Unofficial Show Notes For CrowdScience: Why Does It Always Rain On Me? (BBC World Service) June 2017

Podcast Length: 20min 29 seconds

Stream/Download Link:

Presenters Marnie Chesterton & Marijke Peters discuss microclimates and their positive and sometimes negative impact across different parts of the world

What Are Micro Climates?

The show begins at a tea plantation in the south of England that thrives on local weather conditions not found in the rest of the UK. Marnie goes on to describe why some areas experience more rainfall than others explaining it is due to uneven heating of the earth by the sun. Wind, clouds and rain are formed as a result of this uneven heating or ‘hot and cold air mass’

Emma, a forecaster at the UK Met Office chats with CrowdScience. She explains what microclimates are: a distinctive small scale environment very different from their surroundings. Emma further explains that things such as the hills in your local area can affect the distribution of heat, rain etc. It turns out incredibly, that microclimates can be as small as the two sides of a tree!!!

How Microclimates Can Help Gardeners

Marnie visits the Tregothnan estate, Himalayan Valley tea plantation, a mansion in Cornwall where she talks to the local gardener, Jonathan Jones. We learn that it rains a lot in Cornwall and apparently the locals don’t mind it at all!! We also learn how the localised climate helps tea plants grow comparable to those of Darjeeling, India.

From here, we visit a vineyard where the owner tries to manipulate micro climate conditions to best grow grapes.

Why Is Heathrow Airport Hotter Than Places Close By?

Next, the CrowdScience team looks at why Heathrow airport is hotter than places close by. The presenters tell us that Heathrow airport is what’s known as an ‘urban heat island.’ Such microclimates are common in inner city areas and play a role in the weather of their neighbourhoods affecting humidity and rainfall. The four principles of heat islands are deforestation, the built environment, mass energy consumption and large buildings that trap heat.

Heat Exposure: A Matter Of Life And Death

At this point, the real dangers of ‘heat islands’ are discussed. In US cities, more people die yearly from heat exposure than from tornadoes, hurricanes, earthquakes and other natural disasters. Heat is a ‘silent killer’ to the most vulnerable such as the elderly and those with poor health. The 2003 European heat wave that is estimated to have killed over 70,000 people is used as an example of the magnitude of heat exposure and the threat posed by it. Those most at risk from severe heat are people with cardiovascular issues and diabetics.

Solutions To Microclimates

We are introduced to Greg Bishop, commissioner for the New York ‘CoolRoofs’ program, the act of painting rooftops with reflective white paint. By simply painting the roofs white, a 30% reduction in urban heating has been achieved. Plant life is said to be much more effective than white roofing but combined with it and through efforts to reduce waste heat, strides are being made in tackling the issue of microclimates.


In defence of Green Party Co-Leader Jonathan Bartley

Right Wing Press Launches Fake News Attack On Green Party C0-Leader

It was Wednesday evening, the 2nd of March. I was spending time with family and checking the Facebook app when I saw an article on The Guardian authored by Green party Co-Leader, Jonathan Bartley. Upon reading the title it became clear to me that some disreputable media outlets were attempting to slander Jonathan. ‘Killing a man in a car accident is something I’ll always carry with me’ was the title. On his Facebook page, he adds the candid and heartfelt comment “This was an incredibly hard article to write, and it shouldn’t really be about me. It should first and foremost be about the student that I killed, the family and friends he left behind to grieve, and the devastation it caused them. But after the media coverage around it this week I have written about what happened on that night when I was 17 – and how it has impacted my life.”

You can read the article here or I’ll make it short and simple for you. It was an accident, Jonathan didn’t break the law in any way whatsoever, he observed all the requirements of road safety law. In a court, the accident was ruled incidental. Any decent minded person who takes the 4-5 minutes to read the Guardian piece will realise nothing more than a nasty slander attempt is going on. Headlines in other news outlets read ‘ Green Party co-leader admits killing student with a car during ‘shocking’ interview’ (Express) and ‘Green Party co-leader Jonathan Bartley reveals he killed student with car’ (Evening Standard). Now, if like me, you’ve done a bit of study on modern day ‘journalism’ or rather copy writing, you’ll know how the system works. Just in case you don’t, it’s a shady world of vested interests, lobbying and reprehensible clickbait tactics. Most social media users (and that’s where most people read their news or should I say fake news) don’t even look past those cynical headlines before they hit share along with a frothing at the mouth rant or torrent of abuse. No surprise then that the leader of the United States is an oafish man who openly lies regularly and retracts his statements almost as soon as he told the lie.

