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One planet. Two moons in the sky. Not exactly welcoming… July 31, 2021

Posted by WorldbyStorm in Uncategorized.

Was reading a review of soon to be arriving on a digital platform near you SF film Settlers, set on Mars at some point in the future, and to judge from various outlines fairly unrelentingly gloomy.

I don’t know why but broadly speaking I find films about humans on Mars leave me a little cold. Either they’re too prosaic and bogged down in the nuts and bolts of the processes of same or they seem to be too adrift of the reality – essentially allegories. Worse when they’re both. Indeed I’m desperately trying to think of a fictional rendition of Mars that I enjoyed (possibly that in Babylon 5 – possibly not). I don’t include the Martian which while flawed was a film of space exploration and survival more than anything else and while it dragged to some degree did at least have some fantastic visuals of the surface of the planet. Maybe it is because humans arriving and surviving on Mars seems like an awful lot of hard work and considerably more than SF seems to appreciate. It’s not that there might not be outposts there, but ‘colonisation’ seems quite a stretch. And yet, I can point to story after story in Analog and other SF magazines over the past ten or twenty years which seem to take it as read that colonisation is going to be the path forward. In fact that’s not a bad idea for a SF story – something set in a future where scientific research outposts on the Moon and Mars are the only off-Earth human installations. Though even that seems implausible. The effort to have such outposts on Mars – the Moon is slightly different, being considerably closer, would likely be too great given any possible return. And I’m very dubious about space ‘tourism’ taking up the slack.

But back to Settlers which seems to posit a vaguely mapped out future situation where who knows what is going on. Well something must be – the colonists live in the open air, they do not require breathing equipment, they seem to move at Earth standard gravity. They’re living in what appears to be at a somewhat industrialised civilisation level – quite sophisticated firearms, mechanical doors, possibly hydroponics, but the trailer suggests everywhere else is a wasteland. Difficult to see them retaining that level for very long in the face of a broader societal collapse.

Check out the poster. Now it is true that Mars has two moons, but they’re certainly not shaped like they are in the poster. Anything but. Deimos and Phobos are irregularly shaped and very small.

Phobos and Deimos bear more resemblance to asteroids than to Earth’s moon. Both are tiny — the larger, Phobos, is only 14 miles across (22 kilometers), while the smaller, Deimos, is only 8 miles (13 km), making them some of the smallest moons in the solar system.

And what would one see from the surface?

The more distant moon, Deimos, appears more like a star in the night sky. When it is full and shining at its brightest, it resembles Venus as seen on Earth. Phobos has the closest orbit to its primary of any moon in the solar system, but still only appears a third as wide as Earth’s full moon.

But then being on Mars, living on Mars, presumably growing plants using processed Martian soil, or even running around on Mars presents some interesting problems. For example:

Martian soil is toxic, due to relatively high concentrations of perchlorate compounds containing chlorine.[3] Elemental chlorine was first discovered during localised investigations by Mars rover Sojourner, and has been confirmed by Spirit, Opportunity and Curiosity. The Mars Odyssey orbiter has also detected perchlorates across the surface of the planet.

The NASA Phoenix lander first detected chlorine-based compounds such as calcium perchlorate. The levels detected in the Martian soil are around 0.5%, which is a level considered toxic to humans.[4] These compounds are also toxic to plants. 

Somewhat less than comforting is the following from Space.com:

In many ways, managing calcium perchlorate exposure on Mars is viewed as no different than managing for example, uranium, lead or general heavy-metal-contaminated areas in modern mines, where dust suppression, dust extraction and regular blood monitoring are employed. Other ideas suggested by the study team include a wash-down spray that can clean suits and equipment of dust deposits.

Managing uranium, lead or general heavy metal contaminated areas in modern mines? Ripe for habitation so. 

And then there’s the atmosphere, or rather the dust in the atmosphere:

The potential danger to human health of the fine Martian dust has long been recognized by NASA. A 2002 study warned about the potential threat, and a study was carried out using the most common silicates found on Mars: olivine, pyroxene and feldspar. It found that the dust reacted with small amounts of water to produce highly reactive molecules that are also produced during the mining of quartz and known to produce lung disease in miners on Earth, including cancer (the study also noted that Lunar dust may be worse).[9]

Let’s not even get into how the lower gravity of Mars is depicted, or not, in the film, to judge from the trailer (unless of course it’s all a big hoax and a final act reveal points to them actually being on Earth).

If global civilisation collapses guess where’s a good place or five to be? July 31, 2021

Posted by WorldbyStorm in Uncategorized.

From the Guardian a report on a study that has determined that:

New Zealand, Iceland, the UK, Tasmania and Ireland are the places best suited to survive a global collapse of society, according to a study.

