‘Science is Magic That Works’

The title of this blog is a quotation from Kurt Vonnegut (American writer and humorist) which sums up well how I feel about science. Life is about problem solving, sometimes on a big scale and sometimes on a small (even tiny) scale. And it is science that enables us to solve those problems. Possibly by giving us the evidence that enables us to make decisions. But also through the way we can use methodologies of scientific research to work out what to do.

Science is about making observations and collecting evidence then outlining theories and using different methodologies to test those theories. That leads to conclusions and we can test all of this by constantly running tests. Science isn’t about making decisions without evidence. And it is very different to decisions based on religion, prejudice, ideology, tradition, and so on.

‘Science is the most reliable guide for civilization, for life, for success in the world. Searching a guide other than the science is meaning carelessness, ignorance and heresy.’

Mustafa Kemal Atarturk (the founder of modern Turkey)

Increasingly as I age, I am more and more in awe of what science has done and is doing. We live in an age where science has never been more important (and looking at the way in a scientifically disciplined way). Yet it seems the mass of people know so little about science and choose not to rather dwelling on crap that doesn’t matter. We all need to strive to know more about science and make decisions in a way that is based on rationality and evidence.

‘If one day, my words are against science, choose science.’

Mustafa Kemal Atarturk

Tech For Good

We need to make sure everyone can benefit and people aren’t left behind

I write little about ‘Tech for Good’ these days as I don’t work in that area any more. But I still keep a very close eye on what developments there are. Science has given us technology and technology has changed the world. But we need to make sure it is used for good rather than bad. And it is key that we give everyone, including the most vulnerable, the ability to use technology so they can share the benefits it provides.

A big theme of the week gone has been sorting out our friend Patrick’s broadband. He requires broadband because he needs a new laptop and he’s currently only got internet access through a 4G dongle. Broadband will also enable him to get a new, bigger TV as nowadays they all need a good internet connection to operate.

We as a society need to make sure that everyone can use the benefits of technology and that is what me and Dave have set out to do this week. But it’s been a bit of a slog dealing with the bureaucracy of tech companies to enable this to happen. It just goes to show how hard it is for so many without getting the support they deserve.

Colleagues and friends

Caring: All quiet on the Western Front

I write a lot about my caring responsibilities and the week gone has been a relatively routine one without any drama. As said, a big focus is getting Patrick’s internet access sorted. But it was nice to meet him just for coffee on Saturday morning and have a general catch-up on life.

Mum’s been OK and we managed to get out to the local shops on Wednesday afternoon. I know mum enjoys it but it wears her out so much. There were ideas to go further afield on other days but we always wait to see how mum is on the day itself. And it is quite often that she simply doesn’t feel up to it.

Gym: My science-based approach

I do exercises that focus on the body parts and muscles I know need working. I can feel them straining and I can see them developing over time. It’s not about becoming a muscle man, scientific evidence tells us that we lose muscle mass as we get older. Rather it is about strength training that helps us in old age. Ensuring we have balance, good circulation, firm muscles, and joints that work.

I also do lots of stretching during my workout as evidence shows flexible bodies are the healthiest. And in this I use two very science-based approaches. First, I do movements that link into the evolutionary reasons our bodies have developed. So stretches that do things like emphasise us swinging through trees. Second, movements to combat gravity. This always pulls us down and so it’s important we do what we can to try to resist it like simple stretching upwards.

3 good gym workouts: the mornings of Mon, Wed, and Fri. The one on Friday was particularly good. I focused on doing 3 sets of just 8 reps on the exercises for each body part to be worked but pushing really heavy weights. With some lighter exercises in-between. It felt like my body had been really worked out.

54 gym sessions since the start of 2024 divided by the annual membership = £10.20 per session.

Male gymnast

Swim: The frustration of a limited swimming space

I did have a plan to go for 2 swims again. But Tuesday afternoon didn’t happen as I was tied up getting Patrick’s broadband installation sorted. So just one swim on Thurs morning. It was OK though very busy. Usual story of a quarter of the pool sectioned off for one person to get his private swimming lesson. And half of the pool sectioned off for school kids.

Thankfully the latter group finished. But then it was a case of dealing with other swimmers. Particularly trying to time it so that we weren’t crashing into each other swimming at different speeds with different strokes. But there’s always those who just carry on regardless swimming backwards and forwards.; getting in the way of others and caring only for themselves – selfish wankers.

