Thursday, 24 September 2009

Winning At Any Cost?

This story illustrates that if the rewards are high enough then the unscrupulous will stop at nothing to attain them; in last year’s Singapore Grand Prix the Renault of Nelson Piquet Jr crashed on lap 47 out of 61 forcing the safety car to be deployed.

His team mate Fernando Alonso in what had proved to be an uncompetitive car all season had pitted for fuel and fresh tyres two laps earlier. This left the rest of the front of the field needing to stop for fuel and tyres but not Alonso who went on to win the race.

The crash happened on a part of the track where there were no cranes available to remove the car, it also occurred at a time when Renault were thinking of withdrawing from F1 due to the costs and lack of success.

A month after he was sacked by the team in August of this year Piquet revealed that he had been instructed to crash by the team principal Flavio Briatore and the chief of engineering Pat Symonds.

Last Wednesday it was announced that they had left the team and that Renault would not be fighting the allegations of race fixing. On Monday Renault received a 2 year suspended ban from F1 so if they do no more wrong then they are home free. Not so Briatore who has been banned indefinitely and this will apply to any F1 team or drive associated with him.

The danger that this pair not only put their own driver in but also everyone else on the track at the time was immense but they calculated that the rewards were worth the risk – cannot help but think that some time in a Singapore jail would be a more fitting punishment.

Wednesday, 16 September 2009

Fall Of Toledo – 1085

This was without question the most significant event of medieval times for the development of science, mathematics, astronomy and medicine in Western Europe. The city in Spain had been ruled by Muslims for over 350 years and scholars had flocked there from all over Islam and a very large library of works covering all these and other subjects had been established.

Fortunately for us the leader of the occupying Christian forces did not go on the rampage burning all of these books – which notably contained translations from Greek into Arabic of parts of the writings of Aristotle.

Islamic scholars had taken the words of the Qu'ran on observation, reason and contemplation to their hearts and starting from the Greek texts made great advances in the sciences from the 7th century onwards. As an example there were discourses written which put forward the ideas of a heliocentric solar system and the elliptical orbits of the planets in the 11th century – 600 years later Galileo was convicted by the Catholic Church of heresy for advancing the same ideas.

To put this in context, at that time my ancestors might have bathed once a year, put disease down to God's wrath and popular learning was actively discouraged outside of religious centres as it could lead to heresy.

All of these views were the exact opposite of the beliefs in the Islamic world.

In the years the Christian occupation of the city scholars from all across Western Europe travelled there and started translating these works from Arabic into Latin. Without this leg up it is very doubtful

The golden age of Islamic scientific expansion started in the 8th century and lasted for 600 years until the rise of certain clerical factions resulted in a terminal decline. Sadly this has been the fate of science at the hands of more than one religion – if empirical evidence contradicts religious scriptures then those responsible for that evidence must be heretics or infidels.

In these times it is good to be reminded of the debt we owe to those early enlightened Islamic scholars, makes a pleasant change from reading about extremist Jihadis.

Saturday, 12 September 2009

Rodrigo Y Gabriela – 11:11

This week saw the return of my favourite Mexicans with a new cd 11:11 – which is comprised of eleven new compositions inspired by eleven of their favourite artistes. It was released on Monday and has been in pretty constant play since then after I got a copy on that day – and as a bonus it includes a DVD with footage of them rehearsing the songs and an interview.

I cannot recommend this highly enough, here is the opening track inspired by Carlos Santana.

They are touring all over the globe, check out their web site and follow the link to their MySpace page where the tour dates are listed - catch them if you can, you will not be disappointed.

Monday, 7 September 2009


The good people of Samoa are switching to drive on the correct side of the road today (IE the left) in a move designed to allow for the import of cars from New Zealand and Japan making it cheaper to get around.

Scientists had revealed that the Andromeda galaxy has consumed smaller galaxies as it continues to expand and that one day it will collide with our galaxy.

Meanwhile in Papua New Guinea a multi national scientific expedition has discovered a new species of “giant” rat – weighing in at 1.5 Kg they are about the size of a cat. They found another 39 new species including a fanged frog – just when you thought that things could not possibly get more weird this year.

The UK’s smallest cinema (capacity of two) has been opened in Shetland to critical acclaim – it used to be a bus shelter.

Sunday, 6 September 2009

Florence And The Machine

Been a wee bit distracted over the last three weeks working on a job application, unusually for the 21st century this had to be completed in black ink and block capitals. Finally got it done on Tuesday and it arrived at it’s destination on Wednesday 2 days before the closing date – it will be a good gig to get and is more of a technical role than my current job has been.

Comes at a good time as after 2 stays of execution the current gig comes to and end this Wednesday when I have to use up my remaining one week of annual leave.

In the meantime, here is a great live performance from young Florence with a track from her debut album Lungs – which has been on steady play on the sound system at DBA cottages since it’s release in early July.

As a bonus here is another one Dog Days Are Over – and all best wishes to her for Tuesday night when her album is one of the 12 contenders for the Mercury Music Prize.