Science needs its Gods and religion is just politics

April 11, 2021

This essay has grown from the notes of an after-dinner talk I gave last year. As I recall it was just a 20 minute talk but making sense of my old notes led to this somewhat expanded essay. The theme, however, is true to the talk. The surrounding world is one of magic and mystery. And no amount of Science can deny the magic.

Anybody’s true belief or non-belief is a personal peculiarity, an exercise of mind and unobjectionable. I do not believe that true beliefs can be imposed from without. Imposition requires some level of coercion and what is produced can never be true belief. My disbelief can never disprove somebody else’s belief.

Disbelieving a belief brings us to zero – a null state. Disbelieving a belief (which by definition is the acceptance of a proposition which cannot be proved or disproved) brings us back to the null state of having no belief. It does not prove the negation of a belief.

[ (+G) – (+G) = 0, not (~G) ]

Of course Pooh puts it much better.


Science needs its Gods and religion is just politics

 


Navigating the Suez Canal

March 28, 2021

No “aspiration before vaccination” causing serious side effects?

March 26, 2021

We are still waiting for our turn and when vaccine is available. The shambles in the EU is especially telling. The EU’s incompetence in acquiring vaccines has been remarkable and the the go/stop/go/pause/go strategy regarding the Astra Zeneca vaccine has not helped.

However it now seems that one of the causes of the vaccine side-effects may be because basic vaccination techniques are not being followed.

From Swedish Radio this morning:

An expert group at the European Medicines Agency (EMA) will now investigate whether the explanation for the unusual but severe side effects that may be linked to corona vaccination can be found in the way the vaccination is given. This is a special procedure that must be performed during vaccination, but which is not always done. One of those who reacted to that is Hans Bendroth. He is a retired nurse who now works extra as a covid vaccinator.

“I have seen it several times during the pandemic now, in news items from both abroad and Sweden, how to just knock the needle into the muscle and push the vaccine. Then you have no idea where you have ended up”  he says.

To aspirate means to withdraw the plunger itself in the syringe, before injecting the medicine, to see where the needle is located. If blood then flows back into the syringe, it is a sign that the needle is in a blood vessel, and not in muscle tissue, and then you have to start again. Hans Bendroth, his wife and son all work in healthcare, and are some of the nurses and doctors who contacted Vetenskapsradion after reacting to the lack of aspiration.

In Denmark, the Serum Institute now recommends that for the time being always aspirate in covid vaccination, while investigating a possible link between vaccination and the unusual but serious events with blood clots and bleeding, as a precautionary principle.


It is the March equinox and it is time for some social-media resolutions

March 20, 2021
  1. Stop using Facebook, (next step deletion).
  2. Stop using Twitter, (next step deletion).
  3. Stop using LinkedIn (deletion next?).
  4. Delete Tik-Tok and Instagram.
  5. Keep WhatsApp as long as permitted (without accepting new terms and conditions).
  6. Keep Signal.
  7. Keep Zoom, MS Teams.
  8. Create an alternative email address to g-mail.

On balance, the irritation and anger they generate outweigh the positives of the social contacts they do provide. Whatever I may miss on Facebook and Twitter will not affect my life very much and I have no need for the anger and the irritation involved in suffering fools. It is time to get off the roundabout.


Sun, wind and cloud but nary a glimpse of CO2

February 5, 2021

We have been having a pretty cold spell for the last 10 days and this will probably continue for another 2 weeks. This morning it was -18C

It is the time of the year of course. But, every day we experience the effects of where the weather is coming from, the direction of the wind, the presence of the sun and the mitigating effect of clouds (moisture in the air). The difference between a cloudy night and a clear night is over 10C. The difference between a sunny day and a cloudy day is also about 10C. The effects of CO2, if any at all, are insignificant for my weather.

Climate is merely a label for the integral of weather over space and time. But what is actually experienced is weather and weather does not care very much about CO2.

