Saturday, 31 December 2011

Camp Ashraf

Post on how difficult it can be to determine whether the wool is being pulled over your eyes coming here soon, based on this article:

Interview : Harun Yahya (Adnan Oktar)

Interview with Dr Musharraf Hussain and Harun Yahya, September 2009

Harum Yahya: Author of the Evolution Deceit,calling in from Turkey. NB: As Harum does not speak English, his words were translated by a colleague of his, Brother Oktar)

Dr Musharraf Hussein Al-Azhari: twelve years bio-chemical researcher and fifteen years director here at the Karimia Institute and the Imam of the Mosque.

BFTF : Br Yahya, could you please give some background about the books you have been writing and also about the science and research foundation that you have has set up to accomplish all this.

Harun Yahya : I have written three hundred books which have been translated into more than sixty languages. There are a group of thirty people who help me out, there are associate professors and professors in this group, and what they do is they gather the information from different languages, for example English, German and they bring up the pictures and translate the quotes and bring them and I interpret them and in that way I write my books. This year 80 million of my books were sold around the world and 80 million books were downloaded from my website, so inshallah, every time it goes up and more and more and it’s progressing

BFTF: You are perhaps most famous for your work on evolution and the world around us really, so if I could just set the scene for you. When we look around us we have this magnificent, truly awe-inspiring planet around us, these millions, countless, literally countless species and different types of plants and animals, birds, sea creatures, small insects and so on, and I just wanted to understand really what your perspective was on how this had come about, you know have all these creatures always been here? Have some come and have some gone?

Harun Yahya: Well Allah created it at the beginning, and Allah created it through time. Allah created at the beginning some parts of the living creatures, and then another part, and at the end Allah created humans and we know that from the fossil evidence. Fossils tell us... there are 200 million fossils, up to 300 million fossils today and they show there is no change at the beginning, and from a million years ago species and the species living now there is no change at all, and that proves creation by Allah. They don’t change from the very beginning and they stay the same throughout their tenure on the Earth. So we don’t need any other evidence, this evidence tells us exactly, very evidently that Allah created all the living beings and there is no evolution. If there was evolution, if evolution was a fact there would be some change, however there is no change, and 200 million fossils tells us that Allah created all the living beings.

BFTF: OK, so just to take an example of a cat. So is your position that’s always been here? How did that cat come to be is what I’m trying to understand really, just to get an understanding of your position really.

Harun Yahya: Well for example if you look at the cat fossils we see for millions of years cats never change, they appear in the history all at once, and they never change for millions of years. It is the same for lions for example, it is the same for tigers, for 60 or 70 million years, we have fossils that are 60 or 70 million years old that are exactly the same, there is no change at all. If you check for example the cranium of these animals it is the same as today, the teeth are the same as today, there is no change at all. This is Allah’s artistry, Allah created them and it is Allah’s miracle that Allah also created these fossils which tell us there is no change at all.

BFTF: Doctor Musharraf if you could come in there with your training as a bio-chemist and also from your experience from Al-Azhar University, how does that read to you really?

Dr Hussein: Well what I would like to understand from Brother Harun is where does he get this notion from. The palaeontology and the science of fossils obviously shows very clearly that there has been evolution, that things have actually changed, I mean that is the reality, fossils are very clear proof of how things have actually changed. I think what I’m trying to understand is where does he get his idea that things haven’t changed because the palaeontology and the science of fossils shows very clearly that there has been an evolution, and I’m not talking about evolution in the terms of the atheist’s concept that there is no hidden hand of God behind it, that it is a blind, by chance transformation and change, I’m thinking as a believer in God, as the “Rubb-ul Al-Ameen”, one of the names of Allah is “Rubb”, and if you look at the translation of the word “Rubb”, it is very clearly always mentioned by the Mufassarin (Interpreters of the Quran) as ‘the one who takes things from an imperfect state into the state of perfection’, in other words the translation is ‘evolver’, God is the ‘evolver’, the one who takes things through stages and develops them until they reach the state of perfection.

Harun Yahya: Well in palaeontology the required transitional forms were never found, I’ll give personally anybody who brings even one single transitional form seven million dollars, which is ten trillion Turkish lira, seven million dollars, if you have a single transitional form I will pay seven million dollars to you

BFTF: I’ve read this on the website and I just wanted to understand, could you give me an example of a transitional form that would qualify for the award, just so we can understand what you mean by that exactly, what do you mean by ‘transitional form’?

Harun Yahya: Well we never see transitional forms. For example Darwin’s claim of the evolution of the cat and tigers, they can never show a transitional form. Transitional forms are creatures which are mutated and pathological and a-symmetrical abnormal creatures, and we have never seen pathological forms of the transitional forms which show the transition from water to land for example, and I will give this amount of money to anybody who brings that.

Harun Yahya: Darwinists cannot bring even a single transitional form because I will pay this amount of money so also, the impossibility of the emergence of proteins by chance, that also refutes the Darwinists claims, not even proteins alone but even single acids could not have been formed by coincidence. Darwin himself tells us, in fact I can read a quote right now from his book ‘On the Origin of Species’ that there are no transitional forms. In Darwin’s time they were digging all around the world, all the layers of the Earth, and they found many fossils but they never found transitional forms.”

Dr Hussein: Well Brother, can I just stop you here, I think really the latest scientific findings, for example last week there was a major conference of palaeontologists here in Bristol University, where a Chinese expert actually had discovered what is a really remarkable fossil which looks like something which is between the birds and the dinosaurs, and it was claimed by this scientist that this is the transitional form between the dinosaurs and the earliest kind of birds. I think to be honest this is a fantastically important science, and there is so much expertise out there and there are so many, literally thousands, of examples of transitional forms, but what I want to know from Brother Harun is how is this in any way against our faith in Allah being the creator and Allah being the originator? The Qur’an describes Allah as “Al-Kharliq” (the Creator) and also as “Al-Badi” (the Originator), these are some of the words that the Qur’an uses for the creativity of Allah. How does this go against this belief, you know to believe that Allah created different forms, they progressed, they evolved effectively, you know Allah is the evolver, so here we’re constantly talking about Allah as being the evolver, how does this go against this idea of creation, can you explain that?

Xiantingia (China) - internediate fossil between dinosuaurs and birds

Harun Yahya: There are angels and demons in the Qur’an as you know and they were not created through evolution. There are houris in heaven and demons were not created through evolution, and the houris of heaven were not created through evolution. There is no evidence for evolution in the Qur’an so what you are talking about, these birds, have been existing for many millions of years . . . there is nothing between dinosaurs and birds.

Dr Hussein: Well the evidence is there, but let me just ask you this question. We know that (in a verse of the Quran) Allah is talking to the angels and saying to them “I want to create my Khalifa (Vice-regent) on the earth”, OK. And this is very clear, Allah created mankind, my understanding of this, and of course again people can differ with this, is that Allah created mankind, that is Adam (AS) in his form as he is, as human beings, there is no doubt about that. That is my very clear understanding that Adam (AS) is not evolved from anything, he was created by Allah as Adam (AS), as human being, and dignified in a very special way, that is Allah’s special creation. But as far as other animals are concerned, particularly when we look at the orders and then the families of creation and then the species within them, what is it that stops us from accepting this notion when there is evidence out there to show that undoubtedly evolution has occurred? I just cannot see what is against our belief that Allah created Adam (AS) as human being, but within the animal and plant kingdom there has been evolution going on.

