Monday, 31 December 2012
David Shukman, science editor, BBC News
As the Philippines, New Jersey and Britain count the cost of ferocious flooding, expect another year in which extreme weather exacts a human toll. Partly this is because more and more of us live in harm's way on coasts and flood plains. But is climate change adding to the danger? Intense research next year will try to find out.
One possible factor is the warming Arctic having less ice could be altering the flow of the jetstream that governs where storms go. So all eyes will be on the state of the sea-ice next summer to see if the melt breaks 2012's record thaw.
The next major assessment of climate questions is due when theIntergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) releases a report in September. The science has moved on since its last report in 2007 - but so has criticism of the way the IPCC works. A draft, leaked online, revealed how the scientists want to toughen up the language blaming human activity for global warming. But battles over revisions - and over the conclusions - lie ahead.
Meanwhile new industrial revolutions are in prospect as global investment ramps up in emerging sciences. Research into novel materials, synthetic biology and regenerative medicine are among the fields that will no doubt produce fascinating but controversial advances.
Finally, in this season of goodwill, spare a thought for Sesame, the synchrotron light source being built in Jordan by Arabs, Turks, Iranians and Israelis. Science has opened doors that diplomacy has failed to and Sesame is an oasis of harmony in a region of conflict. But each year brings some new threat to its survival.
Matt McGrath, environment correspondent, BBC News website
One of the most controversial issues of 2013 is likely to be the resumption of the government's cull of badgers that waspostponed last October. With ministers determined to act and opponents determined to derail their plans, there is likely to be another series of bruising political and scientific arguments well into the summer.
The battle over badgers is not the only dormant issue likely to spring back to life. We're also expecting to get a clearer picture of the extent of ash dieback disease across the UK in the coming months. Ministers have signalled it is unlikely to be good news.
Energy is shaping up to have a big impact on the environment in 2013. In the UK, the government has given the go-ahead for Cuadrilla to resume hydraulic fracturing (fracking) at a number of test wells in Lancashire. Other companies with shale gas licences will be watching events closely.
In the US, President Obama is expected to make a final decision on the hotly debated Keystone XL pipeline that was originally intended to bring oil from the tar sands of Alberta across the border and all the way down to refineries in Texas. Some analysts believe the decision could set the tone for the president's approach to climate and energy over the next four years.
And there are likely to be some tough battles at the meeting of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (Cites) taking place in Thailand. Among the contentious measures will be a call from some campaigners to completely ban the trade in polar bear parts. Other activists argue that climate change is the bear's real enemy and are refusing to go along with calls for a ban on trade.
Mark Kinver, environment reporter, BBC News website
The in-tray for the ministerial team at the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) appears to be overflowing, even before the new year arrives with the sound of Big Ben chiming in the start of 2013.
The next 12 months will see ministers deal with a number of high profile policies, including badger cull trials, tree bio-security, responding to the Independent Panel on Forestry's report, reforms to the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP), and the continuing development of the flagship Natural Environment White Paper (NEWP).
Each one of these is a potential snake-pit for the department's ministers, and the coalition government as whole. The pledge to be the greenest government ever could prove to be a venomous soundbite if ministers fall short of expectations or fail to deliver.
In January, ministers are set to publish the government's response to the Independent Panel on Forestry's report, which was published in July 2012.
The panel concluded that England's publicly owned forest estate was a national asset and should not be sold off.
The panel itself was set up in March 2011 following a ministerial U-turn on plans to sell off a chunk of its woodlands, after more than half-a-million people signed an online petition to protest against the policy.
Although the government has said it accepted the panel's recommendation and would halt plans to sell off state-owned forests, campaigners are not convinced and will be watching developments very closely.
The arrival of ash dieback in the UK's natural environment grabbed the headlines in the autumn, prompting Environment Secretary Owen Paterson to set up a series of emergency meetings looking at what could be done or what needed to be done.
But the issue goes much wider than just one fungal threat, albeit a potentially disastrous one for millions of trees. There is a growing number of pests and pathogens that threaten the wellbeing of our woodlands, and there are many more yet to arrive on our shores waiting to exacerbate the problem.
In October 2011, Defra launched a tree bio-security plan amid concerns of the mounting risks facing our trees. This was tested and updated during the height of the ash dieback crisis. Expect to see this issue feature prominently in the coming 12 months, especially once we head into spring when the trees starting coming into leaf and flower.
Finally, the above shows that even the best laid plans in a time of squeezed departmental budgets can send people back to the drawing board.
Mr Paterson, speaking during the ash dieback crisis, said: "There will be some things we do in Defra now that we are going to have to stop doing."
