I have always been intrigued by the way we elevate specialists. Anybody prominent in one of half a dozen fields that western society exalts is, we are told, somebody to be looked up to, and who are never wrong. That’s particularly true of medical specialists particularly, where – certainly here in New Zealand – their … More When specialists fail – spectacularly
A significant hallmark of an authoritarian government is the way it uses the power of the state to bully people. The spectre was raised a century ago by Franz Kafka, whose unfinished novel The Trial summed up the whole problem. In the story, Kafka’s narrator was arrested and put on trial – all without even … More What Franz Kafka’s ‘The Trial’ tells us about authoritarian bullying
There is a wonderful aphorism credited to Albert Einstein – ‘Everybody is a genius, but if you judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree it will live its whole life believing it is stupid’. He didn’t necessarily say it, but it’s something he could have said. And it sums up one of … More Failing to escape the tyranny of twentieth century thinking – the junk science of psychology
I posted a while back on the fact that ‘psychology’ isn’t proper science, still less a valid way of understanding the human condition. To me, the problem is summed up by where ‘psychology’ was taken by one of its pioneers, Wilhelm Reich (1897-1957). Reich, like his teacher Sigsmund Freud, thought everybody was psychologically defective – it was only a matter of degree … More How Wilhelm Reich showed that ‘psychology’ is scientific woo woo
I saw a documentary the other day about Project Orion – which to me underscored just how much times have changed since the 1960s. Owing to a severe attack of geekiness, I already knew quite a bit about the idea, but this added interviews with project scientists such as Freeman Dyson. What was it? On … More Surfing the nuclear blast wave – with science!
Some of the ‘brain teaser’ puzzles doing the rounds at the moment annoy me. The problem is that if you don’t know the parameters on which the question is posed, you can’t get the ‘right’ answer. Take the one involving apples (10 points each), bananas and coconuts. Depending on how you read it, a banana … More Why I get annoyed with Facebook brain-teaser puzzles
It occurred to me the other day that one dandy way to clean a microwave oven is to chuck a cake of soap into it and blast it on ‘high’ for a few minutes. It was a better idea than my previous microwave-inspired trick which involved dismantling the rotating platter and using egg whites and … More Why I don’t do fun science tricks with microwave ovens