Tuesday, October 27

Student branding

Thought this sort of rubbish only went on at US universities. Not that they're keen on students branding each other with coat hangers either.

Friday, October 23

The death of wolf 527F

Science magazine has an article on the death of one of Yellowstone's wolves. In this case, the radio-tagged alpha female of a pack that had 95% of its territory inside of the park, was shot less than a mile from the border, and it appears had no history of predating on commercial livestock.

The way Science tells it, they don't appear to have thought carefully enough about the hunt. While it'd be damn near to impossible to get commercial farmers in that part of the US to accept regularly losing livestock to wolf packs, there's a difference between allowing hunting to control wolves that hang around farmer's land and wolves that prey on elks. In this case, it doesn't appear to have occurred to them that rather than scout around the extensive livestock areas for problem wolves, the hunters would just go to where they wait for the elk to leave the park and gun them down and do the same with the wolves.

In the meantime, a wolfpack that was not affecting livestock, was a subject of intense research, and was a signature animal of the park, has been effectively wiped out.

Monday, October 19

Trafigura, Carter-Ruck and the legal silencing of the truth.

The independent took this article down when the lawyers threatened them for reporting how Trafigura poisoned thousands in the Ivory Coast. Carter-Ruck haven't got to google cache yet.

Toxic shame: Thousands injured in African city

Monday, September 14

Borlaug's gift, and the world that wasted it.

*WARNING* - this post is a downbeat one. Don't read if you've hope for the future.

Agricultural pioneer and US Nobel Peace laureate Norman Borlaug has died. And on seeing the news, my first thought was how we've utterly wasted his benefits.

Yes, his work, a key pillar in the green revolution, has spared millions this century from famine. But ultimately, it has merely moved the famine on fifty years. The millions that didn't die in the 70s, 80s and 90s will die in future decades. Not because of any underlying flaw in Borlaug's work, but because of the way we squandered his gift.

The increased agricultural yield could have been the opportunity to raise the standards of everyone, to increase education and health, to enable people to raise families in a sustainable, higher quality lifestyle, leading to smaller families where all the children go to school and can expect to lead long, productive lives.

Instead it has merely led to a population boom, which will now struggle to feed itself on depleting resources - drained aquifers, tired soil, eroding hillsides.

And that's before global climate change puts the boot in.

Borlaug gave the world a gift. He gave it fifty years breathing space to solve a coming crisis. The world failed.

If we're really lucky, there will be a dozen more Borlaugs out there to save us again, and give us a chance to do things right this time. But they might not be there, and I seriously doubt the world's ability to learn from its past mistakes.

Thursday, September 3

Why is the cricket team playing football?

I have a friend who's a medical doctor who states that nobody over the age of 18 should be playing football.

Given the number of injuries and injury scares they've had over recent years, it does seem quite surprising to me that the England cricket team still think that kicking a football around is a good warm up for a cricket match...

Saturday, August 29

Sky whinge about the BBC

Why exactly is the boss of Sky, James Murdoch, whinging about the BBC, news? Of course he's going to whinge about the BBC - if they weren't there, Sky would be more dominant, be more able to persuade people to give Sky money to watch adverts with some programmes in between, and be more able to force politicians to grovel to them.

As it is, the BBC sits there, providing people with both quality and crap, but not showing adverts (except for their own programmes) as people have already been made to pay in advance.

As standard with many a major businessman these days, it seems, Murdoch appears to view the point of anything - television in this case - is to make someone money. Not for any higher purpose - say, to entertain, educate and inform. And this is why he should never be allowed to become the dominant force in British television.

Thursday, August 20

Killer nanoparticles?

Or just another case of poisoning by inhaling plastic fumes in an enclosed, unventilated space for months on end?

A news item in this week's Nature starts with the journalistic sensation, but boils down to the facts in the end - the victims had been working in quite horrendous conditions, with not just nanoparticles but plastic fumes at toxic levels.

But then, nanoparticles kill is news, total failure in health and safety procedures at a Chinese factory sadly isn't.