Photo break

Rain-covered spider web

Rain-covered spider web

One morning this month, as I left for university, I saw a spider-web hanging between two poles in my fence. There was a soft drizzle and the web was heavy with rain drops. I almost went past it but changed my mind, went back and took a photograph before leaving. It’s lucky I did as the web was gone by the time I returned, presumably torn apart by the wind and rain. Ideally, I would’ve liked to have focused only on the web and had everything else blurred but I only had my phone available. In addition, I’m also not sure which settings adjust the depth, just that it can be done. Continue reading

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Falling nations

To say that, on the whole, the UK and US are falling is perhaps premature. I can, however, say that my opinion of them has certainly fallen quite a bit in the past few weeks. The UK has its problematic porn policy, which you should see as problematic regardless of your view of porn because of the direction it suggests the government is moving in. The UK has also been wrapped up in the, mostly US, issue of extensive surveillance conducted by the NSA. Continue reading

The UK porn block and the concept of obscenity

I made a passing reference the to the UK’s new plan to block all porn but I decided that it, and obscenity in general, required a more thorough examination. In short, David Cameron feels that UK internet service providers need to block all porn by default to protect children. In short, again, that idea is stupid. It’s stupid partially because it will not work and partially because the mindset behind it is one that should not be accepted. Continue reading

My first scientific paper!

My first scientific paper has been published in BMC Medical Genetics and is freely available over here! I did the molecular work as a minor part of my MSc thesis, which concerns connexin deafness in Black Africans. This paper describes two Cameroonian patients with keratitus-icthyosis-deafness (KID), a rare form of syndromic deafness. This is the first time KID has been described in sub-Saharan Africa and we show that it’s caused by the same mutation as in most other described cases. This is very different to non-syndromic deafness but that will be explained in a future paper which will present a much larger portion of my MSc work.

Quicklinks: Borders, dolphins and spying

Garry Davis, a man who renounced his American citizenship and declared himself a citizen of the world died on the 24th of July. His “citizen of the world” idea is quite appealing and it’s interesting how it hasn’t caught on. I see little value in patriotism and it’s hard not to draw comparisons between passports and the pass laws of Apartheid South Africa. The pass laws were based on race but if they were instead based on where one was born, how would they really differ? I think any differences must be minor.

There is a post on WEIT dealing with India’s ban on captive dolphins and public opinion of the issue in Spain and Italy. I also saw a story where an American aquarium was recently denied permission to import Beluga dolphins. Related to both incidents, new research shows that dolphin memories can last at least 20 years! (covered in ScienceNow and Nature News)

Lastly, Edward Snowden has been granted one year’s asylum in Russia. This is excellent news for him considering Bradley Manning is facing up to 90 years in jail. Hopefully these cases, particularly Snowden’s, will send a message that large-scale monitoring and cover-ups of military actions are not acceptable. In the time, here are a number of ways to minimise data surveillance and generally increase your online security.

What do studies of animal cognition mean for ethics?

One of the most-viewed posts that I’ve written was about animal intelligence. I still maintain that the current mainstream view of animals is outdated and needs to recognise that non-human animals are, while not as intelligent as us, more intelligent than usually given credit for and, as fellow sentient creatures, deserving of moral protection. Currently, there is more and more scientific evidence being produced that supports intelligence in a wide range of species. I imagine resistance to these findings comes from a few sources such as many religions making an explicit separation between humans and animals (one which is not supported by biology), a lack of knowledge of studies of animal intelligence and a reluctance to acknowledge these findings as that would necessitate a complete overhaul of how we live our lives. Continue reading