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Taking the 4th

in General Rants , Thursday, October 06, 2016

The brief hype bubble surround Elon Musk’s SpaceX push to colonise Mars seems to have died away for now. Donald Trump is far more captivating. The vision is of course breath-taking, the ambition is boundless, and the technology amazing. But in the end, what’s the difference between this and, say, a Steve Jobs product launch writ large? Is Silicon Valley the right place to gestate such a far-reaching (in many senses) plan? I have some serious doubts.

I’ve seen no discussion at all of the socio-political considerations here. Let’s believe that SpaceX are going to be able to launch a fleet of 1000 ships to Mars. So, that’s 1000 ships in Earth orbit under an American corporate flag, off to settle a new world. How are the Russians, Chinese, Indians all of whom are rather immune to Silicon Valley spin going to react to this? Not exactly with wild enthusiasm, I think. How even is the US Government going to react? Will they just be all hands-off free enterprise - or will they engineer an NSA-led coup? Indeed, given his apparent political leanings, will Musk just invite the NSA and all their chums along for the ride? And even beyond the nationalistic rivalry, what about Jeff Bezos? Is he going to let SpaceX eat his cake? Or Boeing ? Or Google, probably.

Who is going to decide who gets to go? Who’s in charge? Somebody has to be - human societies need a leader. And when they get there, and plant a flag, which they assuredly will do, which flag will it be? Will USA nationalist Musk (despite being South African) claim Mars for the United States of America? I can’t see the “no claims” conventions lasting long. Musk evokes the great explorations of the past, but the driving force of almost all of these was greed and conquest - or even worse, religion - and the human species has not yet evolved 1mm beyond that mindset.

I’ve searched for any discussion of these topics, and found nothing. Starting with SpaceX, where all I can find is shiny shiny tech. Inspiration is not the same thing as aspiration. A species which tolerates countless ongoing brutal wars, with major nations perpetrating practically all of them is not ready to leave the planet. And even if it were, the Silicon Valley mindset is the last thing to drive it. The moon landings were driven by politics, not technology. The technology to get to Mars seems to be practically solved. The politics isn't even started.

If SpaceX, or Boeing, or Blue Origin manages to get these ships into Earth orbit, the challenge of getting to Mars will be far less than that of avoiding getting blasted out of the sky by a Chinese missile. And in the unlikely event of getting to Mars, any colonists will probably be in more danger from other humans than the inhospitable environment.

Ok, so I’m terminally pessimistic, but I can only see this as a very dangerous, immature and misguided initiative which could have terminal consequences. It would take the greatest statesmen the world has ever seen to pick a path through this minefield, and Elon Musk most certainly doesn’t qualify.

What was Mars God of, again ?
Posted in category "General Rants" on Thursday, October 06, 2016 at 08:02 PM

Melt Season

in Science , Monday, September 09, 2013

Although it’s been many a year since I was paid to be a climate scientist of sorts (i.e a very poor example of one), I still try to keep up with developments, both on the science and political fronts. So I’m interested in what the so called “deniers” have to say.

Some weeks ago I wrote a review of James Delingpoles’s “Watermelons” book.  Although I’m hardly sympathetic to his views, I was genuinely interested to see what he had to say, and read all the way to the end. After a while it got a bit hard-going.  He’s no scientist, and while openly, and repeatedly making no claim to be one, he in fact clearly believes he understands science, scientists and scientific method. He doesn’t, and probably never will. It’s a pity, because he’s a good, erudite writer, and seems to have a well developed sense of humour and irony. If only he could just let his pathological hatred of wind turbines lie, and above all refrain from his all too frequent, sickeningly vitriolic ad-hominen attacks, he might be able to provide a valuable sense of perspective in the climate change debate, in the sense of discussing and forming policy.

But when you see this sort of article - “Arctic ice melt IS a problem because Right-wing newspapers smell, explains Guardian climate expert”, well, you can see why even the Telegraph doesn’t want to feature him in their print edition or anywhere outside of their nest of rabid right wing bloggers.

The comments section on his blog is quite an experience. It’s an overflowing cesspit of the worst knuckle-dragging examples of stereotypical British beer-fuelled closed mind thuggery.  While the odd voice of reason tries to chime in, it is only to be dragged down by boorish, Pavlovian knee-jerk reactions from Delingpole’s mindless followers.  I cannot believe that he himself is not sometimes alarmed by the sheer brainlessness of his virtual entourage.  And yet…

And yet, when you read some of the stuff he writes about climate scientists, such as:

a dishonest, highly politicised scientific establishment, in bed with scaremongering green NGOs, shyster politicians, rent-seeking corporations and ignorant, irresponsible media outfits has been warning the world of a terrible environmental threat variously called “global warming” or “climate change” which only exists in the form of computer projections

or

As we’ve seen in the Climategate emails, in Gleickgate, in Amazongate, in Glaciergate, in the machinations of the IPCC, in the data manipulations by NASA and CRU, in the public statements of activists like James Hansen and Sir Paul Nurse, the “scientists” can no longer be trusted to give it to us straight. It’s why what they think, or don’t think, about issues like arctic sea ice is of such marginal relevance to the main story.

or even

snivelling, mendacious, corrupt, shrivelled-and-syphilitic-membered, pseudo-scientific, rabid climate trolls. Let’s be hearing your pitiful excuses….

