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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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The scary stories get scarier

By | Climate Change, Environment, History, Language, Media, Politics, Religion, Research | 87 Comments

President Trump’s decision to pull the USA out of the Paris climate Accord seems to have had an outcome in the intensification of alarm both at his doing so and at what he is thought to have overlooked. I saw a number of examples of this reaction, and will deal with another one next week. But the one I’m focussing on now is a story that appeared in the 17 July New York Times Magazine entitled ‘The Uninhabitable Earth’. I wouldn’t normally have gone to read it, and did so because none other than Dr Michael Mann had panned it,…

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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 Social Cost of Carbon

By | Climate Change, Environment, History, Language, Media, Politics, Religion, Research | 51 Comments

I was going to write about Earth Hour once more, and for the last time, when I realised that it seemed to have passed its use-by date, for it seemed to have been almost unnoticed. There was no sign of it in Hobart, where I was on the hallowed night, and I couldn’t find out much about its effects in Canberra, where I have been for past Earth Hours. Earth Day passed too, without much fuss. So I have gone on to a subject I have been playing with for some years now, which is caught up in the phrase, ‘the Social…

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Mr Abbott as class bad boy

By | Climate Change, Economy, Education, Environment, Health, History, Language, Media, Politics, Society | 155 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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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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Two more books, on an important union, and on climate change

By | Books, Climate Change, Economy, Environment, History, Language, Media, Politics, Religion, Research | 89 Comments

This essay is a discussion about two books, widely different in their story. Each was given to me by its author, a friend. They are both excellent accounts, and I recommend them to readers. The first, by Dr John O’Brien, is about a trade union, the National Tertiary Education Union (NTEU). O’Brien is an academic who was also an office-bearer in the NTEU. The second is about climate change, and was written by a geologist, Dr Howard Brady, who has some distinctions which flowed from his work, notably about the past climate history of Antarctica. O’Brien’s book, National Tertiary Education Union. A Most…

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The real war on science

By | Books, Education, Environment, Health, History, Language, Media, Politics, Research, Society | 145 Comments

A post in Judith Curry’s Climate etc pushed me to read a long essay from the City Journal Magazine by John Tierney. I hadn’t heard of either of them. The magazine is published by a right-wing think tank in New York, and focuses mostly on urban issues. John Tierney, according to Wikipedia, is a ‘contrarian’, which I see as a dismissive term. Forewarned, I went off to read the piece, and I think it is insightful. But then, I would probably be called a ‘contrarian’ too, by those who don’t like what I write, and believe they have the truth in them…

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