Sunday Fry Up and the scientific method



I was perusing the obesity statistics on, as one does after a large fry up on a Sunday morning, and clicked the word correlations  top right.

Some years ago, when thinking about Chaos Theory and the butterfly effect, I considered technological progress and speculated that, one day, it might be possible to collate lots and lots of data, on all sorts of subjects, and crunch it for correlations. It might be possible to show that diabetes in the UK was related to tin production in Chile.

The scientific method would be turned on it’s head. Conventionally boffins sit about ruminating all day. When they think of an idea, they yell Eureka, write down a theory and then spend years and years getting the data together  to prove the theory. I take liberties with my description but you get the general idea.

If, instead, it were possible to accumulate lots an of data and automatically look for correlations then the scientists might be able to retrospectively develop theories as to why the data correlated. The advantage, as I see it, would be that they would know where to look.

It seems that all this is now possible and the greatest correlation for obesity is Teenage Birth Rate though there are also correlations with “secure servers” and “pride in one’s nation”. Now I don’t know if these correlations are significant and I do understand that correlation is not cause but it seems to me that this is a very useful tool for scientific research.

The danger, of course, is that, like everything else, we will use this merely to make society more efficient. No scientists will sit and wonder just for the hell of it. The corporations will decide the agenda. The rat race will be further fine tuned to ensure that we all eat correctly and consider that eight different flavours of coffee amounts to democracy. But I digress……

Bin Laden Potatoes

Guy Fawkes Night

Guy Fawkes Night

Tonight is Guy Fawkes Night and I posted a picture of fireworks on FaceSpace. An American friend asked what the holiday was. I told her that Guy Fawkes tried to blow up parliament in 1605 and now we burn him in effigy every November the 5th. Yes, it is a little weird, but on the plus side we get to stand around a huge bonfire on a cold November evening and eat hot jacket potatoes. I went on to suggest that the Americans do something similar with Osama Bin bloody Laden.

The Americans should create a national day of celebration where Bin Ladin is burned in effigy on top of a bonfire. If they followed the English model then young kids would stomp around in the mud waving sparklers and devouring hot Bin Laden night potatoes in their jackets…mmmmmm. The adults could drink beer and talk bollocks. The goal being to draw the poison by ridiculing the bastards and having a good time.

Remember, remember the fifth of November
The gunpowder treason and plot.
I see no reason why gunpowder treason
Should ever be forgot.

Life In A Day

Just watched Life In A Day on BBC2. To quote Wikipedia: “Life in a Day is a crowdsourced documentary film comprising an arranged series of video clips selected from 80,000 clips submitted to the YouTube video sharing website, the clips showing respective occurrences from around the world on a single day, July 24, 2010.”

There were some beautiful scenes in the film.  Modern techo civilisation juxtaposed alongside natural pastoral scenes. Happy children and street violence. The early morning rituals of washing and brushing of teeth from all over the world. What appeared to start as a fairly small scale personal film gradually expanded to something more reminiscent of Koyaanisqatsi. As various points people answered set questions. Who do you love? What do you fear?

Though the film is crowd sourced, I rate it as good as many conventional documentaries and it is a credit to National Geographic Films that they chose to distribute it. The collecting, understanding, editing and of so many individual bits of video must have been a real challenge (as well as an exciting opportunity) and it seems that production was by Ridley Scott’s company Scott Free Productions. I find the idea of crowd sourced video interesting. Perhaps it is a little like samling with music. Here we have 80,000 bits of video by amateurs edited together into a great film. As technology advances the low level stuff gets routine and, with this film, it is the editing and, perhaps, the initial envisioning, where the true artistry lies?

Films like this show up Hollywood’s lack of imagination and insipid reliance on technique.

Apologies for the advert at the beginning of this video.

Everything Everywhere?

We are constantly told about how technology allows us to do anything anywhere. In fact T-Mobile and Orange have created a new company called Everything Everywhere. Yet we still insist on transporting tons and tons of metal around the country every morning and evening. We don’t need new road we need Tele-working.

Open Road

Open Road