Maurizio – Omnologos

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Maurizio – Omnologos Is Moving

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This is the link to the new home of “Omnologos“.

The old site will remain up and running.

Written by omnologos

2012/Apr/01 at 14:18:41

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Worried about the future?

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Here’s the one thing not to worry about: there will always be an inexhaustible supply of people telling the rest of the world that things are going in the wrong direction.

A quick look at the New York Times’ archives comes up with similar thoughts in 1921, 1931, 1979, 1981

Anyway, present-day “collapse of civilization” fears can be traced back to 1885. I guess at least that bit of “civilization” never collapses..

Written by omnologos

2011/Mar/05 at 13:07:26

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Fear And Timidity No Friends Of Science

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(comment posted to Jonathan Wolff’s “The journals are full of great studies, but can we believe the statistics?“, The Guardian, May 4 2010)

There are two big issues with Mr Wolff’s article.

(1) The “fear of looking foolish” seems a particularly childish approach to Science.

Insofar as one is able to argue the reasons for a particular choice in an “unsettled” scientific field, there is of course no foolishness to speak of.

In fact, looking at this the other way around, the fact that one was “very right” once, means nothing about being right in the future. Otherwise, all we would have to do would be to listen to former Nobel Prize winners.

Sadly, after the trip to Stockholm very few of them are capable of achieving anything remotely important as their acclaimed feat.

(2) There is little hope for Science really, if the goal is to hold on until an orthodoxy develops, and then sheepishly hang on to that.

We can’t simply evolve into separate tribes showing no critical thinking of what happens in other fields. And orthodoxies are meant to crumble, otherwise it is not “Science”. By the time they become widespread enough for the likes of Wolff to take them as “Truth”, they will likely be ripe for destruction by the next generation of scientists.

Come to think, a certain guy called Galileo would have failed on the Wolff strategy left, right and centre. Luckily he wasn’t afraid, and didn’t look the other way.

Written by omnologos

2010/May/05 at 00:27:43

Consultation On The UK Mandatory Code On Alcohol Sales

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Welcome to the on-line consultation on the mandatory code on alcohol sales

Just a few questions. Open until 21 July 2009. I have expressed my opposition about making matters of “public health” the most important topic when devising a policy. Why? Check this out about people trying to defend “public health”

Written by omnologos

2009/May/11 at 18:16:37

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On Bishop BEEP Williamson

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What to say about the controversy on Lefebvre follower Bishop Williamson, who spoke to a Swedish television crew of his ideas on the Holocaust? First and foremost, that it will be very difficult to see who did what and why.

What to think of coincidences such as the interview appearing right now and not, for example, a month ago when it was already dated; or that everything is happening hours away from the International Holocaust Memorial Day?

The barrage of comments on the topic in the media is obviously futile (it would a curious day when a Pope will change his mind after reading this or that newspaper). What are we left with but the obvious: Williamson has shown that there are some poor souls even among the Bishops.

Is that news or what?

Written by omnologos

2009/Jan/26 at 23:21:43

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A Century Later, The Heroes of the Baltic Fleet To Be Remembered in Messina and Reggio Calabria

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Two cities destroyed by Nature just after the holy days of Christmas; the wailing of the living, lost inside or outside the rubble; the waters of the Strait and their ripples in a light still confusing the sea with the horizon, full of a million pieces of what they had crushed in three waves of tsunami: that was the nightmare to which the Russian Baltic Fleet anchored in the early morning of 29 December 1908.

About twenty four hours had passed since one of the most devastating earthquakes in history, obliterating the cities of Messina and Reggio Calabria (and beyond) in Southern Italy, and with them around 100,000 people: and the Battleship Cesarevič was the first sign of any rescue from the outside world.

In an era where television serves death regularly at dinner time, it is hard to realize what horror is hidden behind the disappearance of one hundred thousand people in an area as small as that of the Strait of Messina. It’s as if somebody had killed three persons a day, on average, every single day for the past century.

And so the intervention of the Baltic Fleet is truly remarkable, and still remembered with all those indefatigable cadets, appearing strong beyond all imagination to the local population, true angels and saviours for thousands.

Who knows how many people would not be alive today, if their grandpa or great-grandma had not been rescued by the Russians? Perhaps extracted from underneath a collapsed building, or even “just” provided with a warm blanket, a place to sleep and warm food to survive especially in the first days after the tragedy.

The intervention of the Baltic Fleet will be remembered alongside the earthquake commemoration in a few days’ time, in the night of 27/28 December 2008, when the cities of Messina and Reggio Calabria will await that terrible hour of 5:21AM: because the sacrifice of hundreds, and the death of tens of Russian sailors should not be forgotten in the maelstroms of history.

Written by omnologos

2008/Dec/27 at 13:00:35

Principles For A Mars Transport System

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The following text, by Stephen Ashworth FBIS, has been presented at the British Interplanetary Society’s “Ways to Mars” symposium, held on 19 November 2008 at the Society’s London headquarters. Its main points:

Most of the mass needed for an Earth-Mars transport system consists of propellants and life support materials, and that is already in space, and already in orbits very close to the ones which we need;

— But this near-Earth asteroidal resource is completely invisible to the space agency paradigm of space exploration, because [the paradigm] excludes the construction of permanent human activity in space.

The text is published here with the consent of the author. More from Mr. Ashworth at his website.