So can we expect to see structural changes to a number of government agencies? For example, the merging of the Environment Agency and Natural England during 2013?
Pallab Ghosh, science correspondent, BBC News
The discovery of the Higgs boson in July 2012 is the beginning of what's likely to be an amazing journey into a new realm of physics. The current theory of physics called the Standard Model has been amazingly successful in explaining how sub-atomic particles and many of the forces of nature behave.
But it does not explain gravity, nor does it give any insight into why the expansion of the Universe is accelerating as a result of a phenomenon called dark energy.
The stage is set for a new, more complete theory of physics that will cause a shift in thinking of how the Universe works on a par with Einstein's theories of relativity. The first steps toward that new theory may be taken in 2014 as researchers working on the various experiments at the Large Hadron Collider pore through their data to see if they have discovered any new particles.
The first opportunity for such results to be presented will be at La Thuile, a high energy physics conference in early march held at a ski resort in the Italian Alps.
Jason Palmer, science and technology reporter, BBC News
In mid-February we will get another reminder we live in a (potentially) violent cosmos - asteroid 2012 DA14 will make a harmless but attention-grabbing pass near the Earth, at a distance just a tenth that of the Moon. Exactly what happens then will determine how near the asteroid's next pass will be, in 2026. (Don't worry, signs are pretty good so far.) Late in the year, a comet called Ison might make a dramatic appearance in the night skies, brighter than the full moon - if it doesn't burn up as it gets nearer.
Scientists will continue the hunt for a great majority of the Universe's mass - mass that we know is there but which cannot be seen, hence its moniker "dark matter". In early 2013, Lux, a new experiment deep within in an abandoned gold mine in the US state of South Dakota, will join a half dozen similar experiments worldwide in a hunt to detect the stuff directly - what could be the greatest find of our time.
Late in the year, India is due to launch its first Mars mission, Mangalyaan, and the Chinese craft Chang'e 3 is scheduled to land on the Moon - milestones that should make for compelling demonstrations of those nations' space ambitions.
- Badger's Tanglefoot
- Adnam's Broadside
- Shepherd Neame's 1698
- Fuller's ESB
- Moorland's Old Speckled Hen
We may have landed in the Falklands on a Sunday, but the local post office still opened up for business. Can you ever imagine that happening in the UK mainland?
It's also worth noting that all post from the Islands is sent directly to the UK first and then onto its final destination. Apparently it is one of the quickest services around.
Docked at the Falkland Islands has given us the fastest internet access to date. That ain't saying much but it's shaved a few seconds off the bill...
It is getting better as we travel on on our "minute scheme" too, though. Having been quite miserly at the start of the voyage, we now have almost 30 minutes per day of internet time before we leave the ship next week.
That explains why we've been posting a few articles of interest from the BBC recently.
Are you full yet? Stuffed? Fit to burst? I do hope so. After all, no-one but a Scrooge with an eating disorder would wish people to stint themselves over the festive season.
So, I hope you carved the turkey and cut the cake, crunched the roasties and smeared the brandy butter. And as you sat late into the night, unable to rise from the sofa so replete were you, I sincerely trust that you found a free gastric chink into which you could hammer that penultimate wafer-thin mint - the essential sugaring, I always think, for the bitter pill of the Christmas television schedules.
Why am I so keen on your performance as good, honest British trenchermen and women over the past few days? Because I'm going to ask you to consider a major lifestyle change in the year to come, and it's only by having got it into your system that I imagine you'll be able to countenance getting it resolutely out.
For what I think we require, as a society, is some sort of collective vomitorium. Not, you appreciate, that I expect you - like those mythical Roman patricians - to void the contents of your stomachs then limp groaning back to the dinner table.
No, what I think we should all do is throw up our very obsession with food itself, and enter the new year purged and able to forge a new relationship with whatever we happen to find on our plates.
It is, surely, undeniable that in the past 30 years we have, as a nation, been transformed from a culinary backwater - a stagnant reach in which floated the occasional soggy meat pie or waterlogged cabbage - into a foodie's paradise.
Once upon a time our High Streets were perhaps home to a chippie, a Chinese and an Indian. And this exemplification of the comic law of threes perfectly encapsulated the truth about our eating habits - they were a joke. But now, even the most desultory and cloned shopping zone in the most provincial of towns will boast five, 10 or 15 eateries, all jostling for business with their exotic offerings.
And it's not just restaurants. The shelves of our supermarkets are stacked high with specialist foods and piquant ready meals, while for those minded to abandon the flock, there are organic butchers aplenty, delicatessens and farmers' markets.
