Archive for the ‘Mixed Up Mish-Mash (Confusion)’ Category

What can a pile of rice lead you to think about?

In General Mish-Mash, Mixed Up Mish-Mash (Confusion) on April 24, 2012 at 1:40 am

The other day I received a link to this:

While I found it interesting, my interest was not really about the issue being addressed.

Come to think of it, it did not warm me up much one way or the other.

Why not?

I am not sure. But maybe its purpose seems confused: It probably won’t cause anyone to change their view on the issue.

  • There is not enough science (and too much polemic) to be scientifically enlightening.
  • There is not enough political or economic polemic to convince anyone to change their mind about the  imposition of a carbon tax on the Australian economy.

Or maybe it is that he starts with a fallacy – will come to this later – that made the rest of it underwhelming at best.

What I do find interesting is the reference Malcolm Roberts makes in the naming of his movement:

The Galileo Movement

It naturally conjures thoughts of scientific process & breakthrough.

It also raises the spectre of the political persecution of science and scientists. And it causes me to reflect on a fascinating moment in history  – a moment when the quests for truth, power, & faith engaged in an almighty wrestling match.

Galileo & Scientific Method versus Pope Urban VIII & Faith

Who would be the main players of such a wrestlemania if it were on the agenda today in Australia? Has Malcom Roberts has already started the casting of combatants.

The advocate for scientific truth played by … himself, of course. Hence his Galileo Movement.

And in the gold corner …  those holding the reins of power, not wanting to let go and who will do anything, even creating myth to help keep those reins securely in hand. Who could play Pope Urban VIII.

Bob Brown? Julia Gillard?

On appearances and demeanour, Bob Brown would make a great pope. I think gold would really suit him. But he has some attributes that the Vatican would find confronting.

(Aside: Tony Abbott would be a great candidate – looks, beliefs – my God!, even his name is in his favour. But, alas, the dramatis personae is being constructed through the eyes of Malcolm Roberts and Tony is on the wrong side of the political spectrum to be cast as the inquisitor of truth.)

That  leaves Julia. For Pope? Mmmm. Rome shudders – after all she is a “she” and thus not good enough for this hulkingly masculine role.

More about Pope Urban VIII:

In his pre-papal days he was Cardinal Barberini and he was a friend and supporter of Galileo. Even after he discarded the red robes of a Cardinal for the papal gold vestments, Galileo’s works received his official endorsement.

But the back-room boys were at work …

It wasn’t too long before the papal endorsement of Galileo’s works became an inquisition into Galileo’s heresy.

An earth shattering turn-around! Yes, at face value. Almost as earth shattering as suggesting the earth moves.

Earth shattering but not uncommon.

Pope Urban VIII (aka Cardinal Barberini) donned the robes of power and simultaneously adopted beliefs representing a full 180 degrees shift in thinking. The robe’s the thing to turn the conscience of a king.

Encouraging, urging, cajoling that shift were (I think) the senior Jesuits – it matters not who. They became the papal puppeteers, the faceless men, if you like.

The trappings of high office, can widen the flaws of a strong man and demolish the principles of the weak. We have seen it so often.

This excerpt from Joseph Losey’s marvellous film of Bertholt Brecht’s even more marvellous 1943 play Life of Galileo is a wonderful metaphor for such a transformation. Start this excerpt from about the 1m 20s mark – ah! what the hell, hire the film and watch the whole thing.

The resolve of the man sans regalia, is broken down as every layer of the Papal vestments is placed upon him. He starts with an emphatic “No, no, no!” He will not battle against science (Galileo). As the final layer is completed (the triregnum placed on the Popes head), the Inquisitor’s request to threaten Galileo has the Pope nodding his approval.


Back to Malcolm Roberts’ casting of the drama.

Julia has shown an affinity to Pope Urban VIII – a penchant for the 180 degree shift in belief, a sublime ability to satisfy controllers who shuffle in the shadows. Maybe the shuffling men in the smoke filled rooms of power were the creators of the now (in)famous Julia Jackets … and maybe they have the same impact as the triregnum. (That’s the Pope’s hat.)

So, in this modern battle, Julia gets the part of the infallible, but highly flexible even backflipping, protagonist.

Malcolm as Galileo?


Galileo was no less prone than the Pope to alter his standing on the issues of his times. He backflipped as well – albeit under a different type of threat.

There are all sorts of drivers leveraging the behaviour of people (scientists – even Galielo – are people) and all sorts of reasons and reasoning underpinning their  beliefs. You cannot discount many influences at all.

