James Webb Space Telescope

It was a very patient wait until this was fully deployed because so many things could have gone wrong. But as it stands this is an engineering masterpiece with over 1200 scientists, engineers and technicians from 14 countries all collaborating in putting this project together. It shows Science at it’s leading edge, especially when it is viewed as an achievement in co-operation and the sharing of knowledge. As opposed to this other small misguided faction of the global population that put us all in peril with an anti science , anti truth agenda and  a belief  based on myths.

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Reality Check

A new movie came out on Netflix called Don’t Look Up over the holiday season which is meant as a parody but sadly could be seen as real reflection of society as it has evolved in today’s world. A society where Reality TV, Celebrity and Social media shape people’s thought process. Gone are the days where a scientist is revered for producing a vaccine to cure polio. These days a tick tock video of woman teaching her cat to dance might carry more weight. So this movie is about that, a society that has lost it’s way in what is real and what they just choose to believe. Hopefully it might influence some people to rethink their priorities. Especially when we get weekly reminders of what Climate Change actually means along with over 50yrs of “sit tight and access”.

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Aussie Legend

It’s probably been about three decades since I have seen Tommy Emmanuel live but I received a sharp reminder the other day coming across a recent interview with Rick Beato. This is Australia’s premier acoustic guitarist bar none. His skill level is way beyond the normal run of the mill guitar player he can make a guitar do incredible things.  So he fully deserves the Aussie Legend status as he just seems to get better with age. This is a person whom you come across when you think you have already heard the best and you know you haven’t.

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The Blue Mountains

A trip to the Blue Mountains that was planned mid 2020 however it took until the end of 2021 to eventuate due to the pandemic. Nevertheless it was worthwhile, a scenic break from the city landscape with lots to offer if nature is your thing. I enjoyed the bush tracks and could have made better use of the cable cars than what I did. While the visitor numbers were sparse having only just recently opened up after weeks of lockdown this just happened to be a bonus. Even the hotel looked deserted in some parts but made it more enjoyable not having to compete with crowds.

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Artificial Intelligence Dilemma

While I come across different documentaries all the time online this one stuck a chord with me. Not because I am particularly interested in the GO game, I had never played it up until this point but this was about something else. A Google DeepMind project AlphaZero at work or how AI can either help or hinder us in our quest for survival as a Human race. There are lots of warnings about the coming threat AI poses to humanity however there are lots of pluses as well. Like in politics for instance, where currently decisions are mostly made based on an emotive response to a problem rather than a more purposeful long term goal. This hardly ever results in the outcome expected, like invading a country for instance to settle a score. Imagine how different the world would be if AI played a part in Political decision making especially during conflict or crisis on what the best choices are for the most desired outcome. Like in a global crisis such as a pandemic, managing resources, climate change or even economic management. Personally I would much rather have AI make a choice for a 50% chance of my survival than 1000 to 1 chance that a political leader might make just because that’s more convenient to them ideologically. The major differences with AI when assuming that eventually it acquires all of human knowledge to use as a reference.  The quality of decision making and problem solving increases where no human could match it and there in lies the threat because that artificial genius can also evolve. But it also raises fundamental ethical questions like the AI in a self driving car facing an impending fatal collision with a school bus. Is it’s first priority to save the school children or the occupants of the car.

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COP26 or The Last Red Flag on Climate.

Now that the Glasgow Global Climate conference is almost at an end, Australia was represented once again by a cheesy grinning dinosaur leading us down the same path to extinction. Yet poll after poll, year after year shows more than 70+% of the Australian population want firm action on climate change. But here is a conservative government claiming they have a mandate to only window dress climate policy. To give Scott Morrison his dues, he finally did get behind the mass vaccination programs for COVID which resulted in us being one of the most vaccinated places on earth. But you don’t get to cherry pick science, however this small band of conservatives in government seem to think that it can. Using the insane logic of believing in the science that can protect you against a pandemic while at the same time dismiss the science that says the planet is under threat. Fear based politics is what conservatism excels at but only when it’s about protecting the status quo. If that same fear based threat involves a massive rethink on economic modelling then it runs from that as far as it can. Scott Morrison’s speech at COP26 was an embarrassment. The classic used car salesman trying to promote a lemon as a ripe peach. No one bought it, what’s worse his other lies caught up with him as well. Just ask the French on the submarine deal. Don’t expect him to be holidaying on the French Riviera anytime soon. The most common sense approach to climate action in my view has always been a global price on carbon and that way countries who don’t comply with the global standards then their exports would be punished by import taxes. It has gone way past allowing developing countries to keep going open slather treating the atmosphere like an open sewer. There are solutions with technology to allow those countries to develop with clean energy like everyone else. Globally the West should be playing a role in this as well, if nothing else as an equaliser for past sins. However there is a mentality in some countries to treat global solutions like it is an infringement on their sovereignty, placing emphasis on faith & culture rather than science and here in lies the hurdle. Earth & it’s Environment couldn’t care less about countries, nor does Physics. Faith will never solve any problem, nor will any faith based cultural opinion change a fact. Lies are much easier to sell as it’s geared around a message people want to hear, especially when aligned with their world view. There is nothing more confronting than finding out your world view is not what you perceived it to be. The likes of Trump exploited this cultural trait like no else has done before repeating lie after lie until it eventually sounds like truth. Meanwhile Science can only deal with reality, nothing else

