Perry de Havilland on those Covid demonstrations

Well, I managed to do a posting that I had merely hoped to do for Samizdata, about the Covid demo in London the weekend before last, linking back here to all the photos of it that I stuck up here.

Here. and there, I added some rather rambling verbiage about how I had mixed feelings about such demos. Do they work? What do they achieve? That kind of thing.

And I really liked Perry de Havilland’s comment on my Samizdata piece in response:

Demonstrations are much misunderstood; particularly ones like this (& this was a huge demonstration).

They are not going to change state policy directly because that just isn’t how things work, they are mostly about deisolating activists, they are about demonstrating to the demonstrators that they are not crazy (even if some of them are as is the case in any group of disparate people).

Demonstrations are a building process. Demonstrations in this case are particularly effective at highlighting assorted lies about this particular disease. After all, get hundreds of thousands unmasked unvaccinated people shouting for a few hours face to face, there is going to be an observable spike in deaths each time, right? Right? 🤣

Some demonstrations against the lockdown got hammered by the police earlier on … why? Because they were small enough to get hammered by the police to try and discourage other demonstrations. In this demonstration, the police were so vastly outnumbered, by a march that refused to even tell the police where it was going to march (by design), there was never any chance it could be stopped with truncheons. And the demonstration’s organisation was connected yet dispersed, utterly protean: a couple organisers were arrested before the march to try and derail it, and expecting that, others on various platforms seamlessly took over.

What THAT demonstrates to the marchers is that resistance is not futile, they are not alone. In fact, they are legion. It was an anti-lockdown march but it was also an anti-media march, giving lie to the idea that utterly dominating the media dominates public opinion (as if Brexit had not already proven the falsity of that in the internet age). How many times do crap opinion polls have to get it wrong for demonstrable things (such as election & referendum outcomes) for you to stop believing them when things are less demonstrable?

If you don’t ‘get it; then who cares; you are most likely not the target audience. But these marches are not a pointless hissy fit like some marches, these particular marches are literal in-your-face defiance of instructions by the state intending to protect you from “the inevitable consequences of a terrible disease spreading amongst crowds”. These marches are an absolute refusal to obey & a demonstration that the state relies on your willing even if grudging compliance, because there is a tipping point beyond which they do not have enough people with truncheons to force your compliance. That is what demonstrations like this are for & it is working just fine.

Perry and I have since talked further about this, and it is clear, from his and other comments, that libertarianism, as I merely speculated hopefully, really is spreading amongst those demonstrators. In general, says Perry, a lot of people are going to be radicalised by Covid, more precisely: by the response to Covid. This will take time, as the economic damage done by this response makes itself felt and as the facts start emerging in greater detail, both the scientific facts and the policy making facts. Of course, nothing like all of this radicalising will be in a libertarian direction, but a lot of it will.

And I had completely ignored the crucial point that this one was a demonstration in favour of the right to demonstrate, and in defiance of the claim that demonstrations would spread The Plague.

Perry and I also agreed that if it had been a real Plague – dead bodies in the street, double digit percentage deaths and so on – our attitude would have been very different. This is an argument about the mishandling of medical data, not just a libertarian “hissy fit”, to quote his phrase.

Although, I rather suspect that for many, “hissy fit” is simply a demonstration they don’t agree with. Which was why I mentioned those pro-Remain demos in what I wrote at Samizdata. I disagreed with those demos, yet they were clearly demos, and they clearly will have consequences, even if not those that the demonstrators will be fully satisfied with, of just the sort that Perry described.

Perry also mentioned how getting to know this lady had informed his thinking on these matters. He zeroed in on this sentiment, that I also mentioned in that earlier posting:

Being a dissident wasn’t about overthrowing the regime; it was merely about staying sane.

In other words demos say, if only to the demonstrators, but typically also to many sympathetic but timid onlookers: You are not the only ones thinking like this.

“It Charges 60 Times Faster Than Lithium-Ion …”

This sounds promising:

The graphene aluminum-ion battery cells from the Brisbane-based Graphene Manufacturing Group (GMG) are claimed to charge up to 60 times faster than the best lithium-ion cells and hold three time the energy of the best aluminum-based cells.

They are also safer, with no upper Ampere limit to cause spontaneous overheating, more sustainable and easier to recycle, thanks to their stable base materials. Testing also shows the coin-cell validation batteries also last three times longer than lithium-ion versions.

GMG plans to bring graphene aluminum-ion coin cells to market late this year or early next year, with automotive pouch cells planned to roll out in early 2024.