…then you can see why he gets the following he does.

Yes, that’s the kind of rhetoric that the once-respected Daily Telegraph presents under its banner. Pretty depressing stuff.

On the day that two brilliant, dedicated and sadly-missed climate scientists, Seymour Laxon and Katharine Giles (heard of either, Delingpole ?) were honoured at the ESA Living Planet Symposium in Edinburgh, maybe it’s time to be thankful that the vast majority of the research community just get on with doing the best work they can, despite crap salaries, no job security, and endless stress, to provide us all with a chance of providing future generations with a liveable world.

Posted in category "Science" on Monday, September 09, 2013 at 09:05 PM

Ping ? Pong ....

in General Rants , Wednesday, September 08, 2010

Apparently over a million people (well, Apple Cultists anyway) have already signed up for Apple’s brand new “Social Network for Music”, Ping. Well, I hope they found it more interesting than I did. Apple’s flirtations with online communities go back quite a way - I wonder who remembers eWorld ? - but one thing they have in common is that they are irretrievably, hopelessly crap. And Ping follows in that proud tradition.

EWorld_Main_Screen.png

Another Green World. Ping’s early ancestor

For a start, the recommendations, apparently based on stuff I’ve bought on iTunes, are just absurd. I mean for F%&s Sake!!! Does it LOOK like I’m interested in Katy fscking Perry ???? Or Lady Gaga ???  What is the point, Apple ? Why are you wasting my time with this unadulterated SHIT ?

Ping is embedded in iTunes. It only knows about the iTunes Store. It doesn’t make any kind of useful recommendations.  And if I want to “like” something in my iTunes library, what do I need to do ?  Well, find a song in iTunes, select it, go over to the artist, click through to the Store, find whatever it is I want to like, work out that “Like” is hidden under “BUY”, and click.  Jesus H. Christ on a unicycle, who could possibly have though this was anywhere near good design ?  It is absolutely hopeless.

And then there’s Ping on iPhone… does it offer something approaching the same user experience as on iTunes ? No, of course not!

I’m getting really fed up with this company. All I want, and I suspect many others do, and good, well designed reliable computers that “just work” - as they used to - and if they can manage to keep producing half decent iPods, well I’ll take one of those as well. I’m an iPhone user, but frankly, only because it just about manages to provide an average level of functionality that trumps the competition, and it keeps me entertained on the train.  Just as well I don’t make too many phone calls.

As for a “Social Network for Music”, well, Steve, I suggest you pull your head out of your arse and sign up to Last.fm. Then maybe you’ll understand nobody needs your pathetic disguise at maximizing iTunes revenue.

Posted in category "General Rants" on Wednesday, September 08, 2010 at 03:44 PM

ennui

in General , Thursday, July 15, 2010

So yeah, I haven’t written anything here for ages. This blog was originally a container for various bits and pieces, mainly, but not always vaguely work, and therefore technology, related. The thing is, I’m over technology. Way over. And work is, well, maybe not the all-encompassing thing it once was.

I’m not in the slightest bit interested in the iPad. It vaguely sparks my interest in the potential for eBooks and being able to read on something bigger than an iPhone screen, but apart from that, really, what-ever. Anyway, so far I’ve yet to see one in the wild, if I discount one brought over here by an American acquaintance who clearly has no issue with looking like a nerd.  Really, would anybody here down South use one on a train ? I doubt it. Even iPhones are, well, a bit uncool.

There isn’t even anything else to not be interested in. 

We had liquor ... and noise.

Posted in category "General" on Thursday, July 15, 2010 at 02:52 PM

iContact show us how not to do it

in General Rants , Monday, October 26, 2009

No further comment really necessary. This sort of thing is simply unacceptable in 2009. Especially from a company that purports to promote responsible, permission-based email marketing.

iScum.jpg

“I am trying to cancel my account, as we no longer need it for this specific purpose. However, since discovering that I cannot in fact cancel online, I must inform you that I will never use your service again, nor will I recommend it to anybody else.

This is fundamentally unethical: if I can sign up online, there is no reason why I should not be able to cancel online.

This is not the hallmark of a trustworthy online business, or one I would wish to do business with.”

Posted in category "General Rants" on Monday, October 26, 2009 at 03:02 PM

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