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Reading matter

Discussion in 'Off Topic' started by HarperPR, Jan 9, 2008.

  1. aspwatterson

    aspwatterson The Unknown Soldier

    Sex, Science & Profits Review

    "What does marijuana tell us about the government funding of science? Well, a vast amount of taxpayers' money around the world is spent on agricultural research to improve yields. Yet, according to Terence Kealey, pot-growers manage nicely without that aid and have developed ever stronger and ever more disease resistant strains of mind-blowing potency.

    The case of the Cannabis cultivators is charactersitic of the irrevaerance and eclecticism that make Sex, Science & profits such an absorbing read. The author who is a clinical biochemist at the University of Buckingham, seeks to demolish the myth that the advancement of scientific learning depends in any way on government intervention.

    Four centuries ago, Francis Bacon wrote that the benefits inventors confer extend to the whole human race. Economists deem science to be what they call a public good, that is, a good of general benefit for which it is impossible to caharge. What the market can't charge for, say the economists, the market won't provide. They go on to claim that scientintific and technological progress will be arrested unless the government provides funds for pure research and companies are rewarded with patents for innovations in applied science. It is also often suggested that government funding of science drives technology which, in turn generates economic growth.

    Kealey disagrees. Rather than science driving technology, the opposite is true. The great inventors in Britain's industrial revolution including the steam-engine pioneers Thomas Newcomen and Richard Trevithick were not fellows of the Royal Society. They were barely literate artisans who found intuitive solutions to practical problems [in Newcomen's case, how to remove water from Cornish tin mines]. Technological breakthroughs often science. At the moment of its invention, the steam engine designed by James Watt disobeyed the laws of contemporary physics.

    Where property rights are protected and markets are allowed to thrive, technology and science advance together. Merchants invented writing and mathematics in Babylonian times in order to keep their accounts. Science stagnated through the anti-commercial Middle Ages but re-emerged in in renaissance Italy, along with commercial inventions, such as double-entry book-keeping, bille of exchange and banking. Kealey identifies the Glorious Revolution of 1688, which guaranteed property rights and the rule of parliament, as the key moment in Britain's scientific and industrial revolutions. Free markets and competition spur technological innovation and economic progress. Patents are not necessary to drive research and development. Companies, says Kealey will innovate in order to differentiate their products and boost profits even without patent protection. Philips, one of th e largest electronics concerns, was founded in Holland in the 19th century at a time when the Dutch had dispensed with patent laws. During the same period Swiss chocolatiers innovated successfully despite the absence of domestic patent protection. Many of the great technological advances wern't made for the love of money but spurred by joy of invention. Today, computer sciencetists around the world provide their expertise without charge to develop open-source computer programs, such as Linux opearting system.

    Technology and science advance by copying. Yet patents hinder copying, prevent competition and therby reduce innovation. That leads to slower economic growth. James Watt's fierce enforcement of his patents held backthe development of steam technology for 25 years, says Kealey. During the first world war the American government decided to suspend the aeronautical patents held by the Wright Brothers in order to promote aircraft innovation. From 1917 to 1975 American aircraft companies collectively pooled their patents. That didn't stop Boeing from becoming the leading aircraft manufacturer in the world. Kealey also maintains that the motor industry took off only after Henry Ford breached the patents held by an automobile consortium. A key feature of Apple's iPOd, which has revolutionised the world of digital music, was taken from a competitor's product.

    What about the government's funding of pure science? That's also unjustified, says Kealey. For a start, the distinction betweenpure and applied science is artificial. Scientists at Bell Labs, the research institute of the telephone giant AT&T discovered the science of radioastronomy and developed the first semiconductors. In America, IBM boasts the second largest output of published academic papers after Havard University. Furthermore, there is some evidence that government funding of science leads to less private research. In the 1980's Mrs Thatcher was attacked for cutting the British government's science grants. Yet private companies stepped into the breach. As a result, spending on research and development in the UK actually increased.

    Scientists have long claimed that science was suffering from the lack of public funds. In 1830, Charles Babbage, the supposed father of the computer, published The Decline of Science in Britian. But the following year, as Kealey points out, Michael Faraday discovered electromagnetic induction and Charles Darwin boarded HMS Beagle. The great advances of Victorian science occurred without government support.

