Flickr seems to have become a stock photography alternative where companies entice business naive photographers into making their photos available for use for free.
I watched the film ‘The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen’ recently. Based on the comic books by Alan Moore, it is in the same vein as The Wild Wild West, full of anomalies and sly humour. It can however also be read as a metaphor for the relationship between the US and Europe and the struggle against Communism. I’m not sure of this is an unconscious carry over from the comics however, since I’m not a great comics fan. It would be dangerous to read too much into this of course, but popular culture so often reveals the underlying trends and opinions in society much better than journalism or academia.
Consider – the European members of the League are almost all either effete or depraved in some way - Dorian Gray – corrupt, licentious; Mina Harker – a vampire; Dr Jekyll/Mr Hyde – drug addict; Skinner the Invisible Man – a thief, misusing science for personal gain. Alan Quartermain is presented as the last gasp of the British Empire, while Nemo is now no longer a European, but a sword wielding Hindu mystic, proficient in both martial arts and science. Only the American member is uncomplicated, in the form of Tom Sawyer, fresh faced, energetic but essentially an Innocent Abroad. The members of the League redeem themselves in the end of course – this is still Entertainment not Art.
Their opponent is M (in a sly reference to the Bond movies) who turns out to be Moriarty with a declared aim of triggering world war and seizing power in the chaos. His secret hideout, deep in Siberia, is a hybrid of the Kremlin and the Dark Satanic Mills of Victorian England.
Consider too the ending – Quartermain lies dying while the final coup de grace is delivered to the villain by Sawyer, taking on the mantle of the old lion (the British Empire). At the very end though, the possibility is left open that there is still life in that lion yet.
I’ve finally got round to seeing ‘The Day After Tomorrow’. It is a fairly routine adventure story, topped off with great effects and lots of heroic ‘derring-do’. The nut jobs who complained about it as propaganda for the climate change lobby clearly need to get out more, because in the end the science in the film is there only to serve as a trigger for the action.
Some political points were made of course but they were nothing to do with climate change – I’m sure the irony of millions of illegal immigrants heading south over the Rio Grande into Mexico was not lost on US audiences for example. In the end though, to use the fact that a filmmaker takes liberties with the science of climate change for dramatic effect, as an argument against the reality is to say the least bizarre. I suspect that those who are still trying to deny what is going would be doing so in letters written in green ink if they didn’t have access to e-mail.
I don’t see such concern for scientific rigour in other films. As I've said before - how many buses can leap across 30 foot gaps in the roadway (Speed), how likely is it that a virus could be uploaded to a computer you've never seen, built using technology you have no idea about (Independence Day), how likely is it that you could clone a replica Hitler to take over the world (The Boys from Brazil) how likely is any of the action in any James Bond movie? And as for The Stepford Wives! Its one thing to criticise a move because it is badly written but really people - get a life!
The latest report from the IPCC seems to have finally demonstrated the reality of climate change and what we face over the next 100 years. The projections are frightening:
These predictions exclude areas of really tentative science. For example, there is no consensus about the effect of melting polar ice on currents like the Gulf Stream or about the speed with which it would happen. Because they have been excluded it is possible that the impact on sea levels would be much greater, while the impact on temperature is also uncertain. The scenario in The Day After Tomorrow is still one of the possibilities if rather more remote than once thought.
There are those scientific ignoramuses (ignorami?) who would argue that these uncertain impacts should have been included, thus widening the range of error. There are even more stupid people who decry the fact that scientists revise their views. Take this for example:
On July 24, 1974 Time Magazine published an article entitled "Another Ice Age?" Here's the first paragraph:
"As they review the bizarre and unpredictable weather pattern of the past several years, a growing number of scientists are beginning to suspect that many seemingly contradictory meteorological fluctuations are actually part of a global climatic upheaval. However widely the weather varies from place to place and time to time, when meteorologists take an average of temperatures around the globe they find that the atmosphere has been growing gradually cooler for the past three decades. The trend shows no indication of reversing. Climatological Cassandras are becoming increasingly apprehensive, for the weather aberrations they are studying may be the harbinger of another ice age."
Their conclusion then was "The trend shows no indication of reversing"! And, wonders of wonders, the impossible to conceive "reversing" occurred!
Take care with this because there is some fast footwork going on. See how the conclusion ‘The trend shows no indication of reversing’ morphs into ‘impossible to conceive’? If that isn’t scientific stupidity it is intellectual dishonesty – which is even worse because it is deliberate.
However, giving these people the benefit of the doubt, they clearly do not understand the idea of scientific method and its impact on uncertainty or even the concept of statistical uncertainty. I don’t think it is accidental that the most outspoken opponents of the thesis of human driven climate change are politicians and economists. Both groups claim to have the answer to your every ill, neither group shows any sign of understanding science and in general they do not progress by admitting of uncertainty of any kind, let alone on issues such as this. In that respect I thought the exchanges between the politicians and the scientists in The Day After Tomorrow to be quite realistic, as the politicians struggle with the political impact of bad news.
Those who deny the fact of climate change and its human component seem to be resorting to ever more desperate arguments in vain attempts to undermine the basic facts. The latest uses tentative suggestions that Mars is coming out of an ice age as the basis for an argument that this proves climate change on Earth is not man made. They ignore the fact that Mars doesn’t have large bodies of water and that the drivers of its climate will therefore be very different to those on Earth. Consequently the same event – whether it be sunspots or cosmic rays or whatever else is flavour of the month – is likely to lead have different climatic consequences on the two planets. They also seem quite happy to use scientific data gathered over a relatively short timescale – and recognised by its authors as highly tentative - to dispute decades of work by thousands of scientists.
You may have come across Mr Myron Ebell (an economist), who argues that the whole thing is a conspiracy to do down the US. It is Mr Ebell, (not a climatologist) who claimed that the UK Chief Scientist didn’t know what he was talking about because he wasn’t a climatologist. Spot the flaw in that argument? I’ve seen Mr Ebell described as an intellectual terrorist and that isn’t wrong. He is certainly willing to shift his ground and argue black is white so I suppose we have to class him as a politician too. This site documents Ebell’s activities quite comprehensively.
He isn’t alone of course – take this comment on the Guardian Comment is Free site.
Environmentalists just form the rump of the social scientist west-hating morons who are actually willing the environment to collapse so they can say I told you so and blame the US.
Sadly such hysteria is all too common. It probably means a dim future for our children and grandchildren.