Tuesday, June 01, 2004

Bits n' pieces

Here's just a few things that have been happening lately that I thought were noteworthy:

American gas prices...
...are still far too low. This has been gone through to death, and we all know that Americans use too much gas and will continue to do so for as long as they can. The fact that there appears to be no decent public transport network in the US really doesn't help get people out of cars either, so it seems that the only way to reduce American dependence on cars and oil is a steady, integrated transport strategy over the next twenty years or more. Yeah right. Like that'll ever happen.
Energy sources
And on a related note, there was an item on the Today programme this morning about possible alternative energy sources to oil, and as usual, nuclear energy was mentioned and then dismissed again. What really infuriates me is that everyone behaves as if there's only way to extract energy from nuclear reactions – taking a large atom and splitting it by bombarding it with neutrons: fission. Nobody mentions nuclear fusion, which has half a dozen benefits over fission (see the link for some of these). The problem with fusion is that we haven't yet developed a stable fusion reactor (ie, one which sustains a fusion reaction for more than a few seconds). When the BA Festival of Science came to Glasgow a few years ago I took the opportunity to talk to to researchers in the field and attend some lectures on the topic and it seems the main reason that it will take fifty years to get a commercial fusion reactor instead of twenty is a lack of research investment. In other words: politics. (Bootnote: there's an interesting FAQ on fusion here)
Music executives
Camden council is to take out anti-social behaviour orders (ASBOs) against executives from two of the biggest music companies in the world (Sony and BMG). When Eddie Mayer asked someone from the council on PM this evening if he really expected to possibly send music executives to jail over this, he sounded genuinely surprised when the interviewee replied in the affirmative. I say, why the hell not? If they've broken the law, get the buggers! I don't care if they're richer than the Queen, they have to realise that just because they're rich, they're not above the law. (Note: to anyone who doesn't already know, I'm biased here anyway: I have very little to no respect for the mainstream music industry, and even less for its representatives, the RIAA in America and the BPI in Britain). If Camden win this order, I'll feel very smug.
Mandela to step down
After an awfully long time in the public eye, Nelson Mandela has said that he wants to "retire from retirement" and move out of the limelight to enjoy his remaining time with his family and friends and finish writing his memoirs. I have an enormous amount of respect for this man. He did great work in South Africa over the course of thirty years or more and he deserves a quiet retirement. Okay, so (the first part of) his autobiography made hims sound like a bureaucrat rather than a social hero, but that may be all part of his skill. Good luck to him.

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