Transport for Areopolis Or: “Implications of the Choice of Economic Paradigm for Strategies of Manned Access to the Moon and Mars”
by Stephen Ashworth

When considering human access to Mars, it seems to me that there are two key points which need to be taken into account, but which are often ignored. I shall offer you these two points very shortly.

Designs for manned missions to Mars typically involve assembling in low Earth orbit a spaceship weighing several hundred to over a thousand tonnes.

For example, each Troy spacecraft, which we shall be hearing more about this afternoon, weighs nearly 800 tonnes to carry 6 astronauts. The “space lego” nuclear powered Mars mission uses two ships of 240 tonnes each, thus a total of 480 tonnes in low Earth orbit. [I was wrong — this turns out to come to a total of 955 tonnes.] The “magic” Mars mission requires five Energiya launches, thus probably weighs 4 to 500 tonnes when ready to go.

Meanwhile the official European Space Agency design study for a Mars mission proposed a ship, again for 6 astronauts, which required 20 Energiya launches for every single Mars departure. These launches would build up a ship weighing 1357 tonnes at departure.

The Mars ship in low Earth orbit thus weighs between about 50 tonnes and about 200 tonnes per astronaut on board. Launching such large masses into orbit for the benefit of so few people is one reason why manned Mars exploration is hopelessly uneconomic.

At present-day cargo rates to low Earth orbit of $10 million per tonne, this is a billion dollars per astronaut, plus the cost of the Mars hardware itself. Even at spaceplane rates, which may fall to as low as $10 thousand per tonne, this is still a million dollars per astronaut, plus the cost of the hardware.

At these rates, there will not be many people going to Mars.

Let me show you an Earth-Mars transfer orbit.

Orbit of Earth, orbit of Mars, and an elliptical orbit which intersects both of them

Orbit of Earth, orbit of Mars, and an elliptical orbit which intersects both of them

Here is an orbit which reaches out from Earth to pass the orbit of Mars. It has about the same size and shape as the orbit of an Earth-Mars cycler, such as the ones being studied by Buzz Aldrin and his collaborators.

It might therefore be the orbit of a future manned Mars vehicle. But that’s not what I drew. What I’m showing you here is the orbit of minor planet 4660 Nereus.

The concept of an interplanetary cycler, which repeatedly encounters Earth and Mars, goes back to the early 1980s. Alan Friedlander and John Niehoff first proposed setting up long-lived space habitats which remain permanently in interplanetary space. These would periodically be used for transporting people between Earth and Mars. Relatively small ferry spacecraft would complete the transport chain between the cycler and a local parking orbit or planetary surface.

In 1985 Buzz Aldrin added the concept of a gravity assist at each planetary flyby. This technique allows a cycler to stay in phase with the relative motion of Earth and Mars. It enables it to offer passage between these planets once every 2.14 years, the Earth-Mars synodic period.

A great number of near-Earth asteroids, such as 4660 Nereus, resemble natural Earth-Mars cyclers. A proportion of them are believed to be carbonaceous chondrites, containing water and other volatiles. Water in space is of incalculable value as a feedstock for propellant manufacture, as a near ideal substance for radiation shielding, and for other life support functions.

I have checked the online listings of near-Earth asteroids published by the Minor Planet Center. Applying quite stringent orbital criteria, I found a total of 56 Amor and Apollo asteroids which behave like natural Earth-Mars cyclers. New ones are being discovered all the time — for example, of those 56, ten were only identified this year.

Now to my two key points.

Firstly: most of the mass needed for an Earth-Mars transport system consists of propellants and life support materials. That mass is already in space, and already in orbits very close to the ones which we will need to reach and return from Mars. It does not need to be launched from Earth. It can be mined in situ.

So why is hardly anybody getting excited about this? Why does it not form the basis of the Constellation programme, or of the recent ESA or Russian design studies, or even the magic, the trojan or the space lego Mars missions?

Because of my second point: the asteroidal resource is completely invisible to the space agency paradigm of space exploration. That mode of planning excludes the possibility of systematic use of natural in-space materials, and it excludes the construction of permanent infrastructure on Earth-Mars cycler orbits. It will not contemplate anything that suggests permanent human activity in space.

I think we can identify two broadly contrasting attitudes to transport infrastructure.

The heroic paradigm is only interested in special missions of heroic exploration. This is the space agency mode of thinking. Its prime goal is national presige, under a fig-leaf of science, spinoff and educational inspiration. Think of the Apollo programme. Further back in history, think of Zheng He’s epic voyage of exploration around 1421, from a China which was about to close in on itself.

In contrast with the heroic paradigm, we can identify the systemic paradigm of transport infrastructure. The prime goals here are permanence, growth, and economic profitability. Think of the Cunard and White Star steamers which connected Britain with the Americas and the Empire from the mid-nineteenth to the mid-twentieth century.

Now obviously, since there is currently nobody on the Moon or Mars, the next people to travel there will of necessity be heroic government explorers. But the question we need to address is this: will their transport system be designed for cancellation, like Apollo, or will it be designed for growth, like Cunard?

What would a systemic manned space transport system look like?

I have identified four key features.

Firstly, it will employ reusable spacecraft — an obvious enough point.

