The role of the citizen scientist

By | Books, Climate Change, Environment, History, Media, Politics, Religion, Research | 55 Comments

In a recent post I mentioned a fine book by Aaron Wildavsky, and said I would return to it in due course. I knew Wildavsky’s name once I started postgraduate study, because with another young graduate student Wildavsky had written a little book on Australian politics in the 1920s. In those days nothing very much had been published on Australian politics so of course I read Wildavsky’s small piece on the 1926 referendum. He’d gone back to the US by the time I was ready to talk with him, and I didn’t finally meet him until I gave dinner in his honour…

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Extraordinary numbers, and new words — a miscellany

By | Climate Change | 26 Comments

Alan Moran writes well, and I was impressed by a recent article of his in Catallaxy files on the absurd electricity-generation situation in South Australia. One number took me by surprise: the spot price for electricity moved from the usual range of $50-100 per megawatt hour to thousands, just like that. I believe the highest point was around $14,000. To put the rise in domestic terms, where you would normally pay five to ten cents to run a thousand-watt radiator for an hour, now you would be charged $14. What had caused this extraordinary rise? Alan Moran explains it: Last…

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#16 A Summary

By | ABC, Books, Climate Change, Education, Environment, History, Language, Media, My Perspective, Politics, Religion, Research | 63 Comments

Introduction: This is the last essay in this series, an attempt on my part to set out what I think about the ‘climate change’ issue. It is based on the fifteen previous essays in the series, each linked in the text with (#x), which are in turn based on ten years of reading and thinking about the matter, plus half a working lifetime in the research policy and funding domain. I do not claim to be right about all of this, or indeed of any of it. ‘Climate change’ is an incredibly complicated business, involving the areas of study of the…

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Books that have been important to me #2 Biggles, by W. E. Johns

By | Books, Education, History, Politics | 32 Comments

At about age nine I came across my first Biggles book. I’m pretty sure it was The Camels are Coming, and those Camels were not the ships of the desert but the Sopwith Camel fighters of the Royal Flying Corps in the Great War. I was hooked at once. The book came from the small collection of a new friend who had arrived from England (he also had Dinky toys, and was thus a really important friend). Before long I had read all of his scant Biggles library, and eventually enrolled in the National Library, then in Kings Avenue, Canberra in order…

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The perplexity about the election outcome

By | Climate Change, History, Media, Politics, Religion, Research | 94 Comments

As I write, on Sunday afternoon, it is pretty clear that Malcolm Turnbull and his colleagues will be able to govern in their own right, at least as far as the House of Representatives is concerned. The current state of the likely Senate is unclear, but both the Government and the Opposition seem likely to lose seats, at the expense of Nick Xenophon, the Greens and One Nation. As I said in my last essay, the Prime Minister will need to develop some pleasant and effective negotiating skills, or find a few colleagues who already have them. All sorts of…

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It doesn’t have to be a circus

By | Climate Change, Economy, Education, Environment, Health, History, Politics, Religion, Research | 32 Comments

The driver who took us home from the airport suggested that the election result was a bad thing because the outcome was uncertain. I said the result was the result we had, and that the politicians would simply have to make it work. That was, after all, what their jobs were about. Politics is the art of the compromise. He was unpersuaded. A clear outcome was what he had been seeking, and it seemed to him, I thought, that anything else was bad for the country. We didn’t solve that one before the car arrived at our freezing house, unheated for…

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The election in Fairyland

By | ABC, Climate Change, Environment, History, Language, Media, Politics, Religion, Research | 40 Comments

For the last three weeks I have been in Queensland, and no one much there wanted to talk about the election. When the time came for me to vote, in Townsville a week before the poll, even the how-to-vote people outside were reluctant to talk about the likely outcome. I missed Bill Shorten at a Cathy O’Toole rally in Townsville by a minute or two, but later saw a big sign declaring that ‘Only Bill Shorten and Cathy O’Toole can deliver the Stadium!’ For those unaware of this election-winning slogan, Townsville would like a decent stadium just like Sydney and…

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Brexit and after

By | Climate Change, Economy, Environment, History, Media, Politics, Religion, Research | 26 Comments

The possible link between the Brexit vote and the Australian election a few days later has exercised a few commentators. Some think there will be no flow-on effects. Some think it will benefit the Coalition. The financial effects are thought to be short-term. Some think the new Britain will want to buy more from us. An occasional comment suggest that this is the end of the world as we have known it. Some seem to think it was all a conspiracy by climate change sceptics. What fascinated me was the fury of the Remain brigade at the outcome. How dare people…

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My perspective on Climate change #15 ‘But what about the precautionary principle?’

By | ABC, Climate Change, Economy, Environment, History, Language, Media, My Perspective, Politics, Religion, Research | 48 Comments

I was at a dinner once where one of the guests gave vent to his objections to genetically modified foods, on the grounds that he didn’t want to eat chemicals. I’ve forgotten what we were eating, and our hostess pointed out quickly that her bill of fare contained no synthetic or other ‘tampered with’ food. I stayed out of that one, but I did wonder what the complainer knew of chemistry. Everything we eat, and indeed everything that we are, is a complex of chemicals. Human beings have  become quite skilful at determining the nature of some chemicals, and creating…

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Books that have been important to me #1 Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen

By | ABC, Books, Education, History, Language, Society | 22 Comments

I’m starting a new series of essays on books that have been important to me, those  to which I return for another read, which is probably the test of an important book. I was a voracious reader from an early age, and would read anything at hand, including encyclopaedias. I studied English at the honours level at high school, and then spent three years studying English literature as an undergraduate, which put me off reading books for pleasure for a decade. Well, not quite. I turned to science fiction, and read widely in that genre, and went into detective stories too. In 1964…

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