Friday, December 30, 2016

The problem of consciousness

The question of how consciousness comes about has perplexed mankind for ages. Most of those with a science background assume that it arises due to special features of the brain such as high complexity, computing power etc. If this were true then perhaps computers of the distant might start to show this property also. This view suggests that there is no survival after death.

However another school of thought holds that consciousness resides elsewhere (with the soul or spirit) and that the brain is only a kind of filter. Survival after death is therefore possible.

Consider then this story about a man who lives with most of his brain missing... as reported by Science Alert. At first I thought this must be fake news! First described in The Lancet (a well-known medical publication) in 2007, link provided in article.
"A French man who lives a relatively normal, healthy life - despite missing 90 percent of his brain - is causing scientists to rethink what it is from a biological perspective that makes us conscious."

Sunday, November 27, 2016

Solar roofs

The US company Tesla, famous for electric cars, has announced glass roofing tiles which are also solar panels. According to this article in Bloomberg:

"If Musk’s claims prove true, this could be a real turning point in the evolution of solar power. The rooftop shingles he unveiled just a few weeks ago are something to behold: They’re made of textured glass and are virtually indistinguishable from high-end roofing products. They also transform light into power for your home and your electric car. "

While they are not cheap they are tough, light-weight and long-lasting. It looks a very promising product. Hopefully other companies will come out with competing products soon and such tiles will become available in Guyana in a few years. Being light-weight is important as it reduces shipping costs and is also better for the kind of houses built here.

Monday, October 24, 2016

New Baha'i Temple opens in Chile

 The wonderful new Baha'i House of Worship has opened in Chile - the third one in the Americas. The others are in the US (Chicago) and Panama. All open to people of all faiths.
At least one Guyanese was present and many Baha'i's here made contributions towards its construction over the past few years. When we eventually have one here we will no doubt get support from Baha'i's around the world too. That is how its works.

The final picture is of the Panama Temple.
More about the Temple is here.

Note - pictures from the Baha'i International Community.

Friday, September 30, 2016

A hot day in Guyana 34+C

On Tuesday (Sept 27th) the temperature inside our house exceeded 34C. This was in a position exposed to what little breeze there was. I do try and check the temperature on hot days and I have never seen it higher.

Monday, August 29, 2016

Nearest star has Earth-sized planet

Big excitement over the latest exoplanet data. One report on the BBC says:
"Its data suggests Proxima b has a minimum mass 1.3 times that of Earth and orbits at a distance of about 7.5 million km from the star, taking 11.2 days to complete one revolution.
The distance between the star and its planet is considerably smaller than Earth's separation from the Sun (149 million km). But Proxima Centauri is what is termed a red dwarf star. It is much reduced in size and dimmer compared with our Sun, and so a planet can be nearer and still enjoy conditions that are potentially as benign as those on Earth."
I would expect we will hear much more about this planet in the coming years. Sorry no picture yet - those in the media are pure speculation but they do look interesting...

Saturday, July 30, 2016

Guyana's Energy Sector

Just came across this useful review of Guyana's energy sector in Kaieteur News. It is definitely incomplete but there is a problem getting documentation in many areas.

There have been many solar panels put in place in the hinterland but how many are still functional and in use is a question. A learning experience.

There are plans to increase hydropower but not yet on the scale needed. The future of the Amaila hydropower project is still being considered.

A useful page is that at the Caricom Energy Program which has links to further resources.
The GEA has a Strategic Plan for 2014-2017 on its web site - more on this later.

Thursday, June 30, 2016

The Near-Death Experience

According to an article in Atlantic "Near-death experiences have gotten a lot of attention lately" and

"All of this makes NDEs perhaps the only spiritual experience that we have a chance of investigating in a truly thorough, scientific way. It makes them a vehicle for exploring the ancient human belief that we are more than meat. And it makes them a lens through which to peer at the workings of consciousness—one of the great mysteries of human existence, even for the most resolute materialist."

What are NDEs? That is too much to attempt here. Try this BBC news item.

This phenomena seems almost unknown here in Guyana. Perhaps because there are fewer recoveries from cardiac arrests. But I feel it is very important and that it is likely we will experience more as our health services are updated.

Tuesday, June 07, 2016

Flock of scarlet ibis

One of my daughters took this picture of a flock of scarlet ibis at MonRepos, ECD.

Monday, May 30, 2016

Global campaign on anniversary of arrest of Iranian Baha'i leaders

Earlier this month a campaign (Enough! Release the Baha’i Seven) was launched by the Baha'i community to bring attention to the continued unjust detention of Iranian Baha'i leaders. This met wide-spread support. More details here.
In Iran some clerics also called for an end to the persecution of the Baha'is, the largest minority religion in the country.

Following this, much controversy followed from a simple meeting between friends, one of the Baha'is concerned who was allowed a brief home visit and the other a former cellmate, the daughter of the Prime Minister of Iran.

Many significant articles appeared in major news sites. From the BBC:
"A political storm has erupted in Iran after the daughter of former President Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani visited a leader of the persecuted Bahai religious minority while she was on leave from prison."
Let us pray that this senseless persecution will soon come to an end. Iran needs the contributions of all its citizens.

Friday, April 29, 2016

Guyana signs Paris Agreement on climate change

Guyana was one of many nations signing the agreement. The statement by President Granger at the event said in part:

"The Cooperative Republic of Guyana, in the short-term, up to 2020, will:
• improve timber monitoring and maintain a high level of timber legality;
• increase value-added activities in the forestry sector so as to augment carbon storage in long-use wood products;
• intensify the sustainable management of our indigenous communities which own and manage 14% of our national territory;
• introduce a national Emissions Reduction Programme (ERP) to add two million hectares under conservation, encourage more efficient mining and logging activities and implement Reduced Impact Logging (RIL).
• invest in solar power, wind power and hydropower to transition more rapidly to renewable sources of energy and reduce our dependence on fossil fuels."

Looks good so far although somewhat vague. Ratification by Guyana is still required.

Wednesday, March 30, 2016

MOOCs update

I have been doing MOOCs regularly with Coursera, Futurelearn and Edx and mention a few below that I did recently.

But, please note, the platforms for these three leaders have important differences so if you have experience with one then don't assume the others are the same. Also then content differs with Edx have more academic courses and Futurelearn more for the casual learner. Coursera has some of both.

Modelling climate change
Currently doing a course called Religous Literacy

Strategies for successful Aging
Monitoring climate from space
Exlporing our oceans

Critical Thinking in Global Challenges
The Science of the Solar System
Planet Earth...and You!
Energy and the Earth

Sunday, January 24, 2016

World Bank report on the internet and development

According to a New York Times article, The World Bank recently released a report (World Development Report 2016: Digital Dividends) which had both positive and negative findings regarding the impact of the internet.
"Those who are already well-off and well-educated have been able to take advantage of the Internet economy, the report concluded pointedly, and despite the expansion of Internet access, 60 percent of humanity remains offline."
"...the vast changes wrought by technology have not expanded economic opportunities or improved access to basic public services in ways that many had expected. Rather, the report warned darkly, Internet innovations stand to widen inequalities and even hasten the hollowing out of middle-class employment."
" also takes pains to say that expanding access will not be enough for citizens to take advantage of the benefits. It also recommends enabling companies to compete, strengthening the skills of workers so they can obtain the new jobs and making government institutions accountable."