BFTF: When you look at all the different ways that dogs have been bred, and plants have been bred, isn’t that right in front of you over the last few hundred or thousand years, isn’t that evolution right there? When you look at a little Dachshund to a huge Great Dane, or you look at the different types of vegetables, or fruits, or even flowers that you can buy, and the pressure that’s been put on those by the plant breeders or the animal breeders, isn’t that evolution right there in front of you?

Harun Yahya: Well this is variation of these animals and plants, this is not evidence for evolution, and actually most of them have disappeared with time, so if you looked at the previous form you would be even more surprised, but this not evolution this is only variation, and variation is not evolution. . . Well of course you get surprised if you see different kinds of animals or plants, but that shows us the power of Allah, and the power of creation of Allah, these different kinds of animals and different kinds of flowers shows us only the power and artistry of Allah

BFTF: You’ve written quite widely about the environment and our duty as a khilafa (stewards), our stewardship really of the Earth, and I just wanted to know if you could give some background on that and really your perspectives on how we should look after the environment. I’m thinking about trees, the lungs of the world and the environment in general.

Harun Yahya: Well all these living things, the plants and animals and humans, are a reflection of the creation of Allah, so Muslims should be very meticulous to protect the environment and the sanctity of all these plants and forests and trees, and we should approach them with love. . . . The idea of evolution goes back to the time of the Pharoh, the ancient Sumerians and ancient Greece. So it is a pagan religion which goes many, many of thousands of years back. With the findings from palaeontology, genetics and all the scientific branches, we destroyed their claims of evolution, of Darwinism.

BFTF:. One thing we try to do hear at the Karimia centre, we aren’t quite there yet but we are along the way, is we try to use paper that is FSC certified, so the forests have been well managed and they aren’t chopping down, for example, rainforests with all the loss of flora and fauna that entails. I just wanted to know how you approach that, and what steps you take with the paper you use in the millions of books you are printing to make that that’s from a sustainable source really.

Harun Yahya: Well instead of staying as a tree, it is much better to transform to cause hidayat(guidance) for people these trees.

Harun Yahya: Right now again only 1% of the species are alive. So there are estimates, according to scientists, between 10 and 30 million species alive today, but this is only 1% of all the species, 99% became extinct. So if you had all the species living together you would be very surprised, but this in Allah’s power. Allah could create endless number of species however Allah only created the 10 or 30 million species alive today.

Harun Yahya: Now let me read a quote from Darwin’s book “The Origin of Species”, Darwin confesses in his book, Darwin said, this is Charles Darwin, “Why if species have descended from other species by insensibly fine gradations, do we not everywhere see innumerable transitional forms? Why is not all nature in confusion instead of species being, as we see them, well defined? But, as by this theory, innumerable transitional forms must have existed, why do we not find them embedded in countless numbers in the crust of the Earth?” So Charles Darwin himself says there is mathematical symmetry is perfect in living beings. He goes on; “Geology assuredly does not reveal any such finely graduated organic chain; and this, perhaps is the most obvious and gravest objection which can be urged against my theory.” This is from Charles Darwin’s “The Origin of Species” page 172, which means, Darwin himself says there are no transitional forms which collapses the theory of evolution because at the time of Darwin thousands of workers...

BFTF: If I could just jump in for a second, I’ve read I think 2 or 3 pages from your website and I’ve tried to check some of these references out and what I find quite often is that there is a part of a quote, and I’ll give you one example, it’s not the one you’re mentioning but for example, you’re website quotes Darwin as saying: “To suppose that I, with all its contrivances, could have been formed by natural selection seems, I freely confess, absurd in the highest degree”. So clearly it looks there as though Darwin is saying that it’s absurd that I could form through evolution. But you leave it at that. What you don’t write is the rest of what Darwin wrote, which is to explain well actually this is how it could happen, and how small variations could add up, and it seems a little bit misleading when you just put part of the quote and then you don’t put the rest

Harun Yahya: The quote we just read about Darwin, about Darwin’s confessions, the lack of transitional forms destroys Darwinism right at the bottom, it destroys the very foundation. There are 200 million fossils without any transitional forms...

Dr Hussein: Can I just add to this that Darwin’s book “The Origin of Species” was written 150 years ago, it really is out of date, it’s of its own time. We’ve moved on 150 years, science has really moved on leaps and bounds since then, and we now are looking at genetics of things really. We’re looking at the level of genes, and we’re able to do genetic engineering these days. Now I think that young Muslim scientists who have studied biology and genetics and also know their Deen (faith), are really like many Christians and people of faith who believe in God as the designer, as Qur’an calls Allah the “Musawwir”, the fashioner, the one who is Al-Bari (the Evolver), these are some of the beautiful names of Allah. There is no contradiction between having that faith and understanding those qualities and attributes of Allah, and this idea that Allah is the strategic planner of the evolution.

BFTF: OK, well I’d just like to mention two points and then I’d like to ask you a question Doctor Musharraf. I’ve got an article here that points out that of twelve Pakistani biologists interviewed only one had rejected evolution, and also that in 2006 the Pakistani and Indonesian academies of sciences, and in many other Muslim countries I understand, have signed a statement urging parents and teachers to educate children about the origins and evolution of life on Earth. Now I can only see in that report that the science bodies, the government sponsored science bodies, in Muslim countries are doing. But the question I wanted to ask you Doctor Sab is, and evolution is a very good example of this really, what your feeling is about having a plurality of views, having access to different types of information and different viewpoints, what is your view point on that?

Dr Hussein: I think the fact that these two great nations, the Indonesian and Pakistani scientists have, and I’m sure many other scientists in other parts of the world will agree with them, that these views about how possibly things could have evolved, and in my view they don’t contradict my Imaan (faith) in Allah as being the one who is behind all this. Muslims who haven’t got a deep understanding of science have sadly just taken the creationist Christian’s view. There is a very big difference between the modern Muslim who believes in evolution, and the Christian creationists who didn’t have that true understanding But can I just end by saying it has been really wonderful talking to you Brother Harun, and really I admire the work that you’ve done, mashallah (what Allah wishes), and all those wonderful books that you’ve written on other subjects, this is one subject where I sort of disagree with your view on evolution because I think it is a very old Christian view rather than an enlightened Muslim scientists view and therefore I would challenge you on that.

Harun Yahya: We cannot talk about evolution because 200 million fossils disprove evolution, there are no transitional forms, they all prove the fact of creation by Allah all of a sudden because for millions of years they never change, so without transitional forms it is impossible to defend Darwinism, to defend evolution. So science tells us exactly the opposite, so it is not scientific to defend evolution without any evidence. 200 million fossils, 250 million fossils, it’s going up to 300 million right now, just disproves evolution and shows us the emergence of species all the time.

