Friday, November 1
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And in case you missed it, this is John Key's love letter to the oil industry:
Wednesday, January 2
I want to draw your attention to the concept of an "Educated Idiot".
It sounds contradictory, but Educated Idiots do exist. Like the racist psychology professor Philippe Rushton or (up until recently) the Climate Change-Denier, physicist and professor, Richard Muller. People with the right kind of education to know better can still get things completely wrong (particularly economists) because they subscribe to a dogmatic point of view and can't (or won't) think beyond it.
I call it a lack of critical thinking, but whatever it is people can, and will, put psychological black holes over certain issues that even their good education can't help them escape from. It can apply to just about anything as well, from the important to the mundane, however the biggest of these psychological black holes hangs over the tragic events of September-11 itself. Even people who understand physics and champion the scientific method can get 9-11 wrong.
Here's a simple physics test for all of you Champions of Science out there. Ready?...
Question: If the top 12 storeys of a 110-storey skyscraper collapsed down on to the 98-storey structure below it (due to a plane hitting the building at the 99th floor), given that every action has an equal and opposite reaction, how many storeys of the 98-storey structure would be left standing?
Option A: None of it. It would collapse at near free-fall speed to the ground without any resistance.
Option B: Approx 86 storeys would remain, because the 98 storey building underneath would use an equal amount of energy in its resistance to the falling 12 storeys above it. (98 storeys minus 12 storeys = 86 storeys still standing).
If you answered A, then chances are you don't know physics, and that's okay. Most people who don't know physics answer A. If you do know physics and still answered A, then you may be the unwitting owner of a psychological black hole. But if you actually do have a proper education in physics and still answered A, then I'm sorry to tell you this, but you are, by the very definition of the term, an Educated Idiot.
The correct answer was B.
(Don't worry if you got it wrong though. This question gets even more difficult to answer when you remove the scenario of a plane hitting the building and yet it still collapses to the ground in a perfectly symmetrical free fall. See WTC7)
The question though, as to exactly "how" and "why" the WTC buildings fell that day, is not a physics question, but a moral question.
Saturday, November 24
In the United Nations Human Development Report of 2005 on page 37 there is a fascinating graph made by World Bank senior economist Yuri Dikhanov titled: Where the money is
This graph compares the average incomes from the richest to the poorest countries in the world and separates them into fifths (20% x 5). It also chooses a wine glass graphic to represent it.
These two choices (representing the world in fifths, and using a "wine glass" graph) I believe gives a skewed understanding of what the data actually represents.
I dug through the original data to find the same percentages in tenths so I could then make the above chart as a regular bar graph. The result is below:
It makes me think of the phrase: "If you give ten people ten cents each, eventually one person will have a dollar and the rest will have nothing".
Monday, November 19
I work with Greenpeace as a volunteer and have been involved with campaigns such as the Save the Maui Dolphin campaign (trying to rescue the last 55 Maui Dolphins which are unique to New Zealand from extinction due to unsafe fishing practices), and the No Drill, No Spill campaign against deep sea oil drilling off of our pristine coastlines (the same kind of drilling that caused the BP Gulf of Mexico disaster).
In each of these campaigns I have often wondered where the Board of Tourism NZ's voice is in these urgent issues which have a direct impact on them. Today, I finally heard the Board's voice which came in the form of an article in both the NY Times and the New Zealand Herald in which New Zealand's clean, green image is slammed as being just as fantastical as The Hobbit movie.
The Herald article ends with this:
"Tourism New Zealand communications manager Deborah Gray said 100 per cent Pure New Zealand was one of the most successful destination marketing campaigns in the world and was not just about the environment, but the whole package.
"It's the activities, the landscape and the people that combine to make for a uniquely New Zealand or 100 per cent Pure New Zealand - experience.""
As a campaigner for environmental issues, I found this statement disgusting. It was not just deceitful in the way it has now pivoted on its 100% Pure messaging to mean something different than what its quite obviously presenting itself as in the past, but worse than that, Tourism NZ has now become an apologist for environmentally destructive behaviour. You've essentially given a free pass to the fishing industry and the oil industry whose practices are creating massive negative impacts on your very own industry- AND to New Zealand's environment itself.
This seems bafflingly hypocritical to me, as I'm struggling to find out what the upshot for Tourism NZ is here.
Where is your voice when protecting the environment?
Please, on behalf of the country that you benefit so much from, and whose lands and oceans you hang your reputation on, speak out.