Science

Capitalist Agriculture: Putting Soil on a Diet of Snake Oil and Doughnuts

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Fri, 18/01/2019 - 12:00am in

Colin Todhunter In their rush to readily promote neoliberal dogma and corporate-inspired PR, many government officials, scientists and journalists take as given that profit-driven transnational corporations have a legitimate claim to be custodians of natural assets. The premise is that under capitalism water, food, soil and agriculture should be handed over to powerful and wholly corrupt transnational corporations to milk for profit, under the pretence these entities are somehow serving the needs of humanity. These natural assets (‘the commons’) belong to everyone and any stewardship should be carried out in the common interest by local people assisted by public institutions and governments acting on their behalf, not by private transnational corporations driven by self-interest and the maximization of profit by any means possible. Concerns about what is in the public interest or what is best for the environment lies beyond the scope of hard-headed commercial interests and should ideally be the remit of elected governments and civil organisations. However, the best-case scenario for private corporations is to have supine, co-opted agencies or governments. And if …

Joyce Assures Colleagues That His Fishing With Dynamite Trip Had Nothing To Do With Mass Fish Deaths In The Murray-Darling

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Tue, 15/01/2019 - 8:16am in

Barnaby-420x0

Special envoy for the drought Barnaby Joyce has taken the time to ring his colleagues to assure them that his holiday fishing with dynamite trip on the Murray-Darling had nothing to do with the million or so fish deaths that were reported.

“Look I admit the timing of my fishing trip wasn’t ideal and maybe using dynamite instead of a fishing rod wasn’t the best option but those deaths were not on me,” said Special Envoy Joyce. “I mean don’t get me wrong I did catch a few hundred thousand fish but they were mostly carp.”

“And as a responsible fisherman every carp I caught, I personally infected it with herpes and threw it back in the river.”

When asked why he felt fishing with dynamite was the best way to fish Barnaby Joyce replied: “I’m a busy families man and I wanted to take my Son fishing but I didn’t have all day. So why wait around with a fishing pole when dynamite does the job quicker.”

“Throwing sticks of dynamite around has worked so well for me in parliament so why wouldn’t it work for me when fishing.”

Mark Williamson 

www.twitter.com/MWChatShow

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The Devil in the Details: Algal Blooms.

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Sun, 13/01/2019 - 5:34am in

It is accepted that the recent mass fish kill in the Darling River was triggered by an “algal bloom”. But what on earth is an algal bloom?

Believe it or not, I think some basic, high-school level science could throw considerable light on the whole catastrophe, counter some misconceptions about it and offer valuable, if sobering, lessons for the Left.

Photomicrograph of cyanobacteria, Cylindrospermum sp.[A]
The first detail is that those “blue-green algae” -- more generally referred to as “algae”, period -- behind the bloom strictly speaking aren’t algae: BGA are unicellular, microscopic aquatic bacteria (cyanobacteria, to be precise). Although genuine algae can be unicellular, algae are plants, not bacteria.

BGA, however, do something very unlike other bacteria. They, like plants, photosynthesise:

6 CO + 6 H O --> C H  O  + 6 O
    2     2       6 12 6      2

BGA use energy in the environment (from sunlight, not shown in the equation; that’s the “photo-” prefix) to break down carbon dioxide (CO2) and water (H2O) into its constituent atoms and to “reassemble” them into glucose (C6H12O6) and oxygen (O2): i.e. synthesise those molecules. Some of the energy is stored within the glucose.

During the day, BGA release the oxygen into the environment and accumulate glucose, which they use at night (together with oxygen) for the energy it contains (reversing the equation above: cellular respiration):

C H  O  + 6 O  --> 6 CO  + 6 H O
 6 12 6      2         2      2

Any excess glucose goes into reproducing themselves.

So, like plants, cyanobacteria require water, carbon dioxide (dissolved in the water), light and warmth to survive. All of that, considering their tiny size, is often readily available in their environment.

That, however, is not their complete list of requirements. Like plants, they also need other nutrients, like phosphorus and nitrogen. That can be harder to find.

