New Zealand’s Civil Defence has a new alert system that pushes a really irritating sound out to every compatible phone, no app required, and it can’t be switched off. They tested it on 4 October at 1.32 am and, the other weekend, tested it again. About a third of all cellphones in New Zealand can … More New Zealand’s looming seismic time-bomb
It’s two years this week since my Mum passed away. She was hugely interested in the why of the universe and usually asked me if she wanted something about it explained. It’s a while since I’ve done a science post, so I thought I’d run one this week. It’s about why our law of energy … More When energy isn’t conserved – a physics conundrum
Human reality is a funny thing. Society, as a whole, behaves differently from individuals – yet is made up of them. Understanding people, individually and en masse, is the raison d’etre of the social sciences. And it strikes me that conceptual realities of human nature often emerge in front of our noses, often in microcosm. I … More Learning the dark truth of the human condition
One of the coolest things about history, for me, is the way the shapes and patterns of the past emerge full-blown before you, if you know where to look. Take clothes. What people wore tells us an awful lot about the society of the time. Take stockings, which were the height of gentlemen’s attire right … More Henry VIII and his calf-muscle bulging contests
I read a while back that a proportion of the photos being taken these days don’t even get looked at afterwards. The advent of the cellphone camera hasn’t just killed the ‘pocket snappy’ camera, it’s thrown us into the age of disposable imagery where photographs are taken and then forgotten. It’s kind of ironic, as … More Why ‘free’ stuff destroys our sense of worth – a lesson from photography
One of the flaws of twentieth century thinking was that a lot of it was geared towards systematising the human universe around us. Everything had to be reduced to mechanisms, often simplistic, often single-cause. This was certainly true academically, particularly in the humanities which were styling themselves as ‘scientific’ on the basis of that systematisation. … More The flaws of twentieth century thinking
If you had a choice of super-powers, which one would you pick? Personally I’d go for Dr Manhattan’s, off Dave Gibbons and Alan Moore’s Watchmen. OK, it makes him look like a radioactive Smurf. But that super-power also makes him indestructible, immortal, and gives him total control over determinist (space-time) and quantum worlds, which means … More What’s your favourite super-power?