Black Holes are a myth

Myth?
Myth?

Black holes are a myth it was claimed yesterday in a startling development which runs contrary to the majority of self-riotous TV boffins like the smug and grinning Professor Brian Cox.

Mr. Jones, a former shelf stacker at Mac Fisheries, made the claim yesterday in an interview with this web site while sitting in front of his television. He stated that, theoretically, anything could escape a black hole though he added the caveat that escape would require an enormous amount of fuel and conceded that there may be engineering challenges related to tidal effects that make implimentations of black hole escape impractical. However he aserted that this “…doesn’t make it a scientific impossibility  for fuck’s sake….”. His findings refers to the oft stated supposition that nothing can escape a black hole because the escape velocity of a black hole is greater than the speed of light and nothing can exceed the speed of light.

smug and grinning?
smug and grinning?

However, Mr. Jones points out that a rocket moving out of a “gravity well” does not actually need to attain escape velocity to escape, but could achieve the same result (escape) at any speed with a suitable mode of propulsion and sufficient propellant to provide the accelerating force on the object to escape. Escape velocity is only required to send a ballistic object on a trajectory that will allow the object to escape the gravity well of the mass.

The implications are obvious said Mr. Jones “…these lame TV scientists with their stupid corduroy jackets and patched elbows think we’re all bloody stupid…”. If true his claim could have far reaching and fundemental implications for accepted cosmological theories and render the concepts of dark matter and dark energy obsolete.

fundemental implications for accepted cosmological theories
fundemental implications for accepted cosmological theories

Mr. Jones explained the background to his conclusion while quaffing large glasses of a fair to middling bottle of Lidl Barolo saying “I spoke to this blond bird who was some kind of astronomer at a science fair last weekend….” and he belched and drooled for a minute before collecting his thoughts, ”….She got all confused when I put it to her…” and Mr. Jones sniggered but went on ”…there may be other factors preventing stuff leaving a black hole but when they bang on about the light speed limitation for escape velocity they’re Talking Bollocks! Why the fuck can’t they tell us the truth? That’s what I’d like to know….these bastards on the TV, Cox got an OBE for Christ’s sake! I could do his job….why can’t I have an OBE?…..”

Mr. Jones then became incoherent and the interview was terminated. Professor Cox has yet to respond.

Driverless Cars – Virtual Humanity

Virtual Reality
Virtual Reality

Once again technology seems to be the spirit of the age. While The Daily Telegraph warns of another looming financial Armageddon the TechMARK index stands at its highest level ever. Big Data, cloud computing and smartphones are just the thin end of the wedge. Artificial Intelligence is now what its about. The creation of a fully automated “global world” (ugh!).

Virtual Humanity
Virtual Humanity

 

It seems to me that a lot of this new technology is not driven by human want or need but by massive corporations with massive amounts of cash and nowhere to put it. The world economy is shafted and they can’t make money from existing industries so they’re inventing new markets. For the economy this could be a good thing but for humanity, I’m not so sure.

Take driverless cars for example. For decades there has been no great demand for this. In 2014 there were 1,775 road deaths in the UK. A lot admittedly and arguably the media should be more upset about this than the handful of deaths caused by terrorism but as a society we are inured to road deaths. The government, the car industry and the population have agreed to turn a blind eye to road casualties probably for two reasons: First driving is so bloody useful and secondly because it’s great fun.

However, driverless cars are the now the thing and it can’t be long before Brad Pitt emerges from a driverless car at the Oscars. As technology improves and stats emerge that driverless cars are safer than cars driven by people expect to face a barage of stories to frighten us into allowing laws banning human piloted automobiles. All in the interests of road safety you understand. (Ka-Ching!).

Of course driverless cars will be safer but they’ll also means a further step in the absolute pacification of mankind. While we’re driven to work in our air conditioned personal transport pods – lights flashing and the voice of Stephen Hawking announcing “Attention, vehicle in motion” – we’ll need something to entertain at us.

We’ll need to “consume” more shit films or TV programs about cake. We’ll watch music videos of some blond millionaire twenty something from Los Angeles telling us how she’s had it tough but is sticking it to the man and we can all be like her by paying for her music. We’ll play Grand Theft Auto and pretend we’re speeding around Los Santos in a Porsche rather than trundling along at a constant 30 miles per hour in a creaking plastic box from a dormitory housing estate near Chelmsford to a job at a factory office near Stratford.

Technology peaked in the 1940s with the introduction of the home freezer, everything that followed has been efficiency gains, keeping up with the Jones’ or, as Herman Hesse would have it: “…no more service to man than as an escape from himself and his true aims, and a means of surrounding himself with an ever closer mesh of distractions and useless activities”.

