Creator ofThe Cyberoptix, Bethany Shorb began her online boutique in 2005 when she noticed a void in creative, yet sophisticated neckwear. Paying an homage to chemistry, literature, biology and the classroom, Shorb’s pieces contain quirky anecdotes full of education. From the periodic table to a DNA DNA double helix strand illustration in her ties, there is a trace of nostalgia of the elementary classroom in several of her work.
Geeky and highly customizable, Shorb aims to offer a hundred and innovative options for her fans. Find more of her neckwear pieces in her Etsy shop.
Oh snap, I’d never gotten their neckties because pricey (plus I don’t wear them much, I’m too short) but I didn’t realize they had bowties ahhhhhh OK I gotta release this comic so I have spare change to buy bowties.
Any public conversation about on-road cycling in Australia seems to have only one metaphor for the relationship between drivers and cyclists: equal reciprocity.
An utterance like “Drivers must respect cyclists’ space on the road” must inevitably be followed by something like “For their part, cyclists must ride responsibly and obey the road rules.”
For instance, the campaign promoting a new road safety law in New South Wales tells us:
Drivers, bicycle riders and pedestrians all need to Go Together safely. We should all respect each other’s space and ensure that everyone stays safe.
Most cyclists hardly need to be reminded to respect the space of a two-tonne vehicle travelling at 80km/h just centimetres from their elbow. Yet the wording, as well as the fines imposed, suggests cyclists have as much power to disrespect drivers’ space as vice versa.
The idea that the space someone’s car occupies on the road is personal space, where the car is treated as a proxy body with its own right not to be molested, shows just how far this notion of reciprocity has gone.
Why does the metaphor of equal reciprocity so powerfully organise our thinking about a relationship that is so clearly asymmetrical? One explanation is that these debates go on in a public sphere subject to a simplex version of philosophical liberalism wherein all things must be treated as equal.
As Patrick Stokes argues for hierarchies of racial difference, attributing an abstract equality to human beings tends to erase real differences in power and privilege. Public conversations about cycling in Australia erase the reality that cyclists’ safety is to a very large extent not in their own hands, but in those of drivers.
Almost everyone continues to assume that in its fundamental nature, social life is based on the principle of reciprocity…
If we think of the road in this way, it seems reasonable that all cyclists have to do to “earn the respect” of drivers is to conspicuously obey the road rules and not complain too much when “equal” penalties are applied. Many cyclists feel this way. For me, however, they are suffering the lycra equivalent of Stockholm syndrome.
For what if the road is not democratic and egalitarian? I don’t deny that driver-cyclist interactions are very often co-operative, respectful and convivial. But all too we see other kinds of relations played out, based on hierarchy, marginalisation, othering, domination, exclusion, intimidation and violence.
When we try to make sense of this within a reciprocity mindset, we usually say such behaviour is deviant, involving anti-social individuals. It’s a partial explanation, but not a total one.
Automobility rules the road
The fact is the Australian road is not a neutral space. It is ordered by what sociologist John Urry calls the system of automobility.
Urry argues that this is the most transformative system the world has ever seen, one that puts the motorised vehicle at its centre. All other forms of travel, he says:
… have to find their place within a landscape predominantly sculpted by the car system.
As well as all the economic and political interests invested in this system, both public and private, we need to consider the social and cultural meanings these produce around the automobile.
In Australia, ideas of maturity, freedom and autonomy are powerfully entwined with the mythos of the car. These “cultural preferences” are so strong that they often act to erase cyclists’ legal rights and status not only on the road, but also in the courts and when dealing with police.
When cyclist meets driver on the road, both are notionally equal individuals encountering each other in a democratic, rule-governed and neutral public space. But only if the driver chooses to make it like this. Otherwise, they are in a deeply asymmetrical relation, both physically and culturally.
At times as a cyclist among the cars I feel like an insurgent in hostile territory. By now some readers might assume I am advocating cyclist rebellion and lawless riding. I’m not. Cyclists should do their best to be civil and rule-abiding on the road, at least where it doesn’t put us in danger.
At the same time, we can’t expect great or immediate results from this offer of reciprocity to the drivers around us. To suggest that the person at the wrong end of a heavily unequal relationship can gain recognition and equality simply by offering to “respect the space” of the dominant subject is wishful thinking.
I despair that mainstream bicycle advocacy has to be limited to something like the “metre matters” law. For me, this is the political equivalent of pleading “Please don’t kill us!” – and this law has been applied only a handful of times to penalise drivers.
