Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ Category

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Water on Mars – again!

October 1, 2015

Source: Water on Mars – again!

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Water on Mars – again!

October 1, 2015
Schiaparelli's Martian Canals

Schiaparelli’s Martian Canals

The funny thing about the discovery of water on Mars is that back in the late 19th century the Italian astronomer Giovanni Schiaparelli announced that he had discovered canals on Mars – a network of straight lines in the equatorial regions of the planet. His discovery was confirmed by other astronomers around the world.

Schiaparelli never claimed that there was water in these canals. He used the Italian word canali, which means channels – not necessarily water channels – but the word was widely translated into English as “canals”, which, to English-speakers, meant channels of water.

The discovery of the Martian canals was hailed as a huge and important discovery, and was the subject of intense debate among scientists for more than a decade.

Maps of the Martian surface were published, emphasizing the canals and giving them names from mythology.

All kinds of explanations were proposed for the canals. The fact that they were straight lines seemed to indicate that they were made by intelligent beings. The renowned astronomer Percival Lowell interpreted the canals to mean that there was an advanced civilization living on Mars, which, on the basis of “logical deduction”, he described in great detail. His imagined Martian landscape was divided up into continents, with great cities, transport routes and so on. The British naturalist Alfred Russel Wallace was moved to write a book rejecting Lowell’s claims. Among other things he pointed out that the atmospheric pressure on Mars was too low for liquid water to exist on the planet’s surface (he was wrong, of course).

In the early 1900s, as telescopes improved, it became apparent that Schiaparelli’s “canals” were an optical illusion.

It turned out that if you looked at the surface of a planet through a poor quality telescope, the dots on the surface – ie, craters, pock marks etc – gave the illusion of being in straight lines. The mind of the observer, in other words, joined up the dots.

The “Martian Canals”, which had been discussed and argued about endlessly, and which had been the subject of numerous books and articles in scientific journals, didn’t actually exist.

Thus, the Martian Canals became one of most embarrassing episodes in the history of science, and thereafter astronomers were careful not to even mention the possibility that there might be water, let alone water channels, on Mars. Which is kind of ironic. Because now we know that there are.

The Martian canals they saw didn’t exist. But the Martian canals they didn’t see, did. Wouldn’t they just kick themselves if they were here today?

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Suddenly it’s okay to show “disturbing images” on American TV

August 24, 2013

cnn“Some of the images we are about to show you are disturbing. They include the dead bodies of women and children,” said the CNN presenter, introducing a report on the situation in Syria.  And then she added: “We wouldn’t normally show you images of this kind, but we felt that this was an important story.”

Hmm.

Does that mean that the “Shock and Awe” invasion of Iraq, in which thousands of Iraqi men, women and children were murdered in their beds by US and “allied” forces was not, in their opinion, an important story? Because I don’t recall seeing footage of dead and mutilated bodies on that occasion. Or, in fact, throughout their “coverage” of that occupation. Instead, they showed us sanitized images of smartly-dressed US soldiers handing out bottles of water to children.

Nor do I recall seeing the bodies of women and children when the US invaded Afghanistan. Anyone watching only CNN’s coverage of that invasion could be forgiven for thinking that no one was killed or injured. Again, all we saw were images of US and British soldiers going out on patrol and chatting to natives. Where were all the dead people?

Ditto CNN’s “coverage” of the drone attacks currently being carried out by the CIA against “targets” in Pakistan, Somalia and Yemen. Again, none of the mainstream news networks are showing images of the dead and the dying.

And where were the CNN camera teams when hundreds of Gazans were being slaughtered by Israeli forces in 2009 and again in 2012? Again, no “disturbing” images from CNN et al.

But now, suddenly, we’re seeing gruesome images of bodies on every channel!
Because this story, according to CNN anyway, is more important than those other stories, in which up to a million people were killed.

It has nothing at all to do with the fact that those other people were killed by American soldiers and American allies, whereas the bodies they are showing us now are people who were killed by Syrians.

