I followed a Braam Malherbe vehicle in the traffic this morning. I have no idea if it was the Braam Malherbe vehicle or if there are other Braam Malherbe vehicles, but given that Braam Malherbe describes himself as:

A South African international motivational speaker, extreme conservationist, extreme adventurer, philanthropist, writer and educator.

you’d imagine that he’d probably have at least a jetski and an assault helicopter as well as a bakkie.

Basically, we’re looking at Lewis Pugh-lite here.

I’m concerned though. Is he not spreading himself a little thinly? Wouldn’t it be better to cut back on the range of activities he does and do them a bit better. Not, I hasten to add, that I’m suggesting that he’s not doing them well right now. Just that surely if he devoted a little more time to, say, the writing and the speaking, he could probably improve them both. Makes sense, no?

Also, what is “extreme conservation”? I find the idea rather discriminatory against less extreme, but equally endangered species.

“OMG Braam, the Lesser Spotted Beagle Owl has just been added to the red list!”
“That’s terrible, Penelope. What’s its primary habitat?”
“Well, the remaining 2 pairs live in the mountains just outside Somerset West.”
“Pfft. That’s nowhere near extreme enough. Let them die. Now, you got any more news on that Antarctic lichen? And get me a coffee – use those beans I brought back in that handmade snakeskin bag from that mountain in Mongolia.”

I’m guessing that’s probably what it’s like in his office most days. And that’s also why you’ll never see a Lesser Spotted Beagle Owl in Somerset West.

One of the reasons, anyway.

I’m sure that Braam Malherbe is a great guy, doing great things. I’m sure that he’d be even more famous than he already is if he’d only add “cold water swimmer” to his CV. And I’m sure that if he did do cold water swimming, he’d be more than willing to answer questions about the massive carbon footprint of his recent Seven Seas Expedition.

Nigerian student uses magnets to prove gay marriage scientifically impossible

Headline of the day, right there.

Ah. Science. So long the bastion of the rational mind. So, when I read that Chibuihem Stanley Amalaha, a student of University of Lagos studying Chemical Engineering at the School of Post Graduate Studies, had scientifically proven that gay marriage was impossible, well, then assuming that his methods were sound and his work peer-reviewed, it must be true. Right?

I had to delve more deeply, so I went here to read about how Amalaha had come to his conclusion. And it was there that I learned that it wasn’t just magnets which had aided Amalaha in his deduction, it was poultry, electrostatics and algebra.
Yep, before you’ve even thought of a basic rebuttal to the magnets thing, he’s already got this one sewn up.
Or so it would seem.

Amalaha isn’t some two-bit, backstreet researcher, either. He’s worked on projects involving optics, fundamental mathematics, environmental chemistry and astronomy. He’s won awards and been on TV. You’re going to find it hard to argue with his credentials.

There’s a long interview with Amalaha on ThisdayLive (the link above), so I’m taken the important points from his work and I’m putting it here, because this guy is a genius and I like genii.

Amalaha on magnets:

I used two bar magnets in my research. A bar magnet is a horizontal magnet that has the North Pole and the South Pole and when you bring two bar magnets and you bring the North Pole together you find that the two North Poles will not attract. They will repel, that is, they will push away themselves showing that a man should not attract a man.
A female should not attract a female as South Pole of a magnet does not attract the South Pole of a magnet. But, when you bring a North Pole of a magnet and a South Pole of a magnet they will attract because they are not the same, indicating that a man will attract a woman because of the way nature has made a female.

At first, I was like, that’s so simple that it can’t be right.
But then, I was like, hang on, that’s so simple that it has to be right.

Physics has spoken. On the issue of homosexual marriage. In magnet fashion.

Amahala on acid (quite possibly by the sound of it):

When you bring surphuric acid and you reacts it with sodium hydroxide which is a base you are going to have salt and water. That tells you that the acid is a different body, the base is a different body and they will react. But if you bring an acid and you pour it on top of an acid chemistry there will be no reaction.  If you bring water and pour it on top it shows that there will be no reaction. If you bring a base either sodium hydroxide and you pour it on top of a sodium hydroxide you find out that there will be reaction showing that a man on top of a man will have no reaction. A woman on top of a woman will have no reaction, that is what chemistry is showing.

Again, this undeniable theory that like and like don’t go together.

“Who’d have thought, we could be lovers? She makes the bed and he steals the covers,” sang Paula Abdul and MC SkatKat in their 1989 hit Opposites Attract which Amalaha didn’t quote, but probably should have done. But they got on just fine, simply because she was a pre-alcoholic singing sensation and he was a collection of pixels in feline form. Christ alone knows what Amahala would make of that relationship.