Many who support this law concede it is mainly useful as a means of publicity and driver education rather than as a legal tool. Courts having long had other means to punish at-fault drivers in car-on-bike crashes if they so chose.
Law should reflect on-road realities
While at first glance the one-metre rule may seem like a special legal protection for a class of vulnerable road users, it in fact functions as a wishful attempt at recognising and enacting rights and protections that have long existed in law.
I ride daily in Canberra and know many cyclists. Anecdotally, the new law hasn’t made a jot of difference to how people drive or to how police and courts deal with cyclists who get hit or harassed.
Readers may object that the law can do no more than extend equal rights and protections to all road users. But that’s not true. Strict liability legal regimes go beyond this to offer special rights and protections to vulnerable road users.
Policymakers in all but five European Union nations accept that all road users are not equal. They recognise the failure of a principle of one-to-one reciprocity whereby we’re all safe because we all have the same formal status and follow the same rules.
These jurisdictions prefer a communitarian approach that acknowledges some groups need “special treatment” to create a level playing field.
There’s little doubt a strict liability regime is at present “politically impossible” in car-centric Australia. However, attempts to fix things that assume voluntary reciprocity can work are also destined to fail.
I certainly don’t have the answers, but I do believe we need to think outside the box of mutual reciprocity to make progress.
Ashley Carruthers does not work for, consult, own shares in or receive funding from any company or organization that would benefit from this article, and has disclosed no relevant affiliations beyond the academic appointment above.
We naturally adopt a respectful attitude to people. At this basic level, people have to work hard to lose our respect, and, even then, we may choose not to disregard them because we value human life and dignity. We appreciate that they contribute in some way to the social norms we all enjoy, and that they, like us, are creators of society as well as participants in it.
Ideas have no such empathetic traction. Unlike people they cannot suffer, they do not know joy, and they do not contribute by themselves to the happiness of others.
That is not to say there are no really good or really bad ideas. But they do need to stand or fall exclusively on their merits, and often within their own contexts. They should be subject to critical scrutiny and survive only though articulation and argumentation.
The fallacy of deepest offence
It may be painful to acknowledge, but what we view as a core belief to us may be seen differently by others. Even if we feel that the belief is a strong part of our identity. Like all ideas in a free society, it must be permissible to subject that core belief to open inquiry.
To assume that an idea may not be questioned because it is a part of your identity, and that an attack on it is an attack on you equivalent to a denial of human respect, is a fallacy. I call this the Fallacy of Deepest Offence.
It is a blurring of the line between people and ideas. It is a device by which ideas are rendered immune to critical inquiry behind the claim of deepest possible offence: an insult to human dignity.
Failing to recognise this fallacy creates two problems. The first is that we lose the ability to reflect on our own internal processes. If we do not look inwards and question what we see, we ossify - led more by our creed than by our critical faculties.
The second is that we become less tolerant of others, less willing to work collaboratively, and less able to comprehend arguments. Both of these diminish our ability to contribute and to coexist.
If you want to believe that the world is made of snow, that women are inferior to men, that homosexuality is morally wrong, or that relationships between people of the same sex should not be legitimised through marriage, then go ahead.
But the instant you take that belief into the public arena, your idea will be rightfully tested. The minute you suggest others should believe it too, you will be challenged. When you ask that the taxes of your fellow citizens support your belief, you will be resisted. This is exactly how an open society operates and should operate.
Your ideas are not immune to criticism just because you express them with sincerity.
Ideas need arguments, not assertions
Our arguments are our rational probes into the world. When they work, we can feel that we are on solid intellectual ground. When they do not, we know we need to refashion our thinking or to consider more deeply how our arguments are received by others.
Our arguments are not only designed to make our case publicly, but they also challenge us to look closely at our own reasoning.
When proponents of the status quo on marriage ask for respect, they have every right to receive it. But they have no such right for their views.
If robust analysis of their arguments shows up their weaknesses, then offence, or claiming a lack of respect, is not an option. The onus is on them to create a better argument.
redefining marriage will threaten your freedom of speech
redefining marriage can take away your religious freedom
redefining marriage is the step before redefining gender itself, and
redefining marriage will take away children’s rights — every child deserves a mum and a dad.
Some of these have recently been repeated, equally devoid of justification, by former prime minister Tony Abbott.
The lack of logical or evidentiary support around these claims is breathtaking. Nowhere on the ACL’s website are found reasons supporting these claims, let alone complete arguments to analyse and evaluate.
So by all means let’s be respectful in the marriage equality debate. Let’s refrain from focusing on the person and play the ball instead. But let’s not assume that that means an absence of demand for rational engagement.
