Only everybody can know the truth

One of the most frustrating things about going on to a higher education is to find yourself forced into narrower and narrower channels of specialisation. At fifteen a wonderful world of sciences, arts and humanities lies at your feet. At twenty they’ve cut you down to a biologist. Your doctorate will be in some tiny enzyme system in one obscure organism, and if you’re doing your job properly you will only know as much about art, history,other sciences or the racing results as the bloke next to you on the train. The brain works, but the heart and soul have long since shrivelled.

The last person to defy this tyranny was the German thinker Johan Wolfgang von Goethe (1749-1832). Owner of a life so long he encompassed most of the Enlightenment and Romantic periods, he was a successful playwright, novelist, politician, theatre director and lawyer. In science he made important contributions in geology, botany and optics. If everything else he did was burned, Faust alone would stand as a literary milestone for the ages. Either he was the most intelligent and hard working man who ever lived, or he was great at delegating. We’ll leave you to find out. *

But ultimately, he it was who answered the specialisation problem. “Only everybody can know the truth” he said. He recognised that the specialist, beavering away in their laboratory, has a vital, but limited role. There is just too much to learn for anyone to be good except at a tiny part of it. And even the specialist’s knowledge, be it of poker moves or forensic DNA analysis will be partial and subjective. Because they are human, too. But by creating a collective science mobilising everybodies’ experience and work, then the best of everything is available to everyone. You only have to go to the journals or on the internet to ask. Good criminal justice is an example of this, where a court will use enough of the learning of lawyers, scientists, witnesses and ordinary people on the jury to arrive at a satisfactory outcome. We can never have another polymath as awesome as Goethe. But if we educate enough people, we won’t need them.

Here’s your jumping off point, but be warned-you could spend a lifetime with this guy

Johann Wolfgang von Goethe – Wikipedia

#goethe #polymath #faust #science #specialisms #enlightenment #romanticmovement

Decline of the Religious Right?

Readers of LSS, tending to come from the intelligent, informed section of the population, will be assailed daily by streams of news from platforms, media, websites and plain old gossip in the supermarket. That’s why we think this little forum should be used to pick out things which may-may-have a longer term significance. Please indulge us, because we think we’ve found one.

You may have noticed that we at LSS make no judgements on the rights and wrongs of someone’s beliefs. We welcome all faiths, and none. But we reserve the right to observe the consequences of those beliefs, just like events in the weather, the stock market, or geology. Particularly when they play out in the political arena. And nowhere has faith played out so strongly as in the last few decades in the United States of America. Since at least the late Carter years, the power of the Religious Right has been taken for granted. For better or worse it has undeniably delivered a huge voting block for Republicans. This in turn has consequences in the economy, pulling the equilibrium towards a general pro-business, low tax, anti government agenda. The social and intellectual consequences are subtle but profound, with persistent hostility towards things like evolution, abortion and environmental regulation. Preachers like Billy Graham, Jerry Falwell and Jimmy Swaggart can catch the ears of Presidents and the allegience of powerful media barons.

But has the movement has passed its peak? Writing in The Guardian, Adam Gabbat * describes how Americans are starting to turn away from religion. The reasons are complex. But one is particularly fascinating. The Religious Right has been overplaying its hand, angrily forcing its agenda on groups like the LGBT minority, which has particularly offended millenials. It’s a funny thing, but have you ever worked in a place where the power of the bosses’ favourite is starting to wane? Feeling insecure, they lash out more and more, looking for tokens of submission. Which just makes it worse for them. It’s a lesson that could be learned in certain other countries. How ironic if one of those countries was Iran.

‘Allergic reaction to US religious right’ fueling decline of religion, experts say | Religion | The Guardian

#evangelical #religiousright #unitedstates #religion #secularism #ethnonationalism #religiousright #christianity #islaam #iran #fundamentalist

Round up of the week: one mystery solved, one investigated, and a bronze age lunch

A short weekly round up so you can enjoy a long weekend!

The mystery of sports greats: For years we have racked our brains on the same intriguing mystery: what makes a truly great sports champion different to their peers-and the rest of us? After all, they’re still nerves, blood, muscles, bone, just like the rest of us. Now for the first time we think we have found and answer we like from Amit Katwala of Wired, via Apple News

Look at this quote

At the elite level, sporting success comes down to three factors: anticipation, high-speed decision-making, and the ability to perform under pressure. The best athletes in the world seem to have more time than everyone else not because they’re quicker or stronger (although it helps) but because they’ve honed their sensory systems through thousands of hours of practice – they pick up on advance cues like the shape of an opponent’s body, or the sound of the ball leaving a tennis racket to predict where it’s going to end up. 

