Bugs getting under your skin?

I used to watch the X-Files when I was a little kid but I can only actually recall two scenes from the show. One is from an episode where they find an area that causes everything inside it to age more rapidly and the other, more disturbing scene, showed cockroaches crawling under a person’s skin. Thanks to a simple internet search, I now know that that episode was War of the Coprophages, although nothing in the summary triggered any other recollections.

One unfortunate holidaymaker in Bali had a similar, real-life experience. He woke up one morning to find a red trail along his belly. It didn’t respond to creams and continued to lengthen. After the weekend, he went to see a dermatologist who examined the trail and extracted a small spider which had burrowed under his skin through his appendectomy scar!

Keeping with that theme, in India, a man went to the doctor because of a strange itch in his ear. The doctor looked inside and found something strange. Upon extraction it turned out to be a cricket that had crawled into the man’s ear. It was still alive and a lot larger than one would expect. I’ve embedded the video below and there are more details in the video description and earlier link.

Cape Town’s open mosque and Islamic reform

A short while back I saw an interesting link in the UCT Free Society Institute newsfeed which led to an interview with Dr Taj Hargey. Dr Hargey is a professor of Islamic studies at Oxford University but was born in Cape Town and was speaking about his plans to open an open mosque in Cape Town. By an open mosque he means a mosque where everybody is welcome and where such radical concepts as women and men praying in the same area and entering through the same door are practised. Basically, he wants to bring Islam in line with modern ethics and sensibilities.

Dr Taj Hargey delivering a sermon during at the official opening of the open mosque.

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A Mexican flag in America!

I’ve mentioned, quite a few times, on this blog that causing offence should not be a reason to limit someone’s speech. Just because someone takes offence at something doesn’t mean that it is offensive. That is quite clearly illustrated by a particularly bigoted woman in California.

Tressy Capps was so offended by a house flying a Mexican flag in the United States of America that she actually stopped her car, went up to the house and told them off. She called it disrespectful and that if the house wanted to fly the Mexican flag then they should move to Mexico! I hope for her sake that she never travels to New York because that’s where the headquarters of the United Nations is and there are 192 foreign flags flying proudly. Continue reading

Free online education

The invention and widespread use of computers has had a massive impact on how things are done. I grew up with computers and it can be quite amusing to hear about the way my father used to do things and how much more difficult it was back then. For example, when I did a literature review, all I had to do was go online, search for some keywords and download the relevant papers. He spoke about books with lists of article titles that used to be mailed to universities. He had to find the relevant titles, order them and wait for the copies to be delivered before he could see if they really were relevant. When I did referencing I just put everything into a reference manager which then inserted, formatted and arranged the reference list as required. Before computers it all had to be done manually. Continue reading

Gaming is not just mindless entertainment

One of my set work books in English at high school was Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury. The class, myself included, weren’t interested, although now I expect I would have a greater appreciation of the novel. So what made me read one of the same author’s short stories; There Will Come Soft Rains? Was it a new appreciation of classic literature that came with maturity? Partly. Mostly it was that I learned that the story was referenced in Fallout 3, a game I enjoyed.

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To do science

What does it mean to do science? I have a few suggestions that I want to put out there but the first we need to decide what science itself is. The first thing most people think about when they think of science is “what scientists do.” They might say that science is what people in white coats do in the laboratory. If you study science, that is certainly what you will learn but we also know that what physicists do in a lab and what biologists do in a lab are quite different. What do they both do that is the same? Science is not about specific subjects; it’s a way of thinking. All scientists try to think logically, to ask questions and following them up with experiments or observations that will give them the evidence needed to answer their questions. Continue reading