Secondly, it will not be content with a single route — say, between Kennedy spaceport on Earth and a single base at Utopia Planitia on Mars. It will rather seek to foster a network of different routes among a number of different transport nodes. Those nodes may include an increasing number of space hotels, factories and laboratories, and lunar and martian bases.

Note particularly that the use of transport nodes allows in-space refuelling. This capability was regarded by early spaceflight theorists such as Hermann Oberth and Guido von Pirquet as essential if lunar and martian flights were to become achievable using chemical fuels.

Thirdly, a systemic space transport system will diversity its sources of propellants and life support materials, exploiting the transport nodes for in-space refuelling.

Fourthly, it will not be content with a pillar architecture, but will develop a pyramidal one. In a pillar architecture, one unique space station is succeeded by one unique Moon base, and that in turn by one unique Mars base. In a pyramid architecture, by contrast, it is growth in the use of space stations that supports the first Moon base, and growth in the use of Moon bases that supports the first Mars base.

Thus in impressionistic figures, if there are ten people on Mars, then we should expect to see at the same time at least a hundred people on the Moon, and at least a thousand on board stations in Earth orbit at any one time.

So we can now design a Mars transport system along the following principles:

— The long-haul journey is accomplished on modular interplanetary cycler stations, which are upgrades of stations in regular use as Earth-Moon cyclers, which are themselves upgrades of stations in regular use in low Earth orbit as hotels, factories and so on;

— The transport chain between Earth and the interplanetary cyclers is closed by short-range ferries, which are upgrades of ferries in regular use to connect with the Earth-Moon cyclers, which are themselves upgrades of ferries in regular use between Earth’s surface and low Earth orbit;

— The bulk of the development work that goes into the first Mars mission is carried out by commercial companies in pursuit of profitable business in space tourism, manufacturing and energy;

— As a result of growth in traffic in the Earth-Moon system, an in-space refuelling system based on near-Earth asteroidal water will become economically viable, vastly decreasing launch costs from Earth.

There may still be a heroic attempt to get to Mars in isolation from the development of such a space economy. If we are lucky, it will be like Apollo, and will be cancelled after the first few landings. If we are unlucky, it will be like the X-33 or Hermès spaceplanes, or like the Soviet Moon-landing programme, and be cancelled before its first landing.

Either way, it will not produce much progress towards sustainable human access to Mars. That can only be achieved by a systemic transport system, not a heroic one.

To conclude, I would remind you of my two key points:

— Most of the mass needed for an Earth-Mars transport system consists of propellants and life support materials, and that is already in space, and already in orbits very close to the ones which we need;

— But this near-Earth asteroidal resource is completely invisible to the space agency paradigm of space exploration, because it excludes the construction of permanent human activity in space.

Thank you.

Iran-caused Hawkish Schizophrenia

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(Letter to the IHT)

Dear Editors

I am quite worried for the weeks to come.

A lame-duck US Presidency unable to convince Congress to pass its financial rescue package, and utterly unpopular around the country, may as well try to use an attack against Iran as a way to bolster its image, and to leave another lasting (and deadly) legacy. We could wake up one morning to hear very bad news indeed.

There is at this moment one question I would really like anti-Iranian hawks to answer.

The Iranian regime is building the Bomb because of perceived threats to its national security, That much will certainly be agreed by all: every country member of the “nuclear weapons club” has entered it because of security (and prestige) concerns.

Also, nuclear weapons are pretty much useless for an offensive strategy, as demonstrated by 63 years without a single atomic attack. Furthermore, even a single botched nuclear explosion, say, in Tel Aviv, would massively increase the risk for the regime, as most certainly followed by a massive atomic retaliation against Tehran.

And yet: commentator Gary Milhollin (“An arms race we’re sure to lose“, IHT, Sep 29) and reader James W. Litsey (“Stopping Iran“, Letters section, IHT, Sep 30) respectively recommend “a credible threat of international economic and diplomatic isolation” and making NATO “soon intervene by whatever means necessary“.

How on earth can they believe the above will make Iran change its mind? To the contrary: by piling up threats, Iran will surely be convinced to accelerate its nuclear program even further.

Shouldn’t we remove threats instead, and go back to old-fashioned diplomacy, thereby destroying the case for a nuclear Iran?

Didn’t that work with Lybia, and perhaps even with North Korea?

Written by omnologos

2008/Sep/30 at 12:41:04

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Reply to “How Good Are Internet Sources?”

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(Blogger “Emily” has mentioned a post in my climate blog as an example of what to look for when deciding to trust an internet source or not. Here’s my reply)

I definitely agree, the only way to measure the truthfulness of a story is by keeping a critical, inquiring mind always turned on, looking first to check if a story is internally consistent, then if it can be verified independently, and finally if it leads to obvious consequences. If somebody says people are living in tents, then one or more organizations helping the homeless must be reporting something about that too.

There is always a limit though, as resources are not…unlimited. In my blog you linked to, there is a language barrier that would need a dedicated professional translator to bridge. In my experience the situation is even worse the other way around, as I often try to convey in Italian, to an Italian audience that is, pieces of interesting information originally written in English.

Or, say, think about the report from Austria on hailstones coming out of a toilet. If you search for it on the Internet, there are pictures of a bathroom covered indeed with what look like tiny clumps of ice. But how can we tell if the pictures themselves are not fake, or even staged?