Muslim students weigh in on evolution”

Article by Prof. ABDUL MAJID, Ass.Prof., Dep of Zoology, Postgraduate College, Mansehra, PAKISTAN

IAP Statement on the Teaching of Evolution

MuslimVoices article on Muslims views of Evolution

National Geographic : Evolution in Action

BBC Learning Zone : Evolution of the Eye

Image Source : Xiaotingia

Wednesday, 28 December 2011

The Good, the Bad and the BBC

It is perhaps fair to say that the leadership of the Muslim community tends to focus on issues of self-interest and does not perceive (or provide examples where) campaigning on issues such as the environment, government corruption or care for the elderly are part of being an active British Muslim citizen.

This is a shame, as it essentially means that the Muslim community puts itself in a ghetto, silent on a great many issues where they could be acting as a force for good for society as a whole.

One of the reasons for setting up this blog was to provide examples of where one can interact with organisations on issues that are not generally perceived to be "Islamic"

Sometimes that may appear trivial, compared to the disasters that are befalling people in parts of the world, but life is not an either/or situation. A person can say "well done" to the council for planting some nice flowers one day, and campaign for release of political prisoners in a foreign land the next.

So, in this vein, BFTF felt moved to send emails of complaint and praise to the BBC about some of its output. . . .

The Complaint (Regarding The Search for Life : The Drake Equation, BBC4, 29th Dec)
The camera work made it difficult to understand the data presented. For example:
i) A key equation was presented -and then the camera began shaking violently so that the equation could not be read - WHY?
ii) Then the camera zoomed in so that only part of the equation could be seen - WHY?
iii) A little later, a chart showing how light from a star dips as a planet passes in front of it was shown - but the camera zoomed in so far that I could not tell how much the light dipped by - what it 1%, 20%, 90% - WHY DID YOU PREVENT ME FROM SEEING THIS?
Nor could I tell how long the effect lasted, because I could not see the X-axis- WHY DID YOU PREVENT ME FROM SEEING THIS?
And then the director decided that the best thing to do would be to shoot from BEHIND the screen, so that I could not see the chart at all - WHY?

BBC science programming never used to look like a pop video, why does it do so today? I have no doubt that if similar techniques were employed in a presentation that was being given internally at the BBC, staff would be up in arms - but it seems acceptable to do so for the audience.

Er, I think I have been a little over-tetchy with that, but it's really annoying when programme directors use fancy camerawork that prevents the viewer from getting all the information.

The Praise (Regarding a variety of programmes)
"I just wanted to say that I have really enjoyed a great many of the programmes broadcast by the BBC recently. In particular :

From our own Correspondant (Radio 4) - I have learnt so much about the world from this programme, and continue to be impressed by the beautiful language that the journalists use to describe their experiences.

The Parliament Channel - Lately, I have taken to having this on in the background of an evening when I am writing emails etc. I am coming to the view that this is a really important channel - it gives viewers a chance to see the political process in its raw form, undiluted or sensationalised by the media. On this channel I have heard numerous politicians speaking with passion, knowledge and eloquence - a far cry from the manner in which they are portrayed in the media usually. The many functions that the Speaker of the House attends outside of parliament has been fascinating to watch, including a recent event where a robust debate was held on the current political system and how it could be improved. The Parliament Channel is perhaps the only true reality TV there is - and it is also the most significant one. Thank you for setting this up.

Thinking Aloud (Radio 4) - Laurie Taylor is such an engaging host, who always seem to ask the right questions. This programme never fails to provide food for thought.

Comedy on Radio 4:
Heresy :Really funny, fascinating to hear snippets of the guests experiences along the way (such as Germaine Green saying what Jimi Hendrix was like !).
Mark Steel's In Town : Funny and educational! Could listen to this all day.
I Haven't Seen Starwars : This show always seems to get under the skin of the guests, revealing a side to them that it not usually on display
Genius : This show is Genius.

The Age of Do-Gooders : Learnt so much from this, this series had a lot or relevance to many questions facing society today.

Also, many of the one-off documentaries on the BBC are also excellent. Thanks once again and please keep up the good work."

Dear Reader, is there an organisation that is doing work that you particularly admire. If so, why not drop them a line to tell them so. .

Sunday, 25 December 2011

Hansard - Straight from the Horses Mouth

The picture of the legislative process in the House of Commons and the House of Lords that we see in the media is, sadly, a cartoonish, soundbite ridden, sensationalised version of what actually goes on.

Sometimes only a few dozen seconds are given to coverage of a debate. BFTF can't explain how to make a omelette in that time, so it seems unlikely that a complex discussion can be distilled down to such a short timeframe!

Fortunately, modern technology offers us a way of bypassing the media and listening dorectly to what our lawmakers are saying, often at great length, detail and passion.

You can listen to them on the Parliament Channel - perhaps the most unexpected delight of the digital television revolution. Indeed I am listening to it in the background even as I write this!

And one can read about what has been said in Hansard, the written record of the debates in Parliament.

Below you can find a little information on two debates that BFTF has seen. The first relates to a House of Lords debate on Christians in the Middle East; the second relates to a Select Committee hearing regarding the HMRC (i.e. Revenue and Customs)

House of Lords debate on "Christians in the Middle East" from 9th December 2011.

You can read the full account of the motion here, hopefully you will find it as thought provoking as BFTF did.

But, if you are someone who is a bit pressed for time, below are a few of the comments from the Most Rev Rowan Williams, Lord Sacks and Lord Ahmad.

The Archbishop of Canterbury - Opening Comments
. . at the present moment, the position of Christians in the region is more vulnerable than it has been for centuries. The flow of Christian refugees from Iraq in the wake of constant threat and attack has left a dramatically depleted Christian population there, and perhaps I can say in passing how very glad and grateful I was to have stood alongside the Grand Mufti of the al-Azhar mosque in Cairo at a press conference here in London some three years ago joining in condemnation of attacks on Christians in Iraq. Similar senior voices from al-Azhar have been heard more recently in condemnation of anti-Christian outrages in Egypt itself . .

. . . No one is seeking a privileged position for Christians in the Middle East, nor should they be. But what we can say-I firmly believe that most Muslims here and in many other places would agree entirely-is that the continued presence of Christians in the region is essential to the political and social health of the countries of the Middle East. Their presence challenges the assumption that the Arab world and the Muslim world are just one and the same thing, which is arguably good for Arabs and Muslims alike. They demonstrate that a predominantly Muslim polity can accommodate, positively and gratefully, non-Muslims as fellow citizens, partners in an enterprise that is not exclusively determined by religious loyalties even when rooted in specific religious principles. . .

. . .One of their real grievances is what they experience as the twofold undermining of their identity that comes from a new generation of Muslim enthusiasts treating them as pawns of the West and, on the other hand, from a western political rhetoric that either ignores them totally or thoughtlessly puts them at risk by casting military conflict in religious terms. Talk of crusading comes to mind. . .

