We are outsourcing our digital memories

October 7, 2015

Prior to about 1995, I held all  telephone numbers important to me in my head. Now, I can remember my own mobile number but not my wife’s. In fact there are very few mobile numbers I bother to keep in my memory at all. I rely entirely on my phone. But it must be that I have taken a decision in my subconscious not to clutter my memory with these numbers – since they are so easy to access on my device.

A new study suggests that we are damaging our long term memories by our dependence upon our digital devices. I am not convinced. I suspect they asked the wrong questions. They have not, I think, considered or sought the type of new long-term memories that are built up instead. The study is by Kaspersky Lab and therefore needs to be taken with a very large bushel of salt. It is I think rather narrow and a little trivial.

Kaspersky-Digital-Amnesia (pdf)

Connected devices enrich our lives but they have also given rise to the potentially risky phenomenon of Digital Amnesia. Many people underestimate just how exposed their externally-stored memories can be, rarely thinking about the need to protect them with IT security, such as anti-virus software. Kaspersky Lab is committed to helping people understand the risks their data could be exposed to, and empowering them to tackle those risks. 

Digital Amnesia

I cannot see that the volume of long term memories is affected. The content of the long term memories we unconsciously choose to hold changes.


An over-reliance on using computers and search engines is weakening people’s memories, according to a study.It showed many people use computers instead of memorising information. Many adults who could still recall their phone numbers from childhood could not remember their current work number or numbers of family members.

Maria Wimber from the University of Birmingham said the trend of looking up information “prevents the build-up of long-term memories”. The study, examining the memory habits of 6,000 adults in the UK, France, Germany, Italy, Spain, Belgium, the Netherlands and Luxembourg, found more than a third would turn first to computers to recall information.

The UK had the highest level, with more than half “searching online for the answer first”. But the survey suggests relying on a computer in this way has a long-term impact on the development of memories, because such push-button information can often be immediately forgotten.

“Our brain appears to strengthen a memory each time we recall it, and at the same time forget irrelevant memories that are distracting us,” said Dr Wimber. …….

….. Among adults surveyed in the UK, 45% could recall their home phone number from the age of 10, while 29% could remember their own children’s phone numbers and 43% could remember their work number.

The ability to remember a partner’s number was lower in the UK than anywhere else in the European survey. There were 51% in the UK who knew their partner’s phone number, compared with almost 80% in Italy.

The study from Kaspersky Lab, a cybersecurity firm, says that people have become accustomed to using computer devices as an “extension” of their own brain.

It describes the rise of what it calls “digital amnesia”, in which people are ready to forget important information in the belief that it can be immediately retrieved from a digital device.

The study highlights how, as well as storing factual information, there is a trend to keep personal memories in digital form. Photographs of important moments might only exist on a smartphone, with the risk of their loss if the device is lost or stolen.

My own observations about myself are that I no longer bother memorising digital information which is easily accessed on devices, but I find (or I think I find) I can remember qualitative information (colours, pictures, past conversations, smells, ideas) in much greater detail than I used to.


The magical speed of an inconstant time

October 7, 2015

It has always bothered me that time apparently only began 13.8 billion years ago with the Big Bang. I find it equally as difficult (or easy) to conceive of 20 billion years ago as 13.8 billion years ago. But even 13.9 billion years ago is disallowed by the Big Bang, which is a very unsatisfactory state of affairs. I need time to go back indefinitely long.

And so I distinguish between perceived time and eal time. eal time, of course is magical. It is only by definition that we take the passage of time to be constant. Of course this is just perceived time. And we perceive time only as a consequence of change. But eal time does not have to elapse at a constant rate.

The Big Bang does not, apparently, mathematically permit of a time older than 13.8 billion years. Magical eal time, of course, goes back to infinitely long ago. All can be resolved merely by accepting that ℜeal time elapsed at zero rate at the Big Bang and then gradually built up to the rate of elapse we are subject to now.

“One second is the time that elapses during 9,192,631,770 (9.192631770 x 10 9 ) cycles of the radiation produced by the transition between two levels of the cesium 133 atom”.

