Archive for February, 2011

The interesting website “You Are Not So Smart” published a couple of days ago a post on the hivemind: the one leading to deindividuation in groups. Deindividuation makes people shout at someones standing on top of a building to jump and then filming the death fall or tweeting the action. Three ingredients lead to deindividuation: anonymity, group size and arousal (being aroused by the environment and feeling aroused).

The Misconception: People who riot and loot are scum who were just looking for an excuse to steal and be violent.

The Truth: You are are prone to losing your individuality and becoming absorbed into a hivemind under the right conditions.

Source: Improv Everywhere

When a crowd gathers near a suicidal jumper something terrible is unleashed.

In Seattle in 2001, a 26-year-old woman who had recently ended a relationship held up traffic for a little too long as she considered the implications of leaping to her death. As motorists began to back-up on the bridge and become irate, they started yelling “Jump, bitch, jump!” until she did.

Cases like this aren’t unusual. …

Psychologists call this phenomenon deindividuation …. In certain situations, you can expect to be de-individualized. Unlike conformity, in which you adopt the ideas and behaviors of others for acceptance and inclusion, deindividuation is mostly unconscious and more likely to lead to mischief. As psychologist David G. Myers said, it is “doing together what you would not do alone.”

Read the whole post

The simple and pointed answer is: stupidity, ignorance and commercial interests. Stupidity on the side of bureaucracy, ignorance amongst the populous (and a lack of ability to collectively force change), and politicians beholden to the powerful interests of the fossil fuel industry. That’s my incredulous headshake argument.

Christine Rau in her The Age opinion piece doesn’t elaborate on these aspects (although she mentions the bureaucrats), but she nevertheless puts forward a passionate argument for installing solar panels in a sunburned country content with burning coal.

Put solar panels on every large rooftop
Christine Rau (February 8, 2011)

Sydney’s geography favours the wealthy. Nothing new there. But last week’s heatwave exacerbated the division between east and west and raised concerns about energy consumption.

With ocean glimpses unaffordable, most of us live away from ocean breezes in the demographic heartland near Liverpool or Parramatta. Our eastern Sydney cousins may complain about 35-degree “heatwaves” but for us, anything less than 40 degrees in the summer is mild. After six days of 42-degree heat, the fridge went on strike and the kids’ paddle pops turned to mush. Technology doesn’t like extremes.

The cheapest and most-populated Sydney housing is in the north and south-west, and it’s the city’s most unsustainable and energy-guzzling.

Which bureaucrat decided it was OK to release land in shrinking blocks to hold bloated castles without eaves or trees and with only minuscule backyards? When the neighbouring bricks of jostling houses are only metres apart, there’s only room for radiant heat, and none for cooling.

Few neighbourhoods in western Sydney have enough large shade trees. Natural shade, backyards and privacy have been sacrificed on the altar of the affordable sprawling McMansion with few people in it.

The modern castle has no protection from the sun. It can only stay liveable with ”climate-control” blocking out the real world.

Such planning mistakes have compounded with every land release, burdening the community with higher electricity loads and confining individuals to what was once the province of a sterile office. We increasingly live in a claustrophobic, windows-closed environment, in our cars and in our homes.

In any extreme weather, summer or winter, we get energy spikes. The obscene waste leads to rolling blackouts – ironically in the areas which are more sustainable – and ultimately those on modest incomes face crippling electricity bills.

Australia is one of the most scientifically literate cultures on Earth – the number of our science Nobel laureates is out of proportion to our population – yet we are lacking in logic and our complex tiers of government stymies coherent housing and sustainability plans. We get planning paralysis masked by pretence of action.

To get back to the science: it’s simple. What energy resource do we have above all else? The sun.

Yet those who can least afford roof-top solar panels are those with the most amount of sun and heat in the western suburbs of Sydney and Melbourne and in the regions.

Professor Andrew Blakers, the director of the centre for sustainable energy and solar energy systems at the Australian National University, says Germany does it better, and it has only 60 per cent of our sunshine.

“Roughly speaking, Australia installed about 200 megawatts of photo-voltaic solar cells in 2010 at a cost of about $1.2 billion,” he says. “Germany did about 5000 megawatts at a cost of about $25 billion.”

He says in Adelaide and Alice Springs the power from solar panels on roofs is cheaper than getting it from the grid, and that will be the case for everyone by 2014.

We should install solar panels at government expense on all rooftops where air-conditioning and heating systems overload the power grid. We should put them on every school, shopping centre and car park – anywhere with a large roof.

After centuries of dealing with climate extremes, we have lost the art of cooling ourselves and our houses naturally.

Our grandparents understood the basics of airflow, radiant heat and opening warm or cold parts of the house, depending on the season. They could cope with the heat and the cold; external louvres or shutters helped in the summer, and in winter they stuck to one warm room.

Now, unless it’s at the push of a button, people are bereft of ideas. Just as the GPS has the potential to kill navigation skills, air-conditioning can kill an experienced attitude to the weather rather than a fearful one.

Sydney has a desalination plant; surely it can do something with solar. All the unending waffle about the carbon emissions tax and the ephemeral idea of carbon credits seems hypocritical when we have the solution beaming down, and not only being wasted but making us burn coal to cope with it.

Christine Rau is a freelance journalist.

James Blake – The Wilhelm Scream

Posted: February 5, 2011 in creativity

James Blake is quite an amazing guy – he’s apparently only 18 or 19 years old, a classically trained musician and dubstep producer. And this video work is awesome. Here’s the Allmusic blurb on him:

Influenced by the likes of D’Angelo and Stevie Wonder along withBurial and Mount KimbieJames Blake is known for injecting some soul into the genre of dubstep. The London-based producer first gave the world a taste of his quirky, R&B-sampling strain of dubstep in 2009 when his Air & Lack Thereof 12” appeared on the Hemlock label. Blake received quite the endorsement when the heralded Soul Jazz label picked the track up for their Steppas’ Delight 2 compilation that same year. Blake raised his profile every few months during 2010 — something of a breakout year for him — with a succession of warmly received 12″ releases: The Bells Sketch(Hessle Audio, March), CMYK (R&S, June), Klavierwerke (R&S, October), and the single-sided “Limit to Your Love” (Atlas, November). The last of the series — a cover of a song by Feist, in which Blake‘s heartfelt vocal was placed front and center — served as a precursor to his first full-length, issued the following February.

Unfortunately for copyright reasons the above video redirects to Youtube, which is unfortunate but worthwhile nevertheless. And not as an alternative but complementing the clip above, here’s another version of the same song; a BBC live recording.

Rupert Murdoch geography

Crooks and Liars

Andrew Sullivan (The Atlantic)

Banksy, of course

Posted: February 5, 2011 in creativity

It’s been years that I’ve posted something of Banksy’s work; stumbling across some of his stuff today though, I couldn’t resist – I just love his subtle satirical style :). There’s more at Best Bookmarks!

What atheists really care about

Posted: February 5, 2011 in reflections