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The Geek Manifesto

Kings, priests and lawyers have had their chance to run the world now it’s the turn of the Geeks! Unfortunately scientific advice is regularly discarded by our political leaders, but if enough of us demand evidence biased government our political overlords will be forced to take notice.
To often scientific advice is treated as geek wash for whatever policy our political leaders choose. If you don’t like the drugs advice, sack the drugs advisors. If you care about the use and misuse of evidence and the scientific method, you should read this book.

Geek Manifesto @ Amazon

You can’t read this blog post

Free speech is one of the greatest inventions of our civilization, as Nick Cohen points out in his book “You can’t read this book”, societies in which free speech is practiced are rare and free speech is under threat.

Firstly from religious extremists who have ordered the death of Salmon Rushdie, Hirsi Ali, and threatened the lives of the Danish cartoonist’s who were responsible for some pretty inoffensive cartoons, I advise anyone who’s not seen them to go find them on the web.

The second enemy is the British libel system which has been exploited by such rogues as Roman Polanski and Robert Maxwell to silence their critics. The huge costs of defending yourself against libel essentially close down free speech. Our courts are so effective in closing down criticism, that our country is the rich persons preferred supplier of libel writs.

Read this book and wake up.

Does Delingpole do ethics?

Just read this on James Delingpole pathetic excuse of an opinion column. For some unknown reason James has decided to attack the science of Lead poisoning which was pretty much sorted out in the 1970’s. The basic story being exposure to lead is bad for you and causes amongst other things mental retardation and other medical problems in children. Some public spirited scientists in the 1970’s having worked out the basic science, campaigned for the removable of lead in petrol. And of course some epidemiological studies were done, which confirmed what we basically already knew from the basic science.

Delingpole’s issues as far as I can see is that in his eyes despite the overwhelming evidence that lead is bad for you, which no doubt included  animal studies. The epidemiological studies were not done to a high enough standard for his liking. Of course we could have just fed lead to kids and waited 10 years to see what would happen that would be scientific and vigorous, but fortunately scientist are more ethical than Delingpole and are prepared to put in hard work to tease out the correlation between lead and IQ from existing children. You can’t be sure when you do epidemiology that you have excluded all the relevant factors and distractors will always be able to criticize you. But faced with the other evidence what was the ethical thing to do Mr Delingpole?

Pseudoprofundity

Homeopaths, sophisticated theologians, conspiracy theorists, young earth idiots  and other peddlers of junk have their methods diagnosed, dissected and dispatched to the rubbish bin of bad ideas, by Dr Law’s new book Believing Bullshit.

Law diagnoses 8 different strategies used by peddlers of bad ideas:

  1. Playing the mystery card
  2. “But it fits” and The blunder bus
  3. Going Nuclear
  4. Moving the semantic goalposts
  5. “I just know”
  6. Pseudoprofundity
  7. Piling up the anecdotes
  8. Pressing your buttons

Pseudoprofundity is the charged levelled at many self-help books and theologians. I have to confess I haven’t read all of The Secret, I couldn’t bring myself to buy it, but I feel I can say with complete confidence that when the dictionary definition of Pseudoprofundity is written it will probably just reference the absolute nonsense contained in that book as the definition.

I hope this book becomes more widely read, where Dawkin’s takes aim at one particular belief in his book the God Delusion, Law’s aim is to explode all ludicrous belief systems.

Homeopathy

200 years ago a German physician Samuel Hahnemann invented a
theory which he called the “law of similars” or “let like be
cured by like”. It is safe to say that all but the most uneducated people
today have a better understanding biological processes than anyone alive 200
years ago. The germ theory of disease, (the correct theory just in case there
is any doubt) was not accepted by physicians at the time, doctors of the day
had no antibiotics and no idea what caused illnesses. It is certain that
without a correct understanding of how a body works, almost any medical
intervention of the time would be likely to have a detrimental effect on the
patient. In fact Homeopathy may have saved lives in Samuel’s time as if the
patient was undergoing Homeopathic treatment he would not be having any of the
harmful treatments which were around. 200 years ago there were virtually no
medical treatments which worked, Homeopathy permitted the body’s pretty good
natural regenerative system to do its job and thus appeared to work.