Lord Sachs
. .It was Martin Luther King who said:"In the end, we will remember not the words of our enemies, but the silence of our friends". . .

. . .We have already heard today about the plight of Coptic Christians in Egypt, of Maronite Christians in Hezbollah-controlled areas in Lebanon, of the vast exodus of Christians from Iraq and of the concern of Christians in Syria as to what might happen there should there be further destabilisation. In the past year, we have heard of churches set on fire, of a suicide bombing that cost the lives of 21 Christians as they were leaving a church in Cairo, of violence and intimidation and of the mass flight of Christians, especially from Egypt. .

. . . we make a great intellectual mistake in the West when we assume that democracy is, in and of itself, a step towards freedom. Usually, that is the case, but sometimes it is not. As Alexis de Tocqueville and John Stuart Mill pointed out in the 19th century, it may merely mean the "tyranny of the majority". That is why the most salient words in the current situation are those of Lord Acton, in his great essay on the history of freedom, who said: "The most certain test by which we judge whether a country is really free is the amount of security enjoyed by minorities". . .

. . . religions that begin by killing their opponents end by killing their fellow believers. In the age of the Crusades, Christians fought Muslims. Between the Reformation and the Treaty of Westphalia in 1648, Christians fought Christians-Catholic against Protestant. Today, in the Middle East and elsewhere, radical Islamists fight those whom they regard as the greater and lesser Satan, but earlier this week we mourned the death of 55 Shia worshippers at a mosque in Kabul and another 28 Shia who were killed in a terror attack in Iraq. Today, the majority of victims of Islamist violence are Muslim, and shall we not shed tears for them, too? The tragedy of religion is that it can lead people to wage war in the name of the God of peace, to hate in the name of the God of love, to practise cruelty in the name of the God of compassion and to kill in the name of the God of life. None of these things brings honour to faith; they are a desecration of the name of God. . .

The Archbishop of Canterbury (Closing Comments)
My Lords, I am deeply grateful for a debate that in both variety and quality has not disappointed expectations. Wider points have emerged, and I shall touch on one or two. . .

. . .The definition of religious liberty, we have been reminded, is not always a simple matter. The right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Exeter pointed out that we are speaking not simply of the liberty to worship but a liberty of conscience - a mental liberty. That includes asking some difficult questions about the rights of conversion, which many noble Lords have raised in their contributions today. . .

. . .I was delighted to hear the noble Lord, Lord Sacks, quote the late Lord Acton on the test of liberty being the treatment of minorities. It was the same Lord Acton who observed that a coherent doctrine of religious liberty was at the foundation of all serious talk about political liberties. We have a number of issues there worth taking up and holding in our minds. . .

. . .We have also been reminded by a number of noble Lords about the significance of education and adequate communication in this field. Points have been made about the poisonous effect of certain kinds of school textbook, for example. . .

So there you go. BFTF was surprised that there does not appear to be any Muslim Imam in the House of Lords to represent the Muslim community and, perhaps more importantly, Muslim thinking. So BFTF sent an email to the local MP asking why this was the case.

Select Committee Hearing on the HMRC
Moving on, quickly and briefly, to the second debate that BFTF heard which was oral evidence submitted to the Public Accounts Committee's session on Her Majesty's Revenue and Customs Standard Report with Antony Inglese, General Council and solicitor, and Sir Gus O'Donnell, Cabinet Secretary, from Monday 7 November.

You can read the full transcript here.

BFTF just wanted to bring you the beginning of the hearing, when Antony Inglese (from HMRC) got an absolute mauling from committee member Richard Bacon:

Antony Inglese (AI): There are conventions in Parliament about what can be answered on legal privilege-Ministers, for example. There are various ramifications of the legal privilege point. At the moment, there is a judicial review being brought against HMRC.

Richard Bacon (RB): Oh, really? Can you give us the case number, please?

AI: We have had the pre-action protocol letter by a pressure group and we are now looking at our response.

RB: Are there any proceedings?

AI: Proceedings are imminent.

RB: What is the answer to my question?

AI: The way judicial review works-

RB: What is the answer to my question, Mr Inglese? Are there any proceedings?

AI: For the purposes of the sub judice rule, we have had a letter before action-

RB: Yes, I understand that you have had a letter before action. Once again, what is the answer to my question: are there any proceedings before the courts?

AI: Proceedings are imminent.

RB: Are there any proceedings before the courts now? Yes or no?

AI: At this moment, no.

It's cracking stuff and great to see HMRC being held to account.

So, dear reader, there you go. The tools are there to hold your elected representatives to account and to praise them when they do the right thing.

Notts Uni Science Public Lectures 2012

A new series of Science Public Lectures starting at Nottingham University in January. All lectures are 6 to 7pm and in the B1 Lecture Theatre (School of Physics and Astronomy)

12th January : The Space Shuttle Story (Dr Daniel Fantin)
23rd February : How to Get Down from a Yak (Dr Mike Clifford)
15th March : Brewing Science (Dr David Cook)
19th April : Magnetic Resonance Imaging (Prof Sir Peter Mansfield)
17th May : Dung Beeltes and Their Battle Against Drugs (Dr Helen West)

No admission charge and no need to book in advance

More information here:

You can get a flavour of the talks be reading a few of the BFTF reports on recent public lectures :
Chris Lintott - Astronomer
Galaxy Evolution
Granular Dynamics and Asteroid Formation
Drug Delivery and Targeted Therapeutics

Thursday, 22 December 2011

A Mosque, a University, a Farm and Greenpeace

Whinging is easy, and fun - but not very contructive. So BFTF is chuffed to have the opportunity to take a more postive approach by bigging up some most excellent work being done at Bobbers Mill Community Centre (BMCC), a local Mosque/Community Centre.

As a follow on from a recent interview, Greenpeace representative Jane Burd and the centre's Imam and Youth worker (Perwaise Ayoub) are in discussions about training materials that could be used to present an environmental message to young people. As BFTF has previously mentioned, there is a huge overlap between the acitivities of Greenpeace and Islamic values. It is just a shame that so many Mosques are active only in areas where perceive Islam to be different from the wider society rather than the much larger area of overlap where the Muslim community can find common ground. BFTF wishes Jane and the local Mosque/Community Centre well in their efforts!

Normally very calm and collected, the Greenpeace logo only lost his rag when pictured beside text that was in Times Roman

But there's more. . .
Perwaise has also just spent a day touring farms and equestrian centres in Lincolnshire as part of preparatory work for a project being led by James Barclay called "Back to your Roots", which aims to take young people back to their roots and to give them opportunities to develop their skills in farming (also to introduce them to the art of horse-riding). It's early days yet, but definitely a project work watching.

Daisy had fallen in with the wrong crowd and was now part of an aggressive gang that roamed the countryside looking for horses to mug

And more. . .
BFTF mentioned the forthcoming series of science lectures at Nottingham University to Perwaise was delighted to find that he was absolutely up for asking some of the GSCE tutorial students at the centre whether they would like to go to the "Story of the Space Shuttle" lecture scheduled for January 12th. BFTF really hopes that this intention becomes reality and that some young people get the chance to experience a University atmosphere and here a talk from an expert in his/her field.

