Science and Technology

The underside of plutocrat philanthropy

Tin-hat conspiracy theory claims that vaccinations are a ploy by Bill Gates to implant tracking microchips in our arms communicate at least two lies. There’s the obvious lie, that vaccines contain microchips. Then there’s the subtle, implicit lie: that Bill Gates is helping net global vaccination efforts. Way back in April 2020, Oxford University pledged that they would make any technologies that they develop against the Covid-19 pandemic available under “non-exclusive, royalty-free licences to support” free or cost-price supply. They only pledged to do this for the duration of the pandemic...

More doubts on Malm's water power

I would like to add some rough and ready comments to the letter from Paul Vernadsky (Solidarity 591). The idea that coal-fired steam power (as opposed to water power) was somehow adopted in order to control wage labour seems to me to be questionable. Certainly water power at one point in industrial development was very important, and not just in textile manufacture. I remember as a child growing up in Stockbridge, about ten miles west of Sheffield. There was a place called Tin Mill Wood where there was a small lake (now owned by an angling club) and piles of large stones lying around. I found...

Break the world vaccine logjam!

Just over 13 Covid jabs have been given per 100 people, world-wide, as of 25 April. That’s about five more vaccinations per 100 people since 1 April. Over April, vaccination levels have increased, but only in a straight line, about 0.2 more jabs per 100 each day, not exponentially, as they need to. At current rates it will take more than a year to give everyone in the world one dose, and two years to give everyone full vaccination, even taking into account the contribution of the Janssen single-dose vaccine. Probably long before then, the vaccine protection for those who have already had jabs...

Covid: social battles still needed

The world’s measured Covid death rate has gone through a new surge since mid-March. It may be levelling out now, but is still higher than at any time except a peak around late January. Covid is not fading yet. The latest big spike is in India, from early March, where rates have risen from a low in early March to become even higher than India’s previous worst time, in mid-September 2020. Some scientists had thought that some of India’s big cities, at least, had so many people with some immunity from previous infection that non-immunity would be scarce enough to make chains of infection peter...

Covid lessons from Chile

So far the news in Britain from the vaccine roll-out and the gradual lockdown-easing is good. News from Chile reminds us that battles for isolation pay and for workers’ control of workplace safety (as in the Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency) remain urgent. Chile has done more vaccinations per population than Britain, 58 per 100 population vs 56 here. Yet on 25 March it imposed a new lockdown in its major population centre, around Santiago, because of soaring Covid infection and death figures. The new lockdown is stricter than anything we’ve had in Britain, with borders closed, a night-time...

Lessons of Fukushima

On 12 March 2011, an earthquake near Tōhoku, about 200 miles north of Tōkyō, caused a tsunami which killed up to 20,000 people in eastern Japan. One of its effects was to overtop the defensive walls and knock out the cooling systems of the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant (NPP), resulting in three meltdowns, hydrogen explosions and releases of radioactivity. Those resulted in the death of… no one. As a safety precaution, 109,000 people were ordered to evacuate from within a 20 km radius of the NPP (while 45,000 others chose to evacuate from the wider surroundings). Among these, there were...

Agriculture and climate: it's all about the soil

The debate in the pages of Solidarity [on animal products and climate change, here] is, in my opinion, of profound importance. Not because of the influence of this paper but because it mirrors larger debates going on in the “climate change community”, and, more importantly in the agricultural communities. The intertwining of both the devastating effects of climate change and food security are obviously closely linked. For Marxists, it also raises the issue of what can be achieved under capitalism and what has to be put off until after a planetary seizure of power by the working class and true...

Was there life on Mars?

Is life on Earth unique in the universe? That is arguably the most exciting unsolved question in all of science, but the vastness of space and the technical limitations of interstellar travel significantly limit our ability to answer it. Fortunately, the answer may lie closer to Earth. Scientists hunt for signs of extraterrestrial life in many ways. But only by directly observing “biosignatures” (physical traces of life or life-induced processes) can its existence be confirmed. That requires landing instruments on planets and moons, and for now is only feasible in our Solar System. Where life...

Vaccines: requisition the patents

Producing vaccines fast and distributing them widely has become a top priority. India and South Africa have pushed for a world waiver on vaccine patents, a sharing of “intellectual property”, to maximise production. No rich country has supported them. The World Health Organisation has set up a Covid Technology Access Pool to share vaccine know-how. No big pharmaceutical company has supported it. Moderna and Pfizer expect huge profits from their vaccines. Many of the companies with big vaccine-production facilities are little involved in the vaccine roll-out, because they don’t have “their own”...

From scoffing to persuading

The conspiracies and misinformation associated with Covid-19 have shifted within my workplace on the Tube as the pandemic and the measures to combat it have changed. I hear less about 5G and the disease being fake or the same as flu, and more about fear of the vaccine and myths surrounding the “Great Reset”, the World Economic Forum’s plan for economic revival after the pandemic. Misinformation around the vaccine is what dominates now. There is really only a handful of people who are passionately convinced by the anti-vaccine theories. They have gone out of their way to read up and listen to...

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