Science

Local Coke Dealers Resent Cross Fit Gyms Taking Away Their Clients

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Mon, 12/08/2019 - 8:08am in

Tags 

Science, Cocaine

drug-dealing-men

Local Cocaine dealers are up in arms after a number of their usual clients have turned their backs on them in favour of joining a cross fit gym.

“Ah look mate it’s just not right you know,” said a dealer from Sydney’s Eastern suburbs. “I work hard you know, I cater to these people 24/7 whether it’s late on a Friday night in Bondi and the boys want some nose candy. Or Saturday arvo at Randwick when a bit of a bump makes a day at the races tolerable.”

“All this and they just dump me for some flavour of the month workout program, where’s the loyalty?”

When asked how much of a hit cross fit gyms have had on the industry the Dealer said: “Mate it’s not good, the Eastern suburbs are almost all off the gear and on this bloody cross fit. I’ve had to head on over to the Inner West to try and sell some of my excess merch to the hipsters.”

“Tell them it’s the only pure 100% renewable, vegan party drug.”

Police have put out a warning to the general public not to approach a Cross fitter. Unless they are prepared to endure an grueling hour long lecture on how cross fit and keto had totally transformed their lives.

Mark Williamson
www.twitter.com/MWChatShow

You can follow The (un)Australian on twitter or like us on facebook.

Guy Who Hasn’t Changed His Bong Water For 6 Years Worried The Chemicals In Detergent Are Poisoning Him

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Fri, 09/08/2019 - 8:09am in

sad man window

Shayne Fraser, a 38-year-old part-time IT consultant from Byron, has real concerns about whether the chemicals they put in everyday cleaning products like dish washing detergent are poisoning us all.

“I dunno man, I just don’t trust that shit,” Mr Fraser told The (un)Australian as he pulled another cone from a bong filled with pitch-black water that hadn’t been changed in six years, or ever seen any cleaning or sanitising products.

“Christ knows what they put in it, but I reckon it’s making us sick for sure,” he added before collapsing on his couch in a full-scale coughing fit that lasts five minutes.

When he finally recovered, a thoughtful Mr Fraser offered, “It’s like sunscreen. They say it protects you but I read this thing on Facebook that said it actually gives you cancer,” as he lent forward to roll a smoke from the pack of white ox on the coffee table.

Carlo Sands

You can follow The (un)Australian on twitter or like us on facebook

Climate Emergency? Then Why Are These Scientists In Greenland Having A Tropical Beach Party?

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Thu, 08/08/2019 - 11:18am in

Crowd people friends sunset beach holidays

The warming alarmists would have you believe we are facing a so-called “Climate Emergency”, but The (un)Australian has been given access to exclusive photos that paint a very different picture.

Far from being gripped by panic, they show climate scientists currently based in Greenland kicking back at a tropical beach party.

If, as the panic merchants keep saying, we are on the verge of an utter catastrophe without radical action, then how are we to explain the photos of scientists in board shorts and bikinis on a tropical beach on the beautiful Greenland coast?

We are constantly being force fed the line that without drastically reducing carbon emissions and reorganising the global economy away from fossil fuels, we face a spiraling ecological crisis in which each new tipping point passed sets off a chain reaction so that melting permafrost unleashes the far worse greenhouse gas of methane, and that melting ice allows previously reflected sunlight to directly hit the water, further heating an already rapidly warming oceans, further unleashing methane on the ocean floor, causing temperatures to rise further which causes the melting of  permafrost and ice to further increase, but then how do you explain why a climate scientist can clearly be seen sipping a margarita on a beach towell in the Arctic?

We reached out to the scientists to explain the photos, and received the response that it was simply their one day off for months to unwind from collecting the evidence to convince humanity how dire the situation is, and of the need for very rapid action preferably starting three decades ago, and that actually, you aren’t really meant to get palm trees in Greenland, but all we heard was “nah nah nah we’re hypocrites who don’t know what we’re talking about so there’s no need to worry”.

We don’t know about you, but we declare our minds officially at rest.

Carlo Sands
http://www.twitter.com/carlogrubsands

You can follow The (un)Australian on twitter or like us on facebook

Crowdfunded Solar Sail Spacecraft Makes Successful Flight

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Wed, 07/08/2019 - 5:19am in

Bit of science news now. Last Friday’s I for 2nd August 2019 reported that a satellite developed by the Planetary Society and funded through internet fundraising had successfully climbed to a higher orbit using a solar sail. This propels spacecraft using only the pressure of light, just like an ordinary sail uses the force given by the window to propel a ship on Earth, or drive a windmill.

