All posts by Don Aitkin

Mathematics, my father and me

By | ABC, Books, Education, History, Politics, Society | 15 Comments

(Robyn Williams, of the ABC’s Science program, read my piece in Quadrant about how my own world-view came to be formed, and asked could I do an Ockham’s razor broadcast about my father, mathematics and me. This is the outcome. It was broadcast on Sunday March 12th and interested readers can download the audio  here.)   If you grew up in New South Wales in the 1940s, 50s and 60s, there’s a good chance that you studied maths with the help of the textbooks written by two high school teachers, A. G. Aitkin and B. N. Farlow. I knew the…

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Books that have been important to me #4 Barbara and Allan Pease: Why Men Don’t Listen and Women Can’t Read Maps

By | ABC, Books, Education, Health, History, Humour, Media, Society | 137 Comments

In 1998, my wife and I were driving through northern New South Wales, and had the radio on. Margaret Throsby introduced her guest, Allan Pease, told us the name of his new book, and said something like, ‘Now I want to take issue with you at once about the title. I can read a map as well as any man!’ ‘How do you do it?’ he asked. ‘Well, I point it in the direction we are travelling and it’s straightforward.’ ‘That’s exactly the point of the title,’ he responded. ‘Most men can read a map however it is pointed, but most…

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A final thought on 2016 Australian warming

By | ABC, Climate Change, Environment, History, Media, Politics, Religion, Research | 211 Comments

In an earlier essay this year, I used the useful maps prepared by Professor Ole Humlum of www.climate4you to ponder about how hot it actually was in Australia last year. I did so because of claims that the year was the hottest ever, as it was said to be for the world. When I wrote the piece I did not have access to the summary for the whole year, but I now have it, and it is displayed below. These data are from the Goddard Institute of Space Studies, which is part of NASA, and they show the relative change between…

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Standing up against Nannies

By | Education, Humour, Media, Politics, Society | 112 Comments

I’ve written a few times (here, for example) about ‘the nanny State’, and the way in which well-meaning people want to protect ourselves from ourselves by making illegal things that we like to do. Of course, virtually all domestic law is about protecting us from us, but every now and then I want to cry ‘Enough!’ And I do so in this essay, which is about the efforts of a Green MLA in Canberra to protect us, or more specifically, her grand-daughter, from the wicked writing on Wicked camper vans. If you haven’t come across a Wicked camper van, then here…

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The March Off-Topic Thread

By | Other | 124 Comments

This is the place for comments which do not in my judgment have a clear relevance to the essay that began the thread. Neville says: February 26, 2017 at 7:46 am (Edit) More corruption and fra-d in the UK and these green fra-ds once again actually increase co2 emissions for even more waste of billions of $ for a zero return. Just incredible and Labor and the Greens will endlessly waste more billions here as well if they win the next election. http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-4255010/Idiocy-replacing-coal- power-stations-burning-wood.html Chris Warren says: February 26, 2017 at 8:14 am (Edit) Neville Grown-ups may have found a…

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Mr Abbott as class bad boy

By | Climate Change, Economy, Education, Environment, Health, History, Language, Media, Politics, Society | 153 Comments

Mr Abbott launched a book the other day, and the speech, which you can read here, instantly led to what I now think has been a media beat-up. His short address has become a further indication, for some in the media, and of course for the Labor Party, of the growing destabilising of the Government and the fragility of the Prime Minister. In fact, I think that Mr Abbott’s speech and its content deserve much closer reading. I should probably qualify what follows by saying that I do not agree with some of what Mr Abbott says, but he is absolutely right in reminding…

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Where is the money to come from?

By | Books, Education, Health, History, Politics, Society | 86 Comments

Last week I went to Parliament for the launch of a major study called the Economic Cost of Dementia in Australia. It was commissioned by Alzheimer’s Australia, and carried out by NATSEM, the social and economic modelling group at the University of Canberra. Their work is always accurate and thoughtful, and the presentation was excellent. Since I have a couple of roles with Alzheimer’s, and am also a carer, I had an immediate interest in what was being put forward to us. I’ve read the report and have no major criticisms. I am always a bit suspicious of talk about ‘economic costs’, for example…

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Exit right, Cory Bernardi

By | ABC, Books, Climate Change, Economy, Environment, History, Humour, Media, Politics, Society | 165 Comments

I have not met Senator Bernardi, but I’ve read  some of his writing. From what I have read in the media and on line, it might surprise some people to learn that in fact he is a published author. His seven books include two for children, the rest being about politics, collections of his own opinion pieces, and a book that did well in the review sections, The Conservative Revolution. Thus far the talk has all been about how his defection from the Liberal Party is another destabilising factor for Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull. Since Bernardi is unlikely to vote for anything…

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What is it all for?

By | ABC, Books, Education, History, Media, Politics, Society | 220 Comments

This essay is a companion piece, or a sequel, to my second one this year, on ‘mating’, which I see as the basic dynamo of human societies — not so much the meeting and mating of boy and girl, but the collective consequences of those matings, the growth and shape of human populations over time. This essay takes the argument a little further. My work on political attitudes and behaviour suggested that most young people acquire a more or less tepid version of their parents’ political attitudes while they are at home. Things change when they go out into the wider…

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Another passage to India

By | Books, History, Humour, Language, Music, Religion, Society | 3 Comments

While I have been at least twice to every Asian country save Mongolia and North Korea, South Asia has passed me by (vice versa, more accurately). I’ve not been to Pakistan, Bangladesh or Afghanistan, I visited Sri Lanka only briefly and a long time ago, while India I’ve been to once only. There’s no good reason. I had a very bright Indian doctoral student who has remained a friend through life, my eldest daughter travelled over India on her way home from London (which made her vegetarian for a decade), I think Virat Kohli is a superb batsman, and I have…

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