“Rescue them from their bed of thistles” – Paul Flynn
Yesterday (October 12th) the House of Commons had a debate on the e-petition to make the production, sale, and use of cannabis legal. The Government has already made an official statement regarding the petition saying that “Substantial scientific evidence shows cannabis is a harmful drug that can damage human health. There are no plans to legalise cannabis as it would not address the harm to individuals and communities.” However this debate gave members of the House a chance to share their opinions on the matter, and to send a signal to the government. The results of the debate have no role in the official production of government policies. Continue reading
Google and Facebook are currently in another race. With the increased use of mobile technology for accessing the internet (now a greater amount of time than computer access to the internet) both Google and Facebook have realised the need for faster and less data intensive ways to allow users to access articles on linked sites. Facebook announced their Instant Articles, which imbeds striped down versions of the linked article onto the Facebook stream, and Google just announced their AMP, Accelerated Mobile Pages. I’m not so interested in the fast download speeds or on the question of whether or not Google will be boosting the search rankings of APM pages. What I think is so very important about these changes is the effect it can have on advertising. Continue reading
The peer-review process is meant to be a guardian of scientific integrity. That is not to say that it maintains the integrity of individual scientists, but that it attempts to ensure that results of these scientists’ intellectual endeavours are presented and discussed in a way that conforms to the ideals of the scientific community as a whole. Ideally, this means that the papers published in journals contribute positively towards scientific debates rather than being mistakes, distractions, or unhelpful repetition. Continue reading
I find it wonderful to talk to people about something that they are passionate about. When they get that glint in their eye and the speed at which they talk starts to get faster and faster and their hands start to gesticulate wildly as though they are fighting the invisible manifestations of whatever it is that is preventing them from reaching their desired goal.
More often than not I find that the topics that people are most passionate about are ones where they want to see more action being taken by others, or by governments. They want less people to eat meat or more regulations to be placed on the meat industry. They want better government support of affordable housing. They want to save the snow leopard, or the rhino, or the elephant. They want businesses to pay better, or for governments to change the minimum wage requirements. They want more people to buy local, and for better aid to be given to countries in trouble. They want the legal system to be tougher on bankers and easier on drug users. They want better education and cheaper education. They want people to treat each other fairly, no matter the colour of their skin. They want better distribution of taxation and better use of the money collected. They want to be safe from terrorism, and to stop atrocities happening abroad.
I, too, want the majority of these things, and I will actively engage with people who are trying to enact change. But at the moment I feel entirely overwhelmed. Continue reading
-“Hey, have you heard about the new Samsung Galaxy, it’s meant to be even sexier than the iPhone!”
– “Damn, I only just got the iPhone 6”.
-“Well, on the bright side you could get the Apple watch to go with it.”
-“But what about the new android series?”
This sort of conversation is completely normal to me. Any discussion of new science or technology becomes a series of segues into other announcements or discoveries. It has gotten to the point where scientific and technological change is now ubiquitous with modern life.
Change in this context is usually taken as a good thing. The announcement for a new medical treatment means that more people (possibly you) can live longer lives with more opportunities, new telescopes or other astronomical exploratory equipment can result in a deeper understanding of our place in the universe, and more efficient renewable technologies provide hope for a zero carbon future. However, there are also negative reactions. People voice their displeasure at having their private emails and online activities read and monitored by new and complex computer systems, we worry about the effect of new and expensive technologies on financial inequality, and we balk at the development of new and powerful military applications.
No matter how we react to novelty though, it still remains that we expect it. The constancy of scientific ‘progress’ in western culture is so complete that novelty has become normalised.
My greatest pet peeve is hypocrisy, I simply cannot stand a hypocrite. My greatest pet peeve in academia comes in two parts however. The first hatred burns for those who use numbers, charts, and general statistical methods, and then claim to have shown some great truth when in fact all they have shown is that they can move lines around on a page. A sure fire way to make an enemy of me for life however is much more insidious than playing with bar charts, it is in the construction of a straw man.
We often look at technology as either a solution to problems that we already have, or as offering us some extra enjoyment from direct interaction. When it comes to Energy Storage however we need to look at it as something else entirely. Energy storage devices have the most potential if they are used as a pre-emptive measure. Not only will their presence on the national grid allow for more efficient use of energy we currently have, but it will encourage the growth of renewable energy generation and forestall problems of the unpredictability inflicted on the grid by this growth. This is not technology solving problems we don’t want, this is technology pre-empting problems from other technologies which we do want.