The researchers said human civilisation was “in a perilous state” due to the highly interconnected and energy-intensive society that had developed and the environmental damage this had caused.


A collapse could arise from shocks, such as a severe financial crisis, the impacts of the climate crisis, destruction of nature, an even worse pandemic than Covid-19 or a combination of these, the scientists said.

To assess which nations would be most resilient to such a collapse, countries were ranked according to their ability to grow food for their population, protect their borders from unwanted mass migration, and maintain an electrical grid and some manufacturing ability. Islands in temperate regions and mostly with low population densities came out on top.

Lovely. Though I wonder if there was a global crisis, say an asteroid strike or something along those lines, and people were fleeing from the European continent would any island state be able to do anything much in that situation to – ahem – ‘secure’ their borders. And should they? 

Places that did not suffer “the most egregious effects of societal collapses and are therefore able to maintain significant populations” have been described as “collapse lifeboats”, the study said.

New Zealand is better!

New Zealand was found to have the greatest potential to survive relatively unscathed due to its geothermal and hydroelectric energy, abundant agricultural land and low human population density.

Of course – and the piece notes that some billionaires have woken up to this – that’s all very well. But the study notes that global resilience has to improve. And I’d add forethought and effort to avoid the sort of calamities that it discusses is necessary. Or to put it a different way, let’s not have to head for the collapse lifeboats in the first place. 

BTW, why not Japan? Earthquakes? 

Seeking out extraterrestrial technology… July 31, 2021

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This from the Guardian during the week that:

A team of scientists will embark on a new international research project led by Harvard University to search for evidence of extraterrestrial life by looking for advanced technology it may leave behind.

The Galileo Project is led by the Harvard astronomy professor Avi Loeb. Loeb co-founded the project with Frank Laukien, CEO of Bruker Corporation, a Massachusetts-based manufacturer of scientific equipment.


“Given the recently discovered abundance of Earth-Sun systems, the Galileo Project is dedicated to the proposition that humans can no longer ignore the possible existence of Extraterrestrial Technological Civilizations (ETCs),” the team announced in a statement on Monday.

And that being the case?

Rather than searching for electromagnetic signals, the Galileo Project will search for physical objects associated with extraterrestrial technological equipment, also known as technosignatures.

The project will follow three major avenues of research: obtain high-resolution images of UAP through multi-detector sensors to discover their nature, search and conduct in-depth research on “Oumuamua-like” interstellar objects, and search for potential ETC satellites.

Ah… Oumuamua… That would be the object that entered the solar system in 2017 – an unusually shaped object at that.

According to the Galileo Project team, “Oumuamua turned out to have highly anomalous properties that defy well-understood natural explanations.” “We can only speculate … by stretching our imagination to ‘Oumuamua’ perhaps being an extraterrestrial technological object, similar to a very thin light-sail or communication dish,” it added.

That may be a bit of a stretch. While unusual it wasn’t so clearly so as to be artificial. Indeed wiki notes:


On 26 October 2018, theoretical physicist Avi Loeb and his postdoc Shmuel Bialy submitted a paper exploring the possibility of ʻOumuamua being an artificial thin solar sail[120][121]accelerated by solar radiation pressure, in an effort to help explain the object’s comet-like non-gravitational acceleration.[64][65][122] Other scientists have stated that the available evidence is insufficient to consider such a premise,[123][124][125] and that a tumbling solar sail would not be able to accelerate.[126] In response, Loeb wrote an article detailing six anomalous properties[which?] of ʻOumuamua that make it unusual, unlike any comets or asteroids seen before.[127][128] A subsequent report on observations by the Spitzer Space Telescope set a tight limit on cometary outgassing of any carbon-based molecules and indicated that ʻOumuamua is at least ten times more shiny than a typical comet.[129] The alien object hypothesis is considered unlikely by many experts.[130][131]


Of course, it could be an alien probe/craft or whatever. And the broader Galileo Project approach seems reasonably robust  – and what an interesting point the following is:

“We want to clear the fog through a transparent and scientific analysis by assembling our own data, not data based on government-owned sensors, because most of that data is classified,” Laukien said.

Currently, the team is selecting instruments it plans to purchase and is planning to set up tens of telescope systems globally. Each system will consist of approximately two 25-centimeter (10in) telescopes with a camera suitable to detect objects of interest, connected to a computer system that will filter out data.


This Weekend I’ll Mostly Be Listening to… Hole July 31, 2021

Posted by irishelectionliterature in This Weekend I'll Mostly Be Listening to....

Was watching one of those old Glastonburys recently on BBC4, the ones you start watching and naming all the bands that appear, incredulous that your children had never heard of like ….Hole, The Levellers or Travis!! … Of course you start muttering how music was better back then……

Anyway I had forgotten how good Hole were in the late 1990’s ……

Signs of Hope – A continuing series July 30, 2021

Posted by WorldbyStorm in Uncategorized.

