How to tell at a glance if the Moon is waxing or waning

Do you know how to tell at a glance whether the Moon is waxing or waning? Well, if you don’t, I’ll tell you how to do it — but first, an interlude:

So… I just need you to focus on two things: the Moon’s shadow, and the phrase ‘Wax on, wax off’.

As it’s read, ‘wax on’ is on the left, and ‘wax off’ (that is to say, ‘wane’) is on the right. So if the Moon’s shadow is on the left, that means ‘wax on’ — it’s waxing. And if the shadow is on the right, that means ‘wax off’ — it’s waning.

So simple, and yet it’s taken me a lifetime to realise it!

[A minor complication: The more astute of you who have actually watched the clip above may have noticed that when Daniel is doing ‘wax on’, he uses his right hand; and he uses his left hand for ‘wax off’. Which confuses things just a little bit; but if you think of the Man in the Moon as the one doing the Karate training, from that perspective the shadow when waxing is on the right (wax on) and it’s on the left when waning (wax off). So that works, too.]

Addendum: I had a sudden thought, wondering about whether this rule of thumb would work for those in the Southern hemisphere… a little digging revealed that it’s different ‘down under’; the sides are reversed, so it’s waxing when the shadow is on the right and waning when it’s on the left (and apparently the Moon itself looks upside down, too!).

Posted in Communication, Education, Environment, memetics, Science, Strategy | Tagged , , , , | 8 Comments

The trouble with plastic waste

A comprehensive take on our love affair with plastic. Ideally served with a dose of Plomomedia’s mashup ‘Our Today is Forever’:


eightmillion Figure 1: The great Pacific Garbage patch [, 2018]

With large garbage patches of plastic growing in the oceans, the ecological impact of our oil addiction is now a major crisis. And it’s also starting to impact on human health, with particles of plastic finding its way into human food chain and water supplies. It’s becoming less the blue planet we inhabit and more the plastic planet.

How Long Garbage Lasts in the Ocean Figure 2: Plastic can stick around for a surprisingly long period of time!

And the bad news is that this is only for openers. Some plastics can take centuries to biodegrade completely (leaching chemicals into the environment as they do so). So even if we ceased production of them tomorrow, that still leaves a huge toxic legacy to deal with. In many respects its proving the parable of the lily pond….just on a planetary scale!

not-happy.png Figure 3: Consumerism is serving…

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Posted in Biodiversity, Culture, Education, Environment, Health, Reblogs | Tagged | 6 Comments

How to ensure that your blog lives forever

I made a mistake a few weeks ago.

I need to back up a bit and explain something. I hate advertising. I think it’s the devil’s own backyard. Don’t get me wrong: There’s nothing wrong with hawking one’s wares; if somebody wants a widget and nobody knows you can make that widget, that’s not much help to anyone. But what I hate about advertising in this day and age is that it’s not so much about connecting buyer with seller as it is about brainwashing folks into buying things, even when more often than not they don’t want those things (but don’t yet realise it).

How many times have you bought something to make you feel happy (or, just better) and found that six weeks later the thing you bought still makes you feel better? I’m guessing ‘never’… am I right?

The advertising industry is worth megabucks. Make that ‘terabucks’. Why is that? It’s because the advertisers can get us to part with our hard-earned cash to buy things that we can easily do without. And they do it largely through underhanded techniques; persuading us that ownership of this widget or that can make us more appealing to the opposite sex, or will enhance some other aspect of our otherwise humdrum lives. And they do it with repetition, repetition, repetition. Television adverts, for instance, don’t just inform us of what’s available: they brainwash us through constant repeats of the same thing over and over, until all that’s required is the jingle to get us to remember what is being sold (can you hear the sound of Intel in your head?).

Of course they deny that’s what they’re doing. And we buy into this, too… most people believe that they’re immune to the kind of advertising I’m talking about, it only works on the other fellah, right? If that’s true, why is it that the advertising industry is worth terabucks?

… Sorry about that: my tangent went further adrift than I thought it would. The point is that I hate advertising, with a passion. So back when I had a ‘free’ WordPress website, I was very conscious of the fact that I was subjecting my visitors to adverts (and I had no idea what those adverts were pushing). So one day, I decided to bite the bullet and cough up for a WordPress ‘personal plan’, one that would guarantee no more adverts for my poor visitors (you).

Here’s where the mistake I made comes into it…

Hmm… I see that I need to back up a little bit again.

I’ve had this blog since 2007. That’s a long time, in Internet terms. I don’t know of many blogs that have lasted that long. In fact a lot of the blogs I used to connect with have tumbleweeds running through them now; very few are still active. But the blogs are still there. Take Dwight Towers, for instance. The last post there was almost four years ago, in November 2014. And yet the site is still accessible, as

Here’s another example: David Robertson has a website at, another site that’s still accessible. However, David’s old blog points to a ‘new home’ at — but that domain appears to be as dead as the proverbial dodo 😦 — I’ve been in touch with him, and he tells me that his latest blog is at — though that one’s in the doldrums, too….