After 200 years of scientific advancement there is no evidence
that Samuel Hahnemann was correct in his theory nor has any other theory been
postulated as to why drinking what is essentially pure water has any effect on
the body what so ever, beyond what we have come to understand to be the placebo
effect. Modern doctors are aware of this effect and conduct double blind trials
where neither the doctor or the patient know if they are receiving the drug
before they will declare a drug effective. Homeopathic remedies have never
passed a double blind trial. In our age of enlightenment Homeopathic water is a
con! It doesn’t work and we know it doesn’t work and it has never worked.

Yet these medicines, probably the most expensive bottled water you
can find, are still being sold in some chemists, these companies are exploiting
the con just to make a quick buck.

Wind

On our trip to the seaside this weekend I happened to see Thanet Offshore wind farm, you can’t really miss it from Botany bay. By the numbers this array consists of 100 3MW turbines with a maximum operating capacity obviously of 300MW. It’s an impressive sight Wikipedia claims it cost  between £780-900 million, not sure why they can’t pin down the exact cost now that it’s finished.

IMG_2765

A coal fired power station by comparison costs $650 million for a 500MW plant, not including the cost of the coal of course. To actually create a wind farm which generates on average the output of a 500MW plant you have to scale the head line capacity by about a factor of 3. So a 500MW of generation will cost around £4 billion, ouch. And when the wind don’t blow at least it looks nice. If your interested in what’s being planned click here.

Wind Part 2

I watched Wind wars on BBC iPlayer, building wind farms on land is of course much cheaper, but due to the UK’s never ending planning laws, RES has been trying for 7 years to build a 9 wind turbines as far as I can tell nothing has been built.

LED Lights

First the economics how much does it cost to run a 50W light bulb?

Easy: 50/1000*4*365 * Cost_per_Kwh = £7.30 @ 10p per Kwh

Assuming you run your light bulb for 4 hours a day 365 days a year, as it’s darker in the winter you’ll use more and probably a bit less in the summer. So when you buy the cheapest bulb usually about £1 from the supermarket you are also committing your self to spending £7.50 every year to run the bulb.

I just bought 2 chandeliers from Homebase with 25W G9 bulbs and connected them to dimmable sockets.

image

I found this web site http://ultraleds.co.uk they supply this product which cost £11.99 is dimmable and works in a G9 socket.

G9 240v 48 Led Dimmable Cool White Bulb (3W=30W)

My usual procedure for buying bulbs is to buy one and test it out, the test bulb proved ok so I ordered 9 more. It seems to me that Filament bulbs are just a wire which gets hot, while LED bulbs have a pedigree, descended from modern electronics which demands quite fussy voltages and probably direct current which requires all LED bulbs to pack in a really small transformer. My experience with my 9 bulbs extra bulbs, which rapidly turned in 8 extra bulbs when on went bang when I plugged it in, is that I could only find 7 which would work together with the dimmer system and not cause a noticeable annoying flash.

I think LED light bulbs are poised to take off in a big way soon, I wouldn’t recommend the bulbs I bought for my chandeliers, but I haven’t taken them out, I’m just disappointed with them. But I think there is a better way to power our lights. It seems to me having one transformer per bulb is missing a trick. The manufactures are forced to put in the cheapest transformer they can buy, this I’m sure leads to the bulb flashing problems. A better solution would be to have your transformer circuit in the light switch, so your bulb is fed electricity from the mains in a stable way, you could then make smaller and cheaper bulbs. You of course then cannot run LED lights with filament bulbs.

Back to economics my LED bulbs should save me £25 a year, they cost £84 and will require £5 year to run. So breakeven for them is around 3 years. If the price of electricity goes up even less.