Archive for December, 2007

This opinion piece appeared in the Sydney Morning Herald on Saturday:


 It argues against the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change on the grounds that a lot of what we say we know about climate change is based on theoretical modelling.

I submitted this letter to the editor, which may or may not appear:

I read Michael Duffy’s article “However virtuous, virtual science is no substitute for the real thing” (Herald, December 22) with dismay. Rather than advocating “real science” (which he leaves undefined) he seems to have done nothing more than reveal his own ignorance about how science works.

The whole point of mathematical modelling is to calculate the predictions of a model. If you don’t know what the predictions of a model are, there is no way to test it against reality. And if you blindly make observations with no models in mind, the observations are pointless because they do not tell you anything.

It’s true there are models that make incorrect predictions. Great! That increases our state of knowledge. But if Michael Duffy is sitting on some compelling evidence that the IPCC’s conclusions regarding global warming are wrong, perhaps he should submit them to a real scientific journal, rather than trying to manipulate the opinions of the uninformed through misleading articles in newspapers.


Read Full Post »

A few quotes to get you thinking …

Pat Pattison: Professor of Poetry and Lyric writing at the Berklee College of Music in Boston, author of “Writing Better Lyrics”:

The time to start [songwriting] is the first thing in the morning, even before coffee. Sit down and give it a full ten minutes – but no more.

Barry Green, in his book “The Inner Game Of Music”:

My fourteen-year-old cousin Dana … tells me that she plays piano best when she has just rolled out of bed in the morning or is exhausted at the end of the day … It seemed amazing to both of us that Dana was able to perform much better when she was barely awake … Other musicians, young and old, have told me that they perform best when they are relaxed, slightly ill [or] tired.

Songwriter Mike Read, in “The Secrets of Songwriting” by Susan Tucker; asked “Is there a certain time of the day you like to write?”:

… I have this little ritual. I love that smell of the first cup of coffee. I love the early morning … I love getting up early, at six o’clock.

It seems that we are most creative in the morning, when we haven’t woken up properly. Is there any scientific evidence to back up this anecdotal evidence?

On December 2, 2007, New Scientist ran an article titled “The Other You”. The article mentions the work of Colin Martindale of the University of Maine in Orono, which is now three decades old. He used an electroencephalogram (EEG) to monitor the brain activity of a creative mind.

He found that there were two distinct stages of brain activity. During the initial “inspiration” stage, the brain is remarkably quiet. Brain activity is dominated by alpha waves, indicating a very low cortical arousal. The second stage is called the “elaboration” stage, and is characterised by more activity, especially in the cortex. It is probably associated with the conscious analysis of ideas. People with the greatest difference in brain activity between these two stages were the most creative.

The point of interest to us is that brain activity during the inspiration stage is very similar to brain activity during dream sleep and relaxation. Jordan Peterson, of the University of Toronto, Canada, believes that creativity involves the overflow of subconscious information into consciousness. Thus, to tap the rich mental resources of the subconscious, it is best to catch your conscious mind while it is still half asleep.

Read Full Post »