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Books

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 | 14 Comments

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 | 56 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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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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What does the future hold?

By | Books, Climate Change, Economy, Education, Environment, Food & Wine, Health, Politics, Society | 35 Comments

What sort of future we are likely to enjoy, or have to put up with, has been a regular subject on the Internet for some time now. Being unsure of how much future I personally have left, I’m not totally consumed by the subject. But I saw a comprehensive list the other, and I thought it was worth reflecting on. The list was the work of Shelly Palmer, who has written a couple of interesting pieces on innovation. I have numbered the sections below for ease of comment, and done some minor editing as well. One thing to note at…

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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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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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Where is the money to come from?

By | Books, Education, Health, History, Politics, Society | 88 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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