Galileo recanted because the prevailing political paradigm was powerful enough to smother his potentially revolutionary – politically revolutionary – theses about what, in the heavens, moves and what doesn’t.

Is Malcolm Roberts movement driven by a political paradigm that gives direction to scientific discovery?

Probably … few of us would be immune.  And all too often, like a frog in water slowly being boiled, we are unaware of those paradigms until it is too late.

Knowing that both sides are prone to espouse beliefs coloured by paradigms, flaws, vulnerabilities, or threats, who should we trust? How can we trust any of them? Though trust we must.

When taking a retrospective look at the 17th Century combatants we have hindsight that says “Galileo was right and the Church was wrong” – I think the Church has recently admitted they were wrong!!!

The dilemma of the contemporaneous is that we have no real idea how to identify or recognise the truth – or, indeed, if truth even exits. Had there been modern communications channels back in the days when the dispute was about the Earth’s movements, I suspect the debate would have been just as divisive and polarising as the dispute about the Earth warming.

My personal position is that I don’t trust governments of any persuasion … but I must submit that they have access to more information than I. So they SHOULD be able to make more informed judgements than I. It is a tragedy that all to often their judgements seem … aaahh ! you know, I don’t need to continue.

With Malcolm Roberts – I have no concern about him suggesting the carbon tax is crap and unnecessary, I have no concern with him asserting the global warming is a myth, or that he ridicules people who believe warming is happening. he is perfectly right to make these claims … and make them passionately.

To the fallacy of the pile of rice …

But I do have a problem kicking his video off with a complete fallacy. He uses the weight of numbers of rice kernels to assert that man’s production of CO2 represents no worries.

In short, man’s CO2 contribution to Earth’s atmosphere is 1 in 85,800 units of air. He laughs – and it is quite a snide laugh – that anyone could think this could possibly be serious.

Well, Mr Malcolm “Galileo” Roberts … does that mean that something in the ration of 1 unit in 1,900,000 billion units is nothing to worry about … or something to sneer at. In other words it is in a ratio 20 BILLION times less than the man made CO2.

In still other words you need to have 20 billion similar piles of rice to make this picture and still just 1 single piece of rice is what is cited as a problem.

Could something so miniscule, so massively dominated, be a problem? Should we check it out … or just forget about it.

When BP screwed up the drill in the Gulf of Mexico it is estimated that some 780,ooo cubic metres of oil spewed into the sea. The total volume of the Earth’s oceans/seas is estimated at 1,500 billion cubic kilometres. (A cubic km equals a billion cubic metres – the estimate volume of seas on the Earth in cubic metres is therefore 1,500,000,000,000 billion.)

Would you sneer at BP’s mess? I don’t think you would, somehow.

So why sneer at something that has a presence 20 billion times greater? That is right man-made CO2 is 20 Billion times more prevalent than the oil spewed from BP’s Gulf of Mexico disaster.

Your use of rice piles doesn’t really support anything at all. If you want to be Galileo, you need to pick up your game … perhaps use feathers and cannonballs next time.

Nup … you can’t trust anyone these days. He should give up the science and “dook it out” in the politic ring with Julia and the faceless shufflers.

The lessons for me are:

1. Beware those who claim a mortgage on truth.
2. Snakes are not the only things that can change directions at lightning speed.
3. Snakes don’t engage in debate, discussion, or dialogue … nor do those who know the truth.
4. Puppets dance, while puppeteers remain hidden.
5. The weak, when they hold power are weakened further – but cause deeper, more serious problems.

MMXI becomes MMXII

In General Mish-Mash, Mixed Up Mish-Mash (Confusion) on December 31, 2011 at 9:39 pm

There are only a few hours of 2011 remaining.

Reflection is the natural state of mind. Many will find it hasn’t been a great year, for some it may have been their own personal annus horribilis, and for others the year that is dying may have been one of worthy of wild celebration.

One thing I know for sure … there are millions who had years not as good as mine.

This last day of the year is a  landmark time for starting anew, wiping the slate clean, forgiving if not forgetting.

I can’t tell the story of MMXI – it is MMIXed, mixed up, confused, and needing straightening out. I think I have the hints, the clues and signposts sorted … but care is needed.

Content is easily be misinterpreted. A friendly smile can disarm needed caution, a shiv in the rib can be needed to shift focus, attention or divert tragedy. How often is there blurring between what is needed and what is wanted (maybe we all need a debutante and a Ruthie in her honky tonk lagoon – one knows what you need the other knows what you want).

