RPS 2019 science photographer of the year – shortlist | Science | The Guardian

This week I saw this news article. I love these contests. Photography is one place where art and science come together.


The 70 images that make up the Royal Photographic Society’s science photographer of the year competition will be exhibited at the Science Museum in London from 7 October until 5 January.

Source: RPS 2019 science photographer of the year – shortlist | Science | The Guardian

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‘Do I risk it?’ Your photos of the world’s best and worst cycling infrastructure | Cities | The Guardian

Cycling infrastructure worldwide – the wonderful to  a horrible.

Palmy has it’s share of good and evil. Every roundabout is a death trap and with the rise of tinted windscreens cyclists can’t catch the eyes of drivers to reassure themselves.  Plenty of drivers just cut you off anyway. The cycle tracks are just lines of paint, parked on by cars and often covered in glass. Yes the bridle path is great and the council is trying but, you know, in New Zealand- cars rule.

From Hong Kong to Cape Town, Seoul to Selly Oak, here are some of the standout examples

Source: ‘Do I risk it?’ Your photos of the world’s best and worst cycling infrastructure | Cities | The Guardian

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A Matter of fact: Talking truth in a post-truth world. Jess Berentson-Shaw.

I’m reading, absorbing; reflecting on – Jess Berentson-Shaw’s, A Matter of Fact. The book is tiny…. part of the series put out by New Zealand publisher BWB. The series are fascinating monographs by expert’s on their subject. They are like key-points for interested citizens. In this case, the book is for those interested in effective science communication. That is definitely me.

I’m impressed to the extent that I’ve reread, taken notes and will blog here. In her conclusion Jess gives 20 action points; that’s too many for a blog but it is a reason to buy, study and use her book; especially  if you, like me, plan to communicate science well.

Of the twenty, I’m choosing those that the are critically important to my writing practice.

First (Jess’s point 14). Talk about, engage with helpful values, particularly intrinsic values. I take that to mean make a conversation about values such as health and family and fairness. An example, insulation of buildings, tell the stories of families with less colds and flu, children at school, playing sport; healthy, happy and well engaged with school and community. The aim is to join people with conversations centered on intrinsic values we are likely to share, like health.

Second (Jess’s point 14). When seeking to approach a group be prepared to lead with helpful pro-social values. These will change depending on the group and the values of the group. Appropriate values include: creativity, benevolence, love, commitment to younger generations, innovation and so forth. Lead with your audiences values using stories to connect between your audience and yourself. Stay away from extrinsic values, like money especially money. Studies have clearly shown that we become more selfish when primed with extrinsic values like money. Economics students become less altruistic as they study their subject. (And if you are too different from your audience, sometimes another speaker maybe a more appropriate person to speak to a particular audience).

These two are easy for me.

But all the points are not so easy for me. My third third key idea is (Jess’s point 20). “Know your own bias.” Be humble. I’m a PhD trained chemist. Scientists, like me, come across to many people as arrogant. I forget I’m intelligent. I enjoy theory. My audience is, most likely practical and untouched by the beauty I see in science and they don’t have anywhere near my back-story with science.  As a communicator, that is my problem. Jess’s point is scientists must be humble as we seek to inform. Not an easy ask for me. (Of course, I’m humble, that why I have more than 400 blogs here).


So. The take away messages for me were: Learn to find values we share with our audience and talk about those values.  And be humble.

I recommend this book to you.


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Nigel and Bruce: the night-soil collectors

How can I to communicate the choices we have to climate-change-action-skeptics. This blog is practice working towards a story telling approach I would like to use more widely.

The year was 1859. The place a poor back street in London. Nigel and Bruce two night-soil collectors, contemplating their future, following the “Great Stink of London”.

Once upon a time there were two night-soil collectors. Both of their fathers had spent their lives collecting night-soil as had their fathers before them. But times were changing. Recently the Thames had became a chess-pit full of sewage, dead animals and waste. It stunk so much that Parliament had been closed. What’s worst, the recent cholera and typhoid epidemics were being blamed on dirty water. Contamination from chess-pits. There was talk of building a huge city wide sewage system, rendering their job obsolete. How would they earn a living if no-one needed night-soil collectors to clean up?

