The Sum of Its Department

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It is of course traditional for people to call for the dismantling of the D.C.M.S. even in weeks when the Secretary of State has not been forcibly replaced: on this occasion the Spectator is doing the honours. Yet last June the Telegraph carried suggestions that the Department was too small...

Some senior Conservatives are privately arguing that her entire department should be disbanded and its duties handed to other, better-rated ministers. One Conservative Cabinet minister told the Daily Telegraph there is a ‘strong case’ for dismantling the DCMS. The minister said: “Under Maria, it’s shrunk so much that it’s close to losing critical mass – they do so little now it’s hard to justify the costs and status of a full department and a Cabinet minister.”

...whereas today the B.B.C. quotes the artistic director of a theatre company saying roughly the opposite:

“The first thing would be to ask parliament and his bosses to reduce the size of this portfolio,” he said. “Look at what they have to do; broadcasting, sport, media – including Leveson, telecoms, art. It is a very, very big portfolio. I wish the arts could be separate, like it used to be, with its own minister.”

Unless the Department has ballooned over the past year (unlikely, in these times of cuts and austerity), they can’t both be right.

Fool’s Gold

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What the Hunterian Art Gallery presents: ‘This major new exhibition features a spectacular array of Scottish gold items from the Bronze Age to the present.’

What Culture24 picked out for special attention: ‘Ancient gold coin left by dynasty with Jesus blood line link to go on show in Glasgow’.

‘Jesus blood line link’? Read beyond the eye-catching headline to understand the gimmick: ‘An “extremely rare” 7th century gold coin, thought to come from the Merovingians – the dynasty linked to the blood line of Jesus Christ in Dan Brown’s novel The Da Vinci Code – is part of a new exhibition opening in Glasgow.’


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‘I tend... to the view that Williams, like Hume, was a minimalist. He saw the impossibility of systems and grand narratives, and yet at the same time wanted to uphold our ordinary ways of thinking,’ writes the philosopher Roger Scruton in a Telegraph review of essays by the philosopher Bernard Williams. To which someone in the editorial chain has added a hyperlink, elucidating the term ‘minimalist’ by associating it with an article on interior décor.

Cold Fusion Power Notation

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I’ve just had to e-mail a science education website (which shall remain nameless) to explain that the interior of the Sun is probably not, as it claims, around 107 Kelvin. By way of comparison, water freezes at about 273 Kelvin.

The problem seems to be a typical copy-and-paste problem in software: the power notation in 107 has been lost at some point. (A scan through a few online sources suggests estimated temperatures for the core of the Sun cluster around 1.5 x 107 K.) I wonder how many such errors are propagating, seldom noticed, through the Internet: the dords of our day.

Update: I received the following response: I understand that the [page] is speaking about absolute temperature and the Planck temperature, and it is in this context that the Sun's interior temperature is mentioned as only 107 K. It seems to me to be something different to what you are expecting to read, which would be the Sun’s interior temperature of 1.5 X 10**7 Kelvin. This is only my opinion, however I will ask for a second opinion to our scientists. Given that the page in question also refers to what things were like 10-43 seconds after the Big Bang, I think I’ll stick to my interpretation...

Immature Plans

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Here’s a hypothesis about the moral psychology involved in deciding priorities in the politics of child safety: it must create a huge sense of responsibility, mustn’t it? The kind where you’d lie awake at night, wondering whether children had been left endangered because you chose a wasteful use of resources? The kind where you’d want to consult with great care before recommending a new and untested course of action, lest it prove only a useless, intrusive distraction?

What actually happens is that policy in this area is announced by a man who doesn’t know a hash from a hashtag.