Friday, February 27

Warne's wishes

Shane Warne appears to be backing Flintoff and Panesar for the Ashes series in the press.

Given that England appear to actually lose more often with Flintoff playing than when he is out injured, and comparing what Panesar has done recently to Swann's achievements, it would appear that wily old Warney still wants Australia to win comfortably...

Cricket - who's number 1?

At this point on the second day of the first Test between South Africa and Australia, I seriously have to wonder if I haven't written off the Aussies too soon.

Oh dear. At the time of writing, SA are 4 for 2 in reply to 466 all out... Still, the Aussies started strong against England in 2005, and we know how that ended up.

Thick skin required

Reading this BBC News article today reminds me how there are still a large number of companies that just have an over-inflated opinion of how good it is to work in their offices.

I mean, seriously - you expect a 16 year old to be thrilled non-stop about working in marketing and logistics?

I'd be worried that a company that supposedly works in marketing has such a poor grip on reality. Firing her has made the company look far, far worse than if they'd kept on
a 16 year old who was getting bored at work.

They also compare facebook to the company notice board - no it's not. It's comparable to a comment made with work colleagues down the pub. Would the company sack anyone who said they were "bored at work" at the pub?

Wednesday, February 11

Science - the funding wars continue

An article from across the pond, this time, where they have many of the same problems as in the UK. Prof. Steve Quake from Stanford University writes in the NY Times about how funding by committee tends to squeeze out some of the more adventurous ideas. The comment on a rejected proposal of “typically bold, but wildly ambitious”, or variants thereof, is probably familiar to many scientists currently seeking funding.

One difference between the US and the UK is that there is a chance that the US - seeing the success of the NIH special awards that Quake refers to in his article - may be creating more opportunities for bold and wildly ambitious research. The UK, however, continues to give the impression of going the other way, with research funding increasingly linked to immediate gains for industry.

Wednesday, February 4

BBC, population control and internet babbling

This Monday, the BBC published an article on the elephant in the room of environmentalism - population control.

Basically, if the planet has a limited capacity then the more people there are the less they can consume each. At some point, there will be a requirement to match the number of people to consumption - and this will not necessarily be peaceful.

So, the article looked pretty sensible and rational, and then I got down to the comments... is the BBC trying to make North Americans look like frothing paranoid bigots, or could they not find enough frothing paranoid bigotry from the English (looking at the standard have your say comments, frothing paranoid bigotry really isn't in short supply in the UK), as the barking mad of the prairies were in full swing - "They're coming for our babies!". Oh dear. Fortunately, reading further down, the Obama-voting regions of the US demonstrated that sense and logic aren't strangers to the New World.

This is why this is such an emotive subject, and one that scientists will struggle with. Scientists are trained to deal in facts. Gather facts, build a hypothesis. If the hypothesis doesn't match the facts, can it be modified to do so? If not, abandon the hypothesis (admittedly some scientists are very loathe to abandon their favourite hypothesis)

However, not everyone is a scientist. Particularly on the internet, the model is opinion first, then find facts to back them up. Stop digging as soon as you find something that looks like a fact, even if it isn't (especially if it isn't, as digging more might damage it). If you can't find one, make it up, although finding one that someone else has made up means you can at least imitate the appearance of scientists by putting cites in. That, sadly, is the model that dominates on comments pages on websites such as the BBC and Guardian.