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The Covid Response & Misinformation

While New Zealand might be the gold standard in terms of covid response, the delta strain has tested them as well as everyone else due to it’s much higher transmission rate in a younger demographic. However the recent new outbreak in Australia once again highlighted the dangerous folly of trying to place a political philosophy up against Science. Our neighbouring state NSW run by a conservative government was initially slow to react to an outbreak. Follow this by only going into lockdown “lite” a week too late and the result of that turned the state into what looked like becoming another “Florida”. This is the state that criticised others for locking down too hard & early only to find out the harsh reality of what it really costs if you don’t.  In any crisis, critical thinking is the key element to a solution not political philosophy. There are no silver bullets to some of these problems but critical thinking and science are the only weapons we have, not opinions. Last week 4Corners aired it’s two part report on the other toxic gift Australia gave America  in “The Murdochs” which in destructive terms may be even worse than the pandemic. Creating the democracy destroyer in the evolution of Fox News. Something I have posted about previously, as this is the ultimate example of how misguided “Opinion” can really be when it decides it can arbitrate on what it chooses to be the truth rather than reporting the truth. Sometimes science can make specific predictions with limited information. While “Opinions” on the other hand are just rolling the dice as they are using an inbuilt prejudice rather than thinking with an educated mind. As NDT said, the ultimate judge, jury and executioner on truth, is Nature. Part one below and Part two here.

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Music from Past Decades

As boomer we were blessed with one of the most creative periods in music. Especially in the pop/rock genre, along with personally being able to hear some of the greatest bands in musical history live. So it’s a high bar for anything that follows, mainly if your musical taste requires a unique sound as well as being complex. The current decade’s music is another example where technology can infringe on that creativity component in song writing using things like auto-tune extensively in production. A bit like the same piece of art being reproduced in different colour combinations then being sold as something new. In fact with the odd exception it can be hard to tell some of today’s Top 20 songs apart. So I thought I’d pick five of my favourite songs with clickable links from each decade as pleasant distraction from being caught up in lockdown again back home. In the Sixties I could not go pass Simon & Garfunkel’s “The Sounds of Silence” it is simply brilliant.  Even though I missed the elephant in the room, The Beatles they just had too many hits. :)For the Seventies I decided on a band called Steely Dan who would take extra time in the studio polishing the final cut with one of their songs called “Reeling in the Years.” The Eighties became a lot harder as this was a decade of big hair & shoulder pads where disco dominated and while there were some nice jazz and good rock albums from the likes of Queen I decided on one from Sting, with a song called “An Englishman in New York” with an honourable mention to Sade who also came from that era. The Nineties was a lot easier as this introduced some new styles of music some good and some not so good. Like the introduction of Techno, the big progression of World music, plus Hip Hop & Rap. Although I can’t say I was ever a fan of the last two genres. In the end I decided on a song from Seal called “Kiss from a Rose” which is a great song written by him and with all those ingredients to make a song unique. Which leaves the 2000’s and beyond where finding something unique is a lot harder. Although there are decent artists like Adele and Co. But there was one pop song I was impressed with and that was the Miley Cyrus break up song, “Slide Away”. Regardless of what one may think of her personally, her voice has developed more depth with a raspy tone that is suitable for both rock & country. Plus I think it’s a well crafted song that will stand the test of time. Also an honourable mention to Aussie Pete Murray’s “So Beautiful” and Gotye’s Somebody that I used to know

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Australia Zoo

An overdue visit to Australia Zoo was also worthwhile. It’s well laid out and full credit to the Irwin family for keeping the dream alive. With visitor numbers way down due to covid last year plus all the lockdowns this year would make it very frustrating running this type of business. You can easily see how fragile the tourism industry has become with infrastructure such as this needing people through the gates constantly just to maintain its zoo population let alone anything else. Here are some of the animal pics I took while walking around, it’s well worth a visit if you can get there.

 

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Sunshine Beach and Noosa 2021

It was touch and go whether I would get up there this year with covid running rampant over a large part of our neighbouring state. However a window of opportunity opened and I made a successful road trip via the outback to avoid any covid hotspots. The day I left it was snowing in Canberra so the long winter trek to warmer weather was made even more worthwhile. Sunshine never fails, we had blue sky days the whole time I was there even if it was cut short by yet another lockdown. So I apologise for the location selfies mostly in Noosa National park, (always a bucket list favourite) but I wanted a memento that I actually made it. These are the times we live in now.

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