Running out of space, running out of time? Try educating women

Running out of space-round where we live very spare inch of land is built over for flats, flats and more flats. Vineyards and open country are smashed up again and again for more housing- so what’s going to soak up all that extra carbon dioxide? Talking of which, we now have about eight years before we hit an irreversible tipping point and the climate changes forever. What’s the point of building all those nice housing estates if they are uninhabitable? But humanity just goes on growing away- we long since passed 7 billion copies of ourselves and are well on the way to 8 billion.

There is a solution. No one dies. Everyone gets richer. Everyone’s children and great- great- great- grandchildren lead longer, happier and sustainable lives. Think of it as a vaccine if you like-like the ones for Covid-19. The answer is education for women. All the data show that it produces better outcomes. Lower infant mortality. Healthier children. Rising National Income. More things to talk about. Above all, stable or falling populations. So below we link to two sites which we hope will give you a jumping-off point, gentle readers.

But please don’t just read. Do. On your feeds, on your blogs, in all your Letters to the Editor,whether they’re to the Parish Magazine or the Los Angeles Times, please plug, push and promote this one as much as you can.

After all, isn’t there a little matter of Natural Justice somewhere in here as well?

Girls’ education | UNICEF

How education can moderate population growth | World Economic Forum (

#feminism #educationforwomen #unicef #wef #populationcontrol #birthcontrol #covid-19 #climatechange #ecology #sustainability

How fast is the virus Mutating?

Come on, you know which virus we’re talking about: Sars-Cov-2, the one that’s causing the Covid-19 pandemic that’s wreaking such havoc on peoples’ lives, and the balance sheets of Finance Ministers the world over. Well, the lockdown are working, the vaccines are rolling out-but can we afford to be complacent? Will the virus mutate, and find a way back? How do viruses mutate anyway?

One person who knows is Maya Wei-Haas. In an article in National Geographic*(incidentally a gem of scientific journalism; clear, precise and with some fabulous pictures), she tells every concerned Mum, Dad and everyone else exactly what they need to know. The more cases you have, the more mutations you’ll get. A limited number, like the famous Kent 1.1.7 will produce new challenges to our immune systems. Coronaviruses aren’t quite as good at mutating as flu viruses are-however they’re not bad at it either.

For those who like to drink deep from the Well of Knowledge, there’s always good old Wikipedia*. Warning: it’ll take more than a coffee break to do this earnest, deeply researched and utterly worthy piece real justice. But you will come out actually knowing something, which is more than the blowhards at the Dog and Duck do.

Our thoughts? Currently,there’s no virologist on the staff at LSS, and many of the readers of this will be cleverer than the writer. That said, we think that Sars-Cov-2 will go endemic, as flu viruses have. That won’t be a problem if we continue to predict the variations, maybe using AI. And continue to develop new vaccines, using money. That is true for many other potential threats, like antibiotic resistant bacteria, for example. Perhaps if humanity found ways of building just a few less superyachts and a few more research laboratories, we could all sleep safer in our beds at night.

The coronavirus is mutating—but what determines how quickly? (

Viral evolution – Wikipedia

Top 100 World’s Largest Yachts | |

#sars-Cov-2 #covid-19 #superyachts #coronavirus #fluvirus #evolution #mutation #rna #dna #artificialintelligence

Big Think. If you visit one other website, that’s the one

Old LSS hands will know our house style. Something on science, something on political economy. maybe education, with a bracing cocktail or two on Friday nights. Now, imagine a site that does that and a lot more. Gentle readers, we earnestly refer you to Big Think. https/ A heady, eclectic mix of science, sex,psychology, surprises, religion, culture-and much more that the thinking woman or man needs to know. All served up in readable, chatty articles which you can take in with your morning coffee and chocolate hobnobs. We discovered it while looking for things that go faster than light,* only to see the link later, buried on out Apple News feed. Funny old world.

Spoiler alert; These people are not to be confused with The Big Think which seems to be a perfectly worthy, but rather specialised educational foundation

*some do, sort of

#bigthink #science #health #sex #religion #culture #politics #currentaffairs

Only Thick People hold extremist views. Really?

Everyone is worried about fake news, conspiracy theories, unreason and deep political divisions. And rightly so-this is no longer the balmy climate of the late nineteen nineties! So why the growth in extremism, and the stubborn refusal to accept facts?Now a team at Cambridge University think they have the answer. They studied 330 participants aged from 22 to 63 on a variety of neuropsychological tasks. According to the excellent report by Natalie Grover of the Guardian, they found:

people with extremist attitudes tended to think about the world in black and white terms, and struggled with complex tasks that required intricate mental steps, said lead author Dr Leor Zmigrod at Cambridge’s department of psychology.

