Posts by JWT1

  • Hard News: Media Take: the poor health…,

    Very good episode on Media Take. One technical issue. There seems to be a small lack of synchrony between the video and audio that I found quite distracting.

    Manawatu • Since Aug 2010 • 10 posts Report Reply

  • Polity: Hidden Costs,

    My experience in the sciences is that most academics, both in NZ and overseas, need PhD students as pairs of hands to carry out much of the the research to advance their own careers. All right if they a) are reasonably stringent in their assessment of the students they accept into their lab and b) are prepared to bite the bullet and tell those that are not making it that they should quit before wasting to much time.

    Many Universities have a hurdle that the students have to clear at the end of their first year of PhD studies which helps as long as those involved involved make sure that the hurdle is of sufficient height. Some academics however will persist with a less able student but treat them as a technician and essentially tell them what to do on a daily or weekly basis. This is not what a PhD is about.

    After 3 or 4 years or longer there is a lot of pressure, both subtle and otherwise, to ‘get these students through’., This is exacerbated by the present policy of paying a substantial part of the grant to the academic dept for a PhD student only on successful completion of the degree.

    I have seen many students who are not in the top rank end up in the overseas ‘permanent post doctoral position’, unable to get a suitable permanent position back in NZ or overseas. I have also seen several very good students opt for an MSc. degree instead of a PhD and take jobs in NZ industry and do very well. This course of action means that they ‘have a life’ much sooner than if they do a PhD and usually get well paid and satisfying jobs in New Zealand.

    Manawatu • Since Aug 2010 • 10 posts Report Reply

  • Hard News: Public Address Word of the…,

    "not as Prime Minister"

    Manawatu • Since Aug 2010 • 10 posts Report Reply

  • Hard News: The Language of Climate, in reply to Bart Janssen,

    Rumen bacteria produce methane as an end product because of the highly reducing (anaerobic) environment in the rumen. Methane production is the penalty paid in return for the ability of ruminants to obtain some of the energy available from cellulose, which humans cannot digest. Feeding less cellulose to ruminants will probably not solve the problem as the rumen has evolved to provide the anaerobic conditions and non cellulose carbohydrates will also be utilised anaerobically in the rumen and result in methane formation. Several species of insects (termites) also can digest cellulose anaerobically with the concomitant production of methane. I have not seen any estimates of how much this contributes to global methane production.

    Manawatu • Since Aug 2010 • 10 posts Report Reply

  • Hard News: The Web,

    How about a shout out for Lou Montulli, one of the developers of Lynx, a text only web browser released in 1992 and still in use. I used it for years after Netscape became available if I was on a slow connection. Lynx was developed by students at the University of Kansas. Lou later joined Netscape and was instrumental in setting up the Famous Fishcam, which it still available ( ) . My defining moment with the WWW was when the scientific Journal of Biological Chemistry went on line with full text and graphics in 1995. Thank you Bob Simoni ( and Stanford University HighWire Press ( ).

    Manawatu • Since Aug 2010 • 10 posts Report Reply

  • Hard News: Friday Music: The First Time,

    Howard Morrison quartet Memorial Park, Palmerston North about 1963. Jefferson Airplane in San Francisco 1967. Been in love with Grace Slick ever since! Crap concert in Opera House Palmerston North in 1976; Kris Kristofferson and Rita Coolidge. Music OK but zilch audience interaction. Dire Straits at the Gaumont Theatre, Southampton in December 1980.

    Manawatu • Since Aug 2010 • 10 posts Report Reply

  • Hard News: The Public Address 2012 Word…,

    Fiscal Cliff

    Manawatu • Since Aug 2010 • 10 posts Report Reply

  • Hard News: Party on, dudes, in reply to Dave Howell,

    Agree with Dave. Found Hard News when I spent a year in Houston in 1995 and it was a valued link with NZ. Have been an avid follower ever since but largely a lurker. Please keep up the good work.

    Manawatu • Since Aug 2010 • 10 posts Report Reply

  • Hard News: About Arie,

    To my mind the unreported suggestion of vigilantism in the case of the young man with a fascination for electrical fittings is much more disturbing than the verbal running off at the mouth of an apparent nutter like Michael Laws. The whole incident brings up the dilemma of how society deals with those of its members who “don’t experience the world like I do” as Russell neatly puts it. He and his family cope with this by removing them from mainstream education and going to a lot of trouble and expense to provide suitable alternatives.
    To my mind the present systems of justice as practiced in most of the western world are at best a form of codified and legalised vigilantism and take no cognisance of those who have views of society and view of their place in it which differs from a so called “norm”. Why is it that those convicted of a serious crime are given a fixed term sentence when there is no evidence that they will “learn their lesson” in prison and emerge as model citizens at the end. As I see it, they are more likely to emerge from the present system with an even greater “anti-social” view of the world and be just as great a danger as they were when they went in.
    There is a growing body of scientific evidence that suggests that differences in our genetic make up can have significant effects on the ways in which the connections in our brains are formed. Even more importantly there is evidence that ones early experiences and influences in life can modify these connections as the brain develops following birth. If substantiated, these findings have rather far-reaching ramifications to the way the justice system deals with offenders against societal norms. Do we stick with the present rather retributive system we have at present or do we move to a system where ones “guilt” is restricted to the evidential aspects relating to whether the act in question was actually committed by the individual concerned? If the answer to this question is yes, then how is the “punishment” arrived at? One could envisage a system where “treatment” following conviction is recommended by a panel of appropriate people. In severe cases treatment could be confinement to a secure facility where the individual could be treated and their progress assessed periodically (not by a parole board). Release would be dependent on the basis of an expert opinion regarding their response to treatment.
    My thoughts on this issue have been influenced to a large extent by reading a recent article in the scientific journal “Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences USA” entitled “The Lucretian swerve: The biological basis of human behavior and the criminal justice system” which is available free online at:

    Manawatu • Since Aug 2010 • 10 posts Report Reply

  • Speaker: John Roughan is Scared,

    Some comparison figures for a European city about the size of Auckland:

    Prague (Czech Republic)
    Population: 1.3 million
    Pop. Density; 2500/km2
    GDP (Czech Republic) $US18500
    Prague public transport
    Underground rail 50 km ( 3 lines. 50 stations)
    Frequency: 2-3 min peak, 4-10 min off peak 5am to midnight
    Trams: 500 km of track
    Frequency: 8-10 mins 4.30 am to midnight, (10-15 mins weekends) 40 mins midnight to 4.30 am.

    Population: 1.3 million
    Pop. Density 1270/km2
    GDP (NZ) $US28500

    I suspect the difference in population density probably has something to do with the lack of public transport in Auckland

    Manawatu • Since Aug 2010 • 10 posts Report Reply