

Posted by Dave Bath on 2011-07-29

Is this why the bastards high up in penthouse and executive suites think they are better than everyone else – because of where they spend their time?  Perhaps even why "upstairs" thinks "downstairs" are worth less?

"Higher Height, Higher Ability: Judgment Confidence as a Function of Spatial Height Perception" (doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0022125) looks at self-perception of ability, and shows being higher (or even thinking you are up higher) makes you pump up estimates of your own judgement and abilities.

Based on grounded cognition theories, the current study showed that judgments about ability were regulated by the subjects’ perceptions of their spatial height. In Experiment 1, we found that after seeing the ground from a higher rather than lower floor, people had higher expectations about their performance on a knowledge test and assigned themselves higher rank positions in a peer comparison evaluation. In Experiment 2, we examined the boundary conditions of the spatial height effects and showed that it could still occur even if we employed photos rather than actual building floors to manipulate the perceptions of spatial heights.

So… it would be interesting to do followup studies on wage differentials, workplace attitudes (including friction, resentfulness, arrogance) from staff to senior management, and from senior management to staff, based on building layout.

What effect does this have on resistance of those on high to requests or suggestions from those on the ground floor, and what might this do to organizational efficiency?

Hell, in city blocks, adjusting for rent differences and wages, do voting intentions change?  Might this paper affect town planning for high-rise buildings, one party pushing it more than another, even pushing it more or less depending on how marginal a seat is?

No wonder Kirk never took any real notice of Scotty down in the engine saying "She canna handle any more o’ this Cap’n"!

Posted in Biology and Health, Economics and Business, Politics, Science and Tech, Society | 1 Comment »

Nuclear resilience and reactor design

Posted by Dave Bath on 2011-03-16

In the wake of troubles with Japanese nuclear reactors, opinions about nuclear power are inappropriately polarized.  (Links to my most trusted source of technical news on the crisis, Nature Group, over the fold.)

The debate should be less about use of nuclear power as such – more about what reactor designs are appropriate for what situations.

The reliance of Japanese reactors on electricity for cooling, given the geology of the place, is lamentable – and other designs, such as micro-reactors, thorium and pebble-bed reactors are better alternatives, especially for replacing the now useless ones.

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Posted in International, Politics, Science and Tech | 2 Comments »


Posted by Dave Bath on 2011-02-07

Nicely thought out, very nicely. Hat Tip The Meta Picture (¿does anyone know where it comes from originally?).

Circle of leaves of different ages making up a spectrum

Life Is A Cycle

The degradation of different porphyrin rings (found in chlorophyll, rubrophyll, xanthophyll, as well as haemoglobin), shown by the different colors over time, is something I’m only vaguely aware of (mammals and microbes only at uni), but a botanical biochemist might be able to base an entire lecture on this piece of art.

Beautiful, even though I perceive it differently from most of you.

Dang – posting by el-cheapo mobile phone with a small screen does cause the odd typo or 10!

Posted in Arts, Science and Tech | Tagged: | 1 Comment »

Internet runs out of addresses – a model for climate policy inaction

Posted by Dave Bath on 2011-02-04

I cannot imagine a better model of the political response to climate change than the way IPv4 internet addresses have just run out.

Domain experts warning for years about a crisis: but politicians doing nothing, powerful businesses charging big bucks for resources running dry… Sound familiar?

The only difference between the political inaction making the shift to IPv6 is that the perfect solution was already in place years ago, pretty soon after the geeks started worrying.

Read the rest of this entry »

Posted in Economics and Business, Environment, Information Management, International, Politics, Science and Tech | 7 Comments »

Jan 26 – color matters

Posted by Dave Bath on 2011-01-26

I just discovered that January 26 has a significant event, and that color is the issue, and will be remembered all around the world.

OK, not really that significant: Facebook End Colorblind Confusion (For a Day…) – "please" attend by wearing an uncolored shirt – white, grey or black.

