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Comments by Mark Ribbands

Go to: Celebrating Curiosity on Twitter

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Is anyone else irritated by all the first-person anthropomorphisation of a machine by NASA?

Don't they know machines hate it?

Mon, 20 Aug 2012 00:23:13 UTC | #951061

Go to: Translating the British

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... for 2 weeks and a bit there was peace on earth and I'm afraid you missed it.

'Peace on Earth'? Pah! Where's the profit in that?

Tue, 14 Aug 2012 23:27:27 UTC | #950797

Go to: Translating the British

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I share Richards’s lack of ‘patriotism’ if by that is meant the unthinking following of national sports teams.

I hadn’t heard the egregious term ‘Team GB’ before, and am a little disappointed to have learned it via this site of all places. Like many of the best (ie worst) advertising slogans, it is now impossible to unlearn. I have seen none of the Olympics, and have no idea who is winning what: I genuinely don’t care. Living in the countryside and not owning a television set helps.

I delighted in Richard’s earlier faux-Chinese sagacity: ‘In my country it is well known that one man can run faster than another’ (whilst a long beard is stroked, no doubt). Or as perhaps Private Eye might report: ‘Shock news! One man runs faster than another!’

Comment 14 by Mr DArcy
Probably, I'm the most unpatriotic of all of you. "Countries" are political constructs.

Indeed so. Perhaps it is time the world grew out of its tribalistic obsession with nationhood.

But perhaps that is easy for me to say, having won, as I did, First Prize in the lottery of life. :)

Sun, 12 Aug 2012 10:01:25 UTC | #950711

Go to: Against All Gods

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Comment 16 by ZenDruid
I feel sorry for the gods. First, they were evicted from the mountaintops, then from the clouds, then the Moon, then the outer planets. There's no haven for the Ineffable Sacred when science is on the move.

Comment 17 by blitz442
God was last seen hiding in the quanta.

Comment 18 by ZenDruid
Thus, Quantum Theology!

Great exchange, thanks for brightening my morning!

This God bloke does indeed appear to be emulating The Incredible Shrinking Man

Comment 20 by aspindog
Grayling is clearly a blasphemer. Cloud shapes were designed by Bob, not Fred.

Foul Heretic! Aspindog: you will burn forever. As all true believers know, Kevindidit.

And beware the Followers of Fred who may hunt you down and kill you for your disbelief - because Fred, although omnipotent, for some odd reason doesn’t appear able to do it himself.

Fri, 27 Jul 2012 08:24:00 UTC | #950141

Go to: Oxford Gift for Poor Students

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OK, so it’s off topic but there’s so much rubbish being spouted here I can’t let it go.

Comment 32 by PERSON
Myth. They say they'll leave the country. They don't actually do it.

Incorrect: I disprove your hypothesis by counter-example. I left. For six years.

Why would they need to?

Because under certain circumstances (eg. by having wildly varying income year-on-year) it’s sometimes cheaper to do bugger-all for several years than to stay resident and work. So who, given the opportunity, wouldn’t? It’s insane in that an excessive tax regime encourages economically-active people to go elsewhere.

The disadvantages of losing public services, …

What, like two grand a year in Council tax alone, and I can’t even get my rubbish taken away properly without argument? I really can do without that level of service thank you. Were I given a choice.

Oh, and "The rich, by definition, are not stupid"? Really? Why on earth not? Have you never heard of inheritance?

Yes, I’ve heard of inheritance. And I’ve also heard of inheritance tax. Haven’t you?

That’s 40% of everything (after threshold) you have ever saved to leave for your children, all of which was taxed once already, or if it is VAT-able chattels, taxed twice already.

I’m not talking about the few extremely rich people mentioned in several posts. Those kinds of people have full-time accountants and tax lawyers to avoid the worst of the system. That’s still easy, if you have enough money: offshore companies, Liechtenstein foundations, that kind of thing.

I’m talking about very ordinary businesspeople who have spent many years working hard and using their intelligence and drive to accumulate much more modest sums. These people are not stupid. When I was in the Far East I met hundreds of such people, who had become fed up with Government interference in so many aspects of their lives, not only with regards to taxation.