Interestingly at temperatures below -10C, my heat pumps and electricity usage are at full blast and I cannot charge my hybrid car. The battery charger draws 7kW and when it’s really cold it causes one phase to trip. So my fossil fuel use (petrol) is maximised.

It makes sense that fossil fuels will be needed especially in cold weather and when the next ice age comes. But CO2 does not affect the weather.


Thank goodness for global warming!

January 30, 2021

It’s 0800 on 30th January 2021. 


EU vaccine shambles “an advertisement for Brexit”

January 28, 2021

There is little doubt that the EU member states would each have done much better if they had taken care of their own and not relied on the EU negotiating for them or believing in EU solidarity. It is not just incompetence that the EU was late in placing vaccine orders. It became gross incompetence when the orders they placed were “junk orders” with pledges for “best efforts” and with no commitments. The EU contract with AstraZeneca has a “best efforts” clause and no specific time-table.

The EU did not allow member countries to negotiate for themselves but, instead, insisted on negotiating for the block – late and apparently without much display of competence. Ursula von der Leyen is catching the blame but it is the cowardly, risk-averse and cover-your-ass attitude of the EU bureaucracy which is the main culprit. That is the EU sickness.

La Grande Guerra:

German media savages EU for vaccine shambles which it calls ‘an advert for Brexit’

German media has rounded on the EU over Europe’s vaccine debacle today – calling it ‘the best advert for Brexit’ while blaming chief Ursula von der Leyen for the delays. The EU is acting ‘slowly, bureaucratically and protectionist… and if something goes wrong, it’s everyone else’s fault’ fumed a front-page editorial in Die Zeit, one of Germany’s best-respected broadsheets. Meanwhile Bild tore apart Von Der Leyen’s explanation of the vaccine delays and threat to stop supplies heading to the UK line by line, accusing her of placing ‘junk’ orders for vaccines three months behind Britain. ‘She says: “We know that there is no time to lose in a pandemic,” but what she means is: “We may have wasted time. But we will NEVER admit that”,’ the newspaper wrote. ……..

Bild added: ‘[Von Der Leyen] is responsible for EU junk orders. ‘Also for the fact that the EU only reached an agreement with AstraZeneca in August, not in June – as [German health minister] Jens Spahn wanted but was not allowed to. Valuable preparation time passed. Von der Leyen cannot do anything for the current audacity of AstraZeneca. The criticism is justified. But it must also be self-criticism.’

‘In the UK,’ Die Zeit adds, ‘the government’s independent and swift vaccination policy is seen as evidence that the EU is too bureaucratic and slow – and is now left behind.’ 

The criticism came as the CEO of AstraZeneca – the company which sparked the row by cutting EU vaccine supplies by 60 per cent – spoke out to defend himself, while also pointing the finger at delays in Brussels. Asked why supplies were being cut to the EU but not the recently-departed UK, Pascal Soriot said it had nothing to do with national favourtism and everything to do with the fact that the EU placed its vaccine order late. ‘We had problems in the UK too,’ he told a trio of European newspapers including Italy’s Repubblica. ‘But the contract with the British government was signed three months before the one with the EU, therefore we had time to prepare and resolve similar issues. The UK and the EU have two different production chains and at the moment the British ones are more efficient because they started earlier.’

Britain signed a contract for 300million doses of vaccine in mid-May, he revealed, but it took the EU until August to put pen to paper on the same deal. Embarrassingly for the bloc, it appears that Germany, the Netherlands, France and Italy had originally been looking to do a deal with AstraZeneca in May – but were blocked by the EU, which insisted it take over negotiations. ………

Meanwhile Bild newspaper accused Von Der Leyen of shirking blame and wasting time, while adding that ‘Brexit Brits’ have escaped the crisis. According to ITV’s Robert Peston: ‘The extra talks with the European Commission led to no material changes to the contract, but wasted time on making arrangements to make the vaccine with partner sites.’ The delays in producing the vaccine are now thought to be due to under-production at one of those sites, located in Belgium. Face with growing public anger over the failings, Italy threatened to sue to get its vaccine doses, while Von Der Leyen has ordered AstraZeneca  to ‘meet your obligations.’ But, according to Soriot, the company is meeting its obligations because it only signed a ‘best effort’ deal with the EU – promising to try and achieve 300million vaccines, but acknowledging that the complex process might be hit by delays. ‘We are two months behind schedule,’ Soriot admitted. ‘But we are working to solve these problems.’


