Browsing articles tagged with " Science "

Simple Elegance to Wonderful Complexity – A journey (Part 2)

Nov 29, 2012   //   by Pabitra // Blog , Featured , Science And Technology // 1 Comment

The theory of evolution by cumulative natural selection is the only theory we know of that is in principle capable of explaining the existence of organized complexity.

- Richard Dawkins

Though hinted by many great scientists during the course of their work, it is counter-intuitive to think that the complex systems in Nature (and accordingly thought of as sophisticated) are born out of very simple configurations. It is equally counter-intuitive to think such complexity could have grown out of equally simple rules. Traditional scientific thinking almost always presupposed that a complex and sophisticated system demands equivalent complex and sophisticated processes involved in their geneses. Perhaps this notion limits scientific endeavor to explain many events and processes in nature by considering them not really within its field.

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Simple Elegance to Wonderful Complexity – A journey (Part 1)

Clouds are not spheres, mountains are not cones, coastlines are not circles, and bark is not smooth, nor does lightning travel in a straight line.
—Benoit Mandelbrot, The Fractal Geometry of Nature

When I was a 5 year old kid, there used to be a popular brand of barley sold under the name ‘Purity Indian Barley’. Though barley is a very useful and widely consumed cereal and known for its health benefits, my early memory of it is dreadful because the barley soup that my mother used to feed me tasted like high quality dish washing water.

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Why a Doughnut Now?

Kate Raworth Photo : IISD http://www.iisd.ca/

Kate Raworth is a Senior Researcher of Oxfam Great Britain. In a recent discussion paper she has proposed a metaphorical doughnut as a safe and just space for humanity to thrive (Full discussion paper can be downloaded here ). ‘Can we live within the doughnut?’ Kate asks, presenting a visual framework – shaped like a doughnut – which brings the concept of planetary boundaries together with the complementary concept of social boundaries, creating a safe and just space between the two, in which humanity can thrive.

​Kate argues primarily from the perspective of social equity and the foreword of her discussion paper says, ‘ Humanity’s challenge in the 21st century is to eradicate poverty and achieve a prosperity for all within the means of the planet’s limited natural resources. In the run-up to Rio+20 United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development, this Discussion Paper is an exploration of what such a model of prosperity might look like.’ It also says, ‘ Moving into this safe and just space demands far greater equity – within and between countries – in the use of natural resources, and far greater efficiency in transforming those resources to meet human needs.’ Read more >>

Limits To Growth And Beyond – Part II

Affluence is a relative term in societal contexts because in each society standards there are rich and poor. But there are few in the world, as many from North as from South, who are rich by any standard. Similarly, despite raised standard of living, there are under-privileged people in both the developed and developing nations, people who lack jobs, health security, education, food and home. And there are a large number of people under famine, malnutrition, water and sanitation stress and vulnerable to diseases and death. When world economy collapses and industrial output plummets down the curve, it is the most vulnerable section of humanity that receives the mortal blow first. But for now, the Limits to Growth are felt by the affluent societies of the developed world more than the developing world.

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Will James Inhofe Have The Last Laugh?

So what did the world get out of COP 17 at Durban? And more specifically what did the developing countries, which are just about appearing over the horizon of the greenhouse emissions historically created by the developed and rich nations already? It will be hard not to speculate how exactly the ravages of global warming and climate change will be dealt at our own doorsteps, be it mountainous states of Himalayas or the coastal provinces of the subcontinent. Hard, because, at the end of the day nobody will be truly interested in the political byplay of words, ricocheting statistics of carbon in the air, increase in the average temperature of earth. And everybody is interested to see positive changes towards an old and wasteful business as usual scenario. Everybody wants to see the arrest of increasing livelihood stresses, growing periodicity of extreme weather, nagging poverty, lack of health, food, water and everybody looks up to the leaders to find ways and means for those. Where does COP 17 stand in light of those expectations?

Climate Change And Future Of Technology

“There can be no absolute reality, there can be no absolute truth”.                                  -Kevin Warwick

While we discuss the Climate Change mitigation through economic, social and political options available to us and also on being innovative to embrace a new life-style to lower our carbon foot-prints, technology, or more accurately low emission technology becomes one important aspect of that discussion. I do not personally feel that a blind faith on a technological ‘cure’ of Climate Change is wise, but science and technology have always remained one great window of human ingenuity and they can certainly come handy for effectively combating Climate Change. Read more >>

The Final Choice

Last evening, in a friendly discussion with a scientist friend of mine, my idea of combating Climate Change by conscious human choice to change life-styles (with a drastic reduction of consumption) along with a conserver economy (with resource re-distribution to reduce stark differences in life style standards between the poor and rich nations – tackling poverty, malnutrition, lack of education amongst others) and effective environmental governance (managing deforestation, habitat loss, species extinction amongst others) came under serious scrutiny and criticism. While this is hardly a subject that can be discussed over a cup of coffee, the main objections that my learned friend put forward were these:

a) Human choice, in the context of life in general, is hardly conscious. A conscious choice demands a perfect informative perspective, which is a near impossibility. Therefore, humans can not consciously reduce consumption by sacrificing life styles they have gotten used to.

b) A conserver economy, by definition the one that produces just enough to be consumed by population with practically zero waste and with an emphasis on spending within means, is a freakonomy, particularly looking at a world obsessed with growth.

c) Effective Environmental Governance is an ‘ideal’ concept, not necessarily valid in a world which is far off from a consensus about the scale of the damage and it’s accountability between nations.

The questions are by no means trivial. I feel compelled to answer them. Read more >>

The Immortality Question

This post is inspired by a talk by Dr. Harvey Fineberg , ex-Dean of the Harvard School of Public Health and a medical ethicist (see below for the full video of the talk) and works of Cambridge University geneticist Aubrey de Grey but based broadly on the works of Juan Enriquez and Steve Gullans, an experienced investor, entrepreneur and scientist who co-founded RxGen, a pharmaceutical services company. These are fascinating men, each can shake your belief system fundamentally – so watch out! Incidentally, Juan calls himself a futurist. Read more >>

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