Quicklinks: Miscellaneous

There’s something really odd going on with the cover story for Science. It appears that they’re making a claim by just not testing the alternatives.

Whether dolphins are smart or not, they do not have a special bond with humans. There’s also new footage of a dolphin supposedly thanking fishermen for helping it. I don’t find this particular example very convincing.

Some amazing animal art made from old machines.

Jacques Rousseau has written a great piece on how ridiculous the occult crime unit is. I also advise following the link inside to the SAPS website warning about the occult and read their list of warning signs. Not only have many of them got nothing to do with the occult but a fair number are just wrong. For example, they claim that fantasy games have no rules. Yet here’s a long list of various rulebooks that have been released for Dungeons and Dragons.

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A step closer to internet right to privacy

The resolution for internet privacy, which I mentioned before, has been passed by UN rights committee and will now head to the UN General Assembly. This is a great step, which is why I’m giving it it’s own post, however, I want to express disappointment at one point.

The US and key allies Britain, Australia, Canada and New Zealand joined a consensus vote passing the resolution after language which suggested that foreign spying would be a rights violation was weakened.

All I hear there is some countries saying, “Foreigners don’t deserve the same rights as our citizens.” That attitude, that it’s acceptable to spy on other countries’ citizens but not your own, is a problem. That’s a xenophobic attitude. It shouldn’t matter where someone was born. Americans and Iraqis should share the same rights. It’s not okay that we allow governments to say that just because one lives in a foreign country that they don’t get a right to privacy.

Similarly, shouldn’t one be as outraged at passports as at the Apartheid pass laws? Both limit movement according to an arbitrary characteristics. The pass laws according to race and passports according to nationality. Why are country boundaries seen as something so real?

Web of life: The world from the perspective of a gene

I decided to upload the slides from a presentation I gave today. I’m sharing this for educational use only.

Web of Life (Human Genetics Seminar, 26 November 2013)

It might not make a huge amount of sense all by itself but, if there is a demand, I might write out the presentation as a separate post.

The road to hell

What is legal and what is ethical are two different things. It should be obvious but the two are often conflated. During Apartheid, certain beaches were reserved for Whites only and mixed marriages were illegal. At that time, something which was unethical was legal and something which was ethical was illegal. We are less inclined to look at the present and our own actions in the same way and, of course, even when we do we are unlikely to decide our own actions are unethical. We also seldom think through all the possible outcomes of a particular course of action and what effects it could have on other people. There is a reason we have the saying, “The road to hell is paved with good intentions.” Continue reading

Updates on US spying

Snowden’s leak of top secret US documents has been described as the most serious breach in US history. And it’s constantly brought up that it’s made the US more vulnerable to attack. It’s not often brought up, at least by the US, that their actions made everyone else more vulnerable or why US interests outweigh those of the rest of the world. While one could at least understand the risk of terrorist attacks (although to hear grown ups talking seriously about enemies does seem a bit like what you’d expect on a junior school playground) it’s a lot harder to take seriously the need to spy on allies. Continue reading

Exaggerated and misguided statements by ANC

One can seemingly always rely on the ANC to say something stupid. I had planned to ignore the most recent example of this until I saw it get even worse. They have taken issue with an art project by some high school students. Some of the T-shirts on display had unflattering depictions and captions of ANC members. They’ve since decided to ignore the constitutional right to freedom of expression, that the ANC members are public figures and all that entails, that the artists are high school students and that the syllabus includes a section on political commentary. Continue reading

SASHG & YRF 2013 conference

The large gap in posting at the beginning of October was due to the Southern African Society of Human Genetics (SASHG) 2013 conference and the associated Young Researchers’ Forum (YRF), the latter for students and postdocs. This saw me travelling north to Johannesburg for just under a week to see what was happening in the world of South African genetics and to present my own work at both the YRF and SASHG conference. There was far too much to go into detail for so I will just focus on a couple of highlights. Continue reading