I was surrounded by many of the very people who Person and Cartomancer say don’t exist. Anyone who has travelled and lived beyond the end of their street will know of what and whom I speak.

On this site of all places, I’d expect evidence and fact to inform argument, rather than silly, facile stereotypes, and hearsay about people and groups the posters have obviously never met.

</ rant> I feel better now :)

Wed, 18 Jul 2012 23:34:28 UTC | #949531

Go to: Oxford Gift for Poor Students

Mark Ribbands's Avatar Jump to comment 27 by Mark Ribbands




Cartomancer, Chris 116, RJ Moore, Michael: All interesting points which I believe worth exploring in detail, and especially for me as I have experience of tax exiledom, so could argue from reality rather than conjecture. But since the subject is deemed digression, we'll have to let this one go. Shame.

(Personally, I enjoy conversations which drift all over the place, but I accept this is not my dinner party. :) )

Sun, 15 Jul 2012 23:03:12 UTC | #949274

Go to: Prayer at a working lunch?

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Comment 65 by xmaseveeve
Excellent and concise. I like that. Some version of, 'I'd prefer not to', is assertive and poilite, and its emotionless expression of feelings takes you a long way (as in 'Bartleby'). …

I agree. How nice to see the Scrivener’s response on here: the phrasing has always delighted me, and a version of it would have been perfect in this case.

Eve, your brain is as full of useless rubbish as mine is: I’ll see your ‘It’s in the trees!’ and raise, ‘Jumping! jumping!’

Klaatu barada nikto,

Mark

Sat, 14 Jul 2012 22:51:13 UTC | #949213

Go to: Oxford Gift for Poor Students

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Comment 17 by RJMoore
Free? Free? There's no such thing. All 'free' means is that those who don't use a service subsidise those who do; in the case of tertiary education, very often it's working class people paying, thru their taxes, the tuition fees of middle class students.

Absolutely bang-on, Mr Moore. Well said!

As someone said years ago: That’s the problem with Socialism: very soon one runs out of other peoples’ money.

Comment 16 by mmurray
Except that would be a 20% tax on a person's taxable income.

Yes, Michael, I know, they’d still be tedious arguments over whether your girlfriend’s new Manolo Blahniks did, or did not, have steel toe caps and so fall under the definition of tax-deductible ‘protective footwear.’

But flat tax would be a lot less complicated than things are now, and would immediately remove both the incentive and opportunity for the intractable arms race of complex tax planning.

There's another one?

Yes there is, actually.

Northeast London Polytechnic.

Comment 19 by chris 116
… this isn't the Daily Mail, …

I have no idea, so I must defer to your greater knowledge of that particular journal.

I’ll answer your points later: I have a busy day today with my tax accountant.

Sat, 14 Jul 2012 09:18:38 UTC | #949164

Go to: Oxford Gift for Poor Students

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[Removed by moderator]

Comment 8 by Cartomancer
… do it as a matter of policy, through taxing the wealthy more … [my emphasis]

'Tax the rich!'? Rubbish! And more suited to a pathetic 70's Student Union meeting than one of Cartomancer’s usually erudite and considered submissions.

Do you really think that would work? The rich, by definition, are not stupid. Tax them too much and they simply leave the country. The easy worldwide mobility of wealth and talent has never been greater than it is today.

This is not a forum to discuss the politics of wealth; but in case I was misunderstood in my earlier post, I make it absolutely clear that I applaud the accumulation of wealth by individuals, and equally applaud the generosity of these individuals in particular.

Were I in charge, there would be a £15,000 threshold then 20% (flat) income tax thereafter, plus 15% VAT. No other taxes at all. CGT and IHT abolished. Sack the huge bureaucracy that supports the current, absurdly complicated, system.

Fri, 13 Jul 2012 20:55:02 UTC | #949113

Go to: Oxford Gift for Poor Students

Mark Ribbands's Avatar Jump to comment 6 by Mark Ribbands


Premiseless, I have not the slightest idea what you’re talking about.

But I do know that the ability to see the world as it really is, is often termed ‘cynicism’ by those who lack it.