In the seventies, there was a government rule that all new University buildings had to have concrete or pebbledashed exteriors.

Still not done. . .
Following an interview with BFTF on Radio Dawn 107.6FM, Sharon Clancy (Head of the Communities Partnership Team at Nottingham University) has had some discussions with Perwaise about providing young people at BMCC with some presentations on why students have chosen their particualar careers. In addition, Perwaise and Sharon also discussed the possibility of providing placements for students at the centre. More details in the new year, inshallah.

BMCC, yesterday(ish)

It's all something of a contrast to what you read in the Daily Mail isn't it?

Tuesday, 20 December 2011

Interviews planned Dec 2010 - Feb 2011

Just a heads up for some forthcoming interviews on the Building For The Future Radio Show on Radio Dawn 107.6FM. All shows are on Wednesdays and start at about 5.15pm

21st Dec: Bosnia Trip with Perwaise Ayoub
Karimia Sport Co-ordinator and Youth Worker Perwaise will be discussing the trip he and others made to Bosnia. This should be a fascinating talk, giving a picture of what life is like there today.

18th Jan: Ethical Trading Initiative with Julia Hawkins
A previous guest on the show (see here) Julia will be giving an update on what the ETI had been doing. Click here to see the kind of ground that we will be covering, inshallah.

25th Jan: Combating gang culture with Morris Samuels
Dismayed by the gang violence he was seeing in his home city of Nottingham, Morris decided that something needed to be done. So he set up a football team that brought together members of the different gangs whilst also providing them a compulsory classroom session (covering topics ranging from Maths and English to Drugs and Domestic Violence) before each game. In this interview, Morris will be talking about why he put so much effort into his community and what problems to had to overcome to bring plans into reality. You can click here to read the article that provoked this interview.

8th Feb: Astronomy with Chris Lintott
Dr Lintott is an astrophysicist involved with a number of popular science projects and is also co-presenter of Patrick Moore's BBC series The Sky at Night.
BFTF heard Dr Lintott give a public lecture at Nottingham University (which you can find out more about by clicking here) and was impressed by just how much astronomical work is being done around the world.
Dr Lintott has been kind enough to agree to have a chat on Radio Dawn, hopefully covering topics ranging from Star Formation to ExtraSolar planets and Dark Matter. No need to panic, it will all be painless !

Saturday, 17 December 2011

Friday, 16 December 2011

Interview - Jane Burd from Greenpeace Notts

BFTF was chuffed to have the opportunity to interview Jane Burd from the Nottingham branch of Greenpeace recently. Talking on Radio Dawn 107.6FM, BFTF and Jane discussed a number of topics ranging from nuclear power to fish stocks to the best way to lobby your MP.

Starting, helpfully, at the beginning, BFTF asked Jane to give a short introduction to Greenpeace. She responded by explaining that the organisation had its origins in 1971 when anti-nuclear protestors campaigned against the underwater nuclear tests in Alaska, which they feared would cause a tsunami due to the geologically instabilities in the area. Initially called the “Don’t Make a Wave Committee” the protestors chartered a ship which they named “Greenpeace” and sailed towards the site of the test. Although they were turned back by the US Coast Guard, and were unable to prevent the test, the resulting publicity was critical of the US and caused further tests in the areas to be cancelled. Soon after, “Don’t make a Wave” officially changed their name to Greenpeace. Since then the organisation has grown into a world-wide organisation campaigning on global issues. The Greenpeace website describes their vision as “a green and peaceful world - an earth that is ecologically healthy and able to nurture life in all its diversity.”

Describing the essence of the problem that they are combating, the Greenpeace website states that
“Until now, modern governments and businesses have treated the Earth as a commodity to be exploited and used up to serve human needs and desires. Our whole economic system is built on the belief that a thing is only of value if it creates money. By these standards a forest is worthless unless it is cut down and sold. When economists balance the books, they don't take into account the value of the work that forests do to provide rainfall, regulate the climate and provide habitat for most of the world's plants and animals, not to mention food and shelter for millions of local people.”
To combat this view of the world, this Greenpeace is active in a number of key areas:

Climate : We're working to replace our hugely inefficient and carbon polluting energy system with a clean energy one so that our air will be clean and our climate will be stable and healthy.

Forests : We're working to protect the world's ancient forests and the plants, animals and peoples that depend on them.

Oceans : We want oceans that are protected and full of abundant, healthy marine life; oceans that are carefully managed, and sustainable fishing practices that don't put marine species at risk.

A Peaceful world : Governments and industry around the world must ensure that the Earth's finite resources are shared fairly, so people have what they need to live peacefully. That way there is simply no need to fight over dwindling food, gas, oil, and water, or to develop weapons of mass destruction. We tackle the root causes of global insecurity and promote a vision of green development which is vital for living peacefully on a finite planet. Read more about how we're promoting peace.

Jane also provided some information on the Nottingham branch of Greenpeace. She explained that it comprised about a dozen people, all volunteers, who spent a few hours a month campaigning, often by manning a stall in the city centre. The organisation tends to deal with one campaign at a time.

BFTF asked Jane how she had become involved in this kind of activism. She explained that when she had her first child, some 20yrs ago, she began to take a keener interest in the kind of world that they would be growing up in. Living in the North East at the time, she became aware that fishermen on the East coast were landing fish that were often diseased and contained tumours. The fishermen would then ship the fish to the West coast for sale, where people were less aware of the poor shape that the fish were in.

At the same time, fishermen on the West coast were catching fish that were radioactive (due to discharged from nuclear installations) and were shipping them to the East coast for sale (again, because the customers there were less aware of the radioactive nature of the fish.).

Becoming very unhappy with this situation, Jane happened to meet a Greenpeace campaigner on the street, a chance encounter that was the start of her involvement with the organisation.

Moving on to the subject of the UK fisheries (sustainably sourced fish being a recurring theme in this blog (seehere and here ), BFTF asked Jane about the state of fish stocks around the UK.

Jane responded by saying that fish stocks around the UK were under severe pressure and, at current rates, would soon be severely depleted. A big part of the problem is that the Common Fisheries Policy (see also here) is too vulnerable to lobbying from countries such as Spain, which has a very large fishing fleet. The policy is set every ten years, the next review being in 2013)

In terms of what people should buy, Jane acknowledged that MSC certified fish was a valuable step forward but pointed out that Greenpeace was interested in achieving change for all fishing grounds, not just the MSC certified ones. A visit to the Greenpeace website reveals that the organisation would like to see an end to the very destructive practice of bottom trawling as well as reform of the current rules to end the practice of discarding unwanted fish (more about that later). Some measure of the damage that is being can be seen by the comments of The UN Secretary General in 2006 that 95 percent of damage to seamount ecosystems worldwide is caused by deep sea bottom trawling.
Bottom Trawling can wreck my environment, please buy your fish with care!

