Category Archives: Technology

It might be a smart phone. It might be the Technological Singularity. Whatever it is, technology gets everywhere.

Beyond carbon: power for the 21st century

Most people who read my blog would no doubt agree with me that the world needs to phase out the burning of coal, oil and gas as quickly as we can. ‘Let’s do it already,’ say a lot of people. Most people probably also think they know which technologies should replace hydrocarbons. Here I’m going to take a closer look at that second question. Continue reading

The next economic era is here

The world my children inhabit looks superficially like the world I grew up in during the 1970s. The house they live in, the clothes they wear and the food they eat – none of these would be very strange to the kids of a generation ago (although even here there are notable differences.) But the way they spend their time is completely different to anything I dreamed of doing.

Continue reading

Kindle vs paperback vs hardback

amazonkindleI’ve been a proud Kindle owner for a year now (and a sneaky borrower of my wife’s Kindle for two years prior to that), so I thought it would be useful to set out my thoughts on the subject. I’m going to rank these three media, starting with my least favourite. Continue reading

Do you prefer Donald Duck or Donald Trump?

Do you prefer Donald Duck or Donald Trump?

Do you prefer Donald Duck or Donald Trump?

Seriously, I’d love to know. And I have more questions for you. Like, do you prefer Dinosaurs or Cheese Burgers? And, do you prefer Vampires or The Muppet Show?

You can answer all these questions and more at a new website called Xory (pronounced “zory” – short for X or Y) which my family has created as a summer project. We hope you like it.

We’ve had lots of fun making this, using my wife’s management skills, my own web programming expertise and the accumulated useless knowledge of our kids.

What we need now is your help to spread the word. So why not try it, and if you like it, tell your friends and family. They might like it too.

Looking over your shoulder

morning by zoetnet Creative Common licence (CC BY 2.0)

morning by zoetnet Creative Commons licence (CC BY 2.0)

In days gone by, we used to peer over other people’s shoulders on trains and in public spaces to read their newspapers. Flitting headlines would parade before us, grabbing our attention, as history unfolded before our eyes: Continue reading

Logic gates and neurons

At their most abstract level, the logic gates that make up a digital computer are machines for destroying information. That might not be immediately apparent, but take a look at this (image from Wikipedia):

AND symbol

Two inputs; one output. At every operation, one bit of information is lost forever in an irreversible process. Continue reading

The tragedy of the meme

memesIt was the geneticist, Richard Dawkins, in his book The Selfish Gene, who first proposed the idea of the meme. Dawkins defined the meme as a unit of cultural transmission, an idea, pattern or concept that could be passed from person to person, changing or evolving as it propagates, such that successful memes or their variants spread rapidly, and unpopular memes die out. Dawkins, a scientist and an atheist, no doubt had in mind the notion that scientific and rational memes would steadily gain acceptance, and that religious and superstitious memes, when exposed to the harsh light of analysis and debate would gradually fade away. What a tragedy then, that the memes that seem to spread like wildfire are trivial nonsense at best, or ignorant bigotry at worst. Continue reading

After sustainability – what then?

Climate change is a very real danger, but one that we are already well on the way to fixing. Without wanting to sound complacent, I think it’s a challenge that the current generation will solve. But what then? Do we simply want to avoid affecting the Earth’s climate, like environmentalists say? Or should we aspire to actively manage it? Continue reading

Scarcity and abundance

We are moving from a world in which resources are scarce towards a world of abundance. Many things that were once scarce are already abundant in developed countries and will soon be abundant everywhere, if trends continue.

There’s a strong counter-narrative telling us the opposite – that the world’s resources are almost used up, that population levels are unsustainable and that we must cut back now or face disaster. But Malthus said the same two hundred years ago, and so have countless others. Each has been proved wrong. Continue reading

Frozen to Life: A Personal Mortality Experiment (Book review)

frozentolifeI was sent a free copy of this book by the author, and asked to write an honest review. As the author noted in his email to me, ‘I think we have quite a few interests in common. ‘That’s very true, so I thought my review might also be of interest to my blog readers.

The book is the story of why the author (DJ MacLennan), has chosen to have his brain cryogenically frozen when he dies – or as he puts it – when current medicine can do no more to save him from death. It’s a personal story, and a scientific and philosophical investigation of what it means to live and die. Here’s my review of the book. Continue reading