Summer Boppin’

Hello sizzling Swedish summer sailing scientists,

Summer sailing and science reading on Lake Ekoln, Uppsala, Sweden.

What a fantastic summer it has been here in Sweden. Lots of blue skyed, sun filled weeks with temperatures up in the high 20s and even the low 30s for a few days too. Wow, it’s great to be alive on Planet Earth in the early 21st century 🙂


 Note Here is some whacky Australian music to get you into the mood. PUBLIC HEALTH WARNING: Listen to it once and it will be bopping around your brain for days!  

MUSIC: Pat Wilson (1983) She’s A Bop Girl  [look out for 15 y.o. Nicole Kidman in the green bridesmaid dress, filmed on Sydney’s Coogee beach] Note

Well … what else has been happening this summer?

Well … British author Matt Ridley, one of the best popular science writers today, has published his new book The Rational Optimist. It shows, with copious references, how our world is getting better and better despite continual catastrophic predictions by The Media.  

 The Rational Optimist: How Prosperity Evolves

This book was immmediately attacked by 5 authors in a large article in the weekly British popular science magazine New Scientist. To which Matt Ridley responded with this devestating critique of their article. Many book reviews from around the world have praised the Rational Optimist too. Good! 🙂

This is similar to the 12 paged Scientific American magazine attack, in 2002, on the Danish statistician Björn Lomborg’s optimistic book The Skeptical Environmentalist. Lomborg was only permitted a half page reply but was later vindicated by an independent Danish investigation which investigated his attacker’s claims. 

Matt Ridley has also put out a number of Rational Optimist videos such as:

Optimism for the Planet – Matt Ridley

Matt has also been praised for his recent TED presentaion in Oxford this summer.

TED Talks 2010 “When Ideas have Sex” – Matt Ridley

I have just read this book and can thoroughly recommend it as a great antidote to depressing nightly news stories. It seems to be in the beginning of a rational and optimistic book trend that may start reversing many recent surveys showing that Westerners are profoundly ignorant about the true state of our world. 

Also during this summer we have had magnificent displays of Noctilucent Clouds.

Here are some over Uppsala, just north of Stockholm, on a hot midsummer’s night. WOW!

Noctilucent clouds over Uppsala, Sweden at 1am 5 July 2010, looking North.

Noctilucent clouds over Uppsala, Sweden at 1am 5 July 2010, looking East.

Here is a view of these intriguing Noctilucent Clouds, taken from the Space Shuttle as it orbited the Earth. 

see caption

And here is a way to understand why we can genarally only see them around midsummer, on cloudless nights, about 60N and around midnight.

I hope you had a great summer too. 🙂

This entry was posted in Astronomy, Education, Music, Optimism. Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to Summer Boppin’

  1. blackwatertown says:

    Great post. Thanks for sending me to Matt Ridley’s writing and video.
    But shouldn’t you be admiring the seascape (and not crashing) instead of reading a book?
    Perhaps it’s the Bop Girl going to your head. Not everything from the ’80s was good.

  2. Ridley’s key theme is the salience of trade — commerce — exchange — in propelling progress. The great point (which too many fail to grasp) is that trade makes both sides better off. Ridley draws an analogy to the biological exchange of information, i.e., sex, which propels evolution. Trade, he writes, is akin to ideas having sex with each other.

    Ridley’s book celebrates the human achievement. To lament modernity, to deny that we’ve progressed, even to condemn what we’ve done, while romanticizing a supposedly halcyon past, is pitiably foolish. Ridley does a great job showing just what progress has achieved in quality of life for the average human. He and I share a profound reverence for the titanic human exertions standing behind this.
    Reading his book on an airplane — a half-day transcontinental trip that for our forebears was arduous, miserable, dangerous, and took months — made me marvel anew at the vast web of contributions by untold thousands of people across the globe and across centuries that made this possible. The same is true of even our simplest modern conveniences, to which most of us give scarcely a thought.
I have been following the reviews and blog commentaries on Ridley’s book. Most have been quite positive. The nastiest was by George Monbiot in Britain’s left-wing Guardian newspaper. One can of course quibble with details of Ridley’s analysis. But to dismiss his basic story, to actually condemn it as villainy, takes a really diseased cynicism, and blinding oneself to what is, well, blindingly obvious. It’s painful to observe. And it’s harmful, standing in the way of a better world (especially for the downtrodden, about whose plight such pundits constantly whine).

 Monbiot et al are intolerant guardians of a narrow orthodoxy. They portray Ridley’s book as fanatically pro-capitalist and anti-government. It is not, and only a fanatic would see it so. Their critiques reveal more about the critics than about the book.

    Bravo to Ridley for his breath of fresh air and clear thinking. That his message is widely labeled “radical” is ironic — the reaction really should be, “Duh! Tell us something we don’t know.” Yet Ridley is indeed telling us something that, sadly, most people don’t know.

    My own book, The Case for Rational Optimism (Transaction, Rutgers University, 2009), does make many points and arguments similar to Ridley’s, but is far broader in scope, covering not only such topics as the economy, war and peace, technology, democracy, etc., but also the evolutionary background and the philosophical and psychological issues involved with optimism versus pessimism. See

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