Yep…. we aren’t colorblind, we are color confused, we’ll mix them up, give them the wrong name, have trouble if they are similar saturations… (resources to test and simulate what we see over the fold)

So as an example of the 1-in-20 males with characteristics essential to survival of the human race a hundred thousand years ago, the guy in the hunting party who wasn’t fooled by mainstream camouflage, the one who said "throw your spears and rocks over there" at something we wanted to eat, or wanted to eat us, I offer a few giggles, hopefully for all of us, although for different reasons.

Now, I’m told I might need to be careful with one of the following images – but I cannot tell which for sure.

Give Love To The Colorblind 1

Give Love To The Colorblind 2

More images, and some references to tests and simulations so you normal folk can see what we see over the fold.

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Posted in Biology and Health, Civil rights, Humor, Science and Tech, Society | 6 Comments »

Rarer than oil

Posted by Dave Bath on 2010-10-19

Finally the mainstream press is recognizing the battle for economic supremacy, indeed survival, being waged over not oil, but the more critical rare earths.  To get a feel for how tight the supply of rare earths are, and how they are both necessary for waging wars of both economic and military varities, and the incentive for such wars, review the summary of rare earth reserves and usage in "Climate change might not be our worst problem" (2007-05-27).

China has a better grip on rare earths, essential for any electronics, than OPEC has had on hydrocarbons.  Unlike oil which can be made from hydrogen and carbon by a host of means, you cannot make rare earths except by smashing atoms in an accelerator.

China has already been sabre-rattling, with typical "official plausible deniability", with supplies to Japan threatened using the pretext of a maritime border dispute.

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Posted in China, Economics and Business, International, Science and Tech, USA | Leave a Comment »

Obesity incidence underestimated and threshold overestimated

Posted by Dave Bath on 2010-09-01

A study of US population weights, adjusted for birth cohorts, suggests weights ballooned decades earlier than generally accepted, so diagnostic indicators need to be tightened, many now labelled "normal" are actually overweight, and stronger action against the obesity epidemic is needed.

The flawed indicators are used here in Oz as well as the US.

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Posted in Biology and Health, Science and Tech, Society | 1 Comment »

ICANN makes it trivial to block pr0n

Posted by Dave Bath on 2010-06-27

Finally!  The net can get a proper red-light district, where R-rated stuff can be regulated, and from which innocent eyes can be easily protected.

Many geeks of my vintage have long advocated a top-level domain (TLD) especially for pr0n, with ".xxx" for such stuff, just like we have ".com", ".org" and ".edu".  ICANN (a peak naming authority) has just approved ".xxx" TLD applications, after the process for rejecting xxx applications was shown to be flawed.

With only a bit of co-operation between international governments, it is not difficult to make all legitimate content of a sexual nature live in the ".xxx" domain (or maybe "", "", "", etc), and come down hard on any content coming from more normal "com" TLDs and such like.

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Posted in Civil rights, Information Management, International, Politics, Science and Tech, Society | Leave a Comment »

Not the nine o-clock-ish news

Posted by Dave Bath on 2010-06-24

A post in the Madame-la-Gillardine-and-faceless-men-free zone… a pot-pourri of links for those of you who want read something else.

Bonus funny over the fold: a photo I took (outside my place) of a kludge that could well end in a FAIL

  1. A Funny:
    xkcd on trumpets (and those vuvuwhatever thingies) Toot, and for those of you using a dain-bramaged web browser (yes, Redmond’s) that doesn’t show alt text when hovering over an image…. the bonus alt text is "This is also one of only five identified situations in which a vuvuzela is actually appropriate".  And the other four are….?
    The xkcd toot


  2. Some Economics:
    Soros on the crash, the Euro, and Germany with the following snippets:
    The crash:

    The authorities had to do in the short-term the exact opposite of what was needed in the long-term: they had to pump in a lot of credit, to replace the credit that had disappeared, and thereby reinforce the excess credit and leverage that had caused the crisis in the first place.  Only in the longer term, when the crisis had subsided, could they drain the credit and reestablish macro-economic balance.

