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Comments for Soft Machines

Some personal views on nanotechnology, science and science policy from Richard Jones

Last Build Date: Sun, 29 Oct 2017 05:16:37 +0000


Comment on The second coming of industrial strategy by paul martin

Sun, 29 Oct 2017 05:16:37 +0000

Zelah has it half right. The competition though is the likes of Google. And their success record is patchy too. If you were to identify the contribution of UK plc to global tech it is hard not to be proud. And if I was to namecheck one person it would be Sir Godfrey Hounsfield. How on earth did anyone think radiotherapy was a good idea without the targeting that CAT scanning provides is beyond me & to get to market in under 7 years is absolutely gob-smacking.

Comment on The second coming of industrial strategy by Zelah

Sat, 07 Oct 2017 22:01:06 +0000

I would like to thank you for your excellent analysis. The idea of a industry strategy is out of date as trying to bring back industry! New Industries need to be found but China, Korea, Japan, Europe, USA are all competitors in this race! The UK's record of competing at this level is poor. I think that we will be stuck with Fintech for a long, long time until the finance sector is reformed root and branch! Thanks again Zelah

Comment on Climbing stories, climbing fictions by Richard Jones

Sat, 16 Sep 2017 16:28:56 +0000

Thanks Tom! He would indeed be a great subject for a great writer.

Comment on Climbing stories, climbing fictions by Tom Curtis

Thu, 07 Sep 2017 13:59:38 +0000

Richard It was wonderful to read your astute insights about Mark. However, I am not sure you have been very fair to steppe nomads in your comparison. However, it would take quite a writer to capture his phenomenal and compelling personality. He was, as you say someone of great warmth, affection and kindness, as well as less endearing qualities! I sat in few bivouac ledges as he talked about you, in particular, with great warmth and affection.

Comment on What hope against dementia? by Yashar

Sat, 13 May 2017 17:51:34 +0000

Thanks for the writeup, Richard. +1 for Taylor's book. It seems like every book on dementia and any similar topics would beat around the bush and provide no substance, but like you mentioned, that's farther from the truth for Taylor's book.

Comment on What hope against dementia? by Anonymoose

Mon, 08 May 2017 14:53:43 +0000

I mostly agree with your observations, but I think you are overly critical of the work Aubrey de Grey does - I suspect because you've wrongly grouped him up with the transhumanist movement - he is a basic futurist and doesn't share a lot of the convictions of the transhumanists. SENS is undergoing a new research program investigating dementias together with the Buck Institute of Aging presently and they will be targeting tau, instead of amyloid beta. So your assumptions are based on outdated information and your negative view of Aubrey's personality rather than fact. I'd also argue that we're not clueless about dementia. We know tau and amyloid play a part in the progression of Alzheimer's. We know cardio-vascular diseases are a factor as well. Aging is complex and has many confounding factors so it is safe to presume the diseases of aging are caused by more than one factor and type of damage as well. Since the multi-hit hypothesis of AD is still a valid one, it is possible that amyloid targeting therapies are simply not sufficient on their own to modify the disease state. As you say we need more information but that doesn't mean we have to go on a lengthy basic research quest when there is more than enough experimental science we could do at the moment which will in the worst case scenario give us better insight than any basic research or theoretical work would - and I believe that is the case with all the strategies Aubrey has tried to gather support for - he is preaching for experimental research in a field plagued by can't-do, mind exercise only money sinks and spreadsheet semantics.

Comment on Steps towards an industrial strategy by A Thorpe

Wed, 15 Mar 2017 13:22:38 +0000

Given the UK is an island nation with large potential for off-shore energy including wind, ocean and tidal, I was surprised not to see this mentioned in the strategy more clearly. Similarly, the only mention of 'marine' industry was exportable war ships. Where is the innovative thinking about reducing ocean-based pollution from shipping when 90% of what we consume (and probably what we sell) travels by marine freight? As Richard mentioned DARPA had a focus for generating innovation. It seems logical that a parallel focus for the UK in this day and age should be framed around innovation for clean and fair development -- not growth -- but development. If we took advantage of the tremendous synergistic cost savings available across many sectors (transport, health, green building), we could develop more effectively without so much costly growth. Figuring how to do this quickly would be highly exportable. But it requires looking beyond simply growth to the idea of development in human terms.

Comment on Batteries and electric vehicles – disruption may come sooner than you think by Nick White

Sun, 12 Mar 2017 19:41:27 +0000

Excellent article Richard. With reference to John Goodenough I just wanted to flag the Japan-UK Science Symposium in 2014 where it was stated in the brochure. "At that time, several European development programmes focused on advanced battery materials for rechargeable lithium batteries, including work by Professor John Goodenough at Oxford University on a lithium cobalt oxide cathode. The UKAEA co-ordinated these efforts in the UK and built a strong IP portfolio around materials, some of which was subsequently licensed to SONY Corporation and later to a number of other major battery companies in Japan to support a rapidly growing demand for emerging consumer electronics products." SONY was the first to go commercial. So the UK was THE world leader in lithium battery technology in early 90's. So what happened? They stopped doing research. Simple as that and had very little commercial foresight.

Comment on Batteries and electric vehicles – disruption may come sooner than you think by Mweni Chibwa

Sat, 11 Mar 2017 08:04:26 +0000

Dear Mr Brown speaking as someone who is from the "developing world" I know of the inneficiencies associated with marketing of refined oil products. It is not necessarily a given that any fall in international demand for transportation oil will lead to lower prices for consumers in these markets. "Up like a rocket, down like a feather", any fall in road transportation could also be offset by increased demand by aviation, chemicals and freight haulage. The real game changer in my view will be battery powered road haulage and farming. Dr Jones I greatly enjoyed your discussion with Dr Russ Roberts on econtalk and your book Against Transhumanism is a much needed antidote to a lot of the techno-utopianism prevailing in many tech circles.

Comment on Batteries and electric vehicles – disruption may come sooner than you think by Steve Brown

Fri, 10 Mar 2017 10:39:15 +0000

With regard to peaking oil demand, I can't help thinking that there would be a demand response in the developing world to a reduction in oil prices. Many poor people are currently priced out of consuming as much petrol kerosene or diesel as they would like. A barrel of oil not consumed in the developed world will almost certainly be consumed at a slightly lower price in a poorer country. And that is a good thing in as much as it raises standards of living. In the west we don't think that there is much elasticity of demand in petroleum products, but in large parts of the world there is.