Thursday, January 26, 2017

Futurology

In an earlier post I mentioned that many of scientific news published today are not really new discoveries, but future previsions. What I did was analyze a specific issue of the magazine Science News, and found that just three news, out of 18 it contained, corresponded to concrete findings.
At the suggestion of one of my readers I made a more meaningful analysis, by reviewing, not just a single magazine, but 40, of four different years, to see if the effect stays constant or changes with time. The results were as follows:
Year
Nr. of articles
% Futurology

1990
176
32
2001
177
47
2006
167
40
2008
161
48

Thursday, January 19, 2017

Catastrophes and catastrophism

Chernobyl disaster
From time to time catastrophes occur, usually unforeseen, sometimes causing tremendous damage. Let's look at some relatively recent ones:
  • July 28, 1976: Tangshan Earthquake (China), intensity 7.5 on the Richter scale. The official death toll was 249,419, though some say it was actually three times as big.
  • December 3, 1984: Bhopal disaster, a leakage of methyl isocyanate from a pesticide factory that caused some 20,000 deaths and affected about 600,000 people.
  • 26 April 1986: Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant Disaster, which caused 31 direct casualties. It is estimated that the number of deferred deaths due to the effects of radiation could approach 80,000, although the estimates may not be reliable.

Thursday, January 12, 2017

Permanent economic growth is unsustainable

2009 World Economic Forum Meeting
Politicians and economists often tell us that job creation requires a GNP growth above 2 or 3%. According to them, the optimum situation and the end of the crisis will be reached when a permanent growth is achieved above these figures, the higher the better. Not many seem to be considering whether such a situation is possible in the long run.
Let us take the simplest case: assume that it were possible to achieve a cumulative annual growth of 3% GNP, indefinitely continued. Would we have achieved utopia, would we be living in the best of worlds?
Maybe, but not for long.

Thursday, January 5, 2017

Numerical equality or equal opportunities

It is common to hear concerns about the fact that women do not want to study technical careers and prefer to pursue other professions, such as in health sciences, psychology or the humanities, where they usually make the majority. In contrast, in technical schools there is usually a high percentage of male students. For example, at the Higher Polytechnic School of the Autonomous University of Madrid, during the 20 years between 1992 and 2012, in our degree in Computer Engineering, two-thirds of the students were male, just one-third were female. And between 2003 and 2012, in the degree in Telecommunications Engineering, the proportion of women was even lower: there were three men for each woman.