Gewerkschaftler suggested this recently:

I suggest this blog should have a regular (weekly) slot where people can post happenings at the personal or political level that gives them hope that we’re perhaps not going to hell in a handbasket as quickly as we thought. Or as the phlegmatic Germans put it “hope dies last”.

Any contributions this week?

Partisans… July 30, 2021

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Here’s an interview with a Vice President and executive editor of a conservative publishing imprint of HarperCollins, Eric Nelson. on Slate.com He himself is a libertarian, which I supposed slightly side-steps the issue, and the interview is interesting, if one feels there’s a degree of slipping aside from answering some questions fully.

This answer is interesting:

I don’t find any arguments on the left or right morally distasteful if they are intelligent and well made. I have had people say, “But wouldn’t you find a pro-racist argument morally distasteful?” But the problem is that it’s impossible to construct a pro-racism argument that’s true and based on solid research.

But what about issues such as climate change, where there’s a genuine scientific consensus? How does that work? 

This question made me smile: “You work at Harper, which, because it’s owned by News Corp, is probably the major publisher where it’s easiest to edit the conservative imprint.” Well, News Corp is per definition conservative too. And it’s fascinating to see how the interviewer and indeed the interviewee sort of slide past that (point of fact, I once had a passing acquaintance with a subsidiary of News Corp many many years ago and the company culture was without question ‘conservative’ politically). 

Mind you I do agree with Nelson on one point he makes. He says:

Also, there are more truly awful people that have carved out a big audience for themselves than before. These people are famous enough now to have a platform, and so their books look worth doing, financially, but 10 years ago these people would have been taking out ads in the back of the Weekly World News to get people to order their pamphlets on various snake oils.

And asked for an answer he says:

I mean, somebody like Alex Berenson occurs to me. He’s developed a huge following for a very methodical kind of insanity.

Used to love Berenson’s thrillers, so a most unwelcome surprise it was to learn that… well… read on. 

The background of political candidates July 30, 2021

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Useful IT Politics podcast from earlier in the month talking to Dr Theresa Reidy about the latest edition of How Ireland Voted, this being the election in 2020. To be honest that election was the least interesting aspect of the programme. More intriguing was what her analysis demonstrated about some potential structural changes in terms of who is being elected. She pointed to the fact that with the rise of SF and other parties of the left – notable was how she brackets SF as a left party, not controversial for most of us, though some won’t agree, no doubt – has seen the very high concentration of people in ‘lower and higher professions’ in the Dáil and she pointed to FF, FG and the Labour Party ad tending to draw their candidates from the professions, business backgrounds and ‘particularly FF/FG from the farming community’.

Whereas she notes that ‘a considerable diversification, manual occupations, people working in retail, generally speaking a broader selection of people coming into politics and the dominance of professions is being diluted over time… farmers have really dwindled down to a small group’. And she notes ‘a lot of the farmers are part time farmers’.

She looks at the 2000s as a turning point where politics and the backgrounds become more diverse and she argues politics is becoming more diverse and reflecting the society better.

That said she noted that for FG and the GP they still draw most of their candidates from the professions.

One other point she notes is that family dynasty’s are beginning to fade a bit – strikingly FF/FG up to a third of candidates are from families which have been long represented, though she notes that in some newer parties one is seeing relatives who are simultaneously in politics. It will be telling to see how that develops.

Back to work with you! July 30, 2021

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Been wondering when this chorus would start up again.

The success of the Covid-19 vaccination programme in Ireland means that a gradual return to the workplace could commence in September, the Minister for Transport Eamon Ryan has said.

Mr Ryan said the return to the workplace will be on a phased basis and “part of a gradual safe transition”.

“The vaccination targets that we’ve been meeting are phenomenal, we have incredible stories as a country in light of how we have actually pulled ahead.

And apparently:

The Minister said he expected people to return to the workplace in September and that it was an important part of mental health to get back to the office.

“What’s next has to be the return to work and to college, we need real life return. We also need the return of creative industries, they’ve been the worst hit, music, arts, entertainment. Not immediately, but we will start planning now, in the coming weeks to see how those other industries that they too can start planning a return,” he added.

In fairness I know many people keen to get back to their offices and places of work after a year and a half of WFH. And at least Ryan had the great good sense not to adopt the punitive tone of another politician who tried to run with this last year, but that said I’m a bit surprised there wasn’t mention about supporting a more hybrid way of working for surely it would be no bad thing, environmentally and in many other respects – not least working conditions, that where possible and where wanted workers can determine blended and other work patterns. For many years there’s been talk about work/life balances and so on. Here’s an opportunity to put that into practice. 

