Weekly round up: Sex, money and weight loss-what more could you want?

a weekly summary of stories which we think may indicate deeper trends

Economics: half a new paradigm? The ancient battle between Keynesians and Hayekians takes a new twist as Larry Elliott of The Guardian asseverates that the Covid crisis has swung the odds in favour of the Sage of Bloomsbury once more. It’s questionable as to how great are the real differences between them, but it seems very important to everyone around us from bankers and politicians at one end to the crowd at the Dog and Duck who simultaneously demand lower taxes and lavish public services. Better read it, we think

During the pandemic, a new variant of capitalism has emerged | Larry Elliott | The Guardian

Why do people have affairs? According to the experts, sex sells papers, or least generates clicks, so we at LSS thought we’d better give it a try. We’ve worked in places where the whole department apart from ourselves seemed to exist in a frenzy of extra marital high jinks. “Going over the side ” was what many Metropolitan Police Officers used to call it. The Times explains the eight reasons why they did it (spoiler alert: this came via Apple News, so you may need a bit of clicking to get the full article)

Dangerous liaisons: the 8 reasons people have affairs | Weekend | The Times

Fat is a complicated issue: We all know about the plague of obesity stalking advanced countries, and we still think that losing a bit is a Good Thing. Imagine the money you’d save if you could get back into your 1996 chinos! But knowing that LSS readers are an intelligent lot who like their truths subtle, here is an interesting counter-blast from Nature, Uncoupling weight and health:

Many researchers and doctors take it as a given that obesity means ill health. But geneticist Ruth Loos says that “we can be obese but remain healthy”. Many people with obesity have healthy cholesterol and blood glucose levels, for example, while many lean people do not. Loos and other researchers are examining genes, animal models and people to understand how factors such as the nature and distribution of fat in the body can blunt or compound any health impacts of extra weight.Science | 12 min read

Private jets If you want to escape from all our admonitions, why not buy a private jet. We include a link to a site below. They seem a bit reticent about the prices, but it seems a good one could set you back anything around $13 500 000. (11,340 000 euros) That’s before you pay to have an in-flight magazine printed.

Private jets for sale worldwide | AvBuyer

Good weekend!

#privatejets #sex #affairs #keynes #hayek #politicaleconomy

Some Japanese drinks to help you enjoy the Olympics

The Olympics are on us again. We love all the bright colours, the fantastic skill of the competitors and the feeling that for a few hours the world has parked its quarrels and we can all settle down in front of the TV like it’s one big happy village. But as you settle into your armchair to watch swimmers swim, boxers box and athletes athlete (surely some mistake?-ed), what drinks will lift your spirits and at the same time get you truly into that vital Japanese spirit? Today we’ll look at a range, starting with:

Beer According to Wikipedia it only arrived in the home islands in the seventeenth century, brought by Dutch traders. But the Japanese being the Japanese soon learned to improve on their teachers and now the market is dominated by four large brands-Suntory, Kirin, Asahi and Sapporo. All are light and refreshing. But thirty years ago we used to love the shape and design of the old Sapporo tin. It’s a bit less in-and outy than we remember from the far off days of 1991, but much else has changed too Remember Japan in the Passing Lane? Warning- drink too many of these and you’ll look more like a Sumo wrestler than a lady gymnastic competitor.

Beer in Japan – Wikipedia

Sake No study of Japanese History, Art and Political Economy would be complete without a long discussion of Sake, the famous drink made from rice. As you might expect from a land where ritual and ceremony are prized, there are numerous flavours and types. You can drink it chilled, lukewarm or heated, depending on the weather. Sake is deeply embedded in Japanese culture at all levels. One famous example was the famous Kamikaze pilots of the Second World War, who drank a last toast in it to The Emperor before departing on their doomed missions.

Sake – Wikipedia

Tea In Britain, from where this blog originates, tea is something you throw into boiling water in a mug , mix in milk and sugar and slurp down on any occasion from dawn to dusk. It’s something you give to those burly men in overalls who come round to do things to your roof or dig enormous holes in your drive. It’s all rather informal; a washed cup is rather an eye-raiser in such circumstances. Nothing could be further from the elaborate rituals and refined sensibilities of the Japanese tea ceremony. This is so complicated that we cannot explain it, but invite readers to our Wikipedia link below. Don’t try to repeat it without plenty of practice.

