Posts Tagged ‘BBC World Service’

BBC World Service Programme Next Tuesday on Scientists Generating Electricity from Leaves

May 13, 2020

This sounds completely bonkers, like the academy discussing ways to generate sunlight from cucumbers in Swift’s great satire, Gulliver’s Travels, but apparently is real science. According to the Radio Times again, next Tuesday, 19th May 2020, the BBC World Service programme, People Fixing the World, is about how scientists have found a way to generate electricity from leaves. The blurb about the programme by Tom Goulding on page 120 of the Radio Times runs

Money might not grow on trees, but scientists in Italy might have discovered the next best thing: leaves that generate electricity when they touch one another on a windy day. This process, enough to power 150 LED lights, is one of several remarkably simple ways of producing energy that scientists are just beginning to understand. In this optimistic documentary, reporter Daniel Gordon investigates some age-old ideas that could finally become viable renewable energy sources with new technology, such as the interaction between fresh and salt water at estuaries and a 5 km well being dug to extract untapped heat in Iceland.

The programme is on at 3.05 in the afternoon.

This sound really awesome, though it reminds me a little of the ‘treeborg’, a cyborg tree aboard a spaceship in a Matt Smith Dr. Who story, and also somewhat of the Matrix films, in which the robots have risen up and enslaved humanity. Unable to use sunlight after humanity wrecked the planet’s whether and created permanently overcast skies, the machines turned instead to growing us all in bottles and using the electricity generated from our bodies. Fortunately, I don’t think that’s a viable option. After the movie came out, people naturally wondered whether that could actually work. And the answer is, that it doesn’t. The amount of electricity generated by the human body is way too small. Nevertheless, reading this in the Radio Times makes you wonder if someone couldn’t harness it to provide useful power, nonetheless. Should the producers of this programme be giving them ideas?

Going on to geothermal power, I can remember in the 1970s watching items about it in Iceland on the popular science programmes’ Tomorrow’s World on the Beeb and Don’t Ask Me on ITV. That was the programme that gave the viewing public the great science broadcasters Magnus Pike and David ‘Botanic Man’ Bellamy.

I haven’t heard of electricity being generated by the interaction between fresh and salt water before, but I was amazed at how long ago tidal power has been around as a possible power source. Turbine wheels were put in the Thames estuary in the 16th century to provide power for mills. George Bernard Shaw also mentions tidal power in his book, The Intelligent Woman’s Guide to Socialism, Capitalism, Sovietism and Fascism. As an example of the type of wrangling that goes on in parliamentary democracy, he asks the reader to imagine the type of fierce debate that would occur if someone suggested putting up a tidal barrage in one of Britain’s great rivers. There would be a fiery contingent from Wales arguing that it should be on the Severn, and an equally fierce body of proud Scots declaring it should be on one of their rivers. I don’t think he need have worried. There have been debates about building a barrage on the Severn since I was at secondary school, and it’s no nearer being built because of concerns over its ecological effects.

But this programme sound amazing. I thinks there’s a simple science experiment for children, in which electrodes are stuck into a lemon or potato, and connected together to turn on an electric lightbulb. Will we be doing something similar in our gardens in a few years’ time, just as people are now putting solar panels on their rooves?

 

The Beeb’s Reward for Helping the Tories Win the Election: 450 Newsroom Jobs to Be Cut

January 30, 2020

There were reports last night of mass redundancies at the BBC newsroom. According to a story in today’s I by Adam Sherwin, ‘BBC staff in revolt as 450 news jobs are axed – but red button reprieved’, there was an angry confrontation between newsroom staff and the Beeb’s director of news and current affairs, Fran Unsworth over the proposed sackings. It was led by Victoria Derbyshire, whose award-winning show has also been axed. Here’s part of the article

Victoria Derbyshire led a furious staff revolt at the BBC yesterday after the corporation unveiled cuts to Newsnight, Radio 5Live and other news output, leading to 450 job losses.

The BBC said that presenters would be among those axed as resources are transferred from traditional broadcasting to digital platforms, in an attempt to make £80m of savings.

The number of original films produced on the flagship political programme Newsnight will be halved, with 12 staff under threat. A spokesman said that job losses at 5Live were being “driven by the changing listening habits of the audience and demand for digital content”.

There will be a review of the “the number of presenters we have and how they work” and a reduction in the number of stories covered each day, under a new centralised story commissioning structure.

The BBC is predicting 450 job losses, in addition to the 50 posts cut at the World Service before Christmas. Separately, it also suspended closure of its “red button” text service after protests that the move could adversely affect the elderly and people with disabilities.

An additional article by Sophie Morris reports that Johnson was asked yesterday whether the BBC was a ‘mortal enemy of the Conservative party or cherished British institution that will be funded by the license fee’ by the Labour MP for Weaver Vale, Mike Amesbury. Our current shambolic excuse for a prime minister replied ‘Well, Mr Speaker, I can certainly say that it is a cherished British institution and not a mortal enemy of the Conservative party.’

Yeah, I’ve heard that one before. Jeremy Hunt also said how the Tories ‘cherished’ the NHS, despite having authored a book demanding its privatisation, and as Health Secretary presiding over a process of cuts and privatisations. Sherwin’s article also quotes Amol Rajan, who seems far more closer to the mark by suggesting that the cuts are an attempt to appease the Beeb’s critics in government. They believe the corporation is outdated and may be replaced by a subscription-style streaming system. Rajan said

“The audience the BBC has in mind in making these changes isn’t just licence fee payers – it’s the inhabitants of 10 Downing Street.”

The Tories have hated the Beeb for a very long time. Some of that is ideological – they hate any kind of state industry. And some of it is very much self-interest. They resent the Beeb because it is required to be impartial, and their backers in the corporate media, like Rupert Murdoch, would like it abolished and its position as the country’s main broadcaster replaced by their own networks. A week ago Zelo Street reported that Boris’ adviser, Dominic Cummings, really did want to present the corporation as utterly biased against the Tories.

This is, of course, the complete opposite of the real truth, which is that Beeb has always been far more biased against the left, the Labour Party and the trade unions. And last month’s election campaign showed how extreme that bias was, with every opportunity taken to present Labour in an extremely bad light. In particular, the Beeb joined the rest of the lying corporate media in claiming that Jeremy Corbyn was an anti-Semite, and the entire party was seething with Jew-hatred. If the Beeb had hoped to fend off the Tories’ attack by obediently following their line on the Labour Party, they’re going to be sadly disappointed. BoJob and his polecat still want greater say over who becomes the new director-general now that Tony Hall has retired. They will want someone who is dutifully compliant with their demands. Someone who will further turn the broadcaster into their propaganda arm, while running it down prior to privatisation.