• Climate - Politics - Science Stuff

    ‘Clean Coal’

    The confusing thing (and I suspect intentionally confusing) about ‘clean coal’ is that the term has at least two meanings. Coal tends to include things like sulphur in addition to its carbon content, and that has caused acid rain and other problems in the past. It can also burn incompletely,…

  • Musings - Personal

    Thoughts on Death

    ‘Dawntreader’ posted the following question to start a thread at the William Gibson Board: Each one of us will experience it. Sudden or slow. With foresight or by some swift suprise we will all die. Yet, this common fate is so highly personal that discussion of the topic is usually…

  • General

    Sad – and Crucially Important

    Bad parenting can harm children for life There is lots of evidence, and this is just more of it, that affection, attention and stimulation of children in their first three years are what set them up for life. This article focuses on the negative, but the reverse is true too:…

  • Politics - Teaching

    Performance Pay for Teachers

    …has been embraced as a policy position by both major political parties in Australia. The unions are arguing that it’s intrinsically unfair: some students and some teaching jobs are just tougher than others. I think that it’s possible to make it fair, but have virtually zero faith in the government…

  • Teaching

    An Experiment?

    The class I’m teaching today is about assessment: how we mark students’ work and assign them a grade. Assessment is a huge deal in education and a huge amount of work: the section on assessment in the physics syllabus is thicker than the section outlining the actual physics content to…

  • Musings

    ‘Setting Free’ vs ‘Making Free’

    In the New King James Version (and in the Old King James Version, where I learned it), Jesus says (in John 8:32): And you shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free. I saw someone quote it today, but they said ‘the truth will set you free’.…

  • Climate - Philosophy - Science Stuff

    Fear and Threats and Life

    I guess I’ve tended to concentrate on climate change stuff here, basically because those are the arguments I’ve been having and that’s been stimulating my thinking. But in terms of the threats to our long-term comfort and survival, climate is only one of several. We tend to think we’ve dodged…

  • Politics

    Iran Over-estimates Americans

    Iranian official condemns “300”: While the gory battle blockbuster “300” set box office records in the United States, an official in Iran accused the movie of being part of “a comprehensive U.S. psychological war aimed at Iranian culture,” according to a report from China’s Xinhua news service. Javad Shamqadri, art…

  • Climate

    A Climate Change Story

    On another forum someone posted a link to this 2004 story from the UK’s ‘telegraph’ newspaper to call the human causation of climate change into question: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/main.jhtml?xml=/news/2004/07/18/wsun18.xml Here’s the Telegraph’s take (but do read the whole article): Dr Solanki said that the brighter Sun and higher levels of “greenhouse gases”,…

  • Science Stuff

    I Contain Multitudes

    I really like, and have probably quoted here before, Walt Whitman’s statement: “Do I contradict myself? Very well then, I contradict myself: I am large, I contain multitudes.” It’s a nice complement to Ralph Waldo Emerson’s: “A foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds.” Old Walt was speaking metaphorically…

  • Philosophy

    The Platonic Essence of Boobies

    …is something I mentioned in passing in a footnote yesterday, but thought I might spend a few more minutes contemplating today ;). Apologies if you find the discussion offensive, please feel free to skip it. Part of Plato’s philosophy was the idea of ‘essences’ or ‘Ideals’ – the characteristic shared…

  • Musings

    Appealing to Two Demographics

    There’s a big billboard I ride past on the way home that’s advertising an online car sales site. In addition to the usual photo it has a long panel of red LEDs along the bottom that spells out words and changes its message. It has a loop of several messages…

  • Climate - Politics - Science Stuff

    The Anti-Crichton

    I’ve enjoyed Michael Crichton’s novels like ‘Timeline’ and ‘Prey’ and ‘Jurassic Park’, while always knowing that his science is definitely made up for fictional purposes and full of holes. In his most recent novel, State of Fear, though, he takes on global climate change (aka warming) and claims (in a…