The article on this by Joey Roulette on page 23 ran

A small crowdfunded satellite promoted by a TV host in the United States has been propelled into a higher orbit using only the force of sunlight.

The Lightsail 2 spacecraft, which is about the size of a loaf of bread, was launched into orbit in June. 

It then unfurled a tin foil-like solar sail designed to steer and push the spacecraft, using the momentum of tiny particles of light called photons emanating from the Sun – into a higher orbit. The satellite was developed by the California-based research and education group, the Planetary Society, who chief executive is the television personality popularly known as Bill Nye the Science Guy.

The technology could potentially lead to an inexhaustible source of space propulsion as a substitute for finite supplies of rocket fuels that most spacecraft rely on for in-flight manoeuvres.

“We are thrilled to declare mission success for Lightsail 2,” said its programme manager Bruce Betts.

Flight by light, or “sailing on sunbeams”, as Mr Nye called it, could best be used for missions carrying cargo in space.

The technology could also reduce the need for expensive, cumbersome rocket propellants.

“We strongly feel taht missions like Lightsail 2 will democratise space, enable more people send spacecraft to remarkable destinations in the solar system”, Mr Nye said.

This is very optimistic. The momentum given to a spacecraft by the Sun’s light is very small. But, like ion propulsion, it’s constant and so enormous speeds can be built up over time. It may be through solar sail craft that we may one day send probes to some of the extrasolar planets now being discovered by astronomers.

In the 1990s, American scientists designed a solar sail spacecraft, Star Wisp, which would take a 50 kg instrument package to Alpha Centauri. The star’s four light years away. The ship would, however, reach a speed of 1/3 that of light, meaning that, at a very rough calculation, it would reach its destination in 12 years. The journey time for a conventional spacecraft propelled by liquid oxygen and hydrogen is tens of thousands of years.

Although the idea has been around since the 1970s, NASA attempt to launch a solar sail propelled satellite a few years ago failed. If we are ever to reach the stars, it will be through spacecraft and other highly advanced unconventional spacecraft, like interstellar ramjets. So I therefore applaud Nye and the Planetary Society on their great success.

Giles Coren Racially Abuses Megan Markle

Just as the CST this weekend decided to smear 36 people as anti-Semites, largely because they supported Jeremy Corbyn, and hated the Tories, Rachel Riley, and Tom Watson, Times‘ columnist Giles Coren made his own racist comment about Prince Harry’s consort, Megan Markle. Harry had said that he intends to have only two children because of the the current environmental crisis. So Coren jumped in and declared that he really said it because Markle had ‘raised the drawbridge’ and it was really due to domestic squabbles between the royal couple. He then went on and declared that they had booked a meeting with a marriage guidance counselor, but had got Jane Goodall instead.

That’s Jane Goodall, the primatologist, who studied gorillas.

The good peeps on Twitter were not amused, and pointed out just how racist the tweet was. It’s the old sneer about Black people being subhuman monkeys. They also predicted that if Coren was taken to task for it, he’d immediately start trying to excuse it by saying he wasn’t being racist, honest, and then give out some remarks supporting him by his White friends, while issuing some kind of non-apology.

Zelo Street concluded his article on this nasty little piece of privileged racism

From Coren there has so far been silence. But he will have to say something, even if he attempts to cover his tracks by pretending he didn’t mean what he clearly did mean.

Attempts to normalise racism are worrying. Attempts to normalise racism coming from a supposedly quality paper are not just worrying – they are totally inexcusable.

See: https://zelo-street.blogspot.com/2019/08/giles-coren-right-royal-racist.html

Coren is the Times’ restaurant critic, and like several other ‘slebs, he has quaffed deep of the well of mediocrity. It’s unlikely he would have got his job, and appeared on TV – he was one of the ‘Supersizers’ who every week looked back at the cuisine in different periods of the past with Sue Perkins – if he didn’t come from a privileged background.

He is also sadly not alone in his sneers and abuse at Markle. The I’s Yasmin Alibhai-Brown commented on it in her column in this morning’s edition of the paper. She noted the ugly racism hiding behind these sneers. They’re based on outrage at an American woman of colour with genuinely feminist views marrying into the royal family. How dare she! Especially after she edited Vogue to list the leading, most influential and inspirational women.