Individuals or brains that struggle to process and plan complex action sequences may be more drawn to extreme ideologies, or authoritarian ideologies that simplify the world,” she said.

It’s a fascinating idea, and seems to hold a key to a major problem. But beware easy answers, like “nasty people are stupid”. For one thing, it’s dangerous to underestimate the enemy. But there’s another. We’ve seen a lot of clever, hitherto successful people make some dreadful errors. Often because they grab hold of an obsession and won’t let it go. Often such people are under extreme emotional and psychological stress -factors first identified by Norman Dixon in his ground breaking work The Psychology of Miliary Incompetence. Think Napoleon and Russia-but there are many many other examples. Maybe you’ve seen people do it in your organisation. And can we flip this-could it be that people who are under great stress, maybe due to poverty, thereby turn to extremist beliefs? More research needed, surely.

People with extremist views less able to do complex mental tasks, research suggests | Psychology | The Guardian

On the Psychology Of Military Incompetence Norman F Dixon Pimlico 1994

#neuropsychology #cognitivedissonance #stress #blackandwhitethinking #extremism

Weekly round up: flying cars, T cells and the virtue of Perseverance

Perseverance pays The stats show that the success rate on Mars missions is only 50%. So what an achievement to send a one tonne vehicle to exactly where you want and get it to work straight after landing! We at LSS don’t believe in mystic forces- but it’s funny how sometimes a nation’s luck does seem to turn. Could this just be the first such sign of the Biden era? We hope for more to come.

Magnetic Flips Back in July,(LSS 23 7 20) we gave you one of our little warnings about the dangers of the Magnetic Poles flipping-which they do from time to time. Now scientists think the last such flip may have done for poor old Neanderthal Man, or Neanderthal Person as we now call them. Before you think you’re so clever, Homo sapiens, remember Neanderthals didn’t run incredibly intricate systems like internets, power grids and satellites, all of which depend on a stable electromagnetic environment. Here’s four of the world’s top experts in The Conversation.

Earth’s magnetic field broke down 42,000 years ago and caused massive sudden climate change (

And remember-there’s no where to escape to, because they have magnetism in down in Cancun too.

Virus Variants-Of course it’s worrying that Sars-Cov-2 can evolve new mutations, especially when it’s spreading fast. And yes, we will have to keep upping our game on vaccine design and development. But evolution has given our side a few tricks to play as well, and one of them is T cells. Here’s Nature: Killer T cells could boost Covid Immunity

In the race against emerging coronavirus variants, researchers are looking beyond antibodies for clues to lasting protection against COVID-19. In particular, scientists are hopeful that T cells — a group of immune cells that can target and destroy virus-infected cells — could maintain lasting immunity. Preliminary evidence suggests that the vast majority of T-cell responses are unlikely to be affected by new mutations in the virus. Some coronavirus vaccine developers are already looking at ways to develop next-generation vaccines that stimulate T cells more effectively. “We know the antibodies are likely less effective, but maybe the T cells can save us,” says biotechnology analyst Daina Graybosch.Nature | 6 min read

Irresistible Quote CNN, via Nature Briefings “America, welcome back to the frontline of the global fight against climate change” British parliamentarian Alok Sharma, the president of the COP26 climate change conference, welcomes the United States back into the Paris accord, which it officially rejoined today. (CNN | 4 min read)

And for those who want everything……..

Here’s Dan Avery of the Mail with news of a flying car that can reach 10 000 feet (3048 m) and do 100 mph (61 km) Don’t worry about fitting it in your garage;you can take the wings off. We at LSS never look for good guys or bad guys- we just think poor old Ted Cruz was unlucky. If he’d had one of these he could have nipped down to Cancun without anyone spotting him in the airport!


#flyingcars #joebiden #tedcruz #perseverance #neanderthal #magneticflips #extinction#sars-cov-2 #covid-19 #tcells #lymphocytes #globalwarming #COP26 #cancun

Friday Night Cocktails:Watermelon(there’s eleven)

Eder G.

English Teacher, Barons Court, London

What have you chosen for us?  Watermelon

Who were you with?   An ex-boyfriend took me out for dinner a few years ago.

