The best satire isn’t just comedy, it is a powerful message

Last night the Chaser did their election wrap up show. During the show they aired the clip below. The sad thing about the comedy in the skit is that the message is quite true. Depending on the final count Australia may have elected its first ever indigenous politician. New Zealand elected its first indigenous MP in 1868 and since then has had over 80 Maori MPs (20 in the current Parliament). It is good to finally see some progress in Australian politics, they are only 140 years behind NZ. One can only hope that the rest of the barriers of racism and oppression will fall and Australia will embrace their cultural roots as much as NZ does.

Safe Trains or Rushed Trains?

In the Sydney Morning Herald today there is a beat up over the delays in the construction of new trains to replace Sydney’s old air-conditioned trains. Currently the project is months behind schedule and rapidly becoming a disaster for the state government. The track taken by the SMH in its article argues that shortcuts should be taken in the safety of the trains to speed things up. Naturally I completely disagree and believe safety should be the first priority but have a read:

RailCorp’s stringent controls have caused huge delays in the building of carriages…

…with Australians it’s mainly technical requirements. We think the burden is not necessary.

NSW laws require that an eight-carriage Waratah train must be built to withstand a head-on collision at a speed of 55km/h without any structural damage or passenger injuries. In China the bar is set at 10 km/h.

As pointed out by a fellow workmate, one can only wonder what the accident and death rate is on the Chinese railways compared to Australia. The old Sydney trains are very worn out and need replacing, but I would rather wait a year to get things right rather than a rush job that could result in serious problems.

Photos: Bring on summer – A day in Manly

I spent this afternoon exploring Manly in Sydney’s North. While the photos show a beautiful day (it was clouding over by the mid afternoon) the temperature was still quite cool. Bring on summer.

Australian Election Results Live Blogging from a Kiwi’s perspective

From around 6pm AEST tonight I will be live blogging the Australian Election results in this post.

Updates will be added to the post as the results come in.

My commentary will be from a Kiwi’s perspective with the focus primarily on New South Wales but also a bit of Queensland and Victoria.

Stay Tuned for more.

5.20pm update – Seven News have exit polls by Roy Morgan. First seat Herbet near Townsville is showing a swing to Labor however exit polls are not accurate and with a sample of only 300 people the result is within the margin of error (which 7 News failed to tell the viewers).

5.30pm – Seven News have their second exit poll. Lindsay to go Liberal with a 15% swing. Again massive swing and most likely because the sample size is so small.

5.40pm – Third exit poll. La Trobe, in Melbourne’s South East. ALP to win with 5% swing.

7pm – 7 News is reporting that the swing is going against Labor but instead of going to Liberal it is going towards the Greens. Still very early days with only around 1% of the votes counted.

7.30pm – It looks like The Greens may pick up their first ever House of Representatives seat by winning the electorate of Melbourne. (This is an early prediction). Predictions also showing ALP have lost two seats nationally, and LNP have gained two, so neck and neck.

8pm – With 3 million votes counted nationally on two party preferred LNP is leading 50.5% to 49.5%, so neck and neck, ALP may lose 13 seats on latest predictions. Election is very much too close to call. Sydney may also go Greens, and possibly Denison in Tasmania. Result may not be known tonight.

8.30pm – Greens have almost definitely won Melbourne. Candidate just gave a victory speech. Nationally with a little over 5 million votes ALP is now leading 50.3% to 49.7%.

9pm – A few victory speeches over the last half hour, but still too close to call in many seats.

9.30pm – Still heading for a hung parliament.

9.50pm – Greens have 12% in the Senate. Looks like 9 senators in the new Parliament. “We are seeing the birth of a new political movement” – Bob Brown, Greens Leader. “It is time we moved to proportional representation”

10pm – 7 News is calling it currently at 73 seats each, below the 76 needed to govern. With 3 independents + 1 Green.

10.15pm – Can a government be formed? Labor + Greens will not be enough to govern without two independents on current predictions.

11.15pm – Gillard takes the stage (before Abbott), “Too close to call”, “Every vote must be counted”

11.30pm – Channel 7’s panel is saying Labor lost the plot when they failed to have a backbone and pass the ETS in March or go to a Double D Election over the issue.

12am – Abbott has addressed the Liberal Party faithful. At end of the night hung parliament with 72 seats Labor, 71 seats LNP declared.

Australian and New Zealand Universities Performance in 2010 Shanghai Jiao Tong Rankings

The 2010 Academic Ranking of World Universities has just been released by the Center for World-Class Universities of Shanghai Jiao Tong University, China.

While overall rankings are a rather poor indicator of how good a university is (particularly at undergraduate level) once the data is broken down by subject field one can see a better picture of the strengths in research areas of particular universities. As always the universities with a lot of funding and subsequently a very large size dominate the top of the lists.

Below is the breakdown of the 22 universities from Australia and New Zealand in the top 500.

Overall

International Rank State
1 Australian National University 59 ACT
2 University of Melbourne 62 VIC
3 University of Sydney 92 NSW
4= University of Queensland 101-150 QLD
4= University of Western Australia 101-150 WA
6 Monash University 151-200 VIC
6= University of New South Wales 151-200 NSW
8= Macquarie University 201-300 NSW
8= University of Adelaide 201-300 SA
8= University of Auckland 201-300 NZ
8= University of Otago 201-300 NZ
12= Flinders University 301-400 SA
12= James Cook University 301-400 QLD
12= University of Newcastle 301-400 NSW
12= University of Wollongong 301-400 NSW
16= Curtin University of Technology 401-500 VIC
16= La Trobe University 401-500 VIC
16= Massey University 401-500 NZ
16= Swinburne University of Technology 401-500 QLD
16= University of Canterbury 401-500 NZ
16= University of Tasmania 401-500 TAS
16= Victoria University of Wellington 401-500 NZ

Five out of the eight New Zealand universities make the top 500 worldwide, compared to 17 of Australia’s 38. However none of the New Zealand universities make the top 100 in any field or subject.

