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God-bothering or restructuring? Time to think again!

Today, as the new particle accelerator fires up to discover the "God Particle" that is believed to be the embryo of the galaxy, Webdiary publishes John Pratt's thoughts on the words of a prominent UK scientist.

God bothering or restructuring? time to think again!

by John Pratt

The most brilliant minds should be directed to solving Earth's greatest challenges, such as climate change, says Sir David King.

The former UK chief scientist will use his presidential address at the BA Science Festival to call for a gear-change among innovative thinkers.

He will suggest that less time and money is spent on endeavors such as space exploration and particle physics.

He says population growth and poverty in Africa also demand attention.

"The challenges of the 21st Century are qualitatively different from anything that we've had to face up to before," he told reporters before the opening of the festival, which is being held this year in Liverpool.

"This requires a re-think of priorities in science and technology and a redrawing of our society's inner attitudes towards science and technology."

The greatest threat to our way of life and the lives of many species on the planet comes from climate change, over population, and peak everything.

It is time, as Sir David King says, to focus our smartest brains on solving these, the most pressing issues of the 21st Century. If the threat was from another nation we would move our scientists to a war footing and the focus would be on defeating the enemy. We have a real threat but this time it is not weapons of destruction that will overcome the problems we face. We need alternative energies; we need more efficient agriculture and aquiculture. We need to be more efficient in everything we do. We need to cooperate at an international level more than we have ever cooperated in the past.

We should be prioritizing our scientific research to tackle these immediate threats. When we have found solutions then we can go back to more abstract research.

We need to be developing global organisations to tackle the global nature of many of these issues. We must not let national jealousies get in the way.

We can overcome these enormous challenges but not by acting unilaterally – we need multilateral agreements and sharing of knowledge and resources. We should use these challenges as a way of making us come together to work for a better future for all.

The market will not be able to solve these problems – we will need multinational cooperation and a common goal.


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Why would anyone want to collide large hadrons?

Sounds as silly as a garage sale, doesn't it?

Priorities for science in the 21st Century

The twenty-first century presents challenges unprecedented in human history. These challenges arise due to the successes of science, engineering, technology and medicine. Current world population is 6.8 billion. Mid-century there will be 9 billion people. David King calls for a re-thinking of priorities and questions our funding for big physics and cosmology projects over funding for solar energy and new technologies for food production.

David King on Radio National's Science Show today.

Top ten greatest moments in science. What next?

In the most complex scientific experiment ever undertaken, the European Nuclear Research Centre’s Large Hadron Collider is being switched on this week, accelerating sub-atomic particles to nearly the speed of light before smashing them together. Some say it the result could be the creation of a small black hole 100m under the Swiss and French alps, and perhaps the beginning of the end of the Earth.

Will it be a flop, or will it go down as one of the great moments in science? And if so, where would it rank among the other breakthroughs?

Here’s our suggestion for a top ten (albeit in no particular order), starting with the rather obscure Mendel’s Peas experiment. Never heard of it? Read on…

If we survive the next 100 years or so science is going to play a vital part in our survival. What would be your top ten of scientific advances that may take us to the next century? Some that I think should have top priority.

1. Nuclear Fusion.

Nuclear fusion, or the joining of small nuclei to make a larger nucleus, is an energy-producing process that occurs naturally in stars. Nuclear fusion creates considerably more energy and less radioactive material than nuclear fission, and generates millions of times more energy than the burning of coal. Since the 1950s, researchers have been trying to control fusion power in a contained space in order to generate electricity.

2. Make solar energy affordable.

Why is solar energy important?

Already, the sun’s contribution to human energy needs is substantial — worldwide, solar electricity generation is a growing, multibillion dollar industry. But solar’s share of the total energy market remains rather small, well below 1 percent of total energy consumption, compared with roughly 85 percent from oil, natural gas, and coal.

