The Geek shall Inherit

In the UK only one of the six-hundred and fifty Members of Parliament has a scientific background. Homeopathy and chiropractic are available on the NHS, while effective and proven medicines are shunned. Our newspapers and television constantly report non-effective and dangerous practices as if they were fact. Even when they report on scientific work, scientists are misrepresented and used to score political points which leaves the public believing that there is no use in funding research any more. The UK is turning from a centre of excellence, a candle in the darkness, to a Thunderdome where ever-decreasing funds are fought for by our scientific community.

Enough, says Mark Henderson – the head of communications at the Wellcome Trust, and sets forward a manifesto to reclaim our culture of scientific inquiry and build a government where decisions are made based on evidence rather than fear, uncertainty and doubt.

In order to try to force our MPs to listen, Dave Watts pledged to send a copy of The Geek Manifesto to all MPs if enough volunteers stepped up to share the load and, oh boy, did they?  Not only that, Transworld Publishers donated 150 copies to make sure the pledge could be met.

My own copy is now on its way to Julian Huppert (MP for Cambridge), who certainly doesn’t need it but our own MP, Andrew Lansley, was the first to be snapped up. No surprise there. Let’s hope they read and act on it so the country doesn’t fall back into the dark ages.

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Don’t trust your peripherals

The brain’s perceptual systems are very easily fooled. You’re probably already familiar with the Thatcher Effect (where oddities that are very noticeable can’t be detected when the face is upside down) and the McGurk-MacDonald Effect (we hear with our eyes).

The Flashed Face Distortion Effect, noticed by Tangen, Murphy, and Thompson, shows that you can’t trust your peripheral vision either:

Next time you’re out in a nightclub, maybe take a proper look before writing the place off.

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Radio Binoculars

Radio Binoculars

Radio Binoculars,
originally uploaded by Damien Ryan.

On the right is the original 76m Lovell Telescope, built in 1957, and has been responsible for keeping the UK at the forefront of space science.

On the left is the smaller (but closer) 25m Mk II telescope which forms part of the e-MERLIN network – a half dozen radio telescopes (including Cambridge’s own Mullard Telescope) connected via fibre optic cable that is sensitive enough to read a number plate on the moon.

Science is cool and so is the Jodrell Bank Visitor Centre; go while it’s still around.

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What’s up Doc?

Astronomers have discovered a star that’s made from diamond. The 10 billion trillion trillion carat beast has been found in Centarus and makes the Star of Africa, the world’s biggest diamond, look like something from Elizabeth Duke in comparison.

I wonder if this is why the great Centauri Republic were so rich?

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Stacklady’s Morphic Resonator

I almost changed the world today

Image by PhotoGraham via Flickr

Metafilter has an interesting thread on MetaFilter discussing Rupert Sheldrake – a biologist turned either New Age advocate or snake oil salesman depending on who you believe.

His theories of Morphic Resonance and The Extended Mind seem nice on a gut level but unfortunately none of his experiments have been confirmed by anyone else.

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