A failure of Public Health policy, globally and in Sweden

January 25, 2021

A Monday morning rant.


One thing is certain.

The pandemic has shown, globally and in Sweden, an utter failure of public health policy. Epedemiology is not a science. It may use scientific methods but science is a process which leads to knowledge. And the level of knowledge of pandemics and human behaviour is clearly not so very high. The media and governments – and the general public – have been incredibly gullible and have swallowed speculation as being knowledge.
Health organisations (WHO and FHM) were not even certain to begin with whether to encourage the spread of the virus to get to herd immunity or to contain the spread. Even now, one year later, the only real advice is “avoid infection”. Social distancing, lockdowns, closed schools, closed shopping centres, isolation bubbles, face masks are no different to the advice available 500 years ago when infection was experienced.

The Lancet: “From the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Public Health Agency, Folkhälsomyndigheten (FHM), embarked on a de-facto herd immunity approach, allowing community transmission to occur relatively unchecked”.

For every crazy proposal from the scientific community there was another scientist available to present the opposite view. For every crazy idea there was a politician available to promote it. Governments abdicated their own responsibility by relying on bureaucrats pretending to have knowledge. In the case of the Swedish government there was first denial followed by abdication of responsibility. The excuse given was that they were following the advice of “expert institutions” – except that the experts did not actually know very much.

In any case, all those old people who died were going to die anyway.


En misslyckande i folkhälsopolitiken

En sak är säker.

Pandemin har visat en misslyckande i folkhälsopolitiken globalt och i Sverige. Epedemiologi är ingen vetenskap. Det kan använda vetenskapliga metoder men vetenskap är en process som leder till kunskap. Och kunskapsnivån om pandemier och mänskligt beteende är uppenbarligen inte så hög. Media och regeringar – och allmänheten – har varit otroligt lättlästa och har svalt spekulation som kunskap.
Hälsoorganisationer (WHO och FHM) var inte ens säkra på att börja med om de skulle uppmuntra spridningen av viruset för att komma till flockimmunitet eller att begränsa spridningen.

The Lancet: “From the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Public Health Agency, Folkhälsomyndigheten (FHM), embarked on a de-facto herd immunity approach, allowing community transmission to occur relatively unchecked”.

Redan nu, ett år senare, är det enda riktiga rådet att “undvika infektion”. Social distansering, lockdowns, stängda skolor, stängda köpcentra, isoleringsbubblor, ansiktsmasker skiljer sig inte från de råd som fanns för 500 år sedan när infektion upplevdes. För varje galet förslag från det vetenskapliga värld fanns en annan forskare tillgänglig för att presentera motsatt uppfattning. För varje galen idé fanns en politiker tillgänglig för att marknadsföra den. Regeringar avstod från sitt eget ansvar genom att förlita sig på byråkrater som låtsas ha kunskap. För den svenska regeringen var det första förnekandet följt av avstående från ansvaret. Ursäkten var att de följde råd från “expertimyndigheter” – förutom att experterna faktiskt inte visste så mycket.

 I vilket fall som helst skulle alla de gamla människorna som dog ändå dö.