I’ve no doubt that part of the sneer also comes from part of the Tory right’s bitter hatred of environmentalism. The Daily Heil published a whole slew of articles a few years ago declaring global warming to be fake, because the Russians apparently said so. And Trump’s government is doing its level, horrendous best to close down and silence the Environmental Protection Agency for the Republicans’ supporters and donors in the petrochemical industry, like the notorious Koch brothers. I’ve got a feeling the Times is one of the other newspapers, whose columnists have tried to discredit climate change. I seem to remember one of the producers of the BBC science documentary series, Horizon, remarking at a talk at the Cheltenham Festival of Science a few years ago how he had been forced to put right gently another very well established journo, who didn’t believe in it.

I believe a number of members of the royal family are also patrons of the World Wide Fund for Nature, what used to be the World Wildlife Fund, and so do have an interest in conservation. Which would suggest that Harry’s statement on why he was having no more than two sprogs is entirely genuinely. One of the problems is overpopulation, although in the West birthrates are actually falling to or below replacement level, so that there may well be a demographic crisis due to this. Quite apart from all the nutters, who believe that it’s all part of the ‘Great Replacement’ in which the Jews are secretly destroying the White race to replace them with non-White immigrants.

This isn’t the first Coren has expressed noxious, right-wing views either. A little while ago he took it upon himself to sneer at people from council estates. I have no idea why, except perhaps just sheer snobbery. Now he’s found a new target in Megan Markle. And it’s an example of the racism, snobbery and reactionary anti-environmentalism that now permeates and shames the Tory press. And it shows just how nasty the Times has become under Murdoch.

 

Book Review: Can Science Make Sense of Life? by Sheila Jasanoff

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Sun, 04/08/2019 - 7:00pm in

In Can Science Make Sense of Life?, Sheila Jasanoff questions whether the scientific capacity to manipulate life at the molecular level should also give science the authority to define what life is for. Exploring various cases to show how (techno)scientific knowledge embeds and is embedded in our social practices, identities, norms, institutions and ways of speaking, this book is a salient introduction to […]

Philosopher Wins €3 Million Grant for Project on Public Trust in Expert Opinion

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Fri, 02/08/2019 - 10:41pm in

Maria Baghramian, Head of the School of Philosophy at University College Dublin, has won a €3 million (approximately US$3.3 million) grant for three-year research project on “the role of science in policy decision making and the conditions under which people should trust and rely on expert opinion that shapes public policy.”


Maria Baghramian

The project, “Policy, Expertise and Trust in Action,” will, starting in 2020, “bring together 20 philosophers, social and natural scientists, policy experts, ethicists, psychologists, media specialists and civil society organisations to study trust in and the trustworthiness of policy related expert opinion,” according to a press release. It follows up on the earlier project, “When Experts Disagree,” led by Professor Baghramian and Luke Drury (Dublin Institute for Advanced Studies). Others involved include Bobby Duffy (KCL), Gloria Origgi (CNRS, Paris), José Van Dijck (Utrecht), Onora O’Neill (Cambridge), Cass Sunstein (Harvard), Susan Owens (Cambridge), and Dan Sperber (CEU).

The funding is from the European Commission’s Horizon 2020 program.

Professor Baghramian says the aim of the project is  “to better understand the nature and conditions of trust in the public domain and to discover indicators which can be used in measuring and establishing the trustworthiness of those involved in social and political decision making.”

There’s more information about the project here.

The post Philosopher Wins €3 Million Grant for Project on Public Trust in Expert Opinion appeared first on Daily Nous.

Book Review: Can Science Make Sense of Life? by Sheila Jasanoff

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Fri, 02/08/2019 - 8:56pm in

In Can Science Make Sense of Life?Sheila Jasanoff questions whether the scientific capacity to manipulate life at the molecular level should also give science the authority to define what life is for. Exploring various cases to show how (techno)scientific knowledge embeds and is embedded in our social practices, identities, norms, institutions and ways of speaking, this book is a salient introduction to those new to Jasanoff’s ‘third-wave’ of Science and Technology Studies (STS) scholarship, recommends Anna Nguyen

Can Science Make Sense of Life? Sheila Jasanoff. Polity. 2019.