From 2007 until very recently, my own blog here, Wibble, was addressable as It still is: but, until recently, that address translated to — because I got suckered into the ‘free’ offer of my own web domain, included in the price of my WordPress ‘personal plan’. And ‘’ was just too good to pass up.

The problem is that if ‘’ translates to ‘’ then many (not all) of the automatic links that WordPress creates would be to ‘’, not to ‘’ (comment links, for instance, would be to ‘’).

So (finally) this is where my mistake factors into the equation. I would have to keep paying for the personal plan every year, or the domain name will stop working (or, worse, be bought up by some pr0n dealer). Were I to revert to a ‘free’ plan (the one that inflicts adverts on you good folks) this would mean that a lot of the links to my website (those I’ve crafted using ‘’ rather than ‘’) would just stop working.

And of course, there’s one point at which ‘’ will cease to be paid for by me: and that’s after I’m dead (!).

Now that I realise this, I’m going to make sure that I use ‘’ when linking to my site in future.

The big problem (since I, naturally, want my words to live forever — or at least, as long as possible) is that social media doesn’t recognise death.* When I’m dead, nobody’s going to pay for the upkeep of the domain name ‘’. And that’s why I’ve reconfigured my site so that ‘’ (the ‘free’ domain) is the main address of my site, and ‘’ is just an alternative.

“What’s the solution?” I hear Paul Handover asking me, as is his wont. I’m not sure there is one. The Internet is still too young; the designers didn’t think far enough ahead to cater for linkrot-caused-by-death-of-the-one-paying-for-a-domain-name.

The moral of this story? If you’ve got a ‘free’ WordPress plan, your words can live forever (well, as long as WordPress continues, anyway). If you’ve bought into having your own domain name, if you actually use that name, your words may disappear along with you when you go….

* I had to manually change the ‘’ in that link to ‘’ 😦

Posted in ... wait, what?, Communication, Computers and Internet, Education, Ludditis, Phlyarology, Strategy | Tagged , , | 43 Comments

Human Population Through Time

It took 200,000 years for our human population to reach 1 billion —
and only 200 years to reach 7 billion.

Posted in ... wait, what?, balance, Communication, Core thought, Education, Environment, History, Phlyarology | Tagged , , , | 4 Comments

Unwinding the Human Predicament

From here, reproduced with permission from the author Jack Alpert of the Stanford Knowledge Integration Laboratory, with a hat tip to Damn the Matrix for pointing me in this direction:

Note: this is an unfinished work, comments welcome alpert (at)

On St Matthew Island in the Bering Sea, the US Coast Guard brought 29 reindeer to graze on the island’s moss, to provide an emergency food source for men stationed there. Several years later the men left, leaving the reindeer. The herd grew too large for their natural moss food supply, ate it to destruction, and perished.

Humans on earth are about to share that reindeer experience. We are consuming our supporting resources to exhaustion.

We are too big for our ecological niche on Earth. We are consuming our renewing resources like clean water and soil to destruction. We are consuming fossil and uranium energy to exhaustion. The solar and wind renewable energy sources won’t be able to replace them. And we are dispersing to the point of lost utility our non renewing supports like phosphorus and rare earths.

Barring some technological breakthrough, the Earth at the end of this century will support far fewer people. Our population, according to UN projections, might rise to 9 or 10 billion persons by 2050, after which, according to my calculations, our numbers might descend to 600 million — who will live like 17th century serfs. This decline, without extreme restrictions on births, will result from starvation or conflict deaths.

Few want to believe my scenario. Most want to believe technology will make ‘tomorrow better than today‘. When previous civilizations overshot regional and technological limitations and collapsed, they rebuilt themselves better than before. People believe they and their children will slip through this century’s bottleneck and be the survivors in the next even better civilization.

My computations suggest only radical changes in human behavior resulting from a change in social organization can reduce overshoot to zero, avoid the tragedy, and implement an ever improving civilization. However, these changes appear too difficult to implement. Our genes are against them. Parts of our evolved brain are against them. Our culture is against them. Our institutions are against them. Most people see my proposed changes as expensive extravagances that obtain nothing of value — specifically they see them avoiding no meaningful liabilities.

Thus humankind continues to muddle forward. When the media presents:
a) views of ongoing and projected human and environmental injury
for example, climate change, or species extinction, and
b) thousands of proposed projects to address them,
the viewer fails to see that:
none of these issues reflect the full gravity of our predicament and that
even if all these issues are successfully addressed,
most injuries I project for this century will not be avoided.

