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Richard - you're right, timing is important. During the years of the "counter-revolutions" in both the UK and the US I was, in addition to trying to help raise a family and working internationally, perhaps rarely in the right place at the right time, and rarely in quite the right frame of mind to appreciate or evaluate sufficiently the omens of these changing times. I was struck by the analysis in the "caputalism" link you provided and the quote from James Galbraith (whose father I watched speak from the steps of the Harvard administration building during the strike of 1969): The era of prosperity between 1850 and 1970 has anchored in the economist fraternity the unspoken certainty that constant growth is “normality” but stagnation and crisis “the exception.” Galbraith now suspects: “Whatever worked in times gone may well no longer work today.” 1970 does clearly represent a turning point - see the dramatic graph of income inequality in this piece from Forbes: As described in the article, "From 20 feet away, anyone can see that something bad happened to the U.S. economy in 1968. Prior to that, America experienced rapid income growth that was widely shared. The incomes of both “the ten percent” and “the ninety percent” increased by 80% in just 20 years. We had prosperity, without rising income inequality." The UK followed exactly the same pattern, perhaps as is often the case, delayed by a couple of years from the US. Perhaps I'm a living illustration of Mark Twain's view the "The man who is a pessimist before 48 knows too much; if he is an optimist after it, he knows too little." Or that "I was young and foolish then; now I am old and foolisher." For some strange reason, I take comfort in being foolisher. And also wish that Twain was still around - we need him.
Blaize – many thanks for this. It has given me cause to reflect. I realise that to a certain extent I am viewing things through somewhat rose-tinted glasses, coloured further by youthful recollections. In many ways, my comments on current events are cultural rather than political; I am certainly not trying to gloss over unpleasant history. I was, after all, a graduate student in the US during the Vietnam War and watched the first election of Richard Nixon. Martin Luther King had just been assassinated and riots were breaking out in cities across the country. And yet, there was (it seemed to me) a continuing undercurrent of the optimism that had always been part of the national character: the late sixties were the last years in which incomes were broadly rising across American society, with income inequality at a low level never to be seen again. Well-placed anger at many social and political issues was expressed not only in riots and civil disobedience but in literate language with thoughtfulness underpinning genuine debate. No, I’m not saying that that has disappeared – far from it – it has simply been, more often than not, overwhelmed by the diatribes of the right-wing and the proudly ignorant ramblings of social media. Those were also the days of the Apollo program, a source of wonder and national pride in science and human endeavour. Today, the extraordinary accomplishments of the Mars rovers – and the people who made them possible – seem to occupy only obscure corners of the news. I suppose that my perceptions of the US were formed in very different times and through the idealistic spectacles of youth. I will readily admit to some level of naivety in thinking that conditions should improve with time, not deteriorate. But I would still ask where that optimism has gone (slogans about making America great again don’t count).
Ray - it was a one-off, from some kind of feeling of personal necessity. Sorry you feel this way, but fair enough. Michael
Richard - thanks - this is a fascinating but damning and depressing piece. I was wondering why I could find no water data for anything more recent than 2010... We can only hope that that the constructive idea of a "water summit" not only comes up with real plans for action but that they might be acted on (I am, however, not holding my breath).
Wayne - many thanks for this provocative comment and for your kind words (apologies for the delay in responding - I've been travelling). These are intriguing ideas. Since it seems that conventional wisdom on Martian processes is regularly overturned, and since much of Martian atmospheric and fluid behaviour remains mysterious, your suggestions seem perfectly plausible. There's certainly plenty of magnetite around on Mars and there would be no reason why windblown "placer" deposits shouldn't be concentrated. I do, however, have questions about scale. The rough dimensions of the Martian magnetic stripes are far greater than normal dunes or dune fields - and how much magnetite would have to be accumulated to create detectably signatures of this magnitude? Oh, and thanks for "Astroeremology"!
Indeed, Richard - and thanks for the links. There is clearly no simple answer to a highly complex problem and California's economy (and the diet of the rest of the US) is fundamentally dependent on agriculture. The question that has to be asked, however, is around efficiency and sustainability - how can California agriculture be re-configured so as not to permanently deplete the state's resources (and export water)? And how can resource use be de-coupled from private vested interests? Not easy to answer... Yes, geodesy helps (as do extremely clever satellite gravity measurements: But these measures are on a regional scale and what the state also needs are the nitty-gritty data of where wells are and how deep they are, how much water is extracted from each well, water level changes in each well and so on. A new law will require some of this - but not for several years. Groundwater extraction in California is a free-for-all and has been for decades.
Vielen Dank! Ihre Sammlung und Bildersind sind wunderbar - Vielen Dank für die Blog-Link. Michael
As usual, Photoshop's magical and mysterious blending options. And thanks for the Marsalis link - wonderful!
Toggle Commented Dec 24, 2015 on Final post of the year at Through The Sandglass
You're right - resource efficiency is the key measure. cotton + desert = demise of the Aral Sea
Well, you know that uncertainty as to whether you have left the egg in long enough to be hard-boiled? You're certainly right about time (an eclectic but extensive collection of sandglasses) and, indeed, about empty space. The museum has been described as a "folly", a memorial to the days of Japan's random Government subsidies. But yes, it is handsome, the concept is wonderful - and it does contain art installations ( and and interactive opportunities (see glimpses in, never mind squeaking sand at
Toggle Commented Oct 2, 2015 on Sunagoyomi at Through The Sandglass
Thanks - an interesting update!
Thanks for the update - but it's an update that's really depressing and infuriating! Coastal developers seem to be in a class of their own as far as lobbying, influence and self-interest are concerned.
Really sorry that the sand sample was lost! It seems that the pink dust comes from the iron ore exporting plant - is that correct? It certainly seems to have been an issue for a long time!
Toggle Commented Jun 29, 2015 on The Sandglass at Through The Sandglass
Thanks for the comment and questions, Theresa - if it's OK with you, I'll reply by email as soon as I can. Michael
Natalia - thank you! What is your interest in all this? Michael
Suvrat and Richard - many thanks for your comments! And I'll be back to blogging shortly after an involuntary hiatus... Michael
I see it has now changed its name to Sporosarcina pasteurii! Incredibly if you google either name plus "buy" there are places that have it available, presumably for bona fide research. What is your interest?
"Panta rhei" reminded me of the news from earlier this year that "the world's longest-running experiment" had recorded the fall of another drop of pitch (see And "waves running through each other" reminded me of the mysteries of barchan dunes merging and emerging. Then there are physical models of stress in architecture - see Gaudi's catenary models for the Sagrad Familia.... It's all too fascinating - thanks, Richard!
Yes indeed, Richard - another important issue. One of the problems is the significant variation in the rules and regulations from state to state, whether they be financial or operating engineering requirements, public disclosure obligations or regulatory enforcement processes.
Thanks for the link! I read the New Scientist bu had missed this completely - fascinating!
Thanks! And yes, Abbey appears first in the preface and then periodically throughout - a compelling character and writer. And then there's Mary Austin.....
Toggle Commented Jan 25, 2014 on The next book at Through The Sandglass
Thanks Suvrat - I'm looking forward to reading it too!
Toggle Commented Jan 15, 2014 on The next book at Through The Sandglass
Richard - thanks for this, and particularly for the link to the poem. I hadn't come across it before, and it's wonderful - "The ocean, cumbered by no business more urgent than keeping open old accounts that never balanced . . ." That says it all.
A number of different robotics labs are already working on this - see the linked posts.
Toggle Commented May 15, 2013 on Swimming in the sand at Through The Sandglass