Brian Micklethwait's Blog
In which I continue to seek part time employment as the ruler of the world.Home
6000 on Nine reflections
Simon Gibbs on The River Thames carpet
Brian Micklethwait on The River Thames carpet
Simon Gibbs on The River Thames carpet
Alan Little on The localness of London's weather
Michael Jennings on Sacred architecture and profane roof clutter - a speculation
Friday Night Smoke on The River Thames carpet
Michael Jennings on Bombardier Embrio
Brian Micklethwait on ASI Boat Trip 6: Crowd scenes
Simon Gibbs on ASI Boat Trip 6: Crowd scenes
Most recent entries
- ASI Boat Trip 7: Other photographers
- Nine reflections
- The localness of London’s weather
- Round headlights equals an old car
- The River Thames carpet
- Cats … on scaffolding … with shadows …
- Sacred architecture and profane roof clutter - a speculation
- ASI Boat Trip 6: Crowd scenes
- Self-healing concrete
- Bombardier Embrio
- Football comment
- Quota bird
- ASI Boat Trip 5: Individuals
- New London bridge competition
Other Blogs I write for
6000 Miles from Civilisation
A Decent Muesli
Adventures in Capitalism
Alex Ross: The Rest Is Noise
Another Food Blog
Antoine Clarke's Election Watch
Armed and Dangerous
Art Of The State Blog
Boatang & Demetriou
Burning Our Money
Chase me ladies, I'm in the cavalry
China Law Blog
Civilian Gun Self-Defense Blog
Coffee & Complexity
Communities Dominate Brands
Confused of Calcutta
Conservative Party Reptile
Counting Cats in Zanzibar
Deleted by tomorrow
Don't Hold Your Breath
Douglas Carswell Blog
Dr Robert Lefever
Englands Freedome, Souldiers Rights
Everything I Say is Right
Fat Man on a Keyboard
Ferraris for all
Freedom and Whisky
From The Barrel of a Gun
Gates of Vienna
Global Warming Politics
Greg Mankiw's Blog
Guido Fawkes' blog
Here Comes Everybody
Hit & Run
House of Dumb
Iain Dale's Diary
Jeffrey Archer's Official Blog
Jessica Duchen's classical music blog
Laissez Faire Books
Last of the Few
Libertarian Alliance: Blog
Liberty Dad - a World Without Dictators
Lib on the United Kingdom
Little Man, What Now?
Loic Le Meur Blog
L'Ombre de l'Olivier
London Daily Photo
Metamagician and the Hellfire Club
Michael J. Totten's Middle East Journal
More Than Mind Games
Mutualist Blog: Free Market Anti-Capitalism
My Boyfriend Is A Twat
My Other Stuff
Nation of Shopkeepers
Never Trust a Hippy
Non Diet Weight Loss
Nurses for Reform blog
Obnoxio The Clown
On an Overgrown Path
One Man & His Blog
Owlthoughts of a peripatetic pedant
Oxford Libertarian Society /blog
Patri's Peripatetic Peregrinations
Police Inspector Blog
Private Sector Development blog
Remember I'm the Bloody Architect
Setting The World To Rights
SimonHewittJones.com The Violin Blog
Sky Watching My World
Social Affairs Unit
Squander Two Blog
Stuff White People Like
Stumbling and Mumbling
Technology Liberation Front
The Adam Smith Institute Blog
The Becker-Posner Blog
The Belgravia Dispatch
The Belmont Club
The Big Blog Company
The Big Picture
the blog of dave cole
The Corridor of Uncertainty (a Cricket blog)
The Daily Ablution
The Devil's Advocate
The Devil's Kitchen
The Dissident Frogman
The Distributed Republic
The Early Days of a Better Nation
The Examined Life
The Fly Bottle
The Freeway to Serfdom
The Future of Music
The Happiness Project
The Jarndyce Blog
The London Fog
The Long Tail
The Lumber Room
The Online Photographer
The Only Winning Move
The Policeman's Blog
The Road to Surfdom
The Wedding Photography Blog
The Welfare State We're In
UK Commentators - Laban Tall's Blog
UK Libertarian Party
Violins and Starships
we make money not art
What Do I Know?
What's Up With That?
