Pete Smith’s Cartoons of genius – knowledge

Pete Smith’s Cartoons of genius – knowledge

 

There are no facts. Every moment is new. We experience everything for the first time. No two moments are identical.

I used this cartoon on the front of school documents prepared for Ofsted. As with the previous drawing on the education sausage machine the cartoon was never commented on.

Too often the teaching of science has been the transmission of ‘facts’ and the learning of knowledge. Science should be the investigation of the wonders of the universe to find out how it operates and celebrate it, learn from it and utilise it.

The more we investigate the greater the mysteries we unfurl. We have accumulated a wealth of knowledge but underlying it all is an even greater mystery.

Science progresses by scientists disbelieving the theories they are presented with, challenging them and coming up with superior theories to test.

Science is creative.

Science is thought-provoking.

Science is fun.

Science is illuminating, expansive and exhilarating.

There are no truths.

Poetry – Denial

Denial

 

Five million creatures fried

As the fires of global warming

Shroud the globe in smoke.

Australia, Indonesia and California burn,

As humanity never seems to learn.

And the ecology of the world lies broke.

 

Floods, storms and droughts,

In the extreme,

Stalk the world.

Glaciers melt,

Corals bleach

As the tragedy unfurled.

 

Despite the palls of smoke

Filling the sky

There are still those

Who will deny.

 

Opher – 2.1.2020

 

 

They estimate that five hundred million creatures have already been burnt to death in the terrible fires sweeping through Australia.

Three years of severe drought followed by a record high temperature has produced a catastrophe waiting to happen.

It has been replicated in Indonesia and California.

While hurricanes, typhoons and tropical storms batter countries, sea levels rise, desertification increases, seas warm, corals bleach and there is record rainfall and floods.

All predictably following the computer modelling.

Once again the hottest global temperature on record.

What were one in a century events are now happening every year.

I sit in Britain where we have flooded towns, fields that resemble lakes and a year’s rainfall falling in days.

Carbon Dioxide levels are at a record. The greenhouse effect is real. Yet there are those who still believe this is nothing to do with man, is just a natural cycle and deny any link.

They point to solar output.

Yet they is no increased solar activity. There is a greenhouse effect though.

Trump, Xi Jinping, Bolsonaro and Morrison just want to burn fossil fuel for short-term profit. They don’t give a damn about the future.

I wish a plague of fleas, leeches and horse-flies on all of them.

Surely, even if it were caused by solar effects, there are things we can do to rectify the situation. We could move to renewables and away from coal, oil and gas. We could plant trees. We could stop destroying forests and wetlands. These things would not do any harm and might solve the problem (however it was caused).

Let’s get the carbon dioxide out of the damn atmosphere, protect our wildlife, limit our numbers and start behaving responsibly!!!

Pete Smith’s Cartoons of Genius – The teaching of Science

Pete Smith’s Cartoons of Genius – The teaching of Science

 

Our Zoology course was a disaster. We had a huge mass of facts to learn and regurgitate. Instead of a celebration of life it was a boring memory test. Instead of piercing the awe  and wonder of living specimens it was a tedious analysis of dead bodies. We had to learn diagnostic features and categorise everything.

It ran counter to our love of the living world.

Pete summed it up with this cartoon.

Science should we about wonder, awe and mystery. It should be fun and fulfilling. It is the most exciting subject ever.

The differences between plants and animals is a result of what they eat!

The differences between plants and animals is a result of what they eat!

If you start off by imagining a plant and an animal as a blob we can go from there!

Plants make their own food from light, water, carbon dioxide and mineral salts.

Animals have to eat complex food from plants and animals.

The Animal

It has to find its food so it needs senses.

It has to move to get to its food so it needs limbs.

It has to eat and break down the food so it needs a digestive system.

It needs a nervous system to coordinate the senses and control the limbs.

Because it is moving it uses lots of energy and requires lungs and a heart and blood system.

Because there are waste molecules in the food it takes in it has to excrete them.

Hence the animal is complex and has lots of crucial systems that make it vulnerable.

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The Plant

It doesn’t have to move because all its necessary materials are all around it.

It develops flat projects to increase it’s surface area to absorb light and carbon dioxide (Leaves)

It develops projects to go down into the soil to absorb water and mineral salts (Roots)

It develops tubes to carry the water and food around its body

It sits there and feeds.

Reproduction is a problem because it can’t move so they get insects and the wind to do all the hard work for them.

A plant’s cells are 200 times more complex than an animals but it’s body is much simpler. Therefore it is not prone to damage. It is less vulnerable. It does not have lots of essential, delicate systems.

It is conscious.

The difference between a plant and animal is due to the way they eat. Plants are the highest forms of animals. They are much more complex than us.

Love, Sex, Romance, Friendship, Hormones, Brain Chemistry, Biology and Evolution.

Love, Sex, Romance, Friendship, Hormones, Brain Chemistry, Biology and Evolution.

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It was Cheryl who sparked these thoughts off.