A guide to lobbying your MP and MEP can be found here.

To this end, and to BFTF’s utter surprise, Jane praised the current fisheries minister, Richard Benyon, saying that he genuinely committed to introducing sustainable fishing practices in Europe.

Jane also recommended “Hugh’s Fish Fight”, a campaign being run by Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall to reduce the levels of fish discarding by European fishing vessels. As Hugh explains,
“Around half of the fish caught by fishermen in the North Sea are unnecessarily thrown back into the ocean dead. The problem is that in a mixed fishery where many different fish live together, fishermen cannot control the species that they catch. Fishing for one species often means catching another, and if people don’t want them or fishermen are not allowed to land them, the only option is to throw them overboard. The vast majority of these discarded fish will die. The EU estimates that in the North Sea, discards are between 40% and 60% of the total catch. Many of these fish are species that have fallen out of fashion: we can help to prevent their discard just by rediscovering our taste for them.Fishermen are not allowed to land any over-quota fish; if they accidentally catch them – which they can’t help but do - there is no choice but to throw them overboard before they reach the docks”

If you visit the website you can sign up for the campaign and add your name to the letter that will be sent to Commissioner Damanaki, Members of the European Parliament and all member state governments, asking them to use their influence to stop the unacceptable practice of throwing discards away. Hugh points out that the large numbers of people who have already emailed their MPs to protest about discards has resulted in the issue being debated in the Houses of Parliament and funding being provided for a six month study into what would happen if a discard ban was introduced.

The discussion now moved onto electricity, specifically renewable energy generation. BFTF asked Jane what kind of renewable could fill the gap that will soon be left by the large number of coal and nuclear power stations that are scheduled to be closed down in the next few years. Jane suggested that wind power was the most mature of the available technologies and pointed out that off-shore wind farms had a number of advantages, including higher wind speeds, no “NIMBY” issues and the ability to build large “farms” of windturbines.

Gobsmackingly, Jane said that Denmark generates a full 20% of its electricity from wind-power (see here), so it is clear that wind can form a significant part of the energy mix. To take just one example of what Denmark has been up to, let's look at the Rødsand I windfarm, built in 2003, with 72 turbines and a total capacity of 166 MW. Annual production is some 570 GW•h. Interestingly, this suggests that the widnfarm operates at some 39% of its theoretical capacity, well above the 15-20% that Germany achieves with its largely land based wind generating capacity

The Danish attempt to make the worlds largest "Battleship" grid was going well

For an outline of worldwide energy production, get clicky here.

Penultimately, BFTF asked Jane about lobbying MP’s or companies to encourage them to change their practices (for example, as shown here, here and here). Jane commented that her experience was that MP’s still valued a crafted letter (as opposed to a copy-and-paste letter) above emails and other communications and explained that people could find the contact details for their MP’s at

Jane also described how companies can change their policies very quickly indeed when they feel their reputations are under threat and that the publicity surrounding Greenpeace campaigns could sometimes be the catalyst to make this happen.

Lastly, as with all BFTF guests, Jane was asked what she thought was the best thing about living in the UK.

Her answer was instant and decisive ; “Tea, I’ve been to other countries around the world and in none of them was I able to get a cup of tea as good as it is made here.”

And who could disagree with that?

To find out more about what Greenpeace is doing in Nottingham, you can email them at

Saturday, 10 December 2011

Slo-mo guys and the spirit of curiosity

The spirit of curiosity is a wonderful thing, and has powered many aspects of human endeavour.

Just imagine what scientific discoveries would not have been made if a scientist has not thought "What if I try to. . .? "

Or what mountain peaks would not have been conquered if an explorer had not thought "What is beyond this hill . . . ?

Or what art would not have been produced if someone had not thought "What happens if I try this. . . .?

So BFTF is always heartened to see people with a spirit of curiosity and was therefore chuffed to find out about "The slo-mo guys" on YouTube.

What they do it basically break things in interesting ways - and then video the destruction in slow motion.

Much of what they do has been done before, but some of their escapades are genuinely novel.

In particular, the video below is fascinating. Check out the ripples that form as they land on the water balloon, and the way if which it eventually fails. If this video does not make you go "WOW" then there must be something missing in your heart. Seriously, you need to see a doctor if this isn't doing it for you. .

BFTF has sent this post to local mosques asking them to consider what they are doing to encourage their communities to have this spirit of discovery.

Thursday, 8 December 2011

Public Lecture - Astronomer Chris Lintott

To close out their current series of public lectures, the Astronomy Department at Nottingham University aimed high and managed to persuade Chris Lintott to present a review of 2011 astronomy highlights.

Chris is an astrophysist, co-presenter of The Sky at Night and involved in a number of projects aiming to bring popular science to a wider audience.

A very engaging speaker, Chris’s talk was entitled “From Mars to the Distant Planets” and he began by pointing out that there was a great deal of astronomy being performed, with some 2,500 press releases landing in his inbox over the last 12months. He then started the talk proper by discussing what has been happening on Mars. . .

The Mars Rover “Opportunity”, which has been in operation far longer than its original design life, has travelled some 21km since landing on the red planet. This has mostly been over gentle sand dunes and in the direction of the Endeavour crater to investigate the rock structures. Endeavour is of interest because craters allow rocks that are normally buried below ground to be investigated. Along the Opportunity has taken some incredible images and made some important discoveries. For example, recently the rover examined the rocks in a boulder field and found them to be gypsum, which must have been formed in the past by underground flowing water.

The new Vauxhall could do a lot more than just automatic parking

A different view of Mars comes from the orbiting HiRise camera(see here and here), whose website has the tagline “Explore Mars, one giant image at a time”. Chris picked out one set of images that showed evidence of seasonal salt water flows on hillsides (although other researchers have claimed that the flows are merely dust flows.
Apple were determined to address the criticisms of the camera in the iPad2

And there’s more, another Mars lander has just set off from Earth to begin its mission, This vehicle, called “Curiosity” is much larger (about the size of a small car) and is intended to have a much greater range than the previous rovers. Because of its large size, it cannot land using the usual balloon cushions, instead it has to use a frankly bonkers system of hovering carrier craft and winch. You can see just how bonkers this procedure is in the video below (if you are in a hurry, start at 33sec)

Curiosity has four mission goals :
1.Determine whether Mars could ever have supported life
2.Study the climate of Mars
3.Study the geology of Mars
4.Plan for a human mission to Mars

Having miraculously survived its landing sequence, Curiosity was ready for action

Another highlight of the year for Chris was the investigation of the asteroid Vesta by the Dawn probe (see here and here) which revealed a huge mountain and that Vesta was composed of an interesting mix of old and new rocks.
Powered by Ion engines, just like a TIE fighter !

A Chaotic Solar System
It has long been known that many of the craters on the surface of the moon were produced during an intense period of activity known as the “Late Heavy Bombardment” but it is only now that researchers are beginning to understand what may have caused the Bombardment.The early solar system was very chaotic, to the extent that it may have ejected a fifth gas giant and Uranus and Neptune may have swapped places!

