Thursday, December 27

Shutdown for being sexist?

I'm still not sure about quotas - I suspect there is always the danger that the mandatory limited group will be perceived as token members, and their opinions and contributions ignored by an inner circle consisting of the group that used to be in the majority, but this article in the Guardian about Norway's laws has a quote that hits the nail on the head as to why quotas should be considered.

In Norway's case, they're mandatory - a law put in place several years ago requires companies to have 40% of the board directors to be women. A large number of companies appear to have just ignored that, putting them in rather an awkward position now that the Norwegian government is actually saying that they will apply the law they've been saying they'll apply.

Here's the quote:
""the fact that diversity is a value in itself, that it creates wealth... From my time in the business world, I saw how board members were picked: they come from the same small circle of people. They go hunting and fishing together. They're buddies."

Norway being Norway, that quote is from a 52 year old man in their Conservative party, Ansgar Gabrielsen.

But it really hits the nail on the head - if they are only selecting from a limited pool - those who will be the fishing buddies of the current limited pool - then you are restricting the quality of your boards. Given that Norway has had equal education for years, if the quality of the female candidates for board director isn't up to scratch, then that will be the fault of the companies themselves for not promoting them to positions to gain the experience needed. The Norwegian government had given them ample time to do so.

Thursday, December 20

You published that *when*?

Oh my my, what sort of industry have I got myself into?

A letter in Nature this week notes the worrying trend of increasing paper publications on the 25th of December - while there are a number of countries that do not officially celebrate this day, of course, for many others it is a legal day off. In fact, I'm banned from trying to sneak in and do any lab work, even if I did want to.

Guess what I'm procrastinating over my blogging right now rather than getting on with? Yep, submitting a journal paper. This one got delayed as a referee wants - nay, virtually insists - on my including a reference that doesn't appear to be available outside of North America, and the journal complains about mechanical deficiencies (the margins are too small. Uh... guys? It's an electronic submission, in an extremely widely available format. That means you can reformat the damn thing yourself, surely? And wouldn't that be quicker than sending me an email telling me I have to do it? And if you're going to tell me I have to do it, couldn't you at least tell me what the damn unconventional margin sizes you want are?)

Almost like a whale?

Evolution is a weird thing. Particularly for those who still think there has to be some designer, for whom the random twists and turns of evolution can be utterly confusing. Why, for example, if you wanted to make a giant sea living creature, would you start with something on the land?

So the discovery of fossils like that of Indohyus, a fox-sized, deer-like mammal that lived 48 million years ago and spent a fair amount of time in the water, is the sort of thing that must do their heads in.

The BBC report, the Nature News summary and the original paper, snappily titled "Whales originated from aquatic artiodactyls in the Eocene epoch of India"

Friday, December 14

Advertisement for a Hollywood film

As with most Hollywood blockbusters these days, The Golden Compass (which I haven't seen yet) has a way to get bloggers to give them free advertising with little things to put on the blogs. In this case, it is a "choose your own daemon". I have shamelessly done this twice, as the first time I was somewhat disappointed to be paired with a mouse.

I'm obviously feeling more egotistical this time, as they've given me a monkey.

Thursday, December 6

I bark, therefore I am

So, dogs are capable of using abstract concepts.

For those with journal access, the original paper in the journal Animal Cognition is here

Basically, the paper is reporting a test of visual categorisation, in that having trained the dogs to differentiate pictures of dogs and pictures of landscapes, the dogs then classed pictures of dogs on a landscape in the former category, not the latter.

Having grown up with two border collies, I'm not particularly surprised at this - those dogs always seemed pretty smart (well, the first one did, the second is rather weird)

Wednesday, December 5

*THIS* is how you evict someone from a university library

In the US, security staff at libraries are videoed repeatedly tasering a recalcitrant student.

This Youtube video of someone getting evicted from a university library in the UK shows there is still a huge difference - that this is one of the most viewed youtube footages according the university facebook account shows just how little scurrilous footage there is.
Security overstepping their authority? Nope.
Security overzealously enforcing their authority? Nope.
Security halfheartedly lugging some loon out of the library because he was bothering the students and refused to leave when asked politely? Check.
They don't even drop him - they gently lower him to the ground. Well, I suppose it was a little damp, this is in November after all.

The video is only remotely entertaining at the end, when you realise why the individual that the security staff have had to carry out through the doors with a distinct air of boredom was deservedly evicted. As they stand around, looking distinctly uninterested by the tedium of the whole affair, the evicted individual demonstrates that he appeared to believe that his right to free speech included ranting about 'Jaysus' to students who'd rather get on with their studying (although not having a library card means they were clearly legally entitled to ask him to leave).

Apart from making you realise what a thankless task security at a university have sometimes, the general indifference of the student body to this fundamentalist loon has to be applauded...