Science and Technology

We're here because we're here

Submitted by AWL on 17 March, 2018 - 7:15 Author: Les Hearn
Stephen Hawking

We’re here because we’re here

Les Hearn wrote this review of a Brief History of Time in 1989 for Socialist Organiser. We reprint it as a tribute to Stephen Hawking who died on 14 March.

In 1963, when he was a student, Stephen Hawking was told he had motor neurone disease and had possibly two years to live. Now, confined to a wheelchair, unable to move, breathing through a hole in his windpipe, communicating by computer and voice synthesiser, he is one of the world’s leading theoretical physicists.

Will the counter-revolution be tweeted?

Submitted by SJW on 14 March, 2018 - 11:39 Author: Martin Thomas

False news spreads on Twitter much faster than truth. Researchers at MIT have published the results of research into 126,000 fact-checkable stories tweeted or retweeted between 2006 and 2017 (

True stories rarely reached more than 1000 people through retweeting; the top 1% of false-news tweet-cascades got to 10,000 or more.

True reports took six times as long as falsehoods to reach 15,000 people. Falsehoods were 70% more likely to be retweeted than truths.

What Google Search figures teach us martin Mon, 01/08/2018 - 17:08
Google Trends

Some political tides are flowing our way a bit, but not as much as we might hope. Google's latest figures from their web search engine, released in December 2017, show that the number of people taking to the web to find out more about "socialism" is increasing in Britain, though modestly.

The worldwide picture is less encouraging. It shows spikes after the economic crash in 2008-9, and in early 2016, with publicity for Sanders and Corbyn, but no increasing trend.

1980s ozone layer to return by... 2050 Matthew Wed, 10/18/2017 - 12:35

Good news! The ozone hole is shrinking at last, a rare success for collective action in response to scientific evidence.1 Unfortunately, it will take until 2050 to return to its 1980 levels.

This is because the chemicals largely responsible for its depletion are very stable and those already released will persist in the atmosphere until then, even if no more emissions take place. It’s 30 years since the signing of the Montreal Protocol which aimed to tackle the problem of the accelerating destruction of the ozone layer by chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs).

Uber: workers’ loss? Matthew Wed, 10/04/2017 - 12:20

James Farrar, chair of the United Private Hire Drivers’ branch of the IWGB union, spoke to Solidarity about working for Uber and the cancellation of their licence.

I am a founder as well as the chair of the United Private Hire Drivers’ (UPHD) branch of the IWGB union.

I need to make your clothes, shine your boots and drive your motorcycle Matthew Wed, 07/26/2017 - 08:28

Even those outside the tech space would struggle to have missed the recent hype around automation and artificial intelligence (AI). Fuelled by rapid developments in technological innovation hyped in the last two years, although mostly developed over the last two decades, many cerebral types suggest we may be at the start of be some significant changes in capitalist production. They even gave it a grandiose name: “The Fourth Industrial Revolution”.

Slow down in life expectancy Matthew Wed, 07/26/2017 - 07:19

Life expectancy in England, which has been steadily rising for more than 100 years, has stalled.

Government and World Health Organisation advisor Sir Michael Marmot looked at Office for National Statistics data showing that the rate of increase in life expectancy had nearly halved since 2010.

Letters: All risks and nuclear risks Matthew Wed, 03/08/2017 - 10:26

The debate in Solidarity on nuclear power is in danger of missing three points. The first is that all forms of energy production carry risks; the second is that some risks are more visible than others; the third is that some risks are exaggerated while others are ignored or minimised.

Laker and Zubrowski (Solidarity 431) warn that the left should not support nuclear power because of “its radioactive byproduct, unique [but unspecified] risk” and contribution to carbon emissions.

The Anthropocene or Capitalocene? Matthew Wed, 10/26/2016 - 11:57

In 2008, the International Commission on Stratigraphy created a Working Group on the Anthropocene (WGA) to examine the addition of a new epoch to the geological time scale. In August 2016, all but one of the WGA’s 35 members agreed that the Anthropocene is “stratigraphically real”, and 30 agreed that the new epoch should be formally added to the time scale.

Majority opinion also indicated in favour of the view that globally synchronous changes to the Earth System most clearly intensified in the “Great Acceleration” of the mid-20th century.1

Prescription opioids: the opiate of the people Matthew Wed, 10/19/2016 - 11:47

The 2016 World Congress on Pain, meeting in Yokohama in late September, held a packed Special Session on Opioids. The theme was their role in pain medicine. This might seem fairly settled since the analgesic properties of opium have been known for at least 3,000 years. Not so!