I’m lucky that my job has survived, though a colleague in the same role lost theirs, and I’ve found working from home to actually be pretty productive and for one reason and another the office interactions – well, while I miss some of them, overall I’m good. But I’d jump at the opportunity to work from home one or two days a week. I’m fortunate that the sort of work I do is precisely structured that outputs are obvious and whether I’m in front of a computer at home or work the location is to all intents irrelevant. Again that’s not always an option. 

As it happens the government is supporting some changes:

Remote work has meant tech workers in regions such as Donegal have been able to apply for higher paying jobs with Twitter, Google and Microsoft – without having to relocate.

Meanwhile, they are being joined in rural Ireland by some formerly Dublin-based tech employees who are escaping the Irish capital’s rising property prices.

It is a pattern the Government is keen to accelerate: earlier this year it unveiled a plan to encourage a shift of people from major cities to the rest of the State, which includes creating a network of more than 400 remote working hubs and tax breaks for individuals and companies that support homeworking.


Meanwhile, the biggest trend – and one that is going to grow as lockdowns ease – is “working near home”, where hyper-local workspaces serve residents who want to get out of the house but don’t want to commute into the centre of town.

Business First, a workspace provider, has nine office sites in towns around Manchester. Sarah Fretwell, its director, says during the pandemic “offices have been rented to meet this demand in the local areas where the employees are living”, with the group’s occupancy nearing 90 per cent.


Debra Moritz, head of strategic consulting for Chicago-based Cushman & Wakefield, estimates that the number of employees working entirely off-site will double from 5 per cent, while another 10 or 20 per cent will work in the office five days a week. The rest will split their time between home and office.

In Europe, good transport infrastructure and the appetite for working from home have led to an uptick in people heading out of central Paris and Berlin for the long term. Some towns ramped up their marketing to attract those looking to make a permanent move.

So is that the shape of things to come? 

‘Eddie’ Ó Néill, 1951 – 2021: Irish Republican, Anti-Fascist, Internationalist July 29, 2021

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Thanks to JM for sending this, a piece from Friends of the International Brigades on the death of Eddie’ Ó Néill, who was one of those instrumental in founding FIBI.

The UUP’s latest recruit… July 29, 2021

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…Ian Marshall, former Ulster Farmer’s Union president, former Unionist Senator and now UUP member is a most interesting character. And he talks solid good sense in the IT this week when he notes one basic reality and makes an appeal for another quite intriguing proposition.

That basic reality?

On the protocol, Mr Marshall said it was time to get past all the “errors of judgment” that had been made in the Brexit negotiations.“We are where we are. We have a protocol that is here to stay,” he said.

While the “hard facts on the ground” are it is causing disruption and cost to some businesses – “for some it is minimal and small, for some more serious and it could be a threat to the business” – he said there are also undoubted advantages.

“There can be opportunities here for business and trade. It goes back to the pre-Brexit situation when we had all this access before, but we forfeited that.

And while he seeks some amendments or modifications they do not appear to be beyond the bounds of possibility. Indeed even the way he phrases matters is useful in terms of pointing to tensions needing to be addressed ‘whether it is reality or perception’. 

He also suggests that:

…the Oireachtas Committee on the implementation of the Good Friday [Belfast] Agreement to sit some of the time in Belfast to bring unionists on board.

“It is a committee that sits in Dublin, it never sits in Belfast,” he said. “There is maybe a degree of sensitivities here, that here is a committee that maybe should meet in Belfast as well as Dublin.

“Because then unionists can be encouraged, maybe in a light-touch way, to engage in a softly, softly approach, sitting down together, to be seen to be more inclusive.”

One presumes it is precisely because of such sensitivities. But, the idea is a sound one, even – perhaps particularly, as Marshall frames it within a more nuts and bolts approach to the GFA/BA and one where Unionism must ‘take ownership’ of the Agreement – but also work it through “trade, business, infrastructure, tourism, education and the health service”.

And he’s spot on about saying that it was a ‘missed opportunity’ for FF in not renominating for the Seanad. There’s a lot that’s wrong with the Seanad, and that process is problematic in the extreme, but in the context of the crying need to have more voices there from across the island that’s a waste. 

Just on the Protocol interesting how that report from the cross-bench House of Lords Committee was released this week. Even more interesting is that it doesn’t seek the removal of the Protocol, but rather like Marshall, wishes modifications of it. It attempts to apportion blame fairly equally, but anyone listening to Morning Ireland this morning when Michael Jay, the chair of the Committee appeared will have noted that he stated the Command Paper delivered by the UK government this last week or so ‘went further’ than the Committee was recommending or presumably thought feasible. 

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