In their natural environment, nutrient availability constrains define the life-cycle of cyanobacteria: they reproduce to the extent those constrains allow, photosynthesise, net-release oxygen and accumulate glucose. Some die naturally, some are eaten by other organisms and some reproduce. The oxygen and glucose they produce sustain other life forms.

Important human sources of those more naturally scarce nutrients, however, can disturb that cycle: agricultural run-off (plant fertilisers!) and sewerage (human manure!). Farmers deliberately employ fertilisers to promote plant growth. Shouldn’t one expect fertilisers to promote BGA growth?

In a flowing course of water, water inflows can keep the concentration of carbon dioxide and phosphorus and nitrogen compounds low enough. Of course, eventually they will still reach the ocean, where they may trigger algal blooms. But the algal bloom in the inland course of water was averted.

Bacterial bloom south of Fiji on October 18, 2010.[B]
Now, there’s no prize to guess what could happen in hot, sunny days, if the water, because of drought, over-extraction or a combination, stopped flowing: BGA multiply explosively -- algal bloom. All the while, BGA remain bacteria, producing more bacteria-like effects: some of them release toxins.

Eventually, some of those conditions falter (say, temperature and/or luminosity falls) and a mass die-off ensues.

Other bacteria present in the environment feast on the glucose the BGA accumulated, reproducing beyond measure, consuming the oxygen the BGA released and releasing in turn the carbon dioxide BGA had consumed. They do what the second equation indicates.

After suffocating larger life forms unable to leave the area affected, these latter bacteria themselves die.

The end situation is similar to the initial one: concentrated carbon dioxide and phosphorus and nitrogen compounds. Is it conceivable this process could repeat itself? Well, yes. Yes, it is conceivable.

----------
The purpose of this post exceeds delivering a high-school level lecture on science. Neither do I aim to deny the tragic and ominous nature of the events, quite to the contrary. It’s not my intention to cast doubt on the sincerity of the feelings those directly affected expressed. I truly believe you all and I know your situation is really dire. To make things worse, we might not have seen the end of this.

I agree this episode demands great scrutiny of large cotton growers and their links to bureaucrats/politicians. It’s likely that the former exceeded their water entitlements thereby turning a bad situation into an environmental disaster. They, however, aren’t the only large water users or the only large contributors to algal blooms.

It’s likely, too, that bureaucracy and parties were captured by those big farmers; corruption isn’t out of the question. However, governmental ineptitude and simple, garden-variety impotence aren’t out of the question, either: the government may have failed to act when action could have prevented or minimised things; but that was then and this is now. And now they just can’t make it rain. To manage capitalism looks more and more like a fool’s errand.

My point is that the situation is more complex than it seems. To deny that does a disservice to us all.

The Darling catastrophe could be a smallish dress rehearsal for what is to come at much larger scale (I’m not kidding: put yourself in the shoes of the second bacteria.). Everybody, but particularly Lefties (I’m looking at you, MMTers), should pay attention.

Let me sum up my conclusion: excessive faith in governmental technocratic management and too much business for too little natural resources was the road to this chaos.

RELATED READING:

What Exactly Is a Red Tide?
By Danielle Hall, August 2018

Toxic Algal Blooms
Department of Primary Industries and Regional Development
Government of Western Australia, page last updated: Thursday, 4 January 2018 - 1:33pm

IMAGE CREDITS:
[A] "Photomicrograph of cyanobacteria, Cylindrospermum sp. Cyanobacteria are capable of nitrogen fixation, which takes place in the anaerobic environment of heterocysts". Author: Matthew Parker. 22 January 2013. Source: Wikimedia. File licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license. Nobody endorses me or the use I make of that file.

[B] "Bacterial bloom south of Fiji on October 18, 2010. Though it is impossible to identify the species from space, it is likely that the yellow-green filaments are miles-long colonies of Trichodesmium, a form of cyanobacteria often found in tropical waters".
Author: Norman Kuring, NASA Earth Observatory. Source: Wikimedia. Public domain.