Where the grass is greener
White Sun of the Desert
Why Evolution Is True
Your Freedom and Ours
Arts & Letters Daily
Bjørn Stærk's homepage
Butterflies and Wheels
Dark Roasted Blend
Digital Photography Review
Ghana Centre for Democratic Reform
Global Warming and the Climate
History According to Bob
Institut économique Molinari
Institute of Economic Affairs
Ludwig von Mises Institute
Oxford Libertarian Society
The Christopher Hitchens Web
The Space Review
The TaxPayers' Alliance
This is Local London
UK Libertarian Party
Victor Davis Hanson
WSJ.com Opinion Journal
Bits from books
Bloggers and blogging
Brian Micklethwait podcasts
Cats and kittens
Food and drink
How the mind works
Media and journalism
Middle East and Islam
My blog ruins
Signs and notices
The Micklethwait Clock
This and that
Category archive: Science
From Stuff Matters by Mark Miodownik (pp. 80-81):
Given that literally half of the world’s structures are made from concrete, the upkeep of concrete structures represents a huge and growing effort. To make matters more difficult, many of these structures are in environments that we don’t want to have to revisit on a regular basis, such as the Oresund bridge connecting Sweden and Denmark, or the inner core of a nuclear power station. In these situations it would be ideal to find a way to allow concrete to look after itself, to engineer concrete to be self-healing. Such a concrete does now exist, and although it is in its infancy it has already been shown to work.
The story of these self-healing concretes started when scientists began to investigate the types of life forms that can survive extreme conditions. They found a type of bacterium that lives in the bottom of highly alkaline lakes formed by volcanic activity. These lakes have pH values of 9-11, which will cause burns to human skin. Previously it had been thought, not unreasonably, that no life could exist in these sulphurous ponds. But careful study revealed life to be much more tenacious than we thought. Alkaliphilic bacteria were found to be able to survive in these conditions. And it was discovered that one particular type called B. Pasteurii could excrete the mineral calcite, a constituent of concrete. These bacteria were also found to be extremely tough and able to survive dormant, encased in rock, for decades.
Self-healing concrete has these bacteria embedded inside it along with a form of starch, which acts as food for the bacteria. Under normal circumstances these bacteria remain dormant, encased by the calcium silicate hydrate fibrils. But if a crack forms, the bacteria are released from their bonds, and in the presence of water they wake up and start to look around for food. They find the starch that has been added to the concrete, and this allows them to grow and replicate. In the process they excrete the mineral calcite, a form of calcium carbonate. This calcite bonds to the concrete and starts to build up a mineral structure that spans the crack, stopping further growth of the crack and sealing it up.
It’s the sort of idea that might sound good in theory but never work in practice. But it does work. Research now shows that cracked concrete that has been prepared in this way can recover 90 per cent of its strength thanks to these bacteria. This self-healing concrete is now being developed for use in real engineering structures.
Maybe Miodownik is very good at explaining things, or maybe I am just ready to be learning this stuff. Probably both. I chose that excerpt because my average reader may not know about such things as bacteria which automatically repair concrete. But the truth is that I am almost embarrassed by how much I am reading that is new to me, or only vaguely known, as a sort of historical rumour.
I had no idea, to take just one example, who invented/discovered stainless steel, or where, or how. Now, I have a much better idea. The story is told on page 29 of this book, which I heartily recommend to all technological illiterates who would like not to be technological illiterates.
Every once in a while I hear or read about someone who sees sound, as colour, different sorts of sounds as different colours. (As you can tell from the links at the bottom of this, I just did this again, on purpose.) What the hell are these people talking about? You don’t see sound, you hear it.
But, I have learned enough of the contrasting natures and nervous systems of different people to know that claims of this sort are probably true, in the sense that this is indeed what it feels like to those making such claims, even if the claims made no sense whatever to me. (Here is another piece by me, about how different people differ, this time with respect to the notion that you (i.e. they) can decide what you (they) believe. To me, what you believe is what you actually do believe, and you can no more change it with a mere decision than you can decide to grow another foot. But other people clearly can change what they believe, in just this cavalier fashion. What they actually, deep down, think is true doesn’t seem to matter to them. To me: bewildering and bizarre. To them: obvious and commonplace.)
So anyway, back to those bizarre and bewildering people who see sounds, different sounds as different colours.
I now understand these people much better.
Because, yesterday morning, for a fleeting instant, it happened to me.
Immediately after it happened, I hastily bashed some notes into a computer file describing what I had just experienced, and that is the file that I am now typing further and more considered thoughts into now.
