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Robyn Williams: Yes, I find some human beings couldn't do what you suggested about those birds in Japan. Give us a couple more before we move on to Eternity , your latest work. The obesity epidemic is very, very recent; it started in the s really in the US and then moved eastwards into Europe and parts of Asia. Really our diets and our exercise habits have not changed that dramatically in the last 30 years, nothing really changed in which is when the obesity epidemic started. Americans in the s ate just about as much and owned just about as many cars as they did in the s, and yet they have suddenly got fat.

I explore some of the slightly counterintuitive explanations for this. Maybe there is something peculiar in our new diets making us fat, these high-fructose corn syrups which people have blamed, the 'devil's candy'. Maybe there is a viral link with obesity.

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The more we discover about viruses the more they seem to crop up in all sorts of illnesses that used to be blamed on purely genetics or lifestyle. We're discovering genes that predispose people to obesity. Maybe there's a combination of virus, genes and diet that works in a particularly effective way, we simply don't know, but it's not as simple as 'calories in, calories out'. Lots of experiments have been done. There was a very interesting one in Sweden a couple of years ago where they put everybody on a super-sized diet. They gave them all the equivalent of about 5, calories a day. Some of them put on huge amounts of weight, some of them didn't.

What happens to those extra calories? They fidget it off, they get hot. Some people do get fat more easily than others and I think that's something that science is beginning to discover. It caused a great deal of interest so I extended it as a chapter for my book.

One of the things that politicians are unable to get to grips with in an increasingly knowledge based society, in an increasingly merit based society like we all think we want to create, is what do we do with the people who fail?

The Questions Science Can't Answer – Yet |

What do we do with the people who simply, with all the best will in the world, do not succeed in our education systems? What do we do with them? Do we consign them to a life on the scrap heap? Do we make them a part of an underclass that's never going to succeed? Or do we try and find something else for them to do? I think it's something which has not been approached by politicians or by educationalists. It's a social science question.

It's not the same sort of question as 'what is time? Because a century ago it didn't really matter if you couldn't succeed in school because you could go and work down a coal mine or you could become a domestic servant or you could work on a farm. All those jobs are going now. In the west those jobs are increasingly being done in other parts of the world. So what are we going to do in our societies with people who cannot succeed on our terms?

Robyn Williams: I remember reading it. You got into huge trouble about that, didn't you! Michael Hanlon: I did. A lot of people get very offended if you suggest that there are people of lower intelligence than others, and I think it's very strange. Nobody gets offended if you say some people can run faster than others.

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I thought if I devoted my entire life to running and doing nothing else but running I could probably go from my current seven-minute mile to a six-minute mile, but I'm never going to be able to run a mile in four minutes and I never could have run a mile in four minutes, and it's not controversial to say that.

Again, I'm never going to become a chess champion, I'm never going to become a mathematician, I simply don't have the hardwiring to allow me to do these things, yet some people get perversely offended if you suggest that there are innate differences in human abilities. I don't understand why that's so.

I think people are uncomfortable about talking about genetic difference in humans, there's all sorts of horrible eugenics implications, but it's common sense that obviously not everybody is the same. There must be a genetic component to intelligence because if there wasn't we'd be no brighter than chimpanzees. Robyn Williams: What would you do with the people in Britain who aren't up to scratch? Put them on the Isle of Mann or the Isle of White and fence them off? Michael Hanlon: Well, we could always send them to Australia I suppose.

I think the solution is that first of all you can reduce by probably one order of magnitude the number of people in this category with better education.

Top 10 Questions SCIENCE Can't Answer

With the rest who really do not seem to be able to succeed on an academic level, I think the best thing to do is to derive training programs for people, like they used to do in the old West Germany; apprenticeships, trades, to start valuing things that maybe we don't value so much these days, the caring professions. There's a lot of work out there that needs to be done that we think of as kind of second rate work; people who work with their hands, people who serve, people who care for animals or for the elderly.

These jobs tend to be paid very badly, and these are jobs that can be done by people who can't get strings of exams and go to university and study a subject to degree level. And yet we don't value them, we don't value these people and we don't help them to be good at these jobs and to achieve success in their roles, and I think that will have to change. Robyn Williams: Talking about The Spectator and moving away from your book, you wrote some incendiary stuff about climate change, doubting the scientists.

Have you moved on that? Michael Hanlon: I have moved on that. I think a lot of people have. I was never a dyed-in-the-wool sceptic. I think the issue of climate change is so huge and the implications of climate change are sort of magnificently catastrophic, I felt, from a period of the late 80s throughout the 90s, that we really had to be sure, because what these people were saying was that we have to change our entire way of life.

We have to spend not billions but probably trillions of dollars combating this problem. We have to change the way we produce our electricity, we have to change the way we move, and we have to change the way that countries that are not yet developed will develop. We're going to have to say to places like India and China, 'You cannot do what we did.

I felt for a long time with climate change, that the science wasn't in, it wasn't quite certain enough. We once thought the Earth was flat and the Sun revolved around the Earth. Not that long ago many scientists adhered to the Steady State Theory that the universe had no beginning or end and was in a state of constant creation. And when I was a child science told us we were entering an ice age , while today they tell us the Earth is facing a catastrophic warming. The answers you read in books or are taught in school are what we think we know right now.

Never quit asking questions and seeking answers. Man… I dread the day my 2-year-old asks me how clouds form and why rainbows are colorful. It would be interesting to compile a list of scientific claims that religion got correct. Would it be more than the null set?

These are some pretty profound questions that your child asks. It is always interesting to find out what was before the Big Bang, what was before this universe, and what is the universe expanding into. Will we ever get the answer? Tristan, Yeah, he asks some pretty crazy questions. He wants to be a scientist and video game developer. All I know is… that was a cop out.

17 thoughts on “The Questions Science Can't Answer – Yet”

I like the story and the questions but have not seen any updates to the blog in a long time. My questions are,hows the new store. Lessons learned with the move to the bigger place. Update on the business books you have read as of late. Any tips for the would be person starting a biz as far as the steps to take. Have a great week and hope toi see more post in the future.

The business is doing well. We plan to have a couple before Christmas. Glad you like the MMA article. These are great questions. I particularly love it when you ask those that are so very convinced that science has the answer for everything, sooner or later, and, therefore, the concept of God is fantastic. Universally, it is accepted that matter cannot be created or destroyed but its form can be changed and the related point that there is no such thing as the spontaneous generation of matter. But, these believers in science all say the universe was created by a Big Bang from the explosion of a spec of matter.

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5 of the Biggest Questions That Science Can't Answer Yet

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