Find this book: amazon-logo

On 31 March 2019, at a workshop for the Canadian Network for Science and Democracy in Ottawa, Pforzheimer Professor of Science and Technology Studies (STS) Sheila Jasanoff gave a keynote presentation in which she reflected on co-production as a method and her own expectations when introducing it nearly twenty years ago. Reminding the audience that co-production is not quite a method but is instead an ‘idiom’, she cautioned against using it as an explanation or fully developed theory. Rather, it is a way of thinking and talking about the ways in which the natural and social orders are produced together.

Jasanoff’s newest book, Can Science Make Sense of Life?, is an extension of her scholarship in STS, an interdisciplinary field that came into being through the seminal works of sociologists, philosophers, historians and political theorists, among others. To some, it may seem that STS is a very niche academic field, one that highlights the material instantiations of science and technology in society. Indeed, this is a core concern in the canon, but the emphasis is where materialist STS scholars and Jasanoff and her more humanist peers differ. In elaborating co-production and sociotechnical imaginaries, Jasanoff explicates that (techno)scientific knowledge embeds and is embedded in our social practices, identities, norms, institutions and ways of speaking. Because the technical and the material are already woven in social formations of life, STS scholars need not focus on just the technics, the ontological or the material but the complete sociotechnical picture of how we wish to live in society.

In the prologue, Jasanoff introduces her main objectives by rhetorically gesturing at the title of her new book. ‘What is life?’ and ‘what is life for?’ (9) are the broad moral questions she targets by examining science as a metaphorical tool in ongoing discussions of expertise and legitimation. Specifically, Jasanoff looks at biology and its impact on how we understand life. The foundational biological metaphor represents the human gene as the book of life. The case study of biology and biotechnology reveals how each has deeply impacted constitutional understandings of human subjects and the ways in which we choose to be governed, themes that she explores in the next seven chapters.

The image of Paul Gauguin’s 1897 painting D’où Venons Nous/Que Sommes Nous/Où Allons Nous (Where Do We Come From/What Are We/Where Are We Going) serves to illustrate the recurring questions that Jasanoff introduces in the prologue. Gauguin’s turn-of-the-century masterpiece, as Jasanoff describes, coincided with the revolutionary years of modern biology during the nineteenth century (14). Advances in science, specifically biology, afforded another type of material language that shaped our understanding of life and what it means. Like any kind of specialised language, the language of science gradually became both a descriptive and prescriptive force (15). Jasanoff points out that science does not explicitly claim to completely answer all of the questions she poses; yet, biology and biotechnology are regarded as important forces to make sense of life. Referencing American physicist’s Evelyn Fox Keller’s note on ‘the biological gaze’, Jasanoff empirically discusses how the rhetorical uses of science in society are linked with the privatisation of scientific progress. Metaphors of the coded alphabet of DNA (adenine, thymine, guanine, cytosine) and Vannevar Bush’s’ ‘endless frontier’ become driving forces in the institutionalisation of science (22-24).

Image Credit: (jesse orrico unsplash CCO)

Chapter Two continues this thread into the twentieth century. Jasanoff observes that science has tried to organise and direct life in two ways: how to manipulate it and how to profit from it (37-38). The ability to examine DNA and other small structures and processes became entangled with society’s concerns and desired futures, shifting from the lab to the market. And though we have seen tweets and papers concluding with the claim that ‘science is political’, few academics have attempted to grapple with the continual myth of science as pure and untouched from political and capitalistic forces (38). If ‘bad’ science is invoked, it is because money and politics are characterised as corrupting influences; most of the time, science is largely seen as autonomous and scientists as intelligent and curiously driven enough to self-regulate. Although Jasanoff rarely uses the academic term ‘technoscience’, she subtly gestures to the technological innovations of science as the tools that enable ‘the eureka moment’ (48). This is reminiscent of the fabled ethnography of the materialist scientist obsessed with paperwork and objects on their desk in Bruno Latour and Steve Woolgar’s Laboratory Life. Like their constructivist parable, Jasanoff and others tell us that STS should grapple with the political, social and material forces of science studies. Otherwise, we have not yet moved on from the myth of science in modernity.