As a Biologist I am always aware of what puppets we are to our genes, chemistry and psychology. We think we have free will but I believe it is largely a myth. We are ruled by our evolution.

As a species we are so new that our body chemistry and psychology hasn’t even begun to keep pace with our technology. We are chimps living in cities but acting like we are still in the jungle.

Friendship – such a crucial element for hunting. When you are out in the jungle with dangerous animals you have to put your trust in the friend next to you. Together, as a small hunting group, you can drive off a fearsome predator or make a kill that will feed the whole tribe. As a young hunter you had respect. Your friendship group of fellow hunters were trusted friends – you put your life in their hands; you faced danger and fear together; you bonded through terror. Your bravery and loyalty was crucial.

Now-a-days we see groups of youths in gangs on the streets in their hunting groups. Except there are no predators to ward off or beasts to kill. Yet they still crave the excitement and danger, still bond and seek the respect. They’ve lost their purpose and status.

Love – a biological phenomenon to pair bond sufficiently to have, and raise, children. An hormonal rush, endorphin saturation of the brain, and a passing phase. The female selects the highest status male she can. The aim is to find compatible genes to meld with her own in order to produce offspring who are endowed with the best in order to survive. The pair bonding is a euphoric rush of brain chemicals – no more. It induces feelings of protection and promotes crazy bouts of sex. The idea being that while the male is infatuated and the female hampered by pregnancy and an infant, he will protect and provide. But the love that will last forever soon loses its glow as after the duration necessary for the child to grow, the brain chemicals subside. A new infatuation develops with other potential partners – it is better no to put all your eggs in one basket (so to speak). A different set of genes provides more survival possibilities for a female’s offspring. Genetic variation. DNA testing in modern families show that a high proportion of children from supposedly loyal monogamous marriages have different fathers. Biologically we are programmed to be serial monogamists and some males more promiscuous (the cuckoo effect). Women are seduced by status.

Yet we also see that once the hormones and brain chemistry subsides there is the possibility of a different relationship – based on respect, affection, trust and ‘love’. It is deeper and less frenetic and brings pleasure and contentment. It is a different partnership.

Poetry – I am Quantum – A poem about reality.

Poetry – I am Quantum – A poem about reality.

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This is my latest book of poems.

But this is my latest poem.

I am Quantum

The reality we hold within our heads is created by the neuronal net we each possess. Our consciousness is the result of billions of electrical impulses.

It is not real.

Our senses fire and relay their messages to the brain. The brain interprets these and creates sight, touch, warmth, sound, smell and the elements it uses to create our reality.

It we were dissociated from our nerves and different messages were conveyed it would create a different reality.

The world we see is not real; it is created by our brain.

My world and yours are completely different. We cannot imagine the universe our pets inhabit.

At the same time my mind fantasises and dreams, creates poems, visions and ideas.

They are not real.

They are the product of my neuronal net.

In Quantum physics an electron can exist in two places simultaneously. The whole universe is a product of unreality.

I think I have a quantum mind.

 

I am Quantum

I lead a quantum life

Flitting about

Here and there

In the world

And in my head

At the same time.

 

Two worlds

Simultaneous

And who can tell

Which is more real?

 

My ideas exist

In two places

As they shunt

Their strange paths

Across my synapses

To my dreams.

 

My senses fire –

Send messages

Along neurones

To make picture,

Solid and concrete,

In my head.

 

All the world,

Inside and out,

Is the same –

An electric fog,

A quantum leap,

Into the creation

Of a universe

Or two.

 

Opher 6.12.2015

Dark Matter becomes weirder than Sci-fi as Opher names the DM atoms and sub-atomic particles.

Dark Matter becomes weirder than Sc-fi as Opher names the DM atoms and sub-atomic particles.

 

I’ve put this out before but as I was tidying up my anecdotes for publication I found myself amused by this piece. So I’m putting it out again. I hope you will enjoy as much as I did.

Dark Matter becomes weirder than Sci-fi as Opher names the DM atoms and sub-atomic particles.

It appears that only 4% of the universe is visible, the rest is made of Dark Matter. That’s right – 96% of the known universe is made of something we can’t see.

And as for Dark Energy (DE to us buffs), that accounts for 70% of all the energy in the known universe and we haven’t a clue what it is.

All the ‘ordinary’ matter in the universe is made of atoms and all atoms are made of quarks. Everything is made of the same building blocks.

But Dark Matter (DM to us authorities on the subject) is made of something else. It does not appear to be quarks. So I will deign to name them prior to their discovery. I want it noted that the subatomic particles that make up the ‘atoms’ (or Goodwins, as they are now termed) of Dark Matter are to henceforth be known as Ophers.

I predict that there will be a number of different Ophers just as there are with quarks. Rather than calling them upward, downward, strange and charm as with quarks I want them named after my favourite Rock stars. So, depending on how many we later discover, in descending order, I want them named Roys (after Roy Harper), Dylans (after Bob Dylan) Beefies (After Captain Beefheart), Jimis (After Jimi Hendrix and Woodys (after Woody Guthrie). If there are more discovered then I would like them called Elmores (after Elmore James) and Nicks (after Nick Harper). Hopefully we’ll eventually discovered loads more and we can deploy Howlins (after Howlin Wolf) and Muddy’s (after Muddy Waters) as well as Beatles and Countrys (after the Fab Four and Country Joe and the Fish).

