Random Thoughts

Brexit, if it happens as we all fear will make the UK the Puerto Rico of Europe. No, not really... Puerto Rico has more rights as a commonwealth of the US than Britain will have in association with the EU. Puerto Rico can stay outside the union while people of that semi independent nation are full citizens of the union with free trade, free movement, and even serve on our supreme court.  All they need to do to join is hold a binding referendum and have statehood win with a 2/3 vote on a high voter turnout.
In my 2014 article about large systems I wrote that "what makes a system large is our inability to observe everything within the system".  Large systems theory has been one of my personal thought experiments for a long time because I have long wondered how much of a system you would have to map before you could understand (more-or-less correctly) how it worked.  This was a consequence of having wiped out a few large data files on computer systems back in the days when it was neither easy nor simple to create a backup for your data.
Hiatus

Hiatus

Jan 18 2016 | 7 comment(s)

The few of you who regularly follow this blog may be rightly wondering why I have not published new posts in the last two weeks. The reason is overload. I have a few deadlines on January 31 that I need to meet, and several other errands to attend in the meantime. Hence I have decided to leave the blog behind until the end of this month.
In the mood for some science on Thanksgiving? 

Me too, science is the one thing that has not been steamrolled by Christmas. Instead, Thanksgiving is arguably the most scientific holiday, because it involves agriculture, chemistry and physics.

If you are worried about chemicals, for example, there is good news on Thanksgiving: You can buy a 100 percent organic, shade-grown, no-GMO meal AND IT WILL BE 100 PERCENT STUFFED with cancer-causing carcinogens.

It's Halloween and I am in New York and I wanted to do something local. But since Sleepy Hollow does not have a way to get there by subway (I don't even know where I would rent a car in Manhattan, I suppose I could get there by bus, but even using a subway is a populist stretch for me) I instead decided to get up and create a Ghostbusters tour.  Why? Because even though only three actual weeks of filming took place here, it is strongly associated with the city.

Fortunately I am just a few blocks from Spook Central where all of the real action takes place, and almost all of it was on a subway line, minus some technology hiccups.(1)
Oh no! I forgot to post a personal postmortem1 for the year 2014 like I did for the previous year! Oh well, here it is ten months late.

Istanbul


Last week, the Western Plant Health Association, which represents California, Arizona and Hawaii companies involved in plant nutrients, soil amendments, agricultural minerals and crop protection products (basically, technologies such as fertilizer and pesticides), held its annual meeting in Maui and I was invited to speak about the issues involved in bringing agricultural science to a public that is increasingly removed from its food.

G.K.Chesterton (1874 – 1936) visited the United States twice, in 1921 and 1930.  I have recently been reading Sidelights on New London and Newer York and Other Essays, published in 1932 after his second visit.

One of the essays has particularly struck my attention:

When we think of science today, we think of Big Science, like the Large Hadron Collider and the Human Genome Project.

That makes sense, Americans like big and bold, but that was not always the case. It used to be thatg science was a lonely occupation and asking for money was a negative. There was one man who turned science from being a solitary, somewhat modest endeavor into Big Science. His name was Ernest Lawrence and he was a nuclear science researcher at Berkeley. Yes, Berkeley, arguably the most anti-science town in America now, was put on the map by nuclear power. He created the cyclotron, the ancestor of today's modern accelerators.