Hubble at Imax

If you want to be visually blown away and travel to deep space in 3D I highly recommend Hubble at Imax.

It’s only 45 minutes and you’ll have to endure a seriously dumbed down American narration, but there is nothing like travelling trillions of miles away, faster than the speed of light, to nebulae that give birth to stars and ones that contain thousands of galaxies perhaps like our own.

The universe is way more breathtaking than anything we can produce… except for science and transcendental imagination… the former is supplied here in 3D, the latter you are invited to bring to the screening yourself 🙂

Fed election continued.. a hung Parliament

Fed election continued.. a hung Parliament

On election night there was a weird surprise: neither Labor nor the Liberal (conservative) parties of Australia have won an outright majority in the 150 seat lower house which would require 76 seats. Ballots in many electorates are still being counted but it is obvious that neither main party has more than 72 or 73 seats each. The balance of power rests on 3-4 independents and the first ever Green member of the lower house.

Having a hung parliament may seem a terrible thing at first, but it is becoming obvious that:
1) Australians were unimpressed, and rightly so in my opinion, with the campaign of both major parties, and effectively ended up not giving a mandate to either, and
2) The hung Parliament situation may actually be a really good one for the electorate!

Why? Because we now have some very smart (and one rather obtuse) independents holding the balance of power and they get to decide who forms the next government. This gives them an enormous power. So far they vowed to act as a block, but today cracks have emerged in this argument. The Green candidate is pulling to the left, one independent is obstinate and pulls to the right on local issues, while 2-3 of the other ones (the third is yet to be declared a winner in his seat) are adamant at getting as many concessions and promises from both major parties as they can. However, there is no unity amongst these independents on climate change and the economy, two of the biggest issues at hand, and two that are mostly in contradiction!

So volatile, unpredictable days are ahead as the vote counting continues, the two major parties haggle with the independents, and they in return decide whom they’ll form a government with. They have also declared to not rule out joining forces with neither parties and then we’ll have another election. This unpredictable situation can be nerve wrecking and could lead to some weird outcomes. However, more and more commentators emphasise, and I concur after listening to an hour of the press gallery grilling all independents today, that this situation could also lead to real dialogue, more transparency in politics, a livelier Parliament and better outcomes for Australia. Of course, it all depends on the details… and we won’t know those for weeks perhaps.

Meanwhile the Greens will hold the balance of power in the Senate with 9 senators from next July for up to 6 years. Perhaps we are slowly witnessing the two-party (‘Wooworth-Coles’) political system morphing into a multi-party system with the Greens slowly shifting into view. I really hope so.

Australian politics has both shifted to the right and has become blander and more paralysed. The two major parties have merged on policy and have conducted a thoroughly negative empty campaign that failed to convince Australia that they should lead the country. I couldn’t agree more with the electorate! It is ironic and sad that the only way the electorate could send a complete no-confidence vote to both parties was through a hung Parliament, but perhaps this gives us the opportunity for a new opening, with potential electoral reforms that could pave the way to a better multi-party system.

Let’s hope it’s true and we can also finally get some resolution on outstanding issues that Ausralia keeps lagging behind on: climate change legislation, same-sex marriage, immigration, health reform, broadband network and scrapping the internet filter.

I’ll eagerly wait to see what will transpire. Let’s hope those independents can get cracking and help re-shape Australian politics.

Federal election 2010

Federal election 2010

Today Australia voted and we are just watching the results roll in.

It was one of the most demotivational of campaigns on both sides, a very negative one. The analysis of how people voted will be quite interesting, many have lost any confidence, trust and motivation in the whole political process.

The results may be on the knife edge, but I put my money on Labor, narrowly… and am very curious to see if the new Sex Party gets into the Senate (doubt it) and what the swing towards the Greens will end up being (suspect quite big).

Now… back to watching the coverage.. and cooking Thai food at home, snuggling with Chris and chilling 😀

Mr Slavoj Žižek

Mr Slavoj Žižek

Žižek is a phenomenon to delight and potentially infuriate all sociologists… what not to like? 😉

The latest book of this Slovenian thinker, Living in the End of Times, is on my reading list next. Can’t wait to get my teeth into it, once it arrives through the post.

Review:

“Zizek analyzes the end of the world at the hands of the “four riders of the apocalypse.” There should no longer be any doubt: global capitalism is fast approaching its terminal crisis. Slavoj Zizek has identified the four horsemen of this coming apocalypse: the worldwide ecological crisis; imbalances within the economic system; the biogenetic revolution; and exploding social divisions and ruptures. But, he asks, if the end of capitalism seems to many like the end of the world, how is it possible for Western society to face up to the end times? In a major new analysis of our global situation, Slavok Zizek argues that our collective responses to economic Armageddon correspond to the stages of grief: ideological denial, explosions of anger and attempts at bargaining, followed by depression and withdrawal.

After passing through this zero-point, we can begin to perceive the crisis as a chance for a new beginning. Or, as Mao Zedong put it, “There is great disorder under heaven, the situation is excellent.” Slavoj Zizek shows the cultural and political forms of these stages of ideological avoidance and political protest, from New Age obscurantism to violent religious fundamentalism. Concluding with a compelling argument for the return of a Marxian critique of political economy, Zizek also divines the wellsprings of a potentially communist culture—from literary utopias like Kafka’s community of mice to the collective of freak outcasts in the TV series Heroes.”

His heavy accent may annoy you in the following video, but I particularly enjoyed his ideas combined with the graphics… and might just have to use it for teaching purposes.

Teaching: science, society and the environment

I’m now teaching a new unit at university, SOC254, about the modern conundrums of science, society and the environment.

Here’s a gorgeous Carl Sagan inspired clip that inspired me this morning to talk about my teaching…

SOC254 is an interdisciplinary sociology subject in which I have 50 students and me and my colleague Geoff Young are teaching it the first time, in collaboration. I convene the unit and I give all the lectures too, and am responsible for the online representation of the course: course materials, lecture audio, assignment info etc all available online.

The course is wonderfully rich: we explore the origins of scientific thinking, the history of human’s relationship with Nature, the origins of our current environmental crisis, the knowledge systems and range of values that underpin our assessment and interpretation of environmental issues today, the politics of climate change and global warming, the intricacies of biodiversity, social theories such as risk society, the place of science in policy formation, policy as the arena for contestation, green values and the modern history of environmental history in Australia, sustainability and activism, and the human psychology that underpins change or prevents it from occuring in the environmental context.

The course is a lot of work and I’m really enjoying it! We make some of the lectures interactive and have various exercises for tutorials to engage students in the issues. Assignments range from short analysis of an environmental issue, to an essay on the conceptual frameworks underpinning environmental thought, to a report on a specific environmental issue and an agency that advances particular claims in the contestation of that issue and how they make use of science.

Contact me if you want to know more, it’s a really awesome new subject and I can talk about it for hours 😉