*be sceptical - take nothing for granted!
Unless otherwise indicated all photos © Richard McKie 2005 - 2019

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The other day I found myself killing time in Chatswood waiting for my car to be serviced. A long stay in a coffee shop seemed a good option but I would need something to read - not too heavy. In a bookshop I found the latest Dan Brown: Origin. Dan might not be le Carré but like Lee Child and Clive Cussler he's a fast and easy read.

A quick flick told me Professor Langdon was on yet another wild-goose-chase around the real churches; art galleries; palaces and tombs of Europe (in this case Spain), with another beautiful yet somehow unattainable woman. In that respect the good professor is not a James Bond nor even Jason Bourne.

I won't be giving much away by telling those of you who have not read Origin that the plot rests on a billionaire computer geek's pre-recorded 'proofs' that: life arises spontaneously as a result of the natural laws of this universe; and that with increasing intervention of technology humans are evolving - so that in a relatively short time our descendants will cease to be human.

While the thwarted multimedia presentation of these 'proofs' to the world makes for a fast paced thriller as the the bodies pile up, the presentation's eventual revelations turn out to be disappointingly mundane. 

Last century I began writing my essay for my then young children: The Meaning of Life in which both of the "breathtaking truths" (referred to on the back cover of Origin) are discussed as current ideas - two decades ago.  See the chapters on Life (particularly in respect of entropy) and Evolution (particularly in respect of technology).

So Origin is not very original. Well, what did readers expect?  This is a popular thriller not a paradigm changing scientific paper or a theological revelation (perhaps as a result of a new Marian Apparition?).

 

Post Script

Since writing this commentary the scientific world has been taken aback by the announcement a young scientist, He Jiankui, at the Second International Summit on Human Genome Editing in Hong Kong, that he had successfully used the powerful gene-editing tool CRISPR to edit a gene in several children.  Two girls, twins, have been born and are thriving and another gene-edited baby is on the way.   Thus Human evolution has been given a small shove forward and what is now just a trickle may become a flood.

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Travel

Russia

 

 

In June 2013 we visited Russia.  Before that we had a couple of weeks in the UK while our frequent travel companions Craig and Sonia, together with Sonia's two Russian speaking cousins and their partners and two other couples, travelled from Beijing by the trans Siberian railway.  We all met up in Moscow and a day later joined our cruise ship.  The tour provided another three guided days in Moscow before setting off for a cruise along the Volga-Baltic Waterway to St Petersburg; through some 19 locks and across some very impressive lakes.

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Fiction, Recollections & News

Les Misérables - The Musical

 

The musical Les Misérables has returned to Sydney.   By now we have both seen several versions.    

But we agreed that this new version is exceptional, with several quite spectacular staging innovations and an excellent cast of singers with perhaps one exception who was nevertheless very good.

Despite an audience that was obviously very familiar with the material (if I'm to judge by the not so sotto voce anticipatory comments from the woman next to us) the production managed to evoke the required tears and laughter in the appropriate places.  The packed theatre was clearly delighted and, opera style, the audience shouted approval at and applauded several of the vocal performances, some were moved to a standing ovation at the end.

 

 

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Opinions and Philosophy

A Dismal Science

 

 

Thomas Carlyle coined this epithet in 1839 while criticising  Malthus, who warned of what subsequently happened, exploding population.

According to Carlyle his economic theories: "are indeed sufficiently mournful. Dreary, stolid, dismal, without hope for this world or the next" and in 1894 he described economics as: 'quite abject and distressing... dismal science... led by the sacred cause of Black Emancipation.'  The label has stuck ever since.

This 'dismal' reputation has not been helped by repeated economic recessions and a Great Depression, together with continuously erroneous forecasts and contradictory solutions fuelled by opposing theories.  

This article reviews some of those competing paradigms and their effect on the economic progress of Australia.

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