Why Science

I love science. I never though I would say that when I was 15 yrs old sitting bored in the classroom doing the bare minimum to scrape through.

Now, I often wish I had followed up scientific endeavour. However, at previous times I have also wished I had done English or computer science and also I don’t know if I wold enjoy doing the tricky boring bits rather than just reading about the theoretical frameworks and applications. But I was a massive sci-fi junkie when I was younger so I guess once the real world caught up with me it was a natural progression.

But for the last four or five years this fascination has crept over me. I particularly enjoy particle physics and space. It thrills me to think that we are picking apart the fabric of the universe. Trying to answer the biggest questions by of existence by looking at the smallest things, things that are so small you can fit a trillion of them into a centimetre. We are creating telescopes that can explore the universe, find new suns, planets with the potential for life and crazy celestial bodies like pulsars or black holes that have the mass billion times the mass of our sun. But my interest in science is wide ranging and does not stop there.

I was recently reading an article about psychology and how the physics side of it and the human experience side of it both need to be looked at to try and explain consciousness. Other readings have led to my understanding that our human experience of things does not get it wrong, but it cannot see what is really happening. Our brains cannot visualise space time, as we live in a 3D world.

This is a great quote that says what I like about science better than I can myself:

“A pioneering generation of stars had to die in spectacular supernovae to seed space with the heavier elements needed for the rise of self-replicating bags of chemicals, on a rocky planet orbiting a young star at just the right distance. The competitive pressures of natural selection made possible the accession of creatures with nervous systems. As the complexity of these systems grew to staggering proportions, some of the creatures evolved the ability to reflect on themselves, to contemplate their beautiful but cruel world.”

Christof Koch, ‘We’re closing in on consciousness in the brain’ in New Scientist (04/2012).

Basically, everyone should have a subscription to New Scientist – its breadth of topics is inspiring each week. It is a window on the future.

Come to think of it, I was mentioned in there once- I entered a competition to predict what the big invention of the next 30 years would be. The winner was some boring (but I obviously understand: useful) invention like the cure for cancer. I was mentioned in the also fans for predicting we would invent miniaturised power sources that would enable highly manoeuvrable personalised transport, similar to wasp wings. They laughed at me but it was cool to get a shout out.


Killing your own meat

If you were told that you had to kill the next animal you ate, could you do it? What about every time you ate meat?

I stumbled across an article about the strange activities of some high level executives here (http://chiefexecutive.net/mark-zuckerberg-kills-a-goat-and-11-other-bizarre-ceo-hobbies) the other day. Among various weird and wonderful things such as jousting and hunting elephants, there was one that really stood out to me. It was Mark Zuckerberg from Facebook and his ‘thing’ is that he only eats meat that he kills himself.

I have talked to a few people about this (not the most suitable dinner time topic I learned) and often the first reaction is that it is such a disgusting thing to do. My first thought was very different than that, I was thrilled at the idea.

I think this is such a strong statement on a number of levels.

Before I go on, I will state that I love eating meat and think it is a good thing for us to eat it. But, like the animals that are bred for to be our dinner, we are a highly conditioned species. We do not question things if we enjoy them. If we enjoy an activity, we make excuses to our consciousness that allow us to continue.

So if we had to kill our own meat, I bet a lot of people would rather stop eating it! Would you? If you had to kill a poor, cute little cow that was innocently chilling with his family in a field, just so you could enjoy a burger would you do it? Or would you re-consider it?

So why do I think Mark Zuckerberg’s killing his own meat is so good?

First of all I actually think we should eat less meat. Eating it in just one meal a day would have huge benefits to both ourselves and the planet. How? First of all we would eat more fruit and vegetables. You don’t hear the government telling us to eat more meat, right? But they are always saying to eat more fruit n veg.

If we used the land that livestock was raised on to grow crops, fruit and veg then we would have more food to go around- cows and sheep take up a lot of room. Obviously that is never going to happen and people need to meat, but if a higher proportion of our diets was none meat, then this could be possible. The Japanese live the longest and they mainly eat rice and fish.

The knock on effect of having more vegetation on the land rather than livestock is that we can further help reduce rising CO2 emissions and the earth can breath more easily. Cows also produce a percentage of the methane that is part of the greenhouse gas mix.

But the most significant reason, I thought, that MZ killing his own meat was good, was because it promotes awareness and responsible thoughts. I have few doubts he is not going kill a pig every time he fancies a hotdog, he is going consume food responsibly.

In the west we completely take food for granted. In other parts of the world (and I can’t say this sounds appealing to me) they treat the parts of the animal that can’t feed many people as delicacies eg. Chickens claws. We waste so much of the animals we eat. We don’t kill animals so we can eat them, we rear them to be fat so we can eat meat from their juicy bits and throw away the rest.