UPDATE:
13-01-2019. Although this appeared yesterday, I've just read it. Check the underlined within the brief summary, at the bottom:

(source)

On The Discovery of Progress: Lessius on a Dutch glass/telescope and God's Hand

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Thu, 10/01/2019 - 12:47pm in

Tags 

Religion, Science

Furthermore many other obseruations in the Heauens most wonderfull and vn∣knowne for somany ages to all antiquity▪ are lately discouered by the helpe of a Per∣spectiue glasse inuented by a certaine Batauiā. As for example, that the body of the moone is spongious, consisting of some matter re∣sembling little locks of woll; that the star of Venus doth increase and decrease in light like the moone, crooking it self into hornes, as the moone doth; and when it Orbe is full of light, it is not opposed diametrically to the Sunne, as the Moone is, but is in small distance from the Sunne: from which ob∣seruation it may seeme to be necessarily in∣ferred, that the starre of Venus is carryed in a huge Epicycle about the Sunne; so as it is sometimes far higher then the Sunne, other tymes much lower. In lyke sort by the for∣mer instrument there are obserued, about the starre of Iupiter 4▪ small stars, sometimes going before, sometimes following Iupiter: at one tyme they all appeare, at another tyme but some of them, and at a third tyme other some; from whence also we may ga∣ther that the said starres do moue in little Epicycles about the starre of Iupiter. Againe, in the body of the Sunne there appeare cer∣taine spots, which notwithstanding do not euer retaine one and the same place in the Sunne, but daily change their situation; and at one tyme they appeare more in number, at another fewer. From which it is easily gathered, that these spots do not inhere in the body of the Sunne, but are little starres, which interpose themselues betweene the Sunne and our sight, and are moued in Epicycles about the body of the Sunne. I my selfe haue often obserued these varieties, with wonderfull admiration of the wise∣dome and power of God; who hath dispo∣sed the course of the starres with that stu∣pendious art and skill, as that they are in no sort subiect to the apprehension of mans vnderstāding. I here omit the infinite mul∣titude of Starres, which (being neuer dis∣couered to the Astronomers vntill this tyme) are by the helpe of the foresaid in∣strument most distinctly seene in the Hea∣uens.

To cōclude, in the eight Sphere (wher∣in the fixed Starres are) there is obserued a triple motion. The first from the Fast to the West, absoluing its whole course in 24. houres. The second from the West to the East, which is thought to go one degree in a hundred yeares. The third from the South to the North, and contrariwise; by force of which motion the beginning of Aries & Libra of the eight Sphere doth descrybe certaine small circles about the beginning of Aries and Libra of the ninth Sphere; which course is perfected in 7000. yeares. Now, who will maintayne, that so multi∣plicious, and so various a locall motion should proceed from nature, and not from some one most Wise and Excellent an Vn∣derstanding or Power, thus gouerning all the heauēs for the benefit of the sublunary or earthly bodies, and particulerly of man, to whome the rest are subiect and seruicea∣ble? Neither conduceth it any thing against our scope, whether it be replyed, that these motions are performed by diuers trā∣sient pushes (euen as the rowling about of a potters wheele is occasioned by the Pot∣ter) or els by certaine stable, firme & per∣mament forces, impressed in the celestiall Orbes (as some do affirme) for by whether meanes soeuer it is caused, it necessarily proceedeth from some incorporeall cause indued with a mynd and vnderstanding, & not from any peculiar propension and incli∣nation of nature. Now this Cause (which with so powerfull a hand, and so many wayes turneth about the heauenly Orbes) we call God, who either worketh this im∣mediatly of himselfe (which is the more probable opinion) or els by the ministery and help of inferiour Spirits, and Intelli∣gences, as many do hould. Leonard Lessius, (1612) De prouidentia numinis, pp. 23-26 in Ravvleigh his ghost. Or a feigned apparition of Syr VValter Rawleigh to a friend of his, for the translating into English, the booke of Leonard Lessius (that most learned man) entituled, De prouidentia numinis, & animi immortalitate: written against atheists, and polititians of these dayes. Translated by Edward Knott in 1631,  [HT Brian Ogilvie, "Natural history, ethics, and physico-theology." Historia: Empiricism and Erudition in Early Modern Europe (2005): 93ff.]

