Friday 24 March, 2023

Don’s F

Don McCullough’s Nikon F. The one that took the bullet intended for him when he was covering the war in Vietnam. Best advertisement for a camera I’ve ever seen.

Quote of the Day

”For those who believe in God, no explanation is necessary. For those who do not believe, no explanation is possible.”

  • George Seaton

Musical alternative to the morning’s radio news

Telemann | Concerto for Mandolin, Hammered Dulcimer, Harp and Continuo in F Major, TWV 53:F1 | I. Allegro


I’d often heard this but hadn’t know it was by Telemann. Also, I wondered what the poor dulcimer had done to be ‘hammered’.

In yesterday’s Musical Alternative by the wonderful Mary Bergin, my Apple autocorrect changed her name to ‘Begin’ and I didn’t notice. Growl!

Long Read of the Day

Hidden hydrogen: Earth may hold vast stores of a renewable, carbon-free fuel

Fascinating article by Eric Hand in Science, a really top-class journal.

The story starts with a ‘dry’ borehole in Mali.

In 2012, he recruited Chapman Petroleum to determine what was coming out of the borehole. Sheltered from the 50°C heat in a mobile lab, Brière and his technicians discovered that the gas was 98% hydrogen. That was extraordinary: Hydrogen almost never turns up in oil operations, and it wasn’t thought to exist within the Earth much at all. “We had celebrations with large mangos that day,” Brière says.

Within a few months, Brière’s team had installed a Ford engine tuned to burn hydrogen. Its exhaust was water. The engine was hooked up to a 30-kilowatt generator that gave Bourakébougou its first electrical benefits: freezers to make ice, lights for evening prayers at the mosque, and a flat-screen TV so the village chief could watch soccer games. Children’s test scores also improved. “They had the lighting to learn their lessons before going to class in the morning,” Diallo says. He soon gave up on oil, changed the name of his company to Hydroma, and began drilling new wells to ascertain the size of the underground supply.

The Malian discovery was vivid evidence for what a small group of scientists, studying hints from seeps, mines, and abandoned wells, had been saying for years: Contrary to conventional wisdom, large stores of natural hydrogen may exist all over the world, like oil and gas—but not in the same places.

If this is indeed the case, then it could be a significant moment in the quest for a low-carbon future.

Thanks to Charles Arthur for alerting me to it.

You can now run a GPT-3-level AI model on your laptop, phone, and Raspberry Pi

The ‘Generative AI’ genie is out of the bottle. And it’s being commoditised. Some of it is now running on my iPhone and my laptop. There’s even a version of Meta’s LLM now running (slowly) on a Raspberry Pi! This ArsTechnica piece gives a useful run-down on what’s happening.

My commonplace booklet

I’m really excited to say that your “really excited” messages turn me right off

From an exasperated Polish scholar on the Digital Humanities newsletter.

I’m truly excited and delighted and thrilled to see that it is not just my cynical self foaming at the mouth when I see all those “excited to be giving a talk at the conference…” tweets. Excited, really? Man, you’re 40, you should not be excited anymore whenever you talk at other people for 20 minutes in a room with a screen (half of those people are tweeting about something else anyway). I wonder if this is not just the same false excitement we see in commercials when that laxative really does the job on the acting persons’ entrails.

I guess it makes sense in very competitive academic climes (you know where). It’s interesting how hyperbolical the traditionally unemotional Anglo-Saxons have become. I don’t see a lot of that excitement (“podniecenie” or “ekscytacja”) in my native Polish in this context; I guess it’s because our academia is so underpaid that the competitiveness evaporates before it’s even born. But that is another story.

Couldn’t agree more. It’s astonishing how infantile academics can be on social media — especially Twitter — and, now, even on Mastodon.

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