What happened was that I awoke, to the sound of my alarm clock. This alarm clock makes a high pitched beeping noise: beep, pause, beep, pause, beep, pause ...
And, I experienced this sound as ... white.
That is correct. I saw the sound. And the sound was just as white as the background colour of the file into which I am now typing, or the background colour of this blog posting as you are now looking at it.
I never experience sounds a colours when fully conscious. But it makes perfect sense to me that experiences I may only have during the weird moment when I am neither entirely awake nor entirely asleep, but am moving from the latter state to the former state, might be experiences that others may have much more frequently, even when fully awake. Or, fully awake by their standards.
Yesterday morning, for that fleeting, bleeping instant, some sort of weird connection was being made between my ears and the bit of brain where colours get processed and reflected upon, a place where all incoming messages are interpreted as colours no matter what they were originally, a connection that doesn’t normally occur, or perhaps which continues to occur when I am fully awake, but so weakly compared to the connections made between my ears and and the sound processing part of my brain as to be undetectable.
All I have to believe, about those strange people who see sounds as colours all the time, is that they experience what I very briefly experienced yesterday morning, but much more strongly than I did and do. This is not now hard for me to imagine, not hard at all.
A very quick skim-read of this wikipedia article about chromesthesia (which is the particular sort of synesthesia that turns sound into colour, as opposed to just something into something else) did to tell me that chromosthesia can happen particularly when you are waking up, but that could be wrong.
However, I did spot (at the other end of the chromesthesia link above) this:
However, all studies to date have reported that synesthetes and non-synesthetes alike match high pitched sounds to lighter or brighter colors and low pitched sounds to darker tones, indicating that there may be some common mechanism that underlies the associations present in normal adult brains.
So, I am not alone in associating a high pitched bleep with a very light colour, in my case the lightest colour of the lot.
A commenter on one of the climate skeptic blogs, I think at Bishop Hill, provided a link to this fascinating posting, at Coyote Blog.
The Coyote man combines three tendencies that he sees in global temperatures. First, there is a warming process that has been going on since the Little Ice Age. Second, there is a slight kink upwards in this graph, very slight, associated with recent CO2 increase. Third, there is an oscillating wave, for some reason involving a couple of acronyms. And the result is a graph that seems to fit the recent facts better than any other graph I’ve seen. Certainly better than that idiot hockey stick.
If Coyote is right about all this, and he is in fact only semi-serious about it, then the global temperature will soon be seen to be inching downwards, until about 2030, at which point it will then turn back towards relatively rapid heating, again, along the lines of what happened from circa 1970 to circa 2000. So, a few We Will Freeze years, followed by some more We Will Fry decades.
However, we’re talking tiny numbers here. None of this is remotely describable as a catastrophe, even in the long run.
Coyote says he developed this stuff six years ago. But I could find no link back to him actually saying this six years ago. Pity.
Not for the first time, I find myself wishing that I could live another two hundred years rather than for about another twenty or probably less. What will happen to global temperatures for the next century or so? How will the politics of it all play out? I’d love to live long enough to find out. But, I won’t.
This started out as a jokey posting about climate science. It ended up as yet another rumination on the process of getting old. When you are young you are going to live indefinitely. You will die, eventually. But too long into the future for this event to be distinguishable for practical purposes from never. Then, rather suddenly, that all changes.
I recently did another climate science posting at Samizdata.
I still can’t get used to the internet. I never really will. You can find all kinds of stuff out in a few seconds. You know that, and so do I know it. But, unlike (probably) you, I will never get truly used to this.
Last night, for instance, there was a TV show on about Fossils, fronted by this old Fossil Professor, and mention was made of – and a little sliver of film was shown of – a building (with lots of fossils in it) called the Royal Ontario Museum. I said, that looks like that Daniel Libeskind museum in Berlin, in the saw cuts in big blocks style. So let’s see about that Royal Ontario Museum shall we? Sure enough, that is Libeskind also.
I had imagined that the saw cut style was specifically used only for that Berlin museum, to make you wince when you look at the building, same as you do when you find out the grizzly details of what happened to all those Berlin Jews.
However, it now seems (to me) that Libeskind just likes doing saw cuts. Am I getting this wrong?
Maybe I could google that question also, and find out if anyone else agrees with the above. But that’s enough answers for one posting.
… in among all the stuff that does not.
Foster’s flaccid Gherkin used to advertise erectile dysfunction treatment. Personally, I don’t think the Gherkin looks like a penis, more like a vibrator. Certainly not a gherkin.
