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Why don’t lions chase mice?

This is the introduction to Tim Watkins’ latest book: Why Don’t Lions Chase Mice? No, it is not a trick question. Indeed, the answer you gave is probably the correct one. A lion is a very large and powerful animal whereas a mouse is a very small but surprisingly nimble creature. …

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Failing to square the circle

    The arithmetic is simple enough.  Fossil fuels – coal, gas and oil – make up 84.5 percent of our energy consumption. Hydroelectricity accounts for 7 percent; nuclear 4.5 percent.  Wind and solar – the supposed salvation of human civilisation – provide 3 percent; with other renewables adding one …

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The symptom of our disease

Imagine that you had to fight a pandemic without a theory of germs (some readers, no doubt, will point out that we don’t need to imagine, we just need to look at the cack-handed government response).  Anyway, you might get a few things right, albeit for the wrong reasons.  You …

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A brown new deal

Those lucky enough to die of old age often fall into a very peaceful state – not dissimilar to the deep relaxation sought after by meditation practitioners – from which they simply slip away.  Since 1958, though, one of the ways in which modern civilisation has sought to cheat death …

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A little knowledge is a terrible thing

One reason why nationalist populists like Trump are able to get away with calling mainstream media “enemies of the people” is that those outlets all too often fabricate stories.  This has more to do with falling advertising revenues and increased competition for people’s attention than with grand conspiracy (although that, …

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Be careful what you wish for

With the world’s great and good flying off to Davos to lecture the rest of us on lowering our carbon footprints, everyone from tech companies to hedge funds is suddenly keen to go “carbon neutral.”  Could it be that hard-headed billionaires have had their hearts melted by Greta Thunberg’s pleas? …

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Today we’re mostly cooking on gas

It’s the 20th January and southern Britain is experiencing its first full week of winter weather.  Other than a brief cold snap at the beginning of December, the winter has been unusually warm and wet – a consequence of living in the path of the Gulf Stream in a changing …

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Mind the gap

On balmy summer days in medieval times, the miller could often be seen lounging in the shade while the villagers toiled in the fields.  The miller, it seemed, had a cushy deal.  Not only did he get to relax on hot summer days, but he took a percentage of all …

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Energy behind the green façade

The 2020s began with the usual round of happy-clappy greenwash about so-called “green energy.”  Typical was Julia Kollewe’s New Year’s Day Guardian piece proclaiming that “Zero-carbon electricity outstrips fossil fuels in Britain across 2019:” “Following a dramatic decline in coal-fired power and a rise in renewable and low-carbon energy, 2019 …

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A matter of storage

The development of the Universal Serial Bus (USB) for computing has served to lull a generation into believing a fantastical version of what economists call “substitutability.”  According to the economists, when the supply of any input to the economy dries up, “market forces” will cause another input to take its …

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