Books that have been important to me #7 Howard Gardner, Frames of Mind. The Theory of Multiple Intelligences

By | Books, Education, History, Language, Music, Politics, Research, Society | One Comment

In the middle 1990s I was asked to give a plenary address at an education conference, and you can find its text here, or if the link doesn’t work, by going in the masthead to my Writings, then to Educational, then to ‘Who Counts?’ What follows here is based on that speech. The beginning of my speech was based on a series of questions that had troubled me throughout my working life, as to just what ‘intelligence’ was, and why it was so important. I was usually near the top in my classes at school, but rarely at the very…

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Two essays on ‘climate change’

By | Books, Climate Change, Environment, History, Politics, Religion, Research | 46 Comments

I have come across two important essays on aspects of climate change, which I bring to the attention of readers. Each is by an eminent scientist of a sceptical bent. I can’t summarise them here, and that would be wrong anyway, because each is well-written, clear and sensible. They are worth reading in full. The first is almost ten years old, and was written by Richard Lindzen, then the Alfred P. Sloan Professor of Meteorology at MIT. It was written in 2008, and you can read it in full here. I can give you much of the Abstract, which should whet…

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Books that have been important to me #6 A. E. van Vogt and science fiction

By | Books, History, Language, Politics, Religion, Research, Society | 11 Comments

The travails of reading English literature as an undergraduate pushed me away from reading good books for pleasure. I found an outlet in science fiction, the text versions of the comics I had enjoyed, like Buck Rogers. I had started as a boy with Jules Verne, and Conan Doyle’s The Lost World. Then came C. S. Lewis’s science fiction yarns, Out of the Silent Planet and Perelandra. They were, like W. E. Johns’s Biggles stories, rattling good yarns, imaginative tales that gave you a sense of a much wider and grander world. The war was just over, ‘our scientists were…

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Australia Day and other Great Issues

By | History, Media, Politics, Society | 39 Comments

I mentioned a couple of weeks ago that we are having a few tiny issues magnified into Great Ones, gay marriage being one. Now we are having another one, about Australia Day’s being on 26 January. For those who haven’t had a recent dose of Australian history, this is when Governor Arthur Phillip planted the flag on land somewhere near the present Government House at Sydney Cove. He had actually been there for a day, having arrived from Botany Bay, where he left the rest of the fleet, on the 25th, which was to join him on the 26th. No…

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Making sense of the same-sex marriage survey

By | History, Politics, Society | 191 Comments

Depending on when the materials arrive, I may or may not be able to take part in this postal survey (it is not a true plebiscite, a vote of the citizens), because of a likely absence from home. There are a number of options if I am there, and indeed for all citizens. One is to support the proposal; one is to oppose it; another is to write back saying what you think of this method of obtaining the opinion of Australians; another is to feed the materials to our worms, who like paper as well as vegetable scraps, or…

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Experiencing a night of Wagner

By | History, Media, Music | 12 Comments

The first piece of music that embedded itself in my memory, when I was a small boy in Canberra during and after the war, was the trumpet call in Wagner’s overture to his opera Rienzi. It preceded a dozen bars or so of the overture, heralding the radio news provided by the Macquarie Broadcasting Service. I didn’t know that Wagner had written the music. Indeed, I knew nothing about music at all. All I knew was that before long I knew those bars, and I liked them. Richard Wagner himself in later life didn’t like Rienzi at all, and called…

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August Off-Topic Thread

By | Other | 159 Comments

I should have set this up much earlier, and have done so now because I want to alert readers to an excellent essay by Willis Eschenbach about whether there has been any acceleration in sea-level rise in the satellite period. Sea-levels were the subject of a recent essay. He says No, after some straightforward analysis which is accessible to most readers. It might be more accurate to say that he cannot find any significant acceleration in the satellite data. The Comments are worth reading, because there are some interesting critical comments. And yes, Tamino says the opposite, but then Tamino…

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How much progress has there been in Australia since 1950?

By | Books, Economy, Education, Health, History, Society | 40 Comments

I have been thinking about this topic for some time, and foreshadowed this essay last week. ‘Progress’ is one of those protean words, changing its meaning according to the needs of the user. It comes from the Latin, pro meaning forward, and grado meaning stepping, walking, going. So, there is thought to be progress when things go forward. My Shorter Oxford gives its sense for this essay as ‘continuous improvement’. And at once there is some reservation, for ‘improvement’ in a human life and in social life is rarely continuous. There are usually steps backward as well as forward. And…

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On turning 80

By | Health, History, Society | 129 Comments

My 80th birthday yesterday came rather more quickly than I had expected. As we get older our sense of time speeds up if only because we have experienced so much ‘time’ already. A double Latin class on Friday afternoon in the early 1950s seemed to last forever, while last Christmas seems only a few weeks ago. Mind you, my life expectancy at birth was only 63, so there’s been some luck along the way. At 80 you certainly do wonder how long you have. According to the life tables, I can expect (on average!) another eight years. If that is…

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