What the readers saw

Our weekly round up of news that didn’t have time to go in the blog

Our first story comes with thanks to our inimitable Hertfordshire correspondent, Mr Peter Seymour. It is a real tale of moral courage. Older readers will recall the first anti- racist protest at the 1968 Mexico Olympics, when John Carlos and Tommie Smith demonstrated from the winners’ podium. Well, there was a third, white, man who insisted on joining them, Peter Norman of Australia. It was a brave decision, and one that was to cost him dear. Are we really prisoners of our ethnic identities, doomed to hate and fight for all time? Or can the courage of people like Norman change the world? Read below:


Perhaps ethnic tribalism once had a selective advantage, but we doubt that it does today, if global warming is to be avoided. Here, a gloomy summary from Nature Briefings looks at how emissions are bouncing back. Never have we needed the old Canned Heat song Let’s work together so badly!

Emissions surge back to bad old days

In early April, the international response to the coronavirus pandemic slashed daily global carbon emissions from fossil fuels by roughly 17%. Now emissions are rebounding, with China almost back to pre-pandemic levels. The European Union is leading the way to a green recovery with a proposed US$826-billion recovery package aimed at expanding renewable-power generation, retrofitting old buildings and investing in cleaner fuels. Experts estimate that 2020’s global emissions will be down around 5% compared with last year’s — the biggest drop since the Second World War, but still not nearly enough.The New York Times | 5 min read
Read more: How the coronavirus pandemic slashed carbon emissions — in five graphs (Nature, from May)
Reference: Nature Climate Change paper & latest update to the supplementary data

All along the Eastern edge of Europe, democracy seems to be fading. which will gladden the heart of a Certain Person a bit further east. Our indefatigable Buckinghamshire correspondent, Mr Gary Herbert cites this example from the excellent Open Democracy Website, about the sinister events in Bulgaria.


It is so easy to be misled by numbers. Look at this quote from Nature BriefingsMathematical Pitfall plagues antibody tests”

Even if a screening test is very accurate, if it is not 100% perfect then it will deliver some false positives and some false negatives. And the lower the infection rate, the more likely it is that a positive result is wrong. An imperfect antibody test for COVID-19, for example, could leave a lot of people thinking that they are possibly immune to the disease, when they have never even had it. Scientific American explains, with a very handy graphic, how this mind-bending fact arises.Scientific American | 3 min read
We read it, gentle readers, and it is a tour de force of how to present scientific concepts in an easy to understand way. Science teachers, take note!

And finally…our heartwarming animal story of the week concerns that marvellous organisation the WWF (the animals, not the wrestlers) and their efforts research and protect the beautiful snow leopards of the mountains of Asia. Remember what will happen to us all if those glaciers melt. How many gin and tonics will be needed to catch all that ice?


#opendemocracy #bulgaria #peternorman #wwf #snowleopard #covid19 #globalwarming

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