Where? We went to Bellini, a rotating restaurant at the World Trade Centre in Mexico City.

Why the watermelon? My ex was a big dry martini drinker but I’ve always preferred a sweet drink so the bartender suggested it, saying I was going to love it, and he was right.

Do you always drink this one? I’ve tried to get it in various places but I haven’t been successful except from that time I found a cocktail bar in Camden but they didn’t use natural watermelon and it was just not the same. 

We thank Eder not only for today’s column but also for being a great team leader and exceedingly patient with our halting attempts to speak meaningful Spanish.  However, the word “Watermelon” covers at least eleven possible recipes, including mojitos, margaritas and a punch. So we’ve included a link to the excellent spruce eats website, so you can make your own. The location looks great. The nearest we’ve ever been to anything like this was Pizza Express in Kingston Upon Thames, and that didn’t go round and round

11 Refreshingly Sweet Watermelon Cocktail Recipes (

Bellini Restaurante in Mexico City | My Guide Mexico City

#cocktails #bellinis #watermelon #mexicocity

Something Stirring on the Right?

Astute followers of Britain, its society and class system will know the overwhelming power of its right-wing newspapers. Alright, their circulation is smaller than in Mrs Thatcher’s heyday- but with 4 139 962 readers they still set the agenda and internet activities of a massive majority of Britons. By contrast papers which could be reasonably described as moderate or left-of-centre in outlook come in a pitiful 1 356 260.(source;Wikipedia) It’s not facts that count; it is the way they are treated that matters, and this ascendancy tells much about where Britain is now, culturally, economically and politically. (Foreign readers take note-we at LSS don’t care if this situation is right or wrong, we simply observe evident truths).

One area where this plays out is Climate Change. Traditionally, centre and left- leaning people are more receptive to ideas on climate change: the Right has been the haven for deniers. Much of the argument has swirled around the figure of Rupert Murdoch, who, love him or loathe him, is the nearest the Right has to a global leader. The FT article summarises the latest below*

Yet Murdoch and his followers would claim that they are moving. That’s why the piece by Pawas Bisht for The Conversation so intrigues us. Now even a publication as impeccably right as the The Daily Express and, more importantly, the Sun, are beginning to stir their followers into action on climate change. There is an intriguing subtext; Brexit means a lot more buying British. For years environmental campaigners have been urging people to buy local and shorten supply chains. Could Internationalism and Nationalism be about to meet?

Nationalism in Britain is strongly expressed in support for the Monarchy, an institution butressed with ferocious energy by the right wing tabloids. Which is why the Mail piece by James Gant is so odd. “Fury as as anti monarchy group release video...etc” Ostensibly it,s a Mail hit job, unleashing righteous wrath on a tiny group of Republicans who have released a rather lumbering video in support of their cause while the Queen’s Husband is attending hospital, for some minor ailment we hope. In which case-why run it at all? As one astute commentator observes-why give these people free publicity?

Does the Mail too scent a change in the wind? Look at the other comments underneath. We expected all to be rabidly, foamingly pro-monarchy. Yet at least half displayed a range from grudging support via sardonic indifference to outright hostility. The Queen was largely exempted (she has been an exemplary monarch) but there is clearly real doubt about her successors. One astute Mail watcher of long standing told us “they are very pro Elizabeth II- but have real doubts about Charlie.”

As go the right-wing papers, so goes Britain. As even Conservative politicians like Michael Heseltine and David Cameron found out when they got on the wrong side of them. We at LSS believe that something needs to be done about climate change. But we also think that, in an age without revealed religion, the monarchy may provide a source of comfort and focus, especially to those whose life journey has left them less able to access reflection and with a less broadly grounded basis in facts. Either way, progressives may be getting what they have wished for. Always a good time to be cautious.

Former Australian PMs put Murdoch in the hot seat on climate change | Financial Times (

Britain’s right-wing tabloids have turned to ‘green nationalism’ to sell climate action (

#climatechange #denial #globalwarming #RupertMurdoch #monarchy #tabloids #nationalism #internationalism #ukmonarchy #hmqueen

Hve we been missing something on Mars for 45 years?

Tomorrow, all being well, the multipurpose NASA lander Perseverance will touch down and begin its programme of exploration. With China and the UAE putting probes into orbit, poor old Mars must be feeling quite invaded. And Perseverance is at last designed to answer the one question that everyone including David Bowie has been asking for centuries-Is there Life on Mars?

