Kamala, the Inflection Point and the Geek vs Freak Election?

This is not an article about politics but it is about the Democratic National Convention (D20) held in the last week. Specifically, it’s about one phrase in the speech by Vice Presidential candidate, Kamala Harris (see video). The phrase is “inflection point” that was also echoed the following day in the speech by Presidential candidate Joe Biden. It seems that the Democratic Party are hoping that this phrase will be a rallying call for them come Election Day in November.

“We’re at an inflection point. The constant chaos leaves us adrift. The incompetence makes us feel afraid.  The callousness makes us feel alone. It’s a lot. And here’s the thing: We can do better and deserve so much more.[1].

Continue reading “Kamala, the Inflection Point and the Geek vs Freak Election?”

Time Travel in “Dark”: Embrace the Paradox

Promotional poster for the Netflix series “Dark” [1].

German Netflix series simply called “Dark” has been around since June 2017 (seasons 1 and 2) . The new season 3 has only recently become available. Watch out for the first scene in the first episode: a gruesome suicide by hanging which you might want to hit fast forward through. Very dark indeed. If you do fast forward don’t miss the short sequence in which the victim’s mother grabs the suicide note before anyone else can read it. The victim here is Michael Kahnwald and his mother is Ines. This whole scene, and the names of the characters, are pivotal to the whole story. We’ll return to the intrigue, setup by the first scene, after discussing some general comments about the time travel genre. Take the opportunity for a pause because “Dark” is a bumpy, head-spinning journey. (Edit: postponed to the continuation in Part 2).

Continue reading “Time Travel in “Dark”: Embrace the Paradox”

Herd Immunity and COVID-19

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By Snapwire from Pexels (free to use)

This morning I was watching TV, the Today show. as Karl Stefanovic and Allison Langdon were discussing the concept of “herd immunity” which had been considered by the UK Government early in the COVID-19 pandemic. Their casual conversion considered whether it might be a good idea to deliberately infect younger Australians with the coronavirus (SARS-CoV-2) [1] whilst isolating and protecting older and more susceptible members of the community. This apparently casual conversation raised alarms for me as I’ll explain below (see after the jump). The infographic video that Allie used to explain the concept of “herd immunity,” seemingly made a compelling argument for it. Fortunately, they brought in sensible expert advice in the form of Dr Sanjaya Senanayake an Infectious Diseases physician and Associate Professor from the Medical School at the Australian National University (ANU) (see the YouTube video below).

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The Meaning of a COVID-19 Second Wave

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Photo by Emiliano Arano from Pexels

I’ve been hearing the term “second wave” being used more and more frequently in connection with the COVID-19 crisis. For instance, in this article [1] about Singapore, Taiwan and Hong Kong facing a second wave of coronavirus cases from citizens returning from overseas. This seems faulty logic to me: it isn’t a second wave, it’s a continuation of the first wave relocating from a different geographical place. I don’t mean just to single out this article because numerous TV and radio newscasters, newspaper articles and websites worldwide are commonly using the same kind of wonky logic in connection with a so-called coronavirus second wave. When what they really mean is that the same source of the virus has either: (i)  lead to a continuation of cases from another location or (ii) made a reappearance after initial efforts for containment have only been partially successful.

Why do we describe resurgence in coronavirus cases in an inconsistent manner with the phrase “a second wave”? What has happened that we can’t agree on the meaning of a term that is so important to the coronavirus crisis?

My answer is after the page jump.

Continue reading “The Meaning of a COVID-19 Second Wave”

Burke and Wills Expedition — Forensic Analysis of the Death of Charlie Gray

Arrival of Burke, Wills at Cooper's Creek on their return
The arrival of Burke, Wills and King at the deserted camp at Cooper’s Creek. Painted by John Longstaff in 1907. National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne

Charlie Gray (? – 1861 ) is the forgotten man of the Burke and Wills Expedition of 1860-1. Burke and Wills are credited with the first crossing of Australia from south to north and then south to Cooper’s Creek [1] again. That they were accompanied by John King (1841 – 72) is commonly remembered because he was the only member of the crossing party to survive. Charlie Gray is often only remembered as a footnote: that he crossed the continent with Burke and Wills but died on the return from the Gulf of Carpentaria, the day that the crossing party spent burying his body, was instrumental in the tragedy that was to follow.

The death of Charlie Gray has attracted a good deal of controversy, as I’ll examine in this article.

It is my belief that this article is the first time that the events leading up to his death have been subjected to a detailed forensic scientific examination.

My conclusions show that the likely cause of Gray’s death was from a parasitic disease that compounded his generally poor health and malnutrition. Furthermore, this same parasitic disease affected the other members of the party, hastened their worsening malnutrition, leading indirectly to the deaths of Burke and Wills some months later. John King was also close to death but was fortunate in finding the native Yandruwandha people who showed him kindness and made him part of their tribe until the Victorian Relief Expedition was able to rescue him. Continue reading “Burke and Wills Expedition — Forensic Analysis of the Death of Charlie Gray”

Andy Weir — My Geek Hero

 
Do I just sit back and allow a portrayal of events that, claim to be scientifically factual, to be made to be made into a feature movie, when I know, and can show by basic chemistry and toxicology, that the events portrayed are wrong?

Andy at the JPL
Andy Weir at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) in 2015.

If you’ve followed The Dossier you may have read the article: “Artemis” by Andy Weir — Blame it on the Moon. At the time I wrote this I was concerned that “Artemis” the movie might be in the pipeline. Andy has impeccable connections in this regard after having his earlier book The Martian made into a movie, directed by one of the most celebrated directors around in Ridley Scott.

