It’s a Saturday and I’m heading to a conference. I’m late, because it’s a Saturday. But I’m going to sit in a lecture theatre in my free time because it’s London Cryptofestival.
Billed as ‘coming together [...] to reclaim our right to communicate and experiment on the internet’, this independent, DIY event is aimed at both the usual security conscious techheads and non-experts just interested in the possibilities of, and threats to, privacy online. Given numerous recent revelations about the NSA and GCHQ’s work, as well as an increasing amount of our lives being documented online, I was up for that. I might even get to meet some people I could share my new PGP key with.1
Speaking as a bitter intellectual who was always picked last in PE, the Olympics suck. A host of wunderkind who had the good judgement to be born with a handful of genes optimising them for a highly-specialised nonsensical behaviour go on a jolly. A joyful populace gets to embrace the value of healthy exercise and physical activity by testing their posteriors' endurance and goggling at said prancing Greek godlings emblazoned with adverts for fast food. Some government blows a discretionary budget and then some on sports infrastructure — so much more crucial to the wellbeing of a country than digital infrastructure or sewer pipes — and 'rejuvenating' some poor estate to within an inch of its life with some excitingly edgy street art.
Boy, Susan Greenfield's argument is weak. (Check it out here, but it's basically just more of her 'modern tech scares me and it should scare you, why do I think so? Because I'm me.')
She says that doing too much of something is detrimental, which is almost a tautology, and then just reiterates this comment and her non-evidence based worries, interleaved with citing someone else's version of this comment and his non-evidence based worries. Conspicuously lacking are any facts, observable evidence, or indications of trends — and particularly disturbing is that despite this, she is continuing to garner attention for her theories.
Think of science things. Newton's laws, Celsius' degrees, Maxwell's distributions, Hertzsprung and Russell's diagram, Chandrasekhar's limit, fermi's -ons... You know you've made it in science when you get something named after you. Which is why I particularly want to big up the lady I'm talking about today1, because she did some ubiquitous work and noone's even heard of her, let alone tagged her name to her invention. Which is... duh duh duh!
I'm very sorry not to have written much recently, or even not so recently. On the grounds that more content of dubious quality is better than no content (I trust you guys to be discerning) I'm going to try and dash off more, less in-depth stuff in future. Might work, might not. Let's see.
If you ever read the news, well-meaning government leaflets pushed through your door, or the sides of buses, you could be forgiven for thinking carbon was slightly below Zombie Galactus in the all-planet ranking of 'shit that will fuck you up'.
While I understand that it would be pointless (bordering on malicious) to subject everyone to an explanation of atmospheric science, chemistry and thermodynamics every time we want to tell them that pollution is bad, mkay, I think there is room for a small explanation of why everything seems to be about carbon.
Entropy, or 'the measure of disorder in a system' (classic definition), is one of those nagging concepts, like quantum weirdness, that are easy to explain glibly, hard to grok, and seem to be fundamental to science as we know it and as we hope to know it better the following morning, slightly sweaty and with tousled hair and goofy grins. So it's a bit hubristic of me to invoke it to avoid tidying my room. But I do it anyway. This is why the second law of thermodynamics1 justifies my quite exceptional levels of messiness.
Economics may be a dismal science, but it’s still a science, and so I consider it within my remit. Disclaimer: Everything I know about economics in general and recessions in particular I taught myself from library textbooks and online resources and going to talks. However I did teach myself about it and so that makes me more educated on the subject than Some I Could Mention.
It's Ada Lovelace day! Time to draw attention to women in science — often ignored, never deservedly. My chosen lady is:
A bit of good news for those of us who live in the UK and like our politics to both consider the environment and be based on science: the Green party has pulled a U-turn at their current conference and decided that research on stem cells, adult or embryonic, is OK by them if done ethically and transparently. Are they getting over their knee-jerk fear of science? I do hope so.