There’s more, but we think this goes to the heart of the matter

Lewis Hamilton opens up about activism and life beyond F1 | WIRED UK

Origin of covid Nature Briefings is still hot in the trail What’s next in the Sars-Cov-2 origins search. Lots of good references here too so you can become really well informed

A World Health Organization (WHO) report on the pandemic’s origins makes a reasonable start, scientists say, but there is much left to do. The report highlighted the possible role of live-animal markets, including the Huanan market in Wuhan, to which many of the first known COVID-19 cases are linked. It also concluded that the virus probably didn’t spread widely before December or escape from a laboratory. But it left readers hungry for more answers to questions such as which animal carried the virus from bats to humans and how that spillover occurred. Nature spoke to scientists about what needs to come next.Nature | 8 min read
Read more: WHO report into COVID pandemic origins zeroes in on animal markets, not labs (Nature | 6 min read)
Reference: WHO report: Origins of the SARS-CoV-2 virus

Eating at your desk: Are you one of those people whose day is so frantic that you can’t even pop out for lunch? So you scoff down sandwiches at your desk while flicking through your e mails? Apparently they were doing it in the bronze age too, or sort of. According to El Pais these early Austrian miners were go getting workaholics who snatched thie lunches at the doors to the mine before rushing back in for another bust afternoon of super productivity. Uber eat your heart out.

warning to English speakers-this one needs a translator app

#productivity #sars-Cov-2 #covid19 #sports

Warning-this article contains material that may be intellectually disturbing

Early on, researchers in odd corners of animal behaviour noticed some funny things. Birds learn their amazing songs from other birds, albeit of the same species. Groups of animals seeme to have small but steady differences in the way they did the same things-for example, the way different sets of chimps used their primitive tools. And so it went. Now a major study reported by Ryan Morrison for the Daily Mail * reports that the idea of animal learning, and animal cultures is extremely widespread, and is certainly not confined to our rather clever nearer relatives. It’s been around for a very long time according the study author Professor Andrew Whiten of St Andrews University.

Why is all this important? Well, because it upsets a lot of apple carts. For a start, there was the confident assunption that only humans had culture, and animals were robots, blindly carrying out the relentless programmes of their genes. That’s desperately over-simple. Secondly, that the genetic material (DNA in all higher organisms) was the sole and only mediator of evolution, and its selection by the vagaries of Fortune was the only determinant of who and what we were. (An idea once very popular with fans of The Selfish Gene, but we’ll go into that another day) Yet, if learned ways of behaving are passed down and selected in the harsh school of nature,are we not talking about a second evolutionary system? One that might be called “culture?”

No one can deny the central importance of natural selection on genomes. Ask any expert on antibiotic resistance if you doubt that. For some time now we have suspected that epigenetics, the life of proteins and RNA associated with genes may be playing a role too. Now comes strong evidence of a third, cultural factor. It makes life much more complicated and interesting, both for living organisms, but above all for the scientists who study them. Time for a strong drink, everyone?

#dna #naturalselection #culturalevolution #epigenetics

Xenobots break the boundary between biology and robotics

Imagine if you were reading a newspaper in about April 1771. It would have been a confusing jumble of adverts, news and features. You might have seen a story about a new Bill in the House of Commons. A ship bearing new calicos had arrived from the East. A man called William Wilberforce was suggesting it might be a good idea to be a bit less beastly to black people. All very intriguing no doubt. But buried away on page 6 might have been a small item about a bloke called James Watt, who had invented some sort of new kettle that made things go round faster. And this was the real story, that one that would change the world forever.

So it is, we believe, with the new story about xenobots. Developed from the cells from the frog Xenopus laevis, they are microscopic robots which can be programmed to move, remember, report to control and carry out tasks at levels of precision which would have bben unimaginable back in the last century. We have two links for you; one to Stacey Liberatore of the Mail * and one to the original researchers at Tufts University. *

The potential step change in what we could do is immense. The researchers talk of drugs being delivered to the precise locations needed in the body. Teams of microrobots programmed to hack through soil, cleaning up radiation and industrial pollution. Is it fantasy to imagine them one day engineering the nucleic acids of individual cells, to remove harmful mutations? All of these possibilities and more are implied, transforming the world in the same way as Mr Watt and his collaborators. Sometimes the big stuff isn’t on the front page.