At the Big Bang, even change had to get started. All change, all motion, all vibrations, all oscillations and all radiation had to start from zero. The atoms and the elements had to come into being. Cesium had to have come much later. These cycles of these oscillations of even the very first atoms may be regular now. But they would all have had to start somewhere (somewhen) and start from zero. The speed of oscillation had to build up from nothing (implying an infinite period) to that applying today. Which means that close to the Big Bang as atoms were ratcheting up their oscillations, the period between cycles would have been longer, starting infinitely long and reducing rapidly (in apparent time) to what is observed today. Closer to the Big Bang, eal time, as opposed to apparent time, would have elapsed more slowly and the period between cycles of all radiation would have had to start from infinity. The very speed of time would have been slower.

speed of time

At the Big Bang, the speed of eal time would have been zero. A perceived picosecond of elapsed time would actually have been after the elapse of many, many trillions of eal time years. The perceived age of the universe of 13.8 billion years of perceived time would have been infinitely long ago in eal time.

Real time

Real time

The death of the Universe will then see eal time either slowing down again for an imploding Universe (or time speeding up for the reverse).

The Big Bang inherently requires an inconstant time.


Tomorrow, 7th October, the world will end in fire

October 6, 2015

Here we go again.

The world ends tomorrow in fire. This time it is the eBible Fellowship who reckon that the gates of Heaven were closed on 21st May 2011. Then by some strange and convoluted machinations they come to the end of the world 1600 days later – which brings us to tomorrow – 7th October 2015.

You have been warned. Prepare to meet thy doom.

I would if I could, but I have a cold.

ebible:In our previous Bible pamphlet entitled: “Spiritual
Judgment Began May 21, 2011” we demonstrated God’s
propensity toward bringing spiritual judgments to pass; the
judgment upon mankind in the garden of Eden; the
judgment of God upon the Lord Jesus Christ in the garden
of Gethsemane; and the judgment upon the corporate
churches of the world. These were all spiritual judgments
and in bringing about a spiritual judgment on the world
(beginning May 21, 2011) the Lord is following this biblical
On May 21, 2011 the Bible indicates that God shut the door of heaven.

…. Therefore, 1600 furlongs may be viewed as 1600 days. If we go 1600 days from May 21, 2011 we arrive at October 7, 2015. We now have a time path that leads us to the date of October 7, 2015. ….

…. The Bible reveals to us that God has been punishing the unsaved people of the earth since May 21, 2011 and, simultaneously, through the number 1600, the Bible also reveals that God has been severely trying all those that are considered true believers. October 7, 2015 would be the 1600th day since May 21, 2011 and, therefore, the testing would be finished on that day.

Even the Guardian is impressed.

The Guardian: The eBible Fellowship, an online affiliation headquartered near Philadelphia, has based its prediction of an October obliteration on a previous claim that the world would end on 21 May 2011. While that claim proved to be false, the organization is confident it has the correct date this time.

“According to what the Bible is presenting it does appear that 7 October will be the day that God has spoken of: in which, the world will pass away,” said Chris McCann, the leader and founder of the fellowship, an online gathering of Christians headquartered in Philadelphia.

“It’ll be gone forever. Annihilated.”

McCann said that, according to his interpretation of the Bible, the world will be obliterated “with fire”.

When the population implosion threatens …..

October 6, 2015

By 2050, virtually all parts of the world, except some parts of Africa, will be witnessing a decline in population. Until then, migrations of peoples will serve to maintain the ratio of productive to “non-productive” people. (By then, the non-productive will probably be defined as those under 20 and those over about 70). But going forward, migration from declining source populations will no longer be able to provide even a temporary solution.

The fundamental decline in fertility rates will be a consequence of the widespread acceptance of women’s rights, the increasing liberation of women in Asia and Africa, and the ready availability of contraception and abortion. Increasing longevity will mitigate population decline to some extent but will exacerbate the declining ratio of productive/unproductive population. The threat will be of an accelerating decline. Alarmism will no longer be about “population explosions” but about the coming “population implosion”. The decline of rural populations will threaten food supplies, though mitigated by increasing automations and genetically modified crops. Growth will be limited, not so much by capital or raw materials, but by the availability of personnel. In developed countries, tax revenues will stagnate or begin to decline.

Sustainable communities, somewhat smaller than the current nation states, will start husbanding their people resources and their (local) tax revenues. “National” programs – health, education and even infrastructure – will increasingly shift to be “local”. The immigration issue of the day will be about preventing any influx of non-productive peoples. Incentives will be offered to attract productive businesses and people. Some isolated areas already below critical populations or population-mixes, which survive only on subsidies, will be “abandoned” financially. That will, in turn, shift people to areas which exceed the critical mass for the provision of welfare and other services. Successful communities will be those which attract productive people and provision of local jobs, education and health services will be the competitive factors. Education services provided will be linked to performance. Health services to be provided for any individual will be judged by the cost of the service against the benefit of the individual’s remaining productive life. Health services for the elderly will gradually be removed from welfare services and will all have to be purchased. Assisted deaths for the elderly will be as readily available as abortions.

