Nick Cohen on the cultural anthropology of England

If you want to know how England works, you have to understand that we have a class system like no other advanced country does. Deeply entrenched fault lines of education and money, religiously policed, run through us like the veins of ore in a clapped out mine. No where is this more deeply betrayed than in our voices-a point foreign language learners could never grasp. “how you know, teacher, this woman private educated?” they reeled in disbelief at my reaction to a short voice over in some language software programme. “You learn quickly when you career-and your life” depend on it. ” I replied.

One man exposits all this in a way that is far clearer, funnier and more intelligent than we could ever hope to be. That man is Nick Cohen. Foreign readers, if you really want a glance into another country, in this case England, read his piece which we have appended below.

https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2021/nov/27/why-do-we-britons-still-genuflect-before-age-old-class-caricatures

Have Rolls Royce shown the way to electric flight?

We have always loved flight, even if we get a little nervous. From the Montgolfier Brothers onwards the idea of invading another environment without a single genetic change, showed humanity at its most awesomely intelligent. We still believe that its ability to whisk millions around the globe will slowly erode the chains of xenophobia.

The downside is of course glaring: every time your jet whisks you off to Benidorm or Bahrain, you make the seas below a little deeper, the air around a little more poisonous….until all our dreams dissolve in a catastrophic ecological crash. We need to get the petrol out of planes. But what else has the sheer power, apart from cracking carbon molecules, to lift all that steel and glass and humanity safely off the runway, and deliver it to any viable economic distance? “Ay, there’s the rub”, as Hamlet once said before he went into the cigar business.

The answer has always seemed to lie in electrically powered planes. But there have always been real doubts about their power and range. But it seems that the people at Rolls Royce just won’t be beaten. This week they unveiled an electric plane which can fly for 30 minutes; that reached 387.4 mph (623.45km) and could climb to 3000m in in 202 seconds. Look at the report by Shivali Best of the Mail [1]if you don’t believe us; it’s packed with data, pictures and videos.

Seen it? Good-what does it remind you of? Like nothing so much as one of those early 1930s fighter prototypes. Which in their day broke all kinds of new rules on power plants, streamlining, materials and controls. This thing won’t get you to Majorca. But it means that something based on it will-quite soon. The power of human intelligence is the best way to soothe our current angst. But try telling that to the vast number s who still believe in conspiracies and populist politicians.

[1] http://www.dailymail.co.uk/sciencetech/article-10229341/Rolls-Royce-unveils-worlds-FASTEST-electric-plane-Aircraft-reaches-387-4mph.html

[2] https://www.rolls-royce.com/innovation/accel.aspx

#rols royce #greenaviation #electric flight #global warming #climate change #transport

Is so, like, the new cool?

Remember the far off decade of the 2000s, when every acned adolescent interjected the words “like” and “cool” into every sentence? Apparently they were following a trend set by teenage girls in California’s San Bernadino Valley. But it made ordinary conversations-such as those in the hall of a bank-almost impossible to pursue with the young, fashionable and misguided.

That plague seems to be past its worse. But a regular reader, Mr Peter Seymour of Hertfordshire, has drawn our attention to another-the rise of so. Scarily, the educated and discursive(people like us) seem more vulnerable to the infection than mere adolescents are.

Normally this humble little English word functions as a vital but near-invisible component of our thoughts, both as conjunction and adverb. However according to Mr Seymour and a host of experts (see [1] [2] below) there is a baleful trend to use it as meaningless conversational interjection, to hide meaning and lead conversation off in a different direction from the answer the interlocutor was expecting. John Humphrys dissects this for the Mail, while Christina Sterbenz was charting its rise for Business Insider as far back as 2014.

And so we invite you, good readers to watch out for this word and its use by communicators of all types, but especially politicians in every interview you listen to. Has the speaker uttered it to clarify their meaning, or obscure it? Is what they are saying logical? Does it clash with with any other things they say? So now you have a little task. Clear communication is so important.