Scientists Create the Next Generation of Living Robots | Tufts Now

#xenobots #nanotechnology #ai #pollution #medecine #robotics #biology

A big thank you for April

March has seen us put on quite a number of new direct followers, plus of course more hits on things like Facebook and Twitter. So a big thanks to all new readers, sorry that it is no longer possible to thank everyone individually. Clearly some of you have some intriguing websites and blogs-more power to you!

Thanks too to our story hunters-that select band who find and send in ideas they think we all should know about. This week has been entirely driven by them, and we welcome ideas from all and sundry.

So wishing all of you, of whatever belief, a Happy Easter, we earnestly recommend that you spend at least some of it listening to JS Bach‘s St Matthew Passion. Easter is about more than Hot Cross Buns, chocolate eggs and huge helpings of roast lamb, as thinkers through the ages have always known, and old JS proves the point overwhelmingly.

#lss #easter #jsbach

The Rise and Fall and Rise and Fall of Bill Hwang

Bill Hwang may be about to make the biggest, and fastest, personal loss ever. No one knows exactly how much, but according to Bloomberg * it could be anywhere between $10 billion and $100 billion. The list of names-investors, clients, portfolios-is enough to make anyone sit up and notice. And this will have reverberations for months. How did it happen?

Because according to Lucy White of the Mail: *

In 2012, he admitted in a US lawsuit to insider trading and manipulating Chinese bank stocks. He stumped up £32million in fines and agreed to be barred from the industry. 

How do you come back from that? Mr Hwang found a way . By trading, perfectly legally,as a single family office he was able to avoid the heavier regulation which falls on larger portfolio managers. Thus he returned to the game, and was once more playing with the big boys (you can read the Roll of Honour in our links below)

We at LSS admit to a sneaking regard for Mr Hwang’s courage and acumen in bouncing back from a setback which would have finished weaker spirits. As for the banks-they too are victims of the system, albeit one they have helped to create. Any system that is high risk, high reward and deregulated is inherently unstable. This time it is just Mr Hwang and his associates. But in 1929 and 2007 the damage was system wide-and catastrophic. A return to the post war golden days of regulated markets is impossible-the concentration of money and media power is too strong against it. But couldn’t we look once more at the more glaring areas from which the next crash might come? At least it might buy time.

we thank Mr Peter Seymour of Hertfordshire for this story

#billhwang #fundmanagement #regulation #glasssteagal #lverage #margincall #investment

Seaspiracy is making waves-and that’s a good thing

The misfortunes of the giant container ship Ever Given in the Suez Canal have focussed attention on the sea, and how much we take it for granted. But for how much longer? LSS is an emollient website, more anxious to comfort the afflicted than afflict the comfortable-but sometimes we cannot ignore something controversial, especially if we feel its heart is essentially in The Right Place.

Such is the casewith Netflix’ new documentary Seaspiracy, which is causing an enormous storm on twitter and other social media. It comes out of a stable of hard hitting documentaries by Ali and Lucy Tabrizi and Kip Andersen, and takes a long cool look at the destructive and polluting practices of the fishing industry. We’ve got a couple of links for you * * * so you can judge for yourselves.

Once a film creates a big enough reaction, it creates its own defining moment. Think of Al Gore and An Inconvenient Truth. Whatever side that you took, that was the instant at which global warming went-well, global really. So it may well prove with Seaspiracy. To us, anyone who challenges the brutal ignorant theory that we can go on looting the resources of this planet forever, with no attempt at conservation, is doing something right.

We thank Mrs Jill Lee of London for this story

Seaspiracy | Netflix Official Site

Netflix’s ‘Seaspiracy’: The Documentary Exposing The Fishing Industry’s Corruption | ELLE Australia

#seaspiracy habitatdestructiion #fishing #seafood #fish #netflix #tabrizi #sustainability #oceans

More good news on bacteriophages

Regular followers of LSS will once again recall our interest in the problem of antibiotic-resistant pathogenic organisms(LSS passim) Humanity really has been at its worse with antibiotics. The initial advantage given by scientific discoveries in the 1940s has been lost. Like degenerate aristocrats squandering the family fortune, misuse by overprescription and mass distribrution in agriculture has led to the rise of deadly new resistant strains of microorganisms. If you want to know more, go the site of antibiotics research uk * linked below.

