Science

Good News As Millions Of Spiders And Other Dickhead Animals Die In Bushfires

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Thu, 16/01/2020 - 8:23am in

spider

A positive has emerged from Australia’s summer of bushfires as scientists report that countless spiders, ticks, ants and other dickhead animals have perished in the flames.

“Those little eight legged bastards can scuttle as fast as they want but they won’t be able to outrun a rampaging fire front,” reported a cackling Professor Aristotle Knid from the Department Of Dickhead Animal Studies at the University of Wangaratta. “It’s a great tragedy that so many cuddly animals like koalas and sheep have been killed but on the bright side a truckload of brush turkeys and ibises have also gone down.”

“With any luck Australia’s population of bitey green ants, feral rats and blowflies may never recover from this,” said Dr Carrie P. Crawley, Curator of Annoying Prick Animals at Taronga Zoo. “Of the fifty million dollars allocated to wildlife recovery I’m hoping not a red cent goes towards bringing back any plovers.”

Marine biologists are keeping their fingers crossed that thousands of bluebottles and toadfish have been scooped up out of the ocean by water bombing planes and dropped directly onto the flames.

Peter Green

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On Living with Cosmic Loneliness; On the art of living and liberalism in Russell's History of Philosophy (III)

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Tue, 14/01/2020 - 12:05pm in

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Philosophy, as I shall understand the word, is something intermediate between theology and science. Like theology, it consists of speculations on matters as to which definite knowledge has, so far, been unascertainable; but like science, it appeals to human reason rather than to authority, whether that of tradition or that of revelation. All definite knowledge--so I should contend-- belongs to science; all dogma as to what surpasses definite knowledge belongs to theology. But between theology and science there is a No Man's Land, exposed to attack from both sides; this No Man's Land is philosophy. Almost all the questions of most interest to speculative minds are such as science cannot answer, and the confident answers of theologians no longer seem so convincing as they did in former centuries...Why, then, you may ask, waste time on such insoluble problems? To this one may answer as a historian, or as an individual facing the terror of cosmic loneliness.
The answer of the historian, in so far as I am capable of giving it, will appear in the course of this work. Ever since men became capable of free speculation, their actions, in innumerable important respects, have depended upon their theories as to the world and human life, as to what is good and what is evil. This is as true in the present day as at any former time. To understand an age or a nation, we must understand its philosophy, and to understand its philosophy we must ourselves be in some degree philosophers. There is here a reciprocal causation: the circumstances of men's lives do much to determine their philosophy, but, conversely, their philosophy does much to determine their circumstances. This interaction throughout the centuries will be the topic of the following pages.
There is also, however, a more personal answer. Science tells us what we can know, but what we can know is little, and if we forget how much we cannot know we become insensitive to many things of very great importance. Theology, on the other hand, induces a dogmatic belief that we have knowledge where in fact we have ignorance, and by doing so generates a kind of impertinent insolence towards the universe. Uncertainty, in the presence of vivid hopes and fears, is painful, but must be endured if we wish to live without the support of comforting fairy tales. It is not good either to forget the questions that philosophy asks, or to persuade ourselves that we have found indubitable answers to them. To teach how to live without certainty, and yet without being paralyzed by hesitation, is perhaps the chief thing that philosophy, in our age, can still do for those who study it.--Russell The History of Western Philosophy "Introductory" xiii-xiv

At the start of the History, Russell claims that philosophy involves a rejection of extrinsic authority (e.g., revelation, tradition, faith, political legislation, etc.) and accepts or embraces (and perhaps submits to) the intrinsic authority of reason. So, from the start Russell's History embraces a kind of Enlightenment project in which the point of philosophy is to be free from the (unreasonable) tutelage of others. To become philosophical is to become both rational and secular. That is to say, part of the world historical drama of the History has a Spinozistic character: the attempts of reason/philosophy to free itself from such tutelage. One effect of this is that in general Russell evaluates the past, in part, in terms of its contribution to such progress. And this connects (recall) the way he evaluates philosophy both on its own terms and as a cause on shaping its environment. Okay, with that in place let's turn to the particular conceptions of philosophy.