Little is going to change unless:
a) autocratic action or
b) a ground swell of new learning among billions of individuals,
implements a civilization that modulates what is considered normal, and approved, personal behavior.
For example, we need collective human behavior which:
a) lowers the human footprint below earthly supports. And,
b) maintains these conditions thereafter.

If this change is to depend on collective will, rather than autocratic rule, billions of individuals have to know/ believe:

  • injuries exist on our civilization’s path that are worth avoiding See Part 1 of 6
  • an alternate design of civilization exists that does not create these extreme injuries See Part 2 of 6
  • forces exist that produce and maintain this design See Part 3 of 6
  • a social contract exists that creates these forces See Part 4 of 6
  • a global constituency can implement this social contract See Part 5 of 6
  • there is a process for creating the individuals that fill this constituency See Part 6 of 6

There is more to this… much more. Visit the website for more information — perhaps starting here.

Posted in ... wait, what?, balance, Biodiversity, Communication, Core thought, Culture, Environment, Health, Strategy | Tagged , , , , | 14 Comments

Bacteria in Bottles – an example of Exponential Growth

Professor Albert Bartlett famously said:

The greatest shortcoming of the human race is our inability to understand the exponential function.

A short while ago I published a wibblette that tried to explain the exponential function.
Dr Bob Rich added a comment:

I agree, many of humanity’s historical problems are because people think in straight lines not exponentials. My usual analogy is the one water weed seed landing in a pond. It produces a plant in a day. That plant only produces 2 new ones, on the next day. On the 3rd day, each of those 2 plants duplicate. Right. Eventually, half the pond is covered. How long before all of it is?
I used to describe this when teaching statistics to students who took an Arts course to get away from mathematics.
Most of them COULDN’T WORK IT OUT.

This reminded me of a part of Professor Bartlett’s lecture ‘Arithmetic, population and energy‘ where he gives a good example of the exponential function. So here’s his example — all three minutes of it, with a transcript below if you’d rather read than watch and listen.

Let’s look now at what happens when we have this kind of steady growth in a finite environment. Bacteria grow by doubling, and one bacterium divides to become two; the two divide to become four; the four become eight, sixteen and so on.

Suppose we had bacteria that doubled in number in this way every minute. Suppose we put one of these bacteria in an empty bottle at eleven in the morning and then observe that the bottle is full at twelve noon.

Now, there’s our case of just ordinary, steady growth: it has a doubling time of one minute; it’s in the finite environment of one bottle. I want to ask you three questions:

Number one: At what time was the bottle half full?

… Well, would you believe 11:59, one minute before twelve, because they double in number every minute.

And the second question: If you were an average bacterium in that bottle, at what time would you first realise that you were running out of space?

… Now, think about this: this kind of steady growth is the centrepiece of the national [US] economy and of the entire global economy. Think about it.

Well, let’s just look at the last minutes in the bottle:

At twelve noon it’s full
One minute before, it’s half full
Two minutes before, it’s a quarter full
… then an eighth, then a sixteenth.

Let me ask you: at five minutes before twelve, when the bottle is only 3% full, and is 97% open space just yearning for development: how many of you would realise there was a problem?

Now, in the ongoing controversy over growth in Boulder [Colorado], someone wrote to the newspaper some years ago and said, “Look, there isn’t any problem with population growth in Boulder because,” the writer said, “we have fifteen times as much open space as we’ve already used.” So let me ask you what time was it in Boulder when the open space was fifteen times the amount of space we’d already used? And the answer is: it was four minutes before twelve in Boulder Valley.

Well, suppose that at two minutes before twelve some of the bacteria realise that they’re running out of space, so they launch a great search for new bottles. And they search offshore, on the outer continental shelf, in the overthrust belt and in the Arctic — and they find three new bottles. Now that is a colossal discovery; that discovery is three times the amount of resource they ever knew about before. They now have four bottles. Before the discovery there was only one! Now, surely, this will give them a sustainable society. Won’t it?

Well, you know what the third question is: How long can the growth continue as a result of this magnificent discovery?

Well, let’s look at the score. At twelve noon one bottle is filled; there are three to go. 12:01 two bottles are filled; there are two to go. At 12:02 all four are filled — and that’s the end of the line.

Posted in ... wait, what?, Communication, Education, People, Phlyarology, Strategy | Tagged , , , , , | 10 Comments

“If you Ignore the recent Warming, There’s Been No warming”: Deniers Go Full Arm-Wave on Hansen’s 1988 Predictions

Climate change deniers persist with their misinformation…

Climate Denial Crock of the Week

There’s been a flurry of climate denial activity coinciding with the 30 anniversary of James Hansen’s uncannily accurate testimony to congress on climate change, June 23, 1988.  If you have not seen my vid on this, it’s at the bottom of the post.