And yes, Hydrogen atoms mate for life and make H2 and they’re the same as one another, but it’s worth noting that Helium doesn’t form diatomic molecules, because, as Amahala would have said if only he’d thought of it, He and He simply don’t go together.

Amahala on fowl cocks (I am so sorry – Ed.):

In biology, I used simple experiments and I came down to a lay man. We have seen that the female of a fowl is called hen and the male of a fowl is called a cock. We have never seen where a cock is having sex with a cock and we have never seen where a hen is having sex with another.

Or maybe it did happen and you missed it because you were playing with your magnets?

Amahala on A + B (this is long, but it’s worth reading):

If you say A + B in mathematics you are going to have B + A. For example, if I say two plus three it will give five. If I start from three, I say three plus two it also give you five showing that two plus three and three plus two are commutative because they gave the same results. That shows that A + B will give you B + A, you see that there is a change. In A + B, A started the journey while in B + A, B started the journey. If we use A as a man and use B as a woman we are going to have B + A that is woman and man showing that there is a reaction. A + B reacted, they interchanged and gave us B + A showing that commutativity obeys that a man should not marry a man and a woman should not marry a woman. If you use idempotency, it’s a reaction in mathematics where A + A = A. Actually in abstract algebra, A + A =2A but we are less concerned with the numerical value two. We are more less concerned with the symbols A, you find out that A + A will give you A showing that the whole thing goes unchanged. It didn’t change unlike commutativity A + B give B + A there is a change. A started the journey in commutativity and A + B gave us B + A and B started the journey after the equality sign. But in the case of idempotency A + A will give you A showing that it goes unreacted. You started with A and you meet A, the final result is A. Showing that a man meeting a man A + A will produce a man there is no reaction, it goes unreacted and in chemical engineering you have to send the material back to the reactor for the action to be carried out again showing that it goes unreacted. That is how mathematics has shown that gay marriage is wrong because commutativity proves that gay marriage is wrong.

I trust that you found that as easy to follow as I did.

I particularly like the ironic use of the word “equality” about two thirds of the way through and the hint that gay men should be sent back to a reactor. If – and I doubt this was the case, but – if you were unconvinced before that every single branch of (Nigerian) science hates the idea of same-sex marriage, this streak of mathematical genius will surely have turned you around.

So if today is spent at a Nigerian School of Post Graduate Studies, what does tomorrow bring for Amahala?

I want to be able to publish it in international journals. The finance has been a problem in this area because I found out that you you have to pay in dollars for international journals to publish you. You know finance is a factor and I don’t have money to start paying in US dollars and I need sponsors so that I can pay for the journals to be published.

Somehow, I don’t think the finance side is going to be your biggest stumbling block in this particular endeavour, sunshine.

All in all, I feel dirty. I feel wronged. I feel that something I hold dear to me (science) has been bastardised and sullied by an idiot who doesn’t know what he’s talking about. It’s like when Lewis Pugh starts spouting nonsense about fracking, but with more lab work.

Of course, this isn’t really science. Well, sticking two magnets together or performing neutralisation reactions, actually, that is science. However, then applying your results of those simple experiments to same sex marriage goes a little beyond the recognised scientific method. It’s like saying that oil and water don’t mix, and then claiming that it inconclusively proves that you should never buy a French hatchback.

No. This isn’t science. This is pure bigotry.

Private Eye on shale gas

South Africa isn’t the only country to have potentially economy-changing amounts of shale gas underneath it. The UK has some too. According to the usually politically-left In The Back section of Private Eye magazine:

Cuadrilla, the gas exploration company drilling for shale gas in Lancashire, has announced its discovery of 200 trillion cubic feet of gas – a seriously big find.
If only a tenth of that were to be produced, it would still make it far larger than any gas field discovered in the North Sea, with the added benefit of it being accessible from dry land.
It represents a potential lottery win: not just for Cuadrilla, but for UK plc as a whole.

And here we are talking about 200 trillion cubic feet (tcf) of shale gas.
South Africa’s shale gas deposits are estimated to be at least 450tcf. That’s 450 000 000 000 000 cubic feet of gas. Putting that into some sort of perspective, Mossgas, the successful refinery in the Southern Cape, was built on the assumption that there was just 1 (one) tcf in deposits under the seabed.

The article continues:

Recent shale gas discoveries in the US have already transformed the North American gas market, changing it from a net importer to a net exporter in just two years, and significantly lowering gas prices there. If the Lancashire discovery turns out to be even remotely as big as has been announced, the UK will be in a position to keep its lights on cheaply – and cleanly – for a very long time to come.

Yes – locally produced shale gas means cheaper, cleaner energy.

The technology for shale gas production is controversial [including] the alleged – but disputed – potential for contamination of groundwater. Again, if the amounts of gas are as large as stated, the highest environmental standards could be imposed on its production and it would still be profitable.