The Truth About Jonathan Bartley

So what kind of person is Jonathan Bartley? To my knowledge he is the co-leader of the only British political party to have a joint leadership. He leads a party that have put their so called left-wing counterparts to shame not to mention the Tories and UKIP. He champions the rights of the disabled, refugees and families estranged by inhumane immigration controls set by our government. He is the son of an NHS consultant and WWI veteran. He is the man who called out David Cameron on his lies on special needs schooling back in 2010.

When You Make The Fake News You’re Doing It Right (Unless You’re Donald Trump)

I can’t imagine how it must feel when the media launches a personal smear campaign but I would take comfort in their motives. There is much talk of the ‘deep state’ in Trump’s America right now, we also have a deep state here in the UK. I’m not talking wild conspiracy theories here. There is a network of private businessmen and companies, lobbyists and politicians from across the party lines. Large sums of money are spent and favours are bought to make sure the status quo remains the same. If you don’t belong in that inner circle, you’re a threat and will be vilified at every opportunity which means you’re probably doing something right. If the traditional socialist views of Jeremy Corbyn are cause for concern to our elite establishment then how much more so is the progressive politics of the Green Party? While much of the fuss in the public eye has been around Corbyn, the Greens have won more local seats and their membership continues to grow. Now that UKIP have embarrassed themselves in the Stoke by-election the eyes will turn to the Green Party presenting opportunity and hope for a brighter future. But with these hopes and expectations you can expect the usual suspects (Daily Mail and other click bait monsters) to stick the knife in and try and find scandal where there is none. That, apparently has already begun.

Humanity’s Final Eight Minutes [Short Story]

They insisted on messing around with the Hadron collider. But no one could have imagined they would suck the sun out of existence. You’ve heard the one about the black hole that sucks up the world like a hoover but it didn’t happen that way. No, here we are with 8 minutes before the sky goes dark and we hurtle out of orbit. We’re not going to survive. Religious leaders across the world said their final prayers. Presidents and nation leaders gave their final speeches. Words of solidarity and consolation. In these final catastrophic moments, we discovered that elusive peace. The one that evaded us for tens of thousands of years.

You’d expect worldwide outrage at this disastrous situation. Our anger aimed at the scientists who brought about the end of life as we know it. But for the few who actually knew what was happening, it was too late for anger. The men responsible for wiping out humanity called their loved ones. They, in turn, called their own family and friends. Most of the word had no idea what was going on and maybe that was better for them.

Some did get the final message and spent that little time embracing their wives and children. The lonely ones enjoyed a last indulgence in their favourite food, drink or pastime. But if only you could see the billions worldwide seeing out their final seconds not even knowing. To witness the tourists bathing on the beach confused about why they were freezing on a hot summer day. Or to observe the doctors and nurses still treating patients. Or the heartbreaking sight of babies born but for a few short breaths.

#EndOfTheWorld trended on social media. The internet was awash with videos and images of people saying their farewells. The British PM made a public apology to the people of the UK and the world. Middle Eastern dictators prayed for forgiveness in front of their countrymen. Known war criminals confessed their crimes and expressed their regrets. Under normal circumstances, this would be cause for celebration but not now. It all seemed like a bad dream, could it be real?

There was no plan b. No underground bunkers, no emergency shuttles to terraformed planets. No recorded history would ever exist about what happened next. We can’t even speculate over which theory proved correct. Does our planet float across space or fall into orbit with another star? Did the black hole suck up the entire milky way? Never has the saying “You don’t know what you don’t know “ been more appropriate. Didn’t we keep repeating how one act of carelessness would destroy us all? And yet it still happened.