First, philosophy is a speculative enterprise. But what counts as speculative can shift over time. So, the philosophy of one age may be the science of the next. That Russell associates science with definite knowledge is a bit surprising because when he was younger he treated the content of science as a changeable moving target. (There is an echo of this in the History in his passing comments on the impact of quantum mechanics on science (p. 540.)) Even so, one important implication of Russell's picture is that even in philosophy science has only limited authority: it may provide constraints, but if a question is properly philosophical, the present answer will outstrip the resources of present science (but may make future science possible). So, even scientific philosophy is in a certain sense beyond science. (I return to this below.)

Second, Russell thinks speculations, past and present, are interesting, in part, because they help understand ages and nations, which are both partially constituted by philosophy and, in turn, constitute it (see also the chapter on political liberalism). So, even if the history of philosophy is the history of error, it's these errors that shape fundamental features of social reality. And while ages may pass and nations go extinct, the present age and existing nations have been partially shaped by past philosophy.

This suggests that in order to grasp one's social world one must become acquainted with the speculative thoughts that helped shape it. If one only studies effects (e.g.,ages and nations) one lacks a full understanding and explanation of one's social world. And strikingly this acquaintance must be of such a sort that one becomes in a certain way a philosopher oneself ("to understand its philosophy we must ourselves be in some degree philosophers.") The study of the history of philosophy is thus, both, part of a political education and part of the path toward rationality.

Third, because philosophy is intrinsically speculative it is always accompanied by uncertainty. And so the natural teaching of philosophy qua philosophy in the art of living is to learn to live without certainty. (This puts an interesting spin on Keynes and Knight.) Russell tacitly assumes away here that giving up on hopes and fears -- the Stoic and Buddhist response -- or the very asking of certain questions (e.g., Hume, Nietzsche, Carnap, Wittgenstein) are appropriate.*

In Russell's narrative to live without certainty is, at bottom, the teaching of Locke (p. 608-9, where he quotes the Essay IV.XVI.4).** And because Locke is treated as the "first comprehensive statement of liberal philosophy" (600), we can see that for Russell liberalism -- in so far as it remains a skeptical liberalism -- is the repository of philosophy's contribution to the art of living. Marxism and fascism are also genuinely modern, in the way that liberalism is modern, but  these are more coherent than liberalism. Fascism, however, produces the subordination of individual reason to some despotic (non-rational) authority (600 & 790). In principle, Marxism need not do so in its ultimate state, but to get there rational persuasion is sacrificed to class war and revolution (790).

As an aside, Russell recognizes that to learn to live with uncertainty, which is always a bit "painful," is not always what's called for; one should not always insist on it in others. In particular, he praises Spinoza's philosophy of being a source of "help towards sanity and an antidote to the paralysis of utter despair" when circumstances are especially bad. According to Russell is this available without the metaphysical claims of Spinoza--"all one needs to realize is that that "human life...is an infinitesimal part of the life of the universe." (580)

Russell understands scientific philosophy, or the philosophy of logical analysis, as a two-fold discovery: on the one hand "many questions...can be answered with precision, and by objective methods" not perhaps definitively, but with cumulative "successive approximations to the truth." (835-6) And where such truth is reached, philosophy turns into science. On the other hand, it is the embrace of mankind's inability to "find conclusive answers to many questions of profound importance to mankind" by science and reason alone. (835) That is to say, in this respect, as it looks like 'western' civilization is nearly destroying itself, Russell interprets the general outlook of  scientific philosophy as in fundamental accord with the way liberalism is the depository of philosophy's true teaching, as he puts in the last sentence of the book: "in abandoning a part of its dogmatic pretensions, philosophy does not cease to suggest and inspire a way of life." (836)

 

*It is often thought that to learn to live without certainty is characteristic of modernity. But I have long thought, inspired by this paper by Howard Stein, that for Plato philosophical questions do not just begin in wonder, but also (more speculatively) end in wonder. Russell himself thinks that Socrates is fundamentally dogmatic "his professed uncertainty is only assumed" (89; discussing the afterlife.)

**I do not mean to suggest that for Russell, Locke is the only philosopher that embraces this. (See History 663 on Hume's challenge to philosophy!)