[1] https://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-3132195/SO-wrong-John-Humphrys-rage-little-word-invades-everyday-speech.html

[2] https://www.businessinsider.com/heres-why-everyone-is-starting-sentences-with-the-word-so-2014-5?r=US&IR=T

Weekly Round up Immune memory, economics, supporting Wolves and rubbish

Does your immune system remember? An intriguing study reproduced in Nature suggests your previous exposure to pathogens influences your response to current ones. Which in turn raises questions about what we mean by “memory-and is it molecular? How childhood colds affect Covid

Evidence is building that people’s immune responses to COVID-19 could be affected by previous infections with common-cold coronaviruses. The phenomenon, evocatively dubbed original antigenic sin, has been documented for influenza: some people are better at fighting off seasonal flu when the strain of virus is similar to the first one they encountered in childhood. However, to what extent it affects people with COVID-19 — and whether it provides enhanced protection or hampers the immune response — is still unclear.Nature | 7 min read

Brexit Bounce LSS promised readers that we would be resolutely neutral on Brexit. So when some negative news on the subject emerges, such as the recent statistics from the Office of National Statistics, we’ll try to balance with some positive! Here’s one such from the Financial Times by George Parker and Jude Webber: Northern Ireland’s Post-Brexit trading advantage lures packing giant.

https://www.ft.com/content/0b6f751d-363b-424d-a452-7a235e13eb00

Wild at heart Everyone would love to see iconic large predators, such as wolves or lynx, re-introduced. Unless it’s near where they live. Hannah Petterson in the Conversation has a thought-provoking piece on the social, economic and ecological problems of trying this out with wolves in Spain.

It’s a junk yard up there As early as the 1960’s far-seers like Arthur C Clarke worried that Earth might end up with rings like Saturn’s, only made entirely of junk, like bits of old spacecraft, missing tools and unspeakable piles of the remains of spacefarer’s lunches. But it’s not funny if a bit of this slams into you at 28000 km per hour. Fortunately, someone wants to clean it up, and make a bit of cash as they do. Thanks Tory Shepherd of the Guardian

https://www.theguardian.com/science/2021/nov/20/gas-station-in-space-new-plan-to-make-rocket-fuel-from-junk-in-earths-orbit

Well, there’s four to choose from. Have a happy weekend

#rewilding #immunity #covid-19 #brexit #space

Friday night Cocktails: Campari

Our choice for cocktails tonight is that old favourite Campari. This cheeky refreshing drink has been a barman’s standby by for centuries. Well, decades anyway. It’s another one of those bottled mixers we have alluded to in the past like Martini, Cinzano or Dubonnet. They mix so well and fit to so many occasions, from birthday parties, pre dinner drinks, diplomatic receptions to baby’s christening.

So we can do no better than link you to their colourful, picture-packed lively web site. Pick one to enjoy, Because we will.

https://www.campari.com/our-cocktails

Nuclear Fusion: Nature more optimistic than Learning, Science and Society

A few months ago (LSS 18August 2021) we published a piece entitled Nuclear Fusion: Is this a case of jam tomorrow? It was a bit sniffy and pessimistic. We noted current progress and astute readers will have sensed that we were still less than carried away by the whole thing. Nuclear fusion offers the promise of cheap abundant green energy which will transform the world. But people have been making these promises for more than sixty years. We remember the rocket of cold fusion soaring and falling back to earth in 1989. And anyway-isn’t there a free fusion reactor called the Sun handily close? All you need is a few photovoltaic panels.

But greater minds than our own think differently. We refer to that superb publication Nature Briefings, and will always pay attention to what they say. Today they run a review of latest commercial progress on the various efforts to tame the power of colliding nuclei. Nature puts its faith in advances in both materials and the supporting information technologies which should allow better designs of the reaction technologies, and hopes that these finally get researchers over the line.

It’s not that we’re against fusion, goos readers. We hope that our pessimism is unfounded. Read the article in that light, and keep your fingers crossed

The start-ups chasing fusion energy

Long derided as a prospect that is forever 30 years away, nuclear fusion seems finally to be approaching commercial viability. There are now more than 30 private fusion firms globally, attracting billions in private investments. Advances in materials research and computing are enabling technologies other than the standard designs that national and international agencies have pursued for so long. “Sooner or later this will be cracked,” says Chris Kelsall, chief executive of the fusion firm Tokamak Energy in Culham, UK. “And it will be transformative.”Nature | 15 min read

#fusion #energy #climatechange #nuclear fusion #power

Unlocking the mysteries of proteins to counter antibiotic resistance

Even if we somehow survive global warming there’s another threat almost certain to get us. Once again LSS returns to the theme of antibiotic resistance, when organisms like E. coli become so resistant to our drugs that they multiply as they like and kill us all. Horribly.

