Gender and glaciers?

There has been some controversy about the 2016 NSF-funded paper “Glaciers, gender, and science: A feminist glaciology framework for global environmental change research” (see here for a detailed analysis). The paper refers, inter alia, to the Forbes/Tyndall debate of the century before last (although I believe it is misinterpreting that saga). But, interesting as that episode was in the history of science, it has little to say about the epistemology of modern glaciology. In the 1800s, observing glaciers required extensive (perhaps even “heroic”) mountain climbing. Today, remote sensing methods and computer models are also important, and we understand glaciers much better than either Forbes or Tyndall did.

I don’t think that the gender studies lens adds anything to our understanding of glaciers. And I suspect that Elisabeth Isaksson, Moira Dunbar, Helen Fricker, Julie Palais, Kumiko Goto-Azuma, or Jemma Wadham would not think so either. Nor are race relations particularly important in studying ice. And as to “alternative ways of knowing,” I would prefer to stick with the scientific method – it’s worked very well so far (didn’t we just have a march against “alternative facts”?). Indeed, to subordinate science to the modern politicised humanities would be to abandon the concept of scientific truth, and to make it impossible to gain widespread agreement on the crises currently facing humanity.


World Solar Challenge update for June

A little early, but the infographic above (sixth in the series) shows solar car teams that are likely to be entering in the World Solar Challenge this October, with my estimate of reported current progress (on a red–amber–green scale), taking into account recent social media updates. At this stage, almost all teams have posted evidence that a solar car is being built, and I am expecting about 44 cars to turn up in Darwin this October. Several teams (most recently, Michigan) have also announced the name of their car.

The team list has also been updated, and has a simpler traffic-light version ( RED AMBER GREEN ) of these estimates, together with more detailed news.


350 years ago on Friday

On 26 May 1667, Abraham de Moivre was born. This French mathematician gave us, inter alia, the formula named after him:

De Moivre was born to French Protestant parents. When the Edict of Nantes was revoked, he was imprisoned for his beliefs for several years, after which he was allowed to leave for England. De Moivre made important contributions to probability theory, and was a pioneer of analytic geometry. Sadly, he was unable to get a university position in England, and he died in poverty.


More World Solar Challenge preparations

Across the world, solar car teams continue to prepare for the 2017 World Solar Challenge, turning dreams into functioning vehicles (Instagram memories from Michigan, Belgium, Jönköping, Nuon, Lodz, and me). Meanwhile, the road from Darwin to Adelaide is waiting.

Who’s your local team?


World Solar Challenge preparations continue

Across the world, solar car teams are preparing for the 2017 World Solar Challenge, turning dreams into functioning vehicles (Instagram memories from Twente, Aachen, Belgium, Stanford, Belgium again, and USC). Who’s your local team?


Social Media, Marketing, and the Fyre Festival

In traditional Christian theology, Satan is the ultimate marketing genius. Not being able to create, Satan has no actual product to sell – merely illusions. However, being a fallen angel, he does have supernatural intelligence. He also has a large crowd of “influencers” willing to endorse the nonexistent product. The book and film of Stephen King’s Needful Things illustrate the concept brilliantly, as the main character (played to perfection by Max von Sydow) uses his supernatural marketing genius to con people into trading their souls for useless bits of junk:

Of course, that kind of marketing is an ideal that mere human beings cannot achieve. Beneath the ridiculous Kendall Jenner advertisement, Pepsi has an actual product to sell. It may only be flavoured sugar-water, but that’s not a product to be sneered at – I remember a hot day in rural Thailand some decades ago when it was the only safe thing to drink.

Yet we may be closing in on what Max von Sydow could do. Browser history analysis and sophisticated predictive algorithms can stand in for the supernatural intelligence. YouTube helps to sell the illusion. And Instagram provides influencers galore. The recent Fyre Festival is perhaps the closest approach ever to the ideal. The musicians, accommodation, and food promised to the paying clientele do not appear ever to have been organised (although there apparently were a few waterlogged tents and cheese sandwiches). But the promo was great.


World Solar Challenge update for May

The infographic above (fifth in the series, and just a few days early) shows solar car teams that are likely to be entering in the World Solar Challenge this October, with my estimate of reported current progress (on a red–amber–green scale), taking into account recent social media updates. The team list has also been updated, and has a simpler traffic-light version ( RED AMBER GREEN ) of these estimates, together with more detailed news.

As well as building a new car, Principia are gearing up to race an old one at the FSGP in July, so they must be rather busy. Bochum continues to blog in German, and report that they are using plexiglas for the windows of their new car. Nuon have announced that their new car will have an autopilot (OK, that last one was an April Fool’s joke).

In general, teams should be well into construction by now. For some teams, I have seen no evidence that this is the case (which may simply mean that they are too busy to post). However, best of luck to all the teams!