Regular readers may know that I have an interest in the invention of open-ended political and scientific progress. A key move in that history, in my opinion, is the generative role that the Ecclesiasticus 43:32 plays in the early modern period (recall here on Clarke and here). It is treated as a prediction or prophecy of the possibility of more knowledge to be discovered. One context this articulation occurs is (as it is in Clarke) in the treatment of certain species of design arguments. There is a lot to be said about the role of scientific knowledge within a design argument, but I am going to ignore that momentarily (go read the links above).

But Clarke is post-Newtonian (or at least co-extensive) writing in the eighteenth century. By which time what we would call the scientific revolution is well under way. But this made me wonder in what context the fact that there are new scientific discoveries start to figure into (post-Copernican) design arguments. The quoted passage above is the earliest I have found so far.

In context of the quoted passage, Lessius (Leys), a Leuven Jesuit (who played a non-trivial in history of economics), is offering (his "second") reason for the claim that there is one "One Supreme Power, by whose Providence all things are governed" (corrected spelling; p. 11). I like the quote because he is clearly referencing Galileo's discoveries, but (like Galileo) credits the telescope to a certain Dutchmen. And while he talks in terms of epicycles, he seems to accept elements of the Copernican hypothesis. (It's possible, however, that his stance is compatible with the Tychonic system. I need to do more careful reading. Crucially, he seems to have reproduced or confirmed Galileo's findings (only two years before [see also Armstrong]).

Now, Leys acknowledges the existence of many new astronomical discoveries, and thinks these provide additional evidence of providential design. Strikingly, anticipating Newton and Clarke, he thinks the astronomical orbits provide special evidence for God's design despite lack of knowledge about the mechanism (either God's direct action, the operation of regular natural force, or mechanical impulses,* or the role of spirits.)

Now, it is a bit unclear why Lessius argues that the astronomical phenomena are for the benefit of mankind. But the key point today is that, anticipating Clarke and Newton (see the general scholium), he takes the trajectories of the newly discovered astronomical bodies as further evidence of God's design. But unlike Clarke and Newton (post Principia), he thinks that while the celestial bodies can be discovered, knowledge of the true orbits is beyond human knowledge, and so this itself is evidence for God's design. ("who hath dispo∣sed the course of the starres with that stu∣pendious art and skill, as that they are in no sort subiect to the apprehension of mans vnderstāding.")  I have phrased it in this way because it's possible that Lessius is stipulating here that true motions of celestial orbits can never be known (so that the debate over the Copenican system is indecisive).+ 

The underlying principle seems to be that the cause of a (newly) discovered likely or apparent regularity** beyond human comprehension entails an omnipotent (or at least vastly more expansive) mind. Now, for this to be a convincing principle, alternative hypotheses for the origin of natural order (chance, necessity, etc.) need to be already implausible.  The underlying metaphysical (or perhaps epistemological) idea seems to be that there is evidence the world is regular and intelligible some mind, that is, to its designer, and only fully intelligible to it. We see here the idea that the world is a stupendous artifice whose principles are unknowable to the agents within it even if they get better at mapping it. We may say, then, that the PSR here is restricted to maker's knowledge.

 

 

 

*The book as a whole has a strong anti-epicurean cast.

+Before he started writing the Principia, Newton famously also doubted this (see here George Smith on the so-called Copernican Scholium).

**I insert 'likely' because that these orbits are regular is, of course, unknowable.

Naturalism, Science, and the Possibility of Philosophy

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Wed, 02/01/2019 - 5:16pm in

“It is perfectly possible to do philosophy (even metaphysics or epistemology) if you do not believe that your views about mind, language, and reality can be used to ground (or dismiss) science.”