Anyway, looking at content alone distorts meaning – or at least makes distortion more likely.

Something that goes a long way to explaining the cyber-bullying phenomena. We have created a medium where content is king but where it is also truncated, minimised, distant, and immediate.

Anyway … that is another rant.

The relevance here is that it seems the signposts upon which I can rely – must rely – are those that are erected by effort, thought, deliberation.

Content with effort, thought, and deliberation need not be lengthy – editing is a difficult task. Hence Blaise Pascal:

If I had more time, I would have written a shorter letter.

Which really is the premise of my new blog:

365 Short Memories

Each post a memory (or, at least, the result of Mnemosyne weaving her magic) … but expressing it is restrained to 50 words. Exactly 50 words – no more, no less.

Now as MMXI becomes MMXII … and before we are all messed up, mashed up, MIXed up, and maxed up.

Happy New Year!!!

And in the words of Lord Tennyson:

Ring out the old, ring in the new,
Ring, happy bells, across the snow:
The year is going, let him go;
Ring out the false, ring in the true.

Speeding towards infinity … or is that irrelevance?

In General Mish-Mash, Mixed Up Mish-Mash (Confusion) on December 12, 2011 at 6:28 pm

The universal speed record may have been broken!  No, not the land speed record, nor the water speed record, nor airspeed.

But THE record for speed!

The one that is constant. The speed that defines. The irrevocable, the upper limit of all possibilities.

And it may have been shattered – “Faster than light” particles spark science drama.

The World's Abuzz!!

Even bigger news than the buzz caused by Roger Bannister’s effort at the Iffley Road Track on 6th May 1954. 4 minutes!!

This may turn our world on its head. Mind you, that might not be a bad thing. Sounds like a turn for the better – especially for those of us for whom everything is relative and – relatively speaking – wrong – the wrong size, shape, time, and place.

Paying homage to relativity is getting a bit tiresome … and it is often very, very, bloody difficult. Even for relatively (mmmm!) simple things like …

Like when you’re sitting on a train, the train starts to move but you could swear you are still still! It’s the adjacent train that’s moving, isn’t it? And in any case if are you moving (or stationary) it is relative to what?

Oh, you “know” you’re stationary. Stopped. Fixed to the spot.


You’re sitting in a train on the surface of the Earth which is moving at around 236,000 metres/second in an Easterly direction.

Your train is moving – westerly (from Central Station to Penrith) – so you think!  Are you really? How do you work that out? How do you account for your easterly roll in that calculation.

No matter how hard it all seems, there are solutions … whether you have to called on rotational physics or fluid dynamics, or Einstein’s theories of relativity, answers can be worked out  … it’s all in the physics and, there are finite degrees of freedom. The metrics are discrete! Do the math.

Well there were solutions, the metrics were discrete, until now. Until news about particle motion faster than the speed of light!! (Yeah, I know it is still just speculation but … sheesh!, let me have my fun.)

Physically discrete, calculable, tangible phenomena of the world of science become blurred, indistinct. They shift into hazy, shady, mysterious and poetic realms.

It is as it should be! Worlds collide and merge. Fact is stranger than fiction. Science more imaginative than art, art adopts the technological.

Voila!! Square pegs now fit into round holes.

Dimensions shift. Our linear approach is disrupted. Our simplistic models need discarding … or at least augmenting.

Even to our emotional worlds we apply pragmatic cause-effect formulae. They undermine our very being, our value, our humanity.

Damn!!  That sentence is straight line logic, irreversible cause followed by effect. But we have this one track sensibility, don’t we, we depend on it in many ways … and now with one swift kick.

A kick at a speed faster than the speed of light!!

The immutable is muted, boundaries broken, straight-jackets loosened – the insane CAN run the asylum. Particles are emitted and collide with unprecedented force … exploding into new models, new dimensions – the rigid order of Cartesian pairs & triples cast aside for more chaotic models. The birth of a deep and moving structure  where the chaos and predictable patterns are one and the same – beauty is both simple and complex.

This stuff can do your head in!!

But look at connectedness in the modern world. What could be more chaotic, structured, and patterned than the networks we immerse ourselves in … are we immersed? or really just sitting and watching it unfold around us, doing our best to keep from being swallowed up.

What could be more damaging to your head and your heart than to be part of something but disconnected from it – that is incongruence. Constructively damaging, of course.

Embedded within networks but also distant from them.

A context, a moment of incongruence when you are awash with simultaneous senses of insignificance and feeling that your presence is significant.

Slouching towards infinity and irrelevance.

Slouching faster than the speed of light.