Hesse didn’t understand the half of it. In the 21st century, we are busy constructing the dystopia that previous generations only read about.

Royal Academy of Arts – Summer Exhibition

A Modern Olympia III - Anthony Green
A Modern Olympia III – Anthony Green

Was up The Scurrying recently. Piccadilly. The Royal Academy of Arts Summer Exhibition. The web site says: “Discover exciting new talent alongside established stars of the art world”. As with most art web sites it’s almost impossible to figure out what the fuck is going on but it seems to me that this is an exhibition of the art produced by the last batch of graduates. I may be wrong. The “hanging committee” had planned the layout very well. As I walked in I was surrounded by some very mediocre attempts at modern art. This set my expectations. However, the clever thing about the layout is that as I persevered, as I wandered around I stumble across some absolute gems.

One work seemed to be writing painted on a backdrop of beautiful tiny coloured tiles but close inspection revealed this to be merely a lot of dots of paint. An elongated bust of a man’s head was extremely interesting. The appearance was that of an image with its aspect ratio stretched in Photoshop but this was a real 3D object and as I moved around it my mind grasped for the correct viewpoint which would normalise the image…..but of course this did not exist. Some nice plates which, at a casual glance, appeared to be nothing more than some old crockery in fact depicted surrealist images of weird Toby Jug men and naked ladies. But my favourite work was a simple painting covered with numerous flowers engendering the feel of old 1950s wallpaper. As I paid closer attention I could see a woman lying naked on a bed, a window, a 1950s style bedroom, a wardrobe, but wait; what’s that on top of the wardrobe? Is that an old man in a suit and is he conducting or is he sprinkling the flowers? A strange and surreal image. Many other works were well worth a look but hurry. The exhibition closes on 21st August.

At The Sign of the White Horse - Tom Barker
At The Sign of the White Horse – Tom Barker
The Royal Academy of Art - Summer Exhibition
The Royal Academy of Art – Summer Exhibition

 

The Royal Academy of Art - Summer Exhibition
The Royal Academy of Art – Summer Exhibition

 

David Noble Tractus - John Humphrys
David Noble Tractus – John Humphrys
The Royal Academy of Art - Summer Exhibition
The Royal Academy of Art – Summer Exhibition
The Royal Academy of Art - Summer Exhibition
The Royal Academy of Art – Summer Exhibition
The Royal Academy of Art - Summer Exhibition
The Royal Academy of Art – Summer Exhibition

 

Driving in France

 

Biking in France
Biking in France
Prior to motorcycling around France I had not appreciaited just how hot it gets in summer and how France lacks the usual supply of bars and cold drink stores.

After a hot day’s traveling I drove around the roads near my hostelry on the outskirts of Marseille in search of a bar or a 7-11 selling cold drinks. I found only an endless series of pharamacies and patiseries.

However, where your Frenchy sees cultural imperialism your Yank sees a chance to make a fast buck. The only place capable of asauging the heat exhaustion of your traveller is an American chain restauarnt. If it were not for McDonalds or KFC providing the occasional air conditioned refuge and cold drinks the cities of France would be litterred with dead foreigners.

Speaking of dead foreigners, I was not surprised to be told that France has a worrying number of road deaths. After about a week on French roads I can report that there are two main reasons for this. First there is the fact that the road system has been designed by idiots and second is the fact that all the French drivers are wankers.

First take the road layouts. It’s a cliche that your German likes his rules, your Brit is a bodger and your Frenchy likes his elegant theories. For the French road system this means a mind boggling and complicated set of rules, signs, roundabouts, crossings, lights etc. But this is not enough. Eash one of these parts has been broken down into a pleathora of sub parts. A set of traffic lights might be one of many types. Zebra crossings might occur imediatly before roundabouts, imediately after or in an undiscoverred wilderness where no human has stepped foot since the dawn of creation. The traffic lights are distributed freely everywhere. One tends to spend aproximately half ones driving time in French towns waiting at red lights, alone, without another car for a hundred kilometres.

I suspect that your Frenchman has determined: “But Monsieur, zere must be a roundabout here”, and his collague will say “yes, yes, but zere must also be a roundabout”, and an assitant will say: “But ze theory dictates zere must be a crossing. We must impliment zem all Monsieur”. So you end up with a roundabout, a set of lights, a crossing and an archipelego of traffic islands where one false move means instant death.

Your German, would have redesigned the whole thing, your Brit would have thought “Bugger it, the Roundabout is good enough”. But the Frenchman. No, he must impliment them all in the same place.