We should hold people to task for the views they express and make it clear that if they are not prepared to craft a cogent argument their slogans are nothing more than gang colours.
To claim offence when questioned is not only to commit the fallacy of deepest offence, is also to disrespect utterly the right of your fellows to engage in honest inquiry, and that is a very deep offence indeed.
Peter Ellerton does not work for, consult, own shares in or receive funding from any company or organisation that would benefit from this article, and has disclosed no relevant affiliations beyond the academic appointment above.
The news that, after 106 years, Captain Scott’s fruitcake was found by the Antarctic Heritage Trust and “smelled edible”, raises the question: are there other foods that have similar staying power? The answer is, yes, several.
In 2015, archaeologists reported that they’d found 3,000-year-old honey while excavating tombs in Egypt, and it was perfectly edible. This durability is thanks to the unique features of honey: it is low in water and high in sugar, so bacteria cannot grow on it. Honey also contains small amounts of hydrogen peroxide, which inhibits growth of microbes. This is partly why bees produce it for the young in their hives – it is both food and protection.
Processing honey also helps as the sugars in honey are hygroscopic and tend to draw in atmospheric water, which is not ideal. However, during processing and packaging, the heat treatment first removes water and then airtight lids keeps the water out, helping it keep for longer. Although honey can go cloudy and crystallise when opened as the sugars draw in water again, this physical change can be reversed by simply warming the honey.
2. Dried pulses
As with honey, the key to a long shelf-life is processing and storage. Drying pulses increases the pulses’ sugar concentration and lowers their water content, which makes it hard for bacteria and moulds to grow on them. Also, any enzymes that would naturally break down the product after harvest are put into suspended animation. If the container is airtight, they will last for years and still be a great source of protein. If you allow water in, however, then they will only last a few months.
3. Soy sauce
Soy sauce has the potential to last at least three years. The combination of its salt content and being fermented means that, if it is unopened, it should have a very long shelf life. How long it will last depends on the type of soy sauce and, once opened, the temperature it is stored at. If it does go off, it is likely to be due to mould growing around the lid.
Some may argue vinegar is in fact already spoiled wine or cider. But its acidic nature, traditionally achieved using Acetobacter bacteria to ferment it, means other bacteria struggle to grow in it, and so it can last a very long time. While white vinegar will remain almost unchanged indefinitely, other vinegars may change colour or produce a sediment. Typically, this will not affect the safety of the product, just the appearance and perhaps flavour.
5. White rice
White rice has been eaten after being stored for 30 years in tins, with the parboiled rice then passing a tasting panel test. What appears to be key for rice is atmosphere and temperature. Studies have reported that a low temperature (about 3℃) and a lack of oxygen appear to be important for its longevity. Brown rice, although often considered to be healthier, has a shorter shelf life. Its fibrous bran contains unsaturated fats, which can turn rancid. So if your brown rice is oily and smells like old paint, it’s best to throw it away.
6. Dark chocolate
There is some debate about whether chocolate goes bad. The addition of milk to chocolate may reduce its shelf life. But dark chocolate appears to last better, despite not always looking like it has. This could be because, if it is not stored at a constant temperature, the fat can rise to the surface, leaving a bloom that looks a bit like mould. If stored at a constant temperature, however, chocolate can last for two years or more, with concentrations of the compounds which some link to health benefits remaining throughout this time. For most people, though, chocolate does not tend to last this long before it is eaten.
7 & 8. Sugar and salt
Many of the foods that last for a long time are high in sugar and salt. In simple terms, they draw water out, so if bacteria try to grow on it, they will simply shrivel up. This is why we use salt to make ham, sugar to make jam, and both to make gravlax. As foods in their own right, if salt and sugar are stored away from moisture in airtight containers, they will last indefinitely. But additives, such as iodine added to salt, can reduce its shelf life to about five years.
Of course, most foods don’t last very long. This is because they contain the things microbes love, such as nutrients and water, and not much of the stuff they don’t love, such as salt and acid.
Be aware that use-by dates are generally used for food safety reasons, and best-before dates are more to do with the quality of the product. The best-before date might have little bearing on the shelf life of some products, only how it looks or tastes.
Duane Mellor received funding from Nestle and Barry Callebaut for work included as part of his thesis.
He is also currently Chair of the Communications and Marketing Board of the British Dietetic Association
Daniel Amund and Isabella Nyambayo do not work for, consult, own shares in or receive funding from any company or organisation that would benefit from this article, and has disclosed no relevant affiliations beyond the academic appointment above.