Prominently, the Rupert (Fox News) Murdoch owned Wall Street Journal published a piece by serial climate denier and right wing think tank shill Pat Michaels, and a lesser known flack.

The piece is full of holes. Basically, “there’s been no warming since 1998 if you ignore all that warming.”

Dana Nuccitelli shines a light in the Guardian.  Zeke Hausfather, above, has some supporting information.


The incredible accuracy of Hansen’s climate model predictions debunks a number of climate denier myths. It shows that climate models are accurate and reliable, that global warming is proceeding as climate scientists predicted, and thus that we should probably start…

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Posted in Climate, Education, Environment, GCD: Global climate disruption, News and politics, Reblogs | Tagged , | 7 Comments

Join the Amazon Boycott!

Pages Unbound asked the question recently ‘How can Barnes & Noble save themselves?‘ and offers a variety of solutions to the problem.

Of course the issue isn’t one faced just by Barnes & Noble, it applies to all vendors of quality products containing pages.

Boycott Amazon - tax avoider

Click to visit Ethical Consumer’s Boycott Amazon page

The real root of the problem is unfair competition by Amazon. And one of the reasons that this competition is unfair is that Amazon, in common with so many multinational organisations, cheats us all by not paying its fair share of taxes.

So another way of dealing with the problem would be for consumers to ‘vote with their feet’ and patronise other vendors.

I’ve been boycotting Amazon myself since 2015. Of course one person makes little difference, it takes a whole lot of drips to make a puddle…

Posted in balance, Business, Capitalism, Communication, crowdsourcing, Strategy | Tagged , , , , , , , | 14 Comments

Bite size climate science: the persuaders

Climate science isn’t rocket science, but it is still complex, and complicated further by the misinformation spread by the Merchants of Doubt and their groupies, as well as those who have been persuaded by their underhand tactics over the years.

The true message of climate science, however, can be fairly simply distilled. So here are four short video clips totalling a smidgeon over six minutes in total. I hope that you’ll watch them, especially if you’re undecided about whether climate change is something to be concerned about — or simply flat out think it isn’t.

First, from the World Meteorological Organization courtesy of Sir Charles, weighing in at a mere 53 seconds:

Lasting just under two minutes in length, again courtesy of Sir Charles, here’s ‘Monthly Global Temperature Jazz’, which puts the climb in global temperature since 1880 into audio perspective:

Next up is Katharine Hayhoe’s climate change elevator pitch, courtesy of Climate Denial Crock of the Week: this one is just 1:31…

… following up the rear at 2:23 there’s Eric Rignot’s climate change elevator pitch, which I reblogged the other day, also courtesy of Climate Denial Crock of the Week, well worth repeating:

Posted in Climate, Communication, Education, Environment, GCD: Global climate disruption, People | Tagged , , , | 13 Comments

Turbo-boost your site by optimising images

In a previous life, I used to design business websites. One of the things I made very sure of was that the ‘weight’ (size, in bytes) of each page was as low as possible, because heavier pages take longer to load, and people are impatient. If your page doesn’t load fast, your visitors will click elsewhere 😦

Text isn’t a problem; it doesn’t ‘weigh’ very much at all. The big problem is always the pictures. It’s important to make these as light in weight as possible; not so much ‘small’ in width and height but small in terms of the file size. If you use Windows Explorer (assuming you’re on a Windows system) then hovering your mouse over a file will reveal the file’s size in ‘KB’ (which stands for ‘kilobytes’; thousands of bytes). For image files, you want to keep this size low; I use the rule of thumb that 50 KB should be the largest file size for most: and picture files coming out of a camera will be much larger than this.

"Size is everything"

This is a full size image; filesize is 25KB

"Size is everything"

A ‘thumbnail’ image; filesize is still 25KB

A common technique for making an image appear smaller on screen is to resize it in the page; but that’s a mistake, as the image retains its full weight even though it appears smaller (as with the image on the right). Such a page will take just as long to load as it would were the image to be rendered at its full size.

If you’ve followed me so far, you’ll probably be thinking “that’s all well and good, but how do I make my image files smaller?”.

For this, you’ll need image manipulation software of some sort. Photoshop is quite commonly used. I use Paintshop Pro myself. There are also online editor programs that will do the job; some of them are even free. With such software, you can crop (cut the edges off) pictures and resize them to smaller dimensions. Once you’ve done that, you then save them in an appropriate format, such as:

  • PNG (when you want to retain high quality)
  • JPEG (good for photographic images)
  • GIF (if you want to use animations)

An additional benefit of going the extra mile to optimise your images is that you’ll need far less storage space, something that is usually limited by your web hosting provider.

I’ve skimmed over the main points here; I left a lot out so as to keep this article short. If you have any questions, please do use the comments to ask!

Posted in Computers and Internet, Strategy | Tagged , , , , , , , | 17 Comments