Stephen Fry’s Global Warming

I’ve some notes on this essay by Stephen Fry on Americans lively dinner conversation and global warming.

Jim has deliberately chosen his position due to his own undeclared conflict of interest and his point that many scientists dispute global warming is a common fallacy by people like him. It’s far more complicated than that it really isn’t a debate where there are two sides for climatologist to put themselves, there is dispute over whether it is a natural cycle, what effect global warming will have, whether or not human influence is quantifiable, issues over the fact that warming is uneven across the globe.

Fry’s position of a kind of Pascal wager is I believe the correct one because even if global warming turns out not to be a problem the steps we need to take to tackle it are ones human civilisation needs to make at some point in any case.

Fossil fuels are going to run out (actually I believe that they won’t but that we will cease to use them at some point) and so in order for us to progress as a race we need to move into a post-fossil fuel society.

Wired has some theories about what technologies we’ll be using sooner than later in the place of fossil fuels.

We’ll probably end up moving towards using ethanol or similar produced from corn to power our transportation but this will not be a solution to global warming because of the continued Carbon Dioxide release.

Some research is being done into synthetic biology to create enzymes that can produce even better products than biobutanol to replace petrol entirely and perhaps even offer a performance improvement over gasoline.

But power generation will definitely move away from generating CO2 as sustainable power generation technologies improve they become more viable and more economical than building huge coal fired power stations. We will at some point in the mid 21st century start to see Nuclear fusion power stations come online but until then it makes sense to continue to build fission based stations and the technology has improved greatly in that area also so that the modern stations are far better and safer than those in use in the US and UK currently.

Angels and Demons: A mini-review

Have just finished Dan Brown’s Angels and Demons and I have to say that once you get past the science bit (and Brown has clearly researched the science but has utterly failed to understand it) there is a half-decent plot albeit with a rather obvious twist in the end.

It’s better plotted than The Da Vinci Code as it does actually build to a climax rather than a series of anti-climatic cliffhangers.

The characters are as poorly sketched as they were in The Da Vinci Code though and are little more than stereotypes.

We can forget it for you wholesale

It’s the crazy central device of the movie Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind made real. The Telegraph reports that scientists have found a drug that is able to help banish bad memories.

Researchers have found they can use drugs to wipe away single, specific memories while leaving other memories intact. By injecting an amnesia drug at the right time, when a subject was recalling a particular thought, neuro-scientists discovered they could disrupt the way the memory is stored and even make it disappear.

Ironically I think I’ve blogged about this before but I can’t really remember if I have or not. It seems to me to be a kind of drug assisted Neuro-Linguistic Programming and if effective could help many people deal with traumatic events they may have suffered.

Billions and Billions

To commemorate the 10th Anniversary of Carl Sagan’s death fans and bloggers are planning a worldwide blog-a-thon, plus the launch of a new site titled Celebrating Sagan.

My own contribution is to reprint this Sagan related urban legend.

Once upon a time, Carl Sagan met the pope (John Paul II) and asked him what he would do if somehow science convincingly and irrefutably disproved the foundations of Christianity. The Pope proceeded to lecture Sagan for about 15 minutes about why this was impossible.

Later, Carl met the Dali Lama and asked him the same question about Buddhism. His reply was that he would immediately tell everybody, because it would mean millions of Buddhists would be living their lives incorrectly.

Also I’d like to add a link to this site which posits that Sagan was the reincarnation of 18th century astronomer David Rittenhouse.

I wonder what Carl Sagan would have thought of that, as a renowned sceptic he would probably have laughed like I did.

Funny haha or funny peculiar?

BBC News: Is this the perfect comedy face?

Scientists have used computer software to come up with what they say is the perfect comedy face.

The University of Stirling team blended together 179 different facial aspects of 20 top comedians.

They said soft and feminine features, typified by Ricky Gervais, were more likely to make people laugh.

I don’t know about you but the guy in the computer generated photo looks more like a serial killer than a comedian to me.

Artificial biology and ecosystems

Wrote about how the physics of modern computer games really do allow some wonderful things to be created by players yesterday.

But artificial biology in computer games shouldn’t be forgotten as can be seen in this wonderful ecosystem created by Laukosargas Svarog within the environment of Second Life.

The result of a year’s work, Laukosargas Svarog’s island of Svarga is a fully-functioning ecosystem, adding life or something like it to the verdant-looking but arid palette Linden Lab offers with its world. It begins with her artificial clouds, which are pushed along by Linden’s internal wind system.

“If I was to turn off the clouds the whole system would die in about six hours,” she tells me. “Turn off the bees and [the plants stop] growing, because nothing gets pollinated. And it’s the transfer of pollen that signals the plants to drop seeds. The seeds blow in the wind, and if they land on good ground according to different rules for each species, they grow when they receive rain water from the clouds. It’s all interdependent.”

Of all the amazing things created within Second Life I think this stands out.

Antibacterial milk

Sydney Morning Herald: New penicillin found in wallaby milk

Scientists have discovered a bacteria-fighting compound 100 times more effective than penicillin – in wallaby milk.

Researchers found the highly-potent compound, tagged AGG01, was active against a wide variety of fungi and bacteria including antibiotic-resistant superbugs.

Research team leader Dr Ben Cocks said the discovery could have a profound impact on both human and animal health.

“This compound has the potential to be commercially synthesised and may prove vital in the war against increasingly resistant human and animal diseases,” Dr Cocks said.

It’s great news to hear that new antibiotic compounds like this are being discovered. Lets hope that society has reached the point where we can use it correctly and not give it out like candy for any old illness or we’ll have just yet another antibiotic that superbugs have become resistant to.

Still there are always Bacteriophages should we run out of effective antibiotics. Research into the therapeutic use of phages is really in it’s infancy even though some research has been carried out for decades it was far more practical to use antibiotic compounds.