Japanese tea ceremony – Wikipedia

Whisky and more galore All that hard work makes Japanese people very thirsty, and we have a link which shows the other runners and riders competing to quench the eastern thirst. These include plum wine and of course whisky. Time was, after the Second World War, when both Japanese and Americans developed a fascination for all things Scottish, like whisky and golf. Once again, Japanese brands are competing successfully with the old masters, and are no doubt just as good as giving you a hangover the size of the Loch Ness Monster

And so we say “Kanpai!” to competitors, sports fans and everyone else in Japan and round the whole world. Enjoy the games, enjoy a good Friday night, and we’ll be back tomorrow with a round up you will not lightly forget.

Alcoholic beverages in Japan (japan-guide.com)

#berr #whisky #tea #sake #japan #olympics

Climate Change: wise second thoughts from the Financial Times

If there’s one thing that separates that small elite band who read LSS from the rest of humanity, it is their ability to slow down and think for a bit. To see that problems are complex and that quick easy answers inevitably lead to mistakes. Big ones, sometimes.

So nothing could be more apposite than to think carefully about COP26 and the actions that result from it. One august body that has done just that is the Financial Times. Our rare brushes with this journal have always left us impressed by the thoughtfulness, erudition and occasional dry wit of its writers. So it is with Philip Stephens, who lays out the utter delicacy needed for the next few months, in thoughtful, balanced prose. [1]Once more, we won’t spoil the pleasure for you. But let this taster be a sample of what you will miss if you don’t click below. Getting it right, he says, would be a pretty good thing. Getting it wrong::

ends in a fresh explosion of political populism as the burden of implementing all those ringing international commitments falls on those least able to afford them — on the anti-globalist left-behinds who backed Donald Trump for the White House, cheered Britain’s flight from the EU and might yet put the hard-right populist Marine Le Pen in France’s Elysée Palace.

It is just over a hundred years since the Versailles Conference comprehensively blew the chance to set a new world order. Its failure led to the Second World War, the costliest in history, less than twenty years later. Read Philip, and don’t let COP26 become a second Versailles.

[1]Climate change is a global threat demanding national solutions (msn.com)

#climatechange #globalwarming #cop26 #renewables #greenenergy #eco;ogy #planet

Heroes of Learning:Gerbert of Aurillac

It’s easy to be a bit learned these days, what with all the Universities, internets and libraries there seem to be about. But how clever would you have been in if you had lived in Europe in the year 1000 AD when there were no Universities? When 99% of the population were illiterate and spent their time either in farm labour or in killing people from horseback? In circumstances like those it takes real character and belief to kindle the flame of learning. Gerbert of Aurillac (c.940-1003), had such a character.

He came from a humble background, but was quickly talent-spotted by his local monastery because of his flair for mathematics. This was then the most practicable of the great sciences, as all you needed was a pencil and some parchment. Gerbert was taken up by a Spanish nobleman, who invited him to Barcelona. In Spain, he must have come into contact with Islamic scholars, who were then at the cutting edge of research in astronomy, mathematics and anything else that had a hint of knowledge about it. When he came back from Spain, he brought Arabic numerals and pioneered their use on the abacus, which was a bit like the computer of its day, except it was made of wood and metal.

Finally he hooked up with holy Roman Emperors like Otto 1 and his grandson Otto 111, who conspired to make Gerbert Pope Sylvester 11. He wasn’t a great success as Pontiff, being a little too scholarly and intelligent. But compared with the venial line who had proceeded him in the office ( historians call it “The Pornocracy“) he was at least honest, decent and hardworking.

He supported learning, such as it was at the time, in many fields. Though he and contemporaries had many facts wrong, their spirit of honest enquiry never faltered. Before Gerbert, learning spluttered, and often threatened to go out in Europe. After him, it never ceased to grow brighter, until the age of the great scholastics like Roger Bacon and St Thomas Aquinas arrived, from which we have never looked back. Whatever your system of beliefs, he was truly inspirational, and learned people everywhere owe him a debt of immeasurable proportion.

Links If you want a quick read up, try our wikipedia link below

Pope Sylvester II – Wikipedia

But if you want to try a learned but very readable book that points Gerbert in context, we cannot do better than to tip God’s Philosophers by James Hannam, Icon 2009.

#philosophy #knowledge #middleages #islam #papacy #holyromanempire

Throw away your computer, and….

