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Thursday, 16 May 2013

"Honest to God" book is 50 years old

Back in spring 1963, a book on theology by John A. T. Robinson , the then Bishop of Woolwich, called "Honest to God" became an instant best seller selling millions and millions of copies around the world.  It was reprinted many times within just a few months.  At the time, everyone, it seemed,  was talking about it. It was endlessly discussed on the TV and in the newspapers. Many within the Church of England were deeply troubled by it.

In the book, Robinson challenged the conventional understanding of God "up there or out there" and instead looked for a demythologised understanding of God as the "ground of being" as Tillich termed it.

Today, few young people will be aware of this book, but if you can find a copy then I can recommend reading it. Unless you are a convinced and total atheist, you are likely to find the book thought provoking. This was no evangelical religious book: in fact it was quite the opposite.  For the first time it seemed a man in the Church of England was vocalising what many had felt: the old portrayal of God as a kindly old man on a cloud was dead, irrelevant. And yet, deep within us there is that sense of something transcendent with a deeper meaning than the atoms and genes from which we are formed.

I see that Amazon is selling a 50th anniversary edition.

Saturday, 4 May 2013

The South Hams

I was born and brought up in the beautiful South Hams of Devon, UK.  This is a gentle land of rolling hills, estuaries and farmland surrounded on 3 sides by rugged coastal scenery and on the other side by the southern slopes of Dartmoor. This last week I was back there on holiday in the best weather possible: wall-to-wall sunshine and blue skies. Outside of school holidays the area is not busy with tourists and May is an ideal time to visit.

This video is of Salcombe at the very tip of South Devon, taken yesterday from Snapes Point.

Monday, 22 April 2013

Consciousness and the mind

Consciousness is surely the greatest mystery of all. How can it be that a large collection of interlinked cells can contemplate themselves and the world around them?  What exactly is it?  Can it exist outside of the body or does our conscious mind die with our brain cells?  One would think so.

What is the nature of consciousness in other creatures?  Can inanimate super-computers ever be truly conscious, that is have a distinct ability to be self-aware and contemplate themselves and the world around them?  How would we know? Is the conscious mind able to be understood and scientifically examined? Is the universe unique to each individual human being? Can we be sure that we are not ourselves just a computer program in a cosmic super-computer?

Not being a philosopher, I have no answers, just questions.  

Choral concert in Cambridge April 27th

Concert Poster
My wife sings with the Cambridgeshire Choral Society (guess who does their website!) and next weekend (Sat April 27th 8pm) her choir performs in St John's College Chapel in Cambridge. Both the Vivaldi Gloria and the Faure Requiem are great pieces. If you live in the area, may I suggest you come along? Tickets are available on the door as well as in advance (see poster).  I shall be on the door acting as a steward.

A breakthrough in battery technology?

The ExtremeTech website has reported a possible major major (i.e. game changing) breakthrough in Li-Ion battery technology with the headlines:  New lithium-ion battery design that’s 2,000 times more powerful, recharges 1,000 times faster
If this turns out to be technology that can indeed be commercialised, then just imagine the possibilities: (1) electric cars with far lighter batteries, or electric car batteries with much greater range, (2) mobile phones with tiny batteries that can be charged in a minute or so, (3) portable HF transceivers that last for days between charges.

Wednesday, 3 April 2013

Efficient power conversion of solar energy?
Nanotechnology may allow highly efficient power conversion from sunlight. Current solar panel designs are not that efficient (well below 20%) whereas nantennas could in theory have efficiencies of over 70%. Basically a nantenna combines an antenna for optical frequencies with a detector in one tiny structure.

Such a leap in efficiency would totally transform solar energy use: roof panels on a house would be able to produce plenty of surplus energy in addition to that required by the home owner. It really could be a game changer.

You can imagine the large petrochemical lobby doing all in its power to discourage research and development into such technologies.  Far too little is invested in such new technologies because of lobbies with money, power and influence buying political decisions.

I cannot help thinking how such ground breaking, game changing, technology could be developed to commercial scale with just a fraction of the US or UK defence budgets that has been (arguably) totally wasted in Iraq and Afghanistan.  These wars have thrown away around $700-800 billion already: that would have paid for a HUGE amount of research and development and ultimately do far more for world peace and harmony.

Monday, 1 April 2013

The NHS admin needs sorting out big time

My ham radio friend Julian Moss has a brain tumour which he has been successfully battling for over a year now. Recently he had a hospital appointment to review treatment but reading his blog I see yet again he has, like many I know, been given the "run around" by the totally inept NHS service here in the UK. This organisation needs radical surgery to get itself operating efficiently. Time and again it wastes money by messing up appointments, not having people where they should be, not having the data communicated between staff etc. It MADDENS me that sick people should be additionally stressed as a result of idiots who cannot run a business properly. They would save BILLIONS if patient records were shared electronically between doctors, nurses, hospital staff, consultants and ambulance crews. In the 21st century any organisation as bad as the National Health Service would be in administration by now and its bosses sacked.

NHS sort yourselves out!