Sunday, September 30, 2007

moebius transformations and the sphere

just beautiful.

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

NZ Herald editorial on SOE sales


For the most part... meh. Personally, keep the ones that are natural monopolies, like Transpower or the rail network and flog off either end to competitive interests. I'm also a fan of govt providing a resource of last resort e.g. Kiwibank. Vanilla mortgages, minimum interest and services and run to break even. That gives us a good benchmark for what the others provide and means we can't be held for ransom in a oligopoly.
But this:
National could, and should, sell the state's three airports, its educational publications company, its law firm the Public Trust, its pest-control manufacturer, Landcare's farms, its coalmines, timber company, and maybe its science laboratories. But none should be sold simply to pay for Government projects or provide a convenient investment for savings funds. They should be sold because they will perform to their full value in competition under owners that have to make hard-headed decisions that pay off, or else they fail. [my emphasis]
beggars belief. ummmm, science is not quite the same as a timber logging company. Yes, science often contributes to the bottom line but it's a very diffuse chain of events. It falls more naturally under a govt mandate, like, oh i don't know, education and long term investment in the economy perhaps?
If you want to commercialise science, i suggest you spin the research out into a start-up company, but then, when looking for funding in NZ who you gonna call?

Thursday, September 13, 2007

RSNZ on open access

such a good statement, i'm releasing it into the wild. go forth statement of clarity and multiply...
Royal Society Alert - Issue 489

Comment by Royal Society Evaluation Officer, Dr Jason Gush

The bulk of published research is funded directly through taxes, as are the
majority of researchers. Peer review is largely performed as a public
service. Thus it seems perverse that to gain access to the content they
produce, researchers and institutions have to pay, with the taxpayer
largely locked out altogether.

There is an alternative - Open Access models where there is a fee for
publication, in return for content being freely accessible. OA was proposed
in various forms prior to the 2002 Budapest Open Access Initiative, but
technology and a supportive research community have only recently reached
the point where OA can take off, e.g., the Directory of Open Access
Journals currently covers over 2800 peer-reviewed journals and is growing
at more than a title a day.

Advocacy for OA publishing in New Zealand is a sensible proposition on
purely economic grounds. New Zealand produces less than half a percent of
the world’s publishing output, and with widespread adoption of OA, we would
stand to gain far more than the cost. Add in growing evidence that open
access articles attract higher citation rates than comparable closed access
publications, and it appears that OA should be a winning proposition.
Funding agents are starting to agree, with many having the expectation that
the work they fund be provided through some form of free access, and
offering the funds to support it.

This success makes the recent rear-guard action by the PRISM Coalition (a
lobby group established on behalf of ~300 publishers, including all the
largest journal publishers), disappointing. Astonishingly, they argue that:
OA will result in the destruction of peer-review; OA amounts to a large
scale plan to steal publisher’s intellectual property; and, only slightly
paraphrased, OA is the forefront of an Orwellian conspiracy by which
government may censor the past.

In fact, for what is simply a new publishing business model, OA carries a
fair amount of moral weight – it promises to make research findings
available to anyone with both internet access and interest. Simply put,
taxpayers should be able to read the results of the research that their
taxes fund. This is surely a positive step towards a research-literate
public. Open Access for publicly funded research is an idea whose time has

brian fallow on GHG emmission policy


and it's quite a good high level look at the problem.
it's downright alarming for me to actually agree with anything Jeanette Fitzsimons says so let me quote it here before i go and have lie down to recover:
But the Greens want to ring-fence the auction revenue and use it for climate-friendly projects.

"It's absolutely vital for public acceptance of this scheme that people can see where the money is going," says Fitzsimons.

"If we can say we get the money back in low-carbon infrastructure and warmer homes and renewables, people will buy it. I think it's the single greatest reason the public didn't support the 2002 policy package - the money just disappeared into a black hole."

nuclear op-ed in nzherald


wow, the herald might be starting to realise that energy systems are complex and can't be dictated by fiat. what's next? reasoned debate and informed journalism?
to give proper credit, they've recoginised two of the biggies:
  1. nuclear scale alone makes it unfeasible in NZ unless we can get them down to sub-GW scales
  2. while nz is blessed with natural energy resources, we haven't backed that potential with development.
basically, we are price takers for whatever technology other countries have developed and most of them aren't piling loads of cash into the resources we have e.g. geothermal and marine. coincidently, aussie isn't exactly throwing wads of cash at solar and that just seems bizarre.

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Fran O'Sullivan on nuclear


Am i the only person that doesn't understand that nuclear automatically means bombs? nuclear power is pretty dirty but not as dirty as coal. nuclear medicine saves lives. nuclear research unlocks the secrets of the universe itself.
i mean really people, get a grip, it would be a disaster for nz to be anti-nuclear since it means being anti-science. once you start down the slippery slope of ignoring all applications of knowledge because of a single application you're in la-la land and soon enough we'll be wandering through 'museums' showing dinosaurs with saddles on their backs.

nuclear is the right answer to the right question to the right people. it's probably not the answer for nz's electricity problems.

Rinse and repeat with GM food research.
Rinse and repeat with human genetics research.

nz herald op-ed on nuclear power


After waxing about how wonderful nuclear power is (and there are real pros to nuclear power, i'm a huge advocate for large scale deployment worldwide) ,you have to get to the last paragraph before you finally read:
It may well be that nuclear power is not viable here on practical or political grounds...
ummm, yes that would be an accurate statement.

and even then, it finishes with the bizarre:
When the biosphere collapses, it won't spare this country just because we remained philosophically pure.
ummm, WTF?! perhaps when your knowledge of climate change comes from watching movies like The Day After Tomorrow you'd think this was a reasonable sentence. For the rest of us, the biosphere will be just fine - it just might not include as many homo sapiens. That's not to say it's a good thing, it's just that when discussing something as complex as energy policy and climate change, you should use words that are precise and meaningful, not emotionally laden wails of doom.

I'm not entirely sure the writer of this editorial even understands the problem. In the immortal words of Fermi, it's not even wrong.