As the orbits of the planets shifted, they may have nudged material from stable orbits in towards the sun or outwards away from the solar system. It was this incoming material that may have formed the basis for the Late Heavy Bombardment.

Surprisingly, it has been the study of planets orbiting other stars that that has given clues to the formation of our own solar system. A key tool in this investigation has been the Kepler satellite which is “specifically designed to survey a portion of our region of the Milky Way galaxy to discover dozens of Earth-size planets in or near the habitable zone and determine how many of the billions of stars in our galaxy have such planets”. The satellite only has one instrument - a photometer that continuously monitors the brightness of over 145,000 main sequence stars in a fixed field of view. The instrument registers the very small dips in a star’s brightness that occur when a planet moves in front of it. To do this, the instrument needs to be able to register a reduction in brightness of just 0.01% - an astonishing level of accuracy.
Recently, Kepler recently found a planet (Kepler 22B) that was in the “goldilocks” zone around a star where temperatures are in the range that allows liquid water to form. There seems little doubt that the accelerating progress in this area will results in many such planets being discovered in the future.

Chris pointed out that planets are not just being found orbiting stars, but also floating freely in space, presumably because they have been ejected from unstable young solar systems. Surprisingly, there are a lot of these “free” planets, in fact, in our galaxy there may be more lone planets than there are stars!

The Lockman Hole
Telescopes wishing to look at objects outside our own galaxy often turn their direction to a region of the sky known as the “Lockman Hole”, as this has an unusually low amount of Hydrogen gas present in it. The Herschel Telescope has been looking in this direction and managed to produce some stunning images. For example, in the image below, each dot is a galaxy. I’ll say that again, each dot is a whole multi-million star GALALXY !!!!
WARNING : Thinking about this picture for too long may result in your brain melting.

Are you for SCUBA?
Moving back to Earth, Chris listed a few highlights of the ground-based telescope year. First off was the SCUBA-2 submillimetre camera which is now working in a telescope on Hawaii. A program plagued with bad luck (including losing 9 months of development because the lab was sealed due to a plutonium spillage), SCUBA2 will be able to see into the dust clouds where stars are forming, thus giving further insights to this process.

The huge ALMA project in Chile, comprising some 66 radio telescopes (of which 19 have been set up so far) arranged in an array. Gobsmackingly, the individual dishes are mobile, which allows the array to have a variable “zoom”.

Press Release of the Year
Chris peppered his talk with some humorous asides, largely related to the way astronomical research is presented in the media. His favourite related to an image of the oldest quasar yet found (see red dot near centre of image below). . .

. . . was turned into the following by a PR department :

Lastly, before the Q&A session, Chris provided a few links for prople who were interested in learning more about astronomy:

The Milky Way Project aims to sort and measure our galaxy. We're asking you to help us find and draw bubbles in beautiful infrared data from the Spitzer Space Telescope. Understanding the cold, dusty material that we see in these images, helps scientists to learn how stars form and how our galaxy changes and evolves with time

Astronomy and science chatter from astronomers Chris Lintott and Robert Simpson can be found at :

Lastly, you can email Chris at :

Image Sources : Wikipedia and AP Photo/ ESO, ESA/SPIRE/HerMES

Wednesday, 7 December 2011

Public Lecture : Galaxy Evolution

The Astronomy department of the University of Nottingham held another of their public lectures this week. Titled “Galaxy Formation and Transformation” it was presented by the wonderfully accented Dr. Alfonso Aragon-Salamanca - who will be referred to as Dr A for the rest of this post.

Dr A began by providing some background information of galaxy types, explaining that galaxies can be broken down into the following categories

Spiral Galaxies. With large numbers of young stars, these galaxies have the recognisable spiral arms, sometimes with a central bar.

Lenticular Galaxies. These are flat discs, as with the Elliptical galaxies, these contain few young stars and no gas or dust (which are the raw materials of star formation).

Elliptical Galaxies. These look like large balls of stars, with no particular structure. They contain few young stars and no gas or dust.

Keep the Lenticular and Spiral types in mind - we will be coming back to them later.

As well as these main classes, there are also irregular galaxies which have shapes that are, well, irregualar. Dr A explained that this was generally because these galaxies were either very small (and thus lacking in gravity) or the result of a car-crash between two separate galaxies.

These various types of galaxies can be shown on the Hubble Morphological Classification System

The Sc spiral? Just keep going and turn left at the lenticular galaxy. You can't miss it. If you see an Esso garage, you've gone too far

Dr A then moved on to the question of how galaxies formed. The detail was easy to explain - astronomers don’t really know !

However, researchers are able to explain galaxy formation in more general terms. To do so, we need to go back to the beginning. . .

Immediately after the Big Bang, the Universe was very hot, so hot that even atoms could not form, and was also opaque to light and other electromagnetic radiation. And it stayed this way for around 400,000yrs.

After this time, the universe had cooled sufficiently to allow the formation of the neutrons and protons, the building blocks of the elements. At the same time, the universe became transparent to light, and the light radiation that was released at this time has been travelling ever since, slowly getting cooler and cooler. It can now be seen by telescopes as the Cosmic Microwave Background Radiation.

Upon coming back from his holiday, Adam realised that he had forgotton to put the pizza in the freezer

It is the small differences in this radiation that gave rise, over time to stars and galaxies. You can see how this process might have worked in simulations by the Max Plank Institute (scroll down to the clip titled “The 4D Universe”). These simulations are believed to be more or less accurate because they describe the kind of distributions of galaxies that we actually see in space around us.

When astronomers look at galaxies the amount of matter they can see is a lot less than is required to explain the way they move. So they have proposed that there is another type of matter (known as “dark matter”) that provides the rest of the mass. Dark matter does not interact with light or with the ordinary matter we see around us - but does have mass and reacts to gravity. Weird eh?

Different telescopes are designed to operate at different wavelengths, from X-rays to radio waves, and these different frequencies of electromagnetic radiation are emitted by different types parts of a galaxy. For example :

UV shows massive, hot, young stars
Visible shows middle aged stars
Near Infra-red shows old stars
Mid Infra-red shows dust
Far Infra-red shows hydrogen

Thus galaxies that are emitting strongly in the UV, Mid and Far IR have young stars and the raw materials (dust and hydrogen) to form new start. (For example, M81)

Conversely, galaxies that are emitting weakly in these areas (but strongly in the Near IR) are composed of old stars and cannot make significant numbers of new stars. These galaxies are dying. (For example M84)

With the capabilities of telescopes such as Hubble, astronomers have been able to look at galaxies billions of light years away. As the light we are seeing from these galaxies left them billions of years ago we are essentially seeing them as they were then.

Studies on these images have shown that six billion years ago, the universe had a high proportion of spiral galaxies (often in clusters) and few lenticular galaxies.

Today, it is the lenticular galaxies that are found in clusters, with a few isolated spiral galaxies around them.

So what happened?