Those are the words of Sander Verhaegh, Assistant Professor at the Tilburg Center for Logic, Ethics and Philosophy of Science (TiLPS) at Tilburg University, responding to one of Richard Marshall’s insightful questions in an interview at 3:AM Magazine.

The interview focuses on Professor Verhaegh’s recent book, Working from Within: The Nature and Development of Quine’s NaturalismMarshall asks, “what are we to understand by philosophical naturalism generally?” Verhaegh replies:

Historically, philosophical naturalism has often been defined in opposition to  ‘supernaturalism’. Where supernaturalists believe that at least some phenomena require  ‘supernatural’ explanations, e.g. we need god(s) to explain the origin of the universe; we cannot explain consciousness without introducing souls or Cartesian minds, naturalists defend a picture of reality in which man, mind, and morality are conceived of as natural phenomena. In contemporary terms, you could say that naturalists dismiss the view that some phenomena require a suprascientific explanation, that is, they reject the view that some of our questions about the workings of the world cannot be solved using the empirical methods that are most commonly used in the sciences (broadly construed).

Like most ‘isms’, however, naturalism is a complex, multidimensional concept and therefore notoriously hard to define. It is almost a cliché to claim that there are as many variants of naturalism as there are naturalists. Some forms of naturalism are excessively strong and reductionistic (e.g. ‘every theory that cannot be reduced to our current best physical theories must be false’); other variants are so modest that virtually no contemporary philosopher would disagree (e.g. ‘our philosophical worldview should at the very least take into account what our best scientific theories have to say about the nature of reality’). Likewise, some types of naturalism are phrased as metaphysical claims (‘reality is exhausted by nature as it is studied by the sciences’) whereas other types of naturalism are primarily focused on epistemology or methodology (‘we can only acquire knowledge about a particular phenomenon if we study it using the empirical methods that have also been successful in the sciences’).

I find Quine’s variant of naturalism fascinating because he is not particularly interested in these big, often very polarized, debates between naturalists and supernaturalists. Rather, he pretty much assumes that these debates have been settled and he seeks to advance our scientific worldview by showing that a truly naturalistic picture of reality also requires that we radically rethink our philosophical views about truth, justification, mind, reference, and meaning. In short, Quine argues that traditional philosophical disciplines like metaphysics, epistemology, and the philosophy of language need to be naturalized as well.

Later in the interview, after several interesting and sympathetic elucidations of Quine’s views and arguments, Marshall asks, “If philosophers are participants in the scientific enterprise at large, and if philosophy and science are ‘continuous’, than why isn’t philosophy just science? If there are no transcendental perspectives then doesn’t a Quinean position really say that all proper thinking about reality and knowledge and truth etc has to be scientific and not philosophical? So why heed philosophy?”

Verhaegh says:

It is perfectly possible to do philosophy (even metaphysics or epistemology) if you do not believe that your views about mind, language, and reality can be used to ground (or dismiss) science, even if you do not have the ridiculously ambitious aim to say something about what people can or cannot know about the world. I think philosophers prove that this is possible every day. When I look at what my colleagues at the Tilburg Center for Logic, Ethics, and Philosophy of Science (TiLPS) are doing, for example, I am often amazed by how naturally they integrate results from psychology, biology, and the social sciences in their philosophical analyses.

On a more abstract level, one can say that there is still plenty of room for philosophy because there are many questions that are not discussed by scientists (narrowly conceived). To be sure, naturalism implies that the foundationalist’s questions about science, knowledge, reality ought to be dismissed. This does not mean, however, that there are no philosophical questions left. As I mentioned earlier, it is still perfectly possible to do metaphysics, epistemology, or philosophy of language when you adopt a Quinean perspective. Furthermore, naturalist projects are also compatible with explication projects. Once we note that our everyday notions of ‘truth’, ‘reference’, or ‘logical consequence’ are more problematic than we used to believe, it makes sense that philosophers should try to come up with proposals to improve these concepts. This is perfectly compatible with Quine’s idea that we should try to improve, clarify, and understand our system from within. And then I haven’t even mentioned philosophical subdisciplines like ethics, political philosophy, and philosophy of gender. Typically, these fields are not directly concerned with science (although they can be) but many philosophers working in these fields implicitly presuppose a naturalistic perspective in building their analyses on results from psychology, biology, and the social sciences.