In a few short minutes, we either froze to death in unison or vanished into nonexistence. No living soul lived to tell this tale. Thousands of years of fighting came to nothing. For the briefest of time, we discovered our humanity… but it was too late.

That moment when you wake up a human being again

Maybe you’ve experienced this. As if awakening from a slumber, you realise you were something other than a human being. You rub your eyes and ask yourself ‘was it all a dream?’ ‘Did I really turn into this childish, small minded individual who barked at every criticism good or bad? Who lost their marbles at the tiniest most insignificant thing? Well, the good news is, you woke up a human being again today. At least for now, that dark chapter in your life has closed. No longer do you sit on a high horse believing you can say or do no wrong. Your own faults are in clear view for the first time in a long, long time. Take a deep breath, embrace that humanity. Feels good, doesn’t it?

So, how did you get to that dark place? Was it the ill thought comments from friends and acquaintances that built up over time? They  made you angry on the inside until all that ugliness manifested itself on the outside. Gone was forbearance and tolerance. Where compassion once resided, petulance moved in. The whole world and its dog was your enemy. They had it in for you constantly and you were the perpetual innocent victim. Every human interaction became an intolerable chore. No one had any consideration or decency but you. Yet you could be as blunt as you like with complete justification. Or could you?

As you sit up on the bed, thoughts flash through your mind. Thoughts of all the loved ones you hurt, all the friends you distanced yourself from. Sure, they were ignorant at times but you had a choice to react positively or negatively. The heart doesn’t lie when it tells you it would have been better to be like a tree. When they threw stones at you, you should have given them fruit. But it’s not too late. Go back into the world making sure you take the two best tools to cope with you, compassion and empathy. with these tools, your heart will grow stronger. Don’t expect them to change, change yourself. Repel harsh words with either kind words or at the very least, a dignified silence. Learn to love those who hate. Whether they stop hating or not, you will have learned how be a real human being.

How To Deal With Fake News Using Emotional Correctness Tim Green "Detail from the "Life in the Wall" project, Bradford University."

We live in confusing times. Conflicting information is everywhere. Terms like ‘Post-Truth’ and ‘Fake News’ describe false reports and stories circulating all over the web. The problem is, these reports can be very convincing.So much so, they create great divides among us. How did we get to this point and why? And most importantly, how do we deal with this problem?

The Other World On The Internet

Real, everyday life is straightforward. You wake up each day, do more or less the same things, work, eat, sleep, and the rest. You get bored so you start a chat either in person or online, open a book or switch on the TV. Like billions of others, you go online to read the news and here is where things start to get hazy. You learn of a different world to your own. A world full of extreme acts of depravity and superhuman acts of kindness, no normality whatsoever.

Social Media Savages

People engage in heated exchanges over these stories. Close friends and family clash over who is right and wrong. Everything is lies except what we want to believe and if anyone challenges that, we will rip them to shreds. No time for mercy, compassion, tolerance, forget that. Maybe the easy consumption of news on social media has turned us into savages. Parallels can be made with the nightmarish vision of early dystopian fiction and the world we live in today. Or perhaps this is nothing new. It’s simply the propaganda of the modern era following on from centuries of the same old thing going back to ancient Egypt or even further back in time.

I leaned toward the open display case in Cairo’s Egyptian Museum and gazed at what in all likelihood is the body of the female pharaoh Hatshepsut, the extraordinary woman who ruled Egypt from 1479 to 1458 B.C. and is famous today less for her reign during the golden age of Egypt’s 18th dynasty than for having the audacity to portray herself as a man.

Chip Brown, National Geographic, 2009

It was a lot easier to pull off tricks like that tens of thousands of years ago. And maybe Pharaoh Hatshepsut had her reasons.

So What Should We Do?

So what should we do? Stop caring? Live in constant crushing doubt? We could do that but the trouble is decisions from the top affect our lives. The people we vote for, the bills our politicians submit to parliament have a direct impact on our lives and the lives of others.