Fri, 13 Jul 2012 08:52:29 UTC | #949039

Go to: Teaching Primary Aged Children

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Hi Rosemae

I love the idea of your eldest reading Magic of Reality in RE time. It’s quite funny. Once he’s finished that he can progress to the The God Delusion. :)

There’s no reason why five- and seven-year-olds can’t look at the pictures and understand a lot of the text in MoR. My 8 y/o son particularly liked the fish ancestry story and pictures, and the reduction of complex systems by starting fires.

Or perhaps buy the younger ones some evolutionary books aimed at their age group. As Zen said, one only very rarely goes wrong with dinosaurs.

John van Wyhe’s Charles Darwin: The Story of the Man and His Theories of Evolution is a lovely book, with lots of facsimile notes and pictures to take out and lose.

Another book my sons loved is Dragonology: The Complete Book of Dragons which likewise has lots of loose inserts, including REAL ‘dragon dust,’ the CORRECT systematic taxonomy of dragon species, and so on.

The latter tome is a useful analogy of how something which is so obviously made-up can draw you in and soon feel true.

BTW, is RE in Australia the teaching of one religion with the assumption it is correct? Or the comparative study of varying religious beliefs? The latter I have little problem with.

Fri, 13 Jul 2012 00:28:34 UTC | #949026

Go to: Oxford Gift for Poor Students

Mark Ribbands's Avatar Jump to comment 4 by Mark Ribbands

I think the luckiest people in this story are not the countless students who will benefit, but the donors themselves. To be in a position to be able to drop £75M on a favourite project must feel pretty good. What a lovely use of wealth.

I hope the donors keep tabs on what happens to the cash, or at least make contractual stipulations about investment decisions, so there’s no chance of incompetence or greed on the part of the University or their bankers resulting the lot being blown in a generation. It’s very difficult to know what to do with cash these days.

ps. Can you really have degrees of uniqueness? I thought uniqueness was a uniquely digital concept. :)

Thu, 12 Jul 2012 23:47:02 UTC | #949023

Go to: A past Muslim . . . now an atheist in Pakistan

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Hi 050
I'll be nearby soon on business. Do get in touch privately if you'd like to meet for lunch. Mark

Thu, 12 Jul 2012 23:28:07 UTC | #949019

Go to: Prayer at a working lunch?

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Comment 25 by QuestioningKat
Ugh! Don't you hate that "Bless us, O Lord, and these Thy gifts, which we are about to receive from Thy bounty …"

Indeed so.

What is puzzling is that after one has listened to all the thanking of God for the food, the b@stard never, ever, picks up the tab.

A bit of a gap in His omniscience there: I think a discreetly-sent copy of Debrett’s Etiquette and Modern Manners is indicated.

Sat, 07 Jul 2012 21:07:57 UTC | #948735

Go to: Prayer at a working lunch?

Mark Ribbands's Avatar Jump to comment 23 by Mark Ribbands

It's easy.

Tell him you're a committed atheist, and you'll give him a million dollar order if he denies the Holy Spirit.

It will set up such a conflict in this salesman's head his hair will probably catch fire. It will be entertaining to observe the effects.

Fri, 06 Jul 2012 23:38:11 UTC | #948705

Go to: The Ancestor’s Trail – 25/26 August 2012 - with Keynote Address by Richard Dawkins

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UPDATE: For anyone who reads this thread after the 26 June, please disregard my comments about excessive accommodation prices.

The organiser, Chris Jenord, has just e-mailed all those who enrolled via Crowdfunder pitch 2 to advise that prices have been significantly reduced, due to the event now having the financial support of RDFRS UK.

Refunds are available to those who already booked at the higher rates.

Tue, 26 Jun 2012 23:04:15 UTC | #948147

Go to: The Ancestor’s Trail – 25/26 August 2012 - with Keynote Address by Richard Dawkins

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Comment 12 by orandj
… but I'm open to suggestions …
… rest assured, I'm not getting rich doing this! …

No you won’t get rich. But you shouldn’t get poor either! And I certainly appreciate how long it takes to organise something like this.

If finance is tight, have you considered other fund-raising activities on the side?

So it doesn’t appear I offer little but criticism, here’s an idea: How about a raffle on the last night after the trail? (A bit naff I know, but it might work) Sell tickets at a quid each. (Most people will buy at least a strip of five).