Fact is, we cannot do that. Or at least, we cannot do it in a universal sense, in a way that we know will be the same for all fellow human beings. At the end of the line, there is always a judgement call, by each individual: and different individuals will look for different “signs” in a story to confirm its truthfulness, they will hold it to different standards, and at the end of the day will (perfectly reasonably) arrive at different conclusions.

Part of living as a human being should be about peacefully handling those differences. Unfortunately, a great deal of us are still convinced “truth” is something that can be beaten into (bombed upon, knifed into, shot into) other people.

All in all, the question perhaps is not “how good are Internet sources?”. Rather, “how good are we in dealing with them?”

ps my own preferred “truthfulness test” is Carl Sagan’s. Extraordinary claims must be backed by extraordinary evidence. People living in tents in perilous economic times? It has happened already -> not an extraordinary claim -> a good article with references, and some minor additional confirmation do suffice to take the story as true.

Human beings changing the planetary temperature by minutely increasing the presence of a trace gas? It has never happened, and CO2 physics says the effect is logarithmic (each additional molecule matters less than the one emitted immediately before it) -> such an extraordinary claim will need something stronger to it than what we have at the moment.

Some people disagree with the above. And that’s fine to me.

ps apologies for any mispelling and grammatical errors…

Written by omnologos

2008/Sep/19 at 21:57:41

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The Best Science Blog 2007 Saga (3 of 3)

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Phil Plait’s Bad Astronomy (BA) and Steve McIntyre’s Climate Audit (CA) have been awarded the 2007 Weblogs Award for Best Science blog. Remarkably, they are both prisoners of their own devices: BA cannot criticize mainstream science, CA can only criticize mainstream science. They are both great blogs and their shared Award is a honest snapshot of their relative merits. PZ Myers’ Pharyngula, on the other hand…

The Best Science Blog 2007 Saga (1 of 3) – Introduction and The Bad Astronomy Blog
The Best Science Blog 2007 Saga (2 of 3) – The Climate Audit Blog and The Weblogs Award for Best Science Blog committee

The Best Science Blog 2007 Saga (3 of 3) – Pharyngula and Conclusions (and a Prayer) 

Pharyngula was one of the nominees this year, having won the title for 2006. Its author PZ Myers is a friend of Phil Plait’s so I am sure that somehow somewhere in some occasion he must be fun, knowledgeable and a person nice to discuss things with.

Evidently though, not in matters of climate.

Where Science has in Plait an ally in the War against it, in Myers it finds a mixture of a pasionario and a pasdaran. For a guy competing in Best Science Blog he has definitely shown too short a temper and too high a willingness to shower insults to anybody in sight. Not sure how he won anything last year, but I do wonder how (highly) lively and how (pretty) meaningless the commentaries on Myers’ blog must be.

Well, I’ll keep wondering. Pharyngula? No thanks. I’ll stay away from it.

Conclusions (and a Prayer)

In a sense, both BA and CA show strong signs of being more than a little bit prisoners of their own background. One cannot criticize mainstream science, the other can only criticize mainstream science. One can only think climate change is strong science, the other cannot think it is strong at all.

Is BA better than CA? The other way around? Who knows?

The one thing that can be learned is that as in so many other endeavours, anthropogenic-global-warming (AGW) advocacy poisons everything it touches

In fact, there is one big difference between McIntyre and Plait. The former can afford talking graciously of the latter. Phil Plait instead only (mostly?) sees global warming skeptics as “denialists”: being at war _and_ in the AGW camp, out of sheer comradery he simply has to sing in tune with question-dodging debate-challenged censors like RealClimate’s Gavin Schmidt.

McIntyre may then look a tad more gracious than Plait regarding the BSB prize, but that’s also because his war is of much more limited size than Plait’s.


May the Bad Astronomer wake up one day to the fact that if there is a War on Science out there, it is not the only game in town. And so it is possible to honestly doubt the dire predictions of contemporary mainstream climatology: just as one can be a honest cosmologist and still not believe in strings or dark energy.

I am optimistic about it. You see, being a Skeptic, Phil Plait is bound to agree with that. What is the point of being very strict in analyzing and refuting the claims s that prayer can heal you, only to support shoddy politicized statements by the IPCC on climate?

One last thing though. Did I mention this already? Pharyngula is a foul-mouthed blog too full of its author.

Written by omnologos

2007/Dec/10 at 23:26:10

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The Best Science Blog 2007 Saga (2 of 3)

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Phil Plait’s Bad Astronomy (BA) and Steve McIntyre’s Climate Audit (CA) have been awarded the 2007 Weblogs Award for Best Science blog. Remarkably, they are both prisoners of their own devices: BA cannot criticize mainstream science, CA can only criticize mainstream science. They are both great blogs and their shared Award is a honest snapshot of their relative merits. PZ Myers’ Pharyngula, on the other hand…

The Best Science Blog 2007 Saga (1 of 3) – Introduction and The Bad Astronomy Blog
The Best Science Blog 2007 Saga (2 of 3) – The Climate Audit Blog and The Weblogs Award for Best Science Blog committee
The Best Science Blog 2007 Saga (3 of 3) – Pharyngula and Conclusions (and a Prayer)

Climate Audit
CA is a great blog too, especially if you have a fixation with climate.

It is very much different from BA. Its remit is almost exclusively climate-related stuff, and there is an apparent generational gap (so we don’t read of McIntyre’s favourite actresses, TV shows or cartoon characters).

