Noted in Passing 19th January 2013

A weekly post on things that were interesting or which I would have liked to have blogged about …….

Engineering and Technology

A work of genius: Harry Beck's map of 1933

A work of genius: Harry Beck’s map of 1933

The London Underground is 150 years old and the iconic London Underground Map is a work of some genius - by an electrical draughtsman Harry Beck - in focusing on connections and ignoring geography.

Boeing is facing a torrid time with the 787 Dreamliner and has stopped all further aircraft deliveries. This is going to hurt their cash flow even before all the claims from the airlines come in for the grounding of their aircraft.

The advent of hydraulic fracturing and the consequent availability of shale gas means that new lines are drawn on the energy map of the world and many of the oldest and most stable geopolitical truths will be turned on their heads.

If graphene turns out to be the wonder material that it promises to be then it is time to invest in graphite.

Science and Behaviour

The dangers with blindly assuming that correlations represent a causal relationship is well demonstrated by this study on milk, chocolate and Nobel prizes. Derby Proctor believes that chimpanzees have a sense of fairness but her “ultimatum game” experiments were not strictly ultimate games at all and are not convincing.  Altruism among chimpanzees is – if it exists at all – strictly limited and only after basic needs are satisfied and restricted to a very few.

Matt Ridley joins the list and also dumps on Mark Lynas and green orthodoxy

The curious case of Zuma’s deputies deals with the intricacies of politics in South Africa and in the ANC today. An interesting post on the French need to be relevant in the world and Hollande’s adventures in Africa.

How much of the chatter on Twitter or postings on Facebook are real communication and how much is noise? Nandana Sengupta looks at the pluses and the minuses of the explosion of opinions via social media in India.

Having spent a lifetime with contracts I have always taken “terms” of “terms and conditions” to signify “limits of time” but terms and conditions have now converged in usage to be almost identical in meaning.

On where Tolkien may have found the word “hobbit”.

For Wodehouse fans and for the first time since Ralph Richardson as Lord Emsworth in 1967, BBC are showing a  new TV series centred around Blandings Castle. The reviews were not very kind:

“The performances weren’t bad exactly, but there was an impression that the cast had raided the charity shop and were merely having a spiffing time in vintage clothing.”

Bad Science

Michael Marotta describes four books on bad science.

The British Met Office makes yet another misstep and demonstrates that massaging science to get a desired result makes for bad science.

Climate models are hardly worth the paper they are printed on and they don’t seem to have any idea of how to handle the effect of clouds. Models – which are pushing the alarmist cause – generally assume they have a positive feedback on global warming but in reality the feedback is negative.

Professor Debora Weber-Wulff reports on Multiple Retractions of Articles by Computer Science Professor

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