Heretical Thoughts about Science and Society

By | Books, Climate Change, Environment, Politics, Religion, Research | 117 Comments

I have mentioned before, with great approval (here and here), the English-born mathematician, astronomer  and physicist Freeman Dyson, who is 94, and has spent most of his working life at Princeton’s Institute of Advanced Study. I have been to Princeton a few times, but did not meet him, though I have had supper in Albert Einstein’s house there (and that was eerie). Dyson is extraordinarily diverse in his interests, and that may explain why he never won a Nobel Prize, though he has won a stack of other prizes in several fields. His friend, the late Oliver Sacks, remarked that A…

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The December Off-Post Thread

By | Other | 66 Comments

I start this month with a measured piece about the mismatch between strident claims about ‘climate change’ and the declining attention of citizens, by a former Canadian Minister. Joe Oliver: Ranting about climate isn’t good government policy, and isn’t convincing anyone Later, and for the benefit of reader Chris, are the paths followed by temperature and CO2 in the recent past. I’ve used GISS, the most heavily adjusted temperature set. Later Still: I enjoyed this little take on the extermination of species theme:  

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Is comedy still possible?

By | Other | 54 Comments

When I was about seven years old I was allowed to go to the Saturday matinee with another boy my age who lived across the road. We walked there and back (perhaps a kilometre), and we each had six pence. Threepence would get us into the pictures, while the other three pennies were for sweets. A small ice-cream in a cone would require the lot, so I tended to buy a musk stick (1d) and a small packet of jubes (2d). What we saw, every Saturday, were cartoons, a Movietone newsreel and a Western. I don’t remember a serial, although…

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The Dual Citizenship scandal/imbroglio/fiasco

By | Other | 15 Comments

Though I’ve waited now a few weeks to write this essay, it is plain that the issue will go for some time. While most of the media attention is on what nine sub jure parliamentarians mean in terms of the Turnbull leadership, or the effect on citizen attitudes towards parliamentarians generally, or the outcome of by-elections caused by the dual citizenship problem, my interest lies in the deeper questions. Do we want to exclude all dual citizens from parliamentary service? Or should we extend that exclusion to the public services? I was discussing the issue with a senior lawyer while…

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Climate change and electric vehicles

By | Books, Climate Change, Environment, Health, History, Politics, Religion, Research | 128 Comments

I’ve put the dual citizenship essay on hold for a week, partly because yet another person has decided that he might be at risk. He is only the President of the Senate, but there you are. There may be more, and the issue is getting more important by the day, because of the manner in which the High Court chose to decide the question. Instead I have my eye on a report presented to the relevant Minister in the ACT about the State of the Environment (in the ACT) in 2015. The Commissioner is Professor Kate Auty, and she formerly…

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The sad, sad story of the NBN

By | Economy, History, Media, Politics, Society | 38 Comments

The High Court’s decision on the citizenship woes of several members of our federal parliament came out too late for this week, so I’ll have time to work through the Court’s reasoning. In any case, I had spent some time looking at the NBN, a burden to us all, whether we are connected to it or not. The National Broadband Network (NBN) has reappeared to the public gaze in the past ten days, as stories of an astonishing level of complaints about the service have been aired in televised news and in Parliament. These stories have at once produced a…

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NEG: the energy policy you have when you aren’t having an energy policy

By | Climate Change, Economy, Environment, History, Politics, Society | 46 Comments

Getting real details about the New Energy Guarantee is really difficult, because so much of the hard work on details has not yet been done. But apparently the media thinks it ticks all the right boxes. The carbon tax has gone, the emissions trading scheme is dead, as is the emissions intensity scheme. According to the economics editor of The Age, Peter Martin, the NEG will do more or less what each of the other schemes would have done. It will make the electricity system cleaner (in accordance with the Abbott government’s commitments under the Paris climate agreement) while giving…

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Optimism or Pessimism?

By | Climate Change, Economy, Education, Environment, Health, History, Politics, Society | 138 Comments

This is a shortened version of an address I gave to the Boobooks club in Melbourne earlier this week. The Boobooks is a dining club, the oldest in Australia, founded in 1902 by some young men who later became Sirs, in Fred Eggleston and John Latham. It was an honour to have been asked to speak. The title was ‘Should we be optimistic or pessimistic about the future?’, and in it I revisited ideas that have been rehearsed on this website before. I am not sure whether optimism and pessimism are part of our make-up or the result of upbringing…

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