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Institute for Free Trade, freed

I’m pleased to say I’ve remembered the way to get RSS feeds from news article websites that (very annoyingly) don’t offer them. In this, case, Daniel Hannan’s new Institute for Free Trade (IFT). I hadn’t had cause to use the wonderful FiveFilters FeedCreator for a while, so their RSS extractor had slipped mind. Here’s how it’s done:

1. Visit your target website. Pick a top-most headline and memorise a memorable bit of it. In your Web browser right-click on the page and “View Source”.

2. Crtl + F (“Find”) and type in that bit of the headline you just memorised. You should be whisked down to the block of HTML code that surrounds it. Determine what the DIV name is that wraps the headline.

In this case it’s name is articles-headlines Copy/paste that bit into Notepad.

3. Copy the website’s URL to the clipboard. Go to FiveFilters FeedCreator. Paste the URL in, and then paste your DIV snippet into “Look for links inside HTML elements whose id or class attribute contains:” In this case it’s articles-headlines Then click the Preview button…

4. You can then load your RSS feed in your feedreader software (such as the free FeedDemon 4.5 for Windows desktop).

This method can only pluck the five most recent results from the page, so it’s not for fast-moving websites. But, for a mere £8.89 a year, you can get a key that expands the “free five” to a “paid ten” items. As more sites refuse to offer RSS, that offer may become more tempting, but for now I’m happy with five. You can also outright buy a self-install version of their feed creator, but it needs a Web server and not a desktop to run, and I had no luck with getting it running on any of the servers I have access to.

Incidentally, the existing Google News keyword-based RSS feeds will stop working on 1st December 2017. Here’s one way to fix them, if you’re a journalist or blogger who has hundreds or even thousands set up.

Mapping the global potential for marine aquaculture

Today I encountered a recent robust scoping study “Mapping the global potential for marine aquaculture” published in summary in Nature. I had missed it during my usual summer news hiatus. So my apologies if it’s old news to some readers. The study took two years, and found four million square miles of the earth’s coasts to be very suitable for future sustainable aquaculture.

Here in red are the highest “potential productivity” coastlines, blue less so…

I should note that the authors…

“avoided areas of the ocean that are used for shipping and oil extraction, as well as marine protected areas. We also avoided depths greater than 200 meters, as a proxy for the limitations of cost and current farm technology.”

The authors also issued a different chart in press article summaries, such as the article “Global hotspots for finfish aquaculture”. This appears to shows the industry’s growth potential rather than simple farm productivity potential. Presumably the difference here is that this chart also factors in the local investment eagerness, technology readiness, population pressure, ease of doing business and access to markets? Which would explain why Argentina is blue in the Nature chart and red in this one. And why the seas off Northern Ireland turn from blue to orange. Both are relatively poor places, eager for new industries.

If one squints hard (this is the largest I could find the map), then looking at it from a UK perspective I can see a good potential for the coast of Wales around Aberystwyth (a useful boost to a primarily tourism-and-agricultural economy), and strong potential for Northern Ireland albeit at a distance perhaps some tens of miles out. Still, the UK has cracked working at that distance re: the North Sea experience, so it’s not impossible. As someone in the UK, looking forward to a prosperous globally-trading post-Brexit UK circa 2022, those orange splotches off our coast are good to see.

But it’s rather surprising that all of Scandinavia and Greenland and northern Canada have no potential, given all the hoo-ha about greenhouse warming. Yet even with their coastlines off the menu, and even if backward and somewhat corrupt nations such as Argentina (the fat red bit, off South America) can’t get their act together, the report’s authors suggest there is so much potential that such losses may not matter…

“If aquaculture were developed in only the most productive areas, the oceans could theoretically produce the same amount of seafood that is currently caught by all of the world’s wild-caught fisheries [currently 92m tons per year, a figure interestingly “unchanged for the past two decades”], using less than 0.015% of the total ocean surface – a combined area the size of Lake Michigan.”

And that’s with existing technology. But we can probably factor in new ‘blue’ industry things such as: shoals of untethered AI-powered sensors; autonomous aquatic drones; and tele-presence ‘sea-shepherd’ robots. Possibly also breakthroughs in fish-stock feed types and pollution-eating nano-meshes. In that case there may soon come a time when we basically just close the oceans to trawler fishing for 30 years or more, allowing an incredible recovery.

New documentary: The New Fire

The New Fire is a cinema documentary on the promise of nuclear fission via new reactor types. The 84-minute documentary has just been given its premiere at the Heartland Film Festival 2017…

“The New Fire is as optimistic as its title suggests. There is a new fire ready to light the way forward in the United States, and that fire is engineered by bright millennials and fuelled by nuclear fission. The film does a fantastic job explaining complex topics to the audience without ever condescending. The complexities of engineering challenges faced by nuclear physicists is laid bare in simplistic explanations and beautifully rendered animated segments that illustrate how the various designs for different reactors work.”

Equally optimistically, the movie is set to screen on the campus of U.C. ‘no free speech here’ Berkeley on 16th November 2017. Expect howling mobs of eco-worriers outside the venue, although the film does hype up the climate alarmism to ridiculous levels so perhaps they’ll be pacified by that.

The film’s website — which needs a “high-res press stills / press pack” section added, for magazine editors.

For those who want to delve deeper into the topic, I see there’s a new primer book from Cambridge University Press, Seeing the Light: The Case for Nuclear Power in the 21st Century. Although with a poor choice of cover picture, showing an antiquated lightbulb which undercuts the book’s future-facing theme.

With all of this, my first question is not “can it work”, but “can it work in a world of terrorists” who will seek to turn such technologies to deadly ends? Small sites packed full of nuclear waste, strung all across the planet and at remote locations with low staffing levels, does not seem like a good scenario to me, re: acceptance by both the public and security services.

Still, I guess we now have to think about off-world uses as well. Such as bases on the Moon, colonies on Mars, spaceships inside hollowed-out asteroids. Possibly also large undersea / sunken offshore aquaculture bases. Presumably such reactors would be far safer there, re: the terrorist threat.

Using algorithms to map the history of ideas

Buried in what appears to be a leftist attack-article on the digital humanities, in the latest THES…

“Crane’s latest research project, with German federal funding, is as ambitious as they come: an attempt to use algorithms to map the history of ideas from antiquity to the present day, analysing millions of texts to chart the influence of thinkers on each other over the course of thousands of years.”

I can’t get more than a few snippets of the Times article, and a quick search turns up nothing via ‘last month’ Google Search or Google News. But it sounds like a fascinating project. Although the pathetic state of retail recommendation systems and taste matching (Amazon, eBay etc) suggests that the much-touted semantic revolution needed to do this sort of thing properly is still a long way in the future. You’re also still going to need a ninja historian to trace a chain of influence between things like Erasmus Darwin’s musing on Ancient Egyptian botanical symbolism, Blake’s Jerusalem, and the birth of the Victorian fairy.

Still, Crane’s work sounds like it may be an interesting start on an Asimov-style psychohistory of the past, and something which might one day also be applied to outlining the near-future. How might that work? Well, we might be able to formulate some hard ‘laws of ideas’ and attach probabilities to how well these will propagate if the conditions remain stable. If we can spot a similar idea and its native conditions in the present, we may then be able to project that idea’s development into the future with a greatly increased certainty about its trajectories and likely collision-points with other ideas.