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I'm intrigued by Keith Laws' suggestion. In his view, the problem isn't a lack of opportunity for women, it's rather that a lot of men aren't good for anything else. If true, this turns everything upside down, no?
Well I think students will pay more and universities will get less. When there are deep cuts across the public sector, I just can't see the government letting universities walk away from this with a bag of swag. As for whether students end up getting less, I'm a cynic. I think we're going to get love-bombed with rhetoric but no effective action. Just like last time.
Going back to the period before Nutt was sacked, I think we should start by describing what was going on. Nutt was the chair of the ACMD. He also seems to have been one of if not the most senior scientist on the committee. In the committee's work developing a body of written evidence on the issues, he seems to have taken an active if not leading part. And when you go back into that evidence itself, it relies heavily on a paper of which he is the lead author. So in my view, the ACMD had ended up being far too reliant on one man. Nutt would have been wiser to give up some of these roles, eg the chair or being so actively involved in the detail of developing the evidence. The guidelines ought to have safeguards against this and the Home Office ought to have raised this issue. From this perspective, Johnson's problem was not just that Nutt was speaking out. It was that he had also become overmighty.
@Peebee We believe that is the case, yes.
Nobody's died. They managed it in South Africa and Northern Ireland. You guys need to do it, too.
Jed - You assume quite a lot about me. I'd never heard the "fervent halfwits" quote until you mentioned it. Cold fusion is not something I'm "into". Obviously we're not going to agree on most of this. But there is one thing we agree on. Internal community politics should not be allowed to get in the way of the search for the truth. It is therefore incumbent on you and your colleagues to resolve your differences with the likes of the American Physical Society. I don't care if you hate each other. You need to find a process that gets cold fusion out of its current zombie status and either cures it or kills it. As scientists and recipients of taxpayers' money, that is your obligation.
Jed - one small point, one big point and one question. Small - If there is a large, reliably reproducible generation of energy from cold fusion then it doesn't matter what I or anyone else thinks. You can just build a demonstrator, hook it up to a light bulb and let the world collapse in awe. The fact that that hasn't happened in 20 years is kind of my point. Big - I take a historical view. Pons and Fleischmann made their claim. Then a lot of the world's most brilliant scientists and most capable scientific institutions tried to replicate it and failed. You don't like the Harwell work that I was indeed remembering. But the people who did it were chosen by the British government because they were considered to be the most capable scientists in the whole of Britain to assess the claim. Similar things happened in other countries. So what happened was that the scientific community as a whole gave its verdict on cold fusion as an energy source, and that verdict was negative. What's more, this verdict was not reached merely by reviewing the literature (what you invite me to do, and as far as I can see the basis of the 2004 DoE review and possibly others). It was done by rolling up sleeves in the lab. Even if you think later evidence has changed the picture, to reject this verdict is to retreat into wishful thinking. Now, Pons and Fleischmann were very good scientists. So we have to ask ourselves, how did they get it wrong? (Again, this stands even if you think later evidence changes the picture). And the answer to that is I think the one I gave originally, that the calorimetry involved is subject to subtle experimental errors. This makes the subsequent scientific literature an unusually unreliable guide to cold fusion for two reasons. First, because of the ubiquitous preference for not reporting negative results. Second, because the journals don't have the means to flush out the kind of experimental errors that eluded Pons and Fleischmann. For this reason, what you need for credibility is to have any experiments that claim to generate energy from cold fusion replicated and acclaimed by eminent physicists. Question - What we seem to have ended up with is a split in the scientific community between enthusiasts and the rest. Do the two sides ever talk to each other?
Thanks Anon. I should mention that in the two months since I wrote this, I've become aware that one possibility I discounted at the time as too extreme is actually an important part of the picture. This is the possibility that the Coalition could collapse over student fees, triggering a new General Election. What happens if we go all the way to a vote, Clegg is unable to enforce the whip and enough Lib Dem MPs rebel to defeat the government? From the Conservative point of view, it's a breach of the Coalition Agreement. The Liberal Democrat Party has failed to abide by its part of the deal. This then could provide grounds for the Conservatives to force a new election. Whether they would do that would in turn depend on the electoral outlook at that point. But certainly, glancing at the polls, it's a prospect that today Cameron can look on with interest - while Clegg has to view it with terror. So, this puts additional pressure on Clegg to bow to Conservative demands. Maybe Cameron will try and force him to choose between repudiating his pledge to oppose rises in fees or face an early election. Clegg has a card to play even here, not I think that it helps much in reality. The Coalition Agreement says that arrangements will be made to allow the Lib Dems to abstain. Clegg can always claim those arrangements were inadequate and try and shift the blame on to Cameron. But if Cameron believes he's got the chance of winning an outright majority with an early election, that won't stop him. And a final PS - Lib Dem activists have made me aware that within the party Clegg and Cable are famed for opposing the party policy on fees.
Thanks Oliver. Now fixed. BTW Sunday Times cover story today echoes my view of a gathering crisis, saying Browne "may leave the Coalition grasping for a political solution".
The less we tinker with the midfield the better. At the moment, we can play any two there from Thudd, Modric and Wilson. Plus, there's lots of backup. The only things we should touch are a striker - if they move us up a level, which would cost £30m or so - and a right back - again, only if they move us up a level.
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May 15, 2010