We’ve used these blogs often to discuss progress in antibiotic research, and also more outre ideas like the use of AI and bacteriophages (LSS passim) Now a new approach is being pioneered by Cesar de la Fuente of the University of Pennsylvania, in collaboration with the University of Naples. Using AI algorithms they are scanning the body’s vast storehouse of proteins and peptides, and discovering many hitherto unsuspected properties. Most exciting for us, gentle readers, is that many of these naturally produced molecules seem to have strong antimicrobial functions. This raises the possibility of a third method of treatment to run alongside improvements to to conventional antibiotics,and improvements to the immune system like mRNA vaccines.

Raul Limon‘s article for El Pais is a useful summary of Cesar’s work, and on progress generally in this field. English readers, be warned: you’ll need your translation app.

https://elpais.com/ciencia/2021-11-16/identificadas-2603-moleculas-producidas-por-el-organismo-de-forma-natural-que-tienen-capacidades-antibioticas.html

#protein #peptide #antibiotic #nature #bioscience #antimicrobials

James Graham:our tip for greatness

“He was not for an age, but for all time.” said Ben Johnson of William Shakespeare. The general consensus about Shakespeare was that he was so marvellously fair. Goodies and baddies went out of the window and in their place came an examination of the deep psychological drives of what may be called the human soul. Now we at LSS are proud to offer you the works of a contemporary playwright who imitates Shakespeare at least in that insight and objectivity.

James Graham is now 39 and grew up in a village bitterly divided by the miners’ strike of the 1980s. Perhaps this is why his plays are ostensibly political-like Shakespeare’s best. He covers such diverse subjects as Brexit, Rupert Murdoch and the bitter feuding of Gore Vidal and William Buckley. Yet the plays are so balanced and funny that even some of their subjects go to see them twice, as Rupert Murdoch is rumoured to have done with Ink.

There is something engaging about a media and political titan who can view an honest portrayal of themselves on stage. We cannot conceive of any past or present rulers of China and Russia doing so, and would take great care not to members of the cast, crew or audience of any such production. Murdoch believes in giving people what they want, not what educated people say they ought to want. He thinks the simple choices of the marketplace are more effectively democratic than a ballot. Perhaps this is a fallacy. But to sneer at Murdoch and his tribe of followers as so many do is to go down to massive political and economic defeat again and again and again.

What James Graham does is to open a space where we can discuss the oldest political question of all: do we construct on the way people actually are? Or do we aspire to something different and better? And be grateful-under Murdoch you are still free to ask that question. People in certain other places are not.

our link today from Dorian Lynskey of the Guardian covers the above issues in a refreshingly easy style

https://www.theguardian.com/stage/2021/nov/15/james-graham-dominic-cummings-rupert-murdoch-gore-vidal-william-buckley-best-of-enemies

#freedom #humannature #theatre #rupert murdoch #gore vidal #william buckley #shakespeare

Weekly Round up: Pick and Mix

some stories which go beyond the daily swirl

Tabloids heal thyself A peculiar feature of British life is the immense impact that our popular newspapers have on everything from politics and economics to our viewing habits. Simply because so many trust them as impeccable sources. Perhaps the following piece from Joe will show how perilous this trust may be. If they can’t get things right on a story about pubs and chips, what hope is there for their thoughts on macro-economic policy?

https://www.joe.co.uk/news/the-old-man-collecting-chips-from-every-single-wetherspoon-isnt-who-you-think-he-is-298912

we thank Mr Peter Seymour of Hertfordshire for this story

At last, a European Capital Market? The irony is that Brexit has probably benefited the European Union more than the UK, leaving them free to speed up their plans for integration on everything from defence to law. Nowhere is this clearer than renewed attempts to form a single Capital Market for equities, sovereign debt and securities clearances, a Philip Stafford of the Financial Times makes clear. The point is not whether the particular enterprise of Mr Boujnah fails or not; it is the overall direction of travel. If London is not careful it could find itself isolated from the main stream of commerce, and dwindle to something the size of Geneva. Or Liechtenstein?

https://www.ft.com/content/baf47da8-e02d-4295-b22b-55f885cc65a1

Language and motor skills One of the great puzzles in science is where language came from. Perhaps we will never know. But one clue is the close association of regions of the brain which deal with fine motor skills, such as tool-handling, and language functions. Claudio Brozzoli and Simon Thibault explain their fascinating findings for The Conversation

https://theconversation.com/tool-use-and-language-skills-are-linked-in-the-brain-and-practising-one-improves-the-other-171464?

