Thursday, May 29

Free Hich protest

Yesterday afternoon saw a protest by staff and students at the University of Nottingham, in support of staff member Hicham Yezza, who is due to be arbitrarily and rapidly deported for no good reason at all - they say immigration irregularities, but he had a court case scheduled for early July to hear that, so why rush this forward? This is following his arrest for having a document on his computer that was published by the US government on their website. Some might suggest his deportation is revenge for making the Home Office look stupid.

Despite pouring rain and occurring during exam time, over 500 staff and students turned out to the protest, which included a speech from Alan Simpson MP, who described the arrest as a "dreadful cock-up", and that if the terror legislation of the government continues "we would live in a society where we fear each other and that is what the treatment of Hicham and Rizwaan actually demonstrates."

Photos of the protest
Press release from the campaign website
BBC News Online

Tuesday, May 27


I'm a scientist. I've probably said this before, if anyone reading this hadn't guessed already.

One problem with being a scientist by profession - and a research scientist at that - is that your job may well involve doing things that you think you're good at, but that only means you're not completely useless at (as we've only just worked out how to do it at all).

Which means you can spend two days on something and fail utterly. As I have done. So I'm rather annoyed right now.

Hicham Yezza

You would think that the Home Office in the UK would be a little more careful to not act like some Ministry from George Orwell's 1984. But no.

Earlier this month, someone at the University of Nottingham had a panic when they saw a document on Al-Quaeda on the computer of a member of clerical staff, and called the police. The police arrested the staff member, one Hicham Yezza, and the student who had passed on this document to Mr Yezza for printing.

The document came from the US government. Their website. It's apparently available from Amazon as well.

Not that this stopped the police holding them for six days, and repeatedly describing the material as illegal. Then, once they discovered that the legal case didn't have a leg to stand on, they decided to deport Mr Yezza. Quickly - by the 1st June.

Local MP Alan Simpson (showing why he's one of the few Labour MPs who will actually be missed after the next election) has already protested this one, calling it "arbitrary deportation with no right to a proper hearing."

I've seen no explanation from the Home Office why they feel the need to deport this man so quickly, particularly since he was already due to contest immigration charges in a court of law, and had a hearing date set for 16th July. Other than that the Home Office have been made to look like scaremongers, and want a victim in revenge.

Friday, May 23

Beware! Factoids!

It can be quite astonishing the life that some factoids - things that look like facts, but aren't what they appear and can easily be shown to not reflect the more complex story - continue to survive and thrive.

Current ones circulating wildly include:

Polar Bear numbers are increasing!
This is sometimes more accurately described as Polar Bear numbers in a number of populations are larger now than they were in 1960. Even more accurately, Polar Bear numbers in some populations, which recovered well after we stopped shooting them in an unregulated fashion, now appear to be under stress with climate change considered to be a significant factor. So what appears to be good news for the polar bear is not. So in short -
Polar Bears - cheer up, at least we haven't started shooting you from aeroplanes again!

No climate change since 1998!
Oh dear. Weather is what changes from day to day, month to month. Climate changes over a longer period. In the middle are cycles such as El Nino, which affect global temperatures on a short term period. There was a particularly strong one in 1998, which was significantly the hottest year on record. The years since have all continued to rank among the hottest on record.
Weather and climate are not the same thing!

Not all scientists agree with global warming - look at Bjorn Lomborg!
Anyone with a PhD can call themselves a scientist, it doesn't automatically make us right (hell, if it did, it should be a requirement for standing for election...). Having said that, the vast majority of scientists, and the very, very vast majority of scientists working in areas involving the climate who aren't employed by Exxon, agree that global warming is occurring, and is probably anthropogenic in cause. Including Lomborg - he just disagrees with most what we should do about it.

Jetlag - turns out I was doing it right all along

I've not actually had that much problem with jet lag in the past - certainly not as much trouble as I've had from working in a dark lab all week. Looking at a BBC News article, perhaps I'd inadvertently been protecting myself from jet lag while travelling.

"... simply avoiding any food on the plane, and then eating as soon as you land, should help you to adjust and avoid some of the uncomfortable feelings of jet lag."

That's easy to do. Food on planes is awful, and I'm too un-nerved by my utter dislike of plane travel to consider the state of my stomach until I'm back on firm soil...