As it says on the tin, CA is a long-running audit of the various claims done in the name of Climate Change and in particular of Anthropogenic Global Warming (AGW). It is a great way to learn the details of all that has to happen before things get published, as we are lead through various investigations on where and how bark samples are collected for example, and what needs to be thought and done (a lot) to translate an ice core into a record of past temperatures. At every step of the way, the list of assumptions grows while unavoidable errors pile up.

Having seen a few egregious examples, one would be tempted to say the AGW motto is, never let actual data get in the way of with a good interpretation.

Curiously for an audit, CA ends up doing much original research: the way the AGW community is presented by McIntyre, a great deal of samples and raw data are hidden away from the view of almost everybody but the original authors (a rather awful, unscientific way to conduct scientific research).

With these obstacles nastily thrown in his path, all the activity and attention for the detail that make Steve McIntyre an indefatigable auditor may also make him sound at times verging on the insane. Yet one can only admire him for a remarkable Climate Audit career that includes the effective destruction in 2003 with Ross McKitrick of Michael Mann’s Hockey Stick of temperature, once the Great “Smoking Gun” Hope for the AGW community and now hidden away in obscure temperature graphs (yes, not even the IPCC believes in it any longer, even if they can’t help inserting it here and there) (just look at it now, it’s a golf club at best).

More recently in August 2007, McIntyre got interviewed by major media outlets after discovering a 1-degree C “y2k” jump in NASA’s published temperature readings for the USA (note that the consensus on global warming so far is only 0.6C so the “jump” was 40% bigger) (by the way: James Hansen, head of the NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies, recognized the error but couldn’t help kicking and screaming, demonstrating once and for all that “AGW science” is not “Science” but a political party if not a religion, or even a personal quest for glory).

Notably, both of those errors were towards warming. Perhaps that means the AGW community if left to its own devices only corrects upwards. Or perhaps, as pointed out by Phil Plait of BA, the CA blogger only tries to find the warming-ward flaws in the climate science mainstream, not in the sometimes absurd counter-proposals circulating in the AGW-skeptic community. Time will tell which is which. Perhaps one day McIntyre will find a NASA flaw pointing in the other direction.

The criticism about not auditing the claims of anti-AGWers is valid up to a point. What is the CA “audience”? It is not the general public. CA “competes” with other climate-science blogs, such as for example RealClimate, created and managed at NASA by “real scientists” who unfortunately don’t think twice about being partisan, censoring adverse commentaries and even preventing the release of their methodologies and raw data.

McIntyre’s personal fight is not with the whole world, but with the most unscientific bits of the AGW science community.

The Weblogs Award for Best Science Blog committee
One wonders how often it happens. A poll is set up online for some good-natured fun competition among a disparate set of people. Everything goes fine until a few days before the poll closure, when for some reason a group of voters hijacks the poll, making a storm in the proverbial teacup.

I remember ten years ago an internet poll to vote for the most beautiful (British?) girl, with several of my colleagues happily clicking away for somebody called Laudie the Toadie or something of the sort (yes, an amphibian).

What happened with the BSB 2007 was obviously much less good-natured. My impression is that the toxins came out of the nasty atmosphere surrounding climate change discussions. At one point somebody decided either that CA had to be prevented from winning, or that CA had to be helped get the top spot.

It doesn’t matter, as “the opposite party” quickly decided to fight with the same arms, and so the mad voting started. Whatever the original BSB poll was for, we can be sure that it lost any validity as soon as fellow competitor JunkScience encouraged people to vote CA, and fellow competitor Pharyngula suggested their readed to vote BA.

Voting rates reached then amazing levels. Worse, even if the count at closing time indicated CA in front of BA, mysteriously the subsequent “checks” put BA in the lead. Talk about a hot potato. At one point I wondered if the competition would be decided by the Supreme Court after a hurricane of lawsuits perhaps even brought up independently of Plait and McIntyre.

At the end, some “fancy footwork” meant BA and CA got recognized at Best Science Blogs, with 20,000 votes each. Surely, this will leave some lingering issue with the awards…who gets on top is not “Best of” but “Most capable of getting clicks”. Perhaps in 2008 they should rename it as “Most popular”?

Congratulations though, to the committee.


Written by omnologos

2007/Nov/30 at 21:18:05

Posted in Uncategorized

This is a test

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Apologies, I need to properly test FeedBlitz for this blog…

Written by omnologos

2006/Nov/13 at 00:25:57

Posted in Uncategorized

Think the Unthinkable: Make Bombing a War Crime

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Lives of enemy civilians have already little importance but in hypocritical declarations for the media.  

The progressive increase in the ratio between civilian and military casualties has been a sad trend during the history of war. Together with the overall rise in our weapons’ killing efficiency, it will only mean that in a few decades if not years, wars will be fought with zero dead among the warriors, and millions among the rest of humanity

Actually, the fact that wars mainly kill and maim people with no weapon, no intention to use weapons and posing absolutely no danger whatsoever to the enemy, is considered sound and sensible. It is accepted. 

But it really makes no sense


I was surprised actually this week at my relief when finally Israel soldiers marched into Lebanon, instead of just the usual rounds of military airplanes trying to “surgically” act and killing hundreds of bystanders in the process (not to mention the distorted lives of countless children living in terror of the sound of bombers flying nearby)

Finally, I thought, there will be real people fighting each other directly, not through bombs far away

And so there will be the hope that a soldier won’t kill groups of children, like an airplane pilot does: perhaps, by the mere fact that the soldier will have to look at whom he’s killing, whilst the pilot gives his soul away to a robotic murderer.


