Today’s the day!

In a few hours, my younger son Dan and I will be heading to Indooroopilly to deliver on our side of the Great Shave bargain. Photos of the results will be available shortly.

Having set what I thought would be an impossibly ambitious target of raising $5000 for the Leukemia Foundation, I’m thrilled to report that the total including some cash donations and cheques, is just a few dollars short of $6000! There’s still time to donate. In the meantime, thanks to everyone who’s helped make this such a huge success.

In praise of libertarianism

I got a great response from libertarian readers to the Great Shave Appeal, and so the final instalment in my ‘In Praise of ..’ series is addressed to them.

Although they are often at loggerheads, libertarians and social democrats share plenty of ideas, derived in large measure from common sources. Both draw heavily on the 19th century liberalism of John Stuart Mill, who managed to write effectively in support of both classical free-market economics and, later in life, a rather abstract form of socialism.

It’s not surprising then, that I broadly agree with libertarians on the classic civil liberties issues – freedom of speech, freedom from arbitrary arrest and detention, opposition to government intervention in private decisions such as sexual activity and drug use and so on.

The attacks on civil liberties since the Iraq war have made many of these issues more vitally relevant and led me and others to stress our areas of agreement with libertarian defenders of freedom such as blogger Jim Henley. They have helped to distinguish genuine libertarians from otherwise orthodox authoritarians (typically US Republicans), who happen to take a relaxed view on sex and drugs.

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Swindle update

An interesting report from The Times (hat tips to Rog and Richard Tol).

Following the broadcast of The Great Global Warming Swindle, Dr Armand Leroi, who had been planning to work with Durkin on a documentary, sent him an email expressing concern about the programme and saying “To put this bluntly: the data that you showed in your programme were . . . wrong in several different ways.” He copied the email to scientific author Simon Singh. Durkin responded to Leroi saying “You’re a big daft c*ck.â€? A further email from Singh, urging Durkin to engage in serious debate, received the response “Go and f*ck yourself”. Leroi subsequently stated that he was withdrawing his co-operation with Durkin.

This was the day that Frank Devine chose to begin his column in the Oz, which has enthusiastically plugged Durkin’s work, “Climate change predictors really need to acquire a few social graces.”

In praise of adaptation

Reader Taust contributed to the Great Shave Appeal, asking in return for 250 words in praise of adaptation to global warming. This isn’t as hard as it might seem since a large part of my research work is focused on exactly this issue. The only problem is that I find I have to write more than 250 words. Anyway, here is the promised post.

The responses to global climate change have been characterized as ‘mitigate, adapt, or suffer’ (http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/business/6302019.stm Weber 2007). Whatever level of mitigation takes place for the world as a whole, and whatever our contribution, global warming is bound to continue for decades to come, probably at rates faster than we have observed so far. So, for any given level of mitigation, the choice comes down to ‘adapt or suffer’.

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Weekend reflections

Weekend Reflections is on again. Please comment on any topic of interest (civilised discussion and no coarse language, please). Feel free to put in contributions more lengthy than for the Monday Message Board or standard comments.

In praise of mathematics

As part of my fundraising efforts for the Great Shave, I promised to write 500 words in praise of mathematics in return for some generations donations. I thought this would be the easiest of my promises to fulfil, but it’s actually pretty hard to write in praise of something that is (to me) so obviously wonderful. Anyway, here goes.

The most striking single thing about mathematics is that a collective endeavour, pursued for thousands of years primarily because of its beauty and pure intellectual interest should turn out, in our time, to be so amazingly useful. To take perhaps the most striking example, the amazing fact that

Eipi

or better still, with five fundamental constants

E^ipi-1

is, or ought to be, adequate reward for all the effort that went into the discovery of calculus, trigonometry and complex number theory, and the effort each new generation puts into learning these things. But, it gives us, free of charge, the amazingly useful Fourier transform, the basis of all kinds of modern communications, and much, much more.
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