Because abundant shale gas undermines the case for subsidising nuclear and renewable power generation, it faces a well-funded hostile lobby, keen to play up any negatives it can find.
Lurid films of gas-flames shooting out of bath-taps in America have comprehensively been shown to have nothing to do with shale gas production (it is a naturally-ocurring phenomenon in part of the US) but they capture the public imagination.
We can therefore expect largescale anti-shale gas protest from a range of vested “green” interests.

Indeed. I wonder if the British-born Lewis Pugh will take time out from poking his nose into other country’s affairs for long enough to “save” his homeland from an economic boom and cheaper, greener energy like he is trying to do here in South Africa.

More Logic From Lewis

We’re not huge fans of the self-titled “Human Polar Bear”, Lewis Pugh, here at 6000 miles… as you may remember from such posts as Do Some Fracking Reading from earlier this year. Pugh’s tactics to get people onto his side rely on emotion and irrationality rather than any sort of logic – which is an unnecessarily juvenile and unhelpful approach to what are (or should be) important debates.

Well, now he’s back with a corker of a tweet from this morning:

Cue over 40 sycophantic retweets and you can almost imagine people reading it and thinking “By golly, he’s correct! People die on the roads and they never shut them down for 5 days! I must forward this to all my friends and followers immediately.”

But for those who can manage to get past the kneejerk reaction and who choose to analyse further, what is it that Lewis actually saying here? It seems to me that he is irritated by the dichotomous reactions to the shark attack in Fishhoek last week and the horrendous statistics of fatalities on our local roads. In my mind, there’s absolutely no reason that these two completely unlinked things should be treated in the same manner, but Lewis obviously disagrees.

So what exactly does he suggest? Well, based on the tweet above, I guess it’s one of two things: either he wants Fishhoek beach reopened or he wants the RSA roads closed for 5 days.

Of course, choosing to close down the entire road network of a country is not a decision to be taken lightly. The effect on the economy of even a minor early morning fender bender on Hospital Bend and the subsequent delays is often quoted as running into six figures. And that’s just one road, in one city, for just one hour.
Can you even begin to imagine the impact of shutting every road in the entire country down for five days?

According to this page, the network of roads in South Africa amounts to a staggering total of 755,000 kilometres. And Lewis wants all of that shut down for 5 days?

Does Mr Pugh perhaps have shares in the local traffic cone industry?

That’s not going to work.
Better then that we find an alternative, and of course, Lewis has that covered: let’s reopen Fishhoek beach.

This is an undoubtedly brilliant plan, because not only is it easier to do than closing three-quarters of a million kilometres of roads, but it also uses fewer traffic cones and there’s obviously nothing that could assist Cape Town’s vital tourism industry more than the city being labelled as the Shark Attack Capital Of The World. People will flock from all over the planet to swim in our waters and enjoy traumatic amputations of their lower limbs or – if they choose to take the five star package – death, at the hands of the super-predators in our waters.
Those ridiculing the buffoonery of Michael Cohen will have to SIT DOWN, because purposefully wading out into shark-infested waters is the new black, according to Lewis.

Does Mr Pugh perhaps have shares in the local private medical industry?

Because I’m struggling to see any benefit to anyone else in putting people at great risk of getting attacked by the obviously hungry great whites in False Bay. Perhaps Lewis, with his impeccable aquatic pedigree, would like to be the first to go for a dip beyond the breakers. Shall we get the air ambulance ready, Lewis, since you’ve already closed all the roads?

And as an aside, even while I’m writing this:

Is there a way that we could reduce the number of people killed on our local roads? Is there a better way to symbiotically manage human/shark interactions off our coastline? I guess that the answer to both of these questions is “possibly” – maybe even “probably”.
But despite deciding to comment on these issues Lewis Pugh once again offers nothing realistic, sensible or helpful to the debate.

Do some fracking reading

I generally have no issue with people having opinions.

The only issue that I occasionally have is when those opinions are poorly considered. When people have simply chosen one side of an argument to be on simply because they think it’s the cool side to be on or because they have read or been told something, somewhere that suggests that perhaps the other side of the argument is wrong. I’m not necessarily saying that they are not allowed to do that, but when they are unable to back up their stance with some reasonable rational, they lose my respect and with it, my support.

Thou shall think for yourselves

Because the environment is such an emotive issue (you only have to look at the hysterical reactions to a tongue-in-cheek blog post about whales), there tends to be only one side that these poorly-read individuals come down upon. And that’s because it is deeply uncool to not automatically and vehemently oppose anything that may remotely harm the environment.
Yep. Apparently, no matter where you get your “facts” from, if they support “the environment”, then they must be indisputably correct.