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The unceremonious departure of the Pope who protected the pedophiles

March 7, 2013

ImageAt the moment there is no pope. Ratzinger (what a great name that would have been for a metal band) has thrown in the holy towel, and his replacement hasn’t been chosen yet (I’m told Sinead O’Connor has mailed in her CV). But what intrigues me is the depontification process – or rather the lack of one. There doesn’t seem to be any official ceremony, which seems odd for a Church that has a ceremony for every occasion and contingency. One day Ritzy Ratzy is the Pope, and the next day he’s just an ordinary Joe Soap. Or at least an ordinary Joe Ratzinger. He just doesn’t show up for work, and that’s all there is to it.

So what exactly happens on the spiritual plane – do all his papal powers disappear at the stroke of midnight on the date of his resignation? One minute he’s the Pope, with the power of Infallibility, and the next minute he isn’t – just because he says so? His clothes don’t turn to rags as the Vatican chapel bell tolls, his Swiss guards don’t turn into mice, and his Popemobile doesn’t turn into a pumpkin. He just takes off his big sparkly hat and shuffles away to a presumably well-furnished bachelor pad somewhere in the bowels of the Vatican to watch daytime TV, play video games and surf the web looking for photos of altar boys.

It all seems a bit arbitrary and anticlimactic. At the very least you’d expect some kind of stripping down ceremony, whereby a clutch of Cardinals ripped off his papal tiara (yes, I know that it is properly called a triregnum), broke his staff in two with a dramatic flourish, and forced him to hand back his Ring of the Fisherman and, especially, his magic red shoes. If they don’t take back those shoes, how can they be sure he won’t click his heels together next week and reappear in the papal suite?

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Norway’s incompetent police were to blame for high death toll in mass killings

July 27, 2011

Right now the people of Norway, and especially the families of those killed, are grieving for the dead, and are more concerned with looking after survivors than with apportioning blame for what happened last week. The mood is one of sorrow more than of anger.

I predict that the mood will change radically in the days and weeks ahead.

It took the police over an hour and a half to reach the island of Utoeya.

I know that if I were a parent of one of the victims of last week’s massacre I would certainly be demanding to know why it took the police so long to take action to save my child’s life.

These young people were calling and texting their families and friends for the best part of two hours while they tried to evade a gunman who was able to pick them off at his leisure. “Where are the police? When are they coming?” were the questions they asked over and over again.

There is NO excuse for this. This was negligence and incompetence on a grand scale. Norway is a rich and well-resourced country. It has a well-equipped police force and emergency services. It isn’t Iraq or Gaza. There is no shortage of police personnel, cars, or helicopters.

It was the delay in getting armed police to the island that gave the madman all the time he needed to systematically hunt down and execute his victims.

Media helicopters were hovering over the island, filming the killings from the air, long before the police arrived (it takes ten minutes to get from Oslo to Utoeya by helicopter). That is an absolute disgrace.

Norway’s Justice Minister Knut Storberget praised the police for their “fantastic” work after the attacks. Fantastic? Hardly. Unless he was using the word in its original sense of “impossible to believe”.

The police themselves have been defending their dismal performance in responding to the attacks. “I don’t think we could have done this (reach the site of the massacre) faster,” Police Chief of Staff Johan Fredriksen told journalists in Oslo. If that’s true, it’s a damning admission.

If the Norwegian police can’t reach the scene of an ongoing crime less than 20 miles (30 kilometers) from the country’s capital city in less than an hour and a half, and if they seriously believe that they did a good job in getting there in that time, they should all resign without delay, including – and especially – Police Chief Fredriksen.

Even assuming they had to go from Oslo (were there no police closer to the scene?), they averaged approximately 12mph (about 19kmph) – less than the speed of the average cyclist – in response to an emergency in which children were being picked off by a lunatic with an automatic weapon.

By any standards this was a dazzling display of stupidity and ineptitude.