Based on breakthrough technology from the University of Queensland’s (UQ) Australian Institute for Bioengineering and Nanotechnology, the battery cells use nanotechnology to insert aluminum atoms inside tiny perforations in graphene planes.

Sounds good, doesn’t it? But good news, news about creative processes, only emerges gradually, as many – Matt Ridley to name just one – have pointed out. These batteries “are claimed” to speed up the charging process. And “automotive pouch cells” are merely “planned” to happen by a date that will hopefully be with us very soon. But things that are merely claimed or planned or just hoped-for do not necessarily happen, and certainly not always by the hoped-for date. So, if and when these batteries do end up happening, the fact that they have actually happened will be a distinct item of news. But, if and when it gets flagged up, this news item will not be that much of a revelation, because those who had already been following the story were seeing this end point of the process coming. Yeah yeah, better batteries. Cue the opinion pieces about how this is just technology as usual, with its inevitable carbon footprint, and which our children and grandchildren will mostly piss away by sending each other cat and dog videos or gibberish text messages on their dumbphones, blah blah blah.

Bad news, on the other hand, as often as not happens with one big explosion of horribleness. The badness of the news is not in doubt and everything happens all at once. A particular bit of the world goes, in one dramatic bang, from doing fine to Christ all bloody mighty what the hell was that? Hold the front page, and add opinion pieces saying that the entire world is going to hell.

Which is why, according to eyewitness accounts, the world has been going to hell ever since people got into the habit of recording such opinions. Nevertheless, opinions is all that these opinions have been. Luckily, it weren’t – and it ain’t – so.

Patrick posted our conversation about Steve Stewart-Williams and evolution ( and I’m glad he did)

I am starting to take exercise by doing exercises, which I have not done since my school days, which put me right off the whole idea. I am being supervised and guided and advised and encouraged by a physiotherapist attached to the Royal Marsden. This morning I attended (virtually) one of his group exercise sessions, and it was a real effort, lasting more than half an hour. Then, after only brief lie-down, I went out on a big shopping expedition, and of course bought too much stuff for me to carry in comfort and am now totally knackered. But, I still owed this blog its daily feed.

Luckily, however, an email from Patrick Crozier has now arrived saying that our latest recorded conversation is now up and listenable to, so here’s my posting here alerting you to that.

Our conversation was based on and revolved around the book by Steve Stewart-Williams entitled The Ape That Understood The Universe, which regular visitors to this blog will know that I like a lot.

Patrick and I have already fixed that the next of our conversations will be about how World War One started, which Patrick knows a lot more about than I do.

Shanghai sculpture of Rutherford splitting the atom and discovering the nucleus


That’s either a very big atom or a very small Rutherford.


Seen recently at a Facebook Friend’s page:

While searching for more about this, I came upon this recent story:

A single pill home cure for Covid could be available by the end of the year, according to reports.

Pharmaceutical giant Pfizer, whose coronavirus vaccine has been successfully rolled out around the world, has begun human trials of the first pill specifically designed to stop the virus at its buildings in the United States and the European manufacturers’ base in Belgium.

The company, which brought the first US-approved Covid-19 vaccine to market, is conducting the stage one clinical trial on an oral antiviral therapy that a patient could take when they first develop symptoms, which would make it the first oral antiviral treatment of its kind in the world for coronavirus.

My take on Covid as of now (guess (reserve the right to change mind without embarrassment)) is: Lockdown CROSS, Treatment TICK, Vaccines TICK. Most of “They” were wrong to obsess about Lockdown, wrong that treatment wouldn’t work, and right about vaccines being something worth throwing a ton of money at. Good that the treatment error seems now to be being corrected.

Alas, Lockdown, is something that many now love, for quasi-religious reasons, and want to continue with.

Blue iceberg

CuriositĂ  Scientifiche:

How come? Here’s how:

Blue icebergs form in 2 ways: either because they flipped upside down by emerging the submerged part out of the water, or because of extreme ice compression that takes place in hundreds of years.

Blue icebergs are often very old, and contain very little air, originally present in the ice. This composition varies the refractive index generating the amazing blue color.

Comments included: “Spettacolare!”, “Bellissimo”, “Fantastico!”, “La natura è meravigliosa” and “Stupendo”. Or as we Anglos say, and as an Anglo did say: “Wow”.

Photo by Robert B. Dunbar. All hail the Internet. Thank you Nick Gillespie.

No wonder artists don’t do beauty any more.

Three especially good links to SteveStuWill

As I mentioned earlier in the week, I’ve been catching up with the SteveStuWill Twitter feed. This time, I’ve picked out just three creaturely amusements that particularly entertained me. I could have listed many more, but these are the ones I especially liked. I mean, if I link to lots of them, you might as well just go there and scroll. If I pick only a few, you get only a few, which may be just what you want.