And: Synthetic creature could “save nature” says Alexandra Daisy Ginsberg. Has this woman never seen any horror movies?
Related: Will Jellyfish Take Over the World?
Does this photo tell us the direction the Great Climate Debate is going? I took it in Foyles, underneath the Royal Festival Hall, London, on September 2nd:
I put this up to entertain you, and also so that I can send a short email to Bishop Hill about it, rather than a long and annoying one. Because I’m guessing it might interest him.
The Bishop’s (as of now) latest posting concerns an article written by some academic CAGWers (CAGW = Catastrophic Anthropogenic Global Warming), about how they can defeat their ever more annoying and persuasive “denier” enemies?
The answer to this conundrum is - you will never believe it - to be found in the realms of communication. Although Garud and his colleagues note that some observers think that communication is not enough, and point to such initiatives as the Climate Science Rapid Response Team (seriously!) that are already in place, they suggest that something called a ‘narrative approach’ might also be a part of the solution.
But that, as the Bishop well knows but Garud et al do not, is no solution to the problem the CAGWers have. The “narrative approach” is their problem. What the CAGWers have been doing is spinning a narrative and calling it science for the last quarter of a century and more, and now this narrative is unravelling, thanks to the efforts of people like Bishop Hill. This latest plan is for them to stop pretending that they aren’t doing this. That can’t work.
If the anti-CAGWers had relied on books like Michael Crichton’s State of Fear, which is one of the books in the above photo, to carry the main weight of their arguments, they’d have been utterly crushed.
LATER: Bishop Hill has linked to this, and there are comments there too.
So, could this also work for cats?
And for all the cat lovers out there, don’t accuse Polimeno of being biased toward pooches. Finding Kitty is in the works.
A lot of the cat stuff I stick up here on Fridays is things I find by googling for “cat” news. But this I learned about by getting regular google emails that come to me about face recognition.
Face recognition software is, I predict (as do many others I’m sure), going to have all kinds of weird unintended consequences. This is only the start of it.
For instance, scientists: Which animals have faces that face recognition software can distinguish between, and which not? What does those answers mean?
What about face recognition errors, joining you up with relatives or long lost twins you never knew you had?
What will face recognition do to the lookalike trade? “How much like Brad Pitt do I look? Face recognition couldn’t tell the difference, that’s how much!”
Will face recognition answer the question: Which celebrity do I most look like?
Any more stuff like that that anyone can think of?
Regulars here know that I am an admirer of Britain’s short term weather forecasts. Britain’s Meteorological Office also has a disgustingly politicised long term weather forecasting department, whose prophecies I despise. But the short term forecasts are the real deal, based on real knowledge. Pretty much always, these short term forecasts are correct.
Me being a libertarian, I regret that the Met Office is funded out of taxation rather than with voluntary payments from customers. That it is now corrupted by the addition of that long term forecasting bit is a typical consequence of such compulsory funding, because compulsory funding has an inbuilt tendency to be grabbed hold of by people with dodgy agendas that wouldn’t pay for themselves by voluntary methods. It is upon the prestige generated by the short term weather forecasts that the politicised long term forecasts sail forth and do all their damage.
None of which alters the fact that the Met Office’s short term forecasts are, as of now, very good, and a big part of the way I now live.
But as a fan of cricket, as well as of short term weather forecasts, I can’t help noticing that cricket people don’t admire short term weather forecasts nearly as much as I do. I think this is because the only time when weather forecasts loom large for cricket players and cricket watchers is on rainy days, and most rainy days in England are not days of solid rain, but days with rain sometimes but not at other times, and in some places but not in other nearby places. Now that the top cricket grounds in England mostly have clever drainage systems, cricket can be played at them pretty much whenever it is not actually raining. But, when exactly will that be? “Sunny intervals, scattered showers.” That’s a typical weather forecast in these islands. But for how long, exactly, and where, exactly, will the sunny intervals be radiating their sunshine and the scattered showers be scattering their showers?
In England, the weather on a rainy day can be very local. I live a walk away from the Oval cricket ground, which is on the other side of the Thames from me. I have known many a nice day for me when the cricket was washed completely out at the Oval, and other days when they played, but would not have played at all had the weather been as I got it.
A day can be generally rainy, but whether any of the rain will fall, and for how long, on the particular cricket ground that the cricket world happens to be obsessing about that day is in the lap of the weather gods, and beyond the powers of the Met Office to be exact about.
