Our ( British) ancesters were all probably dark brown

The first modern Britons probably had blue eyes, dark hair and dark brown skin, according to a new DNA analysis of the oldest complete skeleton ever found in the UK. Cheddar Man, dug up in Somerset in 1903, lived some 10,000 years ago, not long after settlers began crossing over from Europe at the end …

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So much for the ‘Mediterranean diet’

Children in Italy, Greece and Spain are now the fattest in Europe. More than 40% of boys and girls aged nine are either overweight or obese. Sweets,junk food and sugary drinks have displaced the region’s traditional diet based on fruit and vegetables, fish and olive oil. (World Health Organisation) One study suggests that your bank …

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A thought from CERN, Geneva

I have just been to CERN and was reminded that Epicurus was a forerunner of todays particle physicists. Epicurean atomism was remarkably similar to nineteenth-century atomic chemistry: atoms as indivisible, eternal building blocks, things regarded as mere accumulations of atoms colliding with each other. More, the Epicureans came up with a “many worlds” cosmology long …

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Amazon Echo and electronic snooping

A Portland couple were discussing hardwood floors. Their Amazon Echo was listening, recording their discussion, then sending the recording randomly to someone in their contacts list, without the couple’s knowledge. The wife told Seattle TV station KIRO 7 that they learned something was amiss when they received a phone call from an employee of the …

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Tech billionaire parenting

“Melinda Gates’s children don’t have smartphones and only use a computer in the kitchen. Her husband Bill spends hours in his office reading books while everyone else is refreshing their homepage. The most sought-after private school in Silicon Valley, the Waldorf School of the Peninsula, bans electronic devices for the under-11s and teaches the children …

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Economic growth

“Only in economics is endless expansion seen as a virtue. In biology it is called cancer.” (From David Pilling’s book “The Growth Delusion”). Pilling’s core contention is that gross domestic product – the measurement upon which so much economic analysis is based – is an arbitrary, oversimplified construct that we “slavishly follow” for no good …

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Fighting back against data harvesting, No.1

Data harvesting: the problem The original World Wide Web, invented by Tim Berners-Lee at the particle physics centre CERN near Geneva in 1999, was a “decentralised” affair. There were no central servers; websites ran on individual machines in universities, offices and bedrooms. Hosting a site just meant plugging a computer into your internet connection and …

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The Epicurean solutions to climate change

Climate change is without doubt the biggest threat facing the world. Although it doesn’t mean the end of civilisation just yet, the adverse effects of climate change are getting progressively worse. Extreme weather is becoming more frequent. Crop yields in many parts of the developing world are becoming more common. Drought has become a routine …

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Making fun of British scientific studies

Apparently, British scientists are the butt of constant jokes in Russia. Can you work out which of these are Russian headlines about real studies, and which are jokes? 1. British scientists have established the height of Cinderella’s heels. 2. British scientists have found that women more often reach orgasm if they have sex in their …

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The end of liberal democracy and humanism? (Part 2)

Continued. from yesterday: Writer Huval Noah Harari sees three broad directions for humankind: 1. Humans will lose their economic and military usefulness, and the economic system will stop attaching much value to them. 2. The system will still find value in humans collectively but not in unique individuals. 3. The system will, however, find value …

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Government research on energy storage: some good news for a change

One of the challenges confronting the successful use of renewable energy, especially sunlight, is the storage of power. Now the US Department of Energy recently developed a brand new battery technology. The Energy Department’s research arm, called Arpa-E, was started in 2009 under Obama’s economic recovery plan to fund early- stage research into the generation …

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American cities and global climate change

Harvey may have been unprecedented, but it wasn’t unexpected. Houston frequently experiences flooding and experts have repeatedly warned that worse could be to come as the world gets warmer.And yet Houston was shockingly unprepared, not least because its flood control directors think talk of climate change is a plot to prevent development, and its planning …

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