OLPC

“Helping” Developing Countries – The Mastery of Abuse

Mentatul 5×5 Focus
April 2019 Edition
– (War-torn) Developing Countries –

The way superpowers and developed countries have spent money in order to „help” developing countries is often highly questionable. The „help” ranges from plain naive to ruthless neo-colonialism.

What adds insult to injury is that more often than not, the problem was caused by those „helpful” nation-states in the first place. This is a very complex topic that, for now, I will not debate. I’ll just give you the information along with a few short comments.

1. We’re going to start with borders, more specifically what happens when one draws a straight line between communities that share the same religion or put vastly different cultures in the same bucket.

2. Then we’re going to go into neo-colonialism with China’s Belt and Road Initiative.

3. A naïve interlude will tell the story of an idealist computer scientist who hoped that giving poor children laptops would improve their chances of success in a world where technology plays an ever-increasing role. We will never know if he was right, because the project failed (not with a bang, but with a whimper).

4. No list of atrocities done to/in developing countries would be complete without a story about weapons trade.

5. The dismal situation in the world’s youngest country.

ITER

Energy in 2019: Fusion, Fission and More

Mentatul 5×5 Focus
March 2019 Edition
– Energy –

Fusion is the holy grail of energy generation. It’s clean and the necessary fuel, hydrogen, is literally everywhere. Unfortunately, replicating the Sun’s mastery of fusion isn’t exactly a piece of cake.

1. The largest investment our species has banked on fusion is using a technology called tokamak. Unfortunately, the experiment called ITER is not doing very well.

2. Can we get lucky with the other type of fusion reactor, the stellarator? There’s good news about Wendelstein 7-X.

3. How can supercomputing help us?

4. Is clean(er) fission energy possible? Is Thorium worth it?

5. Renewable energy trends for 2019.

Smoke and Water, Environmental Downs And Ups

Smoke and Water, Environmental Downs and Ups

Mentatul 5×5 Focus
February 2019 Edition
– The Environment –

1. Nine years after such information was widely available, I finally got to understand just how insanely terrible sea shipping is for our planet. Consider that a single massive cargo ship puts out more cancer and asthma-causing pollutants than 50 million cars.

2. A 23.8 meters high wave was recorded in the Southern hemisphere. For reference, that’s about as high as a 6-stories building.

3. Ocean heat buildup is a major problem, one that is seriously underestimated.

4. In November 2016, the Environment Ministry of Japan warned that the country will produce 800,000 tons of solar waste by 2040, and it can’t yet handle those volumes. That same year, the International Renewable Energy Agency estimated that there were already 250,000 metric tons of solar panel waste worldwide and that this number would grow to 78 million by 2050.

5. Is global warming worrying you? Do you think we’ve run out of time? Well, here’s some good news. If we, as a species, would for once work together, we could actually achieve negative carbon emissions.

Flat Earth

About the Flat-Earth Movement

Yes, there are people out there who think the Earth is flat. And they’re having conventions:

Besides the absolutely dumb idea of a flat Earth and the dismissal of pretty much everything produced by the space program of a dozen countries, there’s something really interesting going on here. The flat Earther community is a really interesting case study when it comes to challenging the idea that “the Internet will make us smarter”.

It also shows a worrying connection between populism and disbelief in science. I’m all for emotions, but to demolish science in such a way brings thoughts of dystopia to my mind.

David Goodall

On Assisted Dying

You’re 102 years old. You still want and can work. You have no disease, your mind is sharp and brings joy to those around. However, the industrialized healthcare system and society has other plans. You’re costly to keep under permanent supervision, as if you even want to be constantly watched. So, whether you like it or not, you must accept round-the-clock care or move to a nursing home. This happened to David Goodall. Thanks to Swiss laws, however, he could die on his own accord.

Euthanasia is a heavily debated topic. Many people have sought the right to end their life. Check what Terry Pratchett (suffering from Alzheimer’s) had to say about it. Pro-life associations rushed to condemn BBC for broadcasting Pratchett’s statement, accusing BBC of imbalanced reporting.

John Holt

How Children Learn

About one of the most revolutionary books in pedagogy and parenting alike:

“Schools try to teach children skills and knowledge that may benefit them at some unknown time in the future. But children are interested in the now, not the future. They want to do real things now. By doing what they want to do they also prepare themselves wonderfully for the future, but that is a side effect.  This, I think, is the main insight of the book; most of the other ideas are more or less corollaries.”

Gerrymandering

The Gerrymandering Factor

Ever heard of gerrymandering? It’s quite the disgusting political practice. Basically, a political party influences the way precincts are gathered into districts so that it gains an advantage during elections. Even though the term was coined in the USA, this practice is widespread. It shows just how much democracy can be destroyed from within.

Fortunately, there is some hope in combating the practice. Here’s how a panel of federal judges over in the USA created a useful precedent that will hopefully be the first step towards fixing this affliction of democracy.

Neutrino Detector

Ricocheting Down the Neutrino Alley

Neutrinos are among the strangest elementary particles. Or at least we call them elementary particles until, some time in the future, we’ll discover that they are also composed of various other smaller components. But until then, scientists are sparing no efforts in trying to understand them (an understanding that could and will probably be invested in new technologies, for example detectors for large bursts of energy release).