Hanson Doesn’t Rule Out The Earth Being Flat And Exacerbating The Bushfires

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Tue, 14/01/2020 - 7:00am in

Hansonn

One Nation leader Senator Pauline Hanson has refused to rule out the World being flat and the effect of which exacerbating the current bushfires burning in Australia.

“We can’t say for sure that the earth is round,” said Senator Hanson. ”I have been shown some fascinating blogs and YouTube videos from my colleague Malcolm Roberts which have definitely convinced me to keep an open mind.”

“And if the Earth is flat surely that has to have an effect on the bushfires. I mean look at a stove they are flat, not round and they heat things up.”

When asked why she was so willing to believe a blog, YouTube video or Senator Roberts over say NASA or 97% of all Scientists, Senator Hanson said: ”Well where are there blogs?”

”If NASA can go to all that effort to fake a moon landing why can’t they produce a blog or Tumblr page.”

”My crackpot team of researchers spend a lot of time online and they’ve never shown me a thing from NASA that has me convinced that the Earth is definitively round.”

Mark Williamson

You can follow The (un)Australian on twitter @TheUnOz or like us on https://www.facebook.com/theunoz.

Weird Science: Plants as Interplanetary Communication Devices

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Fri, 10/01/2020 - 5:06am in

Science Fiction has been described as the literature of ideas, and one of the most bizarre ideas is that grass is an artificial computing device. This strange notion appears in Clifford Simak’s 1965 novel, All Flesh Is Grass. This is about a small American town that finds itself completely enclosed beneath a forcefield. The town is on a nexus linking our world and its counterpart in a parallel universe. Investigating the force field and the strange disappearance years earlier of a mentally handicapped lad, the hero finds himself transported to this alternative Earth, where he meets the missing boy, now grown up. He also encounters a group of mysterious travellers from yet another universe, who have come to the world simply to listen to music and dance. Returning to our Earth, he finds that the force field has been put around the town by intelligent extradimensional aliens. There is a series of alternative Earths, who have come together to form some kind of interdimensional federation. These wise, enlightened beings wish to help humanity. They are skilled physicians, and show their good intentions by healing the town’s sick free of charge. It’s revealed that grass is some kind of intelligently engineered device, which was used by an alien race for information storage thousands of years ago.

As with many of the stranger ideas in literature, whether Science Fiction or not, you wonder where the idea came from. Some clue is perhaps given in the 1973 Erich Von Daniken book In Search of Ancient Gods: My Pictorial Evidence for the Impossible. Beginning on page 192, the world’s most notorious author on ancient astronauts discusses how two American scientists suggested that plants could be extraterrestrial communication devices. He writes

So far all attempts to capture signals from the cosmos with the aid of electromagnetic waves have failed. Dr George Lawrence of the Ecola Institute in San Bernardino, California, hit on a fantastic new way to communicate with extraterrestrial intelligences. Lawrence wondered if plants connected to an electronic control system would be suitable for communication with the universe. It is known that plants possess electrodynamic properties, indeed their capacity to assimilate tests and react in a binary way like a computer is sensational. Lawrence closely observed the semiconductive and general electromotive capacities of plants. He asked himself the following questions as part of his programme:

  1. Can plants be integrated with electronic apparatuses in such a way that they yield usable data?
  2. Can plants be trained to react to specific objects or events?
  3. Is the assumption that plants have the capacity for exception perception provable?
  4. Which of the 350,000 kinds of plants is most suited for the test. (p. 192)

Von Daniken then goes on to describe how plants respond to electric stimulation, and how Dr Clyde Backster, an expert in lie detectors, observed similar responses in 1969 during experiments in which he believed his test plants responded telepathically, at first to himself lighting a match, and then to a bucket of shrimps being plunged into boiling water. This response became known, apparently, as the Backster effect. Von Daniken continues