Perhaps I generalise too much. An alternative theory is that the work party sent out to build various traffic controls over a 100 kilometre stretch of road got so fed up standing under the intense French sun that they thought “Bugger it! Let’s just install it all right here and go and get a croisant”.

Then there is your French driver. The cardinal attribute of your French driver is indecisiveness. Indicators mean nothing as the driver has probably changed his intentions since flicking it on. Most of the French roads are either single lane or two lane roads. The result is that your French driver is in a constant frenzy of trying to overtake the guy in front or trying to get back into the inside lane to allow the bully behind him past. Driving behind a carravan or truck one constantly is cut up by someone who then breaks hard and tries to pull out.

“Yes meseur. I shall overtake your silly slow moving vehicle with my powerful fast French car. There! It is done. I shall cut in front of you to illustrate how slow you are travelling but no!! What is this? Another car in front of you!? Who could have forseen such a thing? I must now pull out again, but there is an idiot tailgating me and so I shall pull out half way and we shall all weave around at breakneck speed like imbeciles. Then there are the toll roads! Take one wrong turn and you’ll find yourself paying for the privilege of driving half an hour in the wrong direction.

So, why do it? Why come to France in the first place? Because it is fantastic! Because in the north east the roads are long and straight and lightly populated. Because they pass through some little villages that apear not to have changed in centuries. Because of the breathtaking Millau Viaduct. Because of the mountain roads and the magical valleys between mountain peaks. And, most of all, because much of France seems undiscoverred by the global tourist industry.

Biking in France – Liberté, égalité, bureaucratié

bureaucratie
bureaucratie

While preparing for a biking trip to France I came across a lot of bumph specifying equipment I must carry. Two breathalysers, a high visibility jacket, spare light bulbs, reflective stickers on my crash helmet and 6 sides of A4 with detailed instructions entitled “STOP – READ THIS FIRST” for the headlight modification! It all seems very excessive and bureaucratic.

Perhaps this indicates a lack of trust between the French state and the people. In the UK the law states that you can’t drive with too much alcohol in your blood. How you achieve this is your problem. You may abstain completely from drink, you might engage in moderation or you might practice “24 hours between bottle and throttle”. The British government doesn’t care; it only cares that you don’t drink and drive.

The French though! In France you can’t drive with too much alcohol in your blood but the French government don’t trust you to figure out how to achieve this. So they have tried to plan out what you will do in relation to drink driving and decided that you need, not one, but two breathalysers! Maybe they think that if you test yourself and fail then you’ll sit there by your bike for an hour or two and need to test yourself again. Or maybe they think that if you are under the limit then you’ll carry on drinking and need to retest later on. Or maybe they are so ludicrously bureaucratic that they think that, were you to only carry one breathalyser, then you would test yourself, find that you are under the limit and drive away but then be breaking the law as you would no longer be carrying a breathalyser!

It all seems very draconian, pointless and a bit of a make work scheme. I’ve probably spent around £50 on clutter and £4 of that just for a set of helmet stickers which, by rights, are so rubbish that they should be given away with a box of cornflakes.

It’s a bit of cliché that the difference between Common Law which predominates in the British Commonwealth and Civil Law which predominates in Europe is that Common Law allows an individual the freedom to do anything unless it is specifically proscribed whereas Civil Law codifies specific freedoms and so an individual’s actions are limited to what the state allows. I don’t know how true this is but I have experience of business in the UK and France and it does seem true that the British focus on ensuring that the rules are abided by whereas the French insist on a detailed process.

I am reminded of a quotation by Sir William Harcourt which has confirms me as a liberal and informed my attitude to Europe. It is this: “Liberty does not consist in making others do what you think right. The difference between a free Government and a Government which is not free is principally this—that a Government which is not free interferes with everything it can, and a free Government interferes with nothing except what it must. A despotic Government tries to make everybody do what it wishes, a Liberal Government tries, so far as the safety of society will permit, to allow everybody to do what he wishes. It has been the function of the Liberal Party consistently to maintain the doctrine of individual liberty. It is because they have done so that England is the country where people can do more what they please than in any country in the world”.

Bring back Victorian urinals the size of coffins

Derek Guyler
Derek Guyler

Rang the local bobbies yesterday. Had ideas of mature, constable at front desk in the manner of Derek Guyler. Thought I’d ask his opinion on keeping a bike on the street. After pressing 1 for this and 2 for that I reached a humanoid. Asked her my question and she told me to ring my local council parking department. She wasn’t even in Brighton. I said I was interested in the likelihood of theft and she directed me to the statistics for my area on the web.