Nigel was concerned but he was reassured, his friend, who could read, told him that the new’s paper commentators said it was just too expensive, no one could afford to build a sewer system over the whole of London. And this thing about bacteria in water causing disease, “That’s just a theory” said his doctor. And, of course, no-one would stop people cheating and just dumping waste in the streets. We would always use the common land for waste, always had. His job was safe, even if his wife thought he smelt gross.

Bob wasn’t so sure. The Toffs were furious they could not boat on the river, and that they had had to  close Parliament. They will act. Bob thought hard. He’d noticed his friend the the brick layer had plenty of work. And Bob’s wife liked the smell of bricks and soil. He decided to became Bob the Bricky, and over time; especially, when the big London sewer projects were being built, he prospered. And his wife was happy with that.

Nigel did not prosper, and his family life became increasingly unpleasant. Like his smell.

We have the choice Nigel and Bob had. Will we chose to prosper, or to decline. Build a sustainable New Zealand or not. Our choice.

Kia Toa, Kia Ngakaunui

10 Amazing Facts About Cholera and The Great Stink of London

Re-Smelling London’s Great Stink Of 1858

(I don’t know the copyright on this picture: if here is a problem please ask me to take it down)>


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Mapping the human body through paper art – in pictures | Art and design | The Guardian

This is glorious. Have a wonderful week.

“Science made this possible”

Berlin-based paper artist Katrin Rodegast crafts limbs, bones and organs out of Zurich city maps

Source: Mapping the human body through paper art – in pictures | Art and design | The Guardian

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Sciblogs | The tragedy of climate change

On Science Blogs New Zealand there has been some debate on the Tragedy of the Commons, in the context of Climate Change. Stephen has been particularly cynical about acting to move forward. Here is my comment in reply to his last post. (Link to the full article below)

@ Stephen. Has clearly outlined the fundamental problem, that we describe as Tragedy of the Commons. The reasoning goes, “If I don’t over-exploit the commons, some-one else will”. When some stakeholders can’t see past that, the commons collapses and that is that.

What we have seen, through these comments, is that appeals to: reason, ethics, and examples of other countries already seeking to act… They fall of deaf ears.

My environmental text, tells us that there are two broad approaches to overcome Tragedy of the Commons. First privatize the commons; this is the approach taken by the Emissions Trading Act, an approach I think has dubious effectiveness;especially, as New Zealand’s major polluters: farming, international education, and tourism were left out.  The second approach is cooperation. Homo sapiens, is successful because we cooperate and that’s where my hope lies. (Elinor Ostrom earned a Nobel Prize studying ways we cooperate, and international organizations like the IPCC are examples of international organizations building cooperative approaches. Science is another example of a fundamentally cooperative endeavor).

Another reason New Zealand needs to act to mitigate (and adapt to) climate change is because we have already committed to; both in the Paris Accord and the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). New Zealand has committed to work toward positive change as have a majority of other countries. It’s not just signing the paper but a commitment to actively build a future our grand children can live with.  Personally, I prefer to face the future from a stance of working to build a better future, rather than letting entropy take us places we would rather not go. Working toward the SDGs as we are committed to do is one cooperative way forward. Which leads me onto innovation.

The most important reason we need to begin acting on climate change is because it represents an opportunity for our innovators and entrepreneurs. My favorite business quotation is from Peter Drucker when he said, “Every social and environmental problem is an opportunity for business” (Or words to that effect). It seems to me that far too many people are stuck in a narrative that “Solving climate change is a cost”. We must challenge that narrative. Climate change is an opportunity. My problem with the Stephen story is that it discourages innovation and entrepreneurship. For me, Homo sapiens cooperating is a core value of our species; we cooperate as scientists, business folk and artists… and engineers. That’s us at our most human, cooperative best. That is how we have prevailed and grown. That  is where our best hope lies now, and that is how we will escape the “Tragedy of the Commons”.

New Zealanders have pride in the way we have lead the world: women voting, agricultural innovation, nuclear free,… all of that. Let’s accept the challenge before us and join the individuals, businesses and countries moving honestly to solve climate change and successfully meet the sustainable development goals. Why? Because that’s us humans at our best.