The interesting thing about Dark Matter is that it is probably all around us but we cannot see it or feel it. It is only detectable by its gravitational effect. There is a whole world out there made of Ophers all constructed out of Roys, Dylans, Jimis, Beefies, Nicks, Elmores and Woodys. There are people just like us moving through us right now having a conversation that is a conjecture about what the other 4% of their Dark Matter (our matter) might be made of.

I told you it was weirder than imagination.

Poetry – The First Waves – A poem about the creation of life.

Poetry – The First Waves – A poem about the creation of life.

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The first waves

This is another poem about the creation of the first organism; the progenitor from which all life on this planet evolved.

That molecular voyage was a miracle of stupendous complexity -0 the origination of life. Because of its wondrous unlikely inception we have layered it with mysticism and religion. I see it with awe and wonder as miraculous science – another incredible product of this incredible universe.

We should pay homage to the brilliance of such a manifestation.

Life is probably the greatest glory of the amazing universe we live in.

Life is so complex and unlikely event that it is almost beyond belief.

But in an infinite universe, which is so vast and has existed so long, even the most unlikely event is bound to happen.

It happened here and we may be unique. Not only that but we have the senses and intelligence to experience it.

This is a homage to that first simple coming together of organic molecules that was the first step towards the stupendous range of life we see around us.

 

The First waves

As the first waves broke

On the lonely shore

The prime molecules cloyed

To create

In total blindness

On the first day

A new

Origination.

 

New merging,

New combination,

Forever changing,

Rearranging,

Endlessly,

With no destination,

Just because

They could.

 

Opher 30.10.2015

Poetry – First Feet – A poem for the first humans – the crazy chimps

Poetry – First Feet – A poem for the first humans – the crazy chimps

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First feet

I am intrigued by the idea of the first humans. Somewhere on the African plains a small group of chimp-like apes were isolated from other groups and underwent various mutations. Within that group the genes became distinct and a series of beneficial changes created sufficient difference to be considered a new species.

There had to be a moment when those changes were distinct enough to be considered human. A mother held her baby in her arms. When it took its first steps human civilization was born.

I am aware that in practice this would have been a continuum and that moment would be arbitrary but it is nice to give it a concrete moment.

The strength of humans, which gives us our dominance on this planet, is due to our ingenuity/intelligence and ability to solve problems coupled with our teamwork. We, as hunters, even with weapons, when on our own, were no match for predators, but when in a group we proved formidable. Our brains created technology, weapons, civilization, war, hunting, farming and religion.

I just hope that our abilities are sufficient to deal with the huge problems we are creating ourselves.

 

First feet

 

First feet

Treading the grass

Of the savannah

With the cunning

Of a predator.

 

Brother to the right

In trust of

Bravery,

Safe within

The magic

Of ingenuity.

 

Working fearlessly

In collaboration

Lies the strength,

Cold and calculated

Of imagination

Throughout their length.

 

Opher 30.10.2015

Anthropocene Apocalypse – Malthus and the catastrophe of overpopulation.

Anthropocene Apocalypse – Malthus and the catastrophe of overpopulation.

Overpopulation

Thomas Robert Malthus was a reverend from the eighteenth century who foresaw the effects of a huge burgeoning world population. He thought it would be a catastrophe. It would take room, use up resources and create famine and pestilence. He proposed that measures needed to be taken in order to restrict the population.

He was a man of vision.

Unfortunately Malthus’s ideas were aimed at restricting the increase of the working class! He was a trifle elitist.

Malthus is being proved right though. The population increase is building in pace, threatening food, water, mineral resources, the natural environment and most wild animals. It is changing the climate of the planet.

The answer does not lie in forcing poor people from breeding. It requires a much greater application of intelligence. We have to address the social issues that create the need for big families, the religious stupidity that is preventing people from regulating the number of progeny, the political policies that encourage big families and do not penalise  having too many children and the means to access contraception and use it effectively.

Education and social change is the answer.

Step 1 – recognise that we have a major global problem.

Step 2 – bring in social changes so that there is health care and pensions which remove the need for large families

Step 3 – Bring in contraception and education to limit children

Step 4 – begin an awareness raising campaign to highlight the need to reduce population

Step 5 – limit the places that humans can live, exploit nature or hunt and conserve the wilderness (50% for humans – 50% for the rest of life)

Step 6 – Stop religions going through their silly games to try to win through sheer weight of numbers by encouraging large families

Step 7 – Bring in political inducements and disincentives to encourage small families.

If action is not taken now we will be heading for disaster – a virus, a catastrophe, famine, starvation, emigration, climate change and the devastation of the wilderness.

I don’t want that. I want a beautiful world for my beautiful grandchildren. I want action!