The other thing that really frustrates a lot of us is the polarising nature of politics and current affairs. Is there anything besides the bullish rhetoric of ‘right wingers’ and the ‘do gooder’ ethics of ‘leftists’? Is the rift between the two ideologies so deep it cannot be crossed? Most importantly, can we trust anything either of them say? After listening to the 9/12/16 edition of the NPR Ted Radio Hour entitled ‘Just A Little Nicer’ I might have a partial solution to this problem.

Emotional Correctness

The show features CNN political commentator Sally Kohn. I doubt I would agree with all of Sally’s political opinions but one thing I definitely do agree with is her concept of ‘Emotional Correctness’. In a nutshell, ‘Emotional Correctness’ is the ability to completely and utterly disagree with someone and still respect their dignity. For me that might mean having to listen to someone go into a lengthy diatribe about immigration and the alleged creeping takeover of Sharia law in the UK for example. I would have to sit, quietly listen and acknowledge their fears. Then, once they have shared those fears, I can offer some insight, a bit of perspective on why these fears might just be unfounded.

Treat Strangers Like Family

We all have a solution in front of us. Not so much to fake news, after all, it’s been around since forever and probably isn’t going away any time soon. We can change the way we react though. We have family and friends, people dear to us. At least some of those people will have completely opposing views to us. Views influenced by fake news perhaps. As soon as you get talking on that issue where you both differ, the arguments start. At the end of it though, you stick by each other despite it all. There’s no reason why we can’t deal with acquaintances in the same way. Accept people for who they are, warts and all, try to understand what scares them, try to solve their problems.

Don’t Be Afraid To Say ‘I Don’t Know’

My understanding of news went through three stages

Never read or watched the news, parroted rumours with no proof.

Watched/Read news, took it on face value too much.

Still keep up to date, learned to say ‘I don’t know’ if I really don’t know if something is true or not.

Knowing now that a lot of what passes off as ‘news’ and ‘alternative news’ can be dishonest or just fallible to error I feel no shame in just putting my hands up and admitting I don’t have the facts. An estimation maybe but not enough to be certain. Therefore it’s best not to stubbornly stick to a narrative. If I see a problem and I want to help, I should look for practical actions I can take and avoid debating online endlessly and pointlessly.

Let Them Know You Care Before You Try To Correct Their Opinions

No matter how strongly I feel about something, I’ve come to realise that fighting solves nothing. Dignified silence is better than harsh exchanges. When I start listening to people they may just listen to me. If they don’t, it’s probably better not to push them right now. Of course the best exchanges are those where we can speak openly with each other and share our thoughts and feelings. If someone says to you “Immigrants are stealing our jobs and taking over our culture” you could say “I understand your concern but are you sure this is the case?” and go on to attempt at disproving this commonly held belief with the best available evidence. Easier said than done I know, perhaps we will have to fail at this until we get it right. Just as long as we don’t give up. Maybe, just maybe if we showed our humanity towards others, fake news would lose it’s grip on their frightened minds.

Review Of Private Eye Page 94 Podcast Episode 23

Topics Covered:

  • Interactive Map Of Tax Evading Councillors
  • The 22 Year Late Conviction Of Gordon Angelsea For Sexual Abuse Of Vulnerable Young Men
  • Fake News

What Is Private Eye?

In case you don’t know, Private Eye is a bi-weekly investigative journalism/political satire magazine. Ian Hislop is the editor. You may have seen him on the BBC’s ‘Have I Got News For You’ or at occasional appearances for select committees in parliament.

Justice Served 22 Years Too Late

On this latest podcast, Ian Hislop talks about losing a libel case against former North Wales police superintendent Gordon Anglesea. The case is a shocking one dating back to 1994. After initial reports of indecent assault on victims in a children’s home were brought to court, new evidence in 2015 led to a conviction and sentencing of Angelsea.

Angelsea sued Private Eye after the initial case but in reflection, Ian says he is far more upset by the long-term suffering endured by the victims. Ian and Eye journalist Jane Mackenzie briefly discuss the lack of reporting in courts and why more of this type of journalism would bring better results.