Kia Toa, Kia Ngakaunui

Why is there pollution? Why is there an ecological crisis and why has it been so hard to deal with? There is certainly no shortage of culprits – people have blamed neoliberalism, capitalism, consumerism, economic growth, overpopulation, evil corporations, greed. But underneath all the many aspects of this difficult problem lies one fundamental phenomenon: the Tragedy of the Commons. This states that self-interest will lead to the depletion of an unmanaged, freely available resource, against everyone’s long-term interest. In an unmanaged fishery, each fisher has an incentive to catch as many fish as possible; if they don’t, another fisher will. Without cooperation between all parties, the fishery will be destroyed. It is one of those ideas that, once learned, you start to see everywhere, even in areas that are not purely economic. Voting, taxes, vaccination, rubbish, labour laws, health and safety, and human rights all share some of the features of the tragedy of the commons. They are all areas where progress has been made, slowly and with difficulty, in many countries. In climate change politics, the mechanism is constantly at work. Every country, every economic sector contains powerful voices arguing why someone else should cut emissions instead of them. This …

Source: Sciblogs | The tragedy of climate change

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Yes, women like porn too – we’re all just trained to believe they don’t | Arwa Mahdawi | World news | The Guardian

I doubt I will see this study outlined in the New Zealand media. I don’t know why. New Zealanders are as interested in sex as the UK and rest of the world. Do agree that women’s sexuality has been suppressed; not so sure about her comments about men.

We’re told men are biologically wired to be more sexual than women, but this is junk science used to excuse bad behavior

Source: Yes, women like porn too – we’re all just trained to believe they don’t | Arwa Mahdawi | World news | The Guardian



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He Ara Kotahi: Palmerston North’s new cycle and pedestrian bridge lights up.

He Ara Kotahi has been open for a month now and it is a wonderful asset for Palmerston North. The bridge is a beautiful thing, and useful, bringing the far side of the river into the cities walking and cycling networks, and safe cycling commuting links from the city to university and to Linton.

He Ara Kotahi is beautiful!

I’m struggling to remember the name, but I always have struggled to learn names: class mates, authors, protagonists in the books I read; I just forget. That’s an embarrassment and socially maladaptive, but I learn. He Ara Kotahi! He Ara kotahi! He Ara Kotahi!

Tena Kotu, Tena Kotu, Tena Kotu, Kotoa.

City leaders experience a taste of things to come on He Ara Kotahi, which will open next month.

Source: Palmerston North’s new cycle and pedestrian bridge lights up | Stuff.co.nz

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Collection of space sounds released to mark 50 years since the moon landings – video | Science | The Guardian

This just plays to my love of science.

(Should I get a tattoo on my forearm that says, “Science made this possible”).

To mark the 50th anniversary of the moon landings later this month, an interactive collection of the sounds of space and the history of space travel has been launched by global sound project Cities and Memory

Source: Collection of space sounds released to mark 50 years since the moon landings – video | Science | The Guardian

Many more here. http://citiesandmemory.com/space/


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Second Oral History Workshop.

We met yesterday for the second workshop on collecting oral histories. I thought the interview I did would be useful here.

The book is Art Matters: Because your imagination can change the world by Neil Gaiman. The correct quotation is,

“And when things get tough, this is what you should do… MAKE GOOD ART. I’m serious.Husband runs of with a politician? Make GOOD ART. Leg crushed and then eaten by a mutated boa constrictor? MAKE GOOD ART.  I.R.S on your trail? MAKE GOOD ART. Cat exploded? MAKE GOOD ART. Somebody on the internet thinks what you do is stupid or evil or it’s all been done before? MAKE GOOD ART.  Probably things will work some how, and eventually time will take the sting away, but that doesn’t matter. Do what only you do best. MAKE GOOD ART.”

And my voice in a place it will last. (Maurice Judd, Interviewer, Priyanka Sharma. Abstract: Neil Gaiman’s book; Make good art; My Blog; guitar ;writing; Daughter (Sarah Judd) Shortland Street the Musical; Drawing; Creative process).


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