Get a quantum computer. Well perhaps not quite yet. But very soon the one you are using today will look very old and slow. Because quantum computing will revolutionise lives the way that the arrival of semiconductors did back in the 1970s. And some. We’ve got two guides for you today. In Wired, Amit Katwala [1] has a nice easy-to- read overview- what they are, how they work, what they can do, etc. ( hint: LSS found they take a second to solve problems for which the best current supercomputers need a week.) If you like it so much that you want to get started for your self, IBM[2] has a real guide for the serious hobbyist. There’s qubits, entanglement, Grover algorithms and a whole lot more stuff some of you will be dying to learn about. We have a small personal problem here; apparently quantum computers only work at temperatures a fraction of a degree above absolute zero, and our freezer won’t go that low.

So now we live in the twenty first century par excellence. The existence of things like epigenetics, climate change, quantum computers and CRISPR will change things so much that the responses and data we learned in the twentieth are obsolete. There can be no going back, however much we try. New technologies soon bring new forms of society and mores. The trick is to embrace them-as soon as possible.

1Quantum computing and quantum supremacy, explained | WIRED UK

2 Learn quantum computing: a field guide – IBM Quantum

#quantumcomputing #qubit #informationtechnology

Ada Lovelace: the most important person we had never heard of

We earnestly hope that the pictures that flank the header on this blog convey an accurate picture of ourselves as brutish ignoramuses who had never heard of Ada Lovelace, (1815-1852), mother of the digital computer and joint author of the greatest near miss in human history. Confession over, let’s start the story

Imagine you are at a party and you meet one of those super high fliers who tells you : ” Oh yeah-I’m the daughter of Lord Byron, but my own field is cutting edge IT research.” You might be forgiven for raising an eyebrow, or feeling acutely for your own shortcomings. But Ada Countess of Lovelace was the real deal. Brought up by a gifted mother who chucked out Byron soon after the child’s birth, Ada grew up in an atmosphere of striving and mathematical learning. Well connected, she was soon moving in the company of some of the most able minds, and it wasn’t long before she met Charles Babbage. And the two of them started on a project of such breathtaking audacity for the timethat it still makes our hair stand up-to build the first digital computer.

The story of their adventures reads more like that of 21st century tech entrepreneurs than nineteenth century toffs. There were meetings with venture capitalists, Prime Ministers and international learned societies, mainly in the quest for funds. They came up with joint ideas for amazing things like logic systems, input devices, programs and algorithms. Ada and her mother toured the Midlands, then the most technologically advanced place on the planet, in the hope of finding someone who could build the hardware for the prototype. Meanwhile, Ada got married and started a family. And Babbage, so able in some aspects, was a nightmare to manage and work with in others.

Ultimately, the project failed. To build a mechanical computer was beyond the technological capacity of the age. It is a measure of how agonisingly close they came to realise they even had the pioneering electric expert Wheatstone on board at one time. And Ada, who had more of the business brain, died young of cancer. Although remembered, there was no direct technological link between them and twentieth century pioneers like Turing.

So imagine if computers had been developed in 1844 and not 1944. On that scale, the breakthrough in protein structures we advertised in our last blog (LSS weekly round up 24 July) would have occurred in 1921. So what would the alternative 2021 have been like?

Ada Lovelace led one of he great might-have-beens of history. It is sad that she failed. But here courage, hard work and determination were never in doubt, and from now one we at this site will honour her as one of the greats.

Ada Lovelace – Wikipedia

Ada Lovelace: Founder of Scientific Computing (sdsc.edu)

#computers #IT #technology #womeninscience

Weekly Round up: Breakthroughs, Bonds and a drop of wine

another weekly look at stories which we still think will be significant in five years’ time-and more!