This astonishing variety and abundance of provender where previously there was only a dull sufficiency would be remarkable enough, but it hasn't come about as a result of some popular refinement of the collective palate, oh no. Rather, our current status as the most food-obsessed nation in Europe - if not the world - is an ideological transformation on a par with the creation of the welfare state.
Indeed, it is arguably gastronomy that has replaced social democracy as the prevailing credo of our era. But whereas in the case of the National Health Service and state education it was politicians, social activists and campaigners who forged the new consensus, the vanguard of this chomping revolution was constituted by restaurateurs, television producers and celebrity chefs.
You can judge the completeness of a regime change by its capture of the commanding heights of the economy. In recent years we have, indeed, spent more on food and eating out than ever before in our history, although there's been something of a deflating burp since 2008.
Equally important is mastery of the mass media. In contemporary Britain you cannot open a newspaper, click on a web page, or especially turn on a television, without being assaulted by images of succulence. Succulence often ushered into being by truculent former-footballers-turned-latter-day-Escoffiers.
The thorough infusion of this oleaginous ideology into our collective psyche is best exemplified by those television programmes in which wildly enthusiastic amateurs attempt to bake, baste and flambe their way into 15 minutes of perfectly cooked fame.
That these tempura tournaments should've become prime-time viewing, and the sort of entertainment to be chewed over exhaustively by the commentariat, indicates the real social function of our foodieism - because it's not just about anything as prosaic as having nice things to eat.
You've only to consider the time frame within which this transformation occurred, and the other changes that paralleled it, in order to appreciate that food has become the defining attribute of both class and culture in 21st Century Britain.
It began as long ago as the 1950s, when a soupcon of prescient sandwichistas - Terence Conran and Elizabeth David spring to mind - began to educate the benighted Britons in the wonders of what heretofore had been viewed as foreign muck. To begin with, their cadres were drawn exclusively from the bourgeoisie - the idea that workers might like to crush garlic rather than capitalism itself was obviously absurd.
But all this began to change in the 1980s, as the traditional nourishment of the proletariat - the manufacturing industry - began to go off. Throughout that decade, and with an accelerating tempo in the 90s, more and more swallowed the idea that you are, indeed, what you eat, and that therefore the best way to become truly middle class, was to eat what the middle classes did.
As for the traditional middle classes, they jettisoned the troublesome business of acquiring culture by any other means than orally.
Under the new dispensation, it was no longer necessary to read Boccaccio, only munch on focaccia, just as you needn't trouble yourself with listening to Saint Saens when it was so much easier to drink Cote de Beaune.
Even diehard nationalists, who wished to cleave to a distinctively British culture, could be appeased by a truckle of highly palatable Dorset Blue Vinny, in lieu of folios full of indigestible Warwickshire Shakespeare.
Now we find ourselves in a society in which the majority of people identify themselves as being middle class, but this ascription owes more to digestion than it does to acculturation, let alone occupation. Surely, much of the managerial work undertaken by these new middle classes consists in the running of those self-same food outlets where they too chow down.
Once the working classes were in chains, now they're in chain restaurants.
Of course, with well-masticated food playing the role of social glue, it's absolutely essential that everyone clear their plate. Sod the starving kiddies in Africa - it's the overfed ones here we need to worry about. Because if they don't carry on eating, the entire house of chocolate chip and macadamia cookies will crumble away.
So, in order to titivate palates not simply jaded but well-nigh worn away, it's vital that we come up with more and more exciting new dishes, more and more unusual foodstuffs, fancier and more exorbitant restaurants. Oh, and while we're at it, let's watch some almost famous people on television eating insects for cash prizes - that'll make us more grateful for the too much that we receive.
Then there's the plethora of new dietary fads and so-called "intolerances" that beset us - and which we enthusiastically embrace, for it is only by artificially restricting our intake that we can simulate that long-forgotten state known as "hunger". Because, as anyone unfortunate enough not to be middle-sized and middle class might tell you, when you're hungry, any old food will taste as good as the most astonishing molecular cuisine fashioned by Heston Blumenthal in his laboratory-cum-kitchen.
And it just so happens that we have a cohort readily to hand, should we wish to survey what this fabled "hunger" is really like. The Trussell Trust, a charity that specialises in a different sort of gastronomy, provided food aid to more than 100,000 British people last year, and their current aim is to open a food bank in every town in the country, such is the anticipated demand.
In the old days we had have-nots, now we merely have eat-nots. There, I've chewed the matter over and spat out my opinion. We Radio 4 types really could do with paying a bit less attention to what's on the end of our forks, and a bit more to what's at the end of our roads.