Can bombardment be anything but a war crime?

In fact, say you are a Hizbullah fighter shooting rockets towards Israel. Are you aiming them at anything in particular? If not, anything and everything is your “target”. But then what are military advantages gained in killing mothers and children, something that is bound to happen? And if there aren’t what are you doing shooting those rockets but an indiscriminate killing, a crime then against the rules of war?

Say you are instead an Israeli pilot releasing a smart bomb to destroy a building where you’ve been told Hizbullah wdfd shooting rockets from. Imagine now the bomb actually hits that building, and not one nearby. Say, tens of children are killed. Even if somebody would be able to demonstrate the military advantages gained in doing that, who is going to do that? What independent tribunal will check your behavior? And still, if you were sorry about those children, what will make you less liable than a just-as-sorry person guilty of manslaughter?

This is not limited to Israel and Lebanon. The US and other forces have periodically justified the bombings of villages in Iraq and Afghanistan, as a justified way of targeting al-Qaeda terrorists.

Just as in Vietnam, we terminate lives in order to free them


The above does not even cover the use of cluster bombs, merrily floating towards the ground while luring little children to get near them toy-like killers

What do we do with killers and people committing manslaughter in “normal” life? Why would that have to be any different in war, apart than when all the people involved in the war are consciously doing so?


What kind of civilization are we talking about: one that has learn its ways out of the Nazi’s destruction of
Guernica in Spain during the local Civil War?

Are we willingly equating ourselves to the supposedly despised Nazis? Has any other Nazi policy or strategy been accepted in any other part of life?

And yet for some reason we all espouse the idea of “total war”, where every pram and every hospital bed in the enemy’s hands is to be bombed like an aircraft carrier or a dirty-bomb production facility

Instead, for the sake of safeguarding our lives, we give the Governments we have freely elected the power of taking out somebody else’s, however innocent, however young or old. How nice to sleep soundly with our consciences bloodily clean

Truly the Pearly Gates will open only for a few elected people!


What should a State do then, to fight another State or militia? Use a “novel” approach: send infantry with the precise aim of finding, routing, destroying the enemy soldiers.

You’re going to lose plenty of soldiers (if you can’t stomach that, surrender at once): but you will concentrate your fire power onto getting rid of the enemy’s ability to harm you and your country.


How can anything else be taken as reasonable?

What would you think of a racing driver wasting fuel in knocking down the mechanics of the other teams and their families, instead of focusing on winning the race with the minimal effort?

A more complete analogy would be: what would you think of a racing driver intent at (1) knocking out down the mechanics of the other teams and their families, (2) making the other drivers’ racing easier, and (3) lining up his own mechanics for the others to eliminate?

Because bombings have always elicited a stronger fighting mood in the enemy. And any civilian that dies as “collateral damage” is an argument in favor of exploding terrorist bombs among innocent bystanders


And so the Geneva Conventions must be expanded to prohibit all kinds of remote warfare, starting with bombing, but in the most exceptional circumstances (such as the targeting of military compounds)

We must protect civilians for our own sake. Because the idea that children and the elderly can be considered legitimate targets or even acceptable collateral damage surely is repugnant to anybody but mass murderers. Because it’s our lives that are becoming more and more cheap and expendable.

We must go back to the old ways of military confrontation between military forces. Anybody touching any person not actually fighting should be considered a war criminal and treated as such


Is this feasible? We know we could win wars by slaughtering each and every one in our enemy’s population. That’s what happened for thousands of years, and yet, we have managed to outlaw such a crime against humanity.

Many nations could have access to chemical arms of untold horror and killing potential. Many have used them, in World War I and up to the Second World War. And yet, we have managed to outlaw such a crime against humanity too

Ditto for nuclear weapons


The only thing preventing us from seeing bombings and all other kinds of “remote warfare” for the crimes they are, is the same thing that prevented our forebears to understand that wars need have rules too: and so until the Red Cross was founded, wounded enemy soldiers were left to die, and bayonets were badly-shaped for un-necessary harm


Think the Unthinkable: Make bombing a war crime

Written by omnologos

2006/Aug/02 at 22:57:39

Mobile phones, weapons of self defence

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Personal recording devices, and by that I mean especially mobile phones, will soon become a tool for reasserting our individual rights

Already now, one can record sound and even images with nobody noticing. Pictures are taken with no much of a fuss in the most unlikely of places, and whatever happens in the (connected) world, some sort of audio/video record usually tends to show up on the Internet (newsmedia are starting to make large use of user-provided content).

All you need for your mobile to become an electronic shield is some kind of wireless minicamera and a bit more memory on the phone

Your entire life will then be recordable *

And what could be there to record, as a way of defending oneself? For example: when asked for a bribery, the business person could walk into next police station and deposit the evidence of the crime.

Or when threatened by the mob, he or she will be able to throw back the threat. Or when confronting politicians that are trying to expand their sleaze empire, the “victim” will have the option of cashing in by sending the right files to scandal-hungry magazines

Elderly people will be able to show who attacked them in their house, and which carers treat them inhumanely

Children bullied at school won’t need to hide a thing, and life will become harder for sadistic teachers and nannies as well.

