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How curiosity became transformed

Curiosity; seen as a hazard to society in the classical world, early Christianity condemned it as a sin, and now, in the modern world, it is seen as an essential part of human nature. Somewhere between the late 1500s and 1700s attitudes in Europe changed. The change, according to Phillip Ball in Curiosity, was gradual […]

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Gaia: is there scientific evidence for this intriguing, inspiring, infuriating hypothesis?

Just on 30 years ago I came across an intriguing book, the then relatively unknown Gaia: A new look at life on Earth (OUP 1979) by an ‘independent scientist’, J.E. Lovelock. My earliest impression of it may seem surprising to many people now. I was infuriated. I was infuriated not by Lovelock’s hypothesis per se, […]

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Do animals have minds?

Animal Wise: the thoughts and emotions of our fellow creatures, by Virginia Morell, Black Inc. Books, 2013. Laughing rats, name-calling wild parrots, archer-fish with a sense of humour, and educated ants; the naturalist Charles Darwin would have loved this book. The philosopher Rene Descartes would equally have found it deeply troubling. Both with good reason. […]

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Does my science look big in this? The astrobiology edition

During the 20th century a powerful new idea gradually entered our consciousness and culture: cosmic evolution.  We are all par of a huge narrative: a cosmos billions of years old and billions of light years in extent. It is this idea that caught my attention this month via the proceedings of the Sao Paulo Advanced […]

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“Smarter, more competitive, more productive”, the Chief Scientist, Professor Ian Chubb on Australia’s Future in Science and Technology

There is no doubt in the mind of Australia’s Chief Scientist, Professor Ian Chubb, the future will be shaped by science technology, engineering and mathematics.  Unfortunately, he finds that at present the standing of science, as an expert authority, is being challenged.  Furthermore, Ian Chubb finds that the science message is getting lost in the […]

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A philosopher, a physicist and a time-traveller walk into a bar

The conference “XIIIth Galifreyan conference on a cross-disciplinary approach to Time and Space” had reached an afternoon poster session and three of the participants entered a welcoming bar adjacent to the conference centre. Leibniz: “Ahhh much better, that cafe was way to noisy.  Couldn’t hear myself think, not alone hold a meaningful conversation.” Clarke:  “Very […]

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Stress and the city

David lives in a large city, much like Melbourne or Sydney.  He enjoys apartment living, a good wage, has benefited from a good education and enjoys the good food and entertainment that he finds are a key part of the enjoyment of city living.  He wouldn’t think of trading places with his cousin Bill, who […]

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Culture conflict, rationality conflict and climate change

It is rather an interesting feeling to no sooner have posted a blog and find a research paper just published that explains why your efforts are misguided.  Having developed my rational approach to understanding climate change in my previous posting it is salutary to find that the authors of the paper “The Tragedy of Risk-Perception […]

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