Protein BreakthroughLSS has long advocated the use of Artificial Intelligence in medical research. Now Google’s Deep Mind subsidiary is paying dividends of incalculable benefit. Its Alpha-fold project has predicted the structure of all human proteins, which will be of immeasurable importance in fields like drug design and curing chronic disease. Here’s Nature, reliable as ever:

AlphaFold has predicted the structure of nearly the entire human proteome (the full complement of proteins expressed by an organism) and made it available through a public database. The deep-learning neural network, developed by Google’s artificial-intelligence firm DeepMind, predicts the 3D structures of proteins from their amino-acid sequences. AlphaFold has also predicted almost complete proteomes for other organisms, ranging from mice and maize (corn) to the malaria parasite. The more than 350,000 protein structures vary in their accuracy. But researchers say the resource — which is set to grow to 130 million structures by the end of the year — has the potential to revolutionize the life sciences.Nature | 6 min read

Let it rip It was so tempting to let the coronavirus roam free, so that everyone could go back to work. The trouble was that viruses mutate. That pesky delta variant can churn out copies 1000 times faster than the old fashioned ones. And we wonder-how much worse will the next variant be? Great link in Nature, again

Since first appearing in India in late 2020, the Delta variant of SARS-CoV-2 has become the predominant strain in much of the world. Researchers might now know why Delta has been so successful: people infected with it produce far more virus than do those infected with the original version of SARS-CoV-2, making it very easy to spread. A study of some of the first people in China to be infected with Delta showed that their viral load — a measure of the density of viral particles in the body — was roughly 1,000 times higher than in people infected with the original coronavirus strain.Nature | 4 min read

Green investing One question many people like to ask is “is this company really concerned with the future, or are they just putting out a lot of Greenwash?” Green bonds have long been mooted as an answer to this very understandable dilemma. Catarina Cardoso of the University of Westminster, that centre of the highest learning excellence, weighs up the pros and cons for the Conversation.

A little glass of something Sorry there was no cocktail column this week-forgive us for having too much work on. But we can honestly say that there is no better drink for a warm summer evening than a glass of chilled rose wine. From dry, refined Provence or Touraine, to lively fruity Californians or Australians-there are so many you could choose from. And it’s all so much quicker than mixing up a cocktail!

#alphafold #deepmind #google #covid-19 deltavariant #sqars-cov-2 #evolution #greenbonds #universityof westminster

Best wishes to Victoria Atkins-but what a task ahead!

Some people have accused LSS of being a political blog. It isn’t. We may cover Politics. We’re not Partisan. We welcome any party that takes a stand on issues dear to our hearts, from antibiotics to climate change. And there’s something else, as dear friends have pointed out- you never know where help might come from.

At first sight Alexander de Pfeffel Johnson‘s track record on women isn’t exactly inspiring, at least on the personal level. Yet his government has appointed, and backed, Victoria Atkins to a herculean but utterly noble task, a decision which reflects well on all concerned. For she it is who will become Parliamentary Under Secretary (it’s a kind of Minister, overseas chums) on all matters concerning the safeguarding of women, including against such barbaric crimes as rape, stalking, genital mutilation and forced marriages. Recently she gave an impassioned speech in the UK Parliament to which we link via the Mail below [1]

And what a task lies ahead! Forget all the special interest religious and cultural issues just for a minute. Because everyday contempt for women is ingrained in all societies, as feminists have known for decades. What is it like just to walk by a building site and be whistled at by leering, ignorant vulgarians? To be followed in the street by some unjailed sociopath who thinks it’s all so-called “banter”? If those aren’t a genuine denials of basic liberty, well forgive us, because we don’t know what is.

Somewhere, a Minister will now take a stand on such issues. It may be little, but it’s a start. Perhaps poor Victoria will fail. But someone, somewhere will pick up the torch and we’ll all try again until this battle is finally won.

[1]Video: Victoria Atkins gives impassioned speech on violence against women | Daily Mail Online

#vitoriaatkins #women #rape #fgm #harrasment #violence #sexism

Johnson and Cummings: when friends fall out, they do it big

Overseas readers may accuse us of navel gazing, but the human dramas of UK affairs may have universal relevance. Or so we fondly believe. So the news that former special advisor Dominic Cummings has launched another venomous attack on Prime Minister Alexander de PfeffleBoris” Johnson fills us with curiosity: why do old buddies fall out?

In December 2019 this accomplished pair had the world at their feet, or at least the British bit of it. Having recently won the earth shattering Brexit referendum they then achieved a trouncing win in a General Election. They complemented; the one a tactician of something like genius, the other a shrewd communicator who deeply resonates with the key elderly C2D voters who shape British national life. Both belonged to the same ruling-class background-prosperous families, private education, Oxford, then thriving in the well financed ecology of British Conservatism-journalism, think tanks, “advisory” roles- before pushing their way into the top jobs. Both might have been forgiven for yelling “The future belongs to me!” on that distant winter morning. So why, oh why, the big bust up? We can’t be sure. But history offers us some intriguing parallels.