We salute the heroic efforts to develop new antibiotics. But, as we have noted before, there are other ways that should be tried as well. Bacteriophages are those little viruses which attack and kill bacteria. Funnily enough, they were being used against bacteria as early as the 1920s, particularly in places like Russia and Georgia. But because many of the papers were in languages like Georgian, and because along came antibiotics, they got overlooked in the West.

Now they are making a real comeback, and we at LSS are proud to have covered a tiny corner of what these amazing researchers have been up to. Latest good news arrives from the University of Leicester, England where Professor Martha Clokie and her team are producing phages to tackle organisms as diverse as Clostridium, Salmonella and Lyme disease. The last, carried by ticks on deer, can be a particularly devastating affliction for those who enjoy outdoor pastimes such as cycling and walking.

It’s good to see more and more examples of research popping up all around. Maybe not all of you humans are as bad as we say!

we thank Mr John Read of Buckinghamshire for this story

Antibiotic Research UK | Fighting Antibiotic Resistance

Professor Martha Clokie | Research | University of Leicester

#antibiotics #bacteriophage #universityof leicester #professormarthaclokie #microbiology #antibioticresistance #health #disease

Weekly Round-up:

Here’s a look at some things to reflect on in the quiet peace of a Saturday afternoon before the football results.

Fake news It’s twenty five years since Daniel Goleman‘s groundbreaking Emotional Intelligence. And its resonances are still with us. It seems that people with greater EI are more able to sort out fact from fiction in the dodgy world of fake news. Here’s Tony Anderson and David Robertson in The Conversation:

Is altruism real? We all remember Richard DawkinsSelfish Gene with its uber-Thatcherite resonances: “Selfishness is the only game in town, you’re a fool to help anyone but your closest relatives, the lesson from Nature (the thing, not the magazine) is every man(or moss or amoeba) for himself”was the mantra. Now Nature (the magazine, not the thing) reports a weird case where Bonobos seem to be adopting completely unrelated individuals into their families, like human fosterers. Aren’t they our closest relatives? Maybe Dickie boy and his accolytes could pop out to the jungle and explain to these creatures how misguided they are. Take your time, lads!

Adoption is rare in the animal kingdom, but now researchers have witnessed bonobos taking care of orphaned infants from outside their own communities. Two females named Marie and Chio, who live in the Luo Scientific Reserve in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, took charge of infants who were unrelated to any female in their family group. Researchers sometimes attribute adoptions to females practicing maternal care or helping their kin and advancing their genes, but those ideas can’t explain these new observations. Seeing caretaking for unrelated infants “blew me away”, says ethologist Cat Hobaiter.Science News | 4 min read
Reference: Scientific Reports paper

Shakin’ all over That was more or less the reaction of physicist Mitesh Patel when he looked at his Large Hadron Collider and saw results which could change physics forever. Before you contact Amazon and order a large hadron collider for yourself; they’re quite big and expensive. Nature states:

Researchers at the Large Hadron Collider (LHC) have seen early hints of an undiscovered particle or interaction. More research is needed, but the results suggest an imbalance in how subatomic beauty quarks decay into two flavours of leptons: electrons and muons. If confirmed, that’s a violation of lepton flavour universality as described by the standard model of particle physics. “It’s too early to say if this genuinely is a deviation from the standard model, but the potential implications are such that these results are the most exciting thing I’ve done in 20 years in the field,” says physicist Mitesh Patel. “We were actually shaking when we first looked at the results.”BBC | 5 min read
Reference: LHC seminar

Adaptation is two ways Environmentalists and biologists should love this remarkable story of how new types of coral are evolving to live alongside those big motorways and and bridges that stick out into the sea. Maybe Boris Johnson could attach a few to his new bridge to Ireland?

BBC Earth – Our Blue Planet: Urban Corals | Facebook

Luxury Dining Posher readers will know the name of Berry Brothers and Rudd, the famous London wine merchants. Ordinary people only get to drink it when some aristo drops a bottle in to thank you for some minor service performed. Now the immortal vinters of St James Street are extending their marketing to luxury dining in experiences. Could this be a place to spend some of that cash you’ve saved up in lockdown? or do you still prefer pizzas and curries?


#berrybrothersand rudd #finewines #beautyquark #hadron #coral #bonobos #altruism #kinselection #selfishgene #richarddawkins