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Research

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 | 20 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 | 60 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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Not sea levels again!

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

I said in my last essay that I would return this week to another theme that is having a big revival just at the moment, post the USA withdrawal from the Paris Accord. This one is ‘rising sea levels’. It was one of the dooms forecast in the NYT Mag article I referred to last time: Barring a radical reduction of emissions, we will see at least four feet of sea-level rise and possibly ten by the end of the century. I can only shake my head in wonderment at claims like this one.  Has there been a dramatic increase in…

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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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Doing things properly

By | Climate Change, Environment, History, Media, Politics, Religion, Research, Society | 156 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 | 154 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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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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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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