We’ll soon be able to literally see the last thing a murder’s victim was looking at

Even torturers will be in trouble, if they won’t take care of eliminating anything with an electronic memory: and still it may not be enough: one can imagine pictures being downloaded elsewhere continuously (it already happens with some mobile phone providers), so that even if the Bad People snatch the camera, what’s been snapped until then will be left for posterity

Expect a flurry of hi-tech bust-ups then not prepared by police. Ehi, even Robocop got out of trouble by showing what he had recorded.

And expect lots of “interesting” items appear on gossipy and even serious newspapers, mostly during the initial period, with people not smart enough to understand they are being filmed during 99% of their lives.

Things will definitely get better on several fronts for a while (and even if you’re the paradigm of honesty, just be careful about picking your nose in the street: your fame may be preceding you at your next job application)

But surely it will be no Paradise: criminals and evildoers will simply have to find a different way.

Some scandals will turn up to be elaborate hoaxes based on doctored pictures, and no doubt we will see discussions about that at trials, as entertaining as genetics during OJ Simpson’s

Still, it will be a progress. Hypocrisy will need a tad more effort to be maintained.

After all, the only freedom we are losing by getting our lives recorded, is the freedom of not having to face our individual consciences

(* How much memory? 24hx3600s/hx24pics/s=2 million pictures. Say, 320×240=76,800 pixels x 3 bytes = 230kB/pic

So one day is 230kB/pic * 2 million pics = 440 Megabytes. With a good compression rate, 200 Megabytes. Do we want to record while asleep? If not, 180 megabytes may suffice. How long before that much will be available on mobile phones? It is already. Average memory now is a bit more than 400 Megabytes)

Written by omnologos

2006/Jul/25 at 23:55:13

Making your own free buttons to get instant feedback (with Ecademy example)

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(1) Please make your own buttons. You can use the ones I have created at your own peril. I may change them, rename them, etc etc

(2) The instructions below may appear complicated. However, it is really easier done than explained. You really have to prepare the button-related code just once and then save it in your signature. If you want hyperlinked text, you will then have to re-edit your blog just once and insert the blog id in the code

(3) Experiment with it at will in order to familiarise yourself with it. As your "sandbox", send a message to yourself using the code

(4) There is an example at the bottom of this article

(5) All of this can be easily modified to accommodate for different kinds of feedback

(6) Any questions, contact me here



(a) Preferably, get your own buttons made and available on the net

1. Go to Button Maker and create your own button (or buttons)

2. Once each of them is created, save it to your PC (right-click, "Save Picture as")

3. Upload the buttons on your website of choice (eg where your own domain is hosted)

4. Collect the URL for each button (to be used later in substitution of BUTTON_URL)

***NOTE*** = You can get plenty of buttons at Steal These Buttons

(b) Use the buttons on your Ecademy blog You will need the following:

AUTHOR_ID = your Ecademy ID number (the number in your My Account hyperlink

HYPERLINKED_TEXT = text that will appear in the message, hyperlinked to your content

NON_HYPERLINKED_TEXT = text that will appear in the message, non-hyperlinked to your content Add the following button-related code to your signature/article/blog

(substitute the Bold variables with the values listed above)

<a href="[body]=%3Ca+href%3D%22node.php%3Fid%3CONTENT_ID%22%3EHYPERLINKED_TEXT%3C%2Fa%3ENON_HYPERLINKED_TEXT"><img src="http://BUTTON_URL" /></a>

***NOTE*** = Words in the text need to be separated by "+" (plus) signs, not spaces

(c) Submit your content Note the blog ID assigned to it by Ecademy (you can find that by clicking on the blog's title and looking at the URL in the address bar)

(d) Edit your blog to complete the URL in the message Substitute CONTENT_ID with the blog ID value found at point (c)



Using one of my buttons to create a message "Please blog me like this" to me about blog 57161

AUTHOR_ID = 22560

HYPERLINKED_TEXT = Please blog more


CONTENT_ID = 57161


<a href=""><img src="; /></a>

Written by omnologos

2005/Oct/12 at 02:02:28

Posted in Uncategorized

From SOA to the Service-Oriented Enterprise

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The concepts of Agility and Service-Oriented Architecture are being marketed specifically as a new revolution in the way IT is provided to the Business. Such a view is unnecessarily reductive at best (why only IT?) and self-defeating at worst (is SOA just a marketing fad?).
The benefits of Agility and SOA are not under discussion. But for them to fully succeed, IT can and must support its rationalization efforts by providing the ancillary but necessary tools in order to help the business undergo the associated cultural changes

Beyond Agile IT
The buzz regarding Agility and Service Orientation is about “breaking away from the past”. Old, monolithic, inflexible applications will be supplanted by new, swift, adaptable, communicative and nimble systems. There is however a distinct feeling that it may all be just hype, with interest fuelled mostly by large marketing campaigns.
In a computer-literate society, advertisement can indeed entice people to find more about the latest trend in information management services. Such an interest can then generate revenues for those that somehow manage to be at the forefront of the new technology.
One problem with this: in a computer-literate society, business managers are exposed to a profusion of industry magazines not afraid to deal with IT issues and their history, making increasingly difficult to close down an argument by saying, “So-and-so consultancy firm knows best”. The usual comparison is between the arguments used to promote Web Services and SOA and the 1990’s EDI “revolution-that-never-was”.
There are surely only so many times Clients can repeat the same mistake (spending on some new technology hoping for it to solve all sorts of problems and herald a new, efficient, cost-effective way to do business). In the case of Agile IT, the underlying challenge is to verify that the proposed architecture does really matter to the Business.
Forget technology for a short while then. Let’s concentrate on what the concepts of Agility and SOA mean to what the Business actually cares about, namely their business. Will this make the real difference and make the “it’s just hype” tribe to eat their hats?