Dr Lawrence next tried to use plants for electromagnetic contact with the cosmos. A series of experiments, christened Project Cyclops, was organised over a distance of seven miles in the Mojave Desert, near Las Vegas. On 29 October 1971 at the same fraction of a second the measuring sets attached to the plants registered heightened curves which were transferred to the tape by an amplifier. What was going on? Was something underground stimulating the plants? Were there torrents of lava, earthquakes, magnetic influences? New sets were made, the plants were protected in lead boxes and Faradaic cages. The result was the same! Observed over a long period of time, curves and notes showed a certain synchronicity. The plants seemed to be communicating. Plants cannot think: they can only react. Every conceivable kind of magnetic wavelength was tried. At the moment of the different reactions, nothing could be heard. Could the process be connected with the fixed stars, with quasars or radiation? A new series of experiments clearly showed that the cause came from the cosmos. Radioastronomers with their gigantic antenna could pick up nothing, but plants showed violent reactions. Obviously a wavelength that functioned biologically was involved. This brought the experimenters into a territory whose existence has been suspected, but which is not measurable so far – telepathy. A biological contact took place in a way unexplained to date, but during the detour via the cells it became measurable. Dr George Lawrence said on the subject:

Obviously biological interstellar communication is nothing new. We have only 215 astronomic observatories in the world, but about a million of the biological type, although we call them by other names such as churches, temples and mosques. A biological system (mankind) communicates (prays) to a far distant higher being. Biological understanding is also the order of the day in the animal kingdom; we have only to think of dogs and cats which find their way home again by instinct. A fascinating feature of the experiments in the desert is the realisation that these biological contacts with the cosmos are connected with the speed of light.

The suspicion is growing stronger that the plants are called up by someone in the constellation Epsilon Bootes at a hundred times the speed of light. That is also why radioastronomers could not register the transmissions. Why use a big drum when a kettledrum is available? Perhaps we have investigated interstellar contacts with the wrong instruments, the wrong wavelengths and the wrong spectrum until now. (p.194-5).

This is clearly very fringe science, if not actually pseudoscience of the type likely to get Richard Dawkins grinding his teeth. It also merges into a kind of New Age pantheism, in which the cosmos itself may be some kind of God or supreme intelligence. It’s all very different from what I was taught in secondary school that grass was a monocotolydon. That means, it only has one leaf. I also note that the experiments started in 1971, some six years after Simak published his novel. But scientists and novelists were discussing plant intelligence from the 1950s onwards, including the idea that they could feel pain. It’s now been found that plants do communicate biochemically, and there was an article in the papers last week stating that they do feel pain. Perhaps Lawrence’s ideas, or ideas similar to them, were being discussed several years before Lawrence conducted his experiments, and influenced Simak when he wrote his book.

‘I’ Review of Art Exhibition on Ecological Crisis and Some Solutions

Also of interest in yesterday’s I was a review by Sarah Kent of the exhibition, Eco-Visionaries, at the Royal Society in London. This was about the current ecological crisis, and showcased some possible solutions to the problem, some of them developed by architects. This included a moving desert city, the Green Machine, which also planted a watered crops as it moved. The article ran

Melancholy humming welcomes you to the exhibition, with a globe suspended in the cloudy waters of a polluted fish tank. This simple installation by the artist duo HeHe neatly pinpoints our predicament: our planet is suffocating.

“The absence of a future has already begun,” declare Ana Vaz and Tristan Bera in a film, Reclaimed (2015). We know this already – according to the UN, we need to cut carbon emissions to zero by 2050 if we are to prevent the collapse of the Earth’s ecosystem. So what are we waiting for?

Vaz and Bera highlight the problem. The situation requires a wholesale change in attitude: minor tinkering can’t solve it. We need “reciprocity with nature rather than domination… We are nature.” We are mesmerised by events such as the Arctic on fire, Greenland’s ice-cap melting and Venice drowning. But the scale of the problem is so enormous that we can only watch, “fascinated by the acceleration” of the crisis.

The collective Rimini Protokoli encourages us to confront our imminent extinction. On film we see a tank full of languidly floating jellyfish. They flourish in the warming seas and, with diminishing fish stocks, there’s less competition for the plankton they feed on, so their numbers are increasing dramatically. Humans are similarly multiplying – by 2050, according to the UN, there will be 9.7 billion of us – but unlike jellyfish, we require too much energy to adapt to climate change so, like the dinosaurs, our days are numbered. At the end of the presentation they invite us to go with the words: “Your time is up; you will have to leave.”