Agitate for donated prizes: local companies’ products, hotel meal coupons, that sort of thing. And of course participants can bring something if they wish. If you end up with anything high value you can auction it instead. What about people who post or lurk on this forum? Come on ladies and gentlemen, who’d send something in as raffle prize?

I assume you are Chris Jenord the Man In Charge? All you need do is publish an address which can receive parcels and see what happens. Many companies and individuals might be delighted to be associated with an appeal.

It’s only a local raffle with low-value prizes so no tedious Gambling Commission regulations apply: you just do it. Should raise enough to cover some exes and hopefully ensure you don’t need to tap the RDFRS stash. Ideally you make a donation to them instead.

I’m an amateur book collector: I'd chuck in a spare 1972 First Edition of Selfish Gene which I have laying about. You might ask Richard to sign it, maybe with something like ‘Presented at the 2012 Ancestors’ Trail.’ He may be willing to do that!

Any other ideas?

Tue, 12 Jun 2012 17:58:08 UTC | #947087

Go to: The Ancestor’s Trail – 25/26 August 2012 - with Keynote Address by Richard Dawkins

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Comment 10 by orandj … Don't forget the price includes all your food, our trail bus, one evening and one morning of speakers, an evening of music - and a contribution to our nature conservation charities …

Incorrect. I'd already deducted all that.

Sorry but I can’t have people thinking I’m an idiot who can’t understand the pricing structure. (They can think I’m a pedant instead). Although it is presented in an exceedingly complicated way, so maybe I have it wrong – please say if that’s the case, for the benefit of others who may also be struggling.

I think it’s £150 per night for two adults' and one child's (?basic) accommodation, breakfast and lunch only, worked out by deducting the cost of buying all the events, evening meals and bus separately for 2.5 people, as I have, for £150. The all-in price is £450 which, plus travel getting there, would make it an expensive event. (I may have formerly missed the fact that the bus is included in the all-in price).

I have absolutely no problem with there being a donation element (tell me what’s fair, I’ll send it), but I respectfully suggest that next year maybe you ‘load’ the event prices a little more, since these appear cheap, rather than the accommodation. Especially since you have RD speaking, and the accommodation appears nothing special.

Or sell everything at cost and ask for a minimum donation per person on top. That would catch local walkers who don’t attend anything else, and people like me who book alternative accommodation. With a name like this place has, who could resist it at only £100 per night? There are two or three rooms left if anyone else is looking for local alternatives.

Tue, 12 Jun 2012 09:40:04 UTC | #947022

Go to: The Ancestor’s Trail – 25/26 August 2012 - with Keynote Address by Richard Dawkins

Mark Ribbands's Avatar Jump to comment 8 by Mark Ribbands


What an absolutely splendid idea. I wish I’d heard of it before. Family booked.

I’m no lover of long-distance trails (unless driving in the Land Rover counts :) ) so I’m more likely to represent a slime mould rather than a primate. But an excuse to visit the Southwest and pompously affect to be there for the healthy outdoor life, whilst actually skulking in tearooms stuffing my face with scones and clotted cream is too fine an opportunity to miss.

One question: has anyone stayed at Kilve Hall before? I’m a little suspicious of a place which also has student dorms and is run by the local council. For less than the £175 per night they charge for two adults and a child, one could easily find a nice hotel room elsewhere, or probably even wallow in 5-star sybaritic splendour. Is Kilve Hall worth the money?

Again, it’s a super idea, and congratulations to whoever thought it up, and then went to the trouble to actually make it happen. Thanks!

Mon, 11 Jun 2012 19:47:03 UTC | #946922

Go to: Sarah Outen in a typhoon

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Comment 27 by Billy Sands … I do not consider my exploits particularly impressive. I was just addressing your point on stairs. …

Hey, Billy, I was joking. And since I live in Norfolk, for some odd reason I rarely meet mountaineers. So perhaps they are different. Around here the sportsmen tend to be the rugger-bugger type: it’s they who are so often broken in some way.

Comment 29 by Michael Austin How does one email Richard?