By Field

  • Natural Sciences and Mathematics – Australian National University (40th)
  • Engineering/Technology and Computer Sciences – University of Melbourne (52 – 75), University of New South Wales (52 – 75)
  • Life and Agriculture Science – University of Western Australia (34th), Australian National University (41st), University of Queensland (51 – 75), University of Sydney (76 – 100)
  • Clinical Medicine and Pharmacy – University of Melbourne (41st), University of Queensland (51 – 75), University of Western Australia (51 – 75)
  • Social Sciences – Australian Natural University (76 – 100), University of Sydney (76 – 100)

By subject

  • Mathematics – Australian National University (77-100), University of New South Wales (77-100)
  • Physics – Australian Natural University (44th)
  • Chemistry – Monash University (51-75), University of Western Australia (76-100), University of New South Wales (76-100), University of Sydney (76-100)
  • Computer Science – University of New South Wales (76-100)
  • Economics / Business – University of Melbourne (78 – 100)

The 2010 Academic Ranking of World Universities has just been released by the Center for World-Class Universities of Shanghai Jiao Tong University, China.

While overall rankings are a rather poor indicator of how good a university is (particularly at undergraduate level) once the data is broken down by subject field one can see a better picture of the strengths in research areas of particular universities. As always the universities with a lot of funding and subsequently a very large size dominate the top of the lists.

Below is the breakdown of the 22 universities from Australia and New Zealand in the top 500.

Overall

International Rank State
1 Australian National University 59 ACT
2 University of Melbourne 62 VIC
3 University of Sydney 92 NSW
4= University of Queensland 101-150 QLD
4= University of Western Australia 101-150 WA
6 Monash University 151-200 VIC
6= University of New South Wales 151-200 NSW
8= Macquarie University 201-300 NSW
8= University of Adelaide 201-300 SA
8= University of Auckland 201-300 NZ
8= University of Otago 201-300 NZ
12= Flinders University 301-400 SA
12= James Cook University 301-400 QLD
12= University of Newcastle 301-400 NSW
12= University of Wollongong 301-400 NSW
16= Curtin University of Technology 401-500 VIC
16= La Trobe University 401-500 VIC
16= Massey University 401-500 NZ
16= Swinburne University of Technology 401-500 QLD
16= University of Canterbury 401-500 NZ
16= University of Tasmania 401-500 TAS
16= Victoria University of Wellington 401-500 NZ

Five out of the eight New Zealand universities make the top 500 worldwide, compared to 17 of Australia’s 38. However none of the New Zealand universities make the top 100 in any field or subject.

By Field

Natural Sciences and Mathematics – Australian National University (40th)

Engineering/Technology and Computer Sciences – University of Melbourne (52 – 75), University of New South Wales (52 – 75)

Life and Agriculture Science – University of Western Australia (34th), Australian National University (41st), University of Queensland (51 – 75), University of Sydney (76 – 100)

Clinical Medicine and Pharmacy – University of Melbourne (41st), University of Queensland (51 – 75), University of Western Australia (51 – 75)

Social Sciences – Australian Natural University (76 – 100), University of Sydney (76 – 100)

By subject

Mathematics – Australian National University (77-100), University of New South Wales (77-100)

Physics – Australian Natural University (44th)

Chemistry – Monash University (51-75), University of Western Australia (76-100), University of New South Wales (76-100), University of Sydney (76-100)

Computer Science – University of New South Wales (76-100)

Economics / Business – University of Melbourne (78 – 100)

Science vs Politics vs Court a recipe for stupidity

Over the weekend news broke that The Climate Science Coalition (made up of climate change sceptics and members of the extreme-right Act Party) are suing New Zealand’s National Institute of Water and Atmospheric Research (NIWA) over NIWA’s temperature record showing warming.

Poneke Blogs:

“But it is absurd to try to get a court to declare what is correct science. Science is a system where hypotheses are put forward and tested by evidence that proves or disproves them. To try to have a court declare the country’s temperature is hot or cold is just a stunt.”

When I see this action two things come to mind. The first is the most famous incident involving science vs the church vs the courts: Galileo. While the church won that battle in the short term, in the long term Galileo was shown to be correct and changed the face of science.

The second is how many other pieces of modern science could be challenged by political lobbyists and religious nutcases?  Within the field of computer science an emerging area of research in artificial intelligence is in the use of genetic algorithms to breed artificial agents in order to naturally select and improve their abilities. Are those people who don’t believe in evolution going to sue the scientists for using evolution in their research? How absurd can things get?

Photos: Wentworth Falls and the Valley of the Waters

I still haven’t had time to post any regular blog posts in weeks as I am so snowed up with uni work at the moment.

However, today I had time to spend hiking in the Blue Mountains at Wentworth Falls and the Valley of the Rivers. If you like waterfalls this is waterfall paradise. To add even more drama to the day we had a sudden rain storm come up the valley bringing massive winds and then we lost one of our party for about 15 minutes (they had walked ahead and failed to stop at a track junction).

100% Pure Volcanic Homeland – Photos from NZ Trip July 2010

I haven’t blogged in a few weeks because I have been head down in uni work, and there has not been that much going on to annoy me enough to rant. In particular it would be hard to blog about the Australian elections without sounding like a damp sponge because so far the leaders of all the parties appear to be very bland and boring.

Below are some of the photos I took on my recent week in NZ. The location of the photos are Taupo, Orakei Korako and Rotorua.