For these reasons, I shouldn’t have been surprised that a feature film adaption has been in the works since even before the book itself was published according to Wikipedia.  Since I wrote my article, I had been struggling with the thought: what is my responsibility? Do I just sit back and allow a portrayal of events that, claim to be scientifically factual, to be made into a feature movie, when I know, and can show by basic chemistry and toxicology, that the events portrayed are wrong? Furthermore, the depicted events could mislead the public if made into a feature-length movie. Being a former science academic (who still considers himself to be in the STEM education business) these things matter to me.

Continue reading “Andy Weir — My Geek Hero”

Menindee Lakes Fish Kill

Fish Kill at Lake Menindee 7 Jan 2019.
Fish Kill at Menindee Lakes. 7 January 2019 by Debbie Newell.

The fish kills on the Darling River and at Menindee Lakes in Western NSW have been getting a lot of media attention and feelings are running hot within Australia and overseas. Politicians, both NSW State and Federal, have been running for cover, blaming the severe drought, rather than water mismanagement.

While I’d like to lambast politicians for their failings, in this case, it’s not going to achieve much. The problems with the Darling River are already so serious that political failings are becoming our responsibilities; once the consequences and recovery costs flow through the economy. There’s not the time for a blame game. As things stand, we can’t rely on our leaders to work for the health of the Murray-Darling Basin without bringing public pressure to bear. Lack of action on a leadership level calls out for more grass-roots action. However, being able to exert public pressure requires an educated cross-section of the public with a consensus direction on what needs to be done.

For the above public educational reasons, I’m requesting support for the development of a Fishkill 2 learning module which is based upon Fishkill that ran successfully with 1st-year Natural Resource Science students at the Queensland University of Technology  (QUT) for nearly a decade (2000-8). Fishkill 2 needs to be developed from the now antiquated original Fishkill as a community-based project, using new source material, an accessible online format and an expansion of the learning modules and scenarios to include lessons gained from the Menindee Lakes Fishkill.

Support Fish Kill ver. 2 Citizen Science Project

Help me fundraise to support a community version of the Fish Kill online eLearning Module that is sleek, modern and independently-sourced (suggested: multiples of $25).

$25.00

Continue reading “Menindee Lakes Fish Kill”

“Artemis” by Andy Weir — Blame it on the Moon

It is the very error of the moon; She comes more nearer earth than she was wont, And makes men mad.
William Shakespeare – Othello

Book cover - Artemis (2017)
Book cover for Artemis (2017) by Andy Weir

This post is about the recent book Artemis (2017) by Andy Weir which is a novel set on the first permanent Moon station. called “Artemis”. I was looking forward to reading Artemis because I had enjoyed reading his book The Martian. I loved his unorthodox writing style in that book, which fitted in so well with the unfolding of the timeline of the story.

I loved the movie The Martian (2015), directed by Ridley Scott, made from that book. Matt Damon was brilliantly cast as the interplanetary castaway Mark Watney. I loved that it was sci-fi for the near-future. It was tantalising because, with the book and movie, I could easily visualise the colonisation of Mars unfolding along similar lines. It was just so scientifically grounded and believable.

When I started reading Artemis the thought that it was an inspired idea that an African country such as Kenya could take advantage of the technology of moon colonisation to boost their economy to the first-world standard. It was such an optimistic and hopeful view of a world that might be. I loved the idea that the protagonist was an anti-heroine, Jasmine “Jazz” Bashara from Saudi Arabia. That also seemed, at least at first, to be inspired. But later, when she transforms from a smal-time smuggler to a big-time crime-boss, still with her smart, way-too-cool sassiness, the characterisation of Jazz losses its credibility and her role just becomes plain silly. Indeed, the whole story, after being so promising, losses its way and degenerates to silliness as I’ll explain.

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Remembering Henry Moseley (1887-1915)

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The 11th of November 2018 at 11 am is being remembered solemnly all the over the world as the centenary of the armistice of World War I. In the memory of recent generations, this conflict was the most dreadful that could be imagined. The casus belli was the most senseless. Nevertheless, the sacrifices made by so many, in the name of the political and personal freedoms, that we currently enjoy, were the noblest.

In viewing some of the coverage on TV and in the newspaper, many commentators were remembering notable individuals who lost their lives in that awful conflict. The person that I’d most like to remember this day is the British physicist Henry G. J. Moseley who left his work at Manchester University to volunteer for the Royal Engineers of the British Army.

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Reading the “Alien” Trilogy (2014) and Reflecting on a Dystopian Science, Part 2

No science is immune to the infection of politics and the corruption of power. Jacob Bronowski

 

Book cover showing an alien xenomorph queen
The book “Alien: River of Pain” (2014).

In Part 1 the question was asked about how the system of Science could become dystopian? We looked at one way that that could occur through capture by corporations and interest groups. In Part 2, we examine how a corrupt system can infect the scientists and science that they carry out.


Dr. Batholomew Reese was in charge of the small scientific and medical team for Hadley’s Hope, a “shake-and-bake” terraforming colony on the planetoid Acheron – formerly known as LV-426. As he was enjoying some evening alone time in his quarters, a soft but persistent chime from the door interrupted him. It was his associate, Dr Mori, who was grinning ear-to-ear, which caused Bartholomew to exclaim: “you look a giddy and lovestruck teen.” Dr Mori excitedly replied: “it may be the answer to the Nostromo mystery.” What had excited Mori so much was that an executive from Weyland-Yutani company had just sent to the Colony Administrator, and to Drs Reese and Mori, a communication that included the grid coordinates for a site that should be investigated “immediately.”

Continue reading “Reading the “Alien” Trilogy (2014) and Reflecting on a Dystopian Science, Part 2″