The Royal Academy is to be congratulated for hosting an exhibition that tackles this urgent issue, but the show exemplifies the problem. The warnings are persuasive, but the solutions envisaged are pitifully inadequate, mainly by architects who don’t address the catastrophe but instead offer us post-apocalyptic follies. The Green Machine (2014) is Studio Malka’s answer to desertification. Resembling a giant oil rig, this monstrosity trundles across the Sahara on caterpillar treads that plough the ground then sow and water the seeds to produce 20 million tons of food per year. Solar towers, wind turbines and water-capturing balloons create a “self-sufficient urban oasis” for those inside. What percentage of the 9.7 billion will they accommodate, I wonder?

Studio Malka’s Green Machine mobile desert city.

It’s a grim subject, and clearly the ecological crisis requires drastic action across the entire globe and very soon. But I am fascinated by the Green Machine. It reminds me of the giant moving cities that cross the devastated future Earth in the SF film Mortal  Engines. As for how many people such a machine could house, the answer is: very few. Douglas Murray’s book Last Futures: Nature, Technology and the End of Architecture predicts that if we carry on as we are, we will end up with a future in which the rich will inhabit closed, protected environments like the various biodomes that were created in the 1990s, while the rest of humanity will be left to fend for itself in the decaying world outside.

It’s a bleak, dystopian prediction, but one I fear will come true if we carry on electing leaders like Trump and Johnson.

‘I’ Article About Research into Artificial Wombs and their Morality

This is another science story from yesterday’s I for 7th January 2020. It’s about current research into developing artificial wombs. At the moment, these would be for very premature babies, but they could in theory go much further, which raises some serious ethical issues.

The article by Alla Katsnelson, ‘Baby in a bag: could humans be grown in an artificial womb?’ runs

Critically preterm babies face an uncertain future. Although a foetus is considered viable at 24 weeks of gestation, only about 60 per cent of babies born so young will survive, and many will experience life-long complications.

For those born a couple of weeks earlier, the statistics are even more dire: just 10 per cent of babies born at 22 weeks are likely to survive.

building a so-called artificial womb could potentially save these babies. In October, researchers from Eindhoven University of Technology in the Netherlands announced that they had received a grant for E2.9m (£2.5m) to develop a prototype of such a device. But the project isn’t the only artificial womb on the horizon. In 2017, researchers in Philadelphia transferred foetal lambs, aged between 105 and 115 days of gestation (equivalent to about 28 to 30 weeks human gestation), into a so-called biobag filled with artificial amniotic fluid. After several weeks in the bag, the lambs developed normally. And in March 2019, an Australian and Japanese research team kept younger lambs, about 95 days’ gestational age, alive in a different system.

Dr Matthew Kemp, who led the latter work, admits that researchers don’t fully understand foetal growth in the womb, which makes replicating it a challenge. The Dutch group noted plans to roll out a clinic-ready prototype in five years, but Dr Kemp says it will probably take much longer. And because the technology is so costly, it’s unlikely to be widely available any time soon.

So far, what researchers call artificial wombs are essentially souped-up incubators. They provide a fluid-filled space in which a foetus can receive nutrients and oxygen through a ‘placenta’. From there to full-on ectogenesis – incubating foetuses outside a human for the full duration of a pregnancy – is an enormous leap.

But many bioethicists note that technology moves quickly, and proactively thinking through the possibilities is important.

In this more futuristic vision, artificial wombs can do a lot for society, says Dr Elizabeth Yuko, a bioethicist at Fordham University in New York. It could allow people who can’t carry a pregnancy for whatever reason – illness, infertility, age, or gender – to do so. It might also shift some of the childbearing responsibilities carried by women. But it also raises concerns. For example, ex-utero gestation would probably turn reproductive rights on their head, says Elizabeth Chloe Romanis, a lawyer and bioethicist at the University of Manchester. If a foetus can gestate outside a woman’s body, the choice fo whether or not to have the baby might be deemed out of her hands.

Another issue is that our legal rights are predicated on having been born alive. “I don’t think that a gestating subject in an artificial womb necessarily meets that requirement,” says Romanis. “That raises some questions about human entities ex-utero that have never existed before.