I think it is admiral that a public figure such as Zuckerberg is trying to act like a environmentally responsible person and only eating meat knowing from where it has come. I don’t agree that people should only eat meat they kill themselves, but it is good to know you are living responsibly.

My personal reaction to this is that I have started to only eat meat for my evening meal, which is my biggest meal of the day. This is a big change for me.

I also think a corollary is that we should bring back local butchers to villages or only eat responsibly sourced meat from super markets. And I think there should be more information in supermarkets about where our meat comes from. I don’t know, maybe some do already?

I would love responses on this…

How I lost half a stone by changing 2 tiny things

I have lost half a stone since Christmas!! But I haven’t changed very much at all. It’s just the things I have changed are paying dividends!!

First, I stopped eating a proper breakfast. Now I only eat a banana. So much for breakfast being the most important meal of the day! I now think that that statement falls in-line with my previous blogs about people accepting what they are told to easily.

One thing I have noticed that is very surprising about eating far less for breakfast, is that I am no more hungry by midday. All these years it was just a myth. Breakfast is actually not important at all!

The other thing I have done is stopped putting sugar in my coffee. This has had a knock on effect- I now only want to drink “proper” coffee and find that I need less of it. So am down to 2 cups a day. An it tastes so good!

They are the only things I have done! I have literally lost 7lbs!

Small print: before Christmas I had put on a stone by working too hard and eating lots of takeaways. So maybe I am just finding my natural weight again.

An unexpected perk of the job

I run a company with my father that makes history education resources. One of our products is this super cool history atlas that lets you navigate to a place eg. Italy, and then see what has happened to it through the course of history.

It then let’s you zoom out to read an overview of European history eg. The Roman Empire was collapsing with the lead up to the dark ages. And it then it let’s you zoom out further to see and read what was happening in the world at the time eg while the Roman Empire was collapsing, the Gupta civilization in India was flourishing, as we’re the Nazca in South America.

You can find it here The TimeMap of World History.

A consequence of being immersed in history all day long is that I am learning about where things happened and how it all influences each other. So when I was in the Scottish National Gallery in Edinburgh last weekend, I was looking at the art, then the date and was trying to piece things together.

It was fascinating for me to think about how the pre-enlightenment artists stuck to religious or classic themes from the Greeks because they were taught by tutors rather than books because there werent any printing presses then.

In the area dedicated to Scottish artists, I saw that many of them got more imaginative throughout the beginning of industrialisation as a way of escaping the drudgery or they were trying to bring some colour to the dreariness.

So next time you are in n art gallery and you want to give the art a contextual back drop, try using timemaps and understand it a little more. Or use it help you make wild assumptions that were probably way out but perhaps enjoy it more, like I did.

Technology provides freedom

I think I may have accidentally become an Apple fan boy.

Since our company has moved into the app market, we thought it makes sense that we should get an iPad, iPhone, and Android device so that we could actually see what we were producing. We operate at a high level of intelligence in our office!

Since we got them, the iPad has not left my hand. I love it. It provides me with access to the internet that I did not previously have by taking the time to boot up my clunky laptop to browse. The iPad makes everything easy. I use it mainly for consumption – I am on the pulse (literally, with an app called Pulse) with all my favourite news and websites, which have rapidly increased in number to cover all of my interests. I use it check all my email accounts and analytics. I watch tv programs and films on it when I am going to bed. It provides my social networks for use with both business (Twitter) and personal (Facebook). It lets me play loads of cool games. It encourages me to learn through websites like Mixergy (awesome for startup businesses) and iTunes U that have more interesting graphics, animations and diagrams than normal books.

But it is mainly for consumption. For indulging myself in content.

Then I got an iPhone. This has been as much of a revelation to me. I use it as a camera – which is awesome. I have started to make videos so I can provide tutorials with our products to reduce the fear of ‘new product syndrome’. It syncs up to my iPad so I use them both as a calender and since it is always with me, I have alarms going off all day long to remind me what I have to do.

But the most surprising thing I have found is that it has given me the freedom to blog, which is my new favourite hobby – no matter how terrible I am at it. I can blog on the tube, on the train, on the bus, in my bed (importantly as I try and write something before I get out of bed each day). But having an all you can eat data plan makes me feel a sense of liberation to create in the time and spaces that suit me. I have always loved the written word, so I really enjoy making my own and think its very worthwhile to give a back drop of my on-line profile.

So I have accidentally fallen into being an advocate of mobile learning, pure and simply through experience. People like me (God help them) learn best and find creativity in our own time and space. Technology allows us this freedom.