Tim Minogue’s Rotten Boroughs Interactive Map Of Naughty Councillors

Next up is Tim Minogue’s Rotten Boroughs map showing where in England councillors haven’t (or have) paid their council tax. You can see it here I was saddened but not surprised to see a number of names pop up in the Labour/Lib Dem stronghold that is my home city, Birmingham. Considering the average B’ham councillor takes away a 16k annual salary and the top brass get 50k you would think they might feel a bit ashamed of haranguing the rest of us to pay council tax and yet deem it OK for themselves just not to bother.

Ian and Tim go through some of the funniest reasons given by tax dodging councillors including ‘wanting to test the system’. Just imagine if you or I tried that.

Fake News, Spoof News And Not So Bright Social Media Users

The final topic is that current hot potato ‘Fake News’. As a Facebook user, I see a lot of cretinous behaviour, such as sharing links about people who died years ago or lowest common denominator click bait. Amongst this pile of tinterweb trash are spoof articles by the Eye being shared as if they were real, not just a joke. One of those was the Idris Elba James Bond piece where a fictional general makes a big fuss about Elba being a black Bond. Or the chestnut ‘Diana was alive hours before she was dead’ (Google that one if you can be bothered). Jane recommends educating the public on how to spot genuine journalism as a better alternative to banning and blocking sites which may or may not be dubious. In closing, Ian reads a hilarious ‘Latin Citation’ of Donald Trump’s honorary degree from Robert Gordon Uni.

So things started on a sombre note with the positive being that at least justice was served if not rather late to a corrupt and now convicted paedophile. The tone picks up with some witty rapport about tax dodging councillors and fake news. Give it a listen here or via your podcast provider of choice.

Let’s Be Decent Human Beings

Sports, on the whole, are already dangerously close to tribalism. Many examples come to mind, particularly when it comes to Football. The last thing we need is for our political differences to pour over into sporting events giving us more reasons to draw dividing lines and fight with each other.

What we really need is empathy, we’re not talking to each other and trying to understand why pockets of society take one stance and others take the opposite. We need to talk!!!

But our political leaders continue to engage in rhetoric designed to further their own personal ambitions. People get drawn in, become confused and angry and look for short fix solutions to complex issues.

I dread this month each and every year because I know what’s coming and it’s painful and predictable. It’s as if we put on a uniform of a kind that says ‘this is my ideology’ and no one is prepared to move an inch. The arguments are shallow but they do the job just like Donald Trump’s secondary school level speeches or Hilary Clinton’s fake liberal diatribe ( in reality, she’s a bigger nastier war monger than Trump could even dream of being)

Social media gave us the ability to reach out to each other in a way we never would in public. We connect on shared interests and are capable of being kind, caring and supportive of each other all simply because we have one small thing in common. Sadly every now and then even despite these positives, we get lured into ‘two-minute hates’ by news outlets that focus on the bad in order to make money, nothing else, just money.

Neuroscientists will tell you how fallible our minds are. How our brain overrides the natural logic of the rest of our body. How we react to chemical messengers and associate reward and discomfort to certain things. We are very prone to irrationally attribute reward to unhealthy things and pain and discomfort to what’s actually good for us. I don’t even need to go into the spiraling mental health issues affecting so many of us.

Switch off that TV, unplug from social media or use it for your bare necessities. There’s too many silver tongued snakes out there, their words sound so beautiful yet those words carry no weight. They have a double meaning. They create negative chain reactions and if those reactions go far enough and become real action there will be a lot of misery and suffering. Take the time to sit back and look at the big picture. Focusing in too much obscures your view.

Enjoy your life and let others enjoy theirs. It doesn’t matter if people don’t agree with me on everything or anything for that matter. I just want to be objective. I don’t want things to get personal. Enjoy your Sunday, enjoy the sunshine and the lovely colours of early winter. be grateful for the good in your life. Want for others what you desire for yourself. Let’s be great human beings, we are capable of so much. Don’t let haters fill you with hate and most importantly, don’t hate, it’s bad for you. Ask the scientists.