    The Euro and Germany:

    First, the current crisis is more a banking crisis than a fiscal one.

    Second, a tightening of fiscal policy must be offset by a loosening of monetary policy.

    Third, this is the time to put idle resources to work by investing in education and infrastructure.


  3. Musings about academia and science:
    "In which we stand on the shoulders of midgets" Jennifer Rohn, research scientist and novellist, makes a persuasive argument in favor of second-(or third)-tier papers (therefore journals and institutions) as being oft critical to the development of ideas behind blockbuster papers published in Nature and the like.  I reckon it’s a must read for those planning funding of education, industry development, and future human capital.  There might also be parallels in changes to law and judgements.
  4. On society/economics/politics:
    "The Hard Work of Measuring Social Impact" from Harvard Business School Working Knowledge. 
    While the focus is on how non-profits can measure mission success objectively, there are obvious parallels with assessing the success of governments and indeed political systems.  (See my ideas on measuring overall government performance easily in "Missing in Action: The Key KPI for Government").

    Donors are placing nonprofits on the hot seat to measure social performance.  Problem is, there is little agreement on what those metrics should be.  Professor Alnoor Ebrahim on how nonprofit managers should respond

Read the rest of this entry »

Posted in Australia, Economics and Business, Europe, Governance, Humor, Politics, Science and Tech, Society | Leave a Comment »

Perspective – Bitchy climatologists v Pederast priests

Posted by Dave Bath on 2010-02-21

Climate-action denialists try to pull down the edifice of climatology because of a few bitchy emails between competitive scientists, and a single error (but hardly a fundamental one that invalidates all other data) in a huge report.

It is a pity that the even more damning, more evil, universally recognized, and self-admitted phenomenon of pederast priests, which belies the claims that Xtianity leads to improved behaviour of individuals, doesn’t cause those climate-action denialists to demand that those organizations who have protected pederasts, or at least, despite supposedly intensive training been unable to make them decent people, be pulled down, be given no special protected status within civilized societies.

Why is that?

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Posted in Environment, Science and Tech, Society, Theology and Religion | Leave a Comment »

Is sugar the gateway drug to cocaine?

Posted by Dave Bath on 2010-02-19

Those wanting action on adolescent obesity have got a good tabloid headline in their kit-bag, thanks to a new paper (doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0009296 in PLoS that links adolescent (but not) sugar overconsumption with a liking for cocaine in later life, not through correlative statistics, but by messing with the dopamine-related reward pathways in the brain.

It’s more than likely gambling and other addictive behaviours could have sugar as a gateway drug as well.

Read the rest of this entry »

Posted in Biology and Health, Politics, Science and Tech, Society | 2 Comments »

Why most of us look at evidence and action arse-about

Posted by Dave Bath on 2010-02-10

A very thought provoking paper on why people do not want to, and therefore reject, overwhelming scientific concensus, has just been released on the Social Science Research Network (SSRN): "Cultural Cognition of Scientific Consensus" (2010-02-07) with the lead author from Yale Law School.

It posits and tests the idea that your worldview will make you, near-instinctively, reject evidence based on whether the actions guided that evidence would conflict with your worldview.

Putting it a bit simplistically, libertarians hate the science of climate change because it demands action involving regulation, and supranational concerted action, while lefties, viewing big business as intrinsically untrustworthy, will not credit any evidence that nuclear waste can be managed.

We are all screwed, unless there are enough people who have the intellectual discipline and inclination to make evidence-based decisions.  The number of "people-of-faith" (e.g. base their lives on the idea that evidence is less important than other drivers) in the world means that evidence will hardly get a look-in, so evidence-based politics and consequence evidence-based policy will remain a pipe dream (unless we convince those with imaginary sky friends to be internally consistent and pray rather than seek medical help).

An agonizing crash of human civilization and population is inevitable unless we get rid of both theists and libertarians (hopefully by educating them properly rather than a pogrom).

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Posted in Australia, Education, Environment, International, Philosophy, Politics, Science and Tech, Society, Theology and Religion | 2 Comments »

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