Sunday, 28th August, 2022

[Day 895]

I won’t bore you with the details of how the folder containing all of nearly 900 text files which constitute the text version of this blog seemed to disappear from my laptop on which I typically type whilst Meg is watching TV. I used some backup files and a bit of native cunning to get everything back the way that it ought to have been but it took me until 3.00am in the morning. However, I have ensured that I have backed up my files on two different types of flash memory so if disaster should strike again in the same place, I can get things restored fairly quickly. The only thing that I can think of is that I accidentally deleted the whole folder in a moment of lack of concentration but all is well that ends well. After too little sleep, I got up and collected our Sunday morning newspapers and then Meg and I had a leisurely Sunday morning breakfast. Then it was down to the park on a really beautiful day – it was pleasantly warm but just with a degree of freshness that made the whole day delightful. In the park we met up with Seasoned World Traveller who we have evidently not seen for several days. We updated him about our various comings and goings in Yorkshire and eventually turned our attention to more serious philosophical topics. What excited us this morning was the observation that many Asian societies seem to massively outperform their UK counterparts particularly in the fields of mathematics and many of the technologies. We were thinking aloud how many of these differences are cultural (avoiding the idea that they are genetic difference) but we evidently did not come to any particular conclusions. We do know in the field of mathematics, according to an OECD analysis conducted some years ago that Singapore is the smartest country in the world, followed by Hong Kong, South Korea, Taiwan, Japan, Finland, Estonia, Switzerland, Netherlands and Canada rounding out the top 10. A more dated research study though is interesting – Ken Todd of York University’s electronics department analysed the performance of hundreds of first year students over 15 years, and found a ‘severe decline’ over time in the proficiency in mathematics of undergraduates who had the same grades of A-level pass. Writing in the magazine Mathematics Today, he reports a collapse in scores on the 50-question multiple choice maths test students sit on their second day at university. In 1985, the average score was 39, well above the ‘worry line’ of 30. Today, the average is 19. ‘It is deeply worrying that an average student with grade B maths is only able to obtain a score marginally better than could be obtained by random guessing,’ said Dr Todd. ‘Algebraic skills are generally poor. The manipulation of powers and logarithms is a dark mystery to many.’

After lunch, we had a nice relaxing time enjoying the in-depth news from the Sunday newspapers. In the ‘Sunday Times‘ apart from the discussion of the cost-of-living crisis which is dominating the news bulletins whilst we await the probable election of Liz Truss as the new Tory Prime Minister, there were two particularly interesting stories. The first of these is the agenda facing Liz Truss the moment she is elected as two thirds of the parliamentary party have never supported her and there is some evidence, even now, of seller’s remorse as Boris Johnson is still preferred by many out in the country. There is a small but not to be discounted possibility, that Liz Truss may even face a leadership crisis the minute she is elected as some may try to win back ‘Boris’ as a likely vote winner. The second story which is of some interest is an analysis of why voters in general have lost so much faith in their politicians. Of course, Brexit is a part of this but it is not the whole story and there is very little confidence that any of our political leaders have the answers to the problems facing the nation. As expected, though, the Liz Truss ‘line’ has changed from ‘no handouts’ to a considerable package of (unspecified) support once she is elected. The full consequences of these astronomical rises in fuel costs is gradually dawning. The proportion of the population living in ‘fuel poverty’ (more than 10% of one’s income spent on fuel) is likely to rise to 50% of the population and perhaps most of the populaation if bills rise to as much as £7,000+ a year which is one current prediction. At the same time, many people’s entire savings will be wiped out. Hardly receiving any analysis until now is the survival of many small businesses particularly in drinks, hospitality and catering – as businesses, they themselves will be faced with massively increasing costs whilst at the same time, many of their potential clients will not have the disposable income to afford what the firms have to offer.