    Sex, Science & Profits is a glorious idiosyncratic work. In developing his argument, Kealey discusses among other matters, the banking system of Ptolemaic Egypt, game theory, 12th century windmills, the mating of hump-backed whales, and the functioning of ball-valve flushing lavatories. His intellectual enthusiasm is infectious - one is half persuaded when he writes that it is impossible to read WH Long's article The Low Yields Of Corn in Medieval England withou astonishment. His approach is polemical, witty and fearless. Only once does he wobble, when admitting that drug research is now so expensive and time-consuming that patent protection may be justified.

    In the Wealth of Nations, Adam Smith claimed that the public interest was best served when the government ceased attempting to direct the economy.
    Kealey has brilliantly extended his hero Smith's argument to the worl of science, which like that of commerce, involves much truck, barter and exchange. The wtin trends of globilisation and digitalisation have enormously benefited certain holders on intellectual property rights, such a Bill Gates's Microsoft. We need an informed debate on the extent to which those windfall gains are deserved. Sex, Science & Profits provides an excellent start"


  2. HarperPR

    HarperPR My destiny offers me up like a lamb

    The Shakespeare Secret

    Half way through this. Rather in a similar vein to The Da Vinci Code. It's theme is who really wrote the Shakespeare plays, and anyone who likes a good thriller/mystery coupled with historical fact in a contemporary setting will probably enjoy.
  3. fickle_Witch

    fickle_Witch Guest

    i saw this in tescos the other day and i fought buying it as a) i have a shelf full of stuff unread b) am reading so much at the mo anyways and c) i have been told if i want to move in a year we need to save £20,000 in that time and every £ counts :angry:

    library it is!
  4. HarperPR

    HarperPR My destiny offers me up like a lamb

    Libraries are good! That's where I got mine as I have so often bought books and then found I didn't like it when I got a chapter or two in.
  5. fickle_Witch

    fickle_Witch Guest

    yeah, until the memory of when it has to be returned/renewed by falls out of my head and i end up with a large fine! :blushing:
  6. aspwatterson

    aspwatterson The Unknown Soldier

    Reading matter recommended

  7. aspwatterson

    aspwatterson The Unknown Soldier

    The Age of Reason - Jean-Paul Sartre

    Quite heavy going, probably because of translation where sometimes you think they've used slightly the wrong word in the context. Dark forboding of European wars on the horizon...Germany invading Chezchslovakia and the Spanish problem. Insightful character sketchs though but quite morose. Might have to read something happy next to restore my positivity again?

  8. aspwatterson

    aspwatterson The Unknown Soldier

    A star called Henry

    Picked this up from the library on your recommendation and , yes, it is compulsive reading that I'll have to forget the rest of other boring business for the rest of the day!

    aw :banghead::52::3:
  9. aspwatterson

    aspwatterson The Unknown Soldier

    Reading [not the one in Berkshire!]

    Do you ever get that feeling when reading a good book that you can't wait to get to the end and are tempted to read the ending first? Also when you've finished the book having been immersed in it for days with your outside life on hold it's quite sad when the experience comes to an end. A certain sort of finality like getting on a plane and hoping it don't crash as you say goodbye to your loved ones.

  10. aspwatterson

    aspwatterson The Unknown Soldier

    A Star called Henry by Roddy Doyle

    Have read this book now and would thoroughly recommend it to any of you-hoo! Have been told to go and read The Commitments by him now by another friend....

    Coincidentally on Page 222 [in the hardback edition] the transcript reads :

    " -Name those birds making a racket
    -That's a lark, the contrary one. And there are robins right on top of us.
    -There's an owl at his dinner;I can hear him gulping on the fur.
    -Missel thrushes
    -There's a fecker in there I don't know
    -It's a stormcock; there he goes. "

    andi :drool5::8:
    Last edited: May 3, 2008
  11. HarperPR

    HarperPR My destiny offers me up like a lamb

    Any good reads going on, guys? I want to stock up for Christmas, being as how I'm usually bored rigid by Xmas night! I am looking for either an easy bit of chick-lit in the vein of Sophie Kinsella, an interesting biog or something that I can learn from.