Chapters Three and Four remind us of Jasanoff’s own academic expertise in law. She describes how the Asilomar meeting in 1975 and the creation of the NIH Recombinant DNA Advisory Committee (RAC) were instances when law, science and society intersected. The Asilomar meeting was one of the first deliberations on the topic of lab-created biological entities, which raised concerns about who is categorised as human or what counts as a human subject (68) and what the opinions of the public represented. These early regulatory activities did not go unchallenged. In Foundation on Economic Trends v. Heckler, the US Court of Appeals for the DC Circuit concluded that the NIH had not considered environmental impacts before releasing engineered life forms (75-76). Though Jasanoff notes that all three judges on the panel shared similar concerns about the conduct of NIH, this constitutional move did not cause other scientists, or science-minded academics, to reflect upon concerns regarding accountability and the commonwealth. In an essay in a Yale law journal, co-organiser of the Asilomar meeting Maxine Singer made a technocratically-charged suggestion that only scientific judgment should be accounted for in deciding whether research should proceed or be stopped (76). In the same essay, Singer proposed that, to prevent similar lawsuits, lawyers should be required to demonstrate basic knowledge of scientific languages in court and even on LSAT exams (78).

Another case that Jasanoff explores is the story of Henrietta Lacks, most famous for its illustration of racial politics in biomedicine and of constitutional responsibility (86-88). The argument that ‘cells are us’ calls into question how far science can go in using biological materials and how to accept the scientific promises of societal and technological progress. Further, in Chapter Four, Jasanoff turns her attention to recent and ongoing concerns: genetically modified organisms (GMOs), abortion, Roe v. Wade, the 14-day rule and stem cell research. Reiterating a comparative analysis between the US, Britain and Germany, as we saw in Designs on Nature, she notes that the 14-day rule appealed to different national commitments to protecting lives and human values and norms of public reasoning. The most recent case of human genome editing in the Clustered Regularly Interspaced Short Palindromic Repeats (CRISPR) is just one of the iterations of the ‘what is life’ question, a case that Jasanoff also cites in Chapter Five.

In Chapters Five through Seven, Jasanoff returns her attention to the broader aspects of the role of language in science. Citing Lugwig Wittgenstein’s ‘language games’ and Michel Foucault’s ‘biopower’, Jasanoff reminds us that science has become an origin story that has claimed control over the definition of life (121). The devices of language—models and metaphors—are some ways in which biologists have tried to understand life (173-74). Jasanoff herself only wants readers to ponder how science has come to be significant in questions of life and its meaning. For those who think science has been successful in making sense of life, the Jasanoffian follow-up question is ‘how has it made life meaningful?’ and how has this meaning been shared across many communities? Though rhetorical, there is no clear answer to this question, as Chapter Four’s title, ‘Life in the Gray Zone’, indicates.

For those who have long followed Jasanoff’s scholarship, this book echoes her previous works and her important contributions in STS literature. Building on her reliance on discourse, her final chapter, of course, ends with a humanist reflection. She emphasises that this book is very much about how science should be a communicable exercise not just to a technocratic-minded community or committee, but to all stakeholders. For those new to her ‘third-wave’ of STS scholarship, Jasanoff’s book can serve as a salient introduction to this approach, expressed through recurring aphorisms and parables.

Anna Nguyen is a PhD student at L’institut national de la recherche scientifique (INRS) in Montreal, Canada. Her research analyses discourses of innovation, novelty and expertise in the context of food literature and scientific food reporting.

Note: This review gives the views of the author, and not the position of the LSE Review of Books blog, or of the London School of Economics. 


Japanese Scientist Obtains Permission for Animal-Human Hybrids

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Fri, 02/08/2019 - 2:49am in

This is very ominous. A Japanese scientist has been granted permission to create animal-human hybrids, according to yesterday’s I. The man intends to use them in research for the possible creation of organs in animals, that could be used for transplantation into humans. There are limits to his research, however. He states that at the moment he will not keep them alive for longer than 15 and a half days, so it isn’t like he’s going to produce complete animal-human hybrids, like the chimpanzee-human creature developed by rogue scientists as a new slave animal in the 1990s ITV SF thriller, Chimera. But it is a step in that direction.

The article, ‘Human-animal hybrid research is approved’, by Colin Drury, on page 22, runs

Human-animal hybrids are to be developed in embryo form in Japan after the government approved controversial stem-cell research.

Human cells will be grown in rat and mouse embryos, then brought to term in a surrogate animal, as part of experiments to be carried out at the University of Tokyo.

Supporters say the work – led by the renowned geneticist Hiromitsu Nakauchi – could be a vital first step towards eventually growing organs that can then be transplanted into people in need.