There have been newspaper articles about the development of artificial wombs since the 1980s, at least. The Absurder published one c. 1985, and I think the Independent also published one in the 1990s. And the whole area of artificial reproduction has been a live issue since the first ‘test tube’ baby created through in vitro fertilisation in the 1970s. But it also raises the spectacle of the kind of dystopian society Aldous Huxley portrayed in Brave New World, where humans are bred in hatcheries, engineered and conditioned for their future role in society. The Auronar, the telepathic race to which Cally, one of the heroes of the Beeb’s SF series, Blake’s 7, also reproduced through artificial gestation.And one of the predictions in Brian Stableford’s and David Langford’s future history, The Third Millennium, is that during this millennium this will be the preferred method of human reproduction, at least in some extraterrestrial colonies. And over a decade Radio 4 broadcast a series in which various intellectuals created fictional museums. One was ‘the museum of the biological body’, set in a post-human future in which people were neuter cyborgs born from hatcheries. This is obviously very far off, and I doubt anywhere near the majority of humans would ever want to reject gender and sexuality completely, whatever certain sections of the trans community might believe.

As with cloning and Dolly the Sheep, it raises very profound and disturbing questions about humanity’s future and how far technology should expand into the area of reproduction.

Chinese Companies Creating Robot Cats

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Thu, 09/01/2020 - 12:27am in

Yesterday’s I for 7th January 2020 carried this article, ‘Chinese companies unveil robotic cats’ by Rhiannon Williams, which ran

Dogs may be man’s best friends but cats are stealing a march on them at the world’s largest technology fair, the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas.

Elephant Robotics, a Chinese firm, is showcasing MarsCat, a robot feline with artificial intelligence that recognises objects and responds to being stroked. It has created six different characters for the robot: enthusiastic, aloof, energetic, lazy, social and shy. Its personality develops according to how it is treated: ignoring MarsCat will make it ignore you, while paying it attention makes it more likely to respond to humans. Elephant Robotics is crowdfunding to develop the project, with the aim of selling MarsCat as both a toy-like robot and programmable device for education institutions.

Another Chinese firm, PuduTech, has created a robotic cat designed to deliver plates of food in a restaurant to diners.

Okay, humans have had automatons replicating animals since one of the Greek philosophers or engineers designed a singing bird operated by steam. The pressure of the steam caused its wings to stretch and operated a whistle in its throat. The Chinese had a mechanical waitress in the 9th Century, which trundled along bringing the assembled aristos their tea at banquets. During the Middle Ages, some nobles decorated their estates with a whole menagerie of mechanical animals, often clad in real fur or feathers to make them even closer in appearance to the real animals. These machines have become increasingly sophisticated with the march of computer technology. There was the Tamagotchi and Furbies robotic pets in the 1990s. But this comes close to the world of Philip K. Dick’s Blade Runner, in which real animals are so rare and endangered after World War Terminus that humans own robotic simulations instead. Which leads us to the question posed by the title of the book on which the film was based. As AI advances and people dream of creating humanoid robots, ‘Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?’

Lib Dem Politico Bullied into Coming Out as Gay by Mail on Sunday

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Wed, 08/01/2020 - 6:37am in

This is absolutely disgusting. I really do wonder how the alleged ladies and gentlemen of the scumbag British press sleep at night. Zelo Street this afternoon reported that Layla Moran, the MP for Oxford West and Abingdon, came out last week. She revealed that she was pansexual, and was in a loving, supportive relationship with another woman. Moran’s a contender for the Lib Dem leadership, and her announcement that she was gay was on ITV news. Moran says that their relationship started six months ago. So naturally, Zelo Street raises the obvious question: why is she telling us all this now?

It’s because, according to Hacked Off, the group representing the victims of press phone hacking, Moran was put under pressure by hacks from the Mail on Sunday.  The organisation said

 “Ms Moran has described how several reporters have been asking questions, door-knocking neighbours and even offering payment to a former partner seeking information about her personal life over the last few months. Ms Moran writes that the Mail on Sunday threatened to publish details relating to her sexuality last Saturday, and that she herself only decided to reveal her sexuality publicly last week because she feared the newspaper would go on to publish”.

She did so on social media, which really annoyed the MoS, who were reduced to running a piece about Mumsnet showing bitterly critical posts of her by its users. One of these accused her of ‘weaponising’ her relationship with the Lib Dems former head of media, Rosy Cobb.