Research is suggesting many of the spiral galaxies that fall into clusters had the gas and dust stripped from them due to shock waves from interactions with other galaxies in the cluster.

These “stripped” galaxies can no longer produce new stars so, moving forward to today, we are left with the preponderance of (dying) lenticular galaxies that are observed around us.

You can see a lot of the slides presented in the talk here (although, to be fair, they are rather heavy going if you do not have an astronomer to guide you through them.

In short, a fascinating lecture, that provided a possible narrative for the evolution of the universe and contained some spectacular animations.

Saturday, 3 December 2011

Mr T and the Astra 1N telecom satellite

We're all only human and, if you are anything like BFTF, the occasional "well done" or "good effort" is always nice to receive. If nothing else, it tells you that you are on the right track.

And the same thing goes for organisations. As FSC representative Amy Mulkern has pointed out, "they're also consumers, they're also individuals, they're also people"

So, to try and recognise the many good things that are around us, BFTF tries to fire off a "well done" for every "could do better" email that is sent out.

Today sees a double bill of Mr T and satellite builder Astrium.

You may wish to pause here, dear reader, and reflect on the fact that you are unlikely to see those two subjects linked together in one sentence ever again. . .

As an 80's kid, BFTF has a soft spot for TV and film legend Mr T (who, incidentally, has a fascinating life story)) and was sad to see him disappear from the TV screens during the "noughties". His appearance in the recent Snickers adverts brought a smile back to BFTF's face but was all to brief.

Then purely, by chance, BFTF happened upon "World's Craziest Fools", a show produced (to BFTF's surprise and delight) by the BBC and presented by Mr T, who introduced a selection of YouTube-esque clips of people doing stupid things from around the world.

The clips are pretty much irrelevant, it's just great to hear Mr T on air again. He could read a telephone directory and still sound good. In fact, perhaps there is a case for giving him a higher profile role, perhaps something like the anchor for the 10 o'clock news. Dear reader, just think about that for a moment. I'm sure you will agree with me that viewing figures would go through the roof. Mr T interviewing David Cameron - I'd pay good money to watch that.

So, to let the BBC know they have hit on something big here, BFTF sent them an email saying well done and suggesting that perhaps the evening news presenter was something they should consider for Mr T !

Mr T - the next presenter of the 10 o'clok news?

Moving on to the second part of this post, BFTF has been entranced by the BBC2 series "How to build. . ." which looks at how some of the worlds most complex machines are manufacured. A recent programme looked at how a Astrium make a communications satellite at their hi-tech plant in Stevenage (a town not generally given the same kudos as the likes of Houston and Baikonour. It was a fascinating to see how each individual component is tested to ensure that it can survive the vibration and G-forces of launch. As there is no servicing option for satellites in geostationary orbit, everything has to be proven to work correctly beforehand. Some components have moving parts that have to work, in space, every day for the 15 years that the satellite is guaranteed for. For example, the solar panels motor has to orient the solar panels correctly every day to ensure that they are facing the sun and generating energy. If it fails, the satellite dies. No pressure there then...

The satellite featured was an Astra 1N, which you can find out more about here, while the background technology to communications satellites can be found here.

Satellite technican Bob decided it was probably best to keep quiet about the set of screws he had just found in his pocket . .

One aspect of the programme that BFTF was relieved to see was that it was made in a straightforward fashion, with no jerky camerawork, unnecessary zooming and rapid cutting. In short, it was an educational programme that actually gave the viewer the information and time be be informed.

In contrast to Horizon, BBC2's flagship science programme, used to be a great prog, but now seems to be produced by people who would rather be doing pop videos.

If you, dear reader, or I wanted to present a graph of key data to a viewer, we might put the whole graph on the screen, including the axes and units, and then leave it there for a few seconds so that the viewer can take it all in. That is certainly how science programming was done when BFTF were a lad.

These days, however, the Horizon production team know better. They feel that the best way to impart information is to put the graph on a laptop and then zoom right up to the laptop screen so that only part of the graph is visible, wiggle the camera about a bit and then move onto something else.

Anyway, BFTF sent an email to the BBC congratulating them on the "How to Build" series and thanking them especially for keeping the Horizon production crew well away from it.

Do you have an example of where you were moved to say well done to an organisation? If so, it would be great to hear about it !

Friday, 2 December 2011

"We are not aware of any evidence to support this claim"

The ability to think critically and analyse information is a crucial tool in avoiding the wool being pulled over ones eyes by organisations or people who wish to mislead, misinform or just plain lie.

For example, during the Leveson enquiry (which investigated press intrusion and phone hacking allegations), the singer Charlotte Church, alleged that her phone must have been hacked because News International knew about her pregnancy before she had even told her mother. In response, a News International spekesperson said "We are not aware of any evidence to support this claim".

That's a pretty strange form of words. Surely News International either DID, or DD NOT hack Ms Church's phone. It's a pretty black and white thing.

So why the complicated phrase?

BFTF imagines a burglar who, having performed a number of careful burglaries, wearing a balaclava and gloves at all times, then burns all his burglaring clothes and equipment and scatters the ashes at sea.

If accused of being a burglar, he would, presumably, be entirely accurate in saying that he was "not aware of any evidence to support this claim"

A phone-hacking tabloid reporter, yesterday

BFTF, on reading the story in more detail, noted that there were links to the written testimonies of some of the witnesses. Reading the testimony of Charlotte Church provided a distrubing account of a tabloid press that was predatory and would routinely print stories that were utterly without foundation.

Ao much so, that BFTF was moved to writing a message for the Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport.

Dear Secretary of State for Culture, Media, Olympics and Sport,
I'm have no doubt that you are a very busy person, so I'll be brief :

I have been very disturbed by the testimonies of the witnesses at the Leveson Inquiry. In particular, that way in which the tabloid press treated Charlotte Church, even when she was still a child, is something that I find difficult to reconcile with a civilised society.
I do not think it is acceptable for a newspaper to print a countdown to a girls 16th birthday.
I do not think it is acceptable for a newspaper to print lurid stories about a singers parents or other family members.
I do not think it is acceptable for a newspaper to fabricate entire stories.

On a related note, I do not think it is acceptable for a newspaper to print an almost daily drip-drip feed of stories that demonise minority groups - this is really dangerous and stokes the flames of community distrust.

Please take the opportunity of the Leveson Inquiry to fix Britains print media so that it, like Radio 4, becomes something that I can be proud of.

Image Source : Wikipedia

Update (9th Dec)
Received a response from the "Ministerial Support Team" and the Department of Culture Media and Sport. The response said that
"The Government shares many of the concerns set out in your letter"
and that
" the Government is determined that events involving particular communities should not be exploited by anyone as an excuse to start blaming, persecuting, or preaching inflammatory messages about any particular group. . . The Coalition Government is working to strengthen its approach to integration and cohesion, including how all forms of extremism, hatred and intolerance can best be tackled."

Dear Reader, perhaps you would like to challenge the local or national government on an issue where you feel they are being unfair or unjust. It would be great to hear what results you get !