So: Male sea horse giving birth, to a lot of sea foals; a black heron hunts fish by blocking out the sun; and perhaps most remarkable of the lot, the courtship dance of the hooded grebe. Enjoy.

You can see every organ in the glass frog

Today’s ephemera at David Thompson’s blog has links to some excellent animal amusements.

There is this scaredy cat. And my favourite for a good LOL is this very sensible cat.

But the most seriously remarkable ephemeron is this glass frog:

How did that come about, I wonder? And given that it did, why we do not see this sort of thing more often?

I spent today postponing but mostly organising my death

I have spent my day doing two important things.

First, and this only took a moment, I swallowed an Osimertinib pill. I take one of these pills every day. How hard is that? Harder than you might suppose, at my advanced age with its accompanying loss of short term memory. Several times during the last month or two, I have taken one of these pills, or not, and then moments later not known whether I had taken it, or not.

Hence this contraption, which my Senior Designated Friend gave me quite a while ago. This was when the pill problem was that there were lots of them, but none of them were that important:

I don’t need that, I said. Turns out I do. Now that the problem is just the one pill, but a vitally important one upon which my continuing ability to function now seems entirely to depend, I need to be sure that I have taken one, and only one, of these miraculous little things.

And the other thing I did today, which took pretty much the whole day and which also consumed most of yesterday, was to do that other thing that people who have received a death sentence from the medical profession do, besides take pills. I refer to the process known as “putting my affairs in order”.

The most impressive result of this process so far has been a load of rubbish:

I have been trying to sort my many accumulated bits of paper into more logical piles than they had been arranged in. Happily, the biggest such pile is that one in the above photo, which is the one I’ll be chucking into the recycling bins out in front of my front door, tomorrow.

So, a day spent (1) postponing my death, and (2) trying to make my death more organised.

By the way, I do recommend following the Osimertinib link above, and then feasting your eyes on the list of “Other drugs in the class protein kinase inhibitors”, on the right. It is quite a list, I think you will agree. If any of these are anywhere near as clever as the Osimertinib that I’m taking, then it’s an even more impressive list than it looks.

Steve Stewart-Williams on the evolution of language

Today, right near the end of The Ape That Understood The Universe (pp. 275-276), I had another What He Said moment:

… Earlier I mentioned that humans have an innate capacity to learn language, but that the specific languages we learn evolve culturally to mesh with our language-hungry brains. There may be a twist in the plot, however. It’s possible that our languages themselves helped to wire a language-learning instinct into the human genome. Here’s what might have happened. It all began with the cultural evolution of a rudimentary proto-language: a system of grunts and gestures not too far removed from what we see today in wild chimps. We didn’t have a dedicated language faculty at that time, so we acquired this proto-language via general learning mechanisms. (This is presumably what captive apes do when they learn to communicate with signs.) The proto-language wasn’t nearly as useful as our modern ones. But as anyone who’s visited a foreign-speaking country knows, even a little language is better than none. As such, any ancient human who acquired the proto-language more easily, mastered it at a younger age, or used it more adroitly, would have had an advantage over her more linguistically ham-fisted contemporaries. And what an advantage! Language is useful in virtually every sphere of human life: communicating needs and wants, organizing hunts and other cooperative ventures, entertaining mates, conveying useful information to offspring, finding out who to trust and who not to. In these areas and others, better language-users would have had a definite edge. Given the evolutionary importance of these activities, such individuals would plausibly have had more offspring, and their linguistic advantage would have spread through the population. As humans became more verbally adept, this would have triggered the cultural evolution of a more complex proto-language. That in turn would have created a selection pressure for even greater linguistic giftedness, which would have spurred the cultural evolution of an even more complex language – the usual story. In short, the cultural evolution of language resulted in the biological evolution of a language-learning instinct, and vice versa.

If so, this has an interesting implication. We saw earlier that genes for lactose tolerance were a consequence of milk drinking, rather than a cause. The same may be true of language. We tend to assume that genes for language came first, thereby making language possible. It’s equally likely, however, that it’s the other way around: that language came first and then created a selection pressure for genes promoting the rapid acquisition of language. In other words, our gift of the gab may have started with a cultural mutation, rather than a genetic one.

I worked out this notion, that culture creates new evolutionary spaces for genetic evolution to move into, several years ago, but it is good to have it confirmed by SS-W. I presume that this means that, what with culture hurtling towards new evolutionary spaces all the time, that means that genetic evolution is hurtling onwards, faster than ever before.