The Humble Percent & Food Labels

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Sugar Frosty Feature

ORT_Logo   Breadtag Sagas ©: Author Tony,  24 November 2017


The Humble Percentage and Food Labels

Introduction

Percent or (percentage) used to be spelled per cent (and sometimes still is). It comes from the latin per centum meaning by the hundred.

What percent means is changing any list of numbers that add up to an irregular total into a modified list that adds up to 100. Once you get used to it reading a table of percentages becomes familiar and comfortable. Percentages can also be expressed as fractions and odds (think racecourses).

For example, 50% is a half, or odds of 2 to 1 in racecourse parlance (still meaning 1 chance in 2, but expressed this way because you get $2 profit for every $1 bet). 33% is about one third, 25% a quarter, 20% one fifth and 10% one tenth. Continue reading “The Humble Percent & Food Labels”

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What is History 6: Religion

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Featured Image Sapiens Yuval Noah Harari

ORT_Logo   Breadtag Sagas ©: Author Tony,  2 October 2017


What is History 6: The Development or Evolution of Religion

Preamble

Yuval Noah Harari Sapiens: A brief history of humankind Harper 2014 (first published in Hebrew in 2011).

I feel guilty delving into Harari before embarking on Jared Diamond’s Guns, Germs and Steel 1997 a much more profound book and one I have spent an enormous amount of time with, by reading and delving into Diamond’s sources. Harari himself acknowledges Diamond. He says:

Special thanks to Jared Diamond, who taught me to see the big picture.

Yuval Noah Harari’s book Sapiens: A brief history of humankind is a brave and ambitious enterprise, but he doesn’t quite carry it off. In some ways, he reminds me of Marvin Harris a popularising anthropologist who wrote Cannibals and Kings in 1977, which I also like immensely. For all his faults, Harari takes us on a great journey.

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Classic SciFi 9: Isaac Asimov I, Robot & Killer Robots

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iRobot Feature

ORT_Logo   Breadtag Sagas ©: Author Tony,  1 April 2017


Isaac Asimov I, Robot & Killer Robots Today

Introduction

The killer robots come later. I bought two novels at Asia Books in Bangkok in late February and was offered, as part of a promotion, one book free from a remainder pile. I dithered between a beginners guide to Nietzche (not a Belgian — Google it!) and The Robots of Dawn.

The Robots of Dawn is a ‘whodunit’ science fiction novel by Isaac Asimov, first published in 1983. It is the third novel in Asimov’s Robot series (Wikipedia). The first novel is I, Robot (1950).

I, Robot is not really a novel but a collection of previously published stories with linking text, by a fictional researcher cum writer.

The Robots of Dawn I found to be incredibly tedious and lacking in action. I must grudgingly admit though that it contained some interesting ideas about robots and humans. I would only recommend these novels and the additional robot stories beyond those in I, Robot to an Asimov scholar. I, Robot is quite sufficient to gain an understanding of Asimov’s approach to and ideas on robots. Continue reading “Classic SciFi 9: Isaac Asimov I, Robot & Killer Robots”

Atoms, Bytes, Genes

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Genetic Drift feature: Tony Stewart 2004

 

Featured image: Detail from Genetic Drift 1, Tony Stewart, July 2004

ORT_Logo   Breadtag Sagas ©: Author Tony,  3 February 2017


Atoms, Bytes & Genes: Science in the 21st century

Preamble

I made a political statement about science in a recent article 1984 The Way We Were.

We also needed someone in the 1990s and in the twenty-first century to remind us that science and technology drove the development of affluence in the twentieth century. The current ‘age of ignorance’ and of antagonism towards science, will eventually stultify innovation.

However, despite the depressing times, I’ve become more optimistic. Science and technology power on regardless.


The three dangerous ideas of twentieth century science

On the first day of 2017 I read a quote in Siddhartha Mukherjee The Gene: An Intimate History Bodley Head 2016, which I received for Christmas from Denise’s sister Julie who thoughtfully reads reviews.

