Edinburgh, 24 February 2022

Taking a break from doomscrolling with a gallery of snow photos from last Thursday—click through to see more.

28 February 2022 · Journal

Sunflower Seeds

It’s a few hours short of four days since Putin launched his full-scale invasion of Ukraine. Defying his expectations and everyone’s fears, he has failed to take its capital quickly, and the valiant example of Ukraine’s president and people is rallying the world to its cause. Far from weakening them, Putin’s actions could end up strengthening NATO and the EU. But the situation remains fraught with the potential of escalating into something far worse, with Putin today putting Russia’s nuclear defences on alert in response to the West’s sweeping economic sanctions, and Belarus reportedly committing its ground and air forces to his cause. Kyiv could yet fall. Every night Europe is holding its breath.

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27 February 2022 · Events

Over the Brink

Timely lessons on Ukrainian history from Timothy Snyder: King of Ukraine, Part I · II · III · IV · V · VI · Kyiv’s ancient normality. And on the present (before 24 hours ago, when there was still hope that Putin wouldn’t invade): What is Putin thinking? Is there a simple solution? Putin has an exit. How Putin makes his enemies do all the work: “If all one does is provoke, then all one sees is provocation.”

Having Russian military in large numbers in Belarus meant Putin had to decide to invade or go home “before those of his soldiers who aren’t incapacitated with Covid drink themselves to death after robbing his army blind leaving it unable to fight and stuck in a country they’ve trashed”.

The supposed films of Ukrainian “attacks” made by Russia’s fake factory. Bellingcat on previous Russian disinformation campaigns.

The view from Finland.

22 February 2022 · Politics

Madagasikara Vonjy Maika

Tonga isn’t the only tropical country close to my heart that has faced disaster in recent weeks: Madagascar has been hit first by Tropical Storm Ana and then by Cyclone Batsirai, leaving a trail of death and destruction. Mananjary, on the east coast, was destroyed by Batsirai, as torrential winds and rain caused scenes of devastation and destruction and at least ten deaths. The country has already been hit badly by a prolonged drought fuelled by climate change. Please consider donating to the cyclone relief efforts of the UN World Food Programme, to the famine appeals of CBM and Money for Madagascar, or to the longer-term programmes of Action Against Hunger, Unicef and Small Steps for Africa.

22 February 2022 · Events

Cheese Myths

A cheeky kea steals a GoPro and films its escape.

Pop-up memes.


AI colorizer. I tried it on some old black-and-white photos and got mixed results, but a few were convincing.

How did life emerge under a dimmer Sun?

Analysing past societal collapse using big data. A mega-drought 4,200 years ago toppled empires.

Ten books for thinking clearly about statistics. We need a standard unit of measure for risk.

Toto’s “Africa” played on instruments in Majora’s Mask.

The New York Times hasn’t made Wordle’s words harder.

The fourteen biggest cheese myths.

Three weeks of disruption in Ottawa come to an end, but what comes next? They brought their own cranes with them. Their Facebook activity was an endless rabbit hole of astroturfed groups and pages. Two brought a full package of firestarter bricks into a residential lobby. Interference from Trump pointed to convoy campaign manipulation.

22 February 2022 · Weblog

Two Years On

A country changed by Covid.

The number of global deaths is surging while cases seem to be falling. The pandemic’s true death toll is millions more than official counts.

Some Omicron recoverers deteriorate after about ten days, with severe problems not necessarily related to the airways. Omicron BA.2 is 30%-34% more infectious than BA.1.

Covid brain changes show parallels with Alzheimer’s. Long-term cardiovascular outcomes of Covid: risk and burden increase even in mild cases.

Covid can reawaken ancient virus remnants in human DNA. Past pandemics may have caused Parkinson’s. Is our pandemic the ghost of the 1889 Russian Flu?

Seriously, don’t put yourself at risk of Long Covid.

Some hopeful news: Tracking Long Covid in the blood. Antihistamines provide relief.

20 February 2022 · Events

One Month On

Why the Tongan eruption will go down in the history of volcanology.

Tonga’s underwater volcanic eruption triggered nearly 590,000 lightning strikes.

The eruption as seen from 73km away.

First-hand video of the tsunami.

“They didn’t think help was coming”: a month on from the tsunami.

Tonga’s PM counts the mental health cost of the tsunami.

How Tonga is trying to recover from the eruption.

Tonga needs over $90 million to start repairs from the volcano.

Tonga is a reminder that the laws governing undersea cables need modernising.

Tonga suffers its first Covid outbreak after receiving foreign aid.

20 February 2022 · Events

High Rotation

The secret life of a super-recogniser.

Clues about the evolution of writing.

Homebrewed silicon.

The problem with NFTs.

Read more…

2 February 2022 · Weblog

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