I am starting to understand why any reasonable person is bound to eventually become a Victor Meldrew. The disparity between what we’ve got used to and what the world has become leaves us constantly dissatisfied. The only alternative is to become one of those cheerful but mad old grandpas who pick up random modern fashions like hoodies and are good with kids but wear luminous trainers. Neither result is attractive.

Later I was up The Smoke again. All this “progress” is pissing me off! Massive queue for the human ticket operatives at Brighton station. This is due to automation. Make the public sort out their own bloody tickets. Bollocks to them. So I tried to use a machine. These are positioned perfectly to catch the morning sun and at waist level to ensure wheel chair access. So I’m stooped over this damn machine as it asks me a lot of impertinent questions. I try to use my discount rail card and the price shoots up from £16 to £42. Eventually I get on the bloody train and the toilet is one of these Tardis affairs. Two button: D and L. D for door I assume and the button glows red when the door shuts behind me but the L for Lock doesn’t glow at all. Is that normal? Bollocks to them. Just write D & L on the buttons, who cares. Then the challenge of washing my hands. Should I press the soap button in hope that the water is actually working today? I never know how to get the water working so I just stamp my feet and wave my hands around and something I do makes water flow. Then at Clapham junction there are about 20 platforms and I’m not going to a terminus so I don’t know which train to catch. Is there an efficient station manager in a smart uniform waiting to answer my enquiry? There is not.

All this efficiency and process re-engineering generates more profit and makes things cheaper so that more people can travel and more people can have fancy holidays and cars etc. This was true of the agricultural revolution too. In a book entitled “Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind” Professor Yuval Noah Harari argues that the agricultural revolution allowed production of greater  quantities of food which allowed greater numbers of people to survive but they survived in worse circumstances as the surplus was creamed off by the elite. This is happening again with the current technological/globalisation revolution. Efficiency now dictates that humans are deliberately eliminated to cut cost.

In the 80s there used to be a law, derived from the European Union I believe, which insisted that wholesalers could not also sell retail. For beer, this meant that the breweries should not own the pubs. To protect the vested interest (the breweries) a fudge was agreed in the UK where tied pubs were obliged to sell “guest” ales from other breweries. All this seems to have been swept away as independent companies now seem to own the pubs.

It’s becoming accepted wisdom that the current wave of technology is not creating jobs as the industrial revolution did. Instead even jobs like doctors and lawyers are succumbing to automation. Perhaps it would be good to have another EU directive that all this efficiency, automation and process re-engineering can be used in production & wholesale but not in retail. Use technology to make the factories and bank clearing systems and air traffic control systems work better but the (non-Internet) retail experience should be left to people?  Bring back police front desks staffed by aged constables. Bring back ticket counters staffed by people and bring back Victorian urinals the size of coffins.

Redstone
Redstone

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Barack Obama, anti-intellectualism and Tea Cozies

Anti-intelectualism?
Anti-intellectualism British style?

Barack Obama recently asked “where this strain of anti-intellectualism came from?”. Since one definition of an intellectual is “someone capable of entering a room containing a tea cozy without putting it on their head”, the answer might be the Tea Party movement. A more serious answer might be that we are not so much seeing anti-intellectualism but an antipathy to the “clever-clever” bastards who got us into our current mess.

As a Brit, I can mainly suggest issues from the UK. Firstly the obvious failure of the British intellectual leadership. Corruption and incompetence found in all areas of the British elite. Bankers, MPs, police and journalists; all have been caught out over the past decade.

Then consider that the intellectuals of the 1940s and 50s brought us the NHS, state pensions and union representation. Perhaps unions became too powerful but the intellectuals of the 1990s and 2000s set about eroding the gains of the working people while centralising power in large corporations. Alternative, and often collective organisation such as building societies and even football teams were privatised. Great wealth was created for a minority while the rest of us have the illusion of wealth generated by excessive debt, a succession of consumer gadgets and faster fashion cycles. Meanwhile factors which really affect our lives are not figured into analysis of wealth at all. Average house sizes are shrinking and commute times getting longer. Even The Economist has been running articles claiming that “Gross domestic product (GDP) is increasingly a poor measure of prosperity” yet our intelectual leadership continues to promote unfettered capitalism as the New World Order.

The new global elite want the role of the last democratic institution (the state) reduced to nothing more than ensuring laws are lax and citizens desperate in order to lure global corporations to base their activity (though not their tax payment) in the UK. The offer is sweetened with the promise of cheap labour imported from abroad, educated at the expense of somebody else and dressed up as “diversity” to keep the Left on side. In reality, the individual now stands almost alone before the power of global corporations and dare not demonstrate any more diversity than their coffee preferences.