It has been argued that the police didn’t expect anything like this to happen, and that they were “wrong-footed”. That might be true (although “flat-footed” would seem to be a more apt description), but it’s not good enough. Their job is to be prepared for all eventualities. Even allowing – generously – for their having been “taken by surprise”, an hour and a half is at least an hour longer than it should have taken them to get to Utoeya island. No matter which way you cut it, this was a pathetic response, and it almost certainly cost the lives of the majority of those killed. Even the gunman himself commented that he was surprised at how long the police took to get there and stop him.

Engine failure is said to have delayed the arrival of one commando police boat by ten minutes. This is a lame excuse to say the least. They had plenty of boats, and there was no shortage of civilian boats – and helicopters – that could have been commandeered.

This was a Keystone Kops response to an emergency situation that called for competence, preparedness and efficiency. Scores of lives were lost on the island of Utoeya as a result of police stupidity and lack of professionalism.

The families of those who were killed or injured have every reason to be angry and to demand a full public inquiry and, in the meantime, the immediate resignation of the Chief of Police and every senior police officer who contributed to this tragedy of errors.

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Holistic Spain Network will be launched on 26 July 2011

July 18, 2011

Only a week to go until the launch of my holistic network, at HolisticSpain.net.
Holistic Spain is a network of holistic resources – including therapists, teachers, training programs, health-orientated holidays and retreats, hotels and so on – covering the whole of Spain. We will also be offering a free information and referral service. Launch date is 26 July 2011. Please visit the site for further information.

Press Release

Solo queda una semana para el lanzamiento de mi red holística en at HolisticSpain.net.
Holistic Spain es una red de recursos holísticos que incluye, entre otros, a terapeutas, profesores, programas de formación, retiros y vacaciones orientadas a la salud y hoteles en toda España. También ofreceremos un servicio gratuito de información y referencias. La fecha de lanzamiento es el 26 de julio de 2011. Visite el sitio web para obtener más información.

NOTA DE PRENSA

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Pasties and Hot Sauce

June 29, 2011


“World’s oldest woman enjoyed pasties with hot sauce”
was one of the headlines on the BBC website this week.

Apparently a Brazilian woman thought to have been the world’s oldest person has died at the age of 114.

“Reports” like this really annoy me.

Are we supposed to infer that pasties with hot sauce is the recipe for great longevity?

Maybe this old lady – well, dead lady, to be more precise – only started eating pasties with hot sauce a month ago, and that’s what killed her.

Maybe if the reporter who submitted this article had taken the trouble to question members of the woman’s family they’d have told him or her: “She was doing fine until she started eating those damned pasties with hot sauce.”

We just don’t know.

It’s like those non-meat eaters who delight in telling you that GB Shaw was a vegetarian, and he lived to the age of 94 (after which, ironically, he became dead meat himself).

Adolf Hitler was a vegetarian too, but they never mention him.

Incidentally, Shaw’s father had a bad squint (is there such a thing as a good squint?) which Oscar Wilde’s father, who was a renowned Dublin surgeon at the time, tried – without success – to correct. So Shaw the elder died with his squint intact. For all we know his family had it framed and mounted.

Anyway, to get back to the point I was making, Shaw was a veggie and he lived to be 94. It’s hardly scientific proof of anything, is it? George Burns smoked fifteen cigars every day for most of his adult life, and he lived to be 100. Are we to conclude that smoking cigars is marginally better for one’s health than living on lettuce?

Turtles are herbivores, and they live twice as long as humans. But are they herbivores by choice, you have to wonder, or because they can’t move fast enough to catch anything tasty? They’re not exactly designed to be effective predators. It’s hard to imagine a turtle sneaking up on a gazelle at a watering hole and lunging for its throat. By the time a turtle crept up on any animal it would already have died of old age.

Unless it was a parrot, of course. Some species of parrot can live up to 100 years. But parrots, like most humans, are omnivores, so their longevity can’t be attributed to not eating meat. On the other hand they don’t smoke cigars, so where does that leave us?