Brotherly Love However close you started out, however much you went through together even the closest relationships can come under strain. The well-documented travails of the Gallagher brothers of Oasis fame or the Windsor brothers Harry and William (they of the eponymous castle) show that even the bonds of DNA will snap in time. What bond then in strangers, especially when the fruits of success must be delivered? Which leads us to:

The Pressure Cooker The old saying of the 49ers on the trail to the west was that three weeks cooped up a waggon, coping with the conflicting pressures of Indigenous Native Americans, wolves, desperadoes, poor weather. baked beans and non existent cellphone signals, were enough to make you want to murder anyone, for any transgression, even your own wife. It is easy to write columns, and blogs, about what Governments should do. Just as it is easy to walk along a wooden plank laid out conveniently on a garden lawn. Try walking the same plank across Niagara falls. You will find that the mood alters somewhat.

The woman The oldest triangle in history is the King, the Queen, and the Chief Advisor. Augustus had Livia, who saw to the extermination of Agrippa and his line. Edward II had Mortimer and Isabella. Fans of the Barchester Chronicles will recall how Mrs Proudie engineered the downfall of the oleaginous and double dealing Mr Slope, up to then her husband’s right hand man. Can we carry this analogy further, without weak puns?

We got it all wrong What do you do when the act is no longer pulling the crowds, or The Project has gone all wrong? The bust up between Judas and Jesus has been fairly well documented. But what about Marshall Bernadotte? Until 1810 he was one of Napoleon’s Main Men. But realising the little guy was starting to get it seriously awry, he jumped ship, got himself a plum job as King of Sweden and spent the next few years stabbing his old chum in the back. Even closer to our time, remember how former pals Hitler, Goering and Himmler fell out when the events in the war panned out “not necessarily to Germany’s advantage”? Worms turn, but trust is not like gold-you can’t buy it back at any price.

Our prediction For now Johnson still has the support of the papers, which still bring their crucial constituency of voters with them. Cummings can be dismissed as an embittered loser. But a careful reading of Government newspapers shows evidence of growing doubts. For now these are mild and coded. But a Prime Minister, especially a Conservative one, is there to protect the economic interests of the English landed and monied classes. If these start to be seriously threatened, then Cummings’ scribblings will be revived. With glee.

#borisjohnson #dominiccummings #covid-19 #brexit #conservativeparty #primeminister #josef goebbels

News so good it made us break our Sunday Embargo

That’s right, good readers, this news is so encouraging that we broke our own Sunday embargo to bring it to you, as you’re always telling us that you like a bit of hope. And it’s extra easy for you today, because we found the same article by Anthony King in both Spanish (El Pais) and English (Horizon) 1,2

The once-disparaged phages are now coming up fast on the rail. A company called Pherecydes, 3 led by the intriguingly-named Guy-Charles Fanneau de la Horie is pioneering the use of phages against the so called deadly three that plague our hospitals. Astute readers will know we refer to Staphylococcus aureus, Escherichia coli and Pseudomonas aeruginosa, whose resistance to conventional antibiotics will soon make surgery and hospital care almost impossible. The team are just starting to trial their discoveries in a limited number of patients in Lyon and hope that licensing will let them go large as soon as possible.

Over in Dublin Siobhan McClean and Bactivax 4 seem to have found a weak spot in Pseudomonas. They think this is in the protein it uses to attack our cells, and hope to develop a vaccine so the body can fight it without the need for antibiotics.

We at LSS are no microbiologists. But the way that intelligent people are thinking differently, and above all trying, fills us with hope. The ignorant and the superstitious seem be having their day during these last few years. But their way of thinking can offer nothing compared to these scientists, and one day we shall be back.

1Las bacterias resisten a los antibióticos, pero los virus y las vacunas podrían ayudar | Ciencia | EL PAÍS (elpais.com)

2 More bacteria are becoming resistant to antibiotics – here’s how viruses and vaccines could help | Horizon: the EU Research & Innovation magazine | European Commission (horizon-magazine.eu)

3 Pherecydes Pharma (pherecydes-pharma.com)

4 Bactivax

#antimicrobialresistance #bacteriophage #vaccine #hospital #infection #gramnegative