China US accord-what’s it worth? An intelligent follower of this blog wisely counselled that “you won’t do anything about global warming unless you get China on board.” We agree, but we think this is true for the US too, who were distinctly foot-dragging until the arrival of the more enlightened Biden Administration. Nature, surely the most intelligent of publications, gives a first take on the two countries’ Cop-side agreement , linking to the admirable Washington Post. At least it means the two superpowers are not fighting each other-yet.

The world’s two biggest greenhouse-gas emitters have issued a surprise joint declaration at COP26. The statement reiterates the countries’ commitment to the 2015 Paris agreement and promises “enhanced climate actions” to make it happen. “We both see that the challenge of climate change is an existential and severe one,” said Chinese climate envoy Xie Zhenhua at an unannounced news conference. “In the area of climate change, there is more agreement between China and the US than there is disagreement.” The declaration was met with cautious optimism by observers, who note that it is short on firm deadlines or specific commitments, and partly restates a shared statement made in April.The Washington Post | 9 min read
Reference: US-China joint Glasgow declaration

Exhibitions at Olympia Now we have all this fantastic AI lying around, what are we going to do with it? One use might be to make fantastic reconstructions of past glories, such as the original home of the Olympic games in Greece. Ian Randall has a charming article for the Mail about researchers who have done just that. LSS confession: we used to live near the eponymous area of West London, but it was nothing like this!

https://www.dailymail.co.uk/sciencetech/article-10186537/Archeology-Microsoft-uses-AI-digitally-recreate-site-Olympic-Games.html

#greece #olympia #earls court #capital markets #global warming #climate change #china #USA #tabloids

Cranberry Cocktails for Thanksgiving Day

Our American readers have been known to complain-“LSS is a bit Anglo Centric, there’s a lot more to the world than one part of one small island in the Eastern Atlantic!” True, very true, and point taken. So as the United States of America (and certain other countries) have their Thanksgiving Dinners coming up soon, we mark the occasion with a cocktail homage to the humble cranberry.

Why the cranberry? Well, on 25th November many Americans will be complementing their traditional turkeys made from the juice of this humble but exceedingly worthy red berry. Many readers of LSS will know that the American-deployed cranberry will most likely be Vaccinium macrocarpyn as opposed to the more British V. oxycoccus. But let’s not be cranberry purists! The juice of the little red fruit is packed with any number of vitamins and minerals, especially manganese, so moderate amounts will do you good. So without further ado, let’s look at three possibilities from Hamlyn’s Ultimate Cocktail Book which bring out the cranberry to its best.

Sea Breeze Put one measure of vodka, 1.5 measures of grapefruit juice, and 1.5 measures of cranberry juice into a hurricane glass. Crush 5 ice cubes and stir but don’t spill. Decorate with lemon and lime slices and serve with a straw. Dead simple, and a perfect opener for party guests, we say.

Sex on the Beach To be honest neither sex nor beaches seem to rank especially high on anyone’s agenda in freezing November, but this one’s got cranberries, so it makes the cut. Take a cocktail shaker and add 1/2 measure vodka, 1/2 measure peach schnapps, 1 measure cranberry juice, 1 measure fresh orange juice, and one of pineapple juice. Add 4-5 ice cubes and shake ’til they break. Pour to a tall glass, decorate with a cherry or two and serve with an environmentally-friendly straw Perhaps certain staid Puritan circles may disapprove of the name-but, hell, even Puritans have to come from somewhere, same as the rest of us.

,This one’s non alcoholic for the drivers. Put 600ml of cranberry juice and 600ml of fresh orange juice in a saucepan together with 150ml of pure water. Add 1/2 teaspoon of ground ginger and 1/2 teaspoon of mixed spice. Bring gently to boil and add sugar to taste. Simmer for about 8 minutes and serve to punch cups. Hamlyn recommend decorating with cherries mint sprigs, kumquats and a few cranberries. If you live some where near a fully stocked supermarket that is!

Well, there’s a few curtain raisers for any cranberry-themed dinner party. We hope you enjoy your day, whenever that is, and look forward to weekly round up tomorrow, where we have some great ideas for you

#cranberry #thanksgiving #USA #turkey