The whole interview is here.


Susanna Bauer, “Four Circles”

The post Naturalism, Science, and the Possibility of Philosophy appeared first on Daily Nous.

African Drone with Pilot/Passenger

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Sun, 16/12/2018 - 8:09pm in

Yesterday I put up a piece I found on YouTube of a group of Kenyan engineers building what they believed to be Africa’s first passenger-carrying drone. The video showed them testing it in flight loaded with bags of sugar.

This short video from Sami’s channel on YouTube shows the machine in flight, carrying a passenger. The film begins with the team thanking the governor of Nairobi, Mike Sonko, before showing the flight. The man himself wasn’t terribly happy in the air, as a caption reads that it was only then that they realized he was frightened of heights.

The photo of the team at the end shows that the majority of its members are Black Africans, but there’s also a White guy and an Asian.

As I said in my earlier post about the vehicle, this shows the immense creativity of the people of Africa, a creativity that is being held back due to the continent’s poverty and kleptocratic politicians. If these could be overcome, and the continent reach the same stage of develop as the industrial West, we would be astonished at what they could achieve. This video offers a glimpse of the massive potential waiting to be unlocked.

No planet but this one

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Thu, 13/12/2018 - 5:23pm in

Tags 

Science

The Voyager 2 spacecraft has just passed through the heliopause and into interstellar space, forty years after it was launched.

On the one hand that’s a stunning technological achievement and a reminder of the wonderful universe we live in. On the other, it’s a reminder that humans will never go out to explore this universe, or even leave Earth in significant numbers.

Although Voyager 2 has passed the heliopause it is still within the gravitational field of the sun. It would take another 30,000 years to fly beyond the Oort cloud which marks the boundary.

These facts could have been computed when Voyager was launched though at the time its mission was limited to five years. But if they had been pointed out as an argument for the impossibility of interstellar travel, the response would surely have been that the problem would be solved by technological progress. Forty years before Voyager was launched, flying across the Atlantic ocean was a major feat. Forty years or so before that, the first heavier-than-air flight was undertaken by the Wright brothers.

Extrapolating one could reasonably expect that forty years more progress would produce massive advances in space travel including human space travel. In fact, though no one knew it at the time, the heroic age of space travel (indeed, of nearly all kinds of travel) had already passed. No one has travelled to the moon since Voyager 2 was launched and, quite possibly, no one ever will. The promise of easy access to space through the space shuttle has been abandoned in favor of the 1950s technology of the Atlas rocket. Meanwhile physicists have closed off just about every possible loophole that might allow us to evade Einstein’s conclusion that the speed of light is an absolute limit.

The other achievement of the Voyagers and their successors has been a comprehensive exploration of the planets and moons of the solar system. They have revealed many marvels, but nowhere remotely habitable compared to, say, Antarctica or the Atacama desert.

The biggest lesson of our decades of space exploration is that Earth is the only planet we have.

South Australia’s Space Agency Win Promises Faster Ways To Escape Adelaide

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Thu, 13/12/2018 - 8:25am in

space

South Australians are rejoicing at this week’s announcement that the new Australian Space Agency will be based there, providing much-needed hope of a faster way to escape Adelaide.

During the announcement Prime Minister Scott Morrison said he thought South Australians were already well prepared for long trips into space. “Because of their lack of faith in coal they have already adapted to long periods of complete darkness”, he said.

Adelaide residents interviewed by the (un)Australian denied wanting to abandon their city. Modbury resident Lyn Crochet said, “Most of us only want to be out of town between the chequered flag of the Adelaide 500 Supercars in March and the opening night of the Adelaide Fringe Festival the following February”. An absence of just 11 months per year.

Not everyone is happy the new space agency will be based in Adelaide. While South Australia is already home to innovative satellite start-ups that are helping farmers and oceanographers world-wide, other states have complained that their own world-changing applications of space technology were overlooked by the selection panel.