Agile Business
Start from Project Finance: when more than a single business unit supports a project, complex approvals involve several senior business people. Those may actually feel encouraged to wait for the one area that will definitely need the new service, to pay for it on its own. The end result is a tardy, corporate sloth.
Just as in Procurement: even if everybody agrees that market data, hardware, software licenses, etc would cost much less if orders were always shared and coordinated, profligate corporations are seldom able to leverage resources they already paying for. Business areas source their requirements independently, fearing the risks and additional costs of “working together”.
Adding control layers in corporate HQ to overcome this situation would only make it worse. The promotion of SOA and Agility has to be based on encouraging the various business areas to finance service-oriented projects.
Additional budget can be rewarded to areas that build and share service-oriented systems and assets, and amortization plans refinanced, with yearly charges shared by all the areas that could benefit from them. In the true spirit of Agility, the entire organisation would push itself towards becoming an Agile, Service-Oriented Enterprise, where sharing encompasses everything, including teams re-shuffled to adapt to changing requirements. With each service and application clearly identifiable, out- and in-sourcing become simpler, at infrastructure and application management level.

IT and the Agile Enterprise
Not-agile and not-service-oriented organizations are resistant to change so IT must help instigate and drive SOA’s extension into the whole business, providing the necessary tools that will support such a change.
First of all, paraphrasing a political question: “who stays up with the sick system?” With services shared among several business areas, will anyone feel responsible for them, or will they all wait for HQ to take care?
IT can help Business Areas clarify ownership, for instance by involving the relevant business managers into all the decisions concerning the implementation of the service.
Collaboration tools can also encourage business areas to cooperate more effectively. These may include information share systems to internally publicize the services that are being built or planned for in the SOA, and that thus could be used by other areas.
The outcome data can then be used at Board level, where careful management will mean setting aside in the budget awards for the business areas more successful in providing services, providing therefore yet an additional incentive for SOA to become the norm. Additional monitoring tools for the Board can include metrics on which services are more shared, and communications channels letting the various business areas ask for financing or other kind of support when embarking in the realization of what can be a service for the entire Company

Conclusions: what IT can and should do to promote SOA
Leaving Agility confined to the IT area will make it just another fad ready to be supplanted by next marketing campaign. The alternative is for Service-Oriented Architecture concepts to be extended outside the IT departments and agility becoming simply the norm in most businesses, where the gains in terms of increased efficiencies and therefore productivity are all too evident.
Expanding SOA into Service-Oriented Enterprise will imply skills of Change Management not easy to be found, with failure beckoning and SOA getting discarded at the first possible occasion. It will be all too easy for IT personnel to behave like enlightened apostles of the new credo of Agility and Service-Oriented Architecture, condescendingly explaining them to the illiterate masses of senior business managers. Such a behaviour will not bring any fruitful results but (perhaps) in the few companies where the CIO/CTO has major decision powers.
Indeed, the cultural changes associated with Agility and Service-Orientation will have to start from IT itself. For once, there is the chance of helping the Business make and support the transition by providing the necessary tools on top of the new technology. If this opportunity will be taken not we will witness not only a major revolution in the way IT is provided, but even more importantly the entire Business-IT relationship finally getting into adulthood

Written by omnologos

2003/Oct/17 at 22:36:54

P.O.L.E.: Lunar colonies for improved quality-of-life

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Abstract submitted for the upcoming BIS symposium on "Human Future and Space"

This proposal covers the establishment of permanent lunar polar settlements, enriching the residents' quality-of-life by exploiting a low-gravity, controlled-atmosphere environment. Senior citizens, paraplegics, and patients recovering from major accidents are among the possible target groups. A temporary or permanent stay (roughly comparable to hydrotherapy) will extend and improve their lives, by helping the respiratory and circulatory system, facilitating rehab activity, lessening the chances of contracting infectious diseases, and making movements easier, with the added opportunity to explore the Moon (and to fly with one's own muscles). The settlements are built within terraformed caves of approximately 5km in diameter, simulating an Earth-like panorama

Written by omnologos

2003/Jun/04 at 09:36:43

Posted in Moon, Space, Uncategorized

Blog Generator

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Blog Generator

Hello i was wondering if i no longer qualify for a review interview since i haven't been updating on a daily basis due to the fact i'm traveling. The other day i was struggling very hard to write something for work and it was just not coming out. During passing time the other day i was just looking around and thinking how fast time gets with every year.

blog generator is a program based on the Catty 2 engine that browses a number of Web log servers found on Google, builds a database of hundreds of thousands phrases, and uses this to write a "stream of consciousness" text on a given subject. It is pretty amusing, and a useful tool for all bloggers. by Michal Zalewski

Written by omnologos

2003/Jan/31 at 14:23:01

Posted in Blogging, Uncategorized