Quicklinks: 9-15 January 2023

I did not forget! I’m just slow.

This was a bit of a surprise for me! France’s longest land border is with… Brazil! This is all due to French Guiana.

This is just a cool tweet about vivipary.

I would like to see humans and animals coexisting peacefully, so I was heartened to read about this couple that decided to let a bear keep hibernating beneath their deck.

Sometimes being kind to animals can come back to benefit you in unexpected ways. Beaver dams are making the ground marshy and thereby improving Ukraine’s defences against the Russian invasion.

The 11th of January was the anniversary of Aaron Schwartz’s death. (The tweet is from the 12th but I think that might be due to time zones.)

Aaron Schwartz committed suicide when he was facing a $4 million fine or 50 years in prison for sharing scientific articles. It was a tragedy and, sadly, the conditions that led to his death are still there affecting others like Diego Gomez or Alexandra Elbakyan.

Thankfully, there is slow change towards a better world. The European Federation of Academies of Sciences and Humanities (ALLEA) released a statement on open access, scientific publishing deals, copyright and were we should be moving as a society.

Scientific writing is often really horrible to read. Here’s an interesting idea, what if it were reviewed by children to make sure it were easy to understand?

The 13th of January was anniversary of Sydney Brenner‘s 1927 birth. He was a South Africa biologist and Nobel Prize laureate who passed away on the 5th of April 2019.

Artificial Intelligence (AI) is still in the news, so here are the voices of five experts on what AI could mean for the future. One of the experts is Casey Greene who was a speaker at the 2018 Vienna BioCenter (VBC) PhD Symposium which I helped organise!

Keeping on that theme, when I was a PhD student at the VBC, I always used to eat in the Research Institute of Molecular Pathology (IMP) cafeteria. A recent series of tweets from the IMP Twitter account gives the history of the site where the VBC stands and how that history is reflected in the cafeteria.

There was an incident of racism in South Africa recently which was terrible. However, the response by President Ramaphosa left me angry and disappointed. He is supposed to be the president of the whole country. What I expect from a person in a leadership position after such an event is strong condemnation of racism and discrimination, a clear message that reinforces the equality of all people and an attempt to build unity in a divided society. Instead, his statement included the lines, “I thank you, boys; stay strong and do not be afraid of white people. They no longer have power, their project of apartheid is over.” The first problem is that by saying “white people” instead of “racists,” it conflates the two, incorrectly suggesting that all white people are racist. The second problem is that it also has an insidious implication that racism is something exclusive to white people, which is also wrong. Not only is the statement factually incorrect and divisive, but, given high racial tensions in a country where a political leader has refused to say he will not call for a race-based genocide of white people, it is dangerous.

Climate change is probably the biggest issue in the world today which threatens the world as we know it. As scientists we should speak up about it and maybe take action. In September last year, a group of scientists posted a preprint saying that scientists should get involved in activism around climate. Shockingly, one scientist was recently fired for doing just that. That is not right. From what I understand, the incident that sparked this was non-violent and barely disruptive. She unfurled a banner on a stage and called on people to take action! That is not something for which one should be fired. Scientists are people too. We have opinions and people should not be punished for having or expressing their opinions.

Allowing others to express different views is never something people are happy about. Thankfully, there are groups like the Foundation for Individual Rights (FIRE) to stand up for freedom of expression, such as books being removed from libraries for ideological reasons.

Another good organisation is the Electronic Frontier Foundation, here standing up against a new Louisiana law that are intended to stop children accessing porn but which is terrible for privacy. At this point it should not come as a surprise to people that most calls to do something to “protect children” are emotional manipulation to push for further surveillance.

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