* Victoria proposed a series of satellites over the Yarra to locate remaining oBikes.

* The Northern Territory was knocked back on a proposal to use satellites to detect crocodiles in the main street of Darwin.

* Queensland was unsuccessful in its bid to distribute the quotes of Bob Katter in all eight dimensions of the universe.

* The ACT was judged every bit as boring as Adelaide, but lost points because most Canberrans are already space-cadets.

* NSW declined to bid, fearing that eventual colonisation of the moon will cause Sydney house prices to fall even further.

* The Tasmanian delegation suggested that, one day, a man might walk on the moon.

* The organisers forgot to tell WA about the competition.

When asked if the high cost of South Australia’s bid will really bring benefits to South Australian residents in future years, a spokesman said, “Yes it’s a no brainer. You see, in space, no-one can hear Christopher Pyne or the person he’s talking to scream.”

Jack Pinion

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No planet but this one

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Wed, 12/12/2018 - 6:40pm in

Tags 

Science

The Voyager 2 spacecraft has just passed through the heliopause and into interstellar space, forty years after it was launched.

On the one hand that’s a stunning technological achievement and a reminder of the wonderful universe we live in. On the other, it’s a reminder that humans will never go out to explore this universe, or even leave Earth in significant numbers.

Although Voyager 2 has passed the heliopause it is still within the gravitational field of the sun. It would take another 30,000 years to fly beyond the Oort cloud which marks the boundary.

These facts could have been computed when Voyager was launched though at the time its mission was limited to five years. But if they had been pointed out as an argument for the impossibility of interstellar travel, the response would surely have been that the problem would be solved by technological progress. Forty years before Voyager was launched, flying across the Atlantic ocean was a major feat. Forty years or so before that, the first heavier-than-air flight was undertaken by the Wright brothers.

Extrapolating one could reasonably expect that forty years more progress would produce massive advances in space travel including human space travel. In fact, though no one knew it at the time, the heroic age had already passed. No one has travelled to the moon since Voyager 2 was launched and, quite possibly, no one ever will. The promise of the space shuttle has been abandoned in favour of the 1950s technology of the Atlas rocket. Meanwhile physicists have closed off just about every possible loophole that might allow us to evade Einstein’s conclusion that the speed of light is an absolute limit.

The other achievement of the Voyagers and their successors has been a comprehensive exploration of the planets and moons of the solar system. They have revealed many marvels, but nowhere remotely habitable compared to, say, Antarctica or the Atacama desert.

The biggest lesson of our decades of space exploration is that Earth is the only planet we have.

20 Year Old Copies Of National Geographic Supplied For Patients Waiting To Opt Out Of My Health

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Wed, 12/12/2018 - 8:22am in

magazine

Millions of Australians still waiting to opt out of the My Health scheme have been supplied with digital copies of 20 year old National Geographics and Gourmet Traveller Magazines to keep them occupied.

“I got online about forty minutes ago and I’m pretty sure that some guy who got online twenty minutes after me managed to opt out first, but never mind because I’ve become engrossed with this issue of Time magazine from 1993,” said citizen Mike Schubert. “I hope that President Clinton can do something about the situation in Bosnia or that could turn ugly.”

“Damn it, someone’s ripped out the entire article about new layout of St Andrews from this germ filled 2003 issue of Golf Digest,” said disappointed queuer Rita Busby. “At least the kids are happy playing with that wooden and plastic toy where you move the beads along a loopy wire.”

Choices include a five year old copy of the Good Weekend magazine from the Saturday Herald with all the crosswords done, a pamphlet in seven different community languages about macular degeneration, and Wheels Magazine’s special luxury car issue from 1998.

“The My Health opt out has been a resounding success,” said Department of Health official James Scrub. “We now have a full and complete list of every conspiracy nut and paranoid in the nation, so everyone who has opted out can expect to receive a full set of the pink and yellow pills in the mail any day now.”

Peter Green
http://www.twitter.com/Greeny_Peter

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