ReasonINC

Reason; as the supreme authority in matters of opinion, belief, or conduct

Category: Innovation

TEDtalk: James Flynn: Why our IQ levels are higher than our grandparents

“Think how different America would be if every American knew that this is the fifth time Western armies had gone to Afghanistan to put its house in order. And if they had some idea of exactly what had happened on those four previous occasions. And that is they had barely left and there wasn’t a trace in the sand”

James Flynn, in this resounding and brilliant TEDtalk, calmly and patiently makes a very clever point about exactly why IQ scores have been improving. He astutely cites our increasingly common ability to apply logic to abstraction; to deal sincerely in the hypothetical and casts this concept into a very impressive talk.

(http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9vpqilhW9uI)

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Unknown resolves prime questions

“There are a lot of chances in your career, but the important thing is to keep thinking” – Yitang Zhang

Yitang Zhang was unknown in the mathematical field, and contended with difficult years finding academic work before rising to receive international acclaim for a long overdue resolution to an age old conundrum concerning prime numbers.

(http://www.wired.com/wiredscience/2013/05/twin-primes)

TED talk: Kirk Sorensen: Thorium, an alternative nuclear fuel

TED talk: Kirk Sorensen: Thorium, an alternative nuclear fuel

The energy problem that humans face, how we can meet our energy needs in a sustainable way, can only be considered a political, or human issue, being that the solutions we need are even today ready and waiting. The way we currently produce the vast majority of our energy is harming the planet in ways hugely alarming to those who have taken the time to educate themselves on the delicate planetary systems that are being so emphatically abused or over-strained.

To the extent that I am familiar with the convictions of those considered the most informed on this topic (the planetary boundary scientists amongst others), it seems that the best solution for our energy production system would comprise a base-load provided by nuclear power, augmented with renewable solutions to cover varying demands above that.

Many of the myths surrounding nuclear power are put to rest in Mark Lynas’ excellent book The God Species that I reviewed in an earlier post (https://reasoninc.wordpress.com/2012/10/22/book-review-mark-lynas-the-god-species/). One statistic that stands out is that all the so-feared nuclear waste that France has produced in the last quarter of a century, lies under the floor in a single room, emitting no radiation to the outside world. When considering that the alternative, fossil fuel derived energy, may be driving  us to extinction, the ‘dangers’ of nuclear power are shown to be the surreptitious influences of powerful people, or simply uninformed hysteria. Those who have stood to lose out from the acceptance of nuclear energy, fossil fuel tycoons with political influence as hard to believe as their solipsism, have lobbied against it since its arrival. This has extended beyond the influence of media conjecture alone, to the falsification of scientific reports (hardly an extraordinary thing when you cast a discerning eye to the practices of the pharmaceutical industry, just to start).

In this very interesting TED talk Kirk Sorenson shines light on some of the recent advancements in nuclear power technology that further its attractiveness still. He also gives yet more tantalising insight into the innovative brilliance that seems to have littered every project NASA has devoted a department to.

(http://www.ted.com/talks/kirk_sorensen_thorium_an_alternative_nuclear_fuel.html)

(http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Planetary_boundaries)

TED talk: Adam Savage: How simple ideas lead to scientific discoveries

TED talk: Adam Savage: How simple ideas lead to scientific discoveries

One of the most pleasing aspects of science, and of human contemplation in general, is how creative and innovative solutions to apparently unsurpassable obstacles seem to reliably surface as time passes. The genius that is there to be seen in any field you happen to turn your eyes to is always astounding. From the proposed use of salts as coolants in atmospheric pressure nuclear reactors to the sky crane that lowered Curiosity onto Mars; for the open minded thinkers there may always come along a solution that fits Einstein’s premise: that “Any idea that does not at first seem insane, is doomed to fail.”

In this seminal TED talk Adam Savage captures the essence of such innovative brilliance as he relays some of the most creative and exceptional work of some of the greatest minds to have been recognized for their genius.

(http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=F8UFGu2M2gM)

Book Review: Mark Lynas ‘The God Species’

Book Review: Mark Lynas ‘The God Species’

In his recent book, The God Species: How the planet can survive the age of humans, Mark Lynas, on the face of it, is communicating the concept of ‘Planetary Boundaries’ (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Planetary_boundaries). Elucidated by Johan Rockström (Stockholm Resilience Centre) and Will Steffen (Australian National University), along with respective teams of distinguished academics in Stockholm and Canberra, the concept centres on how humans are currently affecting the many interacting systems that life on earth depend on. Today there is no planet-level coordination for the consumption of finite resources; the disruption of food chains; the use of land; or the changes we make to the atmosphere, to name a handful. In the scientific community, the need for identification of, and subsequent responsive action to, the limits of how much any planetary system component can be abused is long past being a debate.

Lynas is, in the first instance, communicating the work of others on a silently growing danger that I would need some persuading not to consider the most significant we have ever fathomed. Further to this, however, he litters the book with mesmeric facts about the problems we face; the nature of the systems of the biosphere; and our biological history. These gems make the book a very satisfying read and have excellent context. Lynas’ most commendable achievement with the book is his commitment to logic; he posits many solutions to our problems that are logically correct, while being publicly unpopular. These include nuclear power, genetic engineering and financial markets similar to those used for the recent carbon credit scheme. His arguments defending these approaches are coherent and fascinating, as well as being optimistic – which he himself identifies as a notable and worthwhile trait amongst those writing on this topic.

(http://www.amazon.co.uk/The-God-Species-Planet-Survive/dp/000731342X/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1351161856&sr=8-1)

Rory Sutherland: Perspective is everything

Rory Sutherland: Perspective is everything

A brilliant mind vocalising an assortment of practical applications for the conclusions drawn from some hugely accomplished work in psychology.