The globalisation paradigm which would have been in effect for a century will shift to a new “localisation” meme.

As power to raise revenues is devolved increasingly to smaller, sustainable communities, “national” defense budgets will be slashed. Expansionism will no longer make any sense. Conflicts may still occur over resources (water, rare metals, rare earths ….) but will decline as population declines. Virtually every local government will then be engaged in trying to increase fertility rates. Tax breaks and extra payments will be available for every child. “Political correctness” will shift to the having of many children. But all these measures will not have much effect in increasing fertility rates.

Surrogacy will pay very well until the artificial womb is developed. That will be the game changer. Then community governments will move to control artificial fertilisation from donor sperm and eggs. The birth of children will move into the “public” sphere. Genetic scanning will be increasingly used prior to allowing a foetus to develop in an artificial womb. Humans will then only be required to supply their sperm or their eggs. They will no longer be required to perform as parents. Mating will no longer be an activity connected to the production of children. The children will be brought up in community creches. The fertility rate will become a completely controllable parameter. Eventually, so will the genetic make up of the children being produced. Some will have their genes tailored to meet some specific community need. Others will be mass-produced when “drones” are required in large numbers. The most powerful committee in any community will then be that which chooses which egg will be fertilised by which sperm.

It is population decline which will lead inevitably and remorselessly to the Brave New World.

Evolution of the desk

October 5, 2015

From Harvard Innovation Lab

Published on 20 Oct 2014
video courtesy of: bestreviews.com/best-computer-desks#hist­ory-of-the-computer-desk
photography by dougthomsen.tv / engineering by anton georgiev

Only problem is that my desk actually looks like this:


Whose boots will prevail in Syria?

October 5, 2015

It does not require rocket science to see that ISIS will only, can only, be defeated finally by boots on the ground.

The US and its partners assumed that “moderate rebels” in Syria would provide the boots on the ground to take over, once they had managed to get rid of Assad. But the assumption that the “moderate rebels” formed any sort of cohesive group which could bring stability has proven to be grossly wrong. They are so splintered and fractured and cover such a wide range of objectives that they can only ensure instability. The further assumption that the rag-tag being supplied with weapons and money to effect regime change, did not also include radical and fanatic Sunnis and Wahabis has been at best, incompetent, and at worst, disastrous. The Russians are, it seems, making a different calculation.

Any scenario which pictures the defeat of ISIS will require that their followers are left with no physical or political space to occupy and control. And that is going to require that their space is then occupied by someone else. Air attacks by the US led coalition or by Russia can only prepare the way, but without a real physical presence the effects of such air attacks can only be temporary. Without filling up the space with some form of political stability, any political vacuum will always provide room for the fanatics.

Of a Syrian population of about 23 million, 9 million are displaced and are refugees within Syria or abroad. Around 3 million are estimated to have left Syria. Around 75% of the Syrian population were Sunni muslims, 12% were Alawites (a secretive branch of Shia Muslims) and about 8% were Christians. Assad is of course an Alawite. As Shias the regime is supported by the Hezbollah from Lebanon and from Iran’s Shia (90% of Iran’s population are Shia and about 9% are Sunni). If Assad were to step down, but was replaced by another Alawite, then the Alawites, many of the Christians and even some of the moderate Sunnis, could probably live with a regime which provided stability. The fly in the ointment is financial support for the various Sunni and Wahabi rebel groups in Syria (including the hard-line terrorist groups such as Al Qaida, al-Nusra and ISIS) which comes mainly from Saudi Arabia and the Gulf States. US support for rebel groups in Syria has, under Saudi influence, often supported the Sunni line. ISIS cannot be politically suffocated as long as its external financing continues.

Even with a defeated ISIS, sympathisers will still remain. But they will not be in control. A “defeat” can only mean that they no longer have any control over any settlements within which they might still exist, and that they have no safe havens within which to hole-up. That cannot happen unless control over all geographical areas effectively lies with some body – or bodies – that reject the fundamental claims of the Islamic State.

The mutual hatred between ISIS and Shia Muslims is a key factor. No Sunni rebel group fighting against Assad is not without some sympathy for ISIS. This virtually disqualifies any of the current rebel groups being supported by the US coalition, from being capable of supplying the political control needed to squeeze out ISIS. Certainly the US and its coalition partners are not going to supply the physical presence on the ground. The Russians are not going to send in troops beyond military advisors to Assad either.