So, cricket people tend not to admire weather forecasts, or to set much store by them.
The ODI on Thursday in Leeds was a total washout. I pretty much knew that it would be, because they were forecasting solid rain, which is actually quite rare in England. But even then, a little local break in the clouds might have meant a shortened game. They just had to wait and see, although by about lunchtime the game was up. That was a day when their deep distrust of forecasts got their hopes up needlessly. The spectators, I believe, stayed away in their thousands.
Today there is the second ODI between England and Australia in Manchester. Here is the BBC version of the weather forecast for that right now:
A chilly but bright start to the day in many areas, but with showers affecting some western areas. Showers becoming more widespread during the morning with some of these heavy. A cool day with generally light winds.
That tells me, and has actually been telling me for several days, that today in Manchester would probably not be that good day for one of my photo-wanders. I typically just want to know what kind of day it’s going to be, and that tells me. If I did venture out, I’d take a brolly and a good book, make an early start, and stay close to transport so I could get home quick if it later turned really bad. But the cricketers can’t tell from that whether they’ll get a game or not, because everything depends on exactly where the rain lands, and in what exact amounts. That forecast could mean anything from an almost total wash-out to a great day of cricket. I will be tuning in to see, but I don’t know what kind of game it will be, and neither does anyone else.
Views from Kings College
BMdotCOM mixed metaphor of the day
Feynman Diagrams on the Feynman van
Wedding photography (1): The superbness of the weather
Me and the Six Nations under the weather
The Qur’an is not science – science cannot be ignored
Steven Pinker’s description of The Enlightenment
Why I do not share Johnathan Pearce’s admiration for Bjorn Lomborg
What’s up with that?
BMdotCOM Headline of the week
University of California chickens coming home to roost?
Hockey Stick art
Matt Ridley’s demolition of CAGW
Science can relax about the harm done to it by Climategate
“Things appear almost impossible to escape from …”
Animals that like the smell of humans dying
Climate science as make-work for former Cold Warriors
Cats only seem smart and dogs only seem dumb
Cats know more about fluid mechanics than dogs
Funny feline ephemeron
A blog posting linking to a science article
Cool cat that obeys Allen’s Rule
A serious disappointment
Lucky we didn’t go to Lords
Nasa and Gordon Brown both have their uses
Talking about The Hockey Stick Illusion with Bishop Hill
Towers under the weather - and a steam engine steams to the rescue
Stepping forward into the abyss!
Yet more ramblings about Guesswhatgate
Unravelling the puzzle – and making it into a movie
Picture purrfection and a rather good Clive James piece
Old-school media versus (or becoming) new-school media (again)
ClimateGate roars on and Man(n)-made warming is taking on a whole new meaning
What’s up with this?
Link to a list of peer-reviewed papers supporting skepticism of “man-made” global warming
Shadows on rings
Green cats - feral cats - cats murdered in Wales - more than 113 cats in Livingston NJ
Why I vote against AGW
A little archaeology
Friday baby marmoset
Truth is true
Nothing from me here today but something on Samizdata about cannabis
Link to Samizdata piece about arguments from incredulity
The impossibility of God but the possibility of Michael Flatley’s cure and of super-super-flees
How patent lawyers destroyed a mathematician
John Carey on Shakespeare and the high-art/ popular-art distinction
On the nature of the evolution argument
Star and stripe
Man regrows finger
More horizontal thinness
Tatiana the normal tiger
Has global warming stopped?
Better safe than sorry
The cat genome is cool
She’s alive I tell you! Alive!
Big Solar System things
Short picture of a long distance
Don’t be a physics teacher
Not actually a photo of Saturn’s rings
Back lit Billion Monkey lady and back lit Saturn!
The idea that mental illness does not exist
Plastic that conducts heat better
So that’s how you pronounce Csikszentmihalyi
Thomas Edison - from cheat to creator
Alessandro Volta feels electricity on his tongue
The Great Global Warming Swindle debate now begins
Svensmark – for and against
A basic part of the domestic cat’s heritage
On the ideology of the “climate change” debate
New York Times links - owned genes
I am about to become a published photographer
Geek girl I like your thinkings - are nice - I want have sex with it
Something to bore everyone
Blogging takes longer than doing things - a picture - and why does a hot bath make me colder?
Was that you or a tree?
What is a squarry?