The Street then quotes Nathan Sparkes of Hacked Off on the squalid cruelty the MoS has shown:

“Newspapers have no business revealing an individual’s sexuality against their will, far less a politician who has devoted much of her career to date to furthering the cause of LGBT+ rights and equality … The decision of the Mail on Sunday … to publish an article attacking Ms Moran based on a handful of abusive tweets on a social media site speaks to the vindictiveness and cruelty of parts of our unregulated press”.

The Street concludes ‘Our free and fearless press’ attitude to sexuality stinks. And that has to change.’

See: https://zelo-street.blogspot.com/2020/01/layla-moran-bullied-into-coming-out.html

I think I saw something in the I written by Moran about her experience of ‘coming out’. It had the title ‘In the 21st Century Coming Out Shouldn’t Be An Issue’, or something along those lines. I didn’t read it because quite frankly I wasn’t interested. So many public figures have come out over the past decades – pop stars, sportsmen and women, actors, politicos – that you get used to it, even bored. With many public figures, whether gay or straight, who they’re romantically involved with is the least interesting aspect of their lives. What’s more interesting is their talent, or issues such as whether they have an unusual personal background, skill or medical condition. Such as, for example, whether they can speak an exotic language, have mastered an arcane science or intellectual discipline like quantum physics, or are able to fly an aircraft. Or have overcome personal misfortune or a medical condition like autism or depression. For a politician, what really matters is how hard they work for and represent their constituents, and their policy positions. Like where they stand on Brexit, the destruction of the welfare state, rising inequality, racism, the privatisation of the NHS and so forth. Provided that they’re not breaking the law and their partners are consenting adults, who they share their private lives with is their own business.

I grew up in the 1980s, when the gay rights organisations were aggressively outing politicians, who kept their sexuality hidden. I thought that this was pretty shabby, until a gay friend of mine told me that the politicos they targeted were hypocrites, who publicly opposed homosexuality and its toleration. There was a serious point to their actions. But there doesn’t seem to be anything like that here, just a simple desire to boost sales figures through scandal.

And unfortunately, the press has got plenty of previous in trying to bully people into revealing their sexuality in this way. Way back in the 1990s the ‘Street of Shame’ column in Private Eye carried a story about an attempt by one of the tabloids – something like the Scum or the News of the Screws – to blackmail one of the pop stars of the day into coming out in its pages. Wisely, he decided to thwart them by going to one of the other papers instead to make the revelation.

And stalking celebrities in order to find out if they’re gay or not is pretty squalid anyway. A few years ago there was a programme on how the Mirror got that story about George Michael going into a gay toilet in Beverley Hills or wherever. That was when it was edited by Piers Morgan, now adorning ITV’s breakfast news. The photographer was there for a week staking the place out waiting for a celebrity, any celebrity, to come and use it. The photographs he took from a car parked over the road were worth tens of thousands. Which itself shows the squalid morals of the newspaper business. I’ve no doubt his family and children were well fed, clad and educated by the profits of his job, but it’s not exactly something your children can boast about in school. After hearing from all the other children how their parents are builders, engineers, scientists, business people,  artists or whatever, what child really wants to answer the question ‘What does your mum/dad do?’ with the reply, ‘He/she hangs around gay toilets hoping to catch rock stars getting arrested by the rozzers’?

As for Mumsnet, they’ve been described as ‘4chan with prosecco’. From what I gather of 4chan, it’s an internet platform seething with racism, sexism and vicious trolls, so that’s hardly an endorsement.

The Mail on Sunday’s treatment of Moran, and the British press’ treatment of innocent people just trying to live their lives in peace is deeply shameful, and shows why it really does need to be subject to a press watchdog with teeth.

“The Township Will Not be Defendable”.

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Fri, 03/01/2020 - 10:25pm in

That’s part of the advice the NSW Rural Fire Service delivered to Batlow residents and visitors yesterday. “If you are in this area, particularly in the general area from Batlow north to Wondalga and west of Blowering Dam, you need to leave before tomorrow.”

A number of areas where residents and locals are urged to leave were identified around southeast NSW and eastern Victoria.

More generally, emergency authorities in both states have highlighted the seriousness of the situation in their frequent media appearances.

