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“It suddenly struck me that that tiny pea, pretty and blue, was the Earth. I put up my thumb and shut one eye, and my thumb blotted out the planet Earth. I didn't feel like a giant. I felt very, very small.” – Neil Armstrong (1930-2012)

Fresh Reads from the Science 'o sphere!

Friday, November 27, 2009

Dubai World's US$59 Billion Debt

Dubai's sovereign wealth fund, Dubai World, has shocked investors with an announcement to delay debt payments until 30th May 2010.

Before the onset of the global economic recession, Dubai accumulated US$80 billion of debt, of which US$59 billion is owed by Dubai World.

Would you like to know more?
- Dubai World Seeks to Delay Debt Payments as Default Risk Soars (Bloomberg)
- World stocks slump amid Dubai's debt woes (Daily Mail)
- Dubai’s debt default shakes world (Hindustan Times)
- Dubai World debt fears haunt financial markets (The Australian)

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Scientist, Programmer and Prostitute

The year was 2003.

PhD student Brooke Magnanti was living a double life. In the midst of making corrections to her thesis, she was unable to find a job in science and running out of money to pay rent.

So she became a part-time computer programmer... and prostitute.

For 14 months she worked as a high-class call girl in a London escort agency. She wrote about her sex work experiences as an anonymous blogger in the "Belle de Jour" blog, which led to a series of successful books and even spun off a TV show.

Today, she is a research scientist in developmental neurotoxicology and cancer epidemiology at St Michael's Hospital in Bristol.

Until two days ago, practically no one knew of the true identity of Belle de Jour.

Why is Fresh Brainz interested in this story?

Apparently she was also an experienced science blogger before she turned to prostitution. So boys and girls, what did we learn today?

1. Science blogging is not enough to pay rent.

2. Part-time computer programming is not enough to pay rent.

3. Sex work is enough to pay rent.

4. Science blogging + Sex work = Sex blogging

Crystal clear.

Would you like to know more?
- Belle de Jour: Diary of a London Call Girl
- British scientist unmasked as call girl Belle de Jour (Reuters)
- Belle de Jour blogger unmasks herself as 'big mouth ex-boyfriend' looms (Guardian)

Saturday, November 14, 2009

LCROSS Finds Water On The Moon

After a month of analysis on the LCROSS impact data, NASA announced that they have detected about 24 gallons (~90 litres) of water in the impact plume.

Would you like to know more?
Splash! NASA moon crash struck lots of water (AP)

Friday, November 06, 2009

Why Societies Collapse

Interesting TED talk by Professor Jared Diamond, better known for his book "Guns, Germs, and Steel".

1. "One interesting common thread has to do with, in many cases, the rapidity of collapse after a society reaches its peak. There are many societies that don't wind down gradually, but they build up, get richer and more powerful, and then within a short time, within a few decades after their peak, they collapse."

2. "One blueprint for trouble, making collapse likely, is where there is a conflict of interest between the short-term interest of the decision-making elites, and the long-term interest of the society as a whole. Especially if the elites are able to insulate themselves from the consequences of their actions."

I am concerned with situations where a leadership class sets the society on a unsustainable trajectory that results in a rapid collapse of the whole system in a matter of decades.

This is especially worrying when the decision-makers are insulated from the consequences of their actions, therefore there is no feedback inhibition to reduce or stop their damaging policies.

Tuesday, November 03, 2009

If Corporations Can Do It, So Can You!

Some things in life are really weird if you think about them a little.

More American Workers Outsourcing Own Jobs Overseas

You can outsource your work to a cheaper party, but then who would want to hire you?

It doesn't make sense for individuals, but somehow, it works for companies and countries.