Daily archives: October 3, 2011

Daily Blog 10/03/2011

  • Since its early days, science fiction has played a unique role in human civilization. It removes the limits of what “is” and shows us a boundless vista of what “might be.” Its fearless heroes, spectacular technologies and wondrous futures have inspired many people to make science, technology and space flight a real part of their lives and in doing so, have often transformed these fictions into reality. The National Space Society and Baen Books applaud the role that science fiction plays in advancing real science and have teamed up to sponsor this short fiction contest in memory of Jim Baen.

    tags: science fiction

  • One of the things that appeals to me about science is that, unlike religion, science is not dogmatic. It does not say: “This is the way things are, and it can be no other way.” Instead it says something like: “Based on the evidence we have so far, this is how things probably are; if clear and solid evidence is discovered that shows this is not how things are, then we will need to change our minds.”

    tags: science religion

Posted from Diigo. The rest of my favorite links are here.

The truth isn’t enough for some people 1

When you wonder what would happen if a conspiracy theorist were to come across a genuine conspiracy (or, at least, a crime committed by more than one person, which I think qualifies as a conspiracy), you know the result isn’t going to be anything like a Mel Gibson movie. You know it’s going to be more like this-

I have a go-to blog to keep track of conspiracy theories. Luckily for me the guy who runs it is also a Christian fundamentalist, creationist homophobe. So this one blog keeps me up to date on what’s incensing the intolerant and uninformed without having to follow any others.

Late last week he ran a story he’d picked up from another paranoia site called infowars, which I believe is considered some sort of nexus for this stuff. The story- well, the basic story- is that a British outfit called New Forests Company is working with the Ugandan government to evict farmers from land so it can be planted with trees which will be traded as carbon offsets by large polluters. The Ugandan Police or military, possibly with NFC’s knowledge and approval, were violent in their eviction tactics, leading to at least one death. To compound the heavy handed evictions, the farmers received little or no recompense and have been moved to land they can’t get as good a yield from.

This much of the story, at least, is backed up by Oxfam, who have started their own investigation.

This is unpleasant, another example of representatives of a developed nation corrupting, or taking advantage of the corruption of, a less developed nation for profit. It’s been the way throughout history, from the first explorers up to BP in Iran and Shell in the Ogoniland area of Nigeria. We should do something to draw attention to them, punish the perpetrators and get the dispossessed back their land.

Did the conspiracy theorists say any of this? Or suggest signing up to Oxfam’s Grow campaign to find out what you can do about it.

Of course they didn’t.

They layered a confection of a conspiracy theory onto it, inventing connections which aren’t there and obscuring the truth beneath their fantasies. This isn’t another example of corporate misbehaviour, they say. Instead it’s all about “mainstream media silence, climate change and humanitarian scams, neo-colonialism under the guise of protecting against climate change, land grabs, and UN and Big Pharma eugenicists working towards population reduction as part of a global regime”. This sewage of talking points they regurgitate, trying to force their pet hates into holes that aren’t even there, hides the real crime.

If these people who like to think of themselves as brave seekers of truth and revealers of corruption really were then they wouldn’t belittle genuine problems by including them in their fantasies. If they truly cared about the victims of this Ugandan land grab they’d stick to reporting the unpleasant truth rather than discarding it so they can repeat their unbelievable fantasies.

Ultimately, as I’ve said before, the rantings of conspiracy theorists distract from crimes that really have been committed and help no-one but the criminals whose escape they help to cover.

Update A commenter across the way found this article from the Guardian and this one from the BBC which suggest the land grab is bigger than just NFC’s actions.

And now, the end is near…..

Does anyone else get the feeling we’re building towards something? It’s turning into an odd year. From the Arab Spring through riots in Britain and civil war in Libya and more. The tension’s been building all year, with the occasional release being scary and occasionally surreal.

Right now, thousands of people are occupying Wall Street, and parts of various other US cities. As Kryten re-tweeted, it’s beginning to look like the American Autumn*. As the Conservative Party are holding their conference in the city** there was an Occupy Manchester on Albert Square after yesterday’s big demo. I’m going into town tomorrow to see if it’s still there, take photos and see if I can get inspiration for a quick topical novelette.

It all feels like it’s building up to something, a grand finale I can’t begin to guess. Trying to guess has got me a little twitchy, and finding it hard to concentrate on the work I was supposed to be doing today. Most likely whatever happens next will be an anti-climax, but can it please disappoint me soon so I can get over this anxiety I’m feeling.

*Autumn is more appropriate than Fall because a. we’re British and Fall is an annoying Americanism (don’t get me started on the lazy and arrogant way that US studios don’t bother replacing Fall with Autumn in trailers which show over here.) and b. American Fall sounds a bit more sinister than I think the demonstrators’ aims really are.

**Irony may be an organisation with so many climate change deniers in its ranks starting their conference the day after Britain’s hottest recorded October day.

Manchester Model Railway Show 2011

Manchester Model Railway Show 2011

Photos from the show on Saturday. What you may notice is that, although it was a model railway show, there are not that many photos of trains in the gallery. I’m more interested in the scenery, architecture and vignettes which appear away from the railway lines than in the rolling stock itself. However, I did get to put a tiny video camera on a few of the larger gauge trains and run them through layouts. When I make the time, I shall edit the footage together.