Weight: A small drop every week would be fantastic

Great news, things are going in the right direction. Another slight movement further away from 13 stone with a quarter pound drop to just over 12 stone 13 pounds. If I could lose a quarter of a pound every week then that would be a pound a month and just under a stone in a year. So a quarter of a pound a week is bloody good news !

The future - next exit

A very good week with 3 books read and finished.

‘How AI Thinks’ by Nigel Toon

I increasingly find myself drawn more to the genre of ‘Accessible Science’. Enabling the opportunity to appreciate how amazing science is. Artificial Intelligence is clearly one of the key recent developments in technology. It opens up huge opportunities to make other discoveries and so improve the quality of life for everyone. Clearly, however, there is the opportunity for AI to be misused and it does have a resource impact in terms of its demands on energy and water as I laid out in my previous blog – read it here.

But there are also major worries about AI unconstrained leading to the rise of thinking machines. The idea that machines will gain consciousness / sentience and be able to function without humans. Indeed, that we could reach the point of singularity where machines are more important than humans and they may wonder why they need humans.

Toon is clearly on the side that this cannot happen as he sees AI as simply a programme. Yes, some of these programmes are incredibly complex and technological developments have enabled these to be done on a scope and speed never previously envisaged to give us solutions to problems that seemed intractable.

But of itself, Toon does not believe this leads to machines spontaneously becoming conscious beings in their own right. Rather he seeks that we think more about the ethical considerations of AI like the way it is being used by totalitarian governments to strengthen their control of their people such as through things like the use of facial recognition software.

AI

‘The Shadows of London’ by Andrew Taylor

My love of any particular literary genre is always eclipsed by my general love of fiction. Regular blog readers will know that I love science fiction. It is fascinating to see how people think life will be in the future, on other worlds or in other dimensions. But much of it says more about the author’s predilections and the times they are living through. But I also enjoy other types of fiction like historical fiction. And I love finding a good fictional series that enables stories and characters to be developed.

This is the sixth book in the adventures of James Marwood & Cat Lovett as they seek to survive in Restoration London. And I really think this is the best book in the series so far. Taylor has created a story that is realistically placed in the period. In particular, the awfulness of court politics is revealed through a murder that the two protagonists of the story become involved with. The scheming of seeking royal patronage and favour is shown in all its grubbiness.

Of course, literary licence is taken within the story not least in the happenstance that enables the murder investigation to take place. And it would be a boring story if Marwood and Lovett didn’t have connections to aristocratic and royal machinations. But that’s the fun of fiction. It didn’t happen but it could have done. Looking forward to the seventh book in the series.

be grateful for books

‘Absolutely and Forever’ by Rose Tremain

Not quite short enough to be a novella, probably best described as a short novel. But it is a lovely book. Tremain is a brilliant storyteller and has written prodigiously. I love her novels, they are always so varied and well written.

This is the tale of a woman born in the 1950s and growing up in the 1960s with adulthood in the 1970s. It’s the story of unrequited love that dominates her whole life. Despite being short, there are loads of different angles here. And some big twists. Not necessarily a happy story with a cathartic ending but a beautiful tale of a life. And let’s be honest, life is always messy. Definitely worth a read.

‘It’s not what you look at that matters – it’s what you see.’

Henry David Thoreau

  • A busy week ahead. Ideally I want to get in 3 gym workouts and at least 1 swim but…
  • …I need to keep an eye on mum; we are going for lunch with my brother’s partner at the weekend. Plus me and Dave should get an appointment to get our friend’s broadband installed (Dave’s took a whole day when he had his done).
  • Got to get my INR checked as well as blood pressure in light of a new med I’m taking. There’s also a new medical issue I need to get checked out.
  • Looking forward to catching up with my old mate David (aka Daisy) on Monday evening
  • Reading another accessible science book on my kindle: ‘Our Accidental Universe’ which looks at the most recent developments in astronomy. And a classic sci-fi book: ‘Man Plus’ by Frederik Pohl about a man becoming a cyborg.
  • Another quarter of a pound lost would be great, getting under 12 stone 13 pounds would be even better

And Finally…

Carl Sagan quotation

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