Put you off that final wafer-thin mint, have I?
It was just like being back at home!Auckland's' 'Christmas In The Park'
After a busy day of sightseeing and doing the 'Sky Walk' I was ready to go straight to bed but I had seen so many advertisements about Auckland's' 'Christmas in the Park' so I thought that I should at least check it out. Although Auckland is supposed to be New Zealands biggest city it is absolutely tiny! Traffic is a rare sight and if you have to share the pavement with more than one other person there must be a sale on at Mc Donald's. So I was so surprised when I arrived at the Domain and saw thousands and thousands of people at the free family concert.
The Domain is huge and it was packed. The concert was alright, but to be honest the acts let it down, 95% of the acts sung covers and the 5% of original songs were hopeless. But oh well, it still had a great vibe and I think it's a pretty cool event. I left soon after it had finished and in true Kirsty style I didn't watched where I was going and managed to get both of my feet stuck in a wire ring and went arse over tit in the middle of hundreds of people all rushing to get home which was slightly embarrassing, but in those situations you have to look on the bright side- at least I didn't fall down a sewage drain this time. After dusting myself down and walking as quickly as I could for a while I realized that I didn't recognize any of the houses and I still hadn't come across the row of shops I remembered, this was because I had gone in the opposite direction of my hostel and had ended up in the middle of no where- great one Kirsty. After some simple directions (go the way you just came and then just keep going in that direction) I walked as quickly as I could in amongst the ever increasing volumes of people so that I could get to my hostel and chill the hell out!
Unfortunately this was not to be... because I had taken my time getting on the right road home after falling over and getting lost I ended up in amongst the a 'lovely' bunch of Kiwi youths AKA. the absolute writh wrath of society, who were obviously huge rebels- as they had hung out at the Domain a good five minuets after the show had finished! Whoa... STEP BACK! They were loud and unpredictable with small arguments breaking out left, right and center so I tried to get out of the group as quickly as possible. This great thought came a few seconds too late because the next thing I know, an empty bottle of Jack Daniels Whiskey has come flying over head from some idiots on the other side of the road missing my head by less than a meter and smashing into smithereens on the brick wall next to me.
There is something about having a near death experience, caused by complete and utter imbeciles that suddenly gives you the energy to turn into Flash from the Incredibles and bring a whole new meaning to the phrase "Run like the wind bulls-eye!" And so I did. Once again I was too late. I was only a few meters in front of the large group (as we have previously discovered I'm no Usain Bolt!) when the group on the other side decided that lobbing a bottle at us wasn't enough instead they wanted to 'rush' us. For those of you who aren't familiar with the term 'rush' I like to think of it in terms of bowling, the group on the other side were the bowling ball and somehow I managed to be misconstrued as a pin. Getting grabbed by my backpack and thrown against a wall wasn't so fun but it was a new experience and as I'm sure you all know by now, I'm all about new experiences!
The 'fun' doesn't stop there but I luckily managed to cross the road quick enough to escape this particular event. The group that I was somehow caught up in for most of my journey home, surprisingly didn't like being 'rushed' and getting glass bottles thrown at them so they went after the other group. It didn't take long for it turn into a huge fight. God knows where the police were, but they were kicking the shit out of each other- please excuse my French. By the time I had got that far down the road most of one group had run away. All that was left was a boy on the floor unconscious, and 6-7 kids still kicking the shit out of him, with repeated blows to the head and still no sign of movement it was not looking good for him. Suddenly a girl ran over, one of his friends I assume, she threw herself over him, covering his head and shouting for someone to call the police. What an end to a calm, cheerful Christmas celebration in the park aye? I'm sad to say that it reminded me far too much of home!
I hope the boy was OK, maybe I should have stepped in but I only went to Muay Thai training for three days so taking on 6-7 boys would have been a challenge even if I am a reincarnation of the Karate Kid. Especially as when I went to grab some food, a couple of them came running back up the street shouting "He's got a knife, he's got a knife."
So the very important moral of the story is, it's OK to put one foot in a ring made of wire, but putting two feet in a ring made of wire is just damn stupid, so avoid it at all costs because trust me, grazes are a hell of a lot worse than they look!
Sunday, 30 December 2012
We're certainly going to make sure it will be for us. :o)
|No Movement1||Man Utd||20||22||49|
|No Movement2||Man City||20||19||42|
|No Movement7||West Brom||20||3||33|
|No Movement12||West Ham||19||-1||23|
|No Movement17||Aston Villa||20||-24||18|