Those fossil fuels cannot remain the dominant sources of energy forever. Whatever the precise timetable for their depletion, oil and gas supplies will not keep up with growing energy demands


3. Provide access to clean water world wide.

Lack of clean water is responsible for more deaths in the world than war. About 1 out of every 6 people living today do not have adequate access to water, and more than double that number lack basic sanitation, for which water is needed. In some countries, half the population does not have access to safe drinking water, and hence is afflicted with poor health. By some estimates, each day nearly 5,000 children worldwide die from diarrhea-related diseases, a toll that would drop dramatically if sufficient water for sanitation was available.

4. Manage the nitrogen cycle.

The nitrogen cycle reflects a more intimate side of energy needs, via its central role in the production of food. It is one of the places where the chemistry of the Earth and life come together, as plants extract nitrogen from their environment, including the air, to make food. Controlling the impact of agriculture on the global cycle of nitrogen is a growing challenge for sustainable development.

5. Advance Health Infomatics.

Health and biomedical informatics encompass issues from the personal to global, ranging from thorough medical records for individual patients to sharing data about disease outbreaks among governments and international health organizations. Maintaining a healthy population in the 21st century will require systems engineering approaches to redesign care practices and integrate local, regional, national, and global health informatics networks.

On the personal level, biomedical engineers envision a new system of distributed computing tools that will collect authorized medical data about people and store it securely within a network designed to help deliver quick and efficient care.

Welcome to the SCATOVERSE - shit - but good shit

Oooops sorry folks....

But I have it on good authority that little experiment went terribly wrong. As experiements do.

At this point in the space time thingy we are all, in fact, dead. The reality is (though I use the term loosely) the space time thingy as we knew it no longer exists.

Many will argue it does, but denial is apparently not unusual for life forms that suddenly find themselves sucked into a black hole, digested, then blown out of its arse into a whole new shooting match, or more precicely - The Scatoverse.

But we will cope. Soon we are going to slowly lose our painful recollections of our old uni-verse (god did have a sense of, er, ah, er, irony) and we will collectively free ourselves from the nasty shit. In fact it's happening as we speak, er read, er write, er breathe - whatever.

I bet few will rememeber what they did when 10 years old 33 days after their mother's birthday. Or what they were doing at 10.27am on the 14th May 1993. Or in my case what I did 15 minutes ago - the albatross adjusts quicker than humans - it's got a lot to do with brain size. If we are honest with ourselves we will recognise we have already forgotten heaps, it's just that we haven't woken up to our new reality. I suppose no one likes the idea of being dead.

But never fear, my fellow travellers, for when the post adjustment thingy has been completed we will no longer remember war or greed or hate and stuff like that. We'll just remember the stuff that feels cool - like sharing, caring, learning, having fun and making babies and making babies and...

Anyway I'm already starting to feel quite at home in this our Scatoverse - I suppose the above reflects same but never fear, for although our new verse, like the old, is full of shit - this one is (or could be) full of good shit - if we collectively want it to be.

All we have to do is change our minds - besides, what has a bunch of dead people got to lose?

Strange things in the Scatoverse

Justin, talking about black holes and other strange happenings in the Scatoverse.

I swear this is a true story.

Yesterday while having my shower, I dropped the soap - not unusual. I was in a shower cubicle completely sealed. I reached down to pick it up but it was gone. I searched around without success, I thought it must have fallen down the plug hole into the black hole of the sewerage system. I thought the odds of that must be millions to one. Anyway I continued my shower and dried myself off. As I stepped from the shower I saw the runaway piece of soap. It was about 2 metres from the shower and completely dry. I have no idea how it got there, or where it had been since I dropped it. Maybe a wormhole from one universe to another - who knows? It must have defied gravity somehow. I have no idea how it dried out.

I blamed it on the black hole experiments in Europe.

Who knows?

Richard:.... and, at last, an explanation for the one about the two nuns ;)

A rap-worthy event

Okay, as alarming as the video initially was, I really quite enjoyed it.

I think the academicians who feel that the rap video "cheapens the science and dumbs it down" should lighten up though.