    Have just read Peter Ackroyd's biog of Edgar Allan Poe (Poe: A Life Cut Short. Short book too - read in two sittings.:D). Am half way through Philip Norman's Lennon biog, and same with Michael Bond's Paddington: Here And Now (okay...okay! But it's nice to go back to childhood occasionally!:blushing:)
  12. wobbly bob

    wobbly bob I've got a zappy little nappy

    i go through phases of reading quite a bit, then i can go for years without reading a book. i mainly used to read if i wanted to learn something new-'how to' books, and the like.
    i very occasionally buy a local paper, but that too can be years from buying one to buying the next.

    i am currently in a bit of a reading phase. irvine welsh, if you're interested. i also like (auto)biographies, and detective thrillers, such as Ed McBain's books. pretty low-brow for the most part, i'm sure you'll agree, but it's not meant to be a pissing contest, is it...?
  13. HarperPR

    HarperPR My destiny offers me up like a lamb

    Yes, I like a bit of the detective-mystery-thriller stuff. Love Peter James. He used to do a good line in the supernatural genre, then switched to crime. He sets them in Brighton and it's fun being able to identify the landmarks. I'm sure the Levellers are going to crop up one day!:D I like Mary Higgins Clark too.

    Never got into Ed McBain but did read some of his works writing as Evan Hunter.
  14. Travellerman

    Travellerman Aye lad, I knew you had it in you

    Laurie Lee - I Can't Stay Long, a nice collection of essays from his travels around Europe.

    I'm amazed by his constant use of metaphor and simile. It makes me feel like a hungry man gorging on red wine and chocolate; a rich, sensual and evocative read.

  15. wobbly bob

    wobbly bob I've got a zappy little nappy

    i quite like books (or telly versions, thereof) set in places i know. hence the irvine welsh stuff, and also rebus! i just love it when one of the characters walks into a boozer i know... sad, but true!
  16. Shane

    Shane Computer stained fingers

    I reading "another country" by james baldwin at the moment. Its really boring and a drag to read but i hate giving up on books. it'll probably take me another week to get through the last 60 pages. Yesterday i picked up the four volumes of Gene Wolfe's "Book of the new sun" series and i cant wait to get started on that.

    Reading highlights of the year for me were all old books:

    Michael Moorcock - his Pyat series, great stuff
    Philip Roth - The Plot Against America
    Marcus Goodrich - Delilah
    Gene Wolfe - Peace
  17. NoCelebrity

    NoCelebrity Aye lad, I knew you had it in you

    What about Roy's List?

    Roy mentioned some authors in his Taiwan newspaper interview.

    If you like murder mysteries also, I'll re-recommend sci-fi author Isaac Asimov's "ROBOT" series. EARTH Cop/detective Lije Baley teams up with SPACER robot Daneel Olivaw to solve a murder and ease tensions between Earth (who banned Robots) and Spacers (who rely on Robots). It's old but a classic.

    I hate almost all biographies because that used to be the most common gift I got from my siblings. Why would I want to read about someone they admire when they don't have time to spend with me when I'm done? I'm not interested in modeling my life after a stranger, either.

    I love science books, mystery, humor, and classic sci-fi (Zelazny is my other favorite, the A to Z of sci-fi. Asimov's fiction derives from hard science, Zelazny blends in a lot of dark Fantasy).
    Last edited: Dec 12, 2008
  18. wobbly bob

    wobbly bob I've got a zappy little nappy

    there's a guy i work with who forces himself to read 'classics'. he struggles to get through them, and doesn't enjoy them, but he puts himself through it because he thinks it'll make him smarter, (which it might) and appear smarter and more cultured to others (it doesn't)... shame....
  19. HarperPR

    HarperPR My destiny offers me up like a lamb

    Whilst I was in WH Smith the other day (looking for a good book!) at Brent X, I almost fell over Maureen Lipman doing a book signing. I took a sharp swing round an aisle and came upon her at a little table. Business didn't seem too brisk - she only had 2 people there! I didn't buy either. Just got Darryn Lyons (the head pap from Big Pictures) biog - looking for tips! :D
  20. wobbly bob

    wobbly bob I've got a zappy little nappy

    i'd have gone for the lipman book, and got it signed. she's a talented and funny actress, (and was, maybe still is for all i know, kind of hot) and paparazzi are parasitic filth... !

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