In his Prologue, Mukherjee mentions the three streams of science and technology that dominated the twentieth century and whose convergence will dominate the twenty-first. He says:

Three profoundly [dangerous] destabilizing ideas richochet through the twentieth century, trisecting it into three unequal parts: the atom, the byte, the gene. Each is foreshadowed by an earlier century, but dazzles into full prominence in the twentieth. Each begins life as a rather abstract scientific concept, but grows to invade multiple human discourses — thereby transforming culture, society, politics, and language. But the most crucial parallel between the three ideas, by far, is conceptual: each represents the irreducible unit — the building block, the basic organizational unit — of a larger whole: the atom, of matter; the byte (or “bit”), of digitized information; the gene, of heredity and biological information.

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What is History 5: EH Carr Historians & their facts

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Feature Carr What Is History?

 

ORT_Logo   Breadtag Sagas ©: Author Tony, 1 January 2017

What is History ? by EH Carr, Chapter 1: Historians & their facts

What is History? by EH Carr 1961 a compilation of the George Macaulay Trevelyan Lectures delivered at The University of Cambridge in 1961.

Introduction

I’ve been sneaking up on the meat of this topic slowly but EH Carr and later Jared Diamond represent the meat, though there is much more to come. The previous What is History? articles have been 1 An Introduction, 2 Sleep Patterns 3, The Medieval Mind, 4 Love. They were part of a softening up process to indicate that history is not just about kings and famous individuals, that one can view history from different directions to those normally chosen by historians and that writing about and understanding history is not at all an obvious process and is in fact very difficult.

With Carr one examines mainstream history and historians. He shows in a brilliantly witty and erudite series of lectures that the process of studying history is not at all straight forward. However, since Carr’s 1961 lectures the study of history has come a long way and I certainly am optimistic about its future. If one had to sum up Carr in one sentence, in his words, it would be:

The belief in a hard core of historical facts existing objectively and independently of the interpretation of the historian is a preposterous fallacy, but one which it is very hard to eradicate.

This article will deal only with Carr’s first lecture.

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1984: The way we were

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Featured image, Bogong Magazine 1984
Featured image, Bogong Magazine 1984

ORT_Logo   Breadtag Sagas ©: Author Tony,  14 December 2016

1984: The way we were and the way we are now

It is 1984. I am just shy of 19, Reagan is about to be re-elected in the US, Thatcher is administering the UK, and our new prime minister, Bob Hawke, along with his treasurer, Paul Keating, is planning his own quiet revolution in Australia.
Christos Tsiolkas The Monthly December 2016 — January 2017

Preamble

1984 was the beginnings of the personal computer revolution. Apple’s 1984 advertisement at the superbowl was impudent but memorable. William Gibson’s novel Neuromancer seemed to show the way the future was going, at least to SciFi buffs. And, those of us interested in technology and societal change seemed to feel that we had a sort of handle on the future, we were excited by accelerating change and the ‘so called’ transition to post-industrialism.

Continue reading “1984: The way we were”

Secret City Trilogy Steve Lewis Chris Uhlmann

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Featured Image

ORT_Logo   Breadtag Sagas ©: Author Tony,  21 November 2016

Chris Uhlmann and Steve Lewis’s novels, The Marmalade Files, The Mandarin Code and The Shadow Game (Secret City)

Cybersecurity

I have been thinking that I should write something about cybersecurity and the slow moving tragedy of what is happening to the Internet. But there is so much, the task seems daunting and I know I’ll just keep tinkering about the edges.

It’s trying to navigate between Scylla and Charbydis — superficiality versus getting bogged in detail.

I’ve at least begun in The Last Days of Osama bin Laden 2 and even with some insight in William Gibson’s The Art of Prophecy. I’ll keep on trying to sneak up on the issue. Remember, also that this enormous task is about the Internet, which to my reckoning (i.e. becoming functional and useful) is barely 21 years old.

On the way back home from Spain (three days late, another story) I purchased Luke Harding The Snowden Files 2014 in Singapore. Finishing it stirred up my need to write about cybersecurity. Whilst in Spain, I also read the Secret City Trilogy: The Marmalade Files, The Mandarin Code and The Shadow Game by Steve Lewis and Chris Uhlmann, 2012, 2014 and 2016, on Denise’s ipad.

Continue reading “Secret City Trilogy Steve Lewis Chris Uhlmann”