New challenges as global population will start declining already in the 2060s

January 24, 2021

The new challenge for the 22nd century, which will override almost all the perceived challenges and existential threats of today, will be population decline. How our intricately connected and interdependent world for food production, manufacturing, financial services, health services, education and leisure will be able to cope with a declining population, a declining work force and an increasing proportion of population (<20, >70) being non-productive, will be the dominating challenge faced by humanity. The pressure on some resources will clearly decrease. The further development and spread of automation will become an absolute must. The increasing use of “smart” contraptions with some embedded AI and the increasing interconnections between smart devices will be the primary means of compensating for the decline in humans available. Paradoxically, increasing automation and the increasing interconnections between our smart devices will probably lead to a decline in the interdependence of humans on each other. Each individual will be more dependent upon interconnected devices but less dependent upon other humans. Human independence – from other humans – could reach levels not seen since before the industrial revolution, but by choice rather than enforced.

The UN medium forecast based on the continuing decline in world fertility has the world reaching peak population at just over 11 billion just before 2100. But fertility rates are declining faster than the medium forecast.

Global fertility is falling faster than any prediction. It has reached critical levels in Japan and parts of Eastern Europe. Iran is providing incentives for increasing birth rates. In most of the EU countries it is only immigration and its consequence on fertility which is delaying the inevitable decline in fertility rates. The increased fertility rates among immigrant communities declines within a generation to match the “indigenous” rates. The Chinese population is already in decline. The Indian population will peak before 2050 rather than around 2070. Even Nigeria where population was expected to peak after 2100 will now reach its maximum probably by 2090, or even earlier.

New studies (The Lancet, July 14, 2020, DOI:https://doi.org/10.1016/S0140-6736(20)30677-2 ) now put the global population reaching a peak of 9.7 billion by 2064 and declining to 8.8 billion by 2100.

The work force decline has already started in China. In India it will start declining by 2050. It has become blindingly apparent during the corona virus pandemic that it is the work force which is both the “blood” which circulates and keeps our societies alive, and it is the glue which holds our societies together. It is in compensating for these human functions that automation and “smart” devices with some AI will come increasingly into play. A natural consequence is that having smarter devices leads to a fundamental change in the classic centralised- distributed paradigm. More smarts locally leads to more and narrower specialisation centrally.

I see the growing independence of individuals as inevitable with a declining human population together with smarter devices serving us. Smarter diagnostics and basic, automated health care locally is then complemented by fewer, very specialised central hospitals. The catchment area has to increase as the specialisations become narrower. (As is already happening in Scandinavia). Increasing on-line learning (local) is then complemented by specialised learning at the – fewer – centres. (As is already happening in Japan). Manufacturing (including food production and even farming) is increasingly automated.

In the 22nd and 23rd centuries there will not be a shortage of resources (food or water or energy), and there will be no shortage of growth as smart machines take over the boring and the mundane jobs, and there will be no decline in human ingenuity and creativity. But there may be a shortage of human companionship.


Vaccine philanthropy is only possible if you first have vaccine nationalism

January 23, 2021

There have been a number of sanctimonious platitudes about the dangers of vaccine nationalism from the usual suspects (UN Sec Gen, WHO Dir Gen, …). This has been virtue signalling at its worst. Any national government which did not first secure its own citizens would be failing in its primary task. It is again a case of people forgetting that international is not possible without first securing the national. Philanthropy between countries cannot happen unless there is first nationalism.

And so it is between India and Brazil.

Covishield is the brand name of the AstraZeneca/Oxford vaccine manufactured by the Serum Institute of India. So far India has despatched over 3 million doses of Covishield to Bangladesh, Nepal, Bhutan, Myanmar, Seychelles, Mauritius and Brazil. Brazil receives 2 million doses today. President Bolsanaro has invoked images from the Ramayana in his message of thanks. Sri Lanka and Afghanistan are to also receive vaccines in the next despatch. This vaccine can be transported and stored at between +2 and +8 degrees Celsius and has a shelf-life of 6 months. This vaccine philanthropy by India is only possible because sufficient stocks, greater than the rate of vaccination, are available for its own citizens.

The EU has not yet approved this vaccine but this approval is expected on 29th January. Neither has the US approved. I have my own theory that the EU delay in approval is not unconnected with protecting some market for the other, more expensive, more difficult to transport vaccines. Not quite a conspiracy theory but at least some unconscious collusion.




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