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There remains a number of uncontained fires raging all over those states and tomorrow weather conditions are expected to take a turn for the worse. The forecasts are for temperature away from the coast reaching into their low- to mid-forties with strong northerly and northwesterly winds during the day. Given the severe and generalised drought, fire conditions are expected to worsen:

(source)
A cool change is expected for late afternoon and early evening, which, however, may paradoxically make fire expansion harder to predict.

It’s impossible for me to advance an estimate of the total population affected, beyond saying it could easily reach into the hundreds of thousands. Traffic conditions, telecommunications, and power supply apparently improved; food, water and fuel arrived, so evacuation was possible.

Media coverage suggests that most visitors left the affected areas; it’s a lot harder to say anything about residents. Hopefully the township of Mallacoota is no indication of the general trend: out of the population trapped there (initially said to be about 4 thousand, later revised upwards to about 5 thousand), only some 1,200 (apparently tourists) left on board one of two ships the Navy dispatched.

Those choosing to stay explain their attitude in different ways when asked by reporters. Commitment to their communities seem to be one. Some, even among those who chose to leave, appear to doubt things will get that bad.

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I went through those details because I want readers to realise that emergency authorities did not sugarcoat the situation. They did not shy away from expressing their beliefs, based on their professional experience. Their language was blunt, fitting a potential catastrophe brewing. I am sure readers will agree.

I don’t mean what I am going to write as a criticism to a very large number of climate change scientists. I know they meant well. I am only a low-income worker, so I can only imagine the pressures they faced to sound reasonable, measured, cautious. I know what they say about hindsight. But the truth is that climate change scientists have been pulling their punches in a misguided attempt to avoid alarm. I wish they had used the same language emergency authorities used.

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Professor Chris Dickman, from the University of Sydney, estimates that 480 million animals have been killed since last September, in NSW alone (so far, the fires have also affected Western Australia, South Australia, Victoria, Tasmania, and Queensland).

That figure underestimates the damage done to the environment. For one because it excludes insects, bats and amphibians.For another, because it says nothing about vegetation.

However, another previous estimate -- from December -- now painfully dated, puts the CO2 emission of NSW result of the bushfires in 195 million tonnes (Queensland added another 55 million).

Given that most of those emissions comes from vegetation, it does suggest how much vegetation biomass was lost, although it says little about the number of individuals lost.

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2019 was Australia’s hottest and driest year on record, according to the Bureau of Meteorology.

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The false prophet (Revelation 19:20) who runs this country apparently called the National Security Committee of Cabinet for early next week to deal with the bushfire crisis. I doubt anything good will come of that.

Video of the V-9: the German Missile Against America

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Thu, 26/12/2019 - 10:14pm in

Hi peeps! I hope you had a great Christmas Day, and are enjoying Boxing Day.  Here’s another piece about German World War 2 aerospace technology. It’s a video from Mark Felton’s channel on YouTube about the America Rocket. Felton posts vlogs about World War II fighting machines, and in this video he describes how the rocket was designed by Werner von Braun to hit New York. It was a two-stage version of the V-2. Unlike its predecessor, however, it was to be piloted. The German guidance system couldn’t work over such a long range without beacons. The German navy tried placing these in Greenland and other places on the other side of the Atlantic, but they were quickly found and destroyed by the Allies. This left them with creating a piloted version of the missile their only option. It was not, however, a suicide weapon like the Japanese kamikaze. Just before or during its final dive, the pilot was expected to bail out and parachute to safety. Lack of funding and the turn of the War against the Nazis meant that this was fortunately never built. If it had been, not only would the Nazis have built the world’s first ICBM, but they would have been the first nation to put a man in space.

Again, I should say that while I’m impressed with the scientific and engineering expertise in the development of the V-2 and this missile, I despise its purpose. The V-2 was responsible for thousands of deaths in London, and the prospect of a missile that could hit New York is terrifying. Particularly if the Nazis had succeeded in developing nuclear weapons. And the Third Reich was, of course, a brutal dictatorship dedicated to the enslavement and extermination of millions.

After the War there was a plan by the British Interplanetary Society to adapt a captured V-2 so that it could carry a man into space. Nothing came of it, however, as when the plan was finalised the Ministry of Supply weren’t interested and the missiles and their parts were no longer available.

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