Saturday, March 30, 2013

Does this man ever shut up?

On 25 November 2009, I had the dubious pleasure to attend a seminar talk by Fred Singer while working at the German Aerospace Centre (DLR e.V.) in Stuttgart, Germany. With most of the audience researching in the field of solar energy or other fields related to finding alternate sources of energy, it is comforting that Singer did not find an audience to discredit the global effort to mitigate human impact on the climate on that evening.

For those of you that don't know who Fred Singer is (good thing if you don't), I think it would be apt to describe him as a lobbyist with a background in science. It would also be safe to describe him as a global warming denier of the first hour, further known for his denial of the harmful effects of passive smoking and the depletive effects of CFCs on the ozone layer. And this list is not even exhaustive.

Unfortunately, Mr. Singer often finds more receptive audiences around the world. And it is quite impressive how much this man travels at his advanced age (now 88). His visit at DLR in Stuttgart was just one stage on a whole 'Tour of Europe'. In 2010, he was invited by German MPs of the FDP party to a discussion panel. SPIEGEL journalist Cordula Meyer reported about this visit (vol. 37/2010) in a great article about Singer's crusade. Unfortunately, Mr. Singer has not been less productive since then. He frequently publishes on, mostly discrediting research about anthropogenic global warming.

Very recently, research about the psychology of climate change deniers has been published in the scientific journal Psychological Science and I would be all to interested what Mr. Singer would have to say about these findings. The authors of the study assert that a strong faith in the free market coincides with a disposition towards rejecting climate science as well as other established explanations. The title of the paper is catchy - a good choice in this case ("NASA Faked the Moon Landing—Therefore, (Climate) Science Is a Hoax: An Anatomy of the Motivated Rejection of Science".) So, it seems there is evidence to claim that religious faith in free markets and the rejection of science often go hand in hand.

It is striking, in a sense grotesque, how impressively this study disarms the likes of Mr. Singer. However, he is also an academic and used to be a respected scientist, and on the other hand lobbied for several of the 'conspiracy theories' tested for in the psychological study.

Fred Singer is 88 years old. He put a lot of effort into convincing people, often policy makers, that there is no connection between second-hand smoke, the depletion of the ozone layer by CFCs, and most recently that there is no connection between climate change and human activities. Surely, these issues will not affect him at his age, unlike the generations born after him, who wish to reach that age, perhaps. So, I ask myself: When does this man ever shut up?

Maybe when we stop listening to people that reject science because it could undermine their faith in the free market. The published research gives us a good reason to do so...provided, of course, you don't reject this study as well.

Or we could fight back with the same weapons and ask: what conspirative group does Fred Singer belong to?

Thursday, March 28, 2013

The Modern Messiah

A few days ago, it also occurred to me how Steve Jobs is seen as something like a Modern Messiah. I admit, Apple made being a geek cool. They forged the marriage between the quirky creative world with the technical digital world, that was - at least in pop culture - previously confined to grandma's basement (I am referring to the stereotypical hacker in a Hollywood movie). Chapeau, Apple,and thanks, Steve (although we also have to give some credit to, among others, Sergey Brin, Larry Page and Mark Zuckerberg.)

I thought this was just good fun at the time, a bit exaggerated, I wasn't really serious about it...

Now, look what I came across today...

...the digital shrine of the binary brotherhood.

Millions have sent an email to '' and they all appear on this website. Check some of these messages out. If they don't sound religious to you, I don't know what would. Here are some of my favourites:

" ... The man who changed everything. There is no part of our world and our lives that Steve Jobs did not make a huge impact on. ... "

" ... He's truly a memorable person. I'm not an Apple fan but I admire him as he brought the world the most genius design. He'll continue his Apple empire in heaven. God bless him. ... "

I read things like "heaven got a bit smarter" and how "Apple made such a big impact" on people's lives. I am baffled by the amount of devotion. Surely, Apple is one of the game changers of the 21st century IT giants. iPods, iTunes, iPhones, iPads...surely all tech revolutions. Much like Google Maps, the Kindle, facebook, YouTube...and the list goes on.

On the other hand, they have created needs where previously there were none. They are dictating what choices their customers get to make, how they are supposed to use their devices and their products are designed to be replaced by newer models frequently. Older operating systems are discontinued, plugs are unique and change from one model to the next, and software and content for its devices is monopolized. Truly not virtuous, but not unlike church.

You might say "Dude, Steve Jobs died in 2011!" and none of the above is new to you. All over the web, one can read about Steve Jobs, the Messiah, or about Steve Jobs, the super-villain (here, here and here ,for example). Yeah, that's true, but I've only just discovered Steve's digital shrine today.

I don't know about you, but I got quite accustomed to shouting out 'Jesus Christ' upon being taken aback by - oh, say - people taking Steve Jobs for their saviour. In the same awkward sense, it's could be time to honour the new saviour by switching to 'Steve Paul Jobs'!

Monday, March 18, 2013

Robot Running @ Hyde Park

Time for share some funny stuff!

Last summer, a student from the Royal College of Art approached me for help with a video for one of his courses. He wanted to put make a clip about an idea he came up with related to our technologically assisted work-outs and he was looking for someone in front of the camera.

Here is the result:

The concept is the following: Runners are stereo-equipped, wired and connected to the devices of all kinds today. The question is whether we could be manipulated if these gadgets get hacked.

Since I'm not such a fan of running with earplugs anyway, I find the whole concept to be far fetched. The video is well done though :-)