Quote taken from:

Rap about world's largest science experiment becomes YouTube hit (Telegraph UK)

Richard:  Kimberley, I'm a bit lost.  What's your opinon? Would you write a rap to explain a theory?

If I was blessed

Richard, if I was blessed with the ability to rap, yes I would.

I feel that the academicians' comment was rather elitist.

Imagine if paleontologists said that pretty picture books with dinasaurs for kids was 'dumbing down' too. 

We ain't got a prayer

Just over a year ago, I read an article by an eminent but not household-name economist. This prescient person said that every indicator was there to be plainly read that we were headed for the mother-of-all-depressions.

Frightening but now plainly true. The world's financial sphere is now shrinking to end up being somewhere between 25 and 40% of its hyper-inflated worth of a year ago. There will be pain. In spite of all this information being available not one country's government has done anything prudent. The stupidity game goes on unabated.

There is ample research, evidence and opinion available that the world's optimum population is between 1.5 and 2 billion. We are already 3-4 times over that limit. If this is true, as is highly likely, then approximately 4 billion people will have to die quickly. We are already seeing that with mass starvation in Third World areas. We won't react until the stench of the rotting corpses assails every sense. When we finally do, give a century or so and we will have forgotten about it and start repeating the same mistakes. We truly are the world's most stupid species.

Where do you go to my lovely

Richard Tonkin: "I can't remember the last time I heard a university boasting of a philosophy department."

Oh my god, you should meet just about anyone from the Sorbonne. They never shut up about their philosophy department.

Even French high schools brag about their philosphers.

I'm hoping they land a few on Mars one day so they can tell us whether it still exists when we're not looking at it.

Did you know that the semi-conductor was invented by a committee of French doctoral students engaged in research on the semiotics of feminist poetry?

No, it wasn't.

Richard:  Bugger France.. remember the backstreets of Naples, Eliot? Or Sydney?

The CERN rap- a Youtube for Kathy

[vunet.com extract]

Scientists at the Large Hadron Collider (LHC) project at Cern have been having a bit of fun recording a rap song to celebrate the start of experimentation.

The video explains what the LHC is and will do to a background beat and features white coated scientist dancing in the collision chamber. It has become a hit on YouTube, logging over 2.5 million hits in less than two weeks.

“Twenty seven kilometers, a tunnel underground, designed with a mind to send protons around,” the song goes.

"A circle that crosses through Switzerland and France, sixty nations contribute to scientific advance.”

The video was shot by Kate MacAlpine - rap name Alpinekat - who is a trainee at Cern.

Levity aside, if this galactic protoplasm is discovered, what ensues?  An ability to create food sources for Africa?  That's what  I'm getting at, John-  perhaps King is wrong and new science is the only way to correct the problems.

If  solutions to the problems don't exist, they need to be created.

We need to be more focused.

Richard, I am not against science, I think science has a big role to play in the fight against climate change and peak everything. I just think that at the moment we are not treating the threats seriously. I think we should be treating it exactly the same way as we would if our security was threatened by another country we need a call to arms and focus on the immediate threat. Rudd recently said we should be spending more on defence. I think the climate change and peak everything is a much more serious threat to our way of life than any of our northern neighbours.

We have choice: we can spend our wealth and use our resources on bigger and better weapons or we can use our resources to defend against the effects of climate change I think it is folly to think we can do both. 

Who knows what they will discover

I loved it Richard. Scientists, eh?

Don't think that Eminem, 50 cent or Snoop dogg have anything to worry about though. Ha!

Weren't these scientists the same ones who discovered another dimension?


Richard: Just so long, Kathy, as they don't create a tear in the space/time fabric... watch out for Daleks!

A bit of both perhaps, John?

The trouble is that despite our accumulated mass of knowledge there is still so much we don't know. While I'm following the new particle accelerator work with great interest, I can't remember the last time I heard a university boasting of a philosophy department.

I don't think that King has chosen the right climate to make what would normally be considered quite sensible opinions.

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