Thursday, August 6, 2009

James Lovelock turns 90

I've been reading James Lovelock's (originator of the Gaia theory) biography and it highlights some fascinating background from one of our greatest scientists. The bottom line is that it doesn't matter how good the science is, without a good address, job title and backing from your peers you have no credibility - the reward for ability, talent and thinking outside the box is somewhere between score and indifference. That wouldn't be a problem apart from the impact that 30 years delay has caused.

Back to lovelock, first off I had assumed he was in his prime, maybe touching 70, but no he's just turned 90 (July 26 to be precise), he was doing his undergraduate degree during the war (WW2), his ideas really do define the phrase 'ahead of his time'. He's also a real hard core scientist, along the way to Gaia - which I'd previously thought was strong on circumstance but weak on science, he invented the ECD, the core device that allows miniscule concentrations of compounds within other gases. He used that to identify the levels of CFCs in the atmosphere and the ozone threat that caused.

As it says in the biography he's published papers from A-Z, anthropology to zoology, he's a genuine scientist/polymath, yet without the validation of a university or research address his papers wouldn't have been published at all. The whole Gaia idea has been circulating for more than 30 years, and even now we're bickering about the best approach to reduce carbon. Brilliance and ability is just not enough to persuade your average man in the street/politician to do something.

My core takeaway from Gaia is that everything is connected, even those little things that don't appear to matter, yep they do, there's a connection there somewhere. Six degrees of seperation isn't just a film or a wish fulfilment idea it's reality.

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