Except some of us have strange feelings of deja-vu. Readers who recall the long hot summer of 1976 will recall the touch down of two then state of the art probes, Vikings 1 and 2, thousands of kilometeres apart on the surface. Each carried four carefully designed and controlled experiments, mini-laboratories if you will, designed to answer Bowie’s question. On each Viking, three out of four results came back negative. And one on each came back positive.

The positive test was designed by a man called Gilbert Levin. It was called the Labelled Release (LR) and he had been using it for years to look for micro-organisms in sewage samples on Earth. It took a sample of Martian soil, added a little aqueous nutrient spiked with 14C and waited. If anything were alive in the soil , its metabolism would release CO2, which being labelled with 14C, meant you couldn’t miss it. Surprise, surprise, the LP results were overwhelming for both Vikings. For a brief period of about 12 hours the headlines LIFE ON MARS! screamed around planet Earth in the creaky media of the day. And then NASA killed it.

We won’t go into all the ins and outs of the controversies of the next few days, months and decades. Look, we’ve listed a few places to read below. It was held then, as it basically is now, that the weight of the other three experiments was enough to negate the LR ones. That was the story, and they’re sticking to it. We are the last to gainsay NASA and scientific caution. But we wondered then, as we do now-why go to all that trouble to set up an experiment then think of every reason you can to prove it was wrong all along? How can the negative interpretation be sustained in the light of the last forty years, with the discovery of things like methane, water and organic molecules on the Red Planet? Could something like perchlorates, now known to exist on Mars, have vitiated some Viking results?

We await the Perseverance results with interest. When it comes to science, a default conservatism can be justas misleading as a default sense of wonder.

Mars Perseverance Mission Overview | NASA

Viking program – Wikipedia

Michael Brooks 13 Things that Don’t Make Sense Profile 2009 (still gives the human story of the Viking controversy)

#mars #astrobiology #perseverance #viking #microbiallife #extraterrestrial #NASA

March Budget. Time for the Chancellor to help small businesses grow

“Private sector bad, public sector good” To anyone on the old socialist Left it was a mantra ingrained from birth. And every bit as wrong as its converse, the mantra of the equally unthinking Right.

Nowhere is this truer than in the world of Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs). These private companies are the lifeblood of successful economies. They provide the energy, dynamism, most of the new ideas, and much of the employment that not only makes life enjoyable, but sustainable. And here’s a killer fact for the Chancellor: they’re much easier to tax, because they’re firmly stuck and visible in their country of origin. While the big boys can move stuff around from subsidiary to tax haven, and don’t have to pay for all the roads, schools hospitals and policemen that make their operations possible.

Now so many small businesses lie shut by the Covid-19 lockdown, uncertain of their future, shorn of their markets, while the giant chains trade away as if nothing had really happened.

UK Chancellor Rishi Sunak has a budget to deliver in March. He knows he must start lifting the UK economy out of the Covid doldrums. We qualm at advising such an intelligent man. But here are four actions which might help the SME sector.

Use the tax system to facilitate supply chains, such as logistics,skills and informational support

Tax breaks for exporters, and businesses that support them

A treasury run task force of advisers to help with all aspects of bureaucracy and form filling

A Planning Agency to identify and exploit  future export markets, comprising businessmen,economists and the Government, as in South Korea

SME people don’t want much. They prefer to stand on their own two feet. Larger export markets, for economies of scale. Sympathetic banking structures, like the German Mittelstand system. Above all a level playing field. We know personally of five such who started small and grew into major export success stories in fields as diverse as Biotechnology, Financial services, Picture framing, Games, and Forensic Science technology. They were the bravest, most risk taking, hardworking people we have met. Time to recognise these qualities?

What Are SMEs & Why Are They So Important for the UK Economy? | LABS

#exports #smes #marchbudget #rishisunak #covid-19 #lockdown

A Big Thank- you

Once again we would like to thank all of the people who have helped Learning, Science and Society through another month or so. That’s everyone who has contributed with ideas, stories technical support or taken time to tell us about their lives. Above all our readers and followers in so many countries. And of course the patient support engineers at WordPress!

The list of names is now too long to acknowledge individually, so we hope you’ll take your part of this message-because we appreciate it.

We don’t expect or intend to reach a mass readership. Our aim is to give ideas to that top 3-4% who think evidence is more important than opinion, and that you you should think very carefully about the context before you open your mouth. Rare qualities indeed.

#reason #enlightenment #emotion #directedreason #logic