Sunday, 20 July 2008
Today we had a really fun show on the topic of disasters. On the way home I took this photo in storm water drain.
A drain, but it used to be a stream. Anything can be fixed with an engineering solution. This is what we do when we view nature as a problem. This is what we do when we mistake our technological prowess for an ability to control nature. But we only dimly understand the consequences and slowly it dawns on us the forces we unleash.
Saturday, 19 July 2008
Tuesday, 15 July 2008
Sunday, 13 July 2008
Research Project Finds Nothing
A major Australian research project has not discovered anything. In a press release, project leaders explained that big discoveries – eureka moments are actually very rare in science. “Mostly it’s just a slog day by day in the lab and on the computer. A slog, but we love it anyway. Each new advance, however tiny is a great reward. We love the experience of shining a torchlight into the dark corners of creation.”.
On a more sombre note, another reason noted for their lack of progress was the workload and uncertainty generated by the endless round of funding applications. “Paperwork, paperwork, it’s always more begging for money from the bureaucratic juggernaut in a climate where science funding is seen as pure overhead.” “You’d think it’s like we’re okay with the drought, and stresses on agriculture from global warming”, they said.
Coming up, Disasters Large and Small, Real and Imagined. Tune in 11:30 Sunday 20th for another fascinating journey down the alleyways of science.
Fuzzy Logic on 2XX 98.3 fm
Wednesday, 9 July 2008
I like my big blue bike. Cogito ergo zoom. Or perhaps nil cogito ergo zoom since within an instant of cracking the throttle open I can hit 200kph, and 300kph if the road is long enough. With the help of modern technology it takes an instant to go from speeding lunatic to oily splat.
Meanwhile we huddle together on our little planet feeling collectively comforted by company, safe as part of the pack. At least that’s how I imagine the passengers on the Titanic felt as they sailed across the Atlantic. But our ability to build a very big ship is also our ability to make a very big mistake.
And now some are worried about a much bigger mistake arising from the world’s largest scientific experiment, the CERN Large Hadron Collider in Switzerland. The 27km long tunnel housing a particle accelerator will make this a humungous construction, and energies involved will be similarly stupendous, with Lead ions crashing into each other at a combined energy of 1,150 TeV.
They are worried to the extent that they have taken the case to the US Federal court [1 2] in an attempt to stop the experiment. They are believe there is a possibility that the LHC will generate either ‘killer stranglets’ or a micro black holes that will swallow the earth .
Clearly there are people concerned enough to take this to court, and strong opinions on both sides [4 5]. Now things get all very esoteric in the world of nuclear physics, and my small brain is not up to the job. Which reminds me that not long ago we discussed the forms of false logic, and the means by which we believe something to be true. Great theory! But here we encounter a perfect example of how it’s utterly impractical. It’s not as if I’m going into my backyard to build my own accelerator and find out for myself. I’m not going to get a PhD in particle physics, or even read hard core physics papers.
Are we really being sucked down the Sewerage Pipe of Doom, or is it just modern-day angst? What we’re left with is the advice of experts which I’m you may remember is a case of Ad Vericumdiam, an appeal to authority. Pity the poor judge faced with a panel of opposing experts, and expected to assess the effective temperature and the net density of baryons, and other such jargon .
This comes at a time when people are generally fearful and uncertain about the products of modern science and technology. We have protests about mobile phone towers and genetically engineered crops. Some of it is well founded, and some of it is not. We stress about mobile towers while pressing radio transmitters in handsets against the side of our heads.
Most of realise that we are entirely dependent on Ad Vericumdiam, which we accept as long as we accept the source of authority. Combine this with the great forces at work, and it is no wonder people are nervous. We find the keys to the cosmic cupboard, and unsure about what we might find.
How ironic it is that technology gives us the illusion of control, yet it is really ourselves being dragged along clinging to its back. Each advance promises new benefits, but really we are stuck in a cycle of endless upgrades. Did you buy a new DVD player because you can’t get VHS any more? Have you bought a new computer because you can run WizzoSoft V10.2 on your old stream driven banger?
Thanks to JTankers who provided the link to http://www.lhcfacts.org/, and the prompt for this story.
Wednesday, 2 July 2008
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