I am, therefore, deeply uncool for even considering that the plans to consider starting exploratory work in the Karoo to consider whether there are shale gas reserves there which are worth considering, could be considered, in any way shape or form, to be a good idea.

Not that I am saying that they are a good idea, of course. Because before I began this post, I felt that I probably didn’t actually have enough knowledge or information on the technicalities of the “fracking” process to commit myself. So here I’m really not arguing for Shell et al here; I’m arguing against those who are arguing against Shell et al just because they automatically assume that Shell et al are bad people intent on destroying the Karoo.

I’m not the only one calling for a little forethought though, thank goodness. Moneyweb’s David Carte has stuck his head above the metaphorical parapet and into the direct line of fire of the full-time bunnyhuggers and their kneejerk, bandwagon-jumping associates with a piece emphasising something as radical as er… the need for consideration instead of immediate condemnation of the exploratory plans:

The moral of the story is that the project should be assessed coolly and rationally and we should beware of hot heads, scare mongers and people with vested interests.

Carte cites SA’s need for lower cost, cleaner energy and addresses some of the dichotomies that exist in people’s thoughts of the Karoo as a protected area with reference to the planned SKA project there. He also compares the alleged “vast” water usage in fracking with that of Eskom (6 million litres vs 300 billion litres). Yet because he chooses to quote actual Shell executives rather than biased (and often hysterical) green-leaning or anti-corporate websites, he is accused in the comments of writing “a PR piece for Shell”.
As I said, it’s not nice to be seen to apparently support something that has the possibility of harming the environment, even when you state perfectly logic reason for your statements.

Of course, we all drive cars. We all use petrol and petroleum products. We all use electricity and we all complain bitterly about the price increases that we’ve seen in the past. So there’s a certain amount of NIMBYism and hypocrisy in the complaints of potential environmental damage.
And you can add billionaire Johann Rupert to the hypocritical throng. Quite how a man whose $3.8billion fortune was based on the sales of cigarettes can protest about the potential risk of carcinogen exposure is beyond me.

Those calling (usually in CAPITAL LETTERS and with plenty of punctuation!!!!!!!!!!) for us all to Boycott Shell!!!!!!! are asking a lot of the apathetic South African public. Not everyone would agree with the reasoning behind the boycott nor with the method of protest. And even if, by some twist of fate the remainder were actually to turn away from Shell’s forecourts in SA, it would only be a drop in the ocean for them (perhaps a poor analogy, given BP’s recent trials and tribulations).

Lewis Pugh’s desperately emotional speech at last night’s Cape Town meeting in Newlands, telling us of the dreams of Desmond Tutu, Nelson Mandela, Mahatma Gandhi and Oliver Tambo was pitifully theatrical and contained these lines:

If we damage our limited water supply – and fracking will do just that – we will have conflict again in South Africa.
Fellow South Africans, we have had enough conflict in this land – now is the time for peace.

Wait. What?
Firstly – again – where is your evidence that “fracking will do just that”? Because now having read around the subject fairly widely, I have yet to find objective evidence that this is the case. Certainly, there have been a few instances where fracking has damaged the environment, but then equally, there have been many thousands of cases where it hasn’t. So why the certainty over the damage to the Karoo?
And then the conflict thing: is there really any way that the suggestion that by allowing these exploratory operations we will return to the troubles of the apartheid era can be described as anything more than shameful scare-mongering?

For a man with a law degree from UCT & Cambridge, it’s utterly pathetic. It’s a speech appealing to the very lowest common denominator of the audience. It’s full of wonderful soundbites but has nothing of substance. It would be laughed out of any court of law – institutions based on fact, logic and reason and not on hearsay, misinformation and emotion. However, for the purpose of generating support for his cause – for adding more unthinking sheep to the Karoo flock – it’s perfect.
And of course it will be (and already has been) widely circulated and celebrated by those very people that I am complaining about here.
On twitter, I see “South Africans, you HAVE to read @LewisPugh’s speech about Shell tonight. It’s really important.” and on facebook: “amazing speech by Louis Pugh at antifracking meeting …standing ovation.” (That one evidently didn’t even know where she was this evening. Shame.)

I recognise that I’m unlikely to change the general consensus on this matter. And even if I did, there would be something else tomorrow: dolphins, perhaps or something about rhinos and then we’d have to go through the whole thing again.

All I’m asking is that people to look at both sides of any argument – especially those where emotions run high – before making up their minds.
Read around the issue, check your sources, strain for objectivity.
Maybe you’ll find something that will make you think again; make you change direction instead of simply trotting after the other sheep in the flock.
And if you don’t see things differently when you’ve considered the other viewpoint(s), well just that’s fine as well and you’ll be able to argue your case far more logically and coherently, meaning that you stand more chance of making a difference.

And isn’t that what you want to do?

UPDATE: Please also see my follow-up post on this subject.