That the elite are oblivious to the lives of ordinary people was made obvious recently when British chancelor George Osbourne warned that leaving the EU would precipitate an 18% drop in house prices. This might have appalled the global rich who have stashed there ill gotten money in London property but must apear sound economic policy to those desperate to get a foot on the housing ladder.

Meanwhile, at every turn, we are told that we need to work harder, to become even more efficient to “compete”. The UK does not have enough educated people so they must be imported from countries which have even fewer educated people. Mr. Obama speech on anti-intellectualism stressed that kindness, compassion, honesty and hard work often matter more than technical skills but this message seems lost on everyone.

losersIf we question or complain about globalisation, about immigration or about capitalism we are deemed stupid or xenophobic. A recent Facebook post chimed in with this. It read: “Totally failed at life? Then why not blame a foreigner, it’s so much easier than taking responsibility for your own choices“. The implication being that if you are poor or homeless or unemployed or suffering some physical or emotional trauma then it’s your own fault and the society in which you live does not give a shit. A similar series of comments on a newspaper site stated that if your couldn’t compete against non-English speaking, uneducated immigrants then your were  a “loser”.

White Van Man

Of course the clever and well educated can never admit their contempt for the poor and uneducated and so politician of all stripes pay lip service to defending the rights of the poor……. but only in a theoretical sense. Politicians argue that their policies will benefit the underclass in the long run ….. but in the long run we’re all dead.

It is true that education increases life chances but we can’t all be doctors, lawyers and entrepreneurs.  This is the myth of American style meritocracy. A massive marketing machine indoctrinates us with the fallacy that we can all attain great wealth. We are encouraged to accept our current state of inequality or poverty believing that if we try just a bit harder then we too can be part of the top 1%. This is bollocks!

Contempt for the poor and uneducated permeates UK politics. If one of the underclass dare to stammer out their poorly articulated objections about the reality in the here and now then they are intimidated with pompous overblown rhetoric and dubious facts and figures. In 2014 I had a twitter exchange with David Aranonovich the journalist and son of communist intellectual Sam Aaronovitch. He had appeared on BBC political debate program Question Time discussing EU membership with a homeless and jobless man who had protested that the person who had interviewed him for state housing had been an immigrant.  Aranonovich insinuated that the guy was a racist and, in a later twitter exchange, said “We all face competition here & abroad. Nothing is guaranteed….” – While we might expect such a callous opinion from a Tory it is staggering that this is the opinion of a leading member of the British Left. Of course, the Tories are worse. In their pursuit of austerity they ignore the criminality of the (intellectual) bankers and target the (uneducated) poor. It has taken the threat of BREXIT for the British leadership to begrudgingly admit that, while England morphs from post war land of warm beer and Ford Cortinas to a multicultural New York style super-city, mass immigration is detrimental to the working poor.

Currently the EU and USA are negotiating the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership. It’s probably true that unfettered free markets in goods, services, and yes, in people (in the case of the EU) can create greater efficiency which leads to greater GDP but this no guarantee of benefits to all members of society. The recipients of efficiency gains are never the workers but the elite who own and run the corporations. The Economist has postulated the current wave of advanced technology will mean that, in the future, it will be easier to earn a living by owning capital (being rich) than by finding work.

Merely insulting and sidelining the “losers” of this questionable “progress” is bound to create an alienated underclass who look elsewhere for their leadership. In a TV program last year the Tory MP, Matthew Parris, was discussing the people of Thanet who have elected a UKIP MP. He argued in favour or EU membership and declared that the people of Thanet were “Just wrong”.

Let me explain something to Matthew Parris: Electing a government is not just about choosing clever people to grow global GDP. The key aspect of democracy, the attribute which makes it more desirable than any other system is not just the wisdom of crowds. The absolutely key aspect of democracy, the thing that makes it superior to all other systems both practically and morally is that EVERYONE gets to vote according to their own perspective. If the daily lives of a section of the electorate are in sharp contrast to the shining vision presented by eloquent politicians then it is legitimate for them to seek different leadership. UKIP may or may not deliver for the people of Thanet but they are right to vote any damn way they please.

So, to return to Obama’s question. I suspect that asking about the root of anti-intellectualism is the wrong question. Since the  affluent and well educated members of society have conspicuously betrayed the poorer, less well educated and less articulate members of society the real question is why the hell should anybody trust intellectuals ever again?

London Olympics
London Olympics

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