So who does that leave? Whose boots on the ground are going to prevail?

The Russian calculation seems to be that the regime (later without Assad) together with Hezbollah, Iraqi Shias and some Iranian presence will be sufficient to defeat ISIS and squeeze them out. It is not impossible, but the Saudis will not take kindly to that. That would be seen as an unacceptable blow to the Sunni ego.

And then whether such an end-game is allowed to stand will depend upon whether the US is prepared to satisfy the Saudis by challenging the Russians (and the Iranians and Hezbollah) in their support of the Assad regime. I suspect that the Russians are calculating that Obama will only keep shifting his red line rather than actually cross it. As long as the Russians keep the eventual stepping down of Assad as being inherent in their plans, Obama will, reluctantly, go along.

It seems a highly dangerous path to this end-game where the regime (without Assad) but with help from Hezbollah and Shias from Iraq and Iran supply the boots on the ground to get rid of ISIS. But at least it is an end-game which is not impossible. And it seems to be the only one available. The US and their European partners seem not to have thought very far beyond the removal of Assad.


Nobel week starts today

October 5, 2015

This the schedule (Swedish time) for announcing the awards

PHYSIOLOGY OR MEDICINE – Monday 5 October, 11:30 a.m. at the earliest
PHYSICS – Tuesday 6 October, 11:45 a.m. at the earliest
CHEMISTRY – Wednesday 7 October, 11:45 a.m. at the earliest
PEACE – Friday 9 October, 11:00 a.m.
ECONOMIC SCIENCES – Monday 12 October, 1:00 p.m. at the earliest
LITERATURE – The date will be set later

I find the economic science and peace prizes are little more than nonsense (with a few exceptions). The literature prize is not so bad but does get bogged down by political correctness from time to time. But to each his own.

Some Nobel trivia:

105 Nobel Prizes in Physiology or Medicine have been awarded between 1901 and 2014.

38 Medicine Prizes have been given to one Laureate only.

11 women have been awarded the Medicine Prize so far.

32 years was the age of the youngest Medicine Laureate ever, Frederick G. Banting, who was awarded the 1923 Medicine Prize for the discovery of insulin.

87 years was the age of the oldest Medicine Laureate ever, Peyton Rous, when he was awarded the Medicine Prize in 1966 for his discovery of tumour-inducing viruses.

58 is the average age of the Nobel Laureates in Physiology or Medicine the year they were awarded the prize.

The Thomson Reuters prediction page is here. The medicine predictions are for work on human gut microbes, proteins and T-cells.

Extreme poverty at all time global low while population is at an all time high

October 5, 2015

Being poor is a relative term. To be in “extreme poverty” is an absolute measure. To be “poor” does not require being in “poverty”. The “poor” relative to the “rich” will always be with us and are just as necessary as the “rich”. In fact, that distinction between rich and poor is necessary as long as humans are to be considered individuals with aspirations and not just clones. Income inequality is often equated – especially by those with communistic leanings – with poverty, but this is simply wrong. Income inequality may be an indicator of the ratio of “poor” to “rich” but to be “poor” need have nothing to do with being in “poverty”. “Poverty” is not necessary and the goal is to eliminate extreme poverty by 2030.

The 2015 World Bank Research Note on Extreme Poverty is now out. In 2015, for the first time ever, and in spite of the global population being at an all time high, the number of people in extreme poverty has reduced to less than 10%. In spite of the population increase, the total number in extreme poverty is at the lowest in 25 years. But that is still 700 million (900 million in 2012) in extreme poverty. Sub-Saharan Africa and S Asia are where the misery is concentrated.

Extreme Poverty - World Bank 2015

Extreme Poverty – World Bank 2015

Press Release:

The number of people living in extreme poverty around the world is likely to fall to under 10 percent of the global population in 2015, according to World Bank projections released today, giving fresh evidence that a quarter-century-long sustained reduction in poverty is moving the world closer to the historic goal of ending poverty by 2030.

The Bank uses an updated international poverty line of US $1.90 a day, which incorporates new information on differences in the cost of living across countries (the PPP exchange rates). The new line preserves the real purchasing power of the previous line (of $1.25 a day in 2005 prices) in the world’s poorest countries. Using this new line (as well as new country-level data on living standards), the World Bank projects that global poverty will have fallen from 902 million people or 12.8 per cent of the global population in 2012 to 702 million people, or 9.6 per cent of the global population, this year.

