What caused the great SA power outage?

By | ABC, Climate Change, Environment, Health, History, Media, Politics, Religion, Research, Society | 31 Comments

I write about this event with some personal involvement, because my wife and I are in it. We left Robe, on the southern coast of South Australia, to pay a brief visit to a winemaker at Cape Jaffa, who told us that he too was going to Adelaide, to collect his children early (a couple of days before the holidays) because of the big storm that was coming. We knew from the press that some weather event was in prospect for us, but at that moment the sky was blue, the air was crisp, the sun warm, and the notion of a storm that…

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Books that have been important to me #3 The novels of C.P. Snow

By | Books, Economy, Education, History, Language, Media, Politics, Religion, Society | 60 Comments

You don’t hear much about C. P. Snow these days. When I was young he was an important figure, both in the literary world and in the world of policy. Born in 1905, the same year as my father, he came from a poor family, and made his way through excelling at school and university to become a fellow of a Cambridge college, then a senior civil servant, and at last a famous writer. I think I first heard of him in connection with his Rede lecture ‘The Two Cultures and the Scientific Revolution’, a lament from the 1950s about the…

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A new novel for me: Moving On

By | Books, History, Language, Media, Society | 19 Comments

I am announcing the publication of my fifth novel, Moving On, in the expectation that some of my readers might be able to attend one or other (or both!) of the book launches, in Sydney (October 23rd) and Canberra (October 27th). There is nothing about climate change or politics in this novel. It is about what is suggested by the book’s title: what happens when, some time after a disaster or disappointment of some kind, you gather your own forces,  and decide that you need to move on. Doing so may not be at all straightforward. It is 1999, in Sydney, Australia….

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The present politics of marriage

By | ABC, Health, History, Language, Media, Politics, Religion, Society | 123 Comments

At the time of writing there are two intersecting debates going on about marriage in our country. In the first, those talking about ‘marriage equality’ (code for gay marriage) are opposed by those wanting Australian society to adhere to the ‘Christian’ form of marriage that has been our lot for a few hundred years, one reserved for a man and a woman, whose ostensible purpose is the production and protection of new human beings. If all that sounds somewhat qualified, it is, and I’ll return to it later. In the second, the issue is whether the question is to be resolved by…

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Brian Cox versus Malcolm Roberts on Q&A

By | ABC, Climate Change, Economy, Education, Environment, Health, History, Language, Media, Politics, Religion, Research, Society | 154 Comments

I did not watch the celebrated Q&A program in which Brian Cox, an astrophysicist and science communicator, had an argument with Malcom Roberts, the recently elected Senator who is apparently responsible for the ‘climate change’ policies of One Nation. I’ve watched a couple of these Q&A programs in the past, but felt that they were so manipulated and stacked that one would rarely get any value from them (apparently, however, there was a good one on Shakespeare last week). I did see extracts from the Cox/Roberts program, but that is all. I think Q&A is a good example of the peculiar…

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A less than usual election coming up

By | Climate Change, Education, Environment, Health, History, Politics, Religion, Research | 60 Comments

On October 15th the citizens of the Australian Capital Territory will go to the polls to elect their representatives, and through them their Government. No one much outside the ACT will pay much attention, but I do, since I live there and will be voting. Of course, the result, whatever it is, will be seen as a pointer to the next Federal election, and denied by the other side, dismissing it as simply local. But there are a number of reasons why those interested in politics at all should watch what is happening, because this one is not simply the usual poll….

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The distinction between true scepticism and denial

By | Books, Climate Change, Education, Environment, Health, Language, Media, Politics, Religion, Research | 198 Comments

I came across the phrase in the title, and followed a link to a recent journal article which for once was available on open access. Entitled ‘Science and the Public: Debate, Denial, and Skepticism’,  it looked interesting. You can read it here. The four authors come from different fields, and propose to outline ‘the distinction between true scepticism and denial’. They also offer some guidelines to help researchers, and interested members of the public, decide how to deal with enquiries, on the one hand,  and problems which people see in published science, on the other. The reader is brought into the area of ‘climate change’…

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Sport, academia, climate change and health, with a bit of humour thrown in

By | Climate Change, History, Humour, Society, Sport | 71 Comments

I was going to write an essay on Australia’s fate at the Olympic Games, perhaps in the hope that the Rio Games might mercifully be the last ever, but as I thought it over I began to worry that I had actually written such a piece four years ago, at the time of the last Games in London. Well, it wasn’t quite the case, but I did write about the Games then, and made similar points in another later essay. The truth is, I think, is that we’re not as good as we think we are in anything, but some of our…

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Love, sex and Cosi fan tutte

By | Books, History, Music, Society, Theatre | 34 Comments

For those who don’t know much about the work, Cosi fan tutte is an opera with music by Mozart, for a libretto by Lorenzo da Ponte, who also worked with Mozart in creating Don Giovanni and The Marriage of Figaro. Indeed da Ponte wrote 28 libretti for eleven composers, and had a most interesting life. The opera has a sub-title The School for Lovers, but it is rarely used. Cosi fan tutte means ‘They all do it’, and ‘they’ means women. If both men and women had been meant, the third word in the title would have been tutti. This little exercise in language is important,…

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Arguing at cross purposes

By | Climate Change, Environment, History, Media, Politics, Religion, Research | 282 Comments

I have something else to write about for next Monday, but in the last few days I have been involved in someone else’s website, that of John Quiggin, a respected economist. He has taken a pro-orthodox position on ‘climate change’ for a long time, and is a member of the Board of the Climate Change Authority. I remember his dismissing me and my Planning Institute of Australia speech in 2008, but otherwise I have not encountered him in the blogosphere, apart from my offering him space here a couple of weeks ago to put forward his own views on ‘climate change’ and…

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