But opponents have raised concerns that scientists are playing God. Critics worry the human cells could stray beyond the targeted organs into other areas of the animal, creating a creature that is part animal, part person.

For that reason, such prolonged experimentation has been banned or not been financed across the world in recent years.

In Japan, scientists were forbidden from going beyond a 14-day growth period. But those laws were relaxed in March when the country’s education and science ministry issued new guidelines saying such creations could now be brought to term.

Now, Dr. Nakauchi’s application to experiment is the first to be approved under that new framework.

Human-animal hybrid embryos have been made in countries such as the United States, but were never brought to term. The US National Institutes of Health has had a moratorium on funding such work since 2015.

“We don’t expect to create human organs immediately, but this allows us to advance our research based upon the know-how we have gained up to this point,” Dr. Nakauchi told the Asahi Shimbun newspaper.

He added that he planned to proceed slowly, and will not attempt to bring any hybrid embryos to term for several years, rather growing the hybrid mouse embhryos to 14.5 days, when the animal’s organs are mostly formed, and the hybrid rat embryo’s to 15.5 days.

Such caution was welcomed by bioethicists in the country.

There was also a little capsule, containing the comment that

Some bioethicists are concerned about the possibility that human cells might stray, travelling to the developing animal’s brain and potentially altering its cognition.

Which seems to be a concern that this research could unintentionally also result in animals acquiring some form of human intelligence accidentally.

The British philosopher Mary Midgley attacked that part of the biotech industry and those scientists, who looked forward to bioengineers being able to redesign whole new forms of humans in her book, The Myths We Live By (London: Routledge 2004). She writes

That ideology is what really disturbs me, and I think it is what disturbs the public. This proposed new way of looking at nature is not scientific. It is not something that biology has shown to be necessary. Far from that, it is scientifically muddled. It rests on bad genetics and dubious evolutionary biology. Though it uses science, it is not itself a piece of science but a powerful myth expressing a determination to put ourselves  in a relation of control to the non-human world around us, to be in the driving seat at all costs rather than attending to that world and trying to understand how it works. It is a myth that repeats, in a grotesquely simple sense, Marx’s rather rash suggestion that the important thing is not to understand the world, but to change it. Its imagery is a Brocken spectre, a huge shadow projected on to a cloudy background by the shape of a few recent technological achievements.

The debate then is not between Feeling, in the blue corner, objecting to the new developments, and Reason in the red corner, defending them. Rhetoric such as that of Stock and Sinsheimer and Eisner is not addressed to Reason. It is itself an exuberant power fantasy, very much like the songs sung in the 1950s during the brief period of belief in an atomic free lunch, and also like those in the early days of artificial intelligence. The euphoria is the same. It is, of course, also motivated by the same hope of attracting grant money, just as the earlier alchemists needed to persuade powerful persons tthat they were going to produce real, coinable gold. (p. 166).

She goes on to argue that such scientific hubris comes from the gradual advance of atheism with the victory of the mechanistic model of the universe introduced by Newton in the 17th century. As God receded, scientists have stepped in to take His place.

On the clockwork model the world thus became amazingly intelligible. God, however, gradually withdrew from the scene, leaving a rather unsettling imaginative vacuum. The imagery of machinery survived. But where there is no designer the whole idea of mechanism begins to grow incoherent. Natural Selection is supposed to fill the gap, but it is a thin idea, not very satisfying to the imagination.

That is how the gap that hopeful biotechnicians now elect themselves to fill arose. They see that mechanistic thinking calls for a designer, and they feel well qualified to volunteer for that vacant position. Their confidence about this stands out clearly from the words I have emphasised in Sinsheimer’s proposal that ‘the horizons of the new eugenics are in principle boundless – for we should have the potential to create new genes and new qualities yet undreamed of … For the first time in all time a living creature understands its origin and can undertake to design its future.’

Which living creature? It cannot be human beings in general, they wouldn’t know how to do it. It has to be the elite, the biotechnologists who are the only people able to make these changes. So it emerges that members of the public who complain that biotechnological projects involve playing God have in fact understood this claim correctly. That phrase, which defenders of the projects dismiss as mere mumbo jumbo, is actually a quite exact term for the sort of claim to omniscience and omnipotence on these matters that is being put forward.