Good God, I doubt Richard advertises his e-mail address: if he did I suspect he could easily spend every waking hour until the end of his days answering mail from the likes of us on here. Perhaps an automated telephone system might work though: Press 1 to leave a death threat, Press 2 to tell me how wonderful I am, press 3 to sell me solar panels, and so on …

Comment 30 by Jumped Up Chimpanzee The former, yes. The latter, no. Although those heavy hessian shirts and patchwork quilt jackets can make you look a lot fatter than you really are.

Ha Ha! I was referring to etiolation rather than obesity: the people who look like their metabolism needs a decent fillet steak or ten.

Comment 31 by Alan4discussion Orthopaedic wards do tend to be stocked with those from physically competitive sports and heavy construction jobs …

Oh well, perhaps I am a sportsman after all: I did spend this afternoon up a scaffold restoring my chimneys. That’s a close as I ever get, or indeed will ever want to get, to mountaineering. You guys who hang off ropes up mountains do have my respect: just walking about on a roof scares me!

Comment 32 by Helga Vierich I thought Richard's poem was very sweet. It had the courage to be simple, poignant …

And the even greater courage to rhyme ‘fishes’ with ‘Mauritius’.

That takes balls! :)

Sun, 10 Jun 2012 20:38:14 UTC | #946770

Go to: Sarah Outen in a typhoon

Mark Ribbands's Avatar Jump to comment 26 by Mark Ribbands

Jesus Christ!

This thread is turning into what some teenagers I know would call a c*ck-measuring competition :)

Carry on gentlemen, all most entertaining. And it confirms to me the wisdom of my lifelong avoidance of any interest or participation in any form of sport whatsoever.

Has anyone one else noticed how keen sportsmen are always about to go into hospital, are in hospital, or have just left hospital, or otherwise are moaning about some body part which has malfunctioned, usually for the umpteenth time? And cf. how the staff in ‘Health Food’ shops always appear so spectacularly unhealthy.

Sat, 09 Jun 2012 22:33:32 UTC | #946658

Go to: Classroom Clashes: Teaching evolution

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Comment 63 by InYourFaceNewYorker Christ, calling kids names is mean. What part of that is hard for you to accept?

That’s far too general an assertion, therefore all of it.

It depends on the child, it depends on the name, it depends on the situation, and above all it depends on the facts.

One could equally suggest that calling God-botherers names is ‘mean’.

Do you see the analogy? And why this might be a slippery slope best not slid on?

BTW, children are far, far tougher (and intelligent, and able, and safe with ‘dangerous’ things) than many adults realise.

Sat, 09 Jun 2012 22:14:36 UTC | #946655

Go to: Sarah Outen in a typhoon

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Comment 20 by Schrodinger's Cat … More people die falling down the stairs at home than on all the mountains of Britain every year.

Whoops! Can’t let that one go, not here :)

I’m no statistician and don’t have the raw data, but I hypothesise that a lot more stairs are ascended each year than are mountains.

(And now I can't help wondering whether any professional mountaineers have ever died by falling down their own stairs.)

Sat, 09 Jun 2012 21:40:02 UTC | #946644

Go to: Classroom Clashes: Teaching evolution

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Comment 60 by InYourFaceNewYorker That's not the point. We're talking about a kid here. How would Richard feel if someone said something like that about his daughter when she was a kid?

I would not presume to know how Richard would feel about anything: I have never met the man.

But a gentleman of his intellect is unlikely to beget an idiot child, so I suspect such a comment has never been called for.

If someone said one of my children was an idiot, I would, if the statement was incorrect, disagree, robustly if necessary. But if the comment were factual I would simply agree. Us scientists never deny reality, however unsettling. cf. atheism.

I’m enjoying this exchange :)

Sat, 09 Jun 2012 21:24:29 UTC | #946638

Go to: Classroom Clashes: Teaching evolution

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Oh, and ps: It's a cruel world out there.
Welcome to reality.

Sat, 09 Jun 2012 09:25:53 UTC | #946534

Go to: Classroom Clashes: Teaching evolution

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Comment 57 by InYourFaceNewYorker No. Sorry. Saying like that about a child -- someone a small fraction of your age -- is wrong. It's cruel.

It might also be a wake-up call which causes the recipient to question their belief system: gently (or otherwise) pushing them towards the steep and rocky road of enlightenment. That’s not cruel, that’s helpful in a didactic sort of way.

