I have long found it strange that those proselytising for minimising use of pesticides in farming are also the very same people campaigning against the technology best placed to achieve that goal, genetically modified organisms (GMOs). There are few people in the world now who would never have consumed a foodstuff made from a genetically modified plant and we're yet to see any negative effect, suggesting that the regulatory regimes we have in place are, at the very least, adequate to protect us from any potential problems with the consumption of GMOs. On the other hand, by not further utilising GMO foods we are ignoring a method to, not only improve farmland productivity, but also an opportunity to improve the diet of those with the least. Anyway, there is a new online petition, currently signed by 110 Nobel Laureates, amongst lesser scientists, such as myself, calling for support for the use of GMOs such as 'Golden Rice'. You can sign it too, here. When I was young used to support Greenpeace, but their fund seeking populist campaign against GMOs ruined any relevance or integrity in my eyes. If you are a Greenpeace support, demand that they end this ignorant, anti-science stance. There is quite a lot of information at the supportprecisionagriculture.org site, so if you are sitting on the fence, read the side of the story Greenpeace and the tabloid press won't give you.
Possibly my favourite record of last year was Emma Kupa's 10" vinyl mini-album Home Cinema. She was the singer in Standard Fare, a band of which I have no releases, but would like to get something by. They were from Sheffield, a city still close to my heart. Anyway, just today I came across this video of her performing a track from it, Half Sister, at an outdoor session. I hope you like it as much as me.
A great cartoon on the Guardian website the other day. With Joe Hockey leaving parliament there was lots of bonhomie, with even Labor giving him some praise. Let's not forget the reality of how he saw the rest of us and what he tried to do as treasurer though. Read the cartoon at this page as a reminder.
Other than astronomers, people rarely think about light pollution. In fact there are a variety of negative health effects around disruption of circadian rhythm and a range of effects on our wildlife. You can read about some of these effects at the website of the International Dark-Sky Association (IDSA). Most of the world's population never sees a truly dark sky, yet this is a situation that has only been in place for the last hundred years or so. Having lived in rural Australia, where the Milky Way stretches from horizon to horizon and Western Europe, where there is nowhere with a truly dark sky, I know from experience the difference. Even here in Adelaide I can only see a fraction of the sky that I could see in rural Australia. Well the journal 'Science' has published the latest map of 'artificial sky brightness' and it is open access, so you can see how your region or country fares here. What is important is that our local councils use appropriate lighting. See the IDSA website for details.
I'm not one for posting pictures of cute stuff on the internet, but animals from the bottom of the ocean are always interesting, so it's a good excuse. Apparently there are 19 described species in the Opisthoteuthis genus, but this isn't one of them and it is awaiting a name. Specimens have been in collections since 1990, but managing to keep one in an aquarium is new. The Monterey Aquarium did such a good job that it even laid eggs. Anyway, if you haven't seen the video before, have a look and you'll see why they want to call it Opisthoteuthis adorabilis.
The difficulty of reconciling Australia's past and present, both in terms of history and culture, is ongoing. It is not helped by the range of integration of Aboriginal people with the modern Australian society that has been imposed upon them, nor the latent casual racism that seems to exist in Australian society towards the indigenous population more than any other ethnic group. It hadn't come across Kate Tempest before her visit here and I never enjoy a London accent, but I think her observations on the general attitude in Australia towards its indigenous population are insightful and astute. There is a write up of her comments at the Sydney Writers' festival on the Guardian Australia website here. Middle-class lefties (like myself I guess) will wring our hands about the problem, but will we even speak out about it? Let alone do anything? The article is worth a read and I particularly like this quote:
Guilt is not good enough any more. Guilt is narcissism. Your guilt is about you. My guilt is about me. It’s not good enough.
It was record shop day recently, although I wasn't able to get to any, unfortunately. It does always remind me of the many hours I spent browsing in independant record shops around the UK though: Picadilly Records and Eastern Block in Manchester, Record Collector and Warp in Sheffield, Selectadisc in Nottingham, Track Records in York and others when I visited other cities. For a while I even had a kind of collection of plastic carrier bags from all the different record shops I'd been too - sad I know! These days I still like to browse record shops, but they are few and far between, Clarity here in Adelaide being the main one and I neither get there often enough, nor spend enough money there. Anyway, one of the UK record shops I still by from online (due to not much vinyl being available here in Australia) is Action Records in Preson. They recently released a short documentary about their history and here it is:
So. Rather than leave everything to Facebook and all the anoyances that entails I have ditched my account and turned my old site into a blog. There are some rather old overviews of my past work, a few random pages on my interests and, by default, whatever random stuff I've felt like posting.