A short video from the BBC. Maybe not enough to justify the entire licence fee but an interesting take on why paper remains such a feature of modern life. Examining what happens at the national archive we learn that they have 180km of shelf space, while only 8% is digitised and available over the internet. To reduce the number of boxes produced in the reading room each year, by only 20%, would cost a staggering £259m. The problem? Making it searchable. Scanning the paper only creates images, making it available needs metadata added, and that is expensive.
An interesting essay from Issac Asimov examining degrees of wrong. In this current day, with a resurgent creationist movement starting to push outside of the boundaries of the Americun south it is instructive to remind ourselves that even though science is not a universal oracle with absolute truth at its fingertips, it is a reliable process of ongoing discovery and knowledge – even IF,or more importantly because, that knowledge is constantly updated.
What’s next for newspapers. A look at 3 different approaches to the problem of getting a profit out of the news. Here we learn how Warren Buffet, Rupert Murdoch and the Newhouse family are taking the challenge forward (well in one of those examples backwards). Who even knew that Buffet had taken an interest, clever man.
The Mast brothers make some enticing sounding chocolate. I can’t tell you if it’s any good as I haven’t seen it on this side of the Atlantic, although I have suggested to the manager at Sage and Bailey in Wimbledon village that he gets me some. They are a little too painfully hipster cool for me, but are a great example of affluence leading the push to old school process and sustainable activity. The beans for their chocolate are literally transported over from South America under sail and then made into chocolate in Brooklyn. Also their blog
And finally the weather forecast we all want. NOW please.
For those that may not be familiar it might be worth a quick introduction to R Buckminster Fuller, before I go onto the specific idea I want to highlight today.
Bucky was a true Leviathan, a legend, a man who achieved endlessly and achieved for the sole purpose of making things better for ‘all humanity’. He died in the 1980’s before the launch of the commercial web, which is a significant loss; his wisdom in these turbulent times would have been stunningly valuable.
He was the owner of 25 (Wikipedia claim 28) patents; he was one of very few people who had access to the Atlantic intercepts during, and after the Second World War. He deduced and ‘invented’ his own geometry, synergetics, reasoning that our attachment to the geometries of squares and triangles was clearly at odds with what we see in nature. And of course, he was correct, nature deals predominantly in curves and circles.
He was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom by the American government, the citation acknowledging that his “contributions as a geometrician, educator, and architect-designer are benchmarks of accomplishment in their fields.”
Oh, he was also responsible for geodesic domes too, the most stable structures available in terms of efficiency of resource without internal support structures. So, that’s the Eden project for you.
Considering that what I have listed here is but a fraction of his contribution to ‘all humanity’ you must be thinking how come I’ve never heard of this man? The simple answer is that he died before the internet age, otherwise I’m sure you would have. He was a true giant of a man.
So, what was this big idea?
Well like all the truly great ideas it was stunningly simple.
Bucky proposed that we link the electricity grids of the Northern and Southern hemispheres, thereby abolishing energy poverty and nation states. He wasn’t one to sugar coat his thinking. I really did just type ‘abolishing…..nation states’, Bucky was serious and emphatic that this was a requirement if we wanted to see a successful development of the human race in harmony with the natural universe.
But let’s take the, slightly, more mundane idea of linking the electricity grids first. Why would we do that? Well, simply because we can’t turn the power stations off at night, and we can’t reduce their output to sufficient levels that match the requirements of a sleeping population, and we can’t store this surplus generated electricity.
In short it gets wasted. And it gets wasted twice over, because when we wake up in the North, our cousins in the South do the same damn thing. Linking the grids massively reduces the output requirements of the global electricity infrastructure, thereby reducing our consumption of valuable natural resources and, of course, the subsequent waste products which are, as we now know, a terrifying and real threat to a stable ecosystem.
Even if it only buys us some time it is surely a good idea.
He also pointed out that it would effectively make war impossible. An attack on your enemy would be an attack upon yourself, destroying your own effective and essential electrical infrastructure. I am a firm believer that history is littered with examples of human stupidity, often on a grand scale (Hannibal and his elephants anyone? – why we celebrate that story I do not know), but I think that a leader with even 5% mental faculty would not launch an attack that destroyed his own ability to use electricity. And, if he did, he wouldn’t be leader for long.
Therein lies the dissolution of the nation state. And isn’t that an unnerving connotation. The eradication of war begets the eradication of the nation state, leaving us with the unnerving thought that the only purpose of a nation state is to wage war. Yikes.