Thursday 12 August, 2021

Quote of the Day

”I cannot bring myself to vote for a woman who has been house-trained to speak to me as though my dog has just died.”

  • Daily Mirror columnist Keith Waterhouse on Margaret Thatcher

Musical alternative to the morning’s radio news

Mozart | Oboe Quartet in F Major, K. 370 | First movement: Allegro | Itzhak Perlman, Ray Still, Pinchas Zukerman, Lynn Harrell


Long Read of the Day

The Real Story of Pixar 

How a bad hardware company turned itself into a great movie studio.

(And how Steve Jobs made a great investment after Apple threw him out.)


How did this school do it?

From Politico’s London newsletter yesterday:

One epic success story: Fair play to Brampton Manor Academy in east London, where 55 pupils got into Oxford and Cambridge — compared with 48 students from Eton. The Standard reports: The majority of pupils at Brampton Manor Academy are from ethnic minority backgrounds, in receipt of free school meals, or will be the first in their family to attend university.” Remarkably, of the 350 Brampton students who took their A-levels this year, 330 got into Russell Group universities. There must be lessons here for all secondary schools. Wonder what they are.

Meanwhile, here’s the Metro report on the school.

What we know (and don’t know) about the Delta variant at the moment

From Technology Review’s daily newsletter:

What we know: The delta variant is nearly twice as contagious as previous versions of the virus, according to the CDC. It also seems to lead to higher viral loads. The evidence suggests that vaccinated people may be able to transmit the virus, perhaps even just as readily as unvaccinated people. The overwhelming majority of infections are still in unvaccinated people. So far, it looks as if vaccines still largely work, especially in preventing severe illness.

What we don’t know: The appearance of a new variant has people worried we’ll see other, even worse variants. There is some genuine cause for concern: viruses mutate all the time, so as long as there are places in the world where there’s unchecked spread, we’ll likely continue to see more variants that will behave differently. The solution is to increase vaccination rates, and fast.

Revisiting ‘The Limits to Growth’

The Limits to Growth (LtG) project, funded by a shadowy outfit called The Club of Rome in the early 1970s, was the first (and, as far as I know, still the only) serious attempt to build a dynamic model of the world viewed as a single system. It used System Dynamics, a simulation language developed by Jay Forrester at MIT which had earlier been used to create simulation models of (a) industrial corporations and (b) urban areas. (Urban Dynamics was a report on the findings from a simulation model of an unnamed city — in actual fact Detroit — and later on was the inspiration for the Sim City computer game.)

The Club of Rome project involved creating a ‘world dynamics’ model, which was published in 1972 and attracted a great deal of interest and controversy (in which I played an insignificant part — though, later, one of my PhD students did a dissertation on the ideological background to the Urban Dynamics model).

Most people have forgotten the LtG model, but its basic idea — conceptualising the world as a global dynamic system — has suddenly re-acquired salience in the light of the looming climate catastrophe. So it was a delightful surprise to open Andrew Curry’s Substack blog this morning and find a fascinating and insightful post on more recent scholarship which examines how four of the various scenarios explored by the LtG team relate to our recent experience.

The four are:

  • Business as Usual (BAU);

  • Business as Usual2 (BAU2) — a revised, later version of BAU;

  • CT (continual technological innovation — the Bill Gates scenario, I guess); and

  • SW (Stabilised World — a scenario assuming that, in addition to sustained technological innovation, global societal priorities change to favour, among other things, low desired family size, perfect birth control availability and a deliberate choice to limit industrial output and prioritise health and education services).

You can guess which one is worth backing; unfortunately, it’s also the one we’re least likely to choose.

Andrew has a great discussion of all this, which is why I think it’s worth reading in full.

Chart of the Day

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