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ABC

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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The March for Science

By | ABC, Climate Change, Education, History, Media, Politics, Religion, Research | 119 Comments

I am writing this essay on the day of the March, which will happen in Washington DC and apparently 500 other cities, including several in Australia, where the March is happening as I write. What is it about? There is apparently a ‘war on science’, though who is conducting it is not clear. From its US website you can get this mission statement. The March for Science champions robustly funded and publicly communicated science as a pillar of human freedom and prosperity. We unite as a diverse, nonpartisan group to call for science that upholds the common good and for political leaders…

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April Off-Topic Thread

By | ABC, Climate Change, Environment, History, Media, Politics, Religion, Research | 105 Comments

Gary C says: April 2, 2017 at 8:48 pm (Edit) Don Two articles from 2016 supporting models: “Comparing models to the satellite datasets” : http://www.realclimate.org/index.php/archives/2016/05/comparing-models -to-the-satellite-datasets/ “Models” : Models Reply Don Aitkin says: April 2, 2017 at 9:23 pm (Edit) Gary, you get the honour of having the first comment in the new Off-Topic Thread. I’ll comment there.

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What is it that worries me about what the BoM and CSIRO tell us about climate change?

By | ABC, Climate Change, Environment, History, Media, Politics, Religion, Research | 262 Comments

Commenter Chris asked me, in a comment at my last essay, what are your concerns over BoM reporting or data use? I had intended to write about something else, but it seemed sensible to deal with this issue at once. I have written about the Bureau before (here, for example, and here), but to this direct question there is a straightforward reply. I’ll deal first with the more general issue of BoM (Bureau of Meteorology) reporting, and note first that it is directly linked, as anyone who reads the website will see, with CSIRO’s biennnial reports on the State of Climate. So my response to Chris covers both…

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Mathematics, my father and me

By | ABC, Books, Education, History, Politics, Society | 47 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 | 160 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 | 232 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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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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In terms of temperature, what sort of a year did we have in Australia?

By | ABC, Climate Change, Environment, History, Media, Politics, Religion, Research | 480 Comments

For the past decade or so, each January has produced a news headline about whether or not this year has been the hottest ever. It seems to be agreed that 2016 was the hottest ever, but with a statistically insignificant increase over 2015, and only a tiny bit above 1998. In 2015, 2016 and 1998 the spike was due to an el Nino, which subsided quickly. As I have argued before, there is no human being who has ever experienced a global average temperature, unless coincidentally, and for a moment or two. What we want to know is what our own environment…

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