One of the most profound artistic comments I have found about the implications of this new biotechnology is the sculpture ‘The Young Family’ by the Australian artist Patricia Piccinini. This shows a hybrid mother creature, bred for organ transplantation, surrounded by her young. Curled up like an animal, her human eyes peer back plaintively at the spectator. It’s a deeply disturbing work, although Piccinini states she is not opposed but optimistic about scientific progress. She says

In terms of the real world, these are some of the key issues that I am trying to question and discuss with my work. I’m not pessimistic about developments in biotechnology. We are living in a great time with a lot of opportunities, but opportunities don’t always turn out for the best. I just think we should discuss the full implications of these opportunities.

So if we look at The Young Family we see a mother creature with her babies. Her facial expression is very thoughtful. I imagine this creature to be bred for organ transplants. At the moment we are trying to do such a thing with pigs, so I gave her some pig-like features. That is the purpose humanity has chosen for her. Yet she has children of her own that she nurtures and loves. That is a side-effect beyond our control, as there will always be.

That is what makes the question of breeding animals purely for organ-transfer so difficult to answer. On one hand we need organs to help people in need, on the other hand we are looking at an animal that wants to exist for the sake of itself. I can’t help but feel an enormous empathy for this creature. And, to be very honest, if it would save the life of one of my children, I would be will to take one of these organs. I know it is probably not ethically right but sometimes honesty, emotions, empathy and ethics don’t always line up.

I am not nearly so optimistic. For me, this sculpture is a deeply moving, deeply disturbing comment on the direction this new technology can go. And I fear tht this latest advance is taking us there.

Franky Zapata, French Hoverboard Pilot and His Marvel Comics’ Predecessor

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Tue, 23/07/2019 - 8:50pm in

Yesterday’s I, for Monday, 22nd July 2019, carried a profile on page 3 of the ‘inventor and daredevil’, Franky Zapata by reporter David Woods. Zapata’s a former jet ski champion and French military reservist, who intends to attempt to cross the Channel this Thursday on a jet-powered hoverboard he’s invented. He’s doing it to mark the 110th anniversary of French aviator Louis Bleriot’s historic flight from France to England. Apparently, Zapata will fly from Sangatte near Calais to St. Margaret’s Bay near Dover.

He could only afford to make his vehicle after receiving a grant for £1.1 million from the French defence and procurement agency last December. The board has five mini turbo engines and can run independently for ten minutes, reaching a speed of 118 mph. Zapata has said, however, that he intends to cruise at 86.9 mp.

Zapata demonstrated the craft’s abilities at the Bastille day celebration last week, where he flew around the Champs Elysees waving a gun around in front of Macron and other European leaders. But he’s rather more pessimistic about his chances with this flight. He told the paper Le Parisien that he’s only got a thirty per cent chance of succeeding in this flight, saying that he only used 3 per cent of the board’s capabilities when he last used, but will need to use 99 per cent of them for this flight.

The French maritime officials have said that the Channel is extremely dangerous because of the sheer volume of shipping. They have insisted that Zapata informs search and rescue teams before he takes off. This means that he will only be able to refuel once instead of twice, as he originally planned. This makes the flight, according to him, 10 times more difficult.

I hope he’s able to make the flight and complete it successfully without killing himself. Louis Bleriot’s flight across the Channel is one of the great landmarks in the history of aviation, and hopefully, this will be too. People have been fascinated by flight and inventing flying machines since Daedalus and his son, Icarus, in ancient Greek myth. There are any number of people now building their own, often rickety and highly unwieldy flying machines, many of which use propellers driven by electric motors. I hope Zapata succeeds, and inspires even more hobbyists to create their own machines. Just as I hope his flight isn’t as disastrous as Icarus’. He flew too close to the sun, so that the wax holding his wings together melted and fell out of the air and crashed.

But looking at Zapata and his hoverboard also reminds me of another figure, this time from Marvel Comics. It doesn’t look that much different from the device Spiderman’s old enemy, the Green Goblin, used to fly around on. All it needs is a pair of bat wings. Here it is with the Goblin himself from the cover of Stan Lee’s Bring on the Bad Guys: Origins of the Marvel Comics Villains (New York: Simon & Schuster 1976), as drawn by the great Marvel artist, John Romita. So it seems that this is once again a case of life imitating art, and Stan ‘the Man’ Lee, Jolly Jack Kirby and the rest of the Marvel madhouse got their first.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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