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Don Aitkin

Doing things properly

By | Climate Change, Environment, History, Media, Politics, Religion, Research, Society | 83 Comments

For some time I have wanted to write a piece on the virtue of doing certain things properly, and the final stimulus came on the occasion of a bus trip to Lightning Ridge, which was great fun, educational and most enjoyable. In the bathroom of a certain motel I saw this little sign. Dear Guest, In the course of a year we wash thousands of towels, and doing so uses thousands and thousands of litres of water and tons of detergents that can be harmful to the environment. If you care about the environment as we do, you may wish…

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Would Red and Blue Teams be any use to us?

By | Climate Change, Environment, History, Politics, Religion, Research | 149 Comments

For those who don’t know the reference, a Red team is a team whose aim is to go past the defences of the Blue team. More generally, the terms have to do with testing more or less settled policies or positions mostly in defence, but increasingly in information technology, and the new target, cyber-security. There have been suggestions in the past that the model be used in the area of climate science, or more sensibly, climate policy. A pale equivalent in Australia is the use of ‘The Case for Yes’ and ‘The Case for No’ statements in our Constitutional referendums….

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Finkel’s Cave

By | Climate Change, Economy, Environment, History, Media, Politics, Religion, Society | 227 Comments

There is an embarrassment of subjects to write about at the end of the week. I had my eyes on the UK General Election, if only because in 1964, now 53 years ago, I worked as a behind-the-scenes analyst on the BBC’s election night coverage, and then became part of the Australian election night coverage for the next nearly twenty years. It is too early to say too much about the outcome, other than to me it seemed a bit of a re-run of the Brexit referendum. There will have been much more than this, of course, especially with respect…

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The Alternative and the Real Trump

By | ABC, Climate Change, Economy, Environment, Health, Language, Media, Politics, Religion, Society | 57 Comments

When an elected political leader get into office, the media wait to see if he fulfils any of his campaign promises, and will often needle him or her about an  apparent slowness to do so. With President Trump it is rather the office. He said that if elected he would withdraw the US from the Paris Agreement on climate change, and he has now done so. Instead of saying,’Well, he’s done what he said he would do’, there seems to be a chorus of incomprehension. ‘But surely you only said those things to get elected’ seems to be one theme. ‘How…

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Books that have been important to me #5 The California detective: Hammett, Chandler, Macdonald

By | Books, Education, History, Language, Society | 26 Comments

There is a time, when you are young and a reader, where you range widely, dipping into a genre here and another there. Long long ago I dipped into Agatha Christie, then saw The Mousetrap in London, and ranged over the English detective literature. I didn’t go back, really, but did so recently for one Agatha Christie, which I read in an hour or so and thought quite thin. C. P. Snow, about whose novels I wrote some time ago, did quite a good one, A Coat of Varnish (1978), where both the protagonist and the detective at the end know who…

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Can blog posts be better than journal articles?

By | Climate Change, Environment, Health, History, Language, Media, Politics, Religion, Research | 98 Comments

The Dutch experimental psychologist Daniel Lakens asked this question on his website, and I thought it was worth distilling for mine, since I have had a lot to do with journals and more recently with websites. There has been a deal of discussion recently about the lack of effective replication in both the medical area and others, so the rules about publication are worth thinking about. Before the ‘peer review’ cheer squad starts to chant, I should tell you that Lakens’s goal is to improve the quality of journal articles, not to replace articles with blog posts. He offers five reasons…

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The May Off-Topic Thread

By | Other | 121 Comments

This is intended for ideas and comments readers have that don’t fit neatly into the current topic for the week. I thank Margaret for reminding me!   Margaret May 19, 2017 at 10:08 am Probably for the off topic thread —  https://www.google.com.au/amp/s/amp.smh.com.au/comment/blunt-instrument/good-debt-and-the-myth-of-the-prudent-pinstriped-coalition  

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Social Justice

By | Education, History, Politics, Society | 75 Comments

‘Social justice’ is a term that trips easily from the mouths of politicians and of others on what would be seen as the Left in our society. It is one of those things, like motherhood, that you can’t be opposed to. More widely, it is a favourite term of those in the United Nations who see the disparities in wealth and development across the world as inherently unjust. It is generally agreed to be a term coined by a Catholic philosopher in the 1840s, and owed its growing popularity to the conditions for people in the expanding towns and cities…

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How much inequality is enough?

By | ABC, Economy, History, Politics | 56 Comments

I was going to write about ‘social justice’, because it has been cropping up a few times in the last week or so. In fact this essay is about inequality, once again, because I want to deal with one aspect of it before embarking on ‘social justice’. And that aspect is how much inequality can a community accept without much unhappiness. It is well known in the literature that people in general consider their own economic position by comparing it with those whom they encounter constantly (hence ‘keeping up with the Joneses’) rather than with that of, for example, the Queen or Bill…

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