Extreme Poverty contributions - World Bank 2015

Extreme Poverty contributions – World Bank 2015

Noted in passing – 3rd October 2015

October 3, 2015

The first snow of this winter fell in Kiruna yesterday. Early, but it is no record since snow has come as early as 21st September.

 Jessica Nildén

photo Jessica Nildén via SvT

NASA: Pluto’s largest moon Charon is revealed in this image from New Horizons’ Long Range Reconnaissance Imager (LORRI), taken late on July 13, 2015 from a distance of 289,000 miles  (466,000 kilometers).

Charon by New Horizons - NASA

Obama to Putin: ” You’re bombing the wrong targets. Why don’t you do as we do?”   US air strikes hit Medecins Sans Frontieres clinic in Afghanistan.

Jeremy Corbyn: I love Britain but I will not defend her with nuclear weapons.

Sycophancy is alive and well in Indian politics. A BJP politician who was passed over by the party as Chief Minister candidate of Delhi tries to curry favour with his leader by comparing Modi with Gandhi.

NASA made a huge PR exercise about finding that briny water flowed on Mars – though their solution to the great mystery that they claimed to have solved has been postulated for years. But actually the NASA media campaign was almost certainly timed to hype the new Ridley Scott movie “The Martian” which was released the same week. (Reviews look interesting and I shall see the movie tomorrow).

Donald Trump’s campaign has been predicted to implode by the media and politicians for a long time now. The more left-wing, liberal media (HuffPo, WaPo) are bursting with indignation at his success. But his campaign is still going strong. Jeb Bush’s campaign is vanishing into his own navel. But Trump can no longer be ignored. Even the New York Magazine analyses The Importance of Donald Trump  and even the New York Times Magazine – albeit reluctantly – carries a profile of Trump by Mark Leibovich.

I always thought that the “birther” theory that Obama was born in Kenya was something invented by the Republicans and the Tea-Party mob, but apparently it was first created by Hillary Clinton’s more fanatic supporters in 2008 when she was battling Obama for the Democratic nomination.

FactCheck: This claim was first advanced by diehard Hillary Clinton supporters as her campaign for the party’s nomination faded, and has enjoyed a revival among John McCain’s partisans as he fell substantially behind Obama in public opinion polls.

A Swedish study shows that taller people have a higher risk of cancer. “The average height of Swedish women is 167.7 centimetres while men are on average 181.5 centimetres tall”. Fortunately Sweden has cancer survival rates of 64.7 percent compared to an average of 59.6 percent in Europe.

The Oregon mass killing  only shows – again – that such an event is a routine, once-a-week, matter with 45 such events so far this year. Everybody goes simplistic. The liberals have a go at the lack of gun control and the availability of guns. The right points out that all such killings have been in declared “Gun free zones” and that it wouldn’t have happened if the victims had been armed. Obama makes a speech and blames everybody else. (I thought he was President). Jeb Bush – ever insightful – points out that “stuff happens”.

But it is all too simplistic. Was it nature or was it nurture or was it both which created the killer? And what is it about nurture in the US which creates so many of them?

Sania Mirza and Martina Hingis continued their magnificent form in 2015 by clinching their seventh doubles title of the year.

A street I knew/know very well, but from before my time (but only just).

Chowringhee Clacutta, 1947


Hurricane Joaquin moves away

October 3, 2015

US hurricane strikes are at an all-time low and there has been much alarmist excitement this week about the possibility of hurricane Joaquin striking the US mainland. First, it was going to strike N Carolina. Emergencies were declared. Then it was going to hit New York. Emergencies were extended. The hurricane declined to follow the computer models. Now Boston and New England were the targets claimed the modellers. Hurricane Joaquin moved even slower and moved further East.

The latest is that it is now headed for Bermuda. Some of the UK media are now concerned it may hit the UK. Not to underestimate the power of the hurricane since a cargo ship with 33 on board which was near the eye has gone missing. But, so much for the infallibility of computer models which claim that climate is a settled “science”. “It is weather that is variable and unpredictable”, I hear them cry. “The climate is perfectly predictable and the science is settled”. Ah Yes. But climate is nothing more than weather integrated over space and time.

Modellers who change the data rather than change their mathematical models which don’t fit reality, ought to be beyond the pale. But apparently it is acceptable to fudge data if it preserves political correctness.

Joaquin 1

Joaquin 2

This image from RealScience shows how the predicted track has moved.

In spite of the alarm of extreme weather the reality is that US hurricane strikes are at an all-time low.

Data from:  HURDAT Re-analysis Chronological List of All Hurricanes


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