(BTW, I can’t be bothered to read this whole thread in detail, but it appears the remark was absolutely not made to the individual’s face. Tell me if I’m wrong.)

Sat, 09 Jun 2012 09:00:28 UTC | #946530

Go to: Sarah Outen in a typhoon

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Comment 6 by Richard Dawkins Yes, I see exactly what you mean. And in many cases they go into it recklessly, without adequate preparation and inadequately equipped, which could justly arouse the ire of the rescue services. I don't think Sarah Outen could be accused of that. She has one hugely successful crossing to her credit, which was extremely well prepared. And also well prepared was the present voyage, which was well on its way to success before the typhoon struck. I think a typhoon is something nobody could reasonably be expected to budget for.

Richard: I absolutely was not referring to Sarah Outen specifically, since I have no knowledge of the lady, or her planning skills, and certainly defer to your superior knowledge in this case.

Mine was a generic question which I though might lead to interesting debate, that’s all.

Mind you, typhoons are not exactly a rare occurrence this time of year!

What got me thinking was how when cases like this are reported, it is often the victim who is described as the ‘hero’ (I detest that word) when it was they who wanted to be in the sea/snow/storm/mountain in the first place, rather than the rescue crews who very possibly, at that time, did not.

Comment 7 by Sample

I wasn’t talking about the cost of rescue operations. There’s a lot of tripe talked about this. When not deployed on live operations, rescue aircraft are not sat on the ground rusting: they’ll be engaged on training flights, frequently in reality just messing about overflying friends’ houses, running errands for the Colonel, and suchlike. There are also huge costs which accrue whether the equipment is flown or not.

I was referring to the potential reckless endangerment of somebody who might not be you.

I can argue the case both ways.

I used to fly helicopters for pleasure and profit, but nearly always on nice sunny days, when the wind was calm gusting one knot, and learned to have nothing but admiration for those who wrestle with these infernal machines during foul weather conditions.

But no one goes into the rescue services thinking it will be easy. In reality I suspect the crews relish the opportunity to deploy on a live operation, so one could argue that maidens in distress provide the crews a welcome opportunity to display their skill.

Were reckless sports, adventures, and danger of all types to be outlawed, I suppose everyone could go to work for the HSE instead, pushing paper about rather than actually doing or achieving anything, but I suspect such employment might not appeal to the kind of men who willingly fly aircraft into typhoons.

Fri, 08 Jun 2012 23:20:41 UTC | #946461

Go to: Classroom Clashes: Teaching evolution

Mark Ribbands's Avatar Jump to comment 56 by Mark Ribbands




I don’t see the problem. If someone exhibits behavior which is pathetic, and idiotic, then you go on to describe them as a ‘pathetic idiot’ one is simply describing reality, based on careful observation of the evidence.

That is exactly what scientists do.

Fri, 08 Jun 2012 22:34:05 UTC | #946450

Go to: Sarah Outen in a typhoon

Mark Ribbands's Avatar Jump to comment 5 by Mark Ribbands


Hmm…

Whilst I applaud the reckless courage of people who, perhaps unnecessarily, put themselves in such a position – be it lone yachtsmen/women, blokes in bathtubs rowing the Atlantic, stratospheric balloonists, or, my personal favourite, aficionados of extreme ironing – never forget the equal courage of the crews who then need to fly SAR aircraft in, by definition, spectacularly dangerous meteorological conditions to rescue them.

I’m assuming something of the Devil’s advocate position, but is it acceptable for extreme sports-people to expect others to subsequently endanger themselves in rescue attempts?

Fri, 08 Jun 2012 18:15:01 UTC | #946381

Go to: Unsung Heroes, Obscure Scientists

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Comment 27 by aquilacane Maybe it is someone who reached Darwin's conclusions 100, 200, 300 years before him but never bothered to write it down.

Good point.

Charles Darwin’s grandfather Erasmus had most of it. He composed a family motto: ‘E conchia omnia.’

‘Everything from shells.’ Meaning there’s a common ancestor to all organic life.

Erasmus had his motto engraved not only, quite correctly, on his stationery; but also on his carriage doors. The latter